Monday, August 31, 2020

I Was on Faculty at a Writer's Conference This Weekend and... I Didn't Even Attend?

I didn't miss it. It's just that the UCLA Extension Writers' Program YA Symposium, The Young and the Reckless: Writing For Teens was all pre-recorded.

The good news is you didn't miss it, either. The sessions, the panels, it's all online through September 5, 2020. Along with the amazing Karol Ruth Silverstein (who I'm proud to call my friend), I co-lead two breakout sessions, Checking Privilege at the Door


Creating the Complex Character.

I was also on a great panel discussion with Sherri L. Smith, Aminah Mae Safe, and Cindy Lin that was moderated by Nutschell Windsor.

It's not the same as being in person, but there are definitely some upsides. The conference is only $50 to attend, and is available not just one day, but over eight days, and virtually, which makes it more accessible. And this way, I can attend the sessions my fellow faculty members gave because I'm not busy doing my own!

So I miss hanging out, and checking out my fellow faculty's books in the conference bookstore, but I remind myself that there's a pandemic going on. And the fact that Charlie, Nutschell, Carrie, Ashley, Jennie, and the whole UCLA Extension Writer's Program team were able to pivot and still make this amazing event happen is pure awesomeness.

I'm very grateful to have been - to be - part of it.

So, if writing for teens is your jam, check it out.


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

Friday, August 28, 2020

Beyond The Gender Binary - Alok Vaid-Menon Shows Us The Only Limit To Gender Is Our Imagination

Beyond The Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon

Poet, artist, and LGBTQIA+ rights advocate Alok Vaid-Menon deconstructs, demystifies, and reimagines the gender binary.

In this book, Alok "challenges the world to see gender not in black and white, but in full color. Taking from their own experiences as a gender-nonconforming artist, they show us that gender is a malleable and creative form of expression. The only limit is your imagination."

Love these blurbs about the book:

"Thank God we have Alok. And I'm learning a thing or two myself."--Billy Porter, Emmy award-winning actor, singer, and Broadway theater performer

"When reading this book, all I feel is kindness."--Sam Smith, Grammy and Oscar award-winning singer and songwriter

"Beyond the Gender Binary will give readers everywhere the feeling that anything is possible within themselves"--Princess Nokia, musician and co-founder of the Smart Girl Club

"A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change." – Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Add your review of "Beyond The Gender Binary" in comments!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

NO WAY, THEY WERE GAY? (My Middle Grade Nonfiction Coming April 2021) Gets a Shout-Out In Publishers Weekly!

This was exciting!

Publishers Weekly did a feature last month called "Spring 2021 Children's Sneak Previews" where they go publisher-by-publisher, imprint-by-imprint, and highlight just a few (two or three) stand-out upcoming titles for kids and teens for the readership of Publishers Weekly (over 68,000 booksellers, publishers, public and academic librarians, wholesalers, distributors, educators, agents and writers.)

and there, in the listing for LERNER/ZEST...

"No Way, They Were Gay?: Hidden Lives and Secret Loves by Lee Wind, which examines primary source letters, poems, and more to rethink the lives and loves of historical figures."


We've been waiting a looooooong time for this to finally come out. This is one more exciting step on that journey.

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

Monday, August 24, 2020

Flex Your Vote!

I didn't know that 1 in 5 Queer People in the US are not registered to vote. We need all hands on deck this November to get the current occupant of the White House out of power.

As photographer Mike Ruiz put it in his Instagram Post,

Be like Eric and Flex Your Vote! 20% of LGBTQ+ people are NOT registered to vote! That 20% could help keep us protected for the next 4 years. Please vote like your life depends on it! WWW.VOTE.ORG @erictastic #flexyourvote #doordie #register #vote #MIKERUIZ

An article on the campaign at Socialite Life explains further, "Eric Wainwright [the model shown above] devised the “Flex Your Vote” slogan and the campaign was born. In it, the eight photographers are posting images to their Instagram and Facebook accounts and encouraging fans to share them with the hashtag @flexyourvote."

Here are a few more images from the campaign, that hopefully will get our community inspired to register to VOTE!

Of course, we don't all need to be buff and beautiful to inspire voting... or vote!

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

Stay safe,

Friday, August 21, 2020

My New Gender Workbook: A Step-By-Step Guide to Achieving World Peace Through Gender Anarchy and Sex Positivity

My New Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein

Cultural theorists have written loads of smart but difficult-to-fathom texts on gender theory, but most fail to provide a hands-on, accessible guide for those trying to sort out their own sexual identities. In My Gender Workbook, transgender activist Kate Bornstein brings theory down to Earth and provides a practical approach to living with or without a gender.

Bornstein starts from the premise that there are not just two genders performed in today's world, but countless genders lumped under the two-gender framework. Using a unique, deceptively simple and always entertaining workbook format, complete with quizzes, exercises, and puzzles, Bornstein gently but firmly guides readers toward discovering their own unique gender identity.

Since its first publication in 1997, My Gender Workbook has been challenging, encouraging, questioning, and helping those trying to figure out how to become a "real man," a "real woman," or "something else entirely." In this exciting new edition of her classic text, Bornstein re-examines gender in light of issues like race, class, sexuality, and language. With new quizzes, new puzzles, new exercises, and plenty of Kate's playful and provocative style, My New Gender Workbook promises to help a new generation create their own unique place on the gender spectrum.

Here's just a bit of this book's brilliance, from page 125 of the first edition:

Did you know that in most countries, your gender is recorded as a matter of law? That from the moment of your birth, you're classified into an identity you haven't had the time or experience or intelligence to figure out? There you are, newly born, dealing with all this birth stuff; you don't know the language and can't get your needs and wants articulated, and the first social thing that happens to you is that you're fixed into a legal identity that will determine the course of your life. And did you know that in most countries, it's against the law to change that gender once it's been assigned? Is it just me, or does that strike you as a little weird? Does it sound like that sort of legal system is truly representing your best interests as a complete being, capable of some wonderful growth in your life?

And just because I love the cover of the first edition on my shelf, here's that:

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Falling in Love Montage - Two Teen Girls Agree To A Summer of Rom-Com Cliche Dates With Each Other, With a Binding Agreement To End Their Romance Come Fall

The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth
Saoirse doesn’t believe in love at first sight or happy endings. If they were real, her mother would still be able to remember her name and not in a care home with early onset dementia. A condition that Saoirse may one day turn out to have inherited. So she’s not looking for a relationship. She doesn’t see the point in igniting any romantic sparks if she’s bound to burn out.

But after a chance encounter at an end-of-term house party, Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.

Unbothered by Saoirse’s no-relationships rulebook, Ruby proposes a loophole: They don’t need true love to have one summer of fun, complete with every cliché, rom-com montage-worthy date they can dream up—and a binding agreement to end their romance come fall. It would be the perfect plan, if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters actually fall in love… for real.

Add your review of "The Falling in Love Montage" in comments!

Monday, August 17, 2020

Stay Gold - An #OwnVoices Novel Where Trans Guy Pony Moves To A New High School And Goes "Stealth"

Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith

Pony just wants to fly under the radar during senior year. Tired from all the attention he got at his old school after coming out as transgender, he’s looking for a fresh start at Hillcrest High. But it’s hard to live your best life when the threat of exposure lurks down every hallway and in every bathroom.
Georgia is beginning to think there’s more to life than cheerleading. She plans on keeping a low profile until graduation…which is why she promised herself that dating was officially a no-go this year.
Then, on the very first day of school, the new guy and the cheerleader lock eyes. How is Pony supposed to stay stealth when he wants to get close to a girl like Georgia? How is Georgia supposed to keep her promise when sparks start flying with a boy like Pony?

Here's a really touching video from the author, talking about their book, their journey, and how

"Books are the ultimate safe space." 

Add your review of "Stay Gold" in comments!

Friday, August 14, 2020

All-American Boys - A Gay Teen Love Story With a Happy/Hopeful Ending From Back in 1983

All American Boys by Frank Mosca

Neil Meilish has known that he was gay since he was 13 but so far he's told no one including his father and brother. Folks at school only know him as the guy who's got a black belt in kung fu, or as the guy who races pigeons.

But when Paul Carrington's family moves into town things change. The boys have a connection that's too intense to deny and soon Neil and Paul are in love but find that their families and schoolmates have trouble accepting a gay relationship.

Here's the back-cover copy:

"I've known I was gay since I was thirteen.
Does that surprise you? It didn't me.
According to one of the lousy books I read back then, I'm supposed to tell you it came as some sort of huge shock that sent me into fits of suicidal depression. Actually, it wsas the most natural thing in the world. I thought everyone was. At least until I hit high school the next year. That's when I finally realized all those faggot and dyke stories referred to people like me...
So begins All-American Boys, the story of a teen-age love affair that should have been simple – but wasn't."

It seems long out of print (from the old Alyson Publications) but I'm so intrigued by this book that came out when I was teen. If only I'd found it back then. Fascinated to read it now...

Add your review of "All-American Boys" in comments.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

All Boys Aren't Blue - A Memoir-Manifesto for Teens by journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson

All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto by George M. Johnson

In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.
Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren't Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson's emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.

Kirkus Reviews gave this book a starred review, calling it, "A critical, captivating, merciful mirror for growing up black and queer today." Add your review of "All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto" in comments!

Monday, August 10, 2020

Civil Rights Leader John Lewis Wrote This Essay Just a Few Days Before His Death. It was Published in the New York Times on the Day of His Funeral.

This essay by John Lewis is so brilliant, and inspiring.

The stand out line for me:

"When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act..."

The context of that quote:

"Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it."

And then the call to action:

"Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe."

Read the full piece – It's well-worth it. And then let's stand up, together.

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

Friday, August 7, 2020

My Highlights From #SCBWISummerSpec

Hello community!

I'm still flying high from the first-ever virtual iteration of the SCBWI Summer Conference – after 48 years of meeting in person. (I haven't been going for 48 years. I started 16 years ago.)

Amazingly, the virtual version delivered so much, and moments like the LGBTQIA+ and Allies Social that I hosted gave me a taste of the community aspect that I was missing. (More on that in another post soon.)

I was really inspired by Susie Ghahremani's summing-it-all-up tweet, and so here's mine. Certainly not as visually pretty, but packed with the moments that inspired and/or resonated for me:

Philip Pullman explaining the best piece of advice he's been given was from Raymond Chandler, 'When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun.' That solves every problem. Meaning, "Add a character who you the writer weren’t expecting." So when he was trying to solve the problem of the opening scene of The Golden Compass he needed someone for Lyra to talk to. And then he described writing and having Lyra’s daemon appear. “What’s a daemon?” he wondered. “I wrote the rest of the 1,100 pages to find out.”

"Do you know any writer who isn't incredibly insecure?" – Judy Blume

“There’s a fine line between artistic genius and self-doubt.” – Kwame Alexander on how “you can’t let other people define your worth, your creative value.”

"There is a purpose for me in this space." –Jason Reynolds on why he keeps going in an industry that is so challenging.

"Every single type of writing is poetry. ...all of it to me is poetry." Jason Reynolds

Raúl the Third on Muhammad Ali being the "greatest" - "Not because he was better than anyone else, but because no one was greater than him." Raúl wasn't a boxer, but he thought, "If I focus on these drawings, maybe I can become a champion."

"Books are amusement parks. Kids have to choose the ride." – Kwame Alexander

Jill Santopolo talking about the heart-message being either explicit or implicit, and explaining that for the children's classic Goodnight Moon, the heart message is "everything is as it should be, and it's safe to go to sleep."

Dan Santat speaking about picture books, "16 sentences that tell a story beginning to end."

LeUyen Pham on illustrating picture books, "Not drawing what is written – interpreting what's written." She's only interested in illustrating a writer's text "if there's something left of the story to tell."

Jon Klassen (in another conversation) agreed, “I would get bored if my job was just decorating.”

“We’re making art for kids…Art is just a conversation. You’re saying something to a living breathing person on the other end. Be clear. Be interesting. Say things of value to them, the audience.” – Mac Barnett

Nic Stone advising "Separate selfhood from work."

“Books don’t have to have a happy ending. As long as there’s hope in the narrative… it can be complete.” – Jacqueline Woodson

Lori Snyder, telling the story of Gandhi's response to a brash young reporter who asked him what was his message to the world: "My life is my message."

Grace Lin on an idea being a picture book or a novel: "I know it's a picture book when the pictures are going to tell another story." Two stories, one told by words, one told by pictures.

Laurie Halse Anderson explaining that the first draft is figuring out "what I want to write." And then the second draft is taking the "beautiful mess" of that first draft and applying her craft. "Beautiful mess" is such a better metaphor than 'shitty first draft.'

"I just kept building on every tiny success until it snowballed." – Meg Medina

"We deserve to tell our readers the truth, offered in a responsible and loving way." – Laurie Halse Anderson

Jeff Kinney writing 700 jokes, then taking it down to the best 200, and then writing the book AROUND those.

"Write what you know, write who you are, and it is like a magnet." – Henry Winkler

"The eye and the ear are different listeners." – Jane Yolen, on having someone else read your manuscript out loud to you as part of your revision process.

and maybe most of all, feeling In Community, with more than 150 people showing up for the LGBTQIA+ and Allies Social on Zoom.

Giant THANK YOUS to the whole SCBWI Team Blog this time round, who made all the Official SCBWI Conference Blog postings and live-tweets possible! Thank you, Jaime, Jolie, Don, Leah, Mike, Susie, Bingham, Olugbemisola, and Gaby!

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

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Ship We Built - An #OwnVoices Trans Middle Grade Novel Where Letters Sent Out To The Universe Feel Like the Only Way Rowan Can Be Real

The Ship We Built by Lexie Bean

Sometimes I have trouble filling out tests when the name part feels like a test too. . . . When I write letters, I love that you have to read all of my thoughts and stories before I say any name at all. You have to make it to the very end to know.

Rowan has too many secrets to write down in the pages of a diary. And if he did, he wouldn't want anyone he knows to read them. He understands who he is and what he likes, but it's not safe for others to find out. Now the kids at school say Rowan's too different to spend time with. He's not the "right kind" of girl, and he's not the "right kind" of boy. His mom ignores him. And at night, his dad hurts him in ways he's not ready to talk about yet.

But Rowan discovers another way to share his secrets: letters. Letters he attaches to balloons and releases into the universe, hoping someone new will read them and understand. But when he befriends a classmate who knows what it's like to be lonely and scared, even at home, Rowan realizes that there might already be a person he can trust right by his side.

Add your review of "The Ship We Built" in comments!

Monday, August 3, 2020

You Brought Me the Ocean - A Gay Teen Coming-Out Romance and Origin Story for Aqualad (A Graphic Novel from DC Comics!)

You Brought Me the Ocean by Alex Sanchez, illustrated by Julie Maroh

Jake Hyde doesn't swim--not since his dad drowned. Luckily, he lives in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, in the middle of the desert. Yet he yearns for the ocean and is determined to go to college on the coast. But leaving home would mean parting from his best friend Maria, who wants to stay and protect the desert, and breaking from his mom, who encourages him to play it safe.

But there's nothing "safe" about Jake's future--not when he's attracted to Kenny Liu, swim team captain and rebel against conformity. And certainly not when Jake secretly applies to the University of Miami. And those aren't the biggest of Jake's secrets, which include the strange blue markings on his skin that glow when in contact with water.

What power will Jake find when searching for the truth of his identity, and will he accept the consequences of coming out--in more ways than one--to his mom, Maria, and the world?

I am ridiculously, silly excited about this one. Add your review of "You Brought Me The Ocean" in comments!