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.