Last Monday, June 12th, M-E Girard was in New York City for the 29th annual Lambda Literary Awards (known as the Lammys). Her book, Girl Mans Up, was nominated in the category of Children/Young Adult. Here are some words from her…
I’d already had an excellent day visiting a few places in NYC, accompanied by my editor Jill Davis. Then came time for the Lammys event itself, and it did not disappoint. Getting dressed up, doing a little red-carpet twirl, having a cocktail, then sitting in an auditorium to watch writers of queer literature be honored—it’s something I’m so grateful to have been a part of. Things were a little more personal for me, since I’d started my relationship with Lambda in 2013, with my application to their amazing Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices.
At the Lammys, I got to connect with some of the authors in my category, which is something I’d been so looking forward to. But it just kept getting better! I kept running into people I know or had been wanting to meet! There were several organizers and fellows from the Lambda writer retreats I had attended in 2013 and 2015, and authors I’d been following through social media, and authors I’d met at past events.
Then they announced the winner of the LGBTQ Children’s/Young Adult category, and I heard “Girl…” My first thought was “Look at that—someone else’s book starts with ‘girl’ too. How’d I miss that?!” I must have quickly realized it was actually my book they called, because next thing I know, I was headed down the stairs to get to the stage (I’m so glad I didn’t trip). And then I proceeded to kind of ramble and get blinded by the lights.
I am not someone who gets nervous when I’m in front of a group of people, expected to speak. In fact, I’m usually the opposite. But this was something else. I had no idea what was going on. My hands were shaking. Not one tiny part of me had thought I’d hear my name called, so I hadn’t mentally prepared “in case.” So here’s my actual acceptance speech (which I’d only prepared a few days earlier because my thoughtful agent decided to check in and see if I’d written some remarks “in case” and I totally hadn’t!).
First off, I’d like to thank the judges for including Girl Mans Up in this year’s Children’s/YA category. I’d like to thank the Lambda Literary Foundation for being responsible for the existence of this amazing and important event.
I am a Lambda Literary fellow of the 2013 and 2015 writers retreats, and it wasn’t until I attended the 2013 retreat that I felt equipped to tell this story. At first, there were questions about target audience: Who would want to read this story? Is queer YA niche? At the time, I didn’t really know what to make of that, so I kept it personal: I wrote a book I’d want to read—A contemporary, realistic YA story, written in the 1st person, with an unreliable narrator, with my idea of what teens “sound” like. I also wrote a story for my girlfriend, to give her a literary buddy—a Portuguese girl who’s more like (what we deem to be) a boy, who isn’t much into words/concepts/labels, but who’s into gaming and Ninja Turtles and being a decent person. A girl who just wants to do her own thing.
I hoped I’d contribute something fresh to YA literature, and queer YA lit in specific.
Well this is a huge validation.
I’m proud to be a part of the Lambda Literary community, and of the queer YA community. Thank you to my Lambda retreat facilitator Malinda Lo and my workshop crew. Thank you to my agent Linda Epstein. Thank you to my editor Jill Davis and the team at HarperCollins. Thank you to the readers. To the young teens who email me weekly, telling me that they see themselves in Pen, that they’ve experienced some of what she’s experienced, that they think and feel the same way. And to the women who tell me “I’ve given your book to my wife/father/friend so that they’ll understand me a little better.”
Thank you to my fellow nominees (C.B. Lee, Jeff Garvin, Brie Spangler, Juliann Rich, John Corey Whaley, Krystal Sutherland, Marie Lu) for your books. Because of them, in 10 or 15 years, there are going to be so fewer people saying “Man, I wish this book existed when I was in high school.”
Thank you to my girlfriend Melissa, for all the stuff I wrote in the back of the book already, and for, once again, staying home with our three little Chihuahua babies so I can go hang out at fancy NYC events.
Follow M-E Girard on Twitter @ME_Girard, on Instagram @m_e_girard, on Facebook @m.e.girard.writer, and at her website megirard.com.