Spotlight: Kill Your Darlings ATL
Interview by Jenny Sadre-Orafai
JS: How did Kill Your Darlings ATL come about?
KC: I would like to say that the wonderful, talented and slightly neurotic Melysa Martinez started this workshop and Kill Your Darlings ATL back in 2010 through her own grit, talent and perseverance. I wasn’t there for the inception of the organization, so it is best if this question is fielded by her.
MM: During the spring of 2010, I realized a couple of things: 1) I was wasting my life partying and dissatisfied with this reality. 2) I was nearing the end of my college years, where I had come to rely on educated peer edits. I had recently become acquainted with Faulkner’s term “in writing, you must kill your darlings” and thought the message and aesthetic of the phrasing was amazing. So I decided that I had to buckle down and write, and I also realized that it’s easier to rise together as a collaborative voice, then to try to polish and rise as a singular being. Also, I’m like a dog, and crave being around others. So I started Kill Your Darlings. The big idea umbrella concept of it was to hold writing workshops for free (as, let’s face it, unless you’re on the NYT bestseller list, chances are you can’t afford $100+ per writing workshop), as well as hold literary events that weren’t your standard finger snapping and awkward silence and clapping. I noticed the attention art shows and local bands got, but it seemed the local literary community (which barely existed then) was not valued as its own art form and completely cut out of the mix. So I decide KYD readings would be a blend of literature with other art forms, such as music by local bands, etc. About the same time, Ben Leake founded Lobster Mobster Poetry Collective, and I began to see a change in the scenery, which was wonderful and very fulfilling for everyone involved. Additionally, I fantasized, I think like most writers, about moving to New York City, but I couldn’t afford it. I had read an interview with Blake Butler on Vice Magazine and the writer who did the piece made a very interesting observation about how, while aspiring writers were flocking to big cities like NYC in hopes of making it big but getting caught in the hamster wheel of bills and low wages, Blake stayed in ATL and concentrated on his writing and as a result was able to make it big (and because he’s talented. duh). So I wanted to convey that message to fellow writers who had dreams of leaving, but weren’t in a financial position to do so. We don’t need to leave Atlanta to make it. If you can’t make it in an affordable city with a great quality and cost of living, chances you’ll make it in a city like NYC are slim to none (no offense, dreamers). The first workshop had about 15+ people and immediately I could tell Kill Your Darlings ATL was up to something great. Everybody was excited. Moreover, everybody was talented. Talent and ambition like that ought not to be wasted, in particular if you are in college debt from your chosen career path, might as well at least give it a try. Trying only gets you further, not behind.
JS: Can you take our readers through what a KYD workshop might be like?
KC: In many ways, a KYD workshop is typical of what you would expect from workshops set in a traditional academic setting. Participants are encouraged to bring poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, or any piece of literary work that they would like feedback on, though sharing work isn’t required to participate in the workshop and conversation. We welcome anyone with an interest in craft or the local writing community to attend, even if just to get a feel for how a workshop operates. Work can be shared in a variety of ways, but generally writers bring in physical copies which are then distributed amongst the attendees, who compile notes on the piece, from there we ask participants to give a verbal summary of their written feedback. But there are no hard and fast rules to a KYD workshop, we’ve had writers read a piece aloud, similar to what you’d expect at a literary reading or poetry slam, and participants give feedback after hearing the piece performed. Writers sharing work always have an opportunity to respond to any critiques given–this is a way in which our workshops may differ from others–in that we focus on conversation and fostering community more than anything else. We promote rigor, but also would like the folks involved to feel at home when presenting a piece or providing feedback. We feel, along with honest critique and dialogue, fostering a stable, welcome environment makes our local writing community stronger. We don’t tolerate pretentiousness, elitism, or snobbery, and strive to make sure everyone feels welcomed at workshop.
JS: What do you think a multi-genre workshop like KYD offers writers that perhaps a poetry only workshop or a fiction only workshop doesn’t?
KC: The varying voices, ideas, and personalities are what make our workshop unique. What makes a KYD workshop so attractive to participants is that you never know what to expect, due to everyone involved coming to writing and literary life from a variety of places. Someone who focuses on poetry may, and often does, have something valuable to say about a piece of fiction or a personal essay presented during workshop and vice versa.
JS: Workshops are only part of what the organization does though. In what other ways can someone be a part of KYD?
MM: We’re always looking for volunteers, as we are a non-profit group with full-time jobs and lives. Not to mention that it’s always great to get different perspectives and voices. People can get involved in the simplest of ways, such as e-mailing us interesting stories and or upcoming events for us to share with the local writing community through our website, or helping us with events and/or chapbooks. That means bands, graphic designers, photographers, videographers, writers, etc. Anybody who wants to lend a hand in allowing local writers the opportunity to shine and bring exposure to our community is something we greatly appreciate. As we going into phase three (we’ve just stepped into year three of our happy life), we’d love it if we could get more writers to contribute to our website and social media platforms. Whether it’s interviewing local writers or founders of literary groups, sharing their words via videos and podcasts to bring exposure to themselves or the work of others, or writing about upcoming events or book releases (self-published or otherwise) so that we won’t overlook them due to time constraints.
JS: How do you see the organization evolving in the future?
MM: Eventually, the ideal goal is to create a larger community network, with Kill Your Darlings in other cities allowing up-and-coming writers a platform for which their voices and talents can be heard beyond their local community. The goal is for it to be accomplished via our respective sites, along with podcasts, articles, readings, and literary events. A small publisher based in San Francisco has already approached us about doing a Kill Your Darlings ATL book, which would be comprised of the work done by local Atlanta writers; in particular the pieces edited and reviewed at our KYD workshops throughout the year. The final final goal? World domination. (Insert cartoon villain laughter.)
JS: How does a writer get involved with KYD?
KC: There’s tons of ways for local and non-local writers and publishers to get involved, which Melysa mentioned previously. The first step, if you would like to help out, would be to contact either Melysa or myself. You can reach us respectively at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Updates on workshops and KYD events can be found at Facebook and you can follow us on Twitter. Also, all hate mail, general inquiries, or words of praise can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much for allowing us the opportunity to promote KYD and our local scene.