That Kind of Writer


Did you know that earlier this month I published my novel The Prostitutes of Lake Wiishkoban, and it’s now available in both paperback and Kindle editions? Well, be prepared to hear an awful lot about it in the coming months. As the popular kids say these days, sorry not sorry.

Thinking back to my earlier years, I can still remember the gleeful joy that I felt when I first discovered the amazing power to put shocked expressions on old people’s faces by shouting the wonderful four-letter words that I’d just learned. Part of the reason I can still remember that joy so vividly is that, in a lot of ways, I’ve never really moved past it. Yes, the novelty of shocking people by saying “curse” words wore off long ago, but back in the day I directly transitioned from that phase of my life into shocking people by expressing my sincerely-held political viewpoints. (It kind of helped that I went to a school full of authoritarian teachers and administrators who thought that no one should ever dare challenge them on anything, let alone a lowly student such as myself.)

That was when I started getting involved in the politics of sex and sexuality. Even though I still hadn’t formed much in the way of an identity in that regard, and I was surrounded by the virulent homophobia of 1980’s American culture, there was something about the fact that Americans could still be imprisoned for decades simply because they weren’t heterosexual that shook me. I’d already been studying African-American history and culture due to my deep love of rap music back then, and I started to see the connections between the African-American struggle and the struggles of LGBT+/SAGA Americans. The fact that I could shock a lot of cantankerous old people around me by talking about the politics of sex and sexuality, because young people “aren’t supposed to talk about that kind of stuff,” only made me talk about it all the more.

I’m deeply involved and interested in a number of political issues, as the .org clearly attests to. Sex and sexuality politics have always been at or near the top of that list, though, not just because I still like shocking people, but also because of my own identity and the identities of my friends. When I first wrote The Prostitutes of Lake Wiishkoban several years ago, I didn’t set out to write a novel about sex and sexuality. (I didn’t even set out to write a novel at all, just a short story). I was only writing out an inspiration that came to me after reading Mary Gaitskill and listening to Tom Waits one holiday season. Looking back, though, maybe I was destined to write about those topics in my first novel.

Back when the novel first gained some publicity a few years ago, when I was entering it into unpublished novel competitions and seeking mainstream publication, I wrote here about the changes that were going to come to the .org as a result. I’d taken a much different tone on the .org after finishing grad school, not discussing some issues so much because I was adjusting to a new professional life, but the need to promote my still-unpublished novel was such that I pretty much had to start discussing sex and sexuality politics again. It was a big change, but one that I was glad to have an excuse to make.

If there was one benefit I gained from the long period between sending my first query to a literary agent about The Prostitutes of Lake Wiishkoban all those years ago, and finally publishing the novel this month, it’s that I’ve had a lot of time to research and practice the things that we self-published authors have to do for ourselves, when we don’t have the benefit of a big publishing company to handle our publicity efforts and such. It’s an art that I’m still very much in the first steps of learning, and it doesn’t come easily to me (self-promotion is never easy when you spent your formative years around people who told you that you were inferior to everyone else), but at least I’ve had opportunities to practice a lot of these things in small ways.

Now, though, comes the real thing. Even if I weren’t in a difficult situation brought on by Mom’s passing away earlier this year, I still need to leave everything on the field now. There are no minor leagues of novel writing, and The Prostitutes of Lake Wiishkoban cannot be a “whimsical first effort” at a book. This novel has to knock everyone’s socks off, and maybe it won’t, but if it fails to meet that goal then it darn sure won’t be for lack of trying. As was the case all those years ago when I was first writing about the novel on here, though, it doesn’t matter how good of a novel I’ve written if no one knows about it.

What that’s going to mean for the future is a lot more blogging about the politics of sex and sexuality. I won’t be writing about that exclusively by any means, but these are things that I’ve got to write more about for the purpose of getting my own name out there in connection with these topics, which should then (the theory goes) boost my book sales. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

This isn’t an easy thing for me, in large part because I’ve had a very uneasy relationship with politics for several months now, especially the last two. I’m definitely going to have to keep writing about education in the months and years ahead — a lot of people (and causes) I care deeply about will likely be under constant attack in the coming years — but things feel a whole lot different at the end of this year than they did at the start, and all the deaths (family and otherwise) that I’ve had to deal with are only part of the reason for that.

As 2016 draws to a close, and there’s all this talk about how awful the year was for so many people, it’s important to remember that 2017 could get even worse. No matter what happens to me this next year, good or bad, I know that I have some of the hardest fights of my life ahead of me. Having a top-selling novel won’t fix all of my problems by any stretch, but it would make some of them easier to deal with, so I’ve got to do what I can here to promote the novel and get it into people’s hands. I just hope I can do that without ticking off too many of the wrong people. (I’ll still want to tick off some people, though. You know, the ones who deserve it.)

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