About 2 ½ years ago after a breakup, I moved out of my apartment in Denver and into my car, thinking I would go back after five weeks. The week after Labor Day, I ended up in Pinedale, Wyoming, with two options: I could drive back to Denver, look for a new apartment and start over, or I could try to live on the road for a while.
I took a conference call for my job while sitting in the front seat of my car across the street from Pearl Street Bagels in Jackson, my ninth day without a shower, and I realized the other people on the call had no idea I wasn’t working from “home,” or that I didn’t have a home. And maybe I could get away with it. So I started living on the road, sleeping in my car and in friends’ guest bedrooms all around the West.
Over the course of several months and several thousand miles, I spent time with close friends, and friends who became closer friends, and I saw all these different people making all these different lives: Friends who became step-parents through marriage, friends who had decided to not have kids, friends who were in their first exhausting months of parenthood, others who had adult children, and nobody’s version of happiness or home was the same as anyone else’s.
I started writing, sometimes frantically scribbling down barely-legible notes on scraps of paper on my dashboard as I drove down the highway. I thought it was becoming a story, the first draft written on napkins, backs of receipts, the notepad in my iPhone. I typed at campsites in the desert and next to the ocean, in coffee shops, and laundromats.
At the end of a few months, I put together a draft, and worked on it. I shopped it around a little bit, aware that I had probably just written a road trip book, the kind publishers get in their inbox five times a day. They rejected it, like they have to do with 99.5 percent of the books they get pitched.
Writers get rejected a lot—you learn to not take it personally, that you will have lots of stories people won’t believe in as much as you do. Plenty of great books have been rejected dozens of times before they finally get published, and plenty more have never been published. Sometimes you just give up on an story or an idea, and that’s the end. But I really liked this story. I thought people would get something out of it, because the American Dream is changing and different for everyone now—sometimes it’s kids, a family, a house we make into a home, and sometimes it’s a never-ending road trip. I think it’s important not that we all want the same thing, but that we spend time thinking about what we want.
I had a meeting with a publisher who didn’t think it was quite right for them, and she was right, but that was the last time I tried to pitch it. I figured I got this web site that I write unedited stuff on every week, and a few people seem to like that. So maybe I could self-publish a book, too. I put some money into it, had a couple friends edit it, had another friend take a photo for the cover, asked an old friend to design the cover, and one day this summer, had a PDF and a Word document. Two weeks later, I had something that looked a lot like a book, with my name on it, in my hands. And I didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to publish it, which is equal parts gratifying and terrifying.
The book is called “The New American Road Trip Mixtape.” I used the word “mixtape” in the title because it borrows from other people’s lives and other people’s art to tell my story about everyone, the way my favorite hip-hop mixtapes do. It will be available on this web site next Thursday, December 12th. It’s $14, which will not make you poor or make me rich. I hope you like it.