- Yard War (2015) Wendy Lamb Books at Random House
- The Tidings Tree (to be published in 2017), Random House
Taylor Kitchings was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on August 30, 1951. He is the son of Dr. John T. Kitchings and Ms. Dorothy Kitchings. Kitchings attended Murrah High School and graduated in 1969. He attended Millsaps College from 1969-1971 and graduated from Rhodes College (then Southwestern at Memphis) in 1973. He earned a Masters in English at University of Mississippi in 1987.
While in college and graduate school, Kitchings wrote, played, and recorded music. His album of original music, Clean Break, was recorded while a freshman in college. He also traveled throughout the eastern/southeastern United States and Europe writing and performing piano music.
Kitchings teaches at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Ridgeland, Mississippi, and is in his 25th year. Currently, he teaches seniors AP English and Creative Writing, but for his first four years he taught fourth graders. He and his wife Beth Kitchings and their children live in Ridgeland, Mississippi.
His first book, Yard War, a young adult novel, was published in 2015. Yard War is a Junior Library Guild Select and a Summer 2015 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. Kitchings participated in the first Mississippi Festival of the Book in Jackson, Mississippi, as a member of the young adult fiction panel in 2015. His short story Mr. Pinky Gone Fishin’ was published in the collection Tight Lines from Yale University Press
Kitchings is the nephew of Mississippi writer Barry Hannah.
Submitted by Beth Kitchings
“It’s 1964 in Jackson, Mississippi, deep in the civil rights movement, and the one black person twelve-year-old Trip Westbrook knows well is Willie Jane, the family maid, who has been a second mother to him. When Trip invites her son, Dee, to play football in the yard, Trip discovers the ugly side of his smiling neighbors. Even his loving grandparents don’t approve. But getting to know Dee and playing football, being part of a team, changes Trip. He begins to see all the unspoken rules he lives by but doesn’t agree with, such as respect your elders. What if he thinks their views are wrong? This engaging, honest, and hopeful novel is full of memorable characters, and brings the civil rights–era South alive for young readers.”
- Is Yard War, even though fiction, based on your life or someone you know/knew?
Yard War springs from an experience I had at eight years old when the neighbors complained to my parents about my throwing a football with our housekeeper’s son in the front yard.
- Who is your favorite author/authors?
My favorite author is my late uncle Barry Hannah, who was only nine years older, my de facto big brother.
- What author do you think has influenced you the most?
No doubt, Uncle Barry influenced me the most, but writers who have also had a big impact include Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor, Robert Penn Warren, John Barth, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eudora Welty, Kurt Vonnegut, J.D. Salinger and, of course, Faulkner.
- When did you become interested in writing? Was there something in particular that got you interested in writing?
I wrote stories in junior high and high school and worked on the school paper, but most of my written words were song lyrics through my twenties. I still hear from collectors around the world looking for a copy of an original album I recorded at eighteen, CLEAN BREAK. I began to feel limited by the song format and eventually gave my attention to fiction. I’m sure Uncle Barry’s example had a lot to do with it.
- What kind of student were you in high school?
I was a good student as measured by grades but never had the discipline to study anything I was not interested in.
- How long did it take you to write Yard War? Where did you get the idea for this book?
I wrote the first draft of Yard War in about six months, spent another three months restructuring it and several more in the editing process with Wendy Lamb at Random House—from start to finish, it took about a year and a half. As mentioned, the idea came from the neighbors’ objection to my black playmate when I was eight. I remember feeling angry and disappointed and, above all, confused by their complaints. I set my novel in 1964 and made my protagonist, Trip Westbrook, four years older than I was when it happened. I let him do what I had wanted to do in real life, push the issue. Yard War is the story of what happens when he pushes it.
- Are you working on a new book right now? Do you have a title for it yet? What is it about?
I will finish a sequel to YARD WAR this summer called THE TIDINGS TREE, set in 1967-68, and told by Trip’s little sister, Farish. It is to be published by Wendy Lamb Books Random House, Spring, 2017.
- Have you received any awards?
I won a short story contest sponsored by an English Honor Society (Sigma Tau Delta?) at Ole Miss in 1985 and won the 1986 Ella Somerville Award for Fiction there.
Other awards (STAR teacher, Allenberger Teacher of the Year) have been related to my work as a teacher at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.
- How has Mississippi or living in Mississippi influenced your writing?
YARD WAR centers on the racism built into Mississippi society in 1964, but it also celebrates much that is unique and amazing about our culture including food, football and the depth of family relationships and friendships. Mississippians can be the warmest, most hospitable people in the world and the most deeply empathetic. No matter how many issues I had with my home state growing up, I cannot seem to leave it, not permanently. Asking how Mississippi has influenced me is like asking how oxygen has influenced me—it is necessary to my existence.
- The Bent Agency has a web site about Taylor Kitchings
- Reviews by readers of Yard War on Amazon
- Jana Hoops interviews Kitchings in the Clarion-Ledger
- Bent on Books announces two book deal for Kitchings
- Cyrus Webb talks live to Kitchings about his book
- Kitchings is part of 2015-2016 Art and Lecture Series at Millsaps College.