Wattys 2018 Winners Spotlight: @DakotaKemp

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Name: Dakota Kemp
What is your Wattpad username? DakotaKemp
Where are you from? Fairview, Oklahoma, United States

What inspired you to write your winning story? At the time I began writing "The Omens of a Crow," I was struggling with a lot of truths about life that clashed with my moral convictions

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What inspired you to write your winning story?
At the time I began writing "The Omens of a Crow," I was struggling with a lot of truths about life that clashed with my moral convictions. I was (and still am) a believer in conscientious action - that one should always try to do what is right, and damn the consequences. But the world doesn't often reward such action. Sometimes doing the right thing brings tragedy. Does that make choosing the "right" course wrong? Conventional wisdom might say yes. I might say otherwise.

I needed to explore this dilemma in a story. A story of no good choices. A story of lesser evils. Because doing what is right is hard, but determining what is right is even more difficult. The world is very good at taking stark color and smooshing it into a terribly confusing gray. In many ways, Krow's story is my own: the story of a man just trying to do what is right. It can be an uncertain and heartbreaking journey.   Most of my fantasy stories tend to be of the high or epic variety, but I knew such an atmosphere would not do for the themes I wished to explore in Omens. I needed something more real. Something visceral and nasty and brutish. Something that represented the most terrible parts of the real world. I needed Dark Fantasy. Omens is my first venture into this subgenre, though I'd long been reading it. I thoroughly enjoyed writing "The Omens of a Crow." Hopefully others will enjoy reading and exploring it's difficult questions just as much.

Where were you and what were you doing when you found out you won?
I believe the notification was sent out on October 5th, but I didn't know I'd won a Watty until the night of October 12th. I was actually out conducting field operations with the Army for a month during the Watty award process. No internet, no cell phone, no connection to the world of any kind. My battalion's convoy rolled back in to base on October 12th, I picked up my phone as we were unloading our equipment, and I saw the Wattpad message (along with a month's worth of texts and app notifications) right there in the motor pool.

Sleep deprivation usually either amplifies or dampens emotional reactions randomly, so I think I got an extra special burst of excitement when I saw the Watty-winner message. I'm absolutely flabbergasted that one of my stories was chosen for such an award.

What does winning a Watty Award mean to you?
First and foremost, it means that someone read, enjoyed, and appreciated my work. Somebody was touched in some way by one of my stories. What a humbling and terrifying realization!  I think that's what really matters to storytellers, that our work makes a difference. That's the payoff: knowing that our work affects people, makes them feel, gives them the opportunity to recognize new and old things about life. The Wattys show that my story is affecting somebody, and I couldn't be more pleased.

Give us your Wattys acceptance speech:
They say skill comes from experience, and that's why this acceptance speech is exceptionally awful. At least it can be a building block to a speech that's not painful to read in the future (if I'm ever fortunate enough to need to write another one).  First thanks must go to my parents and siblings, who nurtured imagination and a love of reading (and stories in general) in my far from fertile mind. Imagine a desert filled with giant rocks, no soil, and as much rainfall as Death Valley. Somehow my family coaxed a garden of especially prickly cacti to grow, and even a rare flower or two. I owe them a lot, and any success I manage to achieve can be attributed wholly to them.  Second, I've got to thank Wattpad for giving writers the opportunity to show their work to the world. Opportunity is a rare commodity. Almost as rare as me enjoying a social engagement - a highly unlikely scenario. Thanks for such a valuable gift, Wattpad.  Third, and most important, thank you to all the readers. Your support of stories makes life both awesome and worthwhile. What a lonely place the world would be if I were the only person who enjoyed a good tale! Stay up late reading every night, my friends. It's worth it.

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