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Interview with the Writers of Serial Box’s GEEK ACTUALLY

Geek Actually Cover
I’ve loved serial fiction for a long time; particularly fanfiction—and now podcasts. There’s something so thrilling and maddening about being hooked on a series and having to wait for the next installment to come out. So when The Gay YA was approached about covering Serial Box’s new series Geek Actually, a diverse, geeky Sex and the City, we jumped at the chance. Serial Box is doing wonderfully innovative new things with serial fiction, and we absolutely can’t wait to see where they take this series.
We sat down with two of the writers, Cecelia Tan and Rachel Stuhler, to discuss the process of writing collaborative fiction.
What was it like working on a collaborative series? How does it differ from writing straight fiction?
It was a lot more fun than any of us expected. The characters are the sum of all of our talents and experiences, and collaborating helped us bring so much more to the table. That said, continuity was a real challenge at first. We worked on our own episodes in blocks of four, so we were writing in isolation. We then needed to come back together and streamline, taking out repetition and adding in pieces that were missing. We’ve really grown to enjoy each other and the support you don’t get when working on a solo project.
How do you think fandom and geek culture is evolving?
RS: Geek culture has always been inclusive, but I feel we’re entering a wonderful new, expanded era of diversity, where we can hear and tell stories from so many different viewpoints. And as geek moves further into the mainstream, more and more people find they identify with our ideals and ideas. We’re getting bigger, better, and stronger every year, and closer than ever to having our imagination lives be as diverse as the world we live in.
What advice would you give for geek girls who may not know where they fit in in a largely white-cis-male dominated industry?
RS: I’m not being dismissive in any way, but I would say, don’t worry about what the men are doing. I grew up in a family of only women, and it never occurred to me that, as a woman, I was “restricted” from any job or interest. This isn’t to say sexism isn’t there – it absolutely is, and I was shocked when I first entered the entertainment industry and ran up against it. But because I didn’t expect resistance, I moved forward in my life and career without being concerned about it.
And the truth is, every white male cisgender story or game may not be for you. That’s okay. It’s a great big world of geek and I swear, your tribe is in there somewhere. And if you feel your story is missing, tell it yourself!
It’s so thrilling to have a queer, diverse Sex in the City-esque series for readers. Was it as fun to work on as it is to read? 
 
RS: It was a ton of fun to work on! Geek Actually gives voice to so many struggles we’ve faced in our own lives, things that we haven’t necessarily had the room to discuss in our individual work. These women speak with the words of the four of us, our friends, our family. It was freeing to open up and let it all out.
Geek Actually E1 WTFWhich character do you identify with most?
RS: For me, it’s a tie between Christina and Michelle. Christina because I spent a lot of years working on film sets; many of her everyday experiences mirror my own. But in terms of ambition, I’m more Michelle. I can be pretty high strung when it comes to work (and I hate that!) and I am a bit of a perfectionist.
The truth is, we all saw a little bit of ourselves in each of these characters. They aren’t one-to-one representations of the writers, but an amalgam of who we are – and frankly, who we’d like to be.
Cecelia Tan: For me it’s Michelle some of the time: if I’d kept my day job in book publishing instead of quitting to become a full-time writer in the 90s, that’d be me. Instead, I followed more of Aditi’s path, where my characters are my kids. But when I really let myself nerd out, deep in my heart I’m Elli. All I want to do is put on my cosplay and debate the lack of queer representation in Harry Potter. For example.
You can start reading Geek Actually today at Serial Box! We’re so thrilled for this series and for more diverse representation.
 
Rachel Stuhler was a writer on Hallmark Channel’s “McBride” series and has written on a dozen more movies for television, including Lifetime’s popular Kristin’s Christmas Past and the TV adaptation of Janette Oke’s Love Takes Wing. In 2015, her first novel, Absolutely True Lies, was released by Touchstone. Follow her on Twitter @rachelstuhler.
 
Cecilia Tan has written many books including the award-winning Slow Surrender, Daron’s Guitar Chronicles, and The Prince’s Boy. Her upcoming urban fantasy series with Tor Books launches in August 2017 with the first book, Initiates of the Blood. Tan has edited over 50 anthologies of erotica. Her short fiction has appeared in Ms. Magazine, Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, and Best American Erotica, among others. Follow her on Twitter @ceciliatan. 
By | June 7th, 2017|Categories: Archive|0 Comments

Sometimes You Just Outlast It

Pride Month Blogathon: Day 1 – Introduction to Pride Month Blogathon

by Brent Lambert

Writing this makes me a bit sad because I really wanted better for all of you. I hoped that by the time I got the courage to tell this story that it would be antiquated and an experience that felt too far removed for any teenager of today to really be able to grasp. Unfortunately, I hoped too much for the future and we are where we are. And now instead of looking forward to my story being a relic, I find that I am hoping it has value in a world of ever creeping shadows.

Being a gay teenager was rough, and quite frankly, it remains to this day the darkest period of my life. Sugar coating that fact would be disingenuous. There were many days I wished I just didn’t exist. Fear dominated every aspect of my life then.  The emotion lived with me like a constant companion, stifling my ambitions for love, for friends and all the other things teenagers should get to experience freely. Because I was gay, it constantly whispered to me my worthlessness: nothing could possibly be worse than being attracted to another man.

I kept most friendships on a surface level, always afraid that a deeper look would reveal my shame. I didn’t play the sports I actually wanted to because I was scared of doing something that would expose me. The locker room, full of hormones and admittedly attractive guys, might as well have been the last walk to the electric chair, as much as I wanted to go into it. I avoided male friendships because my sexuality felt like a wall that would keep me from ever meaning anything worthwhile to them. I became the person that people poured their problems on because helping them through theirs worked so well in helping me avoid mine.  

I did great in school academically because it was all I had. I didn’t have friends to convince me to skip a day, to sneak in a beer or get away for the weekend. I spent nights crying myself to sleep because I was sure it would never get any better and no one would ever want me to have any substantial part of their lives. Navigating romantic feelings was a no-go because the idea of even confessing feelings for a guy felt like pushing the red button and ending the world. So I walled that part of myself off and just tried to appear uninterested in it all.  Good grades became a refuge and one of the few sources of actual self-validation I had.  

Satisfaction came in the form of a blank page instead. I always wanted to write, but it wasn’t until my 10th grade Creative Writing elective that it became something therapeutic.  In those pages, I was able to become the outgoing, attractive guy I always wanted to be, hopelessly in love with all the various crushes I had throughout the years. Those stories gave me hope, but in the end they also built the walls higher.  I turned in more on myself because the fantasy of the page allowed me to dream of a better life.

But it’s not actually a solution to turn something you love into a drug to avoid all the things you hate. You’ll just poison it and all those problems will still be right there.

Horrible times can’t always be beaten and sometimes all you can do is weather the storm. No one walks away from a hurricane and calls it a resounding success, but somehow that’s what us queer folks are expected to name it. Society always expects action. It commands we take life by the horns and control it. They neglect to mention that those horns can rip you apart and leave lasting wounds.  There’s no shame in wanting to avoid that. If that’s where you are, then be that. Simply outlasting a bleak time is still a victory.  

For many of us, our teenage years were simply a landscape of devastation we spend our adult lives rebuilding from. I know that isn’t uplifting or inspirational, but it’s honest. And I have a strong feeling you would rather hear that than an empty platitude. But you can and you will fix all that has been broken. You’ll build monuments to joy, museums of happy moments and libraries full of love.  

But in this moment; survive, outlast and endure. And feel no shame in it.  The world demands enough of us, so don’t demand so much of yourself.

brentBrent Lambert is a writer looking forward to the day when creating universes gets to be a full-time gig. In the meantime, he’ll enjoy the Southern California weather and all the best, authentic Mexican food.  He always wanted to write, but didn’t think he could until a 7th grade teacher mentioned he might have a knack for it. So he always tries to pay it forward and put forward those kind of positive vibes into the universe.  If you ever need someone to cheer you on to get something done he’s your man. Find Brent online at @BrentCLambert
By | June 7th, 2017|Categories: Guest Blogs, Writers on Writing|0 Comments

Introduction to GayYA’s 2017 Blogathon

What. A. Year.

I began planning this blogathon the week after the U.S. election. Over the past six years, our blogathons have focused on general love of LGBTQIA+ YA, but this year, I knew that that would fall short. I was personally seeking something more, something that would help me grasp the world as it is now, and I figured many of our community members would be as well. This year, our blogathon explores two major themes: intergenerational conversation and the role that story plays in resistance, resilience, and joy.

Over the last year, I’ve been struck by the importance of intergenerational conversation. After the Pulse shooting, I remember Alex Gino talking about the history and power of queer dance clubs. I remember Alex London tweeting that “this wasn’t supposed to happen to you.” I went to a vigil at my church, where I listened to a gay man in his eighties, hand in hand with his husband, say, “I was spit at, beaten up, called slurs. I made it through that. Things have gotten better. That hasn’t been lost after a single act of hate. We’ll make it through this.” Afterwards, after I’d shared my story, he gave me a nod and a somber smile as we were leaving. I don’t know what he’d say now, after the election, but that was an incredibly powerful moment for me. I wanted to bring that kind of connection to teens who might not have it in their lives.

It’s equally important for adults to hear from teens about our lives and experiences. Just as queer teens look at adults and desperately want to understand how they made it through, I think there is also deep curiosity and yearning to understand what our lives as teens are like now.

The other major theme that our blogathon explores is the role that story plays in resistance, resilience, and joy. It’s an intense and personal theme, and I asked a lot from every person I emailed. Everyone who accepted the invitation approached what I was asking of them with courage, gravity, and excitement, and I’m so grateful. Through their work, this series has become a concentrated place for book people to talk to book people about surviving and finding joy.

This was an important resource to curate for me, personally, as someone who doesn’t just have an incidental relationship to stories, but has them knit into my very being. Lots of people have been talking about resistance and resilience since the election, in smart and necessary ways. But nothing I’ve read has spoken to me on a soul level for how to deal with this administration—until I started reading our contributors’ posts.

I think LGBTQIA+ teen readers in particular have a unique relationship with writing and reading. Many of us didn’t grow up reading about LGBTQIA+ characters, so finding a book in which we see ourselves reflected for the first time is often a memorable and impactful moment. When I was 16, LGBTQIA+ YA books helped me hold on to my life when I didn’t want to—they gave me a future that might be worth living for. There are thousands of teens who share a similarly close connection. For LGBTQIA+ teens, books can heal, restore hope, reveal unknown truths, and sometimes hurt like hell. Each book holds different possibilities in its pages. Because of this incredibly intimate relationship, stories are instrumental to our survival and joy.

This series is a number of essays that speak directly to that relationship. I see this year’s blogathon as a survival guide for lovers of LGBTQIA+ YA, for lovers of writing, on how to get through the next four years.

I hope you enjoy GayYA’s 2017 Pride Month blogathon, and find these posts as healing and helpful as I did.

-Vee S., admin and co-founder of GayYA

*I am immensely grateful to my friend Claire Spaulding who was able to step in and give our contributors some brilliant edits when I was too overwhelmed with my home life. This series would not be what it is without her invaluable contribution.

By | June 6th, 2017|Categories: Archive, Readers on Reading, Updates and Announcements, Writers on Writing|8 Comments

Call for Volunteers: Content Team Members

We’re looking for 2-3 new volunteers to join our Content Team!

Content Team Member

Content Team members keep GayYA going by formatting posts before they go up and scheduling promotional tweets on Twitter. Help broaden our readership base and enable our community members find posts relevant to them and their interests by promoting our content and making our posts look awesome!

Typically, 1-4 posts are sent to each Content Team member per month. (Exceptions include months without posts, and month-long blogathons.) Posts will be sent to Content Team members at least 72 hours before the post goes up; the post should be formatted and tweets should be scheduled at least 24 hours before the post goes up. Posts are formatted in alignment with GayYA’s posts standards. Between 6-12 tweets are scheduled for each post, in alignment with GayYA’s promotional guidelines.

Occasionally, we are unable to get posts to people before the 72 hours window. If that happens, requests for last minute help will be sent to the group chat, or will be discussed with volunteers individually.

Content Team members will be trained in how to format and promote posts, and will follow GayYA’s post and promo guidelines.

What we’re looking for:

  • Comfort with Twitter and/or Tumblr
  • Basic knowledge of WordPress
  • Dependability– if you are assigned a post, we expect you to format & promote it, or for you to tell us ASAP if you can’t!
  • Attention to detail– formatting posts can be pretty easy, but there’s some that can also take a long time. Maybe there’s a ton of pictures or links, or for some reason the paragraphs just aren’t spacing right. We love it when people put in the time to get things right!
  • Collaborative energy– a lot of this work ends up being two or three of us banging out possible tweets or sending each other feedback/encouragement. Working well with others is a huge plus!

To apply, please email vee@gayya.org with:

  • A little bit about yourself
  • Links to your website/social media
  • A summary of the experience you have in working with websites and social media
  • Why you are interested in becoming a Content Team member

DEADLINE EXTENDED: May 9th

By | May 5th, 2017|Categories: Archive, Updates and Announcements|Comments Off on Call for Volunteers: Content Team Members

Interview with Ashley Herring Blake

1464882366332-2When I read Ashley Herring Blake’s How To Make A Wish last year, I knew it would become one of my favorite contemporaries of 2017. It’s almost Sarah Dessen-ish in feel, with an openly bisexual protagonist named Grace you just can’t help but root for. Throw in messy, complicated family dynamics and a gorgeous setting and you’ve got an absolutely wonderful book.
I’m so thrilled we got to ask Ashley about How to Make a Wish, and I know you’ll enjoy her answers about this wonderful book. Be sure to get it when it comes out Tuesday!
What inspired you to write HTMAW? First and foremost, this book was born out of my desire to see more stories with bisexual main characters. There are a lot of pieces of me written into Grace’s story, but more than anything, I just wanted to write a book in which bisexual teens—or teens who feel they fall somewhere other than the binary—could see themselves. I wanted to show on-the-page sex between two girls, give teens hungry for those kinds of healthy interactions a place to start or a place to find comfort. I love Grace’s story, everything about her finding herself and breaking free from her mother, but before anything else, Grace is the bisexual character of my heart.
 
We all know writing is such an intensely personal process, particularly with regards to a character’s identity? How much of yours does Grace share, and what was it like putting that on the page? I envy Grace in many ways, mostly because she’s seventeen and already has a firm grip on who she is. I fully believe that sexuality is fluid, so I’m not saying that the way in which Grace identifies might not someday change, but during the course of this story, she’s all “I’m bisexual, deal with it,” and I absolutely love that. That was not me in high school. However, that is me now, but the way I saw girls was very confusing. You see a little bit of that in the book when Grace talks about how she realized she was bi, especially the part about how she thought the way she saw girls was the way all girls saw girls, when, in face, it wasn’t. That is so, so me. Also, I was religiously conservative in high school, so, for my personal experience, that inhibited me from really exploring the conflicting feelings I’d had about girls for years, which Grace doesn’t deal with. But, the ways in which Grace discovered her own identity are very similar to my own journey—I just went on mine seventeen years after she did.
 
One of my absolute favorite aspects of the book is the complicated relationship Grace has with her mother, Maggie. Were those parts difficult to write? They were. They took a lot of listening to people who have been through very complicated and, in some cases, traumatic relationships with a parent. I did not have such a tumultuous relationship with either parent, so there was a lot of blog-reading and asking friends questions. I would definitely say that all the parts during which I cried while writing were Grace and Maggie moments.
 
Both Grace and Eva are involved with the arts—Grace with music, and Eva with dance (which I absolutely love.) Other than writing, do you do anything artsy? I do! I’ve sung for most of my life and even entered college as a voice major, but changed my mind before my first semester started. I wasn’t a fan of singing opera at the time and didn’t want to spend four years doing so. Instead, I sang my own stuff and joined a small singing group and taught myself guitar. After college, I was part of a duo—myself and another girl—and we both played guitar and wrote songs. We traveled around and avoided adulthood for a while doing this, made an album, and moved to Nashville, which is how I ended up in Tennessee. I still sing, but the singer/songwriter life was very much not for me, so I’m much happier pursuing writing than full-time singing. The love interest  in my 2018 book, Girl Made of Stars, Charlie, is a singer-songwriter, and I pulled on a lot of my experience to write her.
 
There’s such a need for books like this, that validate bisexual identity with representation on the page. What is the importance of books like this for teens? I’ve already heard from a lot of teen who claim this is the first book in which they’ve ever seen themselves. Mine isn’t the first with a bi main character, of course, but there aren’t a lot, so the chances of someone picking this one up and it being a first for them are pretty good. I hope that changes. I hope, in the future, there are a ton of bi books to choose from, as well as every letter on the queer spectrum, but we’re not there yet. So, every book that does exist bears the weight of being one of the few right now. The stakes are higher to provide good, helpful, comforting, empowering rep because there just aren’t that many books. If I had had a book like mine as as teen, or a book like Tess Sharpe’s Far From You, which was my first read of a bi main character, it could’ve been life-changing. I’m not saying my book has the same potential but…well, yes I am. It does have that potential and I think all books written by marginalized writers have the same potential. Kids are hungry to see themselves. To see they are okay. To see they are valid. To see they are not erased. To see they are not killed. To themselves empowered and kicking ass and loving and being loved and having sex or not having sex. We’re all hungry for that. The need to feel valid is ageless, but it’s particularly important for kids who have less power and less resources at their disposal.
 
Have you ever stolen someone’s garden gnomes? Ha, unfortunately not, but I have rolled many houses and snuck out of my house many a night.
 
What’s next from you? As I mentioned before, I have another YA coming out in 2018, Girl Made of Stars, which features a bisexual main character and a genderqueer love interest. It’s about a girl who’s twin brother is accused of rape, so it’s pretty heavy. I also have a middle grade book coming out in 2018, Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, and I really think it’s my favorite thing I’ve ever written. It’s about a twelve year-old girl whose house is destroyed by a tornado and, in the aftermath, she develops feelings for another girl at school. It’s so, so queer and I love it. More than that, I really hope it finds the right middle grade hands. 🙂
Buy How to Make a Wish on Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound | Amazon
By | April 28th, 2017|Categories: Archive|Comments Off on Interview with Ashley Herring Blake