Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Chad Lucas!

It’s time to Kick Back with Kick-butt!

Today we’re chatting with Chad Lucas, the author of

THANKS A LOT, UNIVERSE

Brian has always been anxious, whether at home, or in class, or on the basketball court. His dad tries to get him to stand up for himself and his mom helps as much as she can, but after he and his brother are placed in foster care, Brian starts having panic attacks. And he doesn’t know if things will ever be “normal” again . . . Ezra’s always been popular. He’s friends with most of the kids on his basketball team—even Brian, who usually keeps to himself. But now, some of his friends have been acting differently, and Brian seems to be pulling away. Ezra wants to help, but he worries if he’s too nice to Brian, his friends will realize that he has a crush on him . . .
But when Brian and his brother run away, Ezra has no choice but to take the leap and reach out. Both boys have to decide if they’re willing to risk sharing parts of themselves they’d rather hide. But if they can be brave, they might just find the best in themselves—and each other.

Let’s talk to this fantastic author about his wonderful book!
This is Chad. Everyone say, “Hi, Chad!”

Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Chad! Tell us about yourself!

Hi, and thanks for having me! I’ve been writing in one form or another for most of my life, including a decade as a newspaper reporter, but I’ve always been passionate about writing for kids. My debut middle grade novel, THANKS A LOT, UNIVERSE, came out in May. I live in beautiful Nova Scotia with my family, I love the ocean, and I drink an awful lot of tea while I’m writing.

Ah, yes – I often measure how much writing had been done by how much tea has been had. 😂

What was the inspiration behind THANKS A LOT, UNIVERSE?

I can’t really point to one defining moment or source. I borrowed loosely—very loosely—from some of my own experiences as a kid, but it’s not an autobiographical book. I drew mostly on the scary questions that most of us ask ourselves at different points: “Should I let anyone know what’s really going on inside my brain? Is it safe? Will it make things better or worse?” Brian and Ezra both wrestle with different versions of this same dilemma, and the story evolved as I got to know them both.

What are your favourite ways to infuse a character’s voice into a novel? 

This book is written in alternating first-person chapters, so I incorporated some of Brian and Ezra’s personalities into how I wrote their chapters to make them sound distinct. Brian tends to second-guess himself and jump to worst-case scenarios, so some of his chapters have sections called Brian versus Brian where he argues with himself, or lists with increasingly catastrophic possibilities. Ezra’s more outgoing, so I included some text conversations with his friends in his chapters. For me, playing with format is a fun way to reflect a character’s voice and how they experience the world.

What were three interesting things you discovered while working on THANKS A LOT, UNIVERSE?

– I learned where books on beekeeping are shelved in the library. (638.1!)
– I listened to several songs about werewolves to consider what would make Ezra’s all-werewolf playlist. (My favourite—and Ezra’s too—is “Wolf Like Me” by TV on the Radio.)
– I rewatched highlights from Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals. (Kevin Durant was the hero or the villain, depending on your perspective. Ezra’s friend Ty is sure he’s the villain.)

If you could transport your characters across book dimensions, which book would you most like them to end up in and why?

I love so many great middle grade books that this was a surprisingly hard question to choose one answer. But I think Brian and Ezra would both find their place in Culeco Academy of the Arts, the delightfully odd school in Carlos Hernandez’s SAL AND GABI BREAK THE UNIVERSE. It’s a wonderfully accepting environment for weirdos.

That’s a great choice!

Why were you drawn to writing middle grade?

I really like this age. I get to hang out with middle graders often, as a parent and a basketball coach, and they’re always cracking me up. It’s also an age when they’re beginning to think about big topics like who they are, what they care about, and what they believe about the world. The possibilities of writing for this age are endless.

Any hints about your next book project?

Thankfully I can do more than hint! My next middle grade book is called LET THE MONSTER OUT and it releases in May 2022. It’s the story of a Black boy named Quentin “Bones” Malone who moves to a small town where strange things start happening: his mom and other adults go through zombie-like personality changes, and kids experience each other’s nightmares. Bones and his new friends have to figure out what’s going on—and confront their own fears—before something sinister takes over the whole town. This was a very different book to write and I’m looking forward to having it out in the world.

Sounds awesome!

What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?

It probably sounds corny to say that the best surprise has been the friends I’ve made along the way, but it’s true! Getting to know other writers has made a big difference. Publishing can be such a roller coaster, and it’s been so helpful to have people who understand the journey. And cheering on each other’s successes is just the best feeling.

What are you reading right now?

My youngest son and I are reading BLACK BOY JOY, edited by Kwame Mbalia, and it’s a delightful anthology that makes me wish (again) that we had more short story collections for middle graders. And I just finished the audiobook of WEIRD KID by Greg Van Eekhout, about a seventh grader who’s secretly a blob of interstellar goo. It’s one of the funniest books I’ve read all year.

What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?

I think one of the most important skills for any writer to learn is the fine art of receiving feedback. Taking good advice is essential—you won’t go far if you’re convinced your prose is flawless and above editing. But not all advice is good advice, and so much in publishing is subjective. In my querying years, I once got two rejections on the same day from two agents who gave completely opposite feedback. One said I was over-explaining in my dialogue, and the other insisted I was leaving too much unsaid! So my kick-butt advice is: seek out feedback, and hone your instincts. Both are important in helping you make your stories stronger.  

Absolutely.

Thank you for joining us, Chad!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out THANKS A LOT, UNIVERSE!
It’s on shelves now!

Add THANKS A LOT, UNIVERSE on Goodreads!

Connect with Chad on Twitter, Instagram, or through his website!

Click here to enter to win a copy of THANKS A LOT, UNIVERSE!
Contest closes Friday, November 26th at 11:59 pm EST

Thanks for reading!

Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Jenni L. Walsh!

It’s time to Kick Back with Kick-butt!

Today we’re chatting with Jenni L. Walsh, the author of

BY THE LIGHT OF FIREFLIES

Sybil Ludington believes in the legend of fireflies—they appear when you need them most. But it’s not until her family is thrust into the dangers of the Revolutionary War, and into George Washington’s spy ring, that Sybil experiences firefly magic for herself—guiding her through the darkness, empowering her to figure out who she’s supposed to be and how strong she really is—as she delivers her imperative message and warns against a British attack.

BY THE LIGHT OF FIREFLIES is the captivating tale of a young girl’s journey as a daughter, a sister, a friend, a spy, and eventually a war hero, completing a midnight ride that cements her place in history as the “female Paul Revere.”

Let’s talk to this lovely author about her excellent book!
This is Jenni. Everyone say, “Hi, Jenni!”

Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Jenni! Why don’t we start with some introductions – tell us about yourself!

Thank you for having me! I’m coming to you from outside of Philadelphia, where we’ve just gotten our first bit of frost and my kids are already multiple pages into their lists for Santa. When I’m not wrangling said kids, I’m usually found at my desk. By the Light of Fireflies is my eighth book and I’m thankful for my job every single day.

What was the inspiration behind BY THE LIGHT OF FIREFLIES?

It was truly an honor to write this novel about Sybil Ludington, a little known Revolutionary War heroine. She’s often known as the “female Paul Revere” but she rode twice as far, was half Paul Revere’s age, and completed her own midnight ride all by herself. *Mic drop*

This feat was so spectacular and unbelievable that some people believe her ride was nothing more than a story. But I believe that Sybil accomplished something magical, just like the Sybil in my story believes in the magic of fireflies, and that on April 26, 1777 she truly made a daring ride to warn of an attack by the British.

I also had the opportunity to expand on Sybil’s story. She was more than the “female Paul Revere.” Sybil was a spy (yes, for George Washington!), a sister (sooo many siblings), a daughter, a friend, and someone who broke the mold for young girls of her time. I hope you enjoy Sybil’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Wow! It sounds like she was an incredible person!

What were three interesting things you discovered while working on BY THE LIGHT OF FIREFLIES?  

As mentioned, Sybil was involved in George Washignton’s spy ring and learning more about the spying techniques, such as how to make invisible ink and their system of sending/receiving codes was quite interesting. Something else interesting I unearthed is that fireflies (I know many of us also call them lightning bugs) are neither a bug or a fly. They’re actually beetles. Talk about being mis-characteristized! 

Beetles?! Who knew?

If you could transport your characters across book dimensions, which book would you most like them to end up in and why?

I present Sybil as a young woman who pushes the gender boundaries of her time. I think she’d enjoy being in a contemporary novel where she’s more free to be who she wants to be. In a historical setting, I could see Sybil enjoying playing the part of Pinkerton agent Kate Warne’s niece in The Detective’s Assistant.

Let’s talk book research! You’ve written quite a bit of historical fiction. What are your best tips for keeping your research organized? And how do you know when it’s time to stop researching and start writing?

I’ve recently begun writing in Scrivener and it’s been life changing. I used to have multiple word documents–novel timeline, era timeline, notes, deleted content, chapter summaries–that I’d jump between. Now it’s all in one place and it’s a beautiful thing. I usually research until I have a general sense of the who, what, where, when, how of my story. By this point, I’ve usually found my voice and I’m eager to use it. I do quite a bit of research as I’m writing, too.

Why were you drawn to writing middle grade?

I write for both adults and children. Adult books are sometimes twice as long as middle grade books. But what I love about middle grade novels is that you aren’t getting any less of a story. It’s just that middle grade novels pack a punch in fewer pages.

So true!

Any hints about your next book project?

I’ll give a huge hint! My next book is called Over and Out and it will be released in March of 2022 🙂 It’s the story of a young girl named Sophie who was born, raised, and who feels trapped on the east side of the Berlin Wall. Sophie has always dreamed of more for herself than East Berlin can give her. She wants to be an inventor. So, naturally, Sophie and her best friend try to invent a way over and out.

What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?

Well, I never had aspirations to be a novelist. As a child, I enjoyed reading and I enjoyed writing, but that was the extent of it. But then my life winded me to a time and place where the thought of writing a novel was put in my head. It’s been about ten years and I’ve never looked back.

What are you reading right now?

I’ve just begun an audiobook of The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (an adult book). The story’s still building, but so far I can say the narrator is excellent!

What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?

Keep going. Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep doing. My journey hasn’t always been easy, but if I would’ve given up (and boy did I have that thought once or twice), then By the Light of Fireflies never would’ve come to be, and I really love this book! 

I hope everyone takes that advice to heart!

Thank you for joining us, Jenni!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out BY THE LIGHT OF FIREFLIES!
It’s on shelves now!

Add BY THE LIGHT OF FIREFLIES on Goodreads!

Connect with Jenni on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or through her website!

Click here to enter to win a copy of BY THE LIGHT OF FIREFLIES!
Contest closes Wednesday, November 10th at 11:59 pm EST

Thanks for reading!

KBKL Spotlight On This Is Our Rainbow: Giveaway!

It’s Spotlight Time!

All month long we’re going to be chatting with a few of the awesome authors
behind the middle grade anthology:

THIS IS OUR RAINBOW

A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true–but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out.

From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQIA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories from authors including: Eric Bell, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Ashley Herring Blake, Lisa Bunker, Alex Gino, Justina Ireland, Shing Yin Khor, Katherine Locke, Mariama J. Lockington, Nicole Melleby, Marieke Nijkamp, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Molly Knox Ostertag, Aisa Salazar, and A.J. Sass.

And that’s it! We’re at the end of our Spotlight series for the THIS IS OUR RAINBOW anthology!


Huge thank you to all of the authors who were able to contribute a post.

It was a ton of fun getting to hear more about you and your work!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out THIS IS OUR RAINBOW!
It’s on shelves now!

And scroll down to enter the giveaway to win a copy!

Cover Art by JesnCin
Cover Design by Sylvia Bi

Add THIS IS OUR RAINBOW on Goodreads!

Click here to enter to win a copy of THIS IS OUR RAINBOW!
Contest ends Friday, October 29th at 11:59 pm EST

Thanks for reading!

Don’t forget to check out our previous posts featuring:

A.J. Sass

Lisa Jenn Bigelow

Alex Gino

Mariama J. Lockington

Lisa Bunker

Ashley Herring Blake

Marieke Nijkamp

Eric Bell

Nicole Melleby

KBKL Spotlight On This Is Our Rainbow: A.J. Sass

It’s Spotlight Time!

All month long we’re going to be chatting with a few of the awesome authors
behind the middle grade anthology:

THIS IS OUR RAINBOW

A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true–but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out.

From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQIA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories from authors including: Eric Bell, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Ashley Herring Blake, Lisa Bunker, Alex Gino, Justina Ireland, Shing Yin Khor, Katherine Locke, Mariama J. Lockington, Nicole Melleby, Marieke Nijkamp, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Molly Knox Ostertag, Aisa Salazar, and A.J. Sass.

Today we’re chatting with one of the contributing authors, A.J. Sass!

This is A.J. Everyone say, “Hi, A.J.!”

Photo Credit: Deven Cao

Welcome to Kick-butt Kidlit, A.J.! Tell us about yourself!

Hi! My name is A.J. Sass. I’m a competitive figure skater who is passionate about the intersections of neurodiversity, queer, and Jewish identity in children’s literature. I am the author of Ana on the Edge, which is a Junior Library Guild Selection that was named an ALA Rainbow Book List 2021 Top Ten Choice for Young Readers as well as a 2020 Booklist Editors’ Choice. I grew up in the Upper Midwest, came of age in the South, and now call the San Francisco Bay Area home with my partner and our two cats. My next book, Ellen Outside the Lines, releases on March 22, 2022. 

What was the inspiration behind your contribution to THIS IS OUR RAINBOW?

My debut novel, Ana on the Edge, featured a figure skating navigating her nonbinary identity, both on and off the ice. Once my main character, Ana, realizes she is nonbinary, she chooses to stay in her sport and find program, choreography, and costumes that complement her identity. But I know that isn’t always feasible for nonbinary kids. 

I wanted to explore the experience of being a nonbinary athlete from a different angle in my contribution to This Is Our Rainbow. In my story, Balancing Acts, former gymnast Kai (e/eir/em) is returning to the gym for the first time since e quit gymnastics to cheer on eir old teammates who are competing at a meet. As you can imagine, a lot of emotions rise to the surface as Kai watches eir former teammates: regret that e’s not out there with them, but also relief that no one is watching em compete and seeing a girl when e isn’t one. The biggest message I hoped to share with this story is there is a place in sports for trans and nonbinary athletes, whether it’s participating in a sport you already love or discovering a new, more inclusive sport to take part in.

What’s your favourite line from your story in THIS IS OUR RAINBOW?

The last one! It goes:

“Shoulders back, head high, Kai doesn’t hesitate when e steps forward to tumble this time.”

For so much of this short story, Kai remembers feeling insecure and unhappy when e was participating in the sport e loves. By the end, Kai has found a new way to continue eir passion for athletics, an activity that affirms eir identity and makes em feel confident. All of these feelings, desires, and hopes feel like they are reflected in that line, making it my favorite.

What are you currently reading?

I’m in between books at the moment. I just finished reading Eliot Schrefer’s The Darkness Outside Us, which is a YA sci-fi with a mystery surrounding two queer characters. And I’m looking forward to diving into Both Can Be True by Jules Machias soon. It’s a dual-perspective middle grade contemporary novel, and one of the characters is nonbinary.

What’s your best piece of kick-butt advice?

Give yourself the same grace you’d extend to others when you encounter a setback. 

My athletic- and academic-focused backgrounds both placed high emphasis on hard work, winning, and success. That’s great and it can be a wonderful motivator. But it can also produce undue stress and anxiety if things don’t go the way you’d hoped. It can also lead to negative self-talk and feeling like an imposter if you don’t live up to your own high standards.

So, if you’ve experienced a setback, or if you’re struggling or don’t feel like you are living up to your own high expectations, imagine how you’d speak to a loved one facing a similar situation. Encourage yourself. Remember how far you’ve already come. A little grace can go a long way.

It really can.

Thank you so much for joining us, A.J.!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out THIS IS OUR RAINBOW!
It’s on shelves now!

Cover Art by JesnCin
Cover Design by Sylvia Bi

Add THIS IS OUR RAINBOW on Goodreads!

Connect with A.J. on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or through his website!

Click here to enter to win a copy of THIS IS OUR RAINBOW!
Contest ends Friday, October 29th at 11:59 pm EST

Thanks for reading!
There’s one last KBKL Spotlight on This Is Our Rainbow post coming up!

Don’t forget to check out our previous posts featuring:

Lisa Jenn Bigelow

Alex Gino

Mariama J. Lockington

Lisa Bunker

Ashley Herring Blake

Marieke Nijkamp

Eric Bell

Nicole Melleby

KBKL Spotlight On This Is Our Rainbow: Lisa Jenn Bigelow

It’s Spotlight Time!

All month long we’re going to be chatting with a few of the awesome authors
behind the middle grade anthology:

THIS IS OUR RAINBOW

A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true–but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out.

From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQIA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories from authors including: Eric Bell, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Ashley Herring Blake, Lisa Bunker, Alex Gino, Justina Ireland, Shing Yin Khor, Katherine Locke, Mariama J. Lockington, Nicole Melleby, Marieke Nijkamp, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Molly Knox Ostertag, Aisa Salazar, and AJ Sass.

Today we’re chatting with one of the contributing authors, Lisa Jenn Bigelow!

This is Lisa. Everyone say, “Hi, Lisa!”

Welcome to Kick-butt Kidlit, Lisa! Tell us about yourself!

I grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and now live outside Chicago with my child and my dog. I got hooked on writing in second grade and have three published books, including two for middle grade readers: Drum Roll, Please, and Hazel’s Theory of Evolution. I’m also a children’s librarian, which is a great job if you love books, helping people, and hanging out with kids. I don’t have a ton of free time, but sometimes I’ll go on a guitar, piano, or crochet kick.

What was the inspiration behind your contribution to THIS IS OUR RAINBOW?

Katherine and Nicole asked us to imagine a story our middle grade self would have wanted to read. My mind went to Ruth Chew’s Matter-of-Fact Magic books—fantasy stories that take place in everyday settings. I also wanted to try writing an aromantic queer story about getting the girl in which friendship is the goal, not a consolation prize. The result is “Girl’s Best Friend,” about a tween witch experiencing such a strong platonic attraction to a non-magical girl that she’ll go to extremes to gain her attention and trust. Obviously, she’ll use magic to do it.

What’s your favourite line from your story in THIS IS OUR RAINBOW?

“She craned her neck toward the kitchen. She hoped nothing incriminating lay in plain sight—no jars of pickled frogs’ feet, or neon pink potions simmering on the stove. But there was only the aftermath of the tuna casserole.”

This paragraph is low fantasy in a nutshell for me: the juxtaposition of the strange and magical with the completely ordinary. And nothing is more ordinary than a tuna casserole.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading The Year I Flew Away, by Marie Arnold. The main character, Gabrielle, has just moved from Haiti to Brooklyn, and the other kids at school bully her. Gabrielle makes a deal with a witch to help her fit in, but of course, these deals always have catches. I’m enjoying the magic, humor, and voice, literally brought to life by the author, who does a wonderful job performing the audiobook.

What’s your best piece of kick-butt advice?

The biggest mistake I’ve ever made was thinking I was alone. That’s one of the lies fear tells, and it feeds on itself. We get really good at hiding our struggles, isolating ourselves further. The truth is, there are always other people who are going through the same thing we are, but you can only find them by being brave and vulnerable enough to speak your truth. This is true in the wild world of writing or the rest of life. You can’t wait for someone else to throw you a lifeline. Reach out. Speak up.

Beautifully said.

Thank you so much for joining us, Lisa!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out THIS IS OUR RAINBOW!
It’s on shelves now!

Cover Art by JesnCin
Cover Design by Sylvia Bi

Add THIS IS OUR RAINBOW on Goodreads!

Connect with Lisa on Twitter, Instagram, or through her website!

Click here to enter to win a copy of THIS IS OUR RAINBOW!
Contest ends Friday, October 29th at 11:59 pm EST

(There will be more opportunities to enter the giveaway with each spotlight post
so keep entering the draw!)

Thanks for reading!
The next KBKL Spotlight on This Is Our Rainbow post features: AJ Sass!

Don’t forget to check out our previous posts featuring:

Alex Gino

Mariama J. Lockington

Lisa Bunker

Ashley Herring Blake

Marieke Nijkamp

Eric Bell

Nicole Melleby

KBKL Spotlight On This Is Our Rainbow: Alex Gino

It’s Spotlight Time!

All month long we’re going to be chatting with a few of the awesome authors
behind the middle grade anthology:

THIS IS OUR RAINBOW

A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true–but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out.

From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQIA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories from authors including: Eric Bell, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Ashley Herring Blake, Lisa Bunker, Alex Gino, Justina Ireland, Shing Yin Khor, Katherine Locke, Mariama J. Lockington, Nicole Melleby, Marieke Nijkamp, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Molly Knox Ostertag, Aisa Salazar, and AJ Sass.

Today we’re chatting with one of the contributing authors, Alex Gino!

This is Alex. Everyone say, “Hi, Alex!”

Photo Credit: Blake C. Aarens

Welcome to Kick-butt Kidlit, Alex! Tell us about yourself!

Hi! I’m Alex Gino, middle grade author of MELISSA (a.k.a. GEORGE); YOU DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING, JILLY P!; and RICK. I love glitter, ice cream, gardening, awe-ful puns, and stories that reflect the complexity of being alive. I grew up on Staten Island, NY, and after thirteen years in Oakland, CA, recently moved back to New York State to live in the Hudson Valley. I’m excited to have a place to write surrounded by peaceful green space – there’s even a pond outside my window!

What was the inspiration behind your contribution to THIS IS OUR RAINBOW?

My story is about kitten adoption after the loss of an older cat. I have two wonderful black cats, named Thunder and Lightning, who I got after my dear kitty Scout passed away, It was a big decision to get new furballs, and an emotional process. There are a lot of stories about pet death out there, but I wanted to look at another part of the circle: deciding to let another animal fill that hole, both in your heart and in your lap.

What’s your favourite line from your story in THIS IS OUR RAINBOW?

Oooh, tough question, but I think I have to go with this exchange:

“The truest and most important things are sometimes also very silly.”

“Like kittens.”

“Exactly like kittens.”

What are you currently reading?

I just had the pleasure of reading Ann Clare LeZotte’s SET ME FREE, the superb follow up to the Schneider Award-winning SHOW ME A SIGN. SET ME FREE continues Mary’s story of a wonderful young Deaf person in the early 1800s coming into her power. She comes from a signing community, and is thrust into helping a Deaf girl who is surrounded by people who don’t sign and who is struggling to communicate. LeZotte’s writing is so genuine and thoughtful, and meaningfully incorporates the stories of Black and Indigenous people in her tale about a young white girl. It’s not out until next spring, but you can read SHOW ME A SIGN now to be ready – it’s an engaging adventure worth at least half a dozen gasps.

What’s your best piece of kick-butt advice?

Take breaks! Whether it’s schoolwork or activism or dealing with family or coming out or whatever it is that’s on your plate – you can’t be at full-steam all the time. Your body, mind, heart, and soul need time to recover from whatever hard work you’re undertaking in this world. Find places you can let down your guard – whether it’s a close friend, a family member, a group, a hotline, a journal, or some other outlet, make sure you have a place to come back to where you can feel at ease and not take on anything more than being kind to yourself for a little bit.

Yes, yes, yes! Always.

Thank you so much for joining us, Alex!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out THIS IS OUR RAINBOW!
It hits shelves on October 19th!

Cover Art by JesnCin
Cover Design by Sylvia Bi

Add THIS IS OUR RAINBOW on Goodreads!

Connect with Alex on Twitter, Facebook, or through their website!

Click here to enter to win a copy of THIS IS OUR RAINBOW!
Contest ends Friday, October 29th at 11:59 pm EST

(There will be more opportunities to enter the giveaway with each spotlight post
so keep entering the draw!)

Thanks for reading!
The next KBKL Spotlight on This Is Our Rainbow post features: Lisa Jenn Bigelow!

Don’t forget to check out our previous posts featuring:

Mariama J. Lockington

Lisa Bunker

Ashley Herring Blake

Marieke Nijkamp

Eric Bell

Nicole Melleby

KBKL Spotlight On This Is Our Rainbow: Mariama J. Lockington

It’s Spotlight Time!

All month long we’re going to be chatting with a few of the awesome authors
behind the middle grade anthology:

THIS IS OUR RAINBOW

A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true–but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out.

From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQIA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories from authors including: Eric Bell, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Ashley Herring Blake, Lisa Bunker, Alex Gino, Justina Ireland, Shing Yin Khor, Katherine Locke, Mariama J. Lockington, Nicole Melleby, Marieke Nijkamp, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Molly Knox Ostertag, Aisa Salazar, and AJ Sass.

Today we’re chatting with one of the contributing authors, Mariama J. Lockington!

This is Mariama. Everyone say, “Hi, Mariama!”

Welcome to Kick-butt Kidlit, Mariama! Tell us about yourself!

Hi! I’m Mariama. I’ve been creating my own stories and books since I was in 2nd grade, and I grew up in a very musical family. I write books about the messiness/joys of growing up and what it means to find a place to belong. My debut novel For Black Girls Like Me (FSG BYR July 2019) is a story inspired by own experiences growing up as a Black girl adopted into a white family, and my second book In The Key Us (FSG BYR April 26, 2022) is about two queer, Black girls who meet at a music camp and fall in love with nature, themselves, and each other. I’ve lived in 7 different states, but currently live in Kentucky with my wife and my dog Henry, in a house full of plants. In my free time I like to box, cook, teach storytelling workshops, and work in my garden.  

What was the inspiration behind your contribution to THIS IS OUR RAINBOW?

My story “Devoyn’s Pod” is about an 8th grade girl named Dev who LOVES all things to do with the ocean and her best friends, Ella and Marcel. It was inspired by my time living in Fort Greene Brooklyn and the trips I would make with my queer friends and family to Riis Beach in Queens. I love the beach, but being on a beach full of other queer people like me felt like a homecoming of sorts. I wanted my character to feel this kind of belonging, as she struggles with an unrequited crush, growing pains, and the dynamics of her best friend group changing one summer. I also wanted to write a story in which a Grandparent is affirming and safe for a young person to be in community with, to remind young people that we— LGBTQIA+ folks— are everywhere and have always been so. This is OUR rainbow, after all. 

What’s your favourite line from your story in THIS IS OUR RAINBOW?

Oh, wow! This is so hard because I loved writing this story, but I would have to go with this one:

In fact, most days when I wake up the first thing I think about is her smile and how when I get close to her my skin feels like it’s glowing, like I’m bioluminescent.

What are you currently reading?

Too many things at once!

Black Boy Joy edited by Kwame Mbalia 

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant 

Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson 

What’s your best piece of kick-butt advice?

  1. Never leave the house without a snack (especially all my fellow hangry peoples).
  2. If you’re a writer, remember that progress outweighs perfection. Get the words on the page by any means necessary, then edit and make it better later.

Need to have both of those on posters for the office!

Thank you so much for joining us, Mariama!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out THIS IS OUR RAINBOW!
It hits shelves on October 19th!

Cover Art by JesnCin
Cover Design by Sylvia Bi

Add THIS IS OUR RAINBOW on Goodreads!

Connect with Mariama on Twitter, Instagram, or through her website!

Click here to enter to win a copy of THIS IS OUR RAINBOW!
Contest ends Friday, October 29th at 11:59 pm EST

(There will be more opportunities to enter the giveaway with each spotlight post
so keep entering the draw!)

Thanks for reading!
The next KBKL Spotlight on This Is Our Rainbow post features: Alex Gino!

Don’t forget to check out our previous posts featuring:

Lisa Bunker

Ashley Herring Blake

Marieke Nijkamp

Eric Bell

Nicole Melleby

KBKL Spotlight On This Is Our Rainbow: Lisa Bunker

It’s Spotlight Time!

All month long we’re going to be chatting with a few of the awesome authors
behind the middle grade anthology:

THIS IS OUR RAINBOW

A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true–but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out.

From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQIA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories from authors including: Eric Bell, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Ashley Herring Blake, Lisa Bunker, Alex Gino, Justina Ireland, Shing Yin Khor, Katherine Locke, Mariama J. Lockington, Nicole Melleby, Marieke Nijkamp, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Molly Knox Ostertag, Aisa Salazar, and AJ Sass.

Today we have a guest post from one of the contributing authors, Lisa Bunker!

This is Lisa. Everyone say, “Hi, Lisa!”

The Author Visits Her Twelve-Year-Old Self in a Dream

by Lisa Bunker

—Hello, young one. It is strange to see you. Strange, but good.

—Who are you?

—I’m not sure I should say.

—And what are you doing in my dream?

—I’m not sure. Maybe I’m dreaming too.

—Well, you interrupted me. I was figuring out how to skim above the ground by keeping my feet lifted during a step.

—I remember that dream!

—What do you mean? Have you had the same dream?

—The exact same dream. It’s time for me to tell you who I am.

—Who?

—I’m you.

—How can that be? You’re an old lady.

—I’m you from the future.

—And I’m a boy.

Are you sure about that?

—Of course I’m sure.

Then why have you worn your hair so long since you were seven?

—I don’t know. I’m being a hippie, I guess.

The question makes you uncomfortable, I know. I also know that you get teased by the other kids at school. They say all mean, “You look like a girl!” It’s a lot of trouble for a random idea about being a hippie. Are you sure it’s not something else?

—I don’t know. I just feel like it, I guess.

I remember now. Mommy made it clear so firmly and so early that there was no room, no way for me to be me, so I taught myself to stop thinking the thoughts. But I still knew. People would say, “You look like a girl,” and deep inside my silent answer was, “Duh, I am a girl.”

— It’s only a dream, it’s only a dream.

Sweetheart, I’m sorry I disturbed you. You are still so young. And you love your mother and you need her love, and she said no. Honey, don’t cry. It’s OK.

—Really? I’m a girl? Really?

Yes, really. But listen, dear one, you don’t have to do anything about it right now if it scares you too much. Because it would be hard. The world isn’t ready for you, sadly. So, you have a choice.

—What choice?

The choice to remember this dream, or to forget it. It’s a hard choice, but either way it’s going to be OK. You are strong. You will survive.

—I will?

Listen: I remember, because I’m you, that when you were younger, you dreamed you could fly.

—Yes.

And then it changed to skimming, and then after a while the flying dreams stopped. But just the other day, I dreamed I was standing on a hillside, and I thought, this is stupid, of course I can fly, and I took off like a rocket. I shot hundreds of feet into the air. I had no fear, and I could fly as high and far and fast as I wanted.

—Really? That sounds cool. —Sweetheart, I have to go. You can remember, or forget for a while longer, whichever you need. You have no easy choices, but you are strong and you will survive. Happy skimming, as long as it lasts. I love you.

That was so lovely. Thank you so much for joining us, Lisa!

(Lisa Bunker works full time as a writer. Her first novel, Felix Yz, about a boy fused with an alien, was published by Viking in June 2017. Her second novel, Zenobia July, about a trans girl getting to live as a girl for the first time in a new family and school, came out, also from Viking, in Spring 2019. She lives in Exeter, New Hampshire with her wife, Dawn Huebner, a child psychologist and author in her own right. Between them they have three grown children. Since 2018 Lisa has served her town in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. She is also an online entrepreneur: in July 2021 she founded Crucinova​, an indie subscription service dedicated to championing innovation in crossword puzzle construction.)

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out THIS IS OUR RAINBOW!
It hits shelves on October 19th!

Cover Art by JesnCin
Cover Design by Sylvia Bi

Add THIS IS OUR RAINBOW on Goodreads!

Connect with Lisa on Twitter or through her website!

Click here to enter to win a copy of THIS IS OUR RAINBOW!
Contest ends Friday, October 29th at 11:59 pm EST

(There will be more opportunities to enter the giveaway with each spotlight post
so keep entering the draw!)

Thanks for reading!
The next KBKL Spotlight on This Is Our Rainbow post features: Mariama J. Lockington!

Don’t forget to check out our previous posts featuring:

Ashley Herring Blake

Marieke Nijkamp

Eric Bell

Nicole Melleby

KBKL Spotlight On This Is Our Rainbow: Ashley Herring Blake

It’s Spotlight Time!

All month long we’re going to be chatting with a few of the awesome authors
behind the middle grade anthology:

THIS IS OUR RAINBOW

A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true–but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out.

From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQIA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories from authors including: Eric Bell, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Ashley Herring Blake, Lisa Bunker, Alex Gino, Justina Ireland, Shing Yin Khor, Katherine Locke, Mariama J. Lockington, Nicole Melleby, Marieke Nijkamp, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Molly Knox Ostertag, Aisa Salazar, and AJ Sass.

Today we’re chatting with one of the contributing authors, Ashley Herring Blake!

This is Ashley. Everyone say, “Hi, Ashley!”

Welcome to Kick-butt Kidlit, Ashley! Tell us about yourself!

I am an author, literary agent, and teacher living in coastal Georgia with my family. I’m a cat mom, tiny human mom, and love organizing my books by color. I also teach middle school writing.

What was your inspiration behind your contribution to THIS IS OUR RAINBOW?

One thing I love about writing middle grade is that it’s a time in life where everything not only feels new, it is new. With Sylvie and Jenna’s story, I wanted to explore those first crush feelings, but pair them with a sort of second-chance feel. There are so many tiny moments that happen to us when we’re growing up, moments that, in retrospect, might seem small, but when they are happening, and the ways in which they help form us, feel huge. For Sylvie, she had such a moment with Jenna in elementary school, but when Jenna returned in middle school, all of her feelings had changed. She had changed. And she had to decide if she was going to embrace that change or hang on to a past hurt. It’s a story about growing up, in all its mess and heartbreak and hope.

What’s your favorite line from your story in THIS IS OUR RAINBOW?

My favorite line (lines?) is actually the very last paragraph of the story: I don’t know what to say. Sometimes, there isn’t anything to say and no reason to try. I uncurl my fingers, and this time I don’t fight it. I reach out and take her hand. She lets me, lacing her fingers between mine and squeezing. Then we sit like that for the rest of ride, two queer girls—messy and mean, sad and sorry and hopeful—holding hands on top of the world.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading LIKE OTHER GIRLS by Britta Lundin right now. It’s about a queer girl in a very small, conservative town in Oregon, who decides to play football. It brilliant tackles internal misogyny, and the complicated dynamics of figuring out who you are in a small town–when who you are isn’t at all like everyone else. Highly recommend!

What is your best piece of kick-butt advice?

Well, I doubt it’s very kick-butt, and might even border on cliche, but “Eyes on your own paper” comes up in my own life almost daily, particularly as a creative. It’s so tempting to compare oneself to others–physcially, professionally, in terms of success or romance or general happiness. But at the end of the day, we can only live our own life, and in order to make it all that we want it to be, we have to let go of that comparison game.

Thank you so much for joining us, Ashley!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out THIS IS OUR RAINBOW!
It hits shelves on October 19th!

Cover Art by JesnCin
Cover Design by Sylvia Bi

Add THIS IS OUR RAINBOW on Goodreads!

Connect with Ashley on Twitter, Instagram, or through her website!

Click here to enter to win a copy of THIS IS OUR RAINBOW!
Contest ends Friday, October 29th at 11:59 pm EST

(There will be more opportunities to enter the giveaway with each spotlight post
so keep entering the draw!)

Thanks for reading!
The next KBKL Spotlight on This Is Our Rainbow post features: Lisa Bunker!

Don’t forget to check out our previous posts featuring:

Marieke Nijkamp

Eric Bell

Nicole Melleby

KBKL Spotlight On This Is Our Rainbow: Marieke Nijkamp

It’s Spotlight Time!

All month long we’re going to be chatting with a few of the awesome authors
behind the middle grade anthology:

THIS IS OUR RAINBOW

A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true–but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out.

From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQIA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories from authors including: Eric Bell, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Ashley Herring Blake, Lisa Bunker, Alex Gino, Justina Ireland, Shing Yin Khor, Katherine Locke, Mariama J. Lockington, Nicole Melleby, Marieke Nijkamp, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Molly Knox Ostertag, Aisa Salazar, and AJ Sass.

Today we’re chatting with one of the contributing authors, Marieke Nijkamp!

This is Marieke. Everyone say, “Hi, Marieke!”

Welcome to Kick-butt Kidlit, Marieke! Tell us about yourself!

I’m Marieke Nijkamp (she/they/any). I’m a writer of novels, graphic novels, and comics, including the upcoming At The End of Everything, Critical Role—Vox Machina: Kith & Kin, and the Hawkeye: Kate Bishop miniseries. I’m a geek, I’m a lapsed historian, and these days, I’m also an amateur gardener.

What was the inspiration behind your contribution to THIS IS OUR RAINBOW?

I wanted to write a story in the tradition of Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books—and books like Tonke Dragt’s The Letter for the King, which I devoured growing up—but with actual gender feels. A story about kids who dreams of becoming knights, but who don’t feel like they fit in with the world around them. My main character is Splinter, the “unfortunate youngest” of an old noble family, whose uncle and guardian has very different ideas of what is right and proper. Splinter is determined to find her own path, so on the night of the kingdom’s youngest princess’s birthday party, Splinter sneaks out to the festivities wearing her brother’s old squire gear, and chaos ensues.

What’s your favourite line from your story in THIS IS OUR RAINBOW?

“In all fairness to the guards, I wasn’t just the person who punched the prince. I was the person who gave the prince a black eye and didn’t regret it.”

What are you currently reading?

I just finished Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright’s Twins, which was absolutely lovely, and I loved Emma Steinkellner’s sequel to The Okay Witch.

I’m currently reading Margaret Owen’s Little Thieves and Victoria Schwab’s Gallant, both of which are completely magical in their own (very different!) ways.

What’s your best piece of kick-butt advice?

Probably in line with what Splinter would say as well: Follow your own path. Not everything worth doing is easy, but it is worth doing.

Splinter (and you) are very wise!

Thank you so much for joining us, Marieke!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out THIS IS OUR RAINBOW!
It hits shelves on October 19th!

Cover Art by JesnCin
Cover Design by Sylvia Bi

Add THIS IS OUR RAINBOW on Goodreads!

Connect with Marieke on Twitter or through her website!

Click here to enter to win a copy of THIS IS OUR RAINBOW!
Contest ends Friday, October 29th at 11:59 pm EST

(There will be more opportunities to enter the giveaway with each spotlight post
so keep entering the draw!)

Thanks for reading!
The next KBKL Spotlight on This Is Our Rainbow post features: Ashley Herring Blake!

Don’t forget to check out our previous posts featuring:

Eric Bell

Nicole Melleby