Real Life

Why write about sexuality if you’re not gay?

My debut YA, My Invented Life, centers around big SECRET that drives a wedge between sisters that used to be close. The secret has to do with sexual identity. When the book hit the stores, interviewers often asked me what inspired me to write it.

This question always made me squirm. The easy answer would’ve been, “I wish that funny, uplifting stories with lesbian an bi girls existed back when I was a teen.” Unfortunately that would’ve been a lie. I am not lesbian or bi. I don’t have any LGBT family members. Nor LGBT friends in HS. The challenges of growing up gay did not occur to me until much later. I’m that lame.

In fact, my biggest post-pub fear went something like this: LGBT readers and authors would scoff at my lack of “credentials,” laugh in my face, call me a fraud, or much worse. (False alarm, btw. I learned later that people like me are called allies. I felt very appreciated by the LGBT community.)

Luckily, the interviews were written, so I had time to develop cogent answers.

Reason A: I was inspired by events around my high school reunion. A number of my classmates came out around then. I asked a few about their experience in HS, and was somewhat horrified by their answers.

True.

Reason B: I wanted to write an uplifting story that focused on a friendship between sisters, and how a secret can ruin a friendship. I didn’t want the “coming out” itself to be traumatic.

Also true.

However, the biggest reason didn’t occur to me until after the book got published. Here it is: I can identify with the pain of LGBT teens that hide their true selves from friends because I grew up in the same situation.

Only different.

My mom died when I was five. She didn’t die in a car wreck, of cancer, or in any tragic, yet socially acceptable way. She killed herself. My Dad insisted that my sister and I keep it a secret. I mostly did. But the secret made me feel ashamed. Dark. Dishonest. Disconnected. Fringe.

And that is why I believe in telling the truth, even if it makes others uncomfortable. Some day, I hope to live in a world where we aren’t afraid that others might judge us for who we really are.

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Confessions of a tech weenie

A friend of my built my first house website. I absolutely love it. But it’s been  languishing for months. Years, in fact. The paint is peeling and the windows could use a wash.

Since I love wordpress for blogging, I made the decision to create my website here too. Soon. First I needed to 1)pick a template, 2)learn how to customize it, 3)purchase a font kit, 4)figure out how to transfer my domain, my domain email, etc.

Step one: choosing a template. There are literally thousands of templates online. After narrowing it down to a dozen contenders, I learned that wordpress.com only works with the ones they provide. So I picked one. Then I noticed a button called activate and clicked on it.

Big mistake. The new template “activated” on my blog, deleting all the customized images I’d uploaded. Everything was lost.

But rather than panic, I started creating my new website out of the ashes of my blog.

Instead of launching a beautiful website like I planned, what you see is a work-in-progress.

In the next few weeks, I’ll just slap on some paint new fonts, add new rooms pages as needed, and it will be as good as new.

But first, I need a tutorial on CSS. Ack!

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Thanksgiving never ends for me

I am
grateful for
heat from the sun
the  way my cat’s tail curls,
cool, clean water from the faucet
a car that hasn’t broken down yet
family, friends, generous people
my son performing in a play
clawfoot bathtubs
mountain air
laughter
Nutella
writing
books
music
l
o
v
e
general
nutiness
and fun
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Teens spread love in the face of hate at Taos Pride

I wish I’d brought my camera with me.

Gay Pride in Taos in KCP was a colorful event–dogs in bright sweaters, a drag queen with a full length rainbow boa, and happy dancers on the grass. I went to catch up with friends and listen to the music. My son’s didn’t really want to go with me until they found out there would be extreme religious protesters present. Maybe they could do a sneak attack with squirt guns? My husband suggested water balloons with rainbow paint inside.

 

When we got to the event, though, the reality of the protesters was way too intimidating. They had congregated at one end of the park, wearing matching hats and T-shirts, yelling disgusting and hostile things through their mega-phones. Police were present. Anyone coming in or out of the park had to walk right by them.

 

That’s when I noticed three teen boys holding up hand-made signs, welcoming people who dared to cross the line of hate. I don’t remember what the signs said (and didn’t have my camera!), but the messages were all about love and acceptance. Inspired by this, my sons went home with their friends to create a sign of their own–Jesus Proclaimeth That Hate Achieves Nothing.

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The answer to paranormal overload

I asked a Maria, a fabulous librarian blogger, to write a guest post about her favorite contemporary YA novels. Read on!

Reading contemporary fiction is a fairly recent thing for me; my reading has always skewed towards fantasy, except for my great love of the Baby-Sitters Club and Judy Blume books. But, there are only so many books about vampires, werewolves and other assorted paranormal creatures a person can read before they need a break. Contemporary fiction is the perfect antidote to what I like to call “paranormal overload.”  All of the books on this list were published in the past three years and can be easily found at your local bookstore or library.

A very recent favorite is Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, in which Audrey breaks up with her boyfriend, he writes a song about their breakup, that song rockets up the charts as it becomes super popular. It’s ultimately about the fallout of sudden fame and what happens to Audrey, her friends and family. Filled with music and extremely funny moments, it was hard to put down. I found myself wanting to jump into the book just so I could be friends with Audrey, James, Jonah and Victoria. Audrey, Wait! is just such a fun book; I dare you not to smile at least once while reading.

For a double dose of music, I would pair Audrey, Wait! with Struts and Frets by Jon Skovron. A much more quiet book than Audrey, Wait!, Jon Skovron still packs a punch with Sammy, Jen5 and the stress of rehearsing for the “Battle of the Bands.” Throw in a grandfather-grandson relationship and the hope that a friendship could be more, and you’ve got a great, funny yet poignant story. I wonder what would happen if Audrey and Sammy ever met.

Who resist the call of a trip to the beach? Especially during the summer and when it comes with a pair of brothers like Conrad and Jeremiah Fisher. The Summer Trilogy by Jenny Han (The Summer I Turned Pretty, It’s Not Summer Without You, We’ll Always Have Summer) is Belly’s story, from awkward little sister with a huge crush on Conrad to something more. What I love about these books is that Belly is instantly relatable, she could easily be your sister or best friend, someone you could giggle over guys with, just don’t go after Conrad or Jeremiah and everything will be great. Jenny Han has created such great characters, that it’s so easy to imagine that you’re at Cousins Beach with them. I’ve included the third book here, even though I haven’t read it, because I can’t imagine that it would be any less wonderful than the first two.

Another book that’s set, at least in part, at the beach is Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler. This time the reader travels to Zanzibar Bay, California with Anna and her best friend Frankie. Both of them are grieving the sudden death of Frankie’s brother Matt. What Frankie doesn’t know is that Anna and Matt had started dating before he died. Twenty Boy Summer is an emotional roller coaster of a book, it tore at my heart in a way no book has done before. I wanted to hug Anna several times as I was reading and I wanted to tell Frankie to grow up, plus I cried – several times. A book that elicits those types of reactions from a reader needs to be shared.

This list wouldn’t be complete without at least one John Green book. In my opinion he is the king of contemporary YA. And while I’ve liked all of the John Green books I’ve read, Looking for Alaska holds a special place because it was my first John Green experience. Set at a boarding school, it’s the story of Miles who is looking for the “Great Perhaps.” At his new school, Miles finds friends for the first time and meets Alaska Young, who will change his life in ways he never thought possible. I love that anyone who reads Looking for Alaska can put themselves in Miles’ place. He’s a character that a lot of people can relate to. The key to this book is that John Green knows how to write characters that are so real it feels like you could meet any one of them in your own life. I would pair his books with books by Maureen Johnson, Rachel Cohn, Elizabeth Scott and Jessica Warman.

I’m sure there are lots of authors and books that I forgot to mention. So, what are some of your favorite contemporary reads?

 

For more great reviews, visit Maria’s blog, The Serpentine Library.

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Cleopatra Literary Contest–an opportunity for young writers

I wanted to pass along this excellent opportunity to submit your poetry, short fiction, or pages from a novel, and win amazing prizes.

Author Stephanie Dray is sponsoring the Cleopatra Literary Contest for young women aged 14-22. The deadline is March 1st.

Read about the details at her contest page.

 

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We love L.K. Madigan and her books

Talented, sweet, and down to earth YA author L.K. Madigan has recently announced some heart-breaking news. You can read about it in her own words here.

The Feast of Awesome will give away EIGHTY copies her books …

the Morris Award winning FLASH BURNOUT and

the amazing THE MERMAID’S MIRROR

To win a set, visit the Feast of Awesome and leave a comment.

This is a major celebration of Lisa and her talent!! Please join in.

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YALSA Conference: 350+ cool librarians celebrate diversity

Friday before last, I spoke on a panel at the National YALSA Conference about trends in LGBT teen lit. I had a fab time meeting librarians that have passion around diverse books.

I did a guest post about the experience at Lee Wind’s blog–I’M HERE. I’M QUEER. WHAT THE HELL DO I READ? Go there to read all the fun details.

One of the best parts was meeting up with other authors I know only from conferences or online. We could (and did) talk and laugh for hours!

 

Back L to R: Neesha Meminger, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Malinda Lo, Megan Frazer. Front L to R: Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Cynthea Liu, Me

Cynthea bought a bottle of wine for us all to share, but we never managed to get it open with our cheap corkscrew. Oh well. We look so sad, right?

Categories: My Invented Life, Real Life, the love of writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Epic critique & book auction for Family Violence Prevention

Swati Avasthi, author of YA novel SPLIT has put together a huge auction to raise money for the Family Violence Prevention Fund. I donated a signed copy of My Invented Life and a first chapter critique. Many, many, many others have donated cool stuff.

You can bid on a critique of your query and first chapter by top-flight agents and editors, Rosemary Stimola, Nathan Bransford, Mandy Hubbard, and Brian Farrey. You can bid on a year long subscription to YA Lit Chat. And there are many hard to find ARCs, and signed novels to choose from.

Check it out here. Bidding ends November 1st.

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The Generosity of Authors!

Many of those entering the contest have expressed their love for books! And, in this video era, it warms my heart to see this affection. I love movies, too, but books play a unique role in my life.

Just so you know, all the fabulous novels in my xillion prize giveaway were donated by the authors themselves. Because authors are generous people. If it weren’t for the pesky problem of making the rent, most YA authors I know would give away their books to any and all enthusiastic readers.

Categories: Contests, Real Life | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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