Episode 16

Writing to Recover and Reimagine with Kayla Degala-Paraiso

On today's episode, we're chatting with Kayla Degala-Paraiso, an experimental, cross-genre, short-form writer. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Pitzer College. The title-story of her undergraduate capstone collection, “Morena,” was awarded the 2018 Bea Matas Hollfelder Award. Her debut publication, “This Is How You Haunt Me,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Creative Nonfiction. Her writing often explores emotional and political entanglements; challenges craft conventions; and sucker-punches you in the gut.

Kayla’s family migrated from the Philippines. Movement is in Kayla’s bones: she has lived in NYC, Connecticut, Southern California, Italy, Nepal, Boston, Northern California, and Los Angeles. Movement has taught her that there are endless ways of existing — both within oneself and as a part of society. She has learned that those who cannot exist in peace suffer because of dissonance between how they exist within themselves, and how society requires them to exist. Kayla dedicates her life to replacing that dissonance with harmony through socio-political change and writing. Thus, she organizes communities around labor, immigration, and transnational human rights; and teaches both literature and creative writing. While her literature classes are offered exclusively to UCLA students through UCLA’s Department of Comparative Literature, her virtual creative writing classes are hosted through GrubStreet and are open to the public. Kayla also consults writers of all genres and forms on their writerly projects.

Kayla is currently a student in UCLA Luskin’s dual Master of Public Policy and Master of Social Welfare program. When she’s not studying or teaching, Kayla works on two writerly projects: a speculative story about the missing goddess of the underworld, and a collection of pieces about surviving the westside of Los Angeles. Kayla publishes under “K.” Follow her at kdegalaparaiso.com.

Kayla metioned A Bestiary by Lily Hoang

https://bookshop.org/a/90599/9780996316743

Transcript
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[00:00:12] Shawna: Kayla Degala-Paraiso is an experimental, cross genre, short form writer. She has a BA in creative writing from Pitzer College, and her work has been nominated for a push cart prize. Her writing often explores emotional and political entanglements, challenges craft conventions and sucker punches you in the gut. Kayla's family migrated from the Philippines. Movement is in Kayla's bones. She has lived in New York City, Connecticut, Southern California, Italy, Nepal, Boston, Northern California, and Los Angeles. Movement has taught her that there are endless ways of existing.

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[00:01:04] Shawna: Thus, she organizes communities around labor, immigration, and transnational human rights, and teaches creative writing. When she's not studying for a public policy and social welfare graduate program at UCLA, Kayla works on two writerly projects, a speculative story about the missing goddess of the underworld, and a collection of pieces about surviving the west side of Los Angeles.

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[00:01:30] Kayla: and thank you for having me on.

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[00:01:37] Kayla: Yeah, so. I talked briefly about this in my introduction that you just read, but I've moved around a lot and my family has also moved around a lot. And migration is kind of a constant state of being for me. When you move around, you subconsciously absorb the environment that you live in. So I feel like I just, I have all of these places inside of my body now. I've developed like a chameleon style of, of socializing that comes from the, the mismatched environments.

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[00:02:12] Kayla: Yeah. Yeah. Like when I think of home, um, I think of certain parts of New York that feel really comfortable. but then sometimes my memory, my memory glitches and kind of pieces it like a puzzle with certain parts of Boston, for example.

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[00:02:28] Kayla: and it creates this own little city that doesn't actually exist in the world because it's a combination of all of the different places where I've lived.

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[00:02:52] Kayla: exactly.

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[00:03:05] Kayla: Oh, my family. Uh, I am Filipino and Filipinos have massive families, Um, and your extended family is considered as close as your immediate, family unit. So all of my aunties are like moms to me.

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[00:03:31] Kayla: Um, actually in my writing, a lot of my writing centers different qualities and values and traits that each of my aunts kind of embody. so they, they come through in different ways for me, both in my writing and beyond.

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[00:03:53] Kayla: I only see them a handful of times a year, but we are constantly connected. We have the, you know, the family chat, blowing up 24 7. And so much Facebook activity and other social media activities. So we definitely stay connected, um, virtually. When we're not together in person.

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[00:04:26] Kayla: You know, I think if you took a reader of each one of my stories and put them in a room, it would kind of be a wild assortment of people

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[00:04:43] Shawna: Mm-hmm.

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[00:04:54] Kayla: Um, and then I have my creative nonfiction that's definitely this world. And much more so focused on relationships and just messy entanglements between people. So- I feel like I have something there for everybody, but it might just be one piece per person.

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[00:05:20] Shawna: That's nice. And primarily short forms. So you're, you're drawn to short form fiction then, or short form, non-fiction and fiction then?

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[00:05:56] Shawna: Oh, that's exciting. And there's a, then you can dabble in the different areas as well.

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[00:06:02] Shawna: Yes. That's very exciting. So where do you see yourself with your writing in the next 10 years? 10 years from now? What do you see yourself doing with your writing?

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[00:06:24] Shawna: Ooh.

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[00:06:30] Kayla: Different narrative textures and different themes and ideas, but put it all in one place. I think it gives the reader a a cool option of interacting with your work because they're the ones who, who decide what the thread going through all of the fragments is instead of you kind of just handing it to them. So that is the form that is the image of the project that I would love to pursue. No idea about the content yet. No idea about the story, but it'll come to me eventually. I think

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[00:07:02] Kayla: 10 years

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[00:07:12] Kayla: Yes, I love teaching creative writing . Um, I started teaching with GrubStreet a few years ago and I started with their teen program. and then I think it was actually an administrative error because I ended up in the adult class. Emailing list cuz I just one day got an email asking for class pitches for adults and I was like, I'm not going to tell anybody that this is a mistake as long as nobody else admits to it.

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[00:08:12] Kayla: So it's more so for me than it is for my students . But I really love teaching creative writing. Yeah.

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[00:08:27] Kayla: Yes, because all of my classes are virtual. so anybody anywhere can tune in. I've had students in Polands before and in Italy, Costa Rica, and then all across the US. So I feel like it's a really accessible format for teaching.

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[00:08:56] Shawna: Very

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[00:08:57] Shawna: That was wonderful. So where's the best place for folks to find you?

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[00:09:18] Shawna: We will definitely have that in the show notes to make that easy to find you. And what book or story inspires you the most?

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[00:09:53] Kayla: It's super beautiful and lyrical and heart wrenching, um, and heartwarming all at the same time. Highly recommend it.

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[00:10:11] Kayla: H O A N G?

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[00:10:19] Kayla: I don't think so. No, I think we covered it.

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[00:10:30] Kayla: Everything is on my website. You can also find me via GrubStreet if you wanted to.

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[00:10:40] Kayla: Thank you so much for having me.

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Shawna Rodrigues

Shawna Rodrigues, Founder and Director of Impact at Authentic Connections Podcast Network, Host of The Grit Show (https://podcast.thegritshow.com) and Author Express (https://author-express.captivate.fm), Podcast Mentor, Internationally Best-Selling Author (www.shawnarodrigues.com) and consultant. Find her on Instagram @ShawnaPodcasts.