Updated: Mar 4
One of the most amazing things about the Generous Space community is the incredible range of talents that people hold. Our Executive Director, Wendy, was thrilled to be able to interview Stacey Chomiak about her new book (and other exciting things). We hope you enjoy!
Wendy VanderWal Gritter: Congratulations on the release of the new children's book "Rainbow Boy"! As a queer woman who is also parenting two young ones, what did serving as the illustrator on this project mean to you? Stacey Chomiak: Thank you so much! Working on this project meant so much to me. Not only was it the first traditionally published book that I was asked to illustrate, I truly believe in the message. Even though our toddlers are being raised by two queer women, they still pick up on the gender normative stereotypes in kids shows, with their friends, really everywhere. It was such a joy to take this story and imagine Rainbow Boy the way I saw him on paper. I definitely took inspiration from our kids for many of his silly poses. It was a dream come true to see them actually hold and read the book that "Mommy drew".
WVG: How would you summarize the message of Rainbow Boy and what do you hope that both kids and parents get out of it?
SC: Well, the tagline for this book is "A story about a boy with a heart too big for one color alone." It is a beautiful story, written by Taylor Rouanzion, of a gender nonconforming boy who loves all colours, and traditionally boy AND girl things. He loves his basketball, but also loves to wear tutus and play with dolls. Books like this are so important, to challenge those stereotypes, for both kids AND parents. It's easy to get stuck in a box of what we "should" like or want because that's how it's always been. But what freedom can come when we are free to explore everything that is beautiful and helps us express who we are. WVG: Your life is busy, how do you make time for these kinds of freelance projects? If someone has a manuscript what would it look like to explore partnering with you as the illustrator?
SC: Yes, life with young kids is just plain busy, haha! As an artist, I am creative during the day in the animation world, which I love. But my heart and passion is in telling queer stories for books, especially kids books. I will always make time for it: before work, after work, on weekends, because it's just something I just have to do.
I guess as an artist, it's tough when my hobby and passion and work all commingle as just my life. I have a constant idea list on my phone of things I want to draw or write about. Luckily I have a wife who is very supportive of me saying, "I just need to do a quick sketch...!" If someone is interested in partnering with me on a project, they are free to email myself or my agent Claire, and we can go from there! WVG: You also have a YA memoir coming out this year, "Still Stace: My Gay Christian Coming of Age Story". I'm super excited for this to be released! Tell us about why you created this project? What were some of the challenges you experienced in seeing it all come together? What words of wisdom would you offer to someone thinking about sharing their story with a wider audience?
SC: Thank you for your excitement! I could talk for days about all of this. I created this project simply because when I struggled to reconcile my faith and sexuality through my teens and 20's, I could not find any stories of people like me. People who had found peace and were able to live fully as a gay person of faith. I found only conservative Christian resources which pointed to ex-gay ministries, or secular gay resources which were largely angry at the church as a whole. Neither of those seemed to fit, even though I did try the ex-gay route for a bit.
My own journey of finding peace took 13 years, with many twists and turns, and honestly, I felt God ask me to share how I got there. If it can help someone like myself who needed it, then I am so entirely grateful. Oof, there were some challenges for sure. The journey of getting a book deal, and then working with an editor, forced me to stretch and ask myself just how vulnerable I wanted to be. Thankfully my agent and editor were both so supportive and took care of my story in a way that allowed me to feel safe to share.
The writing part was cathartic and definitely tough at the most hurtful moments, but the biggest challenge was definitely going back in and drawing all of those moments. I am so proud of what it has become, and both excited and nervous for other people to read it. If anyone feels a nudging to share their story with a wider audience, my advice would be to first write it just for yourself. See how that feels and check in with yourself on the inside. If you feel peace about going further with it, see where it might lead! You never know. :)
Pre-order "Still Stace" here.