I got a PO Box! I'm pretty excited to have an official spot for all my zine- and book-related mail now. Send your love letters to: PO Box 33302, Portland OR 97292.
I also posted my zine to Etsy, so if you missed picking up a copy at the Olympia Zine Fest last weekend (which was a great event, by the way, and I will post more about it soon!), you can now order one online!
Below is a picture of some of the gorgeous stamps that I picked up at the last meeting of the Portland Correspondence Club. I love picking out stamps that I think the recipient will like when I'm mailing zines and letters!
The world feels so hard right now. We all saw Brett Kavanaugh get confirmed to the Supreme Court, despite obviously lying under oath and proving that he's completely partisan and not levelheaded in the least. It felt like the GOP was explicitly telling women how much they don't care about us. I guess a lot of things with the GOP have gotten more explicit lately, like the racism and xenophobia that's coming out into the open along with their acceptance of pedophiles and sexual abusers.
During all of this, another one of my aunts passed away. I feel so bad for my grandparents for losing two daughters within six months, when parents aren't supposed to outlive their children. The world also lost Bradley Knox, who laid out my book cover and pages, when he passed away suddenly last month. I hope that Bradley's wife and family know how much they've been in my heart since his passing.
The world is making me want to bury my head in the blankets and not come out until spring. And I've done a fair amount of escaping. I've been listening to tons of mystery audiobooks, binge-watching Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, and I made a new zine. I wrote about my experience writing a book and about my cats. My zine is The Independent Kitten, which is actually a slightly misleading title, since it's not exactly a zine about cats. Right now, I'm finishing up my last article - the one about politics. I feel so overwhelmed but am trying to just take it in pieces and do what I can do. I know it's important to get my own shit together before I can help anyone else, but it feels pretty self-indulgent. Or is that just the patriarchy trying to sabotage me before I even start?
I'm debuting my new zine at the Olympia Zine Fest this weekend, Saturday, October 13th from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Olympia Center. I'll also have books, and I would love to see some friendly faces.
What are you doing to fight the despair? I'd love your tips. I'm donating money, scheduling volunteer sessions at agencies that help my community, and writing thank you notes to Christine Blasey Ford.
Here's hoping the community of the zine fest this weekend will be just what I need to re-energize and get ready to fight some more!
Author Zadie Smith, when asked about including autobiographical content in fiction, said: “When you know writers very well — I have a lot of good writer friends — Writer X could set a book on the moon and it could all be monkeys, but I can read it and know it’s about his wife. It’s always intimate. But the strange thing about it too is that even if you try to write quite close to life, fiction has its own logic. It’s always sorting things, it’s always changing things. When writers say, ‘It’s not me, it’s not me,’ they are telling the truth.”
Since publishing my novel, the main question I’ve gotten is whether the story is autobiographical, or which parts really happened to me. Some people have asked my mom why she did the things that Hannah’s mom does in the story, which weren’t things that my mom ever did. Book Smarts and Tender Hearts isn’t an autobiography. I wouldn’t even call it autobiographical fiction. Hannah is better at school, a lot more self-aware, and way cooler than I was as a teenager. Georgia, Hannah’s mom, isn’t my mom. As I was writing Georgia, I actually worried that she was turning too much into me and that she wouldn’t be believable as a mom, since I don’t have kids. A lot of things about Hannah and her story were inspired by my life – I was a queer, fat teenager growing up in Salem, and my grandma did have Alzheimer’s – but most of the actions are made up. I didn’t get to spend the time with my grandma near the end of her life that Hannah does, but I wish I had. I was older than Hannah when my grandma moved into an Alzheimer’s care center, and I had already moved away.
It’s interesting to me that so many people are sure that Hannah is me, because I feel like all the characters are me in some ways. I made art and zines and had a million crushes like Corey, and I can be self-centered like Liz and aggressively opinionated like Paula. I guess it’s because Hannah is the narrator of the story, and because she’s fat with frizzy hair like me, that’s who people assume I’m telling my story through. But I would never do a lot of the things Hannah does in the story, from covering French fries with ketchup to being able to keep such a huge crush a secret.
When I’m reading, I do wonder sometimes what parts the author drew from their life. And I probably would wonder that more if I were reading a book written by someone I knew – is reading this book teaching me more about my friend? At first, I was kind of offended when people asked this, like they were saying I wasn’t creative enough to make up a whole story. But so many people have asked me that it must just be a natural leap to make.
Maybe people are asking if the feelings in the book are true. One of my favorite quotes about writing is from Toni Morrison, who famously said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” I grew up queer and fat in a town that didn’t value either of those things, and I wanted to see my feelings in a story. I couldn’t find one, so I wrote it. I would say that the feelings are the truest things in the story. Maybe, when people ask if the story is real, they’re saying it is believable and that the emotions resonate enough that they feel true. I hope so, anyway.
I can’t control how people interpret the story. That’s something cool about books – how they change depending on who’s reading them, and how everyone sees stories differently. In the end, all I want is for people to read my book, and I would love for readers to connect with Hannah and the other characters, and to find true feelings in the story. Really, what more could I ask for?
The weekends since my book release have been busy, busy, busy! On Sunday, July 28th, I tabled with my book at the Portland Zine Symposium. I volunteered at the first-ever Portland Zine Symposium in 2001, helped organize the event for several years, and have tabled many times, but it’s been a few years since I’ve had something new to table with. My experiences writing/reading/trading zines were major influences on my book, and I never would have met my writing mentor, Sage Adderley-Knox, if it weren’t for zines, so I was glad to share my book with the zine community. I was also lucky enough to sit with Rebecca and Krissy, two long-term zine friends. The Portland Zine Symposium is completely volunteer-run, and it’s a TON of work to organize. If you see a Zine Symposium organizer or volunteer around town, don’t forget to thank them!
The next event was a little more anxiety-producing . . . my 20-year high school reunion! I’ll admit, part of my motivation in finishing my book this summer was to finish it before the reunion, so I could show up as a Published Author. I don’t know how much of a difference that made, but the reunion was a lot more fun than I expected. Everyone was excited to see each other, even people that I didn’t really expect to remember me. I had a few fears going in, like that I would discover that everyone thought I was mean in high school (a la Liz Lemon), or that hearing about how wonderful my classmates’ lives are would make me feel like my life is lacking. But I was surprised that neither one happened! A few people mentioned remembering me as a kind person, which was a relief considering how angsty and moody I felt in high school. And I discovered that it’s true that being confident in yourself makes you not want to compare yourself to others. I genuinely felt happy for my classmates and their successes. I wish I’d talked to more people and learned more about what everyone is up to, but I felt like the night was over in a flash! Before I knew it, my girlfriend and I were back up in our hotel room, eating yummy takeout poutine from Taproot before collapsing into bed.
This week, as I recover from my big reunion weekend, I’ve gotten 2 pieces of exciting book news. First, I received an email from Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago, asking me to consign books with them. I’m getting those in the mail this week, so if you’re in the Chicago area, stop by to pick up a copy! The second piece of news is that the Multnomah County Library has purchased copies of my book. When I started writing, my goal was to eventually have my book available in my local library. And now it’s happening! I’m so glad that local readers will be able to access my book for free, and I hope lots of people check it out! I have info to help you request that your local library purchase the book over on the book page, and would love help spreading Book Smarts and Tender Hearts to libraries everywhere!
My book release party was this weekend. It was a great day! So many friends came to support me and my project, and it really warmed my heart. After the day was over, I realized that I hardly had to do any work. Everyone was so willing to help out and I got to just enjoy the party and soak in the love. Thank you Becky Morton for capturing so many sweet pics!
I didn't realize how different I would feel, seeing the book in print. It feels separate from myself in a way that the story didn't until now. Which I'm glad about, because I can't change the story now, and I need to remember that critiques of the book aren't critiques of me. Writing a book has definitely changed how I read books, and been one of the hardest things I've ever done. It's also shown me that I can accomplish a huge goal like this, if I focus and put in the time.
This has been a bittersweet week and weekend, because my aunt Kris passed away on Sunday night. I wish she could have come to the party and read my book, because I know she would have been proud. She was a generous, creative, funny, beautifully strong woman, and her absence in our family will be huge. I feel lucky to have had family like her, and am so thankful for the outpouring of love and support that has been enveloping me this week.
I'm also thankful that my friends helped me make a donation to Innovation Law Lab at the party. Together, we raised $150 to donate. Innovation Law Lab is offering pro bono legal representation to over a hundred immigrants who are being held in a federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon as a result of the policies of the current administration.
My proof copy of Book Smarts and Tender Hearts arrived last night! This is really starting to feel real!
Every day, the news stresses me out more and more, but I’m trying to focus on the positive. Like my upcoming book release party. I’m glad I can give my community at least a couple of hours of fun.
The release party is Saturday, July 21st, 1-3 p.m. at The Rosewood Initiative, located at 16126 SE Stark St in Portland. Check out the Facebook event, where you can RSVP and keep on top of updates. If you have friends who would be interested, please share the event with them!
If, like me, you like to know what to expect before you come to a party, read on!
From 1:00 – 1:30: Arrive, mingle, and get settled while listening to some sweet 90s tunes. Fill out a raffle ticket for your chance to win a door prize. No purchase necessary – everyone who comes to the party gets a ticket.
At 1:30, we’ll get down to business:
Can’t make the release party, but still want your own copy of Book Smarts and Tender Hearts? The paperback and eBook are already available for pre-order from Amazon, with a release date of Sunday, July 22nd. I’m also tabling at the Portland Zine Symposium from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, July 29th, and you can pick a copy up there! The Zine Symposium is at Wattles Boys and Girls Club, 9330 SE Harold St. Portland, OR 97226. I’m excited to share my book with other zinesters, since zines are central to the story, and making zines led to my interest in self-publishing and writing.
If you’ve never been to Rosewood Initiative before, look for the sign below. Rosewood Initiative is to the left (east) of Su Casa, and there’s plenty of parking. You can get there via the #20 bus, and the Blue Line MAX stops a block away, at 162nd and Burnside. Rosewood Initiative is one story with hardwood floors, and the entrance is wheelchair-accessible.
I’m excited for you to read my book and meet the characters I’ve been working on for years, and to celebrate reaching this goal! Let’s party!!!
Pride month is ending, and yesterday was the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (see the below blog post or this episode of Drunk History to learn more), but it's hard to feel proud as an American these days.
I tabled at Portland Pride this year for work. I have my share of complaints about Pride, mostly that these corporations come in and treat it like it's a fun rainbow outfit to put on once a year to make some money from the queers. But I actually like tabling. All the excited young people with rainbows painted on their cheeks and Pride flags in every color draped over their shoulders like capes are enough to melt even my curmudgeonly heart. I mean, that's a lot of why we fight, right? So kids today don't face the bigotry that we (and generations before us) faced? So they can have time to figure out how to make gender feel right, so they can make gender and sexuality fit them, instead of cramming themselves into a box that somebody else defined.
Queer Pride is important. It's necessary. But it doesn't feel right to celebrate when kids are being taken from their parents and locked in cages at the southern US border, when Republican politicians are swapping their "family values" for blatant xenophobia and racism, and Democratic politicians worry too much about being "civil" to fight back. How do I balance being proud to be queer with being deeply ashamed of my country?
Stonewall wasn't a party. It was a step in a long fight, and the fight is not over. This weekend, there are protests happening around the country against our government's inhumane policies toward immigrants and refugees, and I hope that those in power will listen when the people tell them what we want.
We have to fight together.
It’s June, and that means it’s Pride Month! I went to my first Pride fest when I was sixteen, but it wasn’t until I was older that I learned about the history of Pride. I think it’s really important to learn where we came from and celebrate the queer heroes that helped us get to where we are today. If you don’t know about Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson (pictured on the left in the photo above), J.M. Ellison’s article is a great starting place. Pride marks the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, when trans women of color led a fight against the police oppression and harassment that had become commonplace.
Sometimes Pride frustrates me because it’s turned into such an advertisement fest, a rainbow party that everyone wants to be at. And I get it – queers are fun! And we deserve a break from fighting and having our worth debated and worrying all the time. Will this person still be my friend once they find out I’m queer? Will I be able to use the bathroom without harassment? Will it be one of my friends who’s attacked at Pride this year? As a cis, feminine woman, I don’t have to deal with a lot of these worries, which makes me feel lucky. I think it’s important to prioritize the voices of people in the community who are more marginalized, to amplify trans voices, disabled voices, and voices of people of color. I don’t agree with people who want queers to be more “normal,” like if we can just act or look like straight people, then finally they’ll accept us. We need to be accepted as we are. Especially in a movement in which trans men and women, drag queens and kings, and sex workers played such a pivotal role, it’s disgraceful to now turn around and tell those groups that them being true to themselves is holding the rest of us back.
In my upcoming novel, Book Smarts and Tender Hearts, I struggled with terminology. I describe myself as queer because it feels more inclusive and easier to me, but my book takes place in 1996. I don’t really remember hearing or using “queer” as a positive term until I was in college, which was in the early 2000s. I used “GLBT,” knowing it’s dated, because it felt historically accurate to me – it’s a term I used and heard at the time. Today, I use LGBTQIA+, which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual, PLUS. I like the plus because people use a lot of different terms to describe themselves.
I’ll try to post more Pride-related blog posts this month, and in the meantime, I recommend checking out Eli Haswell’s cute and informative comics on The People of Pride. Know your history!
I’ve seen a lot of writers say online how much they hate this question, but I don’t really mind. I think it’s nice that people are interested, and my deadlines seem manageable, at least for now...
I’m working on final details now. My writing mentor, Sage, and I are both going through the manuscript (Sage uses this word, and it makes me feel extremely fancy and Real Writer-ish) to do detailed grammar edits, and I’m also reading the whole story out loud to see how things flow. My beta readers pointed out some grammar issues, and I thought it was interesting that everyone caught at least one thing that no one else did. So, THANK YOU beta readers! (NOT the only time I’ll say this.) I’m sure there will be at least one typo in the final book, though, just because it seems like there’s no way we could catch everything. I’m trying to let go of my expectations of perfection.
Something I’d never really considered is that self-publishing means doing everything on your own. The title page? The page behind the title page that talks about copyright? Where to put a barcode on the cover? I have to figure all of these out, or hire someone to do them for me. I’ve selected my cover image, and I decided to contract out the layout of the cover and the actual pages. The cover in particular was hard for me to let go of, because I think of myself more as a visual artist than a writer. But I don’t have software or access to a variety of fonts or any experience laying out a cover or a book. So, I’m leaving those parts in the hands of someone who knows more than me. And a nice thing about self-publishing is that I’m still the one who gets the final say.
Choosing a cover image, like choosing a title, took a long time. It’s scary, thinking that I could write a decent book, but what if no one picks it up because of the title or cover? I know that these two things definitely influence whether I’ll pull a book off the shelf to read the back, or (more accurately these days) click to learn more online. I started where I’m most comfortable, by painting a cover, but eventually decided that I could convey more about the story with a photograph. I set up a still-life of items that my main character might have on her desk, took a few pictures, and I think I ended up with a solid image.
And did I mention that I’m doing all of this while working full time? If you’ve wondered why you haven’t seen me out and about lately, this is why. Since January, I’ve been spending about an hour a night writing, and now I’m spending that time editing. Now that I don’t have a word count goal, it’s a lot easier to slack off. But I’m trying to fight my inner self-sabotager that likes to come out as any project nears completion. “You’ve already done so much,” it says. “You should rest for a while.” But I know that listening to that voice will result in the story sitting on the shelf like it has for years. So, I’m trying to listen instead to the voices of Sage and my friends and my partner, who are telling me that I can do it! I can finish this! And I can share it with my friends and family and the rest of the world, including the scariest people, strangers online.
When I was in high school, I started thinking about a group of characters. They lounged in my head for years, not usually doing anything. I would write a scene here and there, but never gave the story very serious attention. As I got older, the characters fell to the back of my mind. I made zines and tried to think of clever posts for Livejournal, then Myspace, then Facebook, but I never thought of myself as a “writer.” I thought being a writer meant moments of inspiration and beautiful words effortlessly pouring out onto paper. I studied painting and printmaking in college, and felt much more comfortable identifying with visual art than with writing. I mean, no one understands art, so it’s easier to pretend to know what you’re doing.
After college, I returned to one of my childhood favorite activities, reading. School kind of ruined reading for me, to be honest. One day, I saw an ad for a book club at my local feminist bookstore, a club for adults who read young adult books. I started going to the meetings, and was excited to make friends who also stayed in the YA section despite being decidedly Adults. Then, the leaders of the group got too busy to attend meetings, and I got the login to the Facebook page and announced myself the president. The group has been going for years, and now meets at the Multnomah County Library with a core group of about 10 people. We “discuss books through a queer and feminist lens,” which means that we dissect them in a much more fun way than I remember doing in school. Sometimes we all love a book, sometimes we all hate it, and sometimes one person’s favorite is a book that someone else threw across the room in disgust.
I started seriously writing my novel a few years ago for Nanowrimo. I wrote 40,000 words, just like I was supposed to. The story had no conclusion at all and jumped from scene to scene with minimal transitions, but I’d written 40,000 words! And I’d proven to myself that I could commit regular time to writing. I thought I would finish the story some day and photocopy it into a ridiculously thick zine. I even told a few people about my plans, sure that the accountability would make me finish the project. But I didn’t finish it on my own. I just let the file sit on my computer, my characters chilling with all their issues unresolved, waiting for me to find my way back to them. And meanwhile, I kept reading. I read books that made me feel so inadequate, like there’s no way I could ever write something so beautiful, so why even try? And I read books that I wanted to throw across the room. I could do better than this, I would tell myself. But where’s the proof, if all I have is half of a story to show for it? Last year, I decided that it was time. If I were to die tomorrow, I would regret never finishing my novel. No more talking, time to do it.
I knew Sage Adderley-Knox from zine conventions, and I knew that she had a ton of self-publishing knowledge and led a mentorship program. When she posted last November that she had open spots for new mentees, I decided to sign up. Sage’s mentorship program gives a deadline of six months, and there’s no way that I would be as far in my self-publishing journey as I am now without her help. The main thing that helped was how seriously Sage took my project. From the beginning, she acted like I was a real writer with something worth saying, which made a huge difference. This was someone with real experience who thought that me finishing and self-publishing a book was a realistic, achievable goal. And she had steps to get there and resources to help me.
So here I am, making my announcement to the world. Look for my debut novel, Book Smarts and Tender Hearts, coming out in summer 2018. Keep an eye on this blog for more news about the debut, including an exciting cover reveal!
Since starting to tell people about my novel, I’ve been surprised by how many respond that they have an idea for a book. My advice for you, if you have an idea or a few lines or a half a manuscript written, is to keep going! Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Start prioritizing writing and start making it a habit. You don’t have to have everything figured out to start writing, but like they say, you won’t get it figured out until you start.
I like cats, feminism, queers, making things and writing, apparently.