- It’s a little hard to believe that six months ago Roving Pack released- it’s been quite a wild ride and those few months have passed really quickly. It seems like only a few weeks ago my living room was filled with piles of books, envelopes and one inch buttons as I sent out all the pre-ordered copies of the book, or packing as many copies as could fit into my suitcases for the huge European tour/release of the novel. The ways in which communities have responded to Roving Pack has truly been a shock to me. Just about every week I’ve received letters from readers talking about how they have connected to the novel, and what it has meant to them on a personal level. Readers have told me that for the first time they have been able to see themselves and their world reflected back to them on the page, readers have called it their stone butch blues, used excerpts in collaring ceremonies, had crushes on characters, and utilized the book to start conversations with their partner(s), friends and communities.
A couple of weeks ago I got a bit of an unusual reader letter from someone who struggled to connect to the novel. They wrote about how they had been really excited to pre order a copy and then when they started reading they found the novel off putting, challenging and frustrating. The reader spoke about how they waited to see others in the community having similar responses and how confused they were when Roving Pack began receiving so many positive reviews and feedback from within the community. The letter was really nuanced and the reader talked about how in the months since the release they had finally understood Roving Pack and wanted to share the process with them. They wrote about having most personally identified with the GSA kids/high school students that are privately background characters disliked by the main pack. They wrote about how Roving Pack had really challenged them to reevaluate privileges and in the end came away from a private reexamination of the novel recognizing that it’s strengths were about the underground communities it most deeply speaks to, the ways in which they were able to better understand people in their community who felt solace and connection to the book, and what that means/how they had come to see that as being important, even if on first read the content and style – which are native tongue to some of us (though not this reader) at first felt off-putting.
I think that the most incredible gift a reader can give to an author is to find connection with a book, and to share a glimpse into what that connection feels like. Honestly, I can’t believe how intensely incredible Roving Packs readers have been. When I began working on Roving Pack I knew it was a niche market book, a dangerous, messy book that might not win awards, but regardless needed to be written. I just had no way of knowing how many people who hungered for these themes and stories to come to life on the page.
It’s humbling and incredible to witness some of these conversations, and to be lucky enough to have readers who at times invite me into their conversation as they think about the themes and characters of Roving Pack. Beyond thrilling was to see Roving Pack get listed as a top book for LGBTQ youth by the American Library Association and to see in black/white the way that has translated into the novel appearing on the shelves in libraries around the country, where I hope the folks who need this book will be able to connect to it.
Whenever I sit down to write, I always think about he kinds of books that I needed, the kind of books that I still want. Those are the stories I try to write. Now with Roving Pack fully birthed into the world I have begun working on my next novel Lost Boi (more on it, and the writing process in future blog posts). However, Roving Pack is still newly born and I don’t want to neglect it in anyway. Right now I’m preparing to get back on the road a little bit this spring. I haven’t toured since we got back from Europe, and prior to that I’d been in serious writing mode for the last year and a half and not really touring. This month I’ll be at the University of Florida – Tallahassee and then doing a reading with the incredible Amber Dawn here in NYC called “How Storytelling Saved our Lives.” After that I’ll be home for a few weeks, delivering the keynote via SKYPE for the Oregon Queer Youth Summit, and then hitting the road again for New Orleans to be part of the 10th annual Saints & Sinners Literary Festival. I’m thrilled to be part of the programming, and beside myself with excitement to have the chance to take a master class with one of my greatest literary inspirations: Dorothy Allison! I’m really excited to be getting back out into communities – meeting new queers and getting the chance to learn about the incredible work/art/activism they are doing, and to find the beautiful places where our lives/stories/work intersect.
This was a novel that had me in a chokehold and refused to let me go until it was written and out in the world. It was such a shift from my previous work and I was very cautiously concerned to see how people would respond to these new themes and textures, both in terms of literary style, as well as content of my work. I’m so grateful for my literary support networks that encouraged me to edge play with writing Roving Pack, and not worry about what might be controversial theme. It’s been both thrilling, and creatively inspiring to realize that it was exactly those same things I was worried about which resulted in Roving Pack being a book that so many readers have had highly intense and personal relationships to. It’s been a wild ride these past six months; I can’t wait to continue sharing Roving Pack with communities around the world, and to be part of the conversations it continues to ignite…..