If you were the teen spending hours hunched over a sewing machine, showing up to class splattered in paint, or papering the halls with your homemade zine, then Kayla Cagan wrote the book for you. She’s the author behind Piper Perish, a YA novel about a teen girl realizing her art holds the power to keep her going, no matter how stressful or chaotic life gets. This week, we’re chatting with the brilliant Cagan about creativity tips, her lady heroes, and more.

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Brit + Co: Describe your book in six words or less.

Kayla Cagan: Journal of a fearless teen artist.

B+C: Where/when do you do your best writing?

KC: I used to be a night owl, but now I’ve gone early bird. Unfortunately, I love to sleep in, but that’s a luxury these days. I have the morning shift to walk the dog and sometimes he lets me know he’s the priority over my writing. So, it’s either really early like 6am to 8:30am that I’m writing, or 9:30am to noon. I like to charge up my creativity before tuning into the rest of the world and my responsibilities. I’m usually writing at my desk in the guest room, our local library, or a coffee shop near our home.


B+C: What’s your go-to cure for when you’re stuck in a creativity rut?

KC: Dancing or going on a walk usually helps a lot — doing something physical and getting out of my brain and the chair. If I’m really mulling over ideas but can’t see how to implement them, I talk it out with my critique group. I’ve also realized that sometimes I need a really good meal or some water, and that I’m not able to see myself out of a rut because I’m literally not feeding myself and my glucose levels are dropping. When I don’t feel well fed or hydrated, I feel sunk and the ruts happen.

Hillary Clinton Campaigns Across US One Day Ahead Of Presidential Election

B+C: What two lady heroes do you turn to for inspiration and why?

KC: Just two? I have so many! When I don’t think I can do something physically, I think of my mom, who has been an example of kicking ass through physical challenges. Just an example: My mother survived a car wreck when she was 66 years old and had to learn how to walk again. If she can do that, I can do anything.

My other lady hero currently is Hillary Clinton. She is a dedicated, loyal public servant. Though she’s not our president, she has worked unwaveringly for our country and never given up. It’s not about winning; it’s about staying dedicated to your passions and causes, and I believe she does that. (Photo via Getty/Jullan Sullivan)

B+C: What’s your latest Instagram obsession?

KC: My instagram faves are @nyplpicturecollection, @the.wing, @girlsatlibrary, and @litupshow.

The After Party Jacket Art

B+C: Can you name a book that you think deserves a little more love and recognition?

KC: It did get a fair amount of praise when it came out, but The After Party by Anton Disclafani is one of my favorite books in a long time. It’s about Houston, TX in the 1950s and I felt absolutely transported when I read the book. I wasn’t alive back then, but it matched up so well with the stories I’ve heard from older family members.


B+C: What’s next on your to-read pile?

KC: I’m a bit behind in my reading but The Girls by Emma Cline and The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker.

B+C: What advice do you have for aspiring creative ladies?

KC: Don’t wait to get started and don’t think anything you make has to be perfect. Perfectionism is the biggest roadblock I hear from friends about getting started on something. It’s not going to be perfect — whatever you make is going to be fun and messy and heartbreaking and thrilling — and that is so much more interesting than any prescribed or imagined perfection. Take a breath, dig deep, and be fearless.

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(Featured photo via JennKL Photography)