Friday, December 9, 2016

37 Things I Love (In No Particular Order) - It's The End of Ellis' Sophomore Year and she's suprised by falling for Another Girl



37 Things I Love (In No Particular Order) by Kekla Magoon

Ellis only has four days of her sophomore year left, and summer is so close that she can almost taste it. But even with vacation just within reach, Ellis isn’t exactly relaxed. Her father has been in a coma for years, the result of a construction accident, and her already-fragile relationship with her mother is strained over whether or not to remove him from life support. Her best friend fails even to notice that anything is wrong and Ellis feels like her world is falling apart. But when all seems bleak, Ellis finds comfort in the most unexpected places.
Life goes on, but in those four fleeting days friends are lost and found, promises are made, and Ellis realizes that nothing will ever quite be the same.

Add your review of "37 Things I Love (In No Particular Order)" in comments!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Check out Amy Rose Capetta's 4-part series on LGBTQ YA over at Cynsations!

Love, love, love this.

Part One: Something Good Happened in 2016: Celebrating LGBTQ YA



Part Two: Something Good Happened in 2016: Intersectionality in LGBTQ YA



Part Three: Something Good Happened in 2016: LGBTQ YA Genre Fiction



My thanks to Amy Rose Capetta for pulling these posts together and the always-wonderful Cynthia Leitich Smith for hosting on her indispensable Cynsations blog!

***Update Dec 8, 2016: It's a FOUR part series! Here's the final installment, Where Does LGBTQ YA Go From Here? ***


Monday, December 5, 2016

Tanusri Prasanna (Hannigan Salky Geltzler Agency): Agent Looking For Diversity

AGENTS AND EDITORS NEED TO ADVERTISE
THEIR INTEREST IN DIVERSITY

This month's interview is with Tanusri Prasanna, Agent at Hannigan Salky Gatzler (HSG) Agency.

Agent Tanusri Prasanna (photo by Michael Soluri)


Tanusri's bio:

Tanusri Prasanna is an agent at Hannigan Salky Getzler (HSG) Agency. Tanusri joined HSG in 2015 and is actively building her list. She is interested in kidlit ranging from picture books to middle-grade and young adult fiction and has a special interest in stories featuring diverse protagonists and settings. Tanusri is a lawyer by training and holds a PhD in jurisprudence and human rights law from Oxford and a Master’s degree from Harvard Law School. Her love for children’s books motivated her transition into publishing and before joining HSG she gained valuable experience at Knopf Young Readers and Foundry Literary+ Media. You can follow her on twitter at @tanusriprasanna.


Our interview...


Lee: Hi Tanusri!

Tanusri: Hello, Lee! I'm thrilled to be here.

Lee: Thanks so much for agreeing to talk about your interest in Diversity in Children's and Teen Literature! There's been growing discussion about how the 5,000 or so traditionally published books a year don't reflect the actual diversity of our world, including the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement and the stunningly low numbers of representation revealed in "Children's Books by and about People of Color Published in the United States," put out by the CCBC (The Cooperative Children's Book Center http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp )

To start us off, of the submissions you get, let's say in the past year, how many of those projects included some kind of diversity of characters or theme?

Tanusri: I joined HSG two years ago and have started taking on my own projects for about a year now. Initially the number of diverse queries that I saw personally or in general was extremely low but they have started picking up in the last few months. I am trying to put the word out through conferences and social media that I'm looking for diverse voices, stories and protagonists and I definitely see that exposure having an effect on my queries. About a third of the queries I get have some aspect of diversity to them and I'm hoping that increases significantly in the near future.

Lee: Let's unpack that a bit: Are you seeing many stories featuring protagonists of color?

Tanusri: I am definitely getting more queries featuring protagonists of color, although typically the ethnicity or religion in question tends to be in the region of my own cultural and geographical upbringing - so lots of Asian protagonists!

Lee: That's the point of this series - otherwise, how do people know a particular agents is interested in diverse stories beyond that agent's cultural and geographic upbringing?

How about LGBTQ characters, and please break that down - are you seeing lesbian characters? gay? bi? trans*? questioning? queer or gender non-conforming?

Tanusri: I'm getting a few queries with LGBTQ characters, mostly lesbian or gay but those are a very small percentage compared to diverse queries featuring race or religion. I have had only one query featuring a trans character in the past 6 months and I lost it to another agent in the end! I would love to see a John Hughes style teen angsty/funny romance featuring an LGBTQ character.

Lee: How about characters with disabilities?

Tanusri: Almost never unfortunately. I've wondered whether that is because people tend to associate my personal background with only certain specific types of diversity and I am trying to make more of an effort to indicate that I would love to represent books featuring characters who are not mainstream in some way. It doesn't matter what that identifier is.

Lee: Hurrah! Are you seeing other types of diversity in the works submitted? - And please share any specific categories that spring to mind.

Tanusri: I think this may be covered when you talk of "protagonists of color" but I am getting a lot of religious diversity, particularly with Muslim protagonists and in my view that may also be the result of having a specialized imprint like Salaam Reads out there. It provides a great opportunity for writers who might not have thought there was a good medium for their work before.

Lee: How about the creators? Are you seeing under-represented writers and illustrators submitting to you?

Tanusri: About half of the diverse queries I'm getting tend to be "own voice" which I love!

Lee: Great segue... There's a lot of discussion about who has the 'right' to tell the story of an under-represented type of character. What's your take?

Tanusri: As I mentioned above, there is something special about under-represented "own voice" stories and I am hoping to get a lot more of those. But I certainly wouldn't rule out writing diverse characters if you don't share that experience. The bar is really high and I prefer it if those characters are incidentally diverse. If a book is going to delve into an underlying socio-political issue that faces a particular community of people, it gets tough when the writer hasn't had that experience. Of course there are always exceptions but they tend to be authors who have gained a reputation for a deep and specialized knowledge of the issue, meticulous and long-term research and numerous sensitivity reads.

Lee: When you're submitting projects to editors, do you think stories with under-represented characters take more 'selling' on your part?

Tanusri: I think the hard part is pitching a book that has no real comp titles in the market because the story or character is so under-represented. So you have to find an editor who's willing to take leap of faith in a story with protagonists whose experiences are unfamiliar, or a writer whose voice doesn't quite fit the paradigm. That is the challenge we face as agents as well, I believe as an agent looking for diversity I need to be very clear on what it is that I am not connecting with before passing on a diverse query. Of course the bar is very high in terms of the quality of writing, but both agents and editors have to keep in mind that what defines "quality" writing is both subjective and dominated by a certain type of voice. So we need to make sure not to treat an unfamiliar voice as if it were the same as sub-par writing, simply by virtue of that unfamiliar quality, when considering an underrepresented voice or character.

Lee: Well said. I often feel the sense of ‘otherness’ is transferable. That from my own experiences being marginalized (for being Gay, being ill as a teen, being Jewish, being an Atheist, etc…) I feel tremendous empathy for people who are marginalized for other kinds of ‘otherness’ as well. Can you share what’s driving your desire to see more diversity in Children’s and Teen books?

Tanusri: Intellectually speaking I believe diversity is important both to give children an interesting medium to learn about other types of people and communities and to feel in turn, that their stories are reflected in the literature--for books to be "mirrors and windows". But more personally, I'm definitely driven by the fact that I'm raising my children in a bi-religious, multi-lingual family and I would love to see more books out there that reflect their identities and experiences and where they can see characters that look like them.

Lee: Tell us about some books that highlighted or included diversity that you loved and that inspired you (maybe even ones you wish you represented). What’s a Picture Book favorite?

Tanusri: My absolute favorite picture book to read over and over is called "So Much" by Trish Cooke. It's about a baby who's waiting for his father to come home for a surprise birthday party and as he's waiting with his mother, all his relatives come in one by one and tell him how much they love him in different ways. My heart feels full every time I read it and I'm welling up as I type! This isn't typical for me as I usually don't go in for the very sentimental type of picture book but the love and joy in this book make it irresistible. I also love "Big Red Lollipop" by Rukhsana Khan, which is a great sibling story. I think both of these books are perfect examples of incidental diversity done really well.  

Lee: Middle Grade?

Tanusri: Too many to choose from but if I had to, I'd pick Pam Munoz Ryan's "Esperanza Rising" both because I love reading about immigrant experiences but also for its beautifully crafted plot and great voice.

Lee: Young Adult?

Tanusri: My current favorite is Becky Albertalli's "Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda." I am a sucker for a good love story and this was one of the best, funny and tender and I couldn't put it down from start to finish. It definitely falls in the "wish I'd represented" category.

Lee:Okay, here’s your wish list moment. What are you looking for? Put out the call...

Tanusri: I am looking for kidlit ranging from picture books through middle grade and YA. I'd particularly love voices and characters who are not mainstream and are under-represented. In terms of theme, I'd be excited to see high-concept picture books or lyrical, meaningful ones that aren't however, too "sweet" or sentimental. In middle-grade, mysteries, puzzle-solving, sibling stories, interesting neighborhoods, school stories, fantasies based on mythologies from different cultures and countries. And in YA, I'd love to see issue-based novels that reach deeply into themes concerning gender, race, sexuality, anything with socio-political complexity and on the other side of that, high-chemistry romance with a twist, funny romantic comedies, coming of age stories and psychological suspense/mystery.

Lee: And for writers and/or illustrators reading this who feel a resonance with what you’ve shared and who want to submit to you, how should they go about that?

Tanusri: Please email me your query and the first five pages (if picture book, then the whole text) in the body of the email, to tprasanna@hsgagency.com. You can reference Lee's website in the subject line.

Lee: Thanks, Tanusri. Getting the world of Children’s literature to better reflect the diversity of our world -- the world kids today are growing up in -- is so important.

Look for another Agent or Editor Looking For Diversity interview the first Monday of next month! Until then,

Illustrate and Write On!
Lee

Friday, December 2, 2016

Trump stacks his cabinet and administration with homophobes. Current count: 7

This is deeply disturbing:




Writing at the Daily Kos, Kerry Eleveld breaks down the anti-LGBTQ histories of

#1 Vice-President elect Mike Pence,

#2 Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions,

#3 Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Tom Price,

#4 Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos,

#5 Secretary of Transportation nominee Elaine Chao,

and

#6 Reince Priebus, Trump's pick for White House Chief of Staff.

Oh, and there's

#7 Trump's "chief strategist" Stephen Bannon. Yeesh. (You can check out some of the anti-LGBTQ headlines this chairman of Breitbart Media oversaw in this Queerty article here.

We need to be alert and active and loud. Is your ACLU membership up to date?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Gone, Gone, Gone - A romance helps two teen boys makes sense of their lives amidst random acts of violence



Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz

It's a year after 9/11. Sniper shootings throughout the D.C. area have everyone on edge and trying to make sense of these random acts of violence. Meanwhile, Craig and Lio are just trying to make sense of their lives.
Craig's crushing on quiet, distant Lio, and preoccupied with what it meant when Lio kissed him...and if he ll do it again...and if kissing Lio will help him finally get over his ex-boyfriend, Cody.
Lio feels most alive when he's with Craig. He forgets about his broken family, his dead brother, and the messed up world. But being with Craig means being vulnerable...and Lio will have to decide whether love is worth the risk.

This novel was an ALA Stonewall Honor book. Add your review of "Gone, Gone, Gone" in comments!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sparks - An impossible girl-on-girl crush and a wacky new religion



Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie by S. J. Adams

Do you feel lost? Confused? Alone? (Circle one): Yes or No. The Church of Blue can help. We are not a cult. $5 for a holy quest is a good deal.

Since sixth grade, Debbie Woodlawn has nursed a secret, heart-searing crush on her best friend, Lisa. But all those years of pretending to enjoy Full House reruns and abstinence rallies with Lisa go down the drain when her friend hooks up with Norman, the most boring guy at school. This earth-shattering event makes Debbie decide to do the unthinkable: confess her love to Lisa. And she has to do it tonight--before Lisa and Norman go past "the point of no return." So Debbie embarks on a quest to find Lisa. Guiding the quest are fellow students/detention hall crashers Emma and Tim, the founding (and only) members of the wacky Church of Blue. Three chases, three declarations of love, two heartbreaks, a break-in, and five dollars worth of gas later, Debbie has been fully initiated into Bluedaism--but is there time left to stop Lisa and Norman from going too far?


This novel was an ALA Stonewall Honor book. Add your review of "Sparks" in comments!

Monday, November 21, 2016

"Making Gay History" Podcast - my new podcast obsession

Author and historian Eric Marcus conducted over a hundred audio interviews with key figures in the LGBTQ movement. He used portions of those interviews in his books, and now he's created a podcast series called Making Gay History, where we get to hear these icons in their own voices.



We get to hear Jeanne & her son Morty Manford. Jeanne talks about starting PFLAG, and about what happened when she marched with her gay son in the gay pride parade, holding a sign that proclaimed her love and pride in him.

We get to hear Dr. Evelyn Hooker, telling us about her gay friend Sam, and how Sam urged her to take on the study of healthy gay men that would eventually lead to a complete shift in how being Gay or Lesbian was understood.

We get to hear Sylvia Rivera (the transgender icon) tell us about being at Stonewall.

It's a treasure trove! We're only six episodes in and I'm already obsessed with how amazing it is to hear these people speak through time.

Go listen - Eric and his team have done a great job with this podcast!



Friday, November 18, 2016

Caught Inside - Luke spends a summer surfing and, to his surprise, falling for a guy!



Caught Inside (A Boys On The Brink Novel) by Jamie Deacon

Luke believes he has his life figured out...and then he meets Theo.

It should have been simple - a summer spent with his girlfriend Zara at her family's holiday cottage in Cornwall. Seventeen-year-old Luke Savage jumps at the chance, envisioning endless hours of sunbathing on the private beach and riding the waves on his beloved surfboard. He isn't interested in love. Though his rugged good looks and lazy charm mean he can have his pick of girls, he has no intention of falling for anyone.

Nothing prepares Luke for his reaction to Theo, the sensitive Oxford undergraduate who is Zara's cousin and closest friend. All at once, he is plunged along a path of desire and discovery that has him questioning everything he thought he knew about himself. No one, especially Zara, must find out; what he and Theo have is too new, too fragile. But as the deceit spirals beyond their control, people are bound to get hurt, Luke most of all.

My thanks to Jess for the heads-up on this. Add your review of "Caught Inside" in comments!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Mother and her 8-year-old Trans Son talk, and we get to listen

This under-three-minute video was powerful, and heartbreaking, and beautiful...



Let's make this a safer world for Gabe!

And my thanks to Chris and Gabe for sharing your story with all of us.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Havemercy - Steampunk YA with Magical Mechanical Dragons and 2 Main Gay Characters



Havemercy by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett

Thanks to its elite Dragon Corps, the capital city of Volstov has all but won the hundred years’ war with its neighboring enemy, the Ke-Han. The renegade airmen who fly the corps’s mechanical, magic-fueled dragons are Volstov’s greatest weapon. But now one of its more unruly members is at the center of the city’s rumor mill, causing a distraction that may turn the tide of victory.

With Volstov immersed in a scandal that may have international repercussions, the Ke-Han devise an ingenious plan of attack. To counter the threat, four ill-assorted heroes must converge to save the kingdom they love: an exiled magician, a naive country boy, a young student—and the unpredictable ace airman who flies the city’s fiercest dragon, Havemercy.

But on the eve of battle, these courageous men will face something that could make the most formidable of warriors hesitate, the most powerful of magicians weak, and the most unlikely of men allies in their quest to rise against it....

My thanks to E H Timms for the heads-up on this one having two of its four POV characters be Gay, and also having a minor Trans character!

Add your review of "Havemercy" in comments!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Your cape is ready. Join me.

I've been stitching and sewing and piecing this (and my emotions) together since we learned that the next US President will be Donald Trump.

A world with President Trump is a world that is going to need a lot of progressive, fair-minded heroes. Superheroes.

It's a world that is going to need every one of us to stand up, raise our voices, and use the power of Truth and Love to fight injustice -- what Mahatma Gandhi called Satyagraha.

"Satyagraha is soul-force pure and simple." - Mohandas Gandhi



We have our power. And our cape.

And we will be #StrongerTogether.

Now more than ever.

Lee

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Dear President-Elect Trump: You used to be your own boss. Not any more.

Remember that final showdown moment in Disney's Aladdin, where Jafar uses his third and final wish to become the most powerful being he can imagine, a Genie? In achieving his goal, there was a twist that Jafar didn't see coming:

"Phenomenal cosmic powers, itty-bitty living space."

It's happened to you, too.

Not the living space. You'll get to roll into the White House, fly on Air Force One, and have all the bling and trappings of being the most powerful US politician of all. Just like a reality TV show.

Your twist is that now, you work for me.

I didn't vote for you.

But that's what being President means. You have to represent and care for the well-being of the more than 59 million of us who voted for Hillary Clinton, the millions who voted for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, in addition to the more than 59 million who voted for you.

Now, you work for me, a Gay dad and grown-up child of immigrants who writes books for kids.

Now, you work for my nephew's daughter, an African American high school student with straight A's.

Now, you work for my disabled friend who's a huge Ally to the LGBTQ community.

Now, you work for every single American.

We will keep you accountable. We will require you to be measured. And thoughtful. And balanced as you take action.

Because now, as an elected public servant, you work for us.

And we've learned your reality TV show line:

"You're Fired."



And like every good boss, we won't be afraid to use it.



Monday, November 7, 2016

Jennifer Udden (Barry Goldblatt Literary): Agent Looking For Diversity

AGENTS AND EDITORS NEED TO ADVERTISE
THEIR INTEREST IN DIVERSITY

This month's interview is with Jennifer Udden, Agent at Barry Goldblatt Literary.

Agent Jennifer Udden


Jennifer's bio:

Jennifer Udden was born in Houston, TX, and spent many of her formative years hiding books under tables while she was meant to be paying attention to something else. She has a BA from Mount Holyoke College, and graduated in 2008 with a major in Politics, a minor in Chinese, and honors thesis work on anxiety in British detective fiction of the early 20th century. She has worked in fundraising for an off-Broadway theater company and joined the publishing industry in 2010 at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. She is the co-host of the podcast Shipping & Handling (shippingandhandlingpodcast.com) with Bridget Smith of Dunham Literary, Inc. She blogs at www.jenniferudden.com and jenniferudden.wordpress.com

Our interview:

Lee: Thanks so much for agreeing to talk about your interest in Diversity in Children's and Teen Literature, Jennifer.  There's been growing discussion about how the 5,000 or so traditionally published books a year don't reflect the actual diversity of our world, including the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement and the stunningly low numbers of representation revealed in "Children's Books by and about People of Color Published in the United States," put out by the CCBC (The Cooperative Children's Book Center.)

To start us off, of the submissions you get, let's say in the past year, how many of those projects included some kind of diversity of characters or theme?

Jennifer: I don’t have a specific percentage off the top of my head, but I would say that in the last year maybe 5-15% have specifically highlighted some aspect of diversity in their query or in their novel.

Lee: Let's unpack that a bit: Are you seeing many stories featuring protagonists of color?

Jennifer: Yes! Definitely more than I saw at the beginning of my career. I would say that of the percentage I saw before, more than half of those highlight that their protagonist is a person of color.

Lee: How about LGBTQ characters, and please break that down - are you seeing lesbian characters? gay? bi? trans*? questioning? queer or gender non-conforming?

Jennifer: Yes - because I represent m/m romance I tend to see a lot of queries in that genre (gay romance), but I don’t tend to see as many lesbian, bi, or trans queries. There are a few, but not that many.

Lee: How about characters with disabilities?

Jennifer: I’ve seen a few, definitely!

Lee: Are you seeing other types of diversity in the works submitted? - And please share any specific categories that spring to mind.

Jennifer: I am seeing quite a few queries from authors who live in areas other than the US and Europe - it’s awesome!

Lee: How about the creators? Are you seeing under-represented writers and illustrators submitting to you?

Jennifer: I know that the idea of creators identifying themselves as being from an under-represented group is a bit fraught, but I have seen more authors specifically identifying themselves, or providing links to blogs or social media that has more information about how they identify, and I really appreciate that!

Lee: There's a lot of discussion about who has the 'right' to tell the story of an under-represented type of character. What's your take?

Jennifer: I definitely think that I prioritize #ownvoices stories more than a similar story that might be told by a writer from a more privileged group, because I feel personally that we have had many of those kinds of books already. I think that any writer can write a story set in a culture not their own, but when they do so they ought to take into account the feedback of people from that culture. The pushback against critiques of cultural appropriation seems to me to be a case of writers who want the privilege of writing another culture, but don’t want to hear feedback from members of that culture or group when it is offered to them.

Lee: When you're submitting projects to editors, do you think stories with under-represented characters take more 'selling' on your part?

Jennifer: These days when I go out with a project with characters from under-represented groups I highlight that aspect in the pitch to editors - I don’t want to hide or minimize it for fear of editors not being interested. And I think the response has been pretty good- many editors are also looking to diversify their lists, as well!

Lee: I often feel the sense of ‘otherness’ is transferable. That from my own experiences being marginalized (for being Gay, being ill as a teen, being Jewish, being an Atheist, etc…) I feel tremendous empathy for people who are marginalized for other kinds of ‘otherness’ as well.
Can you share what’s driving your desire to see more diversity in Children’s and Teen books?

Jennifer: Boredom, honestly! Diversity makes things more interesting. It’s literally just bringing in new stories or different stories than what we’ve seen published before.

Lee: Tell us about some books that highlighted or included diversity that you loved and that inspired you (maybe even ones you wish you represented). What’s a Young Adult favorite?

Jennifer: Two come to mind: first, SUMMER PRINCE by Alaya Dawn Johnson, which is set in futuristic Brazil, with a POC protagonist and cast. It’s one of my favorite books and is such a fun read. The second is DUMPLIN’ by Julie Murphy, which is the story of a fat protagonist in small-town Texas. I think this was one of the first books I’d read with a fat protagonist where their journey wasn’t about losing weight, and as someone who has struggled with weight and self-image before, this was such a joy to read.

Lee: Okay, here’s your wish list moment. What are you looking for? Put out the call…

Jennifer: I would love to see a fantasy (YA or adult) inspired by the world of Beyonce’s LEMONADE visual album or a scifi (again, YA or adult) inspired by Janelle Monae’s TheArchAndroid. I want romance in any category with POC protagonists. I’d like to see POC protagonists or authors in any of the genres I represent, as well as LGBT protagonists and authors from underrepresented groups.

Lee: And for writers reading this who feel a resonance with what you’ve shared and who want to submit to you, how should they go about that?

Jennifer: My submission guidelines are on the website! send the first five pages, query letter, and synopsis to query.judden@gmail.com.


Thanks Jennifer!

Look for another Agent or Editor Looking For Diversity interview the first Monday of next month! Until then,

Illustrate and Write On!
Lee