Six Years in Montana!?

au-revoir-2017-by-lou-roole
Image by Lou Roole, 2017.

I moved to Montana six years ago this month.

Six years! That’s forever!

It’s half as long as I lived in New York, where I moved from apartment to apartment, borough to borough, almost every year. But I have lived in this one apartment in Missoula longer than I’ve lived in any one place since I was a kid.

I can hardly wrap my head around this fact.

Because, on the one hand, I’ve come to adore Missoula—the town, the art, the landscape, the pride that the people here take in being the progressive bastion of a deeply red state. And I’ve even grown to love the state, although I am disgusted by many of its people and their idea of politics right now. The land here feels right to me.

I was born in Montana (Bozeman, to be exact), but moved away when I was too young to remember anything. I always wanted to return.

Why’d I Move?

After I’d been in New York for over a decade, had clawed and fought my way through hurricanes, blizzards, summer stink, multiple jobs, performance gigs, eking out a foothold as a journalist covering an industry that nobody cared about at the time, finding myself—you know, all the things one does in New York—I discovered that I wanted to write and publish books and comics.

But between my full-time job and the freelance work I did on the side to earn enough money to survive in the city… and attempting to have any social life… and maintaining my mental and physical health… I was afraid I’d never be able to make the time or the space to do it all. I had to get out of the city or give up on creating in any meaningful way.

I’d also landed a deal with a small press to write a memoir. But the advance was far too small to both research the book and take time off my other freelancing gigs.

So, rather than try to balance it all at once, I quit my full-time job and moved to Montana, where I could afford to write my memoir, start my own publishing company, and survive mainly on freelance editing work…all without having to sell a kidney.

And I did it. I freaking did it. I packed up my partner, my apartmentful of books, my hamster (who made it through the journey only to be eaten by our cat a year later, RIP), and my memories of the city.

so long hair 2015
August 2015. I’d just deposited the advance check for my memoir on my lunch break, and I was so, so sick and burned out.
This is about an hour north of my house, at the National Bison Range.

And here I am. In Montana.

For six years.

It’s wild out here. No, really. I have seen one bear, two beavers, an untold number of deer, and a fox all within the city of Missoula in the past few weeks. I can get to a national wilderness area in less than twenty minutes, and when I get back from my hike, go to a winery and hear jazz music or standup comedy a five-minute drive from the trailhead. I can go camping in stunning scenery in a half hour or less, take in a cult classic at the indie movie theater a mile from my house, or get boba from one of two (2!) competing tea shops in town. I love the people I’ve met here, the supportive community of badass creatives that thrives in this town. And I love, love, love the mountains.

But, on the other hand… It still doesn’t feel totally like home. Not really. Of course, I’ve spent over a year and a half in almost total quarantine due to my immune issues. And before that, I hardly left the house because, as it turns out, running a small publishing company and doing freelance editing work leaves almost no time for anything but work.

Still, I’m proud of myself for sticking it out.

Starting a small business is hard. But I’ve stayed the course for half a decade, even though it requires near-constant problem solving, difficult decision making, and dedication to waking up every morning feeling exhausted just thinking about the to-do list…but checking everything off that list anyway. It’s been…a struggle, to say the least. Trial by fire.

But here I am, and if I’ve learned anything about myself through all of the above…it’s that I am stubborn as hell.

I am not giving up.

In fact, I’m doubling down.

My company, Oneshi Press, has published 18 things (comic books, comics anthologies, graphic novels, and illustrated novels) in the five years we’ve been operational. We’re currently crowd-funding our eleventh comics anthology (and it’s freaking GORGEOUS—go check it out). We’ve got two more graphic novels on the way. Somewhere in all of that, we’re going to publish my first novella as a printed book, an ebook, and an audiobook. After that, we’ll publish my short story collection followed by three novels and the rest of my graphic novel and comic book series. And after that… Whatever the hell I dream up next.

But whatever I do, it’s going to be on my terms. I’m going to make cool shit, and I’m going to do it here in Missoula… Until it’s time for the next thing. Just try and stop me.

11 comics anthologies. 3 issues of PACK. 2 volumes of Tracy Queen. 2 illustrated novels from Children of Gaia.
And there’s a lot more coming.

BECOMING

The space between origin and destination, as imagined by 37 diverse creators in 16 short comics.

A comics anthology by Oneshi Press, live now on Kickstarter.

Oneshi Press Comics Anthology 11; BECOMING launching soon on Kickstarter!
Click the image above to follow the project for updates

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