Saturday, July 31, 2010

The SCBWI 2010 Summer Conference: Day Two!!



Whoo-wee! We're going strong!

Gordon Korman, Marion Dane Bauer, E.B. Lewis and Gail Carson Levine are all giving keynotes in the main room today!

And there's a morning literary agent panel with Ginger Clark (you can check out my fellow SCBWI Team Blogger Jolie Stekly's pre-conference interview with Ginger here), Lisa Grubka, Ken Wright, and Josh Adams (check out my pre-conference interview with Josh here!) that should be really interesting.


There are fantastic morning and afternoon workshops - including an afternoon workshop called "A Look at the LGBTQ Marketplace" with Arthur A. Levine, Aaron Hartzler, and Tony Valenzuela . Oh, and me! Yes, It's my 1st time on an SCBWI Panel - I'm excited and honored and have so much to share... and did I mention I'm excited?

There's a lunchtime Los Angeles Region Meet-and-Greet in the hospitality suite, so if you're a local, stop on by and say "Hi" to Claudia Harrington, and Edie Pagliasotti, our Regional Advisors, and Sarah Laurenson, our ARA!

Right after Gail Carson Levine's Keynote (around 5:30pm) there's going to be a NaPiBoWriWee reunion hosted by the powerhouse author Paula Yoo in the main lobby - which should be crazy fun to hang out with the other authors who each wrote a picture book a day for 7 days! (You can find out more about the NaPiBoWriWee reunion at Paula's blog.)

And today also boasts the illustrator's portfolio showcase from 5:30pm-7:30pm, and, of course, the Dinner and Poolside GALA, "Heart and Soul Celebration."

I'll be wearing some kind of red... and will be blogging and dancing up a storm!

How about you?

Namaste,
Lee


Friday, July 30, 2010

The SCBWI 2010 Summer Conference: Day One!




I'm really excited - it's one of my favorite times of the year - The Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators' Summer Conference here in Los Angeles.

Here's what you need to know:

Tweets about the conference will be under #LA10SCBWI - you can follow that hashtag to keep up with all the twitter talk! And you can follow me on Twitter here.

The Official SCBWI Conference Blog is here at http://scbwiconference.blogspot.com/

Things NOT to miss:

Friday Morning: Jon Scieszka's Keynote - this should be amazing - he was the very first Ambassador for Young People's Literature in our country!

Also, M.T. Anderson's Keynote - he is such an incredible writer and you must check out the interview he did with me - I learned so much from his answers, and it's one of the talks I'm MOST excited about from the whole conference!


Lunchtime: Once again, I'm honored to host the

LGBTQ Poolside Lunch Chat from 12:45-2:00pm

Come join me, Lambda Literary Executive Director Tony Valenzuela, and Vice President at Scholastic Inc. and the Editorial Director of Arthur A. Levine Books, Arthur A. Levine in an informal discussion about Writing and Illustrating for LGBTQ and Allied Kids and Teens.

After lunch there's an editor panel with Claudia Gabel, Brenda Murray, Jennifer Rees and Nick Eliopulos (you can check out my pre-conference interview with Nick here), moderated by Krista Marino. That should be stellar.

There are fantastic morning and afternoon workshops - so many it's hard to choose!, an afternoon keynote by illustrator Loren Long, and even peer critiques and yoga at night!

There's also an informal non-fiction "mixer" happening at 7:30 p.m. in a room called Olympic 2 - Thanks to Alexis O'Neill for the heads up on that!


I'll be at this first day of the conference having a grand time, learning a ton, and working with the rest of SCBWI Team Blog to capture a taste of all the excitement for everyone.

If you get a chance, stay "Hi!"

Namaste,
Lee


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Queer Teens Responding To Adversity: Constance McMillen Wins Her Lawsuit Over Cancelled and then Fake Prom


"I'm so glad this is all over. I won't ever get my prom back, but it's worth it if it changes things at my school," McMillen said in a press release. "I hope this means that in the future students at my school will be treated fairly. I know there are students and teachers who want to start a gay-straight alliance club, and they should be able to do that without being treated like I was by the school."

-Constance McMillen


So I know you've been following this story, here and elsewhere, about how 18 year old Constance McMillen wanted to take her girlfriend to her Mississippi high school's prom, and wear a tux.

Her school freaked out, told her she couldn't.

When she insisted it was her right, they cancelled the prom rather than let her attend.

When she and the ACLU took them to court, the court said the private prom that had been planned instead was sufficient - as long as Constance was invited.

Constance showed at the prom with her girlfriend only to discover that it was a 'fake' prom - only 5 other students were there. All the rest of her schoolmates were celebrating at a 'real' private prom elsewhere.

Well the case finally resolved, and Constance WON!

McMillen's lawyers filed notice Monday in U.S. District Court to accept a judgment offer from the Itawamba County School District that will pay $35,000, plus attorney's fees. As part of the agreement, the school district also said it would follow a policy not to discriminate based on sexual orientation in any educational or extracurricular activities or allow harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.


It's good stuff, but Constance has paid a price for standing up for herself and other queer teens:

...being shunned in her small hometown of Fulton.

"I knew it was a good cause, but sometimes it really got to me. I knew it would change things for others in the future and I kept going and I kept pushing," McMillen said in an interview Tuesday.
Constance has really trailblazed for GLBTQ Teens, and it's great to see her being recognized for it - she was the Grand Marshall at the New York City Gay Pride Parade this June, and is even reportedly filming a gay rights documentary this summer!

How amazing to take setbacks that might have stopped other people, and rally back to fight... and ultimately win so others won't have to fight the same prejudice in the future.

Thanks, Constance!

I'm really proud of you.

Namaste,
Lee

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How They Met, And Other Stories - A Collection of GLBTQ Short Stories

By David Levithan

Published in 2008 by Alfred A. Knopf

One Valentines Day during physics class, David Levithan decided to write a story about love to entertain his friends. The tradition carried on and from it bloomed this amazing collection of stories, all about love. Each one takes an in-depth look at all the different stages of love, from the familiar to the unrequited. This is a great, fun, and sweet read.


“Starbucks Boy”
The first story in this collection addresses the natural phenomenon that occurs in every neighborhood Starbucks- the cute boy behind the counter. Gabriel’s summer job babysitting the bossy and domineering Arabella takes an interesting turn when he encounters the Starbucks Boy during the 10 year old’s daily coffee run, but this time Gabriel decides that it could be something more.


“Ms Lucy Had a Steamboat”
Ms. Lucy had a steamboat, the steamboat had a bell, Ms. Lucy went to Heaven and the steamboat went to—
All her life, Lucy knew she was different. The only other Lucy she could relate to was the one in the elementary school song. When Ashley comes to town Lucy falls head-over-heels for her, however it doesn’t take long for Lucy to realize that Ashley isn’t doing the same.


“The Alumni Interview”
Meeting his closeted boyfriend’s father is awkward enough for Ian, besides the fact that his boyfriend’s father is the alumnus interviewing Ian for his first-choice college. Ian must brave the interview all while trying to understand why Thom’s father won’t let his son be who he is.


“The Good Witch”
Damon thought he was taking a safe date to prom by asking Sally, a girl he knew from math class, so that none of his seven friends-who-are-girls would get offended. That was until Sally came downstairs on prom night dressed as Glinda the Good Witch: Prom Edition and started hitting on him in an “amateur seductive” way. But there was another reason why Damon didn’t want to be with Sally: Damon is gay.


“Lost Sometimes”
Dutch and Eric are extremely attracted to each other and a little too over-enthusiastic about showing it. In fact, they have done it just about everywhere-- school, burger king, you name it. But at prom Eric starts to realize that he isn’t just satisfied with a physical relationship and he wants to hear those three little words.


“Princes”
With Jon’s brother Jeremy’s Bar Mitzvah coming up, Jon feels even more separated from his family. He commutes to New York every day for his dance school and falls hopelessly in love with his teacher Graham. With the support of his friend Miles, Jon fights for the right to bring Graham to the Bar Mitzvah and Jeremy comes through for Jon in more ways than Jon thought possible.


“Breaking and Entering”
Unable to let go of his boyfriend Cody, who went off to college, Peter breaks into Cody’s house using the hidden key under the flowerpot. With the help of Cody’s mother in Cody’s old room Peter learns that he must say goodbye to what they had and learn to start anew.


- Posted by Hannah

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How Beautiful The Ordinary - A GLBTQ Teen Short Story Anthology


Edited by Michael Cart

Published in 2009 by HarperTeen

Contrary to the title, the beautiful part of this anthology is that it is anything but ordinary. Each story portrays a unique take on being homosexual. Whether it’s about two boys who find a genie, or a relationship that develops over the internet, no story is alike. Each one utilizes a different form of writing, ranging from comic books to even script form. Incredibly diverse with a rich cast of characters and extremely unique story-telling, this collection is an incredibly fun must-read.

“A Word from the Nearly Distant Past” by David Levithan
This story, from which the book borrows its title, is told by a mysterious “we”. The “we” is homosexuals from generations past who are looking down on the homosexuals of the present. They observe a boy going to his boyfriend’s house with a pack of diet coke and a couple with pink and blue hair meeting at a LGBTQ prom. The “we” gives insight on the past, the present and the future. Told beautifully, this story reminds us to live every day to the fullest and push boundaries while appreciating the progress made.


“Happily Ever After” by Eric Shanower
The narrator of this story, which is told in comic book style, has a best friend Mark, who he makes out with. While the narrator is comfortable in his sexuality Mark still won’t admit that he is gay to himself or his strict dad. When the boys discover Genie Fouadi-Wadi-Wasr-Ras-Daroun-Boun-Ali-Meht-Ma-Hani-Pal the Perspicacious (try saying that 5 times fast) they are each granted one wish. Just as the narrator wishes for him and Mark to be together forever, Mark wishes not to be gay. The two boys are driven apart for the next couple of years and they must decide what they really want and who they really are.


“My Life As a Dog” by Ron Koertge
Noah is just like any college student daunted by coming out of the closet to his parents, except for the fact that Noah’s alter-ego is a dog. When Noah is a dog he is able to be free from his troubles. However, after a tragic incident one night Noah must face his fears and, with the help of his boyfriend Robbie, tell his parents who he actually is. By using a storytelling hybrid of script and narrative Koertge explores the troubles and doubts of coming out, through the mind of a dog.


“Trev” by Jacqueline Woodson
When she is in second grade Trevana Louise Johnson tells her family that she is “wrong down there”. Trev knows that she isn’t meant to wear the frilly pink dresses her dad wants her to wear. Trev knows that she is a he who belongs in the boy’s bathroom. Through tales of his heritage, Trev is able to overcome the struggle of seeking acceptance.


“My Virtual World” by Francesca Lia Block
In this modern love story, two tortured souls begin to correspond through their blogs. Rebecca goes by the screen name Ms. R.E. (misery… get it?) and feels as though the only way she can be happy is by cutting herself. Garrett, or Boy Blue, is still struggling through his decision to become a boy. Through their online relationship, Rebecca and Garrett are able to help each other through their troubles and possibly have a romance of their own.


“A Dark Red Love Knot” by Margo Lanagan
Tom Coyne, a stableboy in England during the 17th century is completely consumed by his love for a soldier in the Kings army, to whom he lost his virginity. Tom is so lovesick that he tells the innkeeper about his daughter’s affair in hopes of seeing his soldier again. However Tom’s plan backfires and he must deal with the tragedy that he created.


“Fingernail” by William Sleator
Told in his broken-English, this story is narrated by a young Thai man named Leo. Though Leo has had homosexual affairs before, he believes he has found his true love in Bernard, a French tourist. Bernard leaves Thailand, but when he comes back Leo discovers that he is not the person he fell in love with. Bernard is jealous, controlling and even attempts to suffocate Leo in bed one night. Leo must decide whether to hold on to his love for the Bernard he once knew, or to accept the man Bernard is now.


“Dyke March” by Ariel Schrag
Told in comic-book form, “Dyke March” chronicles the night of Ariel, a lesbian who goes to a pride parade with her friend Julia. Every half- hour Ariel chronicles her night, such as texting her girlfriend or taking a picture with a topless woman. The comics are Ariel’s humorous take on dealing with both the usual and unusual events that take place in that night.


“The Missing Person” by Jennifer Finney Boylan
The narrator of this story decides after 8th grade that he wants to become a she. She buys new clothes and steps out into the world as her new identity. Meanwhile a Taiwanese exchange students gets trapped inside a wall, symbolizing the narrator’s transsexual experience.


“First Time” by Julie Anne Peters
Jesi and Nicolle, a lesbian couple, are about to experience a tremendous right of passage: making love for the first time. Told by both girls simultaneously, this story details the ups and downs of Jesi and Nicolle’s relationship, from their first hug to their first time. A little racy at times, this story is honest and heartfelt.


“Dear Land” by Emma Donoghue
A 40-year-old lesbian decides to reconnect with her long lost 16-year-old daughter Lang. Lang’s mother Cheryl had been in a relationship with the narrator and conceived Lang through artificial insemination. Two years later the two women broke up and Cheryl won custody of Lang. Now, 14 years later, the narrator is ready to start anew with her new pregnant partner and communicates her situation to Lang through a letter.


“The Silk Road Runs Through Tupperneck, N.H.” by Gregory Maguire
Faroukh Rahmani, an Iranian American, must take a summer class at Tupperneck College because he failed his music class in high school. There he meets the incredibly suave yet aloof Blaise D’Anjou, a fellow music student. Immediately Faroukh is attracted to Blaise and fate brings them together after a tragic event in Blaise’s family. More of a novella than a short story, “The Silk Road” details Faroukh’s struggles with his family, money, and his conflicting feelings for Blaise all while fast-forwarding years later to when he brings his kids who he had with his husband Jake back to Tupperneck. There he finds Blaise and feels all of his feelings from the past rushing back.


- Posted by Hannah

Monday, July 26, 2010

Nick Eliopulos: An Exclusive SCBWI Team Blog Pre-Conference Interview



Nick Eliopulos is an Editor with Scholastic, following a 5-year stint with Random House Children’s Books. He has edited many middle-grade and young-adult titles, including the Tapestry series, The Pricker Boy, Unfamiliar Magic, and the Sons of Liberty graphic novel.









He has also worked on chapter books, cutting his teeth as an assistant on the Magic Tree House series. At Scholastic he is at work on the sequel to Dark Life and several forthcoming middle-grade projects.

Nick will be on faculty at the upcoming SCBWI International Summer Conference July 30 - Aug 2 in Los Angeles, CA. He'll be part of an editor panel on Friday afternoon, "From Your House to My House: What Makes Me Choose Your Book," will give a Saturday break out session on "Graphic Novels" and will lead a Sunday session on the "Rise of Genre Fiction."

I'm delighted at the opportunity to interview Nick in the final week's countdown to the conference!


Lee: Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview, Nick. I'm very excited to hear you speak at the conference! The first thing I want to ask is a question I hear a lot from my fellow writers who submit to conference manuscript critiques or contests: "They only want 15 (or 10, or 5) pages?" (I hear it even more from writers decrying first page critiques!) Most of the time these writers feel that the readers "aren't seeing enough" of their work to make a judgment.

When you read a manuscript on submission, how many pages do you read to know if you want to read more?

Nick: I commit to 30 pages as a general rule, but I often go beyond that.

The thing to remember is this: as an editor, I am looking for potential. I understand that your first 30 pages may not be your best 30 pages. More often that not, I’m going to want to cut 15 of those 30 anyway, because I am merciless with my green pencil.

You can tell a lot in 30 pages. If there’s a quality in the writing that makes me want to engage—even if the writing isn’t quite where it needs to be, but I can envision helping you get it there—then I keep reading. It’s my job to listen to my instincts and figure out whether you and I might click creatively and professionally.

Ideally, a first-page critique isn’t meant to give an assessment of the entire work by any means—certainly not when we’re talking about a novel. This sort of critique is a great opportunity for feedback on what kind of first impression your writing is making. But I can’t envision ever using the old Hollywood model of deciding whether to pass on a submission based entirely on a single page.

It’s worth mentioning that this is a major reason that publishers like Scholastic don’t accept unsolicited submissions. If we did, there’s no way I could commit to even 30 pages—even if reading submissions were all I had to do all day (and it’s not). I feel the system works—particularly for those who take advantage of the opportunities that the SCBWI and similar organizations provide.


Lee: Editors and Agents constantly talk about the importance of "voice" - yet it seems a very hard quality to explain. Do you have a working definition?

Nick: In simplest terms, I think of voice as a bridge from the author to the reader. It’s about your style, how you express yourself and your characters, how you choose to communicate.

I wonder if those involved in kids’ books fret over voice more than those in adult publishing? Because, allowing for some noteworthy exceptions, a children’s book involves an adult writer communicating with a child or teen reader. So the author has a lot to keep in mind when it comes to the voice. You don’t want to risk talking down to your readers. But the more sophisticated your voice, the more you potentially limit your audience. Can you write from the perspective of a teenager without sounding like a terminally uncool parent trying to ham it up? Can you bring a fresh, interesting spin to the “master storyteller” narrator the way Lemony Snicket does, without losing sight of the emotional core of your story?

It’s a tightrope walk, to be sure. And ultimately it’s more art than science. But every time you write out a single sentence, you are making choices about voice. The trick is that great authors, successful authors, they learn to make those choices consciously.

Lee: You're leading a session on graphic novels. What would be the three must-read graphic novels we could read to best prepare for your session?

Nick: "Scott Pilgrim" by Brian Lee O’Malley, for its adoption of Eastern/manga elements and its seamless blending of the fantastic and the mundane.

"Smile" by Raina Telgemeier, for its charm and grace and emotional insight.

"The Sons of Liberty" by Alexander & Joseph Lagos et al., for its inventive mix of commercial and educational appeal.

And if I could mention a nonfiction title as well: I think anyone interested in comics and graphic novels should read "Understanding Comics" by Scott McCloud. Even if you’ve been reading comics your whole life, even if you have an innate grasp of the medium, McCloud’s analyses and explorations are immensely useful.


Lee: From your perspective as an editor, and with an eye to acquiring a manuscript, how important is a writer's having or not having a website/ blog/ high facebook friend count/ gigantic twitter following / social media platform?

Nick: I can’t say that it makes much of a difference. If a manuscript doesn’t speak to me or doesn’t work for my group’s list, then knowing that the author has a big Twitter following isn’t going to change that. I might include that information when going to my bosses with a manuscript that I’d like to acquire, but it’s never more than icing on the cake at that point. And the cake has to be very good for the icing to matter.

(Which is perhaps where my metaphor falls apart, because in real life I have been known to eat icing by the spoonful.)

Lee: *snorts and laughs out loud*

Nick: If you’re a fantastic writer with nothing but a decade-old Friendster account you never figured out how to upload photos to, well, there’s plenty of time to teach you the ropes of online promotion once your manuscript is as strong as we can get it and moving through the production pipeline.

Do keep in mind, of course, that these are public venues. If you are published or hope to be published, it’s important to conduct yourself professionally on the web.


Lee: Do you have any advice for those attending the SCBWI Conference?

Nick: Remember that editors are people, too. We can offer insight into this industry, sure—but so much of our job is so very subjective. How any particular editor feels about your writing is a result of his or her personal interests and biases, as well as our idiosyncratic notions of where the market is and where it’s going. So if one of us doesn’t respond to your work the way you’d hoped, chin up. You only need one home run to win this ball game.

Literary agents, on the other hand, are sometimes robots, so you should accept their word as objective truth.

(Kidding!)

Lee: Okay, you're cracking me up! The SCBWI Conference will heat up Summertime in LA - to cool down, which drink would quench your thirst: Ice tea, or lemonade?

Nick: I’m more of a lemonade guy. But I’m originally from Florida, so the heat doesn’t scare me, and I never, ever put ice cubes in my coffee. Bring it on, LA!

And thanks, Lee, for the chance to be featured on your blog. It’s a great resource—one I wish had been around when I was a gay teen, wondering why I didn’t see myself represented in the books I read (except when I read between the lines).

Lee: Awww... shucks! Thank you for the kind words - the honor is mine!



You can hear Nick Eliopulos in person as well if you attend the SCBWI Summer Conference, which starts this Friday - you can still register!



Click on the SCBWI Team Blog logo above (or here) to check out all the pre-conference interviews with more luminaries from the world of Children's Literature on the Official SCBWI Conference Blog!

Namaste,
Lee

Friday, July 23, 2010

M.T. Anderson: An Exclusive SCBWI Team Blog Pre-Conference Interview



M.T. Anderson is one heck of a writer.

Whether it's Science Fiction (like the amazing "FEED",



a finalist for the National Book Award) or Historical YA (like "The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party,"



a Michael L. Printz Honor book) or even Middle Grade fantasy adventure (like "Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware")



his voice (and books) are unique, compelling, hard to put down... and stay with you long after you've read them.

He's also the former department chair of the M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College.

M.T. will be a Friday Morning Keynote speaker at the upcoming 39th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, July 30-Aug 2, 2010.

I'm really excited to hear him speak, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to ask him some questions in the run-up to the conference!



Lee: Hi, M.T. Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview!

Let's dive in...

In "The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party," the character of Octavian, by virtue of having been raised by scientists back on the cusp of Revolutionary War in Boston, speaks and observes his story with an extreme emotional detachment - even including his unfolding childhood understanding of being a slave. Were you concerned that a distant main character would be difficult for readers to connect with?



M.T.: I think you have to be true to your characters, however you imagine them. Octavian has been trained to think of himself as an experiment -- that’s who he is. He has been through awful things and has seen terrible experiments, and his rationality is his way of dealing with an overwhelming sense of danger and pain. While he’s detached, he is, at the same time, ardently and defiantly passionate.

Though most of us don’t come from such an extreme background, on a much milder level I think many teens live with the same kind of self-consciousness and uncomfortable dual awareness. They are constantly seeing themselves and trying to calculate who they should be (and failing) and they’re always second-guessing themselves. I wanted to write about a kid like that. So many of our most committed teen readers are smart kids who are struggling to reconcile the different aspects of themselves.

This element couldn’t have been cut out of Octavian’s character. In many ways, that’s what the two books are about. In the first volume, Octavian gradually finds ways to recognize and embrace his own burning commitment to action. The second volume is about how he acts on that commitment.


Lee: Following up, there's a whole section of Octavian's story told via other characters' letters that mention him. He's on the run, he's "free," but suddenly has NO VOICE. It was a powerful choice you made as the author, and it spoke volumes about the character's lack of freedom. Had you always seen that part of the story told in that way, or did it evolve through some experimenting?


M.T.: No – I knew from the get-go that I would narrate that part of the book from someone else’s point of view! Otherwise, I had this narrative problem: How do I deal with a narrator who has experienced something so horrible that he wouldn’t want to narrate it to anyone?


Lee: In "Jasper Dash and the Flame Pits of Delaware," you really play with reader expectations, which gave the story a wonderful sense of silliness. Moments like the narrator trying to convince readers the Stare Eyes Competition was exciting and then admitting it wasn't, and suddenly ending the chapter with , "Forget it. Let's go back outside." How do you approach voice?


M.T.: Voice is tremendously important to me. It’s one of the main reasons I read books! I would never start writing before I had a feel for the voice in which I’m writing.

Otherwise, it’s like showing up for a costume party completely undressed. And hoping you can quickly whip up an outfit at the party with duct-tape.

No, that was not one the best nights of my life.



Lee: Do you tackle voice differently in MG versus YA?



M.T.: For me – and this is a personal thing – there is a difference. In writing middle grade, I imagine the voice going TOWARDS the reader. In YA and adult, I imagine the voice coming FROM the narrator. I guess it’s because, naturally, I think of writing middle grade fiction as akin to story-telling or reading aloud.

But that’s just me.


Lee: That's fascinating. Thanks for sharing that! You've written such a variety of books, for different ages and in different genres. At the same time, a lot of writers are being told that we should focus and write a number of books in one age range and genre before branching out - because ideally, every author needs to "brand" themselves. What's your take on "branding?"

M.T.: Oh, I don’t know. There is nothing I love more than an author whose books all have matching spines. But on the other hand, why would you want to get shoveled into a corner so you have to keep doing the same thing again and again if you don’t want to? If you have found your groove and you love it – then great! Stick with it! If you’re tired of what you did and you want to do something new, I think it’s kind of abominable for an editor or agent to growl at you for it. Think of it as diversification of their investment.

Consider someone like Kate DiCamillo. Imagine how differently her career would have gone if someone had said, “You can’t write a fairy tale about a mouse! You’ve already written two contemporary novels set in the South! No one wants to hear what you have to say about European rodents.”

I’m all for experimentation. You’ll work better if you’re being challenged. And don’t forget that your agent is supposed to serve you, not the other way around. Tried and true axioms about “what works” never work.


Lee: Creating a Science Fiction or Fantasy world - world building - as you did in "Feed," and frankly, in all your books, is such a huge undertaking. Do you keep notebooks, or wall charts, or is it all just in your brain? How do you organize your worlds?


M.T.: I don’t really do much tracking of the world on paper. I did in the Octavian Nothing books – but that was a world that used to exist, not a fantasy world, so I just got maps from the period and kept long lists of facts about each location. I had charts of the money and army ranks and the deployment of different regiments.

For a series I’m working on right now for Scholastic (THE GAME OF SUNKEN PLACES, THE SUBURB BEYOND THE STARS), I did create some documents with lots of back-story in them so that I could get a better sense of what happened before the characters arrived on the scene. I wrote a list of regnal dates and some fragments of an ancient elfin chronicle, talking about the last generations of a vanished empire. It was incredibly fun to do. I’m such a history nerd, I loved counterfeiting documents. Later, Scholastic printed some of these documents in the paperback version of THE GAME OF SUNKEN PLACES, and is creating a website that will be up soon with other fragments I wrote to fill in areas of back-story. (I think the link will be www.scholastic.com/gameofsunkenplaces.)

To see some cool, insanely detailed world-building, check out D. M. Cornish’s lovely, superbly rich MONSTER BLOOD TATTOO books. He supposedly made up the world before he made up the plots for the books. The books have encyclopedias in the back full of made-up terms, and there are lots of maps and charts – and as a boy, I would have loved it all!

It all contributes to the plenitude and variety of the world created.


Lee: The titles of your books are so awesome - they're evocative of tone and voice and you really seem to consistently "nail it." Do titles come first, or last, or somewhere else in your process?

M.T.: The titles hit me at different times. For example, some years ago I wrote a book about an army of stilt-walking whales invading the land. I couldn’t come up with a good name for the book. I kept on thinking of crappy puns, but nothing fit. Finally, my editor noticed that my working title was WHALES ON STILTS!

Simple. To the point. Kind of ridiculous.

We went with that.


Lee: Your SCBWI Keynote speech is titled, "The End of All Our Exploring: The Journey of Narrative." Is there any homework or reading in advance you'd like to suggest we do beforehand to get the most out of your talk?

M.T.: Naw. People have enough work to do as it is. I’ll be talking about Grace Lin’s WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON some of the time, and Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Barsoom books another part of the time, but who needs homework?

Instead, eat a chipwich. No connection with what I have to say, but they’re delicious.


Lee: Chipwich, duly noted. Last question: Los Angeles will be hot and sunny and the pool will be sparkling. Ice Tea, or Lemonade?

M.T.: I can’t wait! It’s going to be great to see old friends and meet new ones. Although typically at conferences, my cocktail is NyQuil or Robitussen.


Thank you so much, M.T.!

I hope you get to join me in hearing M.T. Anderson's keynote at this summer's SCBWI Conference. You can get more information on the Conference and sign up here!




Check out more fantastic pre-conference interviews at our official SCBWI Conference Blog!

Namaste,
Lee

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Am I Blue? Coming Out From The Silence - A GLBTQ Teen Short Story Anthology




Edited by Marion Dane Bauer
Published in 1994

Consisting of coming-of-age stories, this anthology explores growing up and not only discovering one’s sexuality but also finding one’s identity.

“Am I Blue” by Bruce Coville
After being assaulted by a school bully, Vince, a sexually confused boy, is given three wishes by his very stylish and unapologetically flamboyant fairy godfather. In an interesting turn, the last of the three wishes turns all of the gays of the world blue and even Vince is surprised at whose skin changes. This is a whimsical and magical take on one boy’s struggle with his sexuality.


“We Might As Well Be Strangers” by M.E. Kerr
Alison has just come out to both her Holocaust-survivor grandmother and her mother. Having been oppressed, Alison’s grandmother relates to her struggle while her mom has trouble coming to terms with her daughter’s sexuality.


“Winnie And Tommy” by Francesca Lia Block
The titular characters of “Winnie and Tommy” have been dating for a year. However on a trip to San Francisco, Tommy confesses his true sexual orientation to Winnie and from there she must reconcile her feelings towards her gay former-lover.


“Slipping Away” by Jacqueline Woodson
Everyone at some point has had that best “summer friend”. Well for Jacina, hers, Maria, is ‘slipping away’. Maria is unable to understand Jacina’s sexuality and Jacina’s feelings for Maria aren’t exactly returned. Jacina and Maria are forced to deal with growing up and how that affects their friendship.


“The Honorary Shepherds” by Gregory Maguire
The main characters in this story meet while participating in a film class led by Ms. Cabbage, a cancer patient. They are both gay and both confused, but they begin to learn more about themselves while creating a film project together.


“Running” by Ellen Howard
A family harbors a runaway lesbian teen. Both parties learn about themselves and how to accept others.


“Three Mondays in July” by James Cross Giblin
Set in 1951, David is a young man alone with his homosexuality. However he finds companionship in the man he has been spying on at the beach and is able to finally unload his troubles onto this stranger. David soon finds out that he is not alone.


“Parents Night” by Nancy Garden
Having a booth at Parents Night should be an easy experience right? Well not for the Gay- Straight- Bisexual club at one high school. They are faced with insults and stereotypes of homosexuality and must overcome these obstacles to participate in what should be a typical school event.


“Michael’s Little Sister” by C.S. Adler
Raised in a single parent household, Becky looks up to her 16-year-old brother Michael and is appalled when some kids call him a “faggot”. He denies it until she sees him kissing his date, Walter. The roles switch and Becky becomes the one who mentors Michael and teaches him that it’s ok to be who you are.


“Supper” by Leslea Newman
Meryl’s Jewish Grandmother encourages her to eat in order to look better for boys, bringing about early stages of an eating disorder. But what if Meryl doesn’t want to be with boys? What if whom she really wants to be with is her best friend Patty?


“Holding” by Lois Lowry
Willie is away at school when he finds out that his father’s secret partner has died. Through Willie’s grief he is better able to understand his father and himself.


“Blood Sister” by Jane Yolen
Selna is a woman in an Amazon tribe. She is different from everyone else; more specifically, she likes girls. Selna must find her place in society and reconcile her spirituality with her individuality.


“Hands” by Jonathan Landon
Ray Marlow comes to read poetry to Lon’s English class and from that point Lon’s life is never the same. After another chance encounter, Lon and Ray bond over their love of writing. By being friends with Ray, Lon is able to discover his passion for art and also learn about the hardships of life.


“50% Chance of Lightening” by Cristina Salat
Malia and Robin are best friends on two very different paths. Malia seems to have everything in place: she has a boyfriend, is going to college and knows what she wants to do in life. However Robin is lost and has no idea what she wants. She is a lesbian but has never had a girlfriend and has no idea what she wants to do in the future. Throughout this story Robin learns that she can find her own path.


“In the Tunnels” by William Sleator
This story is set in the tunnels of a war-torn Vietnam, where Americans are the enemy. We are introduced to two guerrilla soldiers who are stationed underground; while one of the soldier’s secret homosexual lover fights above them. Filled with suspense and action this story is a completely different and exciting point of view of not only homosexuality, but also history.


“Dancing Backwards” by Marion Dane Bauer
A little girl is rushed onstage in a dance recital when she is four. She performs, but little does she know that she isn’t facing the audience. Fast-forward to when that same girl gives her best friend a valentine at their strict Catholic school. Though neither of them is gay they are expelled, yet this incident serves as a catapult for the openness of homosexuals in the community. Used partially to describe Bauer’s feelings of obliviousness as a child, “Dancing Backwards” urges us to open our eyes and see how intolerance affects everyone.


- Posted by Hannah

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Announcing Our First Summer Intern, Hannah, and The GLBTQ Teen Short Story Bookshelf!


Hey Guys!
My name is Hannah and I'm helping out Lee this summer with the GLBTQ Teen Short Story Bookshelf. I'm a senior in high school and I live in California. Though I am not gay, homosexuality has always been a huge part of my life because of close and family friends. I decided to do this project because I am obsessed with books, as I'm sure many of you are too. We know that summer is a busy time, what with camps, jobs, and just being out in the sun, which is why short stories are so perfect. They are a great read for when you are on the run. I'm so excited for this summer and to start reviewing these awesome anthologies. I've put together a great list of books; some of them are entirely devoted to homosexuality while others have only a few stories with queer content. Every week we will be posting two or three new anthologies and summarizing the stories in them that have GLBTQ content. If you have any suggestions for additional anthologies that should be included because they are so great please let me know in the comments!
xoxo
Hannah

1. How They Met, and Other Stories by David Levithan

2. Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories by Sandra McDonald

3. grl2grl: short fictions by Julie Anne Peters

4. So Fey: Queer Fairy Fiction edited by Steve Berman

5. Growing Up Gay/Growing up Lesbian edited by Bennett L Singer

6. Queer 13: Lesbian and Gay Writers Recall Seventh Grade edited by Clifford Chase

7. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher

8. Love and Sex, Ten Stories of Truth edited by Michael Cart

9. Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing about Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and other Identities edited by David Levithan and Billy Merrell

11. Not the Only One: Lesbian and Gay Fiction for Teens edited by Jane Summer

12. Hear Us Out!: Lesbian and Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress and Hope, 1950 to the Present by Nancy Garden

13. How Beautiful the Ordinary edited by Michael Cart

14. Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence edited by Marion Dane Bauer

15. We’ll always Have Paris by Ray Bradbury

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Josh Adams, Literary Agent: An Exclusive Pre-Conference SCBWI Team Blog Interview


Josh Adams, together with his wife Tracey, runs Adams Literary, a boutique agency exclusively dedicated to representing Children’s book authors and artists, including many bestselling and award-winning clients. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia Business School, Josh spent years in publishing and media before bringing his editorial and business backgrounds together as a literary agent.

On faculty at the upcoming Society of Chlidren's Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 2010 Summer conference in Los Angeles, Josh will be presenting a "Submission Strategies" workshop on Friday afternoon, will be part of the "Literary Agents View the Market Place" panel on Saturday morning, and has a Monday afternoon breakout session called "Agent Secrets!"

I'm excited to hear Josh speak at the conference, and delighted to interview him here in the final run-up to the conference!


Lee: Hi Josh! Thanks so much for agreeing to this pre-conference interview. My first question is about stress. A lot of writers and illustrators stress out about meeting agents at conferences. Any advice for hopeful and stressed out conference attendees?

Josh: Just be yourself. That's what I plan to do. Hopefully you'll see that literary agents are real people, too.


Lee: From your perspective, is a business card something you expect/want when meeting an author or illustrator?

Josh: It's not something I expect, but I'll certainly take one. I don't carry any myself, so don't take it personally if I don't hand you one. At this point we assume that people who don't already know how to reach us will find us at www.adamsliterary.com.


Lee: For an as-yet-unpublished writer, is an on-line presence (a blog, facebook friend count, twitter following, etc...) important to you?

Josh: Not at the expense of the quality of the writing. It's not something we particularly seek out, but if an aspiring author has a site or online presence, we'll definitely check it out and take it into consideration as part of the big picture.


Lee: For illustrators, is there something different that you're looking for in a physical portfolio versus an online website/portfolio?

Josh: I prefer visiting an online portfolio, where it's easier for me to see a full range of work. What I'd look for in a physical portfolio is the texture and media of the works.


Lee: Small versus large literary agency. You and your wife Tracey are closer to the small end of the spectrum. What do you see as the pros and cons of small versus large?

Josh: Tracey and I—and Quinlan Lee, too, who works closely with us—love being a part of what we call a boutique agency. Tracey came from larger agencies before we started Adams Literary, but it has never been our desire to be a large agency. We much prefer working collaboratively with our authors and artists than managing a large staff. I think a boutique agency can offer every advantage of a large agency, with a more personal approach—and, in our case, one that is focused exclusively on the children's and YA market. The only disadvantage—and it's ours, really, not our clients'—is that there is no "off" switch. We are always working, which is why it's good that we're so passionate about what we do.


Lee: There's a puzzle for writers when trying to find that "match" with an agent. On the one hand, we're told to look at the books of an agent's current clients to see if we're 'apples to apples.' On the other hand, if you already represent apples, might you not prefer kiwi, so you have something different?

How would you suggest writers tackle finding the best "match?"

Josh: While I'd highly encourage writers to look at our website and our client list to get a sense of who we are and what literary works we gravitate toward, we certainly don't look for clones. I always hesitate to mention a specific or favorite genre out of fear that I'll be deluged with one type of book at the expense of something spectacularly different that otherwise might not be sent our way. I like to be surprised. What we look for is a fresh perspective, a great voice and memorable characters—writing that draws us in, keeps us turning the pages, and provokes us in a compelling and unforgettable way, whatever the genre. We gravitate toward the timeless, not the trendy. Our first criteria is not "Can we sell this?" but rather, "Do we love this?"


Lee: That's great to know. Okay, "Agent Secrets?" What a great teaser of a topic! If we promise to tell EVERYone, can we convince you to share one secret here?

Josh: All I can say right now is that hopefully people will come out of my presentation with a much better sense of what literary agents do—and how to beat the 1000-1 odds of working with us. Though perhaps it doesn't have as catchy a title, in my "Submission Strategies" workshop, I'll also be sharing some secrets and tricks-of-the-trade.


Lee: Los Angeles. Four Days. More than 60 agents, editors, authors - all luminaries in the world of Children's Literature. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of writers and illustrators, hanging on the faculty's every word... Which refreshment will help keep you talking: Ice Tea or Lemonade?

Josh: Several cups of coffee in the morning, lots of water throughout the day, and a glass or two of something a bit stronger at night! ;)


You can hear Josh Adams in person at the SCBWI Summer Conference, July 30-Aug 2, 2010 in Los Angeles, CA - which is where I'll be! You can still register for the conference here.

Hope to see you there!



Click here (or on the SCBWI Team Blog Logo above) to click over to the Official SCBWI Conference Blog - where you can check out all the amazing pre-conference faculty interviews so far!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Literacy Is Important.




Wow - did this ever crack me up when I walked by it - so I had to photograph it so I could share it with all of you...

Namaste,
Lee

Friday, July 16, 2010

Reader Questions: I'm an author and I'm completing my first gay themed YA novel. How do I reach queer youth who might like my book?

The Lovely Author C. Lee McKenzie offered this answer:

Wish I had some super advice for you re: how to reach queer youth with your novel. Of course publication is the key and then gaining a reading audience.

My best suggestion is to find other books that are similar and appeal to gay teens. The publishers that have taken on those books would be more open to accepting subs from you.

You might get in touch with other writers who are writing for the gay reader and see if they will share names of agents who have taken them on. Malinda Lo is a good example.

I wish you a lot of luck with your story.

I'd like to add that getting involved in an organization like SCBWI (The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) offers a lot of information on the craft and business of writing for teens, as well as opportunities to get your work in front of agents and editors.




I've been involved with SCBWI for more than 6 years now, and am honored to be part of the team that blogs their international conferences - you can find out more about those conferences at our official conference blog here.

The organization has many smaller local events (like schmoozes - and yes, I co-coordinate one of those, too - out in Los Angeles) and is a wonderful resource.

As far as getting queer youth to know about you and your writing, that's where marketing and social media like facebook and twitter can play a role... but first, writing the book and making it the best it can be is key.

Best of luck on your journey, and giant thanks to C. Lee for sharing her expertise!

Namaste,
Lee

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Out of Left Field: Marlee's Story - A Coming Out Lesbian Teen Baseball Novel


By Barbara Clanton

Marlee is a junior in High School, and she's the pitcher for her softball team.

When she falls for Susie, the left fielder of an opposing team, suddenly her life gets really complicated...


My thanks to Ivanova for the recommendation. Add your review of "Out Of Left Field: Marlee's Story" in comments!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Less-Dead - A Homophobia-Themed Teen Mystery/Thriller


By April Lurie

Noah is 16, and he can't stand his Dad's Christian-Conservative-Hate-Spreading-Anti-Gay radio show.

A couple of gay teens in foster homes get murdered, and when the next victim is a boy Noah knows, he feels guilty and becomes determined to solve the crime.

Noah pockets the dead boy's journal - in which the killer wrote clues - and is out to prove that someone does care about these homeless gay teens - the "less-dead."

And that someone is Noah.


My thanks to Steph for the recommendation, and for sharing that "There's also a cool section at the end of the book that that summarizes the main passages of the Bible that people use to condemn homosexuality, and how that's not really what they say."


Add your review of "The Less-Dead" in comments!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

All Lost Things - A Gay Teen Mystery


By Josh Aterovis

Killian's graduating High School, breaking up with his boyfriend, and starting a new job with a private investigator.

Then his ex-boyfriend calls needing Killian's help - to prove his new boyfriend is innocent in the murder of his abusive father.

Killian reluctantly agrees to take the case - not knowing how dangerous things will become before it's over...



Check out the book trailer:





This is the third in the series of Killian Kendall mysteries, and it was a 2010 Lambda Literary Award Finalist for Gay Mystery. Check out this interview with the author here. And add your review of "All Lost Things" in comments!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Reader Questions: Where Can I Buy This Book?


My theory on this is
buy from where you'd like to be able to shop in the future.

For instance, if you like having a local independent bookstore, buy your books there - that way, you're helping to ensure that they stay in business.

You can also check out Indiebound to help you find independent bookstores!

There are of course still some chain bookstores like Barnes and Nobel and Borders - again, buy your books where you want to keep being able to shop for them.

If you want to order a book on-line, check out Powells (a large independent bookstore that I really like, and that I've chosen to team up with here on this website - when you click a book cover on a book post at this blog, it usually takes you to the Powells page for that book. (Full disclosure: I'm part of an 'partners program' with Powells, which gives me a commission for business I send their way.)

Of course, there are other, larger online stores as well - Amazon is a giant, and often works with Affiliates to offer them commission on any click-throughs. So, if you're shopping Amazon, go to them through blogs or websites or organizations you'd like to support.

And if you can't afford to buy all the books you'd like to, contact your local library - either get the book there (the more GLBTQ Teen books circulate, the more librarians will see the books are in demand and the more GLBTQ Teen books they'll buy for their collections), or if they don't have the book, see if you can request they either purchase it for their collection or get it for you through the inter-library loan system. (I've gotten books from clear across the country this way!)

Thanks for asking, and happy reading!

Namaste,
Lee

Friday, July 9, 2010

So This Doctor is Using an Experimental Drug On Pregnant Women to "Prevent Lesbianism" - Yikes! The Future is HERE and we need to FIGHT!!!


And while I wish this was something I was making up, sadly it's true.

It's some experimental drug, dexamethasone, and this doctor, Maria New, thinks she's doing a "good" thing by offering it to women who are pregnant to make sure their daughters grow up to express interest in "girly" pursuits - to avoid "behavioral masculinization" and make sure they don't grow up to be lesbians.

There is so much wrong with this, but I have to first rail against the consumerist context of the desire on anyone's part - any parent, any doctor - to tailor-order a child in the way we order a car, or lunch.

Already today, if you have a child via various assisted methods (like invitro), you can choose if you want to have a boy or girl.

And there are numerous tests you can have done while the baby is in utero to know if there are any genetic or chromosomal abnormalities.

And I suppose it's from this angle that Dr. New and her colleagues approach this new insurance-for-a-straight-gender-conforming-child medical intervention. They (and many others) equate homosexuality and gender non-conformity as abnormal - and thus something to eliminate.

But "abnormal" and "not conforming to the norm" is vastly different. (Being Gay is not a disease!)

This gets back to the whole Darwinian purpose for Gay people existing - the whole idea of gender non-conforming people enabling a culture and a society to think beyond the norms and move everyone forward. (This idea was explored in my post "Why are there Gay People?")

Dr. New and her drug are a bit like freaky science fiction that's become science fact, and it's sobering that we've yet again arrived at a place where humanity's science has outpaced our ethics, and just because we CAN do something doesn't mean we SHOULD do it.

Alice Dreger wrote about this, and she's spot-on:

Is having a child with a less-than-idealized identity or anatomy sometimes really hard? Yup. And when you sign up for parenting, that's part of what you're signing up for. You can't seriously expect your whole parenting experience to consist of softball trophies and bumper stickers that brag about your Honor Roll child. It is not your child's job in life to make you proud. It is your job to make your children proud of you as their parent.

Dan Savage wrote about Dr. New and her Drug Experiment, and he said it brilliantly:

So no more Elena Kagans, no more Donna Shalalas, no more Martina Navratilovas, no more k.d. langs, no more Constance McMillens—because all women must grow up to ... crank out babies, and do women's work. And the existence of adult women who are not interested in "becoming someone's wife" and "making babies" constitutes a medical emergency that requires us to treat women who are currently pregnant with a dangerous experimental hormone. Otherwise their daughters might grow up to, um, be nominated to sit on the Supreme Court, serve as cabinet secretaries, take 18 Grand Slam singles titles, win Grammies, and take their girlfriends to prom.



You can read more about this here at Dan Savage's The Stranger, and also Alice Dreger's article at Psychology Today.

It makes me want to scream - to rally - to FIGHT!

As Alice said,




But what do YOU think? Is there anything we can do about this - individually, and as a community of GLBTQ Teens and Allies?

Because I think we need to take action. We need our voices heard on this.

Because we Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Gender-Non-Conforming and Questioning people are important, necessary, and wonderful to have in our world. And we will NOT be erased!

Namaste,
Lee

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hey, Dollface - A Questioning and Lesbian Teen Novel


By Deborah Hautzig

Val and Chloe are 15.

They're best friends.

And they're at the point in their relationship where they have to figure out ... just what does loving each other really mean?


Add your review of "Hey, Dollface" in comments!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Royally Jacked - A Middle Grade Romance With A Lesbian Mom (A.K.A. "Royally Crushed")


By Niki Burnham

Valerie's life is finally going great - she's got the boy she's been crushing on since forever interested in her, and then her Mom announces that she's leaving Valerie's Dad... for a WOMAN!

Oh, and Valerie's Dad has a new job in some European country, and she's supposed to choose which parent she wants to live with: Her suddenly-lesbian Mom, or her going-to-be-living-in-Europe Dad.

But what about her crush???

This book was released as "Royally Crushed" in the U.K., New Zealand, and Australia. Add your review of "Royally Jacked" in comments.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Paul Fleischman: An Exclusive SCBWI Team Blog Pre-Conference Interview!


I'm incredibly honored and stoked to interview Paul Fleischman, who will be giving the Monday Aug 2, 2010 Keynote speech, "Surviving The Novel," at the upcoming SCBWI (Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators) Summer Conference in Los Angeles, CA.

Paul won the Newbery Medal in 1989 for "Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices" - a book of lyrical poems about insects that he made both musical and a shared reading experience - bringing the magic of reading a picture book with a child to two readers of any age. It's playful and ingenious, and like so much of Paul's work, redefines the box - while still being outside it.




He's written picture books (like "Weslandia,"

"Time Train," "Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal," and "The Animal Hedge," - which totally made me tear up!,

plays (like "Zap")

middle grade and Young Adult novels (like "The Half-A-Moon Inn," "Breakout," "Whirligig,")


and Non-Fiction that like everything else, blew my socks off (Like "Cannibal in the Mirror" and "Dateline: Troy")




Let's jump right in!

Lee: Hi Paul, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview!

Your books always seem to start with an incredibly cool concept - "Dateline: Troy" matched a re-telling of the Trojan War with headlines from the last 30 years to show that while it seems like ancient history/myth, every part of that story could be real. (Like the King and Queen consulting a dream interpreter after the Queen's nightmare - matched with a news article revealing that President Reagan and his wife Nancy consulted astrologers while they were in the White House.)

Is that how your writing a new project always starts?

Paul: Some start with form--such as poems for two readers. Some start with content--like the newspaper story about an all-day freeway traffic jam that led to Breakout. I need something exciting that will generate the desire and energy to get me over the hundred hurdles that await. Working in new forms brings me that sort of excitement. The idea is just the beginning, of course. As my father used to say, ideas are everywhere--it's what you do with them that counts.


Lee: Your novel "Whirligig" explores the sometimes unexpected consequences of our actions. The book starts off with 16 year old Brent, obsessed with trying to be popular, making a series of choices that costs another teenager her life - and then the restitution the victim's mother asks of him. The wind sculptures he makes in honor of the girl he killed transform other lives, in ways he doesn't know.

There's a power in writing that many people are scared of. From funny moments like Steph and Alexandra talking about cooking Pepsi down to a syrup to eat on ice cream to under age teens drinking and smoking pot at the opening chapter's party - authors write things that other adults fear young readers will try for themselves.

How do you, as an author, insulate yourself from that pressure/noise and honestly write the story that needs to be told?

Paul: This issue has faded. There no longer seems to be anything that can't be included in YA books. Instead of angry adults outraged by your material, the more common problem is marketing departments rejecting manuscripts for lack of profit potential. Dateline: Troy, which you just mentioned, was turned down by dozens of publishers for this reason.


Lee: While gathering books from the library's shelves of Paul Fleischman titles, I came upon two different versions of your picture book, "The Birthday Tree." One illustrated by Marcia Sewall (Harper & Row, 1979) the other by Barry Root (Candlewick, 2008). How did that come about, and what was it like to see two completely different visual interpretations of your words?

Paul: Writing is one of those rare jobs in which you get paid more than once for the same labor. If you're long-lived, you might have your out-of-print picture books bought and reissued with new art, as Candlewick has done with several of mine. The Birthday Tree was my first book and I love Marcia Sewall's pencil illustrations--a medium all but vanished these days. Though that book has a special place in my heart, I love the warmth and palette of Barry Root's work as well.


Lee: You're scheduled to talk about "Surviving the Novel." Why that topic?

Paul: I noticed that picture book writers and poets have a fear of novels as something unattainable. This talk is especially for them. It comes from personal experience, as I felt the same way when I set out to write a novel for adults a few years ago and didn't think I could write at that length. I prayed I'd somehow get to page 200. I ended up on page 498. I'll share what I learned about longer forms.


Lee: There's a strong theme of respecting others in many of your books (I'm thinking of "Cannibal in the Mirror", which paired quotes from explorers deriding the "primitive" cultures they were seeing throughout history with modern day photos of we Americans doing pretty much the exact same thing. (Like a 1887 quote from an explorer of the Solomon Islands talking about the "superstitious practice" of affixing a small wooden figure to the stem of a canoe paired with a photo of the jaguar hood ornament from a car dealership in Darien Connecticut.) It's really thought-provoking.

Also, in "Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella" you re-tell the Cinderella story taking us around the world and helping us see just how universal our emotions (and our stories) are.

You make incorporating theme seem effortless! Sometimes writers who feel passionate about a theme go too far and their work starts to feel preachy - any advice to the rest of us on how to avoid this?

Paul: Keep your allegiance to your characters, not your theme. The minute your theme starts driving the book, the story will start feeling contrived--because it will be.

Lee: Ohh - that's so wise, I need to copy it and post it above my computer! You've written works of such breadth and variety - do you feel that it's the freedom of being a Newbery Medal winner, or is it a freedom all writers have?

Paul: I wrote in different genres from the beginning, which kept publishers and readers from pegging me. This was good, because I thrive on variety and dislike repeating myself or anyone else. The downside--that I don't have a clear brand and audience to match--doesn't bother me. The freedom to follow my own interests is far more important.


Lee: Last Question! It's going to be Summertime in Los Angeles. Four Days of sunning ourselves in ideas and inspiration and the world of Children's Literature. Which libation to quench your thirst? Ice Tea, or Lemonade?

Paul: Lemonade. Or Wyder's pear cider...

Lee: Thank you so much, Paul! I can't wait to hear your keynote at the conference!


Check out Paul's website and come see him share his wisdom at the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, July 30 - Aug 2, 2010! You can still register for the conference here!

And Check Out ALL
the SCBWI Team Blog Pre-Conference Interviews,
and our reporting from past conferences,
at our official SCBWI Conference Blog!


Namaste,
Lee

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy Independence Day - It's July 4, 2010 - And I'm Proud To Be A Gay American!


This photo, taken at the Anime Expo 2010 by a Teen active in her High School's GSA, sums up the sentiment nicely:

Proud to be GAY.

Proud to be part of the USA!
(and hey, it even rhymes!)


Thanks for the photo, Geena, and for sending it to me so I could share it with my readers!
Enjoy the holiday, and for those of you outside the USA, imagine how YOUR country's flags could be "rainbow-ized!"

Namaste,
Lee

Friday, July 2, 2010

I'm on the RADIO! Outbeat Youth Interviews Me About This "perfect website for young LGBT readers" For Their June Pride Show!


I was on this Amazing Radio Show! (Click to go to the show's website and listen...)

Greg Miraglia, (Outbeat Youth's host and producer) and I talked about this website, the demise of gay bookstores, the evolution of queer teen novels, and so much more!

I also discussed these books:

My Brother Has AIDS, by Deborah Davis




Boy Meets Boy, By David Levithan



Hero, by Perry Moore



Ash, By Malinda Lo




Parrotfish, By Ellen Wittlinger


Tricks, By Ellen Hopkins


...I had a great time.

And it's not just me interviewed on the show. Michael Huerta did this remarkable video to celebrate his 24th birthday, where he talks about overcoming his own struggles with being gay, and how happy he is that he didn't succeed at his attempts to end his life.

It's powerful, and I'm really honored to be on the same radio show as Michael.

Check out Michael's 24th birthday video here:



Go here to hear Michael's and my interviews! (The show's a half hour long, and I'm at 16 minutes in.)

My thanks to Greg Miraglia, host and producer of Outbeat Youth, for the honor and the opportunity!

Namaste,
Lee

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Curse Of Arachnaman - A Gay Teen Superhero Fantasy


By Hayden Thorne

Hayden picks up the story of Gay Teen Eric (after the series' opening trilogy - Masks: Rise of Heroes, Masks: Evolution, and Masks: Ordinary Champions) who is struggling with a new kind of closet - kept from talking freely about his relationship with Calais and the other superheroes.

Vintage City is under attack again - this time by an angry lunatic who will stop at noth­ing to purge the city of what he sees as "unde­sir­able elements."

Can Eric and his friends save innocent citizens and triumph over the 'Curse of Arachnaman?'


Add your review of "Curse Of Arachnaman" in comments!