Writing helps student process her grief; has been publishing since age 9
A passion for creative writing began early for Kayla McCall. After losing her father when she was nine years old, she published her first short story, The Fourth Grade Blues. Since then, her writing has won numerous awards in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, as well as the PTA Reflections contest where she won first place. McCall, who is from Birmingham, is a junior majoring in creative writing at Auburn, and she hopes to work in both writing and publishing after graduation (projected class of 2020). She ultimately wants to write her own television series and is inspired by Shonda Rhimes, creator of shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and “How to get Away with Murder.”
Learn more about McCall in our interview below, and be sure to read the short story she shares with us for this issue of Perspectives!
(She also recently published her first novel, Finding Lights, find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Finding-Lights-Kayla-McCall/dp/1516945018 )
Would you please tell us about yourself, and how you chose to attend Auburn?
I am from Birmingham, Alabama, where I attended Ramsay High School. I published my first short story, The Fourth Grade Blues, when I was nine-years-old, but my interest in writing dropped off for a few years and I decided I wanted to be a pediatrician. However, once I got to high school, my creativity was really encouraged by my teachers, and I realized I was more interested in writing about blood than working with it (not that I write a lot of gore, but it is a possibility). During my sophomore and junior years of high school, I attended the Ada Long Creative Writing Workshop at UAB and this was the first time that I realized I could have a career in writing. The workshop process was intense, but I realized creative writing was the best kind of challenge that I could endure because it is what I am passionate about. This led me to choose Auburn’s creative writing program because it was a way to study the subject I loved while keeping my roots in the south.
What has been your favorite Auburn memory, thus far?
My favorite memory at Auburn has been one particular interaction I had with a liberal arts alumnus. I worked at the university’s call center during my sophomore year, and I had the pleasure to speak with an alumnus about his experiences at Auburn. I ended the call by asking him if there was any advice he had for an undergraduate student. He told me about the importance of liberal arts degrees in so many different fields and instilled that a liberal arts degree is just as valuable as any other. I asked that question at the end of so many of my calls, but his answer is one of the only ones that stuck with me because it forced me to reevaluate my circumstances within my major and reaffirm that I made the right decision.
What has it been like to be a published author as a student?
I have been publishing works for a long time, but the excitement of publishing something new never goes away. I’ve published several short stories, and I have also written and published a novel, Finding Lights, which debuted in 2017. Being published as a student makes me feel like I already have one step towards my career which is a good feeling to have as an undergraduate student when thoughts of career options can be extremely overwhelming. During an ice breaker activity to introduce ourselves to the group at Camp War Eagle, I mentioned that I have published stories and there was a beat where everyone was really impressed which surprised me, but nevertheless, I was really proud of myself in that moment.
What advice do you have for others who would like to follow in your footsteps?
My advice for anyone trying to walk down a similar path to mine is to read first. We read so much in our day to day lives and accidentally catching yourself analyzing the rhetoric of a shampoo ad is like studying for writers. I have also been an avid reader, and once I started writing I realized that I already had some knowledge of the nuances of the craft because of the amount of time I spent reading. Once you feel like you have a sufficient background, the next step would be to write, of course. One of the biggest lessons I have had to learn is to see things through. Even if you are writing something that you think is terrible, you should see it through to the end because I have written thousands of words of complete garbage and still found one gem within it that I am proud of whether that be a full scene or one line. Scrapping works too soon could mean losing something that is good. I recently submitted a short story for my fiction writing class. The entire time I wrote it, I was convinced that it was awful, but once I finished it, I was able to highlight what was and wasn’t working to restructure the story in a much better way. Find what you like in that story and use that to enhance it. If you like what you’ve written, others will too.
What do you ultimately want to do with your degree?
My career goal is to be a staff writer and possibly the eventual showrunner of a television series. I’m inspired by Shonda Rhimes, and it gives me the motivation to keep working toward that goal. I’m fascinated by the translation of storytelling from the page to the screen, and I am hoping to immerse myself in that world after I graduate. I also want to keep writing and publishing novels because I will never be able to separate myself from the joy of writing books no matter what my day job is. I am currently playing around with ideas for my next novel and am crossing my fingers that I can have another published and under my belt before finishing my time at Auburn.
Interviewed by Vicky Santos, director of news and media services in the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University.
Last Updated: November 05, 2018