How We Began AnthologyHow We Began by Alexis Hall, Delphine Dryden, Vanessa North, Amy Jo Cousins, Annabeth Albert, Geonn Cannon

Available on: Amazon

Release Day Extravaganza Organized by: Liz

I was lucky enough to read an ARC of this anthology a few weeks back, and after I finished it, I felt like I was in a bit of a daze and also floating on the happiest bubble into a rainbow. This collection of stories, the proceeds from which are all going to benefit The Trevor Project, felt almost monumental to me. Some stories are bigger in scope than others, but all are so human and touching and every single one of them is affirming in a way I wish I could have had when I was in high school.

So, we thought about how best to showcase this wonderful anthology, and decided that hey, a giveaway is a beautiful thing. A TRIPLE giveaway? Even better. All money goes to charity? Sound the trumpets!

It’s time for an Extravaganza!

The brain behind the thing, Audra North, shares her thoughts on the project in a video below. Here’s what she had to say about it…

While I was editing this clip, for the first ten minutes all I could think was how much I hated how awful I look in it, how ridiculous I sound since I’m trying to put on my “very serious person” voice, and how–despite my best efforts!–I stumbled over my words. But then I actually started listening to the words I was saying, about what I loved so much about each of the works in this anthology. These are stories about acceptance and stories about being who you are, and loving who you are. The authors gave a voice to experiences that aren’t usually presented so thoughtfully, so hopefully, so lovingly. HOW WE BEGAN, as a whole collection, is a work about the kind of love that we all deserve to have and to give, and all the ways that love makes the world a more beautiful place.

I considered doing a review, but Edie Danforth, who edited the anthology, describes each story better than I could have. Here is what she had to say…

Editing the How We Began anthology felt like opening a treasure chest and discovering gorgeous gems—ones with lots and lots of facets and colors—six stories to covet and hold up to the light.

I loved how in TruNorth Alexis Hall was able to take pop-culture themes very familiar to us in 2015—boy bands, celebrity, identity angst, disconnectedness—insert them into a time and place that aren’t so familiar, and deftly create a new lens for us to see anew the beauty and power of friendship and love. This story created songs in my head I want to replay again and again.

Delphine Dryden’s Unexpected Dragons seamlessly allowed me to slip inside the skin of a beautiful, fantastical creature whose experiences helped me recognize the barriers we all face (the everyday human ones and the ones that seem otherworldly) are more easily smashed when we open our minds to possibilities. The friends in this story are the best kind—ones who show us how amazing we are just for being ourselves.

I fell hard for Vanessa Norths A Song for Sweater-boy from the very first line. With words North creates the same kind of miracle knitters do—that thing that happens when love and time and caring come together to mesh disparate strands into something lasting and protective and warm. Better than snuggling into a handknit sweater on a chill November day, this story is!

Amy Jo Cousins’s The Taste of Coffee and Cream proved to me in such a heartfelt way that, sure, we all crave shots of carbs and caffeine, but sometimes it’s the unexpected smile and the caring we give and receive across that coffee-shop counter (or a bus or a park bench or a school hall)—the promise of understanding from another person and the hope of a deeper connection—that we need most. And this story fulfilled all those needs and cravings.

In First in Line, Annabeth Albert’s sweet-as-hell hero might not think he’s brave, but he sure as heck is. I wanted to cheer as he struggled with and then conquered stuff that made me quiver as a freshman in college, including talking to the cute guy across the hall and taking a chance on revealing too much with choices on everything from words, to wall posters, to work-study jobs. This one has a first-kiss scene to swoon for!

Geonn Cannon’s Extinction Level Events wowed me with a terrific plot twist. Right away I got sucked in to Cassandra’s hopes for what might happen when she reveals her feelings to her longtime secret crush before she heads off to college. But then something unexpected happens (you’ll have to read it to find out what!) and I found myself following Cassandra down new paths—paths as cool and charming and amazing as she is herself.

And, finally, all six authors kindly agreed to answer two very silly questions about how their stories and a little about how they began…

Alexis Hall

If a reader were to take away one thing from your story, what would you most want it to be?

I, err, I’m not massively comfortable with the idea of trying to second-guess (or, worse, impose) what a reader might take away from anything I write. A text is an interpretative space–and readers get to choose how they respond to it. I hope some readers can find themselves, or aspects of themselves (whoever they are or however they identify) in what I write. When I feel seen and spoken to by a book, it’s very powerful and important to me. It would be amazing to be able to give that someone else.

If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing, what might you say?

Heh. Maybe … it’ll be okay?

Delphine Dryden

If a reader were to take away one thing from your story, what would you most want it to be?

You deserve to see yourself in the stories you read. And we all deserve stories that reflect the diverse world we live in. Good for you, for choosing to read stories that make your world broader, not narrower!

If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing, what might you say?

You’re the hero of your own story…so be kinder to yourself, and don’t discount your own instincts or accept anyone else’s narrative for your feelings.

Vanessa North

If a reader were to take away one thing from your story, what would you most want it to be?

No matter how messy your life feels, or how the deck feels stacked against you, you are special, valuable, and deserve to be loved exactly as you are.

If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing, what might you say?

Someday, you’ll be able to order pizza without talking to anyone on the phone. It will be glorious. But until then, it’s okay to freak out and need to count yourself down afterwards.

Amy Jo Cousins

If a reader were to take away one thing from your story, what would you most want it to be?

Sometimes it’s not safe to be who you really are in the family you were born with. Sometimes you have to wait until you find the family you are meant to have, one person at a time, to let daylight shine on the person you really are.

If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing, what might you say?

There’s nothing wrong with being shy if you don’t mind it, but if you do mind (and you do!) the trick to overcoming it is to fake it. Turns out faking being not-shy is indistinguishable from actually not being shy. And if you act like you’re not shy long enough, you’ll realize how much more enjoyable life is when you don’t give a damn what other people think of you. Don’t be afraid to call your own friends. They really are happy to hear from you.

Annabeth Albert

If a reader were to take away one thing from your story, what would you most want it to be?

While I was writing the story, I kept coming back to the notion of family as a fluid construct, something that grows and changes and that we can create for ourselves. College in particular is a magical time where families of choice can start to blossom.

If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing, what might you say?

I’d tell my younger self to not punt on my dreams. In several instances, I ended up taking a “safer” choice rather than truly follow heart, and those are the choices I regret most as an adult. Not because things turned out badly, but because I’ll never know what would have happened had I let myself truly soar.

Geonn Cannon

If a reader were to take away one thing from your story, what would you most want it to be?

Don’t get so caught up in what you want that you ignore what’s right in front of your face. I had an experience similar to this in high school, but I wasn’t lucky enough to be enlightened until it was too late. You may know what’s right for you, but stay open-minded about the fact you might be wrong. Something better could be just around the corner.

If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing, what might you say?

Just ONE thing? I would focus on writing much, much earlier, specifically my original writing. I spent so much time spinning my wheels trying to figure out what I wanted to do. It took me years to figure out my niche was in lesbian romance (yeah, I’m lucky I ever got there at all). Once I did, I spent even LONGER writing fanfiction. I don’t regret those years, but I’d reassure myself that people will want to read about my original characters. I would tell myself the ideas WILL come once I start letting them in. It’s been about nine years now, and I have over thirty novels and close to 200 short stories proving the leap was well worth it.

And now, THE GIVEAWAY!

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8 thoughts on “How We Began Anthology Giveaway Extravaganza!

  1. This anthology sounds so good! As for your question, I think I’ll go for The Taste of Coffee and Cream, by Amy Jo Cousins… I love her way of writing, and all her stories cheer me up! Thank you 😉

  2. Wonderful post, & I enjoyed reading the mini-interviews with the authors involved. I’ve just started this today with the Alexis Hall story, which is giving me all the feelz <3 Wonderful book so far & such a worthy project to support <3 <3 <3

  3. I shall – ‘start at the very beginning,’ because ‘it’s a very good place to start.’

  4. I Always start with Alexis Hall – love his work. But excited to read the other authors too as some of them would be new to me!

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