You wrote WHAT? Sex scenes in GLBTQ YA Literature

The headline above was the title of the panel I had the pleasure of moderating at the Loft Literary Center’s Children’s & YA writing conference last weekend (April 25-27). The other panel members were: Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Molly Beth Griffin, Dawn Klehr, Juliann Rich and Elizabeth Wheeler. Between the six of us, we read scenes about sex, sexual identity, and gender identity and covered a pretty broad spectrum of  GLBT (though we may have been a little short on the Q).

Below are the stats that I cited at the start of the panel, plus some bonus stats:

Teens Kissing

From the Teen Lit Lab studies — 250 teens surveyed n 2009 (read the whole Sex in Young Adult Literature paper here):

  • 13.4% of girls said that the general level of sexual content in teen novels underestimates their level of sexual activity
  • 32% of male respondents suggested that sex in YA Lit was most often tamer than what they personally experience
  • 46% say that, in general, YA books overestimate the level of sexual activity they engage in

When teens were asked to rank (in order of importance) the reasons they read YA fiction with explicit sexual content:

  • ‘‘To be entertained’’ was the number one reason across all age groups (14-18)
  • Exploring situations they’ve not yet encountered was most often listed as the second most important reason
  • 20-25% of all teens responded that they read YA literature with sexual content to ‘‘get frank information about topics they might feel uncomfortable asking a friend or adult about.’’
  • Teens were similarly unanimous in selecting the least important reason——‘‘to become sexually aroused’’


Emily is going to college!

Being Emily has been picked as part of the curriculum for a Spring 2014 Intro to LGBTQ Studies course taught by Dr. Lisa Hager at the University of Wisconsin – Waukesha. Other books in the curriculum include:

Michelle A. Gibson, Jonathan Alexander, and Deborah T. Meem’s Finding Out: An Introduction to LGBT Studies
Kate Bornstein’s My New Gender Workbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving World Peace Through Gender Anarchy and Sex Positivity
David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy
Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name

I can’t adequately say how excited I am that Emily gets a spot next to Audre Lorde and Kate Bornstein! Kate is a huge influence on me and any time she and the world of Emily intersect, it’s wonderful (see below).  I’m also delighted that Being Emily is part of the course called “Queering Digital Spaces,” as you know I’m a huge fan of digital spaces and what they make possible for gender expression.

One of my favorite emails even contained this pic of Kate wearing the Being Emily t-shirt.

One of my favorite emails even contained this pic of Kate wearing the Being Emily t-shirt. Photo credit: Barbara Carrella.




I do have the best job in the world

Wednesday afternoon I got to visit the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at Valley View Middle School in Bloomington and read a bit from Being Emily and from the sequel that will be out next year. This is my second favorite aspect of being an author: talking to people about the book, the process, the ideas in the book, and in this case also video games. (My first favorite aspect of being an author, you might be able to guess, is writing books.)


Book Festivals!

I like to think that fall is book season (along with summer and winter and maybe spring). The air is crisp, it’s a good time to curl up with a novel or, if you’re feeling more social, to head out in search of your favorite novelists.

I’ll be at two book festival in the near future:

Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books, Sat. & Sun. Sept 21-22. I’m on the panel ”OUTspoken & OUTfront: LGBTQ Writers Moving Beyond Binaries.” (At 4:30 p.m. on Saturday in N129.)

Twin Cities Book Festival, Sat. Oct. 12. I was on a panel last year and had a great time. Not sure if I’m doing anything official this year, but I’m definitely going to hang out.

Book festivals are great because they’re about books (I know, right?) and this tends to attract other book-lovers, which makes for a really great group of people to hang out with while to listen to authors say smart and/or funny things and get to shop for books. If you’re around for either book festival, stop by and say hi!

Apocalypse as a metaphor for compassion

This morning I woke up cranky and started thinking about apocalyptic stories, particularly the one in Mass Effect 3, and wondering if there’s a way in which they allow us to deal with our own sadness for the suffering we can’t fix in the world, and therefore open a path for us to become more compassionate.

The game starts with Earth under attack from an alien machine race known as the Reapers, who have come to wipe out all sentient, organic life in the galaxy. Massive robots rain down from the sky. Billions are killed.

In the midst of my bad mood, that felt comforting. I thought of Commander Shepard in the opening sequence standing in the open door of the Normandy and watching a small fraction of the evacuation, only to see the evacuation shuttles shot down a moment later. She must turn away from the destruction and go look for help for Earth.


What is a meditation retreat like anyway?

 A friend asked me about the meditation retreat I just atteneed and I thought
that was probably a good topic for a blog. I’d been trying to learn to meditate since I was 15 (and
failing!). In 2004 I attended the first Meditating with the Body program with
Reggie Ray and actually started to learn to meditate in a way that works for
me. It’s different for everyone, but for me having a 6-month program with a
meditation instructor to ask questions and weekly assignments, plus a focus on
the body (including physically how to sit), really worked.

But enough backstory, what actually happens at a meditation
retreat? Well, we sit. And then we walk, really slowly, and then we sit again.
Sometimes we lie down.


Witches, Werewolves and Starship Captains: Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy

On Friday, March 8 for International Women’s Day, Catherine Lundoff and I hosted a radio program on KFAI. You can hear it here.

Since we ran through a whole lot of names and titles during the show, we thought we’d list them on our blogs for anyone who wanted to follow up on our recommendations (or add some of your own in the comments). You can see Catherine’s picks over on her blog.

These are roughly in order that we mention them, though not exactly.

Rachel Pollack – Unquenchable Fire, Temporary Agency, Godmother Night, and more