Tag Archives: Feiwel & Friends

September 2020 Book Deal Announcements

Adult Fiction

Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate and Caine Prize finalist Arinze Ifeakandu‘s GOD’S CHILDREN ARE LITTLE BROKEN THINGS, a debut story collection set in Nigeria united by the theme of queer male intimacy, to Brigid Hughes at A Public Space Books, by Jin Auh and Austin Mueller at The Wylie Agency (world English).

Author of WILLA & HESPER Amy Feltman‘s ALL THE THINGS WE DON’T TALK ABOUT, a queer family drama, following a diverse cast of characters whose lives are upended by the sudden reappearance of their self-destructive mother; grappling with betrayal and addiction alongside queer love and joy, to Maddie Caldwell at Grand Central, in an exclusive submission, by Stephanie Delman at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates (world English)

Center for Fiction First Novel Prize nominee Celia Laskey‘s THE BRIDESMAID, about two women, one gay and one straight, whose longstanding friendship spirals violently out of control over the course of one’s wedding weekend, exploring contemporary female friendship, platonic queer-straight dynamics, and the absurdity of the wedding industrial complex, to John Glynn at Hanover Square Press, at auction, by Alexa Stark at Trident Media Group (NA).

A BIG SHIP AT THE EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE and ALIEN: THE COLD FORGE author Alex White‘s STAR TREK: REVENANT, a new adventure set during the fourth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, about a terrible secret at the heart of the Trill Symbiosis Commission that forces Jadzia Dax to reckon further with the past lives of the Dax symbiont, particularly her immediate predecessor Curzon and the psychopathic murderer Joran, in the first treatment of Star Trek’s groundbreaking genderfluid Trill species by a nonbinary or genderqueer writer, to Ed Schlesinger at Pocket, by Connor Goldsmith at Fuse Literary (world English).

PEN/Robert W Bingham Finalist and physician-writer Chaya Bhuvaneswar‘s WHITE DANCING ELEPHANTS, debut collection of short stories of the #MeToo and survival of queer women of color, to Blackstone Audio, by Lane Zachary at Aevitas Inc.

Author of THE EARTHQUAKE ROOM Davey Davis’s X, a queer noir set in a near-future New York that follows a down-and-out sadomasochist drawn from their post-breakup desolation into the pursuit of pure pleasure after a chance encounter, to Alicia Kroell at Catapult, by Julia Kardon at HG Literary (world English).

Printz Award-winning author of WE ARE OKAY and the forthcoming WATCH OVER ME Nina LaCour’s YERBA BUENA, following two women on a star-crossed journey toward one another, across the expanse of California—from a drug-soaked town in the redwoods to an elegant Los Angeles restaurant—as one finds refuge in her family’s past and the other struggles against the dark secrets she’d rather leave behind; also, an untitled multigenerational family saga inspired by the author’s grandparents, following their journey from New Orleans to Los Angeles, and what they gained and left behind, to Caroline Bleeke at Flatiron Books, in a major deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in Winter 2022, by Sara Crowe at Pippin Properties (NA).

Anita Kelly’s debut RECIPES FOR A DELICIOUS DISASTER, a romantic comedy in which the first openly nonbinary contestant on America’s favorite cooking show becomes distracted by their beautiful, clumsy competitor, but when the couple starts exploring their chemistry, they’re tested by heat outside of the kitchen, to Junessa Viloria at Forever, in a three-book deal, by Kim Lionetti at BookEnds.

Alison Cochrun‘s debut THE CHARM OFFENSIVE, a queer rom-com about a reality dating show producer tasked with helping the show’s tech wunderkind star find his true love among 30 women, but when their off-screen chemistry overshadows what happens in front of the cameras, they may have to rewrite happily ever after, pitched in the vein of RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE and ONE TO WATCH, to Kaitlin Olson at Atria, in a nice deal, for publication in fall 2021, by Bibi Lewis at Ethan Ellenberg Agency (world).

Columbia MFA graduate Khashayar Joshua Khabushani’s‘s OUR NEW NAMES, about the powerful bonds that make and break an Iranian American family, and the journey a son must make in order to find his place in the world, from San Fernando Valley to Iran and eventually to New York, examining boyhood and brotherhood, violence and tenderness, and queer identity and belonging in America, to Parisa Ebrahimi at Hogarth, at auction, by Bill Clegg at The Clegg Agency (NA).

Children’s/Middle Grade Fiction

Katherine Locke’s WHAT ARE YOUR WORDS?, introducing and celebrating gender-inclusive pronouns as a child explores both their neighborhood and which “words” fit them and their neighbors best today, illustrated by Anne Passchier, to Regan Winter at Little, Brown Children’s, for publication in summer 2021, by Lara Perkins at Andrea Brown Literary Agency for the author, and by Anne Moore Armstrong at The Bright Group for the illustrator (world).

Actor, activist, and author Nico Tortorella‘s picture book OLIVETTE IS YOU, an inclusive message about celebrating different gender identities, to Emily Easton at Crown Children’s, by Sarah Passick at Park & Fine Literary and Media.

Transgender Korean American author, athlete, and activist Schuyler Bailar‘s Middle Grade debut OBIE IS MAN ENOUGH, about a transgender tween who looks to prove he’s one of the fastest boys in the pool as he contends with new teammates, bullies, and his biggest competition: himself, to Phoebe Yeh at Crown Children’s, for publication in fall 2021, by Marietta Zacker at Gallt and Zacker Literary Agency (world English).

Young Adult Fiction

Philline Harms’s debut NEVER KISS YOUR ROOMMATE, in which a girl arrives at a boarding school, and a mysterious and alluring girl is assigned to be her roommate, but as their relationship goes from cold to red hot, the roommate’s dangerous past resurfaces and tests the strength of their budding romance, to Deanna McFadden at Wattpad, for publication in spring 2021.

NYT-bestselling author of WILDER GIRLS Rory Power‘s THE WORLD ENDS HERE, a speculative thriller following ex-girlfriends raised at a remote, icy research institute, and what happens when they uncover the nightmarish discovery their families are protecting there, to Krista Marino at Delacorte, in a six-figure deal, in a two-book deal, for publication in fall 2021, by Kim Witherspoon and Jessica Mileo at Inkwell Management (NA).

Molly Horan‘s EPICALLY EARNEST, pitched as a queer contemporary wink to Oscar Wilde’s THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, in which a high school senior must decide who she wants to be and where she fits in as graduation approaches, all the while finding the time to fall in love with the girl of her dreams, to Lily Kessinger at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s, for publication in spring 2022, by Elle Thompson and Uwe Stender at TriadaUS Literary Agency (world).

Author of the forthcoming ALMOST FLYING Jake Maia Arlow’s WINTER BREAK, a contemporary rom-com about two Jewish girls falling in love reluctantly at Christmastime, a hate-to-love romance pitched as “like a Hallmark Christmas movie—if a Hallmark Christmas movie ever starred sexually frustrated lesbian Jews,” to Stephanie Guerdan at Harper Teen, in a good deal, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, for publication in fall 2022, by Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (world).

Eric Geron’s debut A TALE OF TWO PRINCES, about a closeted crown prince newly established in Canada and an out-and-proud Montana cowboy who meet by chance and turn out to be long-lost twin brothers, forced to navigate coming out, coronations, and high school together, to Rebecca Kuss at Inkyard Press, in a good deal, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2022, by Brent Taylor at TriadaUS Literary Agency (world English).

Maggie Tokuda-Hall‘s untitled sequel to THE MERMAID, THE WITCH, AND THE SEA, in which a number of characters from the first book reunite to destroy the Nipran Empire; with a siren, a dragon, and some familiar mermaids, this motley group may finally have what they need to end imperialism in their world once and for all, to Karen Lotz at Candlewick, in an exclusive submission, by Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (world).

Peyton Thomas‘s debut BOTH SIDES NOW, featuring a trans protagonist taking his competitive high school debate circuit by storm, pitched as for fans of SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA and RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE, to Ellen Cormier at Dial, at auction, for publication in fall 2021, by Brooks Sherman at Janklow & Nesbit (US).

Tobias Madden’s ANYTHING BUT FINE, about a teenage ballet dancer who breaks his foot and begins to question everything he once took for granted, including his relationship with the dreamy, perfect-in-every-way, and seemingly straight captain of the rowing team, to Zoe Walton at Penguin Random House Australia, at auction, for publication in 2021, by Claire Friedman at Inkwell Management (Australia and New Zealand).

Faridah Abike-Iyimide‘s ACE OF SPADES, pitched as Gossip Girl meets Get Out, in which a mysterious source spreads rumors about a prestigious private school’s only two Black students, who must fight for their reputations—and for their lives, to Foyinsi Adegbonmire at Feiwel and Friends, in a major deal, in a seven-figure deal, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2021, by Molly Ker Hawn at The Bent Agency, on behalf of Zoe Plant at The Bent Agency (NA).

Graphic Novels

Cartoonist Alex Combs‘s TRANS HISTORY: A GRAPHIC NOVEL, presenting an introduction to transgender identity and history in the U.S. and beyond, to Andrea Tompa at Candlewick, at auction, for publication in 2023, by Zabe Ellor at Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency (world English).

Non-Fiction

Professor of Victorian literature at Berkeley and intellectual Grace Lavery’s PLEASE MISS, a speculative memoir of gender transition and recovery from addiction, refracted through pop culture, queer theory, film, TV, literature, and (what feels like) stand-up comedy, pitched as THE ARGONAUTS caught in a hall of mirrors, with a lot more sex and humor, to Claire Potter at Seal Press, in a six-figure deal, at auction, by Alison Lewis at Zoe Pagnamenta Agency.

Podcast host, and creator of the LGBTQ+ blog TheShitneySpears David Olshanetsky’s COMING OUT ALIVE, a guide to coming out of the closet, combining personal anecdotes with how-to guides; queer history lessons you won’t get in school; and conversations with LGBTQ+ celebrities, including international pop music sensation Pabllo Vittar, activist and Broadway trailblazer Peppermint, and writer and performer Stephen Fry about their own journeys, to Sylvan Creekmore at Wednesday Books, in a good deal, for publication in June 2022, by Connor Goldsmith at Fuse Literary (world English).

Supergirl actress, transgender rights activist, and subject of the book BECOMING NICOLE Nicole Maines’s coming-of-age memoir, about learning how to be OK with not always being OK, aiming to correct some of the most insidious messaging absorbed by queer kids and all young women—from the idea that any one thing can (or should) ever really “fix” you to wondering what’s wrong with you when things don’t always feel better—by providing an intimate look at the author’s life and all the lessons she’s learned along the way, to Caitlin McKenna at Dial, in an exclusive submission, by Lauren MacLeod and Wendy Strothman at The Strothman Agency.

Writing professor and former professional dominatrix Chris Belcher’s PRETTY BABY, an examination of gender, power, violence, and intimacy, following the author’s coming-of-age as a queer woman in rural Appalachia, to adulthood in Los Angeles as a female academic and sex worker, to Carolyn Kelly at Avid Reader Press, by Jade Wong-Baxter at Massie & McQuilkin (NA).

Author of the Lambda Literary Award- and Prix JDD France Inter-winning THE FACT OF A BODY: A MURDER AND A MEMOIR Alex Marzano-Lesnevich’s BOTH AND NEITHER, a genre- and gender-bending work of memoir, history, cultural analysis, trans reimaginings, and international road trip about life beyond the binary, to Margo Shickmanter at Doubleday, at auction, by PJ Mark at Janklow & Nesbit.

Longtime birder and social activist Christian Cooper‘s BETTER LIVING THROUGH BIRDING, reflecting on a life lived at the intersections of race and queerness; equal parts memoir, travelogue, and call to action, exploring the lifetime of experience that prepared the author for his now-infamous encounter with racist white aggression in Central Park, on the very day that the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sent the country over the edge, spurring protests in the streets and inspiring calls for change, to Chayenne Skeete at Random House, with Mark Warren editing, at auction, by Gail Ross at Ross Yoon Agency (world).

***

Announcements are cribbed from Publishers Marketplace.

December Book Deal Announcements

Adult Fiction

Columbia MFA Joss Lake’s FUTURE FEELING, set in alt-future Brooklyn and L.A., following three young trans men—a professional dog walker, a self-absorbed social media influencer, and a jaded TV writer—who must work together to remedy the disastrous effects of an ill-conceived hex at the behest of the Rhiz, the quasi-benevolent network responsible for the collective well-being of the global transgender community, to Yuka Igarashi at Soft Skull, by Chris Clemans at Janklow & Nesbit (world English).

NYT-bestselling author of PLEASE LOOK AFTER MOM and winner of the International Man Booker Prize Kyung-Sook Shin’s VIOLET, about a young woman who works in a flower shop and has been shunned by her female high school lover, which sets her apart from society and the world of Seoul, to Jisu Kim at Feminist Press, in an exclusive submission, for publication in 2021, by Barbara Zitwer at Barbara Zitwer Agency (world English).

NYT bestselling author of RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE Casey McQuiston‘s ONE LAST STOP, pitched as a queer Kate & Leopold, in which a 23-year-old realizes her subway crush is displaced from 1970’s Brooklyn, and she must do everything in her power to help her – and try not to fall in love with the girl lost in time – before it’s too late, to Vicki Lame at Griffin, in an exclusive submission, for publication in summer 2021, by Sara Megibow at kt literary (world English).

Sara Codair’s EARTH RECLAIMED, in which a 17-year-old non-binary mage must stop a budding war between mages and scientists before Mother Earth reclaims the world, to Zelda Knight at Aurelia Leo, in a nice deal, for publication in January 2021 (world English).

Lambda Literary Fellow and diaCRITICS.org contributor Eric Nguyen‘s A HISTORY OF LOST THINGS, set in the New Orleans housing project of Versailles and following a Vietnamese refugee mother and her two sons, one tempted by gangs and the other embracing his gay identity, as they reckon with their past losses and grapple with creating a new home, to Caitlin Landuyt at Knopf, in a very nice deal, at auction, by Julie Stevenson at Massie & McQuilkin (NA).

Author of the second installment of VERA KELLY series Rosalie Knecht‘s VERA KELLY IS NOT A MYSTERY, picking up with an ex-CIA agent after she loses her job and her girlfriend in a single day and reluctantly goes into business as a private detective, taking a case chasing a lost child through foster care and following a trail of Dominican exiles to the Caribbean, dredging up dark memories and dangerous characters from across the Cold War landscape, to Masie Cochran at Tin House Books, for publication in June 2020, by Soumeya Bendimerad Roberts at HG Literary (NA).

NYT- and USA Today-bestselling author Chelsea Cameron‘s THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, in which one woman’s plans for escaping her parents’ house and the confines of small town life are waylaid by the lobsterwoman next door, to Kerri Buckley at Carina Press Adores, for publication in June 2020 (world).

Morgan Rogers‘s HONEY GIRL, pitched for fans of RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE, an #OwnVoices debut that follows a young black woman just finishing her PhD in astronomy who impulsively gets married in Vegas and decides to leave her perfectly ordered life for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows, to Laura Brown at Park Row Books, by Holly Root at Root Literary (NA).

Children’s Fiction

Sunmi’s FIREBIRD, a debut graphic novel that follows a girl as she crushes on an older girl she tutors, and their friendship through their varied experiences as queer children of Asian-American immigrants, to Clarissa Wong at Harper Alley, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in 2022, by Susan Graham at Einstein Literary Management (world).

Miel Moreland’s IT GOES LIKE THIS, an #OwnVoices story about a former queer pop band, the (messy) fallout of their globally mourned breakup, and the devastating hometown storm that brings the teens back together, leaving each member to wonder if they can rebuild more than just the town, to Rachel Diebel at Feiwel and Friends, for publication in spring 2021, by Jessica Errera at Jane Rotrosen Agency (NA).

Author of ONLY MOSTLY DEVASTATED Sophie Gonzales‘s THE EX-GIRLFRIEND GETTER-BACKER EXPERIMENT, in which a bisexual girl who gives out anonymous love advice at her high school is blackmailed by the hot guy in her class into helping him get his ex-girlfriend back, and the unintended consequences of her advice end up affecting everyone, including herself, pitched as THE DUFF meets TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE, to Sylvan Creekmore at Wednesday Books, in an exclusive submission, for publication in 2021, by Moe Ferrara at BookEnds (world).

Kate Prosswimmer at S&S/McElderry has acquired IN DEEPER WATERS by F.T. Lukens. Pitched as A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue meets Pirates of the Caribbean, this high seas fantasy features a prince with secret magic who is kidnapped during his coming-of-age tour and must rely on a mysterious young man to save him. Publication is slated for spring 2021; Eva Scalzo at Speilburg Literary Agency did the deal.

STRANGE GRACE author Tessa Gratton‘s NIGHT SHINE, pitched as a dark, queer Howl’s Moving Castle, in which the crown prince is kidnapped, and only an orphan knows enough of his secrets to seek him in a demon-haunted fortress, to Karen Wojtyla at Margaret K. McElderry Books, in an exclusive submission, for publication in fall 2020, by Laura Rennert at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (world English).

Maya MacGregor‘s THE MANY HALF-LIVED LIVES OF SAM SYLVESTER, about an autistic genderqueer protagonist who leaves an intolerant school for a new high school with the support of their loving father, finding a Rainbow Club and accepting friends, all of whom must come together to solve the decades-old mystery of the murder of a teenage boy and confront the child’s own fears of early death, to Jes Negron at Boyds Mills Press, for publication in fall 2020, by Sara Megibow at kt literary (world English).

Jake Maia Arlow‘s ALMOST FLYING, in which a 13-year-old takes part in a summer road trip to several amusement parks and celebrates found family, first queer crushes, and the singular delight of roller coasters, to Ellen Cormier at Dial, in a good deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2021, by Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (world).

Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award-winning actor, singer, dancer, writer, and advocate Billy Porter‘s untitled picture book, to Courtney Code at Abrams Children’s, by Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (world).

Non-Fiction

Contributor to Tin House and Granta Krys Malcolm Belc’s THE NATURAL MOTHER OF THE CHILD, about bodily autonomy and parenthood, from a transmasculine parent who identifies as neither mother nor father to his gestational son and the two children his partner carried, to Dan Smetanka at Counterpoint, with Jennifer Alton editing, by Ashley Lopez at Waxman Literary Agency (NA).

Trans activist, storyteller, and Director of Family Formation at Family Equality Trystan Angel Reese‘s TENDER MOMENTS AND TOUGH LESSONS: THE JOURNEY THROUGH ADOPTION, TRANS PREGNANCY, AND LGBTQ PARENTHOOD, a memoir of Trystan and his partner Biff’s route to parenthood, from adopting two kids in need to becoming pregnant as a man and candid reflections on it all, interwoven with universal lessons for those facing obstacles to parenthood, to Batya Rosenblum at The Experiment, for publication in spring 2021, by Myrsini Stephanides at Carol Mann Agency (world).

Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award-winning actor, singer, dancer, writer, and advocate Billy Porter‘s UNPROTECTED, a memoir of childhood trauma, creative struggle, public courage, and triumph, to Jamison Stoltz at Abrams Press, in a pre-empt; also, an untitled picture book, to Courtney Code at Abrams Children’s, by Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (world).

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Friend Scheme by Cale Dietrich

Having adored The Love Interest, Cale Dietrich’s first speculative gay YA romance, I’m thrilled to have him on the site today revealing the cover of his long-awaited sophomore novel, The Friend Scheme, which releases from Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan on May 26, 2020! Here’s the story:

Part thriller, part romance, The Friend Scheme is another twisty #ownvoices YA novel from Cale Dietrich, author of The Love Interest.

Seventeen-year-old Matt is the son of one of the most powerful criminals in the world – and everyone expects him to follow in his father’s dark footsteps.

But his father’s world has never suited Matt. His desire for a different life grows when, one night, he meets a boy named Jason. Smart, chaotic, and as disinterested in a life of crime as Matt is, the pair quickly become friends. And when Jason comes out to him, Matt thinks they have a shot at becoming more than that, revealing a part of himself he has long repressed out of fear of his father.

As Matt and Jason’s connection grows deeper, Matt grows suspicious of his new friend’s motives. He really does seem like the perfect boy – maybe even too perfect, especially when he starts encouraging Matt to disclose details of his father’s empire. Now Matt must figure out if he can trust his new friend, or his father’s plans for him…and must decide if he can ever do the impossible and come clean about who he really is, and who he is meant to love.

And here’s the impossibly cool cover, designed by Katie Klimowicz with art by Meybis Ruiz Cruz!

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

***

Cale Dietrich is a YA devotee, lifelong gamer, and tragic pop punk enthusiast. He was born in Perth, grew up on the Gold Coast, and now lives in Brisbane, Australia.

Cover and Excerpt Reveal: The Confusion of Laurel Graham by Adrienne Kisner!

Hey, remember how this past year there was a debut that was actually freaking called Dear Rachel Maddow, and how ridiculously cool that was? Well, excellent news! That very same author is back with her sophomore novel, and it also stars a queer girl…and happens to have an utterly stunning cover, which you can see today! Ta da! But first, here are the details on The Confusion of Laurel Graham by Adrienne Kisner, a contemporary f/f YA releasing on June 4, 2019 from Feiwel & Friends!

Laurel Graham has loved bird watching as long as she can remember, just like her beloved grandmother, who also happens to be a steadying force in her life. One evening Gran drags Laurel out on a birding expedition where the pair hear a mysterious call that even Gran can’t identify. The pair vow to find out what it is as Laurel pursues nature photography dominance over her rival–fellow nature reserve volunteer, Risa.  But soon after, Gran is involved in a horrible car accident and the town threatens to seize the nature reserve land.  Laurel must then decide to fight for what’s most important to her, if she can figure out what that is.

And here’s the stunning cover!

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

But wait, there’s more! We’ve also got an exclusive excerpt, so come check it out and meet Laurel Graham!

***

I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

“We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,”
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.

—Oliver Herford

Field Journal Entry
April 29
Notable Location: Sarig Pond
Life list entry 3,284: white-winged tern

Never let them see you sweat.

That’s not the Birdscout motto. But it fucking well should be.

“Who can tell me three of the feathered friends we might find on our walk today?” I said.

Sixteen pairs of eyes stared back at me, wide and unblinking.

Homeschoolers. Unschoolers. Some kind of schoolers that meant they weren’t in the overcrowded gray-and-red brick elementary building seven blocks away and were instead standing at the entrance of the Sarig Pond Nature Sanctuary with me. I thought home-non-unschooling would make them wild, free nature lovers . . . but no. Most of them were looking at their smartwatches, secretly texting one another.

“Okay, who can tell me one creature we might find today?” I tried again.

“Um,” a tiny girl with cat-eye glasses said. “A squirrel?”

I sighed. Unfortunately she was right. Squirrels were the bane of birders everywhere. (Well. Except maybe in places where there were no squirrels, which were sadly limited.)

“Good guess!” I said.

She grinned. It’s best to encourage the little ones. They were prone to unpredictable sudden movements that could veer off the path and ruin your day. Best to keep them on your side. “Can anyone guess a creature with wings?”

“Robins?” another boy tried in a bored voice.

“Yes!” My fist shot into the air. “Sweetest of songbirds! Harbingers of spring! Portents of luck and fortune!” Those last two were debatable at best, but sometimes you needed to finesse bird symbolism in order to win a tough audience. A few heads swiveled my way at that, so I felt I’d made the right choice for the greater good.

“Really?” the bored boy asked.

“You bet. Birds bring messages of all sorts to humans. But there are way more interesting things about them than that. They have their own language to communicate. They can fly hundreds of miles and never get lost. They fight for what’s theirs. They are warriors.”

“Cool,” the boy said. “Do you think we’ll see some of those smart ones?”

I smiled to myself. It only takes one to turn a crowd. “Why, yes,” I said, peering at the nametag slapped on his fuzzy lapel, “Isaac. I do. Follow me.”

Six cardinals (two female, four males), two nuthatches, sixteen (give or take) common grackles, three red-bellied woodpeckers, and one red-tailed hawk later, I delivered the kids back to their adults.

“Feel free to take some pamphlets on your way out,” I called. “Nature story time starts May 30!”

I retreated into the tiny, cramped office of the Birdscout Nature Center and sunk into a chair. Birding with the unenthusiastic could fucking wipe a girl out.

“Oh. Hey,” said a voice. I looked up to see a familiar shock of dyed hair shaved into a crest peeking through the door. “If it isn’t the Birdscout-in-chief. Is Jerry in?”

“Out sick today,” I said. “Risa. Your hair . . . ,” I started.

“What about it?” she said. I could hear a warning in her voice.

“It reminds me of a wire-crested thorntail.”

Risa’s face broke into a grin. “You got it! Of course you are the only one who noticed. I love them.”

“They are exquisite,” I agreed.

Risa and I looked at each other for a moment. It was odd that we were having this conversation, since it wouldn’t be precisely accurate to call us friends. We were more . . . what?

Enemies.

Ah. Yes.

We were one hundred percent enemies.

But sometimes, even enemies had great hair.

I watched as Risa’s face changed as she seemingly remembered our actual affiliation at the same time I did. “Okay, well, if you see him sometime soon, tell him I need him to sign my co-op hours sheet.”

“Will do.”

She paused, like she almost wasn’t going to speak but then changed her mind. “Have you finalized your entry yet? For the photo contest?”

“No. You?” I said.

“No. I tried to get a picture of the heron but then I tripped on a root,” she said.

“That sucks.”

“Right? Such a rookie mistake. But I bet everyone around here is going to turn in a fucking heron anyway. Or, god help us all, warblers.”

Heat crept up my back. I had no fewer than twenty-three shots of our four resident herons (male and female) that I was considering entering into Fauna magazine’s annual Junior Nature Photographer competition. Not to mention several dozen shots of a Cape May and one of a male Swainson. That last one turned out blurry, fuck me, because of course the Swainson flitted out of the frame. This was my last shot to win the Fauna competition (since I’d be too old next year), and I wanted to conquer first place so badly I could practically taste it. The money would be nice, and my grandma (a former winner herself) would love the free lifetime subscription (added to the prize since her time).

But because Fauna was the biggest and best birding magazine in the US (possibly the world, save maybe Le Bec in France), the bragging rights alone were worth it.

Particularly if it meant I’d beaten Risa, who I was pretty certain sabotaged my entry last year.

“Yeah. Probably. But the summer birds will be here before you know it. And there are some impressive blooms in Jenkins Wood. There is already a patch of Monotropa uniflora at the base of Elder Oak. It looks like a proper fungus graveyard. Bet it’d be epic in moonlight at the right angle,” I said.

“Are you going for that shot?”

“I tried. It just looks stupid. The flash washes it out and using moonlight through branches isn’t exactly my forte.”

Risa snorted. “I hear you. Okay. Well. Good luck.”

She almost sounded like she meant it. I stared at her absolutely rockin’ hair as she left.

I tidied the desk and took a bunch of Ranger Jerry’s old newspapers to the upcycling bin. The weekend craft people would have a field day Mod Podging on Saturday. I surveyed my work with satisfaction. I was once again reminded how grateful I was for my co-op assignment (even if Risa was there, too). I had always envied the juniors, who were allowed to avoid going to school for all but a few hours on Thursdays during spring term because of their work/volunteer co-ops in years past, but now it was my turn. It had been the best development of my life thus far. Most of my friends were out at the local newspaper or lawyer’s or doctor’s offices and made more money than me. Because my life goal was to be the world’s best nature photographer and take my place aside my hero, master birder Brian Michael Warbley, spending April till August leading nature walks and birding tours was way more my speed. Even if the pay was technically shit.

Like, literally. Jerry gave me a bag of fertilizer for Gran’s garden to compensate me. But it was the best stuff we’d seen and we needed it for her bird-attracting flowers, so I wasn’t too salty about it.

I rounded the pond on trash removal detail, but my phone buzzed in my pocket. Elder Oak. Sixty paces due east! Now! the text from Gran read. I was still technically on the clock, but Jenkins Wood was part of my work space and I could always pick up garbage along the trail to make seeing Gran official business if needed.

Be right there. Don’t leave! I texted back.

You know I’ll always wait for you, Laurel.

I grabbed my camera, locked the Birdscout Center door, and jogged as lightly as I could around the wooden decks surrounding the pond to the woodland paths. I nodded to Elder Oak, oldest tree and guardian of the entrance to Jenkins Wood, and tried to make my way as quietly as possible sixty paces east through a rough path covered in dew-wet leaves. I picked up a few discarded wrappers along the way, darkly noting that they probably came from the awful Birdie Bros (a group of dude birders who had terrible nature manners matched only by their preternatural ability to get rare warbler shots).

I finally found Gran half-hidden in fern fronds about halfway up a hill. I crouched in the grass, rocks crackling underneath my boots.

“Shhh,” whispered Gran.

“I didn’t even say anything,” I whispered back.

Gran glared at me as something rustled in a shrub a few feet away. A beak poked out of glistening leaves, then a head, then downy feathers on spindly legs. Gran gave a tiny yawp, and pointed her high-powered binoculars in the bird’s direction. I pulled out my camera and my shutter clicked like an automatic weapon.

“Did you get it?” said Gran without looking at me. She stared at the bird, and the bird stared back at her. I stared at both of them, wondering at how quickly the feeling had left my crouching legs.

Note: Do more crunches. Strengthen core and calves. A girl does not become Brian Michael Warbley, the King of Birders, with numb appendages.

Then something even worse happened.

I sneezed.

This spooked Gran’s avian friend and he took flight into the trees.

“Seriously, Laurel?” Gran said.

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry. Fucking pollen. You know that. I couldn’t help it.”

“Language,” Gran said. “Do you know what that was? That was a white-winged tern. A new addition to our life list. I never expected to see one out here, on a random day of all things. But there it was. You’d think I’d have learned by now—birds always surprise you.” She leaned back and looked at her camera. “I heard a rumor there was one around here yesterday, but to actually see it . . .” She trailed off as she pulled out her phone to alert her other bird people.

“His black-and-white head.” I marveled at it. “It was gorgeous.” I tipped toward Gran and stretched out my legs. I held my tiny digital screen out to her. “See him, I got a pretty clear shot. Most of them are blurry from him getting spooked by my seasonal curse. But a few are good.”

None were really good enough to help me be crowned Fauna’s Junior Nature Photographer national champion, fuck it all. But, even so. A new bird for the life list was something. As Brian Michael Warbley says, “A bird that you’ve seen is worth ten in a book.”

“He is stunning.” She slipped her phone back into the pocket of her vest and reached over and gave me a shove. “I’m glad I got to see him with you. I gotta say, he is in the top ten on my life list with the snowy owl and king eider I saw in Greenland. Sisimiut also had the northern lights! Superb. One day, kid. Just you wait. We’ll go and the aurora will knock your socks off. No winter allergies in Greenland.” She grinned. “Want to go to Eat N’ Park?” she said.

“I’m at work.”

“But Jerry isn’t here.” Gran grinned.

“How do you know that?” I said.

“I have my ways. Come on. You know you do way more hours here than you are required anyway. What’s thirty mere minutes with your old grandma?”

“I guess I could go for a cinnamon bun.”

“That’s my girl,” Gran said.

Gran’s house sat conveniently at the edge of Jenkins Wood. We slipped into Gran’s tiny hybrid and she drove us to the diner. Since we’d spotted a new life list bird, Gran talked me into fancy chocolate waffles with fruit and let me have bacon to celebrate. Gran was a vegetarian verging on vegan, but she was weak in the face of breakfast.

“How goes school?” she asked.

“Fine,” I said. “I’m hardly there this semester. Academic classes were stacked in the fall and winter, so these last few weeks I’m mostly Birdscouting for co-op.”

“Get any good shots for the contest?” she said.

“Yeah, I guess.” I shifted in my seat. “I had some herons, but . . .” I trailed off.

“Herons are good luck. Messenger birds. They bring good omens.”

“You say that about all birds.”

“Not cormorants. They work for the devil.”

“Stop it.” I laughed.

Gran shrugged. “Tradition. What can I say?”

“Everyone is going to submit herons,” I said, thinking of Risa. “I need something different. Something extraordinary.”

“All birds are extraordinary. Like people. You know that.”

I grunted. I had several memory cards and two extra hard drives full of photographic evidence that some birds were pretty fucking boring. At least when I tried to capture their image.

Gran paid our bill and drove me back to co-op. She dropped me off with barely a goodbye, because her birder friends had caught wind of her find, and they were meeting up again to try to see the elusive white-winged tern.

“Good luck,” I said. “Remember what Warbley says. ‘Birds come not just to those who watch, but those who wait.’”

“Yes, yes. I think I’ve heard you quote him a time or forty. Make great art. You have a Fauna family legacy to protect,” Gran said, holding my camera out of the window of her car. “And text me if you see the tern again.” She sped off, practically leaving me in the dust.

I grinned to myself, looking at my pictures. None were entry-worthy, but the appearance of something rare made me feel that the perfect shot was just around the corner.

***

Adrienne Kisner has master’s and doctorate degrees in theology from Boston University and was inspired by her work with high school and college students to write Dear Rachel Maddow. She is also a graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts with an MFA in writing for children and young adults. Dear Rachel Maddow is her debut.