the packs we form

It’s been an exciting week with Roving Pack. I’ve had the chance every day to see the updated progress of the actual layout for the book. I’ve been involved in approving fonts and essentially have just had a really great experience working with my designer to turn my ideas and dreams into a well-laid out and visually stimulating book. I should have the final layout in my hand July 1 (this weekend!!!) and then very swiftly be able to move into print proofs. In other words the book is becoming real.  Here’s a sample of some of the text, a sneak peak at the intro text for Roving Pack that also connects to a lot of what I’ve thinking about this week around the book, my creative process and some of the core themes

While I’ve been looking at layout I’ve also been looking back at a lot of the original source material and inspiration that I drew upon whole working on the novel. For the most part it was photos from my past, newspaper clippings and old queer albums. But there were also images like this one that was from an instillation called “Head First” by the artist Cai Guo-Qiang. It depicts wolves running then jumping  into a pane of glass before several get up, shake and begin again.

"Head First"

This  is the kind of art that really inspired me to think about some of the deeper themes in the book- survival, pain, and packs.  Ultimately,  one of the  main thing I found myself playing with again and again in different configurations within Roving Pack was the connections forged between people.  As a writer (and just in general as a person) I’m most interested in the ways we come together with others whose scars in someway match our own and form packs. Roving Pack really  looks at the way at a particular time and place queer kids came together, the deals we made with one another, the families we build the way we clung to each other, saved each other, raised each other up. I wrote a lot in the book storylines about leather connection, the way that the characters came together pressed bruise to bruise. Nothing flashy, it was all body to body back ally play parties, punk house basement surrender. There weren’t a lot of toys or equipment involved in the world I came out into, in the world I wrote for Roving Pack. Mostly, it was skin-to-skin connection, the crack of a fist against my back, the feeling of a hand around someone’s neck.

We played the most dangerous games we could think of, desperate for connection to reach one another through the fog of memory, abandonment, disassociation and in those moments found peace, connection, and the ability to remain present with one another. This wolf art really reminds me of that time, the power and intensity, the pain, but also the survival. The way that we ran headfirst into life, loved hard and intensely without so much as a pause before the impact. It makes me think too about the few lucky ones of us who were able to pick ourselves up and continue the run, muscles tight with the memory of all the journey has held.

Roving pack (I hope ) is not a glamorous portrayal- I don’t want to glorify any of the wars we fought with ourselves- our fears, addictions and demons. Yet, it was those connections that saved me. It’s very much about a specific time and place where without realizing the severity of the situation, we daily were walking a razor sharp line between survival and complete destruction.

This week I for the very first time-shared the manuscript of Roving Pack with my big brother.  He’d been waiting until the book was done to read it, and now that we’re in layout, getting blurbs and so very close to release I knew the time was right.  I was terrified when I hit that send button to email the book to him. There aren’t many moments where I’m scared to share my writing with someone but this was definitely one of those instances. My big brother is the first person I met whose story closely mirrored my own and we became instant family over a decade ago. Over the years he and I have had a rough time together as brothers, we’ve run head first into glass and been knocked flat. Thankfully, eventually were both able to get up, shake the pain and keep running together and not away from each other. The world I wrote in this novel was his too, fiction, but very much based on a time and place we come from. I was worried about what he would think – of the book itself, but specifically of the way I portrayed who we all were back then.

My big brother started texting me early yesterday morning, having read the first part of the novel.  He was as he told me, unable to put Roving Pack down didn’t even sleep that night.  I’ve written here on the blog before about how one of my key goals in my writing is to simultaneously capture the magic and grittiness of that time, of all of us. Hearing from him, as someone I’d known  at the time the book is set that I had done just that was some of the deepest validation I will ever receive. Roving Pack is a collection of stories I never dreamed would grow up to be a book. They started as an attempt at remembering a time/place that was swiftly slipping away from my memories. I wanted to capture who we’d been, the battles we fought, wounds licked cleaned but most of all, the packs we formed, but they have become something so much more. I cannot wait to share this book with my community!