Elaine Marie Carnegie
Playing Her Card Hand
by Kyleigh McCloud
Please welcome Kyleigh McCloud to the Writer's Journey Blog this week.
If someone asked Kyleigh McCloud to describe her life, she would refer to Jawharlai Nehru’s quote, “Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt with is determinism; the way you play it is free will.”
Kyleigh’s journey began in a rural town in southeastern North Dakota. An audiologist diagnosed a three-year-old Kyleigh with a profound hearing loss, and as a result, she received her first set of hearing aids. With the help of teachers and her parents, Kyleigh became an avid reader. She escaped reality through the pages of The Boxcar Children in elementary school, traveled through the magical lands in The Chronicles of Narnia in junior high, and read the classics like To Kill a Mockingbird for high school English classes.
Kyleigh doesn’t remember when she started writing, but remembers her first story included a teenage girl turning sixteen and becoming a witch. She transitioned to writing poems in college.
Originally, Kyleigh attended the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota for nursing. However, the calling for writing intensified after finishing her first year of college, and she transferred to Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) in Moorhead, Minnesota. Kyleigh graduated from MSUM with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications, emphasis in Print Journalism, and minored in Health and Medical Sciences.
Like many college graduates, Kyleigh attempted to pursue her dream job and found her niche in working as a Life Enrichment Coordinator in the activities department of a nursing home. While there, she developed a love for listening to the residents tell their life stories. Life got busy, and she quit writing.
In her mid-twenties, life dealt Kyleigh an unexpected hand. What started off as a routine eye examination ended with a diagnosis of Usher’s Syndrome. Usher’s Syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes hearing and vision loss, and can be passed on to a person, if both parents carry the recessive gene. Despite the diagnosis, Kyleigh continued doing the job she loved. She still did not return to writing.
Vision worsening, Kyleigh forced herself to make the hard decision of leaving her job five years later. Afterwards, she struggled to find a new identity other than caregiver. Months passed, and hopelessness dug its claws into her. Depression led her to writing again. Eventually, she joined a Facebook fiction writing community to connect with other writers and learn more about the craft.
Two years later, life dealt Kyleigh another unexpected card hand to play. She stumbled upon a submission call for Pixie Forest Publishing (PFP) and submitted a phobia-themed short story, “Warrior’s Imprisonment.”
Several months later PFP would shock Kyleigh with an acceptance email. This acceptance sparked the hope that her scrawling could touch the lives of people through publication. Kyleigh later started writing her first book. Self-doubt once again would stifle her creativity.
Fellow author, JM Ames, invited Kyleigh to take part in his Facebook group, Story Prompts in a Flash. The group members mentored one another and played an instrumental key in building Kyleigh’s writing skills. A group member, Dennis Doty, encouraged Kyleigh to expand upon her western flash fiction and submit it as a short story to Saddlebag Dispatches. The magazine published “A Cowboy’s Dream” in the winter 2020 issue. In addition, Kyleigh submitted a sequel of “A Cowboy’s Dream” for the Inaugural Saddlebag Dispatches Mustang Award for Western Flash Fiction. Her flash fiction, “Whispers of Home” won an Honorable Mention in their summer 2021 Issue.
Through the mentorship of her writing peers, and with her husband and friends’ encouragement, Kyleigh gained enough courage to publish her debut book, Her Mother’s Last Christmas Gift, in November 2020. The immense volume of positive feedback for Her Mother’s Last Christmas Gift brought tears, for she never expected her story to touch people the way that it did.
She achieved this debut with little confidence in herself. The ability to provoke emotions within written words inspired her to throw caution aside and write a second holiday book, which will be released in November 2021.
After many failed starts and stumbles, Kyleigh learned her passions lie in writing historical fiction. Creative James Media published her historical fiction short story, “Three Colors of Life,” in their Kaleidoscope anthology. Kyleigh has two more historical fiction short stories pending publication and plans on writing a historical fiction novel in the near future. Her advice to those that are beginning their writing journey—keep experimenting with writing various genres until you discover where your passions lie.
Although being diagnosed with Usher’s Syndrome dealt a painful blow, it eventually guided her back to writing. Kyleigh also discovered something she missed, learning and researching. Even as a child, Kyleigh had loved learning and researching, but somehow had forgotten this as she became a young adult. Usher’s Syndrome forced her to rediscover herself and find her purpose in life again.
Writing with Usher’s Syndrome presented challenges such as struggling with anxiety, depression, and migraine headaches due to eye strain. By communicating with others in the writing community, Kyleigh has found a tribe willing to help her with the things she struggles with. It takes an entire village to publish a book.
By sharing her writing journey, Kyleigh hopes to inspire others with disabilities not to give up. All one can do is play the hand they are dealt.
To follow Kyleigh’s writing journey, she can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/authorkyleighmccloud.
Her website is www.kyleighmccloud.com and will undergo construction soon for updates.