Talking in the Dark

Billy Merrell, 2003

Poetry Memoir (Scholastic, 2003)

From the Publisher: This is a memoir that is lived in moments. The moments you know – when you see your parents’ marriage dissolving, when you realize you’re a boy who likes boys, when you speak the truth and don’t know if it will be heard. The moments you don’t recognize until later – when you leave things unsaid (even to yourself), when you feel your boyfriend letting go, when you give up on love. And the moment you get love back.


In 2002, at the age of 20, I was invited to spend a summer in New York, interning at the Scholastic offices in SoHo. It was the summer after 9/11 and the summer before the fifth book in the Harry Potter series would be published (by Scholastic).  All of Broadway seemed abuzz with the power of literature for young people.

My new mentor and editor, David Levithan, awarded me the inaugural PUSH Writing Internship, a dream experience for any young writer: I would sit on the roof of the building, soul searching and writing poems. When I finished, I would bring my notebooks down to a computer and type my favorites out. And then I would get feedback on the poems from an editor, often the same day I wrote them. When I wasn’t writing, I was reading–or learning, hands-on, about the publishing industry, reading submissions, checking proofs, etc. I was absorbing New York and city life itself for the first time, missing my then-boyfriend/now-husband Nico, and remembering things about my childhood. Connecting the dots.

That summer, I wrote 70 or more poems. Roughly 30 of those, followed by others written over the course of the next school year (my Junior year at the University of Florida), became the manuscript for Talking in the Dark, a work through which I aimed to make sense of the evolution of love my life.

Since the book’s publication in 2003, Talking in the Dark has been named a Book For the Teen Age by the New York Public Library system. It was also mentioned in Michael Cart’s Heart Has Its Reasons, a definitive history of queer YA literature from 1969 to 2004.

Hear more about how my debut was published by reading an interview with me at the website of the PUSH imprint.

Praise for Talking in the Dark

“An affecting memoir told in verse, this work launches a promising young poet… His sophisticated verse and compelling story will capture attention as it stirs compassion.” – School Library Journal 

“He has also packed away a lot of wisdom about life, death, self-acceptance, and the vagaries of love and lust. Likewise, he has honed his writing craft, and his free-verse memoir is rich with metaphor, words carefully chosen to say enough but not too much…” – Booklist

Sample Poems Online

3 1/2 Love Sonnets