rejection

Take Your Time

After almost four years spent working on DREAM CATCHERS and two years since graduating with my MFA, the idea of "taking my time" might seem ridiculous. And I'll admit, there were times on this writing journey when those words seemed impossible because I'd already put in so much time. But alas, I think there must be some truth to the notion that goodness comes to those who wait. 

One part of this journey is at an end after years of searching and applying and bettering myself and my skills, because I've been offered my first "grown-up" job, and I'm thrilled! I can't wait to begin the next chapter of my career as a Reputation Management Specialist!

As I wait to begin my first full-time job, I'm left with a sense of knowing that DREAM CATCHERS is as done as it's going to be until I find representation. Though, this second part of my journey as a writer won't be complete until I see my novel published and displayed on bookstore shelves. Understanding this makes it easier to fathom finding balance between work and writing. And I can't wait to see my discipline, perseverance, and creativity kick in once I begin this next chapter of my professional life.

While I haven't found a literary agent yet, this particular goal for representation seemed so close. On May 14th, I began round three of querying. I started with four agents, just to get a feel for how the edits of my query letter were working. I hit send at 6:50 PM and by 10:31 PM, I had a response from an agent requesting the full manuscript! And I so hoped that this would be IT.

I imagined writing a post about "the call" and being "agented," but alas, two days later, that agent passed on the manuscript. Though he did say the writing was wonderful, he just didn't "fall in love," and for that reason, had to pass. But the rejection didn't sting as much as I thought. In fact, it was almost like it didn't happen. And I know there will be someone out there who loves this book and my writing just as much as I do. All in good time, I suppose.

After the rejection, I queried five more agents, and now I'm in that waiting place again. For the most part, my edits are done. And yes, there are outlines to be crafted for BOOK TWO, and there are character sketches to be written within the world of DREAM CATCHERS. Yet, I can't wait to dive back into my NaNoWriMo project from 2017. I have set myself the goal of finishing BOOK ONE in the Falling series by the end of the year. Though I have no way of knowing what it will be like balancing my new job with my writing, I've always believed in the power of setting goals, and more specifically, the power of perseverance. 

As I think back to the time it took to get me to this place professionally, I am reminded of the fellowship rejections, the unanswered applications, the reworking of one resume to another, and I know that working on myself in the process really was the greatest project of all.

And as I mull over this notion of taking my time, I am reminded of one of my favorite lines from The Last Five Years, which instructs: 

"Take a breath. Take a step. Take a chance. Take your time." 

Maybe in the end, all it takes is time to grow into the people we need to be to accomplish the goals and dreams we want most. Until then, here's to deep breaths and small steps, taking chances, and taking the time needed to find the goodness in life!

All best,Kayla King.png

To Rebuild and Rewrite

Yesterday morning, I had a completely different post planned for today, one which would've solely celebrated the news of two of my poems being accepted for publication. But with the sweet, so too, comes the sour. And after an email and a long day, I found myself stuck in a car for an hour feeling bitter and inadequate with a mind that was so loud and a car ride that was too quiet. It was in that moment, I suppose, that this post began to rewrite itself. I guess even in life, I can't escape rewrites. 

Maybe I am hoping to understand by writing about the collision of revival and collapse within the space of twenty-four hours. One moment I was enthused about a favorite poem being included in a print magazine this summer, retaining optimism about the completion of my poetry collection, and feeling thrilled at the prospect that so much was falling into place. But hope can be painful, and you'd think a writer who understands the reality of rejection would understand this much. But I suppose, after all this time, I continue to hold on to a stubborn sense of possibility instead of being the pragmatic person who wouldn't be hurt so easily by disappointment. 

But, I digress. 

I don't want this to be a post filled with the negativity of yesterday's mindset, but rather the clarity that has given me understanding today. I understand life isn't fair, and I want to be the girl who believes, even when others cannot do the same. So maybe this post will help me find my way back to believing. Maybe tomorrow's answers will assure life isn't a total bitch and that I can be the person I found on top of a mountain four years ago. Maybe I'll figure it out. Maybe not. 

On Monday, I printed out the acceptance email from Ink In Thirds Magazine, a print journal who will be publishing my poem, "You Weren't a Museum; You Were a Box of Matches" in a July/August Issue. I also printed the email from Dear Damsels, a fantastic female-driven online magazine who will be publishing my other poem, 

"Unearthing Letters I Wrote You Three Years Ago, or Yesterday; 12:18 AM" later this month. And in placing those uplifting words in my journal, I left a small reminder of success. And yet I haven't written about the failure of yesterday or the way my dog looked at me as the vet prattled on about statistics and scheduling surgery and the blah blah blah that left my throat tight and sore from trying to hold back so much. 

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Like I said, yesterday was a shit day. I'm trying to pick up the pieces. I'm trying to rebuild myself back to that believer. Despite the failures. Despite the doubts. I want to feel the faith and hope again, even knowing it might come back to sting later. I don't want to be crushed by the weight of the world. I don't want to lose my words. I don't want my mind to be so loud when the world is capable of being still and quiet and sure of its own survival. 

But alas, this is the way to continue onward. To struggle. To succumb to the sadness, the grief, the belief that hearts were meant to break to beat stronger. Here's to finding the momentum, the strength, the moment of rebuilding, rewriting, redirecting myself on whatever path I need to find my way back. 

All best,Kayla King.png

The Beginning Of Interesting

When thinking about what I would write this week, I knew I wanted to try to get back to that enamored feeling I once had for my book. That's not to say I don't love my book, because I do. But I also worry about its future sometimes, too. This feeling of love that I have now is absolute and unwavering; I'm not sure there is anything this story could do to make me give up on it or its eventual place on bookshelves. Together we've been through a master's degree. We've been through the good writing days and the bad writing days and the ones, which felt better than anything. And we're still a team. 

It wasn't until last night, however, that I had a desire to dive back into my archives and relive the initial excitement I had for this story.

And what, you might be asking, happened last night?

I received an email from the agent who had my full manuscript, which informed me she would be passing on my book. I'm not going to say this was an easy email to read, especially because there was no concrete feedback to implement in further revisions. But alas, the letter was incredibly kind, as you'll see below: 

Hi Kayla, 

Thanks for sending along Dream Catchers. I really appreciate your patience these past few weeks while waiting for a response. 

There's some great prose in these pages--in fact, the quality of writing is far better than most of the material that crosses my desk. And I found Camryn to be a sympathetic protagonist. It's with regret, though, that I must admit that I ultimately didn't fall in love with the manuscript as much as I had hoped. For some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on, the story itself just didn’t completely capture my imagination as much as I had hoped. Kayla, in spite of this manuscript's strengths, I'd better bow out. I suspect that, based on my above reservations, I just wouldn't be the best advocate for the project. 

Thanks so much for contacting me, though, and for giving me this opportunity! It is much appreciated, and I'm sorry to be passing. This is such a subjective business--I'm sure another agent will be a better fit. Thanks again, and all the very best of luck in your search for representation.

So what does this mean? For now, it means I'm still searching for representation. It means this agent was not the one for me and my work. And in this business, it is about finding a literary agent willing to support you and your words for an entire career. An agent has to be completely enamored, which unfortunately, this agent didn't have those necessary feelings of love for my book.

I'm not going to say I didn't hope for the best; I never wanted this agent to be my 70th rejection of the year. Sometimes I do, however, wish I didn't have to write so much about rejection. But such is the life of a writer, and I don't want to shy away from the truth or lie about my journey. Because that's exactly what this is: a journey. I want my candor along the way to ensure I remember every step until I make this dream a reality. And if such honesty helps another writer in the tumultuous query trenches, that would be something, too. 

But, I digress.

Three years ago, I stayed up until 4:30 AM writing something new, though the story of Dream Catchers wasn't entirely new at that point. I once wrote a flash fiction piece about a girl in a strange shop with a secret. Fast forward to a lunch with my sister wishing we could all be paid in dreams, and my obsession with dreaming as currency took hold; this was the original concept for my story, though it's come a long way from that idea. And in searching back through my archives, I found an email sent to my grad school mentor for my second semester in which I wrote to tell her that despite there only being a week until my submission deadline, I would be changing my thesis.

Up until this point I had been incredibly stubborn about moving on from a story I'd worked on since high school. But to get the most out of the program, I knew I needed to start fresh, and the idea for Dream Catchers had sat with me all summer. I remember being at LeakyCon during a panel about diversity, knowing that this story was one I wanted to pursue. And then the first line appeared in my mind one day while waiting for coffee. The windows were down, my sister was driving, and summer was turning to fall. I texted that line to a peer. I took notes. I showed the best friend. I wrote, and I sent that email. In it I said:

"I stayed up until 4:30 this morning working on this. And the result is 12 new pages and a story I think is fun and daring, adventurous, and experimental. But I love it!"

Now my book is 363 pages, 92,000 words, and after all this time, I still believe those words to be true. Looking back at that first chapter, I see how much has changed. This isn't the same idea I pitched to my mentor three years ago, but it is the story I conceived a year late during my last residency of grad school with a different mentor. And part of that first line I so loved is now the last line of the first chapter. The book is about dreaming, but also much more. And I'm not saying the character I have now is any more perfect than that same girl I wrote about three years ago. My protagonist, Camryn, is still incredibly flawed, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But that's okay. That's the way it should be. 

Upon dreaming up this post, I put away the notebooks and drafts and ideas from so long ago. And I realized just how much I refuse to put away the dream that this book will be published one day. Maybe it's the stubbornness or strength bred into me from my earliest beginning. Maybe it's that line from a song I sang every year for ten years: "Don't ever give up. Don't ever lose the dreams that you dream every day. Don't ever lose heart. Know who you are. And live your own life your way;" I still remember them. Though whatever the reason, this rejection is not cause to give up. I've written before that only time will tell the future of this book and my career as a published author. And that's true. This time when I refuse to abandon my creativity despite the fact that querying is not easy, that is the time Elizabeth Gilbert writes about in Big Magic: 

"DON'T ABANDON YOUR CREATIVITY THE MOMENT THINGS STOP BEING EASY OR REWARDING. BECAUSE THAT'S THE MOMENT WHEN INTERESTING BEGINS."

This, as she says, is "the moment when interesting begins." 

All best,Kayla King.png

Into the Trenches

Leading up to this point in my writing career, I always knew I would submerge myself into the murky waters of traditional publishing. It's taken research and advice from my grad school mentors, and what's more, it's been coming to terms with the fact that this journey is far longer than many understand, for the waters of traditional publishing to become a bit more clear. And after all of this research, preparation, and waiting, I've finally thrown myself into the query trenches. 

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Last Monday, I submitted to the first agent, and yesterday, I submitted to ten more, including my #1 pick. This isn't to say I felt ready in the moment, because hitting send on those emails was one of the most terrifying experiences in my life as a writer. But I did it, because that is the next step. Going into this process, I know what usually happens now--rejection. 

I look back a year ago when I last wrote about rejection (which you can read HERE) but since then, I've become more accustomed to being rejected. From the beginning of this year, I set a goal of 50 rejections for 2017. At the end of last year, I had a total of 36, and now it's August, and I'm already at 44 rejections for this year, which means I will probably exceed my goal of 50. But that doesn't horrify me, because it means I am being aggressive about sending out my work, taking leaps, and putting myself out there to the publishing world. And no, it's not always easy, but that's okay. 

Now, less than 24 hours since sending out my queries, I keep rereading my first "rejection." I thought it would be more of a soul-crushing experience, and once I have a few more book rejections, that feeling might change. But right now, I have a personalized rejection, which for those outside the realm of writing and querying, is something to be proud of.

Most agents when passing on work will send a form rejection to expedite the process. But this agent personalized mine, offering words of encouragement about my dialogue and concept, which he found "really intriguing." He even offered me the opportunity to resubmit pending significant revisions.

At this point, I am confident in my first chapter, but am waiting to hear back from my lovely BETA readers to see if this is a recurring problem. Either way, whatever I choose, it is thrilling to think someone took the time to read and respond to my work. I'm sure this will be the only one I hear from for a bit since most agents say they take anywhere from 2-3 weeks to 4-8, sometimes even 12 weeks to respond. And they might send a form rejection after all that waiting, but it doesn't matter, because I believe in this book and this process and the future of my publishing career.

Staying positive through this really helps, I promise. But there have been a few other things, which have helped along the way:

1.) Support:

First and foremost, I must once again share my thanks for the ever-amazing army of supporters (who I wrote about HERE)Even from within the query trenches, they're still going above and beyond to support me and this book. They are reading my words, sharing their thoughts, and offering me their guiding light from near and far away. 

2.) Organization:

We now live in a time where resources such as Query Tracker exist! For any writers out there nearing the query process, I suggest you use this free service to help organize (and research) the many agents you will be sending your work to in the future. There is an option to add agents to your list while keeping updated on the query as the days pass. It shows when certain agents are closed to queries, and will even show the success and failure rate of other writers querying their work. 

3.) research:

I don't know what I would've done without Manuscript Wish List: both the website and the hashtag. Many of the agents I've submitted to have been ones I found using #MSWL on Twitter. Here agents will tweet about their must have books, and I found many tweets, which seemed to correlate with what I was writing. By using the website Manuscript Wish List, writers can either search certain agents or just go through the alphabetical directory to find specific information based on what agents may or may not be looking for, what genres they represent, and how to query them. It is a great resource, which can help writers personalize their queries to agents. 

For those non-writers who've been following along on my journey, I hope my time into the trenches has taught you just a snippet about the arduous process of traditional publishing, and I hope it helps you understand the magic and madness of being a writer. 

And for those of you struggling through writing your queries, I suggest using Writer's Digest Successful Queries series to help you write a letter that will stand out from the slush pile. But for any of this to happen, you need to finish that book. So finish it! Stop waiting to be ready, because as Lemony Snicket says:

"If we wait until we're ready, we'll be waiting for the rest of our lives."

To all you readers who are also writers, I believe in you. I believe you can do this, and I can't wait to read your books someday. And I can't wait for you to read mine! Until then...