Today on the site, we’re thrilled to welcome the authors of Out Now: Queer We Go Again! edited by Saundra Mitchell, which releases today from Inkyard Press! This anthology has a little bit of everything queer, so take a gander at the beautiful cover, check out the blurb, and then dig into the authors’ personal stories behind their stories!
Out Now: Queer We Go Again! ed. by Saundra Mitchell
A follow-up to the critically acclaimed All Out anthology, Out Now features seventeen new short stories from amazing queer YA authors. Vampires crash prom, aliens run from the government, a president’s daughter comes into her own, a true romantic tries to soften the heart of a cynical social media influencer, a selkie and the sea call out to a lost soul. Teapots and barbershops, skateboards and VW vans, Street Fighter and Ares’s sword: Out Now has a story for every reader and surprises with each turn of the page!
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“Refresh” by Mark Oshiro
I was a freshman in college in Long Beach, CA, when I went on the very date that inspired “Refresh.” Online dating was much sketchier back then, but I had spent weeks talking to a boy my age who seemed so effortlessly cool. I finally mustered the courage to ask if he wanted to meet up, and he agreed enthusiastically. I knew this was risky, so I picked a public meeting space outside of a Metro Station in Hollywood. It took me two trains and nearly two hours to get there, so you can imagine my disappointment when I showed up to discover he had catfished me.
My date did not end as the story does in “Refresh.” I left immediately, feeling scorned and rather foolish. I had worked up so much courage to even come, doubting that I was handsome enough or interesting enough for this person. I wrote this story from that place of vulnerability, of not knowing if you are enough for another person, of existing in a world where the politics around the size and shape of our bodies make life harder. It’s a bit of queer fluff, and I had so much fun writing it.
“What Happens in the Closet” by Caleb Roehrig
When I first sat down to begin my contribution for OUT NOW, I outlined the story of a theater kid with a crush on a boy who might or might not be queer—and then I struggled to write it. Even though it was ripped straight from the headlines of my own teenage life, I couldn’t quite connect with the narrative I was crafting. Where were the stakes?
Among my influences as a storyteller, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is probably number one. It was inventive and suspenseful, of course, but it balanced its undead bombast with nuanced and sensitive explorations of very real day-to-day issues. On a season three episode entitled Homecoming, Buffy and her frenemy Cordelia are forced to hash out their longstanding jealousy and insecurities…all while fighting for their lives against vampire assassins. It was a brilliant metaphor for the fishbowl of high school life, and the layered dynamic between the two characters still felt so rich with potential for more.
What if it had been two queer kids trapped together instead, with physical attraction added to the already volatile cocktail of envy and admiration? What if they’d had to navigate those life-or-death problems while also, you know, trying to literally just stay alive?
Eventually, I asked if I could go ahead and lean into it—to write a story about two boys facing their demons (figurative and literal,) where a vampire invasion is only the second-most annoying thing about a ruined school dance; and I am forever grateful to Saundra Mitchell for saying yes. The universe I created for “What Happens in the Closet” was so much fun that I used it as the basis for a full-length novel, (The Fell of Dark, coming in July!) and I hope you love this fun and fang-toothed tale as much as I do!
“Star-Crossed in D.C.” by Jessica Verdi
The idea for this story sparked for me around the time of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, when I saw posts on social media about Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump (two adult children of the two nominees) being friendly in real life. It confused me, honestly, since they seem to stand for very different things. How on earth could they be friends?
But then I wondered, what if Ivanka did secretly agree more with Chelsea and her mother Hillary more than she let on in public—if maybe she had an obligation to stand by her father’s side, but deep down disagreed with him on the issues. (I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Come on, Jess, Ivanka has made her opinions more than clear.” But this was years ago, before any of that was as blatantly evident as it is now.) And then I wondered, how amazing would it be if Ivanka (or any child of a high-profile conservative politician) had enough of a backbone to buck tradition, and what was expected of them, and publicly announce their support for the other candidate—the more progressive one. How absolutely inspiring and thrilling would that be!
Over time, the real-life inspiration for “Star-Crossed” fell away, and what remains is something a bit more romancey, a lot more queer, and even more wish-fulfilling. It’s my version of a fairy tale.
“Floating” by Tanya Boteju
“Floating” grew directly out of my experience as a high school English teacher. I’m surrounded by teenagers and tend to most notice the kids who seem a little out of place—the ones who sit alone in corners at lunch, who aren’t wholly driven by ‘A’s and university acceptances, who offer up weird and wonderful insights into the literature we’re studying. One student I noticed a few years ago kind of floated through the hallways, seemingly in a world of her own. And having taught her, I also knew she had one of those weird and wonderful minds. I was curious about what her brain was doing as she drifted through the school. The protagonist in “Floating,” Shanti, is my attempt to explore the inner workings of students like this and what it might look like for someone else to be able to reach into those inner workings somehow–as Essie does—but without changing who Shanti is at the core. I wanted Shanti to be able to maintain her wanderings and wonderings, but then to also find a gentle stillness with Essie. That it was two girls finding each other just felt natural to me. Many of the setting details in the story are pulled from my own school too—including the paper swirls that become so integral to the story.
“Far From Home” by Saundra Mitchell
I wasn’t going to write a story for my own anthology (I didn’t have one in All Out, either!) but my wonderful editor at Inkyard, Natashya Wilson, really, really, really wanted one. And it’s hard to say no when someone brilliant is saying, “please write a thing for me, I think it would be great.”
“Far From Home” may or may not be great– that’s not up for me to decide. But I did have a lot of fun writing it. I wanted to write a non-binary character, so check, and I wanted the genders and orientations of the characters to be as far from central as possible.
Also, my reviews agree that sometimes, my novels are slow to start. So I wondered, what would happen if I just started with the danger? And that’s how I end up with a non-binary starboi and their pan boyfriend dangling a thousand feet above an empty creekbed, with Men in Black in pursuit.
I love the conversation they have– because we love superhero movies, but I’m not entirely sure we’d be thrilled with actual superheroes. So yeah… write fast, write hard, no mercy! (Well, a little mercy. I love a happy ending!)
“Ready Player One” by Eliot Schrefer
I actually wrote the first incarnation of “Player One Fight!” twenty years ago, and rewrote it to include here. I was 21 at the time, and back then I was prey to a conception that I think a lot of us have when we’re young—that relationships are a form of battle, with winners and losers. That if you do all the moves right, then you’ll come out on top. Through Blake I wanted to look at the early life of someone who still had a lot of room to grow as far as how he treated boyfriends, and himself.
“Victory Lap” by Julian Winters
In “Victory Lap,” Luke Stone is great at everything, but there’s one thing he repeatedly fails at: asking a boy out. Specifically, he hasn’t found a date to the winter formal. His friends are putting more effort into finding him a date than he is. That is until Luke bumps into Milo, a shy classmate who Luke thinks is his perfect match, if he can get the nerve to ask Milo out. And the one person who he knows he can get the best advice from doesn’t know he’s gay yet—his dad.
When I first started writing this story, I had two goals: write a cute love story starring a gay, Black teen who’s still becoming comfortable in his own skin and set it in a barbershop, a place that is well-known in the Black community as a place of comfort, strength, laughter, and discourse. I didn’t plan to write a “coming out” story but the moment Luke sits in his dad’s barber chair, I knew the story I needed to tell. It was an opportunity to show a positive experience between a queer teen and his father, something that isn’t often depicted, especially inside POC communities. QPOC teens deserve to read stories where they feel safe and comforted by their loved ones. And I hope readers walk away from this story feeling lighter, confident, and smiling goofily just like Luke.
Saundra Mitchell has been a phone psychic, a car salesperson, a denture-deliverer and a layout waxer. She’s dodged trains, endured basic training, and hitchhiked from Montana to California. The author of nearly twenty books for tweens and teens, Mitchell’s work includes SHADOWED SUMMER, THE VESPERTINE series, ALL THE THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK, a novel forthcoming from HarperTEEN and the forthcoming CAMP MURDERFACE series with Josh Berk. She is the editor of three anthologies for teens, DEFY THE DARK, ALL OUT and OUT NOW. She always picks truth; dares are too easy.