The Human Café
When I started this book, I honestly didn’t know where it was going or where it would end. I didn’t know the main characters, their wants, their needs, their interests, their histories. I didn’t know where I’d be when I finally got to the end of it, where it would have taken me. I didn’t know what it would do to me, or the impact that it would have on the people who read it first. I didn’t know it would change my outlook on life and storywriting. I didn't expect it to be so autobiographical. In short, I didn’t expect it to hurt and I didn’t expect it to change anything. So really, I guess I expected it to be just like any of the other stories I’d written. Only it wasn’t.
...with a black notebook, brand new and store-scented, and with the bold, black words at the top of the page: The Human Café. The words that followed really didn’t ask permission. They were distinct and genuine and honest and probably said what everyone was thinking:
"That's horrible," Lana declared. "It sounds like you're eating people.""Yumm," said Caesar. "Humans!"
And that was that.
(At this point I feel like I should probably note: This book does not contain actual cannibalism in any form. I apologize in advance for any disappointment this may cause. It does, however, contain: Oceanic Storms, Diner Coffee, Secret Agents, Romantic Gardens, Christmas Lights, An End-of-the-World and a Queen (also featuring unrelated appearances by Frank Sinatra and Beowulf).
In the words of E.L. Doctorow, “[Writing] is like driving a car at night. You never see further than the headlights but you can make the whole trip that way.”
To be perfectly honest, I didn't know what this book even was until I'd reached the end of it. When it showed up, I didn't know what to think. I just knew that it tasted different than any other I'd written, that there was something strange about it. And as it grew, it grew in its own, unexpected ways. That restless seed drank in all the insomnia and all the insecurity (and resulting caffeine) and sprouted into something I'd never expected. It seemed sharp and blunt at the same time, witty but honest. It was shorter than other stories I'd written, but it far outweighed them.
To be honest, I didn't hope for much. But I was excited.
And that's when my best friend snatched it up and gulped it down and let it crack her open. It was raw and it was real (for the first time, beautiful). Then another friend took it, and another. I'd known it was different from the beginning; for the first time, it was a story that had the power to hurt me. And it did, in many ways. It was a story that, at its base, was human (something that, until then, I'd always struggled to accomplish). It was something that could (possibly) transcend the words that it was contained in.
It could do what I'd always wanted my writing to do: Mean something to someone.
The characters had outgrown their pages. They had real voices and real weight and it really did hurt when they cried, at least they hurt me, and infused with a kind of reality that I found myself already in the middle of. They had quirks and passions and fears and for the first time, something fantastical had become something real, to me.
It's not perfect. I know that. (But in some ways, I think it's almost better that it's not, as though somehow being perfect would illegitimize* its claims to humanity). But it's real.
This is a piece of me, on display. A piece that inspired me to take up long-boarding and ukulele and read poetry and nurse my caffeine addiction to new heights and run into the ocean laughing and get salt in my mouth. It's the life that I've seen, the reality that I've witnessed and learned. It's my first foray into something real, and it's changed me more than I ever knew it could.
*whether it's a word or not, it really should be.
So what exactly is the Human Café about?
I've been asked this question dozens of times, and I really wish that it wasn't such a reasonable question, because then I wouldn't feel so lame when I don't have a proper answer. But the problem is that the more personal something becomes to you, the more impossible it becomes to summarize to someone else.
My typical answer to the question is "Well, it’s complicated”—and it is—“It’d probably be easier if you just read it”—it would be. But summarize I must, so summarize I shall:
This is a story about a boy, and the corner of the booth, in the corner of the café, that is his home. It is about the friends he shares it with after school and about the notebook that he slowly fills beside them.
It is about love and laughter, the kind that holds back the heartbreak. It is about beauty and a puddle of human chaos. It’s about freckles and maple syrup, werewolves and hurricanes, fast cars and hand-holding, gravestones and orange soda. It’s about sunshine and scars and a great deal of ink, about losing things in finding things. It is, in short, a story about life in this Human Café."
It's the story of a writer and the stories he writes and the people he writes them for. It's about how he changes and how he doesn't, about what he sees and what he learns and what he's afraid of, all wrapped up in the searching and the chaos of a creative mind. It's a story about the nature of pain, the nature of joy, and the danger of escaping.
It's about an Atlantian Queen, and the mysterious stranger who arrives on her shores with the strangest cargo she has ever seen...
It's about a man who has spent a lifetime running from monsters...
It's about a Secret Society of women who all share the same name...
It's about paradoxes and time travel and the faithfulness of a painter's daughter...
It's about an infatuated young man and what he found behind the walls of a garden...
It's about a hidden race of undying beings, and the death of the one man who could keep them from overthrowing mankind...
It's about the retired father-of-three that the government can't let out of its sight...
But mostly, it's about a boy and his friends and a hospital rooftop in Oklahoma.
It's a blend of down-to-earth fiction, dark fantasy and fast-paced sci-fi, witty romance and heavy drama, tied together by characters who live and breathe and feel and only sometimes get along. It has a little bit of everything, really. While it may be geared toward the Young Adult audience, it stands apart from the love-triangle-drama-driven-forbidden-infatuation-obsessed genre it shares. It's an attempt to reach into a largely childish and ultimately hopeless stage and setting of literature with a purpose and with a hope behind it. And I'm not sure I have more to say than that.
"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." -Earnest Hemingway
Really, art is nothing more than pain shared. Vulnerability. You're taking a piece of you, sometimes an aching, throbbing piece, and you're putting it on display. You're packaging it and giving it away. In that sense, art should hurt. It hurts if you mean it. Stories are art just as much as art is story.
I don't think I really understood this until the Human Cafe crawled into my head, tossing and twisting until every last bit of it was on paper. I had to pull it out of my veins and dig up all its secrets in a very glorious sort of demolition. It devastated me in the most beautiful way.
I said earlier that this book changed my outlook on life, as well as storytelling. In truth, it turned out far more autobiographically than I ever intended, or even realized. I wasn't writing to an audience though; I was writing for the characters, and to understand something for myself.
What Your Support Would Mean
Until very recently, the thought of publication has always been one of those things that dwells concealed somewhere behind the no-man's-land of "Someday." To stand at the gate of someday is a wild and baffling thing, and I really have to thank God and everyone in my life who has helped bring me to this point. It's an anxious and somewhat nerve-wracking process, as terrifying as it always is, to put yourself out in the open. But it's such a necessary and exciting sort of discomfort.
And now that I've said all the creative, inspirational parts, I suppose it's time for the part that's not nearly so fun, where I have to talk about money and funding and words that end in "-ution."
As I said in the description earlier, I have already chosen to take the self-publication route, at least as a launching point toward larger publicity later on. Any pledge that you could give, any size or any time, would go directly toward finishing my cover art (and paying my artists!), completing formatting and editing, printing and eventually shipping all pre-purchased copies to you, my backers. I will be distributing them myself, and attempting (with the help of some amazingly gifted people) to market myself both in person and through social media to spread the word and get The Human Café onto shelves and into hands.
I've tried to make pledges as convenient as possible and in all price ranges, but know that there is no pledge too small. Be it $1 or $100 or just a prayer of support, it gets me that much closer to my goal and one step closer to actually being able to share the story with you.
It would absolutely blow my mind to make this goal, but if I didn't think it was possible I wouldn't have troubled you with so much reading! I understand the sacrifice and the risk of the gift, but I am excited and hopeful that it can be met!
Whether you want to support the story, or you want to support me, Kickstarter is giving you (and me) an incredible opportunity to do so!
I am thrilled to be entering this stage of the journey with whatever support you are willing to give, and can't wait (Lord willing) to get the Human Café into your hands.
With all justifiable enthusiasm,
If you want to listen to my Spotify Playlist, "Songs for the Human Café" to get in the Pledging mood, or to just jam to some awesome (frequently updated) tunes, click the highlighted words above!
Risks and challenges
The obvious risk here is that I don't reach my goal and printing is pushed back. But while this will obvious postpone having an actual copy in your hands, it is nothing more than a delay. I intend to publish as soon as the finances work themselves out. Only God knows when that is, so whatever comes, I'm going to trust him and hold on tight! Cheers!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (35 days)