Oct 152012

I’m still floating from all of the intense magic that was this weekend. Friday night was the national release of Roving Pack and took place here in NYC.  It was an incredible night for me, no it was more than that but I’m still stumbling around in the magic and can’t quite find the words to actually articulate just how powerful of a night it was for me.  For me, Friday was the opportunity to watch this book, which has dominated my life and work for the last couple of years, actually be born and officially go out into the world. There’s nothing quite like releasing a book, I think it’s probably like how people with children talk about the experience of holding a newborn.  Books are my babies and standing in Bluestockings bookstore on Friday night I was filled with all the hopes and dreams I have for this little book and what it can accomplish.

If I’m being entirely honest I can comfortably say that Roving Pack is the best thing I’ve ever written – it’s the most risky  too.  I took a lot of chances with this novel both in content and style, and have been absolutely overwhelmed with the response the book has gotten so far. I wasn’t sure if the community was quite ready for a novel like this, but I knew that I had to write this book this way. As I said Friday night in response to a Q&A question of “What would Click (the main character) say if ze were sitting in the front row of this reading.”  - my answer? “I don’t think he’d punch me in the face.” Taking on Roving Pack as a book for me was very much about writing a novel that was a representation of a time/place, not a sanitized and watered down version.  I knew that the characters I was working with were idealistic and exacting.  I couldn’t clean them up and sell them out to make the book more marketable.  These were stories that needed to be told, but they also needed to be told authentically with every bit of grit and glitter  embedded in the page. Standing at the release event on Friday night I felt confient that I’d succeeded, that I had done justice to my idea of a book as well as to the characters I’d created.  Roving Pack is  a novel that I know will make people uncomfortable, and I hope will also bring to life the kind of book that ultimately would have made me to feel less alone, in hopes that it will do the same for others.

I’m still sifting through my thoughts about Friday night and the release of the novel.  I have more writing in the works about family – specifically queer/leather family and what it means for me that I had those closest to me here by my side as I released this book. I think those are the sorts of thoughts/ideas that will percolate for me over this week as I work on getting back to my normal routines – which of course at 3 weeks before our Europe tour are anything but normal.  That said; keep an eye out for some upcoming blogs!

In the meantime, check out this conversation between author Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore and myself at The Advocate as we sit down to talk about our experiences writing on the queer margins!  It was the featured story on the main page yesterday!  click here to read the full conversation

Oct 112012

I can never ever forget how powerful it was for me to see out queer folks when I was a  closeted teen. They were risking safety and livelihood  to be out in that conservative county I was raised in. I fed on their bravery. Seeing them was food for my starving soul. I would count the long weekend hours until Monday morning when I would see the dyke teacher at my high school. Just seeing her swagger down the hallway in doc martins and faded jeans gave me hope enough to make it through another day.

Coming out for me, like so many others was incredibly dangerous. The price for queerness was extremely high – it cost me my home, family, and the community i’d grown up in.  And yet, queerness has given me more than I ever could have imagined in those dark closeted days.  Being out has afforded me a loving chosen family, work that I truly feel called to do, and so much more.  For me, there has been no greater freedom than being out, but I say that knowing that  I have and continue to be incredibly lucky. For far too many, coming out means falling through another set of cracks of  systems not designed to support our kids, and a community not ready to take them in.

Two years ago when Kicked Out released,  for the month of October we started an online storytelling campaign called ‘Come Out, Kicked Out’ designed to provide an opportunity for folks in the community to write, draw, take a picture, or make a video coming out about their experiences with queer teen homelessness, and for allies within our community to stand up in solidarity with current and former homeless LGBTQ youth to talk about how they have seen this epidemic impacting their community.   Every day of October a different story was shared on our website with the idea of putting more faces and stories to this epidemic and to break down the profound stigma that still exists within the LGBTQ community about owning a history of teen homelessness or biological family disownment.  You can find all of last year’s incredible stories here.  If you find yourself inspired by the incredible stories shared last year we’re always looking for guest posts. Email your stories to kickedoutanthology@gmail.com

The thought I’d like to end with on Coming Out Day is the hope that when we as queer folks shout COME OUT! COME OUT!  we must be sure that we as a community are prepared not just pay lip service to welcoming those youth into our “family”  we must truly be prepared to open our  homes, wallets, ears and hearts to ensure that the youth who pay a heavy price for heeding our call are not abandoned by the very community they have lost everything to be part of.

Oct 102012

In the past few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to be interviewed by two really great publications – Fearless Press and Leatherati!   In these two interviews I get the opportunity to answer really challenging questions about the line between Fiction and Memoir, what my writing practice looks like, as well as dive into the world of the Roving Pack guys and talk about the power of community, why Leather is such a key theme in the novel and the way the characters relate and grow as a result of it…..

“tell the stories that need telling, and the ones that maybe only you can tell. I think that as queer writers it’s really important that we take risks with our work. Roving Pack is an edgy book, much more confrontational than my first book Kicked Out….” read the full interview here

“I think there that fiction/memoir line can definitely be a paradox — things are always far more complicated than they first appear. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why the main character in Roving Pack and I both have the word ”paradox” tattooed across our chests. Despite that inky connection and the love of murky in between places, Roving Pack definitely is fiction….” Read the full interview here

Oct 102012

Friday October 12, 2012

Bluestockings Bookstore – 172 Allen St. NYC 7pm

‘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.

Oct 082012

Part of being the product of dysfunction, of growing up fast and hard and different from most kids, is sometimes the lessons that others learn when their young children, or perhaps teenagers, I’m occasionally realize I never faced and thus am left grappling with well into adulthood. This past week I posted on my facebook, that it’s taken 28 years but I finally learned how to enjoy a quiet night home alone and not be afraid of it.  That’s huge for me, ok huge doesn’t even cut it – I never ever believed that was something that I could experience, but I have not only for a night but even for an entire week when Kestryl was traveling for work. There was no panic, no pit in the bottom of my stomach fear that everything was ending – I was for the first time in my life able to say “I enjoy having time alone” and hear someone else saying that without my anxious mind twisting and contorting it into “I’m thinking of leaving” or “I’m deciding if I still want this.” Big big stuff.

At this point Kestryl and I are  heavy into the prep for our Europe tour November 1-11. It’s something that we’ve talked about doing for a long time but it really does seem unreal to me thatwe’re actually going, and we’re actually going so unbelievably soon! I’ve never left North America before, truth be told I’ve never wanted to. I’m a major homebody and although I toured really extensively with Kicked Out and I LOVE the people that I meet/continue to meet on the road, and the work that I’m able to do which feels intimately like where I’m supposed to be, but I’d be lying if I said the touring itself wasn’t a struggle for me emotionally.

I might not lay a whole lot of faith in astrology, but I’m a Taurus, through and through. I’m a homebody, and I think even more so because every fiber of me remembers what it was like not to have a home, now that I have one, now that I have the family beyond what I ever dreamed of, the idea of leaving it even for a few days is traumatic. The good news is that it’s really just the leaving itself that I struggle with, once I hit the airport or board my bus/train I sink into a different headspace, the one that reminds me this work is important, it’s the work that I’m put on this earth to do, and that I’ve been blessed and privileged enough to have the opportunity to do it.  It’s a service to my community and I’m able to fall deep into that service place.

The Europe tour however is a whole different beast. It’s further than I’ve ever been, longer than I’ve been gone in a single stint ever, and it’s the first time that both Kestryl and I will be traveling together since we adopted our high-needs rescue dog Charlotte last October.  For the past couple of years we’d planned this tour to be over the summer, but once Charlotte joined our family we postponed, knowing that we needed more time to work through her issues, and to help her develop a sense of normalcy and routine in our home.  It worked.  She’s far from low maintenance. She still struggles with dog/dog activation on the sidewalks of our Brooklyn neighborhood, but we’ve been able to even start doing work with her during the prospect park off leash hours where under very controlled circumstances she’s able to meet and interact with dogs (other than Mercury whose her very best friend). Sidewalks are still touch and go, but even there we’ve seen dramatic improvement in the last year. Watching Charlotte blossom in her forever home, to discover the joys of toys and carpet, to learn to trust, and to begin to work through all of the emotional and behavioral scars of an early life on the street has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever witnessed, and the work with a dog I’m most proud of (those of you who are longtime readers of the blog know that I spent my teen years as a high level competitor in canine sports, so that’s saying something). Of course I’m nervous about leaving her with a sitter but as Kestryl reminded me last night in her previous life on the streets of south carolina she faced a whole lot more traumatic experiences than being left with a well-paid and competent dog sitter in her comfy home, with her brother and kitty siblings.  Talk about perspective!

A couple of weeks ago I realized that the aspect of the tour I was struggling most with wasn’t trying to figure out how to get 10 days worth of clothes into a small suitcase already packed with books, nor was it even the chaotic realities of touring through 5 cities in 10 days with gigs every night that we aren’t traveling– it was leaving the dogs.  In fairness the pet sitter that we had lined up 9 months before the tour bailed on us two months ago sending me into a total tailspin, but we quickly were able to line up a pro sitter to come and stay with our dogs and cats while we’re in Europe. While this solved the practical side of my fears, it only slightly helped the emotional side, and for a while I couldn’t figure out why.

It took me a while to realize that leaving the dogs for 10 days with a qualified pet sitter while we go on tour and have an amazing time didn’t in anyway mean that I didn’t love them.  It sounds silly when I write it, but that realization was a major game changer for me. As part of this I realized that a flipside to my tremendous abandonment issues which I own, and understand was that I was reenacting them backwards and against myself.  I had in my most anxious of places  worried that going- being excited about going, and actually enjoying myself on the tour in someway meant that I didn’t love the dogs as much as I knew that I did, and that by going something would happen to them, and I would have failed the ones that I love. Obviously that’s circular and anxious thinking at its best and flat out not true, and on the surface it wasn’t even where I was at — but I have a lot of trauma around dogs, and this was  the spinning happening  subconsciously and manifesting as anxiousness about the tour itself.

It’s always incredibly aggravating for me when I uncover another old pus-filled wound like this. I like to think that by now I’ve gotten at most of them, lanced them and allowed them to heal into thick scars that I proudly wear to show where I’ve been. It’s true a lot of the time, except of course when it isn’t and I find an old wound still pussy.

Fear of abandonment has always been a struggle for me – I’ve been left a lot by a variety of different people, wounds that I’ve mostly lanced and scarred over. But there’s another side to that abandonment fear. Growing up I also was taught that going away meant you didn’t love someone that you wouldn’t come back; going away was a precursor for abandonment. Even though rationally I know that isn’t true, its still what played out in my subconscious and then it all snapped into place and I realized, vocalized and actually believed that there was NOTHING wrong with being off the charts excited about having the opportunity to go on tour to Europe, and have adventures. Going doesn’t mean I love my dogs any less (don’t even get me started on my plans to bring back puppy cookies and toys from all the different countries we visit). It sounds simple, and is a little bit embarrassing to write about so publically, but it’s also real. This is real and the kind of trauma aftermath and brain rewiring work I’m most proud of reaching a place of being able to do.

Now back to figuring out how the hell to stay below airline luggage weight limits, and still get enough books and cute outfits into Europe!

Oct 032012

I can’t believe it’s October.  Oh. My. God!!!!! This  of course makes me feel like I’ve become one of those old people that I never understood as a kid who would walk around saying how is it October? How is that possible? It seems like just yesterday I was dying easter eggs!!! Oh wait, grownups I knew never said those things…. I guess that’s just my weird little version of  HOW IS IT OCTOBER?!  Let me clarify though, this is actually a really really good thing. I’ve been waiting for October ALL. YEAR. LONG.

I can hardly believe that the NYC release for Roving Pack is next week!  I’ve been planning this for months, and to think that at this point its only days away?  Dream come true.  If you’re in the NYC area I hope you’ll come out to Bluestockings on Friday October 12th at 7pm  It’s going to be a really fun event – I’ll read a little bit and it will be a really fun way to celebrate the release of the novel. Please please please come out, the event wont be the same without you!

Now that it’s October the PoMo Freakshow Europe Tour that I’m embarking on with Kestryl Cael is feeling incredibly real and outrageously close!  We’ll be hitting 5 cities in 10 days  (November 1- 11) – Berlin, Paris, London, Utrecht, and Amsterdam.  More details about each city’s events coming very very soon.  I’ve never been to Europe before, I’ve actually never even left North America so this is pretty huge for me, and I’m thrilled that I’m going to have the opportunity to share Roving Pack with queers in all these amazing cities! I’ve been told that there are lots of great interesting potato chip flavors like American cheeseburger (which is actually vegetarian) and spaghetti !  My plan is to try as many weird chips as possible while on tour!  I’m also working on a plan for regular blog updates and maybe even some vlogs while we’re in Europe! More on that soon : )  I’m also starting to plan my 2013 touring schedule – I’ll be in New Orleans reading and presenting at the 10th annual Saints & Sinners Literary Festival which I’m super excited about (more info coming soon) and am working on booking other readings and workshops across the US. If you’re school, community group, youth center etc. is interested in having me come please get in touch with me at sassafraslowrey@gmail.com to talk about ways to make something happen.

October marks the official release month for Roving Pack- The novel is now up on all the big online big box book retailers which is my least favorite way for people to buy BUT I also recognize that for folks who are geographically isolated or in communities without local queer/feminist bookstores and in that way I think online booksellers have made a tremendously positive impact in the lives of folks who desperately need access to queer literature.

Now that the pre-ordering is over (all pre-orders have been sent and yours should be arriving any day now if it hasn’t already) I will continue to be selling signed copies of Roving Pack directly from this website ::points at the sidebar::  If someone’s not going to purchase through a local independent feminist/queer bookstore (I love indie bookstores—supporting them is a HUGE part of my commitment as an author) then I’m asking folks to order directly through the site because it’s a way to ensure that 100% of your money goes to supporting an independent author (I receive very little via Amazon sales) and you’ll get a copy of the book sent directly to you, signed and dedicated to whoever you wish!

One of the best parts of my job and life is getting the opportunity to talk with folks who have read my work and in someway been impacted by it. I am beyond humbled by all of the incredible notes, comments, and private messages that I’ve gotten from readers who felt in someway touched or connected to Roving Pack.  In the last few weeks I’ve received handwritten thank you letters,  messages telling me that this novel was so close to home and so triggering that readers have had to give it time to slowly digest as they read in chunks,  facebook wall posts from readers who stayed up all night to finish, learning that excerpts of it are being taught in at least one college class this fall, and the news I got yesterday that it’s hit the shelves of its first queer youth center with high recommendations from staff.  As a writer it’s hard to get a better compliment than someone saying that the characters you created and the stories you wove have touched them, and I am overwhelmed and humbled by all the feedback I’ve gotten from readers about who their favorite characters are, who they have crushes on, and how this book is impacting them regardless of their past experience or connection to the themes I wrote about.  For me, that kind of feedback is what tells me that I did my job well and that Roving Pack truly did become everything I’d hoped and dreamed it could be.

For now I’m keeping super busy getting ready for the release event, tour, and having amazing conversations with readers whenever I can about Roving Pack. I’m also working really hard on editing Leather Ever After the new BDSM fairy tale anthology that will be released from Ravenous Romance in early 2013.  It was definitely some schedule tetris to take on editing another book last spring right as I was finishing Roving Pack and preparing for the release, butLeather Ever After was such a fun opportunity I couldn’t resist.  Right now all the selections have been made and I’m working on getting edited pieces back to the writers for review, and the legendary Laura Antoniou has received rough working copies of all the stories is working on the anthology’s foreword! It’s an exciting time for me as an editor where for the first time I’m starting to see the anthology actually take shape, watching the pieces flow together and begin to feel like a real book!

p.s. back to  Amazon – have you read Roving Pack already?  If so I’d LOVE it if you would take a few minutes  and write a quick reader review of the book and post it here.  Those reviews make a huge difference for folks who don’t know my work or me and just stumble across the book, as well as factor into the mysterious formula that = amazon book rankings…