Artwork for podcast Artist Soapbox * Audio fiction + Creative Process
162: Prioritizing creativity and accountability with author, Kayla Cagan
Episode 1624th July 2022 • Artist Soapbox * Audio fiction + Creative Process • Tamara Kissane
00:00:00 00:31:30

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Writers, take note! Author Kayla Cagan gives insight into her writing process (including the publishing phase), as well as navigating writer's block with really practical ways to overcome it. Guest host, Juliana Finch, and Kayla provide resources and places to start when writing doesn't feel great or accessible

BIO: 

Kayla Cagan (she/her) is the Young Adult Author of PIPER PERISH and ART BOSS from Chronicle Books. PIPER PERISH received universal praise and starred reviews from ALA Booklist, as well as being an Amazon Bestseller, a Barnes & Noble Best Book of the Month, and made the Indie Next Choice list. PIPER PERISH was also picked as a Spirit of Texas High School Reading Program selection and was a nominee for the Overdrive Book Selection. Her second book, ART BOSS, was called “an engaging portrait of the artist as a young woman” by Kirkus Review, and “an automatic pick-up for fans” by Booklist. Both books were selected for Mule Design's Quarantine Book Club series in 2020. Her short plays and monologues have been published by Applause Books and Smith and Kraus. She has also contributed comics and essays to assorted collections, including Girl Crush Zine, Womanthology, and Unite and Take Over: Stories Inspired by the Smiths. She is happily married to screenwriter Josh A. Cagan and they live in California. Instagram at @kayla_cagan_writer

Resources Kayla mentioned:

Jacob Krueger Studio

Loyalty Bookstore

Big Magic Podcast/Magic Lessons

LISTEN TO ASBX AUDIO DRAMAS:

Master Builder

The New Colossus

Declaration of Love audio anthology

ASBX Shorts

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Transcripts

Tamara Kissane:

This is artist soapbox.

Tamara Kissane:

Through interviews and original scripted audio fiction.

Tamara Kissane:

We deliver stories that speak to your hearts and your minds

Juliana Finch:

Hi Soapboxers, it's Juliana.

Juliana Finch:

I am thrilled to bring you a talk I got to have with my friend, Kayla Cagan.

Juliana Finch:

She is the author of Piper Perish and Art Boss from Chronicle books,

Juliana Finch:

two wonderful young adult books.

Juliana Finch:

But you know what?

Juliana Finch:

Adult adults can read them too, cuz I have, and I love them.

Juliana Finch:

Piper Perish received universal praise and starred reviews from ALA book list

Juliana Finch:

as well as being an Amazon bestseller, Barnes and noble best book of the month.

Juliana Finch:

And it made the indie next choice list.

Juliana Finch:

So basically Kayla is kind of a big deal.

Juliana Finch:

Kayla also has published comics and essays to as sorted collections, including girl

Juliana Finch:

crush scene, Womanthology unite and take over, stories inspired by the Smiths.

Juliana Finch:

She is happily married to screenwriter, Josh Cagan and they live in California.

Juliana Finch:

You can find Kayla on Instagram at, at Kayla underscore Kagan

Juliana Finch:

underscore writer, and that's K a Y L a and Cagan is C a G a N.

Juliana Finch:

We had a wonderful talk about writer's block, really

Juliana Finch:

practical ways to overcome it.

Juliana Finch:

She's gonna give you a ton of resources and places to start

Juliana Finch:

when writing doesn't feel great or accessible, she is just a delight.

Juliana Finch:

And I know you'll have as good a time listening as I did getting to talk to her.

Juliana Finch:

Here's Kayla

Juliana Finch:

Cagan.

Juliana Finch:

So Kayla, I'm so excited.

Juliana Finch:

You're able to join me today on artist soapbox.

Juliana Finch:

Thank you so much for coming on my little podcast.

Kayla Cagan:

It's a pleasure.

Kayla Cagan:

I am so excited to be here.

Kayla Cagan:

This is wonderful.

Kayla Cagan:

I'm really happy to do this.

Kayla Cagan:

Thank you for

Juliana Finch:

having me for listeners who might not know your work.

Juliana Finch:

Can you tell me a little bit about your novels and other work that you're up

Kayla Cagan:

to?

Kayla Cagan:

Sure.

Kayla Cagan:

So my name's Kayla Cagan and I started off basically in the theater and.

Kayla Cagan:

A very long time in the theater in mostly in New York and have

Kayla Cagan:

always kind of been writing and mostly doing plays in the theater.

Kayla Cagan:

And then kind of slowly started trusting myself the transfer

Kayla Cagan:

into trying novel writing.

Kayla Cagan:

So on and off, I've been working on novels for a very long time, but I, in

Kayla Cagan:

the last few years have published two of them through Chronicle books and.

Kayla Cagan:

For young adults.

Kayla Cagan:

So they're YA books, but anyone can read them.

Kayla Cagan:

I always like to say that because some people feel weird, shame over

Kayla Cagan:

reading young, younger material, but they're both about a young artist

Kayla Cagan:

named Piper Perish, who is an artist and an emerging kind of artist.

Kayla Cagan:

And part of the reason I wrote the books is because I love reading biographies

Kayla Cagan:

and memoirs and remembrances of artists.

Kayla Cagan:

And I love hearing about their young lives, about how they became who they are.

Kayla Cagan:

I really like to see the seeds of who someone became, but I often feel like

Kayla Cagan:

there's not a lot of female artists that we get to hear about, like, can

Kayla Cagan:

tell you about the young life of Matisse or Picasso, maybe Frida Kahlo, because

Kayla Cagan:

she's, you know, a hot number and, and people will like always wanna know

Kayla Cagan:

about Frida Kahlo but there's a lot of artists who are out there who aren't.

Kayla Cagan:

And I kind of was like, what if there was a young teenage girl Picasso

Kayla Cagan:

right now that nobody knew about?

Kayla Cagan:

And I started writing.

Kayla Cagan:

Kind of this journal of this young girl, and this ended up being a two

Kayla Cagan:

book situation and Chronicle books who is known for art and were building

Kayla Cagan:

their YA collection at the time

Kayla Cagan:

loved it.

Kayla Cagan:

And so I started working with them and we published this books and

Kayla Cagan:

they're written as journals from this young artist's point of view.

Kayla Cagan:

There's lots of illustrations in them because it's supposed to be like an artist

Kayla Cagan:

sketchbook in what she's going through.

Kayla Cagan:

And the one thing I really wanted was like, let's find out by the

Kayla Cagan:

end of these books, that she's actually still a really good artist.

Kayla Cagan:

She's not like a bad artist this whole time.

Kayla Cagan:

We've got to grade, you know?

Kayla Cagan:

And so one day, you know, who might be fun to write, like who is Piper when she's 50?

Kayla Cagan:

Is she winning at Guggenheim or McArthur genius because of her work

Kayla Cagan:

or is she still kind of plotting along but magnificent in what she.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

One of the things I loved about Piper is that it was really cool to see

Juliana Finch:

in a book, a little bit of my own experience reflected as a teenage artist.

Juliana Finch:

I mean, I'm not a visual artist, but this certainty that she

Juliana Finch:

has, that she is an artist.

Juliana Finch:

Like there's never.

Juliana Finch:

She knows exactly where she wants to go and maybe not how she's gonna get

Juliana Finch:

there, but this like identity of herself as an artist just formed so early.

Juliana Finch:

And I definitely felt that too.

Juliana Finch:

And I think a lot of artists do when we're kids, you know, like, oh, once

Juliana Finch:

you realize this is a thing you can do.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

So here's, here's what I wanna do.

Juliana Finch:

Did you have that sense as a kid too?

Juliana Finch:

Let you really wanted to write.

Kayla Cagan:

I had the sense that I really wanted to be in the theater.

Kayla Cagan:

And I really wanted to direct from a very young age.

Kayla Cagan:

I didn't think of it as like an ego thing.

Kayla Cagan:

I was just like, I know how to look at a story or a play and make it happen.

Kayla Cagan:

which maybe was a little bit of ego, but I wanted to be a director and a playwright.

Kayla Cagan:

And always did I dabbled in acting a little because of the program

Kayla Cagan:

I went to in college, you kind of had to do all parts of the theater.

Kayla Cagan:

So it did tech as well.

Kayla Cagan:

And acting definitely was on my, for.

Kayla Cagan:

For sure, but it just kept reinforcing how much I liked writing because every

Kayla Cagan:

time I had to go on stages as an actress, I would look at the script and wanna

Kayla Cagan:

tear it apart and like keep working.

Kayla Cagan:

And I mean Chekhov and Shakespeare, which is like hilarious well,

Kayla Cagan:

I have some notes for you.

Kayla Cagan:

Yeah.

Kayla Cagan:

Yeah.

Kayla Cagan:

Like, let's try this again.

Kayla Cagan:

Arthur Miller, you know, but that's like comes with that great 16 year

Kayla Cagan:

old, 17, 18, 20 year old confidence.

Kayla Cagan:

And you know, nobody's told you, you can't yet, if you're lucky.

Kayla Cagan:

and I had a pretty supportive family.

Kayla Cagan:

My mom was a ceramicist and I grew up with a lot of friends

Kayla Cagan:

in like my high school and middle school, which was magnet.

Kayla Cagan:

Like I had a lot of artist, friends and theater friends.

Kayla Cagan:

And so I always felt like this was a possibility to live this kind of life.

Kayla Cagan:

Not easy for sure.

Kayla Cagan:

, but I'm glad to hear that you connect with Piper because some people have said

Kayla Cagan:

like, she's so ambitious, it's arrogant,

Kayla Cagan:

she's not paying attention to the other things in her life.

Kayla Cagan:

But I do think when you have a particular drive or passion, when you're younger,

Kayla Cagan:

whether it's sports or art or politics now, or foreign languages, you know,

Kayla Cagan:

whatever it is, I think when you are young and set your eye on that,

Kayla Cagan:

sometimes people can say, Aren't you selfish, you know, aren't you, who

Kayla Cagan:

are you to wanna pursue this thing?

Kayla Cagan:

And I didn't want her to back away from that.

Kayla Cagan:

I didn't want her to have the knowledge yet that she had to feel

Kayla Cagan:

guilty about pursuing her art love.

Kayla Cagan:

So that was love, you know?

Kayla Cagan:

Yeah.

Kayla Cagan:

But yeah, I kind of always knew theater and I kind of knew writing.

Kayla Cagan:

I loved reading books, but I never thought I could write a novel when I was younger.

Kayla Cagan:

I kind of thought I can write plays and I understood plays and

Kayla Cagan:

I understood plays' structure.

Kayla Cagan:

Immediately, but like novels are a different beast.

Kayla Cagan:

So it took me a long time.

Kayla Cagan:

And that can feel a little strange when like you have friends who are doing that

Kayla Cagan:

work that you're interested in 10 years before you are, you know, so like in

Kayla Cagan:

a way they provide a roadmap and they give you a lot of advice and suggestions

Kayla Cagan:

and feedback and, and then the other way you can feel like I'm so behind.

Kayla Cagan:

but I don't know if I had been 18 when I started trying to write novels,

Kayla Cagan:

I might not have felt that way.

Kayla Cagan:

I might have been like, no, I'm perfect.

Kayla Cagan:

And my books are awesome.

Kayla Cagan:

you know, which would've been

Juliana Finch:

great.

Juliana Finch:

Is there a way that the process of playwriting and novel writing, when you

Juliana Finch:

approach the page, like to sit down for a day of work, is there a way that you've

Juliana Finch:

noticed that that process feels different?

Juliana Finch:

Or is it similar

Kayla Cagan:

a hundred percent?

Kayla Cagan:

I mean, My husband's a screenwriter and he studied playwriting as well.

Kayla Cagan:

He and I have both talked about like, it's almost math, you know, with plays.

Kayla Cagan:

It's, it's very dialogue based.

Kayla Cagan:

Everything is visual.

Kayla Cagan:

You want characters to sound the way the audience to receive them in novels,

Kayla Cagan:

you go inside the character in a way, but when you write for a play, the actor

Kayla Cagan:

gets to do a lot of that work for you.

Kayla Cagan:

If they're a good actor and a good director who's or you know, who

Kayla Cagan:

understand the play you're writing.

Kayla Cagan:

So when you approach them, we both are very character driven when we write.

Kayla Cagan:

And so both of us will kind of always get a major character before

Kayla Cagan:

we necessarily know what the story is or the, we may have an idea,

Kayla Cagan:

you know, and that's something that

Kayla Cagan:

in the DNA that they share.

Kayla Cagan:

Like, for me, it's both, they're almost always very heavily character driven.

Kayla Cagan:

I like female protagonists.

Kayla Cagan:

Younger protagonists for the most part.

Kayla Cagan:

I'm dabbling in older characters these days.

Kayla Cagan:

And I think also with playwriting, you know, there's a sense that most plays

Kayla Cagan:

shouldn't be over 90 pages and that's max.

Kayla Cagan:

So

Juliana Finch:

you've got this like time limit.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

That you're working

Kayla Cagan:

with novels are anywhere 300 to 500 pages.

Kayla Cagan:

So it's like, it's not sprinting to a marathon, but it's more like

Kayla Cagan:

a half marathon to a marathon.

Kayla Cagan:

it's like gotta be able to go for the, the long run and also pace yourself

Kayla Cagan:

that shares that in both of those, um, playwriting, you can feel like you've

Kayla Cagan:

achieved something sooner, but you're also gonna have to rewrite it just as much.

Kayla Cagan:

So well,

Juliana Finch:

speaking of process, let's get into, like,

Juliana Finch:

my series is talking all about.

Juliana Finch:

Those times when we're not writing as much and maybe we've

Juliana Finch:

just finished a big project.

Juliana Finch:

And so there's, there's a little bit of a downtime between creative works.

Juliana Finch:

Tell me about a time when, like, I don't know if you call it writer's block or if

Juliana Finch:

you call it a lull or a space or something else, but when you have that thing that

Juliana Finch:

happens when you're not making as much.

Juliana Finch:

What does that like for you?

Juliana Finch:

What does that feel like?

Juliana Finch:

So for a

Kayla Cagan:

long time, I didn't say this about anyone else, but for myself, I

Kayla Cagan:

didn't really believe in writer's block.

Kayla Cagan:

I was just like you either writing or not, but that doesn't mean you're blocked from

Kayla Cagan:

writing when you're not writing because you're living and every experience can

Kayla Cagan:

become like it's Nora Ephron who says everything is copy and I'm like, well,

Kayla Cagan:

yeah, you know, you gotta be careful, but at the same time, stories are everywhere.

Kayla Cagan:

And if you're alive and you're, and you're thinking, and living as

Kayla Cagan:

a writer, Things are still in kind of stimulating your brain to keep

Kayla Cagan:

writing, but last summer, 2021.

Kayla Cagan:

So yeah, last summer, 2021.

Kayla Cagan:

I, or maybe it was late 2020.

Kayla Cagan:

I had turned in a project, a novel that I had been working on

Kayla Cagan:

and I suddenly had this feeling.

Kayla Cagan:

I had turned it into my agent and I had had this feeling that I wasn't

Kayla Cagan:

sure what I was gonna write next.

Kayla Cagan:

And.

Kayla Cagan:

I was nervous about it.

Kayla Cagan:

Usually the first week that I turn in a project after I've turned it

Kayla Cagan:

in that first week, I feel great.

Kayla Cagan:

I almost feel like I'm on staycation.

Kayla Cagan:

You know, like I'm like, oh, whew.

Kayla Cagan:

I am done.

Kayla Cagan:

I am magnificent.

Kayla Cagan:

I will never have to rewrite again, which is always BS.

Kayla Cagan:

You know, you always have to do more.

Kayla Cagan:

And I am no exception at all to that.

Kayla Cagan:

So the first week I'm usually good.

Kayla Cagan:

And by the middle of the second week I get itchy.

Kayla Cagan:

I'm like, I gotta do something I gotta write.

Kayla Cagan:

So this came up and I started struggling bad for maybe the first in my life

Kayla Cagan:

where was like, I don't know what I do.

Kayla Cagan:

I wanna do.

Kayla Cagan:

I don't know if this thing is gonna sell.

Kayla Cagan:

I don't know how to go forward.

Kayla Cagan:

And not only was all of that happening because it felt like a first time to me.

Kayla Cagan:

I really didn't know if that was the end.

Kayla Cagan:

I was kind of.

Kayla Cagan:

Oh, my God.

Kayla Cagan:

I don't know if I'm getting out of this space of not being able

Kayla Cagan:

to create something again, this went on for almost eight weeks.

Kayla Cagan:

And so I have a text thread.

Kayla Cagan:

I highly believe in having creative text thread, friends, and I was

Kayla Cagan:

reaching out to them, not in the beginning, but by about midway through

Kayla Cagan:

when it was feeling really bad.

Kayla Cagan:

And I was like, I don't know how I'm gonna get through.

Kayla Cagan:

I don't think I'm ever gonna have an idea.

Kayla Cagan:

Again, I don't trust myself to have an idea again.

Kayla Cagan:

And I don't know if my agent trusts me to have an idea again,

Kayla Cagan:

like I don't know what to do.

Kayla Cagan:

And all of them kept.

Kayla Cagan:

You just turn something in rest, rest your brain.

Kayla Cagan:

This is not about productivity.

Kayla Cagan:

This is about creativity.

Kayla Cagan:

Okay.

Kayla Cagan:

Well, that's easy here said than done because right.

Kayla Cagan:

Cause it still feels bad it still feels bad.

Kayla Cagan:

And it's not solving the issue at hand, which is, will I create something again?

Kayla Cagan:

The other part of it being, I got real caught up and heard the messaging that

Kayla Cagan:

was happening during the pandemic, which.

Kayla Cagan:

You know, Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the plague, like, OK.

Kayla Cagan:

So I don't think I'm gonna write King Lear or maybe king beer, hand me a beer

Kayla Cagan:

and we'll talk, but there's nothing that I'm gonna achieve like that.

Kayla Cagan:

But in my head, I was like, I do have free time right now.

Kayla Cagan:

I do have this and I'm not sick and I'm not in first responder.

Kayla Cagan:

So I have no excuse.

Kayla Cagan:

And that's a humongous guilt to put on yourself to produce something.

Kayla Cagan:

It doesn't make any sense if somebody else said that to me, I'd be like, yeah, that.

Kayla Cagan:

That's not what you do.

Juliana Finch:

right.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

It's the pressure that we put on ourselves compared to what we would say too.

Juliana Finch:

An artist friend of ours.

Kayla Cagan:

Yeah.

Kayla Cagan:

Totally different.

Kayla Cagan:

Oh yeah.

Kayla Cagan:

Oh, a hundred percent.

Kayla Cagan:

Cause you know, you can talk the, talk to your friends and then when

Kayla Cagan:

you have to walk the walk yourself, you're like, oh, you know what?

Kayla Cagan:

This is hard.

Kayla Cagan:

this is really hard to be.

Kayla Cagan:

So I would journal.

Kayla Cagan:

I took a lot of walks during that I cried.

Kayla Cagan:

I literally was grasping at ideas.

Kayla Cagan:

Like maybe I could write about this.

Kayla Cagan:

I could write about this.

Kayla Cagan:

These were things literally I could hear myself saying them and being like,

Kayla Cagan:

you're never gonna write about that.

Kayla Cagan:

You don't care about it.

Kayla Cagan:

You know, and I always ask people, like when I taught writing workshops and, and

Kayla Cagan:

do trainings, I always ask people when they say like, well, I wanna write a

Kayla Cagan:

book and I always say, okay, what about?

Kayla Cagan:

And they're like, well, I don't know.

Kayla Cagan:

I always think once you have your why, like, I know why I wanna write this and

Kayla Cagan:

then I know, you know, I wanna tackle it, but I don't know how to write.

Kayla Cagan:

That's fine.

Kayla Cagan:

We can work with why, but if you don't have any idea and you're

Kayla Cagan:

just like, I wanna do this.

Kayla Cagan:

Like, it's like me telling you, I wanna write a song.

Kayla Cagan:

What do you wanna write a song?

Kayla Cagan:

I don't know.

Kayla Cagan:

right.

Kayla Cagan:

It's not helpful, right?

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

So what kind of music do you like?

Juliana Finch:

Like where's the starting, point's gotta be something I

Kayla Cagan:

he's, yeah.

Kayla Cagan:

it's really hard, you know?

Kayla Cagan:

You're like, what genre do you like to read?

Kayla Cagan:

I don't read.

Kayla Cagan:

Okay.

Kayla Cagan:

All right.

Kayla Cagan:

That's

Kayla Cagan:

an

Juliana Finch:

interesting flip side too.

Juliana Finch:

I think common problem that maybe you have also experienced where we,

Juliana Finch:

we work in art forms that people think are easier than they are.

Juliana Finch:

Oh my gosh.

Juliana Finch:

To do.

Juliana Finch:

And like, ideally if you're doing it.

Juliana Finch:

It does seem easy because the reading of it is an easy experience or the

Juliana Finch:

listening to it is an easy experience.

Juliana Finch:

Right.

Juliana Finch:

But it makes, it makes everybody think that they can write a novel, which,

Juliana Finch:

you know, maybe, maybe they can, but they still have to actually do it.

Juliana Finch:

yeah.

Juliana Finch:

And I will say,

Kayla Cagan:

I think everyone can write a novel, can you

Kayla Cagan:

publish a novel is a different.

Kayla Cagan:

Situation and publishing and writing are different, even though writers to make

Kayla Cagan:

a living, edit, need to be published.

Kayla Cagan:

That's where visibility comes in.

Kayla Cagan:

And that's where it also looks like ease.

Kayla Cagan:

And I've had wonderful friends who don't think it's easy and who understand

Kayla Cagan:

that who are not novelist at all.

Kayla Cagan:

But I have some very well meaning people in my life who will say things like,

Kayla Cagan:

well, how many books do you have out now?

Kayla Cagan:

You should have three or four or.

Kayla Cagan:

Okay here.

Kayla Cagan:

My last book didn't come out that long ago.

Kayla Cagan:

Like y'all, it takes a long time and it's not all on my end.

Kayla Cagan:

Like publishing takes a long time entertainment.

Kayla Cagan:

Yeah.

Kayla Cagan:

Time the pandemic has set everything back.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

And talk a little bit about that process of the creative process of like.

Juliana Finch:

Writing the novel and drafting it.

Juliana Finch:

And then, then there's edits.

Juliana Finch:

What is the timeline from when you're sitting down and getting your, let's

Juliana Finch:

say, when you finish your first draft to when the book actually comes up.

Juliana Finch:

Okay.

Kayla Cagan:

So for everyone, it might be a little bit different and it also

Kayla Cagan:

depends if you already have a contract and you're on deadline for a book, because

Kayla Cagan:

if you're on contract and deadline, and even though deadlines can usually

Kayla Cagan:

be pushed a little bit, and there's a little navigation room that helps most

Kayla Cagan:

writers, most writers need boundaries and.

Kayla Cagan:

It's just helps us feel like we are trusted to do this thing, and we

Kayla Cagan:

can't have so much room for self doubt and fear and we just have

Kayla Cagan:

to kind of tackle it and then make it messy and then make it better.

Kayla Cagan:

But I'll give you an example of what I know, which was for me, I'm

Kayla Cagan:

a slow writer and I'm a slow reader.

Kayla Cagan:

I'm not somebody who can work eight hours a day at a desk.

Kayla Cagan:

I can work two to four hours.

Kayla Cagan:

well, and that's by four hours, I'm kind of tanked mm-hmm creatively.

Kayla Cagan:

So with my first book, I wrote it time to myself and I wrote 30 minutes a day and it

Kayla Cagan:

took me a year to just write that draft.

Kayla Cagan:

And during that time I had a writing group.

Kayla Cagan:

So every week we meet and we would exchange pages and we had very select

Kayla Cagan:

questions that we would ask each other.

Kayla Cagan:

And this was pre.

Kayla Cagan:

And, and so I would say, like, I need to know about the pacing this

Kayla Cagan:

in these pages, or what do you think about the character development here?

Kayla Cagan:

Or do you believe this blah, blah, blah.

Kayla Cagan:

So between notes I'd get from them rewriting some things as I went along

Kayla Cagan:

and then plowing through to keep writing this draft, it took about a

Kayla Cagan:

year and a half for me to draft it.

Kayla Cagan:

And at that point I didn't have an agent.

Kayla Cagan:

So then I had to query with it, meaning, send out letters to find an agent

Kayla Cagan:

because that's the only way editors that the traditional publishers will

Kayla Cagan:

look at it that took about a month.

Kayla Cagan:

And I did, I got really lucky.

Kayla Cagan:

I found an agent I really liked, and she liked my work.

Kayla Cagan:

And so she gave me some feedback.

Kayla Cagan:

I had another two or three months that I need to work on notes from her

Kayla Cagan:

before we could send it out to editors.

Kayla Cagan:

Then the editors.

Kayla Cagan:

Was very lucky.

Kayla Cagan:

And I, I had several offers on the book and so I had to go through a,

Kayla Cagan:

a very fun and exciting thing of talking to a bunch of editors to

Kayla Cagan:

see who was the best fit for me.

Kayla Cagan:

And that was great.

Kayla Cagan:

Awesome.

Kayla Cagan:

And then, yeah, that was super awesome.

Kayla Cagan:

And then, so I learned a lot about publishing after this.

Kayla Cagan:

So I, I went with an editor.

Kayla Cagan:

I liked in a publisher I liked, which was Chronicle.

Kayla Cagan:

And then it took another two years to get the book out because.

Kayla Cagan:

Of their scheduling because of marketing because of the artwork that need to be

Kayla Cagan:

done because of the printing process, because of the publicity process.

Kayla Cagan:

So these are things that suddenly aren't about the writing.

Kayla Cagan:

And during that time, they give you a new deadline of saying, okay, so your

Kayla Cagan:

editor's going to send you a letter.

Kayla Cagan:

You're gonna get your work looked at and you're gonna have to fix some things.

Kayla Cagan:

Okay.

Kayla Cagan:

And rewrite, you know?

Kayla Cagan:

And so I, and I did, I had substantial rewrites I had to do, which was fine.

Kayla Cagan:

I was very excited about it.

Kayla Cagan:

During that time, the other part of the process is happening.

Kayla Cagan:

Their marketing team is gearing up.

Kayla Cagan:

They're planning, launches for the book.

Kayla Cagan:

They're, you know, they're doing their site of what they do in publishing.

Kayla Cagan:

So all in all the first book it took.

Kayla Cagan:

I'm trying to think of the timeline.

Kayla Cagan:

No, we went out 2014, sold in 2015, came out in 2017.

Kayla Cagan:

and that's the other thing.

Kayla Cagan:

It takes a long time for books to come out.

Kayla Cagan:

Just like when people say, why does that TV show or movie take so long?

Kayla Cagan:

Why is it in process so long?

Kayla Cagan:

Why does that album take forever?

Kayla Cagan:

It's like, there's a lot of elements to it.

Kayla Cagan:

A lot of it, the artist doesn't control.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

And I think in some ways, for me, that's helpful as an artist.

Juliana Finch:

by the time a thing is recorded and the rest of the process has to happen.

Juliana Finch:

So maybe by the time your stuff is in the hands of your publishing company

Juliana Finch:

and they're doing their side of it, you kind of have to like move on to the

Juliana Finch:

next thing that you wanna be making.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

And, and I think it, that part of the process helps me to not be too attached.

Juliana Finch:

To the thing that is ultimately gonna come out, obviously when the

Juliana Finch:

album is coming out, I'm excited.

Juliana Finch:

I wanna hype it.

Juliana Finch:

You know, I want to go on tour and that's a whole other thing is planning that part.

Juliana Finch:

But in terms of actually songwriting, you know, I need to

Juliana Finch:

already be writing my next songs.

Juliana Finch:

And I assume it's the same with, with your process.

Juliana Finch:

You need to already be moving onto your next story.

Kayla Cagan:

Absolutely.

Kayla Cagan:

And that's when it sucks when you.

Kayla Cagan:

That kind of brain fart or writer's block when you're like, oh God, if

Kayla Cagan:

I was working on something else, I wouldn't be worried about my project.

Kayla Cagan:

I just turned in or, you know, series of relief that you're like, whew, now it's in

Kayla Cagan:

their hands and whatever they do, they do.

Kayla Cagan:

And I can't do anymore.

Kayla Cagan:

And if you're like great, now I can finally work on that on play.

Kayla Cagan:

I've been wanting to, or that book I wanna do.

Kayla Cagan:

That's awesome.

Kayla Cagan:

, but if you don't have that at the ready, it's a little painful.

Kayla Cagan:

Or if you're like, oh no, I, because of the deal I did with Chronicle,

Kayla Cagan:

I had a, it was a two book deal.

Kayla Cagan:

So I had to start my next right away and I wasn't sure what it was gonna be.

Kayla Cagan:

And then they wanted a sequel to the first book and I had not planned for

Kayla Cagan:

sequel so it did give me a lot to like concentrate on which I was thankful for.

Kayla Cagan:

And I was happy to be this equal.

Kayla Cagan:

But I was surprised.

Kayla Cagan:

And so that distracted me a little bit, probably from having a, another,

Kayla Cagan:

or our first bout of writer's block.

Kayla Cagan:

But, um, yeah, I love the ability to go.

Kayla Cagan:

Okay.

Kayla Cagan:

That's over, give yourself a little bit over maybe a week break and then start

Kayla Cagan:

on something new when you're, when you're

Juliana Finch:

able.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

I heard you mention that you had a writer's group that you worked

Juliana Finch:

with and you've got this text thread of writer support buddies.

Juliana Finch:

I think that's a great idea to have just other artists who turn

Juliana Finch:

to who understand the process and understand what's going on.

Juliana Finch:

What are some other ways that you think that you started to come out of

Juliana Finch:

that period of block and what helps?

Juliana Finch:

What helped you?

Juliana Finch:

The

Kayla Cagan:

thread helps in the writer's group helped, honestly, I I'm

Kayla Cagan:

kind of a geek and nerd in this way.

Kayla Cagan:

Like if there's a seminar of a writer, I like, or she, she, or he,

Kayla Cagan:

or they are doing a book interview somewhere because they're promoting

Kayla Cagan:

their own books or whatever.

Kayla Cagan:

I watched a lot of them online.

Kayla Cagan:

Like especially last year when I was in my writer's block, part of me, it

Kayla Cagan:

was a desperate grab to like, maybe they'll inspire me to keep going.

Kayla Cagan:

maybe through the magic words that will rekindle my love affair with trying

Kayla Cagan:

to make things, but like, there's a great bookstore out of DC, which I've

Kayla Cagan:

never been to, but it's called loyalty bookstore and they host book events all

Kayla Cagan:

the time that are online and streaming.

Kayla Cagan:

You don't have to purchase anything.

Kayla Cagan:

I usually buy the author's book because it, it also helps the bookstore, but

Kayla Cagan:

like, I would watch those for inspiration.

Kayla Cagan:

I would watch YouTube.

Kayla Cagan:

I there's a studio called Jacob Kruger studio in New York.

Kayla Cagan:

They are screenwriting studio, but they also do other kind of writing stuff.

Kayla Cagan:

And every Thursday they host a free, happy hour online where you join a bunch

Kayla Cagan:

of writers and they give you writing prompts and you do it for an hour.

Kayla Cagan:

And I did that a couple of times and it was actually really fun.

Kayla Cagan:

You don't have to be ready.

Kayla Cagan:

Sounds so fun.

Kayla Cagan:

Yeah, it's super.

Kayla Cagan:

I highly recommended it.

Kayla Cagan:

I have nothing to do with it.

Kayla Cagan:

I don't make a commission or anything like that on it, but I, the person who

Kayla Cagan:

leads that studio, his name's Jacob Kruger, he also has a YouTube podcast.

Kayla Cagan:

And a lot of it does have to do specifically with screenwriting,

Kayla Cagan:

but there are nuggets that ring true for other genres and art

Kayla Cagan:

forms in different writing styles..

Kayla Cagan:

So I get a lot from that and I read a lot because reading is to me,

Kayla Cagan:

the other hand in writing, like you have to be constantly seeing how

Kayla Cagan:

things are done and I love reading.

Kayla Cagan:

So like you knows, win-win I also tried very hard to keep.

Kayla Cagan:

Other art forms in my life.

Kayla Cagan:

Like I'd watch movies I'm during the pandemic.

Kayla Cagan:

I, I have a membership that got rolled over because of the pandemic too, a

Kayla Cagan:

museum here once a month on Monday nights, they would do a membership night and

Kayla Cagan:

they'd let like 10 people in at a time.

Kayla Cagan:

So on Monday nights, when I felt like it was safer during the pandemic, I would go

Kayla Cagan:

to the museum and just walk and look at anything that could kind of take me out

Kayla Cagan:

of the daily news and the daily grind.

Kayla Cagan:

Being scared of my writer's block.

Kayla Cagan:

I walked a lot and I listened to a lot of podcasts and I love the podcast I

Kayla Cagan:

listened to because weirdly I started to feel like, oh, these are my friends.

Kayla Cagan:

like, oh yeah, totally.

Kayla Cagan:

You know, they give me the best advice.

Kayla Cagan:

And they, some of them do and some of them I'm always like, I don't think so, but,

Kayla Cagan:

oh, well I'm not gonna be on your show.

Kayla Cagan:

So who cares?

Kayla Cagan:

There are moments of struggle for sure.

Kayla Cagan:

You know, and because I don't necessarily wanna air when I'm

Kayla Cagan:

having a hard time on social media.

Kayla Cagan:

Not because I think everyone has to have like a perfect profile or

Kayla Cagan:

be super happy, but I sometimes don't need unsolicited advice.

Kayla Cagan:

I'm sure you've had that happen to you too.

Kayla Cagan:

And I didn't need kind of anyone else giving me a pity party.

Kayla Cagan:

Like it was a pity party for one in a way.

Kayla Cagan:

So it was like, I wanna hear everything and I wanna, I want everything

Kayla Cagan:

to come towards me, but I don't wanna like, be vulnerable enough

Kayla Cagan:

to just tell everyone this sucks.

Kayla Cagan:

And now I have to hear everyone feel sorry for me.

Kayla Cagan:

Does that make sense?

Juliana Finch:

Totally.

Juliana Finch:

Absolutely.

Juliana Finch:

And I think just disconnecting from social media during a time.

Juliana Finch:

Like that is a great idea anyway.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

As much as you can.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

Because there's also the other part of it, which is everybody is posting

Juliana Finch:

about their work and all the stuff that they're doing, which normally I'm.

Juliana Finch:

All of my friend's biggest cheerleader.

Juliana Finch:

Right.

Juliana Finch:

But if I'm really in a stuck place and I see all that stuff, I'm like, oh

Juliana Finch:

gosh, like it just makes me feel worse that I'm not making stuff sometimes.

Juliana Finch:

And you know, I think it's totally okay to be like, I am not looking at this.

Juliana Finch:

I'm not gonna look at the news.

Juliana Finch:

I'm gonna go.

Juliana Finch:

Outside and touch grass as the kids say oh yeah.

Juliana Finch:

Walk around outside.

Kayla Cagan:

Yeah, that's a really nice thing.

Kayla Cagan:

There were a couple of days this year where I took like a 45 minute

Kayla Cagan:

drive and went to the beach.

Kayla Cagan:

I'm not a big beach person, but I was like, I need to see the water.

Kayla Cagan:

I need to maybe get my feet in the sand and just disconnect and not then report

Kayla Cagan:

on Instagram that I went to the beach.

Kayla Cagan:

like, you know, and the, I will say the other thing is just this week.

Kayla Cagan:

I saw a friend in real life and another friend read over our manuscript.

Kayla Cagan:

I'm working on right now.

Kayla Cagan:

When I saw my friend in real life, she had read part of the

Kayla Cagan:

manuscript I'm working on right now.

Kayla Cagan:

And she is an actress and a producer and, and she's not a writer

Kayla Cagan:

really, but she's very good at.

Kayla Cagan:

Examining work.

Kayla Cagan:

She's got a great critical eye.

Kayla Cagan:

And she was like, you know, there were a couple scenes where I

Kayla Cagan:

thought the tension could be higher.

Kayla Cagan:

And, and she gave me a couple suggestions and I felt myself instead of being

Kayla Cagan:

defensive at all, I was like, oh yeah, like I wanted to give her a high five.

Kayla Cagan:

Like I was like, I was like, yes.

Kayla Cagan:

And then this could happen.

Kayla Cagan:

And, and yeah, and that, and realized just how much the pandemic had.

Kayla Cagan:

Not only made me feel isolated, but like that's where I thrive when it's a group

Kayla Cagan:

of other creators and we're bouncing stuff off each other, and it's not about

Kayla Cagan:

ownership and it's not about will this help itself was genuinely getting excited

Kayla Cagan:

about me taking the work seriously, you know, and finding the points where it

Kayla Cagan:

could be sharper or funnier or whatever.

Kayla Cagan:

And I thought so relieved.

Kayla Cagan:

And then when a friend of mine looked over and gave me some.

Kayla Cagan:

She and I talked and I was like, this is exactly what I needed.

Kayla Cagan:

This is what I have missed during the pandemic.

Kayla Cagan:

Cuz I used to meet with friends in, at the library or the coffee shop or

Kayla Cagan:

one of us would go to each other's homes and we would hash out ideas and

Kayla Cagan:

brainstorm and laugh and commiserate.

Kayla Cagan:

And that has been part of it that I don't think I realized how much

Kayla Cagan:

that felt taken away from me.

Kayla Cagan:

So when you're dealing with writer's block, just going back

Kayla Cagan:

to that, it's like, oh, you feel extra alone and extra isolated.

Kayla Cagan:

Especially everyone online is showing their daily achievements

Kayla Cagan:

of their work or their song or their latest album or their newest

Kayla Cagan:

painting or their biggest book deal.

Kayla Cagan:

It's like, oh my God, I'm only seeing achievements.

Kayla Cagan:

I don't know.

Kayla Cagan:

I need to talk to people who are in the struggle.

Kayla Cagan:

and it was really great.

Kayla Cagan:

And a great reminder to me, like no wonder, this has felt a little harder

Kayla Cagan:

than usual lately, which sounds really naive, but I thought I'd be a person

Kayla Cagan:

who's like, I don't think I was gonna like struggle as much on a day to day through

Kayla Cagan:

the pandemic with my creativity as I did.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah, I think it hit me later than it hit some other people.

Juliana Finch:

And so there was a point in time when I was like, oh yeah, I think I've gotten

Juliana Finch:

through this unscathed, you know, and then it was like winter 20, 20.

Juliana Finch:

It really slammed into me.

Kayla Cagan:

Oh, record scratch.

Kayla Cagan:

They're like, yeah, it was really, I had definitely had my ups and downs during

Kayla Cagan:

the pandemic as a whole and a, and in general because the state of the world

Kayla Cagan:

and the, and how much misery there.

Kayla Cagan:

However on a personal creative level, I was like, I'm doing, I

Kayla Cagan:

get to go to my, sit at my desk every day and do what I want to do.

Kayla Cagan:

I can't complain mm-hmm until I can complain.

Kayla Cagan:

And I was like, oh no, this is hard to, and I'm alone.

Kayla Cagan:

And I heard on this other podcast called big magic, which is very woo woo.

Kayla Cagan:

But there is some good stuff in there, Liz Gilberts.

Kayla Cagan:

Yes.

Kayla Cagan:

Brene Brown was being interviewed and she was talking about the, about writing.

Kayla Cagan:

And she said, we were never, she's like, you can collaborate.

Kayla Cagan:

We were never meant to create a loan.

Kayla Cagan:

And that, and I listened to that probably five or six years ago at

Kayla Cagan:

this point, maybe four years ago.

Kayla Cagan:

I'm not sure, but I have, that has stuck with me and I'm like, Oh, and

Kayla Cagan:

maybe that's from my theater background or whatever, but I'm like, right.

Kayla Cagan:

I do better when I'm inspired by other people.

Kayla Cagan:

When I collaborate with other people, when it's not just me trying to form

Kayla Cagan:

an world, build on my own , which is why I love working with an editor.

Kayla Cagan:

It's why I love working.

Kayla Cagan:

Alongside other writers when we're all doing stuff.

Kayla Cagan:

And there's a moment when we all turn and like, can I toss out an idea

Kayla Cagan:

and hear are your feedback on it?

Kayla Cagan:

And nobody makes fun of you and nobody gives you guff and nobody says, you know,

Kayla Cagan:

I would've changed the entire third act.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

And there are ideas that you just wouldn't come up with unless you

Juliana Finch:

were playing off of something.

Juliana Finch:

Someone else throws out too.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

So you hear an idea across the room and you're like, oh,

Juliana Finch:

and that gives me this idea.

Juliana Finch:

Mm-hmm exactly, exactly.

Juliana Finch:

The community

Juliana Finch:

aspect is so important.

Juliana Finch:

And I, and it's nice that that's starting to come back and it's nice

Juliana Finch:

that there's some virtual options that have sort of happened in the

Kayla Cagan:

meantime.

Kayla Cagan:

Absolutely.

Kayla Cagan:

Yeah.

Kayla Cagan:

I feel like I know people have started zoom rooms where, and I was a part

Kayla Cagan:

of one for about half a year where writers would meet from all over the

Kayla Cagan:

country, but there were five of us.

Kayla Cagan:

So it wasn't a huge, overwhelming amount to manage.

Kayla Cagan:

But we would all just we'd log on.

Kayla Cagan:

We'd talk for about 10 minutes talk shop, and then we'd write.

Kayla Cagan:

And basically it was an accountability tool to just make sure we were all at

Kayla Cagan:

our desk and not like cleaning house or procrastinating in some other way.

Kayla Cagan:

And that was helpful too.

Kayla Cagan:

And that felt a little bit like community, you know, it was like, well, it's not

Kayla Cagan:

perfect, but it's a good substitute.

Juliana Finch:

I love that.

Juliana Finch:

Well, Kayla, we're gonna put all of the stuff that you recommended

Juliana Finch:

and mentioned in the show notes.

Juliana Finch:

So for listeners who are curious about those book events and the

Juliana Finch:

other awesome resources you talked about, we're gonna have those in the

Juliana Finch:

show notes, and I'm so grateful that you had time to talk to me today.

Juliana Finch:

And I know that people are going to find you.

Juliana Finch:

Relatable and love to hear about your process and for anybody who's

Juliana Finch:

stuck on their work in progress.

Juliana Finch:

Maybe this will be the podcast that they're listening to on their walk before

Juliana Finch:

they go back to try to get at it again.

Kayla Cagan:

Well, it's a pleasure talking to you about this, and I

Kayla Cagan:

hope that my weirdness during the pandemic, I'm trying to create stuff.

Kayla Cagan:

It helps other people's weirdness during the pandemic trying to create stuff.

Kayla Cagan:

And I hope.

Kayla Cagan:

We'll find their ways through it too.

Juliana Finch:

It's what it's all about.

Juliana Finch:

We're all helping each other with our weirdness oh, for

Kayla Cagan:

sure.

Kayla Cagan:

For sure.

Tamara Kissane:

Established in 2017 artist soapbox is a podcast production

Tamara Kissane:

studio based in North Carolina.

Tamara Kissane:

Artist soapbox produces original scripted audio fiction and an ongoing interview

Tamara Kissane:

podcast about the creative process.

Tamara Kissane:

We cultivate aspiring audio Dramatists and producers, and we partner with

Tamara Kissane:

organizations and individuals to create new audio content for more

Tamara Kissane:

information and ways to support our work.

Tamara Kissane:

Check out artistsoapbox.org or find us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Tamara Kissane:

The artist soapbox theme song is ashes by Juliana Finch.

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