Friday, June 29, 2018

Repost: "It's Taxing. A Eulogy for Two: The Loss of Los Angeles' Gay Bookstore "A Different Light," and a dream... And how to SAVE Independent Bookstores!"

This post originally ran on this blog on Wednesday April 15, 2009. I share it here because I just did my first-ever signing of my debut novel, Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill, at ALA 2018 for librarians who either knew about my book from this blog and social media or were drawn to the large Gay Pride Rainbow Flag I had draped over the signing table at IBPA's booth. My very first book signing. A dream that finally happened (okay, it was ARC copies that I was giving away to librarians, but it was my first taste of this particular part of my dream coming true...)

And then, serendipitously, I stumbled upon this post from more than nine years ago, and I thought it was poignant, and important, and worth sharing again.


Los Angeles' "A Different Light" Bookstore, 2 weeks ago.

The sign in the window...

Los Angeles' Gay bookstore, "A Different Light," is dying. It is, in fact, already dead as an institution, and were the cliched machines of soap opera hospitals hooked up to monitor the store's heartbeat and breathing, we'd all hear a loud steady beeeeeeeeeep. No signal.


This makes me so sad.

As with any death, there are stages of grief to go through. There are questions to be asked. And a future to look forward to, armed with lessons hopefully learned and hope restored.

I'm sad. Angry. Disappointed.

Why couldn't the second largest city in the USA keep a single bookstore serving the Gay (GLBTQ) community vibrant and financially viable? Was there anything that could have been done to save it? Is there any hope for the remaining independent bookstores?

I feel the loss.

I think the biggest loss is for our community. A Different Light was one of the few places to go in West Hollywood and congregate that wasn't about drinking or dancing. It was a destination, and its loss further polarizes our community in this gigantic sprawling metropolis. How many places really cater to the whole GLBTQ community, and not just a specific letter of our alphabet soup?

For me personally, it's the loss of a dream. I've been to readings at the store (Like this amazing one I saw Alex Sanchez do), and I had always envisioned having my turn to do an author signing and reading from my book there. I'm sure, when my time comes, there will be SOME bookstores and places out there who would be enthusiastic about my doing an author signing and reading, but I'm sad that my local gay bookstore won't be around anymore for that milestone in my career.

What could have been done?

I wish, as opposed to the store leaning more and more heavily on the adult sexually oriented material, that it had taken a different tack into the prevailing winds. (Interestingly, I could never link to their website to send you, my readers, their way to buy the books I'm talking about because their site is so completely adult and sexually-oriented.) What if they had offered internet access and charged a small fee for it? Make it a cafe/bookstore? Hosted writing groups, and book clubs and events (like open mike nights) beyond the ones they had - truly make themselves a social and community gathering spot? Might they have been able to have classes there (they had a greeting card moment, they could have taught how to make your own cards, or hosted a class on blogging) - it was a great, safe environment to meet other GLBTQ people and our Allies and I wish they had been able to capitalize on that more. They could have stayed open past the clubs, become a 24 hour a day HUB of community and ideas. Poetry slams, Beatnik revivals, a calendar of events that would approach community building not like the non-profit Gay and Lesbian Community Center, but in a leaner, swifter, more dynamic and responsive style. A vision for a new kind of bookstore.

"A Different Light" did do some things right - they had funny t-shirts, fun music playing, and the store DID function for a time as an alternative gathering space - at one point even staying open until 11pm. But the overall vision didn't materialize.

And here's the bottom line, and why I'm blogging about this today, TAX day:

They couldn't make enough money to stay in business.

What A Different Light and many of the remaining, struggling independent bookstores are doing wrong is that they are trying to ignore the changing landscape of bookselling. They're trying to pretend that Amazon and other online ways for people to get most of the same books for less money and more conveniently delivered to their homes doesn't exist, or will go away...

Independent bookstores need to think about how they can make coming to their stores SO VALUABLE that the experience CAN'T be replaced by clicking a mouse.

It's all about the experience - now that purchasing the book has become a commodity, available at the lowest cost, the EXPERIENCE of the book - of hearing about it, listening to it read by the author, seeing the other books on the shelf next to it, buying it, reading it, discussing it in a group with others who have read it, talking about the issues it brings up, getting to know about the story behind the story, getting other recommendations for amazing books from people that are experts in what they carry... all of that becomes King.

But with no experience, A Different Light became just a few bare shelves, a handful of books on each one.

And I found myself walking in. Silently walking the large circle of the store. And walking out again. I hadn't purchased anything. Even though I saw one or two titles I've been meaning to read. It was just too sad. Too overwhelming.

In it's final clearance sale, A Different Light betrayed the very thing that might have saved it earlier. It commodified everything it was selling. And there was no sense of community.

I'm so sad at it's passing.

But I'm also hopeful that some kind of new renaissance of community spirit, of gathering around literature and books, can rise again. Maybe in coffeeshops like LA's Literati, or maybe here on the internet in some kind of virtual GSA meeting space, or somewhere real or virtual or both that I've yet to discover.

But I think there's a power in gathering around ideas, around stories. An undeniable power of experience, internalized and shared.

We had it around stone-age fires, long ago.

We used to have it in local and independent bookstores.

I wonder where it will go next. For as fantastic as the blogosphere and the internet are, there's no replacing BEING somewhere in person - meeting others who share your passions and affiliations, and witnessing these stories as a community.

So today, as we send in taxes, I offer this Eulogy for what's past. A store. A dream.

And I acknowledge a sense of Hope for what's to come. Stories will always be with us. And we, as humans, will always want to share those stories.

And someday, I'll have my reading and author signing at some great location - maybe a library. And I'll think about "A Different Light" in West Hollywood. And the reading that never happened there. And I know that moment, as much as I've dreamed of it, will hold a piece of this lost dream. A bittersweetness that will travel through time. The dream that can't come true anymore in exactly the way I'd envisioned.

But it will come true.

Thanks for letting me share.


Happily, the state of Indie Bookstores is better today than when I wrote this - they've been expanding in number over the past 2-3 years. (Also, there's no more Borders.)  And it does seem that the Indie bookstores that are thriving have embraced their community hub roles. But I still miss having an LGBTQ bookstore in my city. It would have been so cool to have a reading and signing event at one.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

As I Descended - Two Teen Girls In Love, Another Girl In Their Way... "a modern day retelling of Macbeth"

As I Descended by Robin Talley

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.

Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.

Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.

Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.

But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

The quote "a modern day retelling of Macbeth" is from the write-up on As I Descended in the June 2018 issue of VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) Magazine, in their feature "Queer Fiction for Young Adult Readers" by Natalie Dwigans.

Add your review of "As I Descended" in comments!

Monday, June 25, 2018

My ALA Annual Conference 2018 #ALAAC2018

I love librarians!

Clark Kent job: from this

To this
and this.

Superhero job: first book signed for a teen reader (!)
Signing "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" for Alex Gino, the very first person in line! (Alex wrote the amazing "George" and I'm a huge fan!)
Me signing ARCs of my book for librarians!
And more librarians...
and more librarians...
Librarians, who will hopefully love the book and buy copies to share with their teen and adult patrons!

Meeting Eti Berland, the librarian who tweeted about my signing the day before, saying "This is super happy making news! Just listened to Children's Book podcast w/ @MatthewWinner and I can't wait to read Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill and more importantly, share it with young ppl at my library! #aalac18"

And the capper was Saturday night's award ceremony where I got to cheer on my friend Jacqueline Woodson as she accepted the American Library Association ALSC Children’s Literature Legacy Award!

So many wonderful people met, so many great conversations had with friends existing and new, so much new knowledge to process and learn and move forward with on the adventure ahead... But first, one more day of repping all 200 Indie Books in the IBPA booth (3548.)

Thank you all!

And thanks for checking out this blog post about my #alaac18 experience!

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

Friday, June 22, 2018

My Ignite Session Video from IBPA's Publishing University 2018 - The story of my coming out, writing my novel, and publishing... all in 5 minutes!

It was like a game. Five minutes. Twenty slides, automatically advancing every fifteen seconds. Tell a story, on the theme, "mistakes were made."

Here's mine:


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

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Meet me at ALA 2018!

The American Library Association's annual conference is in New Orleans, starting this Friday June 22 and running through Monday June 25, 2018.

I'll be there with IBPA (The Independent Book Publishers Association) in booth #3548. The booth will feature a cooperative book display with over 200 titles from IBPA's independent publisher members. We'll also have a book signing area, where our indie publisher members can bring their authors to sign and give away Advanced Reader Copies of their books to the attending librarians. It's a great opportunity for both authors and librarians to meet, and generates a lot of excitement about the books!

I'll be helping in the booth with all the other publisher signings, and (imaginary drumroll, please...) I'll also be signing ARCs of Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill!

The first 30 librarians in line on Saturday June 23rd at 4:30pm will get a free, signed Advanced Reader Copy of Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill, and I'll get to meet you!

If you're swinging by the booth outside that 4:30pm-5pm Saturday time slot, I'd still love to meet you, and I'll be happy to share one of my new Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill bookmarks!

Most of all, librarians are awesome, and I'm delighted to once again attend ALA - especially with ARCs of my debut novel!

Hope to see you in New Orleans...

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

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Quick And Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns - A queer language reference comic

A Quick And Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns by Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson

Archie, a snarky genderqueer artist, is tired of people not understanding gender neutral pronouns. Tristan, a cisgender dude, is looking for an easy way to introduce gender neutral pronouns to his increasingly diverse workplace. The longtime best friends team up in this short and fun comic guide that explains what pronouns are, why they matter, and how to use them. They also include what to do if you make a mistake, and some tips-and-tricks for those who identify outside of the binary to keep themselves safe in this binary-centric world. A quick and easy resource for people who use they/them pronouns, and people who want to learn more!

This guide is simple and really useful.

Covering how it feels to be misgendered, how we're all going to make mistakes occasionally, and offering some examples of how to integrate this pronoun knowledge into regular life, this guide is a great introduction for cis-gendered folks, and also, I imagine, really affiriming for those who use gender-neutral pronouns, and identify as gender queer, gender fluid, trans, or queer.

Some interior panels, from the review copy supplied to me by Oni Press:

Add your review of "A Quick And Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns" in comments!

Friday, June 15, 2018

My article, "Find Your Tribe," is published in InD'Tale Magazine

The magazine cover

I'm really happy with this article in InD'Tale Magazine, a digital magazine that started focused on romance titles and has grown from there, whose mission is to help their readers "find the BEST books and authors in the world."

The article, "Find Your Tribe," is for authors, for publishers, and for readers, and I'm delighted to share what I've learned from wearing so many hats; my blogger hat, my author hat, and my director of marketing and programming for the Independent Book Publishers Association hat!

You can read the piece on pages 28-30 of the magazine, which is available for free here: 

Me, top left of the Contributor Page

The first page of my article!

There's lots more articles and book reviews in the magazine - you can subscribe (for free) here.

My thanks to InD'Tale's publisher, TJ Mackay, for the opportunity.

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Texas town elects openly Gay Bruno “Ralphy” Lozano their mayor

I thought this news from last month was really cool.

“Stonewall happened because drag queens and a minority group stood up to animosity, and I had to go back in the closet [while in the Air Force] because of that same hatred,” [Bruno] told “I know what that was like, and it translates to today’s campaign. I’m not going to bow down. I am who I am. Accept me or not.”

The headline angle on how Bruno likes wearing heels felt sensationalized (the old stereotype that all gay men want to dress like/be women), but maybe that's my internalized sense of things being homophobic (and some internalized homophobia, too.) — maybe there's a generational shift happening here, and it's just a shrug - oh, he wore high heels to a Veterans Day parade. (Which, as a Veteran, is a pretty nice way of protesting the military's old "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.)

Bottom line: the fact that Bruno was elected by his small Texas town is a moment of hope, and pride.

And, just because it's such good, happy news, here's a smiling photo of Mayor Lozano:

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

Monday, June 11, 2018

Running With Lions - A Gay Teen Soccer Team Romance

Running with Lions by Julian Winters

Bloomington High School Lions' star goalie Sebastian Hughes should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing, and he's got a coach who doesn't ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood-best-friend Emir Shah shows up at summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team's success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir's trust. But to Sebastian's surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town's streets, and bonding on the weekends spark more than just friendship between them.

Check out this piece on outsports where the book's author writes about how Robbie Rogers, the pro soccer player who came out as gay in 2013, inspired him to write this, his debut novel. 

Add your review of "Running with Lions" in comments!

Friday, June 8, 2018

A great web comic on the Gay Revolutionary War general, Von Steuben

Josh Trujillo and Levi Hastings created this awesome web comic about Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand Steuben. Check it out at The Nib here!

There's so much to love about this true story from history that usually doesn't get taught... but it is, now!

two glimpses of the story:

Go read the whole thing here!

I'm also happy to share that there's a Von Steuben moment in my own YA novel, "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill," and I'm thrilled that the true story of this Gay Revolutionary War General is also being told by Josh and Levi, and getting out in the world!

Knowing our LGBTQ history is empowering, for us all.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

"Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" is featured in Publishers Weekly!

I'm thrilled to share that in the May 28, 2018 edition of Publishers Weekly, in an editorial feature on LGBTQ Publishing, twelve teen titles releasing in 2018 were featured, including my debut YA novel!

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill in Publishers Weekly

The three-page piece is called "Reading List: Select 2018 Books with LGBTQ themes," and it was compiled by Carolyn Juris and Emma Kantor.

It reads:

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill
Lee Wind. Oct. Ages 14-up.
Wind, who blogs at I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?, raised $15,000 on Kickstarter to publish his debut novel, about a gay teen in a conservative town who discovers a historical secret: Abraham Lincoln was in love with another man.

And you, and the over 68,000 booksellers, publishers, public and academic librarians, wholesalers, distributors, educators, agents and writers who read each issue of PW, will find Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill right there on page 38, between Pulp by Robin Talley and Someday by David Levithan.

My book certainly has some nice company!

And here's a screen shot from the online version of the article, showing the book cover, too:

Find out more about Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill here.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Sewing The Rainbow - the story of the man who designed the Gay Pride Rainbow Flag: A Picture Book I Wish Had Been Read To Me When I Was A Little Kid

Sewing the Rainbow: The Story of Gilbert Baker and the Rainbow Flag by Gayle E. Pitman, Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

I'm a big fan of this sparkling picture book, that tells us about Gilbert's journey: from a childhood in a small, gray town in Kansas where he didn't fit in, to not fitting in while in the colorless military, to moving to San Francisco and finally being his authentic, sparkling self, creating an artistic career and life... and coming up with the iconic Gay Pride Rainbow Flag!

Today the Gay Pride Rainbow Flag that Gilbert designed is everywhere, even in the small town in Kansas where he grew up.

The kid-friendly message: This book shows that when you see a rainbow flag, you'll know it's okay to be your colorful self.

Here's a peek at the interior pages:

It's fun to see another picture book about our LGBTQ community's flag, and while Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag tells part of this same story, Sewing the Rainbow: The Story of Gilbert Baker and the Rainbow Flag is just as essential: History is only understood when we hear multiple voices and view it from multiple perspectives.

Includes a "Note to Parents and Caregivers" with more about Gilbert and the flag's history.

It's a perfect book to share with kids about LGBTQ pride, and absolutely a picture book I wish had been read to me when I was a little kid.

Add your review of "Sewing the Rainbow: The Story of Gilbert Baker and the Rainbow Flag" in comments!

Friday, June 1, 2018

18 Days - A Romantic Comedy Where a Teen Boy (Who Already Has a Girlfriend) Falls in Love With Another Boy

18 Days by Cory Blystone

Chad meets Joel. It's practically love at first sight. The only problem? Chad is dating Nikki, his girlfriend of two-and-a-half years.


What's a boy to do when he's in love with another boy but doesn't want to break his girlfriend's heart?

Follow Chad Walker's life after it is turned upside down on the first day of school his senior year at Ravenwood High. Over the next eighteen days, everything changes for this small town boy as he discovers himself, realizing that honesty is not always the easiest choice...

Add your review of "18 Days" in comments!