Kerry asked me to interview a member of Real Toads. I chose Kay Davies instantly because I always love going to her blog. Now I must be honest (and I know that Kay will understand) … it was Lindy who initially drew me back to Kay's blog because Lindy, lying on her back, looking up at you is just irresistable. I go to Kay’s blog and just sort of smile at Lindy who is big and floppy and who emanates a lot of warmth. She also has a grand smile. Then I go on to read Kay’s wonderful poetry and stories. Kay is also very good with a camera. Kay was kind enough to agree to an interview. The first thing that she shared with me is a marvelous story of her early forays into writing.
Kay Davies: I started writing as soon as I could print words with a pencil. One early story, which my mother saved, was written when I was six, and called "The Life of Tommy John Atwater," he was orphaned at the age of 15 and adopted by two men, two women, and a sea captain. He lived with them on a ship called the Queen Bess, and one day he killed 14 lizards. I'll never forget the part that said "He thought he was happy, but he really wasn't.”
Old Raven: Kay I am astounded that a six year old had such a well-organized and fertile imagination. You put together such interesting detail in your story. It was a well-formed story. Before we move on I must ask about the story, why was the boat named Queen Bess? And one more question, how do you feel about lizards today?
Kay Davies: I have a vague memory of someone saying "Good Queen Bess" when I was small, and everything I heard was fodder for my stories. And just yesterday, believe it or not, I realized how I knew the word "orphaned" at such an early age. A friend and I were driving through New Westminster, British Columbia, where I was born. We were in the part of town where my parents and grandparents lived when I was little, and my friend said, "Do you remember the orphanage that used to be here?" I did remember it then, and realized that's how I knew about orphans. My late father would have explained the words and their origin to me, as he did with almost everything. He loved having someone to teach! As for lizards, I don't think I'd want to kill any!
Old Raven: You started writing at a very young age, what did you feel when you wrote? How did a six year old know that writing was a wondrous thing for her? You have mentioned being a shy child, was writing a way that you could be you without being shy? Please share a bit about your youth.
Kay Davies: I don't remember how I felt when I wrote, I just knew it was something I enjoyed and something I did well. Certainly when I was a little older, and had been pushed ahead in school, I used my writing to get me through awful things like Junior High. I wrote poems about all the other kids, and they loved that, even if they didn't like me. I had one friend who stood by me through everything and is still my friend today, and I'm very grateful for having her in my life.
Old Raven: You were born in British Columbia. Were you raised with the land or in an urban setting? Please share with us a bit about growing up. I have a concept of your growing up where there are vast unending acres of land that go on forever.
Kay Davies: I was born in New Westminster, an old city outside Vancouver, and before I started school we moved to Kelowna, in the BC interior. It was then a small city, with a small-town feel to it in the 50s, but, even so, Dad thought a country experience would be good for us, so he bought acreage on the back of the local mountain and taught us how to build first a summer-kitchen, then an outhouse (or maybe vice versa), then a wood-frame house. It was a while before we were able to have electricity because new poles had to be installed, so Mother used the summer kitchen or cooked indoors on a pot-bellied woodstove. It was all very adventurous. We also learned how to cut down trees with two-person saws, and how to prime a pump. We never did get running water, and the well was at the bottom of the property while the house was halfway up the hill, but we had some excellent toboggan hills in the winter! We were there for two years, with a wonderful collie who herded our three cats and their kittens, and we loved it. We left there and moved back to the west coast the year I finished high school.
Old Raven: You were a true pioneer and adventurer early in life. I love the name of your blog: An Unfittie's Guide To Adventurous Travel. What made you start this blog and is your experience of blogging what you had anticipated?
Kay Davies: I started the blog because a friend suggested it might be a good place to showcase the book I was writing. After 18 short chapters, I ran up against that brick wall called writer's block, so I began posting to photo memes. Since then, I've started writing again, although I haven't recaptured the lighthearted humorous-essay style I think of as my own, but I can feel it resurfacing. I sometimes refer to it as a cross between Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry, but it probably isn't, it's probably just Kay.
The word "unfittie" is my own invention, meaning unpredictably unreliable, therefore unfit for real work. I never know from one day to the next what my pain level will or won't allow me to do.
Old Raven: Tell us about your book … of the same title as your blog. I read the first chapter and it had me chuckling. And by the way ... I agree, your writing really is a bit like both Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry. You have a wonderful combination of humor, adventure and caring about others.
Kay Davies: My book is neither finished nor published, and it seems to me publishers are becoming more and more reluctant to do the old-fashioned thing and publish books by unknown writers. As my book can't be slotted into any recognized genre, it is all the more difficult. "Bill Cosby Meets Rick Steves" isn't a real genre, is it? Also, I'm reluctant to give much if any thought to self-publishing because, as a long-time printer, I still think of it as "vanity press" and rebel at the thought. I also rebel at the idea of self-promotion. I love to chat on the phone, but cold-calling bookshops to ask if I can show up with a box of books and a ballpoint pen with which to sign them is not in my DNA.
Old Raven: Kay, I am a bit like you, I tend not to toot my own horn when it comes to my writing. I find it to be a bit uncomfortable to do so. My question to you is this. Do you think that this attitude of ours might just be because we are females who are of the first well-established generation of feminists? In other words if we were our grand daughter’s age would we still feel this way?
Kay: I think you may have hit the nail on the head. I'm sure it has to do with my being born on the leading edge of the post-war baby boom.
Old Raven: Tell us about your family. Are there other writers in it?
Kay Davies: Oh, yes, speaking of my DNA ... well, there's a story about that. When my youngest brother (now a modest success in the animation industry) was about 6 and I was 27, he asked me, very seriously, "Where did I get my artistic talent from?" and I replied, "From Dad."
"Where did Clint get his musical talent?" he asked. "From Dad, too."
"Well, where did you get your writing talent?" and I said, "I got it from Dad."
"Poor Mom," said Rob, looking very sad, "can't she do anything?"
"She's a very good mother," I replied. His face brightened as he agreed with me, and away he went, satisfied with life once again
He can also write, as can my brother Clint, but Dad had three books published, two delightful volumes about the rivers of British Columbia, as well as a fishing guidebook. (You can Google him: Gordon Davies - Living Rivers.)
Old Raven: You are an avid animal lover. And Lindy is a rescue dog, a very happy rescue dog. Are there other animal members?
Kay Davies: There are no other animals in our immediate family right now. I really think Lindy would like to have her own cat, but it's hard to get cat-sitters when we travel. Lindy has doting friends who have adopted her as their rent-a-dog quite happily, so we're very confident when we leave her with them.
Old Raven: Please tell me some of your views on aging. I have real difficulties with the West’s views on aging … now I realize that I made a generalization but that is because there are so very many who attempt to put it off.
Kay: My mental picture of myself is 30-something. Almost every morning I wake up thinking I'm maybe 35 - until I move, and then I remember my body is 30 years past that!
Old Raven: You mentioned that “writers block” had you in its grip for a while and that now this grip might be loosening up. Is there anything that you did that has loosened the grip on you? Do you have any advice for other writers?
Kay: Because I started An Unfittie's Guide in my humorous-essay style, I felt I couldn't write unless I could recapture "my" style. Real Toads, and some writing memes, have me writing in other styles and not trying to force my humor. This has helped immensely. Perhaps a bit like people who get pregnant as soon as they decide to adopt.
Old Raven: You appear to travel quite a bit. I believe that you have mentioned connecting with an Internet friend in the real world, a fellow writer. Have you met many people with whom you communicate via the Internet?
Kay: Of course, I first used the Internet to communicate with friends in distant places, then to reconnect with friends with whom I had lost touch, but now I am making new friends online and have met about six of them in person, with invitations to visit others if I find myself in their countries. It is a wonderful experience, because we already have much in common.
Old Raven: Kay do you have a favorite poem that we might use here?
Kay: My favorite poem is my "Rock Poem" and it has already appeared here on Real Toads (Sept. 7).
when Spring comes.
not I --
by mountain sun,
and windswept cliff,
Tomorrow is born.
Kay this is a wonderful poem. I tend to enjoy poetry that is sparely written. Also, thank you for drawing me in to Mellow Yellow Monday! Can you think of anything else that you would like to include in this interview?
Kay: Yes there is, I'm beginning to connect with people who have chosen self-publishing as a way to get their books out there. As I said, I am of the old school, and a journeyman printer by trade, so I still tend to see it self-publishing as a "vanity press"! My dad's books were accepted by a publisher, and I would like mine to be accepted as well. I still know one or two people in the publishing business and would like to try the old way first. I have plenty of photos, and 18 chapters, and I'd like to see if I can drum up some interest in the publishing industry with those and a query letter. As Bill Cosby tells us God said to Moses, "You never know what you can do until you try." And, as Moses replied, "Hey, Lord, what's a cubit?"
Old Raven: Thank you for the interview. I have thoroughly enjoyed this process of getting to know you. I have been trying to articulate in my head what it is that I find unusual about your blog, why I really enjoy visiting it. And it finally came to me. I looked at your recent post for Mellow Yellow Monday. It had me so interested that I went to that blog. Yellow is such an upbeat color … so I joined. And that is what I love about your blog. You are always upbeat, glad to be a part of this blog world and you are infectiously happy. Your blog is encouraging to your readers, always drawing them back. So I thank you for that.
Kay Davies: Thank you for the nice comments about my blog. I'm very happy to be encouraging to my readers, and happy when they come back - KLD.
Visit Kay's blog HERE.
Visit Kay's blog HERE.