Boy oh boy. The terrific, powerful emails keep pouring in. And I hope, by the way, that my answering some of them on my blog will not make those whose emails I don’t answer this way feel like theirs didn’t matter to me; they absolutely matter! If something sparks an idea I want to express to the world, I will sometimes answer on my blog. And know that I will never give away anyone’s private information… anything that might point to a person’s identity, I will change. I promise.
Here’s one I got yesterday. The subject was, “From an openly straight fraud who would like to say thanks.” My response is below.
I started reading Openly Straight one night in bed this summer and didn’t put it down until the sun had risen and my pillow was soaked with tears.
I wish there was a way I could articulate the full extent of how your book has changed me. I’m a nineteen-year-old closeted (confused?) male, a sophomore in college whose greatest life achievement has been his ability to hide himself from everyone he has ever met, including himself. Since adolescence, I had learned to live with a false sense of reality, brushing away my inner feelings the way one brushes away a recurring nightmare.
I love getting emails from readers. Every single one of them touches my heart. And once in a while, I get one that especially moves me. Here’s a note that I really wanted to share.
Dear Mr. Konigsberg
I just finished your book and I have to say, what an amazing piece of art. I honestly have to say reading your book changed my life. I’m not gay, but I think you don’t have to be gay for this book to be inspiring. When I finished this, I was overcome by happiness. I honestly couldn’t tell you why, but I think it was because of all the honest sweetness in the book. It was happy and loving and beautiful and poetic. I’m sure that’s pretty weird to think, but that’s what I felt after reading your book. Also, Rafe made me think about myself. I tend to be really harsh on myself, for no reason. I have really self-destructive thoughts and I think things about myself that aren’t exactly healthy. I think I feel this sort of guilt, like I’m not contributing to the world, like I should feel bad that I’m not suffering alongside all the sufferers in the world. Its like I’m upset that I’m so happy, and I can’t figure out why. I’ve pondered this time and time again, and have come up with nothing. This is why I love your book. It made me realize that maybe I’m the one who’s always mean to me, that I should stop trying to someone I’m not, some superficial fake person who is afraid to be themselves. So thank you, Mr. Konigsberg, for writing your book, for anyone who was struggling to except themselves, gay or not. I don’t know if I got the message I was supposed to get from your book, but the one I got was a good one at that, and I couldn’t be more elated I had the experience of reading your book. So again, thank you.
If you didn’t get the intended message, I’d never admit it now, because the message you state here is so beautiful. I totally get where you’re coming from. Those voices in our heads can be terribly distracting. I’ve battled them for years. I’ll share with you a few things people have told me that have helped.
I’m so sorry that I’ve been so bad about blogging recently. I’ve been so busy with writing and editing and a few other projects, and I haven’t made the time. Bad author! Bad author!
One amazing thing I’ve noticed has been the incredible uptick in emails about Openly Straight. Even more than when it first came out, I seem to be getting lots of emails with questions about the book. The most common question is, “will you be writing a sequel?”
The answer to that: stay tuned. There may be some news about that in the near future!
The second most common question is, “what happens to Ben?”
A couple days ago, I got an email like that. But this one made me ponder things in a different way. I’ll explain. Let me start by sharing the email. Continue reading
Yeah, this was pretty surreal…
I got to take a picture with Judy Blume at the SCBWI conference after my speech! Yeah, it’s blurry, but I’ll take it! What a truly lovely person, and what an amazing gift she has given the world with her books!
Yesterday was a wonderful day. I got to accept the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor for my novel Openly Straight at the annual SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Convention at the Century Hyatt in Los Angeles.
I was soooooo nervous. I don’t generally get nervous when I speak, but this was different. There were, like, 1000+ people there. A lot of amazing and talented people were there who don’t know me, so I was anxious to make a good first impression. And, of course, Judy Blume was there, sitting right up front.
Ay yi yi!
When I was a kid, I used to take my sister’s Judy Blume novels and read them. Everything I learned about sex, love and romance I learned from her novel “Forever.” That was adorable back when I was 14, but now that I’m 43, I should probably update my knowledge base.
That’s exactly the kind of joke I had to cut due to time constraints yesterday.
Anyhow, it was a memorable and beautiful day for me. I really love book people, and I love my job. Not only do I get to spend my life writing books, but I get to hobnob with the nicest people I’ve ever met. You can hear, on this video, the kindness of people with their charity laughs.
Here’s the video.
The second edition of the 2009 Lambda Literary Award-winning Out of the Pocket is now available in e-book format!
The new version, released earlier this year in paperback, has a foreward by Chris Kluwe and an afterword by Jim Buzinski of Outsports, plus two new chapters by me. The e-book is priced to sell at $6.99.
Go! Get one! Now!
Openly Straight has been named one of five finalists for the 2014 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award!
What an honor!
There are a bunch of things about this that make me particularly happy. One is the caliber of authors on this list. The other books are:
Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell
Jumped In – Patrick Flores-Scott
The Milk of Birds – Sylvia Whitman
Winger – Andrew Smith
Rainbow and Andrew are friends, and their books are all over the place. And for good reason; they are two of the finest authors out there today — in any genre. I was not familiar with Patrick and Sylvia’s work, but I got a chance to sleuth a little bit yesterday, and both books are immediately to the front of my To Be Read pile. (And yeah, that’s a big pile).
The other thing that makes me particularly happy about this is the criteria for the award. The award committee chose books that demonstrate “a positive approach to life, widespread teen appeal, and literary merit.”
The first is meaningful to me because becoming a more positive, upbeat person has been one of my main goals the last three or four years. And the final two are meaningful because that’s the cross-section where I want to live as an author. I want to write books that have literary merit, but also a story. I want them to exercise the mind, and make people think, and I want them to make people laugh.
And the last thing that makes me particularly happy about this is that the award committee has done such a nice job in the past with this award. I saw last year’s panel at ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents), and it included three friends who are authors I particularly admire: Benjamin Alire Saenz, A.S. King, and Eliot Schrefer. Not there was the winner, John Green, for The Fault in Our Stars. Whom I also admire greatly.
So yeah, I’m thrilled. Thank you to the committee for considering Openly Straight!