Friday, July 31, 2009

I'm Here. I'm Queer. And This Blog Has A New Look!

Okay, it's a CONSTRUCTION ZONE! Over the next three days, watch as amazing changes take place before your very eyes...

You'll get to...

Check out the installation of the incredible *NEW* LOGO Banner above, by the amazingly talented Jim Di Bartolo!


I'll slice. And dice. And unveil the *NEW* spiffy and efficient three column format:

Left Side, books by category and by genre!

Center: The latest blog posts!

Right Side: New Cool Stuff, Re-organized Highlights of this blog, LINKS to other great blogs and some essential resources!


And if you're looking for something? Don't forget the SEARCH THIS BLOG SEARCH BOX! (which, uh... will be top left, above the logo!)


I hope you all enjoy the new look and improved functionality of "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?"

Thank you for your patience while I roll it all out!


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Magic and Misery

By Peter Marino

T.J. is 17.

James (a.k.a. Pan) is her gay best friend.

But then T.J. meets and falls for this thoughtful football player in their English class - and this new guy, Caspar, becomes her boyfriend.

And all three of them struggle to figure it out.

Add your review of "Magic and Misery" in comments!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Charles Flowers, Director of The Lambda Literary Foundation: An Exclusive SCBWI Team Blog Interview!

Charles Flowers is the executive director of The Lambda Literary Foundation, and he’ll be the special guest at our Friday August 7th, 2009 GLBTQ Poolside Lunch Chat, taking place during the upcoming Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators’ 38th Annual Summer Conference on Writing and Illustrating for Children, in Los Angeles.

The Lunch will be a unique opportunity to meet and talk with editors, writers, illustrators, and other kid lit industry professionals about creating books with GLBTQ characters and themes.

Similar to attending a high school Gay-Straight Alliance meeting, you don’t have to be GLBTQ to attend – you just have to be cool enough to understand that Children’s Literature with Gay (GLBTQ) content is important!

Here, for your enjoyment, is our virtual (via Facebook IM/Chat) conversation!

Lee: Thanks Charles, for agreeing to this pre-lunch interview! Here we go:

How would you explain to someone who has never heard of your organization what The Lambda Literary Foundation is all about?

Charles: We've finally settled upon a succinct description: Celebrating and Serving LGBT Writers, which will debut on our totally revamped website in a few weeks. Our actual mission statement is: "The Lambda Literary Foundation seeks to elevate the status of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people throughout society by rewarding and promoting excellence among openly LGBT writers who use their work to explore LGBT lives.

Lee: I like them both! But the succinct one is snappier (and I can practically see the T-shirts!)

Charles: We accomplish this mission in a few ways: the Lambda Literary Awards, the Lambda Book Report, the Retreat for Emerging LGBT Writers, and our new website, which will "kick ass," is the term I would use.

Lee: Part of "celebrating" are the Awards - and you've been giving out a "Lammie" in the childrens/young adult category since 1989. 20 years! What patterns, if any, have you seen in terms of submissions?

Charles: Recently, there's been an explosion of LGBT narratives for young adults -- although I think it was the children's picture books, such as "Heather Has Two Mommies" by Leslea Newman that first drew attention to the audience. The majority of books are focused on young adult, rather than children or middle school age, so there's room to expand there. Authors and judges usually ask that we separate those two, but we don't at the moment, because there are not enough picture books or chapter books to justify a separate category.

Lee: It'll be a good day when there are so many GLBTQ themed books that you'll need the separate categories!

One of the other awards you give out is the "Pioneer Awards" and there's been some controversy in the blogosphere about Lambda Literary's choice of recipients being "elitist." What's your take on that?

Charles: I guess it depends on what folks mean by "elitist" -- Lambda Literary does recognize and honor many kinds of writing, not just fiction and poetry, but Mystery, Romance, Erotica, Sci-fi, as well as Young Adult. So it's a little bizarre to be labeled elitist. In terms of Pioneer Awards, we've recognized Ann Bannon who wrote "pulp", Marijane Meeker who wrote pulp and later young adult. I guess I would need to know more about the specific complaint, but I feel that Lambda Literary does a good job about recognizing all the kinds of writing that appeal to LGBT readers.

Lee: I think it's going to always be a challenge, when you're selecting people for those kind of "lifetime achievement awards" to make everyone happy...

While we're Speaking of Pioneers, your remembrance of E. Lynn Harris for the Advocate was really beautiful. I know we both feel his books (and his being a successful, out gay man) made a difference in our world.

Charles: Thanks for your kind words about E. Lynn -- there's a prime example of a "popular" or "commercial" writer who some people did not like, but who, nonetheless, positively affected the lives of many, many gay and bisexual men.

Lee: Where do you see books in the battle for hearts and minds vis-a-vis Gay (GLBTQ) equality?

Charles: Call me crazy, but I think books rule -- it's all about narrative -- think of "Brokeback Mountain" or "Tales of the City" -- these movies/miniseries began as stories, and their big-and small-screen adaptations made a huge difference. I think it would affect our political fight more if more Americans read, but they don't. Where we are most effective is in reaching young readers, who feel they are alone and need affirmation that it's okay to be gay. For many of us (my generation and older), books were the first place we "saw" gay people -- today's kids can see them on tv or movies, for better or for worse, but I'd rather them read Alex Sanchez or Nancy Garden or Jim Howe or Jackie Woodson, than pay attention to Perez Hilton.

Lee: Yeah, I've always thought that since reading a book is an internal experience, where you are creating the world from the words on the page, that books get deeper in towards the mythic level than other forms of storytelling. And for me, that's why books with GLBTQ characters are SO important - happy, successful, fascinating Gay lives need to be part of the myths everyone grows up with!

Charles: Exactly -- I love the novels now that have gay teens in everyday teen stories -- it's not about coming out and accepting yourself, but assuming a role in the world. How you deal with your parents, your best friend, etc. Gay people and teens are becoming less "exotic," as it were.

Lee: Yes! It's like a whole new kind of story can (and is) being told!

Now the "serving" GLBT writers - that must be the Retreat for Emerging LGBT Writers you mentioned. Tell us more about that, please.

Charles: "Serving" lgbt writers can happen in many ways, big and small -- we have the retreat, which is very intensive, and about becoming a better writer, finding a community of peers, mentoring, all of that.

Lee: When does that happen?

Charles: The retreat happened in August 2007 and August 2008 -- we decided not to hold one in 2009 because of the economy, but we're already trying to organize 2010.

We also want to serve writers in a larger sense of bringing attention to their work -- reviewing them, recognizing them as a finalist or winner in the awards -- also nuts and bolts, on our new website, we have a "Writer's Toolbox" area that includes essays about craft, calls for submissions, interviews with authors -- things that can help a writer become a better writer, as well as become published.

Lee: That sounds great! So, the new website will kiss ass, huh? Tell me more!

Charles: "kick" ass, darling, not "kiss ass" :):)

the website i mean

Lee: LOL!

whoops! The perils of fast typing!

Charles: I say "kick ass" because face it, where can folks go to get real reviews (not amazon gushes and character assassinations) about gay books, and to connect with other writers and readers -- it doesn't exist, and we're going to make it happen.

And it will very much be community-driven - the site will be as good as we, and I do mean, "we" in the collective sense, make it -- send us ideas about features, volunteer to review books, send us great new blogs or calls for submissions, send us literary events you're participating in or organizing -- really, we want this to be a "one-stop" shop for lgbt writers and readers- and it will be free! We'll have ads, sure, but no underwear ads or manhunt links (sorry, guys)!@

Lee: There seem to be enough underwear ad sites already!

Charles: Exactly.

Lee: The new website sounds great - I'll be first in line to check it out!

So, what are you most looking forward to in Friday's SCBWI conference lunchtime Poolside GLBTQ Chat?

Charles: I love meeting people who are on the frontlines of the next generation - I want to figure out how Lambda can help and support these writers

Lee: And I'm really looking forward to hosting the poolside chat on SCBWI's behalf. There's so much more to discuss!

Thank you Charles, this was wonderful. See you Friday the 7th!

Charles: Fabulous, thanks Lee!

So, if YOU’LL be at the conference (you can still register, here!) we hope you can come on by and join us Friday Aug 7th, from 12:45pm – 2pm. Bring your lunch, and look for the Gay Pride Rainbow Flag by the pool!

Hope to see you there!


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Walking While GAY - I spent the day wearing my new "Legalize Gay" shirt - and people NOTICED!

Boy, did they ever.

I have never, in my entire life, gotten MORE second looks, more stares, more doubletakes, more discomfort, more people moving OUT OF MY WAY than when I wore this shirt for the first time on Sunday.

On the flip side, I had a bunch of people BEAM at me. Go OUT OF THEIR WAY to be kind. Look at my shirt, then up at me, and then look away with a smile on their face. Start up conversations with me!

It made me think about how I don't LOOK Gay, at least according to the stereotypes. If I'm not holding my husband's hand, or smooching him, it's probably unexpected to see me, with our kid, doing regular Dad things, and know that I'm Gay.

And yet there I was, wearing a T-shirt that tells the world that I'm Gay supportive. Interestingly, the shirt didn't say "Hi, I'm GAY!" It was a statement in support of Gay Equality. And yet, how much self-confidence would a straight man need to wear it?

The experience got me thinking about the whole phenomenon of "Driving while Black," and how for some people, there's NEVER a moment when people don't know their minority status, for bad and for good. I have a new-found sense of humility, realizing the relentlessness with which my non-white friends must deal with everyone's instant reactions to their identity. While I've known this intellectually, it was a different thing entirely to EXPERIENCE it.

Being gay can be different - it's not always so evident on the outside - and wearing those words on my T-shirt made people REACT!

It was exhausting, and sobering, and exhilarating, all at once.

Wearing that shirt made me pretty self-conscious. And very conscious of who was around me. And checking my surroundings to make sure I felt safe where I was.

But wearing that shirt also made me stand up taller. And walk (okay, maybe I strutted a bit...) more confidently. Because if you don't agree with "Legalize Gay," get out of my way.

And then I saw this banner:

Sometimes, being Gay (and wearing it proudly) means having the courage to not care about what other people think!

And you know what? After the entire day in my new "Legalize Gay" shirt, I can't wait to wear it again!

Be Proud!


ps- YOU can get a "Legalize Gay" shirt where I got mine, here!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ellen Hopkins: An Exclusive SCBWI Team Blog Interview!

Ellen Hopkins is not afraid. She’s an awesomely brave and staggeringly honest writer, who explores some of the depths of human experience in her books. Suicide, Cutting, Sexual Abuse, Addiction, Sex, Friendship, Love – the palate of her stories seem to go darker than most. Written as novels where each page and moment is its own concrete poem, the shapes of the words on the page and the spare emotions of the characters sear under our skin. Reading her books, like the New York Times Bestsellers “Crank” and “Impulse,” is an addictive, bitter-sweet, and wrenching experience. She’s a huge talent, and I’m a huge fan.

I had the great fortune to land an exclusive SCBWI Team Blog interview with Ellen Hopkins as part of the countdown to SCBWI’s 38th Annual Summer Conference on Writing and Illustrating for Children, coming up August 7-10, 2009 in Los Angeles. (You can still register!)

Here, for your enjoyment, is our virtual conversation.

Lee: Hi, Ellen. Thanks so much doing this interview with me. I’m super excited about it. Okay, First question: There’s all this noise out in the news media about how fictional character’s mid-deeds lead to real-world teens mis-behaving. Like, in some movie, kids lie down in the middle of the street so cars will drive over them, and then some idiots do that in real life. And all these people blame the movie. And yet, catharsis has- at its core - the exchange of watching someone else make bad decisions so in a sense we’re freed from making those same mistakes ourselves.

You have characters making terrible decisions with serious consequences in your novels – what’s your take on fictional bad decisions – are they bad role modeling? Or are they cathartic?

Ellen: I've had many, many readers write to thank me for allowing them to live vicariously through my characters, and that they will now NEVER do drugs or cut or any of the issues that touch my characters' lives. By seeing how these actions affect not only the person doing them, but also those around them, it gives a real insight into the end result of bad behaviors. I doubt many readers finish CRANK then want to go try it!

Lee: Yeah, absolutely! That's what I believe, too.

Continuing with the idea that fictional characters are stand-ins for real people making choices, I wonder what’s your take on the way authors represent minority characters – there’s a pressure out there that since there are so few representations, the characters can’t be BAD – because then it’s like you’re stereotyping the whole group. How do you deal with this?

Ellen: I think you have to be true to the character whatever their race or sexual orientation. If you listen to your characters, they will speak for themselves. Obviously, there are Latino and black gangs. If you're writing urban fiction, I don't see how you can NOT write those things into your story. Be true to your story, be true to your characters and who cares what the naysayers think!

Lee: In “Impulse,” connecting Tony’s “gay” identity with the abuse he’d experienced made me pretty nervous as a reader. Yet, because other characters were abused and didn’t end up “gay,” and because Tony was so multi-dimensional, it worked for me. Did that connection (abuse to gay orientation) concern you when you worked on the story?

Ellen: Tony is actually my favorite character out of all of them. His sexuality interested me a lot because as I see him, he wasn't "gay" per se. All his early sexual experiences were with men, and because his mother dared to tell him as a little boy that he must be gay, or why would her boyfriend want him, he wasn't sure who he was. I had a gay bookseller once say something about Tony, but he came to think by the end of the book, that "love is love." I see it that way, too.

Lee: Yeah, Love is Love. And sexuality is complex. I think you were really brave in how you handled the fluidity of that character's self-awareness and sexuality.

You tackle some dark spaces in your novels - “Crank” pulled no punches and left me raw. Nowdays the line between YA and Adult books seems to be blurring (Often the way to tell is how much explicit sexual content is there and what’s the age of the protagonist.) And yet, I wonder if there’s something about the themes, or some sense of hope, that makes a YA book different. Do you think YA books are intrinsically different?

Ellen: I think YA authors generally approach issues with a different sensibility than adult authors do. Let's face it. Teens are either having sex or thinking about having sex, so isn't it better to provide adult perspective to something that is such a deep part of every human? Can we not show how important it is to have love be part of sex? I think YA approaches it that way, rather than as titillation.

Lee: That makes a ton of sense to me. Sorry it doesn't fly for so many in West Bend, Wisconsin (with their whole book burning controversy)!

Ellen: Book banning is a real hot button issue for me. And burning? AAAAGH! No one has the right to choose for everyone what is or isn't "fit" to read.

Lee: Yeah. It makes me want to scream, but that's not so effective. People who want to shut off information to other people aren't keeping their minds open to discourse... So I think the best response is to use the controversy to promote the heck out of the books - and hope that MORE people read them after a challenge than before - that may be the only way to ultimately stop the conservative impulse to remove books from other people's reach.

Ellen: As the article said, put "You May Not Read This" on the cover, who wouldn't want to read it to find out why not? Especially teens!

Lee: LOL - I'm remembering being a teenager and scanning the TV Guide for movies rated "R" - I didn't really care what they were about, I was just soooo curious. It was such a quintessential teenager moment for me.

Ellen: Well see, as a teen myself, there wasn't a lot of great YA available... Judy Blume was about it. So I went straight to very adult fare, including Erica Jong and Jacqueline Susann.

Lee: That's reading UP! And, speaking of that, we hear all the time that kids read UP. But, sometimes (like when I hear about a third grader reading “Twilight”) I get nervous that they’re reading too far up. What’s your feeling about the age of YOUR readers?

Ellen: Every teen's experience is so different, it's hard to really say what is "too young." I've had readers as young as 11 write (seems very young, but they seemed very mature) and as old as 72. There is some fairly heavy content in my books--some more than others. TRICKS, which releases next month, is about teen prostitution. No way to write that book "real" without including some fairly graphic scenes. That, I guess, is where parents come in to look at what their kids are reading and say okay or not.

Lee: Yeah, as a parent, I care what my kid reads! I do want to ask, since we're talking about keeping books "real"... You are a MASTER at voice - your characters do feel "real!" Is there a tip you can share with us, for ‘how to find the voice of your character?’

Ellen: Well, I will go more in depth with this at the teen voice workshop I'm presenting in LA, but basically I know my characters well before I write anything. Then I let them talk not only to me, but through me. I don't dumb down language. Don't try for vernacular. I just listen.

Lee: That sounds like an amazing workshop - I can't wait! Since you're both a NYTimes Bestselling Author AND a SCBWI Regional Advisor (for Nevada), what single piece of advice would you offer to someone planning to attend this summer's conference?

Ellen: LA is an amazing conference, but with so much there, it can feel overwhelming. Don't try to do everything. Look at the schedule and decide what you HAVE to see. Then let it be okay to take an hour to nap or write or just unwind somewhere.

Lee: That's great advice. Some of the best conference moments for me in years past were when I skipped a session in favor of sitting down to talk with someone more...

Ellen: Oh yeah. The networking is one of the best parts. I've made great, lifetime friends in LA.

Lee: And speaking of more, we're almost done! 2 questions left:

You are also a MASTER at social networking and marketing your books. (Of course, your work is brilliant, so once people check it out, they’re hooked – but you get them to check it out!) You mentioned at the SCBWI Asilomar Conference this past February that you have a ton of fans on myspace (16,556 as of today!), I’ve seen you on Twitter, and this interview is being done through your facebook and my facebook IM/Chat feature. For most of the rest of us mortals, it’s hard to do it all. Can you help prioritize and explain the differences as you see it between Myspace, Facebook and Twitter?

Ellen: A YA author needs MySpace, where you really connect with a wide range of readers. Facebook tends to be older readers, or at least a bit more mature. Many of my old MySpace readers are now on Facebook. Twitter for me is a real connection to industry professionals. Yes, readers are following my "tweets," but most of the "talking" I do there is with other authors, editors, agents, etc. This also lets our "followers" feel like they're almost voyeurs, I think.

Lee: I just started on Twitter this week - it's a fascinating beast. (140 characters at a time!)

Last question: Can you let me scoop the name of your keynote at the conference? (also, if you give me the day and time, I'll include that!)

Ellen: Saturday, 1:45 (after lunch). Not For the Faint of Heart: The Climb to the Top

Lee: Wonderful! I'll be there, in the front row! Thank you so much, Ellen. We covered some great stuff, and I can't wait to see you at the Summer Conference!

Ellen: Thanks, Lee.

Lee: You ROCK!

Isn't Ellen AMAZING?

Thanks for reading this in-depth interview - and keep clicking back for more great SCBWI Summer Conference scoops and interviews as we continue the countdown to the summer conference! (Now only 11 days away!!!)


Friday, July 24, 2009

Elizabeth (Betsy) Bird's Music Video Celebrating the Caldecott!

Don't you wish YOUR Children's librarian was this cool? I do!

(Oh, and how's this for some amazing inside information? The band in Betsy's video was really the multi-talented editor Namrata Tripathi!)

I think in a celebrity death match (remember those claymation battles?) between Betsy Bird, of Fuse #8 (the unparalleled School Library Journal Blog) and New York Public Library FAME, and

Marian The Librarian (from "The Music Man")

Oh, that line "What do you want to take out?"

"The Librarian."

...Betsy would win. After all, she has those magic Caldecott flying gold seals with which she can blind Shirley Jones!

Enjoy the videos,

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Letters In The Attic

By Bonnie Shimko

Lizzy is 12. After her parents split, she and her mother move in with her grandparents in a new state.

That's where Lizzy has to deal with all the firsts: first bra, first period, first boyfriend... and first love... WITH ANOTHER GIRL!

And then, there are her mother's old letters she discovers in the attic...

Add your review of "Letters in the Attic" in comments!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Just A Boy

by Rob Clinger

Jove is a wrestler at his high school.

He's secretly crushing on Jason, the cute (and closeted) gay guy next door, and NOT on his "girlfriend," Beth.

But it's time to figure out what first kisses mean... and who will accept Jove for who he really is!

Add your review of "Just a Boy" in comments!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I'm On Twitter!

Come on by, and follow me on Twitter! I've even added a nifty link to my Twitter profile in the right hand column of this blogsite...

So, what am I going to tweet about?

New Gay Words and what they mean (like today's "Heterophobia!")

Exclusive mini-posts on Gay Stuff, Writing Stuff, and My Queer take on our World (like my planned ode: Am I the only one who misses Kupono's parade of outfits on So You Think You Can Dance? - that guy had style!)

And I'll re-tweet (RT) The Cool and The Crazy (like yesterday's news piece about the USA car dealership that's giving away a free AK-47 assault rifle with the purchase of any pickup truck! And then, of course, I suggested that with every Prius you buy, they throw in an electric stun gun!)

It's stuff you won't get here at the blog, it'll be awesome, so come join me as we explore the brave new world and community of Twitter together!

Onwards and Upwards, everyone!


(I found the cute twitter bird graphic here)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Holly Black: An exclusive SCBWI Team Blog Interview!

Holly Black is one of my heroes. She’s an incredibly talented writer, obsessed (in the best way) with the fantasy worlds of the faerie, and she takes us, her readers, on amazing nail-biting journeys. In “Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale,” a wonderful dark and edge-of-your-seat fantasy, while it was the story of 16 year old Kaye, it was also the story of Corny, a gay teen. For including Corny in the world of Faerie, for including gay people in her staggering flight of fantasy, I will always be one of Holly Black’s most enthusiastic fans.

I had the good fortune to land an exclusive SCBWI Team Blog interview with Holly Black as part of the countdown to SCBWI’s 38th Annual Summer Conference on Writing and Illustrating for Children, coming up August 7-10, 2009 in Los Angeles. (You can still register for it!)

Here, for your enjoyment, is our virtual conversation.

Lee: Hi, Holly. First, let me thank you for agreeing to be interviewed here. I’m really looking forward to this. Ready? Here goes. First question: What’s a perfect writing day for you?

Holly: A perfect writing day is a day where I get a ton of pages written and am able to jot down lots of notes for the book as a whole. Maybe it's the day when I figure out the important twist or something that makes a character I've been struggling with come alive. It's when the pages I produce won't have to be massively revised; instead, they're full of lines that express exactly the feeling I was hoping for.

The perfect writing day almost never happens.

Lee: That made me laugh - but it's good to know what a perfect day WOULD be. You write both Middle Grade and Young Adult novels. Can you tell us what you see as the difference in how you approach those stories?

Holly: I think that whenever I am writing a book, I try and cast myself in the characters' headspace. And when I'm writing middle grade, I try to remember what it felt like to be nine and ten and twelve. What I noticed. What I was interested in. When I'm writing teen books I try to remember what it was like to be sixteen or eighteen or twenty. What I was really doing. What's true. And from there, it's easy to differentiate the way the stories will go.

Lee: That's makes so much sense. Kind of like we writers have to have these multiple ages of arrested development, so we can remember what it was like to be our character's ages!

Here's something I've been wondering: In the world of picture books, there is very little interaction between the writer and the illustrator (unless of course, they’re the same person!) You’ve worked with Tony DiTerlizzi (a writer and illustrator) on the many amazing books in the Spiderwick Chronicles series, and with Ted Naifeh (an illustrator) on the awesome graphic novel “The Good Neighbors.” What’s your vision on the collaboration between words and pictures?

Holly: Actually, what I learned from those experiences was how different it was to work with different artists. With Tony, we'd sit down and discuss the plot together, then I'd go off and write while he drew and we'd send work back and forth with comments. With Ted, we had a much more traditional collaboration. I wrote each of the books and we did briefly discuss the plot (Ted gave me a great idea, in fact - one that changed the whole series) but mostly we each did our work in relative isolation. Right now I am working on a project with the illustrator Rebecca Guay tentatively titled Angels Fall - and that's different too. Like all relationships, each collaboration has its natural flow and finding that is the challenge and, ideally, the fun.

Lee: That makes a lot of sense - just like any two creative people would have different ways of collaborating. You know, I actually listened to the Spiderwick Chronicles as an audio book in my car before I ever saw any of the illustrations, and it completely worked for me. Then I got the books out from the library, and it was so interesting to "see" the characters from Tony's artistic vision. I imagine that if I'd read them with the illustrations first, it would also have been wonderful, but it would have been a different KIND of wonderful. You have books in print, books on audio, and even books made into movies. What do you feel is the ideal way (or order) for people to encounter your stories?

Holly: I feel like as a writer, I hope people will read my books. Listening to them (and certainly viewing them as a film) changes the experience, which is fine too. People should choose the way they like best. There's no wrong way.

Lee: I find that sometimes, there’s this sense that if the literature is going to have so few representations of a minority, there’s an effort to not show that minority character in a bad light - which sometimes leads to them lacking any flaws, and thus being boring. The flip side is that any “bad” traits of the character can seem like you’re stereotyping the entire group.

When you’re writing a character who is part of an under-represented group (like Corny, the gay teen in “Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale”), how do you deal with the pressure of “role modeling” the character?

Holly: The more a character is a complex, layered person, the less that character stands in for any one group, but it's also our job as writers to be responsible in our portrayals. Knowing stereotypes is important, not just in terms of avoiding them but also because the character would be aware of them. And I think it's important to know people in the group being represented.

With Corny, I wanted to reflect some of my gay friends who aren't great a picking out clothes, love computers and other geeky stuff, and who don't fit in easily to mainstream culture, even mainstream gay culture. But Corny's got a lot of other stuff going on with him. Although far from perfect, he's probably the person I identify the best with in all the Modern Faerie Tale books. All his mistakes are ones I think I would make if I was suddenly allowed access to Faerie. I'm glad, though, that in Ironside, he had a chance to work through some of what happened to him in Tithe and also to get a much happier (and deservedly so - he was really put through the wringer) ending.

Lee: Yeah, I loved Corny's character. And I thought you were very brave in including the implied masochistic aspects of Corny’s initial attraction to Nephamael. Can you talk about that choice?

Holly: I think in any kind of relationship where one person has all the power and can literally convince you that pain causes you pleasure, there is going to be a masochistic aspect.

Tithe, as a book, has a lot of power games going on with all the characters. Kaye has total control over Roiben who is also being controlled by Nicnevin because of a promise of servitude he gave to Silarial. Corny is controlled by Nephamael (Nephamael also has control over Roiben at a later part of the book). Faeries are capricious beings, except when bound by promises. It's the only thing rigid about their nature and I was really interested in that. I don't think that Corny is the only person in the book who comes off as a bit of a masochist.

Lee: Yes, the power games were fascinating. I love how you were brave enough to make your gay character a full player!

You had this beautiful pivot moment in “The Good Neighbors. Book One: Kin” where the teen girl character says (pg. 79, for those of you reading along), “A lot of kids have this fantasy that secretly they’re really the princess of a foreign country. Turns out that pretty much sucks.” That theme, that access to a secret world changes you and you can’t go back to your “normal” life before, is something I also see in the world of Tithe, and in the Spiderwick Chronicles. What are the through-lines YOU see in your writing?

Holly: I write a lot about going back home - both metaphorically like where the Grace kids return to a family home, but one they personally have never been in and in the sense of Kaye literally returning to the place where she grew up. I also write a lot about balancing between two worlds or two aspects of yourself. Kaye doesn't want to stay in Faerie forever, Roiben has to figure out how to balance beween the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, and in the Spiderwick books Arthur Spiderwick illustrates the perils of a life out of balance.

Lee: I love how you put that. So, with the Summer SCBWI conference quickly approaching, what single piece of advice would you offer to someone planning to attend?

Holly: It's good, I think, to have some goals going in. Maybe you want to focus on some aspect of technique that's really bothering you--like figuring out how to improve your dialogue. Maybe you want to connect with other people for a critique group. Maybe you want to hear about new and interesting agents. Having something [as] a focus helps me remember that it's not possible to do everything. Other than that, have fun and let all the rest happen spontaneously.

Lee: I agree that going into the four day "kidbookapalooza" with a specific intent - at the same time as being open to serendipity - is a great way to approach it. And, the final question of our interview... Would you let me scoop the name of your talk at the conference? (Also, if you know the day and time you'll be speaking I'll include that info for the interview readers!)

Holly: I'm going to be talking about the basics of fantasy writing on Saturday the 9th at 9:30AM. I will be guzzling a lot of coffee to be awake at that hour. Hope you'll come out so I can meet you in person, Lee.

Lee: I'll be there, even if I have to arrive astride a kelpie!

Thank you Holly, for a wonderful interview. I hope all our readers will enjoy it as much as I did!


Friday, July 17, 2009


By Ellen Hopkins

Three teens.

Tony popped too many pills.

Vanessa cut herself.

Connor put a gun to his chest and pulled the trigger.

And yet, they all failed at suicide.

Now they're in a Betty-Ford-style upscale treatment center, and though they're from completely different worlds, they come together and form the most unlikely of friendships.

Sex, abuse, addiction, sexuality, and love are all huge drivers that landed them inside. But can they figure out a way to survive not just life inside, but the life outside that drove them to try to kill themselves in the first place?

Told in a rush of poems, this New York Times Bestselling novel grabs you and doesn't let go!

Add your review of "Impulse" in comments!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Daddy, Papa, and Me

By Leslea Newman, illustrated by Carol Thompson

The child in this board book is a rambunctious toddler, with two loving Dads:

Daddy and Papa.

There's a rhyming day full of the family's activities: dress up, painting, paper airplanes, baking a pie, playing instruments, sewing up a doll, tossing a ball, and playing outdoors. At the end of which our heroine (or hero, again it's drawn so we can imagine the child being either a girl or a boy) says:

"Does anybody need a rest?"

Daddy and Papa say, "Yes, yes, yes!"

Now Daddy and Papa are tucked in tight.

I kiss them both and say "Night-night!"

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book. Being a father in a two Dad family, this book means so much to me. And it's really books like this, read by gay and straight families alike, that will help change our world for the better.

Thank you, Leslea and Carol!

Thank you!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mommy, Mama, and Me

By Leslea Newman, illustrated by Carol Thompson

Finally, a GLBTQ Family board book for the youngest kids!

A very young (shown standing up but not yet walking) child has two moms:

Mommy and Mama.

In soft lilting rhymes, there's a day of little moments -
"Mommy picks me up, up, up. Mama pours juice in my cup."
There's an outing, a nap, cooking together, a bath, and then our first person hero (or heroine, the illustrations leave it open for us to interpret the child's gender) is tucked in and kissed goodnight.

It's Lovely.

Absolutely lovely.

This book will make a huge difference to all those kids who are part of two Mom families. And it will help make our world a better place, for everyone else who reads it will clearly see that what binds together GLBTQ-headed families is the same thing that binds together heterosexual-headed families: LOVE!

Thank you, Leslea and Carol! I sure wish this board book had been read to me when I was a little kid!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dumb Jock

By Jeff Erno

Jeff is a nerd.

Brett is a jock.

Jeff has to tutor Brett to pass English so Brett can keep his quarterback position on the High School varsity squad.

The tutoring sessions help Jeff come out of his shell and reveal hidden depths to Brett. And the friendship between Jeff and Brett grows into first love.

But, the world, and high school, isn't always kind to same-gender first love...

"Dumb Jock" is a work of passion that Jeff self-published through print-on-demand company Xlibiris.

Add your review of "Dumb Jock" in comments!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Countdown to the Summer SCBWI Conference... 4 weeks to go until the 4 day "Kidbookapalooza!"

Okay, 24 days until the big 38th Annual Summer Conference on Writing and Illustrating for Children, August 7-10, 2009, in Los Angeles, CA!

The conference will be AMAZING, with opportunities to learn and schmooze and grow with writers and editors and agents and illustrators and art directors and other industry professionals!

And, to help us all get excited about the veritable candy-store of good stuff that the four day conference will present, as part of SCBWI TEAM BLOG,

I know, I know, perhaps it's a bit too much "branding,"
but I like having the logo!

I'll be sharing some exclusive interviews with some incredible people over the next 23 days...

I'd tell you who now, but then, where would the surprise be?

Here's what's NOT a surprise - this list of jaw-droppingly talented people speaking at the conference!

Can you believe we'll get to hear luminaries like these???

Holly Black (Tithe! Spiderwick Chronicles!) New York Times Bestseller and Andre Norton Award Winner!

Ellen Hopkins (Crank! Impulse!) New York Times Bestseller!

Sherman Alexie (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian!) National Book Award Winner!

David Wiesner (Flotsam! Tuesday!) All those amazing no-word picturebooks! Multiple Caldecott Award Winner!

Kathleen Duey (Skin Hunger!) National Book Award Finalist!

And all these Golden Kite Award Winners!

Honestly, it's going to be amazing. You can still register!

And stay tuned here at "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" for some GREAT early Conference SCOOPS!

All right, can you tell I'm excited about this? Or have I been too subtle, having used 19 exclamation points in, um... (wait, I'm counting...) 16 sentences?

Hey, let me know in comments if you're planning to be there! (argh! 20! oh no, that makes 22, I can't control it...)


Friday, July 10, 2009

Martina, Martina, Martina... What are you THINKING???

Martina Navratilova is a gay icon. A gay civil rights pioneer.

She's the face of the Rainbow Endowment.

And because she doesn't want to share her financial assets with her ex-partner/lover/wife (they had TWO ceremonies!) of eight years, Martina has her lawyers in court arguing that because she's a woman who was in a relationship with another woman, the rules of heterosexual divorce shouldn't apply.

Well, guess what, Martina?

If we fight for marriage, we fight for divorce as well.

And, like this great article by Louis Bayard in Salon says so well, Marriage is a prize, but it also comes with a price.

Come on!

We need you as a role model. As a gay icon.

Suck it up, and pay the damn price of equality, Martina.

And, um... better luck with wife #3.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Leave Myself Behind

By Bart Yates

Noah is 17 when his Dad dies and his mom, a poet, moves them from Chicago to a rural New England town.

They have to renovate their house, and as they tear down crumbling walls they discover little time capsules, clues to the disappearance of the woman who lived there before...

And Noah finds himself drawn to J.D., the teenage boy down the street. Soon Noah and J.D.'s friendship becomes a full-on love affair, and it shatters the calm - and the facades - all around them.

Add your review of "Leave Myself Behind" in comments!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Realm Of Possibility

By David Levithan

Twenty kids. One high school.

Their stories are poems. Their lives connect.

A gay couple celebrate their one year anniversary.

A girl has a crush on another girl, who is straight.

There are popular kids. And outcasts. And so many types of love and heartbreak and hope...

It's all part of the realm of possibility.

Add your review of "The Realm of Possibility" in comments!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Crash Into Me

By Albert Borris

Four Teens.




And Jin-Ae, a lesbian.

They meet on-line after each of them has tried - and failed - to kill themselves.

They make a pact. They'll go on a road trip together. They'll visit the sites of celebrities who committed suicide.


Kurt Cobain.

And then, at the end of their trip, they'll kill themselves.

But on their journey, they start to bond. Hook up. Live life.

Will they follow through with their plan? Or will they take a different road?

"Crash Into Me" officially releases today. Learn more about the debut author in yesterday's post, and at his great website, here.

Add your review of "Crash Into Me" in comments!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Albert Borris, the Class of 2K9, and the meaning of "Community"

For the 4th of July, we celebrate our country's independence.

I would offer that we should celebrate our inter-connected-ness. Our sense of community. Of brotherhood.


is what it's called in French.

And in the world of books for teens, here's a great story about fraternité in action.

Albert Borris

Debut YA novelist Albert Borris has a way with words. Or rather, had a way with words. This past December, just months before the release of CRASH INTO ME (Simon Pulse), Albert suffered a stroke so powerful, his doctors told him he was lucky to be alive.

And alive he is, having made a full physical recovery, enough to roughhouse with his two young sons and work out at the gym. However, Albert is still working on recovering something else: his words.

To be sure, they are all up there in his brilliant mind. He just can’t get them out – verbally or on paper – in the correct order, yet. But he’s working on it.

Prior to his stroke, Albert was a full time teen counselor, husband and father. He also served as Co-President of The Class of 2k9, a group of 22 debut middle grade and young adult novelists banding together to promote their books. Words were his thing. Communicating with others, in person and on the page, was his specialty.

As his friends and fellow debut novelists, we, the Class of 2k9, are making it our business to get the word out about Albert and his novel, CRASH INTO ME.

In a way, this whole real-life story echoes something Albert has up on his blog, in his "A Personal Note," talking about his personal philosophy:

Not all things are good, but good can come of all things.

Albert's stroke was definitely NOT good, but this example of community, and caring, and the kidlitosphere and the Class of 2k9 reaching out to help someone else - an author in need - simply because it's a kind thing to do... That IS Good!

Tomorrow, Albert's book, "Crash Into Me" releases, and I'll post on it. I'll tell you what it's about, which main character in it is GLBTQ, and why it sounds like such a great read!

You can learn more about the amazing group of debut authors that make up the Class of 2k9 here!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Free to Be You and Me... and Free to transition from Chastity to Chaz


We celebrate it here in the U.S.A. tomorrow: July 4th, 2009.


Part of being free and independent is being true to ourselves. Being out, and honest, and open about who we are and how we feel.

There's been a lot of noise about Chastity Bono's announcement that she is transitioning from female to male (and the failed reality show shopping of that transition), and that as a man, he will be known as Chaz Bono.

Chaz Bono

And all I really have to add is "Yeah. Follow your heart. Be true to yourself."

We GLBTQ Americans may not have achieved full equality yet here in the U.S.A., but we're on the road. Having someone of Chastity's celebrity stature stand up and be open about her truly feeling like a man inside, and the fact that she's going to be transitioning in a public way, and that she'll emerge as a man, is a huge step towards making the Transgender community less foreign, and less of a mystery, and less scary to the rest of society.

The more people know those that seem "other," the harder it is to keep their prejudices against them.

Tomorrow, when I'm at my town's parade and fireworks, I'm going to know that part of the celebration is for Chaz. And you. And gay me.

Because we're fortunate enough to live in a country where we ARE free to be you, and me...and Chaz is free to be work towards the day when he can finally be himself.

In a world where not everyone is free to be true to themselves, those of us fortunate enough to be in countries where we can live honest, open lives should absolutely celebrate it.

And maybe we can work towards the day when no matter where a kid is born on this planet Earth, they can grow up and be true to themselves.

Now THERE'S a future goal worth celebrating!

Namaste and Happy 4th of July!


Thursday, July 2, 2009


By Rosa Guy

After Ruby's Mom dies, she's torn from the life she knew in the West Indies to live with her Dad in Harlem.

New York seems cold and friendless, until 18 year old Ruby meets Daphne - someone who seems her opposite: cool, cultured, refined. And then...

Opposites attract!

Add your review of "Ruby" in comments!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

President Obama Talks More Talk... But it's pretty wonderful talk!

The truth is when these folks protested at Stonewall 40 years ago no one could have imagined that you -- or, for that matter, I -- (laughter) -- would be standing here today. (Applause.) So we are all witnesses to monumental changes in this country. That should give us hope, but we cannot rest. We must continue to do our part to make progress -- step by step, law by law, mind by changing mind. And I want you to know that in this task I will not only be your friend, I will continue to be an ally and a champion and a President who fights with you and for you.

President Obama, at a LGBT Pride month reception Monday afternoon (June 29, 2009) at the White House.

I have to say, it's pretty wonderful talk -
read the full transcript here at the white house web site! -
and an article about the reception, here.
There's even a video of the event here!

Here's another choice quote from our President's remarks:

But I say this: We have made progress and we will make more. And I want you to know that I expect and hope to be judged not by words, not by promises I've made, but by the promises that my administration keeps. And by the time you receive -- (applause.) We've been in office six months now. I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration. (Applause.)

Okay President Obama, sounds good. But we're still waiting for ACTION!