Writing made me brave. The words that fear prevented me from saying verbally effortlessly poured onto pages. When my first, self-published book came out in 2014, and readers I didn’t know sent me messages about what it meant to them—what my words meant to their lives—it changed me. It gave me the confidence to start speaking out loud the words that were in my head but paralyzed by anxiety. And when thousands of copies were sold, when high schools incorporated my story into their classroom and local bookstores carried and sold copies, I felt unleashed. When I signed my first publishing deal in 2021, it felt fateful that it was a story about young boys and girls. Those years of uncertainty and insecurity are still clear in my mind, further exaggerated when I became a parent at 18. So when I write these stories, I may be inventing the characters and situations, but all of the emotions I infuse into these characters are based on genuine emotions I’ve experienced.