Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Spoon Theory - a way to better 'get' what people living with chronic illnesses deal with every day

Check out this essay by Christine Miserandino, The Spoon Theory, on what it's like to live with a chronic illness. I read it days ago and it's still resonating for me.

I've definitely had times in my life (years dealing with ulcerative colitis) when I've had to count spoons, and others (thankfully, many others) when I didn't have to count spoons at all. It's humbling, and eye-opening, and important, and should make us all more grateful for the spoons we do have, each and every day.

My thanks to Karol for sharing!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Raquel D'Apice's Open Letter To The Female Hat-Wearing Dog in "Go, Dog. Go!"

P.D. Eastman's Go, Dog! Go! Is a childhood favorite that I've read many, many times, and yet Raquel's essay at The Ugly Volvo made me think about it in a totally new way. Here's a brief glimpse of her take:

"Momentarily distracted by the humdrum parade of big dogs, little dogs, black and white dogs, I watched as you walked in, brimming with joy and confidence, and looked on as some total nobody, indistinguishable from most of the other dogs in this book, crushed you with his subtle rejection."

“Do you like my hat?” “I do not.”

"And you don’t even know me, but I wanted to take a minute to tell you that what matters is that you like your own hat, hat-wearing female dog. Who is this guy anyway, some sort of dog hat expert?? Who cares what he thinks??? Wear a hat you love and if he doesn’t like it? F*#% him."

Who knew there was this dangerous self-esteem denying relationship message beaming directly into our childhood brains? It's brilliant, funny, and quite insightful.  Read the whole essay here.

My thanks to Danielle for sharing it!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Istanbul Pride is Banned… Help Wave A Virtual Rainbow Flag To Support Turkey's LGBTQ Community

Last Friday, all Pride events in Istanbul were banned by authorities for the second year in a row.

Brave activists marched in Trans Pride anyways… and they were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons, surrounded by police on one side and hate groups on the other.

The biggest Pride March was scheduled for this Sunday. But sadly, people in Turkey are forced to choose between their safety – possibly their lives – and taking part in Pride. After increasingly violent threats from hate groups against our community, we’ve got to get creative.

So All Out has scheduled a Virtual Rainbow Pride Flag wave to spread the word across the globe that we support the Turkish LGBTQ community. Join me and post directly, or use thunderclap, to stand tall with pride for those who don't have our freedom.

Here's their sample posting:

“Pride banned in Turkey: Istanbul, I’m waving a rainbow flag for you. #IstanbulPride #OnurYürüyüşü #Pride2016”

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Marvels: An Adventure And Mystery, The First Half in Pictures, The Second Half in Words

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

The journey begins at sea in 1766, with a boy named Billy Marvel. After surviving a shipwreck, he finds work in a London theatre. There, his family flourishes for generations as brilliant actors until 1900, when young Leontes Marvel is banished from the stage.

Nearly a century later, runaway Joseph Jervis seeks refuge with an uncle in London. Albert Nightingale's strange, beautiful house, with its mysterious portraits and ghostly presences, captivates Joseph and leads him on a search for clues about the house, his family, and the past.

One of the 2016 Lambda Literary finalists in the Children's/YA category for best LGBTQ title of the year, you can add your review of "The Marvels" in comments!

Friday, June 17, 2016

#SpreadTheLGBTQLove - A Way To DO Something To Make Things Better

In the wake of tragedies like last weekend's anti-LGBTQ shooting in Orlando, it's good to remember that we have the power to do good. We can live our lives with pride, no matter who we are and who we love, as a matter of honor. As a matter of gratitude, that we get to live our lives. As a vision of making every moment count.

And we can take action.

My friend Paula Yoo has helped with coordinating a way to make that action have a direct effect on the lives of the LGBTQ youth community in Orlando: an LGBTQ Kid Lit Book Donation Drive For the Orlando Youth Alliance. 

It's a great cause, and as Paula explains on her blog, a way for all of us to donate positive LGBTQ kid and teen books (and money, if that works for you) to the Orlando Youth Alliance, an all volunteer-run non-profit that has provided support groups and services for over 1,500 Central Florida LGBTQ teens and young adults for the past 25 years. For those authors and illustrators who've published books with positive portrayals of queer characters and themes, you can donate signed copies - they'll be treasured even more.

Hashtags: #SpreadTheLGBTQLove and #PrideToThePage

Donation details: at Paula's blog here

Thanks: To all who participate and help spread the word, to Paula for organizing, and especially to the LGBTQ youth in Orlando - thanks for being yourselves. You're not alone. And the world's not just a place of hate. It's filled with love.

So join me, and let's #SpreadTheLGBTQLove!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Spread The Love

Sparked by a conversation we had about the tragic anti-LGBTQ shooting in Orlando, my friends at The Reading Room put together this lovely list of 6 LGBT Books That Help Spread The Love. As they put it,

"In honor of the victims of the tragic shooting, we have made a short list of LGBT books that are truly amazing, and help spread the love."

I'm honored that they gave me such a nice shout-out as well. And I love the books they chose.

It's a great vision, to use these books to spread the love - love of self, love of each other, and love of all the wonderful colors of our LGBTQ Rainbow…

Check out the list here.

Wanna add some of your favorites to the #SpreadTheLGBTQLove list? Add them here in comments!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Orlando's Hate Crime Against The LGBTQ Community

from SFist, a photo of the Castro Rainbow Pride Flag flying at half-mast,  to honor the victims of the Orlando shooting

It's all over the news. It's terrible.

Here's a link to the names and photos of some of the people killed over the weekend by hate.

One question on my mind: How can we stop this violence?

Friday, June 10, 2016

A Fun Peek At Some LGBTQ Titles for Kids and Teens That Are Coming Up

This PW article by Ryan Joe, LGBTQ Lit for Children and Teens Comes of Age, has lots of upcoming titles to look out for!

From a transgender teddy bear in Jessica Walton and illustrator Dougal MacPherson's "Introducing Teddy" to the intersectionality of Anna-Marie McLemore's fantasty novel, "When The Moon Was Ours," which is about a transgender Pakistani-American boy named Sam and a gay Latina named Miel who has roses growing from her skin, there are so many I can't wait to read.

Check out the article and jot down your must-reads on your own TBR lists!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

And GEORGE wins the 2016 Lammy Award!

Exciting news for Alex Gino and all of us who want this beautiful and important story of a transgender child in 4th grade to get into the hands of everyone who needs it. (And that's everyone, gay, straight, cis, trans, everyone.) This week "George" won the 2016 Lambda Literary Award for excellence in LGBT Children's/Young Adult literature.

Here's the book's description:

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl.
George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be "Charlotte's Web." George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part . . . because she's a boy.
With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte -- but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

Congratulations to Alex, Scholastic, and readers everywhere!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Penny Moore (Fine Print Literary): 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 Penny Moore of Fine Print Literary.

Agent Penny Moore
Penny's bio:

Penny Moore represents middle grade, young adult, and adult fiction. She’s also open to nonfiction projects in the realm of pop culture, humor, travel, food, and pets.

In MG and YA, she’s interested in all genres, and is seeking inventive works that combine well-defined voice, complex characters, and compelling plot lines. She also acquires select picture book projects on a referral basis.

While completing degrees in Linguistics and Japanese Language & Literature at the University of Georgia, she spent time studying comparative literature at top universities in Japan and South Korea. She then worked as a middle school TESOL teacher, a period during which she grew to love and understand the children’s book market. In 2013 she found her way to FinePrint as an intern, officially joining the agency in 2014, and has since been actively working to build her list with exceptionally talented clients.

And here's our interview:

Lee: Hi Penny!

Penny: Hi, Lee!

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

Penny: It’s my pleasure! I think the discussion about diversity in children’s book publishing on your blog is fantastic and a much needed one, so I feel honored to be included in it. Thank you!

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?

Penny: Honestly, it’s difficult to say. In the past year I’ve gotten countless submissions, which makes it impossible to give a concrete number. Though, I will say with confidence that diverse submissions are not the majority of what I usually get in my inbox unless I make an extra effort to seek them out. This is why I’ve been more active about it lately. For example, I held a query event for marginalized writers and participated in the DVpit on Twitter. The results have been amazing and I can say that 6 out of the 10 manuscripts I’ve requested in the last two months have been diverse. I know it’s not a large number in the grand scheme of things, but it gives me a lot of hope.

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

Penny: Lately, I have. Again, I think it’s because I’ve been more active in seeking out diverse stories and very vocal about it on social media. So writers have been very forward in their query letters, letting me know if their MC is a POC, or if they themselves are POCs writing about POCs. I also think it doesn’t hurt that I’m a POC agent. They might be a little more comfortable with bluntly telling me this information.

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

Penny: I do receive LGBTQ submissions, but not nearly as many as I’d like. Again, I can’t give specific numbers, but I can say I do receive more lesbian/gay characters than bi, trans, queer/gender non-conforming and questioning characters in my inbox. I have no idea why this is the case, but I would definitely love to see just as many BTQ submissions as I do LG.

Lee: How about characters with disabilities?

Penny: I rarely ever see characters with disabilities in my submissions and it makes me sad. And when I do, it’s usually a very inauthentic portrayal of them. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the super crip trope, but it’s what I’m usually stuck seeing when I do get submissions featuring characters with disabilities. A super crip is a disabled character who has magical powers to negate their disability, or they encounter a miracle that cures them of it. In real life, the vast majority of disabled people don’t get to experience this, and they just want others to accept their disabilities as a normal part of their identities. I wish I had more submissions that reflected this. We need to see more stories that send the message that disabled people don’t need to be fixed in order for us to find them interesting/important enough to read about.

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

Penny: I’ve been seeing diversity in the form of socioeconomics. Writers have been making it a point to let me know if their MCs face challenges due to socioeconomic discrimination, or if they themselves have faced such challenges. I think this is great because we tend to forget people living below the poverty line in underdeveloped areas are marginalized as well, and it’s not necessarily the color of their skin, sexuality, or religion that falls under the diversity umbrella.

I know this still falls under the POC category, but I’ve recently had a lot of submissions where writers are making it a point to tell me that their MC is biracial. I think it’s because I recently sold a YA story about a half Japanese and half Caucasian American girl, written my client who is of the same racial/ethnic background. I’m also half Asian and white, so I think writers are hoping to strike a chord with me by telling me this. Honestly, it can get frustrating at times. Some non-diverse writers think that a biracial character is an easy way for them to get in on the diversity ‘trend.’ If their MC has an Asian father and a Caucasian mother, they’ll say that the MC looks more like their dad but identifies with their mom so they can have a POC character without having to do the research that goes into accurately portraying them. I can see right through this. A lot of thought and personal experiences went into my client’s story, and I would hope that others would understand that the majority of biracial people do not automatically pick one part of their race/ethnicity as a default. We’re often caught in a liminal state where we do/want to connect and identify with both of our racial identities/cultures. I don’t think a writer has to be biracial to write biracial characters, but they need to do their research.

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

Penny: I only take picture book submissions on referral, so the answer for this is no. I rarely take on picture book projects, so I’m probably not the best agent to ask about this. I would hope to see under-represented creators if I did start to accept unsolicited PB submissions though!

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?

Penny: I believe we all have the right to tell the story that we want, and it’s wrong to try and sensor anyone. However, I do feel that writers have a responsibility to be mindful and do their research before trying to write outside of their own diverse experiences. I always tell writers to enlist multiple beta readers of the background that they want to write about, and to really listen to what they say. When they don’t do their research, their characters can come across as inauthentic and possibly offensive, which can do greater harm than good, especially among younger readers who are still in the middle of shaping their own identities.

I will say that I think own voice projects are very important, and a big priority for me when it comes to submissions. Successful, diverse authors are so few and far between, so I think it’s important for us to keep encouraging them, to let them know that some us are really listening, and to make it clear that they deserve to be heard just as much as writers from non diverse backgrounds.

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

Penny: No. I don’t think so. It’s a very good time to be in children’s publishing right now. Many editors have joined in on the diversity discussion. I’ve actually had some pretty great conversations where they’ve specifically told me they really want more diversity on their lists!

Lee: 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?

Penny: For me it’s a very personal thing. Being half Korean and half Irish American, and growing up in Georgia, I really know what it’s like to be in the minority. I was never ever able to see myself racially represented in any book until Eleanor & Park, with Park also being half Korean and half Irish American. The first time I read this book I cried because of it. I wish I had had it when I was younger. Additionally, being one of few Asian/mixed Asians at my school in Georgia really made me feel like an outsider, which is why I buried myself in books and music while growing up. On a more personal level, I also had a disability when I was younger, and had corrective surgery for it. It’s no longer visible (though I still suffer from some internal symptoms), but there was a time when I was severely picked on for it. All of those experiences have really contributed to my desire to see a larger number of diverse books in the children’s lit market, and why I’m so vocal about it.

Lee: Thank you for sharing that, Penny.

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?

Penny: I love The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi. It’s such a sweet story that might teach early readers empathy for immigrant children who are trying to adapt once they come here.

I also love Taye Diggs’s Mixed Me, a book that shows mixed children to embrace their beauty.

Lee: Middle Grade?

Grace Lin’s The Year of the Dog.
R.J. Palacio’s Wonder
Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water; A Single Shard

Lee: Young Adult?

Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I Loved Before duology
Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl
Lamar Giles’s Endangered
Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park
I'm also going to shameless plug my client's new contemporary YA due out in Fall 2017, Akemi Dawn Bowman's Starfish

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

Penny: I’m pretty much looking for anything and everything diverse in MG and YA, as long as it’s not paranormal romance or urban fantasy. I really am dying for a sweet contemporary romance a la Jenny Han with an authentic voice and juicy hook. I’m also on the look out for my first LGBTQ project! Send me yours! And as always, I’m a big sci-fi/fantasy girl, so anything that’s inspired by cultures outside of Europe would be fantastic!

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?

Penny: Writers can submit to me per my query guidelines that are on the FinePrint website. They're also welcome to let me know if their story is diverse. As for illustrators, I only take PB submissions on referral.

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

Penny: Let's keep fighting the good fight and remember we're all in it together!

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!

Penny: You're very welcome! It's been a blast!
Also, thank you for all the work you've done to keep the discussion on diversity going!

Thanks, Penny! Look for another Agent Looking For Diversity interview on the first Monday of next month. Until then,

Illustrate and Write On!

Friday, June 3, 2016

This Day In June - A Pride Parade Celebration and definitely a picture book I wish had been read to me when I was a little kid

This Day In June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten

It's a pride parade! From the opening spread of the crowd approaching under Rainbow balloon arches, Dykes on Bikes leading the way, with rainbow-flag waving adults and kids in "I  My Dads" T-shirts and "I LOVE MY MOMS"and "BORN THIS WAY" signs in the windows overlooking the parade route, it's a celebration in rhyme and pictures.

With proud parents in PFLAG T-shirts, drag queens and shirtless dancers, newly-weds and marching bands, HRC equality signs and politicians urging "VOTE" and so much more, we're

"All invited
All excited
This day in June we're all UNITED!"

The book also includes extensive back-matter. There's a reading guide that explains the images and content of each spread, including the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and San Francisco's colorful Victorian Houses. And a Note to Parents and Caregivers, explaining how the book "provides a positive, normalizing, and exuberant reflection of the LGBT community, and can serve as a jumping-off point for children to ask questions about sexual orientation and gender identity." It then breaks down "Talking to Children" into age categories, with suggestions for ages 3-5, 6-12, and 13-18.

Published by Magination Press, an imprint of the American Psychological Association, "This Day In June" won the 2015 Stonewall Book Award – Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award.

Add your review of "This Day In June" in comments!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

"Finally" - Matt Fishel's Music Video Celebration of Gay Love

For my husband of 19 years. This one's for you...

And for everyone else who has found or dreams of finding their true love, enjoy!