Monday, May 20, 2019

An Interview with Lisa Bunker, Author of Queer Teen Novel "Zenobia July," Which Comes Out Tomorrow!

Here's my interview with Lisa, on the eve of her second book being published!

Lee: Congratulations on the new book - tell us about Zenobia July.

Lisa: Zenobia July is a teenage trans girl with genius-level coder/hacker skills and a troubled past who has moved to Portland, Maine to live with her cool Lesbian aunties after the death of her last surviving parent. As our story opens she is about to start a new school year, attending for the first time as the girl she has always known herself to be. She makes friends, but also tangles with the school’s queen bee and a cyber-rival. Then, when someone hacks the school’s website, posting hateful memes, she knows she can help, but struggles to decide whether it is worth the risk of increased attention.

Lee: Why that title?

Lisa: One of the funnest parts of gender transition is getting to choose a new name. Zen wanted to pick something really unusual and interesting. She chose “Zenobia” because it starts with Z and ends with A – an alphabetical depiction of going to back to the beginning and starting over. “July” is the month she changed her name. Also, there’s a character in the book who cares a lot about words or combinations of words with no repeat letters, so I needed a name for Zen that fit that.

Lee: How much of the main character is you?

Lisa: Not all that much, actually. I didn’t transition until my 40’s. Zen came to life in my mind after the death by suicide in 2014 of Leelah Alcorn, a trans girl in Ohio. Leelah left behind an eloquent note on Tumblr, asking the world to make sure her death meant something. So I started thinking, what did Leelah need that she didn’t have to survive her life? And that’s how Zen started to take shape. Where Zen and I overlap is in the often surreal experience of switching genders in the world – all the odd little ways gender pops up all the time. 

Lee: Your debut novel, Felix Yz came out two years ago. What’s different this time around?

Lisa: Felix is gay, but his identity is more incidental to his story than Zen’s, whose struggle to navigate middle school while living as a girl for the first time is one of the main threads of her book. Also, Felix was in first person, with a strong feature for his quirky voice – the book takes the form of his secret blog. Zen is close third person, so the narrative style is markedly different. And in Felix I included lots of LGBTQ characters as a kind of writerly lark. This time, it’s very much on purpose, as I seek to depict the power of queer community and family of choice to save lives. 

Lee: Is there a vision of Zenobia July being the first of a series? (The solves cyber crimes makes me think, perhaps…)

Lisa: Yes! Zen is my entry into the super-sleuth canon. I’ve always wanted to write a Sherlock Holmes-style character. It’s just that my Holmes is a teenage trans girl, and she does her genius detecting in cyberspace, not in the real world. This book is her origin story, in which she meets Arli, the character who will become her Watson. I hope to write many more Zen books.

Lee: Sounds so fun! What do you hope readers get from reading your latest?

Lisa: Reading pleasure, of course! Beyond that, though, I hope to add to the growing body of nuanced fictional portraits of trans people. I want to increase the world’s understanding of the trans experience, and I want to show that non-binary folk are just regular humans, with strengths and weaknesses, but as worthy to love and be loved as anyone else.

Lee: Awesome! Anything else you’d like to share?

Lisa: I’ve been thinking a lot about what I call “post-binary narrative,” by which I mean a couple things. The obvious first layer is story focused on queer characters, foregrounding them and digging into the details of their experiences living outside the imposed binaries of gender and sexuality, which are still so strong. But I’m also interested in avoiding what I see as pitfalls of a too-binary approach to storytelling, with Heroes and Villains. There are some transphobic characters in the story, but I’ve taken care to depict them as human too, with their own reasons for what they do. 

Thanks for taking the time to tell us about Zenobia July, Lisa!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature - A Teen Girl's Kindness To A Gay Student Has Her Ostracized by Her Church and Family... And She Has To Decide: What Kind of Person Does She Want To Be

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande

Your best friend hates you. The guy you liked hates you. Your entire group of friends hates you.
All because you did the right thing. [Apologizing for the role you, your family, and church had in harassing a gay student at your school.]
Welcome to life for Mena, whose year is starting off in the worst way possible. She's been kicked out of her church group and no one will talk to her--not even her own parents. No one except for Casey, her supersmart lab partner in science class, who's pretty funny for the most brilliant guy on earth.
And when Ms. Shepherd begins the unit on evolution, school becomes more dramatic than Mena could ever imagine . . . and her own life is about to evolve in some amazing and unexpected ways.

Add your review of "Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature" in comments!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

My Two Moms and Me - A Board Book I Wish Had Been Read To Me When I Was a Little Kid

My Two Moms and Me By Michael Joosten, Illustrated by Izak Zenou

“Families with same-sex parents are celebrated in this board book that follows busy moms and their kids throughout their day—eating breakfast, going on a playdate, heading to the pool for a swim, and settling back in at night with a bedtime story and a good-night lullaby. LGBTQ+ parents and their friends and families will welcome this inclusive and cheerful book that reflects their own lives and family makeup.”

A wonderful board book that's all about different two-mom families going through their day with a little one.

The illustrations by fashion illustrator Izak Zenou feel both modern and timeless.

Showing all these loving two mom families makes this a much-needed, and sure to be much-loved, book.

Add your review of “My Two Moms and Me” in comments!

Monday, May 13, 2019

My Two Dads and Me - A Board Book I Wish Had Been Read To Me When I Was a Little Kid (and I wish my husband and I had had to read to our daughter!)

My Two Dads and Me by Michael Joosten, Illustrated by Izak Zenou

“Families with same-sex parents are celebrated in this board book that follows busy dads and their kids throughout their day—eating breakfast, getting dressed, heading out to the park, and settling back in at night with a bubble bath and a good-night lullaby. LGBTQ+ parents and their friends and families will welcome this inclusive and cheerful book that reflects their own lives and family makeup.”

I love this book - the decision to not follow just one family with two dads but to make each page turn feature a new family with a different child who has two dads was spot-on.

Helping—as much as a single board book can—fill the nearly empty shelf where board books for families like mine can find themselves.

And the illustrations, by fashion illustrator Izak, are beautifully rendered, giving the book a timeless quality that will keep it a go-to for years and years to come.

Bravo, Michael and Izak!

Add your review of “My Two Dads and Me” in comments!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus - 65 Powerful Photographs Of and Words From Queer Youth

Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus, photographed by Rachelle Lee Smith, featuring the teens' own words.

"A photographic essay that collectively explores a wide spectrum of experiences told from the perspective of a diverse group of youth ages 14 to 24 identifying as queer (i.e., lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning). Portraits are presented without judgment and/or stereotype by eliminating environmental influence with a stark white backdrop. This backdrop acts as a blank canvas to be filled with the each subject’s point of view handwritten onto the final print. With more than 65 portraits photographed over a period of ten years beginning 2001, Speaking OUT provides a rare insight into the ever evolving passions, confusions, prejudices, fulfillment, joys, and sorrows voiced by queer youth."

In the words of Rachel Lee Smith, the photographer and driving force behind this book, "I believe there is strength in numbers, power in words, and freedom in art and I strive to raise awareness with this work."

Add your review of "Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus" in comments!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution - Our Queer Heroine Returns, Struggling To Find Her Voice, Her Place, and Deal With the Loss of Her Sister

Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Sophomore year has just begun, and Angie is miserable. Her girlfriend, KC, has moved away; her good friend, Jake, is keeping his distance; and the resident bully has ramped up an increasingly vicious and targeted campaign to humiliate her. An over-the-top statue dedication planned for her sister, who died in Iraq, is almost too much to bear, and it doesn’t help that her mother has placed a symbolic empty urn on their mantel. At the ceremony, a soldier hands Angie a final letter from her sister, including a list of places she wanted the two of them to visit when she got home from the war. With her mother threatening to send Angie to a “treatment center” and the situation at school becoming violent, Angie enlists the help of her estranged childhood friend, Jamboree. Along with a few other outsiders, they pack into an RV and head across the state on the road trip Angie’s sister did not live to take. It might be just what Angie needs to find a way to let her sister go, and find herself in the process.

Add your review of "Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution" in comments!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Highlights and Inspiration from the Bay Area Book Festival 2019

What a weekend!

I got to be on a panel, moderate a panel, and be a contestant on a Young Adult edition of Literary Death Match!

It was two days full of wonderful people, kid lit folks and readers, and inspiration. Here are some of the moments still resonating for me:

When a book is well-written, everyone can identify with the main character. —Tania De Regil

Stumbling on my own photo in the printed festival program!

The theme of creating books we didn't have for ourselves for this new generation - from my own story about "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill", to my wonderful co-panelist Cindy Pon, whose all-Asian casts continue to be groundbreaking (and such good reads — I loved "WANT"!

The wonderful Mina Witteman, who organized the wonderful children and teen programming.

The theme rising again in the panel I moderated, with amazing panelists Atia Abawi and her refugee story, "A Land of Permanent Goodbyes", to e.E. Charlton-Trujillo's "Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution" (the second book in what's going to be a trilogy!)

A whimsical "forest" for the youngest readers

And that very same theme echoed in the words of Mylo Freeman, who told the story of how, ten years ago, a teacher told her about a young black student who refused to play a princess in the class play because she thought a princess couldn't look like her. That inspired her to create the best-selling “Princess Arabella” series—for which she's now writing book 14!

An exuberant performance melding rap, history, and young people's empowerment by the Alphabet Rockers

The kindness of our children's literature community. I loved how for the "Seasons, Sounds and Sandwiches" panel, Picture Book authors Meg Fleming, Tim McCanna, and Alice McGinty held the microphone for each other as they read sections from their picture books. It was such a kind and selfless moment, a "here, let me help you tell the audience about your book" generosity, that made me so happy.

What a hoot! My fellow Literary Death Match co-stars, (left to right): Gordon Jack, Zoraida Córdova, our brilliant and hysterical host Adrian Todd Zuniga, me (!), and Cindy Pon.

How my panel with Cindy Pon was moderated by a teen reader, Riya Kataria, a high school junior who had read both of our books and did a wonderful job! (And how great is a teen book festival event that centers teens? Super-Great!)

My panel with Cindy Pon and the wonderful teen moderator, Riya!

The faith that our books make a difference. As Alice said on the motivation for her "Pancakes to Parathas: Breakfast Around the World" picturebook, "I wanted to make the world feel smaller."

Kid Lit friends Alice McGinty (left) and Meg Fleming

And most of all the super-engaged audience of readers!

I'm very grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of the Bay Area Book Festival 2019. Thanks to Mina and all the festival organizers!

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

Friday, May 3, 2019

Come See Me Tomorrow at the Bay Area Book Festival on May 5, 2019

I'll be in conversation with Cindy Pon,

Someone Like Me: Seeing Ourselves in the Books We Read
Saturday, May 4, 12:45 PM, Florence Schwimley Little Theater
Cindy Pon, Lee Wind, moderated by Riya Kataria

When you open a book, do you see yourself in its pages? Do the characters look or think like you? Cindy Pon fought hard to publish one of the first Young Adult fantasy novels with an Asian protagonist on the U.S. market. Lee Wind’s queer history book was canceled by the publisher for being too controversial, but he found a way to publish it anyway. The two dig into why kids (and adults) need diverse characters and how they fight against the bias and blindspots of the publishing world.

and in friendly competition with Cindy, Zoraida Córdova, and Gordon Jack as part of the festival's YA Literary Death Match!

Literary Death Match
Saturday, May 4, 2:30 PM, Word Power Stage
Zoraida Córdova, Gordon Jack, Cindy Pon, Lee Wind, hosted by Adrian Todd Zuniga

Four authors. Three (teen) judges. Two finalists. One Champion (and all kinds of hilarity in between). Watch these young adult writers perform their most electric writing in five minutes or less as they compete for the coveted Literary Death Match crown. Hosted by series co-creator Adrian Todd Zuniga
**UPDATE as of 3pm Friday, May 3, 2019**

And as a last-minute replacement, I'll also be moderating the YA panel, "War Zone: Coming of Age in Times of Conflict."

War Zone: Coming of Age in Times of Conflict
Atia Abawi, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, moderated by Lee Wind
Sunday, May 5, 2:15 PM - 3:30 PM, Florence Schwimley Little Theater

What do you do when your world is suddenly turned upside down? Growing up is hard enough, but these teen protagonists must cope with loss and navigate violence completely out of their control. Atia Abawi’s “A Land of Permanent Goodbyes” follows Tareq, a kid forced to flee his home in war torn Syria. e.E. Charlton-Trujillo’s “Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution” features Angie, a high school sophomore mourning the death of her sister in Iraq. The three writers will discuss how they write about teenage trauma and resilience, and why these tough-to-write stories are so valuable to readers who need to find hope within their pages.

You can see the full Festival schedule here.

I'm grateful to Mina Witteman and the other festival organizers, and excited to meet young readers at the festival!

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


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Another Homophobic Politician Caught Being "Secretly" Gay

Former Rep. Aaron Schock, Republican- Illinois, who

"During his tenure in Congress, the 37-year-old Schock voted against the repeal of "don’t ask, don’t tell" and voted in favor of adding a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. He received a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign for his voting record."

The same Aaron Schock was caught kissing and groping another man on the dance floor at last month's Coachella music festival. It's been on twitter, and facebook, and has been picked up by a few news outlets, including the Washington Examiner article quoted above.

I'm glad people like James (whose facebook post, above, was picked up by the media) called Aaron out on this - if you've actively done harm to the LGBTQ community, you don't get to be 'secretly' queer.

As (now) openly gay politician Barney Frank said,

“...the right to privacy does not include hypocrisy.”

While a news story, this doesn't feel new. Go back to 1979 and you have Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, both leaders of the Christian "ex-gay" conversion group known as Exodus, who left the group to be in a gay relationship with each other. Yup, you read that right. Anti-gay leaders who fell in love with each other...

I think we've gotten to the point where politicians and people who protest too much about other people being queer might be presumed to be queer themselves—otherwise why would they care so much about who other people fall in love with?

Yet, at the same time, it's no great boon to the queer community to have to claim folks who have actively worked against our freedoms as one of our own.

Certainly a point of reference the next time someone's being a real homophobe.

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

Monday, April 29, 2019

Middle Grade Author K.A. Holt Speaks Up About the "Soft Censorship" She's Experienced Being an Out Queer Author

This article by Kari Anne (K.A.) Holt, Now You See Me, Now You Don't, from the April 25, 2019 edition of Publishers Weekly, really resonated.

Especially this part:

“In fact, when I visit schools I do everything a straight author does, except for three things:

1. I’m a lady and I say “my wife” when asked about my spouse.
2, I give every LGBTQ+ kid in the audience a flesh and blood example of an LGBTQ+ person who isn’t on TV, who isn’t a stereotype, who is proud and confident, who is a human just like everyone else.
3. I give every non-LGBTQ+ kid in the audience a flesh and blood example of an LGBTQ+ person who isn’t on TV, who isn’t a stereotype, who is proud and confident, who is a human just like everyone else.

It might not seem like much, but I can tell you, for some kids this is everything. We don’t always know which kids these are, but they are there. Trust me.”
So much of my experience in visiting schools feels like my presence as an out gay man, invited by the school to speak to the students, is 90% of the impact of my being there. (Though I work hard on the 10% of what I'm speaking about!)

And Kari Anne's experience with only getting to speak to a handful of students at that one middle school is so upsetting, because we know those students heard that message from the school's administration and teachers loud and clear - that Kari Anne, because she is a lesbian, wasn't worthy of being honored with speaking to the whole school. Wasn't approved to speak to all the students. That message to the LGBTQ kids at that school is chilling. And the message to the non-LGBTQ kids at that school contributes to a society where homophobia and prejudice in general is on the rise.

We need to stand together against this kind of “soft censorship.” Calling these moments out when they happen is a key part of that. It's very brave of Kari Anne to speak up about her experience, and I hope the light on this helps make things better moving forward!

Go read the full article here.

and learn more about Kari Anne Holt, and her books, at her website here.

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

Friday, April 26, 2019

Mr. Yingling Reads reviews "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" and calls it a MUST-PURCHASE for high school, middle school, and public libraries everywhere!

This is awesome!

moments of the review by this acclaimed middle grade librarian blogger that are awesome:

"I am always looking for LGBTQIA+ books that don't involve drinking or high school level romance, and this is perfect. Bonus points for having a mystery plot that is not about Wyatt's coming out!"


"The historical notes on the actual letters of Lincoln and Speed are complete, and it would be interesting to have a nonfiction book on this topic."


"This is a must purchase for high school, middle school, and public libraries everywhere!"

and of course,

"What I really think: Definitely purchasing..."

Check out the full review here.

Thanks, Ms. Yingling, for reading my novel and giving it this honest (and wonderful) review!

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Passing the Mic to Shea Diamond, Speaking For "Americans For the Equality Act"

Sometimes, the best thing you can do as an ally is to give your microphone to those who aren't being heard enough.

Listen to Shea Diamond, singer/songwriter and Trans activist, speak up about the Americans for Equality Act:

You can find out more about the Americans for Equality Act here.

And while we're listening, here's one of Shea's songs that's been called an anthem for the Trans community, I am Her:

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


Monday, April 22, 2019

WANT - A Science Fiction Thriller In a Near-Future Taipei That Includes Queer Teen Secondary Characters

Want by Cindy Pon

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits, protecting them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO.

Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is, or destroying his own heart?

I loved this book (listened to the audiobook.) I'll be on a panel with Cindy at the 2019 Bay Area Book Festival in May, and was so excited about how the future she created included queer characters!

Add your review of "Want" in comments!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Picture Us In The Light - A Gay Artist (Who's a High School Senior and Asian) Unravels His Family's Secrets

Picture Us In The Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Danny Cheng has always known his parents have secrets. But when he discovers a taped-up box in his father's closet filled with old letters and a file on a powerful Silicon Valley family, he realizes there's much more to his family's past than he ever imagined.

Danny has been an artist for as long as he can remember and it seems his path is set, with a scholarship to RISD and his family's blessing to pursue the career he's always dreamed of. Still, contemplating a future without his best friend, Harry Wong, by his side makes Danny feel a panic he can barely put into words. Harry and Danny's lives are deeply intertwined and as they approach the one-year anniversary of a tragedy that shook their friend group to its core, Danny can't stop asking himself if Harry is truly in love with his girlfriend, Regina Chan.

When Danny digs deeper into his parents' past, he uncovers a secret that disturbs the foundations of his family history and the carefully constructed façade his parents have maintained begins to crumble. With everything he loves in danger of being stripped away, Danny must face the ghosts of the past in order to build a future that belongs to him.

This book was honored with a Stonewall Book Award - Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children's and Young Adult Literature Award Honor! Add your review of "Picture Us In The Light" in comments!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

6 of the Top 11 Most Challenged Books of 2018 on the ALA List Were Challenged Because They Included LGBTQ Characters and Themes

You know what we're fighting for? Inclusion. Equity. Respect. Celebration.

#1 on the ALA List of Most Challenged Books of 2018:
“George,” by Alex Gino
Reason: for including a transgender character

This is a lovely book, about a 3rd grader who wants to play Charlotte in the class play of Charlotte's web.

#2 “A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo,” by Jill Twiss, illustrated by E. G. Keller
Reasons: for LGBTQIA+ content, political and religious viewpoints

The only one of these six I haven't yet read. Moving to the top of my list now.

#3 “Captain Underpants” series, written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: for including a same-sex couple, perceived as encouraging disruptive behavior

I cheered when, in the 12th book in this beloved series, the heroes visited their future selves and one of them was married to another man! (And George and Harold are still best friends.)

#5 “Drama,” written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reason: for LGBTQIA+ characters and themes

A wonderful middle grade graphic novel that included gay middle schoolers!

#10 “This Day in June,” by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten
Reason: for LGBTQIA+ content

A picture book about an LGBTQ Pride Parade and celebration!

#11 “Two Boys Kissing,” by David Levithan
Reason: for LGBTQIA+ content

A YA novel based on true events, of two teen boys aiming to set a new Guinness World Record.

My editorial thoughts;

Really, if adults don't like a specific book, they can make the choice to not share that book with their own children. But when they start to say that a book isn't right for ANY child, that it should be removed from a library's collection, then they've gone too far.

Children need these books that include Queer characters and themes. Yes, the LGBTQ kids and teens. And the heterosexual and cis-gendered kids and teens, too. Because every child needs to know that LGBTQ people are part of our world. And if we queer people aren't in the books kids and teens can find in the library, that just makes them feel alone, unwanted, and ashamed of being their authentic selves. It makes them afraid.

I know.

There were no books with positive portrayals of LGBTQ people when I was growing up. And that was how I felt.

That more than half of the books on the ALA's Most Challenged (a.k.a. Banned) Books list for 2018 were challenged because of their queer content tells us a lot about how far we still have to go as a society, especially with political leaders who foment hatred and fear of the 'other' -- including against LGBTQ people. Especially with so many people feeling emboldened to voice and act on their bigotry.

We need to stand up.

Shine our light.

And reflect the light of others. So let's read these books. Talk about these books. Buy these books. Ask for them from our libraries.

And let's aim for the day when we don't have books that get challenged. Until then, we resist. Together.

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

Monday, April 15, 2019

Five Highlights and Four Photos from the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books 2019

Let's start with photos!

The panel I moderated, at the signing tent. (Left to right): Brendan Reichs, Ally Condie, Carlos Hernandez, me (!), and Quinn Sosna-Spear
I got to sign copies of "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" that folks purchased!

I was also asked to sign a canvas bag and someone's hand (all of the panelists signed both)!

My name! My books! At the festival!!! (so cool.)

Some quotes from our panel that are still resonating:

5. "Friends help you reveal part of yourself, and become a better version of yourself." —Carlos Hernandez

4. "Characters are collections of motivations." —Brendan Reichs

Some quotes from another YA panel I attended that jumped up to be written down:

3. "Good reviews are like crack. Bad review are like poison. Neither help you." —advice Jennifer Nielsen passed along.

2. "What I can control is the page." I need to write what I want to say. —Dhonielle Clayton


1. most of all, moderating a wonderful panel.

What a great day! Thanks to my panelists Quinn, Carlos, Brendan, Ally, and to all the organizers and volunteers and staff behind pulling off the amazing 2019 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

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

Friday, April 12, 2019

Come See Me (and some famous authors) at The LA Times Festival of Books, This Saturday April 13, 2019 at Noon)

I'll be moderating the middle grade fantasy panel, Middle Grade Fiction: Magic and Mysteries with Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs (about their book "The Darkdeep," Carlos Hernandez (about their book "Sal and Gabi Break the Universe") and Quinn Sosna-Spear (about their book "The Remarkable Inventions of Walter Mortinson.")

Here's our panel description from the festival schedule:
From mysterious islands to for-real magicians to unusual contraptions, these books stretch kids' imaginations. Join the authors for a conversation on their fantastical middle grade books "The Darkdeep," "Sal and Gabi Break the Universe" and "The Remarkable Inventions of Walter Mortinson."

I'm really looking forward to this -- we're going to have a great conversation! And if you'll be there, swing by the YA Stage and join us!

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

SCBWI-IL Marginalized Voices Out Loud: Queer YA Indie Author Lee Wind in Conversation With Susanne Fairfax (Event Video Recording and My Thanks!)

What an amazing event!

From the plate of cookies with my book cover on them!

to Susanne Fairfax's careful reading and wonderful questions about Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill,

from the crowd of wonderfully engaged people that showed up (an actual crowd!)

to selling out all the copies of Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill that Open Book had,

from the warm welcome of the SCBWI Illinois team, especially Co-Regional Advisor Deborah Topolski, Assistant Regional Advisor Jennifer Wagh, Illustrator Coordinator Cedric Gliane, Diversity committee members Susanne Fairfax (the same amazing Susanne is also the Chair of the Diversity Committee), Urania Smith and Jacqueline Alcántara, and Diversity Network Representative Donna Beasley)

to signing books both for those attending and books purchased to donate to LGBTQ and allied teens in Chicago...

it was all just wonderful.

And, for everyone (especially the teens) who couldn't attend, we recorded the interview and Q&A on video, and you can watch it here:

If you'd like to order a signed copy of Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill for either yourself or to donate to LGBTQ and Allied teens in Chicago, you can do so here.

Jenny surprised me with a "Illinois: Land of Lincoln" shirt - love it! It's perfect for my #QueerHistoryIsEverywhere instagram project!

With enormous gratitude,

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

p.s. - check out all the diversity initiatives of SCBWI-Illinois. They're doing great things!

A close-up view of one awesome cookie!

Monday, April 8, 2019

See You Tonight (April 8, 2019) 7pm at Open Books West Loop

I hope you'll join me at SCBWI-Illinois Marginalized Voices Out Loud: Queer YA Indie Author Lee Wind in Conversation at Open Books West Loop, from 7-9pm.

I'll be interviewed by SCBWI-Illinois' Diversity Committee chairperson Susanne Fairfax, and SCBWI-IL will also announce the winners of their 2019 Diverse New Member Pathway and Many Voices Prizes.

You can pick up a signed copy of "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" and/or buy a copy to donate to Chicago-area LGBTQ and allied teens.

I can't wait!

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

Friday, April 5, 2019

This is Kind of an Epic Love Story - A Bi Teen Tries To Believe He, Too, Can Have A Rom-Com Worthy Romance

This is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender

Nathan Bird doesn’t believe in happy endings. Although he’s the ultimate film buff and an aspiring screenwriter, Nate’s seen the demise of too many relationships to believe that happy endings exist in real life.

Playing it safe to avoid a broken heart has been his MO ever since his father died and left his mom to unravel—but this strategy is not without fault. His best-friend-turned-girlfriend-turned-best-friend-again, Florence, is set on making sure Nate finds someone else. And in a twist that is rom-com-worthy, someone does come along: Oliver James Hernández, his childhood best friend.

After a painful mix-up when they were little, Nate finally has the chance to tell Ollie the truth about his feelings. But can Nate find the courage to pursue his own happily ever after?

Add your review of "This is Kind of an Epic Love Story" in comments!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

What If It’s Us - Two Gay Teens Meet In New York City... Does The Universe Have Romance In Mind?

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

ARTHUR is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

BEN thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them . . . ?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t nail a first date even after three do-overs?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

What if it’s us?

Add your review of "What If It’s Us" in comments!

Monday, April 1, 2019

I'm Coming To Chicago! (With a Book Event On April 8, 2019!)

It's a big week ahead...

First, for my day job, I'll be in Chicago April 4-7 for the Independent Book Publishers Association's (IBPA's) Publishing University 2019, the premiere educational and networking event for indie publishing,

and then on Monday April 8 I'll be at SCBWI-Illinois Marginalized Voices Out Loud: Queer YA Indie Author Lee Wind in Conversation at Open Books West Loop, from 7-9pm.

It's a free event, and you can get tickets here.

I'll be interviewed by SCBWI-Illinois' Diversity Committee chairperson Susanne Fairfax, and SCBWI-IL will also announce the winners of their 2019 Diverse New Member Pathway and Many Voices Prizes.

You can pick up a signed copy of "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" and/or buy a copy to donate to Chicago-area LGBTQ and allied teens.

It's going to be an amazing evening, and if you're in the Chicago area, I hope you can join us!

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

p.s. - no April Fools on this one - I really will be in Chicago for these events!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Bunnybear - A Picture Book About Being Your Authentic Self (And Finding Your Place In The World) That I Wish Had Been Read To Me When I Was A Little Kid

Bunnybear by Andrea J. Loney, Illustrated by Carmen Saldaña

Although Bunnybear was born a bear, he feels more like a bunny. He prefers bouncing in the thicket to tramping in the forest, and in his heart he's fluffy and tiny, like a rabbit, instead of burly and loud, like a bear. The other bears don't understand him, and neither do the bunnies. Will Bunnybear ever find a friend who likes him just the way he is?

From the moment Bunnybear sees the group of bunnies and I read the line,

“They were tiny, and fluffy, and bouncy, like Bunnybear's heart.” 

This picturebook captured my heart.

The wonderful Bunnybear

Bunnybear's story is told with such love, and respect.

This book is a powerful way to let gender-expansive, gender non-conforming, and transgender children know that they are not alone, and that there is a loving place for them in the larger community.

And this book is also so important for cis-gendered children (and adults!) to help them recognize that not everyone who looks like they are a specific gender really is a person who identifies with that gender. Just like Bunnybear looks like a bear, but feels like a bunny on the inside. And Grizzlybun looks like a bunny, but feels like a bear on the inside.

I'm excited for Grizzlybun to have a story of their own someday. And until then, I'm so grateful that Bunnybear is here for all of us to read and share...

Bunnybear was included on the ALA's 2018 Rainbow List! You can add your review of "Bunnybear" in comments!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Frost's "The Road Not Taken" and Machado's "Traveler, your footprints" - Two Poems in Conversation

This idea of these two poems being in conversation was shared by Emma Otheguy at #KidLitCon2019, and it's still resonating for me.

Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," that ends with the lines,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

And Antonio Machado's "Traveler, your footprints," that so eloquently contrasts with these lines,

Traveler, there is no road;
you make your own path as you walk.
Traveler, there is no road;
only a ship's wake on the sea.

Frost's poem is the classic I learned about in school here in America, but I so prefer Machado's perspective on life. There are more than two paths. There are infinite paths, and our steps make them, like "wake[s] upon the sea."

Here's those final two lines of Machado's poem in their original Spanish,

Caminante, no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar."

I find this vision so encouraging, and inspiring. Click the links above to read both poems in their entirety.

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

Monday, March 25, 2019

Highlights of #KidLitCon2019

What an awesome weekend! It was great seeing friends (tried and true and new) and being immersed in this wonderful community of authors, illustrators, teachers, librarians, and children's and teen book bloggers!

Some of the moments still resonating for me:

My panel, Reaching Readers: Getting Your Book To Kids was a blast!

Left to Right: Anika Denise, Barbara Fisch, Me(!), Debbie Kovacs, and Josh Funk

We played games (the one-minute timed elevator pitches were fun—and well-received),  spoke about strategies, working with publishers and bookstores, online communities, the importance of planning ahead and making checklists, and supporting others. (And, in a humbling moment, I learned to be more careful with my language.)

The session ended with Anika reminding us all of balance, and how while we have to spend time getting our books to kids, it's also important to make time to write the next book. It was a really wonderful panel!

The many moments of inspiration and insight, some of which were captured by myself and others on twitter. Here are 17 of them:

children of color become "experts in whiteness" while children of the dominant (read: white) culture know nothing about their peers of color. - at

"Magic is about power... Spirituality and belief systems are also about power." Zetta Elliott talks respect and subverting expectations on the "Diverse Fantasy in the Real World" at

"So many different parts of my life are in the book, in a kaleidoscope way." -Ann Bradley at

“Tell the story as true as possible.”

“You have to tell children, ‘you can walk your self out of ANYTHING.’” - @kidlitprov

"We all deserve to be part of the conversation."

"What if queerness in picture books was as ubiquitous as red hair?" stories centered on red hair, and stories just about them being kids. "Every kid is the hero of their own story." - at

"Kids want to read what other kids recommend." Melissa Fox at , with Ms. Yingling and Sam Musher

"Write the thing that's gonna get you up in the morning and keep you up late at night." -

"You find a way out. Where is that way to get to hope? Find that one crack so that kids know that somehow, there is gonna be a way through." -

"I wanted my writing to get the best of my day." on getting an early (as in 4:15am) start to his creative work.

"Goofy enthusiasm" - shares her most important ingredient in getting books to kids at

"This is my year of convincing myself that character IS plot... how they react to things is plot." -Leslie Connor at

"to survive in school... I learned that I had to put away my Latinx identity." speaks of what motivated her to become the proud Latinx author she is today.

Sharing hope w readers is key. -

“I hear people say, ‘We’d love to have your books in our school, but we don’t have any black kids.’ That’s EXACTLY why you *need* them!” - at

“To me all division ends when the story rings true” on &

The chance to share about my own Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill, how it is the story of my heart, and even sign copies purchased by wonderful people!

Gratitude to Charlotte and all the other volunteer organizers, and to Katie at Barrington Books!

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