Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: Seventeen Steps Forward + A Few Leaps

2011 has left me exhausted, breathless, overwhelmed, grateful, invigorated, and in-between variations of each.

To say I had an incredible year is an understatement. This year was ah-mazing.

Here are the highlights from one heckuva crazy/cool year:

Around the World (Or At Least the US)

Edward and I in Staunton, Virginia during a
mini East Coast book tour.
Travel was the word of the year. From Las Vegas to Philadelphia to Amelia Island to New Orleans to a cross country road trip to New Mexico, my travel schedule was exhilarating and insane.

I was a guest author at over a dozen events, conferences, and book signings including the Georgia Council of Teachers English Conference, Muhlenberg College, the Amelia Island Book Festival, the Decatur Book Festival, and KillerCon.

Read: 8 States in 4 Days
Read: Saints and Sinners: A Recap

Center Stage (Or Being a Censored Playwright)

The stars of Sky Lines:
Jaime White, Jacoya Smith, and Bobbi Leah
Johnny Ramirez Really Wants to Kiss Me got me censored in Boston. Baby in the Basement was an official selection for the NYC 15 Minute Play Festival and the 2011 FronteraFest in Austin. Better Places to Go went to NYC for a month. Are You All Right in There? hit a milestone with the 25th production. After a ten year wait, Sloe Gin Fizz was finally published (thank you JAC Publishing), along with my first-ever trilogy of plays: a collection written for and about women titled Don't Mention It. And Sky Lines was performed to standing ovations in a history-making production starring three of my talented students.

Read: Sky Lines Makes History
Read: Are You All Right in There?
Read: Don't Mention It: A Trilogy of Plays for Women
Read: The Kiss That Got Me Censored

Don't Judge A Book (By Its Reviews)

Swimming to Chicago earned me the worst review(s) of my career (and, in all fairness, some of the best) and then went on to garner me the highest accolade to date when the novel was recognized by the American Library Association. Regardless, the book received more press than any other project I've ever written. Love it or hate it, I stand behind Swimming to Chicago. The emails I receive from young people who have read the book are a testament of why the book had to be written. No apologies. No regrets.

Accidents Never Happen took ten years to write, is my personal favorite (I consider this novel to be my strongest writing to date), and earned me my first 5-star review. While many people have read Accidents Never Happen, I feel this book was overlooked this year. I still have faith in it. A tremendous amount of faith. If you only read one book I've written, read this one.

Mesmerized surprised everyone (including me) by winning the 2011 LGBT Rainbow Award.

I wrote two novels this year: The Jetsetters and Wonderland, both of which will be released in 2012. These novels mark a departure from anything I've written previously. The reaction to them will be interesting, to say the least.

Read: Accidents Never Happen Receives a 5 Star Review!
Read: The Facts of Life (my response to a critic)
Read: Swimming to Chicago Recognized by the American Library Association
Read: Mesmerized Wins 2011 LGBT Rainbow Award
Read: An Article/Interview from Ianyan Magazine About Swimming to Chicago
Read: Out in Print: Review of Swimming to Chicago

Wax Poetic (In a Manner of Speaking)

No one was more surprised than me when my poem Walking to K-Mart to Buy a Dolly Parton Album won the 2011 Hart Crane Poetry Award. The poem was featured in an issue of The Southeast Review and has quickly generated more reader response than any poem I've written before or since.

One of the most important projects I participated in this year was serving as a poet for the powerful art exhibit Graphic Intervention: 25 Years of the International AIDS Poster. I was asked to write five original poems (each inspired by an International AIDS Poster), which I read at the Museum of Design in Atlanta. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding experience as a writer this year.

Read: An article in A&U about the poetry reading at MODA (includes a poem I wrote for the occasion).
Read: My poem Harm's Way in Red Booth Review.

Inspiration (Human Kindness)

One of the greatest 2011 stories I have to tell is how actress/writer extraordinaire Nia Vardalos offered her support to one of my novels and in doing so referred to what I wrote about her as "THE nicest thing ever said about me."

I also received a beautiful response from author Anne Mazer regarding an article I wrote about why I write for young people and how her mother, Norma Fox Mazer, had an impact on my writing life when I was just 13.

By far, the best email I received this year was from a 15-year-old boy who wrote to tell me reading Swimming to Chicago changed his life. That moment - and his words - made my purpose crystal clear.

Read: Why I Love (and Admire) Nia Vardalos
Read: More Than Ever

Closing Thoughts (It's All About Gratitude)

I am blessed each and every day of my life in more ways than I could've ever imagined.

I have the most incredible, supportive, loving partner and we have a beautiful life together.

We have a hilarious, adorable, eternally faithful dog named Lucy who makes it all worth it.

I have beautiful, honest, inspiring friends who not only have my back but are never afraid to tell me how it really is.

I have a loving, sometimes complicated  family who have always encouraged me to be me.

I'm truly fortunate to wake up every morning and go to a job that I not only love but in which I'm given an opportunity each day to make a positive difference in someones life.

In my career, the stars aligned when I walked into a pitch meeting with Len Barot, Greg Herren, and Victoria Oldham and they offered me my first publishing contract, making Bold Strokes Books my first publishing home - and giving me the opportunity to work with people who not only encouraged me to take risks, but have made me a better writer in the process.

Each time I receive a heartfelt letter from a reader who's found a connection with something I've written, I thank God for giving me the words.

"Everything we do should be a result of our gratitude for what God has done for us." ~ Lauryn Hill

Go have a beautiful new year.

1 comment:

  1. You are amazingly talented and a wonderful friend. I just wish I got to work with you more. <3


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