Tag Archives: Hannah Moskowitz

Gay YA and Me: A Love Story

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So, I don’t identify myself as homosexual. I’m a straight, married, white woman. I’m pretty comfortable saying I’m around a 2 or a 2.5 on the Kinsey Scale. (That is considered “straight,” right?) My kids (as far as I know) are all straight, as are my parents, siblings and my very closest friends. I do have some friends who are gay. And I have cousins who are gay, who live the most normal, middle-class, suburban, family life, with no more strife or focused discrimination than most people I’m familiar with (again, as far as I know). Of course they live in Massachusetts, which helps with that pesky marriage issue. So why, one might ask, am I so damn concerned with gay issues?

Ms. Magazine 1972

Ms. Magazine 1972

Well, first let me give you a little bit of background about myself: I grew up during the 1970’s. My mom was a self-proclaimed feminist and a proud early member of NOW. I lived in a town and went to a school with people of all colors. Our family considered ourselves politically liberal. I still consider myself both a feminist and a liberal, even though those words are sometimes now loaded with all kinds of nasty, derogatory meaning. When I was a kid it just so happened that my very first best friend (like when I was 4 years old) was physically handicapped and in third grade my best friend was Hispanic. In fifth grade one of my BFFs was substantially overweight. In middle school I had a crush on a black boy (but a friend of mine was the one who “got” him) and in high school I was pretty good friends with a boy who was considered “artistic and flamboyant,” which in the late 70’s was code for something else.

Um, so who really gives a shit about  your childhood?” you say. “Big deal. A lot of people grow up ‘open minded.’ What difference does any of this make regarding what issues you feel strongly about? I’m sure you’re very evolved. But really isn’t it just that you’re a bleeding heart liberal weenie, Linda? Hunh? Isn’t it?

Well, yes. Yes I am.

But also, I’ve always  loved people. I love people for who they are, not who they love, not what their race, ethnicity, sex or religion is, not what their body looks like or what it can/cannot do.

imagesI’m concerned with gay rights, and I’m committed to representing books that include, are written by or written for people in the LGBTQ community because of that love of people. You know, I love human beings as a species, because we are so damned interesting. In a general sense I guess I’m just enamored with the human condition. I mean, I really do think about shit like “the meaning of life,” or “can we ever be truly content?” or “what does death mean?” But I digress… What I’m trying to say is, I think that because I love people I’m interested in issues surrounding human rights.

Right now is a moment in history when we, as a country, have begun to tackle discrimination based on sexual orientation. (For the moment, let’s not get into how racial and sexual discrimination hasn’t improved as much as I thought it would have back in the ‘70s.) I feel like our country is slowly catching up to talk about (if not always to deal with) some of the issues that have always been on my mind and in my heart.

OpenlyStraight_CVSo why am I going on and on about this on the blog today? What does this have to do with books? Well, first of all it’s my damn blog. I can write whatever I want. Click out if you don’t want to hear my rambles. But secondly, I’m writing about this because I’d like to celebrate young adult literature that represents the GLBTQ experience. Today I’m focusing on YA because a. It’s a great time to read gay YA, with a veritable explosion of fantastic books in the past 10 or so years; b. Today’s young adults are tomorrow’s grownups, so it’s fascinating to read what they’re reading; c. My client Bill Konigsberg’s young adult book, Openly Straight, comes out June 1st and I’m excited beyond belief; and d. Didn’t you hear me before? It’s my damn blog and I can write about whatever I want.

Recently there have been some interesting articles about gay YA, with a particular focus on how gay characters have been evolving in literature. I think this might be because the conversation about what it means to be anywhere on the GLBTQ spectrum has also been evolving. This month there was a terrific blog post by Bill, and an article in The Atlantic Wire specifically about this issue. They are way more eloquent than I can ever be. There’s also a nice article by David Levithan talking about his book BOY MEETS BOY, which first came out ten years ago.

BH_TRMS4_TheElephantofSurpriseI’ve been reading quite a few gay YA books recently because well, as I said, I enjoy them, but also if I represent clients who write in this genre I’d better be reading the genre and understanding it. Currently I’m reading THE ELEPHANT OF SURPRISE by Brent Hartinger, who has been kind enough to agree to be interviewed by me. Look for that interview here on the blog this coming Monday, April 29th. On my bedside table waiting to be read is MARCO IMPOSSIBLE, the newest treat from the inimitable Hannah Moskowitz and Maureen Johnson’s THE BERMUDEZ TRIANGLE, which I can’t believe I haven’t yet read. Also, I’m dying to get my hands on advanced reader’s copies of TWO BOYS KISSING (Knopf, August 2013) also by David Levithan and FREAKBOY (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, October 2013) by Kristin Elizabeth Clark, because I really hate having to wait for things.

How about you? Why do you/don’t you care about issues that may/may not affect you directly? And how does that inform your reading?

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Writers, Publishing Professionals, and Other Humans: How to Get the Job Done

Last night I attended an event at Wix Lounge, hosted by the New York chapter of the Women’s National Book Association, The Making of a Young Adult Bestseller: From Acquisition to Reader. The panel was stellar, including Susan Katz (President and Publisher, HarperCollins Children’s Books), Joy Peskin (Editorial Director, Farrar Straus & Giroux Books for Young Readers), literary agent Jenny Bent (The Bent Agency), Marisa Russell (Publicity Manager, Penguin Young Readers Group), and the inimitable YA/MG author Hannah Moskowitz, all moderated by rock star librarian and blogger, Betsy Bird (I’m a total fangirl; I can’t help gushing!).

So, just to set the record straight, they did not answer the how-to question or hand out an algorithmic rulebook for writing a blockbuster YA bestseller. What there was though, was some smart and interesting discussion,  appropriate for both publishing professionals as well as writers. And as with most WNBA-NYC events, it was a great opportunity to meet other people in the industry, engage in intelligent discourse about books, and of course eat cheese and crackers. (So that’s called networking, by the way…)

Now I learned a couple of things about the publishing process, I was entertained, and I made some nice contacts. All good. But for me, the takeaway lesson was about something that anyone, trying to achieve anything, might do well to think about. After the panel, I introduced myself to Jenny Bent and we spoke a bit about agenting. She couldn’t have been kinder and more encouraging to me, still a newish agent. But one thing in particular about our conversation has stuck with me. She said, “People who persevere, succeed.” (That’s how I remember it, anyway…) But yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you for reminding me of that, Jenny! It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? I mean, if you quit something then what are your chances of succeeding at it? That’s right: zero. She also told me that having self-doubt may never stop, that she still has self-doubt, but that it shouldn’t actually influence my actions. Holy moly. Jenny Bent still experiences self-doubt?! Ok. I’ll get over myself. I guess I’m in good company!

Then, later in the evening (yes, we were up to the cocktails and yummy food part) Hannah Moskowitz said the most brilliant thing. (Yes you did, Hannah!) We were talking about publishing, ebooks, getting/keeping an agent, the submission process, etc…Now this is what I think she said, not necessarily what she actually said. It was something like, “If your manuscript isn’t selling, write another one.” Write another one! Now please people, pay close attention here. Hannah is 21 years old. She’s copped to writing about 15-20 novels in her life. She’s had 6 accepted for publication so far. There are 4 in bookstores already and another 2 in the tubes. Did you hear me?! SIX NOVELS. 21 YEARS OLD. Is Hannah a prodigy? Perhaps. But what she also is is tenacious, indefatigable, incredibly upbeat, and a poster girl for the word persevere. (Not that this is relevant, but she has nice teeth, too.)

Ok. So takeaway for the evening: keep at it. If you’re a writer, keep writing. Write another manuscript. And then another. And then after that, another. If you’re trying to get into publishing, keep trying. Try something new. Try something old. But keep trying. When you stop trying your chances for success will drop off considerably.

Do you give up?

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