Friday, December 16, 2016

See You In 2017!

For now, I'm going to follow the sage advice of Anne Lamott,

























Thanks, Anne. I'll be back blogging here at I'm Here. I'm Queer. What The Hell Do I Read? on Jan 4, 2017. Happy holidays, Happy New Year, and remember to count your blessings...

Please know that I count you, my community, as one of mine.

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Don't Let The Light Go Out

I keep thinking about this awesome Peter, Paul and Mary song, Light One Candle, and it's final lyrics that seem so perfect for right now (even though this performance was from 1983!)



...We have come this far
always believing
that justice will somehow prevail

this is the burden
this is the promise
this is why we will not fail

Don't let the light go out
it's lasted for so many years

Don't let the light go out
let it shine through our love and tears

Don't let the light go out
it's lasted for so many years

Don't let the light go out
let it shine through our love and tears

Don't let the light go out

Don't let the light go out

Don't let the light go out!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Just Girls - Freshman year of college, and a lesbian teenager tries to protect a Trans girl by claiming to be the Trans student herself



Just Girls by Rachel Gold

Jess Tucker sticks her neck out for a stranger—the buzz is someone in the dorm is a trans girl. So Tucker says it’s her, even though it’s not, to stop the finger pointing. She was an out lesbian in high school, and she figures she can stare down whatever gets thrown her way in college. It can’t be that bad.

Ella Ramsey is making new friends at Freytag University, playing with on-campus gamers and enjoying her first year, but she’s rocked by the sight of a slur painted on someone else’s door. A slur clearly meant for her, if they’d only known.

This is the follow-up novel to "Being Emily." Add your review of "Just Girls" in comments!

Friday, December 9, 2016

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



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

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

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

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

Love, love, love this.

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



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



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



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

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


Monday, December 5, 2016

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

AGENTS AND EDITORS NEED TO ADVERTISE
THEIR INTEREST IN DIVERSITY

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

Agent Tanusri Prasanna (photo by Michael Soluri)


Tanusri's bio:

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


Our interview...


Lee: Hi Tanusri!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lee: How about characters with disabilities?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lee: Middle Grade?

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

Lee: Young Adult?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illustrate and Write On!
Lee

Friday, December 2, 2016

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

This is deeply disturbing:




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

#1 Vice-President elect Mike Pence,

#2 Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions,

#3 Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Tom Price,

#4 Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos,

#5 Secretary of Transportation nominee Elaine Chao,

and

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

Oh, and there's

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

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

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



Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

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



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

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

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


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

Monday, November 21, 2016

"Making Gay History" Podcast - my new podcast obsession

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



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

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

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

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

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



Friday, November 18, 2016

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



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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

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

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



Let's make this a safer world for Gabe!

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


Monday, November 14, 2016

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



Havemercy by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett

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

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

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

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

Add your review of "Havemercy" in comments!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Your cape is ready. Join me.

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

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

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

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



We have our power. And our cape.

And we will be #StrongerTogether.

Now more than ever.

Lee

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

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

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

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

It's happened to you, too.

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

Your twist is that now, you work for me.

I didn't vote for you.

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

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

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

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

Now, you work for every single American.

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

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

And we've learned your reality TV show line:

"You're Fired."



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



Monday, November 7, 2016

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

AGENTS AND EDITORS NEED TO ADVERTISE
THEIR INTEREST IN DIVERSITY

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

Agent Jennifer Udden


Jennifer's bio:

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

Our interview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lee: How about characters with disabilities?

Jennifer: I’ve seen a few, definitely!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thanks Jennifer!

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

Illustrate and Write On!
Lee


Friday, November 4, 2016

The PROGRESSive Choice

An infographic for you to share...



I'm really proud to be one of 1200 children's book authors and illustrators who are standing up and voting for Hillary Clinton and a congress that will work with her.

Here's a sampling of AIforC volunteers, explaining why we've all been working to spread the word:


Rebecca O'Connell #HillaryBecause... She wrote It Takes a Village twenty years ago, and it is still true.

Evelyn Coleman I am supporting AIC because I know these are folk who care about children as much as I do.

Mira Lopez I'm supporting Hillary and AIC because I know she's capable of making sure that I have the most opportunities to succeed in my future.

Gabrielle Raumberger I support the dedicated work of AIC. Their passion for creating critical mass of aligned Americans who want a world that has the best interest of our children’s future at its heart has drawn me to them. And that’s also why I'm voting for Hillary: her record for creating programs that benefit children’s well-being contributes to the greater good for all of us.

Helen Hemphill I’m voting for Hillary because she’s a listener and a learner who is grounded in facts.

Jaime Temairik I want a compassionate, intelligent, and diplomatic person as our next president, and that person is absolutely Hillary Clinton.

Maurie J. Manning I support the AIC campaign because our shared career focus puts us in a unique position to speak up with authority for what’s in the best interest of our children’s future — the calm, kind, perseverant and serious candidate for POTUS, Hillary Clinton.

Janni Lee Simner I'm the grandaughter of immigrants and the mother of an immigrant. I'm with Hillary Clinton because I'm for a country that embraces all of its families, and that makes room for those who seek refuge here as well.

Janet Wong #ImWithHer because she’s been working on behalf of children for 30+ years—and because I trust the wisdom of 1,200+ #AuthorsAndIllustrators4Clinton who are voting for Hillary, too.

Leonard Marcus I'm voting for Hilary because she knows what she's doing and because she cares about people.

Kris Vreeland I'm voting for Hillary because I believe she is the best candidate. She has supported women's rights, children's issues and human rights her entire career. Her heart is in the right place. She is also insightful and intelligent. She listens and knows how to work well with others to reach the necessary compromises without sacrificing the integrity of her goals to serve the American people.

Rebecca Gold I support the AIC campaign for Hillary because authors and illustrators who write for children, care for children. And what’s best for all children is to have a smart, dedicated and caring woman in the White House, not a bully.

Michelle Parker-Rock It's a privilege to be an AIC Board Member in support of Hillary, and I am voting for her because she is an advocate for children, women, the LGBTQ community, clean power, liberal judges, an end to racial profiling, higher minimum wages, and so much more.

Susan Raab I'm voting for Hillary because this is not a game or horse race to win -- it's simply about who we should hire to do the toughest, most complex, most critical to our lives, job we have.

Stephanie Olivieri I'm a first-generation American, and I'm supporting AIC because I'm voting for Hillary Clinton because she understands that this great country was built by immigrants and is opposed to building a wall.

April Wayland To me, Hillary Clinton is like a redwood tree—with rings of strength, of discipline, of know-how, and always a champion for children deep in her heartwood.

Bruce Balan One candidate has dedicated herself to public service, the other has dedicated himself to self-service. The choice is clear.

And here's mine:

Lee Wind I went from “anybody but rhymes-with-dump” to proudly voting for Hillary (and a congress that will work with her) because I’ve been paying attention: Hillary Clinton is brave and smart and I believe she truly cares about people besides herself and her family having rights and good lives. She’ll be a great President--if we’re brave and smart and caring enough to elect her.

If you're fortunate enough to be able to vote in this US election, please use your vote wisely!

With hope,
Lee

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Darkest Part of the Forest – Hazel is a fighter, Ben is a gay artist, and Faeries "have come to exact their price"



The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointy as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down and a hero is needed to save them all, Hazel tries to remember her years spent pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

Check out the creepy–and quite awesome–book trailer:



Add your review of "The Darkest Part of the Forest" in comments!

Monday, October 31, 2016

The scariest thought this Halloween


Ahhh!

Now that's too scary.


We all have to vote!

(image created at http://www.abcya.com/pumpkin_carving.htm)






Friday, October 28, 2016

Wonders of the Invisible World - Secrets, A Curse, and A Childhood Friend Who Might Be Much More...



Wonders of the Invisible World by Christopher Barzak

Aidan Lockwood lives in a sleepy farming community known for its cattle ranches and not much else. That is, until Jarrod, a friend he hasn’t seen in years, moves back to town. It’s Jarrod who opens Aidan’s eyes to events he’s long since forgotten, and who awakes in him feelings that go beyond mere friendship. But as Aidan’s memories return, so do some unsettling truths about his family. As Aidan begins to probe into long-buried secrets, the lines between the past and the present, tales and truths, friends and lovers begin to blur, and Aidan will need to confront a family curse before he can lay claim to his life once more.

This was a Stonewall Book Awards–Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Award Honor Book! 

Add your review of "Wonders of the Invisible World" in comments!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I'll be at #NY17SCBWI

how about you?


And once again I'm honored to be hosting the LGBTQ + Allies Social (with special conference faculty guests!) on Saturday February 11, 2017 at 8:30pm (right after the Gala!)

Find out all the conference info here. Registration is open for this amazing conference that sells out year after year. Hope to see you theere!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee

Monday, October 24, 2016

Our latest Authors and Illustrators for Children... For Hillary Clinton video

"Bullying"




A week ago, John McCain had the audacity to promise that Republicans "will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up. I promise you."

It's a great argument to not only elect Hillary Clinton, but to elect her with a mandate, and a congress that's willing to work together to get things done.

Consider sharing this with everyone you know who is in a swing state.

We've got to win this one. For children. And all of us!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee

Friday, October 21, 2016

Alok Vaid-Menon: Gender Selfie-Determination



This hour and fifteen minute lecture by Alok Vaid-Menon at the Annenberg Space for Photography is brilliant, and thought-provoking, and very moving.

Some highlights:

On speaking of themselves and fellow Trans and gender non-conforming people, Alok says,

"the reason we are punished is not because we are different but rather because people recognize a part of themselves in us that they had to destroy in order to get here."
and


"There are as many genders as there are people in the world."

"I am not actually gender non-conforming. You only see me as such because you are filtering my image through your gender binary."

"You are not who you look like, you are who you are."

"When we're talking about being tortured in the streets and you call us beautiful..." means you see us as "walking portraits and not actually as people."

and

"I'm fighting to be recognized as a person, but we exist in a culture right now where trans people are not people."


Alok's talk is important and, as a starting point, I wish every GSA would watch and discuss. I encourage you to watch and discuss it as well!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Breakthrough - Nonfiction about a gay teen scientist



Breakthrough by Jack Andraka, with Matthew Lysiak.
Teen scientist Jack Andraka’s journey through middle and high school is replete with homophobic persecution at school and skepticism from the scientific community. Between developing an early and inexpensive test for pancreatic cancer and establishing his own sense of self-worth, Jack’s story is a beacon of inspiration and hope.

Okay, I can't wait to read this one - and it was a top ten choice of the ALA's Rainbow List for 2016! Add your review of "Breakthrough" in comments!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Do You Know Any Undecided Voters in the upcoming USA Presidential Election?

If you only have a second, share this with them:




If you have a minute and a half, share one of these Authors and Illustrators for Children videos with them:

Uncomfortable?



and/or

Fame ≠ Experience



If you have a half hour, share this amazing Michelle Obama speech with them:



Let's all do what we can to make sure that our next US President is Hillary Clinton. As Michelle Obama says so brilliantly (at 13:47 into her speech) ~

"Because lets be very clear. Strong men - strong men - men who are truly role models, don't need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful. People who are truly strong lift others up. People who are truly powerful bring others together. And that is what we need in our next President. We need someone who is a uniting force in this country. We need someone who will heal the wounds that divide us. Someone who truly cares about us and our children. Someone with strength and compassion to lead this country forward. And let me tell you, I'm here today because I believe with all of my heart that Hillary Clinton will be that President."
Thanks!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee

See lots more resources at http://aiforc.org/ and by following Authors and Illustrators for Children on social media with the hashtag #AuthorsandIllustrators4Clinton

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Revised Birth Announcement For A Trans Teen



This was so wonderful, to see the love with which Kal's family embraces their child! The story is from 2014, but I'm just catching up to it now.

The clipping reads:

A RETRACTION - BOGERT -
In 1995 we announced the arrival of our sprogget, Elizabeth Anne, as a daughter. He informs us that we were mistaken. Oops! Our bad. We would now like to present, our wonderful son - Kal Bogert.
Loving you in the easiest thing in the world. Tidy your room.

So powerful and, as a parent – as a human being – inspiring. You can read more about the story here.

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Doug Locke's #ThisCouldBeUs - A gay love music video you have to see

This really moved me:





Thanks, Doug.

And on Yom Kippur, the traditional day in Jewish life when you take stock of your year past and aim to do better in the year ahead, I know I have wishes for these two characters and their own happy ever after...

Meanwhile, for those of us whose lives are real, let's be as authentic as we can be!

Sound like a plan?

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee

Monday, October 10, 2016

Have you been following the Alicia Keys #nomakeup movement?

Here's a quick way to catch up, in this New York Times article by Penelope Green, "Alicia Keys and the 'Tyranny of Makeup."



Hurray for Alicia for having the courage to say makeup isn't right for her right now.

Hurray for having the courage to do something different than what everyone else is doing.

Hurray for all of us being authentically ourselves, and no one feeling like they 'have' to wear makeup!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee


Friday, October 7, 2016

It's LGBTQ History Month!





Don't know all the names on this list? That's the point - get to know our LGBTQ history! (And, to make the point, it's ALL of our history, whether we are LGBTQ or not.)

Check out the lgbthistorymonth.com website for all the 2016 profiles, videos, and downloadable bio pages!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Magician and Comedian Justin Willman explains everything you need to know about Trans and Gender NonConforming people using bathrooms in under 2 minutes

This is brilliant.

It does have one sexual reference in it, so if that's off-putting for you, just read the article instead.

Having said that, the video is funny and, yeah - brilliant:




Justin, you have new fan!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee

Monday, October 3, 2016

Putting out the call to Editors and Agents who want more diversity in their submissions!



In an effort to be more democratic about this, I'm putting out the call.

Children's and Teen literature agents and editors - if you believe in #WeNeedDiverseBooks, and if you want to see more diversity in the submissions you receive, and you would like to do an interview here on this blog about diversity (like the twenty AGENTS LOOKING FOR DIVERSITY and EDITORS LOOKING FOR DIVERSITY interviews that have been done so far - check out the column to the right) then please be in touch.

My email is leewind (at) roadrunner (dot) com

I look forward to hearing from you, and to this series continuing proudly on to help amplify unheard voices, open up more opportunity for diverse authors and illustrators -- and for creators working on under-represented stories, and to make kid lit even better!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee

p.s.: To avoid the potential awkwardness of me having to vet people, please help me by vetting yourself if you haven't presented at a SCBWI conference in your current capacity... Note that to be included, agents need to have at least three kidlit deals that are publicly listed (i.e., somewhere like publishers marketplace) and editors need to work for a company that doesn't publish just their own books (i.e, at least three other kidlit authors.) Thanks for your understanding!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Your #BannedBooksWeek Reading List

So, taking at look at the ALA's report of the top 10 most challenged books in 2015, I see a pattern.

For your convenience, I've highlighted it:


Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.

Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).

I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint,
religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).

The Holy Bible
Reasons: Religious viewpoint.

Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).

Habibi, by Craig Thompson
Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.

Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.

Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).






Note that "Homosexuality" is used to cover the two books, I am Jazz and Beyond Magenta, which are both about being Transgender. Gender identity is different than affective orientation, so they could work on their complaint. And it's super-insulting to say a book about real Trans teens in real families is "anti-family."



Fun Home's pivot is the LGBTQ-ness of two main characters, so "other" and "graphic images" seems like a cipher for the real issue. And citing it for 'violence' is ridiculous - I'm not even sure what they're referring to. At least the complaint for Two Boys Kissing is on the money, and they didn't even have to read the book to figure that out. Yes, it's gay. And yes, it condones public displays of affection.



Read all four. In fact, read all ten. (Well, maybe not the Bible. But if it's your cup of tea... Funny how that's on the list this year! And note that Fifty Shades of Gray is a very popular adult erotic novel.)

The point is, we should all have the freedom to read, and parents and caring adults should be able to have these conversations with the young people in their lives without external forces keeping options from them.

Books can be a light in the world, and in our lives. We should let them shine.

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Changing Hats

I'm excited to share that I'm stepping up to a more major position at Authors and Illustrators for Children, and I'll be working through to election day (Nov 8 - don't forget to vote!) as their Advisory Board Member in Charge of Communications and Social Media as well as their Spokesperson.



I'm really excited because we need to make sure our next president is Hillary Clinton!

Of course, this new hat means I'm wearing too many hats... so tomorrow, Thursday September 29, 2016 will be my last day working for Little Pickle Press. It's been a full year, and I've learned so much, and done some projects I'm really proud of.

And now, on to elect President Hillary Clinton!

Thanks for letting me share,

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee

Monday, September 26, 2016

2016's Banned Books Week (Sept 25 - Oct 1) Celebrates Diversity and the Freedom To Read!




In this article, "Why Diverse Books Are Commonly Banned," Maggie Jacoby writes,
The University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) and publisher Lee & Low have provided statistics from 1994 to 2012 that illustrate that while 37% of the U.S. population are people of color, only 10% of books published focus on multicultural content. In addition, ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, has determined that 52% of the books challenged, or banned, over the past decade are from titles that are considered diverse content. These statistics are troubling and create more questions than answers.

52% of the banned books are diverse? When diverse books are only 10% of the books published? That a call for change!

So this week, read a diverse book, and know that by doing that, you're celebrating our freedom to read.

You can find out lots more about Banned Books Week here.

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee

Friday, September 23, 2016

And... It's my new Author Photo!




Thanks, Michele Baron!

You'll be seeing this new image of me across social media. After all, it's my new, fun author photo! Yay!

Oh, and did I mention it's going to be on my book? Yup, this is the official author photo for THE QUEER HISTORY PROJECT: NO WAY, THEY WERE GAY?

How cool is that? Very!

-The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Crashing America - A homeless queer teen escapes San Francisco for the American heartland, longing for a sense of home



Crashing America by Katia Noyes

For 17-year-old queer street-punk Girl, the gutters of San Francisco are home. But when her best friend dies, she escapes the city for the heartland, in search of a place where she can breathe again.

Torn between her restlessness, a longing for home, and a desperate fear of impending death, Girl seeks to link herself with almost anyone who crosses her path: a bored housewife in Salt Lake City casting a net for illicit thrills, a born-again Christian punk rocker and his girlfriend, a teenage waitress living in a small town with a horizon so endless Girl is terrified to leave her motel room.

On a farm in Nebraska with her old friend Randa, Randa’s boyfriend Bill, and Bill’s extended family, Girl finds something that seems close to what she is seeking. But as the corn harvest progresses, what at first looked like salvation becomes something darker, and Girl hits the road in a stolen car headed for Memphis and one last chance for survival.

This book was included in the American Library Association's 2008 Rainbow List. Add your review of "Crashing America" in comments.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Namaste Dilemma



This has been on my mind for over a year, now.

See, I used to end my blog posts here with 'Namaste,' a term I really liked from my time doing yoga. When a yoga class would end, the teacher - no matter who it was - would usually put their palms together over their heart, and say, "Namaste," and those of us in the class would mirror that, hands in front of our hearts, and say, "Namaste" in response.

As it was explained to me, "Namaste" means the light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you.

I loved that meaning, and that ritual, and the expression became my way of saying good-bye. I used it everywhere. Freely. Because I do believe that it would be a better world if we all knew we had light inside us, and acknowledged that everyone else had light inside them, too.

But then, it came up (on twitter, actually) that using 'Namaste' as a cultural outsider, I was actually appropriating a sacred term. That I was offending people to whom that expression was a sacred part of their culture.

I questioned: wait, if I'm doing it with respect, with the understanding that what their culture offers in that expression is of value for everyone, is it still appropriation, or is it adoption? Isn't it a sign of my respect in our global world?

No, I was told empathically by two different people, there was no wiggle room. If you're not of the culture (and I'm not) using their term no matter my intent is appropriation, and offensive. And I should stop.

So I stopped. That day.

And yet, it bothered me. Was I so blinded by my white american privilege that I just couldn't get their point of view?

I tried to fold into my processing the context of the larger conversation they were having that I sort of stumbled into - they were voicing their discontent with the commercialization of 'Namaste,' to the point where sweatpants and other work-out gear were being sold with the word emblazoned across the wearer's butt.

That was definitely offensive, and I could see that.

But was there no room for how I had been using the term?

I guess I have to bring up the lighthouse, now.

Anne Lamott, in her brilliant "Bird By Bird," talks about how lighthouses don't run all over an island looking for boats to save. They just stand there, shining.

I love that metaphor, and think a lot about how that's what I'm trying to do. Be a light. With this blog. With my books. With everything I do. Not convince people I'm right if we disagree. But just, be my light. Be authentic, and trust in that. Some people will see my light, and that's great. Others will go in a different direction, and that's okay, too. I can't control them. All I can do is shine my light.

So that circles me back to how I might be able to get that sense of light back into my vocabulary, in a fashion that is respectful. And I think I've found a way. And for the first time, I'll try it in closing this essay. Thanks for reading, and know

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee

Friday, September 16, 2016

This Blog Is NINE!



Thank you!

Lee


The cool rainbow-flame birthday candle image ("with metal salts from our rocket propellants") is from wikimedia, photo by Steve Jurvetson

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Wanted - A Closeted Lesbian Bounty Hunter dealing with a bounty on her own head... and a nosy kid sister



Wanted by T I Alvarado

Life's dangerous enough when you work as a bounty hunter. But when you're a closeted lesbian and your nosy sister has just arrived for a visit, well, some days it might just be easier to take a bullet. That's exactly how Ladybird "Bird" Blacker is feeling, especially when her kid sister, Ruby, insists on riding along on the job. Bird's latest successful capture turns out to be the son of a powerful crime boss, and he's less than pleased at the notoriety. So, a hit has been put on Bird, and wouldn't you know it, she's familiar with the hired assassin. Intimately.

I found this Young Adult book on the amazing ALA Rainbow List of the best books with LGBTQ content for kids and teens from 2008. Anyone have a link to info on the author? Share that, and/or your review in comments!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Authors and Illustrators for Children... Voting for Hillary Clinton

So in the USA, we've got this presidential election coming up.

It's a big deal. Are we going to go backwards (Donald Trump), or continue to move forwards to a more just future that includes a respect and appreciation for diversity - including people of color, women, muslims, immigrants, and LGBTQ people (Hillary Clinton.)

Okay, so now you know who I'm voting for.

There's an idea out there that authors and illustrators shouldn't be political - that it could hurt their careers, if they alienate any possible customer. That speaking up is dangerous. But that robs us of our rightful voices in an election that's about SO much we care about.

As Michele Obama said in her speech the night Hillary Clinton accepted the democratic nomination for President,

"In this election, and every election, it is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives."

I'm joined by over 1,000 authors and illustrators of books for children and teens in speaking up on social media via Authors and Illustrators for Children. On Twitter. On Facebook. On Instagram. Here's a sample of what's being shared:









Check out the AIforC website here.

Grab the images. Share them widely. Use the Hashtag #AuthorsAndIllustrators4Clinton
And speak up! Your voice deserves to be heard, too.






Friday, September 9, 2016

Pukawiss the Outcast - A Teen Explores Their Previously-Hidden-From-Them Native Heritage, and their Two-Spirit Sense Of Self



Pukawiss the Outcast by Jay Jordan Hawke

The Two-spirit Chronicles: Book One

When family complications take Joshua away from his fundamentalist Christian mother and leave him with his grandfather, he finds himself immersed in a mysterious and magical world. Joshua’s grandfather is a Wisconsin Ojibwe Indian who, along with an array of quirky characters, runs a recreated sixteenth-century village for the tourists who visit the reservation. Joshua’s mother kept him from his Ojibwe heritage, so living on the reservation is liberating for him. The more he learns about Ojibwe traditions, the more he feels at home.

One Ojibwe legend in particular captivates him. Pukawiss was a powerful manitou known for introducing dance to his people, and his nontraditional lifestyle inspires Joshua to embrace both his burgeoning sexuality and his status as an outcast. Ultimately, Joshua summons the courage necessary to reject his strict upbringing and to accept the mysterious path set before him.
I loved this quote from the author:

"Pukawiss the Outcast celebrates a very common Native American tradition that venerates gay people. It may seem like the whole world, and all of history, is against you. But that simply is not true. Imagine living in a world where as a gay person you are considered something extra special—that you are in fact touched by God. That’s a radically different world from the one most gay teens grow up in today. I want people to see what that is like through the eyes of my teen protagonist."

There are two more books in the series,


In the months following the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, fourteen-year-old Joshua, a half Native American boy, is new to a Boy Scout troop and spending a week camping in northern Wisconsin. The weaker kids in the troop soon realize Joshua is not afraid to stand up to the troop's ruthless bullies. Joshua’s bravery and kindness is infectious, and the bullied Scouts quickly find their own inner strength.

Joshua, however, is plagued by self-doubt as he realizes he has feelings for Cody, the son of the troop’s harsh and puritanical Scoutmaster. The two discover they have more in common than Scouting as they share their deepest secrets and develop a close friendship. That friendship faces its greatest challenge as the homophobic bullies claim a “faggot” has “infected” their troop. As if struggling to come to terms with his sexuality while dealing with hatred and bigotry isn’t enough, Joshua discovers the camp holds another dark mystery, one that will make him summon all his courage and learn for the first time what it truly means to be brave.



and


Love can mean sacrifice. Joshua Ishkoday must decide if he can abandon the boy he loves in order to save him.

In the expansive and sometimes deadly northwoods of Wisconsin, Joshua must make a heartbreaking choice as he battles his greatest fears. His best friends, Mokwa and Little Deer, accompany him when a nightmare sends him on an adventure of self-discovery. But the three teenagers aren’t alone in the vast forest. Joshua realizes bizarre creatures called Memegwesi have not only been manipulating him through his dreams, but plan to use him in a mysterious plan of their own. Soon he’s fighting three enemies: the lethal storm headed their way, the mysterious beings appearing in his dreams, and most frightening of all, his mother’s hatred and bigotry.


"Pukawiss the Outcast" was a finalist for the 2015 Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Children's and YA literature. Add your review of any or all of these three books in the Two Spirit Chronicles in comments!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

I love this ad - and can only imagine how it would have BLOWN my mind when I was a kid (in the BEST way!)

check out this 30 second commercial: "Your Father"




Star Wars. Two Dads? WOW! Love love love love this.

Thanks to Jerry for sharing!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Ayanna Coleman (Quill Shift Literary Agency): Agent Looking For Diversity

AGENTS AND EDITORS NEED TO ADVERTISE
THEIR INTEREST IN DIVERSITY


This month's interview is with Ayanna Coleman, Agent and Founder of Quill Shift Literary Agency.

Agent Ayanna Coleman


Ayanna's bio:

Ayanna Coleman founded Quill Shift Literary Agency in 2013. With an educational background in marketing and English, Ayanna has worked within the publishing industry at a publishing house, literary agencies, as a book reviewer, programming and event director, and many years as a children’s librarian. She also earned a Master of Science degree in Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, currently the top program in the nation.

As a child, and later as a librarian, Ayanna noticed that the books that could capture a child’s imagination and create a lifelong reader were not getting into children’s hands. Children (and their parents, teachers, and librarians) weren’t discovering the right books…or they hadn’t been created yet. With that in mind, Ayanna created Quill Shift Literary Agency to not only help usher books worthy of inspiring a passion for reading in children, but also books that represent all children's realities.

Ayanna is looking for middle grade and young adult fiction in all genres. Bring her stories with plucky, realistic characters that represent our multicultural society who grow throughout an engrossing plot in a setting that sucks the reader in.

And our interview...

Lee: Hi Ayanna!

Ayanna: Hi Lee!

Lee: Thanks so much for agreeing to talk about your interest in Diversity in Children's and Teen Literature!

Ayanna: Oh, my pleasure. It's one of my favorite things to do.

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

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

Ayanna: My agency's entire mission is focused on representing authors who are from under-represented backgrounds or are crafting stories with strong diverse characters. That said, probably about 80% have some kind of inclusive element.

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

Ayanna: Yes, about 50% are protagonists of color.

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

Ayanna: I'd say 20%. I've seen a fair amount of queer, lesbian, and gay characters. Of those, mostly gay and lesbian leaning a little more towards lesbian. Not too many trans at this point, but a few questioning as well.

Lee: How about characters with disabilities?

Ayanna: Probably around 5-10%. There have been a few characters with disabilities, but many of them weren't born with those disabilities, which is what I'd really like to see more of. I have a brother with several disabilities and grew up around lots of kids who were living their lives with capabilities different than mine. I'd love to see more kids' minds opened up.

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

Ayanna: I've seen manuscripts showcasing different religions, and a few that focus on socioeconomic and geographic diversity, but mostly the diversity that comes across my desk focuses on race or sexuality.

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

Ayanna: Yes I am, again because of the mission of my agency, but I'd love to see more. I'd say the the submissions I get come from about 40% under-represented writers.

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

Ayanna: I just did a talk at GrubStreet's Muse and the Marketplace conference in May about this. Basically, I talked about fear, and how as a writer you must work on overcoming your fear so you can tell your best story. That best story, if you're trying to be true to real life, is most likely an inclusive one and you're doing a disservice to your story if you don't recognize that.

I think everyone has the 'right' to tell whatever story they want, but it's a privilege to walk in someone else's shoes and tell their story. If you don't do it with empathy and as much understanding as you can through research (primary and secondary), discussion and feedback, and an open mind, then you don't deserve to write the story.

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

Ayanna: Simple answer? I do. Right now it looks as if editors are very excited to see something "diverse" come through their inbox but I've still found it challenging to place stories that don't focus on issues or historical figures, to find a home with editors who say they want diversity. Those everyday stories that under-represented kids definitely do have, they aren't all in urban settings struggling to survive for example, seem to have a hard place in the market because there are so few of them, which seems to be the perfect reason why we should add more.

Lee: I often feel the sense of ‘otherness’ is transferable. That from my own experiences being marginalized (for being Gay, being ill as a teen, being Jewish, being an Atheist, etc…) I feel tremendous empathy for people who are marginalized for other kinds of ‘otherness’ as well.

Can you share what’s driving your desire to see more diversity in Children’s and Teen books?

Ayanna: I'm African American and growing up as a huge bookworm, I had very few books with protagonists that looked like me or had a life resembling mine--very middle America, solidly middle class. There were no drugs, no missing mothers, I wasn't a slave, I didn't use Ebonics, etc. I played tennis, I danced ballet, I read all the time, I loved to cook. Where were stories with girls who looked like me? Why couldn't I solve mysteries or have adventures? It was like my life/world didn't matter. The fact that these stories--that representation--is still very much missing from children's literature is upsetting to say the least.

I crave for there to be more books celebrating the every day parts of kids' lives and not focusing on the problems--and we very much still are--that come with race, religion, sexual orientation, ability, etc. With my marketing and librarianship background, acting as liaison for the CBC Diversity Committee during its first three years, and my experience not seeing myself in books growing up, I knew that I had the tools to help others create those stories. How could I not put myself in the position to help representative books find their way into the hands of today's kids?

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

Ayanna: I loved Wait, Skates! by Mildred Johnson and The Rough-Faced Girl by Rafe Martin. I read both so many times growing up. Wait, Skates! was pure fun and something that I could totally relate to as a child and The Rough-Faced Girl is a take on the Cinderella tale in the most beautiful way. It spoke to my heart and soul; it was a book I saw myself in.

Lee: Middle Grade?

Ayanna: Yolanda's Genius by Carol Fenner was a huge favorite of mine. The main character has a brother who is on the spectrum and is an amazing harmonica player. She started off by resenting having to take care of him and his way of communication but realized what an amazing person he was with his differences and she looked up to him for his ability. I believe reading that book helped me see my brother in a new light and appreciate him more.

Lee: Young Adult?

Ayanna: I was so thrilled to read Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe in grad school. It was exactly what I would have loved as a teen. The main character is biracial, it's fluffy and fun, but there's wit and adventure and hijinks. I hadn't encountered books with protagonists of color that had all of those things before and I wanted to see more.

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

Ayanna: I'm always looking to support more authors from under-represented backgrounds who have well-crafted stories of their truths that have yet to be told. I'm looking for more books featuring physical disabilities where the kids were born with their ability, not through some tragic accident. I'm looking for fantasy and science fiction where the main character is a kid of color. I'm looking for great horror and thrillers with a diverse cast of characters that doesn't have the African American kid die at the end. I'm looking for stories that take place in other countries, and I'm always looking for more stories that have under-represented kids and teens as the main character where the conflict is not about their skin color, or their religion, or their class, or ability. I want it to be an undeniable part of the story and inform the character's identity, but I want their "problem" to be something else entirely and see how all of the things that make them who they are--which is not just their skin color or socioeconomic status--come together to help them on their journey.

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

Ayanna: They can submit through the agency website's submission form here.

Lee: Anything I didn’t ask that you’d like to add?

Ayanna: I think we covered quite a bit! One thing that I wish more people would say to under-represented writers is that you don't have to write minority characters if you don't want to. Write what you want to write. Write what feels good and natural and right to you. I hate feeling like I'm "carrying the flag" in a meeting because I'm the only representative voice in the room. It's not fair and I shouldn't feel like I have to do it, but sometimes I do. I'd like to put out there to writers that you don't have to write your background if you don't want to. We definitely need more insider voices uplifted, but we also need more under-represented writers writing everything.

Lee: Getting the world of Children’s literature to better reflect the diversity of our world -- the world kids today are growing up in -- is so important. Thank you so much for working to make things better!

Ayanna: Thanks so much for taking the time to do these interviews and showcase all of those in publishing who really care about representation so that more aspiring authors from all backgrounds know that there is a place for them and their creations.

Thanks, Ayanna!

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

Illustrate and Write On!
Lee