I started writing Choosing Grace many years ago. It was not the story it is now. In fact, it was originally titled, Jumping Rope in High Heels. My girlfriend at the time and I had planned to collaborate and write a novel together. We wrote a few pages, but it never really took flight.
When we broke up, I began working on the novel by myself. I decided it needed a new title, so I changed it from Jumping Rope in High Heels to The Get Together. It still was not the story that it is today. The Get Together was going to be about a group of African American lesbian friends and their antics. However, writing and working on The Get Together, helped me to come up with my two main characters for Choosing Grace – Sky Valentine and Grace Webster. As I continued to work on the story, these two characters became more prominent and the story wasn’t really about a “get together” anymore, so I changed the title again to Choosing Grace.
I wrote a large portion of the novel before putting it aside to get a master’s degree in deaf education, having two children, and getting an MFA in creative writing. My novel was on the back burner, but I was writing and publishing poetry and short stories.
While homeschooling my children, I read many books about writing. In one of the books I read, it stated that if I were to write one page every day, by the end of the year I would have three hundred and sixty-five pages. Well this idea was like an explosion in my head. While my children slept, I wrote – sometimes one page a night, sometimes ten or more, but the idea was so profound to me that it really helped me to finish writing Choosing Grace. After some editing, I entered it into a contest for writers who reside in the Bronx (BRIO Writers Contest). It didn’t win, but I got a lot of positive feedback about the book, which was great, but I stuffed it in the closet for a few more years as I worked on my poetry and another novel I haven’t finished as of yet.
In 2014, I was accepted to be a Lambda Literary Fellow which was outstanding because it was the first time I was surrounded by a community of writers who, like myself, were writing books and stories that showcased queer characters. I met a lot of great people and I worked on several projects during my residency.
In 2016, I did a writing residency at the Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, in Woodstock, NY. I went there to write and edit a short story, and I did, but I also worked a lot on editing Choosing Grace. I realized that I had this novel just sitting there waiting for me to finish it and try to get it published, so I did just that. I worked on it.
Choosing Grace is a romance novel involving two young African American women which is a story that is not often told. I wanted to write a story that reflected the Black lesbian culture I know and have been a part of, and I wanted to share some of those experiences with readers. Choosing Grace also reflects on my love for the Bronx, the borough in New York City where I grew up. When people think of the Bronx, they have a negative picture in their minds, but I remember community, safety, room to explore and discover, and I needed to include the fondness I have for the borough in my book.
Choosing Grace took many years to write, edit, write, and edit again, but I learned a great deal about the writing process by struggling through it. I learned what works for me as a writer and that everyone’s process is different. That’s not a bad thing.