University of Indianapolis junior education major Kendall Nichols released his first book “Modern Constellations,” a collection of poems and short stories published by Atmosphere Press on March 10, 2021. Nichols said writing the book took some time and he was adding pieces of work and editing right up until he sent in the final draft to the publication.
“It took me a good two weeks to one month to flesh everything out,” Nichols said. “When I got accepted, I’m like, ‘Oh I don’t like this as much, let me add this piece.’ Literally two days before I sent them my final publication, I added one poem, which is now my favorite poem in there. I just felt like it had to go in there and now I’m really happy that I did.”
Nichols said he had some issues with the publication and their suggestions with the book, such as removing or adding certain works. The editors did, however, help with the final title of the book that made it to release, he said.
“I view it as, back in ancient times, the Babylonians, Spartans, Alexandrians, whatever, look up and constellations mean something, right? We look up nowadays, constellations are still there, but we can’t see them all the way because of everything like air pollution, smog and just legit pollution,” Nichols said. “They’re still there, but from now, we see things in different ways. So literally, times are changing. That’s what the book is supposed to represent. . . . Originally, [the title] was ‘Looking At the Stars With Closer Fascination.’ But my publishers were like, ‘we like your theme and we think you should modify it,’ so we came up with ‘Modern Constellations.”
When Nichols was in the beginning stages of the writing process, he worked with senior Cornell University student Trisha Dube, a friend who helped him with editing and reading things over. He said he first met her as a freshman when he was at Cornell.
“Initially, when Kendall [Nichols] came to me and was telling me that he was going to write a book, he had a pretty large collection of poems that he was working with and working on,” Dube said. “I’ve always been interested in poetry, so we would share our poetry with each other. Then I was super excited when he asked me to go through them and see which ones I liked.”
Dube said she is grateful for her friendship with Nichols. Because of him, her outlook and perspective on poetry changed from the traditional poetry she studied in class, she said.
“He [Nichols] provided me with a very interesting perspective to poetry. I don’t know if I’ve ever expressed that to him,” Dube said. “But it’s interesting because, to me, what I know about poetry has been through school…. There was this one poem that Kendall [Nichols] had me read that he wrote, and I was like ‘this is nothing like I’ve ever read before.’ It kind of challenged my perception of what poetry is.”
Nichols said more recently, the Chicago Public School district is using “Modern Constellations” as teaching material and has students study the poems and short stories in it. He said he was contacted by a teacher who needed a lot of copies, so Nichols gave them a discount.
“I never thought they’d be teaching this for a creative process, let alone from someone as erratic as me,” Nichols said. “I talked to a couple of teachers and I was like, ‘hey, if you ever need anything, I’m here.’”
Nichols said his goal is to be able to have as much creative freedom in his work as possible. The main issue is it can be hard to find a publisher that will let authors have freedom and generate revenue from the book at the same time, he said.
“I want to find somewhere that allows me to be as creative as I possibly can in poetry,” Nichols said. “ …In the worst case scenario, I’m just going to go self-published, but I really don’t want to do that because that’s way too much more work than I ever want to put in.”
“Modern Constellations” is currently being sold on Nichols’ website, www.kendallwrites.com. Nichols said he has two other books currently in the works.