LGBT Tennessee

Last month I visited my hometown Brownsville, TN.  There are so many things I love about my hometown: friends, family, small community, history, southern charm and manners. The one unfortunate thing about my small town, or small southern Biblebelt towns in general, they haven't always been receptive of the gay community.  Things are changing.  Though they might not be as progressive as larger cities in the country, the changes I do see are encouraging.

In Brownsville there's a huge steel sculpture near the center of town called "Minefield" by Billy Tripp.  The Tripp family is know for their delicious ham and bacon. His artwork represents many things.  One part in particular speaks volumes.

Simple statement but it makes me smile. (Click here and here to learn more about the sculpture.)

There was another wonderful discovery I found in my small town, the "rainbow house." I can't tell you how utterly thrilled I was when I drove past it.  Someone in our small town was standing up for their rights!  I just had to meet the awesome owners of this home.

As one does in a small town, I stopped by and introduced myself.  I had the pleasure of meeting Rachel Conrad.  Her and her partner live here together with Rachel's children.  In stopping buy, I found out there was a bigger story behind their pride.

Rachel's last line is the best in this whole article.  And kudos to the reporter for giving an objective report.

You see as Rachel told me her story, her children were so excited to show me the handmade rainbow flag their grandmother, Rachel's mother, had made for them.  It was unfortunately the second flag she had made since the first one was burned.

Here's where I prove I could never be an objective reporter and my emotions get involved.  The disappointing aspect of this story is that this obvious hatred is believed to have been delivered by a couple of teen boys.  I expect the youth of today to break the cycle of close-minded views.  To evolve past the previous generations. It only goes to show that some cycles are harder to break than others. It takes brave people, like Rachel and her family, to stand up for themselves, and their right to love each other.

The beautiful aspect of this story, Rachel's children.  Their pride and excitement gives me hope that small towns will grow and change.  Their tiny voices and big hearts will make a big difference in Brownsville someday. I'm sure of it.


Where in the heck have I been?

Well, right now I'm in Tennessee visiting my family.  (For those who don't know I live in California but originally from Tennessee.)  There are some wonderful LGBT "things" I've discovered in my small hometown that I can't wait to report back to you guys.  I say "things" because I want to keep my discoveries a secret until I can include photographs to go along with the stories I have to tell you.  So stay tuned next week for my official LGBT Tennessee post.

It's been a while since I've posted something significant here.  I've been really busy with some exciting things I want to share with you.

POP Goes the Reader: Yesterday my book was featured on POP Goes the Reader's blog: Top Twenty Diverse Titles Publishing in 2016.  First off, this website is GORGEOUS! From her wreath banners to her chalkboard labels to her adorable cartoon avatar.  Simply gorgeous and so professional.  (Sorry to gush but I love good design.) What an exciting time it is that so many much needed diverse books are making their way out into the world. In Jen's blog post she said, "The importance of diversity in fiction, be it racial, sexual, cultural, religious, socioeconomic or otherwise, cannot be overstated. Every teenager should have the ability to see their story, their truth, honoured and reflected back in the pages of the books they read." I couldn't agree more. Thank you, Jen, for being so excited for SOUTH OF SUNSHINE and adding me to your list.  XO

Publication Date: First off, my publication date has been moved and is now April 1, 2016.  The month of April has so many fantastic book events (LA Times Festival of Books, Yallwest, AWP, TLA) I hope to report back to you soon which events I'll be a part of.

The Sweet Sixteens: 2016 will be the year to remember.  There are so many talented writers debuting next year, and I can't believe I'm lucky enough to take this publishing journey with them. Next year I'll be participating in several Sweet Sixteens events, kicking of January with a "Speed Dating" mingle with librarians at the ALA 2016 midwinter conference.  More details to come as we get closer to the event.

Class of 2K16: This is another debut group that's exclusive to 20 members. Here are some 2k alumni you might be familiar with: Jay Asher, Melissa Marr, Rebecca Stead, Sara Zarr, Jo Knowles, Nancy Viau, Sydney Salter, Rhonda Hayter, Jeri Smith-Ready, and Jennifer Hubbard, among many other talented authors. I'm fortunate enough to be the president of the group. Stay tuned because next week we have our class launch where we reveal our website, introduce our wonderful authors as well as have a few giveaways!

All the edits for SOUTH OF SUNSHINE are complete! Wahoo! My editor Wendy McClure had some pretty insightful editing notes that have made my manuscript go from polished to sparkle.  I could not be more proud of this work.  I feel so blessed and fortunate that my LGBT story will be going out into the world, and I cannot wait to share it with you.

There are so many stages to publication that you hear about but until you take that step in your journey, there's no way to fully grasp how it feels.  Right now SOS is out to a  few authors in hopes for blurbs.  That's exciting and terrifying all in the same.  September I hope to have a cover reveal and I can't wait to see what the Albert Whitman team designs for my story. Soon after my cover reveal ARCs will be available. ARCs!?!?! There will be plenty of ARC giveaways as well. And to think that my first  book signing could be as early as ALA midwinter 2016 at the Albert Whitman booth!?!? That's just crazy talk! (Details to come.)

There are lots of things on the horizon for me as a debut author. I can't wait to share each step of the journey with you.  


Sweet Sixteens: Getting "The Call" From The Avengers

And this is what happens when Sweet Sixteens author Brooks Benjamin poses the question "What would your avengers super hero name and power be?"

Ridiculousness, dorkiness, awkwardness and hilarity ensue. Oh us author types LOVE to be goofy.