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Claire Wilson '24 discusses what she learned from Phil Stamper, a queer YA author, at the September 30 author visit.
On September 30, Perkiomen students and faculty had the privilege to virtually meet author Phil Stamper. Phil Stamper is a queer author who has written multiple books including “The Gravity of Us,” “As Far As You’ll Take Me,” and a new release, “Golden Boys.” During the Zoom call, Mr. Stamper shared his insight on his books, his writing styles, and what it is like being a queer author. He specifically told us about the making of his book, The Gravity of Us.
The Gravity of Us is a story about a news media influencer named Cal Lewis, whose life is turned upside down when his father gets the chance to be an astronaut in NASA’s mission to Mars. Cal is moved from his life in New York City to an astronaut town in Texas, where he meets Leon, another “Astro-kid.” The two boys work together to get through the challenges of being thrown on screen as their parents compete for a spot on the rocket to Mars, all while unraveling the mystery behind the scenes. The book is an amazing story and adds to the small but ever-growing collection of queer novels in YA literature.
When asked about how the novel came to be, Mr. Stamper explained that he had always been interested in space, specifically the race to the moon, but never really knew how to incorporate it into a story. That is until he came up with the idea to center the story around the Astro-families. He wanted to show not only how great the space race was because it fostered growth in scientific interest, but also its flaws. This is where many of the character’s stories come in. For example, Cal’s mother is shown struggling with social anxiety that is exasperated when she is thrown into a reality TV setting. He also wanted to write an LGBTQ+ romance that wasn’t centered around the characters’ coming out stories. He explained that many LGBTQ+ stories revolve around this and that it is important to have stories that show the normalcy of being gay. All in all, he wanted to write a story that showcased the space race he loved, but with a modern twist.
Mr. Stamper also gave insight into being a professional author. He spoke about the difficulties of writing, but also the power of it. “You can’t be an author and not be vulnerable,” he explained. Being an author is difficult, but as long as you “stick with it” and work hard, the reward is great. He mentioned how important reading books with representation would have been for him in high school had he had access to them, and also how important they were to him once he was able to find some. He wanted to write books that would inspire people while also giving them a role in the community through reading. When asked about how taking risks affected his writing, Mr. Stamper explained how important it was. He talked about different risks he had taken in his life that he was glad he had done: attempting concert piano, moving to Washington D.C., and writing his first book. He emphasized that the key to writing is taking risks, setting goals, and rewarding even small accomplishments. To write any book, you have to start by opening up a Word document and starting to type. Simply put, “writing is never going to feel exciting all of the time,” but you will never reach the exciting parts if you don’t start. He also said that for any author, it is important to have a community of other authors that help each other and support each other’s wins.
During the meet and greet, Mr. Stamper also shared his experience being a queer author. He explained that because he was writing LGBTQ+ novels, there was always an added layer to criticism he received, especially from publishers. He found himself wondering whether the critics were against the book because of the LGBTQ+ side, and how it was a dangerous train of thought to follow. He added that while this issue will always be a part of the conversation when it comes to publishing, it is always important to focus on the positives and not let hate or prejudice weigh you down.