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Chris graduated from Georgia State University in 2009 with degrees in Journalism and Creative Writing. He has spent a lot of time working with the media. From engineering radio broadcast for most of Atlanta’s major sports teams to shooting high school football games behind a camera, Chris has a lot of media experience. Besides that, he loves soccer, detective shows, and a buffet list of 'nerdy' things that would embarrass his wife.

Filling Your Pages With Dreams: The K.M. Ashling Story

What are you doing with your life? That question isn’t meant to be rhetorical as it’s a question that we will all be asking ourselves at one point or another. For most of us, our life is a series of tasks that have to be completed, almost in a sort of video game style. Things like make good grades, get a good job, marry a good person and create a good family are common quests in life, depending on your “level”. But how many of us can say that we’ve set out to accomplish a lifelong dream?

While “living the dream” is a cliché these days, there are some who have taken strides to actual embody the phrase. Take K.M. Ashling for example. A wife, mother and therapist, Ashling could have decided to simply keep traversing through life’s simple game. However, like most of us she had a dream. Ashling wanted to write, and earlier this year when she published her first novel The Fourth Ceremony, she did exactly that. From beginning to write her thoughts out in journals at the age of eight she knew at a very early age what writing meant to her, and after losing her grandfather to cancer at the age of twelve, Ashling turned even more towards the pen. “With an absent father, he was my ‘dad-figure’ and that was a terribly hard time for me.”

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K.M. Ashling (Image Credit: Jamie Cagle Smoot)

From that unfortunate tragedy, Ashling wrote her first poem which she recalls as being “a very dark and disturbing thing.” But she soon discovered that her hobby had become more than just that. “From that point forward, writing became a very cathartic type of therapy for me. Through poetry, songs and short stories, I wrote my way [past the] tumult and pain. [It] allowed me to remain reasonably happy and well-adjusted on the outside. It was a beautiful trade-off.”

Indeed, many of us find refuge in our dreams and seek them out for more than just the occasional pastime. But there is always that nagging wonder we have as to whether this dream should become more than just that. Should I show my parents, my friends, my fiancée, my students? Will they laugh at me? Will they think it’s awful? Fear has a way of keeping our dreams hidden and it’s all too common a deciding factor in how we live our lives and even Ashling struggled with it early on. “I never dreamed I’d even be willing to share my writing, much less put it out there for strangers! The poem I allowed to be published in the seventh grade writing contest left me feeling exposed and uncomfortable. As a result, I never shared another piece.”

Though that didn’t stop Ashling from at least dreaming. In fact, the inspiration for Alessa, the heroine of The Fourth Ceremony, came from a dream itself. “[In] the moment before sleep, those things that you ignore during the day that worry and frighten you are able to creep up. As a defense to that, I took scenes from books I had read and made them into my own personal bedtime stories. As an avid lover of Dystopia I often did it with this genre. One night, I reworked some scenes from my favorite heroine driven Dystopias and that night I dreamt of her [Alessa.] The next night I “rewrote” my own dream instead of an existing story, and the rest began to flow.”

And so the dream began to manifest even more and it soon became clear to Ashling had more than just her own bedtime story on her hands. To become the writer she wanted to be, it took a realization of who the dream was for to put her on the path. “This was for me,” Ashling says, and it’s a simple truth that many of us could use to actually pursue our dreams. What we do shouldn’t be about how others would view it. Instead, it should be more about how we would view ourselves. Knowing this, along with having a support-system, was the recipe for Ashling to strive toward publishing The Fourth Ceremony. “My best friend Rachel was the first person I told that I was writing a story that I might share. She was immediately excited and supportive [and] I shared it with her throughout the process and she devoured it! I’d send her a chapter at 11:00 pm and she’d text me at 2:00 am with, I want more! It was incredible to have her support. She was such a cheerleader for me.”

Rachel (right) had been an instrumental outlet of support for Ashling. (Image Credit: K.M. Ashling)

Sadly, Rachel passed away last September after battling breast cancer, but Ashling still feels her support. “I’m thankful every day that she got to finish the story. I’m devastated that she won’t get to read the rest of the series, but I know her voice will be in my ear all along the way. I have an amazing support system. My husband and mother are more supportive than I could describe, or deserve. I have a close group of several couples that are what I suppose you would call a family of friends. When I told them about the book, they were thrilled and have all supported me through this. I also became a part of an online mother’s group with children the same age as my son and I’m continuously astounded by the amount of support they give me, someone they’ve never met. Truly, I’ve been exceptionally humbled and amazed by all of the support I’ve received.”

But with the decision to become an author came the juggling act that many fear more than pursuing the dream itself. As a working new mother, Ashling simply can’t choose to just write. She still has a responsibility to her child and household. It’d be easy to let her dream fall to the wayside to focus on those aspects of her life. However, Ashling believes that the key to balancing is all about perspective. “It’s a challenge every single day, but it’s a beautiful one. My work is what I do to feel fulfilled; my family is what I do to give and receive love; [and] my writing is what I do to breathe.”

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Image Credit: Amanda Csakan/Aloe Creative

Still sometimes difficulties arose and at various points in the process Ashling did have to “walk away” from the project before eventually publishing The Fourth Ceremony. For someone who believes in pouring their “heart and soul into every moment,” combining the dream into her life’s reality was challenging on all fronts. “When I felt blocked or frustrated writing, I could close the computer and walk away. There is no “save and close” button on a one-year-old. However, writing requires a sense of genuineness and openness with strangers that is incredibly difficult to navigate,” she says, adding that others in similar situations should continue as she did. “If you’re doing what calls to your soul, then there will always be a way. I think our culture tells us that having a child means that you set yourself aside. That a good parent cultivates their children’s dreams and leaves their own [behind]. We were all told as kids that we could be anything we wanted to be [and] I choose not to let that go. The sleepless nights will pass, the frustrations ebb and flow, but the pride you receive from chasing down your passions—that sticks.”

So here’s the question again: What are you doing with your life? Are you content to just play out life’s levels or are you hungry for something more? With a little determination and an understanding of what you want, who is to say that you can’t achieve your dreams like K.M. Ashling? Whether you’re a teacher who loves to sing or an accountant who has a knack for baking; It may not be easy, but nothing in life is. Perhaps Langston Hughes said it best: “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”

Keep “flying” and there’s no reason that you can’t be living the dream yourself.

* * * * *

The Fourth Ceremony is available online at Amazon. For more information about the author, visit K.M. Ashling on Facebook. 

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2 Comments on “Filling Your Pages With Dreams: The K.M. Ashling Story”

  1. Kylee April 10, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

    She’s an amazing woman! And the book is outstanding.

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  1. Filling Your Pages With Dreams: The K.M. Ashling Story | momentarylapseofsanity - September 10, 2015

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