2nd Edition of Out of the Pocket: Now an e-book!

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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!

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Walden Award Finalist

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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:
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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!

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Ben

I get soooo many emails asking me: what happens to Ben after Openly Straight? Do he and Rafe get back together? Will he ever come out? Is he going to be okay?

It’s no secret to those of you who visit this website regularly, or who read the comments on the “Ask Bill” page, that there’s been a significant amount of clamoring for a sequel to Openly Straight. Some of that clamoring has come with threats of bodily harm if I do not write one. Some has been kinder than that.

I want to say, up front, that it was never my intention to write more about these characters. I felt that the story was about Rafe’s personal growth, and that at the end, he’s grown in some ways. Game over. What I didn’t understand, though, is that the central romance of the novel is, for many readers, the main attraction. For those readers, the story feels … unfinished. I understand that now.

So…

There is nothing official to report, But–

I am toying around with the idea of a sequel to Openly Straight.

It would be from Ben’s perspective, and it would cover the second semester of the year at Natick.

That’s all for now. I just thought some of you would be happy to know that.

Later, people!

xo

Bill

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Sid Fleischman Humor Award – The Interview

A lot of people may not know this, but I happen to be quite famous.

OK, I stole that line from Sam Malone in Cheers, or more correctly I stole that line from my husband, who still remembers that line from Cheers, and for whom the quote is highly contemporary as most of his references come from the Bob Newhart Show and Monty Python (Blessed are the cheesemakers?).

He keeps me entertained in a very 1975 sort of way. (Kids: 1975 was a time in history when your parents were, like, three years old. They did not yet have jobs or receding hairlines and they were blissfully unaware of rap as it hadn’t been invented yet.)

Anyway, I say this because so rarely do people come up to me on the street and say things like, “Hey, Bill, I read that great interview of you in the SCBWI blog. Congrats on your Sid Fleischman Humor Award. Are you that awesome in real life?”

To which I would say, “Why no, strange person who recognizes me from an interview on a blog, Not even close. Despite that, would you like to get a cup of coffee and bask in my famousness?”

To which they would say, “Gee, I’d like to, or rather, I’d like to like to, but I really wouldn’t. Take care.”

So I am not that famous, and not that many people are clamoring to coffee-ize with me, but in the name of getting more people to want to, I post this fun interview from SCBWI’s Lee Wind about Openly Straight winning the Sid Fleischman Humor Award. Read it, enjoy it, and tell your friends, in the off-chance one of them someday would like to buy me coffee and talk about it.

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Excited for the Lammies!

I’m excited to be going to the Lambda Literary Awards in New York on Monday!

Kate Clinton will host, and she’s awesome and hilarious. I’ll get to see a lot of friends, including David Levithan and Aaron Hartzler from the Openly Straight tour. They are nominated along with me in the children’s/young adult category. 

You know that cliché, where people say, “It’s an honor just to be nominated”?

Well, in this case, it really is just an honor to be nominated. I do not expect that Openly Straight will win this year. The competition looks fierce. But I must say that I’m really looking forward to the event. It’s a celebration of LGBT literature, and I am so grateful to be part of that world in my own way. 

I’ll try to post pictures! I say try, because I usually forget to take pictures.

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How to Make Friends and Influence People: LGBT Edition

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about RuPaul.

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As you may know, RuPaul has recently come under fire for his constant usage of terms such as “she-male” in his show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” He has been further vilified by some in the LGBT community for standing by his usage of such terms.

Thinking about RuPaul’s situation has made me think of two other people, as well:

Alec Baldwin

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and this guy

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More on this guy later. The RuPaul incident made me think of Baldwin because he, too, has come under fire from some in the LGBT community for uttering anti-gay terms in public.

I will surely get in trouble for having an opinion, but I do have one. And I’m entitled to it. And I’m entitled to share it.

I think we need to choose our battles more carefully. 

It’s not that RuPaul’s use of the term “she-male” isn’t offensive to some transgender people; it clearly is. And that’s bad.

It’s not that Baldwin’s use of the term “queen” isn’t offensive to some gay people; it clearly is. And that’s bad, too.

It’s that when we point fingers and scream at each other, we lose. 

RuPaul is not the enemy. Baldwin is not the enemy. People can say words that aren’t in line with the words we would choose without being the enemy.

There are real enemies out there. Be sure of it. There are people who want all LGBT people dead. Some of these people are working hard to make that happen. Scott Lively, pictured above, is a minister who has made it his life’s work to spread the message that gays are dangerous pedophiles. He’s traveled to Uganda, and allegedly influenced that country’s leadership and helped usher through its “kill-the-gays” law. He is hardly alone. There are many, many people around the world who wish us great harm. Some of them are in power.

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My point is, we have enemies. And then we have allies. In his 20 years in the spotlight, RuPaul has done more to challenge gender roles than almost anyone in the world. In Baldwin’s many years, he has been a friend to the LGBT community, albeit one who seems to put his foot in his mouth. A lot.

Is it possible for allies to say things that upset us? Absolutely. Thank God I’m not on camera 24/7… I’d surely offend lots of people, and I’m a pretty nice guy. Words are sometimes hurtful, and even if we try to live our lives kindly and choose our words carefully, we are all-but-certain to slip up and hurt someone’s feelings.

Hurt feelings aren’t nothing. They matter. To me, they matter deeply. As someone who has been hurt by words a lot in my life, I take that seriously. But here’s the thing: as a community, we LGBT folks could surely use a lesson in communication.

I was taught, years ago, that when I confront someone who has hurt my feelings, the best phrasing is, “When you said _______, it made me feel _______.”

This isolates the action, rather than the person. Rather than attacking RuPaul, for his belief that “She-male” is a fine term, why not enter into a dialogue? Why not tell RuPaul this using persuasive speech or writing? He seems like a very sensitive guy, and if he doesn’t seem that way right now, it’s probably because he’s being attacked. Most people are not terribly sensitive when under attack. 

Why not tell Alec Baldwin that his phrasing was hurtful? And why it’s hurtful? And allow him to apologize and try to do better? And move on?

Instead, we get shrill. The LGBT media jumps down the throats of those who slip up, and this gets us nowhere. I guarantee you that Scott Lively is kicking back and laughing as he watches the battle between RuPaul and the LGBT-friendly media. We’re beating each other up rather than talking.

I get that I don’t know what it’s like to be trans. I am open to hearing more about that experience. I want to learn. I guarantee you that many people feel this way. So can we start a more useful conversation about what words trans people find hurtful? Can our media, instead of creating an argument, give us some good essays, written by trans people, about what it’s like to be trans and hear the word “she-male?” Can cisgender lesbians and gays, then, respond to such essays with measured words rather than rants?

Can we unite as one community, and stop eating our own?

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The Kiss

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There’s a scene in Peter Lefcourt’s terrific novel “The Dreyfus Affair” where the star shortstop, Randy Dreyfus, is caught deep kissing the team’s second baseman. The novel, published in 1993, is a fascinating timepiece. The kiss begins a wild spiral for the two players; there are press conferences in which the players are made to say–by Major League Baseball–that the kiss was “horseplay”; the two players get kicked out of baseball for “conduct unbecoming” to the sport; sentiment turns in their favor when their team, without them, appear overmatched in the World Series; they are reinstated; and, finally, the start shortstop gets shot during a World Series game.

That novel strongly impacted my writing of “Out of the Pocket,” in which high school quarterback Bobby Framingham becomes a national story when he’s outed against his will. In the 2008 novel, sentiment about Bobby’s sexual orientation is at first mixed. As the novel goes on, he is accepted. He doesn’t need to get shot, and that was a telling difference in the 15 years between those novels.

Cut to Saturday, when Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted into any of the four major male professional team sports in the U.S. ESPN showed Sam’s reaction, which included a passionate kiss with his boyfriend.

Continue reading

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