Discovering the world of writing
Descended from a full-blooded Native Hawaiian mother and a Caucasian father from Talladega, Alabama, Davenport grew up in the Hawaiian Islands. After her mother passed away when Kiana was just 10 years old, she was raised by her beloved Aunty Min and Uncle Ayau.
Davenport talks about her beginnings as a writer, "I started writing when I was ten. It was the year my mother died. Each day after school I would climb up in a huge old mango tree with a paper bag full of books. And I would read until the stars came out, until my aunty came to get me. I think it was my way of grieving. I started copying the stories I read, and one day wrote my own little story. And I never stopped. Although it took years doing odd jobs in New York City -- dog walking, horse grooming, waitressing, even house cleaning -- before I got my first novel published."
Finding a mentor
During the long years of working on her writing and trying to get published, Davenport had several mentors that touched her life. She says, "It seems it was mostly women who helped me in my writing journey. In grade school there was a nun who loaned me books. In high school, a Ms. Forney introduced me to Shakespeare and serious writers. At University, a professor told me that I had talent and to let nothing stand in the way of writing. Eventually, through perseverance and the grace of the gods, I met established writers like Alice Walker, Isabel Allende, and even Norman Mailer, who became my teachers and mentors."
Paying it forward
Having established writers as mentors can make all the difference in the life of an aspiring writer. They can help to build confidence, give honest feedback on manuscripts and help navigate the complicated world of publishing. Davenport says, "It's so important for writers to support one another because we are not normal! We are loners, we are driven, we are blessed/cursed with this need to create worlds that don't yet exist. When you take away the writing, we're like babies -- we don't know how to cope with the everyday."
When Davenport was still struggling to establish her own career, she was afraid to take time out to help other aspiring writers. But nowadays she is a huge proponent of paying it forward and loves to help talented, young writers. "For years I was desperate and selfish, trying to establish myself as a writer. Older writers came forward to help me, like those mentioned above. There comes a time, if we're lucky, when we feel established enough to step back and take a deep breath. At such times, I have remembered the women (and men) who helped me along the way. And then it came to me that this is part of being an artist and a human being. To turn and extend a hand to the next wave of writers coming up behind us. It nourishes us, endows us with a sense of humanity. In the end I think that generosity will be reflected in our writing. It will be deeper, richer."
Embracing the blogosphere
For writers who are interested in breaking into the world of publishing, blogging has become an important new platform. Blogging is an excellent way for writers to hone their writing skills, build a readership and connect with other writers. Davenport says, "I've only been blogging for a year or two, but I have met incredible writers and readers from blogging, and some of them have changed my life! It's a great way to meet people with similar goals, some of whom will become your friends, which will give you opportunities to exchange your views, and your work, if you're hoping to become a writer.
She continues, "When I entered the digital world two years ago, I was like a virgin, I wanted to upload my short stories electronically, but had not a clue how to do this. Through different blogs I met other writers willing to help me, in other words to 'pay it forward.' One of them became a dear friend, Kathleen Valentine, a brilliant writer of novels and short stories (and bestselling cookbooks and knitting books!). She also designed the amazing covers for my books. Now we swap work back and forth. I edit her books and stories, she designs my covers, and helps me stumble through the maze of Facebooking and tweeting. Without the miracle of the blogging, we might never have met!"
Kiana Davenport is a native of Hawaii who has received numerous honors for her writing including the Pushcart Prize and the O. Henry Award. Her most recent novel, The Spy Lover, is a haunting and powerful epic, based upon the real lives of two of her own ancestors who fought on opposite sides of the Civil War. Learn more about Kiana Davenport at her popular blog, Davenport Dialogues. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.