Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sailor Moon - A Manga Where Teenage Superheroes (Some of them Queer) Fight To Save Our World!

Usagi (Sailor Moon)

Haruka (Sailor Uranus)

Michiru (Sailor Neptune)

Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi

Sailor Moon is the classic story of Usagi Tsukino, a teenage superhero with a child-like spirit who leads a team of young women to protect the Earth from forces bent on destruction. Drawing power from the planets and their own hearts, the Sailor Soldiers stand firm as the champions of love and justice. Through epic battles and quiet moments of daily living, this manga explores the rich relationships of the characters, their moral struggles and conflicts, and their dreams for their futures and their world.

It is a personal honor for me to write a review of Sailor Moon. This was the first manga I ever read. At first, I was drawn by promises of magical powers and suspenseful action, but I quickly found myself falling in love with the characters. Of particular note are Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, whose names are Haruka Tenoh and Michiru Kaioh. Haruka is a bold race car driver and identifies as both a man and a woman. Haruka’s girlfriend, Michiru, is an artist and a master violinist. This super-powered queer couple enters the scene during the manga’s third story arc. They are completely dedicated to their mission and carry each other through the overwhelming burdens of their duties and ethical dilemmas.

When I first read Sailor Moon, I had deeply internalized personal beliefs that made me see love between people of the same gender as broken, unhealthy, and wrong. Watching the tender affection and loyalty between Haruka and Michiru moved me deeply and forced me to question the authenticity of my beliefs. These characters opened my eyes to the beauty, diversity, and reality of love and launched me on a journey that would change my life. To them and to their creator, I will be forever grateful.

It is also interesting to note three new Sailor Soldiers who join the manga during the fifth and final story arc. These Sailor Starlights, Seiya, Taiki, and Yaten, come from another planet to find and protect their missing princess. They are women while transformed into soldiers but present as men while undercover as members of a pop idol boy band. Their easy transitions between genders break down the myth of a static male-female binary and speak to an understanding of gender that is fluid, complex, and personal.

I’d also like to note that I am deeply inspired by the egalitarian relationship between Usagi and her chief love-interest, Mamoru. Many boy-girl love stories are steeped in unhealthy and unjust power dynamics that reinforce disempowering gender roles. Happily for us, Usagi and Mamoru break down these barriers, protect one another from harm, and fight side by side for the common good. They are an inspiration to all those who seek stories of two people coming together as individuals to build a relationship based on mutual respect and shared purpose.

Sailor Moon is currently being re-published in twelve volumes and two collections of short stories. There is some fantasy violence and brief moments of nudity. I would have felt comfortable reading this manga when I was thirteen years old.

The author of this manga, Naoko Takeuchi, is my hero. Learn more about her here:

Review by Aaron Walsh.  Add your review of "Sailor Moon" in comments!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

OUT - In a sci fi society where opposite-sex couples are forbidden, a teen guy falls for a girl

Out by Laura Preble

In a society where “perpendiculars,” opposite-sex couples, are forbidden, persecuted, freakish…Chris Bryant, a preacher’s son, finds himself in love…with a girl. Chris has always been faithful to his Anglicant religion – even though he’s never felt like everyone else, never felt…parallel.

And then it happens: he meets her. Carmen. Daughter of one of the leading Perpendicular prosecutors…the girl he knows he can’t live without.

Carmen has always thought the treatment of Perps is barbaric – but to actually be one? To fall in love with Chris and openly admit to it is suicide.

Their only chance to be together is the Underground, a secret society Chris’s sister introduces him to that is determined to mount an attack against the social restrictions of the Anglicant church. They want to make an example of Chris and Carmen, two Perps from high social families, to become the catalyst for an uprising that will threaten the traditions of their society’s families and church.

But the cost of involvement just might be death for them both.

While this title was crowd-funded and published by the author, it's worth noting that Laura has had three novels traditionally published with Penguin/Berkley Jam.  

As far as the author's intent with this book, she's a strong ally and advocate for LGBTQ youth, having been a GSA advisor for over 20 years and the proud mother of a gay son.  There's an excellent interview with Laura on Catherine Ryan Hyde's blog here where she talks about "Out" and her thoughts behind it, and another interview with The San Diego Union Tribune here.

Add your review of "Out" in comments!

Monday, July 29, 2013

New Blog Resource To Note: Straight Parent, Gay Kid

Check out this Straight Parent, Gay Kid blog by Wesley Cullen Davidson.  I liked her summary of recent news events like the U.S. supreme court gay marriage ruling and the Boy Scout's partial acceptance of gay people in their organization.

As this internet thing works, Wesley and I connected, and when I told her I was going to tell everyone about her blog she asked to share this message with you, my readers...
Hi. I'm Wesley Davidson, mother of a gay adult son, and I consider myself an ally of the Gay, Lesbian and Bi community.

In my blog:, I give support, based on experience and research, to straight parents raising gay, lesbian and bi children. I am currently working on a book with a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D. who happens to be gay, about the issues parents face while raising gay children and how to resolve them. The book will also have the voices of gay teens and adults on what worked or didn't work in their relationship with their parents.

That's where I'd like to hear from you. I'd like to interview you to get tips on what helped or hurt your relationships with your families. You know best. Please e-mail me at and put in the subject line: Request for interview.

I'd also like to know what topics you'd like to see me write about in the blog. Please send me an e-mail also about this with suggested blog topics in the subject line.

Thanks so much. Together, we can make gay-straight familial relationships better right now. Wesley

My thanks to Hayden Thorne for sharing this blog with me, so I could share it with all of you.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Be My "All-American Boy" a music video by Steve Grand

Okay, there's alcohol, and cigarettes, but there's also an openly gay country music star-in-the-making singing about his crush on another guy - no "you" obfuscations or avoiding mentioning gender, just his pure longing for the other guy to "be my, be my, be my All-American boy."

It's pretty awesome.

For about Steve Grand (who in addition to singing, wrote the music and the lyrics), check out this article on Salon and his website.  The video is doing really well (over 1.2 million views in its first week on youtube!) and you can read more about the video's success and what Steve is up to in this Los Angeles Times article.

If the video doesn't play above, you can watch it on youtube here.

Here's the lyrics:

All American Boy

Ripped Jeans, only drinks whiskey
I find him by the fire while his girl was getting frisky, ohh
I say we go this road tonight

He smiles, his arms around her
but his eyes are holdin me, just a captive to his wonder, ohh
I say we go this road tonight

now I know that that's your girl, I mean no disrespect
The way that shirt hugs you chest boy, I just won't forget
I'll be sittin here, drinking my whiskey
I won't say goodnight unless I think ya might miss me, ohh

Be my All-American boy tonight
where everyday's the 4th of July
and it's alright, alright
And we can keep this up till the morning light
and you can hold me deep in your eyes
and it's alright, alright
be my, be my
my All-American boy

Ripped jeans, tight shirt
he lights a cigarette you know I'm glad that she can't stand it, ohh
I drink the moonlight from his eyes

Now hold there, just a moment
I want to take this in now we don't need no photo of it, no
we should go this road tonight

now I know that that's your girl, and I don't give a damn
she's been cusin and cryin, she don't know what she has
so I'll be sittin here, tryin to hold down my whiskey,
you tell your girl good night cause somebody'd like to kiss me, ohh

Be my All-American boy tonight
where everyday's the 4th of July
and it's alright, alright
And we can keep this up till the morning light
and you can hold me deep in your eyes
and it's alright, alright
be my, be my
my All-American boy

Of all the girls and boys to look my way
Ain't nobody ever hit me this way
so won't you come back with me
and lay with me a while

I'm gonna wrestle you out of them clothes,
leave that beautiful body exposed,
and you can have my heart and my soul and my body...
just be mine


Be my All-American boy tonight
baby you light my fire
it's gonna be alright, alright!

Be my All-American boy tonight
where everyday's the 4th of July
and it's alright, alright
And we can keep this up till the morning light
and you can hold me deep in your eyes
and it's alright, alright
be my, be my...
just, be my, be my...
my All-American boy

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Arabelle's Shadows - A Young Bi Woman Fights Her Way Through Depression and the International World of Modeling

Arabelle's Shadows by Fleur Gaskin

Everything in Arabelle's life is coming together. She has confidence, great friends, she's even dating Naak, a wealthy Thai socialite. But there are too many models in Bangkok. Arabelle’s broke, she can’t find an agent in New York, and Naak isn’t as wonderful as he first appears.

Slowly the Shadows creep back into Arabelle’s mind, bringing with them thoughts of hopelessness and despair. The vile Shadows know something Arabelle’s refusing to remember and, if she’s not careful, they’ll use it to destroy her.

Based on a true story, Arabelle’s Shadows takes us on a journey through the struggles of growing up, not quite making it as an international model, and attempting to overcome a crushing depression.

This book was published by the author.  Add your review of "Arabelle's Shadows" in comments!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Stop Bullying Me! - A Manga Where A Boy Falls For His Brother's (Not-So-Nice) Best Friend

Stop Bullying Me! by Natsuho Shino

In Stop Bullying Me!, simple and straight-forward Tomo can’t help but love his kind and popular older brother, Ei. Tomo follows Ei wherever he goes but is constantly harassed by Ei’s best friend, Izumi. Despite Izumi’s belittling words and light physical assaults, Tomo eventually realizes he has feelings for Izumi and must discover if love can blossom from their mutual animosity.

At first glance, this manga is a sweet and simple love story. There are many heart-warming romantic moments and deep reflections on how family relationships grow and change when people start new relationships. Perhaps the most compelling element of this manga is the faithful brotherly relationship between Tomo and Ei. Not many stories authentically portray a happy sibling dynamic, but Tomo and Ei’s loyal love for each other is real, precious, and inspiring.

My one concern with this manga is the light-hearted approach it takes with the very serious issue of bullying. (Get ready… I’m about to step on my soap box and rant for a while!) Being harassed as a young person or adult can result in significant damage to a person’s physical, emotional, and mental health. Like Tomo, some real-life victims of bullying develop confused feelings of attraction for their tormentors. In addition, many try to change themselves so as to become invisible or please those who hurt them. These painful realities often result in significant damage to self-esteem and can harm a person’s ability to engage in fulfilling relationships with others. I fear that stories like this manga, if taken too seriously, might reinforce rather than challenge a disempowering response to harassment. I don’t want to be too harsh- this manga was indeed a cute story! But rather than read about someone who falls in love with his abuser and lives happily ever after, I want a story where a victim of bullying finds the strength in himself to survive hardship, cultivate the support of allies, and create a safe space for himself where he can build love with someone who treats him with the respect he deserves.

Stop Bullying Me! is complete in one volume.  The book contains some suggestive language and I would have felt comfortable reading it when I was fourteen.

Review by Aaron Walsh.  Add your review of "Stop Bullying Me!" in comments!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Diverse Energies - a YA Dystopian Anthology focused on diversity - racial and LGBT!

Diverse Energies edited by Tobias Buckell and Joe Monti

The stories span from past to future, and the protagonists are a diverse group of students, street kids, good girls, kidnappers, and child laborers pitted against their environments, their governments, differing cultures, and sometimes one another as they seek answers in their dystopian worlds.

Two of the stories feature main queer characters:

Malinda Lo's "Good Girl"
In this dystopian world where racial purity puts you in a higher class, a "good girl" from above ground meets a girl who lives in the tunnels below while searching for her vanished brother.

Rahul Kanakia, "Next Door"
In this society, the rich live in a virtual world, ignorant of the poverty the real world holds. Squatters share space with the rich, and a boy and his boyfriend search for the perfect place to call home - somewhere away from the bed bugs that plague much of the city.

Add your review of "Diverse Energies" in comments!

Monday, July 22, 2013

I Know Very Well How I Got My Name - Young and Transgender in High School

I Know Very Well How I Got My Name by Elliott DeLine

The night he loses his virginity, he becomes Dean. Amy Wagner names him—and she would know best. Amy knows all kinds of things that Dean doesn’t understand—things about sex, music, and the darker side of life. All Dean knows is his safe suburban home with his parents,books, and imaginary games. Until now, he’s been able to hide his true identity, even from himself. To the rest of the world, he is a teenage girl—an awkward, boyish teenage girl, but a girl nonetheless. Meeting Amy changes everything. Soon that protected world around him begins to fall apart, and he is left with no option but to face himself and the truth.

I Know Very Well How I Got My Name chronicles Dean’s clumsy progression through the American public school system. It is the 90’s and early 2000’s, in suburban Syracuse, New York—a world in which LGBTQ bullying is not yet a hot topic in schools, and there is little tolerance for outsiders of any kind.

A prequel to his critically-acclaimed novel Refuse, Elliott DeLine’s second book is about the prevailing myths surrounding bullying and abuse, and the hardships of being young and transgender without a community or a roadmap.

Published by the author, you can add your review of "I Know Very Well How I Got My Name" in comments!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Editor Namrata Tripathi: The Exclusive #LA13SCBWI Team Blog Interview

Editor Namrata Tripathi

Namrata Tripathi is executive editor at Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.  She acquires fiction and nonfiction picture books, literary-commercial middle grade and YA novels, and select graphic novels. She acquired and edited the New York Times #1 Best-selling Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer and the Printz Medal and Morris Award-winning novel Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley. She is interested in finding fresh, bold picture books and honest, hilarious, or heartbreaking novels with unique voices and diverse characters.

I caught up with Namrata to find out more about her and the sessions she'll be giving at the upcoming 2013 SCBWI Summer Conference, August 2-5 in Los Angeles...

Lee:  When you attend a conference, are you looking to meet writers and illustrators?

Namrata:  Absolutely! Since I acquire and edit picture books, middle grade, and YA, I’m looking for talented folks who work in all these formats.

Lee: What would be the ideal way for someone to approach you - a pitch? A sense of what you've edited? A business card?

Namrata:  It’s always great when someone is familiar with my list and what I’m looking for. That helps ensure the best use of everyone’s time! It’s rather overwhelming to be given samples/submissions while I’m walking the floor at the conference. It’s definitely better to take advantage of the open submission period following the conference (the details should be included in the conference packet) after researching the various editors and agents present and reaching out to those with whom you think your work will click.

Lee:  Having said all that, out of the last 10 projects you acquired, how many were agented?

Namrata: All of them. However, I have acquired a few projects based on partial manuscripts I saw at conferences.

Lee:  You'll be speaking on the Saturday morning editors panel "What Makes an Evergreen, What Makes a Hit." What's the distinction - is "evergreen" a book popular beyond trends and time, and a "hit" is the big book of the moment that we can't even remember the next summer?

Namrata: Everyone will have his or her own definition of “evergreen” and “hit,” but I think you’ve captured a lot of what is implied when we use these terms. That’s not to say that hits cannot become evergreens. Some hits really stand the test of time. I don’t think a hit is necessarily something we can’t even remember the next summer, but is rather a book that somehow captures the essence of this summer—a cultural moment, a trend, a point of view. I’ve been re-reading a lot of Judy Blume’s middle grade and YA backlist, and to me they feel like the type of books that are both hits and evergreens.

Lee:  Yeah, Judy Blume is amazing! You'll also be giving a Pro-Track workshop (along with John Corey Whaley) on "Best Practices for the Author-Editor Relationship, and the Challenge of the Second Book." Can you share a bit more about what you'll explore in that session?
Namrata:  Corey and I will get into the nuts and bolts of what it means to really collaborate on a project—how the process works and how you can make it work more smoothly by communicating well, knowing when and how the agent can be helpful, hiccups you might encounter, how the process of writing your second book is so different from your debut etc. Each project and every relationship is different, but I think it’s always interesting and illuminating to listen to publishing anecdotes. Plus, you’ll learn how Corey and I discovered we’re literary soul mates!

Lee: You're ALSO (you'll be busy!) giving a Sunday morning workshop "Inside My List at Atheneum" - which sounds like the best way to get to know your tastes in books.

Namrata: That’s right! This is a great place to learn about my list and what I’m looking for if you’re considering submitting to me after the conference. Plus, I’ll get a chance to brag about the wonderful authors and illustrators I get to work with and every editor loves doing that!  If you’re attending the picture book dummy intensive on Monday, I’ll go over this information then as well, so don’t feel you need attend both!

Lee:  I remember hearing the story of your challenging illustrator John Rocco to write his own picture books as well as illustrate, and he's done just that to great success. Is that advice you'd roll out to illustrators in general?

Namrata:  It depends. I think this is a great thing for all picture book illustrators to do as an exercise. It helps you understand the medium on a deeper level, presents you new insight into the interplay between art and text, and gives you an appreciation for the hard work of writing a picture book. But not every illustrator is meant to be an author. Just as not every author is meant to be an illustrator! They are both storytellers, but each has their own set of tools to use. Some folks are lucky enough to be ambidextrous in that way and if I see a hint of that, I always encourage them to explore it.

Lee:  Favorite advice to share with conference attendees?

Namrata:  The same advice I give myself going into the conference: Be open and curious. And have a good time!

Lee:  Speed round!  Pie or cake?

Namrata:  Pie. Unless you can add a graham cracker crust to the cake. Then both.

Lee:  Science Fiction or Fantasy?

Namrata: To acquire and edit, probably neither, but I’d lean towards fantasy. To watch/read…I may be coming around to the Science Fiction side of things. My husband’s relentless nerding out is starting to win me over.

Lee: Black & White inspiration for the Saturday night gala?

Namrata:  Madhubala meets Tana Hoban. No, I can’t back that up!

One of Tana Hoban's books for young children

Bollywood Actress Madhubala

I can't wait to see that outfit!  Thanks, Namrata!

To attend Namrata's sessions and experience all the craft, business, inspiration, community and opportunity the SCBWI Summer Conference offers, grab one of the few remaining spaces here.

Oh, and a CONTEST  - the first commenter to correctly identify the arcade game Namrata is playing in her photo above will win an ARC of Corey Whaley's newest book, NOGGIN.  The novel even has an arcade game thread!  Good luck!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Winger - A 14 year old at Boarding School has a Gay Best Friend

Winger by Andrew Smith

Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

The book includes hand-drawn infographics and illustrations.  Add your review of "Winger" in comments!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Day I Became A Butterfly: Dreamy Queer Manga Love Stories

The Day I Became a Butterfly by Sumomo Yumeka

The Day I Became a Butterfly is a powerful collection of queer love stories containing unforgettable gay, trans, and bi characters. The title story builds around themes of mortality and rebirth as the seriously ill transwoman Uka finds peace in the gruff honesty and surprising gentleness of her beloved, Mimi. Other stories reveal characters seeking healing through art, forgiveness, and love for one another.

This book has a unique and undeniable voice. I hesitate to give too many plot descriptions because while the stories are rooted in the real world, they hold a whimsical and romantic spirit that makes the manga read more like poetry than prose. Suffice it to say that the various stories delve into themes of claiming one’s own identity, power, and freedom, overcoming fear, and embracing intimacy without losing one’s inner strength.

This manga is complete in one volume.  Some stories include sexual scenes between characters who genuinely love each other. I would have felt comfortable reading this book when I was sixteen-years-old.

Review by Aaron Walsh.  Add your review of "The Day I Became A Butterfly" in comments!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

StoryApp Author Sarah Towle: The Exclusive #LA13SCBWI Team Blog Interview

Sarah Towle, StoryApp Author and 2013 SCBWI Summer Conference Faculty

Sarah Towle’s debut storyapp, Beware Madame La Guillotine, A Revolutionary Tour Of Paris, launched in July 2011 to rave reviews and went on to earn a Top 10 2011 App by School Library Journal, a Teachers With Apps Top 10 2011 Tried & True Classroom App, and a Top 10 2012 Educational Travel App by the World Youth & Student Educational Travel Confederation. It is now available in iBookstores. Sarah’s second title, Day of the Dead, will follow in 2013. Published by Time Traveler Tours & Tales, Sarah’s concept combines the traditional power of storytelling with the latest in mobile technology to bring history to life.

Sarah will be on faculty at the upcoming 2013 SCBWI Summer Conference (August 2-5, 2013.) I caught up with her to learn more about her remarkable StoryApp and her Sunday afternoon conference workshop...

Lee:  Can you tell us about "Beware Madame La Guillotine, A Revolutionary Tour of Paris?"

Sarah:  Beware Madame la Guillotine is a daylong story-based treasure hunt through Paris at the time of the French Revolution with 18th century convent schoolgirl turned murderess, Charlotte Corday, as your guide. It’s unlike any other tourism app in that it is rooted in narrative storytelling. It’s different from most nonfiction histories in that the story is recounted in the 1st person. Targeted to youth (12+), and the young at heart, it’s been dubbed the next generation of tour guide for a new generation of traveler, perfect for family and student educational travel groups. But you don’t need to be in Paris to enjoy it, evidenced by the many teachers and librarians who have adopted it for curricular use as well.

In the storyapp, Charlotte Corday takes you back in time to four steamy summer days in Paris in 1793, when already simmering tempers came to roiling boil. That’s when she stalked and killed radical propagandist, Jean-Paul Marat. She drove a dagger into his heart as he languished in the bath due to a skin ailment. She believed Marat to be the puppet-master behind the increasing violence later termed the Reign of Terror. She was convinced that if Marat were removed from the picture, the Revolution could return its original, humanistic goals. She resolved to kill him, even though it would mean sacrificing her own life as well. Confident that violence was justified if done in the name of peace, she faced Madame la guillotine calm and erect, assured that her French brethren would one day applaud her.

As Charlotte spins her yarn, she brings the history of the French Revolution to life. Prompts are triggered at certain points throughout the narrative, compelling you to seek out cultural artifacts related to her tale, thus driving both story and itinerary forward. Pop-up windows provide additional information about the Revolution, trivia and tidbits that Charlotte could not have known. Activities, such as multiple choice questions and map-orientation puzzles, ask you to think beyond Charlotte’s story, to consider bigger-picture issues in historical context, unlocking deeper-level understanding of the period. Archival images, including several masterpieces, illustrate Charlotte’s story and offer a subtle lesson in art history. What’s more, the app is fully bilingual in French and English, making it a fun language-learning tool for advanced students.

Beware Madame la Guillotine puts an important past moment in the palm of your hand and invites you to discover history with one who helped make it. It appeals to youth, in part, because no one can resist a good story; in part, because the story is delivered on a device they associate with play.

Lee:  How cool!  How did it evolve as an app? Was there a moment when you thought, wait, this isn't a traditional print YA Nonfiction book after all!

Sarah:  I was searching for a way to bring history to life in an enriching, educational and dynamic way for young people. As a kid, I found history dry, boring, difficult to perceive. But all that changed when I grew up and set off on an expatriate journey around the world. Suddenly, history was fascinating to me because I was steeped in it, surrounded by it, living, speaking and breathing it. That’s when I realized that understanding history unlocks a greater appreciation of people and culture. And not just that of others, but of your own as well.

In 2004, I landed in Paris and flipped for the rich cultural and historical heritage of the city – there’s a reason why Paris is the most visited city in the world. Yet, year after year, I was stunned to observe the stampede of family and student educational tour groups that tromped right past timeless cultural artifacts without stopping to heed their tales. This compelled me to find away to unleash the narratives hiding in plain sight.

By 2006 I was fast at work, retelling the history of Paris for youth, one era at a time, in what I envisioned to be a 12-chapter book, from Roman Paris through today. In 2009 I had completed a 70-page proposal and three sample chapters and was ready to sell my concept to the editor of my dreams. But a series of serendipitous events revealed that the project was destined for digital, rather than print.

I’ve recounted these events in several places, including my website, Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books and Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog, Cynsations. So I’ll just cut to the chase here and say that it was, ultimately, 44 13-14 year olds that steered my in the storyapp direction. These wonderful young people had all agreed to pilot the prototype version of Charlotte’s story tour back when I was considering self-publication in print. In their follow-up anonymous questionnaires, they informed me that they loved the concept of learning history through story. They loved Charlotte and were keen to see her story through to the end. They enjoyed the treasure hunts and learning extension puzzles and games. But they hated having to stop at each point in the tour and read the story out loud.

“It stinks as a book,” they told me, unwilling to spare my feelings. “But it would make a killer app.”

Beware Madame la Guillotine was one of the three sample chapters I had originally prepared for the book proposal. It is now the first in a hopeful series of immersive story-based apps and interactive books about Paris: the digital fruit of an idea initially envisioned for print.

Lee:  Was the research you had to do to make the project an app different then if you had written it as a more traditional published-on-paper book or guide?
Sarah:  No, and yes.

As far as the writing process goes, No, not really. I researched the history of the French Revolution from every angle, just as I would if writing for print. I sought out as many primary sources as I could and used those to inform Charlotte’s voice and character. I went on many, many site-based research visits to trace her footsteps, to step into her shoes so that I could better imagine what it would have been like to plan and carry out a murder, knowing it was tantamount to suicide.

I also worked very hard to research and think through various issues of craft and genre that came up for me throughout the writing process. Things like: What does it mean to write creative nonfiction vs. historical fiction and which best suits my underlying concept? How do you develop a story arc from historical record? Is it possible to honestly create a compelling character, true to fact, in the 1st person? When can you extrapolate in the nonfiction genre to create emotional resonance between character and reader, and when can you absolutely not?

With regard to the production, however, Yes, my process was very different. For starters, I had to create a tour that intersected with Charlotte’s own journey and make it doable for the reader/user to do in a day. I had to study a lot of digital products, from CDRoms to web-based learning tools to early apps, to envision the best screen-based navigation and user experience (UX). In the app space, we’re not simply turning pages anymore.

Indeed, writing the story was just one piece of this creative puzzle. My research ballooned to include the how to’s of making wire-frames and spec docs; obtaining image rights on a shoestring; recording and engineering audio (also on a shoestring); building a web-based platform to support the project and brand; branding and positioning; learning how to market using social media. And so much more.

The research, and the learning, has been endless!

Lee: Your Sunday workshop (along with Julie Hedlund) is called "Picture Books and Story Book Apps: Same, Same but Quite Different." Can you give us a sneak peak of what the session will cover?

Sarah:  Sure! Let’s just say that due to many factors, including fear of financial risk-taking in an economic depression as well as not really understanding the potential of the medium, the first storyapps to appear on the digital landscape were mainly scanned reproductions of former print products. Established publishers have been, for the most part, unwilling to experiment with original content. So, if they’ve produced apps at all it’s been with already branded, tried and true content for which they own the rights. Some of these apps have worked in the medium, but most of them really have not, thus contributing to the debate about whether publishing digitally is worth the expense and effort.

In the last year, however, early experimenters in the digital wild, wild west have come to realize that a new medium deserves a new approach – as I said above, we need not be limited to page turning anymore. So, more and more, original content is being produced specifically for digital media. These products are really breaking new ground and revealing the potential of the form.

Julie and I will be demonstrating this transformation in two ways. We will illustrate the evolution of storyapps, while identifying interactivity that serves and enriches story vs. that which distracts and detracts. We will also offer a model of great transmedia storytelling – that is, storytelling across the media – by way of explaining how a single tale can (and must) be retold and adapted to work best in print vs. digital formats, as well as other media, like film.

Lee:  That sounds great!  Lots of people see the changes coming to the children's publishing industry as scary - what's your take?

Sarah:  I’ve never been more excited for writers and illustrators as I am right now. The Digital Revolution has exploded the opportunities for us all. In fact, thanks to the digital innovations, we are now firmly ensconced in a content-based economy, meaning that writers, especially good ones, are in greater demand than ever.

Digital formats, moreover, are highly visual, meaning that great illustrations are needed now more than ever to lend their spice to all the new written content.

And absolutely everyone is talking about the importance of story, from children’s book publishers to advertising executives to global corporations. Story is both the oldest human art form and the art form of the moment. Stories have the power to unite us, to bind folks from all over the world. And they will go on doing exactly that, with ever increasing reach, until there are no more humans left to recite and receive them. So, rather than bemoan the potential passing of the book – which I do not believe for a moment will ever happen – the challenge today is to think “book and beyond”. That is, to endeavor to produce and deliver our content in the media our audiences most wish to receive it.

This, to me, is the future of “transmedia” storytelling. And why I have now published Beware Madame la Guillotine as an interactive book for the iPad as well as a storyapp. Soon, it will also be available as an eBook for eReader. And I’ve never stopped hoping that it will someday appear in a bookstore shelf, as a traditional print publication. That is a goal I will continue to work toward.

Lee:  Does your next project, "Day of the Dead," have a location-based element to it as well?

Sarah:  It does. In its eventual app form, it will take reader/users from Les Halles in Paris’ famous Marais district, to the Paris Catacombs, then on to the Montparnasse Cemetery. But, in contrast to Beware Madame la Guillotine, this story and the next one, Long Live the King’s Garden, will be published as interactive books before they evolve into storyapps.

Lee: Speed round!  Newest piece of technology you're excited about?

Sarah:  Well it isn’t really new anymore, but I remain a loyal fan of the iPad. It has endless potential. It’s so totally intuitive that it has exploded the possibilities in eLearning, especially among early readers as well as autistic and other learning challenged populations. There’s so much you can do on an iPad. And, well, everything on it just looks great!

The one downside of the iPad was once the expense. But now we have the iPad mini, which does everything its bigger cousin does, though in a smaller display.

Lee:  Coolest French Revolution fact you learned that surprised you?

Sarah:  That the guillotine is really small and surprisingly compact – not much wider than a human neck (I don’t know why I imagined it otherwise). That it was totally portable. And, that its use was not abolished in France until 1984.

Lee:  1984???  That is surprising!  *pulling my collar*  Black and White Inspiration for the Saturday Night Gala?

Sarah:  The printed page. Obvious, yes. But ironic, too, at least for me since I am, thus far, a bullishly digital gal.

Thanks so much, Sarah!

To attend Sarah's workshop and experience all the craft, business, inspiration, community and opportunity the SCBWI Summer Conference offers, you'll need to be there yourself.  Find out all the details and register for one of the few remaining spaces here.

For more on Sarah, visit her website here.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Refuse - A Fictional Transgender Memoir of a 22 year old Morrissey Fan

Refuse by Elliott DeLine

Dean, a 22-year old female-to-male-transsexual, is no LGBT poster boy. Unemployed, depressed, mid-transition, friendless, and still living in the upstairs bedroom of his parents’ house in a conservative suburb, he can think of little to do but write his memoir. In the third person, he tells the tale of his would-be love affair with his college roommate, Colin, another trans man with a girlfriend and a successful indie rock band. The plot is interrupted intermittently by Dean’s first person commentary, often criticizing middle-class conformity—but the queer counter culture as well. He is obsessed with Morrissey of The Smiths and wants nothing in life other than the same level of fame. As his far-fetched dreams become a foreseeable reality, he must decide between honesty and belonging, conformity or isolation, community or self. 

 Published by the author, you can add your review of "Refuse" in comments!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Define Me - a Gay/Lesbian/Queer Music Video About Labels And Name Calling That You Have To See

Loved, Loved, LOVED this.


Cheers to the artists Ryan Amador and Jo Lampert!


ps - thanks as well, to my awesome hubby for sharing this with me, so I could share it with all of you!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Positive - a young woman and her bi boyfriend learn she's HIV positive, and he's not.

Positive is an English translation of Belgian cartoonist Tom Bouden's "graphic novelette" Positive.

The story frankly, tenderly, and humorously follows Sarah as she learns of her HIV infection, deals with doctors and medications (and scatological side-effects), tackles the issue of sex with her HIV-negative partner, and makes her way from terror and uncertainty to hope for the future.

"Positive is a story with the universal message of how to live life without being afraid," writes's Joe Palmer in the introduction to the book. "This is the story I wish I’d been able to read after my diagnosis years ago. It is the story I hope everyone regardless of his or her sero-status will have the opportunity to read and by which to be inspired."

Be aware this title includes images of Sarah and Tim being intimate.  It also touched my heart.  Add your review of "Positive" in comments!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Caged Miko and the Whimsical Witch: A Manga of Magical Lesbian Romance

The Caged Miko and the Whimsical Witch by Fujieda Miyabi

At the beginning of The Caged Miko and the Whimsical Witch, world-traveling sorceress Letty Beetolihi discovers the temple where beautiful shrine priestess Tsumugi Tokigami is bound by a mystical barrier. The young woman has accepted her fateful duty to spend her life behind temple walls while awaiting the day her nation might need her power. Refusing to accept this state of affairs, Letty destroys the barrier and challenges Tsumugi to choose her own destiny. The two escape and set off on a journey to explore the globe together.

This is a beautiful story about the liberating power of love. Letty and Tsumugi consistently live out the values of genuine respect, open communication, and selflessly choosing the higher good for the other person. The story builds around compelling drama while also revealing the romance and joy that live in the quiet moments of daily life.

This manga is complete in one volume and relateable to people of all ages. I would feel comfortable reading it to my kids as a bedtime story or to my boyfriend on a cuddly couch date.

The Caged Miko and the Whimsical Witch is out of print and I had to track it down second hand. It is available to read online at this website

Review by Aaron Walsh.  Add your review of "The Caged Mike and the Whimsical Witch" in comments!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Awakened - a gay teen discovers he's a shifter/werewolf

Awakened by Kenneth Creech

Caleb is on the verge of his 18th birthday when he discovers that he will be Awakened when he turns 18... becoming a shifter/werewolf.  Not only that, but he's expected to become the Alpha of his pack at the same time, meaning he'll have to fight for his position and authority.

Oh, and what paranormal teen novel would be complete without a love interest?  In this one, it's another guy!

"Awakened" was published by the author.  Add your review in comments!

Monday, July 8, 2013

I Used To Think I'd Make A Good Boy - a short form memoir about growing up Gender Queer

I Used To Think I'd Make A Good Boy by Carol Little

Growing up in Summerside PEI wasn’t easy for author Carol Little. In fact, it was hell. Constant bullying over her boyish looks and the fact that she wasn’t ‘girly’ enough made her teen years almost unbearable. Once she started to question her sexuality, realizing she liked girls more than boys, life was near impossible.

Straightforward and unflinchingly honest, I Used to Think I’d Make a Good Boy takes readers back to Little’s childhood and adolescence, a time when she was trying to find her identity amid bullies and bigots and those who just didn’t get a girl who thought she'd make a good boy.

Partial proceeds will go toward AIDS PEI.  Add your review of "I Used To Think I'd Make A Good Boy" in comments!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Kevin Keller - The Out Gay Teen From Archie Comics Gets His Own Comic Book Series!

Written and Penciled by Dan Parent, Inks: Rich Koslowski, Letters: Jack Morelli

Issue #1  Kevin Keller: There's A First Time For Everything!

Golden boy Kevin Keller's life is perfect - his family's finally settled down in Riverdale, he has friends, he's openly gay, he's Class President, and he has his own comic book series!  The only problem?  He also has his first date, with a guy, and he's freaking out.  The gang - Veronica, Betty, Reggie, Archie and Jughead all give their newest friend their best advice...  Will Kevin keep it together?  Will his date (with Brian) happen?  Or will it all end in disaster?

Issue #2  Kevin Keller in The Write Stuff

Everyone's getting ready for a surprise birthday party for Kevin's dad, an Army Colonel.  Kevin's going over old family photos with Veronica, and we find out about his childhood dreams of being a superhero.  We also learn how he stood up to bullies at his last school - both for himself and for another boy who was picked on.  Will the party be a big heartwarming success?

Issue #3 Kevin Keller in Let's Get It Started

Kevin represents Riverdale High School in a Witmasters competition.  But the memory of being embarrassed in junior high when he had to speak to a full auditorium (and hurled) adds to his nerves.  Kevin studies hard, but when the lights hit and the TV cameras roll, he freezes up.  What will happen?  Can Veronica save the day?  Can Kevin come through?

Issue #4  Kevin Keller in Taking The Lead!

Kevin's new friends nominate him for Riverdale class president.  His biggest rival?  David, star quarterback, who's sure no one will vote for Kevin because he's gay, and they'd want a "real man" like David instead.  David decides to get Reggie to out Kevin to the whole school so then no one will vote for him.  Reggie tells him he's a real lowlife, and lends his support to Kevin.  When the big debate comes, David plants the audience with friends who ask leading questions about Kevin keeping secrets. Kevin comes out to the whole school, saying "I'm gay, and I'm proud of who I am!  I'm every bit the man that David is.  I can do the job just as good as David - make that Better!  In fact, I have an advantage!  I will be more sensitive to issues of equality, having been discriminated against in the past!  I will make sure everybody is treated equally and fairly!"  Homophobia in the town and school rears up, and Kevin's parents, and the gang, and Archie, stand up for Kevin.  Will Kevin win the election?  As Archie tells him, "Win or lose, you're one of the gang!  Get used to it!"

Issue #5 Kevin Keller in Drive Me Crazy!

Kevin's desperate for a car of his own, and his Dad gives him his old army jeep. Old, as in falling apart.  Kevin's friends soup it up - monster-truck/James Bond style!  Before Kevin gets to find out how it all works, the guy he likes, Todd, is in town for only one night.  Kevin takes the car and picks up Todd to take him to a drive-in movie... But the voice-activiated car has it's own ideas, and things go crazy!

Issue #6: Kevin Keller in By George!

The gang are assigned reports on "people who inspire us," and Kevin picks George Takei.  His report on the Star Trek actor and gay rights activist is so moving, the school posts it online.  George's husband sees the report on the internet, and since they'll be at a comic convention just a few hours from Riverdale, George arranges a special appearance at Riverdale High (which is kept - as a surprise - from Kevin.)  Kevin and the gang go to the comic con all dressed up, where Kevin meets up with Brian (the guy he went on the date with in Issue #1!)  But when they get to the booth where George Takei is supposed to be signing, he's already left!  Will Kevin get his moment to meet his idol?

So far there are ten comics in the on-going series, and evidently Kevin gets his first kiss (with boyfriend Devon) in issue #10, which will be out August 7, 2013.  Dan Parent, who wrote and drew Kevin, won the 2013 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book!

Add your review of any (or all) of the Kevin Keller comics in comments!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Celebrate YOUR Independence with "My New Gender Workbook" - The Updated Classic That's "A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving World Peace Through Gender Anarchy and Sex Positivity"

My New Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein

I'm really excited about this workbook - more crowdsourced, more graphic-novel/comics style, and even more thought-provoking!  Kate sees, and explores, gender as

" of fifteen interdependent spheres of cultural regulation, collectively known as kyriarchy.  The word was coined by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, and we all owe her thanks for naming the point of convergence of gender, sexuality, race, looks, age, disability, class, mental health, religion, family/reproductive status, language, habitat, citizenship, political ideology and humanity.  This edition of the workbook examines gender as part of that system, and offers up suggestions on how to dismantle the whole f[-ing] mess through a politic of desire, and an activism of radical wonder and radical welcoming - all stuff I've been puzzling over for the last fifteen years."

Rather than do the regular synopsis thing, I'm going to share with you the table of contents, so you get a sense of what this work covers:

Preface to the 21st Century Edition

The first edition of this book was published fifteen years ago. This is the first and - given that I'm already sixty-five years old - the last time I'll be updating it.  Here's why I say why I did the update, and explain some new conventions in this version.

1.  Welcome to Your New Gender Workbook

This is your on-ramp to the book, darling.  You'll find out why studying gender is important for making your life more worth living.  You'll find out about me, Kate Bornstein, and why it's me who gets to tell you all this stuff about gender.  And there's also a fabulous gender aptitude quiz in here that you won't want to miss!

2.  Finding Gender.  Arrrr, There Be Pirates!

That's right, pirates!  And a treasure map.  Why?  Because gender is a buried treasure that very few people know about  and even fewer people try to dig it up.  You'll have a look at the basic components of gender, and how they play out in you.  And there are two puzzles:  one scary simple, and the other just plain scary.

3.  Let X=X

X may mark the spot on the treasure map, but X means so much more.  Getting to X is a journey through fifteen cultural spaces of regulations, of which gender is only one.  And, there's a movie break - no, really, you go watch a movie.  And there are robots!

4.  Let Why Equal Why

So... why is gender?  And just how perfectly gendered are you?  There's an in-depth exam to find that out exactly.

5.  There's Only One Gender:  Yours

This chapter is jam-packed with theory - which is another word for unproven ideas that could be big fat lies.  But if the theory in this chapter is close to correct, you're going to find out a whole lot about your unique gender and the kind of fun you can have in it.  Two big bonuses: rhyme games!!  And 101 gender outlaws name their genders in their own words.  Imagine that.

6.  Sex! Sex! Sex! Sex! Sex! Sex! Sex!

I forget what this chapter is about.  But you won't.  Not ever.

7.  Get Ready To Do Your Gender

Most everyone goes through life without paying much attention to their gender(s).  Yes, you have more than one of them.  Everyone does.  This chapter is filled with drills that will help you become comfortably aware and focused on the performance of your gender(s).

8.  Do Your Gender Mindfully

Just what the chapter title says: you get to consciously make and implement decisions about your gender.  You're going to learn about all the drag you already do in life, and there's a comprehensive look at cultural playgrounds where you can practice any new genders that strike your fancy.  There's storytelling, whips and chains, and a four-page comic you can show your friends and family when they ask you the the f[-] is up with your gender!

9.  The Missing Piece is Nothing, and We're Going To Find It Nowhere

Welcome to the wild and wacky world of paradox.  What does it mean to the dominant culture that two of its fundamental building blocks are collapsing?  Gender as man-and-woman-only and sexuality as homo-and-hetero-only are so last century, and you're going to find out why.  You're also going to read the real story of the Garden of Eden, and God's thoughts on morality.  Yep.

10.  Okay, Now What?

This is where you'll learn how to achieve world peace through sex positivity and gender anarchy.  Tra-la, how fun!

Clearly, what's next is to read - and work through - and think about "My New Gender Workbook!"  Add your review in comments!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I Give to You: A Manga Wherein Two Lost Souls Learn to Love Again

I Give to You by Maki Ebishi

I Give to You begins with Iinuma wandering alone along the rainy streets of Tokyo. Betrayed by his lover and abandoned by his friends and family, he stumbles upon a quiet tea shop run by the mysterious Ren Shirakawa and receives a hot drink, a job, and a place to stay. Over time, Iinuma and Ren build trust and intimacy as they discover the other's painful secrets and impossible dreams. In the end, they must decide if they have the faith and strength to face the future together, side by side.

This manga is moving, romantic, and thought-provoking. Iinuma and Ren are authentic, complicated characters with subtle emotions and layered motivations. Running throughout the story is the search for redemption as the two men face their shame and open themselves to love.

I Give To You is complete in one volume and includes sexual scenes that are key to the development of the story. I would have felt comfortable reading this manga when I was sixteen-years-old.

Review by Aaron Walsh.  Add your review of "I Give To You" in comments!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Where You Are - A High School Gay Student-Teacher Relationship

Where You Are by J.H. Trumble

Robert Westfall’s life is falling apart — everywhere but in math class. That’s the one place where problems always have a solution. But in the world beyond high school, his father is terminally ill, his mother is squabbling with his interfering aunts, his boyfriend is unsupportive, and the career path that’s been planned for him feels less appealing by the day.

Robert’s math teacher, Andrew McNelis, watches his best student floundering, wary of crossing the line between professional and personal. Gradually, Andrew becomes Robert’s friend, then his confidante. As the year progresses, their relationship — in school and out of it — deepens and changes. And as hard as he tries to resist, Andrew knows that he and Robert are edging into territory that holds incalculable risks for both of them.

Add your review of "Where You Are" in comments!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Not All Trans People Feel "Trapped" In the Wrong Body

This article on BuzzFeed by Thomas Page McBee, Not All Trans People Feel "Trapped In the Wrong Body," is really interesting because it challenges the single narrative given to us in our culture that trans people have been "born in the wrong body" - there are many other experiences of gender, and of being trans, out there.

I particularly liked Thomas' description of their own experience,

I grew, over time, to be the man I am; and though I’ve felt the panic of dysphoria, I mostly had the sense of evolving. I didn’t feel trapped, exactly — only a sense of becoming.

Offering a calm counter-point to the sensationalism of most trans stories that reach the media is the point.   As Thomas says,

The sensational portrayals dehumanize trans folks by making us strange. If I’ve learned anything by living in this body, it’s that when anyone’s dehumanized, we all are.
Wise words.

It's well worth reading, and my thanks to Benji for sharing it with me, so I could share it with all of you.