Friday, December 19, 2014

And That's 2014!

A Highlight of 2014: Me and Mr. Snow White, as portrayed by Captain Lucky at BentCon 2014

What a year...

A year of hard stuff (the passing of my mother)

good stuff (getting an agent)

and lots of great books - more than 60 new LGBTQ kid and teen books! (just check out the lists in the left-hand column!)

We celebrated 17 days of LGBTQ Russian History (to counter-program the homophobia of the Sochi Olympics) and were inspired by songs, videos, and even Bar Mitzvah speeches!

We interviewed editors, re-ran the first 35 videos in our Gender 101 series, and blasted past one million page-loads, prompting the new ticker in the top-left corner of this blog -- which now proudly reads,

"Over 1.25 million served!"

It was also a year of stretching new muscles in drawing classes

A charcoal sketch of a Roman Soldier, drawn from a live model dressed up in historic costume 

and learning new things at Bent-Con - Los Angeles' LGBTQ Comic Con, where I got the scoop about Cosplay, including Cross-Playing Cosplay (playing a character in drag) and Gender-Bent Cosplay (creating the character in a new gender, like Mr. Snow White, above.)

And what's ahead in the new year?

As I took this photo of a rainbow in November 2014, someone nearby shouted, "Look! It's a double rainbow!" I looked closer, and it was!

2015 beckons with exciting new things, including:

All-New Gender 101 videos!

A New Series About Literary Agents Looking For Diversity!

And new, wonderful LGBTQ kid and teen books!

I'll be back, blogging three-times-a-week right here starting January 5th, 2015.

Until then, Happy Holidays, and here's to a fantastic and healthy New Year ahead for us all!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gender 101, Episode #35 Redux: Lucy, Nenu, Emmi and BJ on Misconceptions About Being Gender Queer

In this last of the Redux episodes (new episodes debuting in 2015!) Lucy (a.k.a. Benji), Nenu, Emmi and BJ discuss some of the misconceptions they've faced being Gender Queer...

My thanks to Benji, Nenu, Emmi and BJ for sharing so honestly.

You can check out the original post here.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Some Good News About The Olympics

Could we see this at the next Olympics? This not-at-the-Olympics gay kiss between Kseniya Ryzhova and Tatyana Firov was to protest Russia's anti-gay laws prior to the Sochi Olympics earlier this year

As reported last week (including this article in The New York Times), The International Olympic Committee has just,
"approved the rewording of its Principle 6 on nondiscrimination to include sexual orientation — a move that followed the controversy over Russia’s law against gay “propaganda” ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi."
As the group ALL OUT cheered in an e-mail blast on Dec 8, 2014,

This is huge. We've been pressuring the IOC to protect lesbian, bi and gay athletes ever since we found out about Russia's awful anti-gay law leading up to the Sochi Olympics. And because we came together, we won:

-In August last year, more than 50 of us delivered the biggest petition ever received by the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne with over 300,000 signatures.

-A few months later, more than 80,000 of us directly emailed IOC President Thomas Bach. The IOC publicly stated for the first time ever that discrimination based on sexual orientation is against Olympic values.

-In February 2014, more than 40,000 of us submitted requests to the IOC to change the rules so that the Games can't be held in countries where laws can harm gay, lesbian, bi and trans people.

-In September this year, we had another big win. The IOC announced that future host cities will be legally bound to respect the anti-discrimination principle of the Olympic Charter, Principle 6.
A coalition of LGBTQ Advocacy groups, including ALL OUT, Athlete Ally and Human Rights Watch, as well as lots of individuals who signed petitions and requests and emails, spoke out, and stood up, helped make this change happen.

But, as ALL OUT says,

...there's more work to do. The IOC didn't discuss including 'gender identity' – so trans fans and athletes are still at risk of discrimination during the Olympics. We need to keep the pressure on the IOC and other international bodies to make sure NO ONE has to suffer for who they are or who they love.

Progress, and a path forward to making things better.

Good news, indeed!

Friday, December 12, 2014

If You Give A Gay Mouse A Cookie - A Zine That I Wish Had Been Read To Me When I Was A Little Kid

"If You Give A Gay Mouse A Cookie: A Fable About Mice, Baked Goods and Civil Rights" by Celeste Christie and Steve Damewood, writing as Art For A Democratic Society

The "If you give a mouse a cookie" storyline made so famous and successful by Laura Numeroff gets a civil rights spin in this "If You Give A Gay Mouse A Cookie" 'zine, where a human character explains why "Allowing gay marriage would be a disaster!" by sharing what happens if you give a gay mouse a cookie... It could lead to all kinds of things, like...

"If Women start questioning traditional gender roles they will want jobs and economic independence."

"If free universal healthcare and civil rights are won, what's to stop undocumented immigrants from also seeking fair treatment?"

and, ultimately,

"Everyone will take to the streets to demand equality and freedom for all!"

The drawings are simple and the storyline powerful. It's actually something that resonates far beyond young childhood, and would be a great discussion prompt for GSA groups in both middle and high schools.

I love this 'zine!

Add your review of "If You Give A Gay Mouse A Cookie" in comments!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Gender 101 Episode #34 Redux: Lucy, Nenu, Emmi and B J on the "T" in GLBT

Our Gender-Queer friend Lucy (a.k.a. Benji) talks with Nenu, Emmi and B J about how Transgender and Gender Queer people are treated within the "Gay Community," both by individuals and organizations.

It's a fascinating discussion...

My thanks to Lucy, Nenu, Emmi and B J for sharing so openly about their experiences!

You can find the original posting here.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Alan Guno's Gay Teen Song Cycle - A Country, Pop-Rock and Dance Re-Mix Story of A Young Gay Man's Journey

I caught up with singer/songwriter/producer Alan Guno (Also known as 'Alan G.') at BentCon 2014 and got the scoop on his multi-album song cycle about a gay teen...

Here's the album-by-album scoop:

Billy’s story actually began with the release of Alan’s first country album, “The Sun Will Rise,’ in 2006. “This album tells the story of Cody,” explains Alan, “who is a young man just graduating from college and dealing with the very special challenges of young people at that age.” It is revealed that Cody is the middle brother of three – and that his younger brother Billy is quite the handful.
“Billy is mentioned twice by his brother in this album,” continues Alan. “But it is already very clear that Billy is quite the individual and seems to have a predisposition for getting into trouble!”

The Billy song cycle officially began in 2013 with the release of the pop-rock album EXILE and its dance remix compilation EXILE EXTENDED. Telling the stories of Billy as a teenage runaway, these albums reflect feelings and episodes in Billy’s young life as he comes to a savage and cold urban wasteland. In the big city, he encounters homelessness, heartbreak, and bigotry – and even confronts his darkest thoughts. Billy requires the greatest courage and strength to push back against his fear and survive life on the street.
“Billy’s world has gone from bad to terrifying,” adds Alan. “Some of his most difficult challenges materialize in his life – and yet he is still very young. And he’s still dealing with many of the issues of being a young person – but also a young gay homeless person.” Billy’s story in these albums is at once desperate and hopeful, fearful and fearless, secretive and exposed.

INFIDEL explores the emergence of a boy who has found his voice – and who is not afraid to use it – even if it means going against the establishment or the status quo.
“Billy is growing up,” explains Alan. “He is no longer on the streets – but he continues to see the craziness and hurt in the world. And now he has a voice to speak out against what he sees as wrong… But that thrusts Billy into a new chapter that is volatile and vulnerable – one that is always on fire, always dangerous. These new songs reflect the upheaval he sees in life– with the pop-rock music setting the stage for a world that is completely out of control.”
“But now we get to see how Billy feels about all of this,” continues Alan, “as well as what he plans to do about it. Billy is angry. He is so disappointed by what he sees, and what has happened – and how people are being treated. He must speak out, he must act - even in the face of resistance from perspectives that are old and worn-out – but which are still very powerful.”

And new out in 2015 is THE LEGEND OF LITTLE BRO BILLY.

“Before we met Billy the runaway,” explains Alan, “he was a boy growing up in his hometown facing many of the issues that most teens face. But now, we now get a chance to go back in time and see some of the experiences that led to the hero in EXILE and INFIDEL. We will see the environment he grew up in, what his family is like, and how he feels about the important things in life.”
And in stark contrast to the pop-rock of the previous albums, this is an album of country music. “We return to Billy’s roots,” tells Alan, “when he was living in his southern hometown. He’s a southern boy at heart – but we will follow some of the episodes that lead to the passionate and aggressive teen we encounter in the pop-rock albums.”
“It was important to take this look back,” continues Alan. “It was important to explain where he comes from – and both the challenges and positive aspects that he grew up with… Not everyone is as they seem – and some of the questions posed in Exile and Infidel are now answered by returning to Billy’s past.”
And that past is certainly filled with an abundance of issues. “We see some of the roots of teenage Billy’s questioning of the world,” adds Alan, “which give rise to the difficult relationships he will have with school, authority, and society’s expectations.”
But we also see the saving grace in Billy’s young life as well. “Billy has a very special relationship with his family,” continues Alan, “and we will see a particular bond with his mother and his two brothers… Certainly, the absence of his family in the previous albums of the song cycle is especially notable. And in this album, we will find out exactly why.”
And as the album comes to a close, the reason that Billy becomes a runaway is revealed. “This was a very important part of the story in this album,” says Alan. “This reason brings us to the beginning of the Exile album and sets that part of Billy’s life in motion.”

There's another album in the song-cycle planned, as Alan writes:

After a look back in “The Legend of Little Bro Billy”, the next album in the song cycle will take us forward in time to the period after “Infidel”. This next set of music will highlight Billy’s life as a young adult – but we return to his story with more insight into his past and the reasons he believes what he does. “...The beliefs and issues that were important to him when young continue to be powerful influences in his life. This special young hero will grow up further and take his life to the next level.”

And this was really nice:

The Billy saga is dedicated to all the “Billys” around the world who are looking for the representation and validation of their lives and their own stories. “Billy’s story is the story of many young LGBTQ people,” continues Alan. “And it is their stories that I hope to honor and validate. We need to let them – and the world – know that we celebrate that they are here – that they are valued and special – and that we will stand with them so they will never be alone.”

Add your review of the Billy songs and albums in comments!

Friday, December 5, 2014

This Is A Book For Parents Of Gay Kids - A New Resource

This Is A Book For Parents Of Gay Kids: A Question & Answer Guide To Everyday Life by Dannielle Owens-Reid and Kristin Russo

From the authors (and lip-syncers!) behind the blog (and advice videos), this book aims to be a

"go-to resource for fostering understanding and effective communication during an unfamiliar time. Filled with real-life experiences, first-hand stories from parents and kids, and straightforward advice, all presented in an easy-to-browse-question-and-answer format, this book breaks down the issues that many families face when their child comes out."

Here's the book trailer:

I'll share one glowing review that really stood out for me: Jody Huckaby, executive director, PFLAG National, wrote:

"In our forty-plus years of work with parents, families, friends and allies, PFLAG has seen how critical family acceptance is to the health and well-being of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender loved ones. This book, focused mainly on sexual orientation, is a great companion to PFLAG's work, providing parents information on how to best support a loved one in a manner that is sometimes funny, often frank, and always easy to access."

Add your review of "This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids" in comments!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Gender 101 Episode 33 Redux: Benji, Nenu, Emmi and BJ on Being "Enough"

Benji (a.k.a. Lucy) continues the conversation about being Gender Queer, asking Nenu, Emmi and B J to discuss the concept of being "Enough," exploring situations where they confronted issues of being trans-enough, or enough of one gender or the other, when really just being themselves should be enough.

My thanks to Benji, Nenu, Emmi and B J for sharing, and just being themselves. Each one of you is enough, just as you are.

Are so are all of us.


ps - you can see the original posting here.

Monday, December 1, 2014

SECRETS - Mary Lambert Rocks Her Authentic Truth In This Great Music Video

Mary Lambert was the lyrical voice on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' SAME LOVE song that was so powerful. Now she has her solo album HEART ON MY SLEEVE out, and this song's one of my favorites from it.

Love the lyrics. Love the singer. Love this!


The song was written by Mary Lambert, Mozella, Benny Cassette & Eric Rosse. Here are the lyrics:


I've got bi-polar disorder
My shit's not in order
I'm overweight
I'm always late
I've got too many things to say
I rock mom jeans, cat earrings
Extrapolate my feelings
My family is dysfunctional
But we have a good time killing each other

They tell us from the time we're young
To hide the things that we don't like about ourselves
Inside ourselves
I know I'm not the only one who spent so long attempting to be someone else
Well I'm over it

I don't care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)
I don't care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)So-o-o-o-o what
So what
So what
So what
I can't think straight, I'm so gay
Sometimes I cry a whole day
I care a lot, use an analog clock
And never know when to stop
And I'm passive, aggressive
I'm scared of the dark and the dentist
I love my butt and won't shut up
And I never really grew up


They tell us from the time we're young
To hide the things that we don't like about ourselves
Inside ourselves
I know I'm not the only one who spent so long attempting to be someone else
Well I'm over it

I don't care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)
I don't care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)
So what
So what
So what
So what
I don't care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)

I don't care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)
So what
So what
So what
So what

(I don't care if the world knows what my secrets are)
So what
So what
So what
So what

Great Stuff... Thanks, Mary!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Natural Selection - A Digital Companion Novella To Melinda Lo's ADAPTATION Sci Fi Series

Natural Selection by Melinda Lo

Before she met her girlfriend Reese, before she knew the role she would play in the fate of two worlds, Amber was a fifteen-year-old Imrian torn between two identities. Imrian by blood, Amber was forced to hide her true self to pass as human during the time she spent on earth.

And even when she returns to Kurra, her human experiences, including first love and heartache, still separate her from her fellow Imrians. But when Amber undergoes kibila, a traditional Imrian coming-of-age ceremony during which Amber will choose her name and identity for the next fifteen years, she will be forced to either accept her role in both worlds or forge her own path.

Add your review of "Natural Selection" in comments!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gender 101 Episode 32 Redux: Nenu and Frankie on Being Gender Queer AND Persons of Color

Benji (a.k.a. Lucy) continues our discussions on gender, asking Nenu and Frankie to share about being both Gender Queer and People of Color.

What amazing latin@s!

Check out the original posting here.


Monday, November 24, 2014

"I Am Thankful For..." Jodi Picoult's Answer To This Time Magazine Piece Makes A Difference

So in the current Time magazine, December 1-8, 2014, on page 18, they ran a piece by Tessa Berenson, interviewing four notable people and asking them to share what they are thankful for. Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, Actor Chelsea Peretti and current U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry all weighed in with their answers.

But Jodi Picoult took this one step further - as an opportunity. Here's what she wrote:

'I'm thankful for my family, as it expands in very wonderful directions. This Labor Day, my son Kevin proposed to his boyfriend Kyle. On paddleboards. In the middle of a lake. With a handmade titanium earring shaped like the infinity symbol. Every time I look at Kyle's engagement earring, I silently hope that other LGBTQ people will have the same joy in their lives as he does at this moment."

                                                                         - Jodi Picoult, Author

Being honest about our journeys, letting others know the truth of who we are as LGBTQ and Allied people is the most important element of changing our world for the better.

I hope Kevin is really proud of his mom, and Kyle of his soon-to-be-mother-in-law.

I know I'm proud of Jodi, and grateful for her answer.

I'm thankful Time magazine ran it.

And I'm thankful my husband shared it with me, so I could share it with all of you.

Namaste (the light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in every one of you),

Friday, November 21, 2014

Inheritance - Book 2 in Malinda Lo's ADAPTATION Sci Fi Series About A Bi Teen

Inheritance by Malinda Lo

Reese and David are not normal teens—not since they were adapted with alien DNA by the Imria, an extraterrestrial race that has been secretly visiting Earth for decades. Now everyone is trying to get to them: the government, the Imria, and a mysterious corporation that would do anything for the upper hand against the aliens.

Beyond the web of conspiracies, Reese can’t reconcile her love for David with her feelings for her ex-girlfriend Amber, an Imrian. But her choice between two worlds will play a critical role in determining the future of humanity, the Imria’s place in it, and the inheritance she and David will bring to the universe.

Add your review of "Inheritance" in comments!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gender 101, Episode 31 Redux: Benji, Nenu, Frankie and Emmi on Presenting

It's the first of our panel discussions on gender, and Benji (a.k.a. Lucy) continues the conversation with Nenu, Frankie and Emmi. They discuss being Gender Queer and how they present themselves... covering issues of clothing, body acceptance, androgyny and safety.

My thanks to Benji, Nenu, Frankie and Emmi for sharing so honestly.

You can check out the original posting here, where Sally Bibary wrote this comment:

Sally Bibrary said...
Fantastic video! It makes me feel so good to see the next generation sharing so openly and honestly. :)
May 30, 2012 at 6:46 AM

Also, note that tomorrow (November 20th, 2014) is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. You can find out more about this annual observance that honors the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence here.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Senior Editor Ben Rosenthal: The Pre-#NY15SCBWI Conference Interview

Ben Rosenthal is a senior editor at Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books. He acquires middle grade and YA fiction but also loves fresh and surprising nonfiction. At Harper, he has worked with such authors as Patrick Carman, Mindy McGinnis, and Jordana Frankel. Before arriving at KT Books in 2014, Ben spent seven years at Enslow Publishers, where he edited more than 150 nonfiction and middle grade fiction titles and created a teen fiction imprint, Scarlet Voyage. Raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, he now lives in New Jersey with his wife.

Senior Editor Ben Rosenthal

I connected with Ben to find out more about his sessions at the upcoming 2015 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, February 6-8...

Lee: Can you tell us more about your "Creating Nonfiction" breakout workshop on the conference Saturday morning? Is there any prep you'd suggest for attendees to get the most out of the session?

Ben: The institutional need for great nonfiction has always been there, but it will only rise as the Common Core develops in schools around the country. I hope writers and publishers capitalize on this opportunity but consider new ideas in creating fresh and engaging narratives. In my session, I hope to explore different ways we can make nonfiction breakout in a market dominated by fiction, looking at format, narrative, platform, and more. Most important, I want to generate a thought-provoking discussion. Be prepared to ask questions. I have edited more than 100 nonfiction titles, and I am still searching for answers.

Lee: How about your Saturday afternoon breakout workshop, "Thrillers and Mysteries?" But of course, don't give away the ending!

Ben: Pacing. Plot twists. Cliffhangers. I could tell you more, but then I'd have to kill you.

Lee: Ha! Well played, sir! When you come to a conference like #NY14SCBWI, are you looking to find new talent?

Ben: As an editor, I am always looking for talent. New writers and illustrators are the lifeblood of the publishing community. We need new authors as much as we need the veterans. But I don’t go to the conference specifically for that reason. I am looking to meet people, listen to interesting ideas, engage in meaningful conversations, and hopefully learn a great deal.

Lee: As an editor who does both fiction and nonfiction, what do you see as the cross-pollination possibilities... Are there things we can learn from fiction to apply to nonfiction, and do you look for them?

Ben: Absolutely! Good narrative nonfiction should read like a novel. Strong and active prose, deep and three-dimensional characters, vivid setting and world building—all the important things in fiction must be true of winning nonfiction. Any good story must come alive. I find it even more satisfying when that living story actually happened.

Lee: How about the reverse? Are there lessons from nonfiction that we writers and illustrators can apply to fiction?

Ben: Yes, indeed! One of the biggest lessons fiction writers can learn from nonfiction is research. Whether you’re creating a contemporary realistic novel or a sci-fi thriller on a futuristic alien planet, the setting, characters, and action need to be authentic. This almost always requires at least some research.

Lee: It seems that for fiction, a book with a 15 year old main character might be targeted to readers 12-15, and be called "young adult." But for nonfiction, a book targeted to those same readers ages 12-15 might be called "middle grade" - what's going on? Of course, if I have that wrong, chime in!

Ben: Hmm . . . I find that nonfiction can be more targeted by age because books with certain concepts or topics will be perfect for particular grades or curricula. One thing that happens with nonfiction is that when kids hit high school, they have a tendency to jump right into adult nonfiction because, frankly, there is much more to choose from. Other than the so-called "young readers" versions of adult biographies, which I don't like, there are not a ton of quality choices. (There are some amazing books, don't get me wrong, just not enough.) And I believe the readers of "young adult" nonfiction end up being middle schoolers because those books filter down. I am a firm believer that we really need more sophisticated and dynamic teen nonfiction. I would love to see teen nonfiction narratives with the substance and storytelling of Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.

Lee: Do you see the divide between middle grade and young adult works blurring out or becoming more distinct?

Ben: I think certain titles will always blur the line but the two as a whole will become more distinct. Given the number of adults reading YA and the number of crossover hits, the line between adult and YA may become the one that is blurred.

Lee: What would be your best advice to share with conference attendees, either about their conference experience or about the journey of being a writer and/or illustrator?

Ben: Well, I can’t give away my best advice here, or I’d ruin my sessions. But for your conference experience, I would suggest stepping outside your comfort zone. Be bold. Ask questions. Listen to the faculty but with a very critical ear, always analyzing and thinking about ideas and how they apply to your individual journey as a writer or illustrator. The big ideas won’t likely come from the faculty but from the spark a comment or question inspires in you.

Lee: That's pretty sage advice anyway. Thanks, Ben. Okay, here's our Speed Round!

Karaoke song?

Ben: Wonderwall by Oasis but with a mute button

Lee: Ice Cream flavor?

Ben: Mint chip

Lee: Childhood book you loved and still have a copy of?

Ben: Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson (I think I still have every collection)

Thanks, Ben!

If you'd like to attend Ben's sessions and be part of all the craft, opportunity, inspiration, business and community of SCBWI's Winter Conference, we hope you'll join us in New York City, February 6-8, 2015.

You can find out all the details and register here.

Illustrate and Write On,