Jul 252012
 
Touched By An Angel “Children of the Night”

Ok, confession – I was remarkably uncool as a kid. I also as I’ve talked about before grew up in an incredibly controlling environment.  Pretty much everything I did, watched, and read was monitored. I remember sneaking a copy of “A Child Called It” probably my freshman year in High School and for the first time realized that I was being abused –but that’s a whole different story about the power books have always played in my ability to see and understand myself and the world around me. But this post isn’t about that – it’s about confessing to the kinda embarrassing television I watched.  There was a period of time in the early mid 90’s where I was obsessed with ‘Touched By An Angel’ and I watched it every Sunday night.  I don’t remember much about the show at this point other than one episode that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  It was about street kids and was the very first time I’d ever seen homeless youth in the media, it was the first time I’d ever heard anyone even talk about homeless youth.

I remember when it aired I taped it on my family’s VCR and would watch the show over and over again. It sounds silly now, but by the time that show aired I’d already been fantasizing for years about running away and building a home and family with other kids – I’m not sure where the idea came from but it was the fantasy I rocked myself to sleep with every night. Seeing this episode was a really pivotal moment where for only an instant I believed that maybe it could happen, that I could get away, that maybe I’d find other kids, that maybe someday I’d be ok.   This afternoon out of nowhere I got to thinking about the show and sure enough thanks to the magic of the internet was able to rewatch it for the first time in 15 years and a half dozen lifetimes.

I was in tears within the first three minutes where one of the angels Tess says that these “runaway, throwaway” kids are actually a family schooling Monica one of the other angels who had just made a comment about how she thought their “assignment” was to work with a family and she didn’t see one. This is are talking mainstream 90’s Christian television we’re talking about so I went into watching it tonight prepared to shatter the memory of what the show had meant to me. These kinds of media artifacts don’t tend to age well, and my expectations were pretty low.  The episode was not without flaws – there was the anticipated awkward/cheesy/uncomfortable God moments which if I’m being honest were a struggle for me because of my numerous unresolved God issues as much as anything else.  My biggest critique is that China the young sex worker was killed by a client—this of course is an all too common reality, but it doesn’t mean I want to see one more media representation of a sex worker being murdered.

The premise of the show is about a street family of kids who each have their own path and struggle and the angels are there to gain their trust – again not without flaws.  But they do interesting things that I rarely see in mainstream media portrayals of homelessness, not one of the kids is vilified, when Monica makes fun of the hair/piercings etc. of the kids she’s chastised and told that doesn’t matter, and they spend time talking about the ways in which the kids name themselves, and the depth and meaning behind the chosen names which on the surface seem strange and random but actually carry great meaning. For example, China the youth mentioned above as she begins to build a friendship with Monica explains that she picked her name because of the fancy china dishes people use on special occasions, that someday she will have some of her own and that she plans to use it everyday. She goes onto say that when people say her name it makes her feel special.  Sure in the midst of cheesy 90’s television the story is a bit trite- and yet on some level for me it worked because of how many people I know/have known whose chosen names carry similar stories.

In the end two kids die, Ally the youngest and newest to the street goes home to her parents and the “family that was shattered when she left.” But the episode was not the unexamined reunification propaganda that I was anticipating. The one very young girl does go home, and that is a bit of an overpowering theme BUT it’s not the only story-taking place.  Doc the street father avoids death by leaving the streets/squats entering the hospital to treat TB – but only once he’s insured his surviving street family has been taken care of.  Although the initial doctor he sees seems to be making reference to some kind of forced family reunification, but the angels make clear that when he’s healthy he will be going to the youth shelter.

Perhaps the most powerful moment of the episode for me came within the first three minutes in an exchange between Monica and Tess:

Monica- “so our assignment is to get them back home?”

Tess –  “ Oh no, that’s how the world has failed them so far, they just want to get rid of them and send them back where they came from. We’ve got to do better than that. We’ve got to give them what they need, not what we think they need.”

That’s when the tears started. The episode was not without substantial flaws and yet imbedded in it was more harm reduction and trauma informed approach language than I hear 15 years later from many homeless youth direct service providers!!!

I love that * this* this was a message I heard even for an instant all those years ago. I love that I heard someone say – the family those kids built is real, that I heard someone say the answer is not to get them “back home,” and that what actually is needed is exactly what they say they/we say is needed not someone else’s version of what their/our lives could be. Of course I remembered nothing about having seen that episode when I was kicked out, all I knew in that moment and those moments that immediately followed was how alone I felt- but then something happened—I found community, I found packs of kids like me and we built families so much stronger than anything I’d ever been told was “family” in my childhood.

Consistently repeated through the episode was the message that these kids had been burned, that they didn’t trust because they had not reason to, that they were used to being given up on and it was legitimate for them to expect similar treatment in the future. I really appreciated that message.  Like most of us with this past trust still, all these years later is difficult for me. I can name on less than one hand the number of people I *actually * trust and you can be damn sure they are all folks who I’ve built family with. I’m a little embarrassed writing a whole blog post about an episode of Touched By An Angel, after all the show itself is not without immense complication and I know I’ve not even scratched the surface of that, and yet I can’t deny how incredibly touched (pun intentional) by this first/only representation of homeless teens I was as a pre-teen who dreamed of successfully running away and escaping.

As complicated as it is media is a profoundly powerful force in our lives.  The initial idea for Kicked Out came at 17 when newly homeless I went to the public library and realized there were no books I could find about queer homeless youth – I felt unbearably alone in that moment and promised myself that if I survived I would make a book so no one else would feel like I did in that moment.  I didn’t yet understand that queer youth homelessness was an epidemic, I had no idea how unreasonable it was to think that I would be able to create something that would touch *every * other current/former homeless queer kid. In the last couple of years since our release I’ve gotten messages from former homeless youth who’ve expressed that in the pages of Kicked Out for the very first time they felt like they saw their experience reflected back at them. I’ve received messages from currently homeless youth who told me they ranway/were kicked out with only their backpack and stuffed inside under clothes and toiletries was their copy of the Kicked Out anthology, that carrying it with them made them feel less alone.

Jul 232012
 

Late last week I finished reading the print and bound copy of Roving Pack for the very first time. I am, without a doubt my own worst critic – I am far more demanding of myself than I would be of anyone else, and yet as I finished reading the final page and closed the book I was satisfied, no more than satisfied I was pleased and could actually see and believe that I’d done a good job. Thanks to the hard work of my editorial team, I actually feel like I truly nailed this book. Roving Pack does everything that I’d hoped it would do and more when while on the road with Kicked Out I started playing with these little starts of stories. This weekend I was also able to approve the print proofs – and then my wonderfully supportive partner took me out for a date of ice cream and vintage pac man. As hard as it is for me to actually believe, there really is no denying that we’ve now officially gone to press!

 

In the midst of all the book excitement this weekend got the incredibly exciting news that the amazing Charles Rice- González  blurbed Roving Pack!   Check out the wonderful things he had to say about the novel!!!

 

“Sassafras Lowrey is an urgent and vital voice in contemporary queer literature and with Roving Pack, a harrowing, hilarious and hip page-turner, ze takes the reader along for a wild and wonderful ride through a blossoming young queer culture that’s expanding how we experience gender, express love and create community. “

–      Charles Rice-González

 CHULITO, FROM MACHO TO MARIPOSA: NEW GAY LATINO LITERATURE

 

 

I’m beyond humbled by how authors in the community who I have really admired and have looked up to for years have come forward and blurbed the novel. This was a pet project of mine, one that struggled to find a publishing home and to be sitting here two months before the official release with so much community support behind it/me is truly overwhelming.

 

p.s. you can still pre-order Roving Pack. Folks who order the book will receive one of the first copies ever printed signed/dedicated and delivered right to your door complete with special release edition one-inch buttons featuring KD Diamond’s brilliant cover art

Jul 162012
 

OCTOBER 12, 2012
Bluestockings Bookstore – 172 Allen St. NYC
7pm

Please join us at the official NYC release event for “Roving Pack” to celebrate the publication of this highly anticipated debut novel by Sassafras Lowrey (editor of Kicked Out)

About Roving Pack:

‘Roving Pack’ the debute novel by award winning queer author Sassafras Lowrey is set in an underground world of homeless queer teens. Readers follow the daily life of Click, a straight-edge transgender kid searching for community, identity, and connection amidst chaos. As the stories unfold, we meet a pack of newly sober gender rebels creating art, families and drama in dilapidated punk houses across Portland, Oregon circa 2002. Roving Pack offers fast-paced in-your-face accounts of leather, sex, hormones, house parties, and protests. But, when gender fluidity takes an unexpected turn, the pack is sent reeling.

What folks are saying about Roving Pack:

“Bittersweet, engrossing, richly textured and redolent of truth – a harrowing but incredibly rewarding read.”

S. Bear Bergman

Butch is a Noun, The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You

***

“Roving Pack is a rough and tumble, tender-hearted novel that grips you in its teeth and won’t let go. A satisfying debut by a writer to watch.”

Zoe Whittall

Holding Still For As Long As Possible, Bottle Rocket Hearts

***

“ Remember that time in your life when you had just escaped the terror of childhood to create your own path in the world, maybe a queer path of chosen family, desire and love and lust and intimacy on your own terms, remember all the joyful pains and painful joys you were discovering? Roving Pack nails that bold and precarious time with a precision so rare it’s almost claustrophobic in its intimacy. It’s about a specific culture and place and moment – transmasculine queer punk kids in Portland in the early-2000s – but it’s also about the transition to self-actualization in all of our lives, and the scary and heartbreaking reality that often the pack mentality required for belonging in our new communities leaves us stranded. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a book that explores the intoxication and viciousness of peer pressure in queer lives with such candor. Goddamn this book is brave — I can’t wait to see the havoc it wreaks.”

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots? That’s Revolting!: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation, Nobody Passes

****

“Sassafras Lowrey is so much more than one or the other anything. Ze is for sure a vital voice of hir generation, expressing as ze does, many mutually exclusive points of view on politically and emotionally live wire subjects. So, much to my delight, I find hir work filled with mischief, mayhem, and multiple meanings.”

Kate Bornstein

My Gender Workbook, 101 Alternatives To Suicide for Teens Freaks and Other Outlaws, Gender Outlaws: The Next Genderation

***

“Sassafras Lowery brings us a tale of gender defiance, in a universe struggling to be defiant. Roving Pack introduces us to the whirlwind queer subcultures of Portland, OR in 2002; and the dizzying effects of fighting against the world at war,and the gender binary. Lowery takes us on a journey through dilapidated punk houses, sexual revelation, donut-filled dumpsters, cluttered bedrooms, and the ever-changing struggle to embrace your gender identity, through your own definitions.”
CRISTY C. ROAD

Bad Habits, Spit & Passion

***

“Fucking A. Sassafras Lowrey takes ‘queer punk’ to a whole new level of insidious drama. Roving Pack cracks out the microscope to examine this Portland-based scene circa 2002 – whether or not the rest of the world can take it. My guess? Hella no!”

Kristyn Dunnion,

Author of The Dirt Chronicles and Mosh Pit

***
“An outsider among outsiders, Roving Pack’s deeply innocent and delightfully freaky narrator Click discovers that the expansive wisdom of heart beats the narrow logic of the pack. Lowrey’s novel champions a risky queerness that resists commodification.”

Anna Joy Springer author of The Vicious Red Relic, Love

Jul 132012
 

This week has pretty much been all about things becoming very very real for me.  On Monday morning the post office knocked on my door and delivered a box with the print proofs of Roving Pack.  I’ll never forget the first time I held Kicked Out, and receiving Roving Pack for the first time truly was no less intense for me to be holding in my hands this world that I’ve lived, breathed, and slept for the past couple of years.

On a practical level, the layout turned out amazing, and still every time I see it, I’m in complete awe about the cover art that KD Diamond created.  While unlike with the Kicked Out anthology, Roving Pack is all mine (something I’m still really adjusting to) there still has been a tremendous amount of work from my incredible editors, the preliminary readers, and everyone else in the community who has been super supportive and encouraging as I was writing, editing, revising etc.   I am without a doubt an admitted dinosaur and for me in a lot of ways the realness of a book is very much about the physical object itself –its’ why although all my books are or will be available as ebooks (because it’s a fight I’ll never win) I personally don’t read in that format, and so while I’ve had the finalized layout as a PDF for a the past couple of weeks, for me to be able to hold Roving Pack printed and bound with an ISBN and just looking like the actual book that it is, after all the intensity of the work on this book the past couple of years was just incredible.  Needless to say, some tears may have been involved when I opened that box and flipped through those pages for the very first time.

As if getting proofs of the novel wasn’t enough excitement for one week, I also had an event Tuesday night.  I was excited to have been invited to be a reader at Wicked Queer Authors as part of the 2012 HOT Festival at Dixon Place here in NYC, and it really was a fantastic evening with incredible authors and an amazing audience. I shared some new work that’s somewhat of an pre-story to Roving Pack which was well received and handed out the shiny new Roving Pack postcards to folks.  In the midst of this public event I was sitting on a barstool and had a really intense moment that honestly even writing about sounds a little silly or contrived, but sitting there nervously getting ready to read (I’m always nervous when I read in public- the day I stop being so will be the last public reading I do) and as I was called a fiction author, for the very first time I didn’t feel like I was an imposter. Intense moment right before reading!

It’s funny, for a long time I didn’t really think of myself as a fiction writer. I don’t mean that to sound self deprecating, it wasn’t –it was just that along the way fiction was something I started writing, but  in my mind it wasn’t who I *was * as a writer. For the past couple of years as I’ve worked on Roving Pack, and other projects I would laugh a little to myself every time I called myself a fiction author, or when someone else did.  It wasn’t how I saw myself; it was just a quick & dirty way of describing the direction of my work at the moment. Even when I won a fiction award last year I really dismissed fiction as some fluke creative project I’d worked on, but held tight to the idea that I was almost exclusively a memoirist/creative nonfiction writer and I’m not really sure why.

I think some of my resistance to claiming the identity of a fiction writer had to do with not being a professionally trained writer. “Fiction” seemed like the kinda thing you were supposed to go to school to learn how to do – god I hate how internalized this stuff is! ! I started writing in my teens when I found queer zine community, and a mentor who was the very first person to make me believe that I had stories inside me waiting to get out.  Everything I’ve learned about writing I’ve picked up along the way accidentally through the books I’ve read or in the haphazard writing communities I’ve been part of, but still I’ve never been formally trained. I don’t know how to diagram a sentence or a paragraph. I don’t know the fancy literary terms for how to construct stories; I just somehow, know how to do things in this gritty style that has emerged along the way.  There were some really great moments while writing/editing Roving Pack where Toni would comment on something interesting that I had done stylistically and would be met with a confused look from me because I had no idea what he was talking about. I think for me being a ”fiction author.”

There have been times that I’ve been tempted, tempted by an MFA, or other more formalized way of learning writing. For a while I was even planning remedial studies for myself where I thought I would finally learn how to define what an adjective is (even writing here that I don’t know feels really risky and edgy), or how to diagram a sentence because it’s what authors are “supposed” to know how to do.  For a long time I carried a lot of shame about my learning disabilities, crummy public school education, and about the way that formalized education is highly intersected with trauma—the way birth mother would sit over me as she dictated my first high school essays slam my fingers into the keyboard again, and again, and again whenever I tried to add in my own opinion, or didn’t type fast enough.

There was a time I believed I wasn’t smart enough to learn sentence structure or the way to talk about work in literary intellectual circles. Then, a couple of years ago there was an intense breaking point for me where I reached a point where I actually believed that I could learn those things—but that I was making the empowered choice not to.  For me it was about keeping true to my crusty roots – it’s about maintaining that I came out of a DIY self-taught zinester community. It’s also that in my case not knowing the rules means that I can break them – it means writing stories the way that they flow regardless of how “correct” it might or might not technically be. By not knowing what I’m doing “wrong” I don’t have to get any anxiety about breaking the rules, it also and perhaps for me this is the most important part enables me to keep the grittiness within the stories, and means that the process of writing doesn’t loose the magic for me.

Writing Roving Pack and being able to bring these stories into the world has been a really transformative experience with layers and layers of growth that keep surprising and kicking my ass in the best and most magical of ways. I’m not sure exactly what came together on Tuesday night for me and realizing finally, that I might have got here on my own terms, and may have redefined for myself what the identity means, but disclaimers aside, I actually feel like I can call myself a fiction author and not feel like an impostor, and that’s a pretty good feeling.

 

Jul 132012
 

This week has pretty much been all about things becoming very very real for me.  On Monday morning the post office knocked on my door and delivered a box with the print proofs of Roving Pack.  I’ll never forget the first time I held Kicked Out, and receiving Roving Pack for the first time truly was no less intense for me to be holding in my hands this world that I’ve lived, breathed, and slept for the past couple of years.

On a practical level, the layout turned out amazing, and still every time I see it, I’m in complete awe about the cover art that KD Diamond created.  While unlike with the Kicked Out anthology, Roving Pack is all mine (something I’m still really adjusting to) there still has been a tremendous amount of work from my incredible editors, the preliminary readers, and everyone else in the community who has been super supportive and encouraging as I was writing, editing, revising etc.   I am without a doubt an admitted dinosaur and for me in a lot of ways the realness of a book is very much about the physical object itself –its’ why although all my books are or will be available as ebooks (because it’s a fight I’ll never win) I personally don’t read in that format, and so while I’ve had the finalized layout as a PDF for a the past couple of weeks, for me to be able to hold Roving Pack printed and bound with an ISBN and just looking like the actual book that it is, after all the intensity of the work on this book the past couple of years was just incredible.  Needless to say, some tears may have been involved when I opened that box and flipped through those pages for the very first time.

As if getting proofs of the novel wasn’t enough excitement for one week, I also had an event Tuesday night.  I was excited to have been invited to be a reader at Wicked Queer Authors as part of the 2012 HOT Festival at Dixon Place here in NYC, and it really was a fantastic evening with incredible authors and an amazing audience. I shared some new work that’s somewhat of an pre-story to Roving Pack which was well received and handed out the shiny new Roving Pack postcards to folks.  In the midst of this public event I was sitting on a barstool and had a really intense moment that honestly even writing about sounds a little silly or contrived, but sitting there nervously getting ready to read (I’m always nervous when I read in public- the day I stop being so will be the last public reading I do) and as I was called a fiction author, for the very first time I didn’t feel like I was an imposter. Intense moment right before reading!

It’s funny, for a long time I didn’t really think of myself as a fiction writer. I don’t mean that to sound self deprecating, it wasn’t –it was just that along the way fiction was something I started writing, but  in my mind it wasn’t who I *was * as a writer. For the past couple of years as I’ve worked on Roving Pack, and other projects I would laugh a little to myself every time I called myself a fiction author, or when someone else did.  It wasn’t how I saw myself; it was just a quick & dirty way of describing the direction of my work at the moment. Even when I won a fiction award last year I really dismissed fiction as some fluke creative project I’d worked on, but held tight to the idea that I was almost exclusively a memoirist/creative nonfiction writer and I’m not really sure why.

I think some of my resistance to claiming the identity of a fiction writer had to do with not being a professionally trained writer. “Fiction” seemed like the kinda thing you were supposed to go to school to learn how to do – god I hate how internalized this stuff is! ! I started writing in my teens when I found queer zine community, and a mentor who was the very first person to make me believe that I had stories inside me waiting to get out.  Everything I’ve learned about writing I’ve picked up along the way accidentally through the books I’ve read or in the haphazard writing communities I’ve been part of, but still I’ve never been formally trained. I don’t know how to diagram a sentence or a paragraph. I don’t know the fancy literary terms for how to construct stories; I just somehow, know how to do things in this gritty style that has emerged along the way.  There were some really great moments while writing/editing Roving Pack where Toni would comment on something interesting that I had done stylistically and would be met with a confused look from me because I had no idea what he was talking about. I think for me being a ”fiction author.”

There have been times that I’ve been tempted, tempted by an MFA, or other more formalized way of learning writing. For a while I was even planning remedial studies for myself where I thought I would finally learn how to define what an adjective is (even writing here that I don’t know feels really risky and edgy), or how to diagram a sentence because it’s what authors are “supposed” to know how to do.  For a long time I carried a lot of shame about my learning disabilities, crummy public school education, and about the way that formalized education is highly intersected with trauma—the way birth mother would sit over me as she dictated my first high school essays slam my fingers into the keyboard again, and again, and again whenever I tried to add in my own opinion, or didn’t type fast enough.

There was a time I believed I wasn’t smart enough to learn sentence structure or the way to talk about work in literary intellectual circles. Then, a couple of years ago there was an intense breaking point for me where I reached a point where I actually believed that I could learn those things—but that I was making the empowered choice not to.  For me it was about keeping true to my crusty roots – it’s about maintaining that I came out of a DIY self-taught zinester community. It’s also that in my case not knowing the rules means that I can break them – it means writing stories the way that they flow regardless of how “correct” it might or might not technically be. By not knowing what I’m doing “wrong” I don’t have to get any anxiety about breaking the rules, it also and perhaps for me this is the most important part enables me to keep the grittiness within the stories, and means that the process of writing doesn’t loose the magic for me.

Writing Roving Pack and being able to bring these stories into the world has been a really transformative experience with layers and layers of growth that keep surprising and kicking my ass in the best and most magical of ways. I’m not sure exactly what came together on Tuesday night for me and realizing finally, that I might have got here on my own terms, and may have redefined for myself what the identity means, but disclaimers aside, I actually feel like I can call myself a fiction author and not feel like an impostor, and that’s a pretty good feeling.

 

Jul 062012
 

I feel like my recent blogs have really been about summarizing weeks – I hope to shift that and start writing more content, but this week has definitely been an exciting time. The layout for Roving Pack was finished and sent to the printer. Actually placing the order for my print proofs of the novel was just about the most surreal feeling I could imagine. I’m admittedly a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to books and publishing and so for me there’s something about a physical printed copy of my words bound together that is really what makes something real for me so needless to say I am eagerly eagerly waiting for the postal service to deliver the proofs for me!

This week hasn’t all been layout approval and proofs though, first thing Monday morning I was also able to unveil some really exciting news that I’ve been keeping a secret for a little while – I was able to unveil the new Roving Pack website which like Kicked Out’s site will be the home for most of the Roving Pack specific news – (though I will continue to x-post things to my own site as well.) As part of the new site I was also able to start the Pre-Ordering for the novel!

If ordering print proofs of Roving Pack didn’t make this book feel real to me, then watching orders begin to come in sure did! I hadn’t known exactly what to expect with the pre-ordering – it wasn’t something that my publisher and I did with Kicked Out but I knew it was definitely something that I wanted to do with the novel. I’d been planning to have the pre-ordering option but honestly I didn’t really think that many folks would do it! This week as the orders have begun to flow in from all across the country and around the world! Folks who pre-order will be get the novel signed/dedicated and delivered to their house before other folks are able to purchase and will receive some one-inch buttons handmade with my old zinester button maker based on the cover art that KD Diamond created! It’s been really humbling to watch the orders come in and to hear people in the community talk to me about how excited they are about the novel. It’s been especially overwhelming in the very best of ways to have people pre-ordering the novel to donate to LGBTQ student and youth programs!

Then, this morning I got a surprise message from the amazing Anna Joy Springer who wrote The Vicious Red Relic, Love an intensely incredible book that released last year, and she BLURBED ROVING PACK!!!!!!!! Check out what she thought of the novel!

 

“An outsider among outsiders, Roving Pack’s deeply innocent and delightfully freaky narrator Click discovers that the expansive wisdom of heart beats the narrow logic of the pack. Lowrey’s novel champions a risky queerness that resists commodification.”

Anna Joy Springer author of The Vicious Red Relic, Love

Jul 022012
 

This weekend the layout for Roving Pack was completed and I was able to order print proofs of the novel! To say that I am excited would be an understatement. All weekend I’ve been busy making plans, playing with html code and am THRILLED to be able to announce the launch of the Roving Pack website. I’ll continue to x-post blogs to here as well, but all things Roving Pack now have their own beautiful little online home. The biggest news of all, and a secret that I’ve had a really really REALLY hard time keeping is that today I’m kicking off the PRE-ORDER of Roving Pack!!!!

The book is $19.78 and if you pre-order you will get one of the first copies of the book sent to you directly from me signed and dedicated to whomever you wish! You’ll also get a set of three special release edition 1 inch buttons made using the beautiful cover art created by KD Diamond and made by me!

Check out RovingPack.com to support indy queer writing by pre-ordering your copy, and spread the word to all your friends (there’s even a FB event page about the pre-order) !

Pre-Order Roving Pack

$19.78