THE ART OF COLLABORATION
TAYLOR KITCHINGS AP English 12, Senior Seminar in English, Creative Writing, Film Studies Taylor Kitchings’ creativity has been inspiring students at St. Andrew’s for 24 years. Kitchings, in turn, has found that his creativity has been stimulated by his time in the classroom. The Upper School English and creative writing teacher recently landed a two-book contract with Random House for his young adult novels, The Oakwood All-Out Yard War and The Tidings Tree. While both books are works of fiction, they were inspired by events in Kitchings’ childhood. “Yard War begins with an incident that occurred when I was eight years old,” Kitchings says. “Our African American housekeeper brought her son over, and he and I became friends and sometimes threw the football in the front yard. One day my mother told me the neighbors had complained, and I could not throw the football with my friend in the front yard anymore. I was more confused than angry, at first. I had not seen racism at home and was completely unprepared for this kind of reaction from people I had always thought of as nice. “That was when I learned that ‘nice’ people can harbor hateful attitudes, especially when they feel threatened, as so many did after the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Kitchings continues. “Later events in the novel actually happened to my family in other contexts, including a smoke bomb hurled into our yard late one night and an anonymous voice on the phone promising to do harm to my sisters. We came home to find our housekeeper
sitting on the couch with a shotgun across her lap, ready to defend them.” Written for a middle school-aged audience, Yard War is narrated by a 12-year-old character. Kitchings’ many years spent teaching students of different ages ensured that the voice of the narrator was true to a 12-year old, but was in no way “dumbed down.” “I have fond memories of my four years as a fourth grade teacher at St. Andrew’s, and this novel is, in part, a way for me to communicate with younger students again,” Kitchings says. The Oakwood All-Out Yard War is scheduled for release in 2015, with The Tidings Tree set to follow in 2016. Kitchings began work on Yard War in 2012. The manuscript went to auction, with several publishers bidding on the opportunity to publish the book. The wining offer came from Wendy Lamb of Random House, a preeminent editor of young adult fiction. Kitchings’ advice to aspiring novelists? “Do not give up. I received my first offer of publication on my fifth novel. It’s been a long and totally unpredictable ride – I can’t wait to see what happens next.” While his journey to publication has been long and unpredictable, Kitchings says that one thing is certain – he would not have become the author he is today if he had not first been a teacher. “My voice on the page is directly connected to my voice in the classroom, to which St. Andrew’s students have been subjected for the past 24 years,” Kitchings says. “But it is my ears in the classroom that have made the difference. I have learned from my students as much as or more than they have learned from me, and I could not write what I write had I not learned it.”
A MAN OF MANY TALENTS In addition to his career as a teacher and novelist, Taylor Kitchings’ resume includes a stint as a singer/songwriter. In the 1980s, Kitchings played in clubs and restaurants from Memphis to Manhattan, and as a college freshman, recorded an album titled Clean Break. In 2010, Kitchings returned to the studio, recording an EP in New Orleans. Both Clean Break and his recent EP are available on iTunes and Bandcamp.
Published on May 22, 2014
Published on May 22, 2014
Archways is the flagship publication from St. Andrew's Episcopal School, an independent, coeducational, preparatory day school serving stude...