I have some great news!
First of all, an opinion piece I wrote called "The Grande Ole Lies" will be published in Moot Magazine's June 9, 2012 issue. I have another idea which I'm going to write for their July issue called "America as Dystopia". If accepted, it will be my first non-gay related publication! I really like this magazine and hope to be a regular contributor.
In other news, my YA novel "No Turning Back" has also been accepted for publication! I have dreamed about this day for years. I think I'm still in shock! I've signed a contract and am waiting to hear from an editor. But I have already been told that I probably won't need to make too many changes and that the book is well-written; what every writer wants to hear!
Also, now that I have an actual YA publication coming out, I think I can try to attract a YA audience without feeling like a total creep.
The Journey of "No Turning Back"
I began the first draft of "No Turning Back" when I was eleven. Except it was called "Marooned" and the characters were different: 3 boys and 1 girl. In this version, runaway kids build a boat and sail it off the coast of Maine until they reach an island. This was definitely inspired by some video we watched in 6th grade about Maine, and apparently Gilligan's Island. Then I realized that 11-year-olds building a boat to sail the ocean was ridiculous and started over with "Running Away", which had a lot more of a Punky Brewster feel, and included an "orphan's truck" which chased after my characters like a dog catcher. I handwrote about a hundred pages in that draft, but I think I lost it a few years ago. My favorite memory of that draft is when the kids find a homeless man, "an old man, about 40", who hobbles around using a stick as a cane. You can see where I had previously written that the man was 30 and erased it!
At age 12/13 I wrote another draft with new characters and ages, including 4 of the 5 characters that exist today. Somewhere in this time period the title changed to "No Turning Back". I remember the day I thought to myself that I couldn't wait to meet Ash(ley), Dayna and Kevin, and then realized they didn't exist. In these drafts, there were times that I would write certain scenes and then feel guilty and cross them out. These scenes always involved Ash and Dayna.
In high school the 5th character was added, but he was only mentioned once or twice. There were many times I stayed after school on days I didn't have to work, and spent an hour in the weight room and an hour in the newspaper classroom, transferring my book from typewritten form to the computer. I also decided that I should be a Christian writer, and the biggest theme in the book became Ash's conversion of Dayna and Kevin to Christianity. I still had to keep deleting scenes where Ash and Dayna got a little too touchy-feely.
In my college "year" I did some editing, thinking my book was ready for publication. At this point I had rewritten the entire book in pencil, typewriter, and computer format at least ten times. At age 21 I sent a query and sample chapters to a Christian publishing company, even though I was now an out lesbian and didn't consider myself Christian anymore. At the time I just couldn't picture my book written any other way. My query was returned, the chapters unread, with a form letter saying I needed an agent. I had no idea how to find an agent, and was under the mistaken impression that an agent required payment up front, so my writing suffered for several years after this. I didn't know who to go to for help; I didn't know how to learn what to do. Sometimes I would start a new idea, but it would fizzle out. Sometimes I would half-heartedly read over "No Turning Back", and then quit again. Sometimes I wrote a short story in which everyone died tragically mid-plot. But I did keep reading.
At age 27, I found the Writer's Digest Writing Forums. I had been trying to get into writing again, and had lost all the files to my old version of NTB, so I started over from scratch, with no preaching. I also started experimenting with different genres, so my first visit to the Forum was to Sci-Fi/Fantasy, even though I don't really write in those genres! (I like to read them, though.) I have learned SO MUCH through that group! But I didn't want to limit myself to only one group, so have also visited Absolute Write, and read a lot, and took a course through Long Ridge Writer's Group.
At 29 my wife and I had a wedding ceremony, and I also had a baby boy. My son inspired me to stop being afraid of submitting my work. I realized that after all this time of telling myself to wait until I was "ready", the time had come and I was ready. I got my first non-fiction pieces published just a few months after deciding to make real submissions.
(Paragraph edited to take out spoilers) I also decided to just write a certain scene to get it out of my system. And when I wrote the scene, I realized that the missing piece to my story was complete.
After at least 40 agent rejections, I began researching small publishing companies. According to what I have read about the writing market, the book I wrote has a very small chance of being considered "marketable" by a mainstream publisher, both because of my character's ages (8 to 13, which is usually considered Middle Grade, but I wrote the book as YA) and because of some sexual orientation factors. When I saw the web site for a press devoted to LGBT fiction for YA, I knew I'd found a place that might give me a chance. And now they did!
The novel I began writing at age 11 will be published a few months after I turn 31.
I plan on finishing my next book, "The Divide" in much less time!