Here is my favorite twelve word review of my book:
This was the caption for a picture of FANS on Instagram, and I thank Instagram user @myroarts for perfectly capturing something I've been thinking a lot about recently.
I did my first school visit at the very awesome Berkeley Carroll School in Park Slope, Brooklyn a few weeks ago, and my favorite part was the questions that the students asked. One girl asked me what made me choose to write about queer characters, and I said that I am interested in telling queer stories and the stories of often marginalized people because these are my people, these are my stories, and these are the stories that I am interested in. So in a way it's pretty selfish on my part. I'm writing the stories that I want to read. And I feel very lucky that the world of publishing (and of young adult lit) is ready to embrace these kinds of stories, but I am simply writing about what is important to me.
A few questions later a soft spoken African American boy raised his hand, and, in front of his entire high school, asked me, "Do you think you'll keep writing about marginalized characters?"
Kittens, I almost started bawling in front of that poor boy. My cold little heart first melted, then grew three sizes, then melted some more, then bought all the Whos in Whoville Christmas presents.
"Yes," I said. "I do."
I was thinking about this idea of writing about often marginalized characters in mind when I was working on writing an author note for an international galley of the book. Author notes are tough, because you want to try and just sum up everything, the whole reason you wrote your book and what you hope people will get out of it, in just a few paragraphs.
So I started writing my marginalized people rant, when I realized that what FANS is also about is marginalized emotions - the feelings that are too weird or embarrassing or unclassifiable to talk about. The ones that seem shameful or complicated or difficult to explain. The places we pretend don't exist.
It's important to remember that no emotion is "wrong," especially important to remember this around the holidays. We put a lot of expectations on the ways that we "should" feel around holidays, around our families, and about this time of year. Which is why depression tends to run high. Because it's not "supposed" to be here.
There is power in speaking that which goes unspoken. There is power in telling the stories that don't get told. Marginalized means something is literally in the margins. It's not the text. It's not the body. It's been pushed to the side.
Time to claim the center.
I did an interview with the lovely Melanie who runs One Less Lonely blog and she asked me a question that writers get asked a lot: "What advice would you give to aspiring authors?"
You'll have to head over to One Less Lonely Blog to check our my entire answer, but here's part of it:
"The most important thing that you can do as a writer is learn to understand and nurture your own relationship to your writing. You have to know why you write and what it means to you, and prioritize protecting that above all else. If you make that relationship the most important thing, then you will be able to weather all the noise of the rest of the stuff that goes along with being an author."
Because here's the thing - I love reading about other writers' processes, how their days go, the fact that John Updike purportedly wrote three pages every weekday without fail. I've read interviews with authors and books of essays about writing, searching for the secret ingredient that would explain how they do what they do. Because when we each start writing, we inevitably feel like we're inventing fire. Maybe we've heard that fire is possible, maybe we've seen someone else make a fire, but it sounds insane to think that we would be able to do that ourselves. So we just start rubbing some sticks together like crazy people, thinking "This can't be right!" But then there's a little spark, and then there's a little flame. And then there's fire.
Do this for long enough and you get some semblance to your own answer to "how do you write?" or "what's your routine?" Keep going and if you're lucky you'll get some answers to "how do you get published?" and "how do you succeed as a writer?" (Although, let's not get started on what "success" means here. I heard Joyce Carol Oates say on the radio the other day that she doesn't feel successful and I was, like, oh yeah, there's no THERE there.)
But the only thing - and yes I do mean the ONLY thing - that matters for you as a writer, and for anyone seeking to write and devote themselves to writing is what I wrote to Melanie. You need to know what it means to you. Because if you are serious about having a relationship with your writing, it is going to have to be based on what any successful relationship is based on and that's LOVE.
I've been really enjoying Elizabeth Gilbert's new book Big Magic about the creative process, and one of the things that's so great about her way of thinking is that she has a way of externalizing creativity. She believes that ideas come to us and ask us to collaborate with them. They're free agents that we enter into a contract with.
What's great about this is that, even if you aren't feeling great about yourself on a particular day, if you trust this collaboration then you just need to give yourself over to that. The less that the process can be about you and how you're feeling (physically, mentally, emotionally) the better off you are. (Although sometimes it can be about writing through the moment that you're in and about it, but not feeling good should never be something that keeps you from writing. I've definitely been helped so much in hard moments by just the act of writing through them.)
Writing and creativity should simultaneously be an exploration of self and an escape from yourself. This is what makes it super mystical. You go deep enough into your own thoughts and feelings and experiences and you find something that is actually transcendent and takes you out of the isolation of individual experience into the beauty of the universal.
(More on creativity and magic later, but go read Big Magic for a definite start on that)
This is all me talking to myself by the way. As I wade my way into the waters of a first draft for the first time in years, I'm trying to be patient but firm with myself about how hard this can be, and also remember what is really supposed to be important about it. The connection to your own creativity. Above all else.
I guess I should probably go write now.
It's been a minute since I've had a blog. It's been years, chickens. I had one back when I was finishing my first novel (now in a drawer) and starting on "Fans of the Impossible Life."
"Fans" came out in September, and putting out a book in this day and age means navigating social media and communication, and the social media which doesn't feel much like communication, and a whole lot of info coming at you that isn't about you and your work.
I'm not saying that all of the internet should be about ME and MY WORK. I'm saying, for all of us, the internet is a whole bunch of other people's noise.
I go back to thinking about empathy and empaths a lot. And although the word "empath" tends to conjure up some new age desert shaman channeling feelings (which, you know, sounds great) I actually believe really strongly that we are all empaths. And that the connotations of that word and the ways in which it sounds too wishy washy to some people to say "I feel and take in the emotions of others around me" keep us from admitting this to ourselves. Which then keeps us from protecting ourselves in the ways that we should. And then we often feel like shit and we don't know why.
I would like to propose that sometimes we feel like shit because we have taken on the needs and hopes and pain of those around us, and decided that it is our own. And it's not. It might look like ours. We might relate to the pain of others. But we need to be more conscious of what is actually ours and what we have taken on. Because the number of people and emotions and motivations and nefarious nonsense coming at you is multiplied exponentially when it comes to dealing with the internet.
And the only way to combat this is to carve out a little space for yourself. Where you can say "THIS is important to ME." "I believe in THESE things."
If you're not grounded in this, you can't create. And we are all creators. So let's get grounded. And let's make stuff.