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!
I almost didn’t post this.
But I’m 40 now, so screw it, I’m not editing myself anymore!
I wrote this after a recent visit with my parents. (I hid this from them on social media. Because I do love them and don’t want to hurt them. But being honest about hard things is important.)
This is for every queer person who still has unaffirming people in their life who love them. It’s so hard. I hear you, I love you, you aren’t alone.
It’s so complicated.
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.
Yesterday, I turned 40. I’m not sure how that is possible, when inside I feel no older than 14!
Life is (real) messy right now, but I woke up feeling stupidly grateful to be alive, and convinced myself to take my first selfie ever because WELL WHY NOT. Are bathroom selfies still a thing?! (Revealing my age now.)
I know this:
I am loved.
My mind is smarter and clearer than ever.
My body is strong and healthy. (Working out almost daily is the best thing I have ever done for my mental health and self care.)
I am the closest today to who I was made to be, and I’m excited about that. I have screwed up big throughout my life, but dammit, I really like me.
I’m not certain I deserve this beautiful life I have, but I am trying hard to grab hold of every day, stay present, work hard, dream harder, and make the most of it.
40 is also the age I will be when books are published with my name on it. (Actual books! I still don’t fully believe that until I hold one.) So many of my dreams are yet to come true, so bring it on 40’s!!!! 💯🎉🌈
Yesterday was filled with my fav things – kitchen dance party with my kids, swimming in my fav lake and breathing in deep the mountain air, sneaking in a workout, and enjoying my fav foods with a few of my people (in our Covid bubble). Man, I am so damn lucky to be alive. I don’t want to waste this breath in my lungs.
“I am a human being, meant to be in perpetual becoming. If I am living bravely, my entire life will become a million deaths and rebirths. My goal is not to remain the same but to live in such a way that each day, year, moment, relationship, conversation, and crisis is the material I use to become a truer, more beautiful version of myself.”
– @glennondoyle “Untamed”
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.
Pausing along the Maple Ridge / Pitt Meadows Dyke trails to breathe in the mountain fog.
Right now, this is my church.
On my bike, sweating down these trails, God and I have it out.
Almost every day.
My most visceral aches.
My wildest dreams.
My tender hopes.
My loud celebrations and my quiet grief.
My beautiful questions, my untamed excitement, and my honest heartbreak.
Something about this mountain air, it’s healing.
We can do this.
We can do hard things.
I hope you’re hanging in there, friends.
And I hope you are finding your church too. ❤️🌈 🚲
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!
Sometimes being an artist for a living and a hobby can get tough. I often struggle to get out what’s in my head, and I am usually (always) super critical of myself and my work. I don’t often feel like what was in my head was successfully transmitted to the screen or paper… but I’m learning to be easier and more encouraging towards myself! Perfectionism is a tough & bumpy road.
When I have a big deadline looming ahead (as I do now), I feel frozen and overwhelmed. I start to doubt myself and feel creatively stuck. When this happens, I tell myself (usually Tams will tell me!) to take a break and go write. It helps to clear my head and be creative in a way that flows much easier for me.
Here’s something I wrote about parenting two years ago, and this morning while on a much-needed break, I edited it. (I’m also trying not to judge or assess it!) Hope some other parents out there can see themselves in the words. ❤
it’s a small warm hand on your neck
it’s sticky items in your pocket
it’s moments of no patience, then immediate unbridled love
it’s wiping big tears away, then chasing joy around the corner
it’s overwhelming doubts if you can do this
it’s big eyes staring silently at you to love them
it’s no answers, yet all the questions you never thought of
it’s sitting down to eat, and never getting to eat
it’s deep breaths & pep talks & breakdowns
it’s playing dress-up & funny dances & being silly because that’s all there is
it’s a little hand reaching up for help, knowing you’ll grab it
it’s a tiny toddler plopping themselves in your lap
it’s no personal space, fingerprints on your glasses & stains on your clothes
it’s a rollercoaster of emotions, then a gentle gliding of a canoe
it’s never feeling ready, yet somehow you already are
it’s rediscovering soft sheep’s wool, the joy of a puppy playing & the crunch of leaves
it’s letting your soul be fueled by the small voice calling “Mommy?”
it’s holding tight onto the big hugs until they let go
it’s learning to let go and see how much they teach you
it’s that feeling that you are a little being’s everything
it’s unbelievably hard
it’s so beautiful you ache
it’s all so worth it
…………….. it’s being a parent
Stacey Chomiak © 2020