2018 Roundup: The Inside-Out Shit-Sandwich

If I had to sum up 2018 in one GIF, this would probably be it:

Ryan Reynolds Holy Fucking Shit! GIF by tenor

Ryan Reynolds Holy Fucking Shit! GIF by tenor

And yes, that covers pretty much both the good and the bad. Still, you’re still here, and so am I, and that’s definitely something to celebrate, given how this year went. I was thinking about what the best way to do a roundup of the wild rollercoaster that 2018 has been would be, and after much deliberation settled on the Shit Sandwich. You know, the idea that when giving feedback, you layer the bad between slices of good, so that you don’t come across as a totally pretentious asshole who is out to ruin nice things for everybody (seriously, don’t be that person.)

Anyway, 2018 was a bit more like an Inside-Out Shit-Sandwich, or, as one of my best friends likes to call it…kind of yummy-yucky. Here’s your rundown:

This is me pre-morphine, which MAY have been my first ever experience with strong pain killers. I could SMELL the color red. And yes, I did text the whole experience to my CPs, because RESEARCH!

This is me pre-morphine, which MAY have been my first ever experience with strong pain killers. I could SMELL the color red. And yes, I did text the whole experience to my CPs, because RESEARCH!

Health-wise, 2018 tried to kill me. Unfortunately, it did take that one a little too literally, because what started out with my first-ever stint at a U.S. emergency room (thank the gods for health insurance, I could actually afford it) with suspected chronic gallbladder malfunction. This—surprise!—actually turned out to be the most massive of massive blood clots in my lower right abdomen, stretching from my major abdominal vein into my leg, and into my renal vein, where it most likely killed off my right kidney (which we named Aqualad, the Shitty Kidney as a result). Bonus shitty points for not figuring this out until 7 MONTHS LATER after my back was killing me and I thought I’d literally broken myself chasing editing deadlines. Spoiler: if you have intense lower back pain AND THEN your right leg swells up and feels like a balloon about to pop, you MIGHT just have a massive blood clot at your hands. And no, Alex, you won’t be able to drive yourself to the doctor’s office, because you’re not fine. Not even a little bit. Thanks to my lovely wife, Tori, my good friend and critique partner extraordinaire, Kendra, who did the driving that day, and everyone else who’s stuck with me through this ordeal, which resulted in my doctor making this face O_O, then rushing me to the ER, followed by an overnight hospital stay where surgery was a very definite option that we fortunately didn’t have to resort to (it would have been major and super scary). It took me the next three months to be able to move and walk without pain again, and I have to say, this shit definitely changed my perspective (and served as accidental research for my MC in Empire of Light, who becomes a cane-user, so I guess there’s always that.)

Anyway, I made it through that, will definitely be on medication for the rest of my life, and am rocking some super stylish compression socks (I want them to make some with unicorns, but in the meantime, I’m partial to argyle and rainbow stripes).

Of course, while I was recuperating physically, my mental health decided to have its “Hold my Beer!” moment and send me into one of the worst depressive spirals I’ve had since 2012. Fortunately we figured out a way to get things back on track with meds and self-care. Oh, and then there was the bit where I got SHINGLES. Yeah…2018 was A Year in terms of health. Let’s not keep going with this, shall we? Anyway, let this be your reminder to hydrate, take your meds, and move as much as you can, lovelies, because this shit is scary.

Okay, time for some GOOD, yeah?

Well, actually, it started with some bad, since 2018 also was the year I parted ways with my now former agent, due to her health making her unable to continue agenting. I’m not going to go super into detail here, but let it be said that one of the things all those blog posts and Twitter threads about agenting often don’t cover is what to do when you have to take that painful step of leaving your agent because things aren’t working out. It’s hard. And definitely took me some time to adjust. And yes, I’m going to query again in 2019. It’s cool, I have a battle plan and am super grateful for all of my publishing and author friends who continuously cheer me on and didn’t let me wallow too much, because onward!

These lovely rainbow roses were sent to me by my lovely Speculator CPs!

These lovely rainbow roses were sent to me by my lovely Speculator CPs!

Speaking of onward, I signed not one, but TWO publishing contracts in 2018, and I couldn’t be happier. In April, I signed my publishing contract for my debut queer science fiction novel, Empire of Light, with NineStar Press. It’s been one hell of a journey to get there. Definitely a rollercoaster worth of ups and downs, and tight twists, but 2019 will be my debut year as a queer SFF author and I couldn’t be more grateful to Rae, Sam, and the rest of the NineStar Team, who have since introduced me to so many fantastic authors I am happy to call friends.

And that’s not all! I also signed a contract to contribute to BEHIND THE SUN, ABOVE THE MOON, a queer anthology full of stories featuring trans and nonbinary characters written by trans and nonbinary creators, which will release with NineStar Press in 2020. I am beyond thrilled to be included in this and so happy this is happening. Watch this space, and subscribe to my newsletter for updates on all the shiny queer story-shaped things!

Hi! Same name, new pronouns! Thanks to everyone who uses them and corrects others when they don’t. I couldn’t do this without you all!

Hi! Same name, new pronouns! Thanks to everyone who uses them and corrects others when they don’t. I couldn’t do this without you all!

The biggest personal change in 2018 was definitely coming out as nonbinary in March of this year. Frankly, it was probably one of the most terrifying things I have ever done, especially as someone who constantly questions their own value and validity. But it’s also been incredibly empowering and just so liberating to finally get this off my chest and no longer keep my gender identity to myself like it’s something to hide and pretend doesn’t exist.

I cannot thank everyone enough for their support along my journey, especially those of you who remind others that yes, my pronouns are they/them, and to use them, especially when I’m too tired to constantly remind others. My enby journey and figuring out what exactly all of this meant to me, definitely shaped a large part of this year and still continues doing so, because guess what? I might be in my 30s, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t figured it all out yet. Far from it, really.

Coming out to my principal was absolutely terrifying, because I generally kept my queerness very much under wraps when I first started teaching. Only in recent years, I’ve started to feel comfortable enough to be “me” more and more in the classroom. Being a queer teacher, never mind a nonbinary one in a super conservative state where still so many honestly don’t even know what to do with you, is…a lot. It’s still a lot, and probably will continue being a lot, because things change glacially, but they are changing. Also, yes, my students adapted to my “new” title of Mx. without much issue. They are still working on the they/them, along with many others, but its the ones who do get it—and correct others when they overhear them misgendering me—that make my heart so incredibly full and make doing this over and over again easier. Thank you.

Yay for Goodreads keeping track of all of my reading! Over 47k pages across 158 books! Not bad!

Yay for Goodreads keeping track of all of my reading! Over 47k pages across 158 books! Not bad!

Finally, my year in books. Honestly, it’s been a GOOD year for reading, and I’m beyond thrilled with how many queer books I read in 2018. Honestly, a majority of the 158 books I read were queer, many by queer authors of color. I feel incredibly lucky to be surrounded by so many talented and hard-working authors who tell the kinds of queer stories I’ve always wanted to read. Thank you. All of you. Especially on the hard days. They’re worth it. Your stories are worth it.

I would be amiss if I didn’t mention some of my favorite books of 2018, so here you go:

Favorite Science Fiction: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

I adored this book so much. Lady astronauts. Alternate history that asks so many questions that make this such a fantastic genre. Also, the audiobooks are narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal herself and are outstanding.

Favorite Graphic Novel: The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

I’ve talked about this one before, but seriously, if you need a happy read that subtly explores queerness for kids of all ages, READ THIS BOOK. You won’t regret it. Thank you to Ren, who sent this to me when I was really struggling with depression. This book meant a lot to me.

Favorite Romance: His Cocky Cellist by Cole McCade

This was originally recommended to me because I wanted to learn more about well-written content warnings, but Cole McCade’s work quickly hooked me (also, he’s a generally awesome human to boot). I loved how this book explored D/s dynamics in conjunction with sex work, and definitely want to read more like this.

Favorite Series: Port Lewis Witches by Brooklyn Ray

This series focuses on a coven of queer witches in the Pacific Northwest and I simply adore the characters. The first in the series, Darkling, hooked me with a trans main character, who wants to kiss his best friend, incredibly well-written sex scenes, and all the dark magic. I’m so excited that there will be more of this!

Favorite Fantasy: The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang

I got to JY Yang’s Tensorate series kind of late, but ever since I dove into their intricately-built universe full of nonbinary characters, political intrigue, and self-discovery, I couldn’t get enough of it. Another recommendation for the audio format since it includes the first three novellas in the series and is so very well done.

Favorite YA: Dreadnought by April Daniels

Two words: Trans Superheroes. This book hooked me from page one and I found it both incredibly relatable and it also kicked me right in the feels (CWs for transphobia though since there is a LOT of heavy content in this book that is much more than a superhero story).

Anyway, that’s it for the bookish and health-related updates of 2018. It’s definitely been a messy, but also incredibly important year for me. I’ve learned a lot, last but not least, to listen to my body a little more and be kinder to myself (it’s harder than it should be), but most of all I’m just really, really grateful for everyone who’s been along for this wild ride.

Thank you to each and every one of you. You made this shit-sandwich of a year actually really fucking awesome in the end. <3

Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Jeffrey Marsh



Happy Wednesday!

I'm super stoked to kick off Queering Up Your Bookshelf, an interview series in which I'll chat with LGBTQ+ authors about the queer stories they write. Follow this for new posts every Wednesday.

To start us off, I'm excited to welcome Jeffrey Marsh on this blog to chat about their book How To Be You, inspiration, and finding yourself. Welcome, Jeffrey!

Jeffrey Marsh

Jeffrey Marsh

Jeffrey Marsh has over 350 million views on social media. Jeffrey is the first nonbinary author with a "Big 5" publisher, Penguin Random House. Jeffrey created the best-selling self-esteem classic ‘How To Be You,’ which topped O Magazine's Gratitude Meter and was named an Excellent Book of 2017 by TED-Ed. ‘How to Be You’ revolutionized publishing categorization as the first book to seamlessly combine three genres: memoir, workbook, and spiritual self-help. Jeffrey is a precepted facilitator in the Soto Zen tradition of Buddhism.

Find Jeffrey Marsh online: WEBSITE TWITTER INSTAGRAM

1. What is your writing origin story?

I wanted to write a book for fun. I wanted to write for expression and to help myself heal. I know it sounds selfish! But it was honestly the least selfish thing, because it seems to have helped other people. ‘How To Be You’ is a love letter to me — to my eleven-year-old self. I have wished many times to be able to reach back in time and tell little Jeffrey that they are worthy and that they are valued. It’s lucky because it turns out that a lot of readers were waiting for a love letter like that and people have really enjoyed reading it for themselves. Because, after all, it is a love letter to everyone in the world. My friend was writing a book a couple years ago, and we did a tv spot together and then HER literary agent said “do you think Jeffrey has a book in them?” And there was no other book I wanted to write.

2. What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?

As I said in the answer to question one, I’m really inspired by myself. Just kidding! I’m actually inspired by the LGBTQ youth who don’t have the same hang-ups I was taught to carry around. I just gave a speech at an LGBTQ youth event in Utah, and the kids (they don’t like to be called kids but I’m doing it anyway) are so far ahead. They get being nonbinary; they understand trans identity. But more than that, the youngest among us understand how hate works. I grew up thinking that because people couldn’t handle who I am it was my fault somehow, and it is very inspiring to see younger folks not taking haters so seriously. I pour all of that inspiration into my writing.

3. What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

Honestly, I’ve always kind of thought of “representation” as something that happens in fiction — and this question has opened my mind! Obviously memoir is a kind of representation, and ‘How To Be You’ is partly memoir. I would hope that I represent how to be human and how similar we all are. I was asked in a TV interview about whether readers would “find out about people like you” from the book, meaning find out about nonbinary people. I answered that readers will find out about themselves from reading my book, and I designed it to be that way. Representation is so much about how we have the same feelings and desires and we all deserve the same respect. One more thing to note I guess is that I never really intended to “represent nonbinary people” but I was the first out nonbinary author with a major publisher, so it all just happened. I remember what we might call “internal representation” too: Penguin Random House didn’t really know what nonbinary was or what to do with me. The copy editor returned my manuscript with the “they’s” changed to “he’s” for example, so there was a lot of representing I was doing behind the scenes and not just in public.

4. How are writing and activism linked for you?

I feel that they are the same thing! Just me being me is activism at this pint in history, so in a weird way I don’t actually have to give it much thought. Me doing normal career stuff and writing and being interviewed and all that happens to be my activism. I intended ‘How To Be You’ to be universal, and I hope I succeeded, and it just might open hearts and minds toward nonbinary folks too — fingers crossed!

5. What is your best piece of writing advice?

I’m very predictable and I give the same advice for everything: there is nothing wrong with you. I’ve seen too many people come up with an idea of what writing is and how it’s supposed to look and then use that idea to feel bad because they can’t do it. In other words, admit that you don’t know what writing is “supposed to look like.” Give yourself some space. Do you start with an outline? Or a phrase? Or a color? Do you write in the morning? Only on Tuesdays? Do you want it to be fun? Cathartic? What do you want? To me, writing is a wide open space, and let’s not fill that space up with judgement and self-hate. Stay open to weird ideas.

6. What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

My hardest lesson was that writing is an imperfect medium. With written words there is no inflection, no verbal context clues, so your words can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Usually people get what I’m trying to say, but I’m a very expressive (and entertaining?) speaker and something is a little lost in the written word. Clearly there are brilliant-er writers than me. The only thing I can hope for is that a bit of my spirit and the thrust of my self-love attitude come through in the printed/digitized words.

7. What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

A deep knowledge that there is nothing wrong with them.

8. What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

Book number two! I’m currently writing sample chapters for a second book and working on getting the proposal together. It is early days, but it’s nice to have a focus point on the horizon of writing — it keeps me on track.


Too short. Too weird. Too quiet. Not true. Let Internet superstar Jeffrey Marsh help you end those negative thoughts and discover how wonderful you are. 

An interactive experience, How to Be You invites you to make the book your own through activities such as coloring in charts, answering questions about how you do the things you do, and discovering patterns in your lives that may be holding you back. Through Jeffrey’s own story of “growing up fabulous in a small farming town”–along with the stories of hero/ines who have transcended the stereotypes of race, age, and gender–you will discover that you are not alone.

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