Meet Historical Fiction Writer Kay Tolman
Our January Featured Member, Kay Tolman, Is a Lover of 19th-Century Literature
Author, Kay Tolman is the pen name of Janice Kay Tolman. Since 2017, Kay has been working on the coming-of-age novel The Compromise. It’s historical fiction based on her maternal ancestors, who were mid-19th century pioneers. In her youth, she rode her horse across the undeveloped land on the outskirts of the Los Angeles suburbs. In college, she focused on 19th-century literature. She also studied literacy theory, research in education, and discourse analysis at the graduate level.
For nearly 40 years, Kay taught English in high schools and community colleges. Running parallel to studies and teaching, she practiced Zen in Korea, Japan, and the US.
She says, “I’m writing the novel I wanted to teach. New readers need a kind and welcoming prose style. Teachers need generous extensions to the core curriculum and applications to community life. I want my fiction to help a new generation come of age as citizens and think more critically and feel more deeply about our cultural and political roots.”
Check out her website at Compromise.blog. But now, three questions for Kay Tolman.
What’s the most important piece of writing advice that you could give to other writers?
The reader’s time with your text is precious, so make it count. Meaning happens in the reader, and that goes beyond what we can ever know. Be humble.
What one thing has helped promote your writing most?
Deciding on one thing to promote my writing is difficult because writing is a cascade. In the long-term, integrity between language and action, in other words, honesty, lets me trust my creativity. Reading and conversation engage my core emotions and big ideas. I always need more than I get. These days, fellow writers promote my writing when they trust my rhetorical purpose, respect my learning process, and also read critically. Then together we find those words and passages that hit or miss the mark. I am extremely grateful to my fellow writers, especially those at the Berkeley Writers Circle.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Easy. When I was a child I wanted to be a writer, so I guess I finally grew up. Teaching language and literature was a long, minimally sustaining, yet wonderful detour. Teaching involved a lot of storytelling. Working with tens of thousands of students, many of them new readers, was a reality check on what being a grown-up writer really means.
Tolman is interested in exchanging guest posts with other writers. If you’re looking for someone to attend literary events, write-ins, or teaming up to send submissions, come out and get to know Kay.