Category Archives: News

LGBTQ Lit Saves Lives

Books! So many LGBTQ books!
Books! So many LGBTQ books!

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.

Seriously. SO. MANY. BOOKS.
Seriously. SO. MANY. BOOKS.

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.


image001LGBTQ 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!


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.

I took this picture from my seat in the theater because I have no chill.
I took this picture from my seat in the theater because I have no chill.

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! 

Director Ali Scher, Chloe East and me at the LA premiere of JESSICA DARLING’S IT LIST.

2 Events in 2 Days: Barnes & Noble Book Fest

Black.BottomSaturday, 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.

Jessica_Darling_EBook1[3]Sunday, June 12th 12-2PM

Barnes & Noble

Monmouth Mall

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.


My book was made into a movie!
My book was made into a movie!


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.



IMG_0803 (1)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.FullSizeRender 3

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 friends gleefully clutching free copies of A BOY LIKE ME, I AM J and BEAUTIFUL MUSIC FOR UGLY CHILDREN to their chests and promising to swap them when they were done. 

The educator declaring BEYOND MAGENTA should be required reading for anyone working with youth. 

The GSA advisor breaking out into a jig over FLUTTER and a + e 4ever because they are perfect for the graphic novel lovers in her group. 

The fan of “the weird stuff” geeking out over LIZARD RADIO and LOVE IN A TIME OF GLOBAL WARMING.

The mother wishing she had WHEN KAYLA WAS KYLE at the time of her daughter’s coming out.

The 10-year-old with a trans sister running off to tell his parents about GEORGE, GRACEFULLY GRAYSON and LILY & DUNKIN.

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.  


I can finally reveal my BIG SECRET! Via The Wrap: DISNEY STAR DEBBY RYAN TO EXECUTIVE PRODUCE JESSICA DARLING’S IT LIST. The film was shot last summer and I love the cast (especially Chloe East as Jessica Darling–she is IMPERFECT PERFECTION) and everyone on the Mar Vista Entertainment production crew and ahhhhhhhhhhhhh I can’t wait to tell you more about it. Until then, behold this photo of the cast, Debby Ryan and director Ali Scher crushing a Disney XD premiere. IT LIST RULE #6: If you see a red carpet, WERK IT.

NJ GSA* Forum LGBTQIA* Starter Library

When I’m not writing YA and MG books, I’m a volunteer with HiTOPS, an adolescent health education and advocacy center in Princeton, NJ. Right now I’m on the planning committee for the 12th Annual NJ GSA Forum, a conference for LGBTQIA* youth, advisors and allies co-sponsored by HiTOPS and GLSEN Central Jersey to be held on November 14th at Ocean Township High School. The conference offers workshops and panels on everything from coming out to your parents, to being leaders in the community, to being queer students of color. It’s an empowering event that attracts more than 400 attendees from all over the state. Many say they look forward to the conference all year. It’s not too late to register! And no youth will be turned away due to inability to pay.  Continue reading NJ GSA* Forum LGBTQIA* Starter Library