Friday, September 8, 2017

A Secret From History, Two Books, And Breaking Barriers: Why (starting next week) you’ll be able to read my YA novel for free here on this blog

Next week is my ten-year blogging anniversary! I’ve highlighted hundred of books for kids and teens with LGBTQ characters and themes; I’ve shared my thoughts on culture and politics; I’ve explored how the history of men who loved men, women who loved women, and people who lived outside gender boundaries has been hidden; and I’ve amplified music and projects that envision a world where all differences are celebrated.

And together, we’ve created a vibrant tribe of LGBTQ young people, LGBTQ adults, and our Allies.

My vision:
Through it all I’ve been writing, with the vision that someday, I could include my books on this blog, too.

The Secret From History:
In 2011 I stumbled upon real-life letters (hidden in plain sight, in multiple sources) that a 30-something Abraham Lincoln wrote Joshua Fry Speed. Letters that, to my eyes, clearly reveal that Lincoln was in love, romantic love, with Speed.

As I dove into more and more research, I kept thinking about how it would have changed my life if I’d known about Abraham Lincoln being in love with another guy back when I was fifteen years old.

Two Books:
I wrote a YA novel, QUEER AS A FIVE-DOLLAR BILL, that grew from that inspiration. It’s the story of 15-year old Wyatt, who is bullied, and closeted, and desperate for a plan to survive high school. If only there was something that would make being gay in Lincolnville, Oregon no big deal. Working on his Abraham Lincoln book report, Wyatt discovers those same real historical letters, and they convince him that Lincoln was in love with another guy. Thinking it’s exactly what he wished for, Wyatt decides to out Lincoln in his online report. But things don’t go at all the way he expected…

I also wrote a nonfiction manuscript, THE QUEER HISTORY PROJECT: NO WAY, THEY WERE GAY? that focuses on the surprising – and true – stories of men who loved men, women who loved women, and people who lived outside gender boundaries throughout time and around our world. It is packed with primary sources, so young readers can listen to the voices of these people across time and decide for themselves what they think. Abraham Lincoln and his relationship with (and letters to) Joshua Fry Speed is one of the fifteen chapters.

The Dream:
After many, many revisions, both projects went out on submission.

Two years ago, my wonderful literary agent, Danielle Smith, sold the nonfiction book to one of the big five publishers. Publication was scheduled for this month, September 2017. All through 2016 the writing, revising, and editing was going great. In the fall we were talking cover design…

The Barriers:
Two weeks after Trump was elected, there was a phone call.

It takes a lot of courage to publish a book that you know is going to be controversial. And it turns out that big five publisher didn’t have the courage to publish my nonfiction book after all. We got the rights back in January 2017. It has not yet found a new publishing home.

The eighth draft of the novel, a product of an edit and Highlights Foundation mentoring by none other than National Book Award-winner M.T. Anderson, has been out on submission for a full year. It hasn’t yet found a publishing home, either.

Both books are ready. So what’s going on?

My wonderful agent and I both agree that the issue is fear. One editor even said, “I’m eager to be a customer for this book, even if I can’t be an editor.”

Breaking Barriers:
The best response to fear that I can think of is COURAGE.

In the 1950s, the artist Marcel Duchamp argued that “the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator… by deciphering and interpreting…adds his contribution to the creative act.”

And so what I’ve written – these two books – aren’t complete without readers reading them. These creative acts aren’t complete without you.

Waiting is no longer an option. Given the state of our country, our current leadership, and the anti-LGBTQ atmosphere that is directly impacting Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Questioning, and Queer youth, this truth – these books – can’t wait any longer.

I’m calling this experiment “No Barriers.”

As of now, it has three phases:

Phase 1:
Starting Friday Sept 15, 2017 (the actual 10-year anniversary of this blog), I will be serializing my YA novel QUEER AS A FIVE-DOLLAR BILL right here. For teens and everyone – for you – to read for free. For 34 weeks (33 chapters and an epilogue), I’ll post a new chapter every Friday.

It feels right to offer the book in a way that eliminates barriers to reading it, especially for those who still feel they have to comment anonymously here on this blog.

You'll be my readers, and I want to hear from you! Your thoughts, your reactions. And if anyone is moved to create #QueerAsAFiveDollarBill Fan Art for the chapters, I’ll share here and on Instagram.

I can’t wait for you to participate in the creative act of QUEER AS A FIVE-DOLLAR BILL!

Phase 2: **Revised as of September 21, 2017

In preparing for Phase 2, I'm getting all this great input and ideas, and some of them need more time. After all, the point isn't to rush. The point is to set this project up for success, so we can
•Empower LGBTQ and Allied teens to know this amazing history of a man who loved another man while shaping our country
•Empower them to question how history has been 'sanitized' to remove the queer parts of people's lives and loves
•Empower them to know there's a proud history of men who loved men (and women who loved women and people who lived outside gender boundaries), and to let that affirm their place in our world today, and give wings to their dreams for the future.

So for now, I'm aiming to run the crowd-funding campaign February 10-24, 2018. (February 12 is Lincoln's Birthday, and February 14 is Valentine's Day. Both dates play a large role in the book… And as a bonus, Monday February 19 is Presidents' Day!)

Stay tuned for more details, and keep reading! Thanks! **

On Friday Oct 20, 2017, the same day I post chapter 6, I will be launching a 29-day crowd-funding campaign to publish an exclusive signed and numbered hardcover edition of QUEER AS A FIVE-DOLLAR BILL. It won’t be available in stores, or online. It’s just for those fans who are willing to pitch in to help me make this manuscript a beautiful, physical book. Heck, it’s a page-turner, let’s have some actual pages to turn!

Details to come…

Phase 3:
Learn from Phase 1 and 2, and take steps to share the nonfiction book, THE QUEER HISTORY PROJECT: NO WAY, THEY WERE GAY?, with readers.

Me + You = Leveraging History To Change The World
All of this, as I said above, is an experiment.

Will my fiction engage you, my community?

Will this story of a teen discovering the true history of Abraham Lincoln loving another man make a difference in our world for the better?

Will the serialization and the crowd-funded hardcover edition help generate some viable publishing options to increase the impact of the book – both books – even more?

Can we take the blinders of prejudice off, and start seeing the true – and queer – loves and lives of people who shaped our world?

Can you and I, together, create a movement?

Join me. And now let’s collaborate to transform QUEER AS A FIVE-DOLLAR BILL from an unread manuscript into a complete creative act – one that’s not just inspired by history, but that makes history as well!

Click here to read the first two Chapters of Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill now.

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


Kathy Halsey said...

Yes, we can do this. I'm with you, Lee and am sharing this today! TY for your courage, brother. I am a n ally!

Tricia said...

Thank you for sharing this story. I'm disheartened reading about the journey to publication for these books, so I imagine it's been discouraging for you. I think you are brave and generous to take this next step. I can't wait to read what you'll be sharing.

emma d dryden said...

I am so excited for you, Lee, and for this plan of action. ACTION through words and story. I'm in!

Jensen girls said...

This is awesome. Not only an act of courage, but of pure selflessness and generosity. I can't wait to read along!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Lee! I'm thrilled Beyond thrilled! What a brilliant and brave thing you're doing! Thank you for being a person of Couragel, Commitment and Truth.Truth.

Amy Gerstin Coombs said...

An amazing and exciting adventure. Really, kind of brilliant. I am honored to come along. I will do everything I can to spread the word.

Charles Waters said...

Proud of you, Lee! Many congrats. WIND POWER!!!!

Shannon Hitchcock said...

I'll be reading and sharing. So sorry you've had such difficulties. Abraham Lincoln--I'm definitely intrigued!

Penguin said...

Your courage and creativity is truly inspiring!! You are loved and supported in this community! Go, you!! --Salina

Kris Dinnison said...

So great to hear you are putting this out there, even if the publishing world doesn't have the courage to do so. Congrats!

Sarah Stevenson said...

Lee, as always, you are a treasure. I am sorry about the tribulations along the way, but I am also sorry that the publishers who are out there don't have the courage and heart that you do. I will definitely help spread the word, and I look forward to reading your serial! I've always got your back. Love and hugs.

Deborah Underwood said...

Very exciting, Lee! Good on you. We're with you! Can't wait to read the book.

Frances Sackett said...

I can't wait to read it, Lee! I'm so glad you've found a way to get this novel into the world!

Darshana said...

I'm so excited to hear you are moving forward with these books despite the barriers. You are so full of courage. Hats off to you. May you serve as an inspiration for others. Wishing you all the best. Can't wait to read your wonderful words.

Miranda said...

This takes courage, Lee. Full steam ahead! Good for you and can't wait to read it. Congratulations on your 10 year blogging anniversary too. That takes a lot of dedication and speaks volumes about who you are. Big hugs, Miranda

tanita✿davis said...

Lee, Sarah just clued me in on what's going on. Know that we will spread the word far and wide -- this book WILL be read.

And our hearts are with you. I am SO sorry about this. And really pretty peeved, but I'll save that for action. ♥

Tracy Barrett said...

So proud of you, Lee! Can't wait to read the book.

Diane Mayr said...

I'll be spreading the word in New Hampshire. Know you have supporters who are not afraid of the truth. All the best!

Melissa said...

So excited to read the whole novel! Best of luck in this endeavor.

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

Lee - I'm so excited to read this! COURAGE indeed! e

Heidi Ayarbe said...

I can't wait to read this and spread the word. You are an inspiration. This story IS SO IMPORTANT. Thank you for your courage!

Linda B said...

I'm glad to read your post and your plans, sad to hear about the publishers' decisions now, after so much has already been published for YA and loved! Good for you for moving ahead! I'll read, enjoy & share!

Laurie Thompson said...

I'll be supporting you every step of the way. Go, Lee!

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Thank you, everyone. Your support and kind words mean so much to me -- and the very thought that you'll be reading my story -- that this book will finally have READERS, will finally start to make an impact for the good on individuals, and maybe even our world -- is heady and wonderful. Grateful...

Unknown said...

I'm in Lee! With bells. Let me know ALL that I can do to help.

Courage! And luck!

Winter Hansen said...

Bravo! So exciting, Lee! I can't wait to read these manuscripts.

Unknown said...

I am sorry for the setbacks and disappointments, Lee - and awed by the courage and resilience you are modeling for all of us. What gifts you bestow! Can't wait to read and share both books! Much love.

Ruth McNally Barshaw said...

Hugs and best wishes, Lee. I will help you get the word out. <3

Angie said...

Awesome project, Lee. Sucks that it's necessary, but unfortunately I'm not surprised. :/ Best of luck doing it yourself.


Unknown said...

What a brilliant work-around! This is what it takes to break barriers. I look forward to reading and supporting!

Rita said...

Wow. Lee. WOW. This is Huge!!
I love you so much.
I can't wait to see these books out in the world!!! Go, go, go! ❤️❣️

Vivian Kirkfield said...

You are a role model for courage and tenacity, Lee! Well done...and Congratulations!

Unknown said...

Is very interesting, cant wait to start reading!

Jane Yolen said...

I've been following the story of your two books forever, Lee, (or so it feels) and want to apologize on behalf of all children's publishing world for the shameful treatment you've received.

That said, I'm ready to read when you start rolling out the pages.


Unknown said...

Hey Lee, can you set up a quick link so we can post the weekly chapters on social media (Twitter, FB, etc.)?

Good luck, I'm so excited for you!

fairyhedgehog said...

I'm appalled.

How the publishers could pull back at the last moment like that...

Well, good for you for taking matters into your own hands.

Patricia Buckley said...

I was reading about Lincoln not too long ago and came across an article about his relationship with Fry and it was so obvious that Lincoln was gay (or at least bi). Love that this story is finally being told. Go Lee!

Unknown said...

A great solution to an unfortunate situation! I am looking forward to reading your fiction. I am sure it will be remarkable!

ivanova said...

Hi Lee, I was sorry to hear about the... let's just say unskillful response from the publishing industry. Especially after you have done so much work promoting the message that kid lit editors are eager to read and publish manuscripts with LGBTQ themes. But I think your plan is terrific and just the right response, and I can't wait to read your work!
Nora Olsen

Unknown said...

First, I'm sorry it's taken me until your bday to find this wonderful project on your blog. I have had similar frustrations on my publishing journey. I applaud your ability to think outside the box and to serialize the story. Even though I'm behind, I can't wait to dig into "Queer as a Five Dollar Bill." I'd LOVE a hard copy and look forward to the crowdsourcing campaign. Let me know if you'd like to have a date on my blog. -Anna

The Wizard of 'OZ' said...

Lee this is a wonderful book that needs to be read. Good luck!