New Series: Keeping the Faith Fridays, Spotlight Kayla Berkey

Since I’ve been writing seriously, I’ve been lucky enough to collect a few like-minded friends who are in this thing with me. We’re all at different places in terms of how long we’ve been writing, what we write, agented/unagented, etc. None of us have a book on the shelves or advances in our bank accounts. Yet we’re keeping the faith: steadily plugging away at our work and learning and growing along the way. Hence the title of this series, in which I introduce you to some of my favorite people and writers who haven’t (yet!) achieved glory but are all doing the work. I’m inspired by these ladies and thought you might be, too.

For our first feature, meet Kayla Berkey, a Pittsburgh poet whose mind is as sharp as her heart is tender. Once you read our dreamy interview, you’ll want to follow her at, in which she highlights people making art in Pittsburgh, and on Twitter: @oKayBerkey. Enjoy!


kayla writing

1.) Why do you write? What does writing mean to you?

I love words and making. I think of writing as one of many art forms, but writing is my favorite artistic outlet for practicing creativity and making sense of things. Art is one of the most important tools available for that.

2.) What do you write?

Poems. Plus some artist profiles, reviews, local news articles.

3.) How long have you been writing seriously?

I have always been writing, but studying literature in grad school about four years ago and becoming part of the Madwomen in the Attic writing workshops in Pittsburgh gave me the tools I needed to write well.

With poetry, it is essential to always be reading good poets, practicing the craft, and getting feedback from other poets. I have written a lifetime of bad poems. Much of the writing process, I’ve learned, comes through revision.

4.) Do you have a writing regimen? (Outlining vs. pantsing? Process for various drafts? Beta readers? Revision m.o.? Do you send pages to someone as you’re drafting? Tell us anything/everything!)

I am not a regimented person. Sometimes I stop along the river on my bike ride home from work and sit along the river to write a poem. Sometimes I write clips of poems between notes I’m taking about something else. Sometimes I record myself saying poems while I’m taking long drives.

My most routine practice is that I type each poem I create into Word documents so they’re all in one place and easy to manipulate. I also try to write down all my ideas for poems and stories right when I have them on my Notes app on my ipod. That way I have a long bank of ideas to visit when I need it.
When I feel a poem is complete, I take it to a workshop. It always needs other eyes. Then I revise.

5.) What’s the number one thing you’ve learned while writing? What piece of advice would you give to others/yourself?

Write about everything. Write about the mouse that ran across your toes while you were washing dishes last night. Write about that fiery flash of panic you get when passing a semi-truck on the highway. Write about the guy who kissed you with a clumsy, over-enthusiastic tongue.

No topic is off limits. Anything is interesting if you write it with enough detail and nuance. Stay away from generalizations and abstractions.

6.) What non-writing activities do you do to help your creative process?

I garden and tend to my chickens, which is the most magical, inspiring process to me. I people-watch and overhear conversations. I ride my bike and stop to look at things that interest me. I go to art galleries and plays. I read poems out loud. I ask people lots of questions about life.

7.) What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a series of poems about life lessons I’ve learned from my chickens. I’m also experimenting with poems that document the online dating experience.

8.) Who are your big influences in your genre?

Pittsburgh has some amazing poets: Terrence Hayes, Vanessa German, Nancy Krygowski, Jan Beatty. Some of my other favorite poets are Ross Gay, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Carl Phillips.

9.) Top three favorite books of all time. Don’t think.

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The Rest of Love by Carl Phillips

10.) Your turn for the Sorting Hat. Which is your Hogwarts House? Why?

I once took the official online Sorting Hat quiz and was assigned to Gryffindor. Maybe it has something to do with my never-ending quests for adventure. I never seem to sit still for very long.

*Bonus Question!: A magic fairy waves her magic wand and grants you one superpower. What is it?

The power to make any food appear before me at anytime. This is mostly practical because I love eating, but life would be so much easier if the most delicious, healthy stuff was there right when you wanted it. But let’s be real; I’d be eating a whole lot of ice cream.

ShareShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published / Required fields are marked *