One word sums up LGBT Buffalo author Lyndsey D’Arcangelo. Versatile. From penning articles in The Advocate to writing her Mr. Mom blog for Curve magazine, D’Arcangelo is an author for all genres. D’Arcangelo has also added novels to her publishing plate with ”The Crabapple Tree” and “The Trouble With Emily Dickinson.”
Is being a writer and gay parent of a two-year old daughter as easy as it looks? How does the award winning author cut loose? D’Arcangelo gets personal in our exclusive interview.
Deborah Nadolski: As a LGBT parent, what are the biggest challenges to raising your daughter? The greatest rewards and surprises?
Lyndsey D’Arcangelo: The biggest challenge would be my own fears of judgment by other heterosexual couples, straight mothers and straight individuals overall. Maggie is just fine having two mothers. She doesn't know any different. It's my issue and I have to remind myself not to put it onto her. The greatest rewards? Being a parent. Straight or gay, there's nothing more rewarding in this world. As far as surprises go, I'd have to say that I'm surprised at how easily I transitioned into being a mother (and a stay-at-home one at that). I never knew I had those motherly instincts in me, but I do. And I'm quite good at it.
DN: Gay marriage laws have been passed in many states the past few years. Fortunately, New York has joined this list. How has this affected you as a gay parent?
LD: It really hasn't affected us at all. Maggie was born right before changes went into effect so I wasn't able to get on the birth certificate. Now, I have to adopt her and endure a visit from a social worker who will observe my interactions with her. It's an aggravating situation but I'm also happy that same-sex couples who have children in NYS from here on out won't have to go through the same thing.
DN: You have written in a variety of genres versus focusing on one area. How has this helped you? Any disadvantages?
LD: It's given me the opportunity to try a bunch of different things. It's also given me a wealth of experience, which I used as a springboard for freelancing. I'm able to offer a wide variety of writing services as opposed to just one avenue, which can be limiting. As far as a disadvantage, I guess I'd have to say that I'm not able to really concentrate on one thing and perfect it completely. For example, if I was able to concentrate solely on fiction then I might have improved and became a best-selling author ... maybe. Honestly, I'm quite content with the way my writing career has panned out.
DN: Has your community and family been supportive of you and your partner becoming parents?
LD: Very much so. My wife, Melissa, and I our very lucky in that both of our families have supported us from the coming out stage on. As my father says, it's a non-factor. That basically means that they don't even think about it. We're family and that's all there is to it. I do have to say that my mother was very surprised at my mothering skills, because I showed no sign of ever wanting children. She has told me she's proud of me numerous times because of it and that makes me smile.
DN: Unfortunately, some gay couples raising children experience discrimination. Have you come across this in your life?
LD: Melissa and I are very blessed. I have had the same doctor since I was 12 and now he's Maggie's and Melissa's doctor as well. We aren't involved in church at the moment, but we have lots of religious friends and neighbors who are wonderful to us. I worried about putting Maggie into a daycare/preschool program and how that would come across, but the place we signed her up at welcomed us with open arms. The owner's daughter is gay, so that helps.
DN: Judy Blume is an author who has dealt with sensitive subjects, such as divorce, sexuality, and young love. I read that you cite her as one of your influences. I'm curious as to how Blume has affected your writing. Which Judy Blume book can you relate to the most?
LD: Judy Blume is my hero, not just because she was a great writer but because she wrote about subjects that other writers were too afraid to touch. She wrote about what really happens to us as adolescents and that's what made her books so appealing. My favorite Judy Blume books are: Are You There God, It's Me Margaret, Just As Long As We're Together and Sheila the Great. I read them at different stages of my life and they all impacted me greatly. When I got the idea for The Trouble with Emily Dickinson, I figured that it was time to write a young adult LGBT novel about a girl who already knew she was gay and comfortable enough to talk about it. I always vow to be real in my books and not talk around the issue. I owe that to Judy.
DN: Many authors stress the importance of writing daily and sticking to a schedule. What works for you?
LD: Everybody is different. I've never forced myself to write, because if I did then I wouldn't want to. I write when the mood strikes. Sometimes I write for two hours or more, sometimes I write for as little as 15 minutes. You have to do what works best for you and your personality. I don't use outlines for novels, either. I'm just not built that way. I like writing loose and free, letting the words come when they may. It's always worked for me as I've never missed a deadline in my life.
DN: Writers also need to take some time out for fun. How do you spend your downtime?
LD: I'm a sports junkie. I watch college basketball, football, professional basketball, soccer, hockey, even little league baseball in the summer. I also love to be active, so I work out a lot, take walks and play basketball. I also enjoy watching movies and I have my favorite shows: Orange is the New Black, SVU and The Walking Dead.
DN: Who are the authors that sit on your bookshelf? Your all-time favorite book?
LD: There are a variety of authors on my bookshelf, from spiritual writers to J.K. Rowling. I don't read as much as I used to, but if it's a really good book that resonates with me then I'll pick it up. As for my all-time favorite book? I'd have to say Just As Long As We're Together. I've read it so many times, I've lost count. Even as an adult. But my favorite book lately is The Help. I just thought it was so well written, researched and packaged. I loved every page.
DN: Self-publishing and online publishing have become more popular these days. How do you feel about these methods of publishing?
LD: I actually wrote an e-book about the publishing world (self-published!) and touched on this very subject. Self-publishing is much more prevalent these days. Plenty of successful authors started out self-publishing and were picked up by reputable publishers later on. It's a good stepping stone and also an avenue to get your work out there. It's very hard to write a best-selling book, and publishers are saturated with manuscripts. With self-publishing, you have the ability to take some of the control back and be the captain of your own publishing ship. There is something to be said for that.
DN: On your website, you mentioned that you are working on writing a screenplay. Any hints about the subject matter?
LD: Yes, I actually finished it. I am now on the second draft. It's a movie that centers on an LGBT character, but it's not a love story or a drama that deals with discrimination. That's all I will say about it at the moment. :)
DN: Establishing oneself as a writer takes persistence. Do you have any advice for writers trying to break into the freelancing business?
LD: Don't be afraid to pitch an article to any publication -- no matter how big or how small. Have confidence in your craft yet at the same time always be open to feedback on how you can improve. It takes time to build up a client base and a reputation, allow yourself time to do so. Take pride in small victories. Each one is a stepping stone.
DN: I can imagine that an eclectic writer never stops exploring new options. Are there other genres that you hope to break into?
LD: The screenplay is new and exciting. I've always wanted to try it, so I am glad that I am giving myself the opportunity to do so. I have a friend who works in film in LA and he's been a great mentor. As for other genres, I think I'm set for now but who knows what's around the corner. Maybe greeting cards? I've always thought that if someone needs me to write something, whatever that may be, I can write it.
Do you want to see more of what D’Arcangelo writes? Check out her website at http://www.lyndseydarcangelo.com/.