April 28th, 2023
Enough talk of failure.
There was some victory, too.
As we end another month of retrospect and introspect, I want to talk about the triumphs from the year I released Them and Us. I made a list:
1. It only took me one book to realize I can do anything.
By that, I mean, as soon as I started writing my second book, I was ready to experiment and break more rules and play with the idea of what a book is at all.
Now, I shift perspectives, I go meta, I change the format, I follow the story where it takes me, even if it feels, at the time, like the wrong way to go. My top priority is always to clearly communicate with you; I want to make complex ideas simple.
With Us, though, I really learned to find the poetry.
Us is a weird book. The plot, the characters; everything and everyone is weird. But it was in those pages that I really started paying attention to rhythm and how words looked on the page.
It was in Us that I learned the power of a poetic phrase, especially when used at an unexpected time.
There was a review for Flip in the Faribault Daily News that glowed, “Moments of brilliance make a short read like Flip worthwhile . . . Sometimes, Vogen breaks out beautiful, almost poetic language at just the right moment.” But Flip isn’t where I started doing that; I was writing Us first, even though I released it half a year after.
2. I did what I said I was going to do.
There is nothing more annoying than someone telling you what they’re GOING to do or what they WANT to do. We hear it constantly: grand plans, the kind we know won’t ever see the light of day.
I’ve been guilty of this (and wrote for you an incomplete list of my unfinished crimes in February).
This could have been similarly ill-fated. On its release, I announced that Them was the first of a two-book series, with the sequel to be out in exactly a year. I was inspired by comic books and episodic storytelling, and thought a cliffhanger would be a fun challenge years before Avengers: Infinity War did it. I also fell in love with the novella, and publishing short books became my thing.
Writing Us wasn’t easy, and I gave up several times, unsuccessfully. But I knew it was something I had to do, and if it was between releasing something weird, poetic, and half-baked, or releasing nothing at all, there was only ever one way out for me.
The completion of the series turned something on and around in my head. I learned that I do have patience and an obstinate passion for getting work that’s meaningful to me done. And my confidence fueled future projects (see: the two+ years I worked on and promoted the Weirdos series, culminating in five issues and a full-color graphic novel; the three-year release schedule I set for myself with Brushfire).
3. I wrote about a bunch of stuff that really resonates with me to this day.
You ever look at your old posts, your digital memories, and feel your skeleton trying to jump out of your skin?
For some reason, though, all the books I’ve decided to publish have at least parts that make me really happy to have made them.
Some examples from this series:
– Trauma from youth as a driving force: As someone who is severely fucked up from things that happened when I was young and had no control over them, this is a theme that continues to be relevant to me, and these characters and this story embodies that.
– Wanting something so badly that you agree to bad deals, and forget what you signed up for: Yo, Millennials, this is us.
– Kim’s wedding speech: It makes me emotional every time. Her point being: life sucks. Be with someone who makes the sucky parts worth getting through.
– I wrote an actual chapter called Shart, about a shart. If this is my cultural and literary legacy, I DIE HAPPY
– There are some great moments of dialogue, a lot of it (trying to be) funny; one of my favorite lines, however, is not. It’s Guy standing by his best friend, telling the villains who are trying to take her: “If you want this beautiful, strong, loving, and loved woman, then you get all of us.”
– The wokeness of it all (I wrote more about this aspect in its own essay). It’s great. And it reminds me of this simple quote:
“In North America, I’m domestic. White people are exotic.” – Amelia Mavis Christnot
And that is the end of Us month. I loved revisiting this series and piecing together the time I made it; it was an interesting era for me.
Next month’s topic is one that has rabid groupies of a certain age foaming: we’ll be talking The Next Step, all May-long.