Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things

Starting Life in New Haven

movingFor those of you who missed the memo, my husband, Daniel, and I moved to New Haven, CT, last week. I’ve never lived anywhere other than Kansas before. I’ve traveled — quite a lot for someone my age — but until last week, I had never actually packed up all my stuff and left my home. Because of this, being in New Haven feels a bit like being on vacation. That and the fact that we are only here for two years while Daniel does his Masters (maybe seven, if he sticks with Yale Divinity School for his PhD, too). But so far, it all still feels temporary.

I like New Haven  well enough so far. We’re living downtown, so there are dozens of restaurants, shops, and plenty of “touristy” landmarks within walking distance. Our building is old, but full of that colonial city charm. The city is gorgeous, especially Yale’s campus and the areas near the beach. I can already feel the architectural inspiration seeping into my writerly pores and begging to go into a story one day.

yaleWhile living in the city is convenient, after living in somewhat rural areas my entire life, the city is definitely an adjustment. Seeing people everywhere and hearing constant noise (not loud noise, mind you, just general city buzz in the background) is incredibly strange to me. I never thought I would say this, but I miss the sound of cicadas.

Also, everyone in Connecticut (and every state I’ve encountered in New England) drives like a complete idiot. Kansans – imagine Missouri drivers only 10,000x worse. My motto while driving has become, “You better have insurance, asshole.”

We’ve met a few members of Daniel’s cohort, and they are all lovely people. Two of them were nice enough to help us move in (in other words, they are saints), one gave us a wonderful campus tour, and two more hosted us for dessert (How did they know the way to my heart is through chocolate?). Knowing that we have them around has been a big help and makes the city feel a bit less lonely.

tommy windowPerhaps the best part of our new living arrangement is that Thomas has officially graduated to being an inside kitty. He has embraced this role, spending his days lazing around and demanding his belly rubbed. His favorite spots are the windowsills, and I hope this is because he enjoys the breeze and not because he misses being outside. But as I type this, he’s giving himself a bath on our futon and perching on a pillow like it’s a throne — so he must not be too upset.

All in all, New Haven is proving to be an eclectic and fun city. There are so many places we want to explore, and I cannot wait to share this adventure with Daniel and with all of you. If I didn’t already have an established blog, I would probably start one to write about all the shenanigans this “country girl” gets up to in “the big city.” Something about Dorothy and The New Haven Green, maybe.

Anyway, I better get back to Desertera before my characters completely forget who I am. Have a magnificent Monday and share your moving stories and all the feels below!

Guest Posts, Writing & Publishing Articles

Guest Post: Write What You Know by Fia Essen, Author of ARIEL and ANNA

Hello, everyone! Today I am thrilled to bring you a guest post from Fia Essen, a fellow author and blogger. I first encountered Fia through her blog, but I have also been lucky enough to host her on The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour. Today, Fia is back to share with you all the best piece of writing advice she has: write what you know. Enjoy!

Hello friends, fans, and followers of Kate!

My name is Fia Essen and I’m an author. Two of my novels have been published this year and now I’m making the rounds on the internet, spreading the words about my books, and doing blog interviews. One question that keeps coming up is “What is the best piece of writing advice you have ever received?” And I can honestly say that the answer to the question is write what you know.

That’s exactly what I do. I write what I know. I take my own experiences and events from my life and pour them into my writing.

Ariel is a lifelong expat. I’ve been an expat for twenty-five years. Anna booked a last minute ticket to Greece in a moment of uncharacteristic spontaneity and left her old life behind. I did that too.

My move from Singapore to Crete is what inspired me to write Anna. Not only did I find myself adjusting to living in a different country, I was inundated by an entirely different culture, too. After two decades of living in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, Europe was utterly alien and downright esoteric to me.

I had visited the Greek islands as a tourist before I impulsively packed up my life in Singapore and headed to Crete, which is the largest of the Greek islands. Like most tourists, I took the romanticized and perfectly idyllic version of the Mediterranean home with me in my mind when my vacation ended. The reality of daily life on a Greek island came as a huge culture shock. Singapore and Crete are both islands but that’s where their similarities begin and end. One is a bustling metropolis of the highest modern mode. The other often operates on medieval morals. Crete has one foot firmly and proudly planted in its illustrious past while the other foot tentatively treads on present ground.

Ariel is perhaps even more personal than Anna. This woman is stuck in a rut, she’s at rock bottom and can’t see a way out. She has lost sight of who she is and what she wants. Not long ago, I felt the same way. Writing the book helped me get out of my own rut. It reminded me that nothing is ever set in stone. As I sorted out Ariel’s fictional problems on the page, I began sorting out my own. When I gave Ariel the courage to chase her dreams, I rediscovered my own confidence.

Yes, the best piece of writing advice I ever received is write what you know.

If you’d like to find out what happens to Anna and Ariel, both books are available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback format. Ariel is here: and Anna here:

And if you’d like to get social with me, you can…

Visit my Website –

Follow me on Twitter – @FiaEssen

Join me on Facebook –

Thank you!

Leave your questions and comments for Fia below! Thanks again, Fia!

Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things

My Kansas Bucket List

As my regular peeps will know, my husband, Daniel, and I are moving to New Haven, Connecticut, where he will pursue a Masters degree at Yale. I’ve been thinking about our move a lot, both logistically and emotionally. One thought that slipped across my mind is that I may never live in Kansas again.

Full disclosure: Daniel and I have every intention of setting up a home in the Midwest one day. However, first and foremost, we have to go where he can get a tenure-tracked professorship. We’ll be in New Haven for two years, an unknown location (definitely not anywhere near home) for five years for his PhD, and then we’ll be chasing that professorship. Luckily for us, if all goes according to plan, I can be a full time writer from anywhere.

Anyway, point is: I do not know when I’ll be back to Kansas to live. Therefore, I’ve decided to make a Kansas Bucket List to hit my old haunts one last time and maybe see some things I’ve been postponing my entire life. I’ve got four months to do it. Let’s see how many I can cross off!

Places to Go (Ran out of time for all of these. A good excuse to come back home!)

  • Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
  • Stull Cemetery
  • Lebanon, Kansas (geographical center of the U.S.)
  • World’s largest ball of twine (Cawker City, KS)

Things to Do

  • Host a going away party
  • Graffiti session at Java Break (Closed for construction on the day I went. Boo.) 
  • Make a Kansas shirt at ACME
  • Have an amaretto sour at the Record Bar
  • Have a drink at the Hillsdale Tavern
  • Star Wars marathon with our friends, Devin and Caleb
  • Miami County Wine Trolley Tour (Ran out of time for this, too!)
  • Ride Verruckt (world’s tallest water slide) (And this…at least I made time for my novel!)
  • Buy/make something “Kansas” for our apartment

Photos to Take

  • Childhood home/property
  • Our walking route
  • Baker University
  • A few favorite spots in Lawrence
  • Sunflower fields (The ones near me haven’t bloomed in time.)
  • Sunset (ours are the best in the country)
  • Midwest imagery (grain silos, barns, hay bales, etc.)
  • Make copies of old family photos

If you were moving away from your hometown, what would you make sure to see and do? If any of my Kansas people are reading this, what did I miss from my list?

Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things

New Adventures in New Haven

Lighthouse Point, New Haven, CT
Lighthouse Point, New Haven, CT

The graduate school search is over.

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you will probably know that my husband has been applying for his second Master’s program. Well, after months of deciding which schools to pick, stressing over applications, and waiting for responses, the results are in: Daniel will be attending Yale Divinity School this fall.

For more on his academic journey and why he chose Yale (beyond the obvious reasons), you can read his blog here.

But this post isn’t about him. This one is about me — how this decision affects me and how I feel about it.

First and foremost, let me say, I am incredibly proud of Daniel. Getting accepted into any graduate school (let alone an Ivy League) is a huge accomplishment. Seeing his hard work and dedication pay off is so heartwarming and gratifying.

Bar_in_New_Haven,_CT,_March_3,_2008Mostly, I’m excited. We will be moving to New Haven, Connecticut at the beginning of August and reside there for the two years he is in the program. From my introductory research on New Haven, it seems to have a vibrant arts scene, eclectic food options, and an active nightlife. All the sources say it is the perfect blend of New England colonial preppy-ness and the cultural, lively “college town” vibe. So, yeah, overall I think it will be a pretty and fun place to live.

However, there are some things I am nervous about. Mainly, this will be my first time living more than 30 miles from my childhood home. Leaving my parents and pets behind makes me sad, but I know that they will always be a phone call or plane ride away. Likewise, living in a new town (no matter where) and taking on complete responsibility for my and Daniel’s lives (especially as the primary breadwinner) is intimidating. Of course, I know I can handle all of these things, but still, it’s nerve-wracking.

The one thing that really breaks my heart is that we cannot take Thomas, our feline son with us. We have chosen to live in the graduate apartments on Yale’s campus (which will save us literally thousands of dollars a year), and they do not allow pets that do not live in cages. I spent a long time crying about this, and I’m just hoping that for Daniel’s doctorate degree we can live somewhere that will let us have him. For those of you who are worried, don’t be. He’s going to live with his Nana and Papa (my parents) until he can move in with us again.

UPDATE: Daniel and I ended up finding an off-campus apartment in the heart of New Haven, and we CAN take Thomas with us! Happy pet parents we are!

ThomasOn a more introspective note, I must say that I am a bit jealous of Daniel and a bit worried about how others will perceive me. You see, I have based my self-worth almost wholly on academics my entire life. School has always been my thing. Now, I’ve chosen not to go to graduate school in favor of pursuing independent publishing (which I know is a better option for me), and my husband is going to Yale.

And what am I doing? Working at whatever job will have me and writing at night. I know it is silly, but I am just so worried that: on one hand, the people we meet will see me as nothing more than Daniel’s wife or a secretary or the breadwinner; and, on the other hand, I’m worried that I will get permanently trapped in those roles. After all, his dream is a straight railroad track through academia to scholarly success. And my dream to be a full-time writer is not laid out on a set path. It can take many twists and turns, and being self-employed means that my income will be uncertain. I guess I’m just worried that I will spend so long supporting him that my dreams will be put off for the next seven years he is in school…and then maybe longer, indefinitely, after that.

As I’m thinking through my self-definitions and trying to rationalize all of this, I keep thinking about setting. I love Kansas. It gets a bad rap from the rest of the U.S., but it’s actually a gorgeous place to live with plenty of culture and entertainment when you know where to look. I’ve always been a “Midwest” girl. Who will I be in Connecticut? Will I be the token “Dorothy?” Will I stick out like a hick with my “Southern” (totally not Southern) accent and my non-designer clothes? Will changing locations change me in any way — good or bad? I don’t know. I have traveled a lot, and every place I travel teaches me something new about myself and broadens the way I see the world — but traveling somewhere and living somewhere are two different experiences, and I have no idea what to expect from this one.

So — how do I feel about our upcoming adventures in New Haven? Proud of Daniel. Excited to live in a new, seemingly idyllic location. Nervous to be away from family and on “our own.” Worried about how I perceive myself in all this. But, mostly, good. I think this is going to be a positive experience for both of us, and I’m just going to try to relax and enjoy the ride.