Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Gone, Gone, Gone - A romance helps two teen boys makes sense of their lives amidst random acts of violence

Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz

It's a year after 9/11. Sniper shootings throughout the D.C. area have everyone on edge and trying to make sense of these random acts of violence. Meanwhile, Craig and Lio are just trying to make sense of their lives.
Craig's crushing on quiet, distant Lio, and preoccupied with what it meant when Lio kissed him...and if he ll do it again...and if kissing Lio will help him finally get over his ex-boyfriend, Cody.
Lio feels most alive when he's with Craig. He forgets about his broken family, his dead brother, and the messed up world. But being with Craig means being vulnerable...and Lio will have to decide whether love is worth the risk.

This novel was an ALA Stonewall Honor book. Add your review of "Gone, Gone, Gone" in comments!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sparks - An impossible girl-on-girl crush and a wacky new religion

Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie by S. J. Adams

Do you feel lost? Confused? Alone? (Circle one): Yes or No. The Church of Blue can help. We are not a cult. $5 for a holy quest is a good deal.

Since sixth grade, Debbie Woodlawn has nursed a secret, heart-searing crush on her best friend, Lisa. But all those years of pretending to enjoy Full House reruns and abstinence rallies with Lisa go down the drain when her friend hooks up with Norman, the most boring guy at school. This earth-shattering event makes Debbie decide to do the unthinkable: confess her love to Lisa. And she has to do it tonight--before Lisa and Norman go past "the point of no return." So Debbie embarks on a quest to find Lisa. Guiding the quest are fellow students/detention hall crashers Emma and Tim, the founding (and only) members of the wacky Church of Blue. Three chases, three declarations of love, two heartbreaks, a break-in, and five dollars worth of gas later, Debbie has been fully initiated into Bluedaism--but is there time left to stop Lisa and Norman from going too far?

This novel was an ALA Stonewall Honor book. Add your review of "Sparks" in comments!

Monday, November 21, 2016

"Making Gay History" Podcast - my new podcast obsession

Author and historian Eric Marcus conducted over a hundred audio interviews with key figures in the LGBTQ movement. He used portions of those interviews in his books, and now he's created a podcast series called Making Gay History, where we get to hear these icons in their own voices.

We get to hear Jeanne & her son Morty Manford. Jeanne talks about starting PFLAG, and about what happened when she marched with her gay son in the gay pride parade, holding a sign that proclaimed her love and pride in him.

We get to hear Dr. Evelyn Hooker, telling us about her gay friend Sam, and how Sam urged her to take on the study of healthy gay men that would eventually lead to a complete shift in how being Gay or Lesbian was understood.

We get to hear Sylvia Rivera (the transgender icon) tell us about being at Stonewall.

It's a treasure trove! We're only six episodes in and I'm already obsessed with how amazing it is to hear these people speak through time.

Go listen - Eric and his team have done a great job with this podcast!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Caught Inside - Luke spends a summer surfing and, to his surprise, falling for a guy!

Caught Inside (A Boys On The Brink Novel) by Jamie Deacon

Luke believes he has his life figured out...and then he meets Theo.

It should have been simple - a summer spent with his girlfriend Zara at her family's holiday cottage in Cornwall. Seventeen-year-old Luke Savage jumps at the chance, envisioning endless hours of sunbathing on the private beach and riding the waves on his beloved surfboard. He isn't interested in love. Though his rugged good looks and lazy charm mean he can have his pick of girls, he has no intention of falling for anyone.

Nothing prepares Luke for his reaction to Theo, the sensitive Oxford undergraduate who is Zara's cousin and closest friend. All at once, he is plunged along a path of desire and discovery that has him questioning everything he thought he knew about himself. No one, especially Zara, must find out; what he and Theo have is too new, too fragile. But as the deceit spirals beyond their control, people are bound to get hurt, Luke most of all.

My thanks to Jess for the heads-up on this. Add your review of "Caught Inside" in comments!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Mother and her 8-year-old Trans Son talk, and we get to listen

This under-three-minute video was powerful, and heartbreaking, and beautiful...

Let's make this a safer world for Gabe!

And my thanks to Chris and Gabe for sharing your story with all of us.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Havemercy - Steampunk YA with Magical Mechanical Dragons and 2 Main Gay Characters

Havemercy by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett

Thanks to its elite Dragon Corps, the capital city of Volstov has all but won the hundred years’ war with its neighboring enemy, the Ke-Han. The renegade airmen who fly the corps’s mechanical, magic-fueled dragons are Volstov’s greatest weapon. But now one of its more unruly members is at the center of the city’s rumor mill, causing a distraction that may turn the tide of victory.

With Volstov immersed in a scandal that may have international repercussions, the Ke-Han devise an ingenious plan of attack. To counter the threat, four ill-assorted heroes must converge to save the kingdom they love: an exiled magician, a naive country boy, a young student—and the unpredictable ace airman who flies the city’s fiercest dragon, Havemercy.

But on the eve of battle, these courageous men will face something that could make the most formidable of warriors hesitate, the most powerful of magicians weak, and the most unlikely of men allies in their quest to rise against it....

My thanks to E H Timms for the heads-up on this one having two of its four POV characters be Gay, and also having a minor Trans character!

Add your review of "Havemercy" in comments!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Your cape is ready. Join me.

I've been stitching and sewing and piecing this (and my emotions) together since we learned that the next US President will be Donald Trump.

A world with President Trump is a world that is going to need a lot of progressive, fair-minded heroes. Superheroes.

It's a world that is going to need every one of us to stand up, raise our voices, and use the power of Truth and Love to fight injustice -- what Mahatma Gandhi called Satyagraha.

"Satyagraha is soul-force pure and simple." - Mohandas Gandhi

We have our power. And our cape.

And we will be #StrongerTogether.

Now more than ever.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Dear President-Elect Trump: You used to be your own boss. Not any more.

Remember that final showdown moment in Disney's Aladdin, where Jafar uses his third and final wish to become the most powerful being he can imagine, a Genie? In achieving his goal, there was a twist that Jafar didn't see coming:

"Phenomenal cosmic powers, itty-bitty living space."

It's happened to you, too.

Not the living space. You'll get to roll into the White House, fly on Air Force One, and have all the bling and trappings of being the most powerful US politician of all. Just like a reality TV show.

Your twist is that now, you work for me.

I didn't vote for you.

But that's what being President means. You have to represent and care for the well-being of the more than 59 million of us who voted for Hillary Clinton, the millions who voted for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, in addition to the more than 59 million who voted for you.

Now, you work for me, a Gay dad and grown-up child of immigrants who writes books for kids.

Now, you work for my nephew's daughter, an African American high school student with straight A's.

Now, you work for my disabled friend who's a huge Ally to the LGBTQ community.

Now, you work for every single American.

We will keep you accountable. We will require you to be measured. And thoughtful. And balanced as you take action.

Because now, as an elected public servant, you work for us.

And we've learned your reality TV show line:

"You're Fired."

And like every good boss, we won't be afraid to use it.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Jennifer Udden (Barry Goldblatt Literary): Agent Looking For Diversity


This month's interview is with Jennifer Udden, Agent at Barry Goldblatt Literary.

Agent Jennifer Udden

Jennifer's bio:

Jennifer Udden was born in Houston, TX, and spent many of her formative years hiding books under tables while she was meant to be paying attention to something else. She has a BA from Mount Holyoke College, and graduated in 2008 with a major in Politics, a minor in Chinese, and honors thesis work on anxiety in British detective fiction of the early 20th century. She has worked in fundraising for an off-Broadway theater company and joined the publishing industry in 2010 at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. She is the co-host of the podcast Shipping & Handling ( with Bridget Smith of Dunham Literary, Inc. She blogs at and

Our interview:

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

Jennifer: I don’t have a specific percentage off the top of my head, but I would say that in the last year maybe 5-15% have specifically highlighted some aspect of diversity in their query or in their novel.

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

Jennifer: Yes! Definitely more than I saw at the beginning of my career. I would say that of the percentage I saw before, more than half of those highlight that their protagonist is a person of color.

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

Jennifer: Yes - because I represent m/m romance I tend to see a lot of queries in that genre (gay romance), but I don’t tend to see as many lesbian, bi, or trans queries. There are a few, but not that many.

Lee: How about characters with disabilities?

Jennifer: I’ve seen a few, definitely!

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

Jennifer: I am seeing quite a few queries from authors who live in areas other than the US and Europe - it’s awesome!

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

Jennifer: I know that the idea of creators identifying themselves as being from an under-represented group is a bit fraught, but I have seen more authors specifically identifying themselves, or providing links to blogs or social media that has more information about how they identify, and I really appreciate that!

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?

Jennifer: I definitely think that I prioritize #ownvoices stories more than a similar story that might be told by a writer from a more privileged group, because I feel personally that we have had many of those kinds of books already. I think that any writer can write a story set in a culture not their own, but when they do so they ought to take into account the feedback of people from that culture. The pushback against critiques of cultural appropriation seems to me to be a case of writers who want the privilege of writing another culture, but don’t want to hear feedback from members of that culture or group when it is offered to them.

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

Jennifer: These days when I go out with a project with characters from under-represented groups I highlight that aspect in the pitch to editors - I don’t want to hide or minimize it for fear of editors not being interested. And I think the response has been pretty good- many editors are also looking to diversify their lists, as well!

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?

Jennifer: Boredom, honestly! Diversity makes things more interesting. It’s literally just bringing in new stories or different stories than what we’ve seen published before.

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 Young Adult favorite?

Jennifer: Two come to mind: first, SUMMER PRINCE by Alaya Dawn Johnson, which is set in futuristic Brazil, with a POC protagonist and cast. It’s one of my favorite books and is such a fun read. The second is DUMPLIN’ by Julie Murphy, which is the story of a fat protagonist in small-town Texas. I think this was one of the first books I’d read with a fat protagonist where their journey wasn’t about losing weight, and as someone who has struggled with weight and self-image before, this was such a joy to read.

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

Jennifer: I would love to see a fantasy (YA or adult) inspired by the world of Beyonce’s LEMONADE visual album or a scifi (again, YA or adult) inspired by Janelle Monae’s TheArchAndroid. I want romance in any category with POC protagonists. I’d like to see POC protagonists or authors in any of the genres I represent, as well as LGBT protagonists and authors from underrepresented groups.

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

Jennifer: My submission guidelines are on the website! send the first five pages, query letter, and synopsis to

Thanks Jennifer!

Look for another Agent or Editor Looking For Diversity interview the first Monday of next month! Until then,

Illustrate and Write On!

Friday, November 4, 2016

The PROGRESSive Choice

An infographic for you to share...

I'm really proud to be one of 1200 children's book authors and illustrators who are standing up and voting for Hillary Clinton and a congress that will work with her.

Here's a sampling of AIforC volunteers, explaining why we've all been working to spread the word:

Rebecca O'Connell #HillaryBecause... She wrote It Takes a Village twenty years ago, and it is still true.

Evelyn Coleman I am supporting AIC because I know these are folk who care about children as much as I do.

Mira Lopez I'm supporting Hillary and AIC because I know she's capable of making sure that I have the most opportunities to succeed in my future.

Gabrielle Raumberger I support the dedicated work of AIC. Their passion for creating critical mass of aligned Americans who want a world that has the best interest of our children’s future at its heart has drawn me to them. And that’s also why I'm voting for Hillary: her record for creating programs that benefit children’s well-being contributes to the greater good for all of us.

Helen Hemphill I’m voting for Hillary because she’s a listener and a learner who is grounded in facts.

Jaime Temairik I want a compassionate, intelligent, and diplomatic person as our next president, and that person is absolutely Hillary Clinton.

Maurie J. Manning I support the AIC campaign because our shared career focus puts us in a unique position to speak up with authority for what’s in the best interest of our children’s future — the calm, kind, perseverant and serious candidate for POTUS, Hillary Clinton.

Janni Lee Simner I'm the grandaughter of immigrants and the mother of an immigrant. I'm with Hillary Clinton because I'm for a country that embraces all of its families, and that makes room for those who seek refuge here as well.

Janet Wong #ImWithHer because she’s been working on behalf of children for 30+ years—and because I trust the wisdom of 1,200+ #AuthorsAndIllustrators4Clinton who are voting for Hillary, too.

Leonard Marcus I'm voting for Hilary because she knows what she's doing and because she cares about people.

Kris Vreeland I'm voting for Hillary because I believe she is the best candidate. She has supported women's rights, children's issues and human rights her entire career. Her heart is in the right place. She is also insightful and intelligent. She listens and knows how to work well with others to reach the necessary compromises without sacrificing the integrity of her goals to serve the American people.

Rebecca Gold I support the AIC campaign for Hillary because authors and illustrators who write for children, care for children. And what’s best for all children is to have a smart, dedicated and caring woman in the White House, not a bully.

Michelle Parker-Rock It's a privilege to be an AIC Board Member in support of Hillary, and I am voting for her because she is an advocate for children, women, the LGBTQ community, clean power, liberal judges, an end to racial profiling, higher minimum wages, and so much more.

Susan Raab I'm voting for Hillary because this is not a game or horse race to win -- it's simply about who we should hire to do the toughest, most complex, most critical to our lives, job we have.

Stephanie Olivieri I'm a first-generation American, and I'm supporting AIC because I'm voting for Hillary Clinton because she understands that this great country was built by immigrants and is opposed to building a wall.

April Wayland To me, Hillary Clinton is like a redwood tree—with rings of strength, of discipline, of know-how, and always a champion for children deep in her heartwood.

Bruce Balan One candidate has dedicated herself to public service, the other has dedicated himself to self-service. The choice is clear.

And here's mine:

Lee Wind I went from “anybody but rhymes-with-dump” to proudly voting for Hillary (and a congress that will work with her) because I’ve been paying attention: Hillary Clinton is brave and smart and I believe she truly cares about people besides herself and her family having rights and good lives. She’ll be a great President--if we’re brave and smart and caring enough to elect her.

If you're fortunate enough to be able to vote in this US election, please use your vote wisely!

With hope,

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Darkest Part of the Forest – Hazel is a fighter, Ben is a gay artist, and Faeries "have come to exact their price"

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointy as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down and a hero is needed to save them all, Hazel tries to remember her years spent pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

Check out the creepy–and quite awesome–book trailer:

Add your review of "The Darkest Part of the Forest" in comments!