When I approached Mark Probst, owner of Cheyenne Publishing, about releasing a young adult book for charity, I did so with no clear idea of what to expect—only a vision of the end result as my guide. To my delight, Mark was enthusiastic: if I could organize the authors, he would take on the book at Cheyenne.
Just the one snag. Organize the authors. If you work in the arts, you’ve heard it before: “Will you donate your time/talent for … ?”
Now it was my turn to ask, with nothing but a pretty-please and assurance that they would be contributing to a fantastic cause (supporting The Trevor Project). I had to find three young adult authors who were not only gifted writers and already active in LGBT-themed fiction for teens, but who also believed in our cause. Believed enough to say yes.
The final book would be an anthology of YA novellas, one each capturing a story of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. With a publisher ready and waiting, myself as the fourth author, and an amazing nonprofit working 24/7 to assist in crisis situations and prevent suicide among LGBTQ youth to benefit, the journey to build Awake began.
I started sending emails—wondering if I could ever get this project off the ground. Authors are incredibly busy, incredibly hardworking, often taken for granted artists. How could I expect them to go above and beyond in their own writing schedules with a long piece of fiction they could not profit from?
How foolish of me.
After some months, through many emails and discussions, I learned that there can be few groups of people as generous with their time, as welcoming, as committed to their work as the authors of LGBT fiction for young adults. I received the most genuine and gracious letters back, soon finding not only three amazing writers willing to embrace this project with us, but a foreword as well.
Nancy Garden, author for kids and young adults of classics like Annie on My Mind before there was such a thing as LGBT YA, would write our L story.
Robin Reardon, author of A Secret Edge and Thinking Straight, among other YA novels, would take G. Her newest book, The Revelations of Jude Connor, was just released in April, 2013.
Jordan Taylor, myself, would pen B, so underrepresented in literature.
Brian Katcher, author of Almost Perfect and Playing with Matches, would write T.
And the foreword to Awake would be created by multi-talented YA and adult author Kathe Koja, known in YA for Buddha Boy and Straydog, among others.
Now, to write. Many months later, each of these amazing authors had turned in their work ahead of schedule. All had done an outstanding job, leaving me again taken aback by the magnanimous nature of these people: giving of their precious time and talents for a charity book.
With the help of our editor, Tracey Pennington, completed cover art, and press releases, Awake was released by Cheyenne Publishing in the summer of 2011, only a little over a year after Mark and I first discussed the project.
It’s been two blindingly brief years now and Awake is as fresh, as new, as exciting as it was the first moment I held the paperback. The novellas within are both modern and timeless, the messages powerful, while the emotion for the reader, from laughter to anger to tears, remains the driving force behind this book. The cause itself makes this remarkable experience all the more powerful.
Every copy of Awake sold means funds sent directly to The Trevor Project—for one more crisis prevention, one more suicide prevention. Each copy read, given as a gift, donated to a library, along with each passing day, brings us closer to a time when organizations like The Trevor Project are no longer needed. When LGBTQ youth are no more prone to depression or suicide than any other demographic. The day every child, every teen, regardless of gender identity or whom they love, regardless of where or who they are in the world, no longer fears being bullied, abused, shunned, or rejected.
A remarkably giving, talented, wonderful group of people made Awake possible. The readers, the greatest gift of all, continue to make the mission of Awake possible. Each and every one of you has turned a dream into a dream come true.
The publisher and organization:
The authors’ sites: