Photo by Eliot Lee
Meet Kyle Labe! Kyle is a sophomore Writing, Literature, and Publishing Major at Emerson College, who is in the process of publishing his work, Butterflies Behind Glass and Other Stories, through Emerson’s book publishing branch of Pub Club, Wilde Press! Here’s what Kyle had to say about his book:
What inspired you to write Butterflies Behind Glass and Other Stories?
I started writing Butterflies Behind Glass a little over a year ago, during probably the biggest transition of my life. The first story I wrote was “All Things Bad and Good,” and it was the months following the beginning of freshman year. Then these ideas for stories kept pouring out of me. I had no initial intention to culminate them into a collection. That came about when I began to notice the shared theme of my stories: coming of age. All of my characters are trying to form their identity in a world that doesn’t necessarily want them to, thus the title depicting a newly metamorphosed butterfly, trapped alone behind glass, watching reality happen around them but not being able to participate. And I always write my stories with a magical realist twist. So I stepped back, looked at my pieces, and figured I could do something with them. The next thing I knew, I had Butterflies Behind Glass and Other Stories.
You decided to donate all proceeds to Planned Parenthood, what was your motivation behind choosing them to receive your donations?
Planned Parenthood has always been an important organization to me. As a queer man, I can remember high school and my burgeoning sexuality, and how I knew next to nothing about what that meant or what to do about it. I wish I knew of Planned Parenthood at that age, and if I did, I wish I would’ve had the courage to visit them. There’s something admirable about an organization that’s goal is to provide information and health care about something virtually everyone does: sex. It’s such a universal thing, but it is arguably the most misunderstood and misconstrued thing as well. I wrote a column in “The Berkeley Beacon” about making Planned Parenthood your best friend, and I think that persists. And the fact that the public feels that the organization’s legitimacy and purpose can be debated and attacked is something I can’t comprehend. That comes from a lack of education, and frankly, it’s messed up. I never had the financial security to make regular donations to them, so I’m glad, with this book, that I’ll be able to.
Is this the first time you have been published? If so, how does it feel?
No, it actually isn’t! It’s the first time I’ll have something full-length that’s published, and through this medium as well. But my creative writing has been published online by Sprout, Oddball, and Teen Ink magazines, anthologized by Creative Communication, and won the Philcon Young Writers Contest. Later this year I’m being published by Concrete Literary Magazine and Emerson’s Gauge magazine.
What was the biggest challenge in writing Butterflies behind Glass and Other Stories?
Writing these stories generated a lot of introspection. Each of them have a piece of me in them. Every course about fiction writing that I’ve taken has preached and preached to avoid the write-what-you-know trope, but it’s something I could never fully commit to. The pieces in Butterflies Behind Glass are deeply personal. All of the protagonists are like a different fragment of my personality. This book knows all of my secrets. It was a sort of self-reflection that I really had to work for, in order to write in the most honest and truthful way that I could. I knew that I didn’t want to censor and sugarcoat things, so I forced myself to dig into aspects of my personality that I didn’t necessarily want to confront or reveal. I’ve been asked a lot how I’m able to identify with primarily female narrators, and frankly I think that’s ridiculous and a little sexist. Growing up queer, I’ve always relied on the women in my life, and have been inspired from the stories and histories I’ve learned as well. I was never exposed to queer literature in my youth, and I found, especially with feminism, a place where I could find solace and understanding, and I believe that manifests in my writing.
The biggest success?
Seeing it come together! The whole publishing process has been nothing short of surreal. I recently received a proof of the book, and holding a physical copy in my hand was something I never thought would happen. Yes, I’ve been published before, but never to this degree. The feeling of being published never gets old. It’s an emotion I wish could never end—it’d sure make life a tad bit easier. Art is just as much about the audience as it is the artist, and having my work out in the world is something I used to dream about. Now that it’s a reality, I can’t seem to place what I feel, but it feels so, so good. I have felt more insecurity in my writing than I have felt confidence in it, so this accomplishment has really boosted morale. And working with fellow students who are all as passionate about this as I am is not only gratifying, but absolutely inspiring. I will never be able to thank my team enough.
Is there anything you wish you could change?
You know, I’ve found that if you dwell on the retrospect, you’re going to find yourself in an ongoing cycle of regret and dissatisfaction. That goes for anything. So I try to approach everything in my career with a healthy optimism. To answer the question, I wouldn’t change anything. The process has gone more smoothly than I could have imagined, everyone has been so talented and cooperative, and at the end of the day, I’m proud in what I’ve created. I’ve written a book! It’s being published! And I’m only 20! How many people can say that? Sure, rereading Butterflies Behind Glass has me cringe at my own abilities. I have a severe inferiority complex. There are always going to be many more people far more talented than I am, and I can’t let that get to me. Overall, I take pride in my art, and that’s what keeps me going.
What is one thing you want everyone to know/keep in mind about your book?
At times, this book may be difficult to read. Its content material can be hard to swallow. I’ve tried not to hold back in being as honest as I know to be. This is the world as I’ve perceived it in my 20 years of maturation, one of iniquity and horror and oppression, but also one of hope and beauty and compassion. If there’s one thing I want from this book, it’s to make people uncomfortable in having to confront these topics. They’re not easy to chew. A lot of the ground is unfamiliar territory for most people, myself included. But what’s important is empathy. It’s vital to step out of your personal bubble, which can be unsettling, and start to see the human species as a community, one that should function on interdependence and mutual affection for your neighbor. That shouldn’t be considered radical. Life isn’t simple for anyone, so let’s at least be nice.
Anything you’d like to add?
This book is, in a way, my contribution to feminism. I’ve devoted my life to that movement. Feminism has shaped my identity and has formed me into the person that I am today. The way that I view feminism is, that it is the equality of every single human being on this planet, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ableness, ethnicity, race, religion, and so on. There is not a single person on Earth that isn’t of equal worth than another. We all are living on common ground, and we have to be there for one another. I’m not the first to say that I’m very troubled by these times right now, but one of the things that has comforted me most is the knowledge that what we are going through now is not something that another generation hasn’t faced at one time or another. They’ve all triumphed, and we will too. That’s the message I hope comes from Butterflies Behind Glass. That people may not always treat you well, and you may feel that you’re as alone in this world as everybody else, but in the end, all we can be is kind. Kindness is the only legacy that I believe matters.
I’d like to add a brief congratulations to Kyle and all of the work he put into Butterflies Behind Glass and Other Stories! It couldn’t have been easy to write, never mind pour your heart and soul into a book for people to read. Be sure to check out Pub Club’s book launch where you can purchase a copy of Butterflies Behind Glass for $8.00! Remember, all proceeds from purchasing Kyle’s book will be going to a really incredible cause: Planned Parenthood! For more information about the book launch, be sure to check out our article detailing the event. If you can’t make it, don’t worry! We’ll have a recap coming in a few short weeks just for you!