When I wrote stories as a child, I did so because it was a fun way to imagine experiences and adventures beyond my own. As I grew up, I came to understand how much more power stories had, both for the writer and those who read them. I spent a few years obsessed with the idea of being a writer, without writing much.
And then I went through a period of personal upheaval and soul searching and a divorce. As I came out the other side of that, I remembered how much writing meant to me. I started writing in earnest and somewhere along the way I found my voice.
It wasn’t for another couple of years that I began writing romance. Even now, with my third romance coming out in a few months, writing romance—lesbian romance, no less—feels like an act of defiance. A heady mix of hope and daring that says love matters. Queer voices matter. I matter.
This sentiment has felt especially important after the recent US election. Politics aside, the uptick in hate-fueled speech and actions demands a response. There has been a flurry of activity on my social media sites around the idea of doing something—attending a protest or calling congress or having hard conversations with family. There’s also been a lot of talk about loving more, of random acts of kindness. I like the philosophy of that, spreading love and joy to complete strangers. I don’t think we can have too much of that in the world.
I’m trying to do my part. On a recent trip to Louisiana, I left extra cash in my hotel room for the housekeeping staff and generous tips at restaurants and coffee shops. I made eye contact with strangers and smiled. I reached out to a few relatives I was inclined to avoid. I’ve called my senator. But there are days when it doesn’t feel like enough, when the impact feels too small.
I’ve decided to expand the idea slightly. I call it random acts of progress. Actions that have a concrete impact on issues I care about. Donations are part of it, because money matters. But it’s other things too—volunteering with the local refugee welcome organization or serving on the board of the center for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault. It’s making a commitment to make things better for those least able to advocate for themselves. Even if those individual acts don’t feel like much. Just like random acts of kindness, they add up. That’s the whole point, right?
And that brings me back to writing. I just sent off the final revisions for Crescent City Confidential and I’m nearing completion of my first draft of Summer’s Cove. As much as it feels sometimes like writing romances is the last thing I should be thinking about, I know that’s not true.
The simple act of writing is, in fact, doing something. Telling stories of love and hope, stories in which women, queers, and people of color save the day and live happily ever after, is progress. Until the day conversion therapy is a bad idea referenced in psychology textbooks, until no child fears coming out, until every family is treated with dignity, LGBTQ stories are an integral part of making the world a better place. And I’m proud to be part of it.