May 12, 2010

Made It Moment: Ken Kuhlken

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:58 am

The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles

I am proud to present Ken Kuhlken’s Moment, or Moments–they range from A to, well, W–including one that will give all us emerging writers reason to never say die. There are some biggies here, some even touching ones, but in the end this Moment is about there never really being an end.

Ken Kuhlken

A couple years after college, I entered an MA program in Creative Writing at San Diego State University, and the program helped me
persevere and actually finish a novel. When I typed The End, that was a made it moment.

A professor sent my novel to some contest. An agent with William Morris asked to represent me. When I found myself talking to this agent in a New York highrise office building, that felt like a made it moment. But it came to nothing.

A few years later, a Viking Press editor called me, a year after I had submitted a manuscript of Midheaven. That was a made it moment.

And there was the time my mother told me about calling a certain school administrator who had prophesied I might end up as “a bum in the gutter,” and telling him about my new novel and an award it won.

I’ve won several awards. But I never got the rush I knew would come with the made it moment. The one that assures I had picked the right career. The one that would free me from day jobs, debts, and budgeting, give my family a swell vacation, and might even allow me to believe that after I died my stories would remain.

I have at times made my living writing stories. I have friends who’ve struck it rich. But from things they say I infer that they still feel just short of their true made it moment, because other people have struck it richer.

So I have adjusted my attitude.

For a dozen years or so, I have worked on a series about a detective. The series has gradually morphed into a rather epic tale of Tom Hickey’s journey from beginning to end. I call it the California Century novels, because it chronicles the transformation of the state through the 20th century, from latter day promised land into a prototype for the rest of the world, largely through the power of Hollywood.

My new book, The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles, is number one chronologically, though it’s the sixth in the series. I mean to wrap up the series after nine or ten novels and a collection of short stories.

The made it moment will come when I type the final The End.

Ken’s stories have appeared in Esquire and other magazines, been honorably mentioned in Best American Short Stories, and earned a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. He has been a frequent contributor and a columnist for the San Diego Reader.

Ken’s novel Midheaven was chosen as finalist for the Ernest Hemingway Award for best first novel and the sixth in his series, The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles, comes out this May.


  1. What a down-to-earth writer, and what a great series of “moments.” It’s true, one person’s moment is another person’s nothing, and vice-versa. We can’t judge by one another’s success, but by our own internal metronome. What an inspriation!

    Comment by Savvy — May 12, 2010 @ 10:09 am

  2. Ken, you are so smart and on point! I will keep your story in mind as I struggle to reach “Made it Moments.”

    Comment by Judy — May 12, 2010 @ 11:25 am

  3. That was great! Thank you for sharing. I guess it’s easy to dismiss all the little “made it moments” that we have along the way to our “big one”. So true that big goals are made up of many little ones strung together. Your post also reminds me that it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey…very inspiring for sure!

    Comment by Susan — May 12, 2010 @ 11:52 am

  4. Ken’s Moment particularly touched me–as you know, I do a lot of them and find that each has a special feel and ability to make me either laugh, wish, tear up, hope, get jealous (did I just write that out loud?) etc.–and I think it’s for the reasons you all are noticing. Welcome to the site, Susan! Perhaps you’ll be writing your own Moment one of these days. Hello, loyal (and future Moment-ers) Sav & Judy!

    Comment by jenny — May 13, 2010 @ 7:31 am

  5. Sav, Susan, Judy, and Jenny,

    As I’m sure you all know, it’s not easy to keep writing with all the other stuff life hands us to fill our time. But encouragement like your comments offer makes it doable.

    Many thanks,


    Comment by Ken — May 13, 2010 @ 8:49 am

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