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!!!!!!