Megan Kamalei Kakimoto is a Japanese and Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiian) writer from Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. She is the author of the story collection Every Drop Is a Man’s Nightmare (Bloomsbury 2023), a USA Today national bestseller that was named an Indies Introduce title and a September Indie Next pick by the American Booksellers Association. Her fiction has been featured in Granta, Conjunctions, Joyland, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. She has been a finalist for the Keene Prize for Literature and has received support from the Rona Jaffe Foundation and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.
This diary represents a week of traveling from Hawaiʻi to DC, New York, California and Texas for her first book tour to promote her short story collection, Every Drop Is a Man’s Nightmare.
Monday, 09/04 (Honolulu, Hawaiʻi)
6:30 a.m. – Wake to my alarm and resist the pull to check any foolishness on social media (it’s book tour week, and I’m trying my best to disengage from the outside world for as long as possible). Instead I let out the dog, feed the cat, make coffee.
7:00 a.m. – No longer disengaging, I read my emails. Check the status of my flight this evening just to make sure nothing drastic has changed in the last seven hours. We’re good. I consume lots of vitamins to fortify my immune system for the long travels ahead.
7:30 a.m. – Essay writing, coffee drinking, dog petting. Social media because I just can’t seem to kick the habit.
9:30 a.m. – Spin class at Body Balance Hawaii, my cherished “me” time. I found rhythmic cycling classes last year when running started to feel too hard on my knees. What started as supplemental cardio quickly clarified as a workout obsession and daily grounding activity. Without cycle, my anxiety skyrockets. I’m so grateful to squeeze in one last class before a week of beautiful chaos commences.
11:30 a.m. – Shower, more coffee. Snuggle the dog and try to snuggle the cat, but only the dog will lend me his affections.
12:30 p.m. – Brunch out of the house with my partner Van. I’ll say here that Van’s a saint, weathering my tidal waves of emotion around publishing a first book with patience and kindness. I’m a bit snippy at brunch, peeved off over some small slight or irritation, but Van accepts it all. We leave full and happy and ready for a nap, except…
1:30 p.m. – Last-minute packing, until a phone alert notifies me of a significant flight delay from Honolulu to Los Angeles, making it impossible for me to make my connection to DC. Delta puts me on a flight for tomorrow, arriving late Wednesday. The first reading of my tour is Wednesday. This is admittedly not the smoothest start to book tour.
1:40 p.m. – Cry, mostly out of frustration. I try my best to be useful while Van initiates conversation with a tiny Delta chat box. I hate feeling weak in situations that require all my faculties, but I also know my limitations. Our joint efforts succeed in placing me on a flight that leaves two hours ahead of the original plan. Separation anxiety pulls me to the pets, to Van. It’s true, I treat weeks’ long trips like one of us is marching into the precarity of war.
3:00 p.m. – My new flight leaves at 8, so the next few hours involve showering, packing, feeling my feelings.
6:00 p.m. – Grab a mini bento from 7-Eleven, then stop at my folks’ place to say goodbye to my grandparents. They love to see me and my sister off before we travel.
7:45 p.m. – Easy through security, through boarding. My flight is fairly full. I lean into the security of the window seat, pull down my eye mask, and try my best to sleep.
Tuesday, 09/55 (Salt Lake City, UT / Washington DC)
5:30 a.m. – Land in Salt Lake City. Bleary eyed, not a good sleep. The flight attendant announces over the intercom that thanks to our pilot we’ve arrived half an hour ahead of schedule. My three-hour layover is nearing four.
5:45 a.m. – Not sure what to do with the next four hours of my life. I loop around the perimeter of Terminal A just to stretch my legs. I look for coffee.
6:00 a.m. – Nowhere to sleep in the terminal, I pitch up at a long counter with outlets and nice natural light. Watch the sun rise through the giant plaza windows while Delta and United planes roll by. I charge all my devices, for I am that person who must see her technology operating at 100% battery before boarding a plane—just in case. As I read my emails, I am overcome with dread over the coming days of public speaking and continuous social interactions. It’s a compressed tour, six readings in seven days across five different states. I worry about the conversations I’ll have at the events, the questions I’ll be asked, if I’ll fumble my answers or embarrass myself. Book tours feel so contradictory to the requirements of a writer—privacy, quiet, protection from the outside world. I bite my fingernails and fret.
8:00 a.m. – Food has been hard to come by over the last ten-ish hours. I’ve got one hour left till boarding the DC flight, so I grab an egg white sandwich from Shake Shack (a treat, for we don’t have the chain in Honolulu) and finish off my coffee.
8:20 a.m. – I find my gate and stand for as long as possible, preparing for the four-hour stretch of sitting. An aisle seat, finally. The eye mask calls to me. As we take off, I try again to sleep.
3:40 p.m. – Time zone change, for we have made it to DC. Get picked up by my dear friend and former neighbor Tom and dropped off at the hotel. Rest, a little. Then take a call with my film agents to discuss recent meetings we’ve had with writers and producers. Shower. Take a breath.
5:30 p.m. – Meet up with Tom, his partner Gabby, and dear friend Sarah for celebratory drinks and dinner. I made it, huzzah! Indulge in Ethiopian food and beautiful company while sinking deep into exhaustion. They’re good friends, and they understand.
10:00 p.m. – In bed and asleep basically immediately. Hotel mattresses are so luxurious.
Wednesday, 09/06 (Washington DC)
9:00 a.m. – Sleeping in and feeling so very rested. I stop at the hotel gym and get in three miles on the treadmill. It’s a fancy machine with a cable TV affixed to it, and somehow I find a channel playing Real Housewives of Orange County, my guilty pleasure. Those miles go by fast.
10:00 a.m. – Sweaty and a bit delirious, I check my email in the hotel room. My publicist has written with pretty unbelievable news—EVERY DROP just made the USA Today Bestseller list in its very first week of publication. I don’t quite know how to articulate how much I did NOT expect to make any sort of list, much less one involving book sales. The very nature of debuting with a story collection felt like fighting some illogical taboo, in light of the terrible narrative that collections “don’t sell.” In the space of first-time publication, self-doubt absolutely abounds, at least it has for me, and I experienced a lot of anxiety this past week around not getting my book widely reviewed or seemingly widely received. It’s such a fraught industry, the book industry, with so many conflicting emotions of endless gratitude yet always craving more. (Back home, in response to this, I have a notecard taped to my desk with the following advice: Keep your head down and shut out the noise, because nothing beats a good writing day.)
I blubber a little, send my Bloomsbury team a message of endless gratitude, and hope I am able to convey the sincerity of all I am feeling.
10:30 a.m. – After a shower, I meet up with Tom at Kramers, a bookstore slash brunch joint. Toast to the bestseller news with a delicious hot coffee. Have the best French toast of my life. Browse a bit. Walk back to the hotel.
1:00 p.m. – Interview with Suzanne Lang for KRCB’s A Novel Idea, a radio program in Northern California. Her questions are lovely and so thoughtful. Best is that we can do the zoom with our cameras off.
2:00 p.m. – Spend the day wandering Georgetown with Tom and Gabby. I miss them so much as our neighbors in Honolulu, but it’s amazing to see the beautiful home they’ve made in DC for themselves. I’m realizing that although the timing of book tour is chaotic and compressed, I also feel endlessly grateful for the friends with whom I can reconnect, however briefly.
5:15 p.m. – Time in the hotel to shower (it’s so damn HOT in DC), change, and stress before tonight’s event. Order a room service salad and stream Real Housewives of New Jersey in the background (I told you I’m obsessed).
6:30 p.m. – I arrive early to the reading, my hands clammy and brain cloudy. I meet Christine, co-owner of Loyalty Books and the most joyful and supportive bookseller, and together we get a bit weepy. Then I hear a familiar voice. Kaylin is approaching me, my best friend from high school. Impossible, for she lives in Durham. I weep further at the beautiful surprise of her presence. I meet Shannon Sanders, my conversation partner and author of the magnificent forthcoming collection Company. I think briefly of the company I keep, these spectacular friends of mine, and feel momentarily at peace.
7:00 p.m. – Book event, the first of the national tour. I am conscious but floaty, sort of an out-of-body experience. Shannon’s questions are precise and insightful, as are the audience’s. I sign books for close to an hour then rest my hand.
9:00 p.m. – Celebratory drinks at Madam Organ’s, a bar close to the hotel. The rooms are dark and there are several live rock bands playing at once, a strange cacophony that’s nonetheless enjoyable. Perhaps I’m floating on a post-reading high. I’m in the presence of five dear friends from various points of my life, and I’m reminded once again of company, and of immense gratitude. (By the end of this tour, I will wear out this word, I’m sure.)
11:30 p.m. – Back in the hotel, very hopeful rest will come soon.
Thursday, 09/07 (Washington DC / Brooklyn, NY)
7:30 a.m. – Wake up groggy, for rest did not come soon, did not come easy. Perhaps the time zone changes have yet to catch up to me. But today is my mom’s birthday, and I send her a message. My mom was the first person to champion my dream of becoming a writer, so it’s tough for me to miss seeing her in person, especially to celebrate her 60th. I shower, repack my carry-on, check out, then Uber to Union Station.
8:00 a.m. – Can confirm no one prepared me for DC rush hour traffic. What a wild mess.
9:15 a.m. – Make it to Union Station with enough time to grab coffee and a scone and catch up with Kaylin. It’s my first time riding the Amtrak (or a train of any variety), and Kaylin sweetly answers all my anxious questions. We hug each other hard before I jog to find car 6.
9:40 a.m. – Some train lessons I learn: pay attention to the direction of the seat when selecting it in advance (I chose one facing the opposite direction of the train’s travels); don’t opt for a table. You think you’ll do work, but you just end up with cramped space and three hours of bumping feet with the stranger in front of you.
11:45 a.m. – Still on the train. I need to pee, and I’m hungry. I should find the bathroom and the dining car. But for whatever reason I just sit there, lulled into stillness by the train’s movement through space.
1:20 p.m. – Finally, Penn Station. I flee the Amtrak for a bathroom on solid ground. The chaos of the city outside Penn Station is palpable within its walls, a funny and frightening vibration. I buy a bagel from a vendor but choose the wrong spread, too tangy, and can’t bring myself to eat more than a bite.
1:45 p.m. – Try to catch an Uber, but the entire perimeter of the enormous Penn Station is congested with cars, and their endless honking unnerves me. I feel painfully not from the city, like someone has flashed a bright light on my intrusive presence. I consider the subway, consider a cab, then resolve to walk several blocks in the high-nineties heat for a more hospitable place to be located by a rideshare. It takes a while, and I end up on the wrong street and running, but the driver is patient, and the car is air-conditioned.
2:40 p.m. – The drive takes over an hour, and while sitting in the back seat, a tight pressure starts to build in my chest. I recognize the pressure, an old friend—it is anxiety. Friends I love who are based in the city text me, wondering if I have time to meet up before or after tonight’s reading. Emails come in with revisions to an essay I’m trying to place in the Guardian UK. Suddenly I am sure I cannot do this. The expectations of a published writer are too high, I will fail my publishing team (so many of whom will be in the audience tonight), I will embarrass myself and my agent, I will never finish these essays. My friends, whom I have absolutely no time to see, will hate me. I am operating on about three and a half hours of sleep. The car slogs through the city, and all I see before me are readings.
3:05 p.m. – Check into the hotel, with just under an hour to rest before I’m scheduled to meet up with my agent Iwalani for coffee. I don’t want coffee, I want food. No, I want to sleep. I facetime my partner Van and instantly start crying. While I can’t quite articulate the particular weather of my emotion, Van understands. He says I’m exhausted, that I need to rest. As if she can hear him, Iwalani texts that she’s waiting on a train, that she’ll be late. I cry harder, this time out of relief. I ask to meet at 4:30 instead of 4 and take possibly the best 40-minute nap of my life.
4:30 p.m. – Meet Iwalani at a cute but busy bakery about five minutes from the hotel. I joke on social media how I’m the President of the Iwalani Fan Club (I was the first writer she signed, and have therefore earned the title), but honestly, it’s pretty much the truth. I would have none of this—no book tour, and certainly no book—without her belief in me and my work. She eases all my fears about tonight. The pressure is still present in my chest, but the rest and the conversation are helping.
5:45 p.m. – Make it back to the hotel with enough time to shower and walk to Books are Magic. I have a paralyzing fear of being late, so I leave with enough time to arrive ten minutes ahead of call time. I think I do. I approach Books are Magic to see a shuttered store with all the lights off. Frantically I check the street signs.
Yeah, I’m at the wrong location.
6:20 p.m. – I run.
6:53 p.m. – I arrive about eight minutes past call time absolutely drenched in sweat. The kind events manager ushers me to a back room, where I pad myself with paper towels and try to appear presentable (and not stinky). In the back room, I embrace T Kira, my conversation partner for this evening and dear, dear friend. T Kira is the author of the award-winning memoir Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls and a longtime hero of mine. She’s kanaka maoli too, and the founding editor of No Tokens, a dream journal where I’ve just joined as a fiction editor. Her presence is so loving and instantly calming. We have about five minutes to chat before we’re onstage.
7:05 p.m. – Speaking with T Kira feels like coming home. Her questions are SO GOOD, and I think the room can feel our mutual love and adoration for each other’s work. After, we hug for a long time. I sign many books for friends and family friends and readers whom I’ve never met before. It feels like a highlight, this night.
9:00 p.m. – Head out for a glass of wine with the Bloomsbury and Sanford Greenburger teams. So many generous and hardworking people I had yet to meet in person before this night. It is so special, particularly my conversation with my editor Callie. She is the most attentive reader and the brightest light.
11:30 p.m. – Back in the hotel room, finally. Facetime Van and the pets. Call my mom. Realize I forgot to eat dinner (and lunch?). Set several alarms, for if I miss my flight tomorrow, I’m screwed.
Friday, 09/08 (Brooklyn, NY / Austin, TX)
6:35 a.m. – Wake up on time, thank god. Maybe five hours of sleep last night? Still not sufficient nor sustainable, but will have to do for now. Shower, dress, repack, dream of food. I have no sense of traffic from Brooklyn to JFK, so I intend to leave very early. I check out and get an Uber fast.
7:20 a.m. – Proud of myself, to be on the road ahead of schedule.
8:20 a.m. – Miraculously I make it to JFK, no trouble. The last time I flew through here, I missed my connection because I was in the wrong terminal. I’m committed to ensuring this trip goes much smoother. TSA Precheck makes security a breeze.
8:50 a.m. – Find a restaurant near my gate. FOOD, finally. Order a spinach and mushroom omelet with fried potatoes and toast and a coffee. I read a bit of Kathleen Alcott’s America Was Hard to Find, one of two books I brought with me for the tour. Been working through her novel for weeks, but the language is highly cerebral, and I must take my time. The omelet settles in my empty stomach, befriending the coffee.
10:35 a.m. – Board my flight. En route to Austin, Texas, where I lived for the last two-ish years and have arguably the largest community aside from Hawaiʻi. I did my MFA there at the Michener Center for Writers, and though the program passed entirely during COVID, it was still one of the most important and enriching times of my life. On the flight, I slip between working on essay revisions and daydreaming of reuniting with friends (and with tacos).
1:50 p.m. – Land in Austin. Buy airport snacks then uber (in the 106-degree heat!) to the hotel.
2:30 p.m. – Get settled, and indulge in the fact that I have ALMOST THREE HOURS of downtime, basically unheard of in the last week. Watch Real Housewives of New Jersey, facetime Van, take a nap.
5:15 p.m. – Have dinner with dear friend Stephanie at a diner across from the bookstore. She’s a writer too, working on an incredible novel, and we commiserate over how very hard it is to write a novel. The bookstore for tonight’s event is just across the street.
6:30 p.m. – Arrive at Book People with just enough time to snap a photo under the marquee. Lol at the close proximity to Matthew McConaughey (sp?). Am I his opening act?
7:00 p.m. – Conversation with Elizabeth McCracken. She was my mentor while I was at Michener, an experience for which I have only ever felt a profound sense of gratitude. Elizabeth is one of the most generous instructors I have ever known, and of course a dream of a conversation partner. Tonight’s reading is slightly more anxiety inducing—there is the very nature of returning to a community I both adore and deeply admire, along with the stress of welcoming my parents’ community (their friends from and around Waco, Texas), folks of who have never attended a reading in their lives. After, their questions are sweet but embarrassing. I cry some in the hotel room, holding forth the burden of wading through several communities at once, unsure of where I’ve dropped my anchor.
11:15 p.m. – Mostly I’m just sleep-deprived. I shut off every light and try to rest.
Saturday, 09/09 (Austin, TX)
10:00 a.m. – I had “running?” on my calendar from 8 to 9, but instead I sleep through all my alarms and wake up feeling as though I’ve rested for days. No stomach for food, but I do take advantage of the free coffee bar near the elevators. Shower, repack, check out, call an Uber. On my way to stay with friends.
11:15 a.m. – My dear Austin friends Amanda and Ellaree welcome me with (literally) open arms. They have six cats between them, and I’m instantly flooded with the sense of coming home. We catch up and play with a seventh cat, a tiny foster kitten with a traumatic amputation. She is spirited and wild, and appears to be in no pain. Reach out to our mutual friend Stephanie to get together for food and maybe writing before tonight’s reading. So hard to separate ourselves from the kitten at play.
2:15 p.m. – Easy Tiger for lunch. I’m starving—back home I tend to snack all day but traveling throws my whole body out of whack, and now I never know when to eat. Order a burger and a salad and a giant house coffee. Amanda, Ellaree, Stephanie, and I had all intended to write that afternoon, but mostly what we end up doing is chatting about writing. All four of us are hard at work on novels but at completely different stages in the process. We brainstorm, and ask questions, and try to solve problems, or at least inch toward some possible solutions. Only later when I return home will I long so fiercely for this—a group of writers who take writing seriously, and their writing community even more seriously. I’ll most certainly cry, once this is taken away from me.
4:30 p.m. – Make our way to Cheer Up Charlies, a famous Austin queer bar where the way-too-cool-for-me reading series Downpour ATX is hosting tonight’s event. I’ve been following Downpour since their inception, and joining headliners like Kali Fajardo-Anstine and Fernando A. Flores is still kind of unreal to me. Plus, there’s the new bookstore Alienated Majesty that’s not only selling copies of my book but also books we curated that are in conversation with my own—how do I express my awe and gratitude to them? The task feels monumental. I order a gin and tonic, which instantly dissolves my nerves. Why was I forgetting to drink before these events? No time, previously. There has never been enough time until this one glorious weekend of rest and writing with friends.
5:20 p.m. – Readings start. We’re indoors, escaping Austin’s swampy summer heat (it’s September). I listen to show-stopping poetry and fiction by SG Huerta and Diamond Braxton then mount the stage to read. The anxiety is so different up here, simply reading a story I’ve already ushered into the world rather than conversing with an audience whose questions might stump me. Wearing my signature “What’s More Punk Than the Public Library?” t-shirt, I decide to read the first half of the collection’s weirdest story, “Some Things I Know About Elvis.” I’d worried earlier that day over how the audience might receive it, and am so relieved by their applause, the delight of their emphatic whooping.
7:00 p.m. – After, we stick around Cheer Ups for a while. So many friends from Michener, the New Writers Project, folks who’ve left Austin and returned for the weekend, folks who graduated and resolved to stay. The time blazes past, and I reluctantly leave only when Stephanie and I are the last ones standing.
8:00 p.m. – Tacos for takeout, then Stephanie drops me off. A small gathering of friends has assembled at A&E’s. I hang for a while, until my eyelids feel weighed down by coins and I can’t manage more than tight hugs goodnight.
Sunday, 09/10 (Austin, TX)
8:00 a.m. – My one and only day this entire tour without a scheduled event (this’ll also be the last entry in this diary). I take it leisurely, though remember that spin class in Honolulu? Yeah, I booked one for Austin, at a different studio just a few minutes away from A&E’s. I take advantage of the first timer first class free promo and in conversation with the receptionist try to skirt around the fact that I’m in transit and not based in Austin. I fail, instantly. Still get the class for free. It’s way harder than I was expecting, though I’m admittedly out of practice. After, my legs are heavy and sore in a way that feels so comfortingly familiar.
10:45 a.m. – Shower at A&E’s. Pet all the cats.
11:30 a.m. – Walk to grab a quick coffee with Sophia. She’s another insanely talented fiction writer, a third year at Michener, and I wish we have more time to catch up because we always have so much to talk about.
12:30 p.m. – Walk back to A&E while taking a call with Mimi Lok, my conversation partner for Tuesday’s event in San Francisco. Brainstorm ideas for the event together. She has lots of creative ones, and I already sense this event will go differently than the others because of them. I’m excited, but also nervous—I call it “pre-worrying” (a common practice of mine). She tells me the bookstore has us wrapping up around 9:30, and already I am thinking of the flight I must catch the following morning, subtracting travel time, hotel check-out, shower, trying to cobble together some semblance of rest. I suggest we push for 9 p.m., if she’s open to it. I think she is. I hope.
1:30 p.m. – Laundry, but quickly, because I have a lunch scheduled for 2 and must dry the clothes outside (dryer’s ‘buss). It’s in the high nineties today, and while I’m sure there would be enough time even if I dried them in the afternoon…anxiety, ya know? Wonder how many times that word’ll appear in this series by the end of today.
2:00 p.m. – Laundry’s not done, so I head to lunch only slightly panicking. Meet Reena Shah, ANOTHER brilliant fiction writer. We have such a fun friendship story, me and Reena—met first at virtual Tin House, then again when she was considering Michener and needed a place to stay. Now we have the same agent, and the same publishing house, with her novel slated for early 2025. We talk about all of it, along with things going on in our personal lives. I miss her terribly, when she drops me off.
4:00 p.m. – Return to A&E’s and instantly start hanging all my clothes. How are authors meant to travel during book tours? I’d like to chat with folks about this, for my methodology seems so wrong.
4:30 p.m. – Call with Van, where he informs me of a loss in his family that none of us were expecting. It’s gutting, and we cry together for a long time. I want him to meet me in California, or I want to end the tour today and fly home. Maybe it’s corny, but he’s the other half of my stupid heart, and it breaks me being away from him. He encourages me to stay, we cry some more, I reach out to his mom, I tell my parents the news.
5:30 p.m. – I tell A&E. They’re so sweet and comforting and understanding. Decide to skip a friend’s going away party tonight, to chat more with Van and rest before my flight.
8:00 p.m. – Walk to pick up pasta from a food truck in the neighborhood, then eat dinner with all the cats hovering. Check the clothes—THEY’VE DRIED. Moment of enormous relief. I pack leisurely, in between calls with Van and snippets from RHONJ.
11:00 p.m. – In bed. Last night in Austin, but two more days and two more events before I can go home. I make it sound like some cruel sentence, and it’s not. It doesn’t feel that way. Mostly tour is chaotic and emotional and stressful, but it’s also a dream not many people will ever see realized, yet I have. People are reading my book of stories, people are coming out to hear me speak. I don’t know if I have yet to wear out the word gratitude, but I am certainly getting there.