Me in PW about hot guy!

Hello! I recently gabbed a little with Publishers Weekly for an interview previewing Not Your Average Hot Guy (they also recently reviewed it, pronouncing it “fun, light, and funny” yay!). The interview is out now online and in this week’s print issue (which I’d love to see a snap of, if anyone gets it). Preordering is caring!

ANNNND that’s not all, advance reader copies of The Date from Hell arrived. Have you signed up for the newsletter? As soon as finished copies of Not Your Average Hot Guy arrive, I’ll be giving away a set or three exclusively to newsletter subscribers. The sign-up is findable beneath this post.

The front!
The back cover copy!

Now back to writing rom-com #3, Mr. & Mrs. Witch!

Summer Daze Update

Hello, friends!

I hope the summer has been good to you, and that the stresses we’re all seeing in the news and real life every day have still left some time for R&R. I’ve mostly been working (gasp! shock! amaze!), because I have a book due in October and, like most books, it’s being a tricksy beast. But a fun one (most days). The Lexington Writer’s Room is doing fabulously (we’re at 39 fully vaxxed members, I believe!), and we just got our very first grant from the Kentucky Humanities Council.

And, hahaha, obviously my upcoming book release nerves for NOT YOUR AVERAGE HOT GUY have kicked in. We’re less than two months out! October 5!

You may have heard me say that my superhero identity is Anxiety Lass. It is TRUE. Last year (thank god) I didn’t have a new book out. My last book release was the Stranger Things book all the way back in that time of yore, 2019, and early 2019 at that. Add to, I’m moving to a new genre — though if you enjoyed my YA books, yes, this is still for you, it’s definitely cross-over-y — and yes, I’m big nervous.

It seems pretty clear that the Delta Variant (get vaccinated if you can!) is going to make the possibility of doing in-person events scarce. I’m working on some bookplates and things like that, so please preorder, keep your receipt, and more details to come. I’m hoping to do some virtual events, and actually have one coming up this month as part of Bookstore Romance Day (which has an AMAZING schedule) — it’s free, but requires registration. 

4:00 pm, August 21 – Ghouls, Golems, & Giggles with authors Gwenda Bond (Not Your Average Hot Guy), Gail Carriger (Reticence), Angela Quarles (Some Like it Plaid), and Sarah Kuhn (Hollywood Heroine) Moderated by Annie Carl of The Neverending Bookshop. Registration required here 

 I’ll be attending as much of this day as I can, because it just has an incredible line-up and I know for a fact having been on panels with Sarah and seen panels with Gail that we will have a blast. So y’all stay at home but come!

I also had my website overhauled. Please go check it out, particularly the pet page and the book recommendation of other people’s books page, which I’m particularly excited about. If you’re an author who needs a site, I can’t recommend Clockpunk Studios highly enough. You’ll see this newsletter posted there on the blog, but also Other Posts. That’s right! I’m updating my blog again. Though you’ll continue to get the most crucial stuff at the newsletter, so sign up if you haven’t!  

I also went on a teeny tiny two night getaway with some of my absolute favorite people, who I haven’t seen since before the late unpleasantness began. What a recharge this was. Here are some pretty photos of the mountain, which, before you get too jealous…let me start with the photo just after I backed the car into a ditch after a five-hour drive scant miles from our destination cabin. 

Luckily, this view is just tiny letter’s photo insert being a weirdo, or this would not have had a happy ending. The car was fine, but I couldn’t get it out on its own steam. I pulled out my Triple AAA card and tried to figure out how to communicate where in the wide world I was, but! People are good sometimes! This nice guy with a big truck who’d been mowing nearby stopped and pulled me out with a chain. At one point, we had this exchange:

“Looks like you dropped a card in the ditch there.” 

“Oh, yeah, that’s, uh, haha, my Triple AAA card.”

And this is why I say I escaped from a screwball comedy.

But! We all made it to the lovely place on the mountain. Here are some photos to prove it — I took the Nikon with me, which I’ve been neglecting of late, and got some truly nice shots. 

(the gang: me, Wendi and Alan Gratz, Megan Shepherd, Carrie Ryan, and Megan Miranda <3s for days)

I’m super proud of that hummingbird shot, which I drove everyone absolutely nuts constantly attempting. So many shots of the side of Carrie’s head on my digital roll. 

And that’s a wrap, except the Cirque American novels are on sale this month for Kindle and St. Martin’s is running a great Summer Sweepstakes giveaway for several of their fall romances, including mine! And instead of just the pretty cover, I’m leaving you with a teaser quote from Luke’s POV in Not Your Average Hot Guy — preorder links here or hit up your favorite indie bookstore. 

Until next time, 


Cirque Sale!

The two novels in the Cirque American series are on e-sale for Kindle all month!

If you haven’t read them…

Girl on a Wire is the high wire walker book of my dreams and one of my favorites of my own stuff (*feels other books getting mad at me*). It has multigenerational circus families, a billionaire who wants to reinvent the greatest show on Earth, curses, literally high stakes, and Jules and Remy falling in love despite their families’ best efforts.

Girl in the Shadows is the stage magic/escape artist book of my dreams. It has a daredevil magician named Moira who grew up in Vegas and runs off to join the Cirque, a boy named Dez with a lot of secrets and an excellent hand at knife-throwing, a missing mother, and a clan of con artists with a very bad guy at the top. Plus, kissing.

Happy reading!

Emerald City Comic-Con Schedule!

It has been a wild month since I last wrote you guys — Suspicious Minds hit the New York Times’ bestseller list (!!!), I went to France to launch the book there (tres bien and I love everyone at Lumen, my publisher there), and now…Seattle! If you’ll be at Emerald City Comic Con, come see me? Here’s where I’ll be:

Thursday, March 14

PANEL: Story Unlimited: Using Non-Traditional Methods to Tell YOUR Story
Location: WSCC 603
Description: Do you have a story to tell, but struggle writing that traditional novel, comic, or screenplay? Modern media presents you with extraordinary new options to tell your tale and win an audience. Whether it’s a podcast, video series, webcomic, chat & text story, indie game, serialized mobile fiction, mystery subscription, or something completely new, your potential fans are waiting! And why limit yourself to just one platform? Fictitious podcast host, Adron Buske, talks with a panel of creators and industry professionals about the evolving world of multimedia entertainment – and how you can break in with your own stories.

Penguin Random House booth #2215

Friday, March 15

Penguin Random House booth #2215
*with Brenna Yovanoff (author of STRANGER THINGS YA novel RUNAWAY MAX)

PANEL: Why YA? Authors discuss Young Adult Fiction
Location: WSCC 603
Description: Hear authors Gwenda Bond (Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds), Rachel Caine (The Great Library series), Matte de la Pena (Superman: Dawnbreaker), and J. Patrick Black (Night City Burning) discuss the great potential and possible pitfalls of writing Young Adult fiction. What do their YA characters need to succeed? What do they avoid? What do they like most about stories that readers call YA? And what is the definition of YA anyways? Moderated by internationally bestselling fantasy author and YA reader Terry Brooks.
Speakers: Terry Brooks, Rachel Caine, Gwenda Bond, Matt de la Pena, J. Patrick Black

Writer’s Block Autographing Area Table 1 & 2

Saturday, March 16

PANEL: Stranger Things Publishing
Location: WSCC 611
Description: The story of Stranger Things continues in the official books and comics! Join Dark Horse editor Spencer Cushing and Del Rey Books editor Elizabeth Schaefer, along with author Gwenda Bond (Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds), writer Jody Houser (Stranger Things comics), and artist Ibrahim Moustafa (Stranger Things Free Comic Book Day comic) as they explore the further adventures of our favorite characters from Hawkins, IN.
Speakers: Gwenda Bond, Elizabeth Schaefer, Spencer Cushing, Jody Houser, Ibrahim Moustafa

PANEL: Geek Geek Revolution
Location: WSCC 603
GEEK GEEK REVOLUTION is a no-holds-barred geek culture game show featuring five science fiction/fantasy authors competing for the chance to be TOP GEEK. In addition, the audience members will be asked to ‘write-in’ questions in hopes of stumping the authors and winning a prize pack of books. Hold onto your hats, nerf herders, this might get ugly.

Writer’s Block Autographing Area Table 1 & 2 (Level 6)

ECCC Live Stage – Booth #1239 (main show floor)

PANEL: (Super) Power Plays
Location: WSCC 603
Description: These fan-favorite writers discuss their work in the DC and Marvel universes. We are pleased to have Gwenda Bond (Lois Lane series), Matt de la Peña (Superman), and Margaret Stohl (Black Widow and Captain Marvel) here to discuss writing these iconic characters.
Speakers: Gwenda Bond, Matt de la Pena, Margaret Stohl, Margot Wood (moderator)

Writer’s Block Autographing Area Table 1 & 2 (Level 6)

Heres and Theres and Excitements

Hello! Just a quick update with some links and things. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has signal-boosted, bought, or already read and reviewed Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds! You rock. For a launch day that started with beating off an attacker while on dog walks and having to ID the creep once they caught him, I have to say this has been a pretty great week.

I’m still getting a fair number of questions about where to pick up signed copies — Joseph-Beth Booksellers here in Lexington can hook you up, or you can preorder copies I’ll be doing for The Signed Page next month at Emerald City Comic-Con. Bonus: The Signed Page will ship internationally. You can find the book most everywhere it seems, and I’m hoping to stalk it properly in the wild here later this week. And I’m going to Paris for the launch there in a few weeks (screech)!

Some elsewheres:

Also, Matthew Modine, aka Dr. Brenner himself, is wonderful:


More soon. In the meantime…be stranger.

Minding the Gap

I know, I know, I said blog every week, newsletter every month — but this felt like more of a letter topic than a blog topic, so I’m cheating and using it as both. I want to talk a little about mindfulness. Don’t worry. Remember I co-host a podcast about cults, so set aside any innate need to cringe at a word that is, by definition (truly), so sincere.

There’s been a piece circulating about burnout, tying it specifically to millennials, and yet every freelancer of any generation I know has nodded along to it saying it resonates with them too. In a time when we’re reminded constantly about the importance of balance and given endless hacks on how to achieve it and yet so few of us feel it on any kind of regular basis, of course we’re stressed out. So stressed out that when we’re in those rare moments when we might have achieved it (worked, been to the gym, done stuff with friends/family!), we probably start immediately worrying about when it will end and why we can’t make it last. I’ve been using the “a writer on the high wire of life” description for myself for more than a decade now, and only just realized that it’s a true and useful way of describing myself — I appreciate more the process of balancing while moving forward, that’s when I feel most content. Not when I’m trying to achieve some mysterious state known as “balance.” The process is just life, modern life especially, balancing this and that and the other and realizing how lucky I am to mostly get to choose what I’m walking the wire to get to at any given moment.

Anyway, the age-old segue, I managed to get Christopher to come with me to a coven meeting. I kid, it was a workshop on Living Mindfully being held by my friend Mandy at Sora Aerial Arts as part of a “kick the new year off right” series. He likes to say he placed first among men (he was the only guy there). I high-fived him.

I can suffer from a lack of mindfulness, sure, but often for me that manifests as *overthinking*. Too much thinking, not enough doing. Just enough thinking to get in my own way. But there’s also certainly a type of mindlessness being overcorrected, feeling the need to check the various services and read all the news without any particular goal in mind. Overthinking? Go be mindless for awhile. This is not a good solution, really. So I’m trying to do better on both scores, but it’s hard in a world (and profession, and with a mind) determined to encourage both tendencies.

We did a meditation exercise — for just two minutes — at the beginning of the session, where we all lay back in a circle staring at the beams and rigging of the silks studio and then closing our eyes and focusing on the words Green Grass and then on the space between the words, as Mandy talked us through it. Later, when we talked about having trouble sleeping, I revealed that I’d spent the night before bed googling and reading endlessly only phone about how to increase deep sleep, prodded by my fitbit’s revelation I haven’t been getting much (and I quote, “I knew it was wrong, but it felt so right”). Sometime during the workshop, I realized that obviously we were just talking about being present. The word mindfulness is intimidating or perhaps goofy or perhaps serious, depending upon the day of the week or how much sleep you got last night, but being present is really all it means. Stopping to remember you are in this moment and you are doing this thing and appreciating that and letting it be, not letting the anxiety of what came before or what might come later overtake it. And this is a space I need to be in with my writing. I’ve been hovering a little outside my page when I’m working lately and it’s become harder as a result to make progress. DUH. This week I’ll work on being present at the page — walking on that high wire — and letting the rest of it go until after. Green Grass. Be in it, between the words, in a hidden pocket where presence and progress happens.

Whenever I’m thinking deeply about something, I have a tendency to seek out poems–which only makes sense, I suppose. There’s a particular kind of being present that a good poem demands. I ended up finding these two lovely, sharp poems from searching the word “mind” at Poets.org that add up to a nice pairing so I’m sharing them with you.

Should you want to easily find them later, here are links to both: How the mind works still to be sure and I See You in the Field of My Mind Baby Moo Cow.


And now we’ve all been present experiencing the same poems together. Magic.

Other notable things this week:

– I checked out the Maurice Sendak exhibit at the Central Library; if you’re local, make sure you go before it’s gone!
– I’ve been watching Dix Pour Cent, a delicious French show retitled Call My Agent! here. It’s subtitled, but absolutely addictive — about a French entertainment agency, and on Netflix.
– Books: I inhaled Christina Lauren’s My Favorite Half-Night Stand, Sam Maggs’ Girl Squads: 20 Female Friendships That Changed History is wonderful, and I’m j’adoring Jeff Ford’s latest novel, the odd and delightful Ahab’s Return.

I’ve also been working on spinning:



View this post on Instagram


I feel less dizzy! Progress. #aerialwriter

A post shared by Gwenda Bond (@gwendabond) on

More soon!

Tap tap hellooooo

Hey, hi! One of my goals this year is to newsletter monthly and blog weekly. The newsletter just went out, so this will be a shortish post. But the important thing is I’m here.

We’re a month out from the release of Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds. Preordering (or putting on hold at your library!) is caring.

What’s old is new, so I’m sharing a few links. These are a few pieces that resonated with me recently, plucked from my reading list tab and which are worth your time:

Now go spend your weekend catching up on our new Cult Faves ep — a look at our favorite cult stories of 2018 — or dancing like a Congresswoman!

Dead Air Launch + Playing With Story

I write this post from deep on deadline. The kind where some days washing your hair helps you remember you’re human, but most days you forget both those things. But the end is nigh! Not in an apocalypse sort of way.

This week is the launch of mine, Carrie Ryan and Rachel Caine’s shiny new cross-platform project Dead AirI wrote about it for Salon today, its genesis and my deep love of true crime and the boom of podcasts and documentaries and everything else (and bonus the first episode of the podcast is included at the end!).

So, what exactly is Dead Air?

Welcome to Dead Air, where M is for midnight, Mackenzie…and murder.

Mackenzie Walker wasn’t planning on using her college radio show to solve a decades old murder, but when she receives an anonymous tip that the wrong man may have taken the fall, she can’t resist digging deeper.

It doesn’t take long for Mackenzie to discover gaps in the official story. Several potential witnesses conveniently disappeared soon after the murder. The victim, a glamorous heiress and founder of a Kentucky horse-racing dynasty, left behind plenty of enemies. And the cops don’t seem particularly interested in discussing any of it.

But when the threats begin, Mackenzie knows she’s onto something. Someone out there would prefer to keep old secrets buried and they seem willing to bury Mackenzie with them. Thankfully, she’s getting help from a very unexpected source: the victim’s son, Ryan. The closer she gets to him, however, the more important it is for Mackenzie to uncover the truth before he gets buried alongside her.

Read or listen to weekly ebook and audio episodes of the serial novel Dead Air and then check out Mackenzie’s podcast for a uniquely immersive experience. Does the truth lie in the serial, the podcast…or somewhere in-between?

To clarify a bit about the format and how it works… What is Dead Air? It’s a serialized novel about a podcaster and it’s the podcast she’s creating in the story. It’s the kind of immersive story the three of us love, and we wanted to create that feeling of being able to go down a rabbit hole to experience different elements of a story in different ways. To explore the distance between what our main character shows and what she’s concealing. Think of it a bit like we wrote a novel about a photographer or an artist and also released their photos or paintings alongside… Except the truly unique thing about what we are trying to do here is that we intentionally structured this to be best-enjoyed in a serial way, the way most of us get our true crime fixes these days. Sure, you can binge either the podcast or the novel once it’s all out. You can choose one or the other and still get a complete story. But the ideal way, I say, is to read or listen to each week’s release as a pair (episode of the serial first, then the podcast). However, the extremely amazing thing is that… I might be wrong about that. Try it out in whatever order you like and report back.

I can’t say enough about getting to work with Rachel and Carrie and the Serial Box team on this project. It feels like exactly what I wanted to do when the idea first came to me…but better for everyone’s work and collaboration and willingness to invent. I’m not always confident in my own work (quite the opposite). But I am 100 percent in awe of Carrie and Rachel and learned so much working with them; they are both brilliant storytellers. I learned so much from show-running this unwieldy, intricate project. And I also can’t say enough about the effort Julian Yap at Serial Box, our editor Lydia Shamah, our audio producer Amanda Rose Smith (who also composed some killer theme music for us), and everyone else on the team have put in to make this project come together. None of us have ever done anything quite like this before. So that’s scary and exciting and, wow, I hope you’ll check it out and tell other people if you like it! You can go read or listen to the first TWO installments of the serial today and the first episode of the podcast just dropped too, with a new one coming every Tuesday, followed by the next week’s serial episode.


Subscribe to the serial here. Check out the podcast here or here (or wherever you get your podcasts). Also, I have a special discount code for you, lovely peoples. To use it, go to the Redeem page on the Serial Box site and use code “DEADAIRBOND” without the quote marks and you’ll get 10% off the serial novel. The podcast, of course, is free.

Has all my yammering not convinced you? Or explained right? Some more pretty pictures!


Last year when this idea was just a murderous germ we plotted on a wall…

More soon! Enjoy!

Maybe I’ll go wash my hair…

Living in a Fantasy World #KidLitWomen

So for #KidLitWomen month, I thought I’d talk about something near and dear to the part of my heart filled with the ever-burning rage-fire stoked by oh so many things, namely: how fantasy and romance (and also fantasy that includes romance) written by women for the young adult audience is often looked down the nose at by many snooty humans, some consciously doing it and some not and also why the snoot-noses are big wrongheads and why it matters.

If you can’t tell by how overwritten that paragraph is, I really miss blogging regularly. On with the show.

Recently, I was sitting at a conference talking with some writers about this particular huge hill I will die on of mine. How I was one of those teens that internalized romance as “not serious” or “embarrassing” for way too long, only to decide to actually read some so I’d know what I was talking about as an adult and then falling in love with the genre as a reader. (I had the same experience with urban fantasy, during the great smacktalking-about-it era in SFF.) Anyway, one of the authors in this conversation writes wonderful books for teens, hugely popular, which also happen to be romances and she told us how once at an event a man who was there to take care of her as an author said in passing, “Oh, I’d never allow your books in my house. I have a teenage daughter.” Who the books are for, by the way. This is never an isolated anecdote. Ask any woman you know who writes fantasy if she’s ever been treated dismissively on a panel or if a man has ever gotten up from the audience to tell her about the books by men he wishes there were more of and why aren’t people writing those now, or if they’ve followed her out into the hallway to tell her about the ways in which they thought her books sucked. (Ladies, feel free to come share in the comments. I know you’ve got some doozies.) Every romance or fantasy writer I know who is a woman has a story or twenty or a hundred like this, where it’s implied you write garbage right to your face — especially if it happens to also be popular.

Think about the offhand dismissal that’s STILL used to characterize the YA field in most mainstream articles about YA even though it was outdated ten years ago and is still outdated now. This is a bingo game you can always win. I go into every article looking for it; usually it’s in the first or second paragraph. Sometimes, if they’re being subtle, it’s phrased slightly differently two-thirds through. Sometimes it’s the subject of the entire article. Although, spoiler alert: A lot of the articles in question are highlighting male authors of YA. Good for the guys, and yet I hope they cringe when they see the inevitable phrase about standing out in “a sea of Twilight and The Hunger Games.” As if Twilight and The Hunger Games share anything in common except female authors and main characters (well, and vast success and audience overlap, more on that to come). Or the related but slightly different dismissal of the totally ridiculous plethora of teen girls saving the day in those utterly ridiculous fantasies or dystopians (meanwhile we cheer watching teens get closer on gun control than anyone else has so far; teen girls have always changed the world, oh self-self-deceived chumps who sell them short). Also, extra bingo spot if the books by women in this glancing mention are referenced only by title and any men’s books that do get included as a part of the “sea of YA” are also mentioned with their authors’ names.

The more successful a book by a man is, the more he’s treated as worthy of serious attention or at least serious treatment. The more successful a book by a woman is, the more likely it is to become the reference for a snarky aside in an article about how great X book by X dude is. Fact. But that’s not all that goes along with this behavior, not by a long shot. It affects invitations and review coverage in general and also time. If a man reaches a certain level, he’s pretty much guaranteed he can get some coverage and publisher support. If a woman reaches a certain level, she might get some coverage and publisher support but she will also be expected to do a ton of outreach to her fanbase and provide a jillion pieces of free content, et cetera.

There are so many issues surrounding all this, but for now I’m going to focus on one: how markers of traditional femininity are used to judge innate quality and why it is nonsense. The judgments discussed above have pretty well zero correlation to the works in question. The work — women’s work, specifically — is often not judged on the work itself at all, but on perceptions of it. See also: YA as an entire category, where those who supposedly “transcend” the genre are mostly men. Newsflash: The genre is transcendent all on its own; it contains multitudes.

Now, this is not news to anyone, and certainly not to women. No matter what kind of work women do, we get judged by perceptions — based on our appearance or how loud or quiet we are or or or or. And I know that there are plenty of women who write quote-unquote serious books who are frustrated that their work isn’t treated with the same seriousness of men’s serious books. I hear you.

We all judge by the cover, by appearance, by our own preconceptions, to an extent. That’s just part of how humans work. But if we want to be responsible members of the literary community (and, you know, combat these problems not add to them) we must know what our preconceptions are, where they come from, and, yes, when they are — pardon my not-French — bullshit.

An entire essay could and should be written about how race plays into all this, as well. Whatever white women like me experience, I have zero doubt it’s 10 times (or a hundred times) worse for women of color or other marginalized writers. Witness the recent round-up of several new books by women of color in the New York Times — the grouping itself is unfortunate unless it was going to treated in a much more prominent, important way, as in a lengthy cover review (which would be absolutely apropos, these are important books and it is an important time). But, as other people, particularly Ebony Elizabeth Thomas (@ebonyteach) and Malinda Lo (@malindalo) on twitter (follow them if you aren’t), pointed out, shoving them together in a round-up is a choice that innately marginalizes the books, which include some of the most significant titles of the season. The choice of a white reviewer is also unfortunate, and there are other issues with how the books are discussed as a result. Why I bring this up here, however, is the way in which Dhonielle Clayton’s stunning fantasy The Belles is discussed, because I think it has to do with this exact subject, albeit coupled with an extra layer of racism. In this book, Dhonielle Clayton has chosen to write about oppression and slavery, but it’s done in a way that immediately gets misperceived as somehow slighter. You can’t tell me this gorgeous cover isn’t also interpreted through the preconceptions of many people to read feminine, and thus, obviously, not deep, not expertly crafted, not important.

Except this book is all of those things.

What do we code as traditionally feminine? Love, romance, beauty, fashion, care-taking, the color pink. The list goes on. And on. This cover is great because it tells you there’s traditional femininity involved here but not just that, this is a larger femininity we’re seeing, a healthier, more complicated one. The tagline: “The Revolution Is Here” and that gaze directly at the reader is as important as the flowers and the dress in setting expectations.

But we see a review in one of our most important media outlets where instead this book is pitted against another brilliant book simply because both authors are women of color writing fantasy, and a conclusion is drawn that feels related to these larger issues. We treat fantasy seen as somehow “girly” (ugh, that should mean literally ANYTHING) as the less accomplished. This is a perfect example of something far too many of us bring with our preconceptions, even professional critics, when we open a book. Awareness of this is key. But there’s an even more sinister assumption at work here. When we continually imply that only tragedy and pain are roots for telling an important, honest story — particularly when we’re placing that limitation on writers of color — what we’re doing is deciding to create a world in which we force people to relive pain on our terms, not theirs, to tell the stories we expect, not the stories they need or want to tell. I mention this here because racism is a part of every single discussion we’re having this month (and always), in one way or another. We’ll only be successful at toppling the hierarchies we want to break down if those hierarchies topple for all writers, especially traditionally marginalized ones.

Likewise, in fantasy, women who present with traditionally masculine traits are often considered “strong.” Women who present as feminine — or gasp! on a spectrum that includes both! or none of the above! — are often considered “weak.” (Or worse.) This enlarges to treatment of books themselves. Fantasy worth taking seriously and considering not garbage is obviously dark, right? And romance, scrunch-face, well that’s just fluff (is there smoke coming out of my ears as I type this knowing people think this way? reader, there is). I believe grimdark makes the world less complicated than it is, not more. But I still see it as a valid aesthetic choice! What isn’t valid is acting is if it’s a more inherently noble or true or accomplished choice.

There’s the old saying a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, but that’s not apt here either — the problem is wanting to pretend the world doesn’t have any sugar in it, and that any writer who acts as if it does isn’t worthy of your time.

A world with love is a world with hope. When we see stories about love and hope and change coded as traditionally feminine and immediately dismiss them internally or in a review or wherever as corny or as not quite serious, as not worthy of appreciating for craft, we are failing. Take the work as the work. Read it and see past your preconceptions. Frankly, I can’t think of anything more serious or more challenging than using the themes I just mentioned both honestly and with light. And I would never and am not saying that stories that tackle these themes in heartbreaking, raw ways can’t be effective. What I will never understand is why we so often act like that’s the only effective way to tackle these themes. And it should certainly not be the only way in which we expect writers of color to tell stories.

And so, sure, people who do this are disrespecting the authors. But, more troublingly, they are disrespecting the audience — which is what this is all about, really. Every single thing I talk about here goes back to the fact that we’re discussing the work of women, writing for what is at least perceived as a largely female audience. No one in the world is more dismissed than teen girls (except those rare moments when we remember they change the world). What everyone is really doing when they engage in this behavior, pooh-poohing and dismissing work by women for girls and loved by girls is telling girls that the world will never take them seriously. Unless perhaps they agree to be miserable. And even then it’s a toss up…

I know I should have some rousing way to end here, but what I have to say is as short and sweet as that spoonful of sugar:

Just stop it. Read outside your comfort zones (and recommend the best of what you read! especially if! you’re! a! man! on! a! panel!). Examine your preconceptions, and don’t generalize based on them about books you know nothing about. Respect women and their work. Respect girls and what they love.*

*And don’t you ever let me hear you comparing our president to a teenage girl. Ever.

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