Wednesday, October 31, 2007

On Halloween: Masks and the Space To Be Ourselves


A time for masks and costumes, one of the few times of the year when society flips its everyone-must-look-alike-and-please-like-an-Abercrombie&Fitch-or-Victoria's Secret-model, and the more outlandish and stand-out-of-the-crowd you appear, the better.

The holiday of being DIFFERENT. And hey, you even got CANDY for it when you were little.

The big Halloween parades and events in the gay neighborhoods have become so popular that San Francisco CANCELLED theirs this year (after years of problems.) West Hollywood's is insanely crowded, with thousands of straight lookie-loos driving in to gawk and maybe to feel like the noose of conformity around their own necks doesn't need to be quite so tight.

Yesterday's New York Times had an interesting article about the future (or not) of gayborhoods - neighborhoods like the Castro, West Hollywood, Chelsea. In it, they quote Gary J. Gates, a demographer and senior research fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles:

“Twenty years ago, if you were gay and lived in rural Kansas, you went to San Francisco or New York,” he said. “Now you can just go to Kansas City.”

That's fascinating. It's saying that there's room to be Gay closer to home.

Maybe even AT home. Extrapolating to the future, will there be a time when being GLBTQ doesn't mean you have to leave your hometown to find the space to be yourself?

Used to be the earliest you could could find the space to come out was College. Then High School. Now, in California, there are even Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs in Middle Schools!

There are so many more places and spaces where GLBTQ youth are finding the room to be themselves - to take off the masks of conformity - to be DIFFERENT and to be okay and proud of that difference.

It's funny how a cheap mask that hides your face can free you from inhibitions (for good and bad.) Kind of like the anonymity of the internet (again for good and bad.)

What would happen if we all took off the masks we wear the rest of the year?

When you hear "Trick or Treat!" tonight, take a second to think about the masks you might still be wearing when you're not dressed up for Halloween.

The Trick is how can we respond to the pressure to conform 364 days a year?

As you're passing out candy, or gorging on it, consider how each of us can participate in making the spaces we are in, no matter where we are, more embracing of Differences.

And remember that the biggest Treat of all is accepting ourselves for who we are under our masks: Different... and perfect that way!

Happy Halloween! (And yes, the pumpkin above is made out of carrot sticks!)



Tuesday, October 30, 2007

House You Pass On The Way, The

By Jacqueline Woodson

Evangeline is 13, and everyone calls her 'Staggerlee.' She's an outsider, and not just because her mother is white. She kissed a girl back in 6th grade, and since the post-kiss rejection, has kept it a secret.

Her female cousin Trout visits for the summer and with this new friend, Staggerlee tries to figure it all out.

On her website, Jacqueline shares that one of the reasons she wrote "The House You Pass On The Way" was:

"I wanted to write about friendship and I wanted to write about what it means to love someone—how painful and confusing that can be."

How wonderful to have a book that deals with racism and homophobia, and a young Teenage girl trying to work out who she is - like we all have to if we are going to grow up.

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Monday, October 29, 2007

Celtic Men and the origins of the word "Horny"

It's Monday, so of course it's time for another Bitchin' Queer Quote!

Here's the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus talking about the homosexuality of Celtic men, 80 years before the rebellion of Queen Boudica (see last week's Bitchin' Queer Quote for more on that!)

Although they have good-looking women, they pay very little attention to them, but are really crazy about having sex with men. They are accustomed to sleep on the ground on animal skins and roll around with male bedmates on both sides. Heedless of their own dignity, they abandon without a qualm the bloom of their bodies to others. And the most incredible thing is that they don't think this is shameful. But when they proposition someone, they consider it dishonorable if he doesn't accept the offer!

And the main god the Celtic men identified with?

He "...was an amiable-looking bearded man with antlers. He was the Horned One: "The horned god was especially linked with male sexuality and often appears [...] erect [...] Moreover, when erect, he is sometimes portrayed in the company of men, not women."
Horny was his name, giving us our slang word for sexual desire, horniness.

Gotta love those ancient Celts, AND Judy Grahn's "Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds" (pg. 138) for making sure we still have this incredible piece of our history!



Friday, October 26, 2007

The Year They Burned The Books

By Nancy Garden

Jaime's high school starts distributing condoms. She's the editor of the school newspaper, and when she writes an editorial in favor of the new policy, it's incendiary!

A growing free-speech battle takes over the town.

School library books are burned.

That and her own confusion over her attraction to Tessa make Jamie's Year They Burned the Books violent, controversial, and life-changing.

"The Year They Burned the Books" was a 1999 Lambda Literary Award Finalist, and is particularly fascinating because the author, Nancy Garden, has actually had HER books burned - in real life! (That book was "Annie On My Mind.")

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Thursday, October 25, 2007

WHY DO I WRITE? Pyramids, Stories, Magic... and learning how to SPELL


Even when sometimes it can feel like I'm standing at the top of a huge waterfall,
about to take a fateful leap into space...

I want to tell people a great story

I want to change a single life (maybe in a way I wish mine might have been changed when I was a Teen. If I could have read a single sci fi or fantasy book with a well-adjusted gay main character where it wasn't a tortured coming out story but just a great adventure, with Gladiators, and Monsters and Underwater Cities... and a gay love story as part of it - it would have changed my life completely. To see a reflection of myself in a book I loved - to feel included in those fantasies as a gay young man - would have made me see a place for myself in the real world as a gay young man maybe seven years sooner than I did.)

I want to change the world for the better (there's a famous Talmudic line that goes "He who saves a single life, saves the entire world," and I like extrapolating it to my writing and the books I hope to put out into the world! One question that always motivates me: If I could have saved 7 years by reading one book that didn't exist, how many years could I save for others by writing that book Today?

Eve, one of the inimitable Disco Mermaids, has a lovely post on the Disco Mermaid Blog on Leaving Your Mark, that talks beautifully about her reasons for writing. I love what she wrote, and in concert with that I'll add to my list:

I want to leave a Legacy of stories that will live on long after me, that will continue to entertain, to change lives one at a time, and to change the world... My Pyramids, in the way the books I loved reading when I was a Teen (even though they didn't have any gay characters that weren't villains) were landmarks in my life.

Okay, if you think my aims are lofty now, just wait till I share with you the following from "The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers (2nd Edition)" By Christopher Vogler. (pgs. 298-299.)

"... writing is magic. Even the simplest act of writing is almost supernatural, on the borderline with telepathy. Just think: We can make a few abstract marks on a piece of paper in a certain order and someone a world away and a thousand years from now can know our deepest thoughts. The boundaries of space and time and even the limitations of death can be transcended.

"Many cultures believed the letters of their alphabets were far more than just symbols for communication, recording transactions, or recalling history. They believed letters were powerful magical symbols that could be used to cast spells and predict the future. The Norse runes and the Hebrew alphabet are simple letters for spelling words, but also deep symbols of cosmic significance."

Get ready for it - this is great...

"This magical sense is preserved in our word for teaching children how to manipulate letters to make words: spelling."

I love this part!

"When you "spell" a word correctly, you are in effect casting a spell, charging these abstract, arbitrary symbols with meaning and power. We say "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me," but this is manifestly untrue. We know that words have power to hurt or heal. The simple words of a letter, telegram, or phone call can strike you like a hammer blow. They're just words - marks on paper or vibrations of air - but mere words such as "Guilty," "Ready, aim, fire!" "I do," or "We'd like to buy your screenplay" can bind us, condemn us, or bring us joy. They can hurt or heal us with their magic power. The healing power of words is their most magical aspect. Writers, like the shamans or medicine men and women of ancient cultures, have the potential to be healers."
Writers as Shaman - I like that.

I write as a Shaman of the 21st Century.

I am a magician. Spinning a story, sweating it out to weave a spell of words by spelling words...

There's something literally literary about that. (Alliterations included.)

To have fun.

And, of course,
I write because... I have to.
I'm compelled to share my take on things, my voice, my stories. I can't be shut up.

I'll stop at 7, because that's a magic number...
And that's my partial list of why I write. (I reserve the right to add to this list as needed...)

And now, enough writing about writing. I need to go work on my spell-book!



Wednesday, October 24, 2007

M or F ?

By Lisa Papademetriou

Girl likes Boy. Girl can't bring herself to talk to him, even online. Girl gets Best-Gay-Boy-Pal to chat on-line with Boy, pretending to be her. Best-Gay-Boy-Pal starts to think Boy likes HIM...

Cyrano De Bergerac, anyone?

Here's the gay spin on it... in High School! What fun!

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Holly's Secret

By Nancy Garden

Holly has Two Moms. When she moves to a new town and school, it's her chance to take on a new name and pretend to have a "normal" family...
But it doesn't work out the way she planned.

Like many of the books that focus on kids whose Parents or Caretakers are GLBTQ, this is a middle-grade novel, targeted for ages 8-12. As there's not much out there (pun intended) that deals with this issue for kids at ANY age, I feel it's important to include these titles on this blogsite. Just as I, an adult, can get a lot out of reading a picture book, Teens who have GLBTQ Parents or Caretakers might get a lot out of reading these titles, even if the heroes and heroines are younger.

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bulldike: Celtic Lesbian Warriors and Queen Boudica's War

Today's Bitchin' Queer Quote is about the Celts, who lived in what became Great Britain, arriving there around 1500 B.C.

Celtic women in this ancient time wielded authority, owned property, and the older women were the ones who taught the young men how to fight. "The martial arts teachers of the best-known legendary Celtic hero, Cu Chulain, were two powerful women, Buannan ("The Lasting One") and Scathach ("The Shadowy One".)"

"Groups of women warriors (ceremonial Lesbians with institutional power) called gwiddonot are recorded in a medieval saga, Kulwch and Olwen: these women fought in battles, lived together, and uttered prophecies for the tribe."

After the Roman occupation of the British Isles, and their refusal to acknowledge a woman who ruled a people, the Romans seized even more land and property, and persecuted the Druid priesthood. When the Celtic Queen Boudica protested, they flogged her and raped her daughters.

Queen Boudica planned her revenge: She plotted with the other Celtic leaders and raised the largest army ever seen in Britain - 120,000 people to fight the Romans!

Queen Boudica and her army took Colechester, London and one other town before the final battle with the Romans - in which over 230,000 people participated.

The Roman historian Tacitus described Queen Boudica on that final day:

Boudica drove round in a chariot, her daughters with her. As they reached each tribal contingent, she proclaimed that the Britons were well used to the leadership of women in battle. But she did not come among them now as a descendant of mighty ancestors, eager to avenge her lost wealth and kingdom. Rather she was an ordinary woman, fighting for her lost freedom, her bruised body, and the outraged virginity of her daughters. Roman greed no longer spared their bodies, old people were killed, virgins raped. But the gods would grant a just vengeance: the legion that had dared to fight had perished; the others were skulking in their camps and looking for a means of escape. They would never face the roar and din of the British thousands, much less their charges and their grappling hand-to-hand. Let them consider how many they had under arms, and why! Then they would know that on that day it was victory or death. That was her resolve, as a woman; the men could live, if they liked, and be slaves.

Ultimately, the Romans won the hard fought battle and the war, and Queen Boudica took poison. The Romans hunted for her grave, not wanting any memory of her to survive...

And now I have to quote Judy Grahn, who wraps up this amazing history (or should I write herstory) perfectly:

Perhaps Boudica and some of the other Hicca women in that war were ceremonial Lesbians; perhaps like other tribal folk they also had special homosexual gods of their own and special rites concerning their social functions. In any case, through their slang, her descendents and others like them gave to Lesbians - the most rebellious, armed, "masculine," warriorlike, dangerous, and deserving - and give them still the ancient, proud, frightening, street-talk title: bulldiker, bulldagger, Boudica.

The next time you hear the word "bulldike," realize the power, majesty and proud herstory behind it, and behind all Lesbians, everywhere.

Oooh! I LOVE learning about this stuff!



The above is culled from pgs. 134 to 145 in the amazing "Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds" by Judy Grahn.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Absolutely, Positively NOT - A Gay Teen Book

By David La Rochelle

This book cracked me up.

In David's words: "Sixteen-year-old Steven DeNarski doesn’t know if he’ll pass his driver’s test or if he’ll ever understand his parents, but there’s one thing he’s sure of: he’s absolutely, positively NOT gay. He sets out to prove it by collecting photos of girls in bikinis, sitting at the jock table at school, and dating like crazy."

"Absolutely, Positively NOT" won a bunch of awards, including the 2005 Sid Fleischman Humor Award - so you know it's funny!

...And just wait till you read who Steven takes to the Prom!

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

On where to Buy it / Get it

So where do you go to get these Great Queer YA Books?

Your High School Library
Is your school that cool? Is your school librarian empowered to include these books in the collection? If so, that's great! If not, and budget, politics, or homophobia prevent their inclusion, there are LOTS of other ways to get these books into your hands to read...

Your local library
Okay, depending on where you live and how comfortable you are asking for it, the more demand that is seen for GLBTQ books (and by that I mean books with GBLTQ characters and themes) the more librarians and booksellers will have them for us to read, take out on loan, and buy. It’s wonderful if your local public library has a YA librarian, and you could ask them to get the book, or you could leave a note for them requesting it.

Gay /Feminist bookstores
If you gotta own it – give your local gay and/or feminist bookstore a try.

Check out this great list of Gay and Lesbian and Feminist bookstores in the U.S.A, Canada, and the world at The Lesbian and Gay Bookstore Index. Also, note that sometimes you can order from these smaller bookstores by phone and support them.

Local Independent bookstores
Often these have open-minded and gay-friendly souls who can take an order and/or start to stock these books. Think of it as very local activism.

The big guys
Barnes and Noble, Borders, Amazon – it’s great that these stores which are everywhere (and in Amazon[dot]com's case, nowhere) now have GLBTQ sections, and the more demand they see for these books, the more publishers will sit up and take notice. It’s a good sign of how our world is changing for the better.

What about the future?
Is the goal for there to NOT be any gay or feminist bookstores, because these minority viewpoints are so well respected and represented in the major mainstream stores?

I hope not. Gay bookstores (okay, I'm a guy - and while I have the utmost respect for them, I'll admit I don't spend a lot of time in Feminist bookstores) have a special role in the community. They're not a bar, or a club. They're a meeting place, a destination, a place of discovery and community that's safe, and one of the few places frequented by all sexes and gender identities and all generations within the GLBTQ community. I, for one, think that's a critical and wonderful thing to support.

Have your own ideas about what's the best way to get these GLBTQ YA books in your hands? Join in the dialog with a "comment!"



Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Erik and Isabelle Freshman Year at Foresthill High

By Kim Wallace

The first in a four book self-published series!

Erik is Gay, closeted from his military family and the homophobes at school.

Isabelle is a proud, out, Lesbian whose parents support her.

They become best friends.

When Isabelle falls in love with a cheerleader, things get complicated.

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Erik and Isabelle Sophmore Year at Foresthill High

By Kim Wallace

The second in the four book self-published series!

It's Sophmore Year. While Erik's checking out life outside the closet (and getting checked out in the process), Isabelle dives into theater - determined to push Foresthill to be more accepting.

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Erik and Isabelle Junior Year at Foresthill High

By Kim Wallace

The Third book in the four book self-published series!

It's Junior Year. Isabelle creates a public art project to change things in their small town community, and Mandy’s back, trying to regain Isabelle's love. Meanwhile, Erik's secret relationship with Mark (the school's star athlete) isn't such a secret anymore when they tackle one of Foresthill High’s most sacred institutions—the Junior Prom.

This book was a finalist for the 2006 Lambda Literary Award!

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Erik and Isabelle Senior Year at Foresthill High

By Kim Wallace

The final book in the four book self-published series!

Senior Year, and Erik's in Germany - adjusting, growing, finding love.

Back home, Isabelle and Mandy have to face down hate when their nomination to be homecoming queens is fought by a conservative student group.

Throughout it all, Erik and Isabelle are best friends, on their way to graduation and beyond.

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tough Love: High School Confidential

By Abby Denson

A graphic novel in the spirit of those Japanese Teen-Boys-In-Love manga!

Gay bashing, suicidal thoughts, a crush, a best gal pal, and coming out are all part of the soap opera of Brian's life in High School.

Abby won the 2007 Lulu Of The Year award from "Friends of Lulu," a non-profit aimed at promoting and encouraging "female readership and participation in the comic book industry."

Go Abby!

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Monday, October 15, 2007

"Winkte" is the Sioux word for a Gay man

Today's Bitchin' Queer Quote AND Poem both spring from the Native American revival of winkte (Gay) consciousness. I find it inspiring to learn about the cultural traditions and respected roles of Gay men in Native American history - I sure didn't learn about this in school! I hope it inspires you, too.

He told me that if nature puts a burden on a man by making him different, it also gives him a power.

-John (Fire) Lame Deer, Sioux Medicine Man

We are special to the Sioux!
They gave us respect for strange powers
Of looking into the sun, the night.
They paid us with horses not derision.

To the Cheyenne we were no curiosity!
We were friends or wives of brave warriors
Who hunted for our cooking pots
Who protected our tipis from Pawnee.

We went to the mountain for our puberty vision.
No horse or lance or thunderbird
Crossed the dreaming eye which would have sent us
Into war or the hunter's lonely woods.
To some song floated on mountain air.
To others colors and design appeared on clouds.
To a few words fell from the eagle's wing,
And they took to the medicine tent,
And in their holiness made power
For the people of the Cheyenne Nation.
There was space for us in the village.

The Crow and Ponca offered deerskin
When the decision to avoid the warpath was made,
And we were accepted into the fur robes
Of a young warrior, and lay by his flesh
And knew his mouth and warm groin:
Or we married (a second wife) to the chief.
And if we fulfilled our duties, he smiled
And gave us his grandchildren to care for.

We were special to the Sioux, Cheyenne, Ponca
And the Crow who valued our worth and did not spit
Names at our lifted skirts nor kicked our nakedness.
We had power with the people!

And if we cared to carry the lance, or dance
Over enemy scalps and take buffalo
Then that, too, was good for the Nation,
And contrary to our stand we walked backwards.

The Author of this amazing poem is Maurice Kenny (b. 1929, Mohawk), as quoted in "The Essential Gay Mystics," Edited by Andrew Harvey, pg. 66-67.

Friday, October 12, 2007

National Coming Out Day: Yesterday, Today, and Every Day

So, you're probably thinking: "Wow. Lee sure missed a great opportunity yesterday with it being National Coming Out Day and all... did he forget?"

Well, YES and NO.

Let me explain:

Coming Out is a process, and even though I've been out for a looong time, there are still moments - on a weekly basis - when I have to "come out" all over again.

The phone rings.

"Hello?" (suspicious tone from my not recognizing the caller ID)

"Can I speak with the lady of the house?"

(in my low, very guy voice) "You're talking to her."

A Salesman: "I bet your wife would love this."

Me: "I'll have to ask my partner what he thinks."

The checkout lady at the grocery store, to my young daughter: "Oh, Mommy's getting a break Today?"

Me: "No, we're a two Dad family. Her other Dad's getting the break."

It goes on and on, all these "teachable moments."

The challenging news is that Coming Out, first to yourself, then to your friends, to your family, and to the world is not a one-time "Ta-Dah!" thing. It's a process and a journey.

The encouraging news is that now there are lots of resources - both external and internal - to help you.

There's a listing of great links always up on this blogsite (scroll down on the right side) called:

Coming Out? Check out:

And I hope you do.

The first listing (under the link to this post) is the Human Rights Campaign's Resource Guide for Coming Out. Click it. Download it. Read it. An excellent overview.

The second, "Brent Says It So Well" will take you to fellow GLBTQ YA author Brent Hartinger's website page where he shares so beautifully about his process of coming out.

The Third is a link to the Gay Straight Alliance Network. While this is a California-specific organization, the information they provide is useful for anyone trying to set up a GSA, anywhere.

The Fourth gets you to the homepage of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, a non-profit focused on issues of schools being safe places for Teens and Kids in our GLBTQ community.

The next, "GLBTQ Groups/Community Near You," is a link to Queer America, a search engine where you enter in your area code and zip code and you get a list of lots of GLBTQ resources. Very cool information to have.

Next is The Trevor Project. It's a link to their web site, but I've also listed their phone number. (866) 4-U-TREVOR. When you need to talk to someone, it's a national crisis and suicide prevention counseling phone line for GLBTQ Kids, Teens and Young Adults.

The second to last link is to the organization PFLAG. This is an amazing group - Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Good stuff for your whole family.

And last, for now, is a link to the Point Foundation, the National LGBT Scholarship Fund. There are still so many stories of kids living in fear that if they come out, they'll be abandoned by their families and that their dreams of going to college or grad school won't come true. Well, the Point Foundation's mission is to give SCHOLARSHIPS to GLBTQ students so they CAN afford to be OUT, be true to themselves, and to get a great education after High School!
They even have a mentoring program!! Okay, I LOVE that these scholarships exist!

And now, one more: Something unusual for me here at "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" A movie recommendation.

Check out the amazing, Oscar Winning Documentary, "The Times of Harvey Milk." Harvey Milk's belief that the biggest thing you can do for equality is to be OUT and just be yourself is profound.

If every GLBTQ person in the whole country was OUT, discrimination couldn't thrive, because every American would KNOW and realize they CARE ABOUT someone in our community. (Of course, there will always be the disappointments of people like Dick Cheney, who even with a Lesbian Daughter and a grandchild being raised in a Two Mom family is part of an administration fomenting discrimination against his own daughter.) But despite that, I still feel Harvey Milk's premise is sound and inspiring, because I see it in my own life.

Are there people that don't like me simply because I'm gay? Sure. But I'm Out, and living my life, and just by doing what I do - being a good parent, a good partner, and a good person (hey, I try my darndest!) I'm making a difference:

At my daughter's preschool, where the director, through emotional tears, said before we came to the school she never even thought about Gay parents, but after seeing us raise our daughter over the course of a year, she'd be happy to speak in a debate about how Gay people can be excellent parents! (And would we be interested in giving some pointers to some of the other parents at the school...)

At the gas station, where two employees were heckling each other and one twenty-something shouted in a nasty way to another, "You are so gay!" And I stopped him and said that I'm Gay, and that it wasn't cool to use "gay" as a slur. And he was embarrassed, and even though he might still think of using "gay" in a mean way, I'm pretty sure he won't be yelling it at work again any time soon.

At the pottery painting store, when one woman was explaining loudly and proudly at the table next to us about the wedding bowl she was making for friends, how she'd spent hours, with great love and care, to paint on it the names of everyone who had attended the wedding. And how she had made a terrible mistake by putting the names of the one Gay couple up top, and how she had to re-do it to bury their names in the list at the bottom instead. And I walked up to her (holding my Toddler's hand) and I told her that I was Gay, that my daughter has Two Dads, and that while she might think that it's embarrassing to put the gay couple up top, it wasn't okay for her to shout out that there's something WRONG with my kind of love. She can think it, but don't say it. Not in front of me or my kid.

I won't be silent.

So with the Harvey Milk documentary and the links above, that's a lot of external resources, and it's by no means a comprehensive list.

But what do I mean about internal resources to help you Come Out?

Read one of the books listed at this blogsite. Read two. Read these amazing books with GLBTQ Characters and Themes, and feel them feed your soul.

It's what I wished for when I was 16 - I read everything I could but never found a reflection of myself in a book I loved. It's what made me a writer - and when you read a book that DOES reflect that part of yourself, well - that inclusion has the power to transform your self-image.

We, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Queer people are worthy of LOVE.

We are worthy of GOOD.

We are worthy of RESPECT.

We are worthy of CELEBRATION.

And we are worthy of some AMAZING Teen novels.

So come out, come out, wherever you are...

COME OUT OUTSIDE, and change the world.

And COME OUT INSIDE, and change your image of yourself by reading the wonderful books listed at "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?"

National Coming Out Day. Yesterday. Today. Every Day.



Thursday, October 11, 2007

On Self Publishing and... Graphic Novels!

You’ll notice that a number of the books featured on this blogsite are not from a major publishing house – some are, in fact, self-published.

Now there is a lot of discussion in the kid lit world about self-publishing pros and cons – often self publishing is seen as a last resort by relatively inexperienced writers who are impatient to be published. And their self-published works are not generally perceived to be on an equal “professional” footing.

In fact, even the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators' guidelines on what defines you as being a “published” author doesn’t count self-published works unless they have sold over 750 copies. The idea being that 750 is more than your friends and relatives could buy, and it shows your title is commercially available.

Why? The thinking goes that these books haven’t passed through the subjective and ostensibly qualitative hurdles as the books that went through the traditional editing process. In a sense, a book from a major publisher is “vetted” – in that SOMEONE besides the author had to believe it was a work of quality. And had to fight to get it through the system!

Now, we all know that there are books that come from major publishers that are not, in fact, what we might consider works of quality. (A Macy's Day Parade of celebrity authors comes to mind...)

And there ARE the giant success stories, with their own mythologies, of authors who self-published at first, only to find fame and fortune and major publishing house contracts later. Think "Eragon." Think "The Celestine Prophecy."

For an upbeat "go for it" assessment of self publishing, check out this article in USA weekend.

For a more measured take on the prospects, check out this great blog entry by Jim C. Hines.

And if we dive into the realm of graphic novels and comics, we find titles like


that are among the growing number of comic and graphic novel titles that have GLBTQ characters and or themes. But 95 % of these are self-published!

That's according to David Paul Brown, one of the team behind the amazing non profit Prism Comics – a non-profit whose mission includes getting the word out about GLBTQ themed comics and graphic novels. Check out their site with links to so many cool titles.

So, I think you can put forth that for a marginalized community, self-publishing enables that first wave of materials to get out to an audience hungry for seeing a reflection of themselves in print.

It's also a way for the maverick authors out there, who are willing to wear the publisher/editor/marketing/sales/distributor/and-everything-else hats, to bypass the traditional path to being published.

But these self-published books are harder to find out about. And harder to get.

So why am I including self-published books on this blogsite?

Because, as a fellow author, I believe these are works of passion, too, that are put out into the world with the hopes that they'll find an audience of Teen and other readers, and I'm glad to help get the word out about their books.

And at the same time, as a fellow reader, I want to let YOU know that their book is one that came to be published in a self-determined way. That's information that, as a reader, I find useful.

So, on this blogsite, you'll see self-published works listed like Kim Wallace's passion-driven and award-winning series
Erik and Isabelle Freshman Year at Foresthill High
Erik and Isabelle Sophmore Year at Foresthill High
Erik and Isabelle Junior Year at Foresthill High
Erik and Isabelle Senior Year at Foresthill High

And you'll see graphic novels like Abby Denson's "Tough Love: High School Confidential," from a small literary publisher, Manic D Press.

And you'll see novels from the major publishing houses, like David Levithan's "Boy Meets Boy!"

My goal is that "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" is as inclusive and thorough a resource as possible for finding out about all the YA books out there with GLBTQ characters and themes!

Thank YOU for being part of this community, and this discussion. Wanna share YOUR take on self-publishing? Click on "comment!"



Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Far From Xanadu

By Julie Anne Peters

Mike (born Mary-Elizabeth) falls for straight Xanadu, the new girl in their small town.

One of many cool things about this novel is that Mike's community in Kansas supports her.

In the author's words: "There are barriers between Mike and Xanadu.
Can a gay person love a straight person? And will the love be returned? Or are there physical and emotional distances that never can - and never should - be crossed?"

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The God Box

By Alex Sanchez

Paul's a High School Senior. He knows he's Gay, but being a Bible Belt Christian he prays to Jesus to change him. Enter Manuel, openly Gay AND Christian.

It rocks Paul's world. Maybe he doesn't have to choose between the two most important parts of himself: his sexuality, and his spirituality.

Or, does he?

I got to hear Alex read three different sections from "The God Box" and I was really moved by its honesty and the main character Paul's inner turmoil. Heartfelt. Brave. Passionate.

Read more about Alex Sanchez here. And add your review of this book in "comments!"

Monday, October 8, 2007

Samurai Love

Today's Bitchin' Queer Quote is about the Samurai, those warriors of old Japan, men of power, martial arts, loyalty, honor, and... gay love?!?

"The sons of samurai families were urged to form homosexual alliances while youth lasted, and often these loves matured into lifelong companionships."

As the introduction to this book of short stories explains, the author of "Comrade Loves of the Samurai," Saikaku Ihara, lived and wrote in the late 1600s in Japan, during a time when "The code of bushido and the knightly samurai declined in importance. Family security and personal pleasure gave a new meaning to a society that savored peace after centuries of devastating clan wars."

In his stories, "Saikaku provides us with a new view of homosexual love, which has a venerable history in Japan."

Isn't that cool? Wow! I wanna go have sushi - right now!

quotes from pgs. ix, xi, and xvii, Introduction to the New Edition, "Comrade Loves of the Samurai" by Saikaku Ihara, translated by E. Powys Mathers. Introduction by Terence Barrow, Ph.D.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Alex Sanchez: Notes From A Reading

Today I'm going to change things up a bit - and give you the FIRST (drumroll...)


Last night I had the great good fortune to see Alex Sanchez

He read from his new book, "The God Box" at a Different Light Bookstore in West Hollywood, CA, and answered lots of audience questions.

I'll post on his book on Tuesday, but I thought his reading and the answers he gave were so juicy and interesting, it deserved a spotlight of its own.

When asked about the re-writing process,
Alex quoted Leonardo Da Vinci's famous line "Art is never finished, only abandoned" and he laughed about how he could keep revising the same book for the rest of his life. At some point you have to say you're done with it.

How does he keep from being too topical or trendy so his stories have “shelf life” but still feel universal?
Alex discussed the funny inversion of how the more specific you are with your characters and your detail, the more readers can identify and the more universal your writing becomes. That’s something it took me years to figure out on my own: When you try to write “universal” it ends up being so general and washed out, no one can ground themselves in it. It doesn’t sing off the page at all.

He shared that he’s gotten better at not mentioning specific music groups or trends that will time-out, but that the changes in technology were unexpected. In his first book, “Rainbow Boys”, the guys are listening to cassette tapes. By the second book “Rainbow High” (what’s supposed to be later that same school year) they are listening to CDs! He laughed that in the third book “Rainbow Road” they should probably be listening to MP3s!

Alex talked about sequels,
How the characters in his books seem to come to life for his readers, and he gets many requests to continue their stories. He shared the advice of his editor: It’s great to fall in love with the characters, but you need a NEW story. It’s not just about having a new plot – you have to figure out how are the characters growing emotionally and changing? What’s their arc of emotional transformation?

Why did he write “The God Box?”

Alex talked about how he needs some aspect of himself in it so he can feel passionate about the book he’s writing. He also shared some really heart-wrenching e-mails from Teen readers (just the content, nothing to identify who wrote what) mainly about their struggles with being Gay and Christian. He realized that while he can’t go and individually rescue these kids, he CAN write his books.

On Bible Study Clubs and Gay Straight Alliance Clubs:
Alex regaled us with the ironic story of the religious right’s fight to have Bible Clubs in public schools – how it went all the way to the Supreme Court where they won the right to have their clubs. When Gay Straight Alliance Clubs started to form, the religious right said, hey, no way! But it was their OWN fight to have Bible Study Clubs that made the law defend the right of students to have Gay Straight Alliance clubs! Isn’t that great?

Alex talked about so much more to the crowd of Adults, some Teens, even a public school librarian!

I’ll share just one last anecdote from the evening.
Alex spoke about librarians – how his vision of them has evolved to recognize that they are really outspoken free speech champions. He shared that often he’ll hear from librarians that they find the Gay and Lesbian titles mis-shelved in their stacks. And then they know that someone is too scared to check it out – they’re reading it in the library, and leaving it in a hidden spot so they can go back and finish it when they can. I’m pretty sure almost every librarian in that situation leaves that book right where it is.

I hope you get a chance to read “The God Box,” (the chapters he read aloud sound amazing) and if Alex is going to be somewhere near you to give a reading, check it out.

I'm glad I did.

Happy Reading and Namaste,


Thursday, October 4, 2007

On Banned Books Week and GLBTQ Teen Novels

"Burned! I didn't think people burned books any more. Only Nazis burn books."

-Nancy Garden on the burning of "Annie On My Mind."

You'd think she was right - haven't we, as a society, grown past Burning, Banning, and Challenging books - all with the goal of "protecting" others from ideas we don't like?

The shocking answer is... No.

There are still people who want to control even the ideas other people have access to. Remember that saying about "the pen is mightier than the sword?" This is where it comes from. Words ARE powerful.

What if you're a Transgender teen? Think about the power of a novel like Ellen Wittlinger's "Parrotfish" that's about a Transgender teen, where it's not a tragedy.

Think about all the teens who identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, or Question the compass of their sexual orientation or gender identity... And take a look at ALL the books listed on the right side of this blogsite!

Now imagine you couldn't GET any of these books to read. Scary, isn't it?

That's why there's Banned Book Week. Check out this amazing comic history of Book Burning by Matt Bors!

And the attempt to ban books is not just about books with GLBTQ content. Just this year, there was an amazing - almost laughable if it weren't true - controversy over the use of the word "scrotum" in Susan Patron's Newbury Award-winning novel, "The Higher Power of Lucky." I'm not kidding. (For a funny take on the controversy, check out the Disco Mermaid's Newbury Jewels!)

What gets me is that it isn't sufficient for the people (usually parents) who object to a book to keep it from their own children (something that will probably only make their kids want to read it more...) but they feel it's their responsibility to keep it from EVERYONE ELSE'S kids, too.

That sense that they are right and they have some right to impose their view on the rest of the world because of it... That's gotten humanity into a lot of trouble.

So how do we fight back?

First, we can read these books!

Second, it's important to know that the First Amendment to our nation's constitution backs up intellectual freedom:

The first amendment reads: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. For more on the First amendment to our nation's constitution, click here.

Third, we can find out about the fight against banning books happening right now.

Check out AS IF! (Authors Supporting Intellectual Freedom.) It's a group that champions those who stand against censorship, especially of books for and about teens.

Here's a list of just SOME of the challenges happening to books THIS YEAR, from the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression's website, which lists, by title, some of the books challenged. More than 1/3 of all the books challenged on their partial list were books with GLBTQ content! (28 out of 75)

And there are other organizations, like the ACLU, that are there to help and give guidance in the fight to keep these books on the shelves! (They helped those Teens in Kansas successfully fight back the ban on "Annie On My Mind!)

So, this week, take a moment and think about how fortunate we are to have these books to protect. To have them in our libraries and homes. And to have them to read!

Doesn't it make you wanna run out and read a banned book, right now?



Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Annie On My Mind

By Nancy Garden

Liza's a High School senior who falls in love with Annie. Now Liza's coming out, dealing with parents and school.

Okay, this seemed a perfect book to feature for Banned Book Week. (Check back Tomorrow for more on Banned book week and GLBTQ YA novels...)

"Annie On My Mind" was not only banned - it was burned. Seriously. In 1993 (yeah, only 14 years ago!) Here in the United States of America. In Kansas City. (The Olathe School District, to be specific.) What happened then? As Nancy puts it:
Finally, it was the subject of a First Amendment lawsuit when a group of courageous teens sued to have it returned to school library shelves. After a trial in 1995, a federal district court judge ruled in the book's favor.
It's amazing to think that people had to fight to have the right to read this book! And also amazing that it was teens that carried the torch of our rights!

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


by Perry Moore

Okay, you gotta LOVE this premise.

Gay teen Thom has supernatural powers but can't let anyone (especially his Dad) know about his two secrets. Then the super-power secret gets out. He apprentices to the big-time League of Superheroes. When he comes out as gay he's kicked out.

But then someone's murdering Superheros and it's up to Thom (with the help of some Superhero friends) to pull it together and become a true...


Did I mention there's even a romance?

Read more about Perry Moore (and the feature on him in "People" Magazine) here. And add your review of "HERO" in comments!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Rumi birthday countdown 1 - Happy Birthday!

Happy Monday, everyone!

Okay, so it's 800 years and one day since the amazing mystical poet Rumi was born.

And for me it's a testament to the power of WORDS, of language, that thoughts he had so long ago can still resonate inside us Today. And not just the power of words across time, but across cultures as well!

To celebrate, here's two Bitchin' Queer Poems by the Sufi Master:
When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you're not here, I can't go to sleep.

Praise God for these two insomnias!
And the difference between them.
pg. 106

and this:
In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.

You dance inside my chest,
where no one sees you,

but sometimes I do,
and that sight becomes this art.
pg. 122

both poems are from "The Essential Rumi," translations by Coleman Barks with John Moyne.

With that as inspiration for a great week,