CWL Senior Kylie Yockey

Kylie Yockey is currently working on her senior book. Photo by Chris Dorantes.

Midterm week has fallen upon Santa Fe University of Art and Design. Senior Creative Writing and Literature students are busy writing essays, formatting their senior books and doing last-minute reading. Jackalope Magazine continues talking to graduating CWL seniors about their inspirations and aspirations. Kylie Yockey, CWL student and Student Writers Association president, discusses major themes in her work, her writing process and her plans for the future.


Jackalope Magazine: What can we expect to find in your senior book?

Kylie Yockey: My book is, I feel, first and foremost about power dynamics in any type of relationship, whether it’s with the self or with other people or with the world; about who has the power and what that power is doing to the other. So there’s a lot of that. There’s some self exploration stuff, there’s some love stuff, some unlove stuff, some really flowery stuff because I’m like that. Sex and mythology. Lots of blood and cannibalism and nature and bodies, lots of bodies.

Do you think your writing has always been about these things, or has it changed since coming to SFUAD?

Oh it has super grown. I tend to go through phases of things I obsess writing about. So over the course of the manuscript it’s been, you know, cannibalism, there’s been witches, it’s been how are bodies and the earth congruent. But when I first started at SFUAD, it was just kind of whatever, I was just searching. My sophomore year, I finally realized that I don’t care about writing about men anymore, that I just want to write about women and talk about women and the power of women. I used to just want to be able to write every type of person, and then I think I did that enough and now I’m just like ‘Nah, it’s about the chicks now.’

In putting together your senior book, what has the process been like?

Crazy overwhelming and intimidating. I do not feel ready for this. I’m a child. This is not how it’s supposed to be happening; it’s too big. I’ve been very scared. I’m excited, of course. I’m about to publish a book. And the physical process has been pretty smooth since I’ve been working on my manuscript for like two years. Now that it’s staring me in the face, I’m like…I’m quivering.

Two years? When did you figure out what you wanted your manuscript to focus on?

It didn’t really start off as my manuscript. It started in the spring and summer of 2016 when I had just began writing a whole real lot based on life stuff. I thought I was going to make that its own thing. But then, when we weren’t sure if our graduating semester class was going to have their own senior reading class…I was like ‘Man, I gotta get started on this early because I don’t know what’s about to happen. Otherwise I’m going to be flopping around like a fish out of water.’ So the final draft that I’m finishing up now is draft six. I’m really sick of looking at it.

How did you end up picking SFUAD, Santa Fe?

I think about this every day of my life. I’m like, how did I end up in New Mexico of all places? Where I’m from, most people forget New Mexico exists. I’m from the south (like Tennessee, Kentucky). It’s like Delaware. What states are we forgetting? Delaware and New Mexico. So it was between here, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which I almost went to because I had done their summer program before. The other one was in Rhode Island, and it was pretty but I didn’t have any real feelings for it. Santa Fe was the only one I had really gone to visit as a college, and I was like, ‘Oh! This is intimate and chill.’ I met Dana Levin and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m in love. What a goddess. How can I worship her?’ So I said, ‘alright, this is the one.’

Kylie Yockey has lines from pieces by peers Chris Castellanos and Lucianno Thompson tattooed on her back. She plans on getting more. Photo by Chris Dorantes.

You’ve been involved in Student Writers Association for a while. How has it affected your experience as a student at SFUAD?

It made it so much better. I was never in clubs in K–12, so I was like, ‘alright I’m going to college, I’ll try this club, it’s a writing club I might as well.’ And it was just amazing. I got Amaya [Hoke] as my mentor in my first semester of SWA attendance, and she is of course a goddess and I worship her. She has just really integrated me into the community more. Which again, K –12 I was not in a community, so this has been a little bit of a change for me. But it’s impeccable. I love all of you people and I love writing with you and being with you. Joining the SWA team, rising through officerness to now the presidency, is shocking. I was a born follower. I’m still confused about how I’m president. But I felt this way and I wanna make sure that other people feel that sense of environment that I’m feeling. I want everyone to be as excited as I am.

One class that has impacted you the most?

Probably Professional Practice. I really loved that class. It made me so excited to be a writer and all the things that writers can do. It broadened the scope of possibilities that I hadn’t really considered. Even with what Brantlee [Reid] is doing with Blood Tree Literature, starting her own lit mag, I never even thought that people just do that. So Professional Practice, and Brantlee putting it into practice, has been really inspiring. I always came out of that class like, ‘Oh my God, I want to go write a million things, I want to be a part of the writing community, how can I just do everything?’

Did you always write?

I’ve always written. My entire life I’ve written. I didn’t really realize that I could be a writer until around eighth grade. And then from there up until college, I was really unsure of what I was going to do or what I was going to attempt to be. I was like, ‘I think I like writing the most, let’s try this.’ I think it’s going pretty well so far.

What specific things inspire your writing?

All things. It can be anything. It can be a movie, it can be music, it can be a photograph, it can be just having conversations with my friends. Sometimes we say some weird shit and I’m just like, ‘I’m writing that down, dibs on using that for writing.’

What is your writing process like? Do you have any habits?

I can’t be anywhere too distracting, I get really distracted by movement and loud noises. So I need a calm environment, but not necessarily specific places. Music helps especially since, because of my 10-year-old self, I accidentally conditioned myself to have more motivation to write listening to the Alvin and the Chipmunks soundtrack. So if I put that on, I’m immediately like, ‘Oh, it’s go time, I know all the things!’ It’s never gonna go away. It’s exactly what I would listen to when I would work on my pirate story; just on repeat, the whole album. It stuck, for better or worse.

Kylie Yockey graduates in December. Photo by Chris Dorantes.

You’re going to be involved in the next, and final, edition of SFUAD’s literary magazine, Glyph. Can you tell me about that?

It’s mostly Brianna’s [Neumann] brain child. It’s me, Maddy [Sardina] and Brianna who are kind of heading it…It’s going to be mostly the same as regular Glyph; people submit, there’s an editorial team that Brianna’s going to be in charge of overseeing. It’ll be open to students, alumni (all alumni, even College of Santa Fe people) and people who transferred out. We just want to make it a little bit broader since everything’s a little more piecey around here.

What do you want to do after this?

Well, my immediate plan is I’m staying in Santa Fe until commencement, just to work and make money. But I’m applying to grad schools right now, all creative writing programs. So we’ll see how that goes. My lofty ideal is that I don’t have to do anything and somehow make money sitting on my ass and sometimes I write. But realistically, I want to write things–novels, collections. I have a novel I’ve been working on since I was 10 years old, it’s about a pirate. Over the evolution of shitty 10-year-old novel to now, I want to go more Caribbean Gothic with it. So I’ve been trying to work on that, I’ve been trying to make other little chapbooks and collections that I can piece together somehow. And then grad school hopefully. I don’t know, I think it would be really cool to go the pedagogical route and be a writing professor. I pretty much want to be Anne Valente.

This interview has been edited for style and clarity.