Embracing Identity: Aiden Thomas on Writing Trans and Latinx Characters

My focus is always on my readers and the people who are impacted by not having those stories. So it's young folks and it's folks who are trans and queer and who are, you know, marginalized or brown, black, Bipoc. - Aiden Thomas

My special guest is Aiden Thomas

Aiden Thomas is a New York Times bestselling author and a prominent figure in young adult literature. Their expertise lies in crafting narratives that authentically represent the intersection of gender identity and cultural diversity. Aiden’s notable work, particularly the acclaimed novel “Cemetery Boys,” has garnered widespread acclaim for its compelling portrayal of underrepresented voices. With a background in creative writing and a deep commitment to inclusivity, Aiden’s literary contributions have significantly enriched the representation of marginalized communities in literature. Their unique perspective as a trans Latinx individual brings a valuable and insightful dimension to the exploration of identity and cultural heritage within the literary landscape.

 

In this episode, you will be able to:

  • Uncover the art of writing fantasy with rich cultural influences, adding depth and authenticity to your storytelling.

  • Discover the rewarding journey of transitioning from nonfiction to fiction writing and unleashing your creative potential.

  • Embrace the importance of authentic representation of Latinx characters in young adult novels, contributing to diverse and inclusive literature.

  • Delve into the captivating role of ancestry and culture in storytelling, enriching narratives with depth and resonance.

 

The resources mentioned in this episode are:

  • Visit the Wyoming Humanities Council website at ThinkWY.org to stay updated on upcoming events and programs, and to engage with their content on Instagram and Facebook.

  • Follow Aiden Thomas on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Threads, and TikTok using the handle @AidenSchmaiden for updates on his books, events, and interactions with readers.

  • Explore the book Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody for guidance on transitioning from nonfiction to fiction writing, including the use of the 15-point beat sheet story structure.

  • Look for Aiden Thomas’s books, including Cemetery Boys, Lost in the Neverwoods, and The Sun Bearer Trials, to explore diverse and inclusive storytelling, particularly for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities.

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Transcription

00:00:02

Welcome to our Wyoming Humanities Council United We Stand event. My name is Emy DiGrappa. I am your host and executive producer for Wyoming Humanities Council podcast programs called What’s Your Why and Winds of Change. Go to our new website. And I mean new.         

00:00:19           

So go there because it’s really nice and exciting and I want you to learn all about us and you can learn more about our podcast and all our programs and grants. Our mission is to invite you, our Wyoming communities, to explore the ideas and stories that shape us. And with that, I want to talk about United We Stand. And it’s an initiative and we do just that when we do these programs called Discuss and Construct because it is based on the idea that through civic and civilization conversations, communities can better come together to solve problems and accomplish goals of making Wyoming’s communities welcoming and accepting. And right now with that, we are honored to present New York Times best-selling author Aiden Thomas.         

00:01:20             

Aiden is a Transgender Latinx New York Times bestselling author of young adult novels. They received MFA in creative writing from Mills College. Okay, I remember correctly. And they are originally from Oakland, California and they now make their home in Portland, Oregon. And we are going to start that conversation right now.         

00:01:52             

Welcome, Aidan. Hello. How’s it going? Oh my gosh, Aiden, I’m so, so excited to talk to you. I’m so excited to chat too.         

00:02:05            

Like, thank you for having me. I’ve been looking forward to this event for, I feel like weeks we’ve had this established, so I’m excited. I know, I know. So true. And when I started to introduce you and I wanted to really focus so on our audience understands your pronouns and what they mean to you and why they’re important when we say they and them.         

00:02:29             

Yeah. So I use they them pronouns and he him pronouns. And it’s just, it’s, it’s nice that we’re finally kind of harnessing an environment where that’s something that is welcomed and enjoyed. It’s funny because for me, I really am drawn to they them pronouns because I joke about this with my friends a lot. I feel like I’m a guy in the way that like if you see a dog on the street and you’re like, oh my gosh, what a good boy.         

00:02:55          

It’s like that. It’s like more of a I’m a boy in a knee jerk reaction. But on my insides I feel like my gender is much more fluid and expansive than that. So yeah, it’s just wonderful. Oh, that’s so interesting.         

00:03:07          

I’m glad to hear explain it because it’s something I need to understand. It’s fairly new, and I think our audience needs to really understand where that comes from and why it’s important to you. So the other thing that’s important to me, and I know it’s important to you because I am a Latina, is what is different about using Latinx versus Latino or Latina in your identity? So, for me, it’s not about trying to change language or anything intense like that, but it’s about creating a space where people can be themselves and express how they want to be understood. And I think that that’s kind of the bigger.         

00:03:56
             

What’s more important than the actual, like, syntax and the words that we use? It’s to make people feel welcomed and, you know, part of. Part of the whole group. Heteronormativity is especially, just can be so debilitating sometimes when you don’t feel like you fit into either of those, and when you don’t feel like you fit in, then it makes you feel alone and very much on the outside, which is like, what I was experiencing before I transitioned and came out. So it’s.         

00:04:29         

Yeah, it’s about. It’s about creating community and honoring everyone in our community, not just the people that we feel fit into these really, like, binary boxes. Okay, so with that, and I think about your book cemetery boys, and I thought, well, first of all, I’ve been reading it, and I love it, and I encourage everybody to read it. And so in your view, why, you know, because you talk about that, why is it important? What is representation of Latinx?         

00:05:11     

Why is that important in your book? Why did you bring that forward for people to learn about? Yeah. So the actual term Latinx, for me, I feel like it has much more to do with my gender expression, more than it has to do with the actual language itself, because I use Latine when I’m referring to a wider audience. But for me, the Latinx part is more.         

00:05:35          

It’s a much more american phrasing, that’s for sure. And it just has more to do with my gender identity and how it fits into also my cultural identity. So, for me, Latinx is creating that space for that diversity. And, you know, because Spanish is a gendered language, and it’s really hard to navigate that as a trans person. And even, like, you know, my family learning how to speak to me and, like, use my name and use my pronouns, it’s really tricky when your language is so based in a binary gender that having, you know, the Latinx and having an option of Latin when people are talking about me, especially my family.         

00:06:16           

Yeah. It just makes you feel welcomed, and it makes you feel at home, especially when you’re in a space where you feel so vulnerable and, like, really different from everyone else that it’s a chance to bring people in. Okay. Just because I think that’s super interesting, and I would love to hear how you explained that to your abuela. Yeah.         

00:06:45           

Which means grandmother. So just so everybody knows, that means grandmother. Your abuela, what did she say? What was her reaction? How does she use that?         

00:06:57             

I am. I’m very lucky in that Malita and my grants are very forward and very. They’re people who harness community. And so when I started, you know, changing the way I looked, changing my name, changing my pronouns, they were very. Especially Malita.         

00:07:17            

She was very. She was the celebration, you know what I mean? She was excited to learn a new part of me. And, you know, getting to know someone better means loving them more deeply. And so she was just.         

00:07:27           

She was on board, like, 100%. And my Lita, she used to teach ESL and volunteer at the library. So a lot of my love for storytelling is from my grandmother. So, yeah, I’m very lucky in that she picked up on it, like, very quickly and, like, would be embarrassed if she, like, slipped up and. Yeah, just a lot of care that goes into it.         

00:07:51           

It’s just wonderful. Oh, my gosh. Well, tell me about cemetery boys, this new book. And tell me about your other books, too. But first, I want to focus on.         

00:08:03            

Because it was your first book, right? Yeah. And it’s a New York Times bestseller. Yeah. Books.         

00:08:14            

And I think that’s. Congratulations, really. Thank you. And tell us in a synopsis what that book is about. Yeah.         

00:08:23           

So cemetery boys, I like to call it my ghost story turned rom.com. So it’s about. The main character’s name is Yadriel, and he is a brujo. He is a trans boy living in this, like, secret community of brujos, which is like witches, basically, in East LA. And according to their traditions, you know, they don’t have verbiage language, or even know how to deal with someone who is trans within this magical community.         

00:08:54            

So when he comes out, people. It’s not that people reject him or that his community or family hate him for being trans or anything like that. It’s that they don’t understand it. And when you don’t understand something, a big thing that can happen is avoidance. And so that’s something that kind of is throughout this whole story.         

00:09:14           

But Yaz decides that sense. His family and his community won’t let him have the traditional rights of patients passage that all Brujos do. He and his best friend cousin, because we all have a best friend who’s a cousin, team up, and they sneak into the church and hold the coming of age ceremony on their own. And Lady Death, who is their patron, she bestows the ads with the powers of a brujo, and they’re so excited. And so he has decided that the way that he can really prove himself as a brujo to his family and to his community is that if he can do the magic of a brujo, if he can, like, physically show them.         

00:09:54             

And so what that means is the brujos, what they can do is they can summon spirits and release them to the afterlife. And traditionally, women are like the healers of the lIving. So they decide that they will go and summon the ghost of their cousin Miguel, who passed away under very mysterious circumstances. And they go to summon him, and they accidentally summon the wrong ghost. Who shows up is Julian Diaz, who is, like, the resident bad boy of their high school.         

00:10:26          

And then the two of them are stuck because Julian is attached to his tether, which Gadriel now has. And they have to work together in order for Gadriel to figure out what happened to his cousin and for Julian to figure out what happened to him and his friends. And that’s the pitch. No. That is so cool.         

00:10:46            

And when I was reading it, there’s so many cultural references and, yes, there definitely are. And. And sometimes, if you don’t grow up in that culture, you might not understand the brujah or the brujo, as you call it. So did you use Brux in reference to Latinx? Yes, exactly.         

00:11:10            

Okay, so explain that a little bit. Like, explain the cultural significance of a brujo and a brujah, because that is very real. I think it is, anyway. And then how you turned it into brux. Yeah.         

00:11:28             

So what I wanted to do is I wanted to have a term that wasn’t, because, again, we’re using Spanish and it’s so gendered. I wanted to have a term that I could use that would be more encompassing of what everyone in any given community looks like and specifically a community that’s having a hard time knowing how to deal with someone that’s not, you know, fits into their gender that they were assigned at birth. So for me, it was once again taking steps to kind of make space, not only in my book for different characters, but also for my readers. And it’s so important to be able to, you know, see whether it’s in tv shows, on YouTube or in books, characters who are like yourself and how they navigate these really tenuous and tricky situations, especially when it comes to family and community. So, for me, bringing in bruh was making.         

00:12:24            

Making room for Yadriel within this system, but also making room for my readers who are going to be picking up this book so that they can picture themselves in my world, because everyone is welcome in my world. Well, that’s beautiful. I’m glad to hear that. And so has your family read your book? I will tell you, my sister and my brother in law are my biggest fans.         

00:12:51           

My sister is always like, when can I read a draft of whatever you’re working on? Which is really lovely. And my brother in law will, he’s very funny. He will text me out of the blue and being like, I was thinking about your book, and I have an idea for you. And he’ll just, like, send me.         

00:13:06            

He has really long texts with these ideas that he has. And I would say about half the time, I figure out how to work them into the. Into the story. My mom. My mom hasn’t.         

00:13:16             

Has yet to finish any of my books because she says she starts reading them and then she starts crying. She gets overwhelmed with emotion. But, yeah, they’ve all. My family has just been so wonderful and supportive, not only of, like, me as a person, but me as a. As a writer.         

00:13:33             

And I feel. I feel very lucky. We celebrate. When I was brainstorming for cemetery boys, I remember I went over to my sister and brother in law’s house, and we ordered tacos from the truck down the street. And we were just sitting in the living room, me with my notebooks, making notes and talking about things that we could have happen in the book.         

00:13:57            

It was really fun. It was nice to have everybody in on it. It was a really wonderful experience. Well, and that was one of the questions I really wanted to know is, when did you start your love of reading? And what was your journey into creative writing?         

00:14:16             

Yeah, it’s such a funny question because I hated reading when I was a kid. Like, I hated it. It could not hold my attention. I was like, where’s the pictures? What are we doing here?         

00:14:29             

And so it took a really long time for me to get into reading. I think I started writing first, if I think about it, because when I was in elementary school, I used to have really bad dreams, and my mom would tell me to write them down, and I had to journal for school, so that’s what I would do. It was really horrible. Fifth grade handwriting online paper. They were dreams that kind of turned into stories.         

00:14:55             

But I was in fifth grade, so they weren’t very long and not very detailed. It wasn’t until I was in 6th grade and my Lita was desperate to get me to read. Like, my mom brought me to the library every week, more than once during summer. I would basically live there while my parents worked. And I would just kind of like, check out a book, just to check out a book just to.         

00:15:20            

Cause I had to. And they used to be like the wishbone books because they had the really cute dog dressed up as like, shakespearean or like, Sherlock characters, which is really cool. And it was like, I can stare at that for 15 minutes when my mom makes me read for every night. But what? The first book that really, really got me was my lethal buying me Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.         

00:15:44           

And that book, oh, my God.         

00:15:48             

My family up until that point and school, whenever it was time to talk about books or pick out a book to read, they were always giving me, like, problem novels that were, like, pretty sad and intense. And so, like, me as a kid, I was like, this is a bummer. Like, I don’t want to read this. But once I read Howl’s moving castle, I was, like, exposed to fantasy. And not only fantasy, but humor, because that is a very funny book.         

00:16:13             

And that suddenly just, like, opened up the world of fantasy and Sci-Fi for me. And I think after Hell’s moving castle, my next big obsession was animorphs. And I’m still obsessed with animorphs. I think that’s such a wonderful series. And then, so I was a really big reader for a really long time.         

00:16:33             

The way I started, like, really, like, writing consistently and a lot was by doing fan fiction. That’s really how I learned to write. And that was back when fan fiction.net was a thing, so a long time ago. And, yeah, I fell in love with it. Like, I would be in class, supposed to be doing classwork, but I was like, you know, writing my fan fiction and stuff like that.         

00:16:57             

And after that, I went to college and I double majored because my family was really concerned when I said that I wanted to be an author. They were like, what about a job? That’s kind of easy? So I ended up double majoring in English and psychology. And after I graduated, yeah, just like, I was like, psychology is that good?         

00:17:19             

And they’re like, yeah.         

00:17:23             

And then I worked in tech for a couple of years and was basically, like, editing my stories. I was writing. And then I decided that I wanted to go to grad school, so I went and got my mfa in creative writing. But even then I was like, I know I’m not going to be a writer, because everyone was like, well, you know, you’re not going to be an author. I’m like, yeah, yeah, I know, but I really like to teach writing, and I still really love to teach writing.         

00:17:50             

So I was like, that’s kind of my path, and that’s what I’m doing. But then I graduated, and the market is so flooded for teaching creative writing specifically, and you have to have, like, publishing under your belt. And then I was like, I guess I have to get a book deal. And, yeah, it kind of, that’s where that. It wasn’t until I really got that phone call of being like, hey, we would like to buy your book.         

00:18:15            

That I was like, okay, I can actually. I think I can actually, like, make a career out of this. And it’s been a wild experience ever since. Oh, my gosh, that is truly wild. And what an inspiration also for all the creative writers out there.         

00:18:34             

Like, yes, you can do this. It’s true. I was the least. I never suspected this ever happened. But I love the psychology part.         

00:18:46
             

Oh, yeah. Yeah, you have to get that other degree. Okay. Yeah, that makes sense.         

00:18:55
             

So. Okay, so cemetery boys was your first one. What’s your second one? Lost in the Neverwoods. And that is my very dark and kind of creepy reimagining of Peter Pan.         

00:19:12
             

But it’s set in Astoria, Oregon, which is a small coastal town, and it’s, you know, set in our current time. And it is about Wendy. When she was younger, she and her brothers went missing in the woods behind their house. And six months later, Wendy showed back up, but her brothers were never found. And so we kind of time jump to her turning her 18th birthday, and people in her small town, kids, children in her small town, have started to go missing.         

00:19:44
             

And everyone’s kind of looking at Wendy and wondering if she and her brothers have anything to do with it. And then all of a sudden, she almost hits a boy with her car. And he says that he’s Peter Pan, who is a character in stories that she used to tell her brothers and that he knows where her brothers are, he knows how to get them, but she has to help him find his shadow. So that’s the premise for lost in the never woods. I love that.         

00:20:13
             

And I remember that in Peter Pan about the shadow. Yeah, yeah, I love Peter Pan. Yeah. And then the third book, what is the third book. So the third book is the Sun Bearer trials, and that’s my newest one.         

00:20:26
             

The sequel is actually coming out this September, so wildly soon. And the Sunbearer trials, I like pitched it as Mexican Percy Jackson meets the hunger game, but also with my hero, academia because I love a tournament arc. So it’s law of the sun period trials. It is a secondary world fantasy. So it’s a world that’s inspired by my contemporary relationship with Mexico and my culture.         

00:20:55
             

And every ten years, in order to keep the sun fueled and moving through the sky and to keep the bad, evil obsidian gods locked up in the stars, they have to do the sun bearer trials. And ten demigods are recruited to compete in the trials. And they go through five different trials that they have to complete and they get ranked, and at the end of the trials, whoever is the highest ranked becomes the sun bearer and they get to bring light to the sun and to all the cities. But the loser has to be sacrificed in order to fuel the sun. And so the main character is Teo, who is a jade God.         

00:21:34
             

So there’s the golds and the jades. Golds are more powerful and get to be in charge of more fancy stuff. Jades are kind of looked down upon. He is the daughter. The daughter, the son of the goddess of birds.         

00:21:46
             

So he has these big, beautiful quetzal wings and. No, the only golds demigods are ever recruited. But this year, not only is tail recruited, but another jade named Sheo, who is the son of the God of bad luck. So it’s almost like the two of them have been chosen to lose and they have to figure out how to survive the trials and get through it together. Oh, my gosh.         

00:22:13
             

What an imagination you have. Yeah. There’s so many ideas rolling around in here. Oh, my God. Do you sleep at night?         

00:22:21
             

Do you sleep at night or you. Not a lot. You have, right? My, like, notes app on my phone is out of control. Like, there’s so many.         

00:22:29
             

When I’m watching movies, I’m always, like, pulling out my phone and being like, oh, my God, wait, that gave me an idea. And, like, my friends are always like, oh, my God, Aidan, we’re going to get people mad at us. Be quiet, be quiet.         

00:22:43
             

Okay, so I need to tell our audience that they can jump onto the q and a to ask questions. Aiden, I want you to tell everybody how to find you on Instagram, on media channels. I really want people to be able to follow you, learn about when your new books are coming out and, you know, communicate with you there on wherever you like to be. Yeah. Yeah.         

00:23:12
             

So I have the same handle on, let’s see, Twitter, Instagram threads, and TikTok. And it’s Aiden Thomas. So my first name and then my last. The second part is C. Sorry.         

00:23:27
             

S c h m a I d e n. I didn’t know that we were supposed to have, like, professional handles when you became an author, and I just used the nickname that my friends call me. But, yeah, you can find me on social media. I’m on all four of them pretty often. Excellent.         

00:23:46
             

Excellent. So I’m. Oops, sorry. So I want to allow the audience to ask you some questions because I think fun. So I have one person that says, I loved the sunbearer trials.         

00:24:03
             

I work at a middle school and have a middle school book club. Do you have any middle grade books planned? Oh, my God, that is such a great question. And a conversation I actually had with my editor recently, so I don’t have. I haven’t sold anything right now, so there’s no contracts for a middle grade.         

00:24:27
             

But it’s something that me and my editor are kind of. We’re looking at and, like, slowly moving in that direction. I have books coming out through 2026, so if I did do my first middle grade, it would probably be 2027. But, yeah, I think middle grade is really fun, and I think my humor would work with it pretty well. Yeah, I would love to write middle grade.         

00:24:50
             

Yeah. Okay, so. Okay, well, that same person said, also, I named my dog Zio because of the book. I love that. That’s so cool.         

00:25:04
             

You’ll have to tag me on social media and show me what your dog looks like. Actually, that’s such a great thing to do. Okay. And here’s. Okay.         

00:25:15
             

Can I ask what happens to the spanish words or phrases in your work when your books are translated into Spanish? I feel like they are included in your books for particular emphasis and word building. And I was wondering if something different happens in spanish editions to replicate that emphasis. You know what’s so funny is that I was wondering about this last week. I was talking.         

00:25:44
             

I was talking about translations with one of my author friends. And I actually don’t know. I’m curious because you’re right, Julian. Specifically speaking Spanish is a very important thing in this book. And I wonder if they, like, swapped it out for English.         

00:25:59
             

Maybe. I don’t know. But if you me on social media, I will go. I have so many international editions, like, tucked into my office. I will go and I will look and see what they did, because that’s also something that I’ve been interested in and just hasn’t pulled the book out to actually look at.         

00:26:16
             

But, yeah, I am so enchanted and interested in translated works. A lot of my translated books. God. My german edition was nominated for the Wyoming Humanities Council YA Book award, which was incredible. And it’s because I have these really, really talented translators.         

00:26:36
             

So, yeah, I’m very curious about that. I’m gonna look that up after this call. That’s cool. That is so cool. And, you know, just, you know, coming from a big hispanic family, and that was my mom’s first language, and I speak Spanish perfectly, actually.         

00:26:55
             

And a lot of times, people want translation, and I have to say, not everything translates perfectly. I mean, there are some vitros or sayings in Spanish just what they are. You can’t. Yeah, they don’t make sense in English. Yeah.         

00:27:11
             

So then. Right. So that the translator has to figure out, like, what to do with that and to, you know, best, like, support the story. It’s just. Oh, my God.         

00:27:22
             

Translators are so wildly talented. It’s. It’s. It’s really something to be seen. Yeah, that’s true.         

00:27:29
             

So I have another one that says, this might be a spoiler. The sun trials and celestial monsters is a mark is marketed as a duology. Yes. Oh, okay. Is there a chance that it could spin off into other series the world?         

00:27:50
             

Like, it could go very far? Yeah. I think that’s a really cool thing about high fantasy. I will say writing high fantasy is super hard. So if I were to do one again, I would make sure that I wrote the whole first draft before selling it, because working on deadline was really, really hard.         

00:28:10
             

But, yeah, again, a topic that I was literally just talking about yesterday with one of my friends. I have so many spinoff ideas for the sun bearer duology. I think I have. Let me, if I can run it off the top of my head, five different ideas, different stories that I could follow with different characters within that world. I even have an idea for, like, a time jump, brand new character.         

00:28:37
             

I came up, so I really want to, but I don’t. Not sure when it would be. And I think if I were to pick one of the ideas that I have in my head, it would be about Mia and Aristella going and dealing with a primordial volcano. God. So.         

00:28:58
             

Wow. Okay. So here’s one. Has interacting with your readers, whether through social media or events, influenced your approach to writing? Absolutely.         

00:29:11
             

100%.         

00:29:15
             

These are my stories. Yes. But I feel like I share them, and I have a responsibility to my readers and what they like and kind of what excites them, you’ll see in celestial monsters. In the acknowledgments, I have listed out a bunch of readers who, like, made posts online or who made fan art. And then I saw that and I was like, oh, my God.         

00:29:38
             

Yeah, I should totally put that in celestial monsters. So if you flip to the back of celestial monsters, when it comes out, you can literally see just readers who have influenced my craft or who have influenced how I tell the stories of the sun bearer trials. So, yeah, I use that all the time, including for cemetery boys. I’m actually drafting the sequel right now. And I love going onto social media, especially Tumblr, and just like, looking at what people are saying and if there’s ever, like, some gentle fan service that I can do, I love.         

00:30:10
             

I love doing that. I love seeing people get excited and finding new things in the text that I can play with. Oh, yeah, I’m sure. I’m sure that gives you energy. Yeah, it’s really cool.         

00:30:24
             

I read the entire book before tonight, so it must be cemetery boys. And it is fantastic. I love your humor in it. As a past teen librarian, has there been any controversy with having this on shelves? Yeah, Ted Cruz knows that I exist, which is wild.         

00:30:46
             

Cemetery boys got banned in a couple of places in Texas and I think one place in Florida. So, I mean, yeah, book bans are terrible for a number of situations. And it’s funny because usually when that topic gets brought up, I’m usually asked like, well, what would you say to the people, you know, that are banning books, your books, but also books like yours? And for me, it’s like, I’m not saying anything to those people because they have made up their minds and their decisions have very little to do with logic. So it’s not something I can like logic out with people.         

00:31:23
             

My focus is always on my readers and the people who are impacted by not having those stories. So it’s young folks and it’s folks who are trans and queer and who are, you know, marginalized or brown, black, Bipoc. So my focus is always on those students and figuring out ways that I can help get my stories and stories like mine into the hands of those readers. I do a lot of work with weed, need diverse books, which is an incredible organization, and we just finished doing, or they rather not. We.         

00:31:59
             

I, like, insert myself cause I care about it so much, but they just finished a campaign to put book care packages together for students who are queer, trans, and BIPOC in Oklahoma, which is where the horrible tragedy for next happens. So it’s in their honor. So that’s what I’m focused on, is how to support the kids that this is being impacted by. Okay, I have an interesting one here that’s it says, I have written only nonfiction and would like to attempt fiction. Any advice making the transition?         

00:32:44
             

Oh, my gosh. Nonfiction writers are so impressive to me, like, the amount of research and, like, you just have to be so smart. But fiction is so much fun. Whenever I’m talking to folks who are kind of just entering writing, and they’re like, I don’t even know how to start. I always recommend save the cat writes a novel by Jessica Brody.         

00:33:08
             

It’s an incredible text. It’s focused on the concept of the 15 point beat sheet briac structure and to, like, narrow it down to, like, the base of what it is. Basically, there’s 515 beach beats that happen in most western storytelling, and she walks you through what all those beats are and, like, different exercises that you can use. And she also, like, has the actual beat sheet for free on her website. So if you just Google Jessica Brody fifth beat sheet, it’ll pop right up.         

00:33:43
             

And that’s what I use to decide if any of my book ideas are actually books. I will pull up a blank beat sheet, and I’ll start filling out those 15 point beats. And if I can fill all them out, I have a book, and I also have a path of how to write that. So, yeah, when you’re just starting out, especially in fiction, super, super recommend Jessica Brody’s content. She has the physical book.         

00:34:08
             

She also has web classes that I always take whenever I start a project. She’s wonderful and just brilliant. She even has a save the cat writes a novel that’s specifically for writing young adults. If you are interested in writing young adults. Oh, my gosh.         

00:34:25
             

That’s such excellent advice for people. It’s so good. I am a. Yeah, it’s like my bible. I use it for everything.         

00:34:34
             

Oh, my gosh. And that is so needed. I mean, people just don’t know where to begin. Totally. And so, when you were journeying along that path and, like, how did you, like, cross the bridge to decide, I’m gonna actually write a book?         

00:34:58
             

Um, it. It took a lot, uh, because, you know, I was so comfortable in writing fan fiction, which, again, is basically, like, following a beat sheet because I’m trying to echo something that’s already exists. So I’m following the same beats. Um, but, yeah, like, it was very unexpected. Like, I was used to writing short stories.         

00:35:21
             

I had. I had never written a book until I was in grad school, and my thesis was a first draft of lost in the Neverwoods, which is now published. So all of the books that I have written have been published just because of how I fell into publishing, which is very late as a writer. So, yeah, it’s like. Yeah, it’s just.         

00:35:45
             

I feel very lucky, and I just love storytelling, and storytelling is also a way that I feel like I connect with my ancestors, you know, oral histories, and, you know, I don’t have to tell you, Emmy, but, you know, it’s such an important thing in our culture and our traditions that I. It’s really. It feels like an honor to be able to share those stories and to share my culture with an even wider audience. It’s the best. Oh, I think it is, too.         

00:36:12
             

And I. And I got such a kick out of the. Well, you call them the Bru x, but, you know, the brujo is very popular in mexican culture. Oh, my gosh. The Lenda and La Llorona.         

00:36:28
             

And, yes, I mean, it is. And it’s very much a part of the culture about the. That community. Yeah. Um, was very real to me.         

00:36:43
             

I was like, yeah, he’s kind of, like, going back to his childhood. Like, I could see you doing that. Like, I go there with you. Yeah, yeah. A lot of.         

00:36:59
             

A lot of the humor and a lot of the scenes are, like, pulled. Just completely extracted from my childhood. There’s a. There’s a point where Yadriel needs to make a distraction so Julian can sneak out, and Yadriel goes like, I don’t feel well. And then there’s, like, four, like, tias in the kitchen.         

00:37:19
             

They’re like, oh, my God. Hold on. I’ll get an egg. And. Yeah, it’s really fun.         

00:37:26
             

Yeah. Good for you. I thought that was great. It took pictures. Oh, my God.         

00:37:31
             

I love this so much.         

00:37:34
             

So, anyway, I have to say, we have someone here who is so appreciative. You. She’s a member of the LGBTQ community, and she says, thank you so much for writing these stories. I wish there were more. When I was growing up.         

00:37:56             

I think it’s important for everyone to be able to see themselves in books. Yeah, I agree. Thank you so much. That is. It’s truly such an honor to be able to add to the lexicon of not only queer literature, but also, you know, mexican literature and, you know, latina literature.         

00:38:14             

It’s. I feel very privileged, and it’s a job that I take very seriously, and yeah, it’s truly a joy. And, oh, God, when I was growing up, it was there. There were no stories. And I think that was a big reason why I felt like I didn’t fit into publishing for a really long time is because I wasn’t seeing stories that had characters like me in it.         

00:38:38             

And so I decided to write one. And it’s interesting because when cemetery Boys was published in 2020, it was the first book about a trans character written by a trans author to ever hit the New York Times bestseller list. And that is wild. Again, it’s an honor. But the fact that it was 2020 when this was happening, finally, it was a little disheartening.         

00:39:08            

And so I’ve kind of, since I have such a privilege in a large platform, one thing that I do to try to give back and pull people up the ladder with me is I love reading advanced copies of books and then blurbing them. So, basically, if you pick up a book and, like, at the top, there’s, like, a recommended line from, like, an author. I’ve done a lot of those, and they’re all, you know, marginalized stories and just doing what I can to really diversify the options that young readers have when it comes to picking out a book and, you know, being able to experience different cultures and different people, it’s. Yeah, it’s really great. And since 2020, we’ve had three other trans authors hit the New York Times bestseller list.         

00:39:53             

So it’s all coming together. It’s happening. Good for you. Well, thank you so much. Thank you.         

00:40:02

Thank you so much, Aidan. It is such a blessing and pleasure to talk to you, and I hope we get to meet each other in person. Yeah, I hope they send me up y’all’s way at some point. Like, send me a plane ticket. I’ll be there tomorrow.         

00:40:18         

Okay. Exactly.         

00:40:22           

Okay. Well, you take care, and thanks for your wisdom and your advice. I loved hearing that. And your journey and your inspiration is really inspiration for everyone. Thank you so much.         

00:40:36             

And, yeah, thank you for hosting me, and thank you for everyone who came and participated. Those were great questions. So thank you. Thank you. Have a good night.         

00:40:46

Oh, and this is Emy DiGrappa. And this is Wyoming Humanities Council, and this is united we stand. So join us and follow us on thinkwy.org. We’re on Instagram, we’re on Facebook, and we just welcome you to send us your comments and questions even after this webinar. And if you want to get in touch with.         

00:41:10
With Aidan, he shared his information with you, and he can be found. And we hope that you join us again next time. For United We Stand the Discuss and Construct Conversations. Good night.