writing

A Dream No One Can See

It’s become a tradition each year to choose a word that will carry me through 365 days. There has been CREATE, BELIEVE, BETTER, and last year, there was PERSEVERANCE. And persevere I did. Through 164 literary magazine submissions, 133 rejections (query trenches included) and 16 pieces accepted, including my debut collection of poetry, These Are the Women We Write About, I’d like to think my own perseverance got me where I needed to be!

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But now it’s a new year, which means a new word. Getting here, I once again was a bit paralyzed with fear that I might choose the wrong word. I suppose it’s become another of those superstitious writerly things that I cling to as the days move along. It wasn’t until Christmas preparations took over that I found my word, one which stuck in my bones and felt too perfect to pass up. I ordered three necklaces and a bracelet from The Giving Keys, because I truly love how they strive to help homeless people in L.A., all the while, reminding us of the power of words, and the magic of passing them on to someone else. If you haven’t heard of this company or their mission, I suggest checking them out as they create beautiful products with special meanings.

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Yet, I digress. Upon purchasing these items, I was eligible for a complimentary “classic” key necklace, which would come with a surprise word and color and design. When it arrived, it brought a certain sense of knowing that I didn’t know I needed. My key said DREAM, and I’m not sure it could’ve been more perfect. And now, I have my word.

Dream.

Writing a novel about a world in which dreaming always means death, I have come to understand just how powerful dreams can be. I often dream too big and have said on more than one occasion that my ambition and penchant for dreaming bigger and better will be the death of me. But as a writer, I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.

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As I edit DREAM CATCHERS once more before diving back into the query trenches next month, I cling to the dream of seeing this book published someday. And it’s difficult, I must admit, to be back in this story. I joked that I can’t wait for this book to be on someone else’s shelf someday just so I won’t have to read it anymore. Because it hurts to read sometimes. I’ve exposed too much of myself between those pages, and perhaps this is what will help future readers fall in love with my writing and this story. But for now, it terrifies me to find myself back in that time and place again.

Such is the life of the writer, I suppose. If the words don’t hurt, if what is being written doesn’t scare the writer a little, I’m not sure the story is worth telling. So I’ll tinker with this story once more before sending it out to the next 10 agents on my list. And when I say this will be the year I make this dream no one else can see into a reality, I feel the truth of the words ring through my bones in the way that some of my most authentic writing does.

I’ll keep focusing on this dream. Instead of simply listing my goals for 2019, I’ve separated these things into goals and aspirations; the things I can personally attain versus the things I so dream of coming true. I am taking better care of myself, how I judge my failures and accomplishments, because I have succeeded, even in small ways, and that is worth remembering. And for that I am so proud of myself. Already I’ve had 2 poems accepted for publication, and January hasn’t yet ended.

But as I continue to risk everything: sanity, time, sleep, future stories, etc. for this dream of publishing DREAM CATCHERS, I know it is worth everything in between. And with this knowledge, I will continue to dream too big all the year through, and I hope you will too! To stay up to date with this journey beyond this blog, check out #dreamlikekaylaking on Instagram and Twitter!

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Exploring the Exceptional

This week, I've once again started editing DREAM CATCHERS. I printed the in-text notes from my wonderful critique partner, formulated a revision plan, met with a beta reader, and organized everything into a new binder to make this arduous process that much easier. After almost four years, I keep thinking this book might be "finished," but now is not that time. And that's okay. 

If the years spent in the MFA with this novel taught me anything, it's that it takes time to develop the best of stories. And this one still needs a little more time to be the best it can possibly be before I begin my third round of querying. Though I have a few things now that I didn't have eight months ago when I entered into the query trenches. 

When I started querying, there was a sense of fear for the unknown, but now that I've been through the query letters, crafting the synopsis, researching agents, hitting send, and waiting, always the waiting, I know this process is manageable. And along the way, I received a Twitter pitch request, a partial manuscript request, and even a full manuscript request from a potential agent. I've submitted to 25 agents and so far all have passed, but I know there will be someone who will love this story. 

This knowing is even more clear after receiving all of the feedback from my amazing critique partner and my first beta reader. My CP has gone above and beyond in not only supporting me, but my vision for this book. So many of her suggestions have found their way into my revision plan. She also made me two more beautiful graphics to showcase my story and my words! 

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Both images now adorn the front and back cover of my editing binder as reminders that someday my world might exist in other readers' minds. It's a wonderful feeling to have after living with this world on my own. The first beta reader to finish reading the book in full has been someone who's traveled along my writing journey for eight years now. My National Honor Society advisor from high school is someone who continues to support my writing. She helped me figure out how to best pursue my passion for writing, she read my poetry sample before I submitted my application to the writing program at Buffalo State College, she read more poetry, my first book, my first poetry collection, and now, DREAM CATCHERS. 

On Monday, I met with her, and we immediately launched into the main plot and subplots of my book. We discussed dreams and scenes and characters. She gave me more feedback, which I've incorporated into my revision plan. But the most amazing and peculiar moments from this meeting happened when she stopped to read her favorite scenes from my book. This was the first time I'd ever heard someone read the words I'd written. And in her reading, I understood those paragraphs must've resonated with her enough to prompt such a thing, and it helped remind me why this book will be important to the world someday. She reminded me why this book is important. 

After the hard work was done we talked about life and literature, my writing, this blog, and this website. And she showed me a note I'd written on a guest check slip from the restaurant with my website address. And she told me it remained on her fridge with a magnet that reminded her of me because of the quote: 

"She was perfectly comfortable being exceptional." 

This was enough to make me realize the person I've become; the person she's watched grow from a bookish high school student to the writer I am today. Knowing she thinks me to be exceptional helped me remember what I've done in writing this book, in setting myself up for rejection after rejection, in not quitting, but continuing to persevere: I suppose I am exceptional. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about finding my way back to believing again. Through meeting with this mentor and friend, through the friendship and support of my critique partner, and remembering my kingdom of those who've never stopped believing in me, I once again believe. That doesn't make the query trenches any less difficult, nor these edits any less extensive than I already knew they would need to be. This certainly doesn't make me any more exceptional than the dreamer I've always known I needed to be, but rather, reminds me I have everything I need to make this dream a reality. 

Writing Using Tarot Cards As Inspiration: A Guest Post

Contributed by Pepi Valderrama

Sometimes we have a great idea and writing becomes difficult. Tarot cards can help us create characters, build unbelievable worlds, and breathtaking fight scenes. The Tarot offers excellent archetypes to us in the Major Arcana. It also gives us actions and clues to create worlds and deepen those character in the Minor Arcana.

Tarot has a total of 78 cards depicting characters and actions. The Major Arcana is especially useful to build characters since in it we can find figures like the Fool, the Emperor, Death, and the Empress among others. The Minor Arcana also have Kings and Queens, but these are dependent on their type. Cups explain emotions and creativity. Pentacles illustrate wealth and objects. Swords explain thoughts and communication. And, Wands explain desire.

To create a random character we just need to put the Majors and Minors apart. We shuffle the Majors first and take one card. That will be the basis of our character. Let's say that we got the fearful Death. Then, we shuffle the Minors and take three cards to explain her personality. Let's imagine we get the Ace of Cups, the Three of Wands, and the Page of Swords.

Death is a complicated card. While many fear it because of its name, the reality is that it points to changes. Someone who gets a Death card might be someone who swings quickly, and she can also fear change. Let's think about a person who is shy, and who fears change. This person will do whatever to hide and shy away from problems because the later are changes. And this person hates to change anything in her life!

The Ace of Cups, however, tells us about the possibilities she has in her relationships. If she is willing to open her heart to change, she'll be successful. Let's think about our Death as a girl who is dying for a guy she loves to notice her. The possibilities are there, and her heart is burning with making it happen. The only struggle she has is with herself. To make it happen, she needs a change.

The three of wands talk about confidence and realizing goals. So, we can say that our Death is committed to getting the boy she likes, and she is starting to gain confidence that she will. However, the Page of Swords talks about a person who is aloof. So, we can make her aloof and realize about her actions way after they have happened. If she wants to change, she needs to commit to paying more attention.

We don't need to use the real meanings of the cards. We can also opt to take a look at the artwork depicted in them. Let's say that we need to create the male character in our romance. We could just shuffle the deck, and pick up cards until the first card with a male in it appears. We can imagine the person's personality from the depiction in the card.

Sometimes I find it hard to come up with ideas regarding locations and buildings in my stories. When I'm stuck, I shuffle my Tarot deck and often take around five cards. From the different artwork in them, I start building up the world. Then, I also take into account the meaning of the cards. In that fashion, I can create a world with several layers, and I can even have help in details that are obscure to me at that moment.

However, the best help that Tarot offers is the building of characters. Because the deck has two parts, one with archetypes, and the other with situations, it's easy to use for gathering ideas and inspiration. There're countless versions of the Tarot in stores. When buying a deck, consider the artwork carefully. These cards won't inspire you if you don't like what you see. That's why I shy away from traditional decks. Instead, I have a few decks with different types of artwork, and none of them are classic. Decks that have books with explanations are the best since you can get extra insights.

Be open to creating characters with more than one archetype card to make them multilayered. Be free to mix many cards or more than usual to create worlds. And never be afraid of the "negative" cards. They are perfect guides to develop despicable villains.

 

About Pepi Valderrama 

Pepi Valderrama is a writer and Social Media wizard. Her experience living in Japan during more than eight years allowed her to have a different perspective on life. She is writing her first fantasy novel after enjoying writing geek anthropology. You can find her enjoying a cup of coffee around Brighton, and writing about pop culture, comics, and books on her blog dePepi.com

Thanks for sharing, Pepi!

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. 

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Thinking With the Best of Them

Tomorrow I will submit my first poetry chapbook to Honeysuckle Press. This chapbook is filled with my best work, though some lines still feel brittle enough to break me; lines like:

"The problem remained, I thought too much. We were thoughts. We were thinking with the best of them, and we'd worship words, but never wreckage."

My two best friends have been kind enough to give feedback on these poems. These are also the same best friends with whom I reunited in NYC two weekends ago. And what I discovered with these two people is how we all worship words, how we let them destroy and revive us, and all along I, too, was thinking with the best of them. 

Maybe some writers only have the page. Maybe they, too, carry their notebooks and journals as if they are people, capable of conversing back and forth, as I have often found myself doing. But I hope they also having living, breathing people who will help shape stray thoughts into meaning. 

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While away, I was finally able to share my last printed copy of Dream Catchers. Together, my best friend and I admired the pages, remembering the beginning and the middle and the end of creating this story. Together we discussed books and short stories and with one idea, I finally discovered how to return to my most beloved short story collection! And we talked about poetry.

On one trip from Brooklyn to Greenwich Village, we listened to my narration (in Voice Memos) of my chapbook, and every now and again my best fiend would tap me in hopes of pausing the reading to gush or question or note something from a line or title or an image. A year ago, this would've been a terrifying exercise. But since embarking on the Plath Poetry Project and writing along with Sylvia's last year of life, since rediscovering my voice as a poet and crafting enough pieces to create an entire chapbook, I have grown more confident in my words. There are still the vulnerable lines and the ones which are so fictitious, even I'm astounded at how well they resonate off the page, but they exist, and for that I am grateful. 

Many of these poems began as single lines in my journal under various pages marked: Thoughts. Others were born into full-fledged poems at 4AM and they remain some of my best. And I hope to share them all with you someday. Here's to submitting. Here's to winning the Honeysuckle competition and seeing these words in print. Together. Published. Real. 

And here's to starting all over again. 

A few days after returning from that short trip, I still felt energized and rejuvenated both in spirit and creativity, and I found myself completing another journal. It's now become a "thing" where every three months I must start a new journal. And leaving one journal behind in exchange for another is usually a strange and difficult process where it takes me at least a week to get comfortable again. And throughout this time of committing my words to the square-ruled pages of a black hardbound Moleskine, I''ll admit I've become superstitious. I begin every first page with a mantra, I promise eternal gratitude as a reward for finding my journal if ever it should become lost, I sign my name, I write my word for the year in the back to be reminded, and I get to work filling yet another journal. And it's worked for me. I also started finding quotable stickers from The Strand to adorn the back covers, which help me distinguish between them since they all look the same. 

As I walked through The Strand during this last adventure, I found two wonderful stickers, and both are now stuck to the backs of my new journals, one of which you will notice is red! I had serious Dash and Lily vibes upon receiving the object in the mail from one of the best friends. And I can't wait to fill it with even more words. 

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I suppose Jack London is right in his advice to writers to carry notebooks everywhere. I can't imagine what I would miss if I didn't have a sacred place close by to impart confessions, observations, one-liners, poetry, short stories, etc. And I can't imagine where I would be in this writing journey without the people who support me best. 

So here's to them.

Here's to words and better thoughts and the stories I can craft as a writer. Here's to luck and hope for my poetry chapbook. Here's to sharing my words with all of you.

The Time To Choose Yourself

I knew today would be the perfect time to celebrate love. Love for my book. Love for my writing. Love for my critique partner. Love for myself. Love is love is love is love is love... And I started thinking that today might be the perfect time to choose to focus on myself, to celebrate love for the person I've become. 

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Now this post isn't meant to be a diatribe denouncing the traditions of Valentine's Day. But rather, an advocation to show love for my writing journey. 

If you've been following along with this journey, you might remember the best friend/editor, my kingdom of people who've supported the book and the writing and most important, me. Some of those people have even been given the printed proof copy of Dream Catchers to BETA read, and I am so thankful to those people. But recently, I learned the benefits of finding a critique partner.

Somehow, I ended up with an amazing new writer friend and spirit animal on my first attempt at reaching out. I know this is rare, and I'm grateful for finding this person. And after reading several other potential CP pages, I know how rare it is to click with someone over writing styles and editing styles and overall personality. But, I digress. 

You might be wondering what a CP (critique partner) does/who they are. What makes them different from a BETA reader? 

A critique partner reads your work and offers feedback, most notable, objective feedback on the story presented. With the exception of the best friend, my early readers have gone into my book just like that, as readers. A critique partner goes into the work as a writer and has the ability to advise on everything from language, pace, world building, characters, and everything in between. And my critique partner has done just that. 

So where did I find this glorious human? 

Quite simply, I searched 'how to find a critique partner' on Google. And from there, I found THIS Google Forum, and offered my pitch under the YA Fantasy and Sci-Fi request. And I found my person! I also searched #critiquepartners on Twitter and found another match-up listing HERE! And while I am so grateful for the other pages I had the opportunity to read, I didn't feel the connection to move forward with those writers.

Now maybe for me the situation is somewhat different, because I have a community of writers I met in graduate school. I have avid readers in my life who've eagerly waited to devour my book. I have the best friend, and my other friends, and they have been my resource. But I do think there is something about an objective reader, which works to the benefit of the writing process. And I have already seen the benefit of this in my writing. There are lessons I've learned in giving my CP feedback, and validation I feel from her comments. This, I know, is something worth celebrating. 

My CP has created a brilliant world filled with heartbreak and adventure and I can't wait to finish her fantastic story from a train departing to NYC this weekend. And I cannot wait for her to finish my book as well. Her honesty, keen eye for typos, and enthusiastic spirit is something my book so needed from the overwhelming place of the query trenches. And she's also a badass when it comes to creating design aesthetics inspired by my writing. 

Like these beautiful works of art!

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It's refreshing to have someone as obsessed with bees and dreams as I have been for the past four years. We both believe this will be a lifelong friendship and working relationship and it's crazy, yes, but in this community, I think this kind of mutual respect and excitement is amazing to find. I can't wait to celebrate our future book deals together, because we both BELIEVE it will happen. And we can't wait to share our next WIPs to keep the flow of the writing and the support between us. 

Today, of all days, I am choosing to celebrate the wonderful places and people my writing have introduced me to along the way. And I'm following the advice of r.h. sin today, too: 

"Marry your goals. Remain committed to success. Be loyal to your dreams. It's okay to choose yourself."

I love my goals. I'm committed to finding success for my book, and I've remained loyal in trying to make that dream a reality. And most of all, I choose myself. 

But I know none of this would be possible without the support of my people, and I am so happy to have added one more person to this group! 

So today, of all days, I hope you appreciate and celebrate the love, which helps you persevere in this crazy journey we call life. 

The Importance of Finding Your Writing Tribe: A Guest Post

Contributed by Sarah Foil

Writing is a mostly solitary activity. We sit in our homes with our coffee and wine and cat. We hide under our covers and read our books. We stare at our computer screens and send our emails and check facebook, but it’s easy to forget that we need a community. Writers need people to share our work with and commiserate, but it’s important that you find the right people to work with.

I’ve been writing for over fifteen years and have been a part of many different writing communities. Some of them have been pretty bad, some have been good, but I only have one tribe. When I first started writing in late elementary school and middle school, my community was other fellow classmates. We’d write on our wide-ruled notebook paper and swap them during freetime. Everyone was new and terrible but also supportive. We were excited to be writing and to have readers.

Even in high school and college, I had fun sharing with fellow writers but as I got older, things became more complicated. Me and my friends were suddenly competing for the same literary prizes and the same spots in the campus literary magazines. But I still felt comfortable writing and reading with other people. Even as things became competitive, we still supported each other.

For some reason though, once I found myself out of that classroom environment, that supportive, encouraging place was so hard to find. I graduated college and wanted a way to push myself to keep writing, so I joined an online writing community. The concept was pretty simple, you share your writing with other writers all over the world and you read their writing. You share feedback with each other and initially it seemed like a great way to keep writing my novel. There were talented writers and I got to read a ton of great work. The problem was that it wasn’t a supportive community.

I remember one specific instance that I shared parts of an early draft of what would become my graduate thesis. I’d been working on this story for years and it was a true work of heart, even if it wasn’t the best writing I’d done. I had graduate school on the horizon and wanted to make sure my work was good enough for an upcoming workshop. I had hoped to get back some idea of things that I could improve before sending it to my future professors, some clue of what was and wasn’t working. Maybe even some correction of grammatical mistakes, because I make those a lot.

Instead, I got back some of the most brutal critiques I’ve received to date. I remember word for word the opening lines: “Since you’re going to graduate school, I’m not going to hold any punches. If you can’t handle what I’m going to say, you should reconsider starting your program.”

It only got worse from there. That critique broke my heart. It made me feel like the ten years I had spent writing before then were wasted. I really started to believe I should drop out of my MFA program before I’d even started. Luckily, I have friends and family who pushed me and I did end up attending my grad program.

There, I found the right community for me. I found my “tribe”, a group of fellow writers who I could share with my work with. I felt like I could get up in front of people and read my work, not just my fiction but also poetry and vulnerable works of nonfiction. I felt comfortable complaining about deadlines and didn’t feel threatened by my friends’ successes. I had workshops where I got constructive feedback on pieces that I’d go on to improve. I never had someone make me feel or even attempt to make me feel the way that review from the online community had before I began.

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I would have missed out on finding my perfect tribe, the group of writers I’ll stay in touch with and continue to work with for the rest of my career, all because I tried to force myself to be a part of community that wasn’t right for me. I’m grateful that I had a support system outside of a writing community that kept me going, but not everyone does.

Here’s my point: communities are essential for writers, but not just any community will do. Find people who make you want to write, not those who discourage you. Be part of a community that can celebrate your accomplishments and hold you up when you feel like you want to quit. Writing isn't a solo effort, as much as we want to think that it may be. Get out there and find your tribe. 

 

About Sarah foil

Sarah Foil is a writer, editor, and media manager based out of North Carolina. She has an MFA in Fiction from the Mountainview MFA program and focuses on YA Fantasy. While her current passion project is her YA Fantasy trilogy, which is currently seeking representation, she spends much of time running and managing Sarahfoil.com, a resource for writers and readers of all kinds. She loves encouraging writers to continue to improve through her editing services and sharing her personal writing journey through blog posts and on Facebook and Twitter. If you have any questions about her services, please reach out via sarahfoil.com/contact

Thanks for sharing, Sarah!

Goal Digger

Hello and welcome to the new home of KAYLA KING BOOKS! It's been a process to bring this new website to life, and many thanks must be given to those who offered kind thoughts and critiques during this time. 

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But here we are! 

Already I've accomplished one of my major goals for 2018, set specifically for January with the launch of this new website. And I suppose this realization, more than anything, inspired my need to discuss goals here today. 

For as long as I can remember, I've been driven by my goals, savoring the satisfaction of crossing items off my to do list and monthly goal list. And even after all this time, I still give myself goals as a sort of road map to know where I'm going next. 

At the beginning of January, I set 8 new goals for myself. Now on the eve of February, I'm looking back at all I've accomplished, and feeling ecstatic about the precedent this sets for the rest of 2018!

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1.) New website 

You're here! I spent the last month working through my blog posts to move here, and it's been an enlightening journey back in time. Rebranding myself as the eventual author of DREAM CATCHERS, and the current author of published fiction, poetry, and other written works, proved to be the most difficult. But in the end, as you will no doubt see upon exploring the site, is that I've chosen a minimalistic design, which showcases my work and life as a writer. And for that, I am so proud!

2.) Submit to 5 publications

This past month, I've submitted poetry to Plath Poetry Project, SAND Journal, Poetry International, River River Journal, Salome Lit, and Spy Kids Review. While I have received a rejection for the December Retrospective from Plath, I am still awaiting on responses from the other journals. And yet, I already have 15 out of the 100 rejections I've set as a goal for 2018, but that's okay. I'm trying. I'll continue to try. 

3.) Read 5 Books + Find a New Podcast

While the books I completed weren't exactly the books I set out to complete during the month of January, I finished five books, nonetheless! The first book I finished was the audiobook of Ready Player One, which I didn't love as much as I wanted. If anything, I'm excited to see the movie! Throughout the month, I finished three poetry collections: Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn, Last Chance For the Tarzan Holler by Thylias Moss, and This Poem is a House by Ken Sparling. And last, but no means least, I finished reading the bound edition of my manuscript! 

But you might have noticed under my January TBR, that I also wanted to try podcasts, which I did! My three favorites from the month were That Smart Hustle created by one of my favorite gals from authortube, Kristen Martin, Upvote YA co-hosted by another favored authortuber, Alexa Donne, and Launch created by John August! All three were delightful to listen to, and what's more: engaging, useful, and inspiring! 

4.) Organize Binders 

Moving into the new year, I knew I needed a Writing 2018 binder, as I like to keep hard copies of everything written, published, and produced each year. But I also decided I needed a binder for my writing career to house all those bright and shiny book ideas I hope to write someday. And since I am planning to get back into BOOK ONE of the Falling series in February, I knew I needed to purge old notes, and update the sections to follow the new plot of the story. I also wanted to update my binder for the Dreamer Duology, but alas, I didn't quite finish organizing that binder this month. 

5.) Catalogue Bookshelves

As someone with an ever-growing book collection, I knew it was time to catalogue my books. Using Google sheets, I've created a spreadsheet for all of my books, and I hope to share the process behind this overhaul with all of you soon!

6.) Try Meditation

This might be the only goal I haven't completed just yet, though I've tried. And since the goal was to try, I am counting this as a success. My brain is a noisy place. Whenever I've tried meditation in the past, I've failed, stuck on stream-of-consciousness thoughts or crafting stories. It's always been something I've wanted to do, but didn't know how to best awaken this sense of inner peace. I am currently listening to Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris, and so far, I'm impressed. Though I'm not that far into this audiobook, I have hope that I might be meditating successfully in a few months time! 

7.) Get Organized

While this could encompass so many things, I did organize my closet and have started to organize documents for tax season, so I am calling this goal accomplished, though I am constantly organizing. It's what I do, and I know that won't stop just because I've crossed this off my January goals. 

8.) Limit Phone Time 

This is something I wanted to accomplish more than anything during 2018. I found myself wasting so much time on Twitter and Pinterest and other social media, and for what? I started small, staying off my phone before bed, and I've noticed a huge change in my sleeping habits, as well as the amount of reading I've gotten done in that time. This is something I want to continue to work through, but I'm thrilled to see some change already! 

So what happens next? 

Tomorrow I will be committing my next set of goals to the page. I will create a place for my February goals and my February TBR in my journal. I will use the tangible evidence of these goals to guide me through the next month! 

And what's coming soon to the blog? 

Next week, I will be hosting my first author guest post, featuring fellow writer, Sarah Foil from sarahfoil.com, and I can't wait! 

Until then, I thank you for following me on this journey of writing and beyond! I hope all of you will be goal diggers in your day to day life, and I hope you'll accomplish something wonderful in the months to come! 

 

Recalling The Magic

For the past month, I have been moving my blog posts from Wix to Squarespace in preparation for the unveiling of the new home of KAYLA KING BOOKS. And in doing such, I have taken myself back in time, recalling the magic of my life as a writer. 

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Now I don't use the word magic to mean perfect, because many of my older posts detail the difficulties of writing, from the seedling of an idea to the editing phase and beyond. But through it all, I am astounded to see a certain sensibility toward continuing on, and not giving up. And it's nice to know my stubbornness has not surrendered through rejection and the every day calamities of life. 

If anything, I've seen a change for the better. Past Kayla would be so proud to know that one word could encompass so much of her journey. But this version is always astounded to see just how much the day to day of writing is still the same, though I, myself, have changed.

You see, there is still a blank page. There are still words. At the end, there is always a story to be told. But in going through my blog posts, which began back in 2012 after I'd finished writing my first book, I was most interested to see how that once idealistic writer has changed into someone much more pragmatic, though a dreamer all the same. 

I think it's strange to think back on moments of our life; always trying to recall the biggest times. But most often it's the small moments, which garnered my own desire to commit memory to blog post. And I think we often forget just how important those smaller moments are to our much bigger journeys. 

So as I recall the magic of finding stories, finding my voice, and most importantly: finding myself along the way, I hope to leave a bit of a goodbye for the old blog, with a sense of excitement for what will come to be in this new phase of my writing life!

Next week will be the first official post over at the new home of KAYLA KING BOOKS, and I am so excited to share a slightly dark and stream-lined aesthetic, which better suits the writer I've become. No longer do I wish to hide behind complicated designs, because I know my words are enough. And my words will be the biggest showcase at my new website. 

For those who've followed along with me the past six years, I thank you. I hope you will continue to follow me on this journey and beyond. And I hope you'll check out the new website next week, and fall into my world of writing. 

All best,Kayla King.png

Just One Word

In 2015, I ditched the practice of resolutions for the impending new year, and instead came up with one word to carry me through the entire year. Back then it was CREATE, and create I did. Then in 2016, I chose BELIEVE, and that word, more than anything, helped me complete the first draft of Dream Catchers, which I carried into 2017 with the hopes of making it, and myself BETTER. All three of these words became a sort of mantra that helped me get through the rough writing days, the rejections, and life in general. And here I am in 2018 with a finished book in the query trenches, and a new word to carry me through the year. That word is...

PERSEVERANCE!

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In years past, I'd always found it somewhat difficult to choose one word, knowing how important it would be to me. But this year as many of you might know, I got to see Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen, rounding out an outstanding year filled with Broadway shows. And in the beginning of Act II within this show, there is a song, which seemed to be in my head more often than others this year, most specifically:

"It just takes a little patience. It takes a little time. A little perseverance, and a little uphill climb."

It took completing NaNoWriMo, and writing about that experience here, to ensure the word perseverance remained stuck in my head. So far, it's been a rather fitting word. Maybe, you're wondering: how does this fit?

Well, I ended 2017 with 117 rejections, many of which came from agents. Going into 2017 with a goal of 50 rejections, I never thought I could survive that many, and yet, more than doubled, I can tell you I've done more than survive, because I'm not giving up. I know this will be the year some of my favorite poems will be published. I know I will find an agent. I know I will get that elusive book deal that seems like more of a mirage from the query trenches than anything tangible. I suppose that sense of perseverance has always been with me, and now, it is stronger than ever. 

So what comes next? 

I'll keep querying. I've already sent my first query of 2018, and I am hopeful for a positive response. I've started to submit new poems to new publications, and I'm still writing. I already have five rejections, and it feels like accomplishment this early into January. And while I don't have a list of resolutions, I do have a list of goals I'm hoping to accomplish this year, and this month, some of which have already been completed, others which feel a bit more difficult, and require more time. One of these goals, however, is very near to being completed, and as such, I'm excited to share it with all of you! 

Beginning this February, I will be unveiling my new author website! After much research, I have decided to find a new home for my site using Squarespace, which will mean a new minimalistic design, with much of the same content I've developed here over the past four years, plus more, including collaborating with other writers and bloggers! I will be making an official announcement when the time gets closer with links for the new home of KAYLA KING BOOKS. I am hoping this will be one of many changes in 2018 that bring me that much closer to making my dream a reality. After all this, I have known struggle, I've tried to find courage, and now I will hold tight to the idea of perseverance for the rest of 2018! 

All best,Kayla King.png

A Little Perseverance

Today is the last day of National Novel Writing Month. Though I managed to reach the 50,000 word goal two days prior to this post, I still wanted to commemorate this ending.

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In years past, I’d always wanted to take part in NaNoWriMo. But alas, other writing projects seemed to dominate my Novembers, and I never felt I could properly commit, and so, I never took part in the magic and insanity that is writing 50,000 words in a month. 

Until now.

For those of you following my journey to publication, you will know I am currently in the query trenches with the novel I conceptualized during graduate school. With that project done, and waiting for agent responses growing by the day, I knew I needed a distraction. This realization occurred last month and afforded me the time to take part in Preptober to get myself ready for the official start date of NaNoWriMo. I took the month of October to begin outlining for a somewhat new work-in-progress; BOOK ONE in the Falling series demanded to be written again. This time I knew it would be better. 

I originally wrote the first book in this series back in 2012, and it was the first novel I wrote. But long before that, I’d written a short story, and from those fourteen pages came the formation of this projected pentalogy, which I outlined in a British literature class during my undergrad. It’s been eight years since I first delved into this world, and it remains one of my greatest loves, and favorite escapes. This story is the one I took to grad school, too stubborn to let go my first semester, and then later set aside to begin the Dreamer Duology. In the three years I spent writing my other novel for grad school, I never gave up on the Falling series. Though I wasn’t writing in that world every day, I spent that time getting to know my characters better, and brainstorming all that will come to pass over the course of these five books. 

And now, at the end of NaNoWriMo, I have 51,032 words of this new draft, and it’s just as magical as I remember all those years ago. 

Before undertaking this challenge, I feared (what I now know was somewhat irrational) that I couldn’t write another book. Maybe other writers experience this same thing after working on one project for multiple years. You see, the novel I’m querying was not easy to write, and if you ask those closest to me, they might mention the toll completing this novel took on me and my writing.  Now that’s not to say I don’t love that book. I wouldn’t be querying agents with it now if I didn’t adore what I’d written. But the actual process was difficult. And through it, I’d started to doubt the magic of writing. 

But I digress. 

Starting this newish project for NaNoWriMo proved that writing and drafting are still magic, and not just because there is a fair bit of fantasy within this WIP. Writing this story reminded me how extraordinary it feels to get swept up into a world crafted entirely from your own mind. And while there were days more difficult than others this month, days when I did not write a single word, I still achieved that 50K goal. 

I think it is a common misconception that writers need to write every day to be writers. Frankly, that’s bullshit. Most writers, myself included, have day jobs, which pay bills and student loans. And we have family and friends and pets and other obligations, which sometimes prevent the act of writing every day from actually happening. But through NaNoWriMo, I discovered there is a difference between writing every day and writing consistently. Though I went four consecutive days without writing, those days away were much needed to prevent creative burnout and to brainstorm a rather difficult chapter. But still, my mind never left this fictional world I so love. 

As I scroll through the 183 pages I managed to complete thus far, I know I’ve tackled something important. I also discovered a new tool to help drafting, which was born out of my proclivity toward visual learning. With the help of Pinterest (which for those interested in what inspires my many fictional worlds, you can follow my book boards HERE) I created inspiration boards for each chapter, which are pictured below! In doing so, I had to narrow down what I was trying to accomplish most, which helped in the process of outlining, all while keeping me on task. 

And with the help of friends cheering me on from near and far, a fantastical Spotify playlist curated the month before, and many cups of coffee, I have a start to a story I’d always hoped to return to one day. 

I’m not sure where the querying process will take me in the months to come, but with the start of this newish story, I now have an escape for when rejection feels too real or the world feels too wrecked. I’ll make my art. I’ll write my stories. And with a little perseverance, and a little uphill climb (and maybe, even the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack), I’ll write the next 50,000 words. 

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." 

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Only Time Will Tell

One week ago, I was watching the episode of Parks and Recreation where Andy and April drive to the Grand Canyon, and "All Will Be Well," by The Gabe Dixon Band plays on the radio. As I sat constructing a chapter by chapter breakdown of editorial notes, I knew that everything I needed to accomplish would happen, that eventually, all would be well.

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And what was I trying to accomplish?

Well, rewind back to the day before.

I sat beside by brother as we binge-watched Riverdale, and my phone buzzed with a new email, and I ignored it for a few minutes as that current episode wrapped up. And then I saw the sender of the email, and my heart beat a bit faster. I looked at the agent's name, and braced myself for the rejection.

Upon opening the email, I discovered it wasn't a rejection, but rather a request to send my full manuscript for consideration! Maybe most people would've screamed something profane, or exclaimed their exhilaration, but in that moment, I couldn't say anything. The tears filled my eyes, but I didn't actually cry. I was too stunned. My brother asked me what was wrong, and I passed him my phone, and though he doesn't quite understand the query process, he said "Congratulations."

Now the first thing I did was reread the email, just to make sure it was real. I needed the verification that after reading only the first five pages of my manuscript, plus my query letter, that this agent really wanted to move forward and read the rest of my novel. The words were still there, and I knew I needed to call my mom and my best friend, but neither answered. I left one rather shaky voicemail, and sent a few texts with the same request to "please please please call me." They both thought something horrific had happened. They both called back. They both were just as ecstatic. And I reminded them both that this could still mean rejection, because it might. But in that moment, I knew it was still a huge step toward publication. 

That day the best friend and I talked for two and a half hours, and he mentioned his amazement at how grounded I stayed through it all; knowing the chance of rejection was still viable. And since receiving the exciting email, I have gotten a rejection from another agent, sent without personalization, but kind all the same. The first thing that came to mind after this long-winded phone call was my dissatisfaction with the overall end of the book, because I wasn't sure how it would lead into the second book within this duology. And just as the excitement dissipated, the stress took hold in its familiar place. 

My anxiety appeared based on the fact that I have a penchant for perfection. It is, I believe, my biggest flaw. I feared the fact that my book still wasn't perfect, and knew I needed to make adjustments, even minor, before sending this off to the agent. In the meantime, I let all the other important people in my life know what was happening, and they offered congratulations, and I existed in a kind of haze the rest of that first day. 

By Friday, I'd made it to the end of the book. I had a shower epiphany. I knew what final bit had to be added to the finale. I didn't change the last line, because that was what I wanted from the start. But I found a small way into what comes next for my story in BOOK TWO, and it felt right. I wrote the words. I texted the best friend about the ending. He read. I wrote. The day went on. 

At 4 PM I started reading my novel through from the beginning. I luxuriated in the fact that I'd finally killed the darling paragraph that opens the novel, in exchange for something that reads much more clean and offers higher stakes for the story. I read each chapter out loud to try and catch as many typos as possible. And somehow, even after the hundreds of times I've read through this manuscript, there were still stupid errors. (I'm still wondering if I will ever get credit on Goodreads for the many times I've read through my own book). I read straight through until 2:30 AM when my voice started to crack, and the view of my computer screen blurred through the veil of exhaustion. I slept four hours. I woke, and finished the read through. I compiled the manuscript from Scrivener into a word doc, and began the arduous process of formatting for submission with the updated word count, title, page numbers, etc., and ensured each chapter started on its own page. I finished the last of this from the back seat of my sister's car as we drove toward our hometown for the morning. As we made it back to the place I grew up, the place my story was born, I realized there wasn't anything left to do but send this back to the agent. 

And I did. 

Now it's been a few days since submitting, and all that's left to do is wait.

I hate waiting. But like that song reminds: All will be well. You can ask me how, but only time will tell.

Only time can tell what will happen with this agent and the future of my book. 

Now a week later, I can't say I've learned how to combat my perfectionism, but I can say I let go of the idea that my work is perfect in time to send this whole manuscript. Sometimes all we can do is let things go without knowing what will come back. I'm not sure if this will bring me an offer of representation, or a rejection. But I do know this is one step closer to my dream, and maybe, all really will be well. Until then...

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...

Out Of the Mind; Onto the Page

From the moment I wished the best friend a happy birthday today, I knew I would write about him, amongst other writerly things. You see, reader, the best friend is sometimes a writer, and sometimes he's my editor, too. We have a great working relationship because we have a best friendship, which has lasted eleven years now. And the wonderful thing about this best friend is the way he continues to inspire and motivate me and my writing. He is adventurous, brave and kind, quick-witted, sharp-tongued, and filled with more humor than I'll ever possess; he's my spirit animal. 

 

Earlier this year, I wrote a stream-of-consciousness story for One For One Thousand entitled, "Twentysomething", and you can read that story HERE. After reading this piece about Snapple and bus rides, the best friend suggested we each send an SOC every day consisting of a minimum of 200 words. We started off really well. Some pieces were short, and others were longer. Life got in the way, as life often does, and we no longer send an SOC every day. But we are still writing them. And two days ago we had hours worth of texts that were only SOC bits, which have crafted a kind of story we might finish someday. Someday. Maybe. 

As usual, I'm sure you're wondering what this has to do with my writing journey. You see, in grad school, I always loved the pressure of a timed writing session. Don't ask me why, because I'm still trying to answer that question. When I look back, I think, perhaps, the timed sessions allowed me to think of only the work at hand, to keep myself out of my own head, and to write for the sake of writing. All those times produced poignant writing (just ask my MFAmily), and all those times were stream-of-consciousness. For those who don't quite know what I'm talking about when I say SOC, it's the kind of writing, which happens when you write and write and write without stopping, without rereading, without thinking ahead of the word or the sentence you're completing. Sometimes this kind of writing produces gibberish, and sometimes it captures magic. I've found this to be true the past few months as the best friend and I have traded these small stories back and forth. 

One of my favorite SOCs happened after reading the best friend's at 3am before falling back to sleep.

The words of his writing became enmeshed in my dream, and when I woke, I started a response based on that dream. When I sent mine, the best friend couldn't believe I'd written it half-asleep at 4am, and because of its potency and poetic perfection, I have a hard time believing it, too. Because there are days when the writing is grueling. It feels forced. My elbow aches as I type and delete and retype. And then there are small moments like the aforementioned where I know I'm a writer. I think people like myself who produce whole words from nothing, we need those magical and mystical times to get through the hard days. 

So what has stream-of-consciousness continued to do for me, and what can it do for you?

Well, in the former aspect, I have found a voice clear from outside influence, and a sharpness I so love. Many of my poems I've since submitted for possible publication have come from these moments of SOC. And I know these strange writing prompts keep the best friend and I connected though we live hours away. In his writing, there are knockout lines, which take my breath, and hold me hostage for a moment or more. That's something about us writers; we appreciate the power of poignant writing. And I am constantly reminded of the best friend's goodness. Last year I quoted lines from "For Good," on his birthday, and this year I'm further convinced of our truth in that song. I know how lucky I am to have the gift of writing, but what's more, to have my person. He is a fierce friend, a ferocious wanderer who often wishes to bring me some of the joy he finds in the unknown. He's a Leo--through and through. And I appreciate him every day, but especially today as he finds the other side of 25. 

Now in the latter aspect of stream-of-consciousness writing, I hope you find your fears and your passions brought out on the page. Even for you non-writers out there, I think the act of unspooling yourself in words can be cathartic and help you discover hidden truths you didn't know existed within you.

I've been playing around with this idea of truth lately in my poetry and the collection I'm building from therein, and in doing so, I've been trying to be more honest with others and myself. I guess, in that respect, I am a Cancer--through and through. But whether you tend to bottle up emotion, wallowing in the ephemeral beauty of denial, or even hate the idea of writing, the benefits of stream-of-consciousness might be your new found best friend. All you have to do is put pen to paper, and let the words flow. 

Ready?  Set.  Go.

It Takes a Kingdom

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that it takes a village to raise a child, but I promise you, it takes a kingdom to raise a book. Now I've written here many times that I *finished* my novel. And I'm not going to say that any of those parts of my journey were not exciting, because they were. But I'm here to say I *actually* have a finished novel. My novel.

How do I know this is THE completed draft?

After sending the document to my Kindle, (which not only worked as an extra editing technique, but also made my book seem real) I read and read and didn't have anything more to add.

Now I'm not going to say I didn't find any stupid mistakes, though, after all this time, I was hoping the writing would be perfect. Oh, what a fool I still am sometimes! But what I did discover is that this feels and reads like a real book. And I had a thought of, "wow, I wrote this. I actually write THIS book." I'm not only proud of all I've accomplished, but I'm proud of the writing, the story, and the actual book. 

Maybe you're wondering what this has to do with my journey as a writer, and the journey of this book, so I'll tell you. It takes real commitment and courage, not just creativity to write a book. And sometimes I forget that a non-writer might not understand what this experience is like from day to day to month to year. It took someone talking about "real" jobs and expectations and frankly, not understanding anything I do, to prove my own resilience and my own determination to make the dream of publishing this book a reality.

Now I'm used to rejection. Really, I am. But these words from someone I love and respect hurt more than I thought. I went back to my computer that night, and reread my words. I typed END OF BOOK ONE, and I sent the draft to be spiral bound for someone else to read. And at that point, I knew the support I gave myself was enough. 

The next day, however, I posted a picture of my book on my Kindle. I didn't want to forget the excitement of reading this straight through for the first time without a red pen. It was just me and my characters and the words I'd so lovingly crafted and killed and reconfigured to be the best they could be to tell this story.

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My aunt was the first to comment on the post. She'd volunteered to read the pages that night even though she's not much of a reader, and the gesture was so heartwarming because she's been with me on this journey for the past three years. She was there to road trip for residencies in New Hampshire. She's listened to me prattle on about possible plot points, and she even brought champagne when I finished my final chapter a few months ago. She's amazing.

And then a childhood friend (Jess, I'm talking about you!) wanted to read the pages. And then my cousin (Lindsey--this is you!) also wanted to read. And all at once, the people with whom I'd found a real kinship in grad school started volunteering to beta read my book. One even wanted to see a chapter from a peer workshop, which still exists, but is much better now. And she reminded me of my army of supporters, my kingdom of people willing to love this book, to love me and my writing; they believe this will be published someday. 

Before this day, however, I had other support, too. My mentor from grad school had already helped with my query letter. She is amazing, and she is the reason this book is what it is today. The best friend called and talked for a few minutes and helped me see how Chapter Seven could be better, and now it is. My other two best friends from grad school (Erin & Alicia, this means you!) have the pages and they, too, have been my strength through these many months, nay years, of writing this book.

I have my mom who taught me to be a reader first and who's let me be the person I needed to be to write this book. And there are others, too, who I knew would read this, including friends who are more like family (Amanda Maher, I'm talking about you!), and people who I've never met who remind me that my story idea is intriguing and as someone said, "impressive." Then there are the wonderful members of my 1:1000 family who will be reading this in their own time, and who continue to cheer me on from different states and countries and time zones! 

But my people, my tribe from grad school (Mell & Erika & Meg & Amanda) were the people who reminded me it takes more than a village to raise a book. It takes a whole fucking kingdom. And their support means the world to me. 

Now this wasn't the post I was planning for this week, but I never want to forget the way it feels to be loved and appreciated and uplifted from the brutality of rejections and revisions and editing to this feeling of absolute belief that I can do this!

And I can. 

I believed it so long ago, and now I'm making it happen with the support of my kingdom of writers and readers and kind souls who are here to raise this project to be a real book you might get to read someday. All that's left is to finish the synopsis (insert dread), revise the query letter one more time, and then throw myself into the query trenches. Until then...

Enemies Of the Every Day

As a writer, and as a person, I grapple with self-doubt, as I'm sure is true for many of you. But Sylvia Plath reminds me to move past this enemy I face every day to find the words, which want to be written. One of the ways I've been tackling my own self-doubt as a writer has been to find my way back to poetry. And the Plath Poetry Project has helped me do just that!

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My calling to be a writer did not begin with fiction (unless you count that story from second grade about a turtle becoming king, or the other more fantastical tales I signed in crayon), but instead, began with poetry. I can still recite my first limerick I crafted, and still remember the moment I felt like a real poet.

In middle school, the mother of a childhood friend who lived at the end of my street was killed in a car accident, and the only way I could think to process the news was to write a poem. Now many might think the moment this poem was published was the time I felt like a real writer, and maybe for some the validation of seeing their words in print is that moment. I know all these years later the first time I did see my words published by an online magazine that, yes, it was an incredible feeling.

But the moment when I realized my words could help someone other than myself, is the moment I felt called to the page. That same childhood friend read the poem I'd written at her mother's funeral. I still remember the sound of my words from her mouth, voice so small; too young to have had to deal with such a thing. 

Now fast forward. I am a writer. And while I love writing, really I do, there are some days, which are difficult. There are moments when the creativity isn't there, when the excitement is just out of reach; the times of day when I stare in front of a blank page hoping something will happen. And if I'm being honest, these are the days, which scare me the most. These are the days when I wonder if I am really a writer. For those non-writerly folk out there, this might seem completely nonsensical, and I assure you, it is, but I'm not sure how quite to explain where the writing comes from.

Alas, I digress.

It is in these times when I feel self-doubt more than anything else, which never makes the writing any easier. Sometimes our own self-doubts outweigh our self-worth, but still, we must continue onward. 

While I mentioned writing poetry in middle school, I must also admit I wrote many a melancholic poem in high school as well. When I took Experimental Writing for the first time, however, I abandoned poetry for a new love of fiction! I started a book, which I am still working on today, some eight years later, and I started another book, which I refuse to ever look at again. And sure there were some poems here and there. I took a poetry class in my undergrad. I discovered that I am a writer who cannot resist the trappings of lyrical language. Through all of this, I never felt like a poet, not the way I had all those years before. I didn't feel like I had found my voice as a poet like I had in writing fiction. 

The Plath Poetry Project, however, helped me find my way back to poetry. It helped me find my voice. I've been following along with this writing challenge since April and have completed twelve poems in the past few months. My poem, "Sacrament," was featured in the first retrospective of this project, and you can read that work HERE.

Now you might be wondering what this Plath Poetry Project is all about. The home page asks:

"What is the relationship between discipline, inspiration, and external pressures?"

The project serves to help writers answer this question. By following the writing Plath produced in her last year of life, I have been writing a poem (sometimes more than one) each day Sylvia wrote a poem, taking inspiration from the work she created. Not only has this project helped me feel closer to one of my favorite writers, it also brought me back to poetry. It helped me cultivate a pamphlet of poems, which has since been submitted for a contest, so keep your fingers crossed for me! 

Two nights ago, I finished my latest poem for this challenge, and I was reminded that self-doubt is indeed the worst enemy to creativity. Since I've stopped doubting my ability to write poetry, to have a unique voice, to actually sit and write, I have felt more creative. And on the days when the words aren't quite there, I still find myself drifting toward a line or two that might grow to be something more.  

I am hoping when I check back in at the end of this project that I can say I successfully wrote all 67 poems, just as Plath did in her last year of life. I find myself wondering more and more what kind of work we might've had from Sylvia today. But the thought is wishful thinking. It comes and goes. I open up to a blank page, and I wonder, and I write. 

All best,Kayla King.png

Birthday Letter

Dear Sylvia,

Your once beloved beau wrote a final collection entitled Birthday Letters that I have yet to read. But I read that today it is your birthday, (though it is actually October 27th) and I might never read those poems because I didn't love Crow the way I wanted to, and I suppose this is because your voice, your poetry, has already possessed me. 

Though you're gone, I said a small, "Happy Birthday," just because. But this wasn't enough, because you were a poet and I am writer and I think it is only in the written word that you will feel the sentiments of that birthday wish. 

And I wonder what you might've written had you found a way to bottle your illness long enough to make it to today's medicine. I would say today's understanding, but such a thing doesn't seem to exist now. And I wonder if you would've marched last Saturday, the taste of disgust like the bitterness of pills left on the tongue too long without water to ease them down. Would you have plastered a poster with images of bees because your father was Otto, King of the Bees, and he'd taught you long ago that the Queen was meant to be more? More than rights stripped away and choices provided by men who will never know what it is like to feel the moon of a womb or the wane of loss. Would you sit at your computer and vomit a compendium of poetry about the plight of womanhood amidst today's technology and jarring juxtaposition between all we have accomplished and all we choose to forget?

I've wondered a great many things about you. 

Sometimes, I think I feel your darkness. And maybe it isn't mine to claim, though that sort of depressive darkening runs in my blood from a paternal place. Maybe this is the same darkness, which ran in your veins, like ink that takes more than just black to be created; you add the blues and the purples, the bruises no one will ever see because all they know is black and white. Maybe that substance, whatever you'd like to call it now, floats in the ether of creation before making us into these people, these writers of words and dreams and draconian dependencies that keep us chained to the pen and the promise of splitting our souls for others. Sometimes we call it love or burden or beauty or art. 

Oh, Sylvia, I want to open to the pages I've annotated with my own thoughts, but I've left your work at home in exchange for a new novel, a collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman, and a book of poetry called Beautiful Zero. And I never thought I would miss your collections so much because they have been too many places with me. 

You do not come to people lightly. It is full on obsession and love because there is something within you that we understand. When you took your life, maybe you erupted into particles reincarnated within us all. 

I remember that one poem you wrote, and imagine the people around you as the thoughts filtered in.

I remember my poetry professor from my undergrad who never talked about you, and I wonder why. Because he talked about Dickinson and Pound and recited the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, and he brought the works of Spicer into my life, and Spicer wrote about Lorca and Alice, but never about you. But you were there in that collection from the Strand, and the dolphin seemed to resurrect you in writing, and you were there in The History of the Unmarried, and I cried a little at the idea of death in that one poem because Mills is scared of the way it might separate him and his love and their love seems more understandable because he writes about movie theaters and Gap sweaters. And maybe I don't want to understand you and Ted because I don't want to see myself in you. And Ted. And the way that one writer broke my heart with the things he'd text and the way he understood my madness and my mind until one day he didn't. We didn't. We never will, and the what if is poetry he will never understand.

There was another poetry professor I had, and he, too, left you off the syllabus because, maybe, you were too much woman for him to handle amidst the poems of woods and nature that bowed down to men and ignored the sacrifice of Mother Earth. And that same professor had a bit of an accent, and he asked us every class what we had observed that day. He was trying to make us better writers. Better poets.

And here is what I've observed from my seat on this train: the sound of the cards on the table and the love in the sound of the father's voice. (I remember a similar sound, but I don't.) (Not quite.) The young girl sings. I don’t know the song, but the music sounds like the in-between of childhood and adulthood; something she will hear in the car twenty years from now making her remember this trip to NYC with her father. He sings with her, both so off key that the moment becomes perfect in the imperfection.

I think that is what you would write about today if you were here; perfect must be flawed or else our eyes would be burned by the sight of the godliness. The sacrament of a song that is not real could be Holy under the right circumstances. And maybe you would write a poem in which this father tells his girl that she is enough, because she is. Explanation drives the narrative.

Maybe he will discuss the female circumstance of having a voice and not using it, because his wife grew up in a traditional household, and maybe she voted for he who must not be named, but the father doesn't hate her. He can't hate her. But he can't understand her either. And maybe he won't say this to his daughter, because maybe, it is about the things we say and the things we don't. 

When the girl frowns at her thin arms, and the way she can't lift her suitcase into the overhead compartment, admitting this makes her feel weak, the father will explain that being slight is nothing she can control, but that one day she might be filled with enough power to paper her walls in poetry. And dreams. Because in the end those are the same thing. And he will smile at the way she sings her own song because that means she is enough. 

You were enough, Sylvia.

Enough for all of us who read your words. Enough for yourself. And your poetry exists as a reminder of the way "Lady Lazarus" and "Ariel" broke through the barriers to be a force, not a frailty.

In these tumultuous days, with grey skies overhead that look too much like nature in mourning, your brashness is something to bring us back to bone, to remind us we are strong. And maybe they would call you nasty, tweet at you with little regard for the things you've endured. And maybe some would just say, "Happy Birthday." I can only leave these possibilities as wonderings in a post you will never get to read. 

Be Better

I was meant to write a post with a similar title just after the new year. But alas, life has already gotten in the way. The post I'd planned to pen had to do with hope and belief and the word better.

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You see, for the past two years, I've chosen a word instead of a list of resolutions. The new year hasn't been about changing myself, but rather, my outlook. And this year, I chose the word better because it has such a prominent place within BOOK ONE of my Dreamer Duology. 

That post was delayed because I finally finished the novel! And I wasn't sure I would return to this word or this post until the moment I opened my journal to a bee sketch from two weeks ago.

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I am writing this now from the same chair at the same Starbucks where I completed this novel exactly two weeks ago. Two and half years after I began this strange story for graduate school, I completed the chapters, and wrote the words: END OF BOOK ONE, which have been four of my favorite words written the past month. 

So I finished my novel. 

You might be wondering what happens next, or maybe you are some future version of me returning to this post to remember what it felt like to have this story as only your own (hi, future Kayla). 

For the past two weeks I've been editing, which has meant red pens and reading whenever I can find the time. These edits were done long hand on a printed version of the manuscript. Now I am putting the edits back into the document. It's a rather arduous task, but one that is necessary to my process. 

When this is complete (and I can read this story throughout without an eye twitch from stupid mistakes and plot holes and syntax and character arcs and motivations and everything that culminates in the magic of storytelling) I will send this off and away to New York City so that the best friend can read this whole thing through. And I'll share with a few others who I trust with this story. 

While they read, I might finally tackle that TBR pile that has grown too precarious in the past two and a half years since I started this story. But I will also be researching agents that are looking for a story like mine. I will write the much dreaded query letter. And then I will take the next step. I will send the novel out into the world, and see where my words take me. 

But for now, the scent of fresh ground coffee smells like possibility and endings, because when I took that deep breath after finishing this book, coffee was all I could smell. 

And now, maybe, you're left wondering about that bee sketch. I can tell you honey bees play a prominent part in my novel, as do many other things. I can tell you I wrote the last chapter of this novel to Amber Run's new single, Fickle Game, and that the middle was produced with the Strumbellas in my ears and wine in my veins. I can tell you I cried writing a chapter and cried when I wrote the last chapter. But I don't want to tell you too much about this novel, because I am hoping you will get to read it someday.

While the following quote is spoken by my wonderfully broken protagonist, it was written by me, and I suppose there must be some truth in such a sentiment:

 "I’ve always been wonderful at writing endings, but have never been good at goodbyes."

Though the ending to this book was much more difficult to write than any other I've written before, it is true that I've never been good at goodbyes. I can't imagine what it will be like when BOOK TWO  in this duology is written and comes to a close, when I have to leave my world of dreamers behind in exchange for new characters and new worlds and new words. But for now, the journey persists, and the writing persists. 

And through the possibility of perseverance I will be better. 

I hope you will, too. 

Haunted

I'm not sure I've put much thought into the things that haunt me. Too often, these things appear in my writing as if by chance, or perhaps fate, if you're so inclined to believe in such a thing. I'm sure it has more to do with the fact that the written word has always been easier for me than anything else. I look at the stories we all have to tell and often wonder what separates writers from other people.

Maybe this is because I am a writer. 

Two weeks from today will mark the twenty-eighth anniversary of the day my maternal grandmother was shot and left for dead. In what has come to be known as a warning tale for other relators and an end to realtor safety in our small town, is something that is more than just a tale told to pass the time. This is my history. This is my real life. 

This year, my grandmother's attacker, E. Beauford Cutner, is up for parole, and this fact not only terrifies her, but our entire family. While discussing petitions and reasons for why this criminal should not be granted the freedom he tried to take from my grandma all those years before, she marveled at the way I was able to explain my frustration and anguish over what is happening. And I know that the words I spoke were easier for me to speak to her than anyone else. I know she wishes I could write her story as it really happened, and while I'm no genie nor djinn, I would like to grant her such a wish. But I'm not sure she realizes her story, the amazing, resilient person she has become, is already there in my writing. 

I know it's not the same as writing a biography based on her bravery. While I would describe myself as a fiction writer, I find my own anguish and obsessions within my fiction. There is an essence of myself on every page because I am the writer and the creator and though I am not the characters, they are part of me. 

Within the DREAMER DUOLOGY, my current WIP, I am trying to figure out what happens to a world when safety is obliterated, when fear sets in, when lives are at stake.

I look back at the way my family survived my grandma's attack along with her; rebuilding the people they were to become the guardians and healers and protectors they needed to be: for themselves, for their children. I grew up in a house that valued text messages and phone calls to relay locations and destinations because my mother wanted us all to be safe. And I'm sure many parents would be the same way, but for us, it feels like we know evil exists in the world, and so, we all must be guarded against such things and persons. 

Now this kind of conscientious life has allowed me to create a character traversing a dangerous landscape. And there is a violent act that mirrors my own thoughts about what happened to my grandmother all those years ago. Though I was not yet born, the stories of this have been relinquished, and to me, sometimes, the stories mean more because that is a language I speak well. 

Helping my grandma organize her thoughts for her victim letter, which she will be presenting to the parole board soon, made me see that much of what she has to discuss is the idea of the unknown, the fear of the the what if; too many possibilities to name. And I realized that all writing deals with the unknown.

Writers take a blank page and fill it, often before they know what needs to be there to make the story feel right or perfect, which any writer will tell you never happens upon first draft. If anything, the what if is a feeling, a need to figure things out, and I know for me and my family, we are hoping to figure out what life will be like if this man does gain parole. 

Fortunately, we have time on our side. And I have my words to help me figure this all out. I am called to the page, much like other people are called to protect or to heal or to lead.

Writing is my life. 

My family is my life.

When I think about the way E. Beauford Cutner shot my grandma three times, in the head and the neck, leaving her for dead; the moment in which I might never have had the chance to meet this wonderul woman, I am haunted by what could have been. 

Like any writer, I am haunted by stories.

I am leaving this here as a way to explain to my grandmother, and maybe, even you, for not being able to write her story the way it deserves to be told. It is something I can't forget, something I can't fathom.

Too often, I think the difficult things fossilize within us until they're ready to escape. For now I hope the words I've taken from her experience, this unending work ethic she's given me, the times I've pondered the meaning of saftey and fear and fate, will all help me finish my novel. 

 

* 2018 update: E. Beauford Cutner is once again up for parole.

Please help us to keep this man where he belongs by signing our petiton HERE!

All best,Kayla King.png