Category Archives: Guest post

Will Teens Today Relate to YA Set in the ’90s?: a Guest Post by Jake Martinez

Today on the site, I’m delighted to welcome Jake Martinez, whose debut YA, The Mixtape to My Life, releases today from Deep Hearts YA! Here’s a little more about the book:

Justin Ortega might as well be starring in his very own coming-of-age 80s movie. If only he could find his dream boy to pull up in front of his house in a red convertible and sweep him off his feet, already! At seventeen years young, he isn’t quite Mexican enough for his South Texas town; isn’t manly enough for his father; can sometimes be too much of a smart mouth for his mother; and as for the other kids at school—let’s just say he’d be cast as the quiet nerd with a heart of gold…and an ear for music.

The one solace Justin has is his love of 80s hair metal bands, which he listens to on his beloved Sony Walkman. The songs, lyrics, and melody keep him just sane enough to escape the pressures of school and help navigate the hurdles life brings. Especially with the doozy this year is shaping up to be. Not only does he have to try out for a captain position which is rightfully his, but his best friend has found a new girlfriend, leaving Justin to fend for himself in a school where he’s mostly known as simply Coconut.

Enter Dominic Mendoza. Sweet, funny, and a blast from his past, the hunky football player has moved in next door. Justin could never forget how Dominic protected him in the eighth grade, nor the way Dominic made him feel, then…and now.

Except, this isn’t a movie. Confusion, friendship, and love won’t guarantee a happy ending unless Justin can learn to accept himself for who he truly is. Hair bands and all.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

And here’s Jake discussing his ’90s inspiration!

***

I’d like to thank LGBTQ Reads for giving me the opportunity to talk about my book and why I decided to set it during the 90s.

When I started writing The Mixtape to My Life, there were certain things I knew I wanted. First, that it was going to be a Young Adult story. Second, that I wanted it to be set in South Texas. Then third, and most important, I wanted it to take place during the 90s. It’s not that I didn’t think that I wouldn’t be able to write a novel set in today’s world, it’s just that I thought if I were able to tap into the feelings I had as a young gay kid growing up in 90s era South Texas, then it might make the main character and all his pent up emotions feel more authentic. But it did make me wonder that if my novel is set in the 90s, would today’s YA audience be able to relate? The answer is yes, because even though it’s a different time, some things never change.

Universal Emotions

One of the main motivations I had for writing a YA novel was the fact that even though we have made great strides in this world towards LGBTQIA+ acceptance, there are still places where many young people feel the need to hide who they are. The fear and uncertainty of what might happen if they came out is a frightening thought. Some go on with their lives, while others pray and pray that they will change and become what others consider to be “normal.”

I thought, maybe, just maybe if they saw that someone in a different time went through the same thing and came out of it okay, then maybe it might give them hope. That’s why it doesn’t matter if they don’t know what Teen Witch is or know the words to Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N’ Roses. Emotions are universal despite the time frame. So is hope. That’s what I wish for people to feel when they read this: hope.

Bullying and Homophobia

One thing that maybe make people uncomfortable about The Mixtape to My Life is the use of homophobic and racial slurs that bullies in the book hurl at Justin, the main character. Some of them are quite harsh and could cause a negative reaction in someone. Trust me, I thought long and hard about whether or not to use them. But in the end, I felt that the story would lose something without it. I heard them on almost a daily basis, and while those slurs may not be as accepted as they were before, they are still used against many in the gay community. A queer teen who hears them as much as I did needs to see that someone can overcome this and find true acceptance. Like I mentioned before, I want that shy queer kid who feels alone to know that no matter what people throw at them, there is still hope that things will get better. You can find people who accept you, and you don’t have to change who you are to have that.

So yes, despite possible unfamiliar cultural references, I do feel that today’s YA audience can relate to a book set during the 90s. The techniques may be more advanced in this current age, but bullying is still bullying, and we can all relate to the hurt that it causes.

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Jake Martinez is a former South Texas resident who has found a new home in Chicago. He has been writing all his life but has only recently sought to be published. His debut novel, The Mixtape to My Life, reflects on life as a gay teen growing up in South Texas. Jake holds an MFA in Creative Writing and also loves to write plays and screenplays. Aside from writing, you can find him hanging out at home with his husband, their newborn son, and an eclectic group of fur babies.

Tomboys and Witches: Writing Nonbinary Magic, a Guest Post by The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass author Adan Jerreat-Poole

Today on the site, I’m thrilled to welcome Adan Jerreat-Poole, author of the queer fantasy novel The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass, which releases from Dundurn on May 16. Here’s a little more about the book:

Eli isn’t just a teenage girl — she’s a made-thing the witches created to hunt down ghosts in the human world. Trained to kill with her seven magical blades, Eli is a flawless machine, a deadly assassin. But when an assignment goes wrong, Eli starts to question everything she was taught about both worlds, the Coven, and her tyrannical witch-mother.

Worried that she’ll be unmade for her mistake, Eli gets caught up with a group of human and witch renegades, and is given the most difficult and dangerous task in the worlds: capture the Heart of the Coven. With the help of two humans, one motorcycle, and a girl who smells like the sea, Eli is going to get answers — and earn her freedom.

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

And here’s the post from Adan on writing nonbinary magic!

***

I grew up reading Tamora Pierce’s The Song of the Lioness quartet. I was in love with magic, sword-fighting, and the tomboyish Alanna who had to pretend to be a boy in order to become a knight. In some ways I felt like Alanna—but instead of a girl pretending to be a boy, I was a nonbinary person pretending to be a girl. Like Alanna, I felt the constraints of gender roles and sexism corsetting my life and future. The Song of the Lioness helped me imagine breaking out of those roles.

But I wanted more than that. Where were the magical adventures about people like me?

I am the only queer person in my family. I didn’t come out as bisexual/pansexual until I was 26. I didn’t come out as nonbinary until I was 27. Here is an excerpt from the email I sent to my closest family members three days before my 28th birthday:

Some of you may remember me as a little kid with a bowl cut who wore Harry Potter glasses and animal onesies (some things never change). I looked like a little boy, and I didn’t particularly feel like any gender. I’ve often felt uncomfortable trying to make myself more feminine to fit in with gendered expectations and norms. In the last year or so, I’ve met more and more people who identity as nonbinary and I think that might be a better fit for me. I’ve started using the pronouns “they/their.” It feels right.

I have a couple of really close queer friends who helped me come out and feel comfortable with who I am. But they lived in different cities, and as an introvert it was hard for me to meet new people and break into the local LGBT2SQIA+ scene. Because I didn’t have many trans or queer people in my life, I turned to books. It turned out that sometime between 1998 and 2018 a lot of amazing queer YA literature had been published, and I fell in love with reading all over again. My bookshelf now is filled with titles like Blanca & Roja and Girl Mans Up. These books were the queer family I was missing.

Here’s the last thing you have to know about me: I’m angry. Really, really angry. I’m angry at the violence that I’ve experienced and that I see other people experiencing. I’m angry that I had to pretend to be a girl for a long time. I’m angry that we live in a culture that hurts women, trans, queer people, and people of colour. Some of that anger makes its way into the book, curling under each letter and winding through lines of dialogue.

The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass is about an angry queer girl trying to find her place in the worlds. The world she grew up in is weird, magical, and dangerous. She’s going to discover that our world is, too. She’s going to meet a really cool nonbinary person who has secrets and tattoos. (They are the main character of the sequel, The Boi of Feather and Steel). She’s going to learn how to come to terms with pain and past mistakes. She’s going to learn how to use anger to fight for justice.This book is about tomboys and witches, assassins and ghosts and bloodthirsty children. These characters handle every fear and challenge with the strength and honestly that I wanted for myself when I was a young person dreaming of becoming a knight.

If you look carefully, you can see the ink on the page pulsing to the beat of my magical nonbinary heart.

***

Adan Jerreat-Poole is a reader and writer who loves all things fantasy and feminist. They are a PhD candidate at McMaster University studying disability and queerness in popular culture. Adan lives in Kingston with their cat Dragon. The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass is their debut novel.

Hope and Happy Endings in YA Fiction: a Guest Post by I’ll See You Again Author CJ Bedell

Today we’re excited to welcome Chris Bedell to the site to discuss his YA contemporary novel, I’ll See You Again, out now from Deep Hearts! Here’s a little more about the book:

It’s the start of his senior year, and Cyrus should be worried about college applications, procrastinating on homework, and staying up past his bedtime. And he does, until his mother’s cancer returns.

To make matters worse, Nico Valentine—the person Cyrus hates most—insists on being his friend. Carefree, flirtatious, and spontaneous, Nico is everything Cyrus’s childhood never allowed him to be. When their English teacher offers Cyrus extra credit to tutor Nico, Cyrus knows he shouldn’t accept. He could use the distraction, though.

A fling soon ensues, and Cyrus realizes they have more in common than he thought. What is more, Nico is the first person who seems to get him and who is there no matter what. But, if Cyrus wants his romance with Nico to turn into something real, he’ll have to do something he’s never done before—be vulnerable with another person.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

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And here’s the guest post!

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(Warning: The following blog post contains spoilers from the YA Contemporary novel I’LL SEE YOU AGAIN)

Hope is a controversial issue in YA literature (and even pop culture in general). On the one hand, people argue YA literature is fiction. So, there’s no harm in having a happy ending. On the other hand, some will argue a YA book might seem unrealistic if an ending is too happy. And the issue of happy endings is something I debated while writing my YA Contemporary novel I’LL SEE YOU AGAIN.

My main character, Cyrus, goes through a lot in the book. His mother has a cancer relapse, and ultimately dies. Cyrus also has his relationship with Nico, which becomes tumultuous towards the end of the book.

Chapter 23 (the book’s second to last chapter) takes place on graduation. Cyrus skips graduation, and reconciles with Nico for that one night. Cyrus wakes up the next morning to find Nico didn’t stay the night. Nico ended things with him on a Post-it note. Some people might argue the book could’ve concluded with that. Cyrus and Nico reconnected very briefly, yet their second breakup reinforces how some relationships don’t always last.

I couldn’t let the book end with the morning after graduation when Cyrus discovers the Post-it note, though. Doing so would’ve been cruel. The arc of Cyrus and Nico’s begins with the book’s first chapter. So, readers deserve a payoff. Cyrus also deserves happiness beyond his writing ambitions, friends, and family. Nico is the one person who understands Cyrus the most despite their opposite personalities. Nico and Cyrus both like to write, had fathers who abandoned them, and had mothers who died of cancer.

Chapter 24 (the book’s last chapter) therefore pushes the novel’s plot forward about nine months. It’s the following March after graduation. Nico and Cyrus are both back in town for Spring Break, and they eventually reconcile.

To me, offering hope is important in YA literature. Something cathartic exists from seeing Cyrus get a happy ending after struggling so much. A general overlap exists with real life—some readers might be grappling with serious problems. And they deserve to know life gets better no matter how trite the sentiment sounds. People are more than their romantic relationship, but being Nico makes Cyrus happy. It’s only human, after all. Most people wanna feel loved and accepted.

Also, I offer realism in a less jarring way. If I wanted to make the book unbelievably happy, then I would’ve had Chapter 24 also mention Cyrus getting a career break with his writing. But I didn’t. Not because that’ll never happen for Cyrus—it will. But because readers don’t need the entirety of Cyrus’s life story to know he’ll be happy. Cyrus is just like most people. Taking life one day at a time. And that’s enough. If Cyrus survived his mother’s death and reconciled with Nico, then he can handle anything.

***

Chris Bedell’s previous publishing credits include Thought Catalog, Entropy Magazine, Chicago Literati, and Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, among others. His debut YA Fantasy novel IN THE NAME OF MAGIC was published by NineStar Press in 2018. Chris’s 2019 novels include his NA Thriller BURNING BRIDGES (BLKDOG Publishing), YA Paranormal Romance DEATHLY DESIRES (DEEP HEARTS YA), and YA Thriller COUSIN DEAREST (BLKDOG Publishing). His other 2020 novels include his YA Thriller I KNOW WHERE THE BODIES ARE BURIED (BLKDOG Publishing), YA Thriller BETWEEN THE LOVE AND MURDER (Between The Lines Publishing), and YA Sci-fi DYING BEFORE LIVING (Deep Hearts YA). Chris also graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 2016.

Eat, Gay Love: a Guest Post by The Mountains of Paris Memoirist David Oates

Today we’re thrilled to welcome David Oates to the site to discuss his travel memoir, The Mountains of Paris: How Awe and Wonder Rewrote My Life, out now from Oregon State University Press! Here’s a little more about the book:

Living in Paris for a winter and a spring and waking each morning to a view of Notre Dame, David Oates is led to revise his life story from one of trudging and occasional woe into one punctuated by nourishing and sometimes unsettling brilliance. He asks: What is the meaning of this tremendousness?

In long years of mountaineering Oates fought the self-loathing that had infused him as the gay kid in the Baptist pew. And in The Mountains of Paris, he ascends to a place of wonder. In luminous prose, Oates invites readers to share a sense of awe—whether awakened by a Vermeer painting or a wilderness sojourn, by the night sky, a loved one, or echoing strains of music—lifting the curtain on a cosmos filled with a terrifying yet beautiful rightness.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

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And here’s the guest post!

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I had more fun writing this book than any other to date – and I’ve been writing for a long time. How easily these chapters gobbled up month after month and eventually a few years of my life!

Yet they include the most painful material I’ve ever tackled. My life as the gay kid in the Baptist pew. All the ways I tried to bend and break and robotize myself, to become acceptable to God. My dogged persistence in dysfunction and despair. (I’m a stubborn guy, proud of my inner strength. A stupid, fatal pride.) And later, the lover who left me after nine (for me) healing years, leaving me alone and half broken. Two-thirds broken, maybe. Followed by more years of dogged loneliness.

What made it all bearable to write about is that I stumbled onto a way to reframe it. To reconsider what had happened. Because I’m tired of my wounds – maybe you’re tired of yours too. I’ve been nursing them so long, always the same old story of woe and struggle. But here’s the trick: I got to thinking about what had, after all, saved me. What had kept me from harm and allowed me to navigate, in tears or out, into a decent and productive life.

Whatever it was had been potent and, when I think about it, omnipresent. And I came to suspect that this might be my true story – not the woe-is-me tale that most of us almost automatically tell.

* * *

Think of the last really big sunset you allowed yourself to take in. Or the last time you stood under a clear and moonless night sky, being drawn into the incomprehensible mystery and beauty of it.

Or that piece of music that always puts you into some other headspace, or heartspace: and you are suddenly moved, translated into your better self, tender and openhearted.  Or that act of kindness that surprised you (maybe you received it. . . or maybe you offered it). And for a moment you felt like part of a better version of humanity.

Strange reveal: My book about pain turned out to be a book about joy, the weird complicated feeling of big spaces and piercing beauty that floods in upon you for no reason except that you’re alive and for a moment all your senses are open.

I saw that I had been experiencing these moments of unearned joy and unexpected beauty all through my life. As a child, alone in the woods for the first time. As a teen, becoming wrapped up in the vastness of a Bach fugue. As a young adult, receiving kindness from less-damaged people who wondered why I struggled so. . . and, without needing to know why, reached out to me.

Suddenly I understood. I saw how my attraction to poetry drew from the same source. How the high mountains, where I climbed and wandered for so many decades, offered it too. And music! Always music; and even, when my eye and spirit evolved, art too.

They all had the power to call up a kind of tearful joyousness that never lasted more than a few moments, yet that was ever after an indelible memory, a kind of secret hoard of inexpressible gold. I could remember it whenever I needed to – moments from childhood still vivid as if they had just happened. Moments harvested by the me of a decade ago, or six decades ago, still fresh. Still radiating their strange message: This is the universe you are part of. You’ll never understand it. But you’ll know the dignity of being the witnessing soul, the admiring being.

That’s what this book turned out to be about: These moments that have been redeeming me all along, sneaking up on me, overtaking a second or a minute of my life with a kind of huge-hearted feeling that was perilously near to terror – that made me feel small. . . and then expanded me toward something vast, impersonal, and ultimate.

Made small, I grew. That’s my story. And I’m betting it’s the story of anyone who undertakes this kind of remembering. Yes, life is troubled and painful. I don’t deny it! Savagely painful, but also beautiful. Beautiful beyond expression.

It’s a strange thing being alive, no? Worth noticing. Worth allowing a kind of awe that can open up your heart, connecting you to more than can be expressed. I think this awe-and-wonder self might be the real you.

That’s my hypothesis, anyway. Test it on yourself, see what you discover. Pay attention to what opens up your heart in largeness. Gravitate towards that. See what sort of life that is.

***

David Oates is the author of two books of poetry and four works of nonfiction, including Paradise Wild: Reimagining American Nature and City Limits: Walking Portland’s Boundary. His award-winning essays have appeared in Georgia Review, Creative Nonfiction, and Orion. He was Kittredge Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Montana and is founder and general editor of Kelson Books in Portland, Oregon.

Making Familiar Ideas Fresh: a Guest Post by Deathly Desires Author Chris Bedell

Today we’re welcoming Chris Bedell to the site to discuss his recently released YA paranormal romance, Deathly Desires, which came out this month from Deep Hearts! Here’s a little more about the book:

I know what you did last spring…

When 17-year-old Cody’s unrequited crush, Mason, is killed by his friend Veronica, he helps her successfully cover up the murder. That is until the start of their Junior Year, when everyone involved receives a menacing note from someone who knows what they did.

The blackmail about Mason’s death quickly escalates to stalking, arson, and attempted murder. Cody and his friends must discover who found them out before they get killed themselves. And fast.

Noah has an altogether different secret. He’s a grim reaper, escorting people to the afterlife when they die. When his path collides with Cody, a spark soon forms between them. But whether they can make their relationship work is a different question. If Cody and Noah want a real chance at love, they’re going to have to be honest with each other about everything they’ve been hiding from the world.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

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And here’s the guest post!

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The idea that there are only so many stories to tell is one problem writers grapple with. However, the issue shouldn’t deter authors from writing. Putting a fresh twist on familiar ideas is possible. And that’s what I tried doing with my YA Paranormal Romance novel DEATHLY DESIRES, which was published by Deep Hearts YA on November 14, 2019.

Genre mashup is one way to breathe life into writing. The idea applies to DEATHLY DESIRES because of how I combine the Paranormal Romance genre with a Thriller. By itself, Paranormal Romance might generate fatigue because of the market becoming saturated after TWILIGHT.

I didn’t let that hurdle stop me, though. Paranormal Romance and Thriller books might seem different, but I made it work. 17-year-old Cody—one of my two POV characters—dating a grim reaper helps my plot. Noah is connected to the book’s main mystery even though the link might not seem obvious at first. My novel is therefore always building tension with both the romance and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” dilemma.

And within the Paranormal Romance and Thriller elements, I tried to add something slightly different to each. For the Paranormal Romance aspect that meant I didn’t wanna have werewolves, witches, and vampires be the focus. I’ll always love a good book about werewolves, witches, and vampires, but I didn’t have anything new to add.

So, I decided on grim reapers. Grim reapers don’t seem to have been covered much in pop culture like werewolves, witches, and vampires (at least to my knowledge). I still wanted to be careful with the human/non-human relationship, though. A relationship between a human and non-human wouldn’t be perfect, yet I didn’t wanna have it be Cody and Noah can’t together because it would be complicated or because of Cody’s father and friends don’t approve. I therefore decided on a compromise. Cody can build his relationship with Noah, yet sense something is off about Noah. That choice worked with DEATHLY DESIRES because Noah’s mysteriousness adds to the novel’s general mystery. Yet the irony is Noah is harmless. Noah isn’t the villain and respects humans (Noah was a human until he stopped aging at 17, and still looks like his 17-year-old self).

The Thriller genre elements of DEATHLY DESIRES also needed sprucing up. Cody and his friends Veronica and Brandon are dealing with their “I Know What You Did Last Summer” problem. But I didn’t wanna write teens who appeared shallowed. I don’t wanna give away too much, but I added mitigating factors to their situation so readers can understand why Cody, Veronica, and Brandon behave the way they do even if readers might not agree with their choices. The absentee parent is another idea I pivoted. Cody has a strained relationship with his father, but Cody realizes he must confide in his father about how him and his friends are the victims of a revenge game. Cody tries chatting with his father about said problem, yet his father rebuffs him. That occurrence provides a twist—I wanted to flip the situation. A parent usually might try getting their child to confide in them about a problem. But that’s not so with DEATHLY DESIRES. Cody’s father proves useless, so Cody therefore risks honesty for nothing.

The above ideas are just several examples to show how twisting familiar ideas doesn’t have to be complicated, but I hope they help. But above all, write the story you wanna write (within reason). Sometimes the projects authors are most passionate about are their most creative books, and that enthusiasm will hopefully come across on the page and make readers become engrossed in the novel.

Hunting for Sasquatch: Have You Heard of the Pope Lick Goat Man? (a Guest Post by Monster of the Week author F.T. Lukens)

I mean, that headline is probably already the best thing I’ll read today, but once you read that, how can you not go on to read about F.T. Lukens’s delightful research exploits when writing her The Rules series, including the recently released Monster of the Week, which just came out from Duet Books on October 15? Obviously, you must read more, so first, check out the book, and let’s just keep weirding out from there!

46766039._sy475_Spring semester of Bridger Whitt’s senior year of high school is looking great. He has the perfect boyfriend, a stellar best friend, and an acceptance letter to college. He also has this incredible job as an assistant to Pavel Chudinov, an intermediary tasked with helping cryptids navigate the modern world. His days are filled with kisses, laughs, pixies, and the occasional unicorn. Life is awesome. But as graduation draws near, Bridger’s perfect life begins to unravel. Uncertainties about his future surface, his estranged dad shows up out of nowhere, and, perhaps worst of all, a monster-hunting television show arrives in town to investigate the series of strange events from last fall. The show’s intrepid host will not be deterred, and Bridger finds himself trapped in a game of cat and mouse that could very well put the myth world at risk. Again.

Buy it: Amazon (Affiliate) | B&N | IndieBound (Affiliate)

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And now here’s the guest post from author F.T. Lukens!

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Most writers have joked about being on a government watch list due to the things we research when writing a novel. Myself, as well as many of my author friends, have talked, tweeted, and written about what our defense would be when we are carted away. “No, really, officer, I needed to know the best way to hide a body for my novel! I swear!” (To be completely accurate and honest this was not the last thing I googled for my current work in progress. That honor goes to ‘best way to administer a cure in the case of a pandemic resulting in space zombies.’) I’m sure, if you follow any authors on Twitter, you’ve seen a similar sentiment.

When writing The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic and the sequel, Monster of the Week, I had the absolute pleasure of researching the weirdest, hilarious, most grotesque, horrifying, yet quaint aspects of North American folklore ever. I now have the best answer for the inevitable audience question of “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever researched for a book?” My answer can be any number of local cryptids and folklore, but for the foreseeable future my favorite is ‘The Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp’ solely for the pure joy and lyricism of the name. Well, that, and the story is amazing. Seriously. There’s even a local festival dedicated to the Lizard Man in South Carolina, and that’s a festival I want to visit.

We’ve all heard of Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, The Jersey Devil, and the Mothman (And if you haven’t, how? At least two of these have roller coasters named after them.) Along with a few others, those are the big names in cryptozoology, and take up their fair share of the public consciousness when it comes to weird creatures. But have you heard of the Pope Lick Goat Man? How about the Beast of Bray Road? Or the Fouke County Monster? The Richmond Vampire? The Ozark Howler? No? You’re missing out, my friends.

Peppered across North America are hundreds of local cryptids rooted in the myth and traditions of small towns and big cities from coast to coast. I’ve read all about goat men (shockingly, there’s more than one) who sometimes lure unsuspecting victims onto railroad tracks by song, and other times, chase them with axes. I’ve read about massive animals with glowing red eyes and dark, shaggy fur, that run as fast as cars on all fours, have the curled horns of a ram on their heads, and bugle like elks but look like bears. I’ve read about ghost lights (a ton of places have a local floating light. Check yours out today!), vampires in big cities, werewolves in Wisconsin, giant salamanders in California, blood-sucking big cats in North Carolina, even lake monsters in New York. I’ve jumped at sounds when walking my dog after reading a few of the more sinister accounts of terrifying things that bump in the night. I’ve laughed with my brother about some of the random creatures who lurk on lonely roads and haunt deserted seashores. (We have our own cryptid story about giant migrating crabs on Ocracoke Island. It’s hilarious, and well worth the fifteen minutes it takes us to recount it between laughs.) The point, and there is one, is that the more I researched, the more I realized that cryptids are everywhere.

While Wikipedia is a resource my middle-schooler is not allowed to cite in a research paper, it’s a great starting place for your very own cryptid research adventure. In a mere few hours, you too can fall down a rabbit hole of clicks, and find yourself using the way back machine to read a geocities page that has a first-hand account of how someone’s cousin’s best friend’s aunt’s son happened to overhear a story when having lunch at the little diner down on third (you know the one with the chicken wings to die for), about a creature that stood on its furred hind legs, had the chest of a man but the head of a dog, and howled. After, you can watch a video on YouTube of shaky cam footage, or a video on the top ten weird things in your neighborhood.

Call me quirky, and some people do, but I love a good cryptid story, especially ones that spawn festivals. Here in western North Carolina, there’s an annual Bigfoot festival, complete with a 5k called—wait for it—The Bigfoot Chase. I’m in love. The thought makes me want to find out what other races are out there based on cryptids. Is there Ogopogo swim? A skunk ape triathlon?

Whether you’re a believer or a skeptic, there’s a lot of weird and wonderful out there to explore, either in the relative safety of your own home via your computer or one of many monster hunting TV shows on various streaming platforms. You may even venture into your own community. If you do and you happen to come across something strange, please stay safe, take video footage and immediately upload it to the cloud in case you drop your phone during your hasty escape, and in the case of giant migrating crabs, try not to hit them with your car.

* * *

F.T. Lukens is an award-winning author of young adult fiction who holds degrees in Psychology and English Literature. A cryptid enthusiast, F.T. loves folklore and myths, specifically the weird and wonderful creatures of North America. She also enjoys sci-fi and fantasy television shows, superhero movies, and writing. F.T. lives in the mountains of North Carolina, a perfect area for sasquatch sightings, with her husband, three kids, and three cats.

Her novel, The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic, won several awards, including the 2017 Foreword INDIES Gold Award for Young Adult Fiction and the 2017 IPBA Benjamin Franklin Gold Award for Best Teen Fiction.

Writing Bisexual Characters—By Accident: a Guest Post by Author Nem Rowan

Today we’re welcoming to the site author Nem Rowan, author of Witcheskin and Rough Sleepers, genre mashups of horror, urban fantasy, and romance with trans and queer representation set in the UK that make for perfect reads for this time of year! The books are being rereleased following the closing of Less Than Three Press, so the author is here to give them a boost and talk about how bisexuality unexpectedly found its way into his stories!

***

My two books, Witcheskin and Rough Sleepers, recently received a re-release through JMS Books after the closing down of Less Than Three Press, and both have transgender representation in them. What I didn’t plan for when I wrote these books was the representation of bisexuality! Rough Sleepers was one of the finalists in the Bi Writers Association’s 2018 Annual Book Awards for the Romance genre, and this made me consider how and why I seem to write in bisexual characters, sometimes without even meaning to.

I am a transgender man, and this makes a large impact on the kind of characters I write and the way I write about them. Being trans means I sometimes approach certain fictional situations in a different way to how a cis-gendered writer might, taking into consideration the character’s self-esteem, physical presentation and anatomy. When you write trans characters as a trans author, a little part of yourself always makes it into the story, whether it’s in something the character says or does—such as coping strategies for living in a world that can be quite hostile at times—to the reasons for the clothes they wear. But, whether a writer is trans or not, a part of yourself is always there in the writing, and I suppose I didn’t consider that my sexuality would have such a far-reaching, yet subtle, influence on what I wrote as well.

Just a little warning that there are spoilers ahead for those who haven’t read my books!

In Witcheskin, the character Wenda and her husband Evan were in a poly relationship with the main villain of the story, Geraint. At the time of writing, I never considered that this would actually mean—as they were in an equal triad—that both Evan and Geraint were bisexual. It’s never explicitly written in the book, but I had always considered Maredudd, the love interest and secondary main character, to be bisexual, in that his character is heavily inspired by water, and the fluidity of water. It was not a far stretch for me to imagine Maredudd dating a man, a woman, or anyone really, and perhaps that is why he is so ready and willing to accept Owen. Maredudd has no boundaries and lives a free, sometimes wandering, life. Why wouldn’t his sexuality be like that too?

Moving on to Rough Sleepers, the categorisation of the main character’s sexuality became complicated when it came to defining its place in publishing. Leon is bigender, and (s)he switches between male and female frequently throughout the book. Leon’s sexuality is hard for him/her to define, and even harder for me to define, even though it’s clear that Leon is chronically attracted to masculinity. Ceri, on the other hand, had his sexuality pre-planned for me, since he appears as Geraint in the first book, and after dating Wenda for a time, then goes on to be in a relationship with Leon. Even Mecky, one of the other main characters, leans heavily into bisexuality, as she is attracted to both masculinity and femininity, and seems to take particular interest in gender transformation. I never planned any of these things when I wrote the book; I just wrote it.

My third, currently unreleased, novel The Things We Hide At Home, which hopefully will be getting the release it deserves through JMS Books, is the first book I’ve ever written with a strictly gay male/male romance, and I’m not entirely sure why it ended up that way. The main character, Tenny, is a trans male who is also gay, and is quite different to Owen in how he navigates the world. Perhaps when I wrote this novel, I was going through a particularly gay phase myself. Bisexuality, at least for me and the bisexual people I know, seems to fluctuate in waves, and is never a static block of 50% masculine, 50% feminine.

I think when authors allow their characters to evolve completely organically, by simply guiding them along the vague path chosen by the plot line, they sometimes end up choosing their own sexualities. When I create characters, their sexuality is the last thing I think about. At times, their default sexuality just happens to be bisexual, even if I don’t realise it, and it opens them up to choosing their loves in sometimes totally unexpected ways. Only later, when they have established a solid personality and romance do I then decide what to do about their sexuality, and even then it may just be a small note jotted on a pad somewhere.

Likewise, I’m not saying it’s wrong to pre-plan your character’s sexuality. That’s an impossible thing to refrain from if the story is deeply entwined with that aspect of the character, for example, in a coming out story, or a book based on someone’s life experiences. But, that’s just not my writing style! I think it’s wonderful that writers will actively choose to make their characters LGBTQ+ because it’s important to get that work out there, to the people whose lives we are representing, to the people who need it the most. It could be that my books, and other authors’ books, are found by accident while searching, by someone who needed to see themselves in a main character, being brave and finding their place in the world, because that makes all the difference when you feel isolated and alone.

I feel that bisexuality is sometimes under-represented, and I’d love to see it written about more and more in the LGBTQ+ fiction world. It doesn’t necessarily mean having a gay couple at the forefront—it could have a male and a female in what appears to be a heterosexual relationship, but if one or both of them is bisexual, it’s still queer. We can’t, as a community, do bisexual people a disservice by dictating who they fall in love with, whether it’s gay or straight or anything else, because then we risk becoming the oppressors we’ve fought against all these years.

Bisexuality isn’t greed or indecision; it’s just another sexuality colour in the rainbow.

***

Nem Rowan lives in Sweden with his wife and their girlfriend. He loves reading non-fiction and is fascinated by True Crime and unsolved mysteries, especially missing persons cases and serial killers. Nem is also well-read in mythology and folk tales, particularly British and European folklore. He is a huge fan of Horror movies and Retrowave music.

Nem started writing when he was 11 years old and since then, he’s never looked back. Romance has always been his favourite genre after inheriting a box of Mills & Boon novels from his grandma, but being a Horror fan, there is always some way for him to work in a bit of that to make sure things don’t get too mushy.

https://nemrowan.com
https://instagram.com/nemrowan
https://twitter.com/MrNemRowan

Your Weapon of Choice: a Guest Post by Master of Restless Shadows Author Ginn Hale

Today on the site we’re welcome back Ginn Hale, whose fantasy Master of Restless Shadows, part of the Cadeleonian world (but kicking off its own new series) releases today! It’s full of espionage and other courtly intrigue, not to mention magic, witches, and romance. Here are the details:

Freshly graduated Master Physician Narsi Lif-Tahm has left his home in Anacleto and journeyed to the imposing royal capitol of Cieloalta intent upon keeping the youthful oath he made to a troubled writer. But in the decade since Narsi gave his pledge, Atreau Vediya, has grown from an anonymous delinquent to a man renowned for penning bawdy operas and engaging in scandalous affairs.

What Narsi―and most of the larger world―cannot know is the secret role Atreau plays as spymaster for the Duke of Rauma.

After the Cadeleonian royal bishop launches an unprovoked attack against the witches in neighboring Labara, Atreau will require every resource he can lay his hands upon to avert a war. A physician is exactly what he needs. But with a relentless assassin hunting the city and ancient magic waking, Atreau fears that his actions could cost more than his own honor. The price of peace could be his friends’ lives.

Buy it: Blind Eye Books | Amazon | Smashwords

And here’s the guest post on making choices in the world of weaponry in Epic Fantasy, complete with fabulous exclusive art from cover designer Zaya Feli!

***

Epic fantasy is full of weapons. Swords are particularly common. Some are imbued with specific and significant cultural meaning, such as Excalibur or Kusanagi-no-tsurugi. Others, like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Gurthang or Sikanda from The Never Ending Story are magical to the point of sentience, while others are simply notable for their history, quality or the use they are put to, such as Mr. Smee’s Johnny Corkscrew in Peter Pan—so named because of the way the sailor twists the blade in the wound after stabbing his opponent.

But it’s not just magical, mythical, or infamous weapons that convey information about the their world and the person wielding them. After all swords, spears, bows, guns, etc. are real tools with real histories. Everything about them—from how they’re made, how they’re adorned and who can carry them—has been shaped by particular places and times in human history.

To me as an author, this means that who I arm and how I choose to arm them can serve the story.  Even when the choice of weapon might seem little more than costume to a reader, often much more thought has gone into the matter.

When I began writing my Cadeleonians series—Lord of the White Hell, Champion of the Scarlet Wolf and Master of Restless Shadows—I called on personal experience, and a passing familiarity with the history of weapon to arm my protagonists and also to personalize how and why they fight.

Since the series begins inside a military academy, it only made sense to employ weapon preference and fighting styles to characterize the students and to add depth to their duels. (Not to mention the ambushes and battles they would later be involved in.)

Slim and smart, Kiram Kir-Zaki is far more interested in his mechanical studies than swordplay, so he relies on tactics more than strength. He also hails from a different culture than his sword-swinging Cadeleonian classmates, so his weapon of choice is a bow, which offers him the advantage of distance. Archery allows him to hunt birds, while his classmates gripe about winter rations of cabbage stew. His inventiveness also means that he eventually crafts his own unique weapons to defend himself and his family of choice.

His roommate Javier on the other hand is an excellent swordsman, but because his instructors believed he’s cursed he’s forced to undergo a regime of religious penance that leaves him physically weak. This leads to his decision to forgo both shields and longer, heavier swords, as just carrying them would exhaust him. Instead he relies on a light rapier—not unlike an early épée. Of course stepping into a dueling ring armed with such a fragile-looking sword broadcasts his vulnerability. Javier’s solution is to play up his weakness—expending the minimum of his strength to elude his opponents and hold them at bay all while lulling them into overconfidence. Then, having conserved his strength and lured his opponent into the range of his shorter, lighter weapon he strikes his winning blow.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is their friend Elezar, who possesses exceptional strength and reach. He comfortably wields a longer, much heavier sword; one that readily tears through the armored enemies he faces on the battlefield. Since the majority of his fighting is done while mounted I imagine him armed with something between an estoc and a broadsword. On foot, his weapon of choice is probably something like a bastard sword, (likely a hand-me-down and quite out of fashion, but comfortable to him and a reminder of the people he’s left behind when he journeys to other lands.) That said, Elezar has also won his way through couple predicaments by employing a woodcutter’s maul—ouch!—and his coin purse.

Master of Restless Shadows introduces a new character: Sabella, who is a professional fighter. But unlike the nobles who schooled at the Sagrada Academy, Sabella’s battles are fought in dueling rings of sword houses and serve as entertainment for gamblers and the general public. Her weapon is a civilian sword, a rapier. It’s easily sheathed and unsheathed in close quarters and meant for combat on city streets against unarmored opponents. Like Sabella herself, a rapier is agile and deadly. It’s also something a rarity for any woman to possess, as sumptuary laws would normally bar a Cadeleonian woman from wearing a sword. (Though my books are fantastical, sumptuary laws aren’t. They were and are still used to suppress gender and class freedom. Fascinating historical figures like as Mary Frith (aka Molly Cutpurse) and the extraordinary duelist, La Chevalier d’Eon number among the many people who struggled to live authentically under such laws.)  But since I took my initial inspiration from the real life figure of duelist and opera singer Julie D’Aubigny in creating Sabella, I allowed her to win a special dispensation to dress in men’s clothes—which includes her beloved rapier.

Master of Restless Shadows also introduces Delfia who, like Sabella, has been expertly trained in combat since childhood. But since she and her brother are assassins, it would hardly do for her to flout sumptuary laws or strut through the capitol with a rapier at her hip. Instead she carries a fighting knife, which her decorative sheath and full skirt help to disguise as a mere belt knife. And, of course, she also employs poison. Being smaller and less menacing in demeanor doesn’t make her less deadly. It does however mean that her greatest weapon is the element of surprise. (As in, ‘Surprise! That tiny jab from a lace needle was loaded with poison!’)

Ariz

And last but not (I hope) least is Delfia’s brother, Ariz. He puts me in mind of a quote attributed to Confucius: Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance. In his guise as an instructor of fencing and dance, Ariz often plays down his facility for swordplay. But his grace, balance and speed as a dancer really ought to betray him, particularly when it comes to sword dancing. (Most sword dances actually began as forms of military exercise and training, so that ought to be a give away right there.) However Ariz presents himself and his personal weapons in the most lackluster manner possible. Instead of using the eye-catching effect of bluing to bring out the splendor of his heavy rapier and dagger, Ariz’s weapons are russeted or browned. This chemical process renders the flats of the blades a dull black-brown. At a glance his drawn dagger can appear to still be sheathed.

This detail, is a small one but to me it is central to Ariz’s characterization. Not only does it display just how he fights and survives but it serves as a metaphor for the man himself. That’s not too shabby of a feat for a homely sword with a deadly point to pull off.

***

Ginn Hale lives with her lovely wife in the Pacific Northwest. She spends the many cloudy days observing plants and fungi. She whiles away the rainy evenings writing fantasy and science-fiction featuring LGBTQ protagonists. Her first novel, Wicked Gentlemen, won the Spectrum Award for best novel. She is also a Lambda Literary Award finalist and Rainbow Award winner.

Her most recent publications include the Lord of the White Hell, Champion of the Scarlet Wolf and The Rifter Trilogy: The Shattered Gates, The Holy Road, His Sacred Bones.

She can be reached through her website: www.ginnhale.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Her Instagram account, however, is largely a collection of botanical photos…so, be warned.

Coming Out as a Harry Potter Fan (oh yeah and as trans): a Guest Post by Sorted Author Jackson Bird

I’m thrilled to welcome to the site today advocate, YouTuber, and now author Jackson Bird, whose memoir, Sorted: Growing Up, Coming Out, and Finding My Place, releases today from Tiller Press! Here’s a little more on both the book and the author:

When Jackson Bird was twenty-five, he came out as transgender to his friends, family, and anyone in the world with an internet connection. Assigned female at birth and having been raised a girl, he often wondered if he should have been born a boy. Jackson didn’t share this thought with anyone because he didn’t think he could share it with anyone. Growing up in Texas in the 1990s, he had no transgender role models. He barely remembers meeting anyone who was openly gay, let alone being taught that transgender people existed outside of punchlines.

Today, Jackson is a writer, YouTuber, and LGBTQ+ advocate living openly and happily as a transgender man. So how did he get here? In this remarkable, educational, and uplifting memoir, Jackson chronicles the ups and downs of growing up gender confused. Illuminated by journal entries spanning childhood to adolescence to today, he candidly recalls the challenges he faced while trying to sort out his gender and sexuality, and worrying about how to interact with the world. With warmth and wit, Jackson also recounts how he navigated the many obstacles and quirks of his transition––like figuring out how to have a chest binder delivered to his NYU dorm room and having an emotional breakdown at a Harry Potter fan convention. From his first shot of testosterone to his eventual top surgery, Jackson lets you in on every part of his journey—taking the time to explain trans terminology and little-known facts about gender and identity along the way. Through his captivating prose, Bird not only sheds light on the many facets of a transgender life, but also demonstrates the power and beauty in being yourself, even when you’re not sure who “yourself” is.

Part memoir, part educational guide, Sorted is a frank, humorous narrative of growing up with some unintended baggage.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

And here’s the guest post by author Jackson Bird!

If you’re into Harry Potter, you might notice a subtle play on words in the title of my debut book Sorted: Growing Up, Coming Out, and Finding My Place. Referencing the Hogwarts Sorting Hat was a purposeful nod to the series and community that has played such a huge role in my life––and in the lives of so many of us from the Potter Generation. But growing up, I never wanted people to know how big of a Harry Potter fan I really was. In middle school, I didn’t want to hear my classmates’ parroting their youth pastors and saying I would surely go to hell for reading books on witchcraft (which always baffled me because did that mean they actually believed in witchcraft?). In high school, when other students started attending the midnight Harry Potter movie releases as a social affair, I didn’t want them to know that I had been following every production detail of the film for years on fansites because it wasn’t cool to care that much. In college, when I had started volunteering for a Harry Potter-themed nonprofit and attending wizard rock shows on the weekends, everyone else had collectively decided it was time to move on. Harry Potter was for kids.

Sometime in between my fifth year of working professionally for the Harry Potter Alliance and penning a peer-reviewed case study of the organization, I mostly stopped caring what people thought. Harry Potter had played too big a role in my life to deny that huge part of me any longer. After years of insisting on having professional-sounding job titles like Communications Director so people would know that my day job wasn’t merely a fan club, I decided, eff it, and asked during a promotion to be called the Director of Wizard-Muggle Relations. It was 2017. The world was a dumpster fire and I had more important things to care about than people assuming my job wasn’t serious enough. I was ready to own the fact that my career had thus far consisted mostly of attending nerdy conventions and training fans to become leaders in their local communities.

But when I first set out to complete my memoir, I reverted to my adolescent ways and originally downplayed the influence of Harry Potter on my life. I didn’t mention first discovering the series as a nine year old or skipping class in sixth grade to go see the earliest showing in my town of the first movie. Wizard rock shows became punk shows. Harry Potter fan conferences were just conferences and my involvement with the Harry Potter Alliance was given my usual sanitized rebranding as merely a nonprofit focusing on civic engagement.

As the public announcement of my book got closer and closer, however, and I still hadn’t settled on a title that worked for the book, I found myself in a frantic brainstorming session with fellow guests and staff at the Granger Leadership Academy (GLA) in Philadelphia. GLA is the Harry Potter Alliance’s intergenerational leadership conference where Potter fans and more convene for a weekend of activist training, keynote talks, and lots of fandom-tinged girl power.

I camped out in the staff room where I recruited anyone who walked through the door to join my title brainstorm in between their other (more important) tasks. We threw out lots of titles like Written in Transition, Not Your Father’s Masculinity, Not Another Trans Memoir, and Hatching Him: The Jackson Bird Story (followed by its sequels Hard Boiled: My Life as an Influencer and Over Easy: How I Quit the Big City and Started a Farm).

I wrote down every single one of them, even the jokes, in my Notes app in case they could spark some inspiration later. At one point my friend Katie, possibly inspired by the magical vibes of the conference and the simultaneous conversation happening on the other side of the staff room about primary and secondary Hogwarts houses, recommended Sorted––a nod to both Hogwarts house sorting and being sorted into a gender. I chuckled and immediately vetoed it, not even adding it to the Notes doc. I was not going to make a corny Harry Potter joke the title of my debut book.

The conference ended and I took the bus back home to New York City with 131 possible titles and feeling no closer to making a decision than I had been before. As I sat on my sofa that night, tossing around various combinations of titles and subtitles, the word “sorted” came back to me. Away from the Hermione Granger-inspired environment I’d just been living in for the past three days, it didn’t seem so corny. In fact, as I realized the many different connotations of the word and started picturing cover design concepts, it seemed enticing. With an explanatory subtitle, it could be perfect.

I realized it would require some explanation though and if it were to really work it would need to be baked thematically throughout the book, which meant possibly adding in more stories about Harry Potter. Once again, I found myself confronted by my insecurities around being known as a Harry Potter fan.

There’s no shame in being a fan of Harry Potter, but I think I’d always been embarrassed by just how big a fan I really was. In high school, I listened to fan-made Harry Potter podcasts on the bus ride to school (back in the day when you had to manually download podcasts and burn them onto CDs to listen to portably if you didn’t have an iPod yet). In the evenings, I procrastinated on homework by reading fanfiction. I knew every bit of Harry Potter-related news several days before anyone else was talking about it because I religiously followed the fan sites that got exclusive press releases from Warner Bros. and Scholastic. I wasn’t just a casual fan. I lived and breathed Harry Potter.

A hug that went a beat too long in the Prisoner of Azkaban movie led me to Remus/Sirius fanfiction and the first stirrings of my queer sexuality. When my depression and gender dysphoria overtook my ability to make meaningful friendships in college, the online fan community stepped in to give me a social outlet and friends who didn’t care what I wore or if I sometimes put my foot in my mouth too much. As I entered real post-college adulthood, my older co-workers at the HPA modeled how to be responsible, creative, loving adults. And at twenty-five, when I knew I had to come out as transgender and begin transitioning, the Harry Potter fan community erupted in an outpouring of support––just like I always knew they would.

How could I not include all of that in a memoir about growing up and discovering myself? Harry Potter––the books, the fan-made creations, and the fans themselves––had been there every step of the way.

Maybe some people will still think its childish. Some will tell me to read another book. Surely others will simply continue to be uninterested in the Boy Who Lived and the community that’s been built around him, but similar critiques could be made about any other major aspects of mine or any other person’s life. I may have been loath to admit how inextricably tied I am to the Wizarding World in the past for fear it would make me uncool (as if that and not my deep knowledge of Elizabethan theater or increasing inability to understand pop culture as I age would be the primary thing to make me uncool), but I know now that I can’t deny it. Just as it’s impossible to tell what kind of person I might’ve been had I not been trans, I honestly don’t know who I’d be if a certain bespectacled boy wizard hadn’t entered my life twenty years ago. So, I guess what I’m saying is, your royalty check will be in the mail soon, Mrs. Rowling.

(JK! Books belong to their readers and fan creations are totally Fair Use, but thank you for writing the original series and inspiring us all for generations to come)

***

Jackson Bird is a YouTube creator and LGBTQ+ advocate dedicated to demystifying the transgender experience. His TED Talk “How to talk (and listen) to transgender people” has been viewed over a million times. Jackson is a recipient of the GLAAD Rising Star Digital Innovator Award and lives in New York City. You can follow him online @JackIsNotABird.

Inside an Anthology: The (Other) F Word ed. by Angie Manfredi

I’m so thrilled to be featuring this groundbreaking anthology on the site today, along with eleven notes by queer contributors on their entries! The representation in this book is so wonderfully varied, and it’s great to have so many authors here to talk about it! So here’s The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce ed. by the fabulous Angie Manfredi.

Chubby. Curvy. Fluffy. Plus-size. Thick. Fat. The time has come for fat people to tell their own stories. The (Other) F Word combines personal essays, prose, poetry, fashion tips, and art to create a relatable and attractive guide about body image and body positivity. This YA crossover anthology is meant for people of all sizes who desire to be seen and heard in a culture consumed by a narrow definition of beauty. By combining the talents of renowned fat YA and middle-grade authors, as well as fat influencers and creators, The (Other) F Word offers teen readers and activists of all ages a guide for navigating our world with confidence and courage.

Buy It: B&N | Amazon | Indiebound

Mason Deaver, “A Body Like Mine”

“I’ve always had a weird relationship with clothes. I feel like it’s something that a lot of fat trans people deal with. Already clothing and fashion is hard to navigate when you’re fat, this industry doesn’t like you, it doesn’t want to see you be fashionable. It also wants to make you pay extra for daring to have a body. But when you’re trans on top of all of that? It can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. It’s so much harder to find clothing as a fat trans person, clothing that can literally save your life, or make you feel like the person you truly are.

Clothing is a life-line for both of us, for fat people, and for trans people. It has the magic to make us feel like our real selves, to be more confident in who we are. I’d never seen anything talk about this connection, ever, so I wanted to say my piece. Because it’s a hard world to navigate, and I want teenagers dealing with the same feelings to know that they aren’t alone with them.”

***

S. Qiouyi Lu, “Fat, And”

I wrote “Fat, And” because I’ve often been frustrated by fat spaces that focus on fatness to the exclusion of other identities and experiences. As not only a fat person, but a nonbinary person of color, I wanted to represent the complexity of a multilayered identity: Each layer influences the others and is inextricable from the whole. I hope I can inspire people to see themselves as a whole instead of a collection of parts, especially considering how often we’re forced to turn our bodies into parts (my stomach, my arms, my legs, etc.) in a body-negative culture.

***

Jess Walton, “Losing My Religion”

As a teenager, I came out and found a beautiful, vibrant community that accepted and celebrated me as a bisexual person. Having that community around me helped me stand up to hateful bigotry over the years.

I did not find disability and fat pride and community until my thirties, so ableism and anti-fatness have had a lot more time to do me harm. I wrote ‘Losing my Religion’ because joining Weight Watchers as a teenager was formative and extremely damaging to the way I felt about myself. It led to an adulthood focused on weight loss and ‘fixing’ my body. I was so ashamed of the way I looked – I felt undesirable and unloveable. Every time I managed to lose weight, I would be congratulated and told how good I looked, which reinforced the idea that I needed to lose weight, and that fat bodies were bad, failed bodies. For me, disability and fat pride are closely linked. They’re both about saying my body is not a failed body. I can be proud of who I am instead of ashamed. I can reject those who hate the fat and disabled parts of me, just as I reject those who hate the queer part of me.

I also wrote ‘Losing My Religion’ because Weight Watchers still exists, and is still doing serious harm to fat people, including kids. In fact, they’re targeting kids and teens with their kurbo app. They can try rebranding themselves as ‘Wellness that Works’, but I’ll always see them for what they are – a harmful, predatory, profit driven cult.

I’m honoured to be a part of this anthology; it’s one of the books I really needed as a fat, queer, disabled teen. I’m so, so relieved that it exists in the world now.

***

Alex Gino, “Body Sovereignty: This Fat Trans Flesh is Mine”

I have the right to change my transgender body. I do not have an obligation to change my fat body. Body sovereignty, the idea that I am the decision-maker over my very self, holds these two statements in balance. It’s also the idea at the heart of my essay Body Sovereignty: This Fat, Trans Flesh is Mine. Like the title, this piece mixes a touch of radical body theory with a practical look at how transgender and fat bodies are treated, and why it’s so important to claim and reclaim control over how and whether our bodies are altered. There’s even a little chart! I can only imagine the hard roads I could have skipped down a little more easily if someone had slipped an essay like this, as part of a book like this, into my hands when I was a teen, and I’m delighted to be able to do that for others, especially for fat queer, trans, and nonbinary youth.

***

Jiji Knight, “Brighter Than Starlight”

This book is everything I wish I had when I was growing up fat and struggling to answer the the question “What is normal?”

No one ever assures you that yes! You are the norm. Your body is the norm. Body positivity is still such a foreign movement to some people – hell – most people. The very concept that fat people are reclaiming the word ‘fat’ and celebrating their curves, their bodies, is exhilarating.

I am fat. I am bisexual. I am an artist. And I am proud to have been a part of such a wonderful amalgamation of beautiful contributors.

***

Miguel M. Morales, “50 Tips from a Fat and Fabulous Elder”

The pieces I submitted to the anthology revealed themselves as I walked in the park near my home in Kansas. I wanted to build up stamina for all the walking I’d be doing on an upcoming trip to Hawai’i. I’d never been that far from home and I wanted to do, see, and taste so much. I also wanted to make sure I didn’t push my body too hard all at once. My secret unspoken goal was to hike Diamond Head.

At the park, I listened to music to help me set a pace for the hike. That’s when I noticed changes in my body’s movement; in its rhythm. I noticed the beauty of nature’s largeness and how society celebrates this grandeur yet blames ours on weakness. I wondered if we amused the trees by hastily moving on a circular path going nowhere, trying to get smaller while we admired their size.

I found my relationship my clothes began to change. Instead of tugging at my shirts desperate for them to hang loose on me, I allowed them to caress my curves. Instead of pulling up my shorts constantly afraid I’d display plumber’s crack, I allowed them to gently settle and rest comfortably on my hips without a worry.

I thought about the anthology and advice I’d want to share. Things my oldness and my queerness and my brownness has taught me about being fat. I remembered those who’ve helped me learn not only to operate this body but to love it.

I’m thrilled this anthology features four of my pieces. I’m eager to write more about intersectional fatness.

Oh, I did hike Diamond Head. I got passed up on the trail by some elderly people and some children, but it was amazing. I was amazing. You should have seen me.

***

Laina Spencer, “To All the Pizzas I’ve Loved Before”

Funnily enough, I don’t normally write non-fiction, but when Angie approached me about writing as essay for The (Other) F Word, I was so excited that I couldn’t say no. I kept thinking about myself as a teenager, and what it would have meant to read something like this. And because I’m always thinking about books and representation, and especially YA books, that’s what I decided to write about that.

And as someone who’s aroace, I wanted to talk about how I don’t necessarily relate to certain narratives, and how it feels sometimes to be aroace in fat spaces, and vice versa. Hopefully I did that pretty well!

***

Hillary Monahan, “Fatness & Horror: The Match Made in Not Heaven”

“When Angie asked me to talk about fatness in my genre of choice–horror–I was delighted. It was something I’d ranted and railed about in my private circles for years.  How can we exist in a world, take up space in the world, people the world and be either completely absent from stories OR be “punished” for our fatness by making comedic, convenient victim fodder?  I want none of that–as a fat fan and as a fat creator.”

***

“Write Something Fat” by Sarah Hollowell

When I wrote my first book in high school, it never occurred to me that my characters could be anything other than skinny. I didn’t understand then how much damage I was internalizing from a lack of positive representation – not just feeling bad about myself, but erasing myself at every opportunity.

I wasn’t just erasing my fatness. Finding out that bisexuality existed as an option was an amazing, freeing moment in my life. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, but most of the reactions I got were that it was a phase or I was trying to be trendy. I also went to a high school in southern Indiana in the early 2000s – not a lot of out-and-proud queer people there! It was mostly me, my gay best friend, the girl who was my first kiss, the one other out gay kid, and the ones we suspected were closeted.

I wasn’t seeing queer people like me in the media, I wasn’t seeing them in my life, and even well-meaning people around me seemed to think I’d grow out of it. I didn’t write a queer story until I was in college. I was erasing myself, again.

“Write Something Fat” is about giving myself permission to not erase myself. I wrote it to the teenage version of me, but I also wrote it to the current version of me who wonders if now I write too many fat bisexual girls.

But here’s the thing: If other authors can write dozens of books about straight skinny characters, then I can sure as hell write as many as I want about the fat queer ones. And you can, too.

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Jon Higgins, Ed.D., “Black, Fat, Fem: The Weight of a Queen”

As soon as I heard about this anthology, the fat 16 year old queer kid inside of me jumped for joy. After reaching out and learning that my work had been accepted, I not only felt validated, but that my work and journey would in turn help someone who might really need the reassurance that they are seen and valued.

Working on this project reminded me that I am my ancestor’s wildest dreams. I am fat, Black and queer and I am leaving behind seeds of my experiences to help other people grow. What’s even more riveting is knowing that I, in my own way, got to share a narrative that is often overlooked and undervalued in my own voice and in my own experience.

Working on this project reminded me of why I began writing in the first place. Why I felt the need to continue to remind others that their lives and their experiences need to be heard and more, that these stories will be the ones that change the lives of those who need it most. I am so grateful for the opportunity and I can’t wait for the world to engage in the greater context of this book and it’s many chapters of knowledge, hope and resistance.

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“You Are Loved” by Ady Del Valle

I wrote the chapter “You Are Loved” because these are words we don’t get told often but also words we don’t tell ourselves often. I wanted to be able to write something real and meaningful for this amazing and inspiring book, while relating it to myself ans what I do in the industry to do mt part. “You Are Loved” is a chapter of self-love with fashion or without, no matter your size or how you identify you are worthy in more ways the one. The “Other” F Word: A Celebration of the Fat and Fierce is a book that will speak to so many in many ways that we all can relate to, its real words form real people. I hope my chapter and the book as whole helps and inspires anyone who flips through the pages no matter who they are and give them motivation to love who they are as they are.

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Angie Manfredi is a librarian and writer who owns every season of Law and Order on DVD and sends over 150 handwritten Valentines every year. She has spent the last 11 years working directly with children and teens of all ages in a public library and now works in library consulting on all things youth services. Angie is fat and not sorry about it. She is a passionate advocate for literacy, diversity, and decolonizing the discourse surrounding children’s literature. Her latest book is The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce.