The problem that needs to be fixed is not kick all the girls out of YA, it’s teach boys that stories featuring female protagonists or written by female authors also apply to them. Boys fall in love. Boys want to be important. Boys have hopes and fears and dreams and ambitions. What boys also have is a sexist society in which they are belittled for “liking girl stuff.” Male is neutral, female is specific.

I heard someone mention that Sarah Rees Brennan’s THE DEMON’S LEXICON would be great for boys, but they’d never read it with that cover. Friends, then the problem is NOT with the book. It’s with the society that’s raising that boy. It’s with the community who inculcated that boy with the idea that he can’t read a book with an attractive guy on the cover.

Here’s how we solve the OMG SO MANY GIRLS IN YA problem: quit treating women like secondary appendages. Quit treating women’s art like it’s a niche, novelty creation only for girls. Quit teaching boys to fear the feminine, quit insisting that it’s a hardship for men to have to relate to anything that doesn’t specifically cater to them.

Because if I can watch Raiders of the Lost Ark and want to grow up to be an archaeologist, there’s no reason at all that a boy shouldn’t be able to read THE DEMON’S LEXICON with its cover on. My friends, sexism doesn’t just hurt women, and our young men’s abysmal rate of attraction to literacy is the proof of it.

If you want to fix the male literary crisis, here’s your solution:

Become a feminist.

The Problem is Not the Books, Saundra Mitchell (via silverstags)


(via lez-brarian)

Aw fuck yeah!

(via yeahwriters)

(Source: becketted, via yeahwriters)

What We Talk About When We Talk About Diversity in YA

(Source: diversityinya)



Thanks for the infographic, Canada.

We are obsessed with infographics too.

(Source: the-library-and-step-on-it)

Angelica Baker, author of our new issue, “The Feather Trick,” in conversation with editor Patrick Ryan

Let’s start with an obvious question: Do you have a little brother and, if so, is Benny based on him? Or is Benny based on anyone you’ve known or heard about?

I do indeed have a little brother. There are a few little details in the story that I think he recognized when he read it, but I wouldn’t say that Benny or the narrator are drawn from life, really. We’re extremely close and have been since we were children. But I was more interested in the universal idea of the unique bonds that form between siblings, as separate people who were raised in the same environment.

I wrote this story when a professor gave me a famous Gordon Lish workshop prompt: to write about a time I’d failed someone. The events of the story are fiction, but I found myself lingering on the idea of what it means to be an older sibling, to feel so fiercely protective of your younger siblings. And yet as a teenager you’re trying to navigate the adult world, and it’s hard enough to protect yourself. Let alone someone else. So you naturally end up feeling like a failure, as the eldest. (Of course, this could just be me…) But I wanted to write about that—to feel that it’s your job to care for someone but also feel that you’re inherently designed to disappoint him or her, in many ways. And I also just felt that I hadn’t read very much fiction that really digs into sibling relationships.

What came first: the feather trick, or the story?

I suppose the story came first, but the feather trick made its way in there soon after. The feather trick is actually something my own brother—there he is again—did to me quite recently, as an adult. And as a joke, with no emotional weight to it at all, of course. We were just sitting at a table together, having eaten a huge Christmas dinner.

But when I started writing about the traumatic event in Benny’s life, and his sister’s response to it (or lack thereof), the feather trick worked its way in there. It came as a surprise, but once it was there it felt so central—to the way they’ve learned to cope with the madness around them, and to the way they rely on each other.

You have two instances of Benny’s writing in the story: the letter to his teacher that gets him into so much trouble, and the letter he writes to his sister. His voice is very distinct from the narrator’s. Was it a challenge to switch voices from one sibling to the other?

Benny’s voice might have been easier for me to write than the narrator’s voice, oddly enough. He’s so precocious and so wise beyond his years, which was fun to write. She’s more guarded, which was hard for me to get down on the page. 

And she feels a certain amount of self-imposed responsibility for her little brother’s well-being. Would you say the majority of that stems from the conditions of their home life or something inherent in the narrator?

I think this is something inherent to lots of big sisters. But it’s also true that she feels it very keenly as a result of their home life. Then again, I’ve felt it keenly in my own life, and my parents are quite lovely! I do think there’s something about being the first sibling in a family—you’re being sent forth into the world before the others, and it’s your job to report back and help them learn how to dodge anything harmful.

Okay, so without giving too much away, how would you describe the ending of “The Feather Trick”? Uplifting? Sad? Bittersweet?

I think it’s sad! Not that there’s an absence of hope, but certainly sad. I think those are painful moments—when you realize that there was a time when someone needed you, and that you couldn’t do it. Often that window closes. You can try to do better in the future, but by then you’ll be playing catch up. You’ve lost the chance to get it right on your first try. And I think it’s painful when it happens with family, with friends, with significant others. She hasn’t betrayed him, or willfully harmed him, but she was afraid and she withdrew, and now it’s too late to reach him in the same way. 

What are you working on now?

I’m writing a novel, if a lot of anxiety and hand-wringing with a dash of actual writing can be categorized as “writing a novel.” I’m finishing up my MFA, so I’ll be turning it in as my thesis. If, you know, I stop hand-wringing so much.

What’s the best bit of advice about writing you’ve ever received?

That’s hard to pick…but I guess, right now, there are two things in particular I’m relying on. One comes from Jennifer Egan, who was once quoted as saying that you have to write every day because flashes of inspiration only show up when they feel like it, and you need to be sitting there at your desk when it happens. And the other came from a professor, Darryl Pinckney. He once told me that I shouldn’t feel, when I’m writing, that I have to “hammer things into place.” He told me that if it felt that way, unnatural and ill-fitting, then I’m approaching it wrong. And it helped. A lot.

Patrick Ryan introduces our new story, The Feather Trick by Angelica Baker!


Dear Writers,

I thought it might be worthwhile to offer some advice on how to write a good cover letter. And—just to clarify—I’m speaking as a submitter as much as an editor (I live on both sides of the pond, so to speak).

The truth is that most editors and readers for magazines don’t spend a lot of time reading cover letters. In fact, I think many don’t read cover letters at all. Or they read the cover letter only after they decide there’s something they like about the submission.

So keep it short and sweet. And consider these guidelines:

—Don’t try to convince an editor that your story is good. Let the story do that.

—Don’t give erroneous details about yourself, your musings, or your pets.

—Don’t write a full-on synopsis of your story. One sentence should be enough.

—Don’t try to be cute, sarcastic, or chummy. Be generically gracious.

If you’re looking for a template, feel free to use this one:

Paragraph 1: A sentence that says, “Please find attached a story called X for your consideration,” followed by a sentence that very briefly touches on the subject matter of the story but doesn’t try to convey the story’s arc or sum up the plot.

Paragraph 2: A sentence that says where else you’ve been published, or what contest you’ve won, etc.—and it’s fine if you haven’t published anywhere before; all an editor really cares about is the story.

Paragraph 3: A sentence that says something like this: “Thanks in advance for any time you spend with my submission.”

Again, most editors are only going to glance at the letter (if they read it at all), but if they do, you want to go for generic graciousness. Your cover letter is really all about conveying two basic things: one, that you’re thankful for a magazine’s consideration, and two, that you’re not loony tunes.

So if you’ve been agonizing about your cover letter, rest easy—and put that energy into your story (where it belongs)!

—Patrick Ryan

GORILLA AT LARGE! (And he might be coming for you.) Find out what our new issue is about in this awesome, high-tech video intro.

Robert Voedisch, author of our new issue, “Gorilla at Large,” in conversation with Kerry Cullen


What was the seed of this story, or the image or thought that first urged you to write it here?

The one “true” part of the story is the commercials themselves. I vividly remember seeing these commercials when I was a kid. Every Minnesotan of a certain age remembers the gorilla.

One of my favorite parts of the story is its eerie tone. Did you write the story with this creepy ambiance from the beginning, or was it a mood that developed during the process? What was the process like?

Huh. Good question. You know, I think I try to follow the same basic process for all of my stories, and that’s to focus on character, character, character. If your characters are real, and they’re feeling real stuff, I think the reader will feel it too. Maybe Stephen King could talk about crafting tone and ambiance, but for me, all I can do is put my head down and work at revealing character, sentence by sentence by excruciating sentence.

Growing up, were your neighborhood dynamics similar to those in “Gorilla at Large”? Did you have a Zach? An Alison? An interchangeable guy always hanging out under a light?

Totally. I think every neighborhood has those kind of dynamics. I was a pretty shy kid—even shyer than the protagonist, if that’s possible—the kind of kid who hung back and observed things. I think that’s why these dynamics seem so acute to me. Even now, I’ll go back home for a funeral or something, and I’ll see one of the older guys from the neighborhood, and it’ll make me hunch my shoulders a little, like I’m waiting for a wedgie. They all still call me “Robbie.” You never really escape it.

There’s a moment late in the story when the narrator’s father reveals “how the world works.” Do you think the narrator will grow up to agree with him?

The dad is kind of a cynic. He’s correct about the economics, sure, but still a cynic. I guess I like to think the protagonist avoids that fate. Or, to put it another way, he might not know how the world really works, but maybe he’s learned something about the world inside himself. Which is all you can really do, you know?

What are you working on now? Is “Gorilla at Large” part of a larger project?

I’m finishing up a collection of “adult” stories, most of which take place in the world of Minneapolis punk rock. I think “Gorilla” will find a home in the collection. It was my first attempt at writing a coming-of-age story. I’m thrilled—and still a little surprised—it ended up in a place as cool as One Teen Story. Plus, you know, gorillas are totally punk rock.

Without giving away any plot points, what is the connection for you between the gorilla and Malcolm Young?

Another good question. If there is a “symbolic” connection between the two, it certainly wasn’t there in the earliest drafts. I don’t really know why Malcolm first popped up in the story. I think it’s something left over from my childhood. I do remember this one particular summer when it seemed like all the “older” kids in my neighborhood—the ones who were seventeen, eighteen—started to get into real trouble. One guy had a pretty bad car wreck when he was high. One girl got pregnant, and then another girl got pregnant. I had looked up to these kids. I’d wanted to be like them. To see them go tumbling, one by one, into the world of adult problems really freaked me out. I guess it still does.

What’s the best piece of advice about writing you have ever received?

I once heard Charles D’Ambrosio say that you have to say “yes” to the story. At every turning point, the protagonist must always—always—choose the more dangerous path. Would you like to cut class and go shoplifting? Yes! Would you like to fall in love with someone you know is bad for you? Yes! Would you like to wear the Magical Ring of the Dark Lord of Evil Town? Hell yes! Stories are driven by mistakes. They require mistakes.

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We are approximately as excited to read your work as cat pictured above.

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Ready to submit

Jennifer Sky’s e-Book, QUEEN OF THE TOKYO BALLROOM, has arrived!

We’re so happy and excited for contributing editor Jennifer Sky, upon the release of her e-book QUEEN OF THE TOKYO BALLROOM.

Here’s a description of the book:

When Jennifer Sky was 15, she was offered the chance to spend a summer working as a model in Japan. For a girl from rural Florida who spent hours poring over fashion magazines, it seemed like a dream come true. But soon she found herself all but abandoned in an unfamiliar city, attempting to navigate a ruthless industry on her own and waving goodbye to childhood on the boozy margins of Tokyo’s expatriate scene. In Queen of the Tokyo Ballroom, Sky recounts the summer that changed the course of her life—and left her still sorting out the consequences two decades later.

Check it out here!

Congratulations, Jen!