Friday, July 29, 2016

One of my favorite times of the year: The SCBWI Summer Conference!

If you're also at #LA16SCBWI this weekend, I hope you join me (and some special faculty guests) at tonight's (Friday July 29, 2016) LGBTQ and Allies Q&A, from 8:30pm - 9:30pm in the hotel's Bernard Room.

It's always a great time, and a chance to meet and mingle with the "tribe within the tribe" - people who love kid lit as much as you do, and who also want to see more LGBTQ characters and themes in works for kids and teens!

If you'd like to follow along with the conference on social media, the hashtag is #LA16SCBWI. And you can visit the Official SCBWI Conference Blog for up-to-the-minute blogging from the conference floor!

Hope to see you,

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

One Man Guy - Two Young Guys Grow Up, Find Themselves, and Fall In Love -- "with some help from nearby New York City"

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Why bother, when their home cooking is far superior to anything "these Americans" could come up with? Between bouts of interrogating the waitress and criticizing the menu, Alek's parents announce that he'll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades. Alek is sure this experience will be the perfect hellish end to his hellish freshmen year of high school. He never could've predicted that he'd meet someone like Ethan.

Ethan is everything Alek wishes he were: confident, free-spirited, and irreverent. When Ethan gets Alek to cut school and go to a Rufus Wainwright concert in New York City's Central Park, Alek embarks on his first adventure outside the confines of his suburban New Jersey existence. He can't believe a guy this cool wants to be his friend. And before long, it seems like Ethan wants to be more than friends. Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend he's barely ever had a girlfriend but maybe it's time to think again.

At the B&N reads blog Dahlia Adler called this novel "all kinds of adorable—the perfect read for those looking for queer kidlit without a lot of angst." Publishers Weekly had the review that called it "a sweet portrait of nascent adolescent love between two boys growing up and finding themselves (with some help from nearby New York City.)"

Add your review of "One Man Guy" in comments!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Symptoms of Being Human: Boy or Girl? Yes.

Symptoms of Being Human: Boy or Girl? Yes. by Jeff Garvin

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. But Riley isn't exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure -- media and otherwise -- is building up in Riley's life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it's really like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley's starting to settle in at school -- even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast -- the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley's real identity, threatening exposure. And Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created -- a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in -- or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

Add your review of "Symptoms of Being Human" in comments!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Consent: It's As Simple As Tea

I think this short video, Consent: It's As Simple As Tea is excellent, and should be seen by all. Maybe be every high school and college student in our world. And maybe everyone else who is of the age to be sexually active, too.

Bravo/a to the team involved:

And my thanks to Donna for the heads-up about this.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Before Goodbye - Grief, A Straight Romance, and a Lesbian Best Friend (Whose Girlfriend Hates You)

Before Goodbye by Mimi Cross

Music means more than anything to high school student Cate Reese; it’s also what unites her with Cal Woods. Devoted classical guitar players, Cate and Cal are childhood friends newly smitten by love—until a devastating accident rips Cal out of Cate’s life forever. Blaming herself for the horrific tragedy and struggling to surface from her despair, Cate spirals downhill in a desperate attempt to ease her pain.

Fellow student David Bennet might look like the school’s golden boy, but underneath the surface the popular athlete battles demons of his own. Racked with survivor’s guilt after his brother’s suicide, things get worse when tragedy darkens his world again—but connecting with Cate, his sister’s longtime babysitter, starts bringing the light back in.

As Cate and David grow closer, the two shattered teenagers learn to examine the pieces of their lives…and, together, find a way to be whole again.

What's queer about it? The author shared with me that "Cate's lifelong best friend Laurel is a lesbian, and the thing is, Cate doesn't like Dee, the girl Laurel is dating, and Dee hates Cate. Basically, Dee is jealous of Cate." It's a storyline that adds, according to Mimi, "a lot to the main story. Also, there is a flashback to the day Laurel came out to Cate, and even though the scene is fiction, it's inspired by one of my best friends, who waited two years to come out to me."

Add your review of "Before Goodbye" in comments!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Pokémon Go and the Landscape of Hate

Our world, and my news feeds, seem schizophrenic lately. From giddy stories of capturing a rare Ninetails in New York City's Central Park

Look! How cute! seemingly endless stories of hate-fueled terrorism.

The mass shooting of patrons in an Orlando Gay Nightclub.

The bombing of Ramadan celebrants in downtown Baghdad.

The driving a truck into the crowds gathered to watch fireworks in Nice.

It made me think of a different mobile phone app someone might create, one that would show photos of the dead when you're at the location where they were murdered. Almost like ghosts, viewing the real-life scene through your phone would reveal photos of the people who had been killed, and maybe a bit of their life story, to honor them.

But I wonder if it would all be too overwhelming. In the past seven years, 1,933 transgender people were murdered worldwide. And just showing up somewhere where a terror attack occurred, like the site of the World Trade Center memorial, would show you 2,753 souls floating around the former twin towers.

And somewhere like Auschwitz, where they are memorializing the murder of 1.1 million people in its gas chambers, would ground anyone to a halt. 1.1 million photos of people whose lives were ended by hate. At least, it would stop short those visitors who weren't playing Pokémon Go on its grounds... (Yes, Auschwitz had to ask people to stop playing the game there!)

Pokémon at Auschwitz. Not Cute.

So much death. So much hate.

It seems our way of coping is to push it out of our minds - to jump on the latest craze (like Pokémon Go), and to have yesterday's tragic news replaced in the news cycle by today's newer tragedy. Like how no one talks about any of these ten attacks from 2015 anymore, which also says something about the lives lost being people of color and how prejudiced our media really is.

How can we respond to so much hate?

Maybe by standing up. By raising our voices. By voting, and speaking, and working for a better world.

Perhaps the app we really need is an UPstander! app. One that when you get on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, you see images of Rosa Parks and Bayard Rustin, and other civil rights activists who were arrested on segregated buses, and learn about their role in the civil rights movement.

An app where, when you visit the now-landmark status Stonewall Inn, you see images of the drag queens and other patrons who fought back against police brutality and stood up, marking a turning point in the modern struggle for LGBTQ rights. And you learn about their stories.

An app where, when you visit every house and office in Denmark where non-Jews hid their Jewish countrymen from the Nazis, you see that act of bravery honored and remembered.

And maybe THAT kind of app would inspire people to get out, walk around, and see our world differently (like Pokémon Go does)... and also inspire people to stand up to the hate.

Standing up is our power.

And we need to use it.


Thanks to Elizabeth for the Pokemon in Central Park photo, and to @astroehlein on twitter for the screen shot (and very appropriate "What the hell is wrong with people?" comment) of the Pokemon at Auschwitz.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Ambassador Samantha Power (U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations) Gives A Speech on LGBTI Human Rights - And It's Well Worth Reading!

Check out this speech by Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on “A Call on Governments: Integrating LGBTI Rights into Foreign Policy,” to the Global LGBTI Human Rights Ministerial, July 13, 2016

AS DELIVERED July 13, 2016

Let me begin by thanking the government and civil society leaders chairing this conference: from Uruguay, Foreign Minister Nin Nova and Ovejas Negras; and from the Netherlands, Foreign Minister Koenders and COC-Netherlands.

I had planned to be in Montevideo with you, but unfortunately, the escalating violence in South Sudan has kept me here at the UN. Much as I regret missing the opportunity to meet many of you in person, I’m honored and incredibly humbled to be able to speak with you today.

Being an advocate for LGBTI rights these days can feel almost schizophrenic. While more than 50 countries worldwide now prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, more than 70 countries criminalize consensual same-sex conduct. In elections last month in the Philippines, voters elected both a Senator who called gay couples “worse than animals,” and the country’s first-ever transgender Representative. In Brazil, which has a proud history of pushing for LGBTI rights at home and abroad, including introducing the first-ever UN resolution, in 2003, to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation – a monitoring group has documented nearly 1,600 killings of LGBTI people over the past four and a half years. That’s approximately one LGBTI killing per day in Brazil, every day, since 2012. And while same-sex couples now have the right to marry in all 50 American states, and people no longer have to hide who they love to serve in our nation’s military – you can still be fired from a job because of your sexual orientation, and an estimated 40 percent of trans people in the United States attempt suicide – approximately 30 times the national average.

You all know these ups and downs, because you live them day to day. Consider this very conference: while some civil society participants can live tweet and blog about the issues discussed here in real time, others have to keep their heads down, they have to keep a much lower profile, knowing that calling attention to their work here – or any of your efforts to advance LGBTI rights – could lead to harassment, imprisonment, or worse in their home countries.

To state the obvious: Governments do not have to choose between advancing LGBTI rights within their own countries and around the world. We can and must do both.

How? First, we must be willing to use all the tools in our toolkit to shift the policies and attitudes of the governments that condone or even fuel discrimination and violence against LGBTI people.

Let me give you just one example: Last July, President Obama traveled to Kenya, a country where having a consensual same-sex relationship is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, and where a 2013 poll found that 90 percent of people think society should not accept homosexuality. Now, even before the President set foot in Kenya, protestors took to the streets to warn him not to bring the issue up. Their arguments will be familiar ones to many of you – including that the U.S. should not impose its views on people with different cultural and religious traditions. An argument, I would note, that the diversity of advocates in this room – the room you are in – clearly rebuts.

Here is how President Obama responded when asked about the issue at a press conference in Nairobi with Kenya’s president: he said, “I believe in the principle of treating people equally under the law…and that the state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation…[W]hen you start treating people differently – not because of any harm they’re doing anybody, but because they’re different – that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode and bad things happen… And as an African-American in the United States, I am painfully aware of the history of what happens when people are treated differently, under the law.”

President Obama’s point was that there’s no legitimate alibi for violating basic human rights. Treating people differently because of who they are is always wrong. So while it is wise, and indeed necessary, to ask which tactics will be most effective in advancing equality – we can’t let the false justifications of culture, sovereignty, or anything else hold us back from fighting discrimination. That’s why we are not only standing up for LGBTI rights in public statements, but also through other means, such as the diplomatic efforts of our nation’s first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI persons, the great Randy Berry, who is with you in Montevideo and has gotten to know many of you in his travels to 43 countries.

Second, we must work to integrate LGBTI rights into the DNA of multilateral bodies like the UN. It may seem self-evident that the institution whose Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that “everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms…without distinction of any kind” would fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; yet too often, throughout history, it has not.

Here are a few ways we and partners, many of whom are in the room there, have worked to change that record in the last few years.

In 2011 and 2014, we worked with partners on the UN Human Rights Council to pass resolutions compelling the Council to systematically document LGBTI rights violations around the globe – a key step toward breaking the pattern of impunity for such abuses.

In August of 2015, we co-chaired the first-ever UN Security Council meeting focused on LGBTI rights – on the persecution of LGBTI people by ISIL. In doing so, the world’s foremost enforcement body for peace and security signaled that it is wrong to violate people’s rights because of who they love.

Just last month, as you know, a Latin American led resolution created the first-ever permanent Independent Expert at the UN to provide consistent reporting on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity – an initiative that 628 NGOs from over 150 countries rallied behind. When a group of countries tried to block the effort – calling it reckless and arrogant, and even calling for a vote to strip the resolution of its title – those same Latin American countries vigorously beat back those efforts.

Of course, these steps have not yet succeeded in stopping widespread discrimination and violence against LGBTI people. But with each of these “firsts,” we weave another thread of LGBTI rights into the fabric of universal human rights, and we chip away at the misconception that LGBTI rights are somehow subordinate to other human rights.

None of these are steps that we have taken alone; in each instance, we’ve worked with a coalition made up of countries from the global North and South. I will never forget the words of my Chilean counterpart at the UN when I asked if his country would co-sponsor the Security Council’s session on LGBTI rights, again, an unprecedented occurrence. He said: “We are with you. We may be all alone, but we are with you.” In the end, thankfully, we were not all alone.

And we’ve had to defend virtually every one of our collective gains working with partners – governmental partners and Civil Society partners. Consider the UN Secretary-General’s 2014 laudable decision to extend benefits to the families of all UN employees, including same-sex couples. In March 2015, Russia launched an effort to try to strip these benefits, which would have sent a totally devastating message that LGBTI families do not deserve equal rights within the UN’s own house. We and our partners fought that effort vigorously, and in the end we succeeded. Out of 193 countries, only 43 voted with Russia.

Now, I recognize the obstacles that we governments must overcome – and the risks that we face – pale in comparison to those confronting many activists here. And that is precisely why governments at this conference, as well as those not at this conference, must do much more to support you.

Let me conclude. Prior to Orlando, the worst mass killing of LGBTI people in the United States occurred in 1973, in New Orleans, when a gay club called the UpStairs Lounge was firebombed, killing 32 people trapped inside. The story made front page news in the local newspaper, which described the grisly scene in detail, but not one of its many stories mentioned that the attack had targeted a gay club. And though it was the worst fire in the city’s modern history, local officials made no public statements, nor did national politicians. Multiple churches refused to hold services for the victims, and no one was ever prosecuted for this heinous crime.

Compare that to the response to the horrific attack in Orlando, where, in the words of a doctor who treated the injured, “after the worst of humanity reared its evil head…the best of humanity came roaring back.” First responders rushed to the scene. Residents lined up for hours to donate blood. The city and our nation mourned. At the U.S. Mission to the UN, we had to put out four condolence books – because so many representatives of other governments came to write messages of solidarity. In many of your countries, you participated in vigils and other public shows of support.

Perhaps most moving were the stories of the 49 individual victims, which have revealed the beautiful diversity of just a small sliver of the LGBTI community – from the Army reservist, to the travel agent who organized international tours for LGBTI people, to the young man who, in 2003, was the only person brave enough to come out in his high school of 2,500 people. As President Obama said after meeting with relatives of the victims, “These families could be our families. In fact, they are our family.”

That is the difference 43 years has made. That is the difference when a society moves from one where existence of LGBTI persons is not even acknowledged – much less embraced – to one where we are finally recognizing LGBTI rights as human rights. Our work – the work of governments and of civil society – will not be finished until LGBTI people are welcome in every nation, every community, and every family.

I thank you.

You can find out more about the United Nations Free and Equal Campaign for LGBTQ Equality here.

And it's worth considering, for those of us USA voters, that whoever is in the White House sets the agenda for what the US does in the United Nations. Would a Trump Presidency have one of its ambassadors speak out so clearly for LGBTQ rights? Doubtful. But a Hilary Clinton Presidency would. 

After all, when she was Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton famously said,

"Human Rights are Gay Rights and Gay Rights are Human Rights."

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The V-Word: True Stories about First-Time Sex. "It's Your Sex-Life-Take Charge of It"

The V-Word by Amber J. Keyser

In this nonfiction book, seventeen authors change the conversation around virginity, sex, and sexuality by sharing their true stories of first-time sex. Exhilarating or disappointing, pursued or coerced, comical or beautiful, relished or regretted, gay or straight, these women share all, every intense emotion that swirls around the sexual experience. Ultimately, these stories offer up a vast world of possible experiences - sex within committed relationships and not, same-sex and opposite-sex couples, sex that was sought out and sex that involved some sort of pressure.

The book also includes a Q&A with teen librarian Kelly Jensen on how teen sex is portrayed in the media, resources for teens who want to learn more, guidelines for safer sex practices, support for girls wanting to delay sexual activity, and a resource section for parents on how to approach this topic with their child.
Add your review of "The V-Word" in comments!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Honor Girl - A Graphic Memoir about First Love, and First Heartbreak, at an All-Girl Camp

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

Maggie has spent basically every summer of her 15-year-old life at the 100-year-old Camp Bellflower for girls, set deep in the heart of Appalachia. She's from Atlanta, she's never kissed a guy, she's into Backstreet Boys in a really deep way, and her long summer days are full of pleasant, peaceful nothing... until one confounding moment.

A split-second of innocent physical contact pulls Maggie into a gut-twisting love for an older, wiser, and most surprising of all (at least to Maggie), female counselor named Erin.

But Camp Bellflower is an impossible place for a girl to fall in love with another girl, and Maggie's savant-like proficiency at the camp's rifle range is the only thing keeping her heart from exploding. When it seems as if Erin maybe feels the same way about Maggie, it's too much for both Maggie and Camp Bellflower to handle, let alone understand.

Add your review of "Honor Girl" in comments!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Without Annette - A Teen Lesbian Relationship On The Rocks

Without Annette by Jane B. Mason

Josie Little has been looking forward to moving halfway across the country to attend Brookwood Academy, a prestigious boarding school, with her girlfriend, Annette, for ages. But underneath Brookwood's picture-perfect image lies a crippling sense of elitism that begins to tear the girls apart from the moment they arrive.

While Josie struggles to navigate her new life, Annette seems to fit in perfectly. Yet that acceptance comes with more than a few strings. And consequently, Annette insists on keeping their relationship a secret.

At first, Josie agrees. But as Annette pushes her further and further away, Josie grows closer to Penn, a boy whose friendship and romantic feelings for her tangle her already-unraveling relationship. When Annette's need for approval sets her on a devastating course for self-destruction, Josie isn't sure she can save her this time-or if Annette even wants her to try.

Add your review of "Without Annette" in comments!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Drag Teen - A Gay Teen Enters A Drag Pageant To Get The Scholarship He Needs

Drag Teen by Jeffery Self

JT feels like his life's already hit a dead end at 17. Despite his dreams, it looks like he'll always be stuck in Florida. His parents aren't supportive, and his boyfriend, Seth, seems to be moving toward a bright future a long way from home. Scholarship money is nonexistent and his after-school job will only get him so far.

But there is one small hope--to become the next Miss Drag Teen in New York City. A drag pageant that comes with the full scholarship JT is looking for. Except the only other time JT tried drag (at a school talent show) he was booed off the stage. And then there's the whole issue of getting to New York from Florida to compete.

With humor, heart, and some solid friendships on his side, JT is determined to make his future happen. He, Seth, and their friend Heather take an unforgettable roadtrip to capture the crown, no matter how many feisty foes they have to face. Because when your future is on the line, you have to be in it to win it, one fraught and fabulous step at a time.
Add your review of "Drag Teen" in comments!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Tricia Lawrence (Erin Murphy 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 Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Agent Tricia Lawrence
Tricia's Bio:

Tricia is the "Pacific Northwest branch" of EMLA—born and raised in Oregon, and now lives in Seattle. After 21 years of working as a developmental and production-based editor (from kids books to college textbooks, but mostly college textbooks), she joined the EMLA team in March 2011 as a social media strategist.

As agent, Tricia represents picture books/chapter books that look at the world in a unique and unusual way, with characters that are alive both on and off the page, and middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction that offers strong worldbuilding, wounded narrators, and stories that grab a reader and won't let go.

Tricia loves hiking, camping out in the woods, and collecting rocks. She loves BBC America and anything British. She has way too many books and not enough bookshelves. You can find Tricia's writing about blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, and other social media topics (for authors and the publishing industry at large) here and here.

And here's our interview:

Lee: Hi Tricia, let's jump in... 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)

So, 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?

Tricia: Hi, Lee. All of my submissions are referrals or from attendees of conferences that I speak at, and I will say that in years past, the pickings have been slim, but because of #WeNeedDiverseBooks, I’ve actively sought out and advocated for more submissions and thanks to #DVPIT and Justina Ireland (@justinaireland) and Debbie Reese’s work (@debreese) mentoring and advocacy, I’ve found many more in 2016 than in previous years. But I had to be active. I had to seek out those manuscripts, contests, mentors, advocates. I never expected it to be handed to me on a silver platter. I do believe things are changing, albeit slowly. I think I can do better and that we all can still do better. That’s why I’m on your blog and letting people know who I am. ;)

Lee: Hurray for letting people know you're interested in diversity! Let's unpack those submissions a bit: Are you seeing many stories featuring protagonists of color?

Tricia: Yes, thankfully. My biggest book sale in 2015 (A CRACK IN THE SEA, by H.M. Bouwman, to Putnam, which pubs January 2017) featured protagonists of color and it just spurred me on to keep going, to increase my reading of those manuscripts every chance I could get. I am very excited about the stories in my query/submissions inbox. And doubly thrilled to represent writers who are writing those stories or on submission right now.

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

Tricia: Again, yes. But I had to seek them out, not expect them to approach me. And I’m happy to do so. The time to just be an observer is over. We have to act, to inspire others to act. I wish I had more LGBTQ, especially in this day and age where hatred and fear pervade our world. I have seen horrible videos of the hatred against Target’s brave stand, and even more disturbing, how that has increased calls to suicide hotlines. And then Orlando. Dear god. If we don’t strive harder today, we will lose important voices, and we need them. Desperately. Again, I’m so grateful for wonderful advocates like Vee (@findmereading), among others, who keep their voices going strong.

Lee: How about characters with disabilities?

Tricia: Not enough, sadly. Corinne Duyvuis (@corinneduyvis) is such a help to me (and all of us) on this. I have received pitches that need some work and I always tell them to follow Corinne’s work and advocacy on this and to keep trying.

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

Tricia: I am VERY worried about the lack of diversity progress in submissions that misappropriate Native American customs, tradition, and mythology. I have pushed back with several writers recently about this and was so relieved when they took my challenges to go back to their manuscript and try to figure out how to make it more their story rather than just stealing someone else’s. I’m a bit aghast at our beloved J.K. Rowling for her really discouraging and maddening example here. Despite her resistance to have a conversation about her missteps, I’ve had wonderful conversations with writers who are very open about theirs. This is good. Some writers have just not dug deep enough (hello, this is part of writing!) and other writers become attached to a situation or a character and it’s hard work to move away from something they have settled on, but this is the work we do. This is the work we must do.

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

Tricia: Yes! I’m delighted to get referrals and attendees from conferences who are brave enough to send something that is often very personal and to open themselves up to the fear of rejection or racism. Luckily, we work in a wonderful industry and our specific little corner of publishing has so many good-hearted people. But as I said above, we can’t simply observe, we have to help. I challenge writers to hand over their privilege by allowing someone who is underrepresented to take their pitch opportunity to an agent or editor during or after a conference. It’s not my idea. I had a writer years ago ask me if she could give her submission spot to another writer and ever since then, I’ve always encouraged people to do so. What a great opportunity to equalize! Especially if an underrepresented writer/illustrator wasn’t able to register in time for a spot or wasn’t able to attend or needs a beta reader or crit partner before they submit. Try it. Those of us who can should be seeking out chances like this. We’ve all had plenty of chances to pitch. Let’s increase our chances to help others get to pitch. What a great goal.

Lee: That's very cool. 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?

Tricia: I believe in the creativity of each individual writer and illustrator. We cannot control how our imagination works. If we wake up one morning and feel compelled to write a story that may not be our own, we should try. We have to. Un-lived creative potential makes us cranky racist bigots (as we see in our news every day). However, and this is a big however, just because our imagination and creativity led us to write the story for ourselves, doesn’t mean that the story is ours to tell the world. As a writer, I have written many stories for myself, working out themes and situations during my life that just aren’t for publication. They are stories for my soul, trying to heal my soul, trying to work out the darkness inside of me. At the time I wrote them, I was very marginalized in my privileged world, struggling to find my own way, all while working through my own white privilege and my sense of inherited ownership, because of my upbringing, and I got the stories wrong. Completely wrong. And now I choose to tell different stories, from my own experience and truth.

But that’s the process of creativity and imagination. You get things wrong and you see that you did. You have to look at what you are doing wrong. And you change.

And to complete my answer (sheesh, I’m long-winded), this is why diversity is not a quick-fix solution for anyone. You don’t slap a sticker on something and call it good. This is a foundation-shaking challenge that cannot be ignored. If you’re writing something because you must, the next question to answer is “Is this your story to share?” And if it’s not, by God, don’t ignore that voice in your head. Use the story to write another. It’s okay to fail in this way. Not everything you write is publishable or needed or necessary. But if it is YOUR STORY, and you are a writer who has answered the question “Is this your story to share?” with a big YES, dig deeper. Poke at your story, shake its foundations, make sure you are peeling away the facade and giving us the real deal. Have courage. I believe in you!

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

Tricia: Yes and no. I’ve had very frustrating moments trying to sell something that just didn’t translate to the editors I was pitching to. And I truly felt there was something there. But this is part of being an agent. I believe in something first and then I work to get an editor to believe in it next. Sometimes I can do that; sometimes I can’t. I’ve had stories with underrepresented characters sell right off the bat and then others just haven’t sold. I have encountered resistance to manuscripts because of editor personality, but that’s part of our business. I think my main job has evolved since I started. It’s not so much about just selling or building an author’s career. Being an agent is a chance to advocate and ally with writers who are not as visible and should be. I don’t care if anyone else likes it in the beginning; if I like it and think I can sell it, that’s all I need. And if I can work with a writer or illustrator, maybe that first story isn’t the first one to publish. At EMLA, we’re very focused on a career, and sometimes those careers take a while to formulate, no matter who you are.

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?

Tricia: Being marginalized in a very subset sort of way (as part of a white privileged middle class world) has made this desire grow. The nuanced ways that white privilege can sneak up on me shock me every single day. I was brought up in a very fundamentalist religious world, where “other” is simply ignored, and I got really, really good at judging others. It has taken a while to undo all that (like a tangled sticky web) and yet, working through it has given me truly singular moments to realize that the human soul is powerful. It took a dear friend and heartfelt conversation about his being gay to open the door. What a powerful doorway. I’ve never looked back. It was another dear friend sharing with me about her abortion. Another powerful doorway. I’ve never looked back. And there are stories after stories. The power of story changes lives. This drives me every single day. I am changed because of my friends’ stories. Them opening up their hearts to me, bringing me along with them, forgiving my privilege, my missteps. I am so grateful. And I don’t take it for granted. No one owes me their forgiveness or their stories. No one owes me another chance. I owe. Oh, do I. That drives me.

Lee: Thank you for sharing that.

Can you  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?

Tricia: Matt de la Pena’s and Christian Robinson’s LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET. Vivid. Amazing.

Lee: Middle Grade?

Tricia: Sherman Alexie’s DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN still knocks me down every time I read it. A masterpiece.

Lee: Young Adult?

Tricia: I. W. Gregorio’s NONE OF THE ABOVE was fabulous. I offered on it but didn’t get picked. Beautiful.

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

Tricia: I want a strong Native American manuscript that rings true (like Sherman Alexie’s PART-TIME INDIAN). I want a historical or fantasy with a LBGTQ mc that delivers that same truth. I adore Lisbeth Salander from GIRL WITH A DRAGON TATTOO, and would love a MG or YA about a hero who fights for truth and she struggles with a disability (and she’s not white). Or something a la VERONICA MARS, but featuring a protagonist who is not blonde and white, but is gutsy like Olivia Pope (another character I adore) and fights for the truth even though she has a social disorder and is scared of talking to people or she’s hiding her true identity because she’s in witness protection and so we see this masquerade she puts on and we also get how hard it is for her to deal with herself, etc. But don’t listen to me! Let your imagination and your creativity run the show. These are just ideas, or prompts, to get your creative engines running.

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?

Tricia: Please send a query and the first five pages (pasted) into the email to to my attention. No deadline. Whenever you are ready.

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

Tricia: I am so grateful for this industry and for the advocates we have like you, Lee. Thank you for doing this series. I am honored to be a part of it. A special note to the writers who are afraid at this moment, who feel like they are breathless a bit because there is a story inside of them that they need to tell and it’s going to take work. I feel ya. That is the good kind of fear. It keeps us awake as we write our stories, as we push boundaries, as we try to get our truth out to readers who need it. Remember, it’s not all on you. We’re in this together! Keep writing! Reach out! Find mentors! Never settle. Keep pushing for better. Onward!

Lee: Yay! 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!

Tricia: Thank you so much for having me! I wish I could do more. I owe so much to the advocates and mentors I mentioned in this post. Please, follow them on Twitter and use their guidance. They are doing so much more than I am.

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

Illustrate and Write On!