• Kacen Callender

WIP: Manifestations

I’ve realized something: nearly everything that has happened to me in my career as an author was something I brought into reality. For Hurricane Child and This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story, my intention was to be published, to at least get my foot in the door, because it had been such a struggle for so many years to even find an agent, let alone sell a book.

Those two dreams came true; and as time went on, I started to layer other dreams on top of those books. Hurricane Child was a quiet release, and I started to wish that it would receive at least a Coretta Scott King Honor. I was pleasantly surprised to win the Stonewall—I don’t remember even considering that to be a possibility—but was disappointed that it hadn’t received the CSK award I’d hoped for.

With Epic Love Story, the lackluster response was an even harder pill to swallow. I began to dream that I would be received in the same way as one of my idols, Becky Albertalli—that my books would be received in the same way as Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

Years ago, before I’d even started to seriously query, I worked the National Book Award event at The New School, and I remember thinking, fleetingly—I’m going to get that award someday. King and the Dragonflies released, and in the time spent wishing and daydreaming since Hurricane Child, the two hopes I’d had manifested: King won both the National Book Award and CSK Honor. And for Felix, it’s been the same as since Epic—I’ve seen so many parallels to the way Felix has been received in comparison to Simon, for the word-of-mouth buzz that really brought on a snowball effect of love, the TV/film deal, and more.

I can see how, if I had sat with my intentions and hopes for Hurricane Child and Epic Love Story more purposefully before I’d started writing them, and even as I was writing them, there would have been a different effect when they were released.

I’ve never liked the idea of vision boards. It feels a little too easy to me: put up pictures of where you’d like to be, and just sit and wait for it to happen? No, I don’t think energy works that way. But I can see how a core law of existence is that, for the energy we put into the world we will receive the same. Energy is always reflected back to us. So I can also see how, when we follow our joy and purpose uninterrupted by fear, we will receive what we wish for. If we write the books that we absolutely love without caring about what other people will think, we will receive an energetic response that reflects that joyful, excited love.

If we are operating from a place of love and joy, and we put out the thought that we would like to see x, y, and z as manifestations in this energy reflected to us… Then why shouldn’t those wishes return fulfilled? I’ve seen enough evidence that the universe is always working with me, for me, as it does for all of us. But, we also need to be clear in our intention for our purpose in writing our books. Do we want to be on the NYT bestseller list because we want to be fulfilled by other people, to be validated by other human beings? That means we are operating from a place of fear, which will also be reflected back to us.

The true purpose of this post is to think more strongly about the responsibility I’ve had, too: because in the aftereffects of Hurricane Child and Epic Love Story, I became bitter at the quiet, perceived unloving reception. I became angry, which is really an effect of fear—fear that I was not worthy to be loved, was not worthy to be accepted, rather than seeking worthiness from within. And the thoughts that are created by first fear, and then anger, and then bitterness and jealousy, also came. I began to have a repeating, unending cycle of thought about this industry: how Black people are treated, not given the same value, and to be queer and trans on top of that has meant having to work even harder than every other author, has meant not receiving the same level of love and attention as I would have had I been white, cis, and straight.

And yes, this has been true—because this is the story I trapped myself in. This is the reality that I created for myself. If these are the thoughts that I perpetuate, over and over again, this is the energy that will find me: those in the industry who do not appreciate Black, queer, trans authors as much as white, straight, cis authors will work with me. Readers who would love to read a book by a Black, queer, trans person will not find me.

The lowest point in my career has been the poor reception of Queen of the Conquered and King of the Rising, and this has also been my own doing: those books were created in my darkest moments as a writer. I worked in publishing and put myself in a position to deal with microaggressions and racism every day, rather than leaving when I should have. I was constantly on social media, jealous of others’ achievements, i.e.: fearful that I was unworthy. I thought endlessly about how hated I am, how no one can appreciate my talent as an author because I’m Black, how I’m mistreated by everyone because of racism from white people and anti-queerness from Black people, how I will forever be the author who is slept on, ignored, will never get their due.

Then, yes: it’s not a surprise that this is exactly what happened. Queen and King are books that I feel are well-written, deserving of praise, which they have also received (and which I have also ignored, because this did not fit the story I told myself)—but are overwhelmingly hated by people who could not understand the voice, the character, the message and purpose. These books have found the people who wanted another specific sort of fantasy novel, rather than other readers who would have more appreciated the style and purpose, because of the energy I created around the books before I wrote them and as I wrote them.

This mistake was manifested as my own intention was not clear in writing these novels. I wrote what might be considered a literary exploration using the tool of fantasy, which I then sold and marketed as fast-paced commercial fantasy. It's no surprise that people expecting a fast-paced commercial fantasy have decided these books are bad. Did I even know what I hoped for in the reception of these books? No—I only wrote them from a place of anger, bitterness, and, ultimately, fear. It doesn’t matter how well-written or not well-written these books are: this is the energetic reflection they will receive.

The universe is only giving me the energy I have given it; everything has worked precisely the way it was meant to work. But every painful moment in life is an opportunity to learn, to grow, to expand. The pain in seeing the poor reception of the books I have written has acted as a catalyst, a deeper realization that I have the power to pull to me what I put out into the world. It’s reminded me that I have always had this power, as has every single human being. I remember thinking throughout my life how uncanny it is, that everything I’ve wished for has come true, down to the very detail in some cases; and I can better see now that, when something has not happened the way I hoped it would, it’s only because I wished for it after the fact, or because of the energy I had in those moments, the energy of fear, which is the true language of existence: it doesn’t matter what words we speak, what words we tell ourselves, when the energy beneath those words is the only truth.

I don’t have a vision board, but in my meditations, I sit and I daydream and I acknowledge what I want, stripping away the shame and fear—because this is another issue, I think, how so many of us are taught to be ashamed of what we want—and in some cases, I can feel that my desires, not only in writing, have already happened, have already been created, as long as I don’t get in the way of those vibrations of creation with my own blocks of fear. My foundation needs to be fearless joy, excitement for everything in my life, including for the books I write, feeling aligned with my purpose and the full understanding that I am worthy of unconditional love, so that my desires don’t operate from a place of wanting to feel fulfilled by love from others. Everything I want is coming to me. This is an incredible power. It’s overwhelming to think about, but this is the way existence has always worked.

I also acknowledge the fear I still struggle with. I’m working on my YA fantasy slowly, but I create the largest blocks of creativity within me through my fear, and it can take hours to push through, to just sit and breathe. The fear is so strong that this book will receive the same poor reception as Queen of the Conquered and King of the Rising, and it can be difficult to find that flow of joy, to bring in a new reality, different from the story that I have trapped myself in for so many years: one where my new book will reflect the love I feel for myself and for my story and for my characters. I still find myself wanting this to be a huge book, a NYT bestseller, showered in accolades and praise—not from a place of joy, but from a place of fear, because there are roots of wounds I haven't healed yet, maybe haven't even found yet. But I also accept this, because I'm not sure that, as long as I'm in this body, there is such a thing as healed. I wonder if life is always about healing, always learning and growing, in learning to feel that joy and love and freedom as I write, and to know with excitement that this joy, love, and freedom will be reflected to me.

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