|Posted by J. Leigh Bailey on December 30, 2013 at 6:25 AM|
I know, 9 is kind of random number, but these are the highlights of my year.
1. I’m not as patient as I thought I was. I’ve always considered myself a patient person. Patient to the point of complacency. I felt little anxiety or urgency, even at times when I should have. The last year in my path to getting my first novel published has been an exercise in patience.
I knew it would be—it’s impossible not to hear the horror stories and laments about the constant WAITING that is required. I thought I’d prepared myself for that. Maybe I was spoiled by the process of querying agents. Rather than the months of querying and re-querying, I signed with the fabulous Saritza Hernandez with Corvisiero Agency really soon in the process. So then the subbing process started. And the WAITING. I’m sure I drove Saritza crazy checking in on the status of things. Clearly, if anything *momentous* had happened, she’d have told me, but I could keep myself from sending that email *just in case.*
2013 has been all about the waiting.
2. Benedict Cumberbatch. Apparently I was living under a rock for the last several years. I did not know who Benedict Cumberbatch was. And now I do and life is amazing. That voice. Those looks that shouldn’t be sexy but absolutely are. THAT VOICE. Now I’m addicted to BBC’s Sherlock, I loved him in Star Trek, I remembered him from War Horse and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, I shuddered in delight watching The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, because, again THAT VOICE.
3. A good critique group is priceless. A few of the YA/NA-writing members of the Windy City Romance Writers got together to form a small critique group. The wonderful writers make me a better writer and having some people to bounce ideas off of is invaluable. I can’t wait for the world to be introduced to their words. Thank you, Stephanie Scott, Kelly Garcia and Vanessa Knight!
4. Teen Wolf. The acting is mediocre but the actors are hot and the plot is engaging. The good guys are bad guys, the bad guys are allies… you never know from one episode to the next who is standing on which side of the good/evil line. Also, they had both an f/f and a m/m make out scenes in Season 3. This is a show that has demonstrated the appeal of slash fan fiction. I’d never before had much interest in it, but now…. Also, I <3 Stiles.
5. The community of LGBTQ writers and readers is close-knit and generous beyond belief. I’ve seen publishers, authors and readers raise money and books to create libraries for at least two LGBTQ youth centers. I’ve seen thousands of dollars be raised to support a fellow author and his partner as one faces life-threatening surgery. I’ve seen authors who donate 100% of their royalties for certain books/pseudonyms to LGBTQ youth services organizations. These wonderful people humble me and make me want to be like them. They also make me happy to be part of such a wonderful community.
6. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices for your art…and sometimes that really sucks. I get three weeks of vacation at the day job. There are easily three weeks of writer/reader conferences, events and retreats and the like that would love to attend. Also, money is not in an unlimited supply, so I have to choose. In 2013 I attended a local retreat, RT Booklovers Convention in Kansas City and GayRomLit in Atlanta. I had a blast and wouldn’t change any of it, however, these conferences seriously depleted my money supply. Between the time and the money, I was not able to make my annual trip out west to visit family. I have nieces and nephews who I haven’t seen in two years and I probably won’t recognize them when I see them again. My brother and sister-in-law and my dad and step-mom all live in Wyoming and getting there from Illinois isn’t particularly easy. It takes either a lot of time for driving (it’s a 2-day drive) or plenty of money (flights into Wyoming aren’t cheap). While I don’t regret the choices I made to attend conferences that will ultimately help my career, I’m a little disappointed that I don’t have the time and the money to do it all. I’m afraid, because of some VERY COOL opportunities, next year I’ll be making similar choices. I can only hope my family understands and supports that. So to all my relatives in Wyoming, Montana and Texas… I love you and miss you!
7. Writing isn’t a hobby; It’s what I’m meant to do. I’ve never been one of those authors who wrote because they had to. The voices and characters in my head were fairly content to float around in my head and whisper “maybe someday.” I had an affinity for the written word and some small talent/instinct for it. Even after writing my first two novels, it was still more of an experiment. Can I do this? Can I actually come up with and execute a full-length novel? So I worked at it and, lo and behold, I did it. The third novel? And the last two short stories? They’ve proven to me writing is what I’m supposed to do. I’ve been having so much fun and I can’t sleep without ideas and plots and character arcs taking root in my head. I’d rather write than read, something I can tell you with all honestly has never happened to me before. My current project is pushing all sorts of personal boundaries in terms of what I thought I could do, and I’m loving it. Even while I’m having to work my ass off to rein in the story to keep it from exploding into the realm of over-the-top.
8. Juliann Rich—I’m pretty sure we were separated at birth. Or at least long-lost life-long friends. It’s incomprehensible to me that I didn’t meet her until 2013. Late in 2013 at that. We share an agent and write in the same genre and in October we roomed together at GayRomLit. Since then, we’ve been in contact several times a week and she’s become a mentor, sounding board and friend. She’s also hooked me up with a couple of potential speaking/reading engagements in 2014, so we can add marketing and P/R to the things she is to me. The best part, though, is that she’s a wonderful person and a hugely talented author and I’m completely humbled to call her friend. Check her out at www.juliannrich.com.
9. I can be open about the genre I write in. For the last couple of years, depending on who I talked to, I had different answers for the question “What do you write?” All answers were true, if not wholly complete. Because I was afraid of how people would react if I said “Gay YA.” In my writing groups and writing settings, I would lay it out, without hesitation. For family I’d approach it carefully… some relatives only knew that I wrote “YA Romance.” Some work connections only know that I write “YA.” It’s not that I’m ashamed of what I write, but when I explain what I write, I get questions.
- How can you write that? Depending on tone of voice, that can show disgust at the topic or sheer curiosity about how an adult female could possibly write about teenage boys with any authority.
- Why don’t you write a boy/girl romance?
- You’re female—why don’t you write lesbian romance at least?
The worst, though, is the assumption/unspoken question that because I write gay YA, I must be homosexual. Like maybe my subject matter or my online support for LGBTQ rights is my way of subtly coming out without actually coming out. I’m pretty sure there are a few people in my facebook feed who assume I’m a lesbian (I mean, come on, I’m 35 and not married and rabid about LGBTQ rights… obviously I’m totally gay). I don’t mind the assumption that I’m a lesbian—nothing wrong with it—but I get a little irked at the assumption that the only reason I could be as vocal as I am is because I fall under the LGBTQ rainbow.
Lately, all of that aside, I’ve stopped hedging my answers. And the last time I met someone who knew I wrote, but not what I wrote, the man shook my hand and said “Thank You.” That. Was. Huge. It turns out he had a gay uncle who was his mentor and taught him about business, and appearance and what it meant to be a man. He believed that there needs to be more books and movies and television shows available to show the young LGBTQ experience, and that it doesn’t all have to show the negative or scary aspects of queer life. Two boys can fall in love and have it be perfectly normal (as normal as any high school relationship can be). I realized I can do that. I can write those stories.
2013 was all about discoveries—discovering new entertainment, discovering new things about myself and about the craft of writing, discovering new friends.
2014 is shaping up to be all about new experiences… there’s a lot of great things coming next year and I can’t wait to share them with you!
What did you discover this year? What are your plans for next year?
Happy New Year!