My Deb Year: So Delighted That’s Settled!

Uptown SettleAlthough I’ve dreamed of being a novelist since I was a young adult, I am achieving the dream in my 40s. So instead of being the first dream I fulfilled, it’s actually the last one that I’ve been carrying around since my youth.

Here’s the list:

  • finish college
  • get an MFA
  • develop a body of work in spoken word
  • produce my hip hop theater show
  • make a living as a freelancer and an artist
  • publish a novel
  • find a job I love (assuming the novel doesn’t pay the bills)
  • find a partner
  • have kid(s)
  • build a presence, platform, and network via social media
  • settle down and build a community.

Over the years, there were many unanswered questions: would my show get picked up in San Francisco? Could I break into theater in New York? Could I make a living as an artist? Would I find the partner? Would we have kids? How many? Where would we live? Who would be our community? Could I find a job I loved? Would I be able to publish a novel? One by one, these questions were answered, some with successes, and others with closed doors. And the publication of UPTOWN THIEF answers the last of these questions.

So I’m not just published, but my life has settled down. These large life questions have been settled. So I’ll need a little time to let that settle in. This is a time in my life of profound gratitude. Of course, I’m not dead yet, so I need some new goals and dreams. Maybe I’ll train for a big athletic event. I’ve always wanted to do the AIDS Ride. And my house definitely needs attention. I might do a bit of nesting. I’ve never had big goals connected to my home…and it shows!

I’ve neglected some things in the manic process achieving all these dreams. Hopefully, the publication of my book will usher in a period of peace and gratitude…and deferred maintenance. Not that there’s nothing to do these days. My life continues to be full and busy. My 2nd book, THE BOOSS, is due in three weeks. I’m still heavily promoting UPTOWN THIEF. I have a specific window in which to propose a 3rd book in the series to the publisher. Meanwhile, my agent has encouraged me to start work on a YA novel that’s been rattling around in my head. Here on the ground, the fall semester has begun and I’m back to teaching. And I’m a mom, so my to-do list is pretty endless. But I’m grateful to be a writermom in the time of the Internet. The web has been critical in building my local community, and the virtual community that include the Debutante Ball–such privilege to go through the debut year with this fabulous group of women. So I’m not only grateful to have this settled life, but also to have it in an era that allows me–as a  mom–to be part of public life and community in a way that wasn’t possible in the past.

But these existential questions about the overall shape of my life: where will I live? Will I be a mother? A partner? A teacher? A novelist? These questions are settled for now. Anything can change. Things can unsettle my life again. But this is qualitatively different from the experience of never having been settled. yasssIt’s disorienting yet profound. I have built the life I wanted and fought for the dreams that nearly eluded me. I’m filled with gratitude.



Author: Aya de Leon

Aya de Leon directs the Poetry for the People program in the African American Studies Department at UC Berkeley. Her work has appeared in Essence Magazine, xojane, Ebony, Guernica, Writers Digest, Mutha Magazine, Movement Strategy Center, My Brown Baby, KQED Pop, Bitch Magazine, Racialicious, Fusion, and she has been a guest on HuffPostLive. She is the author of the children's picture book PUFFY: PEOPLE WHOSE HAIR DEFIES GRAVITY. Kensington Books will be publishing her debut feminist heist novel, UPTOWN THIEF, in 2016. For more info, go to