writing journey

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!

All best,Kayla King.png

A Little Spark

I don’t have many words to spare this morning as I work toward today’s word count goal. Last night, however, I reached 25,164 words; the halfway point of NaNoWriMo 2018! To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to take part this year because I couldn’t fathom going back to that place from last year. But I’m doing it. Throughout writing, it feels somewhat like madness. Some days, it’s a little spark. Other days, it’s a blaze. Yet, it’s kept me going in these beginning days of NaNoWriMo!

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The last time I wrote here, I was just weeks away from the publication of my first collection, These Are the Women We Write About. Amidst waiting for that book, I was outlining a short story, which today, is published in Mistletoe & Magic: A YA Holiday Anthology.

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My short story, “in the Valley of Stars,” features three women from and a hint of magic from current work-in-progress. The anthology is now available for purchase from Amazon as an ebook for $.99 for one last day. And all too soon, print copies will be available, too, just in time for the holidays! There is also a giveaway running to include the authors’ books (my collection included), which can be entered HERE!

Now all these months later, that short story helped bring me back to my NaNoWriMo project as it grows like every story: word by word by word. There’s a very good chance I’ll “win” NaNo this year by making it to 50,000 words. But there’s also a chance I might finish the novel I dreamed up 9 years ago. I like the odds.

And yet, to say the writing is easy would be nonsensical. To say anything other than writing is work would be a lie. I love the work. And some days I stare out at the blank sea of a wordless page with blurry eyes knowing I should get to bed lest suffer the next day at my day job.

This time, however, the work of this story is urgent, even when the page appears wordless. I want to finish this not so first draft. I need to write this book. Whatever it takes: tired mornings, notes on my lunch break, talking out plot points with myself in the dark of night. I’ll make it happen. It’s what I do. And while I drifted from that place in September and October, I’ve written myself back to better. So here’s to better writing. Here’s to progress. And here’s to finishing my next book by the end of the month!

Take Your Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All best,Kayla King.png

From the Person Who Wrote It

I recently had a conversation about the difference between author and narrator. As a writer of fiction and poetry, I know the readers of my work might confuse the narrators from my writing with me as the author. And this thought became most clear in writing the title poem of my collection: 

"And so it’s done; this endless, spirographic lie where they think you the narrator, instead of the ghost of a poet. Haunted by the writing. Emptied by this poem. An echo. Yes, an echo."

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So yes, this notion is one that has been on the brain lately, especially as I dive back into edits for DREAM CATCHERS. My goal for the end of the week is to make it through the first five chapters, and I'm right on track. And through this process, I'm reminded that while I'm not my main character, I've found myself while writing her story. There are times when a certain line or scene resonates, and it feels like home. 

This may sound strange. How can writing feel like home? At least for myself, home has always felt like understanding. And when I feel understood on the page, I imagine a reader might feel the same way. Somehow this makes it easier to fathom the fact that I might be confused with fictional people, even if they feel real. Because yes, they are flawed and messy and kind and honest; everything I know myself to be now. 

As I make my way back through DREAM CATCHERS, there are certain scenes that stop me in my tracks because they feel too real. And while I am not my main character, nor the other characters on the page, I understand their belief. I believe this book will be published, and I'm just as much of a dreamer as my favorite characters. Maybe they get that from me, or maybe I get that from them; I'm not so sure I could argue against either possibility. But they do make me believe this dream of writing is possible. 

I won't spend too much more time trying to prove the difference between narrator and author. And to be honest, there's a line in one of my favorite Plath poems, "Electra on Azalea Path," which makes me think she must be the narrator, that Sylvia herself must have had some vision of the future and relayed such divinity on the page for all to read: 

"I am the ghost of an infamous suicide."

But I know thinking this is Sylvia is not entirely fair. Yet, people are more than one thing, and by default, that must mean characters are more than their authors. They must be inspired by life and past loves, best friends and maybe that stranger seen every day at the red light.

Maybe we're all a little bit of the people we love best. 

I suppose this idea comes from the very real fear of confronting vulnerability and judgement once this book finds its way into the hands of readers. But such is life, and I'm used to such feelings. So for now, I will make my way back to the page to find myself, both the person who writes and the person now written therein. 

All best,Kayla King.png

To Rebuild and Rewrite

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

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

But, I digress. 

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

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

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

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

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

All best,Kayla King.png

The 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. 

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