I just can’t help myself. I read to learn and to grow, to laugh and to be motivated. I read to understand things I’ve never been exposed to. I read when I’m crabby, when I’ve just said monumentally dumb things to the people I love. I read for strength to help me when I feel broken, discouraged, and afraid. I read when I’m angry at the whole world. I read when everything is going right. I read to find hope. I read because I’m made up not just of skin and bones, of sights, feelings, and a deep need for chocolate, but I’m also made up of words. Words describe my thoughts and what’s hidden in my heart. Words are alive–when I’ve found a story that I love, I read it again and again, like playing a favorite song over and over. Reading isn’t passive–I enter the story with the characters, breathe their air, feel their frustrations, scream at them to stop when they’re about to do something stupid, cry with them, laugh with them. Reading for me, is spending time with a friend. A book is a friend. You can never have too many.
Gary James Paulsen (May 17, 1939 – October 13, 2021) was an American writer of children’s and young adult fiction, best known for coming-of-age stories about the wilderness. He was the author of more than 200 books and wrote more than 200 magazine articles and short stories, and several plays, all primarily for teenagers. He won the Margaret Edwards Award from the American Library Association in 1997 for his lifetime contribution in writing for teens. (Source Wikipedia)
Award-winning author, playwright, poet, screenwriter and successful grant writer Kayt Peck sat down with Mary Rose Henssler recently for an interview. Kayt is the current Poet Laureate of Las Vegas, N.M., and will be the featured guest at the Literary Salon Visit with the Author, at Gallery 140, 140 Bridge Street, Las Vegas, N.M., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, at 4 p.m. In our interview, we discussed writing, among many subjects, and that part of the interview is excerpted below.
MRH: You were studying speech and communications. At what point did you start knowing that writing was your life? KP: Before I could write I would go into my dad’s office and make up stories on his typewriter. I was just pecking away, but the stories were in my head. Yeah, I always wanted to write.
MRH: And at what point did you start writing fiction? KP: Probably junior high. It sucked, but I wrote it. And my degree – I had a weird degree – it was called a functional degree, and I had a major in speech, and what amounted to a triple minor in journalism, psychology and education. That’s because they tried to push me into that. Actually, I finished everything except my student teaching to get education certified, but I didn’t want to teach. That’s something they – if you’re a woman at that school you had to go into education or medicine or something. I had no desire to be a teacher. I’ve been told I’m a good one.
MRH: What is your writing kryptonite? Something that protects you from just everything and lets you write? KP: That’s a good question. Writing kryptonite. Passion. I have pretty much–I have developed the craft. I can write about anything. I make a living largely writing grants, so I can write about anything. But when it comes to fiction, when it comes to plays or now screenplays, it has to be something I am passionate about. And if I truly have passion about something there’s no such thing as writer’s block.
MRH:Now, you believe in writer’s block, but you don’t get it? KP: I do sometimes, but it’s short lived. It’s when I’m tired. It’s the body saying ‘shut up.’ I do get it sometimes. Natalie Goldberg has some great exercises to get you past, you know, over the hump. I think it’s a story she wrote or my writing instructor in college may have told me this story about someone who was in a writing class and couldn’t write. Just couldn’t get past it, so the instructor said, “Okay. Just pick a street.” She did. “Pick a building.” She did. Couldn’t write. The instructor finally said, “I want you to go to that building. Go up ten bricks, three bricks over, and start writing about that brick.” And that broke it. Have you ever read my tagline on my email? ‘Writers are like magic wands. They can create anything.’ And you know, we really do. It’s not just on the page. Writers create everything when you come down to it, the things that happen in the world, the things that humanity creates, it has to start with words. Everything has to start with words. It has to start with communication. That’s why I was so fascinated by interpersonal communication.
MRH:When you were in the Navy, I know the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City had a tremendous affect on you. What other experiences with the Navy had a great affect on you, good or bad? KP: Probably the most important writing I have ever done in my whole career was when I was recalled to go to Strategic Command to help write the VIP documents when Admiral Childs was developing a plan for the stand down from the Cold War. So, I helped write the documents he used for key legislative committees to convince them to follow his plan.
MRH:You feel that was the most important writing you ever did. Do you feel that way about any of your fiction? Do you feel that your fiction has an impact on the people that read it? KP: I think so, yes. I think this latest book, especially. The fantasy series. I really need to get into a different market for that, because I think that series… You know, Harry Potter changed the world. I think everything I’ve written–sometimes it feels like I’m not writing alone so everything I’ve written there’s been a trigger. I don’t write just for fun. It’s fun to write, but there’s something. There’s a kernel. A truth I need to say, or an observation I need to say. I told you the story of why I decided I needed to write Broken. The Ladies Room, I had to do.
MRH:That was a very powerful book. KP: And you know, I couldn’t really tell the story of what it was like to start an organization in the Texas Panhandle, because nobody would have believed it. It was horrible. But I needed to get that flavor, that experience out to people. And do you know, I’ve done well selling that book out at the flea market, when I tell people what it’s about, that’s the one they want–straight people. And I’m amazed how supportive they are when I tell them what the book’s about. The fantasy trilogy? That was important to me, and it hasn’t hit where it’s supposed to yet. I probably needed a different publisher for that. When I write, I let the story drive the length and the pace. And even though I like fantasy, Tolkein was so verbose. The story’s good, but I enjoyed the movies more than the books. I’m waiting to see what happens with Chokecherry Jelly (screenplay). I entered it into two contests and I’m not entering it into any more until I see what it does. It costs money to enter screenplay contests. (Chokecherry Jelly won both contests.) (Someone) wants to produce it, but it’s a long ways from concept to production on a movie.
MRH: Unless you want to do it yourself. KP: There’s so much I want to accomplish, and picking and choosing, because I realized, you know, I’m not going to live that much longer. In the scheme of things, ten or even twenty years isn’t that long.
MRH: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? KP: It wouldn’t be my writing self; it would affect my writing self, but I would go back earlier. Because when I was a kid growing up, somehow I knew it wasn’t me that was screwed up. Well, I was screwed up, but I think I would go back–I waited until I was older to–I’ve written forever. I’ve got manuscripts even I forgot I had written. But it wasn’t until I got in my fifties where I started saying, “Yeah, let’s put it out there.”
MRH:So you wrote, but you didn’t send it out anywhere, until you were in your fifties? KP: I would do some, but I wasn’t real serious about it. I was serious about helping other people accomplish their dreams, because that was the subliminal message that I had, was that my talent wasn’t supposed to be used for me. So if I could, I would go back to even before pre-writing and tell child me, “It’s okay to be ambitious. It’s okay. You’ve got a gift. It’s okay.”
MRH:So that was a pretty powerful message that you were getting from the people around you. KP: Oh yeah. That I wasn’t supposed to use my talent for me. And it took me a long time to even recognize that’s what it was doing. I think that’s why I got into grants, because it was okay. I told myself at the time it was a great way to practice my writing skills and still make a living. Now, I look back at it, and if I had put it where I really wanted to, by now I’d be in clover.
MRH: What did you do with your first advance? KP: What advance?
MRH:Your publisher doesn’t give an advance. What did you do with the first check you got from your writing? KP: Put it back into the writing. Or into publishing. All of the stuff I make off my books I put into Dreamcatcher Books or I put it into the marketing. So I’m trying to think if I used it for anything else.
MRH:What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? KP: Getting a computer. That really opened things up.
MRH:You wrote your first books on a typewriter? KP: Mmmhmm. Speaking of investment, I tried to make an investment. When I was in my twenties, I thought okay, I want to be a writer, I want to do publishing, so what am I going to do? So I started a little magazine called The Coldwater Holdout. Which is apparently kept in a couple of museums in Oklahoma. Which is kind of fun. And my dad had bought, when I was a baby, a whole life policy which he turned over to me when I turned twenty-one, and I left it for a while and I thought, ‘You know what? I need some money to be able to do this magazine.’ So I cashed it in. Now, this is one of the ways–I should have divorced him then–so, I made the mistake of putting the money in the joint bank account. Kevin bought a motorcycle. Spent my magazine money on a motorcycle, so that was a short-lived–I think I did it for six months. It was so much fun. I’ve still got it somewhere. I ought to let you see it. The Coldwater Holdout was fun. I might have been able to stay in publishing. But you know, I don’t regret the newspapers I worked for, either.
MRH:What do you regret? KP: Not a damn thing.
Kayt Peck will be the Literary Salon’s featured guest on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, at 4 p.m. at the Gallery 140, 140 Bridge Street, Las Vegas, N.M. Refreshments will be served. Please wear a mask and observe social distancing.
Article written by Mary Rose Henssler whose work includes playwriting, scriptwriting, poetry and prose. She also enjoys drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, and being outdoors.
I’m going to crow just a bit. Las Vegas Literary Salon’s Edwina (Patti) Romero, suggested we do an open mic event in recognition of poetry month, celebrated annually in April. We already had an April event scheduled, Dreams and Creativity presented by Jan Beurskens, but we decided to add the event to the schedule and see how it developed.
It developed very well. Eighteen signed up for the first Open Mic poetry reading on April 29, to read poetry, either their own or the work of another poet. Thanks to these amazing talents who shared their passion for poetry. Three of them were West Las Vegas High School students, and one was their teacher, who also read the work of a student who couldn’t make the Zoom event. See the names of participants here.
This is the eleventh Lit Salon event since we launched in July 2020. Check out our Guest Roll to read more information about the presentations, authors, and books we’ve featured.
So, why a Literary Salon? The founders of the Las Vegas Literary Salon, Patti Romero and Sharon Vander Meer, wanted there to be opportunities for writers and readers to come together in a welcoming environment where the art of the written word may be celebrated.
It appears, we’re on the right track. With the encouragement of Susie Tsyitee of the Las Vegas Arts Council, and with funding from a Mustard Seed Grant, we moved the idea forward, one guest – sometimes more – at a time.
The Great Pandemic of 2020-2021 was not the obstacle it might have been. Through Zoom, we have reached a growing audience and expanded our network.
One of our projects is the publication of Tapestry: Tales, Essays, Poetry, a collection of written work by Las Vegas and area writers. To qualify for the publication, you must live – or have lived – in Las Vegas or Northeastern New Mexico. Submissions that reflect the area are preferred, but not required. There is much to celebrate – or comment on – about Northeastern New Mexico, a diverse area with a broad mosaic of cultures and lifestyles. You will have lots of fodder for your writing muse. And, yes, speculative fiction, mystery, suspense, comic relief, ghost stories and any other genre you can imagine – and write in short-form – is admissible and encouraged. Essays and poetry are open to the writer’s imagination and creativity.
Tapestry authors will receive a copy of the book as compensation and a publishing credit to add to their writing resume.
This is a fundraiser for Las Vegas Literary Salon. Proceeds from sale of the book will go to the Las Vegas Arts Council, our fiscal sponsor, to support future programming and workshops. The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2021. Projected publication date is mid-November, just in time for Christmas sales.
Stay up-to-date on Lit Salon news and upcoming events, follow this website lvlitsalon.org. We appreciate your support and participation. If there is an author you would like to see featured, contact the Lit Salon at email@example.com.
Our Visit with the Author May 23, will be retired educator Alvin Korte. More to come about Mr. Korte and his work.
Other Lit Salon news: • Call for Submissions – Tapestry: Tales, Essays, Poetry. Find out more here. Deadline for submissions, June 1, 2021 • A Visit with the Author, Alvin O. Korte, May 23 on Zoom. • See our Poetry Open Mic event video here.