Jan 302012
 

For the last couple of years I have been writing a novel based (not so) loosely on my experience as a trans fag growing up in a queer youth center.  Editing Kicked Out was one of the most incredible experience I ever had and it was also a very trying and difficult time for me artistically. When the anthology released I took a year off of major projects to focus on promoting Kicked Out, but also just to write for the sake of writing and  as cheesy as it sounds to fall back in love with the art.  During this year an old friend from my crusty punk days became very sick – she and I began trading text messages little 160 character stories about the crazy stunts we pulled back in the day and what our world was like.  I fought it for a while – these weren’t the stories I wanted to write, and yet they grabbed me in a chokehold and wouldn’t let me get away.  By the beginning of 2011 I submitted to the stories and admitted to myself that these stories would be my next book.

Roving Pack is the ragged dangerous edge of queerness. Set in an underground world of homeless queer teens the stories follow the daily life of Click a straight-edge (XXX) transgender kid searching for community, identity, and connection amidst chaos. As the novel unfolds we meet a pack of newly sober gender rebels creating art, family and drama in dilapidated punk houses and youth centers across Portland, Oregon.  Roving Pack offers fast-paced in-your-face accounts of leather, sex, hormones, house parties, and protests. But, when Click’s gender fluidity takes an unexpected turn the pack is sent reeling….

I spent the better part of the last year querying this novel to publishers and agents there were flat out rejections and also positive nibbles. Traditional-non-traditional/independent publishers and agents have been reluctant to take on this project. Ultimately what became clear was that the stories were too dangerous. Specifically, the gender, and  leather content needed toning down to make this book palatable enough for a publisher to trust it would be profitable enough to publish. The success of Kicked Out got the query for the this novel read, but Roving Pack is not Kicked Out. If Kicked Out is (as many have called it) groundbreaking, then Roving Pack is edgeplay in the purest sense.

‘Roving Pack’ is the novel I’ve spent the last decade getting the nerve up to write.  I spent the first part of those ten years living the world I’m now translating to the page. It is profoundly important to me that I do justice to the queer gutterpunk world at the turn of the  21st century that saved my life, beat me black and blue in the ways I needed, and ultimately raised me up in every way imaginable.

I have no doubt that I could have changed the plot, made the characters safer and easily had a publisher accept this book. I almost did. I never would have forgiven myself.  Once I made the decision that I wasn’t willing to compromise my vision for the book or tame down the reality of the culture/community I grew up in I had to make some decisions.  I have another nonfiction book in the works and while I wanted Roving Pack as my sophomore book I realized that I was prepared to shelve this novel before I would release something that was watered down to fit the confines of what the publishing industry believed was safe. While I obviously was disappointed to be for the moment turning my attention to another project, I knew I’d made the kind of decisions the punks who raised me up would respect. Our world was one built on honor, I couldn’t live with myself if I sold out by taming down our stories.

I’m very fortunate that my inner circle of friends are some of the most talented folks in the queer literary world – from authors and  independent booksellers, to promoters.  Early this winter, I sent an email, to folks in the industry whose perspective and opinions I really respect and asked if in their professional opinion they thought it would be career suicide if I were to consider publishing the book as a product of our production company PoMo Freakshow.  I sent the email on a whim, I was expecting an overwhelmingly negative response. I was not in anyway prepared for the response that I got.

Everyone told me to go for it.

I started thinking,  researching, organizing and ultimately planning. What would it mean if I went this route? After talking with so many people whose work and perspectives who reminded me that sometimes the most important work we do involves the biggest risk, I decided that I owed it to this book to bring it out into the world.  At the end of the day I still believe in a traditional publishing model. I believe there is something to be said for working with a respected publisher that can give solid support and backing to a project.  There is no doubt in my mind that I will chose for Nobody Loves You. Now What? about creating chosen families and the dangers of reunification models for homeless LGBTQ youth will come through a traditional publisher. Like Kicked Out, that is a book that while deeply queer has mainstream appeal.  Roving Pack is a very niche very fringy book even for the queer community.  I also knew that coming on the heels of Kicked Out I had the skills and connections to make Roving Pack a high quality well produced story and just as importantly because I handled all the PR and marketing strategy for Kicked Out I knew I’d be able to get the novel into the hands of readers.

I’ve assembled an editorial team that I trust and who really grasps the mission of the project, planned for hiring copyeditors, and hired a cover artist  — the incredibly talented KD Diamond.  KD was one of the first people I approached after making the decision that Roving Pack would be a production of PoMo Freakshow – I don’t believe in judging a book by its cover, but I also knew that a book like this needed some kickass cover art.  I’ve been waiting for the right moment to make a formal announcement to the community, and “come out” if you will about the decision to publish Roving Pack, and that the book will be released autumn 2012.  On Friday evening I got the first draft sketch of KD’s vision for the cover of Roving Pack. I fell in love with it instantly, especially the way she really captured the feel of the location something I really emphasized in our planning conversations and in the reference material I sent to her.  I’ve been hinting for the last few months on my facebook and twitter that the novel would be coming soon, but I hadn’t found the right time to go public with the announcement.  having this preliminary art in hand, I knew this was the moment to introduce Roving Pack to all of you and announce it’s fall 2012 release!!!!!!

Jan 252012
 

High school was hard for me. I was bullied relentlessly through elementary and middle school and high school was no exception. The bullying I experienced only intensified when I came out as queer – I was one of only a couple seniors at the school in semi-rural/semi-suburban Oregon who were out.  We had very little teacher/administration support, and more often than not we were on our own to navigate what it meant to be quer in our high school. I became homeless early my senior year and along with another student founded the first GSA my high school ever had. I was verbally threatened daily by other students in the hallway, and on one occasion shoved into a wall of lockers by a football player.

I was told by the administration of my school that I was the first homeless teenager they had ever worked with, and that they really didn’t know what to do with me.  I had one very strong ally amongst the faculty, but on the whole was very alone as I struggled through couch surfing and eventually moved to Portland (the nearest city) and commuted 2 hours each way by bus in order to finish my senior year.  I thought a lot about my experiences in high school as I worked on the Kicked Out anthology and was thrilled when the organization Live Out Loud  recently approached me about being a participant in their Homecoming Project .  The program brings LGBTQ adults back to their high schools  ”to speak with a new generation of students about the unique experiences which have shaped the individuals they are today.”

Thanks to technology this winter I’ll be digitally touring back to my high school and visiting with the current students involved with the GSA I helped found a decade ago! I’m really excited about partnering with Live Out Loud for this unique project, am very much looking forward to talking with the GSA members stay tuned for future blog posts talking about what the experience of being back at my old high school was like!

Jan 242012
 

In November I was really honored to have my voice included in the nationally airing on PBS series In The Life which spotlights the experiences of LGBTQ people across the country. In November the entire episode titled “Finding Home” focused on the epidemic of LGBTQ youth homelessness.  In one of the many apartments I crashed in as a queer teenager there was a TV. It didn’t have cable, and barely picked anything up, but late at night sometimes my local PBS station would play this show  called ‘In The Life’ and I would sit transfixed. I don’t remember the content of any episode really connecting to me or my life, the power of it came from just seeing LGBTQ people on TV. Before that I’d only seen my people occasionally on the news as the victims of hate crimes. It was this memory that in part, made the experience of being part of the show so special for me.

Over the month of November when the show was regularly airing I was routinely stopped by folks at queer events and even several times on the street because they recognized me from television and in some way connected personally with the stories I told, and what I had to say. This is a story that touches peoples lives, connecting them to an  aspect of their own experience they may hold deep shame around, or a population of our community they may know nothing about.  I’m so grateful that ‘In The Life’ gave me the opportunity to share my story and Kicked Out anthology with viewers this year, and am THRILLED to announce that “Finding Home” the November episode of In The Life, has been nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Journalism – News Magazine!!!!

If you missed seeing the episode on PBS during the month of November, it can be streamed online here

Jan 192012
 

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to guest curate Queer Memoir: Pets and make one of my homeless dog obsessed  baby-dyke dreams come true — creating a space where queers talked about how much they loved animals!  The evening was absolutely fantastic attended by nearly 80 people and featured incredible storytellers!   You can check out some of my thoughts about the dog focused part of the evening at The Bark magazine 

Jan 082012
 

Folks that know anything about me probably have some knowledge of how important picture books are to me. They are beautiful, tricky and dangerous works of art and storytelling that are far too often written off by people as meaningless, and simple.  Picture books are how I have come to make sense of myself and the world.

Today I watched this incredible short film interviewing Maurice Sendak – one of my favorite authors/illustrators who does phenomenally deep, powerful and dangerous work.  He has some really intense and wonderful messages about the creative process, creating

Artists have to take a dive. And either you hit your head on a rock and you split your head and die or the blow to the head is so inspiring that you come back up and do the best work you ever did. But you have to take the dive. And you do not know what the result will be.” – Maurice Sendak

These are exactly the words that I needed to hear right now as I’m deep in the work on ‘Roving Pack’ my queer teen punk novel to be released next autumn.  Late last week UPS dumped a little miniature punk house in my living room in the form of a nine pound box from a very dear old friend on the west coast.  We were bois together, tranny faggots whose lives were very entangled in the punk houses of Portland. Over the past couple years we’ve gotten back in touch mostly via text message– rubbing scars against one another like the scratch of a match igniting memory. She sent me this box filled with photos, zines, art, CD’s and event flyers from that shared past  life with the to inspire and encourage me as I take a deep dive with this new book…..

Jan 012012
 

Within a few minutes of meeting me it becomes pretty abundantly clear  how obsessed i am with dogs.  Dogs have been a really fundamental part of my life, conception of self, spiritual understanding and so much more. No doubt, I am the person I am today because of the dogs who have shared my life.  I spent my early teen years training and competing in dog sports, dogs were my entire life, and I lost them when I came out as queer and became homeless. All these years later, dogs remain a foundational part of my daily life and how I relate to the world.

I’m so excited to be the guest curator for January’s Queer Memoir here in NYC themed around Pets!  It’s going to be an incredible night witha  really diverse group of storytellers (and no not all of them are dog people :p)

January 14th 8pm @ Queers For Economic Justice

Looking forward to seeing you there!