Friday, December 19, 2014

And That's 2014!

A Highlight of 2014: Me and Mr. Snow White, as portrayed by Captain Lucky at BentCon 2014

What a year...

A year of hard stuff (the passing of my mother)

good stuff (getting an agent)

and lots of great books - more than 60 new LGBTQ kid and teen books! (just check out the lists in the left-hand column!)

We celebrated 17 days of LGBTQ Russian History (to counter-program the homophobia of the Sochi Olympics) and were inspired by songs, videos, and even Bar Mitzvah speeches!

We interviewed editors, re-ran the first 35 videos in our Gender 101 series, and blasted past one million page-loads, prompting the new ticker in the top-left corner of this blog -- which now proudly reads,

"Over 1.25 million served!"

It was also a year of stretching new muscles in drawing classes

A charcoal sketch of a Roman Soldier, drawn from a live model dressed up in historic costume 

and learning new things at Bent-Con - Los Angeles' LGBTQ Comic Con, where I got the scoop about Cosplay, including Cross-Playing Cosplay (playing a character in drag) and Gender-Bent Cosplay (creating the character in a new gender, like Mr. Snow White, above.)

And what's ahead in the new year?

As I took this photo of a rainbow in November 2014, someone nearby shouted, "Look! It's a double rainbow!" I looked closer, and it was!

2015 beckons with exciting new things, including:

All-New Gender 101 videos!

A New Series About Literary Agents Looking For Diversity!

And new, wonderful LGBTQ kid and teen books!

I'll be back, blogging three-times-a-week right here starting January 5th, 2015.

Until then, Happy Holidays, and here's to a fantastic and healthy New Year ahead for us all!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gender 101, Episode #35 Redux: Lucy, Nenu, Emmi and BJ on Misconceptions About Being Gender Queer

In this last of the Redux episodes (new episodes debuting in 2015!) Lucy (a.k.a. Benji), Nenu, Emmi and BJ discuss some of the misconceptions they've faced being Gender Queer...

My thanks to Benji, Nenu, Emmi and BJ for sharing so honestly.

You can check out the original post here.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Some Good News About The Olympics

Could we see this at the next Olympics? This not-at-the-Olympics gay kiss between Kseniya Ryzhova and Tatyana Firov was to protest Russia's anti-gay laws prior to the Sochi Olympics earlier this year

As reported last week (including this article in The New York Times), The International Olympic Committee has just,
"approved the rewording of its Principle 6 on nondiscrimination to include sexual orientation — a move that followed the controversy over Russia’s law against gay “propaganda” ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi."
As the group ALL OUT cheered in an e-mail blast on Dec 8, 2014,

This is huge. We've been pressuring the IOC to protect lesbian, bi and gay athletes ever since we found out about Russia's awful anti-gay law leading up to the Sochi Olympics. And because we came together, we won:

-In August last year, more than 50 of us delivered the biggest petition ever received by the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne with over 300,000 signatures.

-A few months later, more than 80,000 of us directly emailed IOC President Thomas Bach. The IOC publicly stated for the first time ever that discrimination based on sexual orientation is against Olympic values.

-In February 2014, more than 40,000 of us submitted requests to the IOC to change the rules so that the Games can't be held in countries where laws can harm gay, lesbian, bi and trans people.

-In September this year, we had another big win. The IOC announced that future host cities will be legally bound to respect the anti-discrimination principle of the Olympic Charter, Principle 6.
A coalition of LGBTQ Advocacy groups, including ALL OUT, Athlete Ally and Human Rights Watch, as well as lots of individuals who signed petitions and requests and emails, spoke out, and stood up, helped make this change happen.

But, as ALL OUT says,

...there's more work to do. The IOC didn't discuss including 'gender identity' – so trans fans and athletes are still at risk of discrimination during the Olympics. We need to keep the pressure on the IOC and other international bodies to make sure NO ONE has to suffer for who they are or who they love.

Progress, and a path forward to making things better.

Good news, indeed!

Friday, December 12, 2014

If You Give A Gay Mouse A Cookie - A Zine That I Wish Had Been Read To Me When I Was A Little Kid

"If You Give A Gay Mouse A Cookie: A Fable About Mice, Baked Goods and Civil Rights" by Celeste Christie and Steve Damewood, writing as Art For A Democratic Society

The "If you give a mouse a cookie" storyline made so famous and successful by Laura Numeroff gets a civil rights spin in this "If You Give A Gay Mouse A Cookie" 'zine, where a human character explains why "Allowing gay marriage would be a disaster!" by sharing what happens if you give a gay mouse a cookie... It could lead to all kinds of things, like...

"If Women start questioning traditional gender roles they will want jobs and economic independence."

"If free universal healthcare and civil rights are won, what's to stop undocumented immigrants from also seeking fair treatment?"

and, ultimately,

"Everyone will take to the streets to demand equality and freedom for all!"

The drawings are simple and the storyline powerful. It's actually something that resonates far beyond young childhood, and would be a great discussion prompt for GSA groups in both middle and high schools.

I love this 'zine!

Add your review of "If You Give A Gay Mouse A Cookie" in comments!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Gender 101 Episode #34 Redux: Lucy, Nenu, Emmi and B J on the "T" in GLBT

Our Gender-Queer friend Lucy (a.k.a. Benji) talks with Nenu, Emmi and B J about how Transgender and Gender Queer people are treated within the "Gay Community," both by individuals and organizations.

It's a fascinating discussion...

My thanks to Lucy, Nenu, Emmi and B J for sharing so openly about their experiences!

You can find the original posting here.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Alan Guno's Gay Teen Song Cycle - A Country, Pop-Rock and Dance Re-Mix Story of A Young Gay Man's Journey

I caught up with singer/songwriter/producer Alan Guno (Also known as 'Alan G.') at BentCon 2014 and got the scoop on his multi-album song cycle about a gay teen...

Here's the album-by-album scoop:

Billy’s story actually began with the release of Alan’s first country album, “The Sun Will Rise,’ in 2006. “This album tells the story of Cody,” explains Alan, “who is a young man just graduating from college and dealing with the very special challenges of young people at that age.” It is revealed that Cody is the middle brother of three – and that his younger brother Billy is quite the handful.
“Billy is mentioned twice by his brother in this album,” continues Alan. “But it is already very clear that Billy is quite the individual and seems to have a predisposition for getting into trouble!”

The Billy song cycle officially began in 2013 with the release of the pop-rock album EXILE and its dance remix compilation EXILE EXTENDED. Telling the stories of Billy as a teenage runaway, these albums reflect feelings and episodes in Billy’s young life as he comes to a savage and cold urban wasteland. In the big city, he encounters homelessness, heartbreak, and bigotry – and even confronts his darkest thoughts. Billy requires the greatest courage and strength to push back against his fear and survive life on the street.
“Billy’s world has gone from bad to terrifying,” adds Alan. “Some of his most difficult challenges materialize in his life – and yet he is still very young. And he’s still dealing with many of the issues of being a young person – but also a young gay homeless person.” Billy’s story in these albums is at once desperate and hopeful, fearful and fearless, secretive and exposed.

INFIDEL explores the emergence of a boy who has found his voice – and who is not afraid to use it – even if it means going against the establishment or the status quo.
“Billy is growing up,” explains Alan. “He is no longer on the streets – but he continues to see the craziness and hurt in the world. And now he has a voice to speak out against what he sees as wrong… But that thrusts Billy into a new chapter that is volatile and vulnerable – one that is always on fire, always dangerous. These new songs reflect the upheaval he sees in life– with the pop-rock music setting the stage for a world that is completely out of control.”
“But now we get to see how Billy feels about all of this,” continues Alan, “as well as what he plans to do about it. Billy is angry. He is so disappointed by what he sees, and what has happened – and how people are being treated. He must speak out, he must act - even in the face of resistance from perspectives that are old and worn-out – but which are still very powerful.”

And new out in 2015 is THE LEGEND OF LITTLE BRO BILLY.

“Before we met Billy the runaway,” explains Alan, “he was a boy growing up in his hometown facing many of the issues that most teens face. But now, we now get a chance to go back in time and see some of the experiences that led to the hero in EXILE and INFIDEL. We will see the environment he grew up in, what his family is like, and how he feels about the important things in life.”
And in stark contrast to the pop-rock of the previous albums, this is an album of country music. “We return to Billy’s roots,” tells Alan, “when he was living in his southern hometown. He’s a southern boy at heart – but we will follow some of the episodes that lead to the passionate and aggressive teen we encounter in the pop-rock albums.”
“It was important to take this look back,” continues Alan. “It was important to explain where he comes from – and both the challenges and positive aspects that he grew up with… Not everyone is as they seem – and some of the questions posed in Exile and Infidel are now answered by returning to Billy’s past.”
And that past is certainly filled with an abundance of issues. “We see some of the roots of teenage Billy’s questioning of the world,” adds Alan, “which give rise to the difficult relationships he will have with school, authority, and society’s expectations.”
But we also see the saving grace in Billy’s young life as well. “Billy has a very special relationship with his family,” continues Alan, “and we will see a particular bond with his mother and his two brothers… Certainly, the absence of his family in the previous albums of the song cycle is especially notable. And in this album, we will find out exactly why.”
And as the album comes to a close, the reason that Billy becomes a runaway is revealed. “This was a very important part of the story in this album,” says Alan. “This reason brings us to the beginning of the Exile album and sets that part of Billy’s life in motion.”

There's another album in the song-cycle planned, as Alan writes:

After a look back in “The Legend of Little Bro Billy”, the next album in the song cycle will take us forward in time to the period after “Infidel”. This next set of music will highlight Billy’s life as a young adult – but we return to his story with more insight into his past and the reasons he believes what he does. “...The beliefs and issues that were important to him when young continue to be powerful influences in his life. This special young hero will grow up further and take his life to the next level.”

And this was really nice:

The Billy saga is dedicated to all the “Billys” around the world who are looking for the representation and validation of their lives and their own stories. “Billy’s story is the story of many young LGBTQ people,” continues Alan. “And it is their stories that I hope to honor and validate. We need to let them – and the world – know that we celebrate that they are here – that they are valued and special – and that we will stand with them so they will never be alone.”

Add your review of the Billy songs and albums in comments!

Friday, December 5, 2014

This Is A Book For Parents Of Gay Kids - A New Resource

This Is A Book For Parents Of Gay Kids: A Question & Answer Guide To Everyday Life by Dannielle Owens-Reid and Kristin Russo

From the authors (and lip-syncers!) behind the blog (and advice videos), this book aims to be a

"go-to resource for fostering understanding and effective communication during an unfamiliar time. Filled with real-life experiences, first-hand stories from parents and kids, and straightforward advice, all presented in an easy-to-browse-question-and-answer format, this book breaks down the issues that many families face when their child comes out."

Here's the book trailer:

I'll share one glowing review that really stood out for me: Jody Huckaby, executive director, PFLAG National, wrote:

"In our forty-plus years of work with parents, families, friends and allies, PFLAG has seen how critical family acceptance is to the health and well-being of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender loved ones. This book, focused mainly on sexual orientation, is a great companion to PFLAG's work, providing parents information on how to best support a loved one in a manner that is sometimes funny, often frank, and always easy to access."

Add your review of "This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids" in comments!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Gender 101 Episode 33 Redux: Benji, Nenu, Emmi and BJ on Being "Enough"

Benji (a.k.a. Lucy) continues the conversation about being Gender Queer, asking Nenu, Emmi and B J to discuss the concept of being "Enough," exploring situations where they confronted issues of being trans-enough, or enough of one gender or the other, when really just being themselves should be enough.

My thanks to Benji, Nenu, Emmi and B J for sharing, and just being themselves. Each one of you is enough, just as you are.

Are so are all of us.


ps - you can see the original posting here.

Monday, December 1, 2014

SECRETS - Mary Lambert Rocks Her Authentic Truth In This Great Music Video

Mary Lambert was the lyrical voice on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' SAME LOVE song that was so powerful. Now she has her solo album HEART ON MY SLEEVE out, and this song's one of my favorites from it.

Love the lyrics. Love the singer. Love this!


The song was written by Mary Lambert, Mozella, Benny Cassette & Eric Rosse. Here are the lyrics:


I've got bi-polar disorder
My shit's not in order
I'm overweight
I'm always late
I've got too many things to say
I rock mom jeans, cat earrings
Extrapolate my feelings
My family is dysfunctional
But we have a good time killing each other

They tell us from the time we're young
To hide the things that we don't like about ourselves
Inside ourselves
I know I'm not the only one who spent so long attempting to be someone else
Well I'm over it

I don't care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)
I don't care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)So-o-o-o-o what
So what
So what
So what
I can't think straight, I'm so gay
Sometimes I cry a whole day
I care a lot, use an analog clock
And never know when to stop
And I'm passive, aggressive
I'm scared of the dark and the dentist
I love my butt and won't shut up
And I never really grew up


They tell us from the time we're young
To hide the things that we don't like about ourselves
Inside ourselves
I know I'm not the only one who spent so long attempting to be someone else
Well I'm over it

I don't care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)
I don't care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)
So what
So what
So what
So what
I don't care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)

I don't care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)
So what
So what
So what
So what

(I don't care if the world knows what my secrets are)
So what
So what
So what
So what

Great Stuff... Thanks, Mary!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Natural Selection - A Digital Companion Novella To Melinda Lo's ADAPTATION Sci Fi Series

Natural Selection by Melinda Lo

Before she met her girlfriend Reese, before she knew the role she would play in the fate of two worlds, Amber was a fifteen-year-old Imrian torn between two identities. Imrian by blood, Amber was forced to hide her true self to pass as human during the time she spent on earth.

And even when she returns to Kurra, her human experiences, including first love and heartache, still separate her from her fellow Imrians. But when Amber undergoes kibila, a traditional Imrian coming-of-age ceremony during which Amber will choose her name and identity for the next fifteen years, she will be forced to either accept her role in both worlds or forge her own path.

Add your review of "Natural Selection" in comments!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gender 101 Episode 32 Redux: Nenu and Frankie on Being Gender Queer AND Persons of Color

Benji (a.k.a. Lucy) continues our discussions on gender, asking Nenu and Frankie to share about being both Gender Queer and People of Color.

What amazing latin@s!

Check out the original posting here.


Monday, November 24, 2014

"I Am Thankful For..." Jodi Picoult's Answer To This Time Magazine Piece Makes A Difference

So in the current Time magazine, December 1-8, 2014, on page 18, they ran a piece by Tessa Berenson, interviewing four notable people and asking them to share what they are thankful for. Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, Actor Chelsea Peretti and current U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry all weighed in with their answers.

But Jodi Picoult took this one step further - as an opportunity. Here's what she wrote:

'I'm thankful for my family, as it expands in very wonderful directions. This Labor Day, my son Kevin proposed to his boyfriend Kyle. On paddleboards. In the middle of a lake. With a handmade titanium earring shaped like the infinity symbol. Every time I look at Kyle's engagement earring, I silently hope that other LGBTQ people will have the same joy in their lives as he does at this moment."

                                                                         - Jodi Picoult, Author

Being honest about our journeys, letting others know the truth of who we are as LGBTQ and Allied people is the most important element of changing our world for the better.

I hope Kevin is really proud of his mom, and Kyle of his soon-to-be-mother-in-law.

I know I'm proud of Jodi, and grateful for her answer.

I'm thankful Time magazine ran it.

And I'm thankful my husband shared it with me, so I could share it with all of you.

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

Friday, November 21, 2014

Inheritance - Book 2 in Malinda Lo's ADAPTATION Sci Fi Series About A Bi Teen

Inheritance by Malinda Lo

Reese and David are not normal teens—not since they were adapted with alien DNA by the Imria, an extraterrestrial race that has been secretly visiting Earth for decades. Now everyone is trying to get to them: the government, the Imria, and a mysterious corporation that would do anything for the upper hand against the aliens.

Beyond the web of conspiracies, Reese can’t reconcile her love for David with her feelings for her ex-girlfriend Amber, an Imrian. But her choice between two worlds will play a critical role in determining the future of humanity, the Imria’s place in it, and the inheritance she and David will bring to the universe.

Add your review of "Inheritance" in comments!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gender 101, Episode 31 Redux: Benji, Nenu, Frankie and Emmi on Presenting

It's the first of our panel discussions on gender, and Benji (a.k.a. Lucy) continues the conversation with Nenu, Frankie and Emmi. They discuss being Gender Queer and how they present themselves... covering issues of clothing, body acceptance, androgyny and safety.

My thanks to Benji, Nenu, Frankie and Emmi for sharing so honestly.

You can check out the original posting here, where Sally Bibary wrote this comment:

Sally Bibrary said...
Fantastic video! It makes me feel so good to see the next generation sharing so openly and honestly. :)
May 30, 2012 at 6:46 AM

Also, note that tomorrow (November 20th, 2014) is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. You can find out more about this annual observance that honors the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence here.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Senior Editor Ben Rosenthal: The Pre-#NY15SCBWI Conference Interview

Ben Rosenthal is a senior editor at Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books. He acquires middle grade and YA fiction but also loves fresh and surprising nonfiction. At Harper, he has worked with such authors as Patrick Carman, Mindy McGinnis, and Jordana Frankel. Before arriving at KT Books in 2014, Ben spent seven years at Enslow Publishers, where he edited more than 150 nonfiction and middle grade fiction titles and created a teen fiction imprint, Scarlet Voyage. Raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, he now lives in New Jersey with his wife.

Senior Editor Ben Rosenthal

I connected with Ben to find out more about his sessions at the upcoming 2015 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, February 6-8...

Lee: Can you tell us more about your "Creating Nonfiction" breakout workshop on the conference Saturday morning? Is there any prep you'd suggest for attendees to get the most out of the session?

Ben: The institutional need for great nonfiction has always been there, but it will only rise as the Common Core develops in schools around the country. I hope writers and publishers capitalize on this opportunity but consider new ideas in creating fresh and engaging narratives. In my session, I hope to explore different ways we can make nonfiction breakout in a market dominated by fiction, looking at format, narrative, platform, and more. Most important, I want to generate a thought-provoking discussion. Be prepared to ask questions. I have edited more than 100 nonfiction titles, and I am still searching for answers.

Lee: How about your Saturday afternoon breakout workshop, "Thrillers and Mysteries?" But of course, don't give away the ending!

Ben: Pacing. Plot twists. Cliffhangers. I could tell you more, but then I'd have to kill you.

Lee: Ha! Well played, sir! When you come to a conference like #NY14SCBWI, are you looking to find new talent?

Ben: As an editor, I am always looking for talent. New writers and illustrators are the lifeblood of the publishing community. We need new authors as much as we need the veterans. But I don’t go to the conference specifically for that reason. I am looking to meet people, listen to interesting ideas, engage in meaningful conversations, and hopefully learn a great deal.

Lee: As an editor who does both fiction and nonfiction, what do you see as the cross-pollination possibilities... Are there things we can learn from fiction to apply to nonfiction, and do you look for them?

Ben: Absolutely! Good narrative nonfiction should read like a novel. Strong and active prose, deep and three-dimensional characters, vivid setting and world building—all the important things in fiction must be true of winning nonfiction. Any good story must come alive. I find it even more satisfying when that living story actually happened.

Lee: How about the reverse? Are there lessons from nonfiction that we writers and illustrators can apply to fiction?

Ben: Yes, indeed! One of the biggest lessons fiction writers can learn from nonfiction is research. Whether you’re creating a contemporary realistic novel or a sci-fi thriller on a futuristic alien planet, the setting, characters, and action need to be authentic. This almost always requires at least some research.

Lee: It seems that for fiction, a book with a 15 year old main character might be targeted to readers 12-15, and be called "young adult." But for nonfiction, a book targeted to those same readers ages 12-15 might be called "middle grade" - what's going on? Of course, if I have that wrong, chime in!

Ben: Hmm . . . I find that nonfiction can be more targeted by age because books with certain concepts or topics will be perfect for particular grades or curricula. One thing that happens with nonfiction is that when kids hit high school, they have a tendency to jump right into adult nonfiction because, frankly, there is much more to choose from. Other than the so-called "young readers" versions of adult biographies, which I don't like, there are not a ton of quality choices. (There are some amazing books, don't get me wrong, just not enough.) And I believe the readers of "young adult" nonfiction end up being middle schoolers because those books filter down. I am a firm believer that we really need more sophisticated and dynamic teen nonfiction. I would love to see teen nonfiction narratives with the substance and storytelling of Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.

Lee: Do you see the divide between middle grade and young adult works blurring out or becoming more distinct?

Ben: I think certain titles will always blur the line but the two as a whole will become more distinct. Given the number of adults reading YA and the number of crossover hits, the line between adult and YA may become the one that is blurred.

Lee: What would be your best advice to share with conference attendees, either about their conference experience or about the journey of being a writer and/or illustrator?

Ben: Well, I can’t give away my best advice here, or I’d ruin my sessions. But for your conference experience, I would suggest stepping outside your comfort zone. Be bold. Ask questions. Listen to the faculty but with a very critical ear, always analyzing and thinking about ideas and how they apply to your individual journey as a writer or illustrator. The big ideas won’t likely come from the faculty but from the spark a comment or question inspires in you.

Lee: That's pretty sage advice anyway. Thanks, Ben. Okay, here's our Speed Round!

Karaoke song?

Ben: Wonderwall by Oasis but with a mute button

Lee: Ice Cream flavor?

Ben: Mint chip

Lee: Childhood book you loved and still have a copy of?

Ben: Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson (I think I still have every collection)

Thanks, Ben!

If you'd like to attend Ben's sessions and be part of all the craft, opportunity, inspiration, business and community of SCBWI's Winter Conference, we hope you'll join us in New York City, February 6-8, 2015.

You can find out all the details and register here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Friday, November 14, 2014

This Blog In The News!

I'm really excited about this article, "5 Websites LGBT Teens Should Check Out" by Ellen Friedrichs.

Recognize the logo? My blog makes the list!

And when you do check out the article, you'll find I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? is NUMBER ONE!


Here's what Ellen wrote about this blog:

"1. I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?

This is a great site, which mainly covers books, but also dives into politics, and pop culture. There are links to a huge range of older and newer YA titles with LGBT themes and characters. The site has done an amazing job of organizing books by category. You can literally look through categories that tell you if a book has a gay character, a lesbian character, a trans character, a questioning character, an LGBT parent and so on! Readers are encouraged to leave their own reviews of books in the comments and you can also suggest books to be added to the site."

I feel proud and delighted, and just had to share. Cheers to the other websites featured (Outsports, Good As You, Scarleteen, and BuzzFeed LGBT!)

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Gender 101, Episode 30 Redux: B J on Role Models, Hiding and Healing

Benji (a.k.a. Lucy) continues the conversation about gender with B J. B J shares about their search for gender non-conforming Role Models, and their own journey.

It's a little longer than most of the Gender 101 videos at thirteen and a half minutes, but worth the time!

As B J said about doing this video,

"Even if one person finds something at all worth taking from it, it's worth it"


Thank you B J, for sharing so honestly.

You can check out the original posting here.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Editor Jessica Dandino Garrison: The Exclusive Pre-#NY15SCBWI Interview

Jessica Dandino Garrison, senior editor at Dial Books for Young Readers and voted “Most likely to eat the frosting off one too many cupcakes and regret it for the rest of the morning.” She has edited I’ll Give You the Sun, My Life Next Door, The Books of Elsewhere, Here Comes the Easter Cat, and others. She looks for middle grade and YA across all genres with robust plots, writing that has literary quality but commercial appeal, a strong, fresh voice, emotional heart and heft, and often a dose of moral ambiguity. Her picture book tastes tend toward the character-driven and humorous, with a subtle takeaway and a bit of bite.

Senior Editor at Dial Books for Young Readers Jessica Dandino Garrison

Here's our interview:

Lee: You edit (and acquire) Picture Books, middle grade and young adult novels - quite a span of age ranges and focii (wait, that is the plural of focus, right? Oh, if only there was an editor around... wait!)

Jessica: “Focii” or “foci”—your guess is as good as mine, man! I need a shirt that says “I ♥ copyeditors” because this is so their expertise and so not mine. I’ve just checked with Dial’s copyeditor, and it’s “foci” with one “i,” though “focuses” would be okay too, which is good, because otherwise I’ve been saying the wrong word my entire life.

Lee: Editor (and copyeditor!) to the rescue...Thanks! What's your take on (and perhaps, advice for) authors who also want to write for all three (PB, MG and YA)?

Jessica: My advice is always to know your category. In other words, read, read, read, read, read. Whether you’re writing picture books, middle grade, YA, or all three, know what else is out there, know what you personally like and why, and know where your story fits in the mix, what its “compatriots” are—those stories of a similar ilk for a similar audience that are already available and being read. And certainly don’t feel you have to write in all three categories. Write what you love and what feels most natural to you. Most of the authors I work with focus their energy on one category to start. Once they’re a little more established, they might decide to stretch and try something new. But new writers should certainly explore all three if they’re keen—it’s hard to know what you’re good at before you’ve tried it.

Lee: You'll be giving a breakout workshop on the conference Saturday that's sure to be packed - so much so it's running both in the morning and afternoon: "Rules for Picture Book-making and Why We Sometimes Break Them." Can you give us a sneak peek at one of those rules and how someone broke them?

Jessica: One of the most common tenets of picture book writing these days is to keep your story short and bear in mind the 32-page(ish) format. I like that one a lot myself. But then I went ahead and signed up Deborah Underwood and Claudia Rueda’s HERE COMES THE EASTER CAT and HERE COMES SANTA CAT plus two more CAT books—and each of them is upward of eighty pages. What? Craziness! In fairness, they’re still very, very spare—just a few words per page—but given the rhythm of these stories, we realized they just needed more pages to make the jokes and surprises and momentum work. They’re essentially comic strips divided by page-flips instead of panels. So it’s true—sometimes rules are meant to be broken.

Lee: I believe it was Linda Sue Park who challenged writers who work on picture books to read 1,000 picture books, with the theory that by the time you get into the five and six hundreds, you're learning, you're seeing patterns, you're attaining a different perspective. Ostensibly, by the time you get to 1,000, you've figured some important stuff out. I do have a friend, Sara Wilson Etienne, who took the challenge and read 1,000 picture books in one giant push over 100 days. An amusing aside is that what broke out for Sara ended up being her YA novel, Harbinger.

What's your take on Linda Sue's advice?

Jessica: Put it this way: In my first answer, where I wrote “read, read, read, read, read” I could have written it a thousand times instead of five. I think it was picture book author Carolyn Crimi who told me she not only read a ton when she was learning her craft, but she took her favorite picture books and typed them out in a Word document so she could see how they looked on a single blank page, alone, without art. In the process, she learned a lot and created a sort of muscle memory for the rhythm of the picture book format.

Lee: That's a great tip! What about for novelists - what advice would you offer those of us who write middle grade and young adult novels?

Jessica: Part of the reason to read widely within middle grade or YA is to be able to identify, and eventually internalize, what makes a story middle grade vs. YA vs. adult. Then you can apply that to your own writing to better engage your intended audience, to better understand where your novel fits, and to better pitch your novel to agents and publishers. My other bit of advice, which is nothing new, is to not chase trends—by the time your novel is ready to be submitted, that trend might be long over. Write what you love. Be original in your ideas. Trust your own voice. Understand what you’ve created.

Lee: When you attend a conference like #NY15SCBWI, are you open to finding new writers and illustrators?

Jessica: Absolutely. That’s why I’m here.

Lee: Newbies are often surprised to discover that if they write picture book texts, it's the editor who makes the selection of illustrator. Can you share a bit about how that matching process works, in terms of how you find illustrators and how the art department interfaces with the process?

Jessica: Usually I’ll see the art in my head when I read a picture book text I’m really enjoying. It’s often a general style of art, and sometimes I can extrapolate that to a specific artist or artists whose work I know. Sometimes not. In the latter case, I find myself trying to explain to my friend and Dial’s art director, Lily Malcom, what I see in my head. This is not always easy. Lily is very patient. And then we sit down together to look at artists who match that vision. Lily and her designers will often toss out ideas that are, stylistically, totally different from what I have in mind too, which is smart. Sometimes what you want isn’t what you need.

Lee: Short, shorter, shortest. It seems like the 'ideal' word count for a picture book text keeps dropping and dropping... It used to be "under 1,000" but in recent years I'm hearing "Under 500." How much does word count matter, and is there a number you hope for when you get a submission?

Jessica: Er, see “rule breaking,” above. :) The CAT books are an exception, though. By and large, yes, I personally do prefer shorter texts. It’s just what I like to read. My tastes tend toward stories that are humorous and where the art and text are sort of seamless, and that often comes with a certain rat-a-tat-ness. Most of the picture books I edit end up being under 1000 words, and more often under 500.

Lee: Do you see a place for longer, story-book picture books in the future?

Jessica: Despite the answer above, yes. Another picture book I recently edited, Dashka Slater’s DANGEROUSLY EVER AFTER, which is an uncommon princess story, is lengthier than what’s common these days, and I heard from a lot of people that they enjoyed reading it aloud to their kids for this reason, like you would a classic storybook. Parents told me it bridged the gap between, say, their eight-year-old and five-year-old at bedtime, offering something in between. And like I’ve said, rules are, occasionally, meant to be broken.

Lee: Speed round! Karaoke song?

Jessica: Never. It will never happen.

Lee: (laughing) Ice cream flavor?

Jessica: Salted Caramel and/or vanilla. Who’m I kidding? And/or? And.

Lee: Childhood book you loved and still have a copy of?

Jessica: MISS NELSON IS MISSING, IN THE NIGHT KITCHEN, and HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON for picture books. BEHIND THE ATTIC WALL for middle grade. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD for MG/YA/adult (it’s kind of all of them, isn’t it?).

Thanks so much, Jessica!

If you'd like to attend Jessica's session and be part of all the craft, opportunity, inspiration, business and community of SCBWI's Winter Conference, we hope you'll join us in New York City, February 6-8, 2015.

You can find out all the details and register here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Friday, November 7, 2014

The iphone as a Gay Pride symbol

Last week, on October 30, 2014, Apple CEO Tim Cook came out as gay - though it had been known, and he'd been included in gay press rankings of 'most powerful' LGBTQ people since at least 2011 - it was a definitive, public statement that, not only was he gay, but that:

"I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."

The day after his coming out article was published, a Russian group of companies called ZEFS dismantled the Steve Jobs memorial they had put up back in January 2013 outside a St. Petersburg college.

The Steve Jobs memorial, before it was taken down. Photo from here.

The over 6-foot tall iphone sculpture had to be taken down, ZEFS said, because:
"After Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly called for sodomy, the monument was taken down to abide to the Russian federal law protecting children from information promoting denial of traditional family values."

It would be almost laughable if it weren't so horrible.

Being proudly gay is not a public call 'for sodomy' - and actually, what the heck would that be? He's not asking for straight people to suddenly become gay. Nobody is. And really, making a man's coming out as gay all about sex (by calling it 'sodomy') is a way to demean gay and lesbian relationships by saying they're not about love, they're only about sex. This perpetuates the idea that gay people are different than hetero-normative people, that we're less than.

We're not.

Our relationships and our loves are just as powerful, just as meaningful, just as 'regular' as hetero relationships. And guess what? We have families, too. We're children, and brothers, and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins and yes, even parents. And as a gay parent, my early mornings are all about making my daughter's lunch for school, and helping her get ready so my husband can take her to the bus stop. Crazy gay life, huh?

And how is this new twist in the anti-gay policies of Russia even tenable? What happens now to the millions of Russians who have iphones?

Because, whether they intended to or not, this action has made the iphone a symbol of gay pride.

I'll continue to use mine proudly. And maybe I'll add one of these, too:

Gay Pride Rainbow iphone case!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Gender 101, Episode 29 Redux: Meet B J

Benji (a.k.a. Lucy) introduces us to another gender non-conforming community member, B J...

So delighted to meet B J,

You can check out the original posting here.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Good News To Share

I'm very excited to announce that I have signed with a literary agent, Danielle Smith of Red Fox Literary!

my agent - wow, that was fun to write!

It's a big moment in my career as a writer, and I'm thrilled.

Looking forward to having more good news to share moving forward...

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

Friday, October 31, 2014

Associate Publisher and Editor Stephanie Lurie: The Exclusive Pre-#NY15SCBWI Interview

Stephanie Lurie is the associate publisher of Disney-Hyperion, an imprint that publishes approximately eighty titles a year, for preschoolers through young adults. Stephanie manages a team of eighteen people and also edits picture books and novels. Recently she has had the privilege of collaborating with such authors as Bob Shea, Jonathan Stroud, Eoin Colfer, and Rick Riordan. She is the mother of two young men, both of whom are writers, and has been married to her beau from college for thirty-three years.

Associate Publisher Stephanie Lurie

Here's our interview:

Lee: You'll be part of the Saturday morning Keynote Editors' panel, "Children's Books 2015: Report from the Front Lines" along with Justin Chanda (Simon & Schuster), Laura Godwin (Henry Holt) and Beverly Horowitz (Delacorte). What are you most curious to hear from your peers?

Stephanie: I'm curious to know whether my peers are seeing the same subject matter trends in submissions, to hear about their lead titles, and to learn how they are dealing with marketplace challenges.

Lee:  I think that's one of the most remarkable things about these conferences - whether you are on faculty or attending, and for us writers and illustrators, whether you have hundreds of books out or are' pre-published,' there's always more to learn and inspiration to find. Last year I noticed Jane Yolen doing the writing exercises along with the rest of us during another faculty member's teaching of the intensive on plot, and I asked her about it. Jane explained, "the minute we as artists stop growing, we're dead."

When you come to a conference, what do you find yourself looking for...are you looking to find new talent?

Stephanie: It's always fantastic to discover a new author and/or illustrator talent, of course. I also appreciate the chance to network with colleagues. Just being with people devoted to children's books is inspiring and energizing.

Lee: It is! As a publisher, you oversee about 80 titles a year, that range from preschooler stories to YA novels. Do you have a vision that readers start as Disney-Hyperion picture book audiences and then grow to be Disney-Hyperion middle grade readers and then progress to reading your YA titles?

Stephanie: I don't think imprints play much of a role in customers' book selections. It's all about the author and illustrator talent. We aim to find and nurture the best writers and artists and to offer a varied array of books, to attract all kinds of readers.

Lee: I'm curious on how that PB through YA scale plays out when it comes to the authors' and illustrators' perspective. What's your view on (and maybe advice for) authors and illustrators who want to create in more than one age-category?

Stephanie: There are a few authors who can write both picture books and novels with equal aplomb--from our list, Sara Pennypacker comes to mind. But that kind of versatility is rare. More often, authors stretch in a more limited way, e.g. from picture books to early readers, or from middle grade to young adult. My advice for beginning writers would be to hone one voice at first rather than dabble in many different categories/genres.

Lee: I remember being so excited when John Rocco's BLACKOUT came out and it included a two-guy couple walking down the street. What's your view of the role illustrators and writers (and editors and publishers) can play in portraying diversity in picture books?

Stephanie: We were recently asked to list all of our diverse books, and the vast majority of them fit the bill, simply because they include some non-white characters. They weren't written or published to make a point; they just reflect modern life.

Lee: What would be your best advice to share with conference attendees?

Stephanie: This is going to sound flip, but it is sincere: I encourage writers of middle grade and young adult fiction to check out the most popular channels on YouTube. Kids are now spending a lot of their media consumption time there, and we need to know what we're competing against.

Lee: (laughing) Hurray - I can move watching youtube videos from the 'procrastination' column to 'research' now! I'm feeling more productive already!

Okay, speed round!

Karaoke song?

Stephanie: Halo

Lee: Ice Cream Flavor?

Stephanie: Almond Joy

Lee: Childhood book you loved and still have a copy of?

Stephanie: Harriet the Spy

Thanks so much, Stephanie!

And if you want to hear and learn from Stephanie, too, we hope you join us at the upcoming SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, February 6-8, 2015.

You can find out all the details and register here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gender 101, Episode 28 Redux: Emmi's Tips on Interacting With Gender Non-Conforming People

Emmi shares some wonderful advice:

Thanks Emmi!

Here are the comments from the initial post:

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...
Respecting self-identification works well for biracial people as well. There are all kinds of reasons a mixed-race person might identify with one side of their heritage or another or both or neutral, despite their outward appearance and apparent posturing to other people.
May 2, 2012 at 7:31 AM

Angie said...
Thank you so much for doing this series, Lee. And thanks to Emmi, Nenu and others for openly sharing and educating!
May 2, 2012 at 8:08 AM

Elizabeth Twist said...
This is such a great series. Thanks to all of you!

Elizabeth Twist: Writer, Plague Enthusiast
May 6, 2012 at 4:27 PM


Monday, October 27, 2014

Religion and LGBTQ Equality - A Panel I'll Be Moderating on Nov 13, 2014

I'm really looking forward to this - working with The Lavender Effect (which aims to teach, celebrate and advance the future of LGBTQ History and Culture), I'll be moderating a fascinating discussion about the tipping points that bring religious communities from scapegoating through tolerance, acceptance, and ultimately to celebrating our LGBTQ lives and relationships.

The idea is to explore open and affirming congregations, who and what work is being done in our community, and how we can use that insight and knowledge to encourage more faith-based communities to affirm LGBTQ people regionally and globally.

Our panelists are pioneers in this space:
Rabbi Denise Eger, Founder of Congregation Kol Ami

Reverend Troy Perry, Founder of Metropolitan Community Churches

Mel White, Founder of Soulforce, American Clergyman and Author

Ani Zonneveld, Founder/President of Muslims for Progressive Values

Here's the flyer:

It's a free event (with a $10 suggested donation to cover costs.) For those of you in the LA area who are interested, I hope you'll join us. Tickets and details here.

And for those of you geographically elsewhere, we'll be working on expanding the conversation online!

As a Jewish spiritual Atheist myself, I'm thrilled that we're diving into this topic in a way that includes many faiths and perspectives on the role religion can have in making our world a better place for LGBTQ people, and everyone else, too.

My thanks to The Lavender Effect team helping me pull this event together: Andy Sacher (The Lavender Effect's Founding Executive and Creative Director), Ken Taylor and John Boswell.

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

Adaptation - A Bi Teen Sci Fi Thriller

Adaptation by Malinda Lo

Across North America, flocks of birds hurl themselves into airplanes, causing at least a dozen to crash. Thousands of people die. Fearing terrorism, the United States government grounds all flights, and millions of travelers are stranded.

Among them are Reese and her debate team partner and longtime crush David, who are in Arizona when the disaster occurs. On their drive home to San Francisco, along a stretch of empty highway in the middle of the Nevada night, a bird flies into their headlights. The car flips over. When they wake up in a military hospital, the doctor won't tell them what happened, where they are--or how they've been miraculously healed.

Things become even stranger when Reese returns home. San Francisco feels like a different place with police enforcing curfew, hazmat teams collecting dead birds, and a strange presence that seems to be following her. When Reese unexpectedly collides with the beautiful Amber Gray, her search for the truth is forced in an entirely new direction-and threatens to expose a vast global conspiracy that the government has worked for decades to keep secret.

Add your review of "Adaptation" in comments!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Gender 101, Episode #27 Redux: Emmi's Gender Non-Conforming Heroes

Benji (a.k.a. Lucy) continues the conversation about Gender with Emmi...

You can find out more about Julia Serano at

Thanks Lucy and Emmi!

You can see the original posting here.


Monday, October 20, 2014

GSA Mondays: A Great Quote On Race from Professor Dorothy Roberts

Professor Dorothy Roberts

"We need to definitively reject the myth that human beings are naturally divided into races and instead affirm our shared humanity by working to end the social injustices preserved by the political system of race."

- Dorothy E. Roberts is The George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology and Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights at the University of Pennsylvania. 

This quote was from page 14 of the Summer 2014 Penn Arts and Sciences Magazine, and I thought it was brilliant, inspiring, and a great catalyst for conversation and change - both in how we think about race and social justice and in how we work towards achieving a better future.

Friday, October 17, 2014

3 Cubic Feet: A Novella about a Gay Teen in Missouri

3 Cubic Feet by Lania Knight

Theo Williamson lives in Springfield, Missouri, an oppressive town hostile to change – no place for a gay teenager. His family has good intentions, but Theo’s father is recovering from a car accident, and his stepmother won’t give him a moment to himself. And Theo has guy problems–the closeted older man he seduced wants nothing to do with him, and Theo’s best friend Jonathan isn’t interested in anything more than friendship. When Jonathan’s father turns violent, Theo must decide just how far he is willing to go for love.

Three Cubic Feet was a finalist for the 2012 Lambda Literary Award in Debut Fiction. Add your review of this novella in comments!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Gender 101, Episode #26 Redux: Meet Emmi

Our Gender-Queer friend Lucy (a.k.a. Benji) introduces us to another wonderful Gender Queer community member, Emmi!

I'm delighted to meet Emmi, and look forward to the discussions ahead.

Here are the comments from the original posting:

ivanova said...
Way to go, Emmi! That was expressed so well. I love "Gender 101."
April 18, 2012 at 10:36 AM

Joanna said...
Thanks, Emmi, I am so enjoying this series - every episode!
April 19, 2012 at 10:32 AM


Monday, October 13, 2014

October is LGBTQ History Month!

I'm so excited that it's another month jam-packed with amazing LGBTQ people from history!

The 2014 list covers the Famous:

Tallulah Bankhead! Freddie Mercury! Lord Byron!

The Agents of Change:

Ivy Bottini! Natalie Barney! Margaret Cho!

And people I'm just learning about:

Faisal Alam! Bernice Bing! Michael Callen!

And many more...

Check out the great resources (especially the pdf biographies of each of the 31 featured people in history!) at the equality forum's lgbt history month website.

And happy LGBTQ History Month!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Until We Could - Poetry and Video Come Together To Create A Powerful Celebration of Love and The Right To Marry

Richard Blanco wrote the beautiful poem, and then it was made into this remarkable video:

You can find out more at The Daily Beast, where I found this video.

GSAs - what a great discussion prompt, about the power of poetry, the power of video, the power of our stories well-told. How can you tell your stories to change your school - and our world - for the better?


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Gender 101, Episode #25 Redux: How Gender Non-Conforming Are You?

Continuing the conversation about gender and gender expression with Nenu...

"Breaking the gender norms" - It's a great point, Nenu!

You can check out the original post here.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Looking forward to Bent-Con 2014

The folks behind Bent-Con have launched a kickstarter campaign to help make this 5th anniversary LGBTQ-focused Comic Con happen. It's going to be November 7-9th, 2014 at the Los Angeles Burbank Marriott Convention Center in Burbank, California.

With panels, exhibits and cosplay it promises to be a pretty cool event - and as Zan from Northwest Press put it in a recent email blast:

"Even though I had already spent over a decade helping to build a strong LGBT presence at Comic-Con, even though there was now programming aimed at me as a gay guy, and even though there were plenty of social events and stuff that welcomed me, I discovered that I’d never really fully unclenched, exhaled, and felt completely at home.

It’s really hard to describe the feeling of having that layer of self-consciousness—that I didn’t even know still existed!—peeled away from the comic convention experience. But Bent-Con did that for me, even when it was just a tiny show, and that feeling of freedom is the reason I’ve been such a passionate supporter of the show since then."


"...if the Internet can raise over fifty-thousand dollars for a bowl of potato salad, then we can pull together and support a grassroots queer pop culture show and ensure that it sticks around, so we can all have our own version of that warm, comfy feeling.

It's a good point.

Will you be at Bent-Con, too?


Friday, October 3, 2014

The Fight: A Teen Rallies Against Her School District's 'Neutrality' Policy -- A Policy that Keeps Her High School Homophobic

The Fight: Surviving Southside by Elizabeth Karre

When Bella witnesses an anti-gay attack in the school - and a teacher who doesn't intervene - she decides to join the school's GSA. But then she discovers it's an 'unofficial' club, since no teacher will get involved. She digs deeper, and discovers the district's "neutrality" policy - a policy that had ended up being anything but neutral. Can she and fellow GSAer Zoe rally their community against it?

Add to that a girl in school, June, that Bella just might be crushing on...

"The Fight" is part of the Surviving Southside series,

a 12-book set of high-interest YA urban novels that's written at a fourth-grade reading level, specifically designed for reluctant and striving readers, including those who read below grade level or are ESL/ELL students. All of the stories feature diverse characters who go to school at Southside High. As in any teen life, getting through the day is no picnic, whether you're the star quarterback or the quiet artist.

Add your review of "The Fight" in comments. You can check out the Kirkus review of the book here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Gender 101, Episode #24 Redux: Nenu's Gender Non-Conforming Heroes

Our Gender Queer friend Lucy, a.k.a. Benji, continues our conversation about Gender with Nenu Cruz, exploring Nenu's gender non-conforming heroes.

You can find out more about Frida Kahlo here.

And how awesome is it for Nenu to be able to refer to Nenu's grandmother as "bad ass?"


You can see the original post here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Friday, September 26, 2014

Disparate Youth - a new series of LGBTQ & Gender-Queer Flash Fiction

Disparate Youth by Alliah

Offered for free on the internet (and as an email subscription) these are short-format stories. In the words of the Brazilian genderfluid writer and visual artist:

"The only rule I impose myself when writing these particular stories is that at least one character must have diverse sexual orientation and/or diverse gender identity."

I read the M.A.R.K. story, "a sci-fi piece set in space, more specifically, inside a research facility on an exoplanet"and enjoyed it.

Add your review of Alliah's Disparate Youth stories in comments!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Gender 101, Episode #23 Redux: Meet Nenu

Our Gender Queer Friend Lucy, a.k.a. Benji, continues the conversation about gender with Nenu Cruz, who explains their own journey with gender, and introduces us to the term "Maribri."

Here's that amazing image of Maribri again, and my thanks to artist Cindy Segura for allowing me to share it with you all!


"A Maribri is a hybrid that transforms into their own image without limits or expectations.  The mix of a Mariposa (butterfly) and Colibri (hummingbird).  The hybrid of masculinity and femininity and neither.  A third gender that wants to be liberated from the social construct roles and their own."
- Nenu

I'm so glad to have met Nenu!


ps- my apologies for the video quality being so inconsistent.

You can check out the original posting and comment here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Banned Books Week Celebrates The Freedom To Read! September 21-27, 2014

You can find out more about Banned Books Week at the American Library Association's Website.

As explained in the American Library Association's list of the most challenged and banned books of 2013-2014,

This freedom, not only to choose what we read, but
also to select from a full array of possibilities, is firmly
rooted in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,
which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of
the press. Although we enjoy an increasing quantity and
availability of information and reading material, we must
remain vigilant to ensure that access to this material is
preserved; would-be censors who continue to threaten
the freedom to read come from all quarters and all
political persuasions. Even if well intentioned, censors
try to limit the freedom of others to choose what they
read, see, or hear.

So read a banned book. And talk about it.

And let's keep fighting for - and celebrating - our right to read!


Friday, September 19, 2014

My mother is dead. And I’m gay. But those aren’t causal.

1938 - 2014

My mom in 1974, when I was seven. Our relationship was great until I realized – around age 12 – that I couldn’t be honest with her about the feelings I felt for other guys (and that I didn’t feel for girls.)

When I finally came out to my parents at age 25, my mom acted like it was the big act-one finale of some grand opera – oh, the tragedy of her life, two gay sons (yup, my older brother is gay, too.) My truth meant, to her, a life of despair – no grandchildren, no joy, no hope.

Her reaction was incredibly hard to experience.

I’m 47 today, and when my mom died last week, after a three-and-a-half year battle with ovarian cancer, she had my brother, myself and our dad at her side, and so much had changed. The truth of my mom’s life had transformed, and somewhere in these last 22 years we went from living in a tragedy to living a joyous, if sometimes bittersweet, comedy.

My mom this past summer, age 76.

My mom still had two gay sons, but she also had a son-in-law (my husband) and a granddaughter (our amazing daughter.) The six of us had spent two separate vacations this summer together, cramming in the great memories – my mom and daughter making matzah-ball soup for an early holiday meal, my parents meeting the rest of us for lunch after we had walked the gay pride parade in Tel Aviv with some of our gay and allied Israeli family, and all of us slathering on the salty mud by the shore of the Dead Sea in Israel.

We’d had such tough times, but my mom and I had finally arrived at a really good place. (Even though there were always little things, like my mom never really visiting this blog, which hurt my feelings. But as I was pulling together materials for her obituary, it hit me that I never really visited her artist website, either. None of us are perfect, and we’re all just doing the best we can.)

And while it’s tempting to be angry about all the time we didn’t get now that we finally arrived at this good place – the fifteen, or twenty, more years I wish we had with my mother – I find myself focusing on how grateful I am.

I’m so grateful we were able to heal from our hurt on all sides, and move on to the comedy, and the joy.

I’m so grateful I was able to be there for her final days, that there was nothing left unsaid between us. That I was able to tell my mom that I love her, and have always loved her, and that after all this time I know – even though I didn’t always feel it – I know she loved me always, too.

I’m so grateful for the 47 years she was my mom.

I’m so grateful for the 11 years she was a grandmother to my daughter.

I’m so grateful that change is possible.

And while I’m so sad, that gives me great hope.

My mom, surrounded by her husband, two gay sons, son-in-law and granddaughter… all of us covered in mud!

So this post is for everyone who’s struggling with their relationship with a parent (or with a child.) And, of course, this post is for her.

I love you, Mom.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Gender 101, Episode #22 Redux: Community Insurance

I'm very excited to continue the conversation about Gender with Frankie Palacios.

In this episode, Frankie shares about their fundraising efforts for their partner's top surgery… and the concept of "community insurance."

VERY cool.

You can see the original posting here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Elephant of Surprise: Book 4 in the Russel Middlebrook Series

The Elephant of Surprise by Brent Hartinger

Geography Club’s Russel Middlebrook and his friends Min and Gunnar are back, and they’re laughing about something they call the Elephant of Surprise—the tendency for life to never turn out the way you expect. Sure enough, Russel soon happens upon a hot, but mysterious guy named Wade—even as he’s also drawn back to an old flame named Kevin. Meanwhile, Min learns her girlfriend Leah is keeping secrets, and Gunnar just wants to be left alone to pursue his latest obsession, documenting his entire life online.

But the elephant is definitely on the move in all three of their lives. Just who is Wade and what are he and his friends planning? What is Leah hiding? And why is Gunnar taking naked pictures of Kevin in the shower?

The Elephant of Surprise, the latest entry in Brent Hartinger’s groundbreaking gay teen Russel Middlebrook Series, is a story of humor, romance, and danger. Before it’s over, Russel and his friends will learn that the Elephant of Surprise really does appear when you least expect him—and that when he stomps on you, it really, really hurts.

Add your review of "The Elephant of Surprise" in comments.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Shadowplay - LGBTQ Teen Fantasy with Phantom Wings, A Clockwork Hand, and the Delicate Unfurling of New Love

Shadowplay: Micah Grey, Book Two by Laura Lam

The circus lies behind Micah Grey in dust and ashes.

He and the white clown, Drystan, take refuge with the once-great magician, Jasper Maske. When Maske agrees to teach them his trade, his embittered rival challenges them to a duel which could decide all of their fates.

People also hunt both Micah and the person he was before the circus–the runaway daughter of a noble family. And Micah discovers there is magic and power in the world, far beyond the card tricks and illusions he’s perfecting…

A tale of phantom wings, a clockwork hand, and the delicate unfurling of new love, Shadowplay continues Micah Grey’s extraordinary journey.

Look for short stories and novelas by the author set in the same world as these books, as mentioned on the author's blog here. And add your review of "Shadowplay" in comments!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Pantomime - Fantasy, Gender and Bisexuality as a Teen Runs Away To The Circus

Pantomime: Micah Grey, Book One: by Laura Lam

R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass – remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone – are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimeras is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.

Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star. But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

This book was named one of the 2014 Rainbow List's Top Ten LGBTQ Kid and Teen Books that were published in 2013. Add your review of "Pantomime" in comments!