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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 thingsā€¦ 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

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I’m now counting down the days until my little book becomes a brilliant reality. I’m nervous and excited and a thousand other emotions all at once. My relationship with this book has changed so much between its original conception and now, and I imagine it will continue to do so. I am SO DAMN PROUD of this book, and despite the very real fear that I have made myself very vulnerable in writing it, I feel like sometimes you have to – art is all about telling people the very worst things, but somehow making them beautiful. My approach to art comes in two forms, two goals I hope to achieve: 1) create something beautiful and 2) leave the world in a better state than you found it. I really hope I’ve accomplished this with HTBA.

I’ve had some amazing messages from people, and some amazing feedback and early reviews. I know it won’t all be positive, but that’s okay. The initial goal was to change one person’s life, to make one person find a diagnosis or hope. I think that’s doable. If there is negativity, then, well, we’ll deal with that along the way too.

This time next week, I’ll be in London, which is terrifying in its own right – I don’t like being away from home – but the opportunities and experiences that promises are once in a lifetime, and so I will have to ride the waves of anxiety and make it to shore, because I want this book to matter, and I want to make everyone who has ever believed in me proud.

They say it takes a village, and it really has. There are so many people I need to thank for making HTBA a real, tangible thing.

I still keep expecting to wake up.

This was literally my dream as a child, to have my book in book stores (we didn’t have Amazon back then!) and to achieve that just blows my mind.

I’ll continue to keep you updated with how things are going, and will try to post whilst I’m in London.

The world, this life, is so full of twists and turns, you can’t predict any of it. I’ve been trying to get books published for years without success. And now, here I am.

What I want to say is this: there is hope. Your art is valuable and necessary. And it may take a while, but the right people will find it. And that will mean everything.

Poe xx