Tag Archives: Jessica Verdi

Inside an Anthology: Out Now: Queer We Go Again! ed. by Saundra Mitchell

Today on the site, we’re thrilled to welcome the authors of Out Now: Queer We Go Again! edited by Saundra Mitchell, which releases today from Inkyard Press! This anthology has a little bit of everything queer, so take a gander at the beautiful cover, check out the blurb, and then dig into the authors’ personal stories behind their stories!

Out Now: Queer We Go Again! ed. by Saundra Mitchell

A follow-up to the critically acclaimed All Out anthology, Out Now features seventeen new short stories from amazing queer YA authors. Vampires crash prom, aliens run from the government, a president’s daughter comes into her own, a true romantic tries to soften the heart of a cynical social media influencer, a selkie and the sea call out to a lost soul. Teapots and barbershops, skateboards and VW vans, Street Fighter and Ares’s sword: Out Now has a story for every reader and surprises with each turn of the page!

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

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“Refresh” by Mark Oshiro

I was a freshman in college in Long Beach, CA, when I went on the very date that inspired “Refresh.” Online dating was much sketchier back then, but I had spent weeks talking to a boy my age who seemed so effortlessly cool. I finally mustered the courage to ask if he wanted to meet up, and he agreed enthusiastically. I knew this was risky, so I picked a public meeting space outside of a Metro Station in Hollywood. It took me two trains and nearly two hours to get there, so you can imagine my disappointment when I showed up to discover he had catfished me.

My date did not end as the story does in “Refresh.” I left immediately, feeling scorned and rather foolish. I had worked up so much courage to even come, doubting that I was handsome enough or interesting enough for this person. I wrote this story from that place of vulnerability, of not knowing if you are enough for another person, of existing in a world where the politics around the size and shape of our bodies make life harder. It’s a bit of queer fluff, and I had so much fun writing it.

“What Happens in the Closet” by Caleb Roehrig

When I first sat down to begin my contribution for OUT NOW, I outlined the story of a theater kid with a crush on a boy who might or might not be queer—and then I struggled to write it. Even though it was ripped straight from the headlines of my own teenage life, I couldn’t quite connect with the narrative I was crafting. Where were the stakes?

Among my influences as a storyteller, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is probably number one. It was inventive and suspenseful, of course, but it balanced its undead bombast with nuanced and sensitive explorations of very real day-to-day issues. On a season three episode entitled Homecoming, Buffy and her frenemy Cordelia are forced to hash out their longstanding jealousy and insecurities…all while fighting for their lives against vampire assassins. It was a brilliant metaphor for the fishbowl of high school life, and the layered dynamic between the two characters still felt so rich with potential for more.

What if it had been two queer kids trapped together instead, with physical attraction added to the already volatile cocktail of envy and admiration? What if they’d had to navigate those life-or-death problems while also, you know, trying to literally just stay alive?

Eventually, I asked if I could go ahead and lean into it—to write a story about two boys facing their demons (figurative and literal,) where a vampire invasion is only the second-most annoying thing about a ruined school dance; and I am forever grateful to Saundra Mitchell for saying yes. The universe I created for “What Happens in the Closet” was so much fun that I used it as the basis for a full-length novel, (The Fell of Dark, coming in July!) and I hope you love this fun and fang-toothed tale as much as I do!

“Star-Crossed in D.C.” by Jessica Verdi

The idea for this story sparked for me around the time of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, when I saw posts on social media about Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump (two adult children of the two nominees) being friendly in real life. It confused me, honestly, since they seem to stand for very different things. How on earth could they be friends?

But then I wondered, what if Ivanka did secretly agree more with Chelsea and her mother Hillary more than she let on in public—if maybe she had an obligation to stand by her father’s side, but deep down disagreed with him on the issues. (I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Come on, Jess, Ivanka has made her opinions more than clear.” But this was years ago, before any of that was as blatantly evident as it is now.) And then I wondered, how amazing would it be if Ivanka (or any child of a high-profile conservative politician) had enough of a backbone to buck tradition, and what was expected of them, and publicly announce their support for the other candidate—the more progressive one. How absolutely inspiring and thrilling would that be!

Over time, the real-life inspiration for “Star-Crossed” fell away, and what remains is something a bit more romancey, a lot more queer, and even more wish-fulfilling. It’s my version of a fairy tale.

“Floating” by Tanya Boteju

“Floating” grew directly out of my experience as a high school English teacher. I’m surrounded by teenagers and tend to most notice the kids who seem a little out of place—the ones who sit alone in corners at lunch, who aren’t wholly driven by ‘A’s and university acceptances, who offer up weird and wonderful insights into the literature we’re studying. One student I noticed a few years ago kind of floated through the hallways, seemingly in a world of her own. And having taught her, I also knew she had one of those weird and wonderful minds. I was curious about what her brain was doing as she drifted through the school. The protagonist in “Floating,” Shanti, is my attempt to explore the inner workings of students like this and what it might look like for someone else to be able to reach into those inner workings somehow–as Essie does—but without changing who Shanti is at the core. I wanted Shanti to be able to maintain her wanderings and wonderings, but then to also find a gentle stillness with Essie. That it was two girls finding each other just felt natural to me. Many of the setting details in the story are pulled from my own school too—including the paper swirls that become so integral to the story.

Photo courtesy of Monique Cheung
Photo courtesy of Monique Cheung

“Far From Home” by Saundra Mitchell

I wasn’t going to write a story for my own anthology (I didn’t have one in All Out, either!) but my wonderful editor at Inkyard, Natashya Wilson, really, really, really wanted one. And it’s hard to say no when someone brilliant is saying, “please write a thing for me, I think it would be great.”

“Far From Home” may or may not be great– that’s not up for me to decide. But I did have a lot of fun writing it. I wanted to write a non-binary character, so check, and I wanted the genders and orientations of the characters to be as far from central as possible.

Also, my reviews agree that sometimes, my novels are slow to start. So I wondered, what would happen if I just started with the danger? And that’s how I end up with a non-binary starboi and their pan boyfriend dangling a thousand feet above an empty creekbed, with Men in Black in pursuit.

I love the conversation they have– because we love superhero movies, but I’m not entirely sure we’d be thrilled with actual superheroes. So yeah… write fast, write hard, no mercy! (Well, a little mercy. I love a happy ending!)

“Ready Player One” by Eliot Schrefer

I actually wrote the first incarnation of “Player One Fight!” twenty years ago, and rewrote it to include here. I was 21 at the time, and back then I was prey to a conception that I think a lot of us have when we’re young—that relationships are a form of battle, with winners and losers. That if you do all the moves right, then you’ll come out on top. Through Blake I wanted to look at the early life of someone who still had a lot of room to grow as far as how he treated boyfriends, and himself.

“Victory Lap” by Julian Winters

In “Victory Lap,” Luke Stone is great at everything, but there’s one thing he repeatedly fails at: asking a boy out. Specifically, he hasn’t found a date to the winter formal. His friends are putting more effort into finding him a date than he is. That is until Luke bumps into Milo, a shy classmate who Luke thinks is his perfect match, if he can get the nerve to ask Milo out. And the one person who he knows he can get the best advice from doesn’t know he’s gay yet—his dad.

When I first started writing this story, I had two goals: write a cute love story starring a gay, Black teen who’s still becoming comfortable in his own skin and set it in a barbershop, a place that is well-known in the Black community as a place of comfort, strength, laughter, and discourse. I didn’t plan to write a “coming out” story but the moment Luke sits in his dad’s barber chair, I knew the story I needed to tell. It was an opportunity to show a positive experience between a queer teen and his father, something that isn’t often depicted, especially inside POC communities. QPOC teens deserve to read stories where they feel safe and comforted by their loved ones. And I hope readers walk away from this story feeling lighter, confident, and smiling goofily just like Luke.

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Photo by Jared Hagan

Saundra Mitchell has been a phone psychic, a car salesperson, a denture-deliverer and a layout waxer. She’s dodged trains, endured basic training, and hitchhiked from Montana to California. The author of nearly twenty books for tweens and teens, Mitchell’s work includes SHADOWED SUMMER, THE VESPERTINE series, ALL THE THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK, a novel forthcoming from HarperTEEN and the forthcoming CAMP MURDERFACE series with Josh Berk. She is the editor of three anthologies for teens, DEFY THE DARK, ALL OUT and OUT NOW. She always picks truth; dares are too easy.

October Book Deal Announcements

Yep, it’s a brand-new feature celebrating book deals! This is a combination of deal announcements that have been submitted through the site and copied from Publisher’s Marketplace and Publishers Weekly, with some minor editing. If you’d like to submit a deal, you can do so here.

Children’s/YA Fiction

Rob Sanders’s BLING BLAINE, about a child who is all about bling and glitter until complaints pour in and bling is banned from school, but then allies come to the rescue, illustrated by Letizia Rizzo, to Christina Pulles formerly at Sterling Children’s, with Eve Adler editing, for publication in fall 2020, by Rubin Pfeffer at Rubin Pfeffer Content for the author, and by Emily Coggins at Astound US for the illustrator (world).

Vicki Lame at Wednesday Books has acquired LGBTQ Reads founder Dahlia Adler’s YA novel, COOL FOR THE SUMMER, about a girl named Lara who finally lands the guy of her dreams, only to have her unexpected(ly female) summer fling transfer to her school for their senior year. Publication is slated for summer 2021; DongWon Song at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency brokered the two-book deal for North American rights.

Author of PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE and BURN BABY BURN BABY, and board member of the Ontario Writer’s Conference Kevin Craig’s THE CAMINO CLUB, in which six wayward teens are given an ultimatum after getting in trouble with the law: serve time in juvenile detention for their crimes, or walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route across Spain; when it becomes clear the long walk isn’t really all that much of an option, they set out on a journey that will either make or break who they are and who they are to become, to Annie Harper at Duet, in a nice deal, in an exclusive submission, for publication in October 2020.
Rights: Mary Jo Courchesne, Gryphon Publishing Consulting

Jess Verdi’s‘s FOLLOW YOUR ARROW, after breaking up with her long-term girlfriend and falling for the new guy in town, an openly queer social media influencer faces blowback from her fans and is forced to define what it means to be bi—to the world, and to herself, to Aimee Friedman at Scholastic, by Kate McKean at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency.

Maggie Tokuda-Hall‘s SQUAD, about a clique of teen girls whose favorite pastime is to get dressed up; go to parties; target entitled, date-rapey bros; turn into wolves; and eat them, illustrated by Lisa Sterle, to Martha Mihalick at Greenwillow, for publication in fall 2021, by Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (NA).

Alexandra Cooper at HarperTeen has acquired, at auction, Laurel Flores Fantauzzo’s THE HEARTBREAK OF CORAZON TAGUBIO. Cory Tagubio is an outcast at her all-girls Catholic high school. In the wake of an accident, Cory grows close to her history teacher, Ms. Holden, but when the crush turns into something more, Cory is shipped off to her half-brother in the Philippines, leaving her to discover how her family and their country have shaped her past and how they might change her future. Publication is set for winter 2021; Andrea Morrison at Writers House sold world English rights.

Jessica Garrison at Dial has bought, on exclusive submission, Stephanie Oakes’s THE MEADOWS, which centers on a queer girl who has pretended to “reform” following years in a government-sanctioned conversion therapy center, but can’t forget the girl she left behind, and resolves to find her. Publication is set for fall 2021; Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency handled the deal for world rights.

Daniel Ehrenhaft at Soho Teen has bought Carly Heath’s debut YA novel, THE HEATHENS OF MUSKOX HOLLOW. Set in 1904 Norway, the novel follows a trio of queer teens—two boys and their best friend, Asta—who decide to defy the expectations of their rural Scandinavian village by leaving their families, living on their own, and challenging the town’s patriarch in the region’s annual winter horse race. Publication is set for fall 2021; Steven Chudney at the Chudney Agency brokered the deal for North American English rights.

Cassandra Rose Clarke‘s FORGET THIS EVER HAPPENED, queer speculative fiction set in a run-down Southern town where space and time are inconsistent, to Mora Couch at Holiday House, for publication in fall 2020, by Stacia Decker at Dunow, Carlson & Lerner (world).

Diana Pinguicha‘s A MIRACLE OF ROSES, pitched as an f/f #ownvoices retelling of the Portuguese miracle of the same name, where the Princess of Aragon enters a bargain with an Enchanted Moura so she can reverse her gift that turns all the food she touches into flowers, to Lydia Sharp at Entangled Teen, by Travis Pennington at The Knight Agency (world).

Brianna Shrum‘s 13 WAYS TO START A FOREST FIRE, in which a 17-year-old girl is trapped by a freak mudslide and, in order to survive the cruel Rockies in the dead of winter, decides to trust the one boy she knows she shouldn’t, to Nicole Frail at Sky Pony Press, by Steven Salpeter at Curtis Brown.

Deya Muniz’s THE PRINCESS AND THE GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH, in which a lady, a denizen of the Kingdom of Fromage, must disguise herself as a man in order to inherit her father’s estate, but her secret becomes difficult to keep once she falls in love with a royal princess, to Andrea Colvin at Little, Brown Children’s, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2021 (world).

Sasha Laurens’s A WICKED MAGIC, the story of two teens and new witches whose friendship comes to an abrupt end when a spell they foolishly cast summons an ancient force that steals one of the girls’ boyfriends; they are then forced to work together with a new friend who is harboring a magical secret of her own to rescue him, to Ruta Rimas at Razorbill, in a nice deal, for publication in fall 2020, by Jennifer Udden at New Leaf Literary & Media (world English). Publication is set for July 27, 2020.

Adult Fiction

Karelia Stetz-Waters‘s untitled book, in which two very different women find themselves running a sex toy shop that one of them inherited and soon fall in love as the business struggles for survival and family obligations threaten to tear them apart, to Madeleine Colavita at Forever Yours, by Jane Dystel at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (NA).

Juliette Wade’s sci-fi MAZES OF POWER, in which a fever strikes the cavern city of Pelismara, and Tagaret must represent his Family in the competition for Heir to the Throne, but a power struggle and an exploitative brother stand in his way, to Sheila Gilbert at DAW by Kristopher O’Higgins at Scribe Agency (NA). Publication is set for February 4, 2020.

Anbara Salam’s BELLADONNA, a story of friendship and obsession set in the 1950s, following two schoolgirls from Connecticut whose lives are changed forever when they travel to a silent convent in northern Italy to study art for a year, to Amanda Bergeron at Berkley by Catherine Drayton at Inkwell Management, on behalf of Hattie Grunewald at Blake Friedmann, now at The Blair Partnership (NA). Publication is set for June 9, 2020.

University of Louisiana in Lafayette PhD candidate Caitlin Vance’s THE PAPER GARDEN, a darkly humorous, gothic, and speculative story collection that explores contemporary queer romances, mother-daughter relationships, and mental illness by reimagining fairy tales or myths, to Hasanthika Sirisena at 7.13 Books, for publication in spring 2021.

Director of Creative Writing at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and author of five books Timothy Schaffert‘s THE PERFUME THIEF, about a queer American expat with an infamous past as a thief of rare scents who retires to Paris to become a legitimate perfumer, crafting unique scents scents for the city’s cabaret performers and sex workers, until the Nazis occupy the city and seek her expertise for a sinister purpose, to Margo Shickmanter at Doubleday, in a good deal, for publication in 2021, by Alice Tasman at Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency (world English).

Kristen Arnett‘s SAMSON, a novel of motherhood, expectations, and toxic masculinity within a queer household, and WITH FOXES, a diverse, blackly humorous story collection, to Cal Morgan at Riverhead, in a major deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, by Serene Hakim at Ayesha Pande Literary (NA).

Adult Non-Fiction

Griffin Poetry Prize winner Billy-Ray Belcourt’s A HISTORY OF MY BRIEF BODY, a meditation on grief, joy, love, and sex at the intersection of indigeneity and queerness, to Eric Obenauf at Two Dollar Radio, by Stephanie Sinclair at Transatlantic Literary Agency (US).

University of Georgia MFA in narrative nonfiction and Lamba Literary fellow Martin Padgett’s MIDNIGHT AT THE OASIS: A DECADE OF DRAG, DRUGS AND DISCO AT THE SWEET GUM HEAD, following the intersecting journeys of drag queen John Greenwell, also known as Rachel Wells, and civil rights activist Bill Smith through the gay rights movement and drag culture in 1970s Atlanta, to Amy Cherry at Norton, in a nice deal, for publication in fall 2021, by Beth Marshea at Ladderbird Literary Agency (NA).

Film/TV

Jacqueline Carey‘s KUSHIEL’S LEGACY series, which spans three epic trilogies set in Terre d’Ange and deals with a remarkable courtesan who saves her nation, the adventures of her adopted son, and ultimately, the trials of Moirin, a descendant of the legendary ruling house, to Lionsgate, with Dan Hadl producing, by Jane Dystel at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.

K.D. Edwards‘s THE LAST SUN, a queer tarot-inspired fantasy, to Escape Artists, by Kim Yau at Paradigm, on behalf of Sara Megibow at kt literary.

Tom Ryan‘s KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF, in which a group of lifelong friends is shattered when a serial killer strikes their small town and claims one of their own; one year later, unable to let go, a teen finds himself investigating new clues, and begins to wonder if he can trust anything, including his feelings for his best friend, the boy who died, optioned by Robert Munic of Pull the Pin Productions and Cheryl Bayer of Living Popups, with Munic and Baker producing, by Kim Yau at Paradigm, on behalf of Eric Smith of P.S. Literary Agency.

Audio

Adiba Jaigirdar‘s THE HENNA WARS, to Emily Parliman at Listening Library, by Brent Taylor at Triada US, on behalf of Uwe Stender.

Fave Five: LGBTQ Road Trip YAs

Kiss the Morning Star by Elissa Janine Hoole

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Looking For Group by Rory Harrison

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by JC Lillis

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner

Bonus: The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour, which features a non-narrating major bisexual character, and the upcoming (2018) And She Was by Jessica Verdi, which features a non-narrating major transgender character (though her POV is present via e-mail throughout)

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Fave Five: MGs and YAs with Queer Moms

This Would Make a Good Story Someday by Dana Alison Levy (Contemporary MG)

The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions) by Amy Spalding (Contemporary YA)

Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally (Contemporary YA)

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (Contemporary YA)

Dead Little Mean Girl by Eva Darrows (Contemporary YA)

Bonus, coming in October: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright (Sci-Fi YA)

Bonus #2, coming in 2018: Dear You by Joanne Rocklin (Contemporary MG) and And She Was by Jessica Verdi (Contemporary YA)

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