Nothing to make me go “eeeeee!!!” on a rainy January morning like seeing in my Google Reader that the Rainbow List blog has a new post — and it’s for the long-anticipated annual Rainbow List!

The Rainbow List is compiled by American Library Association’s Gay and Lesbian Round Table. The committee takes nominations for LGBTQ-themed books published in the previous 18 months that are written for young readers, compiles their list of recommendations, and names a Top Ten.

Guess what book is on the Top Ten list with nine other fabulous titles, that added a few extra E’s to my “eeeeee!!!”?

  • *Bigelow, Lisa Jenn. Starting From Here. 2012. 292p. Amazon Children’s Publishing, $16.99 (9780761462330). Grades 9 & Up.
  • *Cronn-Mills, Kristin. Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. 2012. 288p. Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd., $9.99 (9780738732510). Grades 8 & Up.
  • *Danforth, Emily M. The Miseducation of Cameron Post. 2012. 480p. Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (9780062020567). Grades 9 & Up.
  • *King, A.S. Ask the Passengers. 2012. 304p. Little, Brown, $17.99 (9780316194686). Grades 9 & Up.
  • *Lo, Malinda. Adaptation. 2012. 400p. Little, Brown, $17.99 (9780316197960). Grades 9 & Up.
  • *Miller, Madeline. The Song of Achilles. 2012. 384p. HarperCollins, $25.99 (9780062060617). Grades 9 & Up.
  • *Moon, Sarah, editor. The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves. 2012. 288p. Scholastic, $17.99 (9780545399326). Grades 6 & Up.
  • *Rice-Gonzalez, Charles. Chulito: a Novel. 2011. 275p. Magnus Books, $14.95 (9781936833030). Grades 10 & Up.
  • *Saenz, Benjamin Alire. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. 2012. 368p. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (9781442408920). Grades 9-12.
  • *Telgemeier, Raina. Drama. 2012. 240p. Scholastic Graphix, $23.99 (9780545326988). Grades 6 & Up.

I’ve read Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Ask the Passengers, Adaptation, and Drama and can attest to their wonderfulness. I look forward to reading the others!

Other personal favorites of mine from the list include Kiss the Morning Star, by Elissa Janine Hoole (fellow 2012 debut author!); 37 Things I Love (In No Particular Order), by Kekla Magoon; and Gone, Gone, Gone, by Hannah Moskowitz. I still haven’t yet read Personal Effects, by another of my fellow 2012 debut authors, E.M. Kokie, but from all I’ve heard I’m going to love it.

Each year I find the Rainbow List a great source for staying up with LGBTQ-themed lit for kids and teens. For Starting from Here to be so honored is, well… an honor!

Check out the 2013 Rainbow List here.

It’s been a busy month for me, book-wise: five events over 29 days!

The Book Cellar, an independent bookstore and cafe in Lincoln Square, hosted my Chicago launch. I read a selection to a crowded room, answered questions, and signed books. So many friends and coworkers (and my brother) came out to support me, and many even brought friends and significant others of their own. The room was totally full of love — which didn’t stop my hands from shaking as I read and signed books, but hey. It was my first time.

Reading at Book Cellar

You can’t see my shaking hands from here. (Photo courtesy of A. Horton.)

Q & A

Q & A after the reading. (Photo courtesy of B. Bigelow.)

Stanley Manley and Me

Me and my favorite plastic surfer guy, Stanley Manley. Oh, and my friend R., too. (Photo courtesy of R. Bezalel.)

My Kalamazoo launch was hosted by Bookbug, a lovely indie with a focus on children’s and YA books. Again, there was quite a crowd. My parents were there, not to mention old and new friends, church mentors, friends of my parents, parents of my friends, my childhood pastor, and even my first and second grade teachers! I got over my nerves and read at a calmer pace and didn’t have so much “shaky hand” this time around. There was a long line for book signing, but fortunately Mom made a delicious assortment of cookies for people to enjoy.

Me and My Parents

Mom, me, and Dad at Bookbug. (Photo courtesy of J. Freeman.)

On the ides of November, I presented to my local SCBWI network. I’ve been going to meetings off and on since about 2006 and have found them to be a great source of support, networking, and information. I simply shared my publication journey, from second grade — when I first developed an interest in writing — to the present. I didn’t sugarcoat it, either. I talked about the good stuff, but I talked about the challenges and downright frustrations, too. Afterward, people told me they appreciated my honesty. I wanted to talk about my less-than-perfect path in large part because it hasn’t really been easy for any of us in the group — and I think it can be more inspiring to hear about someone who has been where we are, instead of only hearing about the overnight successes.

The last two events I put together with some of my fellow debut YA authors in the Apocalypsies group: Heather Anastasiu, Anne Greenwood Brown, Laura Ellen, Elissa Janine Hoole, E. M. Kokie, and J. A. Souders. The first was a panel discussion and signing at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville. We didn’t have a huge crowd, but we got some great questions, and it was fun to hear each other’s responses and chat with the attendees. The next night we did a group signing at the Barnes & Noble at East Towne Mall in Madison. We didn’t get a ton of customers, but it was still fun getting to know each other better and talking with the customers.

Apocalypsies at Anderson's

Me, J. A. Souders, Elissa Janine Hoole, Laura Ellen, Heather Anastasiu, E. M. Kokie, and Anne Greenwood Brown at Anderson’s Bookshop. (Photo courtesy of E. Hoole.)

Signing at Barnes & Noble

Me, E. M. Kokie, and Laura Ellen signing stock at Barnes and Noble. (Photo courtesy of E. Hoole.)

Next up, I’ve got two events with teen groups at the Chicago Public Library — and then I get to breathe until 2012! I wouldn’t trade this part of the process for anything, though. It has been “ups” all the way.

YAmazing Race

It’s that time again… time for the Apocalpysies’ YAmazing Race with MGnificent Prizes — a blog tour featuring over 50 debut young adult and middle grade authors and your chance to win great prizes!

Thanks for visiting this final stop on the “Egg a House” leg of the tour. (If you’ve come here first, be sure to start from the beginning for a full explanation of the rules!) Now, I’d like to introduce you to my book:


A young adult novel from Amazon Children’s Publishing
(formerly Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books)
ISBN 13: 9780761462330
Order books: Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon
Download e-books: Kindle

Sixteen-year-old Colby Bingham’s heart has been broken too many times. Her mother is dead, her truck driver father is always away, and her almost girlfriend just dumped her for a guy. When an injured stray dog lands at her feet, she decides to care for it, against her better judgment. But new connections mean new opportunities for heartbreak. Terrified of another loss, Colby bolts at the first sign of trouble, managing to alienate her best friend, her father, the cute girl pursuing her, and even her dog’s vet, who’s taken Colby under her wing. Colby can’t start over, but can she learn how to move on?

Bonus Prize

In addition to grand prize drawing, all visitors who comment on this post will be entered into a prize drawing for a signed copy of Starting from Here!

And now… off you go to the finish line. Remember, you’ve got until Monday, October 29, at noon EST, to finish. Thanks again for stopping by!

ETA: The YAMazing Race with MGnificent Prizes is now over. The random number generator has spoken, and Commenter #27, Precious, is the winner of the signed copy of Starting from Here. Thanks, everyone, for your interest in my book. I hope you get a chance to read it!

My publisher sent me flowers on Starting from Here‘s release date! Of course, as you may recall, I was in Montana at the time. I returned home, completely unaware of the gift. And I continued to be unaware for several more days. Oops.

See, my house has three doors to the outside. Yet none of these doors is at the front of the house. And the flowers were delivered to the one door I rarely ever use. For over a week, they lay in a box on the stoop, getting rained on and rotting away.

Fortunately, the sweet folks at my publisher sent more. And wow, was it worth the wait!

Rainbow Roses

Those are honest-to-goodness roses with individually dyed petals. Check out how they match the book cover! I’ve brought them into work where staff and patrons keep stopping to gawk at them and finger the petals. I’ve lost count of how many times people have said, “How do they do that?”

Thanks again to Jenny at Amazon Children’s Publishing. These flowers are definitely getting your money’s worth in appreciation!

Technically, it’s Day 12. I’m sitting in SEA-TAC, waiting for my flight. It will be a long day of planes, trains, and automobiles, and I’m very much looking forward to picking up my doggy and sleeping in my own bed tonight (assuming the house hasn’t blown away while I’ve been gone).

Thursday we spent kind of a quiet day, in part because I wasn’t feeling too well. We did laundry and played a couple of games of cribbage. Dad won both (unusual), while I narrowly avoided getting skunked each time (also unusual). It was sort of a dreary day, compared to the rest of the trip’s weather.

In the afternoon, we went for a boat ride on Lake McDonald. It was cool and cloudy — not the prettiest boat weather. But we were rewarded with the sight of a bald eagle and a young black bear eating their respective lunches along shore. The eagle was ripping something apart on a bare tree limb. The bear was making its way along a berry bush buffet on its hind legs. On our drive back to the motel, we realized just how close the bear was to a picnic area. Hmmm…


There were a bunch of cairns built along the shore of Lake McDonald.


The tour boat was called De Smet, but I liked these dinghies, too, especially The Cutthroat!

There’s still a lot of evidence of wildfire damage from a big 2003 fire — lots of dead trees, lots of places where the forest hasn’t filled in yet. But there are signs of new growth.

We started on a scenic drive up the Camas Road, but motion sickness (mine) turned us back. Fortunately, I got past that, and we drove into Columbia Falls to dinner. Once again we got lucky with our choice of dining establishments, eating at Los Caporales, another Mexican restaurant with delicious food in huge portions. Dad’s special combination covered a platter 15″ in diameter. (He drank a Dos Equis. Boring.) After dinner, we strolled up the hill our motel was on as the sun was setting.

And after that, since it was clear at last, it was time to do some star-watching. Where to go? Why, back to the Camas Road, of course! We found an isolated pull-out and got out to stare at the sky. It was absolutely breath-taking. Thousands of thousands of suns, burning out there in the darkness, millions of miles away — some big and bright (the ones I might even see at home), some no more than grains of brilliant dust. Along the highest part of the dome was smeared the Milky Way. We recognized the Big Dipper, but none of us knew any other constellation. I saw a couple of satellites in orbit, and at one point I even thought I saw a shooting star from the corner of my eye.

Friday morning dawned clear and cold — in the mid-30s! We bundled up and headed back to the Going-to-the-Sun Road. We wanted to hike a bit in some of the areas we’d driven by in the Red Bus tour as well as visit some new spots. Our first stop was a brief hike on the Trail of the Cedars.

Next, we wound our way up to Logan Pass, where we took a 3 mile hike on the Hidden Lake Trail. What with the steep, often uneven trail, our leisurely pace, and the frequent stops for photographs, it took us almost 3 hours round trip. But the trip was well worth it, as you’ll see.

Peace Park

“Peace Park” flags at Logan Pass

Marmot 1

A marmot! I think.

Glacial Stream

Along the trail were dozens of streams flowing down from the glacier.

Goat Family 1


Hidden Lake

The infamous Hidden Lake

Ground Squirrel

Columbian ground squirrel. I think.

Powdered Sugar

There was snow Wednesday night, leaving many of the peaks dusted with snow. It looked like they’d been sprinkled with powdered sugar.

So, about the goats. We saw some mountain goats while on the Red Bus tour, mostly with our binoculars. So it was quite delightful to run into a goat family while on the Hidden Lake Trail, up close and personal! (But not too close. Of course.) While we were admiring the first goat family (pictured above), we could see another adult goat up on a promontory.

We hiked a bit further, and the adult came down from the promontory. Two kids emerged from the rocks, but they seemed at a loss as to how to follow. Finally, one gingerly made its way down the cliff, but the other stayed up there, bleating piteously, “Maa, maa, maa!” Mom (?) paid no attention and kept walking. Finally, the little one scrambled down, still bleating. So pathetic! So cute!

Now, because there can never be too many pictures of goats, here are more pictures of the goat families:

We spotted another marmot on our way back, too, sunning itself on a rock:

Marmot 2 Headon

Chubby cheeks!

Having worked up quite an appetite, we headed down from the pass to St. Mary, where a fellow park visitor recommended the Park Cafe (“Pie for strength!”). All three of us were intrigued by the “Gypsy Burrito,” a curry of sweet potatoes, parsnips, onions, pineapple, cashews, and… some other stuff, served in tortillas.

It was mighty tasty! And, of course, we had to try the pie. I had raspberry-cherry, Mom and Dad had “razzleberry.” Yum!

Our final stop for the day was Running Eagle Falls, where the Blackfoot warrior woman of the same name went on her vision quest (unusual for women, at least in her time). You can see how the water emerges from under a rock ledge. I’m not sure if it’s fed by an underground stream or what, but it’s really cool!

Last night we packed up and went to bed early, since my flight out of Kalispell was at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. Mom and Dad dropped me off at the airport this morning, and today they’ll start making their way back home by car. It’s been a good trip, but a long trip, and I’m ready to go back and maybe see some of y’all in person.

Thanks for traveling with me!