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),