Joint Author Spotlight: LGBTQ+ Picture Book Creators
June 3, 2022
Welcome! You are a group of authors with LGBTQ+-focused picture books coming out in 2022. Tell us how your group came about and what sorts of things you do to support each other.
Eric Rosswood: I saw a bunch of people participating in launch groups and I thought it would be great if there was one specifically for LGBTQ+ picture books. Not just to promote our books, though. Something more along the lines of celebrating each other and highlighting queer kidlit in general. I reached out to a bunch of other authors with books coming out this year and here we are. Our group is kind of like a support group where we offer tips and advice to each other about the publishing journey. We also celebrate each other’s launches on social media, help each other with graphics, and basically cheer each other on.
This is a fraught time for LGBTQ creators, with schools banning books and legislatures restricting rights and freedoms. Have you had difficulty getting your books to readers in this environment?
This book was inspired by the phrase “wig flew,” which in drag culture, means you’re blown away or astonished by something (for example, if you see a fierce look or a show stopping dance move at a drag show, you might say, “girl, my wig flew!”). I wanted to write the book I needed when I was a kid, to inspire kids like me to shine in all their colors and not let anyone make them feel small. (Illustrated by Levi Hastings, Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster, May 2022)
Joanna McClintick, 'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE PRIDE: A queer family is getting ready for their local Pride march and talk about the history of Pride. I wrote this book because there wasn't a book I could share with younger kids about the history of Stonewall, queer civil rights, and how that's connected to Pride celebrations. I wanted to showcase how queer resistance has been necessary and risky, but also creative and joy-filled. I'm also very inspired by queer activists who came before me, and wanted to honor them. (Illustrated by Juana Medina, Candlewick, May 2022)
Eric Geron, BYE BYE, BINARY: Bye Bye, Binary is a board book about a joyful baby who doesn’t care about the gender binary and instead chooses whatever toys, colors, and clothes that make them happy. The story is a very personal one. I grew up as a boy who liked an assortment of many different things, which included mermaids, dresses, and the color pink. I felt different from all the other boys who only liked action figures, dump trucks, and the color blue. I was even teased and bullied because of it. Was something wrong with me? Much later as an adult, I found myself staring at segregated racks of “girl" clothes and “boy" clothes in a retail store, and had an epiphany: pink and blue were simply colors, and the idea for Bye Bye, Binary was born. The story follows a baby who’s constantly torn between “girl” choices and “boy” choices, such as picking bows or bowties. Each little choice helps the baby discover which things they most enjoy—sometimes one or the other, both, or neither. In the end, the baby finds the tiny things that bring them joy. (Illustrated by Charlene Chua, Harper Festival May 2022)
Charlotte Sullivan Wild, LOVE, WILD: Love, Violet, warmly illustrated by Charlene Chua (FSG - BYR), is the tender story of a crush between two girls and the courage it takes to share your heart - even when it's pounding! It appears to be the first picture book from a major U.S. publisher to portray a childhood crush between girls. My first overwhelming crush feelings on a girl were in preschool. I had no words or concept for it. But that baby love was real, powerful. As I grew and fell in love at each developmental level, I instinctively knew to crush that part of myself. In fact, I didn’t fully understand my queerness until my thirties, while married to a man, and a faculty member at a religious college. Coming out was—chaotic. I marveled, how had I not known? Looking back, my queerness was obvious! Yet not one story from my childhood showed me that I could exist. Not only had this hurt me and my development, I had hurt queer friends, too, and my then-husband, boyfriends before him, unable to connect. It didn’t have to be like this. I set out to write a sweet, innocent love story about those first crush feelings. A story inspired by actual childhood experiences, mine and those of queer family and friends. I wanted it to be authentic and true to this age (around seven). The public was not ready for such a story, so Love, Violet took a decade. I’m thrilled it’s here! In this horrific storm of anti-queer hate targeting children, our picture book celebrates love, invites children to cheer for Mira and Violet’s happy ending. Inspires them to know that love is for everyone! (illustrated by Charlene Chua, FSG-BYR, Jan. 2022)
Lil Miss Hot Mess, IF YOU'RE A DRAG QUEEN AND YOU KNOW IT: If You're a Drag Queen and You Know It is a dragged up version of the classic children's song, and encourages readers to get in touch with their inner diva through song and dance. As with my last book, The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish, I didn't want to just tell readers what drag is all about, but encourage them to test it out using their own voices and bodies. (Illustrated by Olga de Dios, Running Press Kids May 2022)
Mark Ceilley, CINDERELLIOT: A SCRUMPTIOUS FAIRYTALE: Cinderelliot is a gay retelling of Cinderella. A Scrumptious love story with ungrateful stepsiblings, a baking competition, and a fairy godfather. I got the idea after reading the picture book Prince and Knight by Daniel Haack. I wondered what it would be like to write a gay version of Cinderella.
Sarah Prager, KIND LIKE MARSHA: LEARNING FROM LGBTQ+ LEADERS: Kind Like Marsha: Learning from LGBTQ+ Leaders invites children ages 4-8 to learn how 14 LGBTQ+ historical and contemporary figures are kind, creative, inclusive, brave, and determined that they can be, too. I saw a gap in the picture book space for teaching my own 5-year-old about people like Sappho, Audre Lorde, and Ai of Han that I wanted to teach her about, so I made it myself! (Illustrated by Cheryl Thuesday, Running Press Kids, Aug 7).
Rosiee Thor, THE MEANING OF PRIDE: The Meaning of Pride is my ode to the queer community. It's a celebration of our past, present, and future through representation and the exploration of the many ways to express pride every day! (Illustrated by Sam Kirk, Versify, April 2022)
What is one thing you want to say to your readers?
Eric Rosswood: There are multiple ways we can be strong, and people are at their best when we they be their true, authentic selves.
Jonathan Hillman: The things about you that other kids make fun of are the same things that people will celebrate someday!
Joanna McClintick: Thank you for reading my book!
Eric Geron: For those who feel compelled to follow the social construct of gender norms, despite feeling at odds with them, I want readers to know that it is okay to unsubscribe from the gender binary. I sure have! I continue to explore my own gender identity to determine what feels most right for me. Expressing yourself is the most beautiful thing you can do, no matter what that looks like. Bye Bye, Binary shows a world where dolls and dump trucks are toys that any child can enjoy. I hope it inspires authenticity, exploration, discovery, and acceptance.
Charlotte Sullivan Wild: Sharing our hearts is one of the scariest things we do. It is also one of the best and the only path to love.
Little Miss Hot Mess: Though the book is fun and silly, I hope it taps into children's (and parents') imaginations about how the world can be more imaginative, playful, and just. While drag is ultimately about having a good time, it's also about transforming ourselves and the world by having the audacity to imagine things otherwise and stand up to power.
Mark Ceilley: Cinderelliot recognizes and affirms GLBTQ+ people, their relationships, and their families, and allies. The message is “love is love.” It doesn’t matter who you spend your life with. What matters is love.
Sarah Prager: Being yourself is the greatest gift you can give to the world.
Rosiee Thor:I would tell my readers that they are enough, just as they are, and that they or worthy of love, pride, and joy!
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
Eric Rosswood: I played drums for 8 years.
Jonathan Hillman: I grew up across the street from author Neil Gaiman.
Joanna McClintick: I'm adopted.
Eric Geron: When I say my favorite music is anything by Mariah Carey…what I really mean is all I listen to all day long is Mariah Carey.
Charlotte Sullivan Wild: Growing up I liked animals, but I didn't LIKE-like them. Now? I'm a hopeless sop of a chicken mama to our darling chickens, The Eggyatrixes. Didn't see that coming! BAWK
Little Miss Hot Mess: I've always been a drag queen, even before I had the language for it: I always loved dressing up in pretty clothes, performing, and speaking up for what I believed in. In high school, I played Thisbee in A Midsummer Night's Dream, which was probably my original drag debut (if you don't count shows put on in the living room and back yard).
Mark Ceilley: I lived and taught elementary school in Italy and Saudi Arabia.
Sarah Prager:I have traveled to every continent except Antarctica. When my sister and I were young we had a plan to travel there together when we were "both 21." We're three years apart in age so we didn't really think that through. Now we're in our thirties and have yet to go but it's still a bucket list item.
Rosiee Thor: A lot of people don't know that I really like to garden! It's my favorite hobby--I find a lot of joy in growing things, especially plants I can use to cook!
Where can people find you online?
Eric Rosswood: www.EricRosswood.com, Twitter: @LGBT_Activist, Instagram: @ericrosswood, Facebook: EricRosswoodAuthor
Jonathan Hillman: On Twitter and Instagram @jhillmanbooks, and at my website jhillmanbooks.com.
Joanna McClintick: Joannamcclintick.com
Eric Geron: www.EricGeron.com and on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook @EricGeron.
Lil Miss Hot Mess:
Lil Miss Hot Mess:LilMissHotMess.com and @LilMissHotMess on all of the platforms
Rosiee Thor: I'm @rosieethor on Twitter and Instagram
Eric Rosswood is an LGBTQ+ activist and the award-winning author of JOURNEY TO SAME-SEX PARENTHOOD and THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR GAY DADS. He believes being strong means being true to yourself and strives to do that every day by being the best dad, writer, and friend he can be. Eric lives in New York with his husband, Mat, and their two children.
Jonathan Hillman is a graduate of Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults (MFAC) program, where he won the Walden Pond Press Award for Excellence in Middle Grade Fiction. His work has been featured in Fat and Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Bodies and Lives. His debut picture book BIG WIG is out now, and his second picture book THE WISHING MACHINE is forthcoming from Simon & Schuster in Fall 2023. He lives near Minneapolis, MN with his two cats.
Joanna McClintick is a debut children's book author and a licensed social worker at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in Manhattan.
Eric Geron (pronounced: jur-ON) is the author of POULTRYGEIST, illustrated by Pete Oswald, BYE BYE, BINARY, illustrated by Charlene Chua, and the forthcoming young adult novel A TALE OF TWO PRINCES. Under his pen name Rico Green, he also wrote the New York Times bestseller DESCENDANTS: A NOVELIZATION. He earned his creative writing degree from the University of Miami and spent many years as a children's book editor for Disney, where he acquired numerous New York Times bestsellers. Originally from Summit, New Jersey, Eric now lives in New York City.
Charlotte Sullivan Wild was first struck speechless by a crush in preschool. She is the author of the picture books LOVE, VIOLET, illustrated by Charlene Chua (FSG) and THE AMAZING IDEA OF YOU, illustrated by Mary Lundquist (Bloomsbury). A former educator, bookseller, radio host, and kidlit event coordinator from Minnesota, she now lives with ME/CFS wherever her wife is stationed, previously Texas and now Italy, where she dotes on The Eggyatrixes, her darling chickens.
Lil Miss Hot Mess serves on the board of Drag Queen Story Hour and is the author of the children's books IF YOU'RE A DRAG QUEEN AND YOU KNOW IT (Running Press Kids, 2022) and THE HIPS ON THE DRAG QUEEN GO SWISH, SWISH, SWISH (2020). She has also appeared on world-class stages like SFMOMA, Stanford University, and Saturday Night Live, was a founding organizer of the #MyNameIs campaign that challenged Facebook’s “real names” policy, and has published essays in The Guardian, Wired, and Salon. When not twirling, Lil Miss Hot Mess is a professor of at the University of Arizona.
Mark Ceilley earned his MFA in writing for children and young adults from Hamline University. He has taught Pre-K, Kindergarten, First and Second grades. He is currently a reading interventionist. He and his husband live in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Sarah Prager is the author of four books on LGBTQ+ history for youth: QUEER, THERE, AND EVERYWHERE: 23 PEOPLE WHO CHANGED THE WORLD (2017) for teens, RAINBOW REVOLUTIONARIES: 50 LGBTQ+ PEOPLE WHO MADE HISTORY (2020) for middle graders, KIND LIKE MARSHA: LEARNING FROM LGBTQ+ LEADERS (2022) for elementary schoolers, and A CHILD'S INTRODUCTION TO PRIDE: THE INSPIRATIONAL HISTORY AND CULTURE OF THE LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITY (2023) for middle graders. will be released on August 2, 2022. Sarah has presented on LGBTQ+ history to over 175 audiences across eight countries and her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, National Geographic, NBC News, and many other outlets. She lives in Massachusetts with her wife and their two children.
Rosiee Thor began her career as a storyteller by demanding to tell her mother bedtime stories instead of the other way around. She spent her childhood reading by flashlight in the closet until she came out as queer. She lives in Oregon with a dog, two cats, and an abundance of plants. She is the author of Young Adult novels TARNISHED ARE THE STARS and FIRE BECOMES HER and the picture book THE MEANING OF PRIDE.
a Rafflecopter giveaway