I thought that October was going to be my busiest month this year, but it looks like this month is just as busy or busier! I don’t know how this happened. I’m going to talk about what I’m working on later, but for now here are some events, classes and submissions that I’ve been telling people about. It’s just that there are so many that I just want them in one place!
Picture Book Palooza
Price: $20 (or donate more to help this cause!)
Runs Dec 5-7th! It’s a big online event that talks about all aspects of Picture Books. The event is to raise money for diversity scholarships for the Children’s Book Academy. It’s $20 and there are a lot of prizes. All webinars are recorded:
SCBWI Graphic Novel Conference
Turning Writing and Illustrator Ideas into Graphic Novels
10:00 am – 3:30 pm
A one day conference for graphic novel writers and illustrators. When I signed up there were a few spots left with Natascha Morris for a paid critique. Submission opportunity available after the conference!
Black Friday Bootcamp with Storyteller Academy!
Arree Chung is the founder and one of the teachers at the wonderful storyteller academy. Come join in the free event and see if the Storyteller Academy is right for you! I’ve learned a ton at this academy and my son adored the kids classes that were offered!
A YA writing event. Most of the webinars are for YA writers, but there was a talk on MG books. I haven’t watched the events so it could be good for MG writers as well. There is a talk for graphic novelists and one with a queer talk!
This event is now over, but most of the webinars are posted on Youtube!
YallWrite Twitter: https://twitter.com/YALLFest
Youtube Replays: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLLuk7vwjbCbcfvt5K22xlF_6HS4WWcCoB
7 Turns – Novel Writing Course
This is an absolutely wonderful course to take for anyone wanting to write a novel for any age. Ksenia teaches the 7 turns of creating a novel giving you an excellent and fully customizable blueprint to make your novel sing. The community surrounding this course is very supportive and I love everything I’ve learned.
7 Turns Vision: To be the world’s first creative healing company, to create a healthy place to work for, and to build a safe, trusted, and uplifting online community where people can share and discover any story they want.
The 2021 Craft & Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books
A wonderful course by the Children’s Book Academy. Work on your writing craft with three fantastic teachers. Submission opportunity after the course with 10 Editors, Agents and Publishers who will look at your work!
I have been in the illustration course 3 times. It is a fantastic learning opportunity. I learn something new every time I’m in a CBA course.
The BIPOC Bookshelf
A list of BIPOC Editors and Agents. Not all agents on this list are open to submissions!
“The purpose of the BIPOC Editors & Agents database is to be used by both literary publishing professionals and potential writers – with the goal of bringing more stories from the perspective of BIPOC writers into the world through traditional publishing.”
The BIPOC Twitter Account:
I haven’t been able to post for over a month. October was busier than expected this year! I have a lot more to talk about, but I want to get started by talking about Picture Book Palooza! https://www.childrensbookacademy.com/pbpalooza2020.html
Join the PB Palooza
Picture book Palooza is going into it’s second year. The cost for entry is only $20 and you get so much great information. This is a fundraising event so that Mira Reisberg can continue to give class scholarships to BIPOC, Disabled, LGBTQIA+, Low Income ect.! These scholarships are designed to help even out the publishing playing field. In many of the Children’s Book Academy classes students get to show their work directly to Editors, Agents and Art Directors. Students are all given an equal chance to showcase their work in front of these industry professionals.
What You’ll Learn
It feels like 100 years since last year’s event, but I do know that it was epic. I just learned so much from taking part of the event. There were so many wonderful presenters. Lots of fantastic conversations and a ton of learning. You’ll get a lot of your industry questions answered. The events are: 21st Century Nonfiction, Fiction From Life, Writing for Social Justice, Kidlit Community Resources, How to Write Funny, Fiction vs. Concept Books, Editor & Agent Panel, and an Illustration & Writing Panel. Plus a break out Zoom room where you can get all of your questions answered!
The information you’ll get in this event is equivalent to an event put on a bigger organization. You will find that the people invited have information that will help you no matter what your level in writing or illustration. The information given in this event is current and relevant to those just starting out and those who have been in the industry for a while. Take a look at the picture below and go to https://www.childrensbookacademy.com/pbpalooza2020.html to see the list of all the wonderful people involved with this event! There is also a full list of what’s happening when there too!
Why I Love the Children’s Book Academy
I have learned so much in taking the Craft and Business of Illustrating Picture Books! I have taken the class twice and am currently a helper in this past class (and will be a helper in future classes as well). I just love seeing people go from good to great in these classes. Every single person who does the course works ends up with a huge jump in skills from start of the class to end. Also I mentioned that you get to show your work to actual Agents, Illustrators and ADs after class. Not to just any publishing companies, either. These are a range of great companies (that vary every class) that could give you a huge advantage going into or continuing your illustration or writing career! Please join me for this event! If you missed the link before here it is again: https://www.childrensbookacademy.com/pbpalooza2020.html
I want to invite you all to a new Twitter chat! The chat is called #QueerKidlit and will be Wednesday nights 5:30pm PT/ 8:30pm ET. It’s hosted by Jenette Bradley (@jeanettebradly) and myself (@daniduck). The very first event will be Wednesday August 12th! All LGBTQIA+ people and allies welcome! This event is for both kidlit writers and illustrators.
There are lots of things we are working out about this chat. Please come with ideas for things you’d like to see!
Logo art by Jeanette Bradley.
I’m going to start doing weekly updates again! I will be posting my own creative goals (and maybe some artwork), my current reads, and any art/writing events and fun stuff that’s coming up. The format and name for this may change a bit, but I’m really excited to have time to do these updates again.
I just got an iPad Pro. I’m currently using it to work on some illustration work! I have a cat book that I think will work well with on the iPad.
I have another cat graphic novel that I’m doing on my desktop. I am almost done with the images for this, but it is taking some time. I’m hoping that the work for this will give me more things to share for Smart Dummies later this year!
I have honestly not had much time for reading in recent years and that’s been very sad for me. I am listening to a TON of audiobooks right now. It’s easier for me to listen to something while I’m working on art or cleaning the house than it is to sit and read. I can read so much faster than I can listen, so I was resistant at first. I found that I do love listening to these books. I’ve had so much fun hearing these stories.
Stories I’ve read in the last little while:
Full Disclosure by Cameryn Garrett
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Tarnished are the Stars by Rosilee Thor
The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
A Song Below Water by Bethany C Morrow
The Black Flamingo By Dean Atta
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus
King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
Most of these are by Black authors other than Tarnished are the Stars and The Henna Wars. These are both queer stories! I highly recommend reading all of these books.
Currently Reading: All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
This book is different from all the books I’ve been reading lately, because it’s nonfiction. It’s a memoir/manifesto. I’d also say there are CW for this book of sexual abuse, general abuse, homophobia, transphobia, racism and repeated use of the f-word and n-word. The writer of this book is Black, queer and does not put the bad things that happened in his life in a good light.
More Fun Stuff:
Just around the corner is the SCBWI Summer Spectacular conference! I’m attending this event. It starts Friday July 31st and runs through August 4th. I’m very excited for this to start. I honestly keep forgetting the start date, so posting the date here is as much for myself as it is for you! https://www.scbwi.org/events/scbwi-summer-spectacular-2020/
The Children’s Book Academy is having their Craft and Business of Illustrating Children’s Books starting August 31st. This is an absolutely fantastic class. You will learn so much in this class. The fantastic Larissa Marantz is a new teacher in this course. She is absolutely fantastic! It will be the best year to take this class. ADs, Editors and Agents will be looking at your work at the end of the course so sign up now! https://www.childrensbookacademy.com/2020-craft–business-of-illustrating-childrens-books.html
I had so wanted to do a Black only book release post today to support Black Lives Matter. Unfortunately, I didn’t responses to my Tweets yet (I’m still going to try). It’s expected because it took me some time to get responses to my author posts. If you are Black you can still comment here and hopefully I can get several people for a dedicated post. https://twitter.com/DaniDuck/status/1267504987367587847
Even if I’ve already posted your work please feel free to submit you book again for a second post!
I do have some Black authors below, and am also including other POC to the list. I may have missed a few people, so feel free to let me know if I missed you!
Books for Grown-Ups
Dragonborn by Whitney Rines
Five Amaranthine coveting godhood commit horrific actions against mortals and the world they share and are granted twisted versions of their desire.
Dragonborn follows the story of Fayet and his own journey to humanity, by watching mortals over time. He eventually falls for a mortal woman named Ayshir and assuming a mortal shell builds a family and home with her.
However, the events preceding their union and the ones that that follow after, slowly bring a darkness that threatens to destroy his family.
Buy Dragonborn and preview Whitney’s Other Books: https://www.whitneyrines.com/publications
This is My America by Kim Johnson
Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time—her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?
Preorder the Book:
Kim’s Website: https://www.kcjohnsonwrites.com/
I Should Have Worn A Curtain by Samyra Alexander
This quick read follows one woman’s struggle to accept her childhood trauma, face her relationship with food with honesty and bravery, and overcome an illness that has kept her silent too long.
Buy the Book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B088KBYT6C
Folow Samyra: https://twitter.com/SamyraTell
Island Seas by V.E. WilchCombe
Can 12yr old Michael Jones survive the night alone on Lightning Cay? It belongs to them, everyone knows this! Island myths and legends come to life in my new fantasy novella.
Buy the Book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B084LL15MD
V.E. Wilchcombe’s Website: https://starbeam88.wixsite.com/mysite-4
Calculated Murder by H.G Ahedi
In New York, Roumoult Cranston is infamously known for his keen interest in bizarre cases. So, when Garner Moss, a millionaire playboy is murdered by rich ex model, he is not intrigued. Fate intervenes when Roumoult becomes a prime suspect who was not only at the crime scene but also benefits from the dead man’s will.
With only seven suspects, including Roumoult, who killed Garner Moss might be a simple question to answer, but why? When motives like jealously, revenge, lust, money, power do not apply, the quest to answer this question will open a Pandora box because, in the case of the Calculated Murder, the living and the dead tread on dangerous terrain.
Buy the Book: amazon.com/H.G-Ahedi/e/B0
H.G’s Ahedi’s Website: https://harbeerahedi.wordpress.com/hedi
Older by Emily Schaubeck
A collection of poetry and prose for the lost and broken hearted. As everyone is on their journey to healing as I am.
Follow Emily: https://twitter.com/EmilySchaubeck
Not Your American Girl by Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang
Lauren and her best friend, Tara, have always done absolutely everything together. So when they don’t have any classes together in sixth grade, it’s disastrous. The solution? Trying out for the school play. Lauren, who loves to sing, wonders if maybe, just maybe, she will be the star instead of Tara this time.
But when the show is cast, Lauren lands in the ensemble, while Tara scores the lead role. Their teacher explains: Lauren just doesn’t look the part of the all-American girl. What audience would believe that she, half-Jewish, half-Chinese Lauren, was the everygirl star from Pleasant Valley, USA?
From amidst the ensemble, Lauren tries to support her best friend. But when she can’t bring herself to sing anymore, her spot in the play and her friendship are in jeopardy. With the help of a button-making business, the music of Patsy Cline, and her two bickering grandmothers, can Lauren find her voice again?
Buy the Book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VVTB9Q2
Madelyn’s Website: http://www.madelynrosenberg.com/
Wendy’s Website: http://wendyshang.com
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
Nishat doesn’t want to lose her family, but she also doesn’t want to hide who she is, and it only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life. Flávia is beautiful and charismatic, and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat decide to showcase their talent as henna artists. In a fight to prove who is the best, their lives become more tangled, but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush, especially since Flávia seems to like her back.
As the competition heats up, Nishat has a decision to make: stay in the closet for her family, or put aside her differences with Flávia and give their relationship a chance.
Buy The Book & Adiba’s Website: https://adibajaigirdar.com/the-henna-wars
Adiba’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/adiba_j
The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho Illustrated by Jess X. Snow
Dayeon wants to be a haenyeo just like Grandma. The haenyeo dive off the coast of Jeju Island to pluck treasures from the sea–generations of Korean women have done so for centuries. To Dayeon, the haenyeo are as strong and graceful as mermaids. To give her strength, Dayeon eats Grandma’s abalone porridge. She practices holding her breath while they do the dishes. And when Grandma suits up for her next dive, Dayeon grabs her suit, flippers, and goggles. A scary memory of the sea keeps Dayeon clinging to the shore, but with Grandma’s guidance, Dayeon comes to appreciate the ocean’s many gifts.
Tina’s Website: https://www.tinamcho.com/
Jess’ Website: http://www.jessxsnow.com/
Thank you so much for participating in Spring into Writing this year! This was only the second year for the event. I have a survey you can fill out if you’d like: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CCTXW3Q
Here is a badge for anyone who wants an “I Won” badge. If you did any writing at all this month, congratulations you won Spring into Writing!
You have until next Monday (June 8th) to enter for the following 3 prizes
1. A critique with Kaitlyn Sanchez of your work.
2. Website building help from Dani:
The third prize is 3 pieces of promotional material for your book!
If you have a book coming out soon you might need help with making post cards, bookmarks, posters, book plates ect. I will do the set up and design for these with simple art if wanted. (If you have a different business I can help with that as well).*
To enter: Comment below to tell me how you liked Spring into Writing!
Please comment on as many posts as possible!
*If you would rather me help you set up a website I can do that. Prize winner must contact me 30 days after winning. Prize must be redeemed within 6 months after prize is announced.
Lisa Chen-Wing is just hilarious. Anyone can write a story about their life, but it takes a special kind of person to make other people laugh about that experience. Lisa’s webcomic Whiny Whiny Pancakes is all about Lisa’s life with her kids. This comic is hilarious and very dear to my heart. I love reading this comic and I hope you will too!
Lisa’s website: http://whinywhinypancakes.com/
9 Reasons Why
By Lisa Whiny Whiny Pancakes
2 Reasons why I started a semi-autobiographical web comic
- My friend looked at a web comic and said ‘Hey, you could do that!’
- I said ‘Hey, I could do that.’
5 Reasons why you should start a web comic.
- Making more social media accounts is extremely easy.
- The best way to get better at something is to do it regularly.
- It’s a great way to practice new skills and techniques.
- Getting a few likes from randos on the internet is a great ego boost.
- It’s not a huge time commitment.
1 Reason why you shouldn’t start to draw a web comic
- Nobody really cares about your web comic.
1 Reason you should draw your web comic anyway.
- Outsider artists, the ones who toil their whole lives in obscurity, are the real heroes.
Since I don’t have the integrity of an outsider artist, only the same number of followers: (Instagram @whinywhinypancakes, Twitter @WhinyPancakes, Facebook @whinywhinypancakes, URL: whinywhinypancakes.com, other URL: elsiedub.com)
Dawn Young is on my blog talking about everything writing and fun. That’s right, Dawn has taken on the spirit of Spring into Writing and is talking about her favorite ways to write. So grab a hot drink (or a cold one, I wont judge) and curl up with this wonderful post by Dawn!
You can read more about Dawn and her work here: https://www.dawnyoungbooks.com/
The sun is shining. Flowers are blooming. Birds are chirping. It’s springtime and here we are in Spring into Writing – a perfect time to take that “leap forward” and have some fun!
So how exactly do you have fun writing, when sometimes it’s hard to even start writing, especially when that blank page of paper sitting in front of you seems to be daring you to even try, staring at you as if to say, “So, whatcha got?” or, “Ha! I knew it! You’re as blank as I am!”?
But there are ways to start and definitely ways to have fun! I’m sure what’s considered fun is different for everyone, but here are some things that work for me to make writing fun and they may work for you too…
Humor. To have fun with writing, I go for humor. I love to write funny, wacky stories. In my books, The Night Baafore Christmas (WorthyKids, December 2019), Counting Elephants (Hachette, March 2020) and the soon to be released, The Night Baafore Easter (WorthyKids, January 2021), my goal was to make kids laugh. Since some of my best memories include reading to my kids while they were plopped in my lap, all giggling at silly, clever picture books, I wanted to create that experience for other children. In these books, I went for craziness and chaos.
Rhyme. I love writing in rhyme. To me, it’s fun to write andread. Some of my favorite books are written in rhyme. I love when the rhyme creates a rhythm that makes the words flow, as if your reading was set on cruise control. The Night Baafore Christmas is written in rhyme because, other that the fact that I think it’s fun to write in rhyme, I thought the rhyme created a rollicking rhythm which complemented the Christmas chaos.
Figurative language and specifically alliteration is fun to write and even more fun to read. Think back to being a kid. Remember how fun it was to try and say “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” and “She sells seashells by the seashore”? Although I wouldn’t advise that level of alliteration, otherwise you’d find yourself tripping over your own tongue, certainly some is fun. My book vThe Night Baafore Christmas is full of alliteration, like these lines:
“Bo reads them a story, they listen and look, till 10 licks a page and devours the book.
Sheep 9 scared of monsters hides under the rug, while 8 missing mommy, holds Bo in a hug. “
And “Bo races to rescue his mother’s new wreath.” The r sounds make the sentence roll off your tongue.
Wordplay. The Night Baafore Christmashas word play in the title. I used Baafore instead of Before because, as you may have guessed, there are sheep in the story, and many of them. The Baafore was a fun way to introduce the sheep without actually saying there are sheep in this story. Then in the story I have them discover the fridge and bellow “baaffet!” to add more word play.
Internal rhyme. Again, think back to being a kid. Remember how fun it was to say “The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout.”? In The Night Baafore Christmas, I tried to add as much internal rhyme as I could, like “while Bo saves the angel, sheep 1, 2 and 3 nibble non-stop to the top of the tree.”
Unexpected twist. Well, I can’t reveal the twist in The Night Baafore Christmasbecause it would spoil the ending, so you’ll have to read it for yourself…
Write about things you love. Your natural love for the subject will inherently come through, so think of the things you like to do and use that as material for your stories.
Something I think is fun is math. As former mechanical engineer turned writer, I don’t get many opportunities to do math, except of course when I help my kids with their homework, which usually doesn’t go well, since they do not appreciate my math enthusiasm. We all know most kids roll their eyes at the thought of math, so I wanted to get kids to have fun with math. With Counting Elephants, my goal was to make the book fun to read so kids would feel that sense of enjoyment, connect that feeling to math and have a more positive view of math in general.
Shake things up. I’ve read counting book after counting book with my kids, but they were typically the same ̶ a number on the page and some items that add to that number. And that’s great for the really little kids, but I wanted to take counting to the next level. I wanted kids to do more than count. I wanted them to add and subtract. I imagined an addition character, counting items, while a subtraction character made them disappear. I put them together and Voilà! I came up with a Counter who tries to count her ten elephants while her magician friend – POOF! – makes it impossible. Ten, nine, eight… each time we get back to counting, one of the elephants has been changed into something unexpected. In Counting Elephants, kids are adding new things in and subtracting elephants out to come up with a total of 10. And what better way for kids to have fun than to have things go a little crazy.
Unexpected twist. Once again, but this time in Counting Elephants, I can’t reveal the twist or it will spoil the ending, so you’ll have to read for yourself.
Pay attention to what makes you smile, laugh and fill up with joy. Use what you’re passionate about when you write to take that leap and Spring into Writing and have some fun.
Dawn Young bio:
Dawn graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, and later with an MBA. For years, Dawn worked as an engineer and, later, manager at a large aerospace company, until her creative side called her to pursue her dream of writing children’s books. After reading and writing hundreds of corporate documents, none of which were titled The Little Engineer Who Could or Don’t Let the Pigeon Fly the Airbus, Dawn is thrilled to now be reading and writing picture books instead.
Dawn is also a math enthusiast. When she’s not busy writing and reading, she can be found doing math problems, sometimes just because… In high school, Dawn’s dream was to have a math equation named after her, but now, she believes having her name on the cover of books is a million times better! Dawn lives with her husband, three children and golden retriever in sunny Arizona. She is the author of The Night Baafore Christmas (WorthyKids, Oct 2019), Counting Elephants (Hachette, March 2020), and the soon to be released The Night Baafore Easter (WorthyKids, Jan 2021).
Buy Dawn’s Books:
The Night Baafore Christmas: https://www.amazon.com/Night-Baafore-Christmas-Dawn-Young/dp/1546014586/
While writing this intro for Robin Stevenson I can’t help but hear the song, “Rainbow Connection” in my head. It’s not just because I’m listening to the song while I’m writing. Robin just gives me all the warm feeling I get when I hear the song.
I wish that I had Robin’s books when I was a kid. I also wish that my parents and the world would have been supportive in me reading such books. It’s wonderful knowing that not alone in this world. I love that feeling and I know that Robin’s books will help our and future generations feel this way as well!
Robin’s Website: https://robinstevenson.com/
Hello! Hope you are all doing okay and finding support and ways to cope during this strange pandemic spring. Despite having lots of time due to cancelled tours, launches and events, I’ve been finding writing rather difficult lately…so I was glad to get an email from Dani asking me if I would share something about why I love writing about LGBTQ+ characters and themes in my books.
Over the last few years, I seem to have become known for writing LGBTQ+ books. My first non-fiction book, PRIDE: CELEBRATING DIVERSITY AND COMMUNITY (https://robinstevenson.com/books/pride-celebrating-diversity-and-community/), came out in 2016 and was a Stonewall Honor book. Many of my novels include LGBTQ+ characters and several, including INFERNO (https://robinstevenson.com/books/inferno/) and UNDER THREAT (https://robinstevenson.com/books/under-threat-2/), have been selected for the ALA Rainbow List. My board book PRIDE COLORS (https://robinstevenson.com/books/pride-colors/) is currently a Lambda Literary Award finalist, my picture book GHOST’S JOURNEY: A REFUGEE STORY (https://robinstevenson.com/books/ghosts-journey-a-refugee-story/) tells the story of two gay men and their cat, and this spring I launched a second, expanded edition of my original Pride book: It is called PRIDE: THE CELEBRATION AND THE STRUGGLE (https://robinstevenson.com/books/pride-the-celebration-and-the-struggle/).
(I was also going to launch my latest– and very queer– YA novel, WHEN YOU GET THE CHANCE (https://robinstevenson.com/books/when-you-get-the-chance/) , co-written with Tom Ryan, but due to the pandemic it will now be delayed until spring 2021).
So…why LGBTQ+ books? Well, when I wrote my first novel fifteen years ago, I drew heavily on my own experiences and memories of being a queer teen. Of course, that was a long time ago—I was in high school in the 1980s. It wasn’t a great time for queer teens: we didn’t talk about LGBTQ+ identities, we didn’t have books about LGBTQ+ characters, and many of us didn’t even have the language that might have made it so much easier to talk about these subjects, to understand our own identities, and to find community.
So my first novel, OUT OF ORDER (https://robinstevenson.com/books/out-of-order/), came from that place and those memories. It is about a bisexual teen, Sophie, who is just beginning to figure out who she is and how she wants to be in the world. After it was published in 2007, I began hearing from readers who related so strongly to Sophie—and I began realizing how important this kind of representation was. The following year, my novel BIG GUY (https://robinstevenson.com/books/big-guy/) came out. It was about a gay teen boy, and again I received emails from readers to whom this novel really mattered. One young gay man told me that he read it over and over– and that it helped him to understand and accept himself.
And of course, it isn’t just important for LGBTQIA+ kids and teens to see LGBTQ+ characters in books: I think all children, parents and teachers need these books. For young people who don’t know a lot about LGBTQ+ people, books can help them learn, have empathy, and hopefully care more about issues of human rights. Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are still common, and they hurt people—and I think books can be an important part of working to change that.
Although I started out writing for teens, I have begun writing LGBTQ+ books for much younger kids as well. Things are getting better but when I visit schools and talk to students, I still meet many who are afraid that if they come out as gay, or bi, or lesbian, or trans, that their parents won’t support them, or will be angry or disappointed. So I think kids need to hear from the people that love them that it is okay for them to be themselves and to love who they love. Our teens and our older kids need to hear that, of course—but there is no age that is too young to begin giving your kids that message. So I wrote my board book, PRIDE COLORS (https://robinstevenson.com/books/pride-colors/), for the very youngest kids–babies and toddlers. I hope it gives parents an easy way to tell their children that it is okay for them to be who they are, love who they love, and that they will always be accepted and adored.
My picture book, GHOST’S JOURNEY: A REFUGEE STORY (https://robinstevenson.com/books/ghosts-journey-a-refugee-story/) , is for slightly older kids. It tells the story of two gay men, Rainer and Eka, who fled Indonesia and came to Canada as refugees—along with their cat, Ghost. It is based on a true story and the illustrations are created from Rainer’s photographs. I wrote it to raise awareness of the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ people around the world, and my hope is that it can be used in classrooms as a gentle introduction to human rights issues. All my royalties from this book go to support LGBTQ+ refugees—I am hoping it will raise funds as well as awareness!
Writing about LGBTQ+ history and rights has strengthened my own connections to the queer community. It has led to so many conversations with queer young people, peers and elders; taught me more about my community’s past and its ongoing struggles; made me part of a wonderfully supportive group of queer writers; and connected me with other LGBTQ+ people around the world. And of course, all of that makes it even more likely that my future books will include LGBTQ+ characters…because my writing reflects the world I live in.
I am curious about the stories and books that will come out of this current period in our lives. How will the pandemic and all we are experiencing filter into our writing? For myself, I am returning to a long neglected and half written mystery novel this week and am hoping that the words will start to flow again…wish me luck! For those of you that are also finding writing challenging this spring, I hope you will be gentle with yourselves and do what you need to do to cope. The words will come eventually. They always do.
The winner of the $25 gift card is Tonnye Williams Fletcher!
Write What You Love
Dea Poirier is just delightfully dark. If I could name one Twitter feed that is just full of fun, it’s hers. Did I mention she’s hilarious? I laugh so much when I read her posts.
Dea didn’t always think of herself as dark. She tried several different genres before she found her place in the book world. Today Dea is going to talk about her journey to find herself.
Dea has two books “Next Girl to Die” and “Beneath the Ashes”. These books have murder, mystery and lots of thrills. You can check out Dea’s website here: https://www.dhpoirier.com/
There’s a bit of writing advice that will still echo through the ether long after we’re all gone — write what you love. It’s great advice, really. Something I think we should all use as our starting point when we put pen to paper. But there’s something more than love that needs to be considered, what’s in your heart. It’s not just love that exists there, there’s so much more.When I started writing books—a thousand years ago—what I loved were historical books that had a lot of romance, fun fantasy books, oh and a lot of other books that are in no way representative of anything I could ever write. I thought I could craft books like the ones I loved, but the moment I tried, something very different came out of me.
My first book was about a teenage version of God playing with the earth like it was an ant farm. He was super mean to the earth because he was bullied at school. Sounds like a fun premise, right? That is until you get to the villain—the dad that God didn’t know he had—that was literally destroying their planet by sucking the life out of it, and Earth was next. It got super dark, super fast.
Whoops. My second book, I ventured into trying to write a fun paranormal romance about a teenage psychic. What did I end up with? Well, this particular psychic’s gift involved her being able to see and feel the exact way that someone would die if she touched them. An evil stage mother made her famous off this gift, and a radical doomsday cult thought the psychic had to die for the end of days to come… SUPER FUN RIGHT? Oh, and her boyfriend was dying. Good job bringing all the fun, Dea.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed writing these books, but every person that read them began comping my work with The Hunger Games and they’d always say first Wow, that’s really dark before saying anything else about it. Naive baby writer Dea had no idea why they were so dark.
This went on for years. I’d write a new book and get told it was too dark for the market. ALWAYS. I shifted to historical hoping for a better reception. I mean, if it’s dark because it’s historical, that’s fine, right? Nope. Then on to romance. Haha. I wish I knew what I was thinking. I finally found my stride when my agent at the time suggested that I try writing dark romantic suspense with troubled characters… and mystery is what ended up coming out. Not a single person has told me that Next Girl to Die or Beneath the Ashes are too dark, so yay. I’m hoping that one day a historical fantasy of mine might make it out into the world as well.
My journey through so many genres taught me that it’s not just about writing what you love, and it never can be. Darkness is what comes out when I write, it’s not something I seek out on purpose, but it’s the subtext in all my prose. It took me a long time—over ten years—to understand what it would take to find the balance of what I love and what’s in my heart. There are some parts of us we just can’t fight no matter how hard we try. Maybe I should have embraced the darkness sooner.
Bio: Best-selling author, Dea Poirier was raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, where she found her passion during a creative writing course. She studied computer science and political science at the University of Central Oklahoma. She later spent time living on both coasts and traveling the United States before finally putting down roots in central Florida. She now resides somewhere between Disney and the swamp with her son. Her books Next Girl to Die and Beneath the Ashes can be found wherever books are sold.