But really, our stories began way before that. The only reason I, Star, was teaching that class was because I’d moved to the U.S. from the U.K. several years before as my then-spouse’s financial dependent. I could only come with him if I agreed to give up teaching and not earn a bean.“What will this visa do to my career?” I asked myself. “How will I live without a social security number?”
Still, I agreed to the adventure. So, in a new country, with no career to swallow me and a marriage that wasn’t working, I threw myself into stories. Wow, did I learn! I took writing class upon writing class, read book upon book, joined writing groups, even won a couple of contests.
A few years in, writing had changed me. I’d had lots of stories and articles published, and had started teaching the classes I’d once taken—for class credit, at first. By the time I met Jake, I’d received a green card and was an editor at Narrative Magazine, where I promoted my team’s stories and sat on finalist panels. I'd developed a brand of writing coaching sessions called "Boosts," and was teachiing numerous writing classes at Grub Street. Under a pen name, I’d had a novel accepted by Harper Collins and had a column in a local magazine. I’d come out as queer and was no longer with my ex.
Writing had helped me to live.
Jake had lived through many stories, too. But he, like so many of us, grew up hiding his true self. In many ways, he was powerfully successful, but he lived a life where he put everyone else first. He got married and took care of his spouse completely. He became papa to three marvelous dogs, one of whom he saved from violent abuse. Oh, these dogs! How they’d hurl around and bark with joy when he got home! Happy dogs!
Career-wise, there was also no holding him back. Soon, he was snapped up by Gartner as a senior editor, where he did so well that he won a coveted award. In terms of your standard career path, he was a roaring success.
But another story was whispering to him.
As a sideline, he started a record label, helping others to tell their stories with music. After all, his favorite songs are stories. He signed amazing musicians and their music exploded the scene. He used his graphic design skills to create incredible materials, and though his label was small and indie, you can bet your beehive folks had heard of it. As he was working with music, he also wrote and found that he had an exceptional voice that readers hungered for. He even got published in a popular anthology by his favorite-ever author—a huge deal. Once he’d arrived in the class where we met, his writing voice was so rich that all of us were spellbound, and his editing chops were formidable.
Perhaps more importantly, he was ready to live the life he’d imagined.
Little did we know that after we’d met, words and stories would become even more central for us. Jake turned freelance, editing for a living, and began to edit my work, too. He edited me. I edited him. We even ran an LGBTQ+ press under our pen names, where we published a range of bestsellers.
Now, years later, I've come out non-binary, taking they/them pronouns. (Jake, of course, has always been my biggest supporter.) And we still write and edit together. We've worked in win/loss analysis, taking the stories people tell about their experiences with products and services, and presenting them in a way that is helpful for the clients concerned. Jake's worked with marketing agencies, creating everything from blog posts to white papers. I've published articles about film, TV, and diversity & inclusion—plus I've run social media accounts for entrepreneurs. I'm also a sucker for my own comedy brand called Chuckle Duck (watch this space for our podcast!). I write for Thrive Global and am also soon to be published at Huffington Post. And as well as writing all sorts of fiction, and winning various awards and fellowships, we also took up screenwriting last year—a life ambition—and have been awarded for our comedy screenplays, too.
This is just one of our stories.
We met in a writing class that I, Star, was teaching. Jake had signed up in order to get some manuscript critiques, but the night before the first class, his trusty treadmill broke. For a million and one reasons, Jake could not live without his treadmill. “Can’t afford the class now,” he muttered, ready to cancel. But the following morning, to his astonishment, the machine had started working again.
The universe got its way.