Writer in Residence


By Yejide Kilanko

Marigold stood, held up her fist and struck a defiant pose as she recited William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus.”

 Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.


It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.

Logan clapped when she curtsied. “You still remember the words. But, are we really the master of our fate? I think we humans control less than we think. Life is easier when we accept that.”

She shook her head. “I’m actually the mistress. And I think your statement reeks of cowardice.”

“Is that so?” Logan said as he reached for the afghan thrown across the couch. He stood and wrapped it around his body like a toga.

Marigold shook her head again. “What are you doing?”

Logan held his arm straight in front of him with his palm turned down. “Cowards may die many times before their deaths and the valiant may never taste of death but once. Still, give me the bone suit of cowardice that I may balance on it my coconut drink. For if death doth tarry, the tales of victorious exploits floweth not from the valiant’s silent grave but from the mouths of those who hid and lived to tell the tale.”


This excerpt is from my novelette, Knit Together, inspirational fiction written under my pen name, Vivian Kay.

While the conversation between Logan and Marigold appears to be an argument for cowardice, I chose to feature it because of the comment Logan made about the limits of control and the relief of acceptance.

On this writing journey, the truth is, there are more things outside of a writer’s control than within it.

Exposure to constant rejection, an inseparable part of the submission cycle, erodes our self-esteem. And when we don’t promptly address ensuing anxiety or depressive symptoms, there’s the risk of defaulting to various maladaptive coping strategies.

How, then, do we ride these towering waves of rejection without self-destructing?

I think first we define for ourselves what success as a writer is. And while our writer personas are a huge part of us, I stand on the hill of it’s not all that we are or could ever be. 

Once you make this determination, you have to decide what you are willing to exchange for the imagined success. Everything has a cost. No one has it all together. Not all the time. Not all at the same time.

You have made the determination. Good. Now, it is crucial to accept that rejection and disappointment is an unavoidable part of this journey you’ve chosen. It’s like trying to swim, and not wanting to get wet. Acceptance will help with your distress tolerance.

Another thing is teasing out those things within your control and the things that are not.

The things within our control, we try hard to change. The things one cannot change need healthy coping strategies. Both actions come with levels of hardness. But you can do hard things. The pieces you’ve dedicated years to honing tell me so.

Getting the editor to like your work? Not within your control. Writing your best piece? Within your control. Readers stumbling over themselves as they race to buy your books? Not within your control. Taking gentle and consistent care of yourself? Within your control. Your physical and mental health shouldn’t be something you exchange for success.

If you have decided that writing is how you see the world, that whether you publish or not, whether your work achieves commercial success or critical acclaim, you will continue to show up for yourself, for your work, for this one roller coaster life, snap on your wetsuit. Let’s ride some waves.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Yejide Kilanko was born in Ibadan, Nigeria, and lives in Ontario, Canada, where she practices as a social worker. Kilanko’s debut novel, Daughters Who Walk This Path, is a Canadian national bestseller. The novel was longlisted for the 2016 Nigeria Literature Prize. Kilanko’s work includes a novella, Chasing Butterflies (2015), and two children’s picture books, There Is An Elephant in My Wardrobe (2019) and Juba and the Fireball (2020). You can find Kilanko’s short fiction on Brittle Paper, Joyland, New Orleans Review Issue 43, 2017: The African Literary Hustle, and Agbowó. Her latest novel, A Good Name, is out now. When she’s not busy with life, you’ll find Kilanko online playing simultaneous games of Scrabble.