A few weeks ago, I was meditating and I saw a rainbow in my mind's eye. The thought came to me that Shades of Gay is going to be even bigger than I thought.
A quick glance at my Facebook page confirms that I'm about to go viral, if I haven't already. I now have 254 fans, and it appears the fan base is growing every time I look at the page. The book isn't even finished yet and I have all these fans... I hope I can live up to expectations. I hope people will buy the book.
I need to stop hoping and go write my two scenes for today. I'm starting a new chapter, which is always the most difficult part of the writing. Plus I'm trying to sandwich Shades of Gay in between four freelancing clients. The last few chapters also mark a break from the rest of the book, as time is accelerating forward to get to some major events aka the climax. (OF THE STORY, not of anything else, in case you were wondering.)
The closer I get to finishing this, the more exciting and scary the whole thing gets.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
A few weeks ago, I was meditating and I saw a rainbow in my mind's eye. The thought came to me that Shades of Gay is going to be even bigger than I thought.
Posted by Shades of Gay at 11:17 PM
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
It's been quite a while since I've written in this blog. I didn't think I had anything new to report, other than gaining more fans on Facebook. The truth was, in some ways I'd given up.
See, I've been afraid my entire life to truly embrace my destiny as a writer. Everyone always told me that writers can not make money, for the most part, and that I should have a job to fall back on. Sound, practical advice. The problem is that I'm one of those people who is not cut out for a 9-5 job.
Nevertheless, I persevered in the belief that I would have an ordinary job and write in my spare time. I taught for two years because in addition to needing to write and needing to eat, I need to feel I am making a difference in the world. But teaching left me so exhausted that I couldn't write much. Last year was particularly difficult because I was in a school environment in which the emphasis was on politics, not teaching. I was not liked because of my stubborn belief that I was there to make a difference and my equally idealistic belief that non-verbal autistic children are teachable. The entire year was an uphill battle, in which the principal and some of my fellow teachers seemed to live to make my life miserable. I very often stayed up until 2 or 3 in the morning, trying to escape the misery of my job situation by hanging out with friends or creating art/writing. At the end of the year I chose not to come back.
A wise decision, to be sure, but I still needed to eat, so I got a summer job. I worked in a phone store. Sometimes I put batteries in phones or put items on shelves. Often, I had nothing to do. I had to be there until 6 in the evening. I felt time being wasted away by this job. I felt keenly that I was worth more than putting batteries in phones and stickers on boxes. And yet with the economy the way it was, and my savings as low as they were, how dare I question the fact that I had a job?
All this time, all these months, I was not writing a word. I came home from work at 6:30 PM to eat supper and forget the world by getting on Facebook. Then I went to bed so that I could get up and do it all over again in the morning. I was always exhausted, no matter how much sleep I got.It just seemed I was wasting my life. But there didn't seem a way out of it.
Then, on August 31, I got laid off from my job.
I'm the happiest I've been in months despite not having another job. Oh, I'm not stupid enough to think I can live without money. I've applied for unemployment and it'll give me a little something to get by on. And I've applied for a few teaching jobs just in case. But I'm not worried, not stressed, not anything.
I've been in this situation before, where I couldn't find a job. I've always been worried about how I'm going to pay the rent. But this time is different.
Since I got laid off, I've made the decision to go into business as a freelancer. I wake up when I want to wake up and spend the day in productive activity. I've already made a little bit of money from freelance jobs and it looks like I might make some more. I'm writing every day and fully expect to be done with a draft of Shades of Gay within a month. My time is my own, my life is my own... and I know I will be able to support myself with this eventually.
The path I'm on is scary at times because I'm not quite sure of what I'm doing or if it's right. It's also a natural extension of who I am as a person. The same spirit that drove me to open my own publishing company is driving me to find a way to make money without being tied to a regular job. I have enough in savings and coming to me in unemployment to give this a go for a few months. And I know that this is the path G-d has carved out for me.
I've considered doing something like this many, many times, and I've pulled back from it. See, in the past I was looking at it as out of my control. The choices were live in a house and have a job, or live on the streets without one. I thought the only way I could make money is if people actually bought my book. It wasn't happening with Winter's Silence, probably because I didn't do enough to make it happen. So I thought, I need to have financial security in order to save the money to create Shades of Gay and then pray that customers respond more strongly to it than they did to Winter's Silence.
All of that is the wrong way to think. Being successful as a writer isn't a matter of luck or fate. I'm not the victim of the economy or people's lack of interest or anything else my brain could come up with for why I may fail.
The correct way to think is the way I'm finally thinking now. I want to make enough money to support myself and my writing. How do I make that happen?
I've long wanted a job as an editorial assistant, but there don't seem to be any positions like that in this area, and I can't afford to move right now. So I have to MAKE the position I want--from my home. I've already gotten some freelance editing clients, and as I see how much I can do in a day I'm sure I can get some more. I have plenty of ideas for promotion. I've put a lot of energy into hunting for jobs that I never get because I don't have "enough experience". Now it's time to put that energy into editing and writing.
Shades of Gay will be written and published on time, and it will be a success. No doubt about it. I am CHOOSING this path, and I am making it happen.
I wouldn't recommend this path for everyone. You have to have a lot of ambition, a lot of talent, and most importantly a lot of self-discipline. You also need to have enough money coming in to pay your bills while you get established. But for me it is a matter of survival. I can not live the life I want to live and have a traditional job. My dreams are too big for that and my lifestyle too different.
Will I take the teaching position I applied for if I get it? Sure. But I would have to find a way to work around it so I can keep moving towards my dream. I'm secretly hoping NOT to get it so that I don't have to live by someone else's schedule. But even if I do, this is it for me, the last year I'm going to do this. I will be working behind the scenes to make things happen so I don't have to answer to anyone else for my living.
Monday, June 8, 2009
[This is a repost of a press release published at The Open Press on April 24. Please feel free to share.]
Dunn, NC (OPENPRESS) April 24, 2009 -- On April 15, 2009, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Youth Advocacy Store opened via Cafepress. The online store sells T-shirts and accessories meant to spread awareness about the high suicide rate among LGBT youth, as well as encouraging teenagers to choose life.
The store was created by author Stephanie Silberstein, who is also writing a young adult novel to bring awareness to the issue. Silberstein nearly lost a close friend to suicide over his sexual orientation last summer. After doing some research, she learned that her friend’s situation was not uncommon; 30% of completed youth suicides are related to sexual orientation. "He chose not to be a statistic," Silberstein says. "I’m reaching out to others like him, both in gratitude for his continued life and in hopes of making a difference."
The primary product offered is a black t-shirt inscribed with, "30% of suicides are LGBT related. I refuse to be a statistic." Silberstein also offers t-shirts and hats supporting other issues important to the LGBT community, such as school safety and answering religious condemnation of homosexuality.
The shirts are sold for $15-$30 each; 10% of profits will help The Trevor Project Suicide Hotline, the only national suicide hotline targeted specifically towards LGBT youth. The rest of the proceeds will be used to support the independent publication of Silberstein's LGBT teen-oriented novel, Shades of Gay, in May 2010.
Suicide prevention shirt sold at the LGBT Youth Advocacy Store
Silberstein is planning several events intended to lower the suicide rate among LGBT adolescents, the first of which is a candlelight vigil and dinner in honor of Harvey Milk's birthday in May. Participants are encouraged to wear the shirts at these events in order to drive the message home.
"Whether or not you are participating in an event, please buy a t-shirt today and wear it with pride," Silberstein says. "Chances are that there's a young person in your life who needs to see its message. If each of us can just encourage one person to keep living, the day will come when there are no more people killing themselves because of who they are."
For more information, please visit:
Posted by Shades of Gay at 7:10 PM
Sunday, April 26, 2009
I haven't abandoned this blog. I just can't get on it to post during my down time at school. All blogs are blocked in the first place, but I used to be able to use a proxy server to get around that. I know that's not what the school would have wanted, but I figured I wasn't really doing anything wrong. I'm not above breaking the rules if the rules seem senseless. It may be part of my Asperger's or ADD or whatever it is I have. I wouldn't want me any other way, so I don't worry about it.
Anyway, so here I am again on a beautiful (if a bit too hot) Sunday, catching you all up. I hope to be able to blog more regularly again. It's hard to track progress when updates are sporadic.
Quite a lot has happened in the last week, on several fronts. First of all, I'm moving forward on my Suicide Prevention events. The online event now has 26 attendees on Facebook. I never could figure out how to get the event invitation to work on Myspace... it seems to get caught in an endless loop every time I try. So I just posted a bulletin about it and hoped for the best. I may write on some people's comment space as well. We'll see.
Putting this event together--as well as the offline event, which I'll blog about in a second--has been the hardest thing I've ever done. It's not that it's really difficult to set up an online event or anything like that. It's that reading the stories of people who have committed suicide really upsets me.
I started writing Shades of Gay because my best friend used to be suicidal because of his sexual orientation. He didn't deserve to suffer the way he did, and every day I thank G-d that he is still alive. But reading these stories makes me realize how many people aren't as lucky, and how easily it could have gone the other way. More than once I've found myself crying over the needless suffering and waste. So far I've found six stories, and all of them sound the same. This person had a ton of potential. This person was doing good things for their family/friends/community. This person's suicide shocked everyone.
It's time for this to stop. 1 out of 3 suicides is LGBT related. That's about 1500 people a year.
This should be considered a national crisis just as much as AIDS or any other epidemic. Hell, the fact that there are 5000 suicides a year for any reason should be considered a national crisis. The fact that a full third of those suicides are related to being a member of a group making up just 10% of the population should be doubly so.
Anyway, as hard as it is for me to read these stories, I have to keep reading them, because I want to be the voice of all those who have died and who have wanted to die and who still want to die. This is not the way G-d intends human beings to live, it's not the way we should live, and it's going to stop.
Another thing I did this week was create a short video letting people know about this problem. I think if we can put faces and names to statistics, the majority of people can be reached. I'm not worrying about the extremists, the truly committed homophobes who protest the funerals of gay suicide victims and claim that they deserved to die. I'll leave that battle for someone else, thank you very much. But I will try to reach the ordinary people who aren't aware a problem exists, and the ones who are homophobic by default, simply because they've never met a gay person and therefore have had no reason to question the attitudes they've been brought up with.
I'm also trying to reach the people who already care, the people who are LGBT supporters. I'm hoping those people will join me in making a difference.
I've got web sites and press releases and videos galore out on the World Wide Web, and I just pray that it makes a difference. I want to do something important. I want to help people. I want to put an end to needless suffering.
One last piece of news: I am likely having a candlelight vigil followed by a dinner on May 22, in honor of the birth of Harvey Milk and of suicide awareness month. I am working with the LGBT Center of Raleigh to secure a space for the event. Tickets will be $7, and will go towards the LGBT Center as well as the Trevor Project Hotline.
If you do not live in Raleigh, I encourage you to have your own event and let me know about it. I will post pictures, videos, etc.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I haven't written in this blog for a week. It' snot because I haven't been productive; actually, I've had one of the most productive weeks in a while. I was on vacation from my day job, and during that time I managed to accomplish the following, Shades of Gay wise:
* Finished the brand-new LGBT Youth Advocacy Site and Store (http://www.cafepress.com/shadesofgay)
* Created a Squidoo page, linked to the store (http://www.squidoo.com/shadesofgay)
* Updated the Shades of Gay Myspace (http://www.myspace.com/shades_of_gay)
* Created a series of events for Suicide Awareness Week, purposely coinciding with Harvey Milk's birthday (exact;y a year before publication)
* Wrote another half chapter of Shades of Gay
Actually writing the novel is at the bottom of the list. I'm doing a lot of promotion, none of which will be any good if I don't FINISH THE NOVEL.
Vacation weeks are always more difficult. As much as I dislike my current job, it does provide some structure. I have to be up at 5:30 AM and doing my morning planning, I have to be here by 7:30 AM, I have to be here ALL DAY (which provides opportunities to work on business stuff), etc.
When I'm on vacation, I'm a lot looser. I stay up late, hang around Facebook a lot (site blocking has its advantages, I guess), spend lots of time with friends and family... I don't regret any of that, but there's a bit less structure... if I'm going to really be a professional writer, I need to be able to discipline myself without external structure forcing me to focus.
So today, here I am back at work, discovering that I can't do half the things I need to do because the site blockers are in the way, half asleep from staying up way too late last night, frustrated, and ready for another vacation so I can be productive.
Posted by Shades of Gay at 2:13 PM
Monday, April 13, 2009
Over the last few days, it's become more clear what my mission is.
I've been saying for months that Shades of Gay is more than just a novel; it's a part of the LGBT rights movement. This weekend, that became even clearer as I began working on my cafepress site.
One of the reasons for Cafepress is, of course, to sell t-shirts. But my primary reason for having the site is to be an advocate for LGBT teens. When Shades of Gay is finished and people read it, they'll see that it's an illustration of the struggles that LGBT teens face, everything from bullying to self-destructive behavior.
I mentioned last week that the real reason I'm writing and publishing Shades of Gay is to stem the tide of LGBT suicide. The new site attempts to address that issue, as well as bullying, the need to explore relationships, etc.
Check it out at http://www.cafepress.com/shadesofgay. I don't have everything up yet, but you should be able to get an idea of what's coming.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Yesterday I was having a hard time writing. For the first time since I began the final push towards completing the first draft, I didn't write 1000 words. In fact, I wrote hardly anything at all.
You see, I'd forgotten why I'm writing Shades of Gay. I'm writing it just to write it or just to make money or even just to have a published book. I'm writing it to draw my line in the sand, to squarely face off all those who insist on judging homosexuality, who insist on accusing good people of being "deceived" and being aligned with Satan, who insist on throwing their hurtful words and sometimes more around and don't give a fuck who they hurt.
I'm writing Shades of Gay to say this is going to stop. I have a good friend who I have seen suffer so much and so undeservedly because of hir sexual orientation. 30% of GLBT youth commit suicide every year because, like my friend, they can't make themselves be straight like the people around them think they ought to be. 30%. According to the Talmud, whoever saves one life saves the world entire and yet we are allowing 30% of our youth to die in the name of I don't know what. Religious people would say G-d, but the G-d I worship doesn't encourage people to live short, miserable lives and die at their own hands.
Sadder yet, knowing this will not change the minds of those people who believe that homosexuality is a sin that they ought to help rid the world of. They'll just say, "The wages of sin are death," as if that somehow makes all this wasted life okay. It makes me wonder what G-d they serve and what they really believe. It certainly isn't the G-d I'm familiar with.
So I'm going to say this one last time: stop being so careless with your judgments. Sit at a distance and judge if you want, but keep it to yourself. Better yet, before you judge, hold your best friend in your arms and pray that it's enough to stop him/her from kill hirself. Then tell me that the wages of sin are death and that if an LGBT person kills hirself it's no loss.
While you're doing that, I'll be writing Shades of Gay.