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A message on the Millennium Bridge. This really resonated with me, and I love that people care enough to write these and put them up. There were several, all different but positive. Maybe they’ve saved lives.

On Monday, I was supposed to travel down to London to meet up the next day with my dear friend, Mervyn. If you’ve read How To Be Autistic (and I’m guessing you probably have, given you’re on this blog), you know how much Mervyn means to me, and how he came to the Saatchi gallery opening and how important that was to me. He’s been… incredible, the last few years, and I owe him so much. So, I was really, really excited to be able to hang out with him. It’d also be the first time I’d been in London with a friend, and not a family member (the plan was my dad would get the train with me, but he’d go off and do his own thing). We were planning to go to the Natural History Museum (big whale!) and the Tate Modern to see the Olafur Eliasson exhibition.

Monday started off bad, I was so anxious, I hadn’t felt anxiety like that in a long time, and I hadn’t slept, and I was so upset because I felt like I was letting everybody down. I was sick, whether that was due to the Anadin I’d taken, or my migraine, or the anxiety itself, it’s hard to say, but I didn’t want to let Mervyn down, so I got on the train, even as reality warped around me and made me feel even more floaty and detached and awful than usual. I know this is dissociation, and it’s common with anxiety, but knowing that doesn’t make it any more fun to experience.

There are two trains you have to catch to get to London from Blundeston – Oulton Broad South to Ipswich, then Ipswich to London. I freaked out massively on the Oulton Broad South train, I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t place myself in a space that felt real, I cried, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to let anybody down, but I couldn’t imagine making the trip to London just to feel this bad.

When we got to Ipswich, I wanted to go home, but I got on the train to London anyway. As the doors were beeping and about to close, I grabbed my stuff and ran and got off and back onto the platform. My dad followed.

I burst into tears as the train departed without me. My dad went to the ticket office and changed my tickets so that I could go home again. I went straight to bed, and then when I woke up five hours later, I was crying. I hated myself.

My mum talks a lot about not letting the anxiety win. It felt that it very definitely had that day. I went through to my dad’s lounge, and asked him if I could buy the (extortionate) train tickets for the next day, if we left early enough in the morning, I could still meet Mervyn, I could still Do The Thing.

I texted my mum, accidentally waking her, asking her what she thought I should do. She said I should do it. I booked the tickets. My stomach turned. But I was going to do it. I wanted to see Mervyn, I wanted to see the exhibition, I wanted to see the big whale.

I slept two hours Monday night, anxiety thrumming through me like a new heartbeat. I didn’t know why I was scared, I had nothing to be scared of. And yet.

I got up the Tuesday morning terrified but determined. I was going to have fun and enjoy myself, goddammit. Mervyn knew all about the day before and how much it’d sucked, and had been so kind I could have cried all over again. He was down to meet up still.

We drove to the Oulton Broad South station and I tried not to think about how sick I felt or how anxious I was. There was a new steel in me, a desire to do this to spite the anxiety that has wrapped itself around me my entire life.

I got on the train, and I put my headphones on. The train was modern and whilst the seats were still uncomfortable as all get out, it counted down the stops nicely. I used the free WiFi to spin Pokestops and gyms on Pokemon Go when we pulled into stations. We were slowly making our way to Ipswich, the countryside flying by, pigs, geese, swans, sheep.

We got to Ipswich and I got on the train, determined. I let the doors shut, and the train set off, that steady bump that lets you know you’re moving. I put my music back on and tried to look forwards, to hugging Mervyn at the station (he gives really good hugs, don’t @ me).

It could have taken a thousand years, but we finally reached London, pulling into the graffitied tunnels of Liverpool Street. I texted Mervyn to let him know we’d arrived, and after a little confusion, there he was. And there I was.

We didn’t have as much time as I thought, so I decided I’d rather see the Tate Modern first, just in case. The exhibition closes on the 5th of January, whereas the big whale isn’t going anywhere, so. I’d booked an open return ticket, which meant we could catch any train back up ’til 4pm, or after 7pm. That was reassuring to know.

St Paul’s Cathedral. I hadn’t seen it since I was sixteen. It’s magnificent.
This felt like a very ‘London’ shot, I think.

The Tate Modern is only two stops away from Liverpool Street, so we got off at St. Paul’s and then we crossed the Millennium Bridge. London is sort of incredible, in its vastness and its buildings and its impossibility. I lost my breath as I walked, I don’t really… get out much, I guess it’s fair to say. (Side note: I got home and Adventure Sync’d my Pokemon Go app and I’d hatched all my eggs, so I walked a fair bit!)

When we got to the Tate Modern I felt really, really sick, the kind of sick that makes you start looking for bins or handy exits. We stood in the queue to buy tickets for the exhibition, and I wondered if I could do this. I tried to focus on the fact that I really wanted to be here, and I bought the tickets, and after a few wrong turns and communism, we found the exhibition.

Mervyn and the communism. It was actually really cool. I wish I had the patience to actually look at things properly in museums, but that’s why I take so many photos, because I know I won’t remember after because of my medication.
Mervyn in the strange yellow lift.
Me in the strange yellow lift, after.

The lift was tinted yellow, which was a bit of a sensory nightmare, imagine my weird hatred of yellow supermarket lights and amp it up by about a thousand. And then when we stepped out, the space outside was the same. I understand that the exhibition was about the senses and I respect that, but for me personally, nope.

There was a lot of reflections and refracted light, which was beautiful and I must have said ‘oh wow’ a hundred times. Also you can see the horrible yellow area next to the lifts here.

We saw a strange glassed collection of handmade objects, all different in their own way, in a way it looked like nothing at all, but at the same time a huge amount of hours must have been put into making it. It was a strange mix of different textures and materials.

The moss wall. I got the impression from the gallery website that you’d be allowed to touch it, but you’re NOT ALLOWED (I wanted to touch the moss wall!)
MOSS WALL. (It also smelt really nice. Maybe I could get one installed in my room?)

After the moss wall, I don’t remember what order we did things in, it was a bit of a maze, but I think we saw the mirrored ceiling room, which was very cool indeed. Everything was very cool indeed. It was just a really nice place to be, and I didn’t feel quite so sick by then.

Mirrored ceiling. This was really beautiful in real life, and I don’t think everyone noticed it, because like in video games, people don’t always think to look up.

We went into a room with lots of photos of glaciers melting, which Mervyn was really taken with. They were really beautiful, and I wish I’d taken more time to look at them. There was one that Mervyn pointed out to me that took my breath away a little when he explained it, a mix of ice and pigment that had melted.

Pigment and melted ice in the glacier room.
I bought a postcard of this at the gift shop (museum gift shops are amazing). I also bought one for Mervyn, because he really liked the glacier room.

We saw lots of other things, a single candle burning by itself, beside a window that was perpetually raining, which seemed a bit obsolete in London, but was beautiful nonetheless.

A candle. I was oddly moved by this.
After that, I think, but I might be getting muddled, we went into the rainbow shadow room (I’m sure these all have proper names, but just bear with me on this). It was just as amazing as I’d seen on the Instagram stories that had inspired the trip, and whilst it was a little crowded (I’d loved to have played with it on my own for a good ten minutes at least), I got some photos, and honestly, this next photo is one of my favourites I’ve ever taken.
I don’t know how it works, it must be multiple projectors, but it felt like the light was both being blocked by me and going through me at the same time.

After that, we went into the rainbow fountain room, that was quite dark but okay (there was one room that was pitch dark, which I couldn’t go in. I’m sure whatever was in there was very cool, but I couldn’t do it.) and the rainbows danced in the fountain. The idea was that two people could stand in the room and see two completely different rainbows form.

I love this photo too, it looked like this in real life, ethereal and barely there.
Sorry for vertical video, but it’s the only way it really worked.

After that (nearly done! Sorry!) we headed to the metal tunnel, which was a metallic mirrored tunnel on a platform. Walking inside was really cool, everything bounced off everything else and again, beautiful. I keep saying that, but it was.

I existed in a thousand dimensions at the same time.

After that, we headed back out, and I took a photo of the beautiful chandelier type piece that seemed to hold every single colour at once.

Again, the light refraction and reflection. This was so pretty. I want one!

It was around 3pm by then, and I was still feeling pretty ill, so we sat and talked and decided that I’d catch the 4pm train back home, and we’d see the Natural History Museum another day. After a slightly confused walk back to the station, we were back on the tube and then at Liverpool Street, where I met up with my dad.

Saying goodbye to Mervyn was so hard, he hugged me and I wished I could just stay there forever.

But now I know I can do this, albeit it’s hard and I don’t know if my stomach’s going to forgive me for several days to come, but I did it. It was a really, really lovely day, and I’m so glad it happened. I’m so thankful to Mervyn for understanding completely, and for being so smart and funny and just a really great human being. If you’re reading this, I’m sorry if I’m embarrassing you, but it’s true.

And now here we are. The world didn’t end. I didn’t end. I got to see an art exhibition I really wanted to see, and what’s more, I got to see the best friend I’ve ever had. There’s more to this story, isn’t there always? But not everything needs to be documented (at least not ’til I need to write another book, right?).

Thank you for reading. I hope this gives you a little bit of confidence in yourself, or something, because this was really freaking hard and whilst it was imperfect and a little bit of a disaster, I Did The Thing.

And that’s kinda cool.

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We make this divine with blood mixed with wine,
Spilled out onto the streets and they bay for us
(Pray for us)
Too heathen both to face the lions
So they furnish us with weapons
We’ve forged ourselves,
And tell us
“Go ahead, make your fathers proud”
So before heaving crowd
We stand
Bloodied hand in bloodied hand
Sand hot beneath our toes
And you scream that they will not have forgiveness
And you scream that they too will fall
Because the gods are far too fickle
To choose sides for any length of time
And in the dust of two thousand years
We’ll find ourselves
The bones of us
Beneath a city whose name lasted longer than its people
Blood and wine baked into the earth
(I make this holy with a kiss)

(This is a poem inspired by a poem my friend wrote years ago and one of the lines always really stuck with me and I’ve always wanted to riff off of that.)

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A while ago I had the idea to print tactile, accessible art poems – art poems which anyone could afford to purchase and enjoy which still had a touch of uniqueness to it.

These never sold (that’s like, the story of my life) so the original prototypes still exist, and as such there’s only one of each poem, and only ever will be in this form.

The first poem going up for auction is a poem called ‘Home’. You can read it here: http://capoe.co.uk/home

This auction is raising money for Samaritans, a charity that has helped me in the past to see that things are solvable and it’s better to stick around. They save lives and do impossibly important work, and 100% of the final auction total will go direct to them.

The auction will run for seven days, Monday 8pm to Monday 8pm.

Here’s the link, feel free to share it around!

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/392491351430

Thank you for taking the time to read, as always, and I hope you’ll consider bidding.

Love, Poe. xx

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I don’t know if I owe an apology, or an explanation, or anything. Navigating this new territory of being known, not necessarily by a large group of people, certainly, but a larger group of people than I’m used to, by a country mile, is difficult.

Perhaps you understand, if you’ve read the book, that my self esteem is… non-existent. And that I shy away from any form of criticism, however well intended, because I don’t have much sense of self, I know enough about myself to know I don’t really know much about myself at all.

Social awkwardness, it appears, extends to the internet, and with that sense of responsibility, of, oh shit, I have to stand for something and I’m definitely not the most qualified person in the room to do this – it’s a little scary.

I wrote my life down, reached in deep and pulled it all out, because I really hoped it would help somebody. But having read your messages, it seems there needs to be so much more work done than I even know how to begin. People are still finding themselves or their children in the same situation I was in all those years ago. It’s horrifying to read, and difficult to stomach. I hoped things were, at least, a little better now. But each message I read brings it all back in vivid detail, and whilst I appreciate people reaching out, it’s a tough one to deal with.

I suffer with depression a lot. More than I talked about in the book. I’m struggling with it right now, and people who knew me predicted this particular bout – there was the hype and the high of the book release, and then the fall of… nothing in my life really changing. I’d achieved my life goal, and I didn’t feel any different. It didn’t feel real. It still doesn’t. I keep expecting it to hit me, that I did the thing I always dreamed of doing, but it hasn’t yet. Maybe one day it will, or maybe this denial of accomplishment is going to dog me for a while yet.

A lot of bad stuff has been happening in my personal life too, stuff I don’t want to dredge up here because it is, as it should be, personal. But this last week especially has been particularly difficult, and piling on a bunch of personal failures to leave the house to do things I would have enjoyed, it’s become a bit of a spiral of badness.

I’m sure a few of you reading this can recognise that spiral, and how vicious and overwhelming it can become.

I’m trying to break out of it. I have a really great friend who is helping me, and of course, my family, who are always there to support me. But the world is so much bigger than my tiny bubble, and it seems meaner by the day. Watching the news, scrolling through Twitter, just trying to exist in this world, it feels like people have forgotten how to be kind.

Kindness is key.

I want to try be better. It’s horrible being inside every day with nothing to look forward to. And with the festive season coming, for the sake of the kids if nothing else, I need to put on a happy face. I want to keep writing, keep creating, and to try make this world a better place, no matter how small a change I make.

I’m sorry for my inconsistency recently. It’s really hard living in your own head when your own head (that you live in) is lying to you. There’s probably some deep philosophical word for that, but I failed Philosophy rather spectacularly, so don’t ask me.

Tomorrow I’m going to make a post about the first of what I hope will be a series of charity auctions to raise money for various causes I hope you’ll partake in. 100% of the money raised will go directly to the charities in question, and I want to focus on causes that matter to me, and who will help make the world a better place with any money raised. I really hope you’ll support me in this, despite my wobbliness. I’ll post a link when the first auction goes live.

I’m trying. I know it doesn’t seem like it. I know it seems like I’m ungrateful. But, it turns out, life doesn’t get magically better just because you have a book in Waterstones. It should, but it doesn’t.

So, I’m going to post this, and then try sleep off my migraine. I want to try to foster some sense of community despite my varied and uncoordinated posts, and I need your help with ideas on how to accomplish that. We are stronger together than we are apart, and I am willing to learn. It is incredibly hard for me to engage in social interaction, especially with my brain playing nasty tricks on me, but I’m willing to try, if you’ll let me.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope you have a great day.

Love, Poe. xx

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Sorry for not writing sooner, after the book came out, The Depressions™ hit really hard when it didn’t immediately change my life (that and the realisation that damn, I’m going to have to write another one at some point and that’s terrifying) – it’s weird going from a launch party in London to back and eating Weetabix at midnight because there’s literally nothing else to do, like some weird cereal gremlin.

So I wasn’t going to go to Nor-Con. I had my tickets and ops booked, but I wasn’t feeling it. It was supposed to be a celebration of my book coming out, my own little pat on the back from myself. But yeah, The Depressions™.

Thankfully, at the eleventh hour, I decided to go anyway! Literally, an hour before it would have been too late, I just… thought, well, I can be depressed at home or I can be depressed but also meet the team of Torchwood, so.

That’s what I did.

Nor-Con was the first con I ever went to, and it sparked my extreme love of them. There’s no mistake that it’s called the friendliest con on earth – it really is, and the guests they book are always ridiculously kind, perhaps this year even more than usual. The cosplay is always outstanding (note to self: cosplay next year!) and the art and merch is really interesting but will leave your bank account crying (worth it, why buy food when you can buy Good Omens artwork?).

So, I met Eve Myles, Gareth David Lloyd, and, nostagically, Wolf from Gladiators (who was wrestling with Instagram at the time, muscles will not save you from technology apparently).

I went with my dad, who I have dragged to conventions around the world (literally, we did NYCC and Ace in Chicago after I won the Spectrum Art Award) and he seems baffled but happy to be there.

Anyway, here are some photos!

I’m so, so glad I went, and the only things I would change would be: the music is way too loud for this autistic soul’s ears and tummy, and digital photo op options would be really nice, as I have to contend with my dad’s scanner now so I can use one of them as a profile pic. Other than that, no complaints at all!

Would definitely recommend to a friend, it’s only gotten better every year, and it’s an undiscovered gem of the convention scene. Definitely my favourite con to attend, there’s just no pressure and you can see and do everything, which is really rare.

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Yesterday I went to Waterstones in Lowestoft to go check out How To Be Autistic on the shelves. It was, and I keep saying this, but it does continue to be so, so, such a surreal experience.

The fact it officially releases tomorrow is terrifying and brilliant and the story will no longer be my own but will belong to everyone who reads it. The narrative is out of my hands and in yours – I hope you will be kind with it.

I can’t believe that as of tomorrow I’ll officially be a published author, a dream since I first started reading books. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. It’s just too incredible to be true.

I really hope you enjoy the book. If you pick it up or if it arrives tomorrow, feel free to tag me in a picture on Instagram or Twitter – my username is smallreprieves on both. I’d love to see it.

Thank you for supporting me and for making this a reality.

I’m still expecting to wake up any moment.

Poe xx

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“Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found that my relationship with How To Be Autistic has changed a lot throughout the process of writing, editing, promoting and publishing.

They say writing is a way for introverts to tell a story without looking anyone in the eye, and I think that’s very true. And yet, here I am, and here you are, and I’ve told my story, and made myself terrifyingly vulnerable. I’ve looked you in the eye, if not literally, then figuratively, and held that eye contact, unflinching, and I think that was the germ that allowed How To Be Autistic to spring into existence.

I made the video, and I didn’t think anything further would happen – I sent it off, poor sound editing and a one take visual, a small paragraph describing it that sounded witty in my head but probably wasn’t, and I thought, ‘well, that’s the end of that then’.

But it wasn’t. It was a beginning. Startling and bright and full of potential in a way my life had never been.

And so, riding the high of that, I sat down to write How To Be Autistic. I still have on my phone the first chapter outline I wrote out, at 2am in the morning, and honestly, it’s pretty accurate to the finished book. I knew what I wanted to write – I wanted to write an extension of the video, all the things I hadn’t had time to say, all the things that hurt too much to say out loud.

Writing allows a level of bravery that you don’t find in the spoken word. There’s a freedom to it. You don’t really believe anybody’s going to read it, do you?

So, my first experience of How To Be Autistic, was catharsis. My only reader was my mum, who read every chapter and told me it was good (which is kind of her job). I finished it, sent it off to Mary, and things… got a little out of hand. And here we are!

As things progressed, and as people read my words, the words I’d cried over and tried to avoid writing as panic shivered through me, they didn’t tell me it was bad. And, I’m pretty sure, publishers don’t deliberately invest in bad books. So, my second experience of How To Be Autistic was one of validation, of ‘hey, maybe this is something I can actually do’.

People started messaging me, and much as I hate social interaction in all its varied forms, their messages were sincere. A teacher in France was using my video to teach English to her students. A short film wanted my help – my help! – as a script consultant on what would become a truly beautiful piece. And then, later, I would find out that I’m responsible for at least one diagnosis, and that, god, that is so important to me. So, my third experience of How To Be Autistic was one I’d hoped for, but didn’t think would come true, to change things – to make sure that what happened to me didn’t happen to someone else. When I wrote the book, I thought, if I can change just one person’s life with this, it’ll be worth it. And yes, it’s been worth it.

My world, once a small room with a laptop and a bundle of jumbled up ideas in my head, has become infinitely bigger. So, my – not last, because I believe I will continue to evolve just as How To Be Autistic evolves, but at this point – my final experience of How To Be Autistic is of solidarity. Of the good and kind people who helped make it a reality. To everyone who has listened and everyone who has read and everyone who has asked me questions (even the really difficult ones!). My final experience is one of intense gratitude, and standing here tonight, I feel that like never before. I wanted to write a book, I’ve sent out manuscripts before (weirdly nobody wanted the one about time travelling vampires, I don’t understand!) and the rejections stung. They say you need to write and write and write, and it will happen. And it did. Through luck and circumstance and the hard work of so many people here tonight, How To Be Autistic is a tangible object, and a beautiful one at that, and I don’t think that’s really sunk in yet. I wonder if it ever will.

I am so intensely grateful to everyone who believed in me – my mum, who has always been my first reader; my family, who put up with so, so much; everyone at Spectrum and in particular Mary and Celia for putting up with anxious phonecalls and rambling emails. To everyone at Myriad, to Corinne, whose sleep schedule is as weird as mine, to Emma who has poked and prodded the right people so that they’ve paid attention. To everyone who helped make How To Be Autistic beautiful and legible and real.

You’ve made me real. I always felt I was walking in a dream, only half here. I thought I would leave this world early, and without making any impression at all. I was so scared of that. And maybe How To Be Autistic is just one small book, but for me, it feels like a beginning.

So I guess, can we do the thing where we raise our glasses? Because I’d like to say to beginnings, and to the people who help create them. Thank you for being here. Thank you. Cheers.”

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Yesterday was one hell of a day! I was in London, staying at my uncle’s flat. I had a radio interview at 1.30pm, with Jo Good on BBC Radio London. I had been told I’d get four minutes, and I was still scared out of my mind. Live radio? There were so many potential trapdoors to fall down!

Luckily, Jo was lovely, properly lovely, and the interview went on for a full 12 minutes, and I don’t think I made too much of an idiot of myself.

If you’re in the UK, you can listen to it here (I’m right at the beginning) or on the BBC Sounds app (just search ‘Charlotte Amelia Poe’).

If you’re wondering what my shirt says, it’s the famous Joan of Arc mistranslation ‘I am not afraid, I was born for this.’ – I had my dad write it out, then scanned it in and got it printed. It seemed fitting.

After the radio interview, I went back to the flat and snuggled up in bed for a bit, before getting ready for the launch party. My mum, my brother and his girlfriend came down from Suffolk to be with me, so along with my dad and uncle, and my best friend who travelled down specially too (!!!) we were quite the little party.

Me and my dad and my friend arrived early, and I got to meet and re-meet (that’s not a word, is it?) all the people who have helped make How To Be Autistic possible. I quickly forgot everyone’s names (I’m quite face blind so social events are kinda tricky!) but I got the hang of it by the end of the night.

Some really lovely and amazing people turned up, including Meg Rosoff, who wrote the blurb for my book, and is also the author of ‘How I Live Now’, which, if you haven’t read it, first – why on earth not? and secondly, I love quite a lot, and she was so nice and I actually brought a copy for her to sign which she very kindly did. I have a bit of a thing for signed books, but this one was extra special.

Everyone was so nice about me and How To Be Autistic, and there were speeches (I even made one, which was possibly when my adrenaline peaked and I think I was just on a come down after that). I got flowers, which was so kind (I’ve never received flowers before, so it was so special).

It was just so nice to spend an evening with everyone who was supporting or actively working on the book, as well as my family and friends.

There was lots of good news, and it was just a really brilliant experience I hope I never forget.

There’s probably so much I’m forgetting, but it was such a whirlwind and I was pretty overwhelmed (in a good way!).

After we left, my dad drove me back home, and I don’t think I’ve been happier to see my own bed since I got back from America last year.

How To Be Autistic officially comes out in less than a week now (19th September) in the UK, and I believe the 29th in the US. I’m so excited and nervous and I just really hope you like it. I’m so proud of it.

Poe xx

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The last few days have been a bit of a whirlwind, to say the least! I was lucky enough to be asked onto Look East to talk about How To Be Autistic, and it was a very surreal experience, I watch Look East every night and to meet people who you see that often on television, and then BE on television with them, is very strange indeed. They were absolutely lovely though, and I think the interview went really well.

Later that night, I got an Instagram DM from the BBC online team, asking if they could ask me a few questions for an article. Of course I said yes!

The article went live today, and you can find it here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-49609987?SThisFB

In the interests of full clarity, transparency and context, I have decided to include my full answers to the questions I was asked, as I believe nuance can be lost in editing, and I want to make it very clear that it is very important to me that I do not want to speak over anybody else, and that ym experiences are not universal.

With just over ten days until How To Be Autistic releases, I’m feeling Very Nervous Indeed. I head up to London on Tuesday, and my book launch party is on the Wednesday. There’s a bunch of stuff planned, so I imagine it will be a haze of anxiety and Diazepam, but if it means reaching people and helping them find themselves within the book, then it’s worth it.

Poe xx