Tuesday, May 12, 2015

K.P. Smith, Author of Growing Pains | Kendra's Diaries

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K.P. Smith is the author of the inspirational fiction/YA novel Growing Pains | Kendra's Diaries.

Tell us a bit about yourself. 
I love to read (of course). I’m “addicted” to my two fav “s” soaps (daytime and nighttime) and sports.  I recently added another “s” social media. I’m mostly active on twitter but also do Facebook . I’m slowly getting into Instagram and Google+. It’s fun meeting and chatting with people online with similar and sometimes not so similar ideas and interests.

I also love movies. I live in New Orleans. It’s festival time here so I’m enjoying all the different festivals with great music and food!

By day I’m work in the insurance industry which I’ve worked for 18 years. I have two wonderful sons 13 and 15 which keep me beyond busy. I take life as it comes day by day and try to make the best of it!

Describe the plot of your new book, Kendra’s Diaries, in a few sentences.
Kendra’s Diaries is the beginning of Kendra’s growing up journey. She’s in that “limbo” place where you aren’t a kid anymore but not really an adult yet. She has to deal with her family as well as her own personal challenges (school, friends, boys). The story is about her own internal fortitude that keeps her pressing toward making her dreams come true no matter what.

Who do you think would most appreciate this book?
It’s geared toward young adults ages 12-16 so I would say that is my primary audience. But it’s been a pleasant surprise to get feedback from “seasoned” readers closer to my age whom have enjoyed Growing Pains; Kendra’s Diaries as well.
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Author K.P. Smith
What inspired you to write a series about growing up?
Whether we realize or acknowledge it a lot who we are who we become good or bad can be traced back to our childhood. It’s only 18 years of our life but literally can charter the course of our lives. Some of our experiences are good some bad and others downright awful.

I want to celebrate the good while at the same time showing the bad and awful happens but you can still chart a good course for your life.

Growing up can be tough no matter your race, gender, economic status, etc, etc. I remember some of my tougher times. I want the youth to know we’ve all gone through them and come out on the other side and we are better for it. And they will too!

Yes growing up can be tough but you can still have fun and enjoy it as well! I aspire to entertain as well as inspire and encourage.

I know from my own sons “talking” to them can somethings go in one ear and come out the other. But I’m hopeful through my writing to have many teaching moments to help them through the process.

Tell us about your main character, Kendra Foster.
Kendra has a lot maybe too much going on for a girl her age. She’s been trying to make cheerleader forever. She’s been trying to get the boy she likes, Jamie, attention for forever and a day. She has her high school picked out but due to her parents financial situation she needs some help to go. If that isn’t enough her home life is in shambles. Her parents don’t get along. Her mom is keeping secrets from her father. Her daddy and her maternal grandparents don’t get along but no one will tell her why.

Her plate is full to say the least. She’s just trying to keep it all together.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
It might sound cliché but it’s so true. It’s not what happens in our lives that defines it but how we react to it. And in alot of cases how we move passed it.

One of my favorite phrases is Keep it Moving no matter what just keep moving; you will get to the other side.

How do you think you've evolved as a writer since when you first started?

Oh a lot. I recently sent the second book, New Beginnings, to my editor. It was in such better shape than Kendra’s Diaries when it was sent to the editor. I made it a point to make my sure it was.

When writing Kendra’s Diaries I developed a bad habit of telling myself don’t worry about “ that” we will deal with it later. And when later did come it made the process much more difficult because there were so many changes to be done. It took more time on the back end than if I would have taken time to do it right on the front end.

I’m also so much more organized in my thoughts and how I put them on paper. For my second book I started outlining what I wanted to happen in each chapter before writing it. I’m just starting the third book tentatively titled Decisions. For the first time I wrote down what I wanted to happen to the characters in the book. I’m sure somethings will change but it has given me such a solid foundation to start with.

Just like anything else in life my writing style continues to change, evolve and grow.

Have you ever had writer's block?
Yes, but never for a long period of time. I know people say just write even if you don’t feel like it. But I have to at least “feel it”. I might not actually “feel “ like writing but I have to “feel” the writing. For me if there is no “feeling” then I won’t produce anything worth reading.

Good news is I “feel” the writing more than not so I’m good.

Do you write with a computer, typewriter, or pen and paper?
I do have a system;

1)    I write my chapter outline by hand on paper.
2)    Write the chapter out by hand on paper
3)    Then I type the chapter on my computer.
4)    Once I’m done with all the chapters I print out the manuscript.
5)    I edit, rewrite and make corrections.
6)    Once I’m done give one more reread then it’s off to the editor.

Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about the next book in the series?
New Beginnings is just that. Kendra starts high school. There is the transition of a new school meeting new people. Kendra is trying to find her place. This proves to be challenging but very rewarding. There are also new beginnings for the other characters as well.

As with Kendra’s Diaries Kendra’s family has its own element of drama. And Kendra is always trying to stay neutral and not take sides. She still has to deal with her parents and the rest of her family. Just like the Kendra’s Diaries; Kendra’s plate is full.

We introduced new characters and storylines. More than anything throughout the entire series I want to keep things fresh and interesting.

Is there anything else you'd like potential readers to know about your book?
Right before New Beginnings comes out this summer, I’ll be offering Kendra’s Diaries for free so keep checking my website www.iamkpsmith.com for further details.

I know you will enjoy it and when you do spread the word and come back for New Beginnings, Decisions and Senior Year!!

An excerpt from Growing Pains | Kendra's Diaries:
As I stood in front of the mirror, my mind went back to my first cheerleading tryout two years ago. I was in sixth grade then—that was the youngest a girl could be to try out for cheerleading. I barely slept the night before. All day, I couldn’t concentrate in class. I kept rehearsing and practicing—in my head—every single cheer, over and over again.
When it was time for tryouts, all of the girls waited in the locker room. Everyone tried to appear calm, but I knew everyone was just as nervous as I was. For some, it was their last year at the school, the last year to try and make it. For others, like me, it was not our last chance, but we still wanted to make it as much as they did. 

There was not much conversation. There were some nervous glances, some girls looking around, trying to size up their competition. Some people were in the corner getting in one final practice session. We could hear the cheerleaders in the gym, with music, gearing up the crowd and getting them ready. All of us could feel the excitement, the adrenaline, all the way in the locker room.

As the minutes passed, the knots in my stomach felt tighter and tighter. When it was time, we all ran out onto the gym floor and were greeted by the screaming crowd. My heart was beating so hard and fast that it felt like it was going to come out of my chest. I took my place on the gym floor and looked around. I made it; after six years—I made it. I was there. I looked up into the bleachers and saw my best friend, Katrina, right where she said she would be. She gave me the thumbs up sign and I smiled broadly at her. Lord knows, my insides were a mess, but I was ready, prepared, and confident.

My confidence served me well. The first few cheers were great. As each minute passed, my insides calmed down and I went into a “zone.” I could see and hear the crowd, but I was transported to another place. I was at home in my backyard. No one else was there but me. We finished our last cheer together and the gym exploded in applause. I looked up at Katrina and she was smiling, jumping up and clapping, letting me know I had done well.

We went back into the locker room to wait. Then came the hard part—the part that separated the average from the good, and the good from the great. It was time to do our cheers individually. If I thought the knots were bad before, they were nothing compared to what I felt as I waited in the locker room for my turn.

There was silence in the locker room—no conversation and little movement. Some girls had their head down, some were pacing the floor. I elected to sit with my hands folded, praying to God. I prayed so hard I didn’t hear my name called at first. Then across the intercom I heard the second call for Kendra Foster. I popped up and hurried out.

There I was in the middle of the floor with hundreds of pairs of eyes on me. I took a quick look at Katrina again. She smiled at me, but I could see she was just as nervous as I was. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and began. The first cheer went off without a hitch. It could have been better, but it was still pretty good. One of the requirements was that everyone had to do a spread eagle, which meant I had to jump up, do a split in the air and land on my feet. No problem for me, I have been practicing this for months, right? I thought. I chose to do the spread eagle in the middle of my second cheer.

I am not exactly sure how it happened, if I tripped on my shoe laces or maybe there was a wet spot on the floor. Maybe I was just clumsy. All I know is when I came down from the spread eagle, instead of landing on my feet, I landed flat on my face with a loud thud. As my face slapped onto the hard gym floor, I heard hundreds of gasps. The pain in my head was instantaneous and severe. Even though I didn’t want to, I had to lift my head to make sure I could move it. There they were all those pairs of eyes on me, some in horror, some in fear, some with pity and, of course, some laughing, but all bearing down on me.

My face was hot with shame, and tears blinded my vision. I jumped to my feet to get out of there, but my body would not cooperate. My legs came out from beneath me and I went down. The next thing I knew, there were people everywhere, feeling my head, asking me my name, asking me how many fingers I could see. I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me. I had to sit in the middle of the gym floor with all this commotion. I managed to meet Katrina’s eyes. She looked so worried. I smiled to try and reassure her.

They finally felt comfortable enough to move me and asked if I could make it to the office. They wanted to call my mom to come and get me. I quickly nodded my head “yes.” I was ready to get outta there. When I got up, the crowd cheered and that made me feel a little better.

My mom almost passed out when she got there and saw the gigantic knot on my forehead. A few hours and several x-rays later, the doctor gave me the “all clear” sign. He told my mom, “Keep a close eye on her for the next few days, but I expect her to be fine.”

Fine? I will never be fine again.

On the way home I closed my eyes and leaned against the seat. It wasn’t long before my mom tried to make me feel better.

“Kendra what you have just experienced is terrible and I won’t even try to make like it isn’t. At your age this must seem like the end of the world, but it’s not. Now, when you go back to school tomorrow—”

Tomorrow? She is making me go back to school tomorrow? I was thinking more along the lines of dropping out.

“—hold your head up. You can always try out again next year.”

Next year? How can I even think about that? All I could think about was going back to school and having all those eyes on me again.

“Don’t be a quitter. Life will bring about many difficult situations and the last thing you want to do is start quitting when things get hard. This is a painful but important choice you’ll have to make. The most important lesson for you to learn from this is that life is about choices and we have to live with the consequences of the choices we make.”

I never told anyone, not even Katrina, but all through the next summer I practiced every day. But when the first day of tryout practice came, I chickened out at the last minute. My mom was right. I’ve had to live with that choice.

By not trying out, I thought I took the easy way out, but it turned out to be the hard way. It was hard to look at the cheerleaders, longing to be one of them: wanting to do it, preparing to do it, saying I would do it. But fear stepped in. The fear spoke to me. It told me, you can’t do it. You will fail. The fear haunted me and stopped me. Yes, the fear was always, always there.

I looked at my reflection again in the mirror, this time talking back to myself.

“Kendra, you have to forget all that. That was two years ago. You have to focus on today. This is it; this is your last chance.”

I refused to live in regret. Trying out was not just about being a cheerleader—it was also about me. It was about truly facing myself and, most importantly, facing my fear.
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