Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine their spotlight on author Gabby Rivera, author of JULIET TAKES A BREATH, this month’s book for our Rainbow Readers LGBTQIA Youth Book Club.
Thank you very much for joining us on our Spotlight blog, Gabby! Can you please tell us more about yourself and your writing? How would you like us to introduce you?
I’m a round, brown loverboi living in Brooklyn, NY. My debut novel is called Juliet Takes a Breath, which was listed by Mic as one of the 25 essential books to read for women’s history month, and it was called the “dopest LGBTQA YA book ever” by Latina. I work for a national non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being and safety of LGBT youth in schools. And I’m represented by New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from JULIET TAKES A BREATH?
JULIET TAKES A BREATH is my first novel, and it’s fun as hell. If you like geeky, smart-mouthed nineteen-year-old chunky Latinas from the Bronx, it’s literally the book for you. Juliet is self-conscious and hella curious about her place in the world. She’s trying to navigate being a baby dyke–and probably a feminist–and the culture shock of going from the Bronx to Portland, Oregon.
Be ready for honest/awkward questions, blunt realizations about navigating whiteness, and party scenes that will make you wish you had more queer brown family.
Also, JULIET TAKES A BREATH is a gooey earnest love letter to LGBTQ youth everywhere. In its shinier moments it offers a blueprint of sorts, on other ways to maintain and develop relationships. There’s insight into navigating older/younger queer mentorships and platonic/physically intimate relationships. I hope it also models some gentle ways to provide each other access to our various and intersectional queer communities.
What are some of your writing-related hobbies, crafts, addictions?
Writers groups can be so dope. But, I hate applying to a situation where some random person is going to reject my application to work with other folks. So, I start my own writers groups wherever I go and just gather rad folks who want to share space and write. I don’t care what you’re writing, just come and let’s be together.
Still though, retreats and workshops are fun and I love them.
Ugh, I also read so damn much, and I’m gonna own the fact that I love fiction, specifically YA fiction and QTPOC sci-fi. But shit has to be interesting, otherwise I will leave a book on the train, you know?
I mean, ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE broke my damn heart with how vulnerable and glorious the two main characters are. And the writing is just so beautiful. Also, if you haven’t read SALT by Nayyirah Waheed, please go right into the heavens and obtain a copy. One of my favorite lines is:
Yes. Yes I do. Have the right to be the lush and never ending.
Oh my heart.
What is one thing that most people don’t realize about you?
I have learned to be very careful about where and with whom I give my energy to. I’ve learned to preserve myself. It is a harmful narrative that people feed to women, especially queer women of color, that our time and energy are best utilized in the service of others. I want to invest in my people and share space with folks who aren’t toxic, you know? I’m not going to give of myself because it’s what’s expected of me.
Like, am I good? Am I looking after my mental health? Am I getting my work done and achieving the goals I’ve set for myself? Am I building community in respectful ways? Cuz if I’m not doing that for me, then how can I really be useful to anyone else?
Also, I’m here to live and be vibrant and as great as possible. The universe gifted me with life and I want to share it with others, but I won’t give you energy that I don’t have for myself.
Everyone here has their own magic. If you’re living to be your best self, and I’m living to be my best self, then when we link up it’s going to be so lit. But if I’m depriving myself of joy and love and strength to try and fix you or boost you, we are both going to fail. I just want to see us thrive and be great, you know?
While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!
I need music when I write. Music helps me drift into that good writing space, the one without panic attacks or self-doubt. Sometimes I need that Edith Piaf pain. Her music reminds me of rancheras, but like, in French. Moody, elegant, and raw. Other days, it’s the Vitamin String Quartet because I’m a nerd for pop music but often find vocals distracting. And I feel like classical music gives my anxious brain something to focus on.
Right now I’m listening to Solange’s A Seat At The Table, and for the last month it’s been Frank Ocean’s Blonde and Bomba Estereo’s Amanecer.
I also love when people are working/creating in the same space as me. Shared focus provides that solid energy for writing, and makes the whole process way less isolating.
I try not to write with the TV on because then like five hours will pass, and I’m hip deep into some new series, and then obviously I have to watch the entire season…and what was I writing again?
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
And a number of other independent bookstores across the US, UK and Australia.
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
People can find me on FB too.
GabbyRivera.com (needs a little updating tho!)