Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Shattering - A Mystery with some Surprise Queer Content

The Shattering by Karen Healey

Summerton is perfect. A town in the isolated and stunning West Coast region of New Zealand, it is blessed with gorgeous weather and hordes of tourists.

But Keri is immune to her hometown’s charms. Her older brother has just killed himself, without warning or explanation, and left Keri shattered with grief and too many unanswered questions. So when her childhood friend Janna and tourist Sione offer answers, Keri is keen to listen.

Janna and Sione’s own older brothers died in suspicious circumstances. Sunny Summerton has dark secrets. And as they investigate, the answers to their questions become more bizarre.

Shattering the secrecy of Summerton may open the trio to dangers they never knew were possible.

Can they save Summerton’s next victim? Or will they become victims themselves?

My thanks to Editor Alvina Ling for the heads-up about this book, and here's the US cover:

Add your review of "The Shattering" in comments - and please, no spoilers!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sally Ride, our nation's first female astronaut, is also our nation's first Woman-Loving-Woman QUEER astronaut!

Sally Ride's obituary in the New York Times

After 27 years in a relationship with another woman, Sally Ride came out last week.  In her obituary.  With the single phrase:

"...Dr. Ride is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy..."
Now we don't know if Sally identified as a lesbian, or as a bisexual, because she's not around to ask, having died of cancer at age 61 last Monday.  But,

"As details trickled out after Ride's death on Monday, July 23, 2012, it became clear that a circle of family, friends and co-workers had long known of the same-sex relationship and embraced it. For many millions of others, who admired Ride as the first American woman in space, it was a revelation..."

The now-that-I'm-dead-I-can-tell-you-the-truth-about-who-I-love coming out sparked a debate about privacy versus being out, about the responsibility of role models, and about the public's right to know.

Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Beast, wrote:

"She had a chance to expand people's horizons and young lesbians' hope and self-esteem, and she chose not to," he wrote. "She was the absent heroine."

Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who in 2003 became the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican world, noted that both he and Ride were baby boomers who grew up

"in a time when coming out was almost unthinkable."

"For girls who had an interest in science and wanted to go places women had not been allowed to go, she was a tremendous role model," Robinson said Wednesday. "The fact that she chose to keep her identity as a lesbian private — I honor that choice."

I wish Sally had chosen to be a role model for members of our queer community, too.  I mean, she was the first American woman in space.  The youngest astronaut in space (at age 32!)  She was awesome, and what an impact for the good it might have had if she had stood up as authentically herself in front of the world...

What's your take on it?  Should Sally Ride have come out before her death? 


ps - I'm glad that we finally know Sally was part of our Queer History!  And maybe her partner, Executive Vice President for Content at Sally Ride Science, can develop a new a unit on lesbian and queer youth empowerment. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

This GAP Ad makes me so happy!

It's been on buses all over Los Angeles, and while it was hard for me to snap a good shot of it, Benjamin over at Spencer Alley got this great photo of a bus in San Francisco (above), sporting the gay pride two-guys-in-one-t-shirt pose of Broadway star Rory O’Malley & his boyfriend Gerold Schroeder photographed for GAP’s “Be Bright, Be One” Ad Campaign.  Thanks, Benjamin!

Here's the best shot I got...

Of course, there's been backlash from unfriendly quarters, but really, let's focus on the positive.  I keep thinking of all the young GLBTQ people seeing these buses and feeling YEAH, my kind of love deserves to be celebrated, too.

And it does!


Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Legend of Bold Riley - A Graphic Novel with Swords, Sorcery, and a Female Hero who Always Gets The Girl!

The Legend of Bold Riley by Leia Weathington (with Marco Aidala, Vanessa Gillings, Kelly McClellan, Konstantin Pogorelov and Jason Thompson.)

Princess Rilavashana SanParite, called Bold Riley, has hunted the wildest game and dallied with countless beautiful girls, but still longs to know the world beyond the city walls.

So she leaves behind her station and sets out to travel through distant lands and find forgotten ruins, fearsome enemies, inscrutable gods and tragic love.

Bold Riley is as capable with a sword as she is with her wits—man, does she carve things up when the need arises—and is a strong, beautiful, confident woman who doesn’t wear a bikini into battle. And she always gets the girl!

Add your review of "The Legend of Bold Riley" in comments!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A 14 Year Old Changes the Beauty Industry... and gets Seventeen Magazine to STOP photoshopping their models! (And how YOU can help Teen Vogue stop photoshopping, too!)

This is really inspiring.  14 year old Julia started this petition on change.org

Give Girls Images of Real Girls!

Girls want to be accepted, appreciated, and liked. And when they don’t fit the criteria, some girls try to “fix” themselves. This can lead to eating disorders, dieting, depression, and low self esteem.

I’m in a ballet class with a bunch of high-school girls. On a daily basis I hear comments like: “It’s a fat day,” and “I ate well today, but I still feel fat.” Ballet dancers do get a lot of flack about their bodies, but it’s not just ballet dancers who feel the pressure to be “pretty”. It’s everyone. To girls today, the word “pretty” means skinny and blemish-free. Why is that, when so few girls actually fit into such a narrow category? It’s because the media tells us that “pretty” girls are impossibly thin with perfect skin.

Here’s what lots of girls don’t know. Those “pretty women” that we see in magazines are fake. They’re often photoshopped, air-brushed, edited to look thinner, and to appear like they have perfect skin. A girl you see in a magazine probably looks a lot different in real life. As part of SPARK Movement, a girl-fueled, national activist movement, I’ve been fighting to stop magazines, toy companies, and other big businesses from creating products, photo spreads and ads that hurt girls’ and break our self-esteem. With SPARK, I’ve learned that we have the power to fight back.

That’s why I’m asking Seventeen Magazine to commit to printing one unaltered -- real -- photo spread per month. I want to see regular girls that look like me in a magazine that’s supposed to be for me.

For the sake of all the struggling girls all over America, who read Seventeen and think these fake images are what they should be, I’m stepping up. I know how hurtful these photoshopped images can be. I’m a teenage girl, and I don’t like what I see. None of us do. Will you join us by signing this petition and asking Seventeen to take a stand as well and commit to one unaltered photo spread a month?

What happened after 86,000 people signed Julia's petition?

Julia's message to all her supporters: "Seventeen listened! They're saying they won't use photoshop to digitally alter their models! This is a huge victory, and I'm so unbelievably happy. Another petition is being started by SPARK activists Emma and Carina, targeting Teen Vogue and I will sign it. If we can be heard by one magazine, we can do it with another. We are sparking a change!"

And here's that Teen Vogue petition!  Let's help these young women change our world for the better!

You can find out more about SPARK here.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Must See Video For ALL Girls and Women (For Everybody, Really!)

This one minute, fifteen second Dove Evolution video is brilliant, showing how this model went from looking like this:

To looking like this:

Girls and Women and all of us are fed such unrealistic images of what it means to be beautiful... and this video really shows how even the MODEL doesn't really look like that!

I'm so glad my daughter got to watch this.  And I'm delighted to share it with all of you, too!


Monday, July 23, 2012

Natalie Lakosil - the Pre-#LA12SCBWI Summer Conference Interview

Natalie Lakosil is an Assistant Agent at the Bradford Literary Agency. An honors graduate of the University of San Diego, California, Natalie holds a B.A. in Literature/Writing. After nearly four years at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency and a brief dabble in writing author profiles and book reviews for the San Diego Union Tribune, Natalie joined the Bradford Agency in February of 2011.

Natalie’s interests include talented, hard-working new authors with a fresh, unique voice and hook. Her specialty is commercial fiction, with an emphasis in children’s literature (from picture book-teen), romance (contemporary, paranormal and historical), upmarket women’s fiction and select nonfiction. Specific likes include historical, multi-cultural, paranormal, sci-fi/fantasy, gritty, thrilling and darker contemporary novels, middle grade with heart, and short, quirky picture books. She is always drawn to an open and positive attitude in an author, good grammar, and fantastical, engaging and sexy plots.

Her blog, Adventures in Agentland is an amazing window into an agent’s perspective, like this excellent post on older characters with middle grade voices, where she contacted some of her editor friends to have them weigh in on her personal struggle with representing what she can sell and not necessarily just what she loves, and this post on that used book smell.

Natalie's SCBWI Summer conference faculty presentations include two agent panels at the Monday Writer Intensives, and she'll be a special guest at the Friday night LGBTQ Q&A session that I'm moderating.

I connected with Natalie to find out more...

Lee:  So many writers attend the SCBWI Summer conference aiming to advance their careers, and for many of them, finding the "right" agent is more and more one way to do that. But how do they figure out who is the right agent for them?

Natalie:  There’s a reason that agents joke about multiple-offer situations as a “beauty contest”; the fact is, assuming the author did some research and queried legit agents, we can all do pretty much the same thing – and it really depends on who scores the most in the talent and Q &A competition!

That said, one of the most common complaints I hear from authors who part ways with an agent is in regards to communication. It’s not only important to look at an agent’s past sales, or the agency’s past sales, if the agent is new, to ensure the agent fits with your genre (you want to make sure a newer agent has colleagues with experience within that genre to share advice/ask questions of!)– it’s also important to establish as a writer if you want an agent who is responsive via email or phone, has a fast turnaround time on reads/edits, shares submission lists and responses, etc. Talking with an agent’s current clients candidly on “ok, just how fast do you expect him/her to read” or “if you email, do you expect to hear back that day, or that week, or…?” and deciding what you can or cannot live with is important.

Lee:  From your perspective, with more than 1,000 attendees, how would you want a writer who is sure YOU are the right agent for them to approach you?
Natalie:  Casually. Talk with me; don’t pitch me. I accept email submissions directly from conference attendees – so don’t waste an opportunity to stand out in my mind with a pitch that I can read later!

Lee: Is a business card useful for a writer who has yet to be traditionally published?

Natalie:  To network with bloggers and fellow writers, absolutely; to give to a potential agent or editor, hells to the no.

Lee: You've written about the dangers of self-publshing on your blog (here and here and here.)  And while you have a great "change rocks" attitude about the shifts happening in our industry, I'm wondering about your take on the motivations behind writers wanting to self-publish. Do you see impatience with their attempts at being traditionally published as the prime villain? Or is it that win-the-lottery .000033% chance at being a self-publishing Cinderella that's too tempting?

Natalie:  Both. With so many opportunities that didn’t exist ten years ago, people are, naturally, taking advantage of them. I like to think it’s human nature to hope for the best and, since it’s become so acceptable to self-publish in the eyes of the writing community, I think writers are feeling like…why not? Unfortunately, I think many authors are also still thinking of self-publishing a novel as a first step to traditional publication, like a marketing strategy to gain traction, rather than the true entrepreneurial venture that it is.

Lee:  You represent children's authors from picture book through YA. What if an writer wants to write (and be published) in more than one age category?

Natalie:  That’s fine, but it’s important to keep in mind that success in one category will not necessarily carry over into another (unless of course the author has the recognition of Neil Gaiman!). If an author sells a novel, he or she will essentially need to start over when trying to sell a picture book or middle grade. Previous writing credits don’t mean much under a category outside of the one the author is trying to sell in, because the audience isn’t the same.

Editors aren’t as free as agents in what they can take on; an author’s novel editor may not be able to buy a picture book from that author, and in fact, the editor is going to prefer for that author to continue to brand him/herself and not branch off. It can really start to confuse readers and followers on what to expect next from an author if s/he is constantly doing different things – which can impact sales negatively. There are also contractual obligations and restrictions to consider – an author may not even be able to publish or sell a new work before the first is out (which of course is why it’s important to discuss career paths/future works with your agent, so contracts can be negotiated accordingly).

So – it’s fine, as long as the author understands the branding, time management, and restrictions involved in order to culture both genres under his/her name. Honestly, it is usually better to focus on the category the author expects to continue writing in the most, or feels the most passionate about, first.

Lee:  What's the dream manuscript you've been looking for?

Natalie:  Anything that gets me so excited I know I’m going to rock some major socks on submission and create a bidding war ending in the 6-7 figures.

Lee: Can you share your advice for writers attending the conference?
Natalie:  Soak it all in; take notes, be open to feedback and alternating opinions, network, be yourself…go home, think about it…revise….and THEN send off any requested or pitching material.

Lee:  And for the Saturday Night Hippie Hop party, the all important question: Tie dye or Fringe?

Natalie:  Bunny ears.

To have a chance to learn from and be inspired by Natalie and the rest of the publishers, editors, agents, art directors, illustrators and authors who are part of the amazing conference faculty, you can still register here!


Friday, July 20, 2012

Gay Characters at ComicCon!

Check out this article in the Los Angeles Times about the new prominence (and acceptance) of gay comic book characters at the premiere comic conference in Southern California last weekend!

I loved learning that for the past 25 years they've been doing a Gays in Comics panel, one of the longest-running panels at the convention.

Joan Hilty, a former DC Comics editor, who was an early panelist and was on the Gays in Comics panel again this time, said,

“In the past, we struggled to fill three rows of seats,” she recalls. “Now it’s in one of those huge screening halls — and it’s standing-room only.”

So great to hear!


ps - thanks to my husband for the heads-up on this one!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hip Hop Singer Frank Ocean Comes Out as Gay... and Gets Support!

This is pretty cool news...

As reported in the New York Times,

Frank Ocean revealed last week on his Tumblr account that his first true love was a man.


This post was followed by a lot of support, including Russell Simmons, a founder and former owner of the Def Jam label, who wrote this, "The Courage of Frank Ocean Just Changed The Game!":

"...I am profoundly moved by the courage and honesty of Frank Ocean.  Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear.  These types of secrets should not matter anymore, but we know they do, and because of that I decided to write this short statement of support for one of the greatest new artists we have.

His gifts are undeniable. His talent, enormous.  His bravery, incredible.  His actions this morning will uplift our consciousness and allow us to become better people.  Every single one of us is born with peace and tranquility in our heart.  Frank just found his.

Frank, we thank you.  We support you.  We love you.

- Russell Simmons"

That's a real sign that our world is changing for the better!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Gay Pride in Israel - My Brother's Diary

My brother attended Gay pride this year in Israel, and agreed to share the experience with us all. Here's his


Wednesday June 6, 2012

At Newark Airport, in the security line for my flight to Tel Aviv.  The 3 guys behind me sound like party planners, heading for Pride related activities. I hear the words Techno; Eilat; Beach; Parade…and notice their hipster glasses, new wave haircuts, logo tee shirts and skinny jeans. Meanwhile, the family in front of me is hard-core Orthodox, and they are wearing the black coats, tallis, wigs, payes (sidelocks), and other symbols of their tribe.  This is exactly the cultural mash up I am expecting from putting together the words Gay and Israel!

Thursday June 7

Hayarkon Street, the main road along the beach, is lined with rainbow flags.  Time Out Israel has major features on the week, the parade, the activities.  And when I get back to the hotel room after dinner, management has left a “Dear Guests” letter alerting them to likely traffic jams due to the annual “Pride Parade,” while not specifying what kind of pride, exactly…

Friday June 8

I meet my 20 year old out cousin at noon, a block from Meir park—we missed most of the morning’s speeches (they started at 10am), but do hear the mayor of Tel Aviv welcoming everyone and reminding us to stay hydrated. Then it’s parade time.  There are thousands (tens of thousands?) of people slowly making their way along the route, sun beating down pretty hard.  We walk alongside 3 major floats with gogo dancers  and pulsing dance music—one is sponsored by Google, one by a local news channel, one by a favorite club of my cousin’s (that one was my favorite float, with a gold and white Olympic theme).  They stop regularly, causing major human gridlock. At times it borders on scary, though mostly the crowd is good natured and by Israeli standards, relatively polite.  It’s a mix of young and middle-aged, 70/30 male to female, and also 70/30 topless to tanktops for the guys. When there are older people, they tend to be smiling ‘savtahs’ (grandmas) disco dancing from their apartment balconies overlooking the parade.

By 3 we’re at the end of the route, and while the crowd turns left to the beach, we turn right and go grab some lunch.  Afterwards we walk down to the beach party, a giant swatch of sandy beach given over to booming club music, dozens of banners advertising beer and hook up websites, and those same masses of revelers, now glowing with suntans, sunburns, glitter and sweat. While I’ve never been to Ibiza, it’s what my fantasy of that hedonistic tropical playground is like.

The party continued through the weekend, but that’s the end of my story. Family gatherings took over after the parade, and I returned to a parallel universe.  But if you ever have the opportunity to attend Tel Aviv Pride, it will update your image of ‘nice Jewish boys’ (and girls) forever!

He snapped some pictures, too:

My brother (right) and cousin

The gay flag and the Israeli flag get together

The crowd at Tel Aviv Pride!

I especially loved this photo that's from my friend Ron, of a giant poster in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.  It's celebrating this year's Gay PRIDE and the image features a two dad family!

Thanks, John!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The LGBTQ Q&A at the #LA12SCBWI Summer Conference!

Last year's LGBTQ Q&A at the SCBWI Summer Conference

I'm very excited to announce that once again I'll be moderating this discussion at the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrator's Summer Conference (August 3-6, 2012.)

The LGBTQ Q&A will be held this year on Friday August 3, 2012 from 7:30 to 8:30 pm.  Our special guests will be publisher and editor Arthur A. Levine, Assistant Literary Agent Natalie M. Lakosil, and Award-winning Author Sonya Sones!

We'll be discussing LGBTQ publishing, the submission process, and who is interested in what kinds of stories.

Maybe you've written a book about or for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer or questioning youth.  Maybe you're interested in doing so.  Maybe you are just curious to learn more about this vital corner of the market for young readers.

It's been a wonderful discussion and community-building experience at past conferences, and with Arthur, Natalie and Sonya this is an amazing opportunity to learn, be inspired, connect, and have your questions answered.

You can still register for the SCBWI Summer Conference here.

Hope to see you!


Monday, July 16, 2012

"I AM A HomoLOVEual!"

I did a presentation on LGBTQ History last week at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, California, as part of a multi-person lineup, and after the show one of the audience members, Ali, came up and thanked me for sharing this:

When we talk about sex in our puritanical culture, it freaks everybody out.  So when we talk about being homoSEXuals, and we fight for our homoSEXual rights, and we want our homoSEXual history to be known, all anybody's hearing is SEXXXXXX.

What if we talked about LOVE instead?

What if we had the media call us "HomoLOVEuals?"

What if we fought for our homoLOVEual rights?

Our homoLOVEual history?

Wouldn't it change everything?

Ali and me

It made a huge impression on Ali.  He asked if he could take his photo with me (he emailed me a copy of it, above) and told me proudly that I could quote him:

"I AM A HomoLOVEual.  I will NEVER call myself a homosexual again!!!!!

- Ali Babu Che Johnson

It was a great moment, and I had to share.

And I got to thinking, I want this idea to spread.  I want our conversations to be about LOVE.  I think this can, person by person, help change the world...

To help that happen, I created a new website, homoLOVEual.com, to present the idea, and then let people add their own photos and statements of homoLOVEual identity and/or support.  (Gotta love our allies!)

So please go check out homoLOVEual.com, and let me know what you think.

And if you agree that we should be talking about LOVE, let me know.

I am a HomoLOVEual!  How about you?


Friday, July 13, 2012

Sonya Sones - The Pre-#LA12SCBWI Summer Conference Interview

Sonya Sones, Author and Faculty Member at the upcoming SCBWI Summer Conference

Sonya Sones has written four YA novels in verse, which have received many honors, including a Christopher Award, the Myra Cohn Livingston Award for Poetry, the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize nomination. She’ll be the first one to tell you that in 2010 her novel in verse, What My Mother Doesn’t Know, made the ALA’s list of the “Top 100 Most Challenged Books of the Decade.” Sonya’s latest book, the Los Angeles Times bestseller The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus, is her first novel in verse for grownups—a coming of middle-age story about learning to grow old disgracefully. She is this close to finishing her fifth YA novel in verse.

I'm very excited to have been able to chat with Sonya about the upcoming SCBWI Summer Conference here in Los Angeles...

Lee:   There's lots of focus on breaking through at the SCBWI Summer Conference, especially for writers who have yet to be published. What do you see as the benefits of attending for authors who are already published?

Sonya:  Come for the inspiration, and the fun! Come for the chance to see old friends and to meet new ones! And even if you are published, there’s always more to learn about writing and about illustrating and about marketing all of the above.

Lee:  Your Monday Writers Intensive session is called "Should Your Tomes Be Written in Poems: Crafting the Novel in Verse" - The description is really enticing:

"Thinking about writing a novel in verse? In the middle of writing one already? This session will be jam-packed with info, tips, and secrets about using poetry to tell your stories."

Even the assignment sounds cool:

"Bring the first page of something you're working on and we'll pick some from a hat to discuss. After three days of soaking up inspiration at the conference, your creative juices will be flowing like lava, so we'll spend some of our time together writing poems."

Can you share a teaser tip or secret with us now?

Sonya:  Okay, here’s a secret: Whenever you can, use similes to get to the heart of your character’s feelings. For example, instead of having your character say, “I am so happy right now,” show us that your character is happy, by using a simile: “I feel like a jar all filled up with a thousand fireflies.” Instead of having your character say, “I was so scared,” show us with a simile: “My heart fluttered in my throat like a trapped bird.” The amazing thing about this is that it allows your readers to feel the feelings your characters are having, right along with them—which makes them relate in a very deep way to what your characters are going through!

Lee:  That’s a good secret!  *scribbling madly in my journal*  You'll be a special guest for the LGBTQ Q&A session on Friday night that I'm moderating, and I want to ask - With so much of the industry geared towards success being reaching the largest possible audience, there's a perception that "majority" characters are maybe "safer" to focus on. As an author, how do you get past that to include LGBTQ and other minority characters?

Sonya:  If an LGBTQ character or other minority character wants me to tell their story, then I do. I never think about how that will affect my success. To heck with “safer!”

Lee:  Love that!  Any advice to share with conference attendees?

Sonya:  Push the envelope. Go to some breakout sessions about genres you haven’t tried. Maybe you’ll have an epiphany! Spend as little time as possible in your hotel room.

Lee:   For the Saturday Night Hippie Hop Gala… Tie dye or Fringe?

Sonya:  Definitely tie dye. I never even did fringe when fringe was happening!

Lee:  Thanks, Sonya!

To have a chance to learn from and be inspired by Sonya and the rest of the publishers, editors, agents, art directors, illustrators and authors who are part of the amazing conference faculty, you can still register here!


Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Letter Q: Queer Writers' Notes To Their Younger Selves

The Letter Q: Queer Writers' Notes To Their Younger Selves, Edited by Sarah Moon with contributing editor James Lecesne

If you received a letter from your older self, what do you think it would say?  What do you wish it would say?

That the boy you were crushing on in History turns out to be gay too, and that you become boyfriends in college?  That your mother, who's so freaked out about you being a lesbian now, will one day make the wedding cake for you and your girlfriend?  That the bully who is making your life miserable every day will one day become so insignificant that you won't remember his name until he shows up at your book signing and asks for your autograph?

In this anthology, sixty-four award-winning authors and illustrators such as Michael Cunningham, Amy Bloom, Jacqueline Woodson, Terrence McNally, Gregory Maguire, David Levithan, and Amistead Maupin, make imaginative journeys into their pasts, telling their younger selves what they would have liked to know about their lives as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered people.  Through stories, in pictures, with bracing honesty, these are words of love, messages of understanding, reasons to hold on for the better future ahead.  They will tell you things about your favorite authors that you never knew about before.  And they will tell you about yourself.

Carry this book with you.  Read it when you're having a difficult time, when you're feeling sad, insecure, or angry.  Read it when you feel hopeful and happy.  And someday - truly, it is not as far away as it seems - you will be able to add your own letter to the collection.

Sometimes, the jacket flap copy on a book is so great, I just have to run it as is (which I've done above.)   Here's the book trailer...

The list of authors who contributed to this collection is pretty remarkable:

Amy Bloom
Michael Cunningham
Julie Anne Peters
Jacqueline Woodson
Eileen Myles
David Levithan
Jasika Nicole
Rakesh Satyal
Doug Wright
Melandie Braverman
Brian Selznick
Stacey D'Erasmo
Adam Haslett
Terrence McNally
Erik Orrantia
Jennifer Camper
Martin Moran
Armistead Maupin
Arthur Levine
Malinda Lo
Maurice Vellekoop
Michael Nava
Larry Duplechan
Ali Leibegott
Paul Rudnick
Linda Villarosa
J.D. McClatchy
Anne Bogart
Eric Orner
Lucy Jane Bledsoe
Tony Valenzuela
Carole DeSanti
Gregory Maguire
Christopher Rice
Jewell Gomez
Bill Clegg
Erika Moen
Sarah Moon
Bruce Coville
LaShanda Katrice Barnett
Howard Cruse
Bil Wright
Michael DiMotta
Carter Sickels
Diane DiMassa
Brent Hartinger
Mayra Lazara Dole
Benoit Deizet-Lewis
Susan Stinson
Marc Wolf
Lucy Knisley
Nick Burd
Ray Daniels
James Lecesne
Paula Gilovich
Colman Domingo
Richard McCann
Marion Dane Bauer
Lucy Thurber
Randall Kenan
Paige Braddock
Jaye Maiman
David Leavitt
David Ebershoff

Wow, huh?

Add your review of "The Letter Q" in comments!


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Seasonal Velocities - Poems, Stories and Essays by Ryka Aoki

Seasonal Velocities by Ryka Aoki

With her characteristic honesty and a powerful, fierce grace, Ryka Aoki carries us through fear in the dark, the half-lives of scars, home, and hope. As vivid and unflinching as it is lyrical, this poetry delivers and demands sparkling truth even as it speaks of violence, longing and love. Rather than aiming to transcend, Aoki invites us to make alliance with all the contradictions of being human, to grow stories, to listen, and to build community despite everything.

I had the chance to talk to Ryka and find out more about her new collection of poems, stories and essays...

Thanks Ryka!

And I love this blurb of the book by S. Bear Bergman

"In the hands of Ryka Aoki, words can be everything - a tool, a fire, a gift, a weapon, a meal, a barricade, a refuge.  I was tempted to ration this book, so I'd have some when I needed it, but found myself gulping it down and was so nourished by it the whole way along."

Add your review of "Seasonal Velocities" in comments!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Princess Princess, vol. 1 - A Gender Non-Conforming/Transgender Manga

Princess Princess by Mikiyo Tsuda

Why is Toru Kono receiving such an overly warm welcome at his new all boys school?  He has yet to discover the secret system called "Hime" (Princess) in effect at the school.  Boys who are chosen have to dress up as a girl at every school event!  Little does Toru know that he will be the chosen one...

There are five volumes in this manga series - here are the covers for the other four.

There's also the Princess Princess Plus stand-alone volume, 

which according to this excellent review is best read after the first five volumes, and focuses more on the personal story between Izumi and Matsuoka, and less on their Princess responsibilities.

Add your review of any of the "Princess Princess" titles in comments!

My thanks again to Robin Fosdick, Reference Librarian, Youth Services at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library in Oregon, for letting me know about her library's excellent list of GLBTQ Graphic Novels For Teens!


Monday, July 9, 2012

Highlighting Resources: Bullying Research by Jaana Juvonen at UCLA

I had the opportunity to hear Professor Juvonen speak about her research, and this excellent article covers some fascinating aspects of bullying!

There's the stunning take-away of how she discovered that the cool kids WERE the bullies, and how

The bully-coolness connection...is virtually nonexistent in elementary school and suddenly appears in the sixth grade, the first year of middle school. 


"...bullying is not a problem of specific individuals. Bullying is a collective problem. We need to address the social dynamics."


"Bullies can stop being bullies, and victims can stop being victims," Juvonen said. "What we’ve learned is that these are temporary social roles, not permanent personality characteristics."
It's well worth reading, and includes some great to-dos, including

Think if there might be another way to provide them with a sense of control and power other than being mean to others," she suggested. "I’ve seen some very clever teachers do that. When they see a kid who’s constantly on the case of other kids, these clever teachers give this kid a special role" that channels the bully’s energies more positively.


For lonely kids with a propensity for becoming victims, having just one friend may be enough to protect them.
"We have to start thinking about meaningful buddy programs that connect them with somebody," Juvonen said, "to make sure that there’s somebody at the school who says ‘Hi!’ in the morning rather than punching them." 

Lots of inspiration in this!


Friday, July 6, 2012

Check out what 16 Year Old Ebonie did to change her school district and make it safer for GLBTQ students like her!

This story is inspiring!

"I no longer have to look over my shoulder at school. I will be safe, just like every student deserves. I will hold my head high. I can be out, and proud."


Thank you Ebonie - you're a HERO!  And cheers for your Mom, too, for empowering you to make such a big difference!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sister Mischief - A Teen Lesbian Suburban Hip-Hopper Freaks Out Her Christian High School - and Falls In Love

Sister Mischief by Laura Goode

Listen up: You’re about to get rocked by the fiercest, baddest all-girl hip-hop crew in the Twin Cities - or at least in the wealthy, white, Bible-thumping suburb of Holyhill, Minnesota. Our heroine, Esme Rockett (aka MC Ferocious) is a Jewish lesbian lyricist. In her crew, Esme’s got her BFFs Marcy (aka DJ SheStorm, the butchest straight girl in town) and Tess (aka The ConTessa, the pretty, popular powerhouse of a vocalist). But Esme’s feelings for her co-MC, Rowie (MC Rohini), a beautiful, brilliant, beguiling desi chick, are bound to get complicated. And before they know it, the queer hip-hop revolution Esme and her girls have exploded in Holyhill is on the line. 

Add your review of "Sister Mischief" in comments!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Let's put the RED in Red-White-and-Blue : Ending the ban on Gay Men donating blood would be VERY American!

So a few months ago I was at the hospital, waiting for a friend to get out of surgery, and this eager volunteer was walking around the waiting room, trying to get people to give blood.  She was explaining how the need was so extraordinary, and she made her way around to me. 

I hadn't been asked about giving blood in a long time, and it hadn't really been on my radar.  But my friend was in there, and it was a good cause.  I was feeling healthy, maybe it was something I could do...

She handed me the materials, and as I scanned them, my stomach dropped.  There it was.  As a gay man, I wasn't allowed to donate.

No matter the need, no matter the health of my blood, they weren't interested in my Gay blood.

She asked if I wanted to donate.

I told her I'd be happy to, but as a gay man it seemed they didn't want my blood after all.

It was embarrassing, and kind of humiliating.  And it made me angry.

Did you know that gay men (who have ever had sex) aren't allowed to donate blood?  Even if they practice safe sex?  And did you know that ban is for life?

This at the same time that the American Red Cross is reporting Emergency-level shortages of blood.

At the recent Los Angeles Gay Pride,

"...2,085 attendees were given detailed information about this policy and then signed a petition in support of efforts to lift the ban. Each signature represented one pint of blood collected, for a total of 2,085 pints, which could have saved over 6,000 lives."

Want to have your voice heard about this injustice?

Check out this petition:


To Whom It May Concern,
This petition is for moving towards repealing the FDA's 1985 MSM Blood Ban, which prevents all sexually active gay males from donating blood and vital organs for life.

It is stated that men having sex with other men is a High Risk behavior for contracting HIV/AIDS, when this is an issue that no longer holds merit and is severely outdated. We feel that there is no difference in a "gay" man or "straight" man/woman who engage in safe sexual activity. It is a bigotry that has gone overlooked, and an unnecessary segregation.

Labeling an entire community of people as, "HIGH RISK" for contracting HIV/AIDS, irresponsibly sentences them to feeling as if they are soon to be victims of something that they have no control over.

Please sign this petition to help us bring about the end to the FDA's 1985 MSM Blood Ban, and to allow all healthy gay men to do their part in helping to SAVE A LIFE.

You can sign it here.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Boys Don't Cry - A Black Teen Gets Surprised With A Baby (And He Has a Gay Brother)

Boys Don't Cry by Malorie Blackman

Dante is a 17 year old black student in the UK, and he's waiting for the postman who's bringing Dante's A level results. University, a career as a journalist – a glittering future lies ahead.

But when the doorbell rings it’s Dante's old girlfriend; and she’s carrying a baby.   She tells Dante the baby is his... and then leaves!

Suddenly Dante's future looks very different.

What's queer about this book?  Dante's younger brother is out and gay (and much better with the baby than his brother.) 

Add your review of "Boys Don't Cry" in comments!

Monday, July 2, 2012

30 Days of PRIDE Year Two: Knit, Pearl, and Pride

Last year’s response to my decision to wear out and gay t-shirts for all thirty days of June was loud and clear – the project made an impact, not just on me, but on others, and I wanted to do it again.

The parameters this year were the same, and while I had a few more t-shirts, the idea wasn’t to have a different gay pride t-shirt for each day.  It wasn’t a fashion challenge, it was more of a not-in-the-closet challenge.  An experiment.

See, in my life, it is not always assumed I am gay.  In fact, if I’m not holding my husband’s hand, and if I’m with our daughter, the assumption strangers tend to make is that I’m straight.

I “present” as a cis-gendered white guy (a guy who feels like a guy inside and that matches how I look on the outside), and I “present” as straight.  This gives me a lot of ‘passing privilege’ in our culture.  How much? 

Last year, I decided it was worth an experiment to see.  If I was outwardly NOT the majority (by wearing a VERY gay t-shirt each day), would my experience be closer to that of a person of color, who doesn’t get to pass as anything else?  Would I be given a hard time as I made my way through my 30 days?  Or would I find unexpected allies?  (You can read about last year’s results here.)

This year’s experiment surprised me.  Perhaps because I just didn’t get out and about among strangers that much, there were only three days when the t-shirts got a lot of comments/response.

The first was the day I was at Disneyland, wearing this shirt:

Six different people commented on how much they LOVED the shirt, and many more looked at it, trying to read it.  Some looked concerned, but many more smiled.  It made me (and my daughter) really happy.

The second was while wearing the “Smile If You’re Gay” t-shirt.

I had one woman (in a store we’d never been in before, where I’d taken my daughter to learn to knit) read the shirt and then frown, as if to make sure I didn’t think she was… well, you know… queer.  Oddly enough, the other eight women in the store were REALLY kind and friendly, and the shirt was just as gay to them.

It’s interesting how some people find this shirt confrontational, and my daughter and I spoke that afternoon about how maybe we needed to add in pen underneath the “Smile if you’re gay” the line, “You can also smile if you’re straight.”  But I was very aware of people’s reactions.

The third day when a t-shirt elicited a lot of response was a travel day, wearing my It Gets Better shirt.

Standing in the airport in the security line, a pilot (in the fast line next to us) patted me on the shoulder and said “it’s so great to see a father wearing an It Gets Better shirt!”  That was really cool.  The man across from us in the boarding gate stared at my shirt and then smiled, saying, “It really does get better.  It got better for me!”  and practically beamed at me, my husband and daughter as we passed him on the plane.  The shirt was read a lot, and noticed, and was very empowering.

The fourth day a t-shirt got a lot of response was gay pride in Los Angeles, which since I was marching in the parade flipped the ‘assumption,’ and everyone present correctly assumed I was gay.

For those three days of the month when I was in a non-gay context around a lot of people who didn’t know me – the knitting store, Disneyland, at the airport – I think the experiment was a big success.

But what surprised me was something else this month that brought up not only a TON of response from others, but a lot of emotions within myself as well.

I learned how to knit.

I carried my first project around with me as I did things, and in those odd down-time moments of waiting (for a plane to take off, for my daughter to finish an activity, in the doctor’s office) I pulled out my yarn and needles and started to knit.

Oh, the stares.  The – there’s no other word for it – gawking by other dads, especially at kid events.  I became really self-conscious that

I was doing an activity that wasn’t seen as ‘masculine.’ 

And then I got annoyed.  Annoyed with others giving me the evil eye for doing something pretty harmless (and pretty cool, to take a string and make something 3-dimensional out of it!) 

Annoyed with myself for feeling so constrained by the boundaries of what’s SUPPOSED to be okay for men (boys) versus what’s okay for women (girls.) 

Annoyed with myself for not being willing to fully embrace this ‘feminine’ thing I liked doing – and embrace it with PRIDE.

So I challenged myself to knit more.  In public.  To be prouder of being a guy who knits. 

Was I feeding into the stereotype of gay men doing girly things (something I fought so hard against as a teen?)  Was I becoming a stereotype in other people’s eyes, wearing my gay pride t-shirts and knitting something pink and orange?  Well, I know I’m no stereotype.  And that’s good enough.

So this year, my revelation was more about being willing to cross the gender line and do something ‘girly’ with pride.  It didn’t make me any less of a man, but it sure did make me a better human being.

And the funny thing is, over the course of the days that I knit in public, while I didn’t see any other guys knitting out in the world, I DID have a bunch of guys come out to me… about being knitters, too!

I guess I’m learning (once again) that I really shouldn’t care AT ALL about what other people think of me.

They don’t expect a six-feet-four-inch tall white guy to knit?  Okay, that’s THEIR journey.

They don’t expect a father of a young girl to be gay?  That’s their journey, too!

I’m glad I took 30 days to wear my gay pride shirts this June.  And I’m even happier that this was the month that I took up knitting. 

And I hope you take this lesson to heart, too.


That there, is the secret to life.


ps - My computer laptop cover that I’m making – I know, so butch! – is coming along nicely, thanks!

This is me knitting on a plane... with PRIDE!