Featured Blogger: Lee Wind

This month’s featured blogger is Lee Wind, who blogs over at I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?. Lee’s a long-time active member of the Kidlitosphere, and we were happy he took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with us!

Tell us a bit about your blog.
LW: The idea behind “I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?” is to be a safe space online where LGBTQ teens and their allies can find out about the books for children and teens with lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer and questioning characters and themes. The categories have expanded over time to include manga, biographies, books with LGBTQ parents/caretakers, short stories and more.

I didn’t want it to be “books Lee likes” blog, so I made the book posts more a summary – including what’s queer – about each title, and ask my blog readers to add their reviews in comments. I aim to be comprehensive in MG and YA, but there are so many PBs that in that category I do hand-select titles, under the heading “picture books I wish had been read to me when I was a little kid.”

Beyond books, my blog includes social commentaries (about things in our culture that drive me crazy that I think should drive everyone else crazy, too), sharing my discoveries about LGBTQ history, great videos and news items of interest to LGBTQ teens, and interviews with authors, illustrators, editors and other people in the world of children’s literature. I’m especially excited about my new monthly series “Agents Looking For Diversity” — the idea being if we want to see more diversity in the books published for kids and teens, then our gatekeeper allies (like agents and editors) need to get the word out that they’re looking for more diversity. It’s my contribution to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement, and the reaction so far has been great.

When did you start and what got you into blogging?
LW: When I was growing up (as a closeted gay pre-teen and teen), there weren’t ANY books I knew about that had any gay characters in it. Well, there were a couple of male evil pedophile villains who hit on younger, horrified male teens (one in an American Revolution historical fiction and another in Frank Herbert’s otherwise amazing “DUNE”) but that wasn’t helping me understand that you could grow up to be gay and awesome! I was left reading between the lines of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonrider series for any faint hint of gay love…

About 8 years ago, when I realized there actually were a few LGBTQ teen titles available, I got really excited… until I tried to find more of them. The online options (looking at you, Amazon) had very incomplete lists and lots of anti-gay speech in the reviews, and I knew there needed to be a safe place for young people to find out about these books. So I created it.

How did you decide to become a resource for the LGBTQ community? Have you gotten any positive feedback over the years?
LW: I’ve had over 1.3 million visits to the blog, from over 100 countries, so I know it’s helping people. The blog has won awards, is linked from the American Library Association’s Rainbow Books website, is searchable on Dow Jones Factiva, and I’ve also gotten some very kind thank you emails from blog readers which is super-cool!

Has blogging changed/influenced/affected your life in any way? If so, how?
LW:  The consistency of blogging five days a week from my blog launch (September 15, 2007) had me taking myself seriously as a writer, which other people started to believe as well. Because of my own blog’s success and strong voice, I was hired to be part of SCBWI Team Blog when Alice Pope started the group in July 2009. In 2012, when Alice changed industries, I was asked to take over the official SCBWI blog (where I blog twice a week) and I became the Captain of Team Blog. For a couple of years there, I blogged 5 days a week on my blog and twice for SCBWI, but now I’m doing 3 on mine and 2 on SCBWI, and it’s more sustainable. Five times a week works for me.

Blogging has also given me the standing to speak at schools (about diversity, ending bullying and LGBTQ History), has taught me I love interviewing people in the world of children’s literature, and it’s led to many cool things – speaking at conferences (like to the CA School Library Association), moderating panels (like at the LA Times Festival of Books), being published (in four editions of “Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market”), producing a public radio program about Chidlren’s literature (“Kid Lit With Lisa Loeb”) and much more!

Blogging is also how I met my own agent, Danielle Smith of Red Fox Literary. We met online years before she became an agent, and it was nice to have that history going into this new collaboration.

What is your favorite kidlit (YA/Teen, etc) book you’ve read in the past year?

LW: It’s a tie:

Jandy Nelson’s “I’ll Give You The Sun” was brilliant – so beautiful, and I couldn’t put it down. I loved how it wasn’t a big story, but it was HUGE to the characters – and because they cared so much, and I cared for them, I cared, too. Deeply. LOVED it!

And “Grasshopper Jungle” by Andrew Smith – this was laugh-out-loud funny, and crazy, and gross and tender and… amazing. It really was an end-of-the-world story, but sometimes Austin’s confusion over his attraction to both his girlfriend and his best guy friend was more important to him. LOVED it, too!