Sometimes people disappear. They bob on the surface, clear as day against the light-scattered sea, only to vanish the moment you look away. At first, you might feel confused. You had been watching them for quite a while. Something about the way they floated so effortlessly between the highs and lows of the rolling waves had attracted your attention. Maybe you look around to see if anyone else has noticed, but their absence doesn’t stir the water. For anyone who hadn’t been paying attention, the sea folds in on itself as it always does, and the surface smooths away the wrinkles.
But I wasn’t watching.
And if you were watching, if you saw the ripples when I sank beneath the surface, then you know that I have been gone from this space for a year. And I’m finally ready to come up for air.
My family left Luxembourg in July 2019. Our departure was difficult. We left friends who became family and a country that became ours.
But endings bring beginnings, and at the start of our new story we resurface below the water…
…in the Netherlands.
Amsterdam is a writer’s dream. It is The Diary of a Young Girl and The Fault in Our Stars, histories of sadness, stories of hope, and ports of departure connecting the world in one place. I spent my first fall here editing a collection of short stories for a friend on his 50th birthday. Titled April in Russia, the book is a compilation of short assignments and experimental pieces that I wrote while studying Creative Writing at Oxford. Each story challenged me to try something new. The settings range from St. Petersburg to Aleppo to a room in the center of the Multiverse where a homeless girl meets different versions of herself.
Because we all have different versions of ourselves.
One version of me is American. Another is Luxembourgish. One version thinks in English. Another dreams in Swedish. One version is a writer. But this latest version of myself, the version that I found here in Amsterdam, is a librarian.
I started working at the Amsterdam International Community School (AICS) in January. Every day I get to recommend books to young readers, and each reader is different. Some enjoy the middle-grade comedy of Stuart Gibbs. Others like the YA otherworldly adventure of Patrick Ness. For those interested in fantasy and folklore, I have recommended Naomi Novik. For an action-packed, climate-inspired story at the top of our own world, I have suggested a favorite book by Rebecca Stead. At the end of the year, I even shared some of my own writing when I read an excerpt from The Spy Who Grounded Me to a group of students. They laughed, begged me to tell them how it ends, and pleaded to borrow the book, all very encouraging signs as I continue my search for the right publisher.
For now, the school year has come to a close, and I am knee-deep into my summer of writing. Soon I will be searching for beta readers to provide feedback on my latest LGBT YA novel, The Rules of Loneliness. Beta readers should be a member of, or have experience with, the target group. If you are interested, please read the description below and contact me for details!
Seventeen-year-old Thomas has had his hands full taking care of his mother ever since the divorce. When she sees Al-Qaeda in their Portland, Oregon neighborhood and God in her grilled cheese sandwich, Thomas struggles to keep her on her meds and off Social Service’s radar. Her psychiatrist recommends that Thomas get his hands on a new book to help him understand her condition, but when he meets nineteen-year-old Jaden at the bookstore, he has a hard time focusing on anyone else.
His first crush couldn’t come at a worse time. His mother has lost her job. Social Services has started unannounced visits again, and to make matters worse, Thomas’s dad has filed for custody from 2,000 miles away. In between trips to the food bank and appearances in court, Thomas meets Jaden every chance he gets, but his mother’s condition keeps getting worse. When Jaden offers to hide Thomas if his father gains custody, Thomas is faced with a life-altering decision. Will he give up everything for the person who needs him or run away with the person who wants him?