Thursday, October 8, 2015

Book Update and My Last Blog Post (for a bit)

“So what’s going on with the book?” is a question I get a lot. The answer, “not much.”

It’s been a whirlwind. Early in the writing of my book, Turbulence in the Veins, I had the interest of a very big agent – a guy who works at one of the top 10 literary agencies in the world, and represents the estate an author so famous they are mythical. That agent – unsurprisingly, I should add - passed on my manuscript. Then a draft of my memoir won an award and landed me in front of a Hollywood literary agent – a guy who specializes in turning books into films. This guy does not accept queries, and his client list is all Oprah book club authors. He was so interested in my story that he sent me to work with one of his favorite Beverly Hills editors, who loved it, but he also passed on the book.

Then I went through a list of other agents who had all expressed interest in my memoir after I won the award. Each requested the full manuscript (which I considered an accomplishment in itself, given how many writers say queries seldom even get acknowledged these days). I received almost identical feedback from each agent. “Fascinating story. Well written. But not for me.” I even had two agents ask me to let them know who I ended up with; they were certain I would find representation.

Meanwhile I did everything the literary world told me to do, and built my so-called “platform.” I was blogging regularly and had a steady readership (each post garnered between 100-300 readers in the first week it was posted - certainly not viral, but more people than I ever expected would read my blog), and I had a Twitter following of over 6,000. Not bad, right? Not good enough either. I am an unknown, and few agents are willing to take that kind of risk.

I also made connections with authors, some of whom introduced me to their literary agents. Still no takers. Three New York Times best-selling authors took me under their wing, gave me advice, and offered to write blurbs for my memoir when it was published. One even spoke with me on the phone for over an hour giving me tips, and shared their book proposal plan with me so I would have a template to work with. The support was amazing, and I will never forget the generosity of these authors.

And nada. The reality is the memoir market is saturated. My option is to keep moving forward and pushing that boulder up a hill to continually roll down just to push it again, self-publish, or try something different. I do not have the marketing skills to feel confident about self-publishing, even with one of the hybrid agencies, so I’ve decided to go in a different direction.

I have not given up on publishing my memoir. The good news is that it’s written and isn’t going anywhere. I am, however, putting it on the back burner for now so I can put my energy towards a new nonfiction project using what I’ve learned through this experience.

THANK YOU, most sincerely, for your readership, support, and - in some cases - your friendship. If it weren’t for you, I would not have made it this far, nor would I be embarking on this new adventure. 

Stay tuned…

Sunday, June 14, 2015

My Transgender Hero

I don’t understand all the controversy surrounding Caitlyn Jenner. A person in a free country made a personal choice that does not affect anyone else. End of story.

Except that it isn’t. As Jenner’s interview and Vanity Fair cover photo inundated the Internet, something incredibly ugly happened. I expected Christian conservatives to say judgmental things (it seems that’s what Christian conservatism is – you just sit around all day and judge people and their (sex) lives instead of, you know, actually doing something to make the world a better place.)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Be Part of Something Beautiful...

In 2013, Harun Mehmedinovic wrote a guest post on this blog, in which he shared an incredible experience of survival. Raised in Bosnia, his home in Sarajevo was –literally – a warzone. For four years, he and family lived in daily fear for their lives, and lived without water, electricity, or a stable source of food. Harun and his family escaped to the U.S. as refugees. Harun flourished in college, earning several scholarships, to study film and theater. I find Harun’s story and perspective incredibly inspirational – after all he had been through he believes that he would never be where he is today without those experiences.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Being Homeless Saved Me From a Cult

I couldn’t sleep for two nights last week. Why was I so disturbed? Because I watched the HBO documentary “Going Clear” (based on Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief.”)

It’s a disturbing film for many reasons – an abusive, financially motivated founder, instilling fear, alienating people from friends and family, intimidation, control, stalking, and even physical torture in some cases. I couldn’t help but think of Rebecca Musser’s memoir “The Witness Wore Red” and how the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints props up human trafficking and slavery. All in the name of religion. Are people really so desperate for meaning in their lives that they allow themselves to be hijacked and brainwashed? To do the will of someone else without question? To have every aspect of your life controlled - be told what to do, what to think, and even to take your income?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The First Time I Returned to San Francisco

While San Francisco was the place where I experienced some of the worst lows of my life (being homeless and living on the streets), it was also where the pieces of it came back together. When I left the city in 1997, shortly after turning 21, it was as someone who could hold a steady job, paid her bills and never bounced a check, had earned a bartending certificate, and was hopeful about the future.

            Fast-forward to 2005. I was in the middle of my first year at Yale University, and reflected on how far I had come. I realized I had never thanked the people who had helped me when I was 16-years-old and alone in a strange city. I had not forgotten it was Larkin Street Youth Services (LSYS) that gave me shelter, medical care, food, and advice. I wrote a letter and told them if there was ever anything that I could do for them to let me know. Soon after, a response arrived. There was something I could do for LSYS - speak at their annual fundraiser, and tell my story.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Marlee – A Homeless Woman’s Death

Few people knew Marlee and what happened to her. Marlee was a homeless woman I once knew. Given recent headlines about the brutal murders of homeless people, I thought it was time to share something of her story. (I doubt Marlee’s death ever made it into the newspaper, so perhaps the fact that homeless deaths are now newsworthy means progress.)

In the summer of 1994 in San Francisco, I was transitioning from life on the streets. I was living with a friend and her stepmother, and working two part-time jobs. Yet, I couldn’t abandon the streets entirely. I often spent weekends hanging out with my street friends, especially on Haight Street. Those nights I slept in a VW van, or in Buena Vista Park underneath the stars. Many homeless people slept in that park at night. Even Marlee.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Philosophy That Can Change Your Life

What do you think of when you see the word “philosophy”? Whatever enters your mind, you probably don’t consider philosophy as guidelines for living the best possible life. Yet in ancient Greece, philosophy’s birthplace, this is what it was – practical teachings to help people make the most of their brief existence on this planet.

In my teens, I spent two tumultuous years trying to avoid being homeless on the streets. Sometimes I failed. Today, when I think that things aren’t going my way, I remind myself of those years, those struggles, and realize that what I think are problems really aren’t. Even when my life was at its worst - when I WAS sleeping in homeless shelters – I knew there were others who had it worse than I did. Some days I was grateful for a bunk bed in a shelter at night, other days for panhandling enough money to buy an instant soup to eat, or for the sun so I wouldn’t have to ride buses all day to stay out of the rain. Even when I didn’t have any of those things, I was still grateful – it could always be worse. When I didn’t have a bunk bed, I could sleep in a parking garage; if I didn’t have any money, I could get a meal at a drop-in center; if it rained, at least there were buses to keep me warm and dry.