In the eighth grade, we read The Outsiders by S.E Hinton and it immediately became my favorite book. I was an avid reader before that. I loved mysteries, romance, horror, and fantasy. But there was something so powerful about the main character Ponyboy saying, “It’s rough all over.” that made me realize how everyone carries a different story and a different struggle. As soon as I finished the book I decided I wanted to be a writer.
I had always made up stories and filled notebooks with them but it had always been a hobby. I would write a family newspaper (with comic strips and everything) and deliver it to my parents and cousin who lived with us at the time. I enjoyed coming up with worlds and fictional people but never thought that it could be a career. After The Outsiders though, I knew I had to write a book that would matter. I dared to dream I could write a book that would impact the world.
I was sitting in English class September of my junior year, 2013, and we were discussing To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (a must-read, one of my absolute favorites.) I had read it before and would watch the black and white movie with my Maw Maw (grandma) every summer. We were talking about how Harper Lee wrote about what was happening in her generation and how she sparked change by addressing the issues.
I remember thinking, I want to write about what is happening in my generation. So then I got to thinking. What is a major issue that people my age or younger are facing? My first thought was suicide. Bullying to the point of suicide, self-harm to the point of suicide, people feeling like there was no hope and no purpose for their life so ending it would be easiest. I sat in that classroom, at Saint Dominic’s Academy in Jersey City, and decided to write a book that would help people realize that they didn’t have to choose suicide.
The year before I had started writing a story for fun about a girl who runs away and finds herself in a circus and finds help and answers to the things she was facing in her life. So I decided to continue with the circus theme, and create a world that would help the character choose life rather than death. So the creation of Drew began. But after I wrote his chapter I realized there were so many other stories to tell. And that’s how one main character became 5.
So, in my junior and senior year of high school, I filled up notebooks with “Cirque.” I would get in trouble in classes all the time because I wouldn’t be paying attention. It was like I had thousands of words that needed to get out onto paper, I couldn’t help it. I remember in my senior year my math teacher, Mr. Tubera, was handing tests back. I had gotten a mediocre grade and he handed it to me and called my name. I stopped writing for a moment and looked at him. He said, “Langston, I don’t know how to help you.” I just laughed told him it was okay. Then he said, “Just write Langston, write your stories.” I thanked him and did just that.
I continued to write and edit, and write and edit until I decided to publish in 2019. The characters in “Cirque” were inspired by real, broken people who found peace and freedom and purpose. The pages of this book were written based on real conversations and real issues. It was read and edited by people who struggled with suicidal thoughts, bulimia, abuse, and feeling like there was nothing in life for them. I myself have not faced all the things Drew, Lilly, Jordan, Zoe, and Michael did, but I was surrounded by people who have. I was with them through their tears and battles, through their high moments and low moments.
I may have put the words on paper but it was written by the brave, broken, and now healed people in my life.