an unexpected hiatus

Has it really been three months since I last updated? Jinkies!

I could list all the reasons for not posting, but mostly it boils down to this: I’ve been hard at work putting a second book out on submission and finishing a draft of another project that hopefully I’ll be able to start sending out to publishers in the next few months once I get it a little more polished. I also had some personal changes in my life regarding my day job, but the upside of everything that happened is that I have MUCH more time to write and pursue projects that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to chase after. It’s kind of like I’ve unintentionally given myself a full-time writer lifestyle even though I definitely still need some money coming in. (Real talk!)

Anyway, last time I wrote here, I was talking about going off to YALLWEST for the first time. It truly ended up being an amazing weekend, and every panel I got to speak on and attend was a delightful experience. (Though my favorites were by far the fandom panel and the LGBTQIA panel.) I made some wonderful new friends, I got to practice speaking about my book on panels with Big Important Authors, and it was a weekend that reminded me of how lucky I am to be an author and pursue this career. Ultimately, I came away super inspired and ready to dive back in to a few things that I had been letting fall by the wayside because I was stuck/unmotivated. Have some pics!

GEEK GIRLS DON’T CRY has now been out for about 3 months, and I’m still getting a lot of comments from people who are either finding it for the first time (yay libraries!) or passing it on to friends. I’m really, really heartened by the response I’ve been getting and how much it’s helped or touched people and I’ve truly loved hearing people’s reactions. The best part of this gig, in my opinion.

I’m going to try to be better at updating this blog in the near future, even if I don’t have a lot of writing stuff to talk about because publishing is a long waiting project where you can be working on ten things at once but basically have no news on anything for months. To keep myself on track (I get very easily distracted by my anxiety, okay) I’ve been doing this thing where I’ve been making lists of my goals and “big dream” projects, because it helps me put things in perspective and it also helps me organize my brain. Some of the things are really, really out there and right now, it includes a lot of IP stuff — but hey, a little dreaming never hurt anyone, right? I encourage everyone to try making their own list if you can, because it really does help your motivation.

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author life & yallwest 2019 schedule!

Whew, life comes at you fast once you publish a book.

I’m only half kidding. The part about life coming at you fast is really referring to the fact that you realize you need to finish another book for multiple reasons and that you have a ton of other projects you WANT to pursue that may or may not depend on getting enough cred as a published author to do them and all of a sudden you’re up to your arms in stress…and plotting Avengers: Endgame fic. (This month has been WILD, you guys. WILD. From my book to Game of Thrones to Avengers…I’m surprised I’ve survived it so far.)

Anyway, since my release date a few weeks ago, things have been a whirlwind. My signing in California was one of the best things I’ve ever experienced (pics on Instagram!) and I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to celebrate my debut weekend Emerald Knights Comics and Games, who truly made me feel welcome and loved. So many friends came out to support me, everyone was so thoughtful and asked so many good questions at the Q&A, and I’m pretty sure I had warm fuzzies for like, a week after. It’s been crazy (in a good way!) seeing people talk about my book on social media and share it with their friends and share their own thoughts about it — I’ve loved reading everyone’s reactions and some of the stuff has made me cry, so, ya know, a pretty on brand reaction for a first book. I just hope everyone continues to love it.

And the hype train don’t stop! I’ve got a NYC signing at Barnes and Noble on May 1st that I’m super excited about (mostly because I get to share the magic of my release with my family and friends who are local), a little surprise in May that I’ve yet to announce, AND I’m super excited to announce that I’m coming back to LA to attend my first YALLWEST festival next week! I get to be among an amazing group of authors and creatives and some of my best colleagues, I get to see my friends, and I’m just super stoked all around. The schedule is finally up on the website, and you can check out my panels below!

 

STORYMAKERS: THE WOMEN OF MARVEL

11 AM – Cafeteria

Join a live recording of the Women of Marvel podcast, hosted by Judy Stephens and Sana Amanat, who will be talking everything from Captain Marvel to Ms. Marvel along with a cast of Marvel comic + novel creators, as well as a few special guests.

Sana Amanat, Lorraine Cink, Sam Maggs, Judy Stephens (moderator), Margaret Stohl, Andrea Towers, Steve Wacker

 

YALLWEST AMA: BASKETCASES EDITION

12 PM – Cafeteria

Ask Me Anything style panel with some of the bestselling + most acclaimed authors you know, who also struggle with anxiety, depression, adhd + human brain suckage. Every day is a struggle for everyone, fellow humans.

Charles Beacham, Bill Konigsberg, Mallory Schleif, Victoria/V.E. Schwab, Margaret Stohl (moderator), Andrea Towers and Kiersten White

 

DIY STORYMAKERS: HOW TO UP YOUR COSPLAY GAME, YOUTUBE CHANNEL, WEBCOMIC OR FANDOM LIFE 

2 PM – Tent

From Captain Marvel cosplays, youtube Marvel Minutes, Dinosaur Comics and a YA podcast to nerd girl guides and superhero speak — we’ve got all the expertise you need to up your fandom game. Teens creators are encouraged to share a favorite fandom idea or to ask for help with something you’re stuck on.

Lorraine Cink, Sarah Enni, Sam Maggs (moderator), Ryan North, Judy Stephens, Andrea Towers and F.C. Yee

 

YALLWEST AMA: LGBTQIA+ EDITION 

3 PM – Cafeteria

Some of your fave LGBTQIA+ authors come together to answer your questions about identity, coming out, supporting your LGBTQIA+ friends and family, and more!

Sara Farizan, Christine Lynn Herman, Bill Konigsberg, Abdi Nazemian, Kat Shepherd, Adam Silvera, Nic Stone, Rosiee Thor, and Andrea Towers

 

SIGNING

5 PM – Comics Area

Gwenda Bond

Ryan North

Margaret Stohl

Andrea Towers

happy book birthday to me!

Three years ago—with no agent, no dedicated knowledge of the publishing industry, and only connections from my work in the entertainment industry under my belt—I had a crazy idea to cold pitch a book that I didn’t even know I could sell to an editor at a big publishing company. A month or so following that initial pitch, I had the crazy idea to convince an agent that I should be represented for said project, what would be my first (and only) query letter. I did both of those things not expecting anything to come of it, but I guess things worked out, because today is April 2nd and GEEK GIRLS DON’T CRY: REAL-LIFE LESSONS FROM FEMALE FICTIONAL CHARACTERS is officially out in the wild as a real, published book.

Technically, my book has been in the wild for a bit now, between early copies coming into bookstores and ARCs. But today, it’s official. Today, Amazon pre-orders will deliver and ship. People who have been waiting for the “on sale” date so they can go buy it will get to read it. People I don’t even know will be able to walk into a store, see my book on a shelf, and take it home. And I can officially say it’s my book birthday: a day that felt like it was years away and coming way too fast all at once. A day when I finally get to see the actual rewards of the work I put into my debut book, a book that I care about and love like my own child, for many reasons. A day that every traditionally published author wishes and hopes for.

I’m so damn excited.

I’m also, admittedly, a little scared.

I mean, guess what? It’s freaking nerve-wracking putting something you love out into the world! Plus, I can only read my own words so many times before I start to second guess everything. Am I being convincing enough? Am I writing well enough? Will this book actually be helpful in any way? Did I (or my copy-editor or my agent or my publisher) miss getting any information right? Did I miss anyone important in my acknowledgements? (Spoiler alert, I did, and everything is terrible. Shout out to my sparkle angel Jill, who has been a comforting voice and my biggest cheerleader for so many years.) Is my writing really any good? This is what goes through my brain every time I see a new review, a new tweet, or a new text about someone picking up my book and reading it.

But, hey! You know what? This little baby’s doing pretty good so far! It’s got nice Goodreads ratings, a starred review from Booklist, and I’ve heard nothing but positive things from friends and people in the industry.

This journey has been a learning curve and an exhilarating ride all at once; some things happened faster than I expected and some things happened more slowly. Still, it’s a ride I wouldn’t change for anything. I’ve written at length about my publishing journey when it comes to this specific book, so this is not a post to rehash all that. This is a post to acknowledge my book birthday and all that comes with it, because I wouldn’t be here without specific people. Certainly not without all the people listed in my acknowledgements—my agent, my publisher, my family, my husband, my friends, Marisha. But also, I wouldn’t be here without the authors who gave me their support dating back when I first started writing a book proposal and had no idea what I was doing or if anyone would want to read this: Margie Stohl, JJ, Seanan McGuire (who took time out of her insane schedule to blurb me, bless this woman who is such a great friend), Sam Brody, and Anthony Breznican (one of my first mentors). I wouldn’t be here without Lee Travis and Kelly Knox, who worked super hard to help me pull off my cover reveal on Geek and Sundry, allowing this debut author to experience one of the coolest moments of her life. I wouldn’t be here without comic journalist friends like Chris Arrant and Tim Stevens and Andy Burns, who reached out and gave me press to help support this project. I wouldn’t be here without the Critter community, who shared their excitement and enthusiasm not only for my book, but for a character I love so much. The point is, I know I did a ton of work here and I’m not denying that, but it takes a village. And you can write a book, but you need people to support a book and read a book, and it matters who you have on your side both in your life and in your community. I’m so thankful to everyone who helped me get here.

Although I haven’t re-read my manuscript since I sent it off for final proofs in January, I’ve read each chapter so many times that I’m pretty sure I can recite them in my sleep. It’s hard to cut the cord of “this is mine” and accept that “this is everyone’s, whether they like it or not,” but I know there’s nothing I can do except hope that my baby is welcomed into the world with open arms. I hope, if nothing else, people find a bit of themselves in this book filled with advice from mutants, FBI agents, and druids.

Anyway, today I have an appointment to make my hair pretty, then I’m going to go romp around Manhattan and find my book in stores (isn’t that a thing all the cool kids do?), then I’m going to have some drinks to celebrate, and I’m going to do it all with people I love. Because today I’m a published author.

Today is a good day.

I love you all.

(You better believe I’ve been waiting over a year to post this gif, which I’ve had saved ever since I remembered this episode aired. I feel you, Jane.)

almost at the finish line

My friend and seasoned author Seanan McGuire told me, when I was anxiety-hand-wringing over how and when my book would start getting out there, that things would start slowly and then everything would happen at once, probably when I was least emotionally prepared to handle it. In that sense, I’ve been anticipating March with both excitement and trepidation – watching my countdown app like a hawk to mark the “official one month” until my publishing date, searching my own book title and name for interviews that might have popped up, frantically checking Good Reads for reviews, eyeballing my publishing schedule from my editor that tells me when my author copies are supposed to ship and when I could possibly start seeing my book in stores since sometimes they ship before the release date.

As it stands, March has barely started, but this week alone has been an unexpected whirlwind of fun and good things. My friends over at Critical Role launched a Kickstarter for their animated special that far surpassed their funding goal in less than one day (every time I check the page, the uptick in dollar amount makes me want to cry), I got my first real review from a proper and professional comics website (check it out here!), I saw Captain Marvel (it was absolutely everything I wanted it to be after waiting so long), AND my publisher emailed to tell me that some printer samples of my book were in – which means I got to hold and see my very first copy of my debut book in all its hardcover and color glory. It was a little bit of an emotional roller coaster, because, well…I wrote a book, y’all! A real published book! If you think I’m emotional now, just remember that there’s still about 3 weeks until its official release. (APRIL 2nd! GO, GO, GO!)

Because I have no shame in documenting every part of my author journey, I recorded a short video to commemorate the moment. So, have at it – also, turn up the volume up because the sound in my apartment is super wonky. And please ignore a) the video optics on my 2012 Macbook that make this look less than professional (I KNOW I NEED A NEW COMPUTER BUT I AM STICKING WITH VEX’AHLIA UNTIL SHE ACTUALLY DIES and also until I have the money to spare to upgrade) and b) the fact that I sound/look less enthused than you might expect because I was literally trying to keep all my emotions in check and also I’m still dealing with a lot of “holy crap this is actually happening” – newsflash, this is definitely not a professional on-camera kind of recording. It’s one made up of nervous love and excitement. But I think that stuff is important to share, because it’s real and it’s me.

The two year journey of my debut book is almost at an end, but my publishing journey is just getting started, and I can’t wait to share many more moments like this.

 

goals and dreams

I’ve been thinking a lot about confidence — specifically, the confidence that makes you successful, in whatever way you define “successful.” (Because let’s face it, it’s different for everyone. At least, I feel like the way I define success is 100% different than the way my husband would, or the way my best friend would.)

Since the start of the new year, I’ve been doing some hard thinking (and a lot of serious hand-wringing) about stuff in my life — I’ve written about it a bit on here. Part of that hard thinking has to do with what I want to put my passions towards, what new things I want to accomplish for myself, and how I can use my foray into the author world (what has become a platform and networking of sorts) as a means to further my interests and goals. I have my dreams tucked away in my pocket, written on a folded square of paper, and a renewed sense of feeling like I can do these things — hell, I want to jump up and start now, slam the gas pedal and speed towards all these projects!

Hilariously, this all came about from watching the new Carmen Sandiego series (which, oh my god, I’m so glad I finally got to sit down and watch it. Some of my favorite people get to play with their voices in it.) While delighting in Gina Rodriguez’s character, I was hit with a memory of my intern days at EW. It was Upfronts week — the week that networks trot out their talent/promotions for the new television season in flashy New York presentations for ad buyers and the like — and it was the year the CW decided to greenlight some new superhero shows (hello, Flash) as well as a show called Jane The Virgin. A few cast members from the network, including Gina, came to the EW office for a quick meet-and-greet with staff and I remember her talking specifically about how she didn’t think she’d get the role, and being charmed by her honesty.

I wasn’t familiar with her work — I didn’t even expect I would watch the show. (Spoiler alert, it’s my favorite show currently airing and never ceases to make my happy AND it’s become meaningful to me because Jane’s author journey has basically mirrored my own.) But deservedly, the show blew up in the months its debut, winning awards and putting Gina on a pedestal that included her taking on new projects and gigs.

(Bear with me here, I’m going to detour and I swear this whole entry has a point.)

Recently, I realized that one of the things I’d love to try to do is write a graphic novel. I’ve got ideas for a second book that I’m currently working on that’s similar in genre to my first one, and I’d love to attempt to get an actual fiction book out there at some point — but I’ve also got a story that I think just works for a graphic novel. It’s queer, it’s fun, it’s something that WORKS, and even though I don’t have an artist (and am not an artist) I know it’s at least worth putting down on paper.

Here’s where it gets funny, though: for all my work in comics and working so closely WITH comics (and also because I work primarily in marketing and not in editorial; I only sell the sausage, I don’t participate in getting it made), I didn’t realize until I started researching that I’m not familiar with what it takes to actually script a story. It’s not exactly hard, and it’s pretty easy to get the hang of (or so I’ve read.) But it’s something that I have to definitely adjust my mindset to because the process is different from the way I’m used to writing when I churn out a book manuscript. And once I realized what the undertaking would be and how it would essentially be learning a new skill, I found myself feeling totally freaked out. I messaged a friend who is an artist, and she kindly talked me down and tried to put things in perspective.

So how does “omg I want to write a graphic novel and pursue new projects but I’ve never done it before and I don’t know if I can do it/I’m too scared/overwhelmed HELP” and “aw, I love that Gina Rodriguez voices an animated character for the first time” go together? It’s the idea that somewhere, at some point, people started to take notice of someone’s talent. They offered opportunities like directing projects and movies and voice acting. Someone said, “hey, we think you’re perfect for this project. You’re getting a lot of acclaim. Why don’t you do it?”

But I guess in a broader sense, what I’m trying to get it is that when you really think about it, there’s not a whole lot of difference between someone influential reading my work and coming to me (or my agent) and saying “you’ve got talent. You can sell. I want you to do this thing” and me saying “I want to do this thing.” And if there is a difference, it’s that you know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel — if someone says “I want you to do this” and gives you an incentive (ie. a deadline and a paycheck) well, you’re probably going to be a little more motivated than if you tell yourself “I’m gonna do this!” at the vague promise of maybe selling something. Granted, I understand that’s a pretty big difference. I work well under pressure, and I’m more motivated if I have deadlines and know that there’s something to work towards. But I also know I can be just as motivated about something if I’m passionate about it, if I feel good about my work and the work I’m doing. And that’s a mindset I have to get myself into.

Because I want to get myself OUT of the mindset that just because I’ve never done something before, I’m not sure if I CAN do it. I mean, that’s ultimately silly. I’d never written a book before, but I still wrote a book! (And a proposal.) I’d never done serious journalism before I went to grad school, but I learned how to transition into journalism from working in non-profit — and then transitioned into PR after that! I’ve done many other scary things in my life that I had NO IDEA how to do, but I decided I could do it or learn it. (This also applies to DMing, but that’s a whole other discussion for a later time.) But I’ve always been someone who forges ahead even if there’s no particular path…I’ve always been someone who pushed forward because she believed that there was opportunity for her when other people would probably hold back. So in 2019, as I try to take hold of my dreams, I’m going to be better about pushing forward even if things scare me. I’ve got a lot of things I wanna do, and dammit, nothing is keeping me from doing them except for me.

here’s to you, 2018

I’m pretty sure I’m getting this “end of the year” post in literally under the wire (it’s still 2018 in America for a few more hours, oKAY), though as I write, I’m thinking of something I read this morning in the weekly Smarter Living digest emails I get from the New York Times — a question about why we seem to set goals/re-set around this time or feel a need to, and an answer:

“It’s an arbitrary resetting date. From a practical sense, it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s kind of silly, but I think any time that gives us a convenient excuse to re-evaluate where we are in life is great.”

In some sense, I feel a little cliche at how strongly I take to the fact that January 1 has to be a “new start.” I relish in it, I feel excited by the chance to put a new foot forward — new goals, new ideals, new attitudes. But in another sense, I’m glad that I have such a strong will and desire to re-set. I always get reflective at the end of the year, and this year, I seem to be more reflective than usual.

It was a good year. In fact, 2018 was a really good year, a better year than a lot of years in recent memory. For the entire year, I was employed full-time, a first since I lost my job in 2016 and was stuck between freelancing and job searching. I was (mostly) healthy, mental health stuff aside, but nothing was as bad as it’s been in previous years. I got married and I wrote and sold my first book, which I get to see published in April! I made new friends and created a new found family that I adore and that I am so grateful for. I saw a lot of friends who I don’t usually get to see thanks to vacations and life events, and each time I hugged them, I was reminded of how lucky I am to have people who care about me so much. On the whole, I’m hesitant to be too self-congratulatory, but I like to think that I ended the year stronger, happier, and a little more confident. Dungeons and Dragons gave me amazing strength in so many ways, from friendships to my career, my friends were my rock, I worked in my dream job even if there were things about it that sometimes drove me insane (no job is perfect, and mine certainly isn’t)…heck, I finished an entire manuscript! (And copyedits. Trust me, until you’re an author, don’t underestimate how big of a deal it is to get through copyedits. Even though I loved my copyeditor.)

So 2018 was really great, but then…something happened. And it wasn’t a bad thing. It was just that in the last 2-3 weeks of the year, I faltered. My roadblock hit. Best laid plans went off the map, and while I know that’s partially my fault for being so cocksure about a future that was never set in stone, I also don’t know any other way to think. A lot of things in my life have happened because I wanted them and went after them and I’m not saying I’m lucky (though luck has certainly played a role in everything, I won’t lie) but I did work hard. I put in the effort to study, network, connect, write. I wanted a professional degree in journalism, and I got into the best graduate program in the country. I wanted to work at EW and I got the coveted internship right out of school. I wanted to work at EW NOT as an intern and it took awhile, but I eventually got to do it. I wanted to work at Marvel, and again, it took awhile, but I eventually got to do it. For most of my life, I’ve I latched onto the things I knew I wanted and knew I was passionate about and said “I’m going to make this happen.” And…I made them happen. So when I decided I knew exactly what I wanted for my next big step, it was only logical that I felt things should naturally work out. After all, I was already on a path that seemed like everything was meant to be.

I know that’s a bad way of thinking. You can’t control life — if you had asked me years ago, I would have never told you that I’d leave New York to go to Chicago, work at two of my dream jobs, or marry at 36 instead of 30 like I always planned. There are things I want for myself next year — a house, a baby — that I know I can’t pin on a job or a career or a dream, and who knows how those things (if they happen) will intersect and affect where the path of my life curves. Logically, I know that, but because I was too caught up in my own confidence, I went from knowing exactly what made me happy, knowing exactly what I wanted for myself and my future, to feeling completely lost and upended thanks to something out of my control.

And that was hard.

I spent a lot of days leading up to the end of 2018 looking at inspirational/self-help books, searching different websites, getting off social media to distance myself from too much noise, and searching for some sort of sign. I so badly wanted someone to come tell me that it would be okay — that this is what you were meant to do and this is how you’re going to get it, and don’t worry, everything will work out. I told some of my close friends what I was going through and I knew they weren’t going to magically fix anything for me, but I wanted them to, because I didn’t want to do it alone. I didn’t think I knew how to do it without help.

And that’s partly true. I’m a firm believer in that we don’t get anywhere in life without supportive, real people we can lean on, people who push us when we feel like we can’t move forward and motivate us to be better. I know I wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t have a support system and I don’t intend on losing that. But as we move into 2019, I’m realizing that I need to also take steps for myself.

I need to make the decisions that make me happy, even if they’re hard.

I need to take care of myself the best way I can, even if that means making changes.

I need to have the conversations that move my life forward, even if I’m scared of where they might end up.

I might not know how it do it on my own, but hell, if I fail, at least I’ve failed trying, right? (Also, let 2019 be the year I push myself to fail, because failing is actually good. You’d think I would’ve learned that with over a year of job searching and rejections and close calls, but apparently, I still get hung up on being scared of it.)

A colleague posted recently about how she doesn’t do resolutions because she can’t keep them, but she does do tangible goals. She takes things she wants to accomplish for herself and gives them monthly deadlines, breaking them up into things she can accomplish in smaller doses, one by one. And even though Passion Planner has tried to instill that in me and I’ve tried to write out certain monthly goals, I’ve never been able to make myself follow through. Maybe I was never doing it correctly. Maybe I was using it the wrong way, making my goals too big and too lofty and then putting my planner away and only looking at it and reminding myself of things when I needed to. But so many of the goals I make for myself are overwhelming; there are big goals and small goals and goals I could accomplish in a day and goals I could accomplish in six months. And so, on January 1st, once I wake up and actually get myself into a headspace where I feel like I can concentrate, I’m going to write down a list of everything I want in 2019. And then I’m going to write down what I want to accomplish for this month. And the next one. And then next one.

And I’m going to do that while hoping that sometimes, when you stop looking, the answers appear right in front of you and come at the time they’re supposed to.

Here’s to 2019.

there and back again: my journey to becoming a published author

I’m writing a blog post that I never thought I’d write — although I suppose that’s not exactly fair to say, considering that I never thought I’d write about having representation from a literary agent. I’ve gotten used to saying “I have an agent” though, so it doesn’t feel like such an awe-inspiring thing anymore. (Even though I still pinch myself every day as a reminder of how lucky I am.) But now I need to get used to saying “I’m going to be published author.”

I MEAN, HOLY CRAP. I’M GOING TO BE A PUBLISHED AUTHOR!

That blurb is my official Publishers Marketplace announcement telling the world that I have a contract, an agreement, and a deal to make my book a reality, thanks to my agent and publisher. It’s something that I have wanted to share with the world for months. So, in that vein, I’m going to take a moment to talk about my publishing journey. Not just because it’s a dream come true – obviously it is – but because everyone’s story is different, and I finally get to share mine. Also, this is something you really only get to talk about once. Sure, I’m set on publishing more books. But saying “this is how my second book got published!” doesn’t have the same “lifetime achievement” feeling that comes with getting a traditional publishing deal for your first ever book.

Everyone has a different story about breaking into publishing, but the gist of all those stories is this: publishing is rocky, volatile, and stressful. It’s also very, very lonely. You have your agent and you have a small handful of friends and/or a significant other who you can talk to. But even during your biggest moments, you’re alone. You can’t tell the world the moment you accept an offer from an agent. You can’t tell the world when your agent calls to say an offer’s been made. You can’t even tell anyone that your project is being looked at by [insert big name publisher that I would dream of working with here.] You can’t say anything until the paperwork is signed and trust me, that’s not a process that happens overnight. For some context, I officially accepted my book deal and offer around the end of March 2018 – that’s how long I have known about this. Even though contracts were being negotiated and I was actively working on my manuscript because I had an agreed-upon deadline to hit an already set publishing date, I STILL couldn’t tell the world until I squared everything away on both the publisher side and my agent’s side – 9 months later, in November. Granted, I realize that my contract negotiation process was a lot lengthier than usual, but like I said – everyone’s story is different.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. For all intents and purposes, my story starts here: a girl who vividly remembers her teacher running a program in 2nd grade where students would submit stories to be turned into “real” books, aka bound portfolios with shiny, sparkly covers. I remember being so excited to get those books and show my stories off.

I wrote a lot. I was always writing. I loved writing. I discovered fanfiction in high school (thanks, X-Files!) and once I started writing about Mulder and Scully, my world changed. A lot of people like to discredit fanfiction for ~reasons, but I credit it a lot. Because I wasn’t always writing – I couldn’t always find a creative idea to chase, and you can’t write what’s not there. But the television shows and movies and comics that I liked? Those already had characters and ideas. I knew them better than I realized. I could write about them because they already existed in a space that provided me with creativity. It’s thanks to fanfiction that I was able to keep writing when I might’ve otherwise stopped.

(It’s also thanks to fanfiction that I realized I could finish something manuscript-length worthy, which I had never been able to do with an original work before. My fanfic magnum opus was a 256k word story; that story fits into a series which is over 500k words in total and still ongoing. Basically, no one ever tell me I can’t write 20-30k words, because this monster exists and I am damn proud of it.)

I always thought I’d write something fiction, as that’s what I loved to write when I was younger. Those were my stories: dragons and gnomes and elves, tales that included the intricate world building of Lord of the Rings or Redwall. I certainly didn’t go around saying, “one day, I’m going to write a self-help book about female characters in pop culture!” That’s the funny thing about life, I guess. You find yourself on roads that lead to moments that become bigger moments, or you meet people who change your worldview. You evolve both as a person and as a creative and sometimes, those changes kick off ideas and connections…and things like a book.

I started working on Geek Girls Don’t Cry (originally titled I Am My Own Woman and OH BOY did we go through ten million title changes/brainstorms) back in the winter of 2016, during a point in which I was in a really, really bad place. My mental health was in a downward spiral that I couldn’t seem to control. I had been let go from my dream job earlier in the year and couldn’t seem to land anything permanent despite connections and networking. I was broke, as freelancing was only going so far. My personal life seemed to be stalling; I wasn’t engaged and I wasn’t getting ready to have kids and because I had just moved in with my boyfriend at the time, I couldn’t exactly pick up and move to another state or house for a fresh start. In the interest of trying to keep my mind away from unhealthy thoughts, I started to spend less time job searching and more time writing – and yes, this is where fanfic comes back in. Writing stories about fictional characters I loved, some of whom I’ve always seen myself reflected in thanks to their thoughts and decisions and lifestyles, distracted me from feeling useless and depressed.

The more I wrote, the more the idea for my book – a book about female characters and the real mental health issues they deal with and how we can relate to them and learn from them – started to form. One day, energized by a rare spark of motivation, I decided to just take the leap. I had been doing some research on traditional publishing, and I submitted a query letter along with a few sample chapters to a publisher who I knew produced content similar to what I was hoping to sell. Screw it, I thought as I sent the email. What do I have to lose? The worst that happens is that I get rejected or they ignore me. I expected to get no response but to my surprise, I got one a few days later – with a request for a proposal.

After freaking out about the fact that someone was seriously interested in this project, I realized I had a problem: I had no idea how to write a book proposal. There were a lot of google searches (thank heavens for the Internet and writers/authors who put blogs upon blogs of information out there), a few panicked emails/DMs to author friends who are much more seasoned than I am, and a lot of hours in a Park Slope Barnes and Noble. Eventually, I put together what I hoped was a passable book proposal and sent it back, hoping for the best. Being honest with myself, I knew that at this point, I’d already gotten further than I ever thought I’d get in the process. So now, I felt like I really didn’t have anything to lose.

Then I started to think, well…if I’m doing all of this and hoping to get a book deal, I should probably try to get an agent. Easier said than done, considering I was doing this whole process backwards. I did, however, have an idea of who I wanted to work with thanks to knowing published writers in the pop culture sphere. I also realized I had the added bonus of being able to say that a legitimate publisher had already shown interest in my work. I researched P.S. Literary Agency and then sent a query email to Maria Vicente who would, after some back and forth conversations, a few more sample submissions, and a brief phone call, officially offer me representation.

As 2017 began, I accepted Maria’s offer. And then the real work started: revisions, an updated proposal that looked much more professional than what I had cobbled together on my own, and multiple conversations with the publisher who was initially interested but ultimately ended up passing. Around the beginning of spring, I began going out on submission for the first time. My life became an endless loop of checking my email every five seconds in addition to googling every version imaginable of “how long does it take to hear from publishers?” Sometime in August, I found out that all of the editors who were looking at my project had passed – and I won’t lie, I was more than a little disappointed. I knew that this was normal and that I wasn’t even at the point where I should feel beaten down considering I had JUST started submitting. I also knew this was only the tip of the iceberg – there were many more editors to try and many more revisions to make. Still, nothing stings like first professional rejections, amirite?

Maria and I went back to the drawing board and spent a few months re-working my proposal. In November, I went out on submission round #2, feeling stronger and more confident about this version of my book. December brought about some positive feedback from a bunch of new editors, but still no offers. At the beginning of 2018, I set out on submission round #3, hoping that maybe third time was the charm.

A few weeks into January, Maria sent me an email with a question from an editor at Sterling Books. A few weeks after that, I received a heads up that the same editor was taking my book to their acquisitions meeting (basically one of the last steps before a publisher decides whether or not they want to buy your project.) My anxiety and impatience returned in full force and I tried as hard as I could to put everything out of my mind, which is basically the equivalent of telling me “you’re going to definitely meet Robert Downey Jr. but we can’t promise when it will happen. Just know it has a really good chance of happening.” Weeks went by, and I tried not to obsess over how much time was passing. Was this good? Was this bad? Surely if it was good news I would’ve heard something. But if it was bad news, I would’ve heard something too, right?

On March 22nd, near the end of a long work day, Maria emailed me asking if I had time for a phone call. At this point, I knew what to expect if your agent called you. Still, I refused to let myself get excited. There was no reason this couldn’t be a random call updating me on where we were with submissions…or a call to tell me that the editors who were looking at my book had passed on it.

Turns out, the news was good: Sterling had made me an offer. In retrospect, I probably should have had a more emotional response to being told I was getting a book deal* but I was at work and in a bit of shock, so I just sat at a table and tried to process what this meant: that my dream was coming true. That someone besides me (and my agent, and my close friends, and my then-fiancé, and my family) believed in me and my vision and my writing. That I was going to publish something that would be read by people all over the world, maybe even by my mentors and heroes – the ones who had inspired this book in the first place.

Shortly after getting my offer, I had a super productive phone call with my potential editor. Within minutes of starting our conversation, I knew she was the right person to work with.  She genuinely shared my passion and vision, and she understood how involved I wanted to be while I understood certain things I would have to consider in order for the book to (hopefully) be successful. She had even already started envisioning cover art and named one of my favorite creators as a hypothetical artist! If that’s not serendipitous, I don’t know what is.

Most of the time, I end up downplaying whatever success I have. Maybe it’s a self-esteem thing, maybe it’s an anxiety thing, maybe it’s a women thing…it’s probably a mix. Accepting my accomplishments and feeling like I deserve them is something I’m trying to be better at, because I know I’ve worked hard to get where I am professionally and personally. I know that I’m proud of myself, even if my brain tells me I don’t have a reason to be.

But…screw those thoughts, because I’m getting a freaking book published! GEEK GIRLS DON’T CRY: REAL LIFE LESSONS FROM FICTIONAL FEMALE CHARACTERS will be yours to hold and read on April 2, 2019. (And, hint hint, it’s already available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble!) Even though there were so many times I thought there was no way I’d be able to wait THAT much longer for something to happen, or keep THAT kind of secret, I did it. And the exhilaration and feeling of being able to announce this to the world was everything I’d ever dreamed of.

 

*I DID actually freak out/cry/drink all the wine when I got home from work that day – this selfie was taken on March 22, the day that I got the call about my offer. (I also posted a cryptic Instagram photo.) It’s not the best photo of me ever taken but it’s authentic, which is what matters. (And clearly, given the fact that my book is all about strong and awesome females in pop culture, I had to open my Galadriel Lord of the Rings wine for the occasion.)

it feels like fall

It feels like fall, and I’m ready.

It’s not that I hate summer. I actually really like summer. Every year when it gets cold, I start to wish for summer – the days that I don’t have to worry about carrying a coat, or putting on layers of clothes. I love getting iced coffee when it’s hot enough outside, I love wearing sandals and cute tops, I love that I don’t have to wear jackets except when I’m freezing from air conditioning in the office. I adore barbecues and warm summer evenings when it rains, and I love wearing cute dresses even though I don’t wear them as much as I should. I love going to the beach. And by the time September/October rolls around, I usually get annoyed at myself that I haven’t taken advantage of the season enough – I haven’t been to enough outdoor rooftop bars, I haven’t spent enough time walking around Central Park, I haven’t been to Coney Island enough. Because I love summer and summer is a great time to do so many things! (It probably doesn’t help that I work so much and because we don’t get summer Fridays, sometimes it’s just harder to enjoy summer. Plus, this year in particular, we’ve been busy during most weekends because of wedding stuff.)

I go through this every year – when it’s winter, I wish desperately for summer. When it’s summer, I wish desperately for fall. When it’s fall, I wish desperately for winter. But no matter how you slice it, no matter how much I love Coronas on the beach and drinking on a boat on the water, summer is stagnant. Summer goes by quickly and also drags at the same time, in a way I can’t quite describe outside of my head. Summer starts to get heavy and thick and it feels like it’s smothering you, so when that first rush of cooler air starts to seep into the breeze in the morning as you’re leaving for work, it usually brings with it a calm and a happiness that can only be described as refreshing. When I stepped out of my apartment the other day, it was the first day in awhile that it felt cool enough to wear a light jacket along with my t-shirt. There was a slight breeze. It wasn’t cold enough for me to complain (because I am the person who complains when it’s 60 degrees, since I am always cold and would rather be hot) and it was just…nice.

It felt refreshing. I felt, in a sense, alive again – the shift in the weather, even though I knew it wouldn’t last longer than a day or two, reminded me that there are changes coming and that there is a new season starting, and that there is a reason to feel excited and alive again.

Maybe I’m looking forward to fall so much because once it’s here, I know that the feeling of being stagnant will be slightly alleviated. Things that are out of my control will start to move forward, at least a little bit. I’ll be able to hopefully announce the project I’ve been toiling away on in secret for over half a year, and make even more progress on it. I’ll get married, I’ll go on my honeymoon, I’ll visit friends. I’ll be in a place where I can start to consider some things I’ve been keeping in my back pocket that I can’t really chase at the moment, as much as I want to, because I need to wait a little while for it to be the “right” time. Fall means I’ll be able to move forward in a way that I haven’t been able to do because summer has been here, and maybe that’s the reason that whenever I feel that chill in the air, I get a little flutter of happiness and anticipation.

It’s a nice feeling. I’ve been constantly overwhelmed and anxious lately, feeling more stressed than usual. People think it’s because I have so much to do, and that’s a little bit of it – certainly, work combined with wedding planning, this secret project, and, well, just having any kind of social life isn’t relaxing. But I’ve been hesitant to talk too much about my stress on social media because I don’t want to make people think I can’t handle doing so many things, or that I’m drowning in work and can’t multi-task or take on new opportunities that I want to pursue. That’s not really it, and it’s not the impression I want to give, as my feelings stem more from things that have been sitting with me all summer – thing that I can’t work out right now.

Not until fall.

And not until that cool air starts coming in and starts bringing some change with it.

this is about life humps

In less than a week, it will be my birthday.

I hate admitting my age to people. I hate it because I always seem to be surrounded by people who are younger and doing better, and I hate that I can’t be content and happy with where I am because I constantly feel like I’m too old to be here, or do this, or have that. I hate that this feeling has only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. I hate that I obsess over my age because I still cling to goals I haven’t achieved so I feel like I just failed at life. (You were supposed to be married by now! For like, two years! And have three kids! Come on!)

My therapist is a big fan of getting me to recognize what are “negative thoughts” and what is “anxiety talking” as opposed to real, true variables. So, I know it’s all psychological. I often get yelled at by my mom and my sister for being so morose when it comes to turning another year older, and why can’t I be happy? What’s wrong with me? I’ve got good things going on, and I’ve done a lot in my life. I’m certainly not sitting at home wasting away with no social life and no dreams and no goals and no money, watching the clock tick forward as the years fall away while I do nothing to take advantage of them. In other words, from a logical standpoint, I’ve got absolutely no reason to sit here once a year and freak out about how old I’m getting when I realize my birthday is suddenly on the horizon. (It always seems like I forget how close it us until I look at a calendar and realize, oh right, THIS is the end of July.)

Over the years, I’ve tried to become better about accepting my age, but the flip side of that is that accepting my age has just gotten harder as I’ve grown older. There are certain milestones that are for sure fun and celebratory, but once you pass them, reality sets in and you just feel – well – old. It’s a maddening cycle: you turn 21 and feel awesome and immediately realize the next big birthday is 25, and, oh god, QUARTER LIFE CRISIS. HALFWAY TO THIRTY. You turn 25 and feel good and immediately realize the next big birthday is 30 and, oh god, THIRTY. OUT OF YOUR 20’s. NO MORE ADULT MISTAKES. You turn 30 and are pretty happy and immediately realize the next big birthday is 35, and, oh god. THIRTY-FIVE. HALFWAY TO FORTY. Etc, etc. I call these milestone things “life humps” – speed bumps that come at you out of nowhere, and leave you feeling shaken and freaked out. But once you DO get over them, you leave them behind as you drive away. I’ll freak out about turning a certain age and become fixated on what’s ahead and how scary it is to think of the next big milestone, even if it’s five years away. But then after my birthday, I more or less forget about how old I am and what age means because I’m, well, I’m not really thinking about it. I’m living my life.

Last year, when I turned a certain age, I made a list of things I had done up until this point in my life that I was proud of. 35 things I’d done in my life, to celebrate turning 35. This year, as I mark passing another life hump, I decided to see if I could look back and reflect on how much I’ve changed – and hopefully be proud of what I saw at the end of the tunnel. I started to do this on my own in my journal, and then realized that maybe it was worth putting out to the world. Even though I often think I’m alone, maybe I’m not alone. Maybe someone else needs to read this. Maybe it’ll help them in some small way.

As much as I still want to hide behind my age since, let’s face it, I look like a 20 year old anyway (except for that place I need botox between my eyes, ugh), maybe it’s time for me to, in the words of my favorite druid, grow up and be a regular adult.

I am 15.

I am 15 and Titanic is the most important thing in the world to me and goddamn, Leonardo DiCaprio is HOT. I ice skate competitively. I go to high school and act in musicals and have fun with friends and hang out at the mall in places like Sam Goody. I am a burgeoning little nerd who is pretty content with life.

In between 15 and 20, the following things happen: my mom hires a limo as a surprise for my Sweet 16. Everyone gets me Titanic gifts, OBVIOUSLY. I try out for volleyball because I really want to play volleyball and am the only one cut from the team. But I become more involved in drama and perform in two musicals, so it all works out. I drive to New Hampshire and pierce my bellybutton in secret when I turn 18 – my one rebellious move. take the SATs and apply to 18 colleges. I get into 6 pretty good ones. I write my college essay on my experience dissecting a cadaver during science camp at a prestigious Boston college, because I am just like my role model and idol Dana Katherine Scully and I AM GOING TO BE A MEDICAL DOCTOR, DAMMIT. I’m on the waitlist for the George Washington University and my mom insists we make an on-campus interview when we go down to visit American, where I’ve been accepted. I essentially BS my way through the interview thanks to my improv skills and get a call after the weekend is over that I’ve been accepted.

In between 15 and 20, the following things happen: I graduate high school, I go to GW, and 9/11 happens less than one month into my college career. I am living in downtown DC, three blocks from the White House and near the State House, and I have no idea what’s going on but it’s terrifying. (I have to fly home to Boston of all places three weeks after this, and I have a full-on panic attack flying into a tiny airport in New Hampshire because Logan is obviously closed still.)

At GW, I go to exactly one informational session about pre-med before I hightail it out of the room due to all the math and science requirements that The X-Files failed to mention. I decide I’d rather major in something totally useful, like English. I meet the person who will be my roommate for four years, my eventual bridesmaid, and my forever best friend. I join a sorority, I learn new things. I get lost, get confused, make mistakes, and have fun. The X-Files ends (for the first time, apparently) after 9 years. I see Rent for the first time on Broadway thanks to my roommate, and immediately decide I need to keep going back to New York to see more Broadway shows. I fall in love with Manhattan and Times Square (I know, I know), make friends through the Rent message boards, and discover my independence by taking a Greyhound to the city on as many weekends as I can, without telling my parents what I’m doing or where I’m going. I go through a year of feeling like I don’t belong in DC and want to transfer to NYU. I don’t get accepted as a transfer and THANK GOD FOR THAT, because the rest of my college life is fucking great. I will not understand how very much it hurts to hear the Avenue Q song “I Wish I Could Go Back To College” until years later when I realize, shit, I really do want to go back to college.

I am 20.

I am 20 and all I want to do is be independent and live and work in New York City.

I turn 21 earlier than my friends because of how my birthday falls and I don’t get a huge 21st celebration, so instead I make my parents take me to New York to see Rent. I achieve my dream of living and working in Manhattan when I get an internship at a talent agency the summer between my junior and senior year of college. The internship is pretty terrible: I get stuck in a back room where everyone forgets about me because they don’t have enough desks, I don’t get any work, and all I do is make Starbucks runs. But I see all my friends, and I go to Broadway shows all the time, and I see Kristin Chenoweth and Norbert Leo Butz’s last show of Wicked, and my best friend has a job down the block from me, so life is pretty good otherwise. These are basically at the best 3 months of my life.

In between 20 and 25, the following things happen: I graduate college, I job search for over a year, and I finally move to New York for good at 23. My job is at a media company coincidentally located on Astor Place – the same area where I spent all my time when I visited the city, because all my friends went to NYU. Clearly, I feel like this is fate. I know this Starbucks! I know this subway line! I know the dumpling place on St. Marks, and the bars, and the yoga studio, and the Barnes and Noble on the corner! I live in Greenpoint with a friend who I’ve now grown apart from, and I know nothing about the neighborhood (otherwise I clearly would not have chosen to live there.) I also live off the G train, which is fucking TERRIBLE – but then again, have you really lived in New York if you’ve never had an experience with the G train? My job isn’t sustainable – a sales assistant role that pays somewhere in the 20’s. I think that’s a hell of a lot of money and my parents smartly remind me that it’s really not. But they’re supportive because this is my dream and they believe in giving your child dreams and opportunities. I spend a lot of time seeing Broadway shows like I’ve always dreamed of, and I go to birthday parties at my favorite bars, and I karaoke at night, and I hang out with friends, because these are my young 20’s and I want to have fun.

I am 25.

I am 25 and on top of the world, as they say. I am fucking INVINCIBLE.

I leave my first job after a little more than a year and get a job at a financial company that plans investment conferences, because I think conference planning is what I want to do. Maybe it is, but the job itself and the environment and the people are so absolutely horrible that my mental health takes a nosedive. I let the shininess of the job (weekend trip to the Hamptons! Five star hotels! International travel to places I’d never afford to get to!) control me until we’ve both had enough. They let me go after 8 months and it’s probably the best feeling in the world, especially since I’ve been on my way out anyway. But hey, I get to visit Monaco and Monte Carlo before I leave, and that’s pretty damn cool.

I turn my life around in a big way. I get a new job as a Development Associate at a religious nonprofit, I get the hell out of my crappy Greenpoint apartment, I decide I’m done living with people, and I fall into a really amazing sublet in Queens. I feel like I’ve started my life all over again; I love this apartment and this neighborhood and my landlord and the building. For the first time, I have a decent salary, a good job where I will stay for four years, a good apartment where I will live for almost five years, good mentors, my own office, and stability. I also feel like I’m realizing why Judaism is important again thanks to my work.

In between 25 and 30, the following things happen: Rent closes after 12 years on Broadway and I’m there at the final performance with all the friends and cast members I’ve met through the years. LOST ends after 6 years and I hold a finale party for my favorite show and I cry all night. I have never cared about American Idol before and on a whim, I randomly decide to watch the 7th season from the beginning, auditions and all. I somehow become utterly obsessed with all the performers. David Cook wins the show and my best friend and I spend the summer following the American Idol tour around to different states, sometimes getting lucky enough to go backstage because we’ve figured out who to talk to at security. Sometime after those summer shows are over, David Cook announces his new album, a release show, and then a tour with his band. I spend A LOT of money and one year traveling the United States, flying to different cities on weekends, yelling at Ticketmaster, learning how to stomach PBR at dive bars in places like Nashville and West Virginia and Tulsa, driving overnight, sleeping in crappy motels, eating Sonic, taking photos, touring ridiculous landmarks like gaudy casinos and corn palaces…and I have the time of my life while doing it. (No pun intended.)

In between 25 and 30, the following things happen: I start dating. I find a great guy and end up breaking up with him because despite wanting a boyfriend, I’m still in the “single” mindset and am also influenced by controlling friends who cloud my judgement by telling me how bad he is and how unhappy I am. (I will regret this choice forever.) I date another guy. I date LOTS of guys. I find a guy who seems really great in every single way and we become serious. I think he’s going to be the one – I even go to his med school graduation in Iowa. He turns out to be crazy and controlling for real, and he emotionally abuses me for months before he dumps me via Facebook. Thankfully, I have amazing friends who have my back. I try to date again. I have one more serious relationship that I think is going to work out, but this one drops me when he realizes I’m going to leave New York for at least a year to get my Master’s degree.

In between 25 and 30, the following things happen: I dye my hair blonde for a long period of time. I give myself bangs and try to change myself (it doesn’t stick.) I attempt to figure out where I’m going to go next in my life, and my mom bugs me about going back to school. I try looking up graduate programs for business administration, which is what I think I want to do, but I never get anywhere. I finally take the GREs because I’ve waited too long to apply and my SAT scores are no longer viable; I do okay on the verbal part but absolutely pathetically horrible on the math portion, which doesn’t surprise me at all.

Because of the fallout of the terrible aforementioned relationship, I turn to entertainment to make me happy, and start writing about television. I start my own entertainment website and go on set visits and make other blogger/journalist friends and do interviews with celebrities and go to San Diego Comic Con as press for the first time. I realize that THIS is what I want to do, albeit on a bigger, more important scale. My dream is to work at Entertainment Weekly, the magazine I grew up reading and loving, so I make a decision that I want to go back to school for journalism. I apply to three schools, including one I think I will never, ever get into. I get into the top program for my career – Medill at Northwestern in Chicago.

This is February. They want me to start the January of the following year, which means I’ve got exactly one year to figure out how to leave New York. My second-to-last remaining grandparent dies. I have my 30th birthday at a LOST bar in Manhattan surrounded by some of my closest friends, and my parents take our family on a cruise to Bermuda. I give my notice at work after almost five years, right before I go to Disney for 2 weeks and drink my way around the world. When I’m not looking, New York changes, and the bars and restaurants that my friends and I used to frequent shut down and move, and I realize just how freaking long I’ve been living here. And also, damn, I’m getting old.

I am 30.

I am 30 and in 5 months, I am going to leave New York behind to start a new life. I have no idea what comes after but I am finally realizing how important it is to get away from a certain way of life and take chances and have opportunities, even if it seems scary. I will not realize how important this change is for awhile, but that’s okay. I WILL eventually realize it.

I start my year-long graduate program at Medill. It’s hard and its tough and the workload is insane, but at least I’m not doing it alone. I make amazing friends and I have the best time – a better time than I had in college, even. My last grandparent passes away and I can’t come home for the funeral because I’m in Chicago. I apply for an internship at Entertainment Weekly, which I know from talking to enough people is basically the only gateway into a job there. Somehow, I manage to make my dreams come true. I join the ranks of EW’s “Medill Mafia.” I work at my dream company and do things like interview people from my favorite shows, write about Marvel movies, go to press days of Broadway shows, attend opening nights, and interview Stan Lee in person. I don’t get hired full-time after my internship ends and it’s disappointing, and I spend some time in limbo until I find a way back into the company. I write about comics, and I find my niche and build up my career.

In between 30 and 35, the following things happen: I finally come out to the world as bisexual. I start medication for anxiety. I decide to start dating again and am sick of not finding anyone on the “traditional” websites, so I try different ones. I find my nerd-loving fiancé, try not to get turned off by his last name, and we become serious and move in together after 2 years. We get engaged after 3 years – I am 3 months past 35 when I finally get engaged. We set a wedding date and talk about our future – I will be 3 months past 36 when I finally get married. I am back in Brooklyn but this time, the place is nicer and the neighborhood is nicer, and at least there’s talk of a house somewhere down the line so I know this is not where I’ll end up for good.

In between 30 and 35, the following things happen: EW restructures and I lose my job again. I call on my connections and friends for freelance work and go on a lot of interviews because the New York journalism world is small, but it takes me almost a year to find another steady job. I get fed up with being depressed, write a lot of fanfic, and start seriously working on a book. I get a literary agent and make my dreams happen. I start sending the book I’m working on to publishers through my agent. I take a job writing at a financial start-up that offers me a lot of money, even though I have no interest in what they do, because I need money and I need employment. I last three months there before I realize that this isn’t working and I am just as miserable as I was sitting at home every day not getting any job leads. The same day I make that decision, I have an impromptu interview for my dream job. I finally see my connections and networking and career building pay off as I start work at Marvel. I run two half-marathons two years in a row at Disneyland. (I spend a lot of time at Disney World and Disneyland.) I get obsessed with a group of voice actors who play D&D for 4+ hours at a time every week and my life changes, even if I won’t realize it for a bit. I play D&D. I strengthen friendships and I lose friendships.

In less than a week, it will be my birthday. I’ve changed a hell of a lot over each of the years that I’ve been alive and I like to think that even though there’s some stuff I regret and some things I could have done differently, I’ve done a lot of good things and learned a lot. These are, more or less, my life humps, and I like to think that I know how I can make the next life humps even better. I’ve got big plans and goals, I’ve got new dreams in terms of where I want to be for a job and a career, I have a family that I’m slowly building out of New York, and I’m trying to be patient about how my future will play out.

In less than a week, I will be 36. I will celebrate with a smile (and a big drink in a dragon mug at the Renaissance Faire) – because the future is bright, and honestly, it looks pretty fucking awesome – even if I’m getting old.

some thoughts on living, dying, and telling your story

A work friend died suddenly over the weekend.

The strangest part about these kind of things happening is that before we got the news on Monday, I don’t know if I would’ve even thought to call her a friend. We were friendly, she was someone who I knew of and followed on Tumblr for years, who knew my mutual friends. (Fandom is strange like that.) About a year ago, she ended up getting a job in my company. I laughed at the time at the randomness of someone else from “the fandom world” joining me in this professional space of work (I don’t know, I feel like it’s special little club – like, you can be IN fandom but there’s a difference between the Tumblr/AO3/vids fandom and just reading fic. People know you. Or you know people.)

We worked together, but we really didn’t see each other that often. She worked for the video team, my job is in publishing. She moved to a different floor a few months ago with her department and I was barely up there except to visit other coworkers every once in awhile. But we emailed regularly because of some comic book videos that we produced, and I was often in contact with her throughout the day, depending on schedules. We saw each other at work social events when we went out for happy hours and it was at the first one she attended, back in March, where (a few drinks in) I finally just blurted out that even though she didn’t know me, I had actually known her for awhile thanks to mutual friends. Then we bonded over X-Files.

The last time I saw her was a week ago; we did a small Women of Marvel photoshoot with the new Marvel Vans and spent about 20 minutes of our work day outside goofing around and taking random pictures outside of the office.

It feels silly to write this, because we weren’t really close. I’ve been seeing tributes and grief online from people who were close to her, and it feels like I don’t have a right to be sad about losing someone I didn’t know very well. But she was also more than a name in an email at work; she wasn’t just another person, she was a person. And I can’t remember the last time I knew someone who died so young, so close to my age, and who I knew. There have been people in my life who have passed away unexpectedly, but I had lost touch with them or I knew them vaguely through a friend – realizing they were gone was sad, but it didn’t shake me. Losing grandparents is hard, and there’s been a lot of that in mine and my fiancé’s life, but even if it was unexpected, they were older. That, to me, seems to make a little more sense than the fact that a 32 year old is working on SDCC video feeds one day and is gone the next day.

Maybe I’m just more sensitive than usual due to my mental state. I’ve got a lot of stress going on in my head, coupled with the ever-present feeling of “will I ever be enough?” I’m thinking a lot about my future and my birthday is in two weeks; my birthday is ALWAYS the time of year when I get more depressed than usual because even if I try not to, I can’t help but focus on my age and where I am in life compared to other people. I hate getting older. I hate that age is a number I care about. But suddenly, something like this happens – and you start to think. You think about that trip you’re not taking because you really can’t afford it, or that friend you’re not seeing because you’re too tired to go out and you’ve been out every night this week, or that best friend who you know is having a hard time but you don’t text often because, well, you KNOW they’re not doing well but life is busy and you’re in different states. And suddenly, things that are stressful or worrisome of freaking you out don’t seem that important anymore.

Like the fact you have 3 credit cards at balances that are too high for you to pay down ever.

Or the knowledge of being in student loan hell until you’re about 90, if that.

Or that lingering raincloud of overdue rent hanging above your head, even if your fiancé never asks you for it because he doesn’t want to upset you.

Or the fact that you have 9 dollars to your name in your checking account until your next payday.

When I was in my 20’s, I had the opportunity and time and (kind of) had the money (it wasn’t the best and most responsible decision, but oh well) to travel all over the U.S. with my best friend to go see a favorite band. We’d book flights that had us visiting cities for 48 hours, rent cars to drive from one state to the next to save money, sleep on the street, and spend way too much money on tolls and fast food. It’s easy for me to regret some of that experience because I did a lot of it at the expense of a relationship I still regret giving up, even though I believe that was less about how I spent my time and more the influence of who I spent it with. But it’s still an experience I had, that I’ll never have again, for various reasons. It’s easy to get caught up in “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve” when it comes to how I spent my time, but that year was a celebration of ME, of life, of something I’ll never get again and that’s special, no matter how you look at it.

I think a lot about Hamilton – who lives, who dies, who tells your story? It can be cliché, but then things like this happen and you really do wonder – who will tell your story? Who will people remember you as? What will they say about you? What have you brought to the lives of your friends and family that make you loved and appreciated? Did you live your life to the fullest? Did you have that glass of wine because, fuck it, it’s nice out and you want a nice lunch outside? Did you splurge on that new dress you wanted because it made you feel amazing? Did you look at your bank account and shrug and book a flight that you know you probably shouldn’t have paid money for but who cares, because you get to see your friends?

There’s a lot that could be said about dying young and loss and grief and the shock of losing someone you actually knew. And I don’t know what to say about it all except that maybe Hamilton is right. You don’t know when your time is up. So you should never throw away your shot.

And I’m sure as hell not.