Monday, May 30, 2016

Inspiration from Gloria Steinem

"I've seen enough change to have faith that more will come."

-Gloria Steinem,
as in her book, "My Life on the Road"

Friday, May 27, 2016

Camp Carnage - Gay Teen Horror

Camp Carnage by Joshua Winning and Elliot Arthur Cross

Set in a terrifying 1980s summer camp where gay teens are sent to be 'straightened' out - but there's also a killer on the loose.
In the summer of 1986, Billy Collins is sent to his own personal Hell – summer camp. The remote Camp Genesis offers desperate parents a place to “straighten” out their gay teenagers with the help of the puritanical Katherine Creevey.

Besides the typical horsing around, campfire tales and summer games, the Genesis program forces gay and questioning teens into humiliating gender-based lessons. While Billy wants nothing more than to escape Camp Genesis, he can’t help worrying that something even more sinister is hiding just out of sight.

Unknown to Billy, two campers were murdered three years ago. Just days after Billy and the new campers arrive, people start to go missing, and it’s up to Billy and his new friend Jem to find out what’s really going on. Is a maniac on the loose? Is history repeating itself? One thing’s for sure — at Camp Genesis, you have to fight to survive…

Add your review of "Camp Carnage" in comments!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot: A Gay Future For a Beloved Chapter Book Character

Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot by Dav Pilkey

George and Harold, and their doubles, Yesterday George and Yesterday Harold, have a good thing going. Two of them go to school, while the other two hide in the tree house and play video games all day -- then they switch But when their malicious gym teacher, Mr. Meaner, creates a method of mind control that turns their fellow students into attentive, obedient, "perfect" children, the future of all humanity will be in their hands.

But happily, George and Harold, and Yesterday George and Yesterday Harold have a time machine. And they go 20 years into the future for help... from their grown-up selves!

Add your review of "Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot" in comments! 

My thanks to Yapha for the heads up on this awesome gay twist!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Inclination - A 17 year Old Guy Tries To Figure Out If He Can Be Gay and Christian, Too

Inclination by Mia Kerick

Sixteen-year-old Anthony Duck-Young Del Vecchio is a nice Catholic boy with a very big problem. It’s not the challenge of fitting in as the lone adopted South Korean in a close-knit family of Italian-Americans. Nor is it being the one introverted son in a family jam-packed with gregarious daughters. Anthony’s problem is far more serious—he is the only gay kid in Our Way, his church’s youth group. As a high school junior, Anthony has finally come to accept his sexual orientation, but he struggles to determine if a gay man can live as a faithful Christian. And as he faces his dilemma, there are complications. After confiding his gayness to his intolerant adult youth group leader, he’s asked to find a new organization with which to worship. He’s beaten up in the church parking lot by a fanatical teen. His former best pal bullies him in the locker room. His Catholic friends even stage an intervention to lead him back to the “right path.” Meanwhile, Anthony develops romantic feelings for David Gandy, an emo, out and proud junior at his high school, who seems to have all the answers about how someone can be gay and Christian, too.

Will Anthony be able to balance his family, friends and new feelings for David with his changing beliefs about his faith so he can live a satisfying life and not risk his soul in the process?

Add your review of "Inclination" in comments!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Service: A Love Story - In A Boarding School, One Teen Guy Teaches Another How To Love

Service: A Love Story by David Monster

George is raised from infancy, on his Grandmother’s estate, after a drunk driver killed his parents. It is an environment of constant mourning. His Grandmother cannot recover from her only daughter’s death.
Somehow, George has become a happy, very pleasant young man, in spite of the deep, dark emptiness eternal grief has instilled in him. Love is nothing but pain and suffering, which isn’t a big problem, as he hasn’t experienced it, yet. He starts writing as a way to figure out the world. It’s his only emotional release.
Half the story is told through excerpts from his personal Journal. He is poetic and brilliant, but often way off base. The other half of the story is told through narrative – just the facts.
George is sent to a boarding school, when his Grandmother realizes that her upbringing is a “disservice”. That’s where he meets Steven, whose background is completely opposite. His family fully supports him, and easily expresses affection. He is strong, confident, kind, an outstanding wrestler, and football player. He falls in love with George, and in doing so inherits the task of teaching George how to love.
George tries to push Steven away, though, as he has convinced himself that Steven should find someone more “suitable”. Their mutual, furious, physical attraction, affection, and Steven’s heroic capacity for patience forces George into a head-on collision with the blackest fears he has worked to avoid. Steven’s muscularity and stature have also awakened fetishes in George, of which he was completely unaware... Well, not completely.

This book was self-published by the author. Add your review of "Service: A Love Story" in comments!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

None of the Above - a teen discovers their gender isn't what they thought... and the whole school finds out

None of the Above, I.W. Gregorio

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She's a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she's madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she's decided that she's ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin's first time isn't the perfect moment she's planned. Something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy "parts."

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin's entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

This book has been nominated for a 2016 Lambda Literary Award! Add your review of "None Of The Above" in comments.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Tomorrrow, May 17, is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

The Free and Equal project, part of the United Nations Human Rights Office, put together this video.

As they put it,

The global movement for lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) equality encompasses millions of individuals, groups, organizations and campaigns all of whom are fighting for change in their own countries and communities.

To celebrate the International Day against Homophobia & Transphobia on 17 May 2016, we asked people to help us create a video that captures some of the strength and spirit that LGBT activists and allies bring to their work, and the sheer diversity of causes that help make up the movement globally. The result is a celebration of activism – and a reminder of why we fight.

Thanks to singer-songwriter Rachel Platten for lending her powerful “Fight Song” to serve as the soundtrack to this year’s video. Finally, special thanks to the many activists around the world who contributed time, energy and enthusiasm to the making of the video – and whose daily struggle against stigma and discrimination is the inspiration for this project. This fight song is dedicated to you!

Here's the video:

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Pseudonymous Closet... Or should I say "Wardrobe"

This recent piece in the New York Times Book Review, on the pluses and unexpected perils of writing under a pseudonym, was really excellent. Pseudonymous has had such success, and now, the gimmick that served him so well as a middle grade author has unexpectedly landed him back in the closet... while at the same time the author himself is an out and proud gay man.

It's fascinating reading.

And well worth considering, for those of us who write for young people, and for the subset that have thought about writing under a nom de plume...  

(That's French for "pen-name.")

Thanks for reading,
(and yes, that's my real name!)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Toe Tag Riot - A Comedy/Horror Comic Series about A Rock Band Cursed To Become Zombies, So They Track Down Terrible, Homophobic People to Kill... And Two Of The "Good" Zombies Are A Lesbian Couple (and another is Bi)

Toe Tag Riot by Matt Miner, with art by Sean Von Gorman

A punk rock band that’s cursed to become zombies whenever they perform their music...

Being the ethical sometimes-zombies that they are, they go on the road in search of a cure to their affliction, using their “superpowers” to brutally and hilariously kill the scummiest people to litter this earth: racist skinheads, misogynist dudebros, and homophobic hate groups – culminating in a showdown with the Westboro Baptist Church!

All issues guest-starring Andy Hurley from Fall Out Boy!

Add your review of "Toe Tag Riot" in comments!

Some alternate covers:

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cevin's Deadly Sin - A Hetero Teen Cross Dresser Struggles With First Love, Identity and Bullying

Cevin's Deadly Sin by Sally Bosco

Cevin thinks that moving to Tilapia, Florida for his senior year of high school is the worst thing that ever happened to him…until he falls for Tessa. She may be the one person who can accept his cross-dressing, but her brother Hunt’s goal is to make Cevin’s life a living hell. When Hunt “outs” him at school, Cevin has to figure out how to come to terms with his own identity in order to keep Tessa and quite possibly save his own life.

Add your review of "Cevin's Deadly Sin" in comments!

Friday, May 6, 2016

#GiveElsaAGirlfriend - love this!

The Hypable piece on #GiveElsaAGirlfriend

Elsa. Princess from Frozen. No love interest, and by end of first movie, she's the Queen.

Sequel in the works.

Internet campaign to get Disney to see how much it would mean to have Elsa fall in love with another woman...


A few twitter highlights:

There's even fan art of what the romance might look like!

Check out more tweets, this opinion piece by Beatrice Frasl in Newsweek, and this fun roundup on upworthy about the trending movement. 

As Selina Wilken put it so well in their Hypable article,

Sometimes princesses love princes, and sometimes they love other princesses. We need to stop being afraid of acknowledging that this is an indisputable truth, which deserves recognition by mainstream media. Let’s evolve, already.

Off to tweet #GiveElsaAGirlfriend!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Anything Could Happen - A Teen guy is in love with his straight best friend

Anything Could Happen by Will Walton

When you re in love with the wrong person for the right reasons, anything could happen.
Tretch lives in a very small town where everybody's in everybody else's business. Which makes it hard for him to be in love with his straight best friend. For his part, Matt is completely oblivious to the way Tretch feels and Tretch can t tell whether that makes it better or worse.
The problem with living a lie is that the lie can slowly become your life. For Tretch, the problem isn t just with Matt. His family has no idea who he really is and what he's really thinking. The girl at the local bookstore has no clue how off-base her crush on him is. And the guy at school who's a thorn in Tretch's side doesn t realize how close to the truth he's hitting.
Tretch has spent a lot of time dancing alone in his room, but now he's got to step outside his comfort zone and into the wider world. Because like love, a true self can rarely be contained.

This book is a 2016 Lambda Literary Award Finalist. Add your review of "Anything Could Happen" in comments!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Linda Camacho (Prospect Agency): Agent 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 Linda Camacho of the Prospect Agency.

Agent Linda Camacho

Linda's bio:

Linda Camacho joined Prospect Agency in 2015 after nearly a decade in publishing. After graduating from Cornell University, Linda interned at Simon & Schuster and Writers House literary agency, and worked at Penguin before happily settling into children's marketing at Random House. She has an MFA in creative writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

In terms of submissions, she's pretty omnivorous. She enjoys a variety of categories and genres, ranging from picture book to adult, from clean and lighthearted contemporary to edgy and dark fantasy. Her Twitter handle is @LindaRandom.

Our interview:

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

Linda: Thank you for inviting me, Lee! I’ve been a fan for quite sometime, so I’m excited to be included in your amazing lineup of people involved in the discussion.

Lee: Aww, thanks. 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?

Linda: I get way too many to count, but proportion-wise, I get quite a few submissions featuring diversity of some kind. In my unscientific deduction, I’d say it’s a 60/40 ratio of diverse vs non-diverse, so to speak. I credit that to the fact that I’m a POC (though sadly, not related to Macho Camacho) and that we’ve had a big spike in the diversity conversation the past year or so.

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

Linda: I am! It tends to be mentioned in query letters, so I do take note of it. The quality of those submissions, I will admit, can vary. Since diversity is a big trend now, I do get the occasional submission where I can tell that a character has been made “diverse” to garner interest. It reads as inauthentic and that’s very disappointing. Token characters are not what I’m looking for. On the flipside, I’ve received more authentic portrayals than not, so I can’t complain too much.

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

Linda: I definitely get LGBTQ characters as well. The most diverse submissions I see fall into this category, with a close second being ones featuring protagonists of color. With regards to LGBTQ, if I had to list in descending order of categorical quantity that I receive, it would be: Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Queer/Gender Non-conforming, Questioning, and Trans. These submissions tend to fall into the realistic genre. I’d also really, really like to see them branch into other genres as well, particularly fantasy and horror—and not just as side characters, but as protagonists.

Lee: I'm all for LGBTQ protagonists! How about characters with disabilities?

Linda: Sadly, these are the fewest I receive. One of my clients, a POC with a disability, recently lamented that there just aren’t enough books with disabled characters out in the world. That, of course, is something she and I will certainly be working on. And to other writers whose work features disabled characters, know that your voices are being sought by me and plenty of other agents, so please do submit.

Lee: Everyone reading, take note! Back to Linda, are you seeing other types of diversity in the works submitted? - And please share any specific categories that spring to mind.

Linda: I’m sure I’m missing something, seeing as how diversity can encompass so many things, but occasionally I do get plus-size protagonists. I’m a fat girl who’s always excited when I see a protagonist looks like me, without the plot necessarily revolving around weight loss. I’d love to see more of them across all genres.

Oh, and I recently got a few submissions with religious diversity, so that’s exciting!

Lee: How about the creators? Are you seeing under-represented writers and illustrators submitting to you?

Linda: I’m seeing more under-represented writers submit to me, so that’s promising. Would I love to see that number increase? Yes, absolutely. I’m still building my list, but so far, half of that list includes diverse writers across the board (one of them is Mary Cronin, actually, who was featured on your blog last May for her workshop on Gay (LGBT) & Questioning characters in Middle Grade).

Lee: Mary's workshop sounded amazing! (Here's that link.)

Linda: I’m focusing on my MG, YA, and adult fiction list at this stage, but if a special writer-illustrator catches my eye, I’m game. I have been trying to keep an eye out for under-represented illustrators, which I know editors are hungry for.

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?

Linda: I have clients writing outside of their experience in terms of diversity, and I do like to ensure that they really do their research and to do the best they possibly can. I warn them to expect criticism and to learn from any mistakes they made. Yes, non-diverse (for lack of a better word) writers can certainly write about diversity, but I ask that they be humble and improve with each effort. I’m a Latina, but even though I’m a “diverse” person, I don’t speak for every POC and I certainly don’t get it right all the time. I’m learning as I go, too.

As someone in the publishing industry, I try to remain as open-minded and pragmatic as possible, since I’m all about inclusivity and, well, good business. However, there are times that my Latina side groans when I get yet another border crossing story written by a white person. Reflecting on that, however, I realize that it’s not so much that a white writer can’t write that border crossing story, but if that’s the only story they can think to tell with a latino character, I wonder why, when there are so many stories out there to tell. Therein lies the danger of only one story.

Maybe a better question a non-diverse writer should ask himself when writing that perspective is not can he write that particular story, but should he. If he really feels the answer is yes, since it’s adding to the canon, then they should. I’ve read some tremendous stories written by people who are not necessarily of that experience.

What I would really love to see more of is non-diverse people being allies in not only writing the subject matter, but also in helping those disenfranchised voices tell their own stories. That’s the true need, getting more diverse people access to create their narratives.

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

Linda: The diverse market is in an upswing right now, so I’ve seen things sell that wouldn’t have sold a year ago. It’s a trend, what can I say? I have a love/hate relationship with the word “trend,” but there you have it. I feel I can sell a story with an under-represented character more easily in this market. I only hope that it’s a trend that’s here to stay. The idea that it could be a passing fad is a scary prospect and I wonder where we’ll be even a year from now.

Lee: Here's hoping it's a trend like cooked food. That's really caught on. (Apologies to my raw food friends, but it was the best metaphor I could come up with...)

More seriously, 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?

Linda: I’ve been in publishing ten years now and hadn’t really realized the lack of diversity until a few years ago. It’s a funny thing, how what can seem completely normal can be problematic. I’m a Puerto Rican from the Bronx who went to prep school, then the Ivy League, and eventually, moved into publishing, all the while not questioning being the rare person of color in the room.

When I was working at Random House, I was getting my MFA in children’s writing, so my first semester, I introduced myself to writing instructor Matt de la Peña (whom we published). We had a lovely chat, during which he said it was important to write POC characters and to not be afraid to do so. I hadn’t really thought about it before and considered it for a long time afterward. I’d thought of POC characters as a bonus, not something that we really needed. I’ve learned so much since then. I’m still learning every day. I have to say, it is pretty nice to feel like I exist in books.

Beyond the authors, I’m well aware of how few diverse people are on the publishing side, which is something that I would like to see change over time as well. If you thought it was bad in the publishing houses, it’s even worse on the agenting side. I’ve really come to notice it now that I’m an agent. Also, as a POC writer who’s looking for diverse agents to query, that list is pathetically short. There are some people working to change that, folks like Michael Mejias at Writers House, who makes a concerted effort to recruit diverse candidates for the internship program (he’d recruited me way back when!). At Prospect Agency, I recently noticed that about half of us are POC, which is thrilling. We need more diverse recruitment across the board, so when I see more instances of that, I’ll be very glad.

Lee: Here, Here! 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?

Linda: I really love Lauren Castillo’s Nana in the City, Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson’s Last Stop on Market Street, and Meg Medina’s Mango, Abuela, and Me because they harken back to my Bronx days when my abuela lived with us and would take my sister and me around.

Lee: Middle Grade?

Linda: So many!

· Cece Bell’s El Deafo
· Paolo Bacigalupi’s Zombi Baseball Beatdown
· Meg Medina’s Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass
· Varian Johnson’s The Great Greene Heist
· Alex Gino’s George
· Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming.

Lee: Young Adult?

Linda: Yet again, quite a few to choose from!

· Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints
· Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
· Malinda Lo’s Ash
· Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns
· Justine Larbalestier’s Liar
· Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
· Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not
· Sarai Walker’s Dietland

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

Linda: I love so many things. What I can say is that I’m especially looking for stellar middle grade, young adult, and adult fiction across all genres and all aspects of diversity (socio-economic, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, etc.). Like everyone else, I’m looking for a great story that resonates, really. More specifically, though, I’d love a fantasy set in a non-European setting and, of course, a story featuring a plus-size protagonist (contemporary is fine, but bonus points for another genre!)

While I’m only choosing to work on select illustrator projects, if you’re a diverse writer-illustrator, do reach out!

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?

Linda: You can query me via the electronic form on Prospect Agency’s submission page (

Lee: Anything I didn’t ask that you’d like to add?

Linda: Even with the state of diversity of the industry, things are slowly starting to shift. We have some terrific allies, “diverse” and “non-diverse” alike, who are fighting together to change things. I remain hopeful that given more time and more sweat, we can all effect a long-lasting change in publishing.

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!

Linda: It’s something that hits close to home for me, so it’s definitely a pleasure. And thank you for the work you do on your end as well!

Thanks Linda! Look for another AGENT LOOKING FOR DIVERSITY interview on the first Monday of next month. Until then,

Illustrate and Write On!