Tag Archives: writing

Misguided Ambition

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photo cred rebloggy.com

My dad drove us to San Antonio a couple days ago and we talked about…life. That’s kind of how me and my dad are—we either talk about ridiculous, trivial things like, I don’t know, “Decent Honey Mustard and Where To Buy It” OR super deep topics that stick with me forever like, “The Time A Man Died In My Arms.” We don’t have much of an in-between. Fart jokes or how mistakes can shape your future. The importance of washing your vehicle or the importance of family, friendship, and love.

So when careers and ambition came up, it started off as Dad casually listing every job he’s ever had (before, during, and after his 31 years in the Coast Guard). It was like a game—because the things he’s done are absurd. They sound like pure fiction. Movie-stuff.

Mowed lawns|Ranch laborer|Roofer|Tugboat oiler|Rode rodeo|Convenient store night manager|Seaman|Wrestler…yes, wrestler. I’ve seen the photos. Don’t tell him I wrote this, it’s supposed to be a family secret hahaha|EMT|Boat coxswain|Aviation structural mechanic|Search and rescue air crewman|Special agent|Chief warrant officer|Bailiff

Yeah, now you get it. Like, I’m sorry, what? How have you been all of those things? How have I never heard the word “coxswain” before? And how many people out there have had this many titles in one lifetime?

What I really started realizing though was—wow…Dad has done SO much in his life, traveled to SO many places, saved lives, earned awards—but his true happiness came from marrying my mom. Kind of crazy, right? To think that all those sappy cards, cheesy movies, and romance novels are *gasp* RIGHT about LOVE being the true purpose of life?! Ahhhhhh my life is a lie!

Except, oh yeah, that’s right, I’ve been a hopeless, disgusting romantic since maybe…second grade? I’ve always wanted the meet-cute, the traveling the world hand-in-hand, the poppin’ out babies…you know, that whole gross thing. When asked my CAREER AMBITIONS and LIFE GOALS I say things like, “I want to publish another novel and travel to a new country every year. Maybe get my PhD. Maybe teach college one day instead of high school.” And then in my head, I add, “Meet a lovely man and have a giant family and a really noisy house.”

My ambition has been a little misguided over the years. I think it’s a generational thing. Our parents had no problem stating their goals of settling down. They are content with “average lives” because that means love, family, friends—bliss. They have no qualms with “ordinary” or “mediocre.” This means happiness. Whereas my generation sees a conventional life as a failure—you’re not rich, you’re not famous, history books won’t talk about you, you’re not a household name, you didn’t shake the world? Oh, well then you’re a disappointment.

Everyone my age wants to be EVERYONE’s everything, instead of “settling” for being someone’s everything. It’s kind of sad. And it’s weird because we admit it, freely. I would LOVE for my novel to take off one day, landing me a publishing deal that I could skate on for a lifetime, sipping coffee by the beach and typing a few pages a day.

But do we really believe THAT’S what will lead to fulfillment? I think it’s far too easy to get caught up in that line of thinking—solely focusing on how to make your life more meaningful, exciting, memoir-worthy—constantly comparing yourself to “the average Joe.”

Having ambition is amazing—it shows confidence, it proves work-ethic, it displays creativity—it’s sexy. But if you let career ambition define you…and nothing else…what will you have when you’re wrinkly, sick…dying?

If all I ever have “to show for my life” (ugh, even that expression is a terrible tactic used to make people feel bad about…what exactly?) is a few students who thank me or a guy who digs my quirks and flaws or a kid who calls me Grandma and likes to read my old poetry notebooks, I’ll be pretty damn happy. That kid might be the last person to ever even remember my existence, but that’s OK, as long as I’ll be able to say that I did what I loved (I wrote, I taught, I traveled) and I loved who I wanted to love and they loved me back.

Supposed To Be

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chaos

I’m supposed to be working on my novel.

I’m supposed to be sipping this Live Oak Hef, my favorite beer, and working on my novel.

I’m supposed to be enjoying the Texas summer (before it gets too hot)—wind through my hair, sun on my skin, taco truck scents drifting my way—and working on my novel.

I told my friend Ashely that it’s been difficult to write lately because I’ve been so happy. “Give me a heartbreak and I’ll pump out a few novels,” I’d laughed and given her tiny Pomeranian a pat. And it’s true, it really is. I mean, that’s how the first novel came to be.

But the thing is, you make me want to write all the time. And that’s not always a good thing. Usually it is. Usually, you make me want to write sappy poetry after I’ve had a few glasses of Cab. I grab the first writing utensil I find in your grungy garage and jot some cheesy observations into the legal pad that you draw in. I sketch stanzas about your whiskers and kisses and huge hands and you telling me you loved me in that sketchy motel we stayed in. I paint lines with your expressions, sayings, Spanglish, noises your watch makes.

But sometimes. Like now. I’ve felt on the edge of crying for a couple hours—thankful for my Ray Bans and lipstick and beer. I wish I could explain why. I wish I could be honest when you ask me what’s wrong. I think the sad fact is simply that I’m in love, I’m so in love with you and I’m so scared and I don’t want to feel completely destroyed ever again and that’s the only thing I wind up being able to write about.

I get anxiety, I feel this intensely strong desire to put giant walls back up, brush these feelings aside, break this off and avoid any kind of pain. I thought I’d be over this—I thought you’d be the one to be freaking out, tight chest, on edge. How hilarious that it’s me!

I wish I could explain this…better. But that’s what it is—you haven’t done anything wrong, necessarily. I think I’m a little crazy is all. Isn’t everyone? That Kerouac quote about “mad ones,” you know?

I need reassurance by the bucket or else I think you’re going to leave. It’s sad, really, but it makes me feel better that I’m not alone. So many of us have these skeletons, the burned past—the exact same insecurity, fear.

I wish it were my fault and I could fix it. I’m great at fixing things that are my fault. But I didn’t do this…my father did this, my ex-boyfriend did this, my friends and their stories, their nightmares, almost every single man I’ve dated, actually. It’s a long list, it’s a lot of pain, it’s kind of like this campfire experience of ghost tales that travels with you forever, the smoke seeping into your heart.

I hope you won’t be added to the list. That’s all I can really do, I suppose. Drink my beer, try again tomorrow to work on my novel (I’m supposed to be working on my novel).

My Debut Novel Turns ONE!

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3D Preview

HAPPY BIRTHDAAAAAAYYYY to my baby, my first novel, THE WAITING ROOM 🙂

This experience has been scary, amazing, fun, self-deprecating, empowering…an insane rush of emotions, every step of the way. From collecting dust on my laptop for years, to finally being done and selling on Amazon and at BookPeople…I’m just so happy.

I also need to thank the people in my life who have been so supportive–my parents, namely. I’ve always had a passion for reading and writing, and they’ve always been there to support me. My best friends–geez, the whining and stress they’ve had to endure from me haha, thank you guys. My readers, the first people to take a chance and buy the damn thing, the reviewers and their lovely words–I cannot express how grateful I am for you!

So let’s celebrate!

I’ve been thinking about doing another wave of giveaways, and I feel like this is the perfect time.

First 25 readers to email me get a free ecopy (please specify if you’d prefer a Mobi, PDF, or ePub file)!

alyshakaye@gmail.com

My only request is that you please post a review on Amazon and Goodreads 🙂

Freelancing for Texas Lifestyle Magazine

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september issue

That’s right, I’m officially a freelancer. I, Alysha Kaye, the girl who used to think freelancer meant everything you wrote had to be written for free. It IS a confusing word, you have to admit.

I’m really, really excited about my new gig at Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂 My editor, Elaine Krackau, has been super open to the jumble of ideas that I’ve thrown at her over the past month.

My first piece just came out- a fun little article on downtown Austin’s Hideout Theatre and the crazy mix of improv shows they host. Read it here.

Next up: a piece on Port Aransas’ Sandfest (publishing next week).

Yay for new opportunities and yay for sharpening my writing skills (it’s not like much work has been done on novel #2…) and yay for having something to keep me busy during this long teacher summer!

Prompt: Unexpected Night

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Sometimes, when I’m in a writing slump (which lately, is always), I allow Twitter to feed me prompts. There are an astounding number of tweeps whose sole tweet purpose is to motivate others to write. It’s pretty great. So here goes: an unexpected night.

Mystique-as-a-child-teen-and-adult

Blue paint was creeping into my nostrils and caking around every crease of my lips but I was two drinks down and feeling anything but blue. I guess I can be more specific—it wasn’t blue paint exactly, that was curdling around my eyebrows—it was (unfortunately) more like periwinkle. Luckily, I had a BLUE long-sleeved t-shirt, BLUE shorts, and BLUE tights to combat any confusion: I was blue (even if my face was periwinkle). A long, RED (orange-red, if I’m being honest) wig draped itself around my splotchy neck and YELLOW (definite on this one) cat-eye contacts continued to rotate creepily since I was wearing them over my regular contacts.

In other words, I was a bit of a mess. The paint wasn’t spreading onto my skin very evenly, in fact, it was being downright exasperating. I had chunks on one side of my face that were thick and wet, spots on the other side that were thin and dry, flecks in strands of my hair (real and wig), flecks everywhere else within a 10-foot radius… I looked like something out of a budget Smurf production. An elementary school’s Spring performance. An understudy for a second-grade Smurfette.

Luckily, I didn’t give a damn. Amazing friends, Halloween excitement, and vodka do wonderful things to a mind, body, and soul. I hopped around my living room in my beige canvas slip-ons (apparently I don’t own blue shoes), sipping and laughing and unknowingly splattering a few paint specks on couch pillows and the likes.

“Girrrrrl, you are BLUE!” Anne giggled in her goddess dress and I eyed her (cat-eyed her) jealously. She looked like a goddess, with or without the costume. Giant green eyes, dark hair, olive skin, white dress, curves for days—she was straight out of a Greek myth.

“Do I even look like Mystique, though? Or do I just look like a blue girl?” Mystique has been an idol of sorts for years. First of all, holy hell she’s smokin’ hot. Secondly, she kicks ass. Third, she can literally be ANYONE she wants to be. I’d thought about buying a latex suit to look more like her—I mean, let’s face it, clothes really aren’t her thing. But um, tummy pudge is also not her thing, so yeah, I decided on the t-shirt-shorts-tights.

“Yes, you really do. You really, really do!” I knew she was lying, but in a lovely, daughter of Zeus kind of way.

“It’s actually creeping me out,” Jennifer the 80’s rocker chick chimed in. I was surrounded by such happy, “fluffy” costumes. Athena, the Molly Ringwald-esque punkstress, Tara was Rainbow Brite, and Sandra was a cute pirate. I stood out, obviously. I looked pretty evil, but like I said, Smurfette. So a Smurfette gone bad.

We eventually shuffled into a taxi and met up with a few more friends on Rainey Street. Here’s where I cut to the chase. Fill in the holes with (what else) drinking. There was lots of that. Also, random guys shouting out things like, “Ohhh, I get it! AVATAR!!!” and “Genie chick, cooooool.” To the bro’ who guessed that I was Beetlejuice: You. Are. An. Idiot.

—– cut>>>>chase:

Two pedi-cabs and lots of walking later, we drunkenly made it to our final destination: Gypsy Bar on East 6th to see our friend Brian’s band play.

Here’s where it’s important to know a couple things about me and alcohol.

  1. I’m pretty good at it.
  2. I get suuuuuper ballsy and confident and seductive sometimes (i.e. when I see something I want).

Also, I’d told Anne earlier in the night, “I’m gonna make out with someone tonight, OK? That’s the goal. You in?” And she was in, SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO EXECUTE THIS PLAN WITH ME. However, the goddess, Molly, Rainbow, and One Eye watched as I, and I alone, smoothly decided to yell at a stranger, “WHY aren’t you wearing a costume?! How lame! It’s HALLOWEEN, HELLO!”

Super sexy, amiright? Paired with my crusty paint job and rotating, wompy contacts, I was basically a catch. Did I mention that my skin was starting to itch underneath all that periwinkle? Downright foxy.

Look: he had dimples and he was really tall and someone obviously needed to yell at him for not wearing a costume (that’s just dumb…why even go out?).

Even closer: goddamn he was really tall and he had a random sprinkling of freckles and gray hairs and his eyes were kind of caramel in the light and he immediately matched my bluntness with, “Well, at least my paint isn’t weirdly coming off. And your contacts are all kinds of crooked too.”

Barely a breath between us: “Well then here.” I pulled the cheap tube of paint out of my purse—it was almost the only item in there. “And while you’re at it, go ahead and rotate my contacts for me please.” I leaned up towards his stubbly chin and opened my eyes wide, not allowing him to hesitate, my lips pursed in amusement.

All of our friends had vanished by this point, leaving us in a strange bubble we’d created within minutes. This is apparently the point in which I tell a stranger everything about me: teaching, my novel, moving from Hawaii…I don’t even know what else I told him, I just know that we were locked in conversation and we’d moved to a picnic table and it was ten minutes ‘til the bar closed.

“I really want to kiss you but you’re going to get blue paint all over your face.”

Yeah. That came out of my mouth.

He must’ve said he didn’t care or he might’ve not said anything at all, but as people shuffled out of the back gate and the lights were being shut off, Mystique made out with the costumeless man with two last names. He looked like he’d been periwinkle-pied. I giggled and tried to wipe it off of his lips. He asked for my number. I gave it to him, scampered off, and expected to never hear from him again.

Five months later and my friends still affectionately call him “Blue Man Group,” but usually just behind his back.

Sometimes it’s not a terrible idea to paint yourself periwinkle, take a few shots, and yell at a stranger.

Poetry Sections are Dangerous

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e.e

So for the longest time, I thought E.E. Cummings was a woman. All that talk of kissing and love and carrying your heart with me and being someone’s anyone…or anyone’s someone. Something like that. I, the wildly romantic college freshman, was like, WHOA, this chica GETS ME. On a punctuation level and a general heart wrenching kinda way. Ya’ know…basically, I TOO liked to write in all lowercase letters about boys being sun’s songs. I thought me and e.e. were soul sisters.

And some ridiculous amount of time later (no, seriously, I think it was years) I found out she was a he. I was so damn disappointed because my immediate thought was: Oh, well obviously, I have to find a new favorite poet.

There’s no way a MAN “gets me”. There’s no way a MAN can be my soul sister.

…right?

But then I realized that all of that is bullshit. I kept him around, my loyalty to his parenthetical ways winning over.

And I realized just the other day, as I was reading a collection of his in Half Price Books, that this shrug and grin of a “Yeah, I accept that I’ll never love another poet more” is prettyyyy similar to real-life-hesitant-already-had-your-heart-broken-but-c’est-la-vie-love.

I even wrote a poem about it. Something kinda cheesy about waiting for you to find me on a dusty bookstore chair. You lost somewhere in my life’s biggest love—but probably in the sections I’ve always left untouched (Art History, Non-Fiction). Too uninterested in browsing through other poets, too forever-drunkenly-fulfilled on Cummings’ words, kinda like how I feel about you. So tipsy on your everything, inclined to keep you for good, for you to be the accidental-favorite, the collection I come back to every time, for every mood, in every Sunday afternoon stroll through shelves…

Anyway.

Cummings is a man, y’all. And GODDAMMIT it hurts/is amazing/sucks/yes! when you’ve found a…highly preferred…poet.

Also, this, circa last year. Le sigh. #hopeless

When is it OK to do NOTHING?

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Feeling superrrrr unproductive lately. As in…I’m FORCING myself to write this blog post simply to feel that relief of “Yay, I checked ‘blogging’ off the list!” It’s bad, y’all.

My next novel, my lovely WIP, is sitting at the saddest ONE chapter halt, just eyeing me with pure hate, daring me to wait another week and then another and then another…

In fact, I actually did my taxes in order to avoid writing. Gross.

I’ve been traipsing around Austin like some sort of Hilton brat…pretending I have loads of cash to throw away on mimosas and sushi. This past weekend, I laid in Zilker Park with the boy and let dogs come up to lick my face—when I could’ve been writing. We went to a freakin’ improv show that was downright terrible—when I could’ve been writing. I went to brunch TWICE. I even took a damn nap. I hate naps. I could’ve been writing.

Decided: Happiness gets in the way of getting shit done. And I think that’s OK?

I typed my first novel so furiously, post-break-up. I was like, “I hate you, I HATE YOU, I hate me, typetypetype, BOOM- NOVEL! WHAT NOW, BITCH?”

When you’re super happy, you’re usually also super busy…with, ya’ know, happy-life-things like kissing and snuggling and park-lounging. And then WHOA before you know it, another weekend has flown by in a whirlwind of pancakes and sunshine. Your gut is kinda like, “Um, excuse me, ma’am, remember when you used to go to the gym and WRITE and schedule haircuts and WRITE and read and WRITE and stuff…?”

Heart: stfu I’m having fun.

Head: Don’t worry, I’m sure things will get crappy soon and then we’ll have all the time in the world, like we used to.

Heart: BUT WHAT IF WE’RE HAPPY FOREVER?

Head: lolz

Gut: omg you’re both so effing annoying. We’ll find a balance, chill.

Life gets crazy. Busy as hell (seriously though, taxes? Who thought of that, the Brits? Didn’t we gain our independence?) and superrrrrr happy-insane sometimes. It’s OK to do nothing for a while, especially if you’re like me and you’ve been some sort of psycho Energizer Bunny since birth.

Decided: Be productive when you can, learn to adapt, evolve, whatever…find a balance and chill, like Gut says. Don’t let go of your passions, but don’t freak out and hold them so close that you lose creative control.

Heart: k!

Head: sigh, k.

Gut: kduh.

And then there’s this ^ …