By Kayla Cagan, Author of Piper Perish and Art Boss
On Twitter this Friday (9/21/18) from 4-5 PM PST, Kayla will take your questions and discuss why our stories matter, even when we think they don’t. Log into your Twitter account during our chat hour and use the hashtag #KTChat or @mention @KaylaCagan and @SCBWISOCALLA to join the discussion! If you aren’t on Twitter, leave questions in the blog comments before we chat!
How do we, as writers and readers, make sense of the world when it no longer feels like it makes sense to us? When facts are questioned and questions aren’t answered, do words matter? More importantly, do stories still matter? And what are we doing to make sure we are sharing the stories that can make a difference in a reader’s life?
Reading and writing books are the most valuable arenas of space and territories of time we can occupy to process the noisy world around us. When readers tweet that they lost track of time because they were reading, what they are doing is engaging with a story that was necessary for them. In Brené Brown’s book, Rising Strong, she states, “Neuroeconomist Paul Zak has found that hearing a story — a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end — causes our brains to release cortisol and oxytocin. These chemicals trigger the uniquely human abilities to connect, empathize, and make meaning. Story is literally in our DNA.”
Simply, we need to read and tell stories not just to survive on a personal level, but to thrive as a world community. At first glance, some stories might appear as quiet or common. Maybe they even seem unimportant. The question may be asked: Why this story? Why now?
As someone who understands writing procrastination all too well, using the “no one will care about this story anyway, I might as well do the dishes/wash the car/rearrange my closet” excuses, I urge all writers to step into your writing discipline and schedule as a way into thoughtful, dedicated activism because…drum roll…YOUR STORIES MATTER.
If your story can entertain or help even one reader, you have been an active participant in making the world a safer place. Stories protect us and reset us, especially the youngest among us who might be struggling with problems at school or at home. Stories provide a rest area so that our brains can have a time to wander and process and be creative. Reading and writing are ways to learn the stories we need to share without interruption. There’s a unique bond between story and spirit, writer and reader.
Whether in picture books or literary fiction, graphic novels or nonfiction, there is a place in books for all of us to see and hear each other, in a way that helps us not just feel whole, but to absorb the gift of time to explore a new world. Reading and writing builds in time that WE control, not the world around us.
I challenge you to think of the books that have been your escape hatch when you’ve needed it, and question whether what you’re reading — and writing — now is helpful in the same way. Or do your current reads challenge you, turn on your brain and electrify and educate you, or make you laugh your brains out? (If so, I really want to know about them, so please share with me and everyone you know! My favorites this year include: Jen Wang’s The Prince and The Dressmaker, Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date, Maurene Goo’s The Way You Make Me Feel, and Amy Spalding’s The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles.)
Stories are good for us, whether we’re writers or readers, or presumably both. Stories are the antidote to apathy and the humor to heartache. Stories matter, now more than ever, and it’s up to us to keep writing them and reading them. I’m all in. Are you?
Join me and SCBWI-Los Angeles on Twitter this Friday, September 21st, from 4-5PM PST to continue this discussion. We’ll share stories that inspire us and give us a peaceful space in a chaotic world, talk about why reading, writing, and small acts of creativity are activism, and dive into why your story matters. I’ll also do my best to answer questions you leave in the blog comments beforehand. Can’t wait to chat with you!
To chat with us, log into your Twitter account during our chat hour and use the hashtag #KTChat or @mention Kayla (@KaylaCagan)! If you aren’t on Twitter, leave your questions in the comments before the chat begins! Find SCBWI-LA on Twitter: @SCBWISOCALLA
If you’d like to learn more about writing an article for #KTChat, find more info here.
For more fantastic content, community, events, and other professional development opportunities, become a member today! Not sure if there is a chapter in your area? Check here.
Kayla Cagan’s first book, Piper Perish, received universal praise and was a Barnes & Noble Best Book of the Month in 2017. Her second book, Art Boss, called “an engaging portrait of the artist as a young woman” by Kirkus Review, comes out October 2nd from Chronicle Books. She’s a proud PAL member of SCBWI. You can find out more about her at kaylacagan.com or visit her on Instagram at @Kayla_Cagan_Writer.