Monday, August 31, 2015

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress - A Picture Book About A Boy In A Dress... And How That's Not Just Okay, It's Pretty Great

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant

Morris is a little boy who loves using his imagination. But most of all, Morris loves wearing the tangerine dress in his classroom's dress-up center. The children in Morris's class don t understand. Dresses, they say, are for girls. And Morris certainly isn t welcome in the spaceship some of his classmates are building. Astronauts, they say, don't wear dresses. One day when Morris feels all alone and sick from their taunts, his mother lets him stay home from school. Morris dreams of a fantastic space adventure with his cat, Moo. Inspired by his dream, Morris paints the incredible scene he saw and brings it with him to school. He builds his own spaceship, hangs his painting on the front of it and takes two of his classmates on an outer space adventure.

What I love most about this picture book is the theme to be authentic. It's okay to be different. It's okay to not conform to the strict 'rules' about gender. (At one point, girls tease Morris because his fingernails are painted.)

Morris' Mom is super-supportive throughout, which is reassuring to readers. And the kids come around... most of them, anyway.

I never had a passion for a tangerine dress, but reading about how Morris stayed true to himself and ultimately got the respect of his peers would have given me strength to be MYself. I loved reading it now. And I wish this picture book had been read to me when I was a little kid!

My thanks to Yapha for the recommendation! Oh, and this was an ALA Stonewall Honor book!

Add your review of "Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress" in comments!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Hell No - Identity is NOT a costume! Stand up for Caitlyn Jenner and ALL Trans people!

I really believe in this ALL OUT campaign to stop a Halloween costume store from selling costumes mocking Caitlyn Jenner's recent transition. As they say so eloquently,

"Identity is not a costume."

Here's the full text of their appeal:

Nope. No way. The biggest Halloween shop in the U.S. is trying to sell a costume that makes fun of transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner. That’s right. Spirit Halloween will be telling thousands of party-goers that trans people are a joke.
Caitlyn’s high profile transition gave millions of people a more sensitive understanding of what it means to be trans. But prejudice and violence against transgender people are still rampant. And by selling a Caitlyn costume, Spirit Halloween will be cashing in on this bigotry.
If thousands of us speak out, we can show them that making money out of bigotry is awful for their reputation. We could stop that costume from making it on to the shelves. Sign now and tell Spirit Halloween that being trans is not a joke and this costume has got to go.

You can sign their petition here. I did.

It reads:

By selling a costume of Caitlyn Jenner for Halloween, you would be telling thousands of party-goers that trans people are a joke.
Trans people still face rampant bigotry and violence. It is completely irresponsible to make money out of this prejudice.
Please stop any plans to produce or sell a Caitlyn Jenner costume.

Here's to a season of celebrating our differences with kindness! And let's make that not just for Halloween, but for every season. But let's start here. Now. With standing up for Caitlyn, and for Trans people everywhere.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Made By Raffi - A Picture Book About Being Your Authentic Self That I Wish Had Been Read To Me When I Was A Little Kid

Made By Raffi By Craig Pomranz, illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain

Raffi is a shy boy who doesn't like noisy games and is often teased at school. But when he gets the idea of making a scarf for his dad's birthday he is full of enthusiasm, even though the other children think it is girly to knit. Then the day draws near for the school play, and there is one big problem: no costume for the prince. And that's when Raffi has his most brilliant idea of all: to make a prince's cape. On the day of the show, Raffi's cape is the star.

What do I love? Throughout, Raffi's parents embrace and accept him for exactly who he is.

And at the end, the other children come to embrace and accept Raffi for exactly who he is, too. Even though he's different then they are.

Pretty simple – and awesome – stuff.

Be authentic. 

Great message. Sweet story.

Definitely a picture book I wish had been read to me when I was a little kid!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Tyler Ford, featured on "Breaking the Binary" PBS Digital Studios' First Person #11

This was really cool:

"...Existing is a form of resistance. And existing is a form of activism. It's important for me to be who I am, to have the space to be who I am, to make the space to be who I am, and to create space for everyone else to be exactly who they are."

           -Tyler Ford

Yes! Being your authentic self is the most powerful thing any of us can do!

So happy to learn about Tyler.

You can follow Tyler on twitter @tywrent and check out their website here.

Friday, August 21, 2015

More Than This - A Gay Teen Dies. And Then Wakes Up. And Then Has To Figure Out What's Going On...

More Than This by Patrick Ness

Seth drowns, desperate and alone. But then he wakes. Naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. And where is he? The street seems familiar, but everything is abandoned, overgrown, covered in dust. He "remembers" dying, his skull bashed against the rocks. Has he woken up in his own personal hell? Is there more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife?

Add your review of "More Than This" in comments!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Andy Squared - One Twin Has A Secret Gay Love. The Other Twin... Is Pissed.

Andy Squared by Jennifer Lavoie

Seventeen-year-old twins, Andrew and Andrea Morris, have always been close. They share everything—from their friends to a room—and they both enjoy star positions on their high school’s soccer teams. All’s right with the twins…or is it?
When new student Ryder Coltrane moves from Texas to their small New York town, he spins Andrew’s world upside down. All of Andrew’s past relationship troubles begin to make sense and his true feelings start to click into place after Ryder comes out to him. His friendship with Ryder turns secretively romantic, but secrets, they soon find out, are hard to keep. Once rumors start to fly, so-called friends turn on them, and the boys’ relationship turns into a bomb about to explode. But Andrew never expected it would be his own twin, Andrea, holding a lighter to ignite it.

Add your review of "Andy Squared" in comments!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue: The International Best-Selling Fantasy Series And Its Queer Content

I'm really excited about these...

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Katsa has been able to kill people with her bare hands since she was eight. Katsa lives in the seven kingdoms, where very occasionally, a person is born with an extreme skill called a Grace. Gracelings are feared and exploited in the seven kingdoms, and none moreso than Katsa, who's expected to do the dirty work of torture and punishment for her uncle, King Randa. But then she meets a mysterious stranger named Po, who is also a Graced fighter and the first person ever to challenge her in a fight. The two form a bond, and each discovers truths they never imagined about themselves, each other, and a terrible danger that is spreading slowly through the seven kingdoms.

Graceling's stand-alone prequel-ish companion book, takes place across the mountains to the east of the seven kingdoms, in a rocky, war-torn land called the Dells.
Beautiful creatures called monsters live in the Dells. Monsters have the shape of normal animals: mountain lions, dragonflies, horses, fish. But the hair or scales or feathers of monsters are gorgeously colored-- fuchsia, turquoise, sparkly bronze, iridescent green-- and their minds have the power to control the minds of humans.
Seventeen-year-old Fire is the last remaining human-shaped monster in the Dells. Gorgeously monstrous in body and mind but with a human appreciation of right and wrong, she is hated and mistrusted by just about everyone, and this book is her story.

This is a companion book to both Graceling and Fire and takes place in the seven kingdoms eight years after Graceling. (Consider yourself warned: there are Graceling spoilers ahead!) Bitterblue, ten years old in Graceling, is now eighteen, and the queen of a kingdom still in recovery from the reign of its previous king, her father. The influence of Bitterblue's father -- a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities -- lives on in Monsea, in ways Bitterblue hasn't yet learned the extent of. Feeling hemmed in by her over-protective and controlling staff, Queen Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle to walk the streets of her own city at night -- and meets two thieves who hold a key to the truth of her father's reign.

And thanks to blog reader Rebecca Rabinowitz, here's the inside scoop about what's queer about this series:

GRACELING: Two men are a couple. This is not 100% explicit: readers sometimes ask about it and sound unsure, and it's able to be ignored or not seen if that's how a reader leans, but many, many readers see them as a couple.

FIRE: In the book's backstory, a woman had a relationship with another woman. Because this woman then falls in love with a man, she's pretty much bi. Yet, as in GRACELING, it's not 100% explicit: the backstory relationship can be seen as a very warm and affectionate and emotional friendship, if a reader insists upon it.

BITTERBLUE: Those two men from GRACELING are now an explicit couple. Also, there's an explicit woman-woman couple, an explicitly bi man who is new to the series, and an explicitly gay man whom readers will remember from GRACELING, though his sexuality didn't come up there.

Add your review of "Graceling," "Fire," and/or "Bitterblue" in comments!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tristant and Elijah - A Secret Gay Crush. A Secret Letter From The Past. And Maybe... A Chance For First Love

Tristant and Elijah by Jennifer Lavoie
Tristant Whitfield has had a secret crush on straight Elijah Cambridge since the start of high school. He's okay keeping his distance, but when Elijah starts visiting him at work and bringing his favorite coffee, Tristant begins to wonder if there's something more there.

Then Elijah uncovers a scandalous old letter from Tristant's great uncle tucked away in a book, and the two boys begin a journey through journals and letters to discover the real Uncle Glenn and the secrets he hid from his family. And Tristant realizes that Elijah has been hiding something as well.

A secret that just might change everything.

Add your review of "Tristant and Elijah" in comments!

Monday, August 10, 2015

How Much Is A Million And A Half?

If you stuffed 1,500,000 golf balls into a school bus you would need 3 large school buses.

If you timed 1,500,000 minutes from now it would last 2 years 10 months 6 days 9 hours and 36 minutes. (So, starting from 6am on the day of this posting, August 10, 2015 it would take you to June 16, 2018 at 3:36pm!)

If you travelled 1,500,000 miles around the Earth you'd circle the globe more than 60 times.

And if you were counting blog hits, you'd be here.

Yes, "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?" just rocketed past 1,500,000 pageviews!

Very cool.

Thanks, as always, for reading,

credits: School bus math (and image) from here. The rest of the math is my own. Earth photo from here. Oh, and a shout-out to the classic picture book, "How Much Is A Million?" by David M. Schwartz, illustrated by Steven Kellogg.

Friday, August 7, 2015


From my notes, here are my craft & conference highlights:

"The reader will feel a certain emotion because the author felt it first" - author Mem Fox

On diversity: "Are your systems of magic Anglo?" -Author westdateseast

Rather than 'write what you know,' Author Meg Wolitzer says "Write what obsesses you."

Meg Wolitzer aims to write the books the younger version of her wanted to read. Me, too!

"Your time will come" -Author/Illustrator Dan Santat

"If you have a rich reading life, you'll have a rich writing life." -Agent Alexandra Penfold

"I think it's really exciting how teen nonfiction is growing" -Editor Daniel Harmon

"Creativity can only happen in a safe space." -Author/Illustrator Molly Idle

"Find your allies." -Author Varian Johnson

After walking us through what she asks students in school assemblies, Girls can you wear blue? Can you wear pink? Can you wear pants? Can you wear dresses? Can you have long hair? Can you have short hair? And how the answers to it all are yes, she says:
"Girls, can you do basically whatever you want? Yes. Boys, who told you that you can only do half the stuff?" -Author Shannon Hale

"Boys feel totally justified in mocking girls' stuff. What kind of culture have we set up?" -Shannon Hale

"There is no greater honor for a writer than to have readers." -Author Deborah Wiles

"You need to believe in your work, which actually means you need to believe in yourself." - Author/Illustrator Dan Yaccarino

"You want your plot to ask the right questions of your character." -Jordan Brown

"We gotta have teammates people... we are all on the same team." -Author Kwame Alexander

"Every book teaches us to write it, but not the next one." -Eudora Welty, as quoted by Paul Fleischman

"Your dream is something you should prioritize." -Author Martha Brockenbrough

and a handful of photo moments:

Standing in the faculty line, waiting to deliver our "word." Smiling for the camera are my friends Editor Emma Dryden, Art Director and Author/Illustrator Laurent Linn, and Author Terri Farley

And there's my word, "Empower!" in illustrator Melinda Beavers' conference journal

This moment in Shannon Hale's amazing Keynote on gender and reading where she showed images from the campaign launched by Jon Scieszka to show that Guys Read –  that Guys (can and do and should) Read – books with 'Princess' in the title!

The SCBWI Success Story panel I moderated on the main stage. I'm standing and the panelists are, left to right, Martha Brockenbrough, Mike Curato, Stacey Lee, Lori Nichols and Anna Shinoda

Caldecott-winning Author/Illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky's view of the Success Story panel

Illustrator Susan Eaddy's notes from the Success Story panel
Me with (left to right) my agent Danielle Smith, Author/Illustrator Russ Cox and Author Kelly Klose

Golden Kite Winner Kristy Dempsey takes a moment to shine with me at the Gala

Catching up with Linda Sue Park at the book signing

and of course, there was this moment.

What a conference!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

I'm SCBWI's 2015 Member Of The Year!

I'll be honest. I wasn't listening.

Blogging the Golden Kite Luncheon is a lot of work, with one award being announced after another after another and keeping up with the live-blogging is very challenging. I was trying to prepare my next two posts, and since Jolie was in charge of blogging whoever won The Member of the Year Award (because she, herself, had been honored with it previously), as soon as Steve Mooser said, "The Member of the Year Award is given each year..." and started explaining what the award was for and what it meant, I tuned everything out.

But as I was typing away on my laptop, a thought occurred to me: What if I knew this person who was about to win? And I'd be there, totally not paying attention to their big moment. That would be really, really rude.

So I took my hands off the keyboard, looked up to the stage, and tuned back in on what Steve was saying.

The first words I heard were "was an R.A."

I thought that was unusual, since most often the award is given to active Regional Advisors.

Then Steve used the pronoun "he."

That narrowed the field down considerably, and I was sitting there doing the guessing game in my head, wondering who he could be talking about.

Then Steve said "L.G.B.T..."

Blood rushed in my ears.

It was me. He was talking about me.


He was saying more stuff about blogging (for sure: me) and then my name:

"Lee Wind!"

Sound burst around me. I stood up and people were cheering. Applauding. Like a camera moving too fast everyone was blurred. I told myself don't faint. Don't you dare faint. And I focused on getting up on the stage.

I was hugging Lin, who patted me on the back and chuckled, "Ha, ha! We got you!" And then I was hugging Steve.

And then Lin gestured to the podium and told me I could say a few words.

My feet took the few steps over to the microphone. And I looked out at the 1,200 writers and illustrators and agents and art directors and editors and kid lit professionals in the room. There were people STANDING UP! Whoo-hooing. Clapping.

For me.

I starting talking, and I'm not 100% sure what I said.

I know I started out by telling everyone that Lin had just said "HA! We got you!" and I told the room that you sure did.

I said that SCBWI, that everyone there, is my tribe. I know I told the story of how in 2005 I attended just one afternoon of this very same summer conference. I came alone. I knew no one. I talked to no one. Except at one point toward the end of the day I mustered up my courage, and walked up to Lin who was just coming off the stage.

"You're really funny." I told her. And then I ran away.

I remember mentioning my first manuscript critique with Esther Hershenhorn for a picture book manuscript that was terrible, and how kind she was. I think I said once again that the community I've found here feels like home. Creative home.

I hope I said thank you.

And then, somehow, I got back to my seat.

Photographic evidence that it really happened:

photo by Justine 

see, things really were blurry there for an instant

I feel recognized. And connected to my tribe. And honored. And so, so grateful.

Thank you!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Heather Alexander (Heather Alexander Editorial): Editor Looking For Diversity


That's the idea. And this series is an effort to do just that.

For now, we’re focusing on agents, and today's post features agent Heather Alexander of Pippin Properties.

Agent Heather Alexander

Here's Heather's bio:

After six years in editorial, Heather Alexander made the move across the desk to Pippin. As an agent, she works with all ages of kids’ books, including graphic novels, and represents both authors and illustrators. She’s especially keen on unique voices and underdogs.

And here's our interview:

Lee: Hi Heather!

Heather: Hi Lee! So happy to be here. You know, cyber-here.

Lee: Thanks so much for agreeing to talk about your interest in Diversity in Children's and Teen Literature!

Heather: I’m pretty much always talking about teen literature, so I’m happy to have a willing audience!

Lee: There's been growing discussion about how the 5,000 or so traditionally published books a year don't reflect the actual diversity of our world, including the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement and the stunningly low numbers of representation revealed in "Children's Books by and about People of Color Published in the United States," put out by the CCBC (The Cooperative Children's Book Center )

To start us off, of the submissions you get, let's say in the past year, how many of those projects included some kind of diversity of characters or theme?

Heather: Hmm, great question. Some, like in picture books, aren’t specified or could be animals. So taking those out of the equation, I’d say a hair under half? Between a third and half.

Lee: Let's unpack that a bit: Are you seeing many stories featuring protagonists of color?

Heather: A few, but not many, and I rarely get manuscripts where the majority of characters are of color, not just the protagonist.

Lee: How about LGBTQ characters, and please break that down - are you seeing lesbian characters? gay? bi? trans*? questioning? queer or gender non-conforming?

Heather: I do see a lot of gay and trans stories, which is wonderful. I have seen one gender non-conforming manuscript this year. But I also specifically ask for these. I’m pretty public about wanting them, so I may get more than your average bear. Oddly, I get more gay male characters than lesbians. Very few bi-characters, which surprises me, too. Could someone out there please send me a YA Orlando?

Lee: I'd read that! How about characters with disabilities?

Heather: I have seen one query since I started agenting nearly a year ago featuring a girl with a physical disability. Only one! So definitely not enough. I’d like to see more learning disabilities, too. This is a category that is rich with new understandings of the world, so why not tackle it in a bigger way?

Lee: Are you seeing other types of diversity in the works submitted? - And please share any specific categories that spring to mind.

Heather: I’ve seen fewer than a handful of manuscripts with characters on the autism spectrum. I don’t see many books set in other cultures. (You know, I’d love a middle-grade or YA version of The Namesake.) I do see quite a bit of economic diversity, which is nice. I’d like to see more physical diversity, not just in terms of race. For example, if a character is big, the story is often centered on weight issues or eating disorders. And popular girl characters fit a certain stereotypical look. Why can’t a popular girl ever have short hair or glasses? These are just two examples that come to mind, but I could give you a million. There’s lots of room to shake up physicality.

Lee: Yes! Good advice. How about the creators? Are you seeing under-represented writers and illustrators submitting to you?

Heather: Well, I can’t know for sure, since they don’t normally send photos, and don’t always say in their queries. But the ones who tell me probably make up 15 percent of my total queries. So I’m sure in reality it’s higher than that, but maybe not by a lot.

Lee: There's a lot of discussion about who has the 'right' to tell the story of an under-represented type of character. What's your take?

Heather: My take is “write what you know." I think Erin Dionne did a great job with her half-Vietnamese character Ollie in the Moxie series, and she is neither Vietnamese nor a boy. But she drew on her experiences as a human, and was able to tell Ollie’s story from a believable place. She wrote a great piece about what that experience was like for her. You can read it here:

Lee: Ooh, just back from reading it. I like Erin's honesty and determination to include more diversity in her books.

Heather: It can be difficult to write from the place of a culture different than your own, but I don’t think it’s impossible in all cases. Writers tend to be a tuned-in and sensitive bunch of people, at least the ones I know. Sure, there will be some attempts that don’t work so well, but that’s how we learn.

Lee: And as Erin says, "taking the risk is worth it."

When you're submitting projects to editors, do you think stories with under-represented characters take more 'selling' on your part?

Heather: Thanks in part to the awareness the We Need Diverse Books campaign has raised, no. It seems to me that everyone is looking for underrepresented characters. And that’s a big YAY for publishing in general.

Lee: Agreed! I often feel the sense of ‘otherness’ is transferable. That from my own experiences being marginalized (for being Gay, being ill as a teen, being Jewish, being an Atheist, etc…) I feel tremendous empathy for people who are marginalized for other kinds of ‘otherness’ as well.
Can you share what’s driving your desire to see more diversity in Children’s and Teen books?

Heather: One thing it seems to me all teens have in common are feelings of not belonging, or of not knowing how to deal with things, or how to be the person they want to be. There are many core emotions that go along with teenager-ness which are relatable no matter what the story. So those central feelings are a great anchor, allowing all kinds of readers to relate to many kinds of different stories.

I have an intense curiosity about cultures and situations and families and relationships different than what exists in my personal world. You can’t just step into someone’s life, so books are those portals we need to get inside those experiences we’ll never live ourselves. Doing so makes the world bigger and smaller at the same time. Reading expands our range of knowledge, emotional and otherwise, but also helps us relate to things that were previously foreign, bringing them closer. That’s what drives me to see more diversity.

Lee: Tell us about some books that highlighted or included diversity that you loved and that inspired you (maybe even ones you wish you represented). What’s a Picture Book favorite?

Heather: Well, Corduroy has always been a favorite. And Joone by Emily Kate Moon is super darling. The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman is pretty encyclopedic in its examples.

Lee: Middle Grade?

Heather: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang and El Deafo by Cece Bell were life-changing. Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky is really sweet and powerful. I devoured The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (who didn’t?).

Lee: Young Adult?

Heather: Paul Griffin writes incredible books about underrepresented New York teens. I loved The Orange Houses and cried my guts out at Stay With Me. Antony John’s The Five Flavors of Dumb is a favorite, and of course, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. I wish Hassan from An Abundance of Katherines had his own book. And Jason Reynolds is an incredible talent and a major force. Everything he writes changes the way I see things.

Lee: Okay, here’s your wish list moment. What are you looking for? Put out the call...

Heather: I’d love to see characters with disabilities, where the story isn’t about that character having a disability. I want YA that makes me think about the world in a different way and makes me hopeful for humanity. I want characters who are smarter than I am and I want characters who are struggling with something other than death. I’d love to see some middle-grade where a kid has to take on something too big for a middle-grade kid to take on. I have a weakness for liars and cheats and pranksters and people who love to get away with something.

Lee: And for writers and/or illustrators reading this who feel a resonance with what you’ve shared and who want to submit to you, how should they go about that?

Heather: Our website says it better than I can, so here’s a link to our submission guidelines:

Lee: Getting the world of Children’s literature to better reflect the diversity of our world -- the world kids today are growing up in -- is so important. Thank you so much for working to make things better!

Heather: The world is enormous, and I am so excited so many people want to help tell all the different kinds of stories. I will use my powers only for good. Thanks for getting the word out, Lee!

And thank you, Heather! Look for another AGENT LOOKING FOR DIVERSITY interview on the first Monday of next month. Until then,

Illustrate and Write On!

***UPDATE JANUARY 5, 2017***
Heather just announced that she's no longer an agent and has set up shop as an independent editor. She can be reached (and you can find out more) at
I am updating this post's labels accordingly.