Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things

Now What?: A One Year Post-Graduation Reflection

Graduation 1 (2)One year ago today, on May 18, 2014, I graduated from Baker University. As my Facebook feed filled up with friends graduating this weekend, this fact weighed on me more than it normally does.

Looking back at my time in university, I realize I didn’t appreciate it nearly as much as I should have. Yes, I was (and still am) grateful that I was able to attend university. I know not everyone can say that. And yes, I was (and still am) grateful for my scholarship and parents’ help and my professors and classes and extra-curricular opportunities. I know I was lucky to have such a wonderful team around me and to graduate debt-free.

However, I took two things for granted in university. First, time. I thought I had no free time. Ha! If any college students are reading this, trust me, you have plenty of free time. Try working 45-50 hours a week with over an hour of commuting time while planning a cross-country move and then tell me how much free time you don’t have. Seriously, though, while your free time in college is limited, the quality of it is so much freer than after graduation when all those “real world” responsibilities kick in. Cherish it.

Second, I took for granted what would happen after graduation. You see, I did really well in university. My whole life, I have judged my self-worth on my academic performance. School was my job. I mean, I worked during university, but priority numero uno was always my education. I thought when I graduated what I did in university would matter. Don’t get me wrong — it does. That 4.0 GPA and those awards mattered at graduation, and they matter for my self-worth and for my parents and husband. But everyone else? Their interest stops at what degree I received.

All the accolades fade away. With the rising credentialism in society, my degree is not special. I’m just another college graduate — the same as someone who lived by the motto “Cs get degrees.”

Okay, I’m done whining about the system. I don’t want to let this post spiral too much.

If you asked Graduation Day Kate, what would she have said about where she would be one year after graduation? Well, she would have tittered off this list:

  • Daniel’s immigration completed
  • Married to Daniel
  • Living on our own
  • Undertaking her first “big girl” job
  • Preparing for graduate school in the fall
  • Having written one novel

Well…two out of six isn’t terrible. There’s an old adage, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.” I don’t know that I believe in a “God,” per se, but I do believe that life takes a million twists and turns, and every time we think we’re on track, it kicks us over to another one. So, where I am at one year after graduation?

  • Still waiting on Daniel’s permanent residency
  • Married to Daniel
  • Almost living on our own (as of August)
  • Applying for “big girl” jobs
  • Starting my own business
  • Having written (and preparing to publish!) one novel

directionsWhile almost everything has taken a bit longer than I expected, and some goals I’ve traded for new ones, I can’t help but feel at peace with where I am now. I’ve had extra time to spend with my family and friends in Kansas, Daniel and I have had plenty of time to save and prepare for the next phase in our marriage, and I have grown professionally (at least in my indie author goals) faster than I thought possible.

Sometimes, I still expect to go back to school in the fall. It still hasn’t sunk in that this isn’t vacation — this is my life now. Will I go back to academia one day? Maybe. But I’m happy to take a few years to earn my stripes in the “real” world and work on my author-entrepreneur business. As much as I love being an academic, I know that I need to separate myself from that world, to do things for me, to learn that I don’t need grades to be fulfilled, to judge myself based on my character — not someone else’s judgment of my intellect.

One year out, I’m still a work-in-progress. And I always will be. And that’s okay. I’m 23 for goodness sake. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and I’ve barely started.

As the graduation speech I heard yesterday said, “In the phrase, ‘you can do anything you think you can do,’ it is what you think you can do that matters most. Figure out what you are passionate about, think you can do it, then go do it.”

If I studied my passions, English and Sociology, even when I knew they would not be as exciting to employers as job-specific degrees (ie: Marketing, Nursing, Accounting), surely I can live for them — no matter what the job market hands me in the meantime.

Living for passion? Chasing that full-time author dream? I think I can do that.

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?

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Updates

Why I Will Independently Publish

In my “Kate’s Publishing Crash Course” series, I gave a general overview of the three main publishing options: traditional, vanity, and independent. In this article, I want to share with you all my personal reasoning behind choosing independent publishing as my writing career path.

It is no secret that I am planning to independently publish my novels and run my own author-entrepreneur business. However, I realized that, while I have shared my plans with you all, I have not shared why I have made this decision. Therefore, in this post, I want to explain how my views on writing and publishing changed entirely in less than a year.

Kate and DanielTo his endless satisfaction, I have to credit my husband, Daniel, with planting the seeds of independence in my brain. You see, as I described in a previous post, I have known that I am a writer since I was a child. I began writing simply for the love of it, and then when it came time to “grow up,” I decided to pursue writing in university and as a career afterward.

During my time in university, I was a standard “wannabe” writer. I say “wannabe,” because outside of my creative writing classes, I barely wrote for myself. Everything about university creative writing was a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, I loved having creative writing classes to help develop my craft skills, give me constructive criticism from other writers, and provide me with a creative mentor. On the other, they also turned writing into a chore. I felt limited by the prompts and subject matter allowed in the university setting. In all honesty, I received a fantastic education and nothing was actually wrong — it just didn’t seem to fit right with me for some reason. Long story short, I did a lot more talking, whining, and lamenting about writing than actual writing.

Likewise, my academic creative writing experience allowed me to attend national writing conferences. On one hand, these were great: they boosted my self-confidence, allowed me the thrill of sharing my work aloud, and helped me feel like part of a larger writing community. On the other hand, they forced me to face the fact that I am a small fish in large pond of writers desperate for publication and exposed me to a watered-down version of the writing industry’s competitiveness. While I adored surrounding myself with these creatives, I never felt 100% at home in their world.

As I neared graduation, I had my plan in place. I would take a year off to handle Daniel’s immigration to the United States and get married. Then, I would go back to university and get my Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. After this, I would be a creative writing professor and attempt to publish novels, creative nonfiction essays, and memoirs. For those of you who don’t know, while this plan sounds simple and straight-forward, it is not. Perhaps I’ll write more on that later. The point is: I was overwhelmed at the idea of immersing myself in a potentially hostile and definitely competitive MFA program and growing less and less enthused about the concept of teaching writing as opposed to writing myself.

Graduation 1 (2)As you can imagine, if I was this unexcited about the idea of competing with an MFA cohort and playing the academic game, I was even less excited about the process of traditional publishing. I knew my journey to publication would be long, arduous, and possibly never get me anywhere. Even if I wrote a great book, it could be passed over for any reason from it lies between genres (and is therefore “not” marketable) to someone else had a slightly better book or knew the right person. Then, even if I did get published, I would have to adjust my novel purely for the sake of marketability, accept whatever cover the company decided to slap on it, and maybe do something as drastic as re-title it or change the ending. BUT — traditional publishing was the only way, and if I did make it through all the gatekeepers, I would have the title of published author, which seemed worth the years of waiting, financial struggle, and heartache.

Then, in April 2014, Daniel introduced me to The Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast. After listening to only one episode, I knew I had to reconsider independent publishing. You see, in the womb of academic creative writing, the words self-publishing were almost never spoken, and when they were, it was in relation to vain, talent-less authors who were too lazy, too arrogant, and too bad of writers to “earn” traditional publication. With this stigma beating around in the back of my mind, I kept listening to the podcast and went into further research.

I think it took all of two weeks for me to change my mind. That is how perfectly independent publishing aligns with my values.

Over the next few months, I listened to every single Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast episode as well as expanded my listening to include The Creative Penn Podcast, The Self-Publishing Podcast, and The Sell More Books Show. I watched YouTube videos, I began buying books, I read blogs and interviews. If you want to see more of my research, check out my resources page and my suggested independent publishing books.

If my mind weren’t made up before, after all of this research, it certainly was. The pros of traditional publishing were reinforced by my research, especially the prestige aspect, but my research also taught me new cons I had not thought about before. Previously, my hesitations about traditional publishing revolved around artistic control. However, when I learned that an advance is not a signing bonus, that the royalty rate is 10-20%, and that I would lose a whole basket-ful of rights, rights to the product that I slaved over, that represents my artistic center, I abandoned any notion of traditional publishing.

WriterFor me, independent publishing is the answer. It will allow me to retain all the rights to my creative products, control every aspect of production and distribution, and pursue entrepreneurship (another dream of mine). Yes, I will have to deal with the self-publishing stigma, at least until it changes. Yes, my decision has damaged my relationship with writers who want to traditionally publish. Yes, I will probably never see my book in a physical bookstore. And while those things suck, the fact that I get to protect the integrity of my creative products, be my own employer and source of livelihood, and live out my dreams on my own terms makes up for any negatives a million times over.

While my personal journey may romanticize it, I need to stress that independent publishing is not for everyone. Indie authors have to do it all: write, edit, hire contractors, make decisions, handle finances, produce, distribute, market. It takes a lot of time and even more work, and it is still a long road to full-time authorship.

However, indie authorship also comes with a few unique perks. The indie community is full of authors and creatives who want to help each other succeed. It is not plagued by the same competitiveness as traditional publishing; it is full of transparency and helpfulness. There are hundreds of indie authors paving the path for my generation by putting out quality work to break stigmas, maintaining an unparalleled professionalism, proving that indie authorship is more financially viable than traditional publishing, and generally being awe-inspiring superhumans.

I am chomping at the bit to join their ranks. I want to be the CEO of my own international creative business. I want to write and publish the novels that inspire me and bring joy to my readers. I want to establish an author brand that reflects the truest sense of my personality. I want to build close, personal connections with other writers and become one of the helpful, honest mentors that have helped me so much.

I want to be independent.

I’m going indie.


Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

NaNoWriMo Update: The Adventure Begins!

As I am writing this post, it is still October 31st. However, when it hits the world wide web, it will be November 1st. Ah, November 1st, the day that strikes fear and excitement and anticipation in the hearts of NaNoWriMo writers (or Wrimos) everywhere.

NaNoWriMo participant 2014Throughout the month, I will be posting updates on my NaNoWriMo progress. At the very least, I intend to write weekly updates. However, if I manage to scrape up a surprising amount of free time (doubtful), I will update more frequently.

During these updates, I’ll report my word count and state of mind, share the motivation and inspiration that kept me going, and also tell you about my biggest triumphs and setbacks.

For now, here is how I’m feeling about the impending NaNoWriMo 2014:

I feel like NaNoWriMo is a creepy old man hovering over my shoulder and breathing hot coffee breath on my throat. I’ve been so confident and logical all October, but now that the hour is near, the nerves are setting in. However, I’m also excited. Like, really, really excited.

When I was in university, I had this same stomach-twisting sensation whenever I had a long essay to write. As I brainstormed the essay, I knew my ideas were great. Then, when it was time to sit down and write, I would get a little sick feeling and a little nervous. Especially when I procrastinated — which was more often than I like to admit. Once I finally forced myself to the keyboard, I would trudge through the organizational process, and then, slowly but surely, I would pick up speed and blaze through my essay. When it was done, I would blink and scroll through the pages, like I was waking up from a trance. Then, I would turn it in to my professor and everything would be fine.

That’s what I’m hoping NaNoWriMo will be like for me. Given this very specific knot just behind my belly button, I think I’m in good shape.

successHowever, NaNoWriMo holds something for me that university papers never did. You see, now that I’m out of university, I feel a bit aimless. I have decided to wait a year or two before graduate school, because I’m not interested in rushing into an MFA program just yet. I have a good job with benefits and all that real-world jazz, but it is not anywhere near the field I want to be in for my career. The one thing I do know is that I want to get out of my cubicle and into a career as a full-time writer. And trust me, I know that this will probably take a good five years to accomplish. Once I start, that is.

And that’s why NaNoWriMo is so important. Because if I can learn to make creativity a priority and teach my loved ones to take my writing seriously this month, I can continue that pattern on a regular basis. NaNoWriMo is my bootcamp, my two-a-days (for anyone who did a horrible high school sport). The pace is more rigorous, but it is the brutal beginning that will whip me into shape for the years ahead. I’ve heard more than one author on the podcasts I frequent credit their true beginnings to NaNoWriMo.

Why not me, too?

The sooner I get started, the sooner I realize my dreams. It starts with a hastily drafted — but complete — manuscript.

It starts today.

Join me on my NaNoWriMo journey on my NaNoWriMo page or follow me on Twitter @KateMColby for more frequent updates!

How are you feeling about NaNoWriMo this year? Feel free to share your motivations, fears, and encouragement below!


Musings & Bookish Things, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Should You Study Creative Writing?

Deciding whether or not to mix passion with academia is tough. Do you study what you love and risk joblessness at the end? Or, do you submit yourself to a “practical” degree and risk a passionless career life?

Find_your_voice._express_yourself._creative_writing.This is where I am at right now with my Masters degree. Do I need a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing? Or is my Bachelors enough? Well, unfortunately, I have yet to find a blog post filled with advice for myself. But, I thought, maybe I can share my experience with my Bachelors degree and help someone else make a similar decision.

I went for passion and majored in Creative Writing, Literature, and Sociology. For those of you still making the decision, let me offer my best, non-professional advice.

There are two elements to any academic and/or career path: passion and practicality. Before determining any major, you need to determine if you have one, both, or neither of these elements in your potential field.


  1. Do you feel an ardent desire to write?
  2. Does writing make you feel satisfied and bring you joy?
  3. Have you been writing for several years (long enough to know your passion is enduring)?


  1. Have you been writing for several years (long enough to know you can commit to it)?
  2. Have other people (preferably outside of family and friends) told you you are a talented writer?
  3. Do your career goals require an education in writing (ie: publisher, editor, writer, professor)?
  4. Are you willing and able to give and receive criticism and rejection in a calm and respectful manner?
  5. Are you willing and able to handle the “business side” of your writing career (ie: marketing, branding, public relations)?

If you answered “YES” to every question, I believe you should pursue creative writing in academia as a springboard to your career. If you only answered “YES” to some questions, you may rethink your commitment to creative writing. Do a bit more research and try to gain some more experience. Maybe start out with just a minor to see how you like the more “professional” side of creative writing. Worst case scenario, writing can always be a beloved hobby until you are ready to pursue it professionally or academically. It’s never too late to change paths.

Obviously, these questions are not the ultimate test of your readiness/willingness to pursue a degree in creative writing, but each one speaks to a different component of university and professional writing, all of which you will need to eventually master to be successful in this field.

Creative_writing_class-fine_arts_center_(402690951)Now, if you are like me, taking a short quiz is not enough. You want the “inside scoop” from people who have been in a creative writing program. Well, here are a few pros and cons I found during my university writing career. This list is by no means exhaustive, and only speaks to my experience, which was at a small, private, liberal arts university. However, it’s a good place to get your feet wet.


Professors’ Guidance — Having a published author on-hand to guide, read, and critique your work is an extremely helpful learning element that you are unlikely to get outside of a university setting.

Multiple Genres — Unless your program is super-specialized (which is unlikely at the undergraduate level), you will get to experiment in a wide range of genres, some of which you may not even realized existed (like me with creative nonfiction!).

Workshops — Your work will be read and critiqued by others in your field who are (usually) near your experience level. Plus, you get to do the same with their work, which will grow your editing and revision skills as well as help you find your own voice.

Consistent Deadlines — Completing diverse and regular assignments helps you to diversify your writing style and make routine writing a habit.

Extra Opportunities — Many universities also have extracurricular opportunities for writers, such as Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society, a literary magazine to write for and edit, and other clubs. These can help you network and become a more well-rounded writer.


Professors’ Influences — While a professor is one of the biggest advantages you gain from studying creative writing, some professors can actually harm your writing. Some professors may limit your subject matter, try to morph your writing style, or simply be bad at teaching certain genres or skills.

Favoritism — Some professors practice it intentionally, some do so unintentionally. Obviously, if you are not a favorite, you risk having your work ignored or neglected. On the other hand, if you are a favorite, you could still be disadvantaged. Your work may be too highly praised, causing you to miss out on vital criticism and learning. Alternatively, your work may be too harshly criticized, in attempts to make you even better, which may lead to you losing your zest for writing or just not getting the right kind of criticism to help you improve.

Workshops — Some workshops are filled with people whose experience level is so different from yours that they simply cannot offer the criticism and advice you need for your stage of writing experience. Others are filled with sharks, who want nothing more than to tear you down to make themselves look better.

Dependency — Studying creative writing comes with a lot of benefits. After graduation, these benefits go away. If your writing success has relied on praise from your professor/classmates, class prompts, and/or consistent class deadlines, it may be hard to self-motivate once those tools are gone.

Cost — Point blank: university is expensive. There are cheaper alternatives to enhancing writing skills, such as local writing groups, online forums, and writing coaches.

In the end, you are the only one who can decide if studying creative writing is right for you. Do your research: read other blogs, take campus tours, email professors and students. Studying creative writing was the right move for me, but everyone is different. Regardless, don’t worry. As I always say, You’ve got this!

What advice would you give to writers thinking about entering academia? How does your own university creative writing experience stack up against my pros and cons? Let me know!