This is Not a Post About Sunshine

As you might have heard, there’s been some turmoil surrounding the Wicked Pretty Things anthology.

The short version is that fellow YA author Jessica Verday was asked to change the central romance of her story (which features a relationship between two boys) to a heterosexual pairing, and she said no. Her story is no longer going to be appearing in the anthology.

A few weeks ago, I talked about how happy I was to be included in this collection with Francesca Lia Block. If I had to pick the one author who’s had the greatest influence on me, both as a writer and as a person, it wouldn’t even be a contest. I read her books at a time when I was still figuring out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. She changed the way I thought about love and storytelling and what it means to be a human being.

Those of you familiar with Block’s work know that she’s never shied away from topics like depression or drug-use or sexuality, and in the mid-90’s, she was one of the few YA authors writing books that consistently featured LGBTQ characters. The one essential idea I took away from her work is that the most powerful stories are about love, and love comes in a lot of different forms.

And that’s why I’m choosing to withdraw my story “The Drowning Place” from the Wicked Pretty Things anthology. I would have been honored for my story to appear alongside Jessica’s. We need stories like the one she’s written. There are still people who will tell you that love only counts when it looks a certain way, and that’s not true. Love is love. It’s what matters.

47 thoughts on “This is Not a Post About Sunshine

  1. Wow, I really admire you for pulling your story. It makes me sad to always hear that people cannot accept another’s love. Just because love is not between a boy and a girl, it doesn’t make that love any less real. I always love reading YA stories because it goes back to the struggle of finding out who you really are, and for some teens- a homosexual relationship is a reality. For the anthology to pull a story because of a narrowed view on what love should be breaks my heart.

    • I typically spend way too much time feeling like this cynical, world-wise grownup-type person, but this whole thing made me realize how naive I am, because I was truly, truly shocked.
      The YA community at large has been amazing though, and it gives me so much hope!

  2. My esteem for you, if it was possible, just got even higher. That was a really honorable move, and I completely agree with your decision and your philosophy on love. I just wish more people in “The Industry” agreed with you.
    Also, that e-book idea would be totally kickass. Just sayin! :D

    • Duly noted on the e-book :D
      While it’s not there yet, I do think that “The Industry” in general is seeing some important changes. In the last few years I’ve seen so many great books published that include GLBTQ relationships and it’s just—well, it’s just really encouraging.

  3. Brenna,
    I’m glad you posted about this. I’m not familiar with Jessica Verday’s work, but I am definitely disappointed to hear that she was asked to change her story to comply with heteronormative standards. I am grateful that neither of you chose to be part of something trying to silence already marginalized narratives. I certainly hope both her story and yours will still be released in a different outlet.
    Best,
    Taure

    • Hi Taure,
      I just think it’s a shame that there are still these rigid ideas of what constitutes romance, especially when we’re talking about writing for a YA audience, where there are going to be readers who are in the very process of figuring out who they are and where they fit. I hate the idea of anyone being told—through exclusion or otherwise—that they don’t matter, and I think Jessica’s been remarkable throughout the whole situation.

  4. “Love is love. It’s what matters.” Hear hear! And well done for standing up for your principles. I hope I’ll get you read your story, and Jessica’s, in another forum one day …

    • Thanks for saying this. The idea of someone deciding whose love matters and whose doesn’t just makes me so sad and angry, but I’m really heartened by the way the YA community has been incredibly outspoken and supportive!

    • Man, am I sorry about missing the chance to share an anthology with FLB, too! But as I’ve said farther upthread, the decision to pull out doesn’t really feel like a decision at all. Not even close.

  5. I’ve been keeping track of the developments regarding Wicked Pretty Things all week. While I was saddened and angered by the editor’s decision, I have been buoyed by Verday’s decision, and now yours, to support the LGBTQ community by removing your stories from the anthology. As a reader, I support you wholeheartedly and respect you even more.

    • At first, I had a really hard time comprehending that this was something that even happened in YA. In general, it seems to be a very progressive genre, and I think it’s wonderful that so many authors are making it known that they won’t support exclusion!

  6. Brenna, I’m agreeing with everyone else’s comment. I respect your decision and I’d like to see you published in another format. I hope you’re well, my friend, Simon :)

  7. I respect you incredibly for this decision and stand behind you 100%. I will be voting with my dollars and choosing not to purchase Wicked Pretty Things due to the choices they have made, when I would have certainly purchased it before.

    • A big deal, but a straightforward decision. Well, you know how I feel about the importance of people’s stories—all people’s. (And yes, on a broader level, basic human rights.)

  8. Wow – I hadn’t heard about the situation with Jessica Verday. Bravo to her for standing her ground and bravo to YOU for supporting her. I hope we’ll get to read your story via other means, but boo hiss to the organizers. If this is an anthology aimed at adolescent and teenage girls I don’t see why they’re shying away from a romance between two boys. They clearly don’t know their audience – don’t they know how popular yaoi is?! ^__~

    • Your icon just took what is absolutely a serious subject, and put a hilarious spin on it :D Yes, I think there’s often a disconnect when it comes to people understanding what teenage girls are actually like, versus what people think they should be like. Maybe those people need to spend more time on the internet . . .?

  9. I love FLB! She changed my life! I met her in 2009 and she’s so sweet, generous and loving! I’m so sorry about this and I would’ve loved to have read your story. I can’t believe this is happening. It’s very sad.

    • I’m so jealous that you got to meet her! She was such a vital influence in my teens and early 20s and sharing an anthology with her was the realization of a writing dream that would have seemed impossible a few years ago, but it’s partly because of her that I could never fathom making any other choice.
      Hopefully, I’ll find a new home for the story though, ’cause I kind of like it :)

    • Thanks for saying so! The writing community has been just incredible throughout this whole strange thing, and it makes me really hopeful that despite the occasional setback, we are moving toward more diversity in fiction, and YA in particular.

  10. Thank you.
    I was, reluctantly, still planning on purchasing this anthology on the basis of you and Ms McGuire being in it, up until the publishers began making statements.
    I’m really relieved not to have to choose between supporting you two, and protesting this editor (and, apparently, this publisher).

    • Thanks for your support—it’s really upsetting to me to think that stories are (often?) ignored or excluded simply for not being the “right” kind of stories, and it makes me really happy that people care and are paying attention.

  11. Brenna, good for you. I am stymied at why anyone is choosing to participate in this antho at this time. Although I know it’s got to be a hard decision to withdraw, as one of the other folks who did withdraw said “What would I do if my kids were put in this position?” That is how we should all proceed in the world, whether we have kids or not. I am so proud of you for doing so.

    • Good for you!
      Thank you for standing up for the LGBTQ community and doing the right thing! I would have guessed that the author of The Replacement would take a stand, based on that book!
      As far as I understand it, it was the editor’s decision alone to ask Verday to change her story. Apparently the publisher would have been happy to have an m/m romance and have published a lot of queer content in the past. (True?)

      • Re: Good for you!
        I can’t really speak on the views of the publisher, because as far as I can tell, they’ve said and done a few things that seem inconsistent with each other, but I suspect this is due to the fact that we’re dealing with people, and people’s opinions tend to exist on a vast continuum when it comes to . . . everything.
        All I can say for sure is that I know exactly where I stand when it comes to excluding stories because they don’t happen to be heteronormative.

    • Thanks, Teri. This was one of those times where I really did just have to say to myself, “Look, you know what you think about this, and that’s all. It’s not a decision. It’s not a choice if there’s only one road to take.”

  12. Re: e-book?
    This isn’t something I’ve had much time to think about. If/when I find a new home for my story, I’ll let readers know how to get a hold of it, whatever form it takes. I can’t speak for Jessica, but I can only hope we’ll get the chance to see ‘Flesh Which Is Not Flesh’ in its complete and original version.

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