We Made It

Every February 9th since 2016, I’ve written about where I’m at in my quest I’ve come to affectionately call my “Alterian Journey”. But this year, the post I get to write hits different, because this year, the book finally exists.

When I wrote last year, I was still querying, still revising, still uncertain about so many things regarding STILL THE STARS. I was so unsure about the book’s future after the Kickstarter didn’t reach it’s goal. It felt like something in me cracked, and at first, I was afraid that it was my confidence. I feared that it was my last let down I could take. That maybe no one wanted this book after all.

But by summer, as I sat there dealing with a handful more rejections, I read through the whole book again. I reached out to a dear friend who had read through several drafts, and asked, “On a scale of ‘this is a real book book’ to ‘this draft is a dumpster of flames’, how ready is my latest draft” and the consensus was, “it’s ready”. Looking back at those texts, I teared up, because for me, that was the moment of, “Here we fucking go.”

Everyone I’ve ever met talks about how self publishing is a slog, how its stressful and painful and the Worst Thing(TM) you can do for your career as an author if you want to be taken seriously. And believe me, those statements have their merits. It has been fascinating watching some of the friends I’d made in publishing who stopped talking to me when I decided I didn’t want to go traditional with this book anymore. (Even though that remains a long-term aspiration of mine for other works) I had lots of tiny tiny edits to do to make sure the draft was as ready as possible since I couldn’t afford a line editor. I made the cover myself using canva for goodness sakes. It’s not as glamorous as most folks might imagine.

But, I told myself one thing at the onset—that I was going to need to find a way to bring joy into the process. Even if it was in small ways, I was going to make this fun if it killed me. Thankfully, that happened easier than I could have ever imagined.

Many of you saw the posts in my Countdown to the Stars series, which was how I found that joy. I used the prompts, themes, and elements of the book as points of reflection as the publication date drew nearer. Those poems and pictures and little journeys I had to make those posts ended up bringing so much life into a process that is normally sooooo draining. I found that promoting my book could be made so much easier if I was finding ways to create more while doing it. Some of the pieces that came out of that 13 weeks have become favorite poems of mine, and seeing the few friends of mine who participated by sharing their own responses to the prompts made it even better. I’ll always look fondly back on those weeks leading up to the book’s release, and that’s not something I ever thought I would get to say.

But then came the launch itself. The whirlwind 48 hours that was a magical reading and discussion at A Novel Idea on Passyunk. Watching the sunrise on my hometown high school and then getting to share my work with the next generation of students who walk the very halls that inspired me, presenting my book of the stars in the very classroom where I once studied Earth and Space Science as a senior. I got to meet and hang out with the members of the school’s Queer Straight Alliance, a club I was a founding member of in 2006, and have the kids in it now thank me for making way for them. I had a bi, fat teen come up to me and ask if she could hug me, and thanked me for writing a book where she could feel seen. It was the most rewarding day of my damn life.

Three months post that, none of the glow has worn off those memories. They will forever be the ones I call upon in my dark hours when I’m doubting myself. I didn’t need the big, flashy, NYT bestselling launch that people expect when they think debut author, but I had an experience that was so profoundly life changing and beautiful, and that gave me enough hope to fuel several small star systems.

Next year, Alteria turns 20, and goodness only knows where in this journey I’ll be then after the year that I’ve had. I am just so incandescent that after all this time, I am able to share this book with the world. That a kid I’ve never met in San Francisco can walk into a mobile queer book store and buy a copy of my book to take home and read with her mom. (A true story that I got from the lovely owners of Out & About Books, who I recently did an author event with) That queer teens from my hometown have my book on their shelves as a hopeful reminder that they aren’t alone, and are magic just as they are. That I can look back at the 13 year old I used to be—scared, closeted, and just wanting a universe to escape to—and say to them, “we made it, kid.”

STILL THE STARS is available now wherever books are sold.

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