The manuscript for my YA memoir, “Still Stace” is DONE. I can’t believe the metamorphosis this story has undergone since my very first pitch (and I am so grateful for my editor!)
The version I originally pitched in Feb 2019 (which got me my agent) was about 1200 words. I envisioned it as a picture book. Now, as a YA illustrated memoir, it’s over 43,000 words! I never planned to write so much, or so honestly, about reconciling my sexuality and my faith – but I am so grateful for this opportunity.
Now that the writing is done, the hard part begins. THE. DRAWING. It’s one thing to write about tough and vulnerable experiences – now I gotta draw them. This weekend I sat down to start my roughs for the first chapters, and felt the familiar spiral of doubt hit me. How can I do this? Am I good enough to do this? …I can’t do this.
I got stuck. This happens to me when I am working on something I feel a lot of importance behind. The only recipe that works to get unstuck, is:
1 – get outside, preferably on my bike, stare at the mountains, sweat, lip sync some amazing music
2 – come home and create a piece of art with no expectations or judgement
Here’s what I created to get unstuck. And it worked – I drew most of yesterday and got the first section of roughs done! (Sometimes it’s a combination of letting go, and just being kinder with ourselves.)
This series of images came from listening to the lyrics of “Be Alright” by @dantebowe and @amandalindseycook. I have found great encouragement from it, I hope you connect with it too!
Right now I am working on final revisions for my manuscript for “Still Stace”. I’m also reading Glennon Doyle’s “Untamed”. This is quickly becoming a tumultuous, beautiful, terrible, gut-wrenching, wonderful, life-changing gift.
I have to read it very slowly, digesting it in small bits. Sometimes in the bath (the only place to read where I can lock myself away from toddlers), I can only manage a couple pages. My copy of her book is already dog-eared, annotated and frantically underlined. I’m not halfway done yet.
I feel, as I know many people feel, it was written JUST for me in this season of my life. No but, really, it feels that way. Glennon, can you hear me??
Today was a rare day for me. I was taken to the spa for a glorious getaway. As I laid on a surprisingly comfortable wooden recliner outside, wrapped in one of their lush white robes, I tried to muscle my way through a good chunk of her book. I feel in my bones that I need to absorb what every page says, but it’s hitting (too) close to home. Once again I hit the “oof, that hurts” wall after just a few pages.
I folded it face down on my chest and stared up at the blue sky. The spa doesn’t allow technology on-site, so I was actually forced to notice things. The way the soft breeze rustled the leaves overhead ever so gently. I studied the way the clouds swirled and reformed their puffy shapes quickly and slowly at the same time. The soothing sounds of the spa music – all that was missing was a masseuse’s hands on my shoulders.
Brené Brown talks about how she knows a book is good when she wants to throw it across the room. Well, Glennon, your book has a lot of air miles in my mind. I don’t want what you are saying to be true, but dammit, it is.
“Brave is not asking the crowd what is brave. Brave is deciding for oneself. To be brave is to forsake all others to be true to yourself.”
That sounds easy.
That sounds logical.
That sounds impossible.
How is it, that at the age of 40, I am only now learning how to truly be brave?? How to listen for my own knowing, not the mix of voices in my head that want to do the “right thing”, make others happy or do whatever it takes not to hurt them.
Guys, this is so tough.
As I write about my younger self’s struggles in coming out and finding peace with my faith and sexuality, I realize I am yet again on another excruciating journey of finding myself. (Not in the same way mind you, I’m gayer than ever.)
But then, that’s what life is, right? “Being human is not hard because you’re doing it wrong, it’s hard because you’re doing it right.” (Damn you, Glennon. Also, thank you Glennon.)
Okay, let’s keep reading.
It’s the last day of pride month. 🌈
2020 has felt more formative for me than ever.
My gay Christian journey started when I was 16, but now that I am (so very) close to the big 4-0, I feel like I am just beginning in a lot of ways. I’m truly learning what it means to trust myself – the deep, knowing me inside. To show up for myself and do hard things.
I’m learning it’s good and necessary to take up space in this world, to say things, to deeply feel things.
2020 has been a tremendously hard year – for everyone – but often the hardest times bring about the most growth and beauty. I have a sense the coming months for me will be the hardest, but I am tenaciously hopeful and believing for the growth and beauty in the midst of it. (Maybe, because of it.)
A friend sent me this quote that I have said to myself every day lately:
“I will go, and I will go afraid.”
– Morgan Harper Nichols
I hope that wherever you are on your coming out journey, you know it is okay.
You are more than okay. You are loved.
Happy Pride, my friends. ❤️🌈🎉
📷 Photo of Stacey ©2019 Camilla Hrytzak.
Friends, I can’t believe I get to announce this dream come true. If you don’t mind indulging me, I will give you a quick timeline of how I got here:
I have always wanted to do a project combining my art and faith journey as a gay Christian. In late 2018 I thought of doing a kids book so that my kids, and other kids, could read it. I called it “Dear Younger (gay) Me”.
Nov 2018 – I had a call with Jennifer Knapp (childhood icon!) about an unrelated project we were going to collaborate on, and I brought up my book idea. She encouraged me to do it.
Feb 2019 – I started sketching storyboards & writing on the train to and from work. I was shocked at how quickly it all came pouring out of me. I reached out to Rachel Held Evans. (I wrote a guest post for her blog in 2014 and had kept in contact with her.) She wrote me back saying: “What a beautiful book, Stacey! I’m happy to share far and wide. Thank you for making this.”
May 2019 – I sent out my book idea on a whim to see if I could get an agent to represent me. Within four hours of sending it out, and to my total shock, I had two offers of representation. I signed with The Bent Agency in NYC a few days later.
July 2019 – My agent Claire sent out a formal book proposal to a bunch of editors and we wait. (I am learning publishing is a slow game!) Claire helps me evolve and expand my story from a kids book to a YA illustrated novel.
Oct 2019 – We are approached by Beaming Books who are very interested.
Nov 2019 – Beaming Books sends Claire a book offer to publish! Claire goes back and forth to negotiate the terms as I vibrate with excitement in the corner.
Feb 5, 2020 – I officially sign the book deal with Beaming Books!! They start a discussion about changing the name of the book to be more suitable for a YA audience. They land on “Still Stace: My Gay Christian Coming of Age Story (An Illustrated Memoir)”.
March 5, 2020 it is officially announced in Publishers Marketplace (above image) I can fiiiiiiiinnnnnnally share this with you all!!
I am beyond grateful for this opportunity. I am trying to do my best writing and drawing for the privilege to be able to represent a voice for the gay Christian community, and for younger me. ALL. THE. FEELS.
Children’s Bookshelf also shared my book deal in their list (below), and I still can’t believe this is happening. But it’s been a long road, so I’m going to celebrate each milestone! (In a perfect coincidence, I was having a dance party with the kids when the tweet came in! 😆) Click image for link.
Stay tuned for updates as I continue to work on it!