Back from summer vacay! And not only that, today’s pub day!

After a two month hiatus from blabbermouthing, I am officially back on it! I’m still closed to queries, but I’m happy to go back to talking to you all every week. So, here we go!

A few years ago I got a query in my inbox that had me sit up and listen. It was from a new writer, someone who was going with hyphenated initials. Hunh? I found out she’d actually only been writing for two years. Hmmm. The manuscript definitely needed work but I heard something something something in this writing that had me say, “Stop everything! I actually must represent this author.” What was that? It was an amazing main character, Pen Olivera, and it was the powerful, smart authorial voice of M-E Girard. “Good god,” I thought.

Since I took M-E on as a client, that manuscript was revised and revised again; it was workshopped and rewritten, and basically turned inside out. Then HarperCollins editor Jill Davis snatched it up.

DSCN0384-2-150x150@2xToday is the publication day of that young adult novel, Girl Mans Up. I absolutely could not be more proud of M-E, for her hard work and perseverance, for remaining true to herself and her characters, and for her contribution to young adult and GLBTQ+ literature.

Here’s what she has to say about it…

This is the eve of the release of my debut YA novel. In select stores, there are already copies on the shelves (someone tweeted me the evidence). Tomorrow I will go to my local Chapters (which to Americans who don’t know, is the Canadian equivalent of Barnes & Noble) and stare at my book on a shelf, and then I will take a copy to the cashier and buy it.


My story is now a real book, and somehow I still can’t freaking grasp that fact, like it’s way too unbelievable to be true. When I pick up one of my author copies, I feel like it’s a book that I had made to merely appear to be the real thing—some kind of sweet-looking prop I can display for myself. But it’s not that. It’s the real thing, and people out there—readers—will go out to deliberately pick up my book and exchange money for the opportunity to read it.

That is just…wow.

DSCN0414-2-150x150@2xAs much as it’s taken a fairly long-ish time to get here (I mean from landing an agent, to selling manuscript, to having it hit shelves), it feels like it literally just all happened at once. I went from being in awe of the first ARC mailed to me, to having my first book launch (because I’m having two of them!). There were people who came, not only to support me, but also interested readers who came just to see a reading and buy a book. People are already reading my story, and they have thoughts and opinions. They’ve taken the time to tweet about it, or write reviews—many incredibly detailed and insightful. I’ve been lucky enough to earn a couple of starred reviews from professional publications.

I mean…how did this happen?!


M-E reading at the launch.

It happened with the idea for a story. A story that I got so excited about, then got super confused about, and then grew to hate—but then grew to love all over again. It was a story worth fighting for, even when it felt like homework, when it felt like everyone else but me would do a better job at writing it. I’m a newer writer, and it took time for me to bring my voice and writing skills to the point where I was able to figure out what I was trying to say, what the story was trying to be about. I had a vision for where I wanted my work to end up, and I came up with a plan to give myself the best shot to get there. Of course I couldn’t plan for timing and luck, but somehow it all aligned, and now here I am, on the eve of my official release date.

My book is coming out, and I keep feeling like I need an Oscars Thank You speech.


Quite a crowd…

But I’ve done my acknowledgements (they’re at the back of the book!), so instead, I’ll thank the one person I haven’t thanked yet: Thank you to my main character Pen Oliveira for giving me someone compelling and badass to write about, whose story is what took me from First Draft, to “Oh-my-god-look-at-that-awesome-book-cover.” Oh and also: Sorry for making you sound super rude and whiny in the beginning, and sorry for giving you a kind of over-the-top emotional plot at first, which you’re probably still cringing about.


M-E knows how to crack up her girlfriend AND her agent!

Enjoy the photos from the official launch for Girl Mans Up, which happened on September 1st, at Glad Day Bookshop, a long-surviving LGBTQ bookstore in downtown Toronto. Doesn’t it look like the best book launch ever?! It really was.



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Closed to unsolicited submissions (mostly)

open-closed-wall-signJust want to let you all know that I’m closed to unsolicited submissions for a while. Although, as when I’ve closed to submissions in the past, you may still query me under certain circumstancesas a follow up to a writing conference within the past six months (as per the conference submission guidelines); if I’ve already requested your manuscript or a revise/resubmit; or by referral. Sorry, but all other, unsolicited queries will be deleted. When I re-open to submissions I will let everyone know via Twitter, Facebook, and here. Please note that everyone sending emails to my query address will receive an auto-response advising that I’m closed to queries. It’s not just you.
Peace out.

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Stonewall Book Award winner for YA Literature

imgresThis morning, my client Bill Konigsberg accepted the Stonewall Book Award for young adult literature for his novel, THE PORCUPINE OF TRUTH. Here is the text of his acceptance speech. I am so very proud to represent this man and help his words resound in the world.

Thank you so much. Thank you to those on the Stonewall Award committee. I was blown away to learn about this honor, especially in a year with so many stellar young adult books that depict diverse aspects of the LGBTQ experience. I am honored simply to have my work considered on the same level as some of these incredible novels.

Thank you to my family at Scholastic, whom I happen to love, dearly. Cheryl Klein, my editor, will forever be the person in my life who saved me. Seriously. Before my second novel, Openly Straight, found a home, I thought it was quite possible I’d never be published again. This possibility terrified me, because I had so much more to say. Cheryl gave me a chance, despite not-so-stellar sales numbers for my first book, Out of the Pocket. And I will forever be grateful for that opportunity, and also for her brilliance as an editor.

Thanks to my agent, Linda Epstein. She believed in me when my own belief was faltering.

Thanks to my husband, who is my biggest supporter and fan. When I met Chuck 12 years ago, suffice it to say that relationships were not a part of my skill set. And then I met the perfect person for me, and I had to figure it out really quick. There have been times I haven’t been quite up to the task, but Chuck has been patient with me and I didn’t know it was possible to love someone as much as I love Chuck Cahoy. It just keeps getting better.

I have so many more people to thank, but I could literally spend the next 10 minutes thanking people. I hope that I’ve been good about sharing my gratitude with all of those for whom I am grateful, because, well, I have a lot I want to say and I don’t want to put you to sleep.

I wrote this book because far too often in my experience, LGBTQ people are made to feel as if the religious/spiritual realm is not our place. And I think that’s awful. I believe the cosmic mystery is a gift for all of us, and I wanted to reclaim it for young LGBTQ people. I know… ambitious.

In The Porcupine of Truth, 18-year-old Aisha Stinson is kicked out of her home for being a lesbian. At the end of the journey of the book, she says she’s “scrambled.” When asked what that means, she says, “I’m sad. But also I’m done. Like truly done with them. And I’m done letting them own God. Nobody gets to use God as a weapon against me anymore. I just fucking reject that stuff. Nobody owns my God.”

I can’t tell you how much the mass shooting at Pulse here in Orlando brought this home for me.

I’m done, too. Completely and utterly done, and here’s what I think:

It’s time for a religious revolution. For us all to rise up and say no to those who would use God as a weapon. Whether it’s telling people they cannot love who they love, based on race, or religion, or sexual or gender orientation. Or that they are lesser in the eyes of God. This is for the false prophets who claim to speak for God, yet utter any phrase that contradicts the idea that we should endeavor to love each other, all of us. For those who would pass off their hatred of LGBTQ people to their children, children who may be mentally ill and yet still have unlimited access to weapons of mass destruction because of the absurd power wielded by certain organizations, organizations which seem to own politicians to such a degree that it doesn’t matter that 90% of Americans wish to see stricter gun control laws.

It’s high time for us—all of us, by the way—to embrace progressive spiritual and religious leaders who reject violence, hate, and bigotry. You don’t have to believe to embrace. And the reason to embrace them is that they have the power to influence so many people. And it’s time for us as a society to say NO MORE to those who would have us believe that God hates anything.

In The Porcupine of Truth, an older gay man named Turk tells Carson and Aisha, “Rigidity is dangerous. When someone tells you they know exactly what God is, run from that person.”

Another character, Laurelei, says that whatever a person believes to be true about God is utterly, undeniably true, so long as you add two words: “For me.”

I so want to live in a world where we can all celebrate NOT knowing, together. Where we can all have our own notions of what God is or is not, whether they come from the Bible, the Koran, or any number of amazing sources. To me, that’s what I want written on my gravestone. That in some small way, I helped create a world where we’re all allowed to explore ideas and express them to each other, without someone having to be right. And know they’re right. That’s the danger.

And that’s where we come in, writers and librarians. Toni Morrison, the greatest living American writer, says, “All the books are questions for me. … I write them because I don’t know something.”

We as writers and proponents of literacy would do well to keep this in mind. We can practice not knowing the answer, seeking the elusive Porcupines of Truth that are just out of our grasp, and we can model how literature helps us to understand the minds, actions and perspectives of other people. It doesn’t offer answers, but it offers great questions, and those young people who begin to seek their own answers will become tomorrow’s leaders. If you’re putting good books in the hands of young people, you are helping to create this better world. I believe that to be true.

And beyond that, by displaying titles with LGBTQ protagonists in your library, you send the message to teens who are LGBTQ that they matter, and to those who aren’t that you don’t have to be LGBTQ to read these books. The first is life-saving. The second is world-changing.

In case you don’t believe that books save lives, let me tell you a story. Recently, a teenage fan from Missouri friended me on Facebook. A couple weeks ago, he asked me if I could talk to him about how to come out to his very conservative, religious family. I told him I’d be happy to do so, but that I needed a few days to gather my thoughts. Also, I was on vacation.

The night before I was set to talk to him, I saw he had posted on Facebook that his stepfather had outed him to his mother, and it hadn’t gone well. His mother had told the rest of the family, and they were all screaming at him that he was being possessed by Satan. His mother put him in Christian counseling, restricted his access to friends, and threw out all of his books.

I spoke to him the next day. He said losing his books was the worst part of it. He said books were his “low-key boyfriend.” What a great kid.

Here’s something he said to me by message that day: “I want a boyfriend. I can’t have that. I want my amazing romance novels. I can’t have that. I was to be able to say, ‘hey guys, I’m gay.’ I can’t. I am tired of ‘I can’t.’

“’I can’t’ are literally the worst two words in my life.”

Let’s you and me work to make a world for the millions of kids out there like my friend where they can say, with confidence, “I can.”

Bill Konigsberg won the Lambda Literary Award for his first novel, OUT OF THE POCKET. He won the SCBWI Sid Fleischman Award for humor for his second novel, OPENLY STRAIGHT. He was awarded the Stonewall Book Award for his third novel, THE PORCUPINE OF TRUTH. For the rest of this month you can purchase the Kindle version of THE PORCUPINE OF TRUTH for just $2.99. 



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