Next Chapters is a biweekly feature spotlighting graduates of GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator program, which has been running since 2010.
Novel Incubator Year: 1
Current project: Paper Planes, a graphic novel
What are you reading now?
I’m reading Real Bad Things by fellow Novel Incubator alum, Kelly J. Ford. Kelly and I were in the very first Novel Incubator together. It’s been amazing following her writing over the years as well as all of the Incubees. I’m so inspired by everyone’s work. Soon all of the Novel Incubees’ books will fill an entire shelf on my bookcase!
What’s the origin story of your incubator novel?
A Boy Like Me came from my own gender dysphoria. Through the research for that novel, I was really asking myself, Am I trans? If so, what does that mean for me? If not, what does that mean for me? I struggled to articulate that at the time. By the end of writing A Boy Like Me, I realized my journey was different from the book’s protagonist. But I still didn’t know what my journey was. Then the publications of A Boy Like Me and Flutter took me to queer writing and comic conventions, where I was asked for the first time what my preferred pronouns were. Those conventions provided safe spaces for me to become more familiar with terms and identities such as nonbinary and cisgender, giving me a new vocabulary. I met other nonbinary people, and a light bulb went off. My gender dysphoria became gender euphoria. So the writing and publication of A Boy Like Me led directly to my coming out as nonbinary.
Share a time when something you wrote either caused you embarrassment and regret or brought you and others joy.
My greatest embarrassment is also the thing that’s brought me the most joy — and that’s having spent over a decade exploring gender through my work as a way to figure out who I am. On the one hand, it’s a little embarrassing to have taken so long to realize I’m nonbinary and to have needed to explore it through multiple books to do so. On the other hand, that writing and those books led me to who I am today. The books also brought others some joy and solace along the way. And —happy ending alert— my previous work led to my most recent paid writing job, where I got to create and write Paper Planes, an original graphic novel with a nonbinary protagonist.
What strategies do you use when you’ve hit the wall?
I take a mini-break and work on the other project I have going. That’s why I always work on two projects at the same time. I make sure that the two projects are not too similar. I’m never working on two novels or two graphic novels at the same time. It’s usually one longer project (a novel or graphic novel) and one smaller project (a short story, short comic, or song). It’s a delicate balance. I never work on more than two things at once. I learned that the hard way!
What surprised you most about the publishing process?
It’s not how or where the book is published that changes you and your life, but the people you meet and the experiences you have because your work is out there. You and your work being “out there in the wild” connects you to others. You meet like-minded people, other writers, other artists in different fields whose stories and work inspire and resonate. It also connects you to people who aren’t like you, who disagree with you, and who may even be triggered by your work. These people are just as important because you learn from them, which makes you a better writer and, more importantly, a better human.
What’s the worst writing question any non-writer has asked you?
“Are you still writing?” For me, that question feels like someone walking next to you asking, “Are you still breathing?” The day I’m no longer writing is the day I’m no longer breathing. I think only writers can understand that.
Jennie Wood is a nonbinary author, comic creator and musician. They created the critically acclaimed, award-winning Flutter graphic novel series. Flutter was named one of The Advocate’s best LGBTQ graphic novels of the year, a Barnes & Noble book of the month, an INDIEFAB Book of the Year finalist, and a Virginia Library Association Diversity Honor Book. In 2018, Dark Horse published The Flutter Collection, the entire series in one book, which won the Next Generation Indie Book award for best graphic novel of the year. Jennie is also the author of the award-winning YA novel, A Boy Like Me. Their work can be seen in several anthologies, including The New York Times best-selling FUBAR, the Eisner award-winning anthology Love is Love, and John Carpenter’s Tales for a HalloweenNight. Jennie’s next graphic novel, Paper Planes, will be published in May 2023 by Maverick. Find out more: at jenniewood.com or on Twitter or Instagram