Friday, December 18, 2009

Unplugged: Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, Happy Filling The Well!


So there's this awesome metaphor about writers needing to fill their creative well, so they have lots to draw from.

And it's time.

After a full year (50 weeks) of non-stop blogging (This is my 260th post in 2009) I'll be taking a two week break. I'll be resting up, thinking, reading, dreaming, hiking, swimming, spending time with my husband and daughter, and filling my creative well.

Then, starting Monday January 4th, I'll be back in full force - and this blog will be bursting with amazing and wonderful things!

In fact, just in January alone, there will be THREE gigantic things to look forward to:

1) THE COMMENT CHALLENGE - The return of this Annual Kidlitosphere-wide event!

2) THE SCBWI 2010 WINTER CONFERENCE IN NY and SCBWI Team Blog's LIVE BLOGGING and Tweets from the conference floor!

3) A ZEN SURPRISE... (something I've been cooking up for the last year!)

That all starts in January!

But for now, I'm going unplugged.

I wish you all wonderful holidays, a Happy New Year, and fun filling YOUR well!

Namaste (the light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you),


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Laurent Linn: An Exclusive SCBWI Team Blog Pre-Conference Interview!

Another wonderful reason to attend the upcoming SCBWI 2010 Winter Conference in New York City (January 29-31) is the opportunity to meet and learn from Laurent Linn.

Laurent will be giving a workshop (three times!) on Saturday January 30th.

He's funny. (For anyone who hasn't seen Laurent in the SCBWI Tribute video by Kimberly C. Baker, check it out now!)

He's smart.

He's designed books across all genres. Picture books like Chaucer's First Winter, by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Henry Cole:

Chapter books, including the Melvin Beederman Superhero series by Greg Trine, art by Rhode Montijo:

And even Young Adult novels. Check out this incredible cover he did for Joyce Sweeney's Headlock!

Especially for illustrators, it's an amazing opportunity to meet and learn from an Art Director who, in his own words, "works with artists all the time and is always on the lookout for fantastic illustrators of various styles and experience." And the bonus - Laurent is an artist himself, so he has insight into the process from all sides!

Here's our interview:

Lee: Hi Laurent! First of all, since it's a season of gift giving and being grateful, let me thank you for the gift of agreeing to this interview in the run-up to the upcoming Winter SCBWI conference in New York City.

Laurent: Hi Lee, I’m so happy to get the chance to chat with you about books and what we’ll be diving into at the NY Conference. This conference is always a fun one, if overwhelming, so getting the opportunity to think about things in advance is great.

Lee: I want to start off with asking, what advice do you have for illustrators and writers who are planning to attend the Winter Conference?

Laurent: No matter if this will be your first conference or your 25th, it’s always overwhelming and fun. The overwhelming part can be daunting -- after all, so many people are interested in doing what you want to do. But that’s the great part, too! It’s a vibrant community of creative people with the same interests and passions. While there are so many others there, I think it’s also true that each voice and vision is unique. So, while you may experience a bit of a reality check, let that be a time for reassessment of your direction and strategy, as well as a great big energy boost! There’s nothing more exciting than one of these conferences. Plus, it’s a great way to network and meet new people who speak the same creative language.

And, more than anything else, just relax and have a good time. If you soak up the good energy, it’ll keep you going for a long time.

Oh, and bring warm clothes!!! It’s freezing here in NYC!

Lee: There's a lot of talk for writers about finding the "voice" of a project, the "voice" of a character. What are the things that make an artist's visual "voice" stand out?

Laurent: It’s truly the artist’s overall style, really. The medium, the color palettes, composition, character and scene design . . . All these elements, put together with the artist’s personal vision and talents, add up to one’s unique “voice” or “style.” Because it’s visual, it’s a bit tricky to describe. And, as with writing, we each see things differently, so one reader’s reaction to an illustrator’s style will be different from another reader’s. That’s what makes it art!

Lee: That's a good point, that everyone responds differently. Can you share the story behind the cover design for Joyce Sweeney's Headlock? - it's amazing!

Laurent: Designing teen novel covers is always tricky, because so many people are involved in approving them on the publishing side. And, unlike with picture books that already have an illustrator as a part of the book, novel covers are truly a blank slate, which is actually a lot of fun for the designer!

The book you mention, Headlock, by Joyce Sweeney, was a big challenge. It’s a wonderfully written, multi-layered novel for teens, especially boys, about a boy who wants to be a professional wrestler, costume and all, but is dealing with some very complex issues at home and socially.

In trying to figure out how to approach the cover design (should it be photographic, illustrated, simple image, complex images telling aspects of the story, type only, a combination?), I must have done about 45 concepts — no joke. We didn’t want it to look like just a book about wrestling, which it’s not, nor did we want it to look too lofty/literary — we were trying to appeal to a lot of different potential audiences, which is why it was tricky. Plus, the sales and marketing groups had a lot of input, so there were a lot of eyes on it. In the end, I have to say, everyone was thrilled with the final cover, as was I. And, I should add, so was Joyce, who was such a fantastic trooper through the whole process. Once I found the right image I was able to compose the other elements in the right way. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a lot like solving a math puzzle . . . it’s instinct and experimentation.

Lee: Is there some homework you'd like to give - a couple of books that people should read before they attend your "Real Deal About Visual Storytelling" Workshop, so they can get the most out of your session?

Laurent: Interesting thought. I can’t think of any particular books, but I think that it’s always a good idea to revisit your absolute favorite picture books from when you were a kid and go through them with the eyes of an illustrator. Step back and analyze if it really flows and works as visual storytelling, and, if so, how? Sometimes you’ll be surprised that some classic books really do work so well, but others don’t. Of course, kids lead much different lives now than when we were kids, and their way of seeing art is quite different — they see in camera angles and quick transitions — but good storytelling doesn’t go out of fashion.

In my workshop, I’ll have lots of visuals to show, so no real prep work is needed. But the more picture books you read in general means the more you know!

Lee: Great advice! Okay, here's a Bonus Holiday Question: Eggnog or Hot Chocolate?

Laurent: Oh, hot chocolate — anything with chocolate wins out over anything else as far as I’m concerned!

I'm excited to see Laurent at the SCBWI Conference - and I hope you grab this opportunity as well! Remember, the discount for early registration ends on January 4, 2010.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rainbow Books 2009: The ALA's 2009 list of Good Kid and Teen Books With GLBTQ Content!

The Rainbow Project is proud to announce the 2009 Rainbow List, a joint undertaking of the American Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table and Social Responsibilities Round Table. Featuring well-written and/or well-illustrated titles with authentic and significant gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered/queer/questioning (GLBTQ) content for youth from birth through age 18, this year’s bibliography presents 34 outstanding titles, published in the last eighteen months and representing a broad range of GLBTQ experience.

There's lots of great stuff to check out - many of the books on the 2009 Rainbow List have already been featured on this blog, and the remainder will be - early in 2010!

The Rainbow Project's blog and annual Book lists (2009, 2008) are a wonderful resource, and I'm so happy to share it with you.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One Thing That Makes It Hard To Make The World A Better Place: Wanting To Be Liked. A Guest Blog By Tracy Tai

Tracy is a good friend who shared this story with me. It was so moving, I asked her to write this to share with all of you...

On Tuesday, I received an animated Christmas joke email from my cousin. It was a titled, "Your First Gay Christmas Card".

My first instinct was just to delete the email. I delete lots of emails. I don't enjoy chain emails that are forwarded. I love the fact that a friend is thinking of me but I don't feel the need to read and respond.

But this email made me think of my dear friends who are a two dad family. So I decided to be polite yet a tiny bit brave and respond to the email.

Here's what I said

Dear .........,

Hello. It is nice to hear from you. I hope your Christmas lights are up and the tree is decorated.

Please don't send me any gay jokes. We have very close friends who are a two dad family. And I just don't see the humor in gay jokes.

Thanks very much,


As minor as this may seem it was hard to do. WHY? Because I want people to like me.

I certainly don't want to offend or hurt anyone's feelings. I try my best to be as kind and compassionate a human being as I know how. And I know my cousin is a really great person. Devoted husband, father and grandfather. Hard working and happy to lend a hand to anyone who needs it. Just the sort of person you don't want to offend.

But as a mom of two young boys - I often tell them that doing the right thing and having everyone like you at the same time seldom works out. So I took my own advice.

I responded with kindness and I'm glad I did. Perhaps if more people said - "hey that's not funny" even when the joke is unrelated to them the world would truly become a more compassionate place.

Happy Holidays to everyone,


"Perhaps if more people said - "Hey that's not funny" even when the joke is unrelated to them the world would truly become a more compassionate place."

Now you know why Tracy is my friend. More than that, you know why she's one of my heroes.


Monday, December 14, 2009

New Blog To Know About: "Gay-Themed Picture Books For Children"

I love it when all this technology (like blogging) makes things easier. When people see something they can do to help others, and they do it.

Well Patricia Sarles has done just that with this new blog resource, GAY-THEMED PICTURE BOOKS FOR CHILDREN: Picture Books for Children About the Experience of Knowing or Having a Gay Parent, Family Member, or Friend.

There are books I've never heard of, like 1983's Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin, by Susanne Bosche, and with photographs by Andreas Hansen

Books I own and love, like "The Family Book" from 2003, by Todd Parr

It's a gathering of (so far) 88 picture books with GLBTQ content (the most comprehensive list I've seen!) It's super-fun to browse, and is a wonderful addition to our on-line community!

My thanks to Yapha for sharing Patricia's putting the list together - which gave me the chance to share with Patricia my "Picture Books I Wish Had Been Read To Me When I Was A Little Kid" bookshelf. Thanks as well to Rilla for making sure I knew about the list's debut, and finally, a *STANDING OVATION* to Patricia for putting together such a great new resource for all of us!



Friday, December 11, 2009

Jacqueline Woodson: An Exclusive SCBWI Team Blog Pre-Conference Interview!

Jacqueline Woodson has written seven picture books, six middle grade titles, and ten Young Adult novels. Four of her books have significant GLBTQ content, and are included on this blog's lists. She has won major awards in every genre, including the Newbery Honor (THREE TIMES!!!), the Caldecott Honor, the Coretta Scott King Award & Honor, was a National Book Award Finalist & Honoree, and on and on...

She is wise, and amazing, and I had the privilege of seeing her speak at the 2009 SCBWI Golden Gate Conference. Among the many pearls of wisdom she shared was the idea of being "emotionally autobiographical" when you write for kids. She also said, to some vigorous head-nodding from a rapt audience, including me:

"the great thing as a writer, you get to go back and fix things you jacked up as a kid."

I was inspired, and I learned so much.

Jacqueline is another incredible reason to attend the upcoming SCBWI 2010 Winter Conference in New York City. (Early registration ends January 4, 2010...) She will be giving the Saturday Luncheon Keynote on January 30, 2010, “Locking the Door Upon Ourselves: The Importance of Writing In Today’s World.”

In the run-up and excitement of the upcoming SCBWI Conference, Jacqueline was kind enough to answer a few questions to get us rolling...

Lee: Hi Jacqueline!

There are so many ways to tell a story – I often say that in a room full of writers, we could all write the same “story” – like “The Ugly Duckling,” but each version would be vastly different.

How much is experimentation part of your process?

Jacqueline: I just start writing and hope no one interrupts me. I guess that's the experiment -- to see if I can write for an hour without something 'urgent' needing to be taking care of.

Lee: When you set out to write Peace, Locomotion did you know it was going to take the form of letters, or did that evolve?

Jacqueline: Nope. What I DID know is that it WASN'T going to be poetry. The novel in verse [Locomotion] was because Lonnie was just discovering his writer's voice in school. In Peace, Locomotion, his 'voice' has been silenced by a lame teacher so it wouldn't make sense to have it written in poems. The whole 'show don't tell' rule.

Lee: Getting all choked up is an emotional peak moment in life, and in reading the best writing. Your books have made me tear up more than once: Feathers, After Tupac & D Foster, and on multiple readings Our Gracie Aunt, and Show Way. Do you find yourself going back on revisions to make something more emotionally powerful, or less? How do you know when you’ve hit it just right?

Jacqueline: I know it's right when *I* get choked up reading it. My editor never intervenes in that way. She's amazing.

Lee: Do you have a piece of advice for writers and illustrators who are planning on attending the conference?

Jacqueline: This is my first time coming to SCBWI in NYC so I'm as much of a neophyte as the next person.

Lee: Do you want to assign any homework – any books (of yours or others?) we should read ahead of time to get the MOST out of your keynote presentation?

Jacqueline: Probably just my website -- I don't sell books on it but it has a lot of info about my books and who I am so that people don't confuse me with Angela Johnson or Rita Williams Garcia - both amazing, amazing writers but I'm not them. If one person hands me a copy of Jumped or The First Part Last to sign, I'm going to be so, so cranky.

Lee: (laughing.) Okay, Bonus Holiday Question: Eggnog or Hot Chocolate?

Jacqueline: Hot Chocolate. Not to, in the words of my daughter's teacher "yuck anyone's yum" but I really, really, really don't like eggnog.

I can't wait to see Jacqueline Woodson at the 2010 SCWBI Winter Conference... and I hope you seize the opportunity to see her, too!


Thursday, December 10, 2009


By Eddie De Oliveira

Sam's 19, bi, and plays soccer.

He falls for Toby, who also likes guys and girls.

Their romance rockets... then spins out of control when Emma, a girl they both are attracted to, enters the picture.

Because Toby starts hanging out with Emma, leaving Sam... Out.

Add your review of "Lucky" in comments!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

GSA Party-Time: Why Your Gay-Straight Alliance Should Celebrate

There is something really powerful about standing up as individuals, and then exponentially more powerfull to stand up, as a group in support of GLBTQ Teens.

At this holiday time of year, it's really important to celebrate that so many of us are there/here for these kids and teens today.

So in between finals, and holiday preparations, for your next GSA meeting grab some M&Ms, some gummi bears, some jelly beans, some sprinkle cookies and see if you can talk someone into helping you make a 10 layer jello rainbow centerpiece, like this one:

Celebrate with YOUR GSA. Or celebrate here, with your virtual GSA.

Because being there for your peers if you're a Teen, and for ALL kids if you're an adult, whether they're Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Gender-Non-Conforming, Queer, Questioning or Straight Allies... is worth celebrating.

Pass the jello!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The GLBTQ Middle Grade Bookshelf!

Middle School. Junior High. Can you imagine the Gay Pride flag flying proudly over the middle school YOU went to?

6th, 7th, and 8th grade can be tough.

Especially with no books to read about anyone else like you. Anyone who thinks they might be Gay. Or Lesbian. Or Bi. Or doesn't really act like a boy "should." Or a girl "should." Or whose parent, or family member, or friend, is GLBTQ.

But wait!

There ARE some books out there... And here's a list to get you started:

Books About & Where the Kid is Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning or Gender Non-Conforming:

House of Hades (part of Rick Riordan's NYTimes Bestselling series)

Better Nate Than Ever

Five, Six, Seven, Nate!

The Boy In The Dress

Letters In The Attic

My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park

If You Believe In Mermaids... Don't Tell

From Alice To Zen and Everyone In Between

50 Ways of Saying Fabulous

The Boys and The Bees

The Misfits

Totally Joe

Choir Boy

Blue Boy

Wandering Son, book 1

Wandering Son, book 2

Drama (graphic novel)

Marco Impossible 

So Hard To Say

Sam & Aaron (a wordless online graphic short story that’s free)

Gracefully Grayson

Jacob, King of Portalia


Freak Camp

Learning To Kiss Girls


The Other Boy

Lily and Dunkin

Books About & Where someone in the Kid's life is GLBTQ

The Popularity Papers (series)

No Big Deal

Box Girl

The Manny Files

Hit The Road, Manny

Holly's Secret

Luv Ya Bunches *

My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer

The Skull Of Truth

Sonny's House Of Spies

Royally Jacked (a.k.a. Royally Crushed)

The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket

Double Play

Best Friend Next Door

Two Weeks With The Queen

Riding The Rainbow

The Marvels

The Lotterys Plus One

(*5th grade characters, one of whom has Two Moms, so it's elementary school, really. And, controversy aside, it's not really ABOUT the Two Moms.)

Did I miss any YOU know of? Help me make this GLBTQ Middle Grade Bookshelf comprehensive!

And hey, now you have over 25 books to check out!

Namaste and Happy Reading,

**last update: May 2017**

Monday, December 7, 2009

Coming Out In Middle School! What Can Your GSA Do To Help?

I wasn't brave enough to come OUT as Gay when I went to Welsh Valley Junior High
(when I would have worn this T-shirt.)
But that's not true for a lot of Junior High and Middle School Kids Today!

Have you read this amazing cover story in the New York Times School Section that ran in September?

I think it's taken me much of this time to wrap my mind around it - the idea of Today's kids being so ready to be REAL about their same-sex attractions in Junior High is awe-inspiring, and empowering. And the fact that the photos with the article weren't redacted silhouettes - but actual photos of the kids, many of whom used their real names and spoke proudly about being OUT!

The article by Benoit Denizet-Lewis cited the research about when gay and lesbian youth

"first report an awareness of same-sex attraction. Though most didn't self-identify as gay or lesbian until they were 14, 15 or 16, the mean age at which they first became aware of that attraction was 10. Boys tended to be aware about a year earlier than girls. (Of course, not all kids with same-sex attractions go on to self-identify as gay.)"

And just like for the Teens in High School, we need to be there for the kids who have these feelings and are living through the challenges of junior high and middle school. The teasing. The harassment. The same-sex crushes. Dating!

I wonder about the ways we can be there for these kids...

Can your High School GSA reach out to the kids in the junior high or middle schools where you went? Can you go visit and speak to the students in their 7th grade health (or other) class?

Can you help organize a Day of Silence observance at your junior high/middle school?

What about the school library at the junior high/middle school? Do they have ANY middle grade titles that include GLBTQ characters and themes? Can you talk with the librarian there about getting some titles for the collection? What about letting students know the books are there?

Look for the GLBTQ middle grade bookshelf coming tomorrow, with a list of all the titles here on this blog that are either written for Middle Graders and/or have GLBTQ characters in 6th through 8th grade.)

What are some other ways we can be there for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning kids in Middle and Junior High Schools?

Coming Out In Middle School... Wow, the world sure is changing, and for the better!


Sunday, December 6, 2009

How Do Dinosaurs Learn How To Write For Children? They Go Hear Jane Yolen's Keynote at the Winter SCBWI Conference!

A Special Sunday post to share with you all exciting News about the 2010 Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators Winter Conference in New York City...

Jane Yolen,

author of over 300 books (Including Fantasy and Picture Books like "How do Dinosaurs Go to School?") and winner of The Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, a National Book Award nomination and SCBWI's own Golden Kite Award (among a ton of others...) will be the closing Keynote speaker on Sunday, January 31st, 2010!

It is an amazing opportunity to hear a legend in the world of Children's Literature!

Early Registration for the Conference ends January 4, 2010
- and if you are a writer or illustrator for children and Teens, it would be a wonderful Holiday present for yourself - and a great way to start off the 2010 leg of your career!

Stay tuned at this blog for more pre-conference scoops as well as exclusive interviews with the Awe-inspiring Author Jacqueline Woodson - who will be presenting the Saturday Lunchtime Keynote and the multi-talented Laurent Linn, Art Director, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, who will be leading a break out session called "The Real Deal About Visual Story Telling." All that and much more from me and the rest of SCBWI Team Blog...

Great stuff ahead, and hope to see you at the Winter Conference!


Friday, December 4, 2009

Money Talks... Spend it Wisely. Or, put another way, Let's Reward Gay-Friendly Companies!

The Human Rights Campaign has put out their annual BUYING FOR EQUALITY 2010 guide.

It's like a report card for companies, letting us consumers know who's a "friend" to the Gay (GLBTQ) community, and who is not.

Businesses are rated on a scale from 0 to
100, based on whether or not they have
policies that support LGBT people. These
include anti-discrimination protections,
domestic partner benefits, diversity train-
ing, transgender-inclusive benefits and
external practices.

It's a guide to let us know which companies we want to encourage to continue to stand by us, and which don't really deserve our money.

Like when you get gas for your car, it's good to know that BP (Arco, Castrol), Chevron (Caltex, Texaco) and Shell Oil all scored 100%.

And that Exxon Mobil scored 0. Yup, Zero. Why would you fill up there? Why would you let your family members or friends fill up there?

Costco scored 100%.

Walmart 40%. Where are you going to get that stuff for the party?

Mattel 95%.

Hasbro 50%. (Hey! Barbie turns out to be more politically correct than G.I. Joe!)

This is not about boycotting companies - it's about supporting companies that are Gay-friendly.

And when the Gay-friendly companies start to do better than their Gay-unfriendly competitors because so many of us are choosing to spend our money with the Gay-friendly companies, the tide toward justice will become seismic. Because then, in addition to the issue of fairness for Gays (which doesn't hold that much sway in many low scoring bottom-line obsessed boardrooms) there will be a financial incentive for companies to do the right thing by the Gay community. And that's a goal to work towards!

So get the guide. And spend your money wisely.

It's a way each of us can make a difference!


Thursday, December 3, 2009

No Big Deal

By Ellen Jaffe McClain (Ellen Jaffe-Gill)

Janice is in Junior High. She's picked on for being overweight (mainly by Kevin, the bully.) But she has a best friend Holly, and Mr. P for social studies.

Rumors start that her favorite teacher might be gay. For Janice it's "No Big Deal." But even her own mother joins the movement to get Mr. P fired.

Then Janice catches Kevin spray-painting Mr. P's car with an anti-gay slur. And she discovers that Kevin's brother is gay, and HIV+.

Suddenly, Junior High is so much more complicated!

Add your review of "No Big Deal" in comments!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Now That I Know

By Norma Klein

Nina's parents are divorced. She's 13, and kind of uptight.

Her friend Dara tries to get her to open up, maybe even date a boy.

And Nina's ready to change. She's going to change herself and her Mom. But then Nina finds out her Dad is Gay. And that his boyfriend is going to move in with him!

Add your review of "Now That I Know" in comments!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


by A.M. Homes

Jack's 15. His folks are divorced.

Then, on a weekend trip with his Dad, Jack finds out his dad is Gay.

But Jack's plate is full enough - after all, he's dealing with dating. And driving lessons. And now he's supposed to deal with this?

It was also released with this cover:

Add your review of "Jack" in comments!