Teacher & Librarian Love Tuesday!

Teachers! Librarians! Tuesdays are for new books…FOR YOU!

Every Tuesday I’ll be giving a copy of WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE to a teacher or librarian as a thank you for being the super heroes of the literary world!

Here’s how it works:

Each Tuesday I will send out a Teacher & Librarian Love Tuesday (#TLLT) tweet. You can find me on Twitter here. All you gotta do is follow me on Twitter, then comment on that week’s #TLLT post by the end of the day. One random commenter will be selected and notified the following Wednesday. This will be going on until…forever! Because your awesomeness never stops!

Hooray, and thank you for all that you do in spreading the love of literacy and authors!

xoxo,

Jas

JAY’S GAY AGENDA

OMG, where have I been?!

I was holed away in my house writing for the past few months. Most notably, I had one of those THIS IS THE ONE Aha Moments where a gay YA rom-com came to me almost fully fleshed out. I could hear the characters, see them, and I knew I had to tell their story.

Cut to me in a cave, blinded by light having just now emerged after I sent that YA manuscript to my agent yesterday morning.

I adore this YA so much, y’all. It’s called JAY’S GAY AGENDA. I posted a Twitter thread about it that you can read here. The main point of the thread is that I LOVE THIS STORY WITH ALL MY HEART, but it may be an impossible dream to get this manuscript published. It’s set in Fall 2020, and many publishers already have their Fall 2020 lists full. But I’m so going to try and make this happen.

JAY follows the title character, the only out student at a rural high school, as he finally gets to experience his gay firsts when his mom moves his family to the big city his senior year. It’s full of crushes and kisses and mishaps and mistakes. It’s the story of finding balance between romance and friendship.

But why 2020? 2020 will be a very intense year with the presidential election. Something that always makes me cringe during campaigns is that the LGBTQ community is used as a tool by politicians of both parties to get votes. It’s unsettling when your sexuality is constantly politicized, and I imagine many teens in the LGBTQ community will be stressed because of this. I hope JAY can be an escape for these readers, a reminder that a world exists in which they don’t have to be someone else’s tool, but a person who gets to experience love and lust and all the things that come with that.

If this doesn’t work out, I’m still so happy that Jay’s story came to me. You hear a lot in the writing world that no writing is wasted. JAY has already given me so much. It was so uplifting to write, remembering the excitement that comes with all those firsts. It also opened in me this huge passion for YA, and more ideas are starting to pour out of me.

So I may be heading back into the writing cave soon! But in the meantime, I’ll be posting a bit more about the journey of JAY and some firsts of my own I experienced while writing it.

xoxo,

Jas

First Purse

I bought my first purse today. For me. And it was one of the most liberating experiences of my life.

This is not a groundbreaking moment for humans. Many men have carried purses before and I’m sure they will after me. But in that moment walking out of the store carrying my brand new bag (and it’s pink to boot), I felt like I had taken a step closer to me. For about…ever, I haven’t really felt right in the very limited selection of men’s clothing and accessories that are offered in store after store after store. Putting on a pair of jeans always felt off. I never thought they looked right, and always enviably looked on to the women’s sections that were vastly larger than the section I was “supposed” to shop in. I wanted the selection of colors, I wanted the options of pants that didn’t just hang off my chicken legs or sit oddly around my hips, and most of all, I wanted a bag that made everything I wore pop.

When I was in high school that kind of gender fluidity in clothing was not allowed. I distinctly remember when messenger bags became a thing and boys who carried them were made fun of for carrying a “murse.” For those who might not have been privy to the fashion trends of the early-2000s, messenger bags are essentially cloth briefcases with a long strap. Apparently that strap triggered blaring alarms in the Heteronormative Headquarters of America and sent the modified briefcase into purse territory, making it a *huge no-no* for anyone with a penis to carry. So I retired my messenger bag for a backpack and never again thought of expressing myself through fashion in anything that could remotely be considered feminine because of what people might say.

Until recently.

Within the last year, something shifted. After going through my 20s still not being satisfied with my look or the limited options for men,  I took a step into what those Heteronormative Headquarters would call Enemy Territory. I looked through racks of women’s pants and tried on a few pairs. I would be lying if I said there weren’t feelings of shame mixed in with elation at seeing what something other than jeans or trousers looked like on my body. Eventually the elation won out.

The first pant style I’ve embraced from the women’s section that I feel fit me better than any pair of jeans ever did are leggings. I like that they hug my legs instead of hang off them and that they go real well with my favorite style of boot. But I still let the Gender Police influence my outfit decisions by pairing those leggings with oversized shirts so the shirt sort of swallowed me up. And while I longingly saved pages of purses on the internet that I would have liked to pair with my new outfits, I still never, ever, ever would have thought of actually carrying one out in public. They are so glaringly obvious, and it doesn’t matter how oversized that oversized shirt gets, it ain’t never gonna cover up the purse that *boy* is carrying.

Then I came across Jen Wang’s graphic novel THE PRINCE AND THE DRESSMAKER. As the name suggests, it’s about a prince and the relationship that develops with a dressmaker. His dressmaker. The prince dresses in drag at nights because he can’t help the part of him that is so drawn to expressing himself through women’s fashion. Like me, the prince is scared gender-restricting-pantsless at the thought of anyone figuring out his secret. But, without giving too much away because I want you all to read this book and whoop and gasp and laugh and cry at everything that happens in this book, ultimately the prince is happiest when he’s just himself. And I absolutely adore how Wang shows that the clothing you decide to wear has nothing to do with being a “correct” man or woman, but everything to do with how you feel best expressing yourself. The restraints on what we say a man or woman can wear are just arbitrary.

THE PRINCE AND THE DRESSMAKER was the first major piece of art I’d consumed that really made me think I could be brave enough to wear or carry whatever I want, whenever I want. Then the very next week I saw the documentary The Gospel According to André about André Leon Talley, a legendary fashion icon and longtime editor of Vogue. I fell in love with his personality and sense of epic caftan style when he was a judge on America’s Next Top Model a few years ago. In the documentary, you see photos of André throughout his life and hear him tell stories about growing up in the South as a flashy and flamboyant young black man. Despite the looks and hatred that came his way, André stayed true to himself and turned into the legend that he is now.

The back-to-back “you be you” messages in THE PRINCE AND THE DRESSMAKER and The Gospel According to André made me wonder why on God’s green culottes I was worrying so much about what other people thought about what I wore.

So I went out and bought that nowhere-to-hide purse, and I’m never looking back. I’m only looking forward. Forward to this whole new section of clothing options that my head and my heart now realize I can finally utilize and embrace however I want. Forward to hopefully becoming an inspiration like Jen Wang and André Leon Talley and their work was for me. All the manuscripts I have on submission right now are in some way about gender inclusivity, body acceptance, the power of femininity and accepting all sexualities. I hope to be an example for boys and girls and kids who don’t identify with either of those genders who feel constrained by what Heteronormative Headquarters tell them are the “right” things to wear, the “right” way to express themselves, the “right” way to express their gender, the “right” way to express their heart.

And I’ll do it one purse and one book at a time.

Whobert Turns 1!!

It’s the one year Whobert-versary! I can’t believe a whole year has already gone by since my debut picture book flew out into the world. It’s been a year full of school visits and book festivals and bookstore signings and it’s everything I imagined and more. Thank you for making this debut year so much fun! For more about Whobert’s first year, I did an in-depth  interview about the past twelve months with Jennifer Prevost in which I gabbed all about lessons learned and debut surprises and pushing forward.

While you’re here, let’s celebrate Whobert’s birthday! I’m giving away three copies of WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, and you can enter all three! Enter here on my website, over on my Twitter page, or on my Instagram account.

To be entered to win here on the website, all you have to do is click the Follow button over on the righthand side of the page. That’s it! I’ll give a copy away to a random follower.

To be entered to win on Twitter, be sure to follow me and then retweet the tweet about the Whobert-versary giveaway.

To be entered to win on Instagram, be sure to follow me and then tag someone in the comments of the Whobert-versary post who you think might like WHOBERT.

You have one week to enter. I’ll be announcing the winners of all three giveaways on July 25, 2018 – which is the five month mark until Christmas, if anyone’s counting. Ho, ho, ho! Or I should say who, who, who!

Happy Whobert-versary, everybody!

Spreading the Love

I am so unbelievably excited to be able to sing this from the rooftops! I get to have a book out about my favorite topic of all time: LOVE! And the amazing Lori Richmond is going to illustrate! Here’s the PW announcement:

PORCUPINE CUPID is all about a plucky porcupine who fancies himself a matchmaker. I cannot wait to see this book come to life! It’s been a long time comin’. We sold this back in December 2015, and we’ve been waiting for just the right illustrator to sign on. I could not be happier that Lori joined the PORCUPINE team. We’ve been critique group partners for years, and I had no idea she was reached out to to potentially illustrate. Lori is super good at keeping a secret!

Can’t wait for a little more love to be in the world in December 2020 when PORCUPINE CUPID hits bookstores!

The Cleanse

There are few things in life that give me more joy than Anjelica Huston. Her poise, her aura, her soul-searching looks. So if anything comes out with her in it, I have to watch it. Which is what led me to THE CLEANSE.

This movie is twacked, y’all. There’s no other way to describe it. But it’s twacked in the absolute best way. It follows a guy named Paul as he signs up for a cleanse retreat in which a very specific, very disgusting juice is brewed up for each participant that must be consumed in a day. Successful chugging of said juice results in vomiting up your demons, literally. Here’s what Paul spewed out:

First of all, I love things that are so ugly they’re cute. Cleanse vomit baby demons fall into that category. Second of all, this movie reminded me so much of the writing process it’s silly. Paul is trying to rid himself of the negativity that plagues his life to the point that he has to physically manifest it into the world. It’s just like when you’ve got that idea for a story in your head and you MUST get it onto paper. That obsessive clacking on the keyboard is just like Paul’s determined chugging. When you hit Print and hold your manuscript for the first time is just like when Paul picks up his little demon shmoop and has a sense of pride that it came out of him. Paul’s varying emotions regarding the little chunk mirrored those times when you’re loving your story one minute then thinking you’re the most terrible writer in the world the next. There were so many similarities to the writing process that I’m going to start calling my WIPs my demons. But here’s hoping that no one describes my writing as “so ugly it’s cute.”

Austin SCBWI Member Interview

The amazing folks at the Austin chapter of SCBWI asked me to do a Member Interview, and it was such a hoot! Head here to read about how my hometown inspires me, what it means to me to be a kid lit writer in the LGBTQ+ community, and how you could never convince me to become a buffalo!