Happy New Year!

The end of 2018 is here. It’s been a good year for me. My important relationships are all stronger at the end of this year than they were at the beginning, and I’m as happy as I’ve ever been.

Bill Nov 2018
Much gratitude for my friends and family. For my career. For those who help me in my mission to make this world a better place for at-risk kids. My hope for 2019 is to give more than I get in all those arenas.

TMOWH cover
I’m thrilled for the world to see THE MUSIC OF WHAT HAPPENS in February, and I’m excited to finalize THE BRIDGE, to be published in 2020. The hope is to start a new project this spring, a novel set in New York City in the 1980s, called DESTINATION UNKNOWN (yes, that’s a Missing Persons allusion). And also to finish my first adult literary novel, SCRAMBLED (yes, that’s an egg phobia allusion).

To be improved in 2019: my diet. I want to find a healthy, moderate way to eat and stick with it. Exercise was good in 2018, and I plan to continue that in 2019.

And for this world of ours: I pray for the planet’s health. I hope for more kindness and interconnection on a global level. For those who suffer to be comforted, and for those who create suffering to find better outlets for their pain.

Happy New Year!

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“Proud Fierce Papa Bear” – The Speech

Following is the text of my talk at ALAN on Nov 19, 2018. It touches on an event that happened at a panel at NCTE on Saturday. Video is available here.

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Thank you. I am honored to be here with you today.

I feel a strong need to start off by talking about an experience I had just this weekend at NCTE. Since we’re talking about acting up and speaking out in YA literature, I would be remiss to not start by talking about an experience in which I had to act up and speak out at a major YA literature conference.

As some of you may know and some of you may not, I I had a challenging experience on Saturday at a panel that was supposed to be about disproportionately banned and challenged books. Most of the panelists came to talk about that topic, but one of the panelists did not.

I’m not going to name this panelist. I don’t care enough about her to elevate her by doing so. If you want or need to know, you can probably look it up. Later. It was section L.06, and she wasn’t me, she wasn’t Michael Cart, she wasn’t Sabina Kahn, she wasn’t Joan Kaywell, and she wasn’t Tillie Walden.

She was allegedly there to talk about challenges to Latino texts for young adults, but when asked she passed on that, claiming that Latinos were not disproportionately challenged at all, that in fact the major concerns she had were for the marginalized groups in this country: straight people, Catholics, and the police.

Her comments included the following:

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Rafe, Ben, and Labels

I get questions. Sometimes they appear on Goodreads, where I am definitely NOT supposed to go, and I try not to go there almost ever, as it almost always hurts my feelings when I go there.

But I get a notification via email and I do try to answer those questions when I have the time.

Here’s one that I thought was a smart and important questions about OPENLY STRAIGHT and HONESTLY BEN. My answer follows.

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Revisionist History

When I was growing up, it was hard to find a movie in which the word faggot didn’t play at least a minor role.

Truly. Watch 80s movies. You’ll be surprised how often that word comes out.

It was totally acceptable. Everyone said that word. At school, I heard it all the time. I even used it a time or two. Had to fit in, after all!

I had Eddie Murphy’s debut album. This was 1982. I was 11. On it was a bit called “Faggots.”

Eddie Murphy

“Faggot ass faggot,” Murphy shouted, and the crowd howled.

So did I.

So did my friends. They used to do the bit all the time. Or the one where he lisped like a gay guy allegedly would, when he was getting beat up for being gay. “Stop bothering me,” he lisped, and that, too, was hilarious.

I don’t know if I got it, back then. If I knew that I was laughing at myself. I think soon after, if not right away, I did know, and I think it was just part of what I had to do. I had to compartmentalize. My feelings and what I put out into the world. My private self, my public self.

It was just what you did in the 1980s.

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The Bridge!

Let’s take a quick break from what’s on the docket (THE MUSIC OF WHAT HAPPENS) to look a little further into the future! Because in the future, you will be able to read my sixth novel, THE BRIDGE!

Here’s the announcement from Publisher’s Weekly:

Nick Thomas at Scholastic/Levine has bought Lambda, Stonewall, and PEN Center USA Literary Award-winning author Bill Konigsberg‘s new YA novel, The Bridge. The book is about two suicidal teens who meet atop the George Washington Bridge, disrupting each other’s plans and literally splitting the universe into three storylines with dramatically different consequences. Publication is scheduled for 2020; Linda Epstein at Emerald City Literary Agency brokered the deal for world English rights; the Taryn Fagerness Agency is handling translation rights.

I’m writing it now, and…man. This is a challenging one! The three “what if” scenarios are challenging enough, but on top of that, writing about depression and suicide really takes a toll on me. I have to go into a pretty sad, lonely, dark place.

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The Music of What Happens!

So I can finally share it… the cover of THE MUSIC OF WHAT HAPPENS!

TMOWH cover

I am so, so, so in love with this cover. Great kudos to the artist, Patrick Leger, and to the designer, Nina Goffi. Nina has been involved in my covers for OPENLY STRAIGHT, THE PORCUPINE OF TRUTH, and HONESTLY BEN, so this was a real shift in direction.

I can’t wait to tell you more about this book, and I can’t wait for you to read it. For now, here’s the jacket copy:

Max: Chill. Sports. Video games. Gay and not a big deal, not to him, not to his mom, not to his buddies. And a secret: An encounter with an older kid that makes it hard to breathe, one that he doesn’t want to think about, ever.

Jordan: The opposite of chill. Poetry. His “wives” and the Chandler Mall. Never been kissed and searching for Mr. Right, who probably won’t like him anyway. And a secret: A spiraling out of control mother, and the knowledge that he’s the only one who can keep the family from falling apart.

Throw in a rickety, 1980s-era food truck called Coq Au Vinny. Add in prickly pears, cloud eggs, and a murky idea of what’s considered locally sourced and organic. Place it all in Mesa, Arizona, in June, where the temp regularly hits 114. And top it off with a touch of undeniable chemistry between utter opposites.

Over the course of one summer, two boys will have to face their biggest fears and decide what they’re willing to risk — to get the thing they want the most.

The book comes out Jan. 29, 2019. Or 0129/2019 for those of you who like numbers. 🙂

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No Place Like Home, Er, Openly Straight

We are consolidating at our house right now. Which means that I come across things, like  long-expired gift certificates to Barnes & Noble from 2006, and mix CDs I made in 2004 (we no longer have a CD player). Also zip drives.

Zip drives are great because you can never be sure what you’ll find on them. And what I found today was a treasure trove of old creative writing stuff.

I found the first story I wrote in my first creative writing class in grad school (terrible!). I found the first draft of Audibles, which became OUT OF THE POCKET. And I found the very first words I wrote for the book that became OPENLY STRAIGHT!

It was called, at the time, NO PLACE LIKE HOME. And yeah, I’ve made this joke before, but it was going to be like The Wizard of Oz, but gayer.

I wrote the very first words in the very first draft of that book  on April 8, 2009.

It looked like this:

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This makes me so happy. As you can see, Rafe wasn’t quite Rafe yet. I was playing with an idea. The notion was to turn a coming out story into a going in story, which is what I did. But almost everything else is off, voice especially.

I’m interested that I got Claire Olivia’s name right away. Her name, I had always thought, came from Claire Olivia Casey, or Claire O. Casey, or Claro Que Si, which means “Of course” in Spanish. But apparently I either already knew that, or the joke came organically from the name choice. I don’t know.

The parasol story relates to my nephew, who used to dance around our kitchen with a parasol. And what followed that was a story my friend Bob told me about coming home from kindergarten after his first day. His parents asked how the first day was, and he said, “They have nice curtains.”

Neither of those stories made the novel, but the lesson here is don’t tell me stories or do stuff in front of me. It WILL wind up in a book.

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