From Chaos to Creativity Powell’s Books Reading [Video]

Last Monday, I did something that terrified me: I held a creative productivity workshop in front of about 50 people at Powell’s Books.

I’ve read from my fiction before, which is its own version of terrifying. But I’d never stood up as an expert in front of a crowd of mostly strangers and tried to impart my wisdom.

And you know what?

It was pretty fun.

Plus, people seemed to find it inspiring and asked a lot of insightful questions. Honestly, the discussion with everyone afterwards was my favorite part. If you were there, thank you for coming!

And a HUGE thanks to Rebecca and the rest of the staff at the Powell’s on Hawthorne for hosting me, as well as to Elly Blue and the team at Microcosm Publishing for setting things up.

My husband Robert Kittilson put together a video of the event, editing out the “ums” and giving a really great overview of what it was like.

(Don’t worry, he left in plenty of the “Jessie being a nerd” moments.)

Video not showing up? Here’s the link.

Did you miss the workshop?

I’ll be doing another workshop at Two Rivers Books in St. Johns (Portland, OR) on September 10th. I’m also planning a mini book tour in the Seattle area mid-October.

Get on my mailing list to stay in the loop.

Or, head here to learn more about From Chaos to Creativity.

Creative productivity workshop! Come with your chaos, leave with a plan

You know how sometimes every waking moment feels like chaos incarnate?

Like it’s a quiet Saturday morning and you’re dying to work on your art, but first you really need to make yourself some breakfast. And before that you need to find the kitchen underneath all the dishes. Which reminds you that you never returned your neighbor’s tupperware, and — oh right — you’re out of paper towels and so you might as well pick up potting soil for your jade plant because you promised you’d make a cutting for that friend. And as you’re emailing your friend you see a note from your boss, or a client, or the electric company — and how the hell is it Monday morning?

Where’d your time to do your art go?

It got caught in the chaos.

It happens to all of us.

If the above scenario didn’t resonate with you, high fives. Go off and live your awesome productive life.

But if it did, you’re not alone.

It’s so, so easy to get caught up in the chaos of everyday life, being buffeted around so hard that you lose sight of the thing that really mattered to you in the beginning.

Your art.

Your writing.

Your business idea.

Your family time.

Your dream.

I’ve spent my whole life trying to figure out how to get rid of the chaos of everyday life, only to realize it’s not going anywhere.

But you can lessen it, you can tame it, and you can organize it.

I figured out a way that works (mostly) for me, and I interviewed and learned from a bunch of other creatives about what works for them.

My goal: help you figure out what works for you.

So I wrote a book.

My book on creative productivity, From Chaos to Creativity, is now out from Microcosm Publishing. To celebrate, I’m doing a reading/creative productivity workshop at the Powell’s Books on Hawthorne, Monday, July 29th.

From Chaos to Creativity, a talk with Jessie Kwak

Come chaotic, because I’ll be leading the audience in a series of exercises from the book to help you get a bit of a handle on the chaos of everyday life and find time to do your most important work.

I’ll also leave plenty of time for questions and discussion, because honestly we’re all in this together, and there’s nothing I like better than helping people brainstorm ways to get their creative work done.

Sound like a plan?


I’ll see you there!

[Podcast] So, What Are You Working On?

I joined Epiphany Couch and Lauren Faulkner to chat about creativity and productivity for artists and writers:

Episode 12 introduces us to Jessie Kwak! Freelance writer, author of supernatural and sci-fi fiction AND ladyboss business owner. What’s it like trying to balance work and creative endeavors? How do we create work that really says what we want it to? Can we say no to things that are time sucks!? Jessie shares her experiences (and her tips!) about these topics and more. 

Listen here.

From Chaos to Creativity Kickstarter is a Go!

I look around, and I’m surrounded by creative people.

My mom makes these amazingly artistic quilts. My dad welds incredible works of art and invents ingenious farm contraptions. My sister does intricate cross-stitch hangings. My husband takes stunning photographs. My friends write and paint and dance and sing.

My neighbor’s 8-year-old kid asked for bricks and wood and cement this Christmas so he could build things in the backyard.

They’re all creating art.

I’m assuming you’re also creative, because I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t have some sort of creative passion.

And I’ve never heard anyone say they have enough time to do their art.

I mean, I certainly don’t.

I’ve been struggling for years to find the perfect productivity system or tool that would help me Do All The Things.

Get my oil changed. Read all the books. Meet my client deadlines. Text my friend happy birthday.

Oh — and write a novel.

I eventually cobbled together a system that worked for me, drawing from David Allen’s Getting Things Done, James Clear, Laura Vanderkam, Mark McGuinness, Gretchen Rubin and dozens of other productivity experts and researchers to make something that just clicked.

I wrote about my system a while ago, but I wanted to do more than just tell people what I personally did.

I wanted to help people come up with a creative productivity system that worked specifically for them.

So I wrote a whole book.

From Chaos to Creativity

c2c cover

From Microcosm Press — coming fall 2019

Art and writing can be the most fulfilling part of our lives. But it’s often difficult to make space for it in our day-to-day existence. Sometimes we have so many ideas it’s difficult to keep them all organized, much less maintaining a creative schedule or dedicated workspace.

With all the clutter overwhelming your scattered brain (not to mention your desk), it’s all too easy to fall into procrastination and disarray. 

From Chaos to Creativity is a series of glowing beacons. Jessie L. Kwak has written a Getting Things Done for artists and writers, drawing on her experience as a professional copywriter with a novel-writing habit, and from interviews with other authors, artists, musicians, and designers, to teach you how to focus on the good ideas, manage your project, make time in your life, and execute your passions to completion.

Make great art by channeling your chaotic creative force into productive power and let the world see what you’re capable of!

I’m incredibly excited to share this project with you!

If this sounds at all useful, head to the Kickstarter page to learn more and preorder your copy.

As one of the rewards, you can get the Jessie Kwak Superpack, which includes copies of my three Durga System novellas, as well as most of the Bikes in Space anthologies that have my short stories in them.

Check it out!

Screenshot 2019-01-17 16.49.31

PS — What’s your art?

Let me know in the comments. 🙂

Happy October! And notes from my reading at Mother Foucault’s Bookstore

Crunchy leaves, cozy scarves, boots and tights, fall colors — having lived nearly all my life in the Pacific Northwest, October has always been one of my favorite times of the year.

Back home on the farm, it was a wonderful time of harvest parties and pumpkins and not having to drive the combine any more.

In the city, it’s a glorious celebration of knitwear and cute boots and leaves crunching underfoot.

This year, reaching October means I unlocked a pretty special Halloween achievement:

The orange globe lights we hung on our front porch for last Halloween are now seasonally appropriate again!

And because we left them up all year, they’re coated with spiderwebs, which makes them extra creepy.

Take that, neighbors.

Fall is also a time of welcome reflection for me. The busyness of summer has finally calmed down, and I can take a breath and take stock of what I where I want to be by the end of 2018, and what I’m going to do to get there.

On the writing side of things, 2018’s major goal was to write and publish another novella (Deviant Flux) and the first three books in the Bulari Saga series (set in the Durga System).

While Deviant Flux will definitely be coming out this year, I’m still finishing up the other three books. So one of my goals for October is to blast out some words and get these books written.

(By the way, if you’re excited about Deviant Flux, be sure to head here to make sure you get notified when it’s ready for preorder.)

How about you? How’s your October going?

I know that while I’m in a stereotypical autumn situation, not everyone’s October looks like falling leaves and pumpkin patches.

I’d love to hear from you: What’s typical for your location in October?

Photos encouraged!

Mother Foucault’s Reading

Thank you to everyone who showed up last Thursday to Mother Foucault’s for my reading with Francesca Varela. It was a really casual setting, and we had a wonderful time. I especially loved the chill Q&A discussion at the end.

And thank you to my friend, author Elizabeth Mitchell, for snapping the photos of me.

If you’re interested, she also took a couple of videos, which you can find below. (The sound is a bit quiet.)

In the first video, I’m introducing the Durga System series and talking a bit about my inspirations.

In the second video, I read a bit from Deviant Flux. If you want an exclusive sneak preview, give it a watch!

Screenshot of my reading — introductionScreenshot of my reading — Deviant Flux Excerpt

Join me for a reading in Portland, OR this Thursday

Are you in or around Portland, Oregon? I’m doing a reading this Thursday, and I’d love to see your shining face. I’ll be joining local Portland author Francesca G. Varela, who’s celebrating the release of her latest book, The Seas of Distant Stars (see below). I’m excited and a little bit nervous — I’ll be giving the first public sneak preview of my upcoming novella, Deviant Flux, the sequel to Starfall. I hope to see you there! Place: Mother Foucault’s Bookshop 523 SE Morrison St. Portland, OR 97214 Date: September 27 Time: 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

The Seas of Distant Stars

Seas of distant stars
by Francesca G. Varela Agapanthus was kidnapped when she was only two years old, but she doesn’t remember it. In fact, she doesn’t remember her home planet at all. All she knows is Deeyae, the land of two suns; the land of great, red waters. Her foster-family cares for her, and at first that’s enough. But, as she grows older, Agapanthus is bothered by the differences between them. As an Exchanger, she’s frail and tall, not short and strong. And, even though she was raised Deeyan, she certainly isn’t treated like one. One day, an Exchanger boy completes the Deeyan rite-of-passage, and Agapanthus is inspired to try the same. But, when she teams up with him, her quest to become Deeyan transforms into her quest to find the truth―of who she is, and of which star she belongs to.

Meet My Co-Conspirator Reader

Francesca Varela
Francesca G. Varela
Francesca G. Varela was raised in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. In 2015 she graduated from the University of Oregon with degrees in Environmental Studies and Creative Writing, and she then went on to receive her master’s degree in Environmental Humanities from the University of Utah. Francesca’s dream of becoming an author began in third grade, and her writing career had an early start; she wrote her award-winning first novel, Call of the Sun Child, when she was only 18 years old, and she wrote her second novel, Listen, when she was only 20. Learn more about Francesca and her other books at her website.

I’ll Be at WorldCon this Weekend! + Cover Reveal!

WorldCon 76 is happening this weekend in San Jose, CA, and I’ll be there with books to sell, stickers to give away, and high fives aplenty.

If you’ll be attending, come see me at the Abyssinian Books booth, where Arianna Golden has generously offered me table space.

If you won’t be attending and are curious about my shenanigans there, Instagram is my in-the-moment social media app of choice. (You can follow me here.) I’m sometimes on the Twitters (@jkwak), but I’ve removed it from my phone for the sake of actually getting things done. 🙂

Come see me!

I’ll have a large number of stickers and a limited number of temporary tattoos to give away to people in the know.

You’re now in the know. 


Deviant Flux Cover Reveal!

You’ve all been either patiently waiting and patiently bugging me about when the next Durga System book is coming out.

Well, I’m excited to announce that I have a cover for it! It’s super gorgeous, and done by the same cover artist that did Negative Return (Fiona Jayde).

Deviant Flux is another novella in the Durga System universe, and it’s a direct sequel to Starfall.

I’ll be announcing the preorder date soon (it’ll be out this fall).

To be sure you don’t miss this announcement, click here.


Set five years after the events of Starfall — 

Desperate to find her cousin Mona, Starla Dusai takes to the skies. 

It’s been five years since Starla Dusai’s family home was destroyed and her clan of space pirates scattered throughout the Durga System. When she receives a tip that her beloved cousin Mona is alive, she drops everything to find her. But Mona’s caught up in a plot that might just get them both killed — and saving her might just mean giving up the new family Starla has built.

Deviant Flux is coming Fall of 2018.

Click here to be notified when Deviant Flux is available for sale.

All Systems Red

The Murderbot Diaries
by Martha Wells


(I LOVED this book and just got my husband to read it. He kept laughing out loud last night.)

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

Find it on AmazonKoboBarnes & NobleIndieBound

Join me (and friends!) in Portland for a reading

The short of it:

When: Tuesday April 24, at 6:30 pm

Where: O’Connor’s Vault (7850 SW Capitol Hwy, Portland, OR 97219)

Who: Myself, authors Kelley Baker and Susan Stoner, and musical guest Erin Wallace of The Sportin’ Lifers, and Wallace.

What: We’ll each read for about 10-15 minutes, then go back around and do another 10-15 minutes.

The long of it:

I was delighted when Kelley Baker, aka The Angry Filmmaker, asked me to read as part of his 3-part literary series at O’Connor’s Vault in Portland’s Multnomah Village! The format promises to be a ton of fun — each of us three authors will read for 10ish minutes, then we’ll go back around and do it all again. Match that with musical entertainment and beers, and it should be a blast.

There will also be books (and presumably music) for sale, so come ready to discover a new favorite local author or musician!

Here’s a bit more about the artists who will be there:

Kelley Baker, The Angry Filmmaker

Kelley Baker

A survivor of USC’s film school, Kelley has a BA and an MFA in film production. He is an author, (Road Dog, The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide: Part One & Part Two) and an Independent Filmmaker. He has written and directed three full‑length features (Birddog, The Gas Café, & Kicking Bird), eight short films and quite a few documentaries.

(Kelley and I shared a table at the Oregon Historical Society’s Holiday Cheer event last Christmas, and I can personally vouch for the fact that he’s hilarious!)

BooksRoad Dog, along with the Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide series.

Website: The Angry Filmmaker


Susan Stoner

Susan Stoner

Susan Stoner, writing as S.L. Stoner, is a native Oregonian who worked, for many years, as a full time as a labor union lawyer. Like that of her series hero, Sage Adair, Stoner’s life has tended toward the adventurous. She’s worked in skid road bars, Las Vegas casinos, free clinics and as a prisoners’ advocate, psychology center videographer and federal judge’s intern.

Books: the Sage Adair series of Historical Mysteries

Website: Yamhill Press


Erin Wallace

Erin Wallace

Erin Wallace is a singer/songwriter performing with The Sportin’ Lifers, and Wallace. Her voice and music has been described as soulful, angelic, and powerful, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to hearing her perform!

Website: Wallace




Jessie Kwak

300px JessieKwak headshotHey, it’s me! I’ll be reading from my Durga System series — Starfall and/or Negative Return, depending on my fancy in the moment.

I’m also thinking about reading a snippet from my work in progress, the first in a trilogy of full-length Durga System novels. If you ask nicely. 🙂

Books: Shifting Borders, Business as Usual, and the Durga System novellas.

Website: You’re on it, friend.



Keep up with me

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Fall News and Book Deals!

Hi friends! 

The weather has taken a sudden and decisive turn over the weekend from “yay, last days of summer” to “cold and dreary rain.” But Oregon has desperately needed rain for weeks, so I’m certainly not going to complain. Here’s hoping it helps contain some of the many wildfires that are burning across our state. 

Cold, drizzly weather puts me in the perfect mood for curling up with a good story — whether it’s reading one, or writing my own. After a super busy summer, I’m looking forward to a fall and winter full of reading and writing. 

I have a couple of great book recommendations for you this month, but first, some announcements:

Come meet me at Geek Girl Con!

I’ll be signing books at Geek Girl Con in Seattle, from 4-5pm on September 30th. Come by the Razorgirl Press booth (the publishers of my first novel) — I’d love to meet you! We’ll have books for sale, or you can bring your own. 😉

Print and audio now available

I’ve been hearing good things from readers about my newest short story collection, Business as Usual: Corporate Notes from the Zombie Apocalypse. It’s now available in paperback, in a lovely slim edition that would make a great gift for your boss or coworkers… 🙂

Negative Return’s audio book is also starting to get good reviews. If you buy the Kindle version you can add on Audible narration for just $5.99! 

For your To-Be-Read list

Both these books will draw you in to absorbing epic fantasy worlds inspired by South Asian culture and mythology, and take your breath away with lyrical, page-turning prose.  

JS Bangs’ Powers of Amur series is incredibly rich and well-thought-out. It follows the stories of several main characters through the course of six books, weaving them deftly together for a truly satisfying conclusion. That’s praise I rarely give to a series! But don’t worry — Heir of Iron stands perfectly well on its own.

The Hundredth Queen melds an unputdownable (it’s a word now, folks) story line with a cast of intriguing characters. I’ll be the first to admit I sometimes roll my eyes at romantic subplots in books with young protagonists, but I was hooked on this one right away. Plus, The Hundredth Queen is currently on special for only $1.99 as an ebook!

Heir of Iron


by J.S. Bangs

Mandhi has spent years looking for her lost brother Navran. Their ailing father is near death, and Navran must inherit the title of Heir of Manjur, the descendant of an ancient king and leader of a secret religious sect. More importantly, if Navran returns then Mandhi won’t be forced to marry to provide an heir, and will be free to elope with her bodyguard.

But the Navran she finds is not the man she was hoping for. He’s a drunkard and a gambler, and he has no interest in his religious duties. Mandhi attempts to reform him—but her efforts are interrupted when agents of the Emperor kidnap Navran. Mandhi must find a way to free her brother and remain with her lover, and what she sets in motion will shake the foundations of the Empire.

Find it on Amazon

The Hundredth Queen


by Emily R. King

As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood in the ancient Tarachand Empire, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.

Get it on sale on Amazon.