Behind the Words: Catherine Bailey Kyle

Posted by on Mar 25, 2019 in ABC's of Writing (for Beginners) | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Catherine Bailey Kyle

Profile of author Catherine Bailey Kyle wearing sunglasses, light brown hair, slightly smiling.

Catherine Bailey Kyle was published in the sixth issue of Spry Literary Journal. Her flash fiction piece, The Harvest, is a beautiful reflection on a father-and-daughter relationship. In this interview, Kyle explains her personal connection to this piece, dives into her writing process, and updates us on what she’s currently working on.

Carrie Ryan: I was really drawn to the father figure in “The Harvest.” From the description we are given as readers, he seems like a really quirky individual. Was this person inspired from someone in your real life?

Absolutely. This story is a slightly tweaked version of something that happened to my father and me—or that we made happen, rather. My dad is indeed a quirky guy. He majored in Children’s Theater, and he and my mom worked as puppeteers for part of my childhood. They made the puppets and sets themselves and wrote the scripts, including song lyrics. They’re both really passionate and creative people, so I’m glad that came through in the flash piece.

While my dad isn’t a puppeteer these days, he’s still involved in theater. “The Harvest” is based on a role he took on when I was finishing college. His character had a monologue about ancient practices involving scapegoats, and it struck us both as memorable in a morbid but powerful way. The idea of visually, ritualistically banishing the things you’re not proud of is an interesting one, even if it’s also limiting and potentially futile.

I was captivated by your use of touch as a visualization tool. So often many writers rely on visual and auditory descriptors to add life to their pieces, and the other senses are forgotten. Was this a deliberate choice in your piece? What was the motivating factor behind choosing the diction you chose?

Thank you! Yes, it is a deliberate choice. I agree that sight and sound are the most common senses engaged in writing, and I think it’s useful to bring the others in whenever we can. I have synesthesia, which causes my senses to overlap sometimes. So certain song lyrics will conjure up such vivid mental images, I almost can’t listen to them (or I particularly love them, depending on the lyric). It goes the other way too—sometimes I’ll see something and involuntarily, immediately imagine music going along with it. Reading certain words will make me taste things, and so on. This has happened to me since I was young, and I think it’s made me hyperaware of my senses. They’re what tether us to this world in the day-to-day, and I think they help transmit our experiences to other people—friends, readers, or whomever we’re communicating with. I tell my creative writing students all the time to ground abstractions in sensory details. It will almost always make writing feel more alive.

Do you have a writing routine or ritual? How do you get inspired to write?

Yes and no. I’ve never been able to get in the habit of writing an hour in the morning or something like that, which I know is supposed to do wonders for your practice. I teach five classes a semester, and between that and wanting to have some semblance of a personal life, it’s hard to fit writing in. I write here and there, but during the school year, I mainly focus on reading others’ work, revising my own writing, and submitting it to journals. I also brainstorm. I take notes in a document on my phone, make Pinterest boards and Spotify playlists that help me articulate the kind of aesthetic I want to go for on my next writing project, and basically just try to store up ideas. Then, when the summer comes, I write as much as possible. My goal for this summer is a poem a day on average. My husband calls it “writing season,” and this cycle does have a sort of seasonal rhythm to it not unlike nature. Things grow in the summer and are harvested in fall. I try to give myself writing to “chew on” throughout the winter and spring.

I will say the Pinterest boards and playlists help a lot. I’d recommend that to anybody.

What do you like to write about?

I’m a fan of hyperbole, magical realism, surrealism, and things on an epic scale. “The Harvest” is actually an unusual departure in that regard. But it’s also the difference between fiction and poetry—most fiction I’ve written has been grounded in reality, whereas the poetry is all over the place. When she was reading an early draft of my poetry collection Parallel, a friend said to me, “These read like fairy tales set in hell.” And I got a kick out of that. Of course, much of that poetry was still grounded in emotions I had felt or observations of the real world, but it felt right to write them as hyperbolic and surreal.

In general, I like to write about agency. This question of whether or not we have agency, how much, and under what circumstances never ceases to interest me. I think that’s something that dwells at the center of everything I write, even across genres.

Are you currently working on a creative project?

Yep! I’m working on a full-length collection of poems called Shelter in Place. Continuing that thought from above, it’s really about how much agency individuals have as larger systems—economic, political, environmental, and so on—shift and sometimes crumble around us. I’m not sure if it’s going to be hopeful or hopeless—I’m writing the poems to find out. I’m letting them tell me. All the titles are structured like clickbait headlines, with the content of the poems being very sincere. So I’m hoping to explore that tension between individual emotions that are truly unique and human and meaningful and these larger systems that often flatten us into data or sort of tread over us in pursuit of their goals, which are usually power, power, and more power. I want to know if and how we can push back. It sounds depressing, and at times it is, but it’s also been a lot of fun to write—very cyberpunk/urban witch/neon. Again, really different from “The Harvest.” Though tonally, maybe similar. It’s asking that same question—how we can reconcile with individual and collective wrongdoing. I’m still not sure I know.

About the interviewer: Carrie Ryan is a creative writer and musician in Cleveland, OH. Her first-ever publication was in Spry‘s second issue. Carrie has a B.A. in English and M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Cleveland State University. During her master’s experience, Carrie discovered the joy of mentoring young writers. She hopes to devote more time to her creative endeavors now that she has completed her degrees.