I had a great time covering the GLBTQ (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Queer/Questioning) Poolside Lunch Chat about the craft of writing children's books, YA novels, as well as the politics behind the GLBTQ label - some topics included having realistic characters that aren't "fake" (i.e. too perfect), how to market GLBTQ YA novels to the widest audience possible, the special challenges to writing and illustrating picture books featuring GLBTQ characters, etc.
Author Emily Wing-Smith participated in the conversation. She is the author of "The Way He Lived." Also present was author Malinda Lo, whose YA novel, "Ash," a re-telling of the Cinderella fairy tale with a twist (Prince Charming is a girl) debuts this September. (She's pictured above in the green shirt).
Scholastic Inc. VP Arthur Levine emphasized that all characters, gay or straight, should be realistic and authentic. "Imperfections are what make characters feel real," he said. "An idealized character doesn't feel real to anyone. You want your reader to believe in your character and for your character to be fully real."
Lee Wind discussed whether GLBTQ YA books are starting to move away from focusing solely on the "coming out" identity theme. He mentioned that transgender books are still focusing still on coming out but GLB YA may focus on other issues. For example, Levine edited Lisa Yee's ABSOLUTELY MAYBE in which one character may or may not be gay (I don't want to give away the spoiler) but his identity is NOT the main point of the story. Malinda Lo felt there are newer ways to tell the "coming out" story that can still make this theme timeless and fresh to new audiences.
Overall, it was an illuminating conversation about these issues and more among both aspiring and published picture book and YA/mid grade novel writers. It was clear everyone appreciated this open, candid and very supportive environment to discuss these issues along with craft of writing issues.
Plus, it was really sunny and we were all sitting by the pool. What more could you ask for a beautiful day! :)