SK Williams on Writing in a Partnership
Like most things unexpected, becoming SK Williams wasn’t something we thought would be “an experience.” It started when Kevin decided early in our friendship to trust me with reading his poems—which I immediately loved and felt the world would love too. Those days feel so far away now, and we’ve grown so much as writers, as a couple, and as friends. But there are some things that have stayed consistent, like the fact that Kevin is the more disciplined one between the two of us, and that he often makes the time we need to spend on writing. I tend to want to do whatever my current whim demands of me, and Kevin helps keep me grounded to focus on the things that are important.
For a while there, I hardly did any writing, but instead edited Kevin’s work until we felt it was right. We needed to learn how to communicate with each other when editing, which took years to get down in a way that worked for us. And by then, I started to do more writing. And it gave Kevin the chance to become my editor, too.
It isn’t uncommon when we’re writing a book for one of us to say, “I wrote some poems today, can you take a look when you get a chance?” And thus starts the process of reading and rereading and rereading again over months to make sure things are worded concisely, to make sure the poems still speak to us, or to have the same disagreement about the right balance between being very specific versus more general for certain topics.
These months are filled with hearts in red ink when a poem is perfect, suggested edits, or notes like, “Let’s talk about this verbally, maybe I can articulate my issue with this poem better in conversation.” These months are filled with conversations turning to poetry, trying to get away from talking about it so much, just to go back to talking about it. They’re filled with second-guessing, indecision, disagreements, revelations, hugs, encouragement, and growth. And we’re always right there beside each other every step of the way.
After we get the poems juuuust right, we like to print them out and lay them all on the floor to decide how to arrange them in each chapter. It might be a cluttery way to do it, but I need the visualization.
It’s a collaborative experience from start to finish—always. And that’s why it’s so important to us that in all our books, people can see the conversation between us. Love by Night was a journey of love from both sides of the relationship. Maybe Today is a recreation of the types of conversations we were having when we unknowingly started our poetry journey. Without each other, there is no poetry in life.
That’s the fun thing about our process—it’s always evolving, and it really is an experience. Sometimes, it’s work. Sometimes, we want to do anything but poetry. But sometimes, when we hold our books in our hands, or when we gush over really well-written pieces the other wrote, or when the writing is cathartic in ways we didn’t realize we needed, it reminds us why it’s so important. Writing is such an integral part of who we are as individuals, and it serves as a way for us to bond as a couple. There is a special kind of joy in seeing your partner strengthen their craft, and it’s always an honor being trusted as each other’s number one reader.
Order Shayla and Kevin’s new book, Maybe Today, here.