Monday, January 30, 2017

The Revised Charlotte's Web, Trump Edition

Chapter 1

"Where's Papa going with that ax?" asked Fern as they sat for breakfast.

"To kill the runt of the litter." Mother answered. "Some pigs were born last night."

"Good." Said Fern. "No one different can amount to much, anyway. Can I have some more bacon?"

The End

With apologies to E.B. White, but really, what's going on in the USA politically is so contrary to the values we want our children to have, to the values our best children's books hold, to the best in each of us. 

If we don't speak up, if we allow this prejudice and fear and hatred of others to take root, it's not much of a stretch to think that children's books will soon echo that prejudice and fear and hatred of others. We cannot let that happen. 

The above is not the version of Charlotte's Web I want to see happen. I want Fern to have compassion, and empathy, and kindness.  I want children (and heck, adults) to have those qualities, too. I want Wilbur to not just live, but thrive, and be valued. I want friendship between those who are different (like Wilbur and Charlotte) to not just be possible, but to matter. 

And I want this for our world, too.

In times of darkness, light matters more than ever. The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Friday, January 27, 2017

The ALA's 2017 Rainbow List Is Out!

Created by the Rainbow Book List Committee of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association, the 2017 Rainbow List presents the committee's choices of Best Books published between July 2015 and December 2016 with significant gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning content, which are aimed at youth, birth through age 18.

Great for readers. Great for librarians and bookstore owners. Great for parents and all caring adults, it's a wonderful resource (and awesome for all to be able to say these books are recommended by the ALA!)

There are five picture books, five middle grade novels, one middle grade nonfiction, thirty-two YA fiction, five YA nonfiction, and five graphic novels on the list. They've also chosen their top ten titles, which it's interesting to note are different from The Stonewall Book Award - Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award winners. A good reminder that selecting "best" books is a very subjective enterprise.

The 2017 Rainbow List top ten books are (in no particular order)

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story About Gender and Friendship by Jessica Walton
The Root by Na'amen Gobert TilahunI’m a Girl by Yasmeen Ismail
And I Darken by Kiersten White
How Many Letters Are In Goodbye? by Yvonne Cassidy
This Song Is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin
Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O'Neill
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuireWe Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

The 2017 Rainbow List presents 53 books altogether - and it's one heck of a reading list! 


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The 8 Best Things I Get From Attending #SCBWI Conferences (like the upcoming #NY17SCBWI)

I'm pretty excited about the 18th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, coming up this February 10-12. To share why it's always such a highlight for me, here's a list. For those of you who write and/or illustrate works for kids and teens, I wonder how many of these resonate for you, too...

#1 I'm not alone. 

From the moment you arrive in the hotel lobby, there's a buzz of other creative people who share a passion for creating books and stories for kids and teens. You may be the only one in your family who writes, and maybe the people closest to you don't completely "get" it, but for the next few days, you will be SURROUNDED by more than a thousand fellow travelers who not only "get" it, but feel it, too. You're not alone. We're in this together.

#2 I'm inspired!

Sometimes it happens during a keynote. Sometimes in a breakout session. Sometimes while doing a writing exercise in an intensive. Sometimes it's from a guided meditation or yoga class. Sometimes it's something someone said in line while you're both waiting for that slice of pizza, but every day there are moments that inspire me.

#3 I'm learning.

There's always something new that I learn about this children's publishing business, and the publisher, editor, art director, and agent heavy hitters deliver!

#4 I'm improving.

Craft. Even if I'm stealing moments to try out something a wonderful author said in a workshop, or experimenting with flipping a POV, or even trying to outline my novel in a thematic chart like J.K. Rowling did for Harry Potter, I keep working at it, and my craft always gets better.

#5 I'm sharing.

Also known as networking, what this really translates to is that so much of what we do as writers is solitary. So being able to to answer "what are you working on?" and talk about the manuscripts that are exciting me as I create them, to people that actually care about the answer, is wonderful.

#6 I'm finding opportunities.

At every single conference, there has been some opportunity to continue that conversation about my projects. Either with a new possible critique partner, or someone offering to help me on my journey, or, before I had an agent, an agent asking to see something, or an editor interested in having my work submitted to them, or someone with a possible speaking gig, or someone equally passionate about #WeNeedDiverseBooks wanting to join forces, or someone doing something unique and inspiring that I want to feature on the SCBWI blog, or someone with an LGBTQ kids or teen book to highlight on this blog, there's always a list of wonderful follow-ups from every conference I attend.

#7 I'm holding safe space for writing and illustrating LGBTQ characters and themes.

At every conference in New York and Los Angeles since 2009, I've hosted the LGBTQ + Allies Q&A sessions. We always get great faculty guests to come and share their perspective and answer attendee questions about writing and illustrating LGBTQ characters and themes. I'm proud and honored to be able to contribute in this way.

#8 I'm blogging.

Taking notes, blogging at the official conference blog, and tweeting updates as the conference day unfolds keeps me alert and accountable and processing throughout. And I'm so fortunate to be blogging with an amazing team: Martha Brockenbrough, Jolie Stekley, Jaime Temairik, and Don Tate. Pro Tip: Follow the #NY17SCBWI hashtag on your favorite social media channel to see moments from the conference unfold in real time. Twitter is really good for great quotes. And follow the official SCBWI conference blog for more in-depth reporting on the keynotes, panels, and sessions.

BONUS: I'm open to the unexpected.

There's always a twist. A middle-of-the-night inspiration for a new picture book manuscript. Or a character breakthrough. Or an unexpected new friendship. Or a kindness extended to me that changes everything about a project I'm working on...

I love the SCBWI Winter and Summer Conferences. And I hope I get to see you at this one!

You can find out all the information about #NY17SCBWI here.

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Monday, January 23, 2017

Is Google's Search Algorithm Creating Dangerous Echo Chambers?

This under six-minute video by the Southern Poverty Law Center, The Miseducation of Dylann Roof, raises some disturbing, and important, questions.

Beyond sharing this video, there's the issue of what can we do to influence Google to fix this problem with how their system works? Is there some additional layer of vetting of websites that needs to happen, and if so, by whom? When hates sites and fake news sites aren't identified as such, how do we stop them from being the sole source of someone's information, or as the Southern Poverty Law Center put it so well, misinformation?

An important issue to consider the first week of President Trump.

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Friday, January 20, 2017

#TheFirst100DaysofResistance - Counter-Programming the 1st 100 days of President Trump

Hi community!

For the next 100 days, over on Twitter and Facebook (and maybe Instagram too), I'll be highlighting 100 nonprofits and mission-driven organizations that we should support. Groups that will hold the line, and hold the values we cherish about America:
That Liberty and Justice for ALL means ALL

That women should control their own bodies

That the Golden Rule is not about who has the most gold

That the environment should be protected

That education is important

That gun control is necessary

And that people of color, LGBTQ people, people of every faith (and no faith), disabled people, and women should be respected -- in person and by the law.

Today, Day #1, is the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union, dedicated to "defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States."

Here's a screen shot of their website:

And the link:

And check out their very cool #PeoplesOath project.

Support them. Spread the word. And be part of the resistance.

I'm taking suggestions for nonprofits and mission-driven organizations to highlight - you can share your top five with me here in comments, by email, or on social media.


We'll get through this, together.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Javier speaks to the fear of Undocumented LGBTQ Immigrants

Wow - this under four-minute video from HRC is so powerful.

Very proud of Javier for speaking up, and sharing his and his families story.

"...there are a lot of people, like myself, who are now legal, and who are conscious of the fact that our undocumented brothers and sisters are still suffering and are willing to stand up for them... I think more valuable that anything, is just letting people know that you care about them.

And that you're willing to use the privilege that you have as an American citizen to fight for them."

So well said!

Stand with me, and Javier, and let's fight for undocumented people's rights together.

As the video says,

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Monday, January 16, 2017

Georgia Peaches And Other Forbidden Fruit - Will Joanna Break Her Promise Or Lose Out On Love? (A Lesbian Teen Romance)

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees.

Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn't possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she's starting to fall for the girl. Even if there's a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?

Add your review of "Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit" in comments!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom - Fantasy with 6 main characters, 2 of whom are queer and crushing on each other!

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price--and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction if they don't kill each other first.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn't think they'd survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz's cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city's dark and twisting streets - a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

There's a great interview at with Leigh about the books, how sexuality is perceived in the Grisha verse, and Leigh's choice to include queer characters and romance in her work. 

Add your review of "Six of Crows" and/or "Crooked Kingdom" in comments!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

My Birthday, Our Present: Love Of The Half-Eaten Peach

Learning this true story from history made me so happy...

More than two thousand five hundred years ago in what today is China, the ruler of the state of Wei, Duke Ling, was walking through an orchard with the man he loved, Mi Zi Xia. Mi Zi Xia picked a ripe peach from a tree and started to eat it. It was so delicious that, after a few bites, Mi Zi Xia gave the rest of the peach to the duke, so he could share it.

The duke was moved by this and said, “How sincere is your love for me! You forget your own appetite and think only of giving me good things to eat!”

Later, as the philosopher Han Fei Tzu tells us in his book of essays written sometime between 260 B.C.E. and 230 B.C.E, the duke fell out of love with Mi Zi Xia and accused him of committing a crime. “After all,” said the ruler, listing reasons to not trust his former love, “another time he gave me a half-eaten peach to eat!”

Duke Ling’s fickle nature aside, the story of sharing the peach, and the symbolism of the love behind that sharing, became famous. So famous that in Chinese the expression "love of the half-eaten peach" [yutao zhipi, 餘桃之癖] was used for over one thousand years as we use the word Gay in English, to describe two men in love.

Isn't that amazing?

Where did I find this, and where can you find out more?

The Chinese of Han Fei Tzu’s Chapter XII: Difficulties in the Way of Persuation [sic], are from Liao, W.K. trans. The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu. 2 vols. London: Arthur Probsthain, 1959. Accessed online at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities here. Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia.

The 1964 English translation is from pg. 78-79 of “Han Fei Tzu: Basic Writings: Trans. by Burton Watson,” Columbia University Press.

The Chinese characters and transliteration for Love Of The Half-Eaten Peach are from page 49 of “Male Homosexualities and World Religions” by Pierre Hurteau, Nov. 2013, Palgrave Macmillan.

You can find out more about the expression “love of the half-eaten peach” and its historical use in China in Bret Hinsch’s “Passions of the Cut Sleeve,” 1990, University of California Press, pgs. 20-22, 35, 53, 56, 71, 73-75, 83-85, 89, 93, 95, 147, 161 and 181-182.

Thanks for letting me share, and here's to amazing adventures (and lots of love) ahead for us all!

Monday, January 9, 2017

65 in 2016

I'm thinking about numbers a lot this week.

And control.

And how I need to pull back my emotional focus (being happy, being frustrated, being proud, being disappointed, being motivated, etc...) to the things I can control.

And maybe invest less of my ego into what numbers mean...

But it's hard work. Numbers surround us, and we're all so eager to quantify things we can forget about the quality of things.

Numbers on my mind...

0 - the number of 'agent looking for diversity' interviews happening this month. Disappointing, but ultimately not something I could control. (Interviews, like dancing the tango, take two.)

2 - ninth grade classes I'm speaking to tomorrow (about being a gay dad, about the difference between gender identity and affective orientation, about what all the initials in the LGBTQAI+ acronym mean, about how we can all stand up as Allies for everyone else, and hopefully they'll stand up for us -- and transform the world.)

23 - agent and editor "looking for diversity interviews" that did happen over the last few years.

50 - my age on Wednesday. (Birthdays with zeroes at the end get so much hype...)

65 - LGBTQ themed or significant LGBTQ character books for kids and teens on the American Library Association's Rainbow List nomination list for 2016. Sixty-five books in one year. Wow! (When I started this blog in 2007, there weren't 65 books total!)

1,979,465 - the number of page views to this blog since that first post on September 15, 2007. I'm proud of that reach, but that's not a number I control. Maybe I should be prouder of this being the 2,130th post on this blog.

Advice to myself:

Be the lighthouse, and don't value my light by how many boats it saves. Know the light has value if it saves one boat. Know the light has value because it's light. 

one more number on my mind:

1 - grateful me.

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Friday, January 6, 2017

Mad About The Hatter - A Gay YA spin on Wonderland, starring Alice's brother Henry (who thinks the Hatter is rather handsome)

Mad About The Hatter by Dakota Chase
This trip down the rabbit hole will reveal a very different Wonderland.

Alice’s younger brother, Henry, is sent to a bizarre world he never really believed existed. His best chance to get home is the Mad Hatter, who is a remarkably stranger, if more handsome, fellow than Henry expects. Hatter’s only goal is to keep his head firmly attached to his body, and his best chance for doing it is to bring “Boy Alice” to the Red Queen as ordered. It’s dislike at first sight for Henry and Hatter, but since circumstances force them to remain together, they try to abide each other.

During their travels and adventures through Wonderland, they grudgingly forge a friendship that tests their values and established beliefs. Learning to tolerate each other and then to compromise, offers them a chance for something more when they reach the end of their journey—if they can survive the obstacles along the way.

Add your review of "Mad About The Hatter" in comments!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Perspective, Travel, and Barcelona's Pooping Christmas Creche Figurines

Hello 2017!

2016 had its challenges, but an end-of-year trip helped me change my perspective to determined, optimistic, and yes, allowing myself to have fun and laugh again.

It all started with a rather unique Christmas holiday tradition celebrated in Barcelona, Spain -- the Caganer figure. Basically, it's someone who has pulled their pants down and is taking a dump, and this someone is included in Catalan nativity scenes - There's the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and yes, a pooping person watching them.

And no, I'm not making this up. As the printed materials explain,

The "caganer" is a typical Catalan figure of the nativity scenes traditionally represented as a farmer with a typical Catalan hat, a red girdle and black pants. It is believed that, with their faeces [sic], these farmers fertilized the soil for the following year. This figure symbolizes luck and joy, and it is said that if you don't include it in the nativity scene it can bring misfortune. In fact, for many celebrities, it has become an honour to have their own "caganer" figure.
There are hundreds and hundreds of these figures, including Beethoven, C3PO (pooping a metal nut), and yes, even Donald Trump. Here's a photo of a Barcelona Christmas fair stall selling these caganer figures:

We had to buy one, if for no other reason than to have proof this was real.

A different perspective on Olaf - Caganer style

If there was ever a reminder to not take things too seriously, this was it!

So my thanks to Barcelona, and the privilege of being able to travel, and especially to one crazy-unexpected Christmas tradition for reminding me to:

lighten up 

see the opportunity in challenges (a pooping farmer isn't necessarily a slam-dunk commercial opportunity, but they merchandised the heck out of it!)

and know that luck and joy are right there for all of us... (and that the shit of last year can "fertilize the soil" for the year to come!)

Here's to a fertile, joyous, funny, determined, fighting-for-justice, and sharing-my-light year ahead!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,