Sophie Lucido Johnson is a woman. She lives in Chicago, and she is publishing a book — an illustrated memoir about polyamory — that is due to be released on June 26. Publishing a book is kinda sorta a big deal, especially when you’ve been hustling nonstop to achieve what most writers only dream of. Lucido Johnson took a break from her high profile life as a great American author (and inspirational high school teacher) to talk to F Newsmagazine about life, relationships, and publishing.
F Newsmagazine: First of all, how are you?
Sophie Lucido Johnson: I’m ok. Honestly, not great. I just bought a house with my fiancé and the roofer caught it on fire.
(He was trying to use a blowtorch to melt some ice, you know, like you do.)
This was over a month ago, and I’ve been just chin-deep in the whole bureaucracy of insurance companies and roofers and people who manage properties and contractors. Everyone is trying to swindle me all the time and I wish I was badass and strong about this, but I’m just crying constantly.
So, when you aren’t dealing with the flaming hurdles life throws at you, what do you do to keep busy or pay rent?
SLJ: I write illustrated essays. I do this because I like to write and I like to draw, and I have always liked to do those things.
I teach at SAIC and at ChiArts. I do this because teaching allows me to get out of my own tiny little universe, which feels so giant and all-
consuming when I’m left alone with my thoughts.
I bake pies for my friends and family. I do this because I love pie and I think it is an important religion.
I spend ample time with my two cats, Puppy and Norman. If you met them, you would immediately understand why I do it.
I tune pianos. This is a new and liberating thing for me, and so far, I have only tuned one piano. But it went exceedingly well. I think we are taught that things like changing tires and tuning pianos are hard and so you shouldn’t try to do these things yourself. I am learning that everything that people have told you you can’t do is a thing that other people can do; and if other people can do it, then so, probably, can you.
Tell us about your book! When is it coming out? How can I get one?
My book is called “Many Love: An Illustrated Memoir of Polyamory and Finding Love(s).” It is coming out on June 26. The launch party will be at Women and Children First in Andersonville on June 29 at 7:30 p.m. You can buy one there, or pre-order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s; all those online places where people buy books.
What inspired you to write “Many Love” aside from, duh, personal experiences?
SLJ: When I got to SAIC, my advisor Jill Riddell asked me what I wanted to work on. I said, “I really can’t write anything that takes longer than a sitting to write. I’m a quick writer, and if I stop writing something, it dies. I can’t resurrect it.” Jill said, “You are a person who, given a beach, sticks to the shore and is very good at collecting shells.” I was like, “Huh?” She was like, “I want to encourage you to get in a boat and go deep into the middle of the water, where you can’t see land anymore and everything is disorienting and you have no idea what you’re going to get out of it.” I was like, “Again, what?” And Jill said, “You should write a book.”
And so the next week I came in with a bunch of book ideas. I was thinking about polyamory a lot at the time, and I decided that that was the one I wanted to pursue.
Tell me a little bit about the process of getting a book published. (You don’t have to go into the nitty gritty and you don’t have to give away trade secrets.) What has your own personal experience with this process been like?
SLJ: OL. “Give away trade secrets.” Listen, if I could say something that hasn’t been said before about how to get a book published, I totally would. I have an agent. I wish I could tell you how I got this agent; she found a piece I wrote for Jezebel and emailed me and we talked on the phone and before you knew it, I had someone to send all my writing to. I think if you’re selling a book — and you’re trying to sell to a major publisher — you kind of need an agent. Some agents take unsolicited submissions, so it makes sense to shop your manuscript around to agencies who will advocate for your work rather than publishing houses.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Did you ever really “know”?
I was four. I wrote a book called “Princess Pony Goes to the Dentist.” I read it to my sister, who was a baby. She basically thought it was good, and I declared to my mom and dad that I was going to be a writer.
“Many Love” describes navigating the word with multiple partners, but you are currently planning for your wedding. How do you reconcile more “traditional” forms of so-called relationship landmarks — such as marriage — with polyamory? As in, how do you stay true to yourself?
Oh, I don’t know. We’re getting married. I want to tell everyone in the world that I love this person, and I want to promise him that I will stick by him no matter what happens. This has nothing to do with sex. But, I’m excited to have a jazz band and a bunch of tacos and be around everyone I love. My mom is making my dress. We won’t have bridal parties or a big ceremony, but it will be nice. I’m just going with the flow of this relationship, and letting it change as it naturally changes.
How did you meet your fiancé?
I kind of stalked Luke for a few years in New Orleans. I thought he was super-hot and I’d see him at events. At a storytelling show, I smelled his hair. Once, he showed up at the school where I worked. I followed him around the school trying to make eye contact, to no avail. One night I found him on Tinder and nearly dropped my phone. I swiped right and held my breath, and because God is kind, it was a match! I sent him the world’s creepiest message (“I’ve been stalking you for several years and I know where you live”), and he responded! When we went on our first date I thought he was arrogant and I disliked him. But he was persistent and our second date was amazing. He is amazing. He is a literal earth angel and I thank the Mysterious Universe every day that somehow our paths crossed.
Are we invited to the wedding?
Yes — OPEN WEDDING! New Orleans, October 13. See you there!
Any advice for aspiring writers/illustrators?
Just keep making the thing you like to make. Don’t ask anyone to pay you for it, but do publish it. Do it all the time. Put up the stuff you think sucks. Make things constantly. Call this “practice.” You’ll improve, and someone will notice. When you do submit your work, you’ll have a whole portfolio of the shit you did just for yourself, and people will like that. If ever you’re thinking, “I want to get paid for this,” you’re doing it wrong. The getting paid for it just kind of comes. As soon as you want to get paid for something, you stop loving it. I wish this wasn’t true, but it is. For this reason, you should find a tolerable day job that doesn’t require too, too much of you, so you can spend your evenings and weekends making things just ‘cause you want to.
Any advice for aspiring polyamor…ists(?)?
We often ask love to stand still. Never in the history of time has love stood still. Embrace this reality; enjoy that things change. Relationships are strange and funny and always beautiful and always painful. If you enter into them with that knowledge, the pain can be kind of beautiful, too. Re-evaluate constantly and don’t be afraid of communicating what you need. The people who are right for you will be able to hear what you need and accommodate you. Trust me: there is someone out there who will say “yes” to your particular crazy, and you’ll be so glad you were honest from the get-go.
Finally, how many is too many?
Sugar cubes: 2.5
Snacks per day: seven
Shepherds per flock: two
Girl Scout cookies: about 12 Thin Mints, eight Tagalongs, or four Samoas
Partners: It varies from person to person. I have never been able to seriously date more than three.