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4 Questions with Kenan Prize Winner Kalynn Bayron

4 Questions with Kenan Prize Winner Kalynn Bayron

Author: Mai Tran

June 9, 2022

The Randall Kenan Prize for Black LGBTQ Fiction, in memory of the celebrated author Randall Kenan, honors Black LGBTQ writers of fiction. The award goes to a Black LGBTQ writer whose fiction explores themes of Black LGBTQ life, culture, and/or history. To be eligible, the winner of the prize must have published at least one book and show promise in continuing to produce groundbreaking work. The award includes a cash prize of $3,000 and is made possible by founding sponsors Cedric Brown, Darnell Moore, Dr. L. Lamar Wilson, and Steven Petrow.

Kalynn Bayron is the award-winning author of the YA fantasy novels CINDERELLA IS DEAD and THIS POISON HEART. Her latest works include the YA fantasy THIS WICKED FATE and the middle grade paranormal adventure THE VANQUISHERS. She is a CILIP Carnegie Medal Nominee, a two-time CYBILS Award nominee, and her work has been featured on Booklist’s Editor’s Choice list. She is a classically trained vocalist and musical theater enthusiast. When she’s not writing you can find her watching scary movies and spending time with her kids. She currently lives in Ithaca, NY with her family.

Are there any LGBTQ writers or books that you count as formative influences to you as a writer? How did you discover them?

When I was growing up there wasn’t a lot of children’s literature that specifically spoke to the queer experience of young Black women. I found bits and pieces of myself, or at the very least windows into other ways of existing, as I got a little older. Through stories like Octavia Butler’s Fledgling, through the poetry of Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich. I discovered this work by being in community with other queer Black women. The giving and receiving of literature as a tool for discovery is a gift and I’m so thankful to the people who put these stories in my hands.

What does a writing day look like for you?

I have a full household so my writing days almost always start with getting my kids to school and having a giant cup of coffee. I like to move around when I’m writing so sometimes I will sit in my office, other times I’ll sit on the couch. When the weather is nice, I like to sit outside. I try to get down as many words as I can before it’s time to pick up my kids. I shoot for a thousand words a day but try not to be too hard on myself if I don’t get there. The main thing is getting the words down.

Are there other LGBTQ writers working today whose work you particularly admire?

I could go on forever about how inspired I am by the work of George M. Johnson, Roxane Gay, Samantha Irby, Aiden Thomas, Kacen Callender, Malinda Lo, Gabby Rivera—the list is extensive! There are so many and their work is truly invaluable.

What’s next for you?

I’m very fortunate. I get to continue to write queer stories and create mirrors and windows (thank you Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop!) for my young readers. My third YA novel, THIS WICKED FATE, comes out June 21st and my middle grade debut, THE VANQUISHERS, is out September 20th.

Mai Tran photo

About: Mai Tran

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