This is my third year volunteering for the NJ Trans Youth Forum sponsored by HiTOPS and GLSEN Central NJ. It’s the only conference in the state for trans-spectrum youth, allies and educators and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have been a part of it from the very beginning. This year I’m beyond excited to announce an #ownvoices author panel featuring Tyler Ford (MTV contributor), Alex Gino (GEORGE), Meredith Russo (IF I WAS YOUR GIRL) and Pat Schmatz (LIZARD RADIO), moderated by youth librarian and reviewer Kyle Lukoff. This event is run on a microbudget, so please consider making a donation to sponsor trans youth who will otherwise be unable to attend.
I’m honored to follow Albert Einstein, Cornel West and Trey Anastasio as LiLLiPiES Bakery’s Princetonian Sandwich of the Month. Like, seriously honored because I seriously love sandwiches. When asked what I wanted my namesake sandwich to be, I answered without hesitation. It’s as if I’d been waiting my whole life to shout: OMG BLT WITH AVOCADO ON PRETZEL BREAD!!! The sandwich is on sale through February and 10 percent of the proceeds will be donated to HiTOPS Adolescent Health Education and Advocacy Center in Princeton, NJ.
I love to sing even more than I love sandwiches. So to celebrate the best thing that’s happened to me in 2017 (by far), I’m performing two short acoustic sets with my band’s other band–the aptly named Syde Projekt–at LiLLiPIES Bakery in the Princeton Shopping Center on Sunday, February 26th between 1-3PM.
We are a covers-only band and do not take ourselves too seriously. Please come, listen and and stuff your face to support a fantastic organization.
Thanks to the generosity of *authors, editors, agents and publishers, we received nearly 300 LGBTQ books for the HiTOPS/GLSEN NJGSA Forum.
Here’s an overview of how these books were given to queer youth in need.
Roughly 100 books were added to the HiTOPS Adolescent Health Education Center’s LGBTQ Lit Library. This permanent collection will be available for all young people who take advantage of programming at the drop-in community center in Princeton, New Jersey. HiTOPS hosts weekly LGBTQ support groups that draw youth from all over New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Many aren’t out to their family and peers, which makes it challenging for them to buy or check out LGBTQ books from their school or public libraries. HiTOPS provides a safe space for them to enjoy stories that speak to them.
All NJ GSA Forum attendees got a free raffle ticket and 50 books went out as prizes for superexcited winners of the drawings. Approximately 75 books were surprise takeaways for the youth, allies and educators who attended my LGBTQ Lit Story Time workshop. Another 25 were a special thank you for the passionate, hard-working members of the Perth Amboy High School GSA who volunteered many hours in preparing to host the forum. The remaining books were set aside for future forums, including the 3rd Annual NJ Trans Youth Form to be held in early Spring 2017.
The election was a heartbreaking blow to the LGBTQ community. A shadow loomed over the room on Saturday, a palpable heaviness that I hadn’t felt in past forums. These kids are scared about the impact the incoming administration will have on their rights to live and love like everyone else.
And yet, I was also a witness to such beautiful optimism. I lost count of the number of teens who rushed over to my table, brightening at the sight of LGBTQ books on display. They gushed about their favorites, snapped pics for their TBR lists, made confessions about the “secret” novels they’re already writing. When my story hour was over, many told me it was the highlight of the forum. I know they could have spent the whole day losing and finding themselves in new words and worlds.
I’m a writer because I’m a reader. Books have always helped me better understand myself and others. I truly believe LGBTQ literature can change—and save—lives. Thank to everyone out there trying to make a positive difference in the world. Your work matters now more than ever before, so please keep doing what you do.
*Thank you: Dahlia Adler, Jessica Anderson (MacMillan), Becky Abertalli, Meredith Barnes (Soho Press), Jaye Robin Brown, Rachel Cohn, Danielle Dreger, Kate Evangelista, Jeff Garvin, Donna Gephart, Brittani Hilles (St. Martin’s Press), Shaun David Hutchinson, C.B. Lee, David Levithan (Scholastic), E. Lockhart, Carolyn Mackler, Ann-Marie McLemore, Alison McDonald (The Rights Factory), Patricia Ready (Barry Goldblatt Literary), Caleb Roehrig, Riley Redgate, Meredith Russo, Kristin Seim (Candlewick), Robin Talley, Lindsay Smith, John Corey Whaley and if there’s anyone I accidentally omitted PLEASE LET ME KNOW.
LGBTQ literature saves lives! The 13th Annual NJ GSA Forum needs fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, memoirs and poetry. New or used, paperbacks, hardcovers and ARCs—if it’s a positive representation of the LGBTQ experience, we want it!
The NJ GSA Forum is an annual conference sponsored by GLSEN Central Jersey and HiTOPS health education center. This year’s event will be held at Perth Amboy High School on November 19th and is expected to draw hundreds of LGBTQ youth, educators and allies from all over the state. I’ve volunteered at the forum for several years now and I’m so proud to play even just a small role in putting together such an empowering day.
Young readers love discovering characters and stories that reflect their own experiences. We want every teen to go home with a book. Can you help us achieve our goal? We’re expecting a high number of bilingual attendees, so books in Spanish are especially in need.
Please send to:
HiTOPS GSA Book Donations
21 Wiggins Street
Princeton, NJ 08540
Thanks to all authors, publishers, agents, librarians and booksellers for your support!
I’ll be there for the fifth year in a row! Meet me and 80+ other authors for young people on September 24th from 11am-4pm.
So. My book was made into a movie. You can watch it via Amazon, iTunes, DirecTV, Dish and pretty much any way you can rent/buy movies from your couch except Netflix (but it will eventually be on Netflix so I am told). I went to the one-and-only in theater showing in Los Angeles. I hung out with producer Debby Ryan on the red carpet and saw my name on the big screen.
It was all very surreal. I’ve seen this movie five times now in the company of tweens and I can honestly tell you that viewers 8-13 can totally relate to Jessica Darling’s middle school misadventures. They laughed, they cringed, and yes, more than one even cried.
Casting was crucial and the performances don’t disappoint. Chloe East (soon to be seen on the final season of Liv & Maddie) gives such a beautifully nuanced portrayal of pre-teen awkwardness. She’s such a natural and embodies the insider/outsider spirit of Jessica Darling in every way. I love her chemistry with Jacob Melton, who is charmingly off-kilter as Aleck/Marcus. Emma Rayne Lyle (I Don’t Know How She Does It) perfectly captures Bridget’s struggle to be loyal to her best friend but true to herself. As Hope, Jane Widdop (The Kicks) gives a performance that is really sly, low-key and with just the right dash of sarcastic contrast to Emma’s bubbly sunshine. Ashley Liao (Fuller House) and Eva Bella (Frozen) are laugh-out-loud funny, but not too over-the-top in their meanness as Manda and Sara. Anday Tural, Niko Alexander and Kyla-Drew round out the stellar cast as Burke, Scotty and Dori and make the most of their key moments in the story. I want a sequel for many reasons but mostly because I’d love to see all these talented actors working together again!
Saturday, June 11 at 1PM
Barnes & Noble
300 Neshaminy Mall
Bensalem, PA 19020
Panel discussion & signing with Claire Legrand and Leanna Hieber. They write fantastically creepy stories. I write realistic stories about middle school that are terrifying in a totally different way.
Sunday, June 12th 12-2PM
Barnes & Noble
180 Route 35
Eatontown, NJ 07724
I’ll tell you everything you want to know about the JESSICA DARLING’S IT LIST movie and more. BONUS: I will also sing any song upon request.
MOVIE NEWS! MOVIE NEWS! MOVIE NEWS!
Watch the official trailer for JESSICA DARLING’S IT LIST here!
This fun, coming-of-age comedy based on the first book in the series comes out on JUNE 21st! It will be available Digital HD and On Demand at the following platforms:
· Broadband – Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Sling/Blockbuster, Vimeo, Vudu, Xfinity
· Satellite/Cable – AT&T, Charter, DirecTV, Dish, iNDEMAND (Comcast, Cox, Time Warner Cable) Verizon, Vubiquity
I’ve seen it and I love it! And I’m honestly not saying that because I have to. A focus group of my favorite 9-to-13-year-olds (and their moms) also gave it their one hundred percent approval. Chloe East is totally winning as 12-year-old Jessica Darling and I cannot wait for you to see her embody everything you’ve always loved about the character.
I only blog when it’s important. In this case, I want to give a shout-out to everyone who contributed books to 2nd NJ Trans Youth Forum: Cris Beam, Francesca Lia Block, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Amy Fabrikant, Donna Gephart, Alex Gino, Rachel Gold, Susan Kuklin, David Levithan, Jennifer Laughran, Everett Maroon, R.I. Merey, Ami Polonsky, Pat Schmatz, Ellen Wittlinger and Jennie Wood. Their generous contributions are the foundation of the HiTOPS Trans Lit Library.
The 2nd NJ Trans Youth Fourm maxed out on 200 pre-registrants a week before the event and had many, many more walk-ins. Overall, we more than doubled the number of attendees from last year. The whole day was a smashing success and I’m proud to say that the Trans Lit Storytime workshop was a particular favorite. When we broke for quiet reading periods, I swear there wasn’t a sound but the tick-tock of the clock. Not a lit up screen in the entire room. Just open books and mesmerized readers.
So many emotional moments for me, but a few highlights:
The high school senior asking, “Where has this book been all my life?” after I read the opening chapter of PARROTFISH.
The educator declaring BEYOND MAGENTA should be required reading for anyone working with youth.
The mother wishing she had WHEN KAYLA WAS KYLE at the time of her daughter’s coming out.
The genderqueer teen greeting me with a huge hug of gratitude because I’d given them a copy of JUST GIRLS at the GSA* Forum last fall.
The student looking so crushed when I told them BUMBLING INTO BODY HAIR wasn’t one of the give-away books…that I *had* to give it to them anyway! Then expressing what I think so many kids were thinking:
“Oh my god! This author is ME. I’ve never read a story like this before. I never knew books like this existed.”
As Katie Rain Hill, trans activist and author of RETHINKING NORMAL, said in her powerful keynote address, “Everyone knows the feeling of otherness.” Readers of all ages can find comfort in characters and stories that reflect or represent their own experiences. That’s why I volunteer my time–to share these vitally important books with the trans youth so desperately in need of validation and support.