Sometimes, the people behind the scenes at SCBWI have news. I took the opportunity to talk to Lee Wind, SCBWI’s official blogger, about an initiative he’s launched this June.
Lin: Hi Lee! What’s behind turning your YA audiobook into a podcast?
Lee: Making the audiobook of Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill into a podcast that’s free and available to anyone, anywhere, is a way around the banning of books with LGBTQIA2+ content, and the recent legislation banning any mention of Queer lives and loves from public schools all the way through 12th grade in Florida, and beyond.
With every chapter an episode, QUEER AS A FIVE-DOLLAR BILL: THE PODCAST, will drop thirty-six episodes on five Thursdays in June.
Lin: What do you hope the podcast accomplishes?
If I’d found out that Abraham Lincoln was in love with another man back when I was thirteen, or fifteen, it would have changed my whole life. Growing up gay and closeted, the idea that important people in history were also guys who like-liked other guys might have helped me love myself a little bit more – it certainly would have given me hope.
While I don’t have a time machine to go back and give my books to myself when I most needed them, I can pay it forward. QUEER AS A FIVE-DOLLAR BILL: THE PODCAST is a way to empower the young people who need this today.
Lin: Speak to us about the partnership between Lerner, your traditional publisher for the nonfiction books, and self-publishing your novel QUEER AS A FIVE-DOLLAR BILL.
Lee: Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill is the fictional story of Wyatt, a bullied and closeted teen who triggers a conservative backlash and media firestorm when he reveals the real-world evidence that Abraham Lincoln was gay. I crowd-funded and published the book in 2018, raising enough money to hire a great team to professionally publish the novel and donate over 900 copies to LGBTQIA2+ teens with the help of the nonprofit Brave Trails. The audiobook was brilliantly narrated by Michael Crouch, who also voiced the audiobook of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill won the National Indie Excellence Award for Best Book: LGBTQ For Children & Young Adults and was named a Publishers Weekly Indie Success Story. Kirkus Reviews said, “The premise is a real hook… with real potential to influence and educate, on top of entertaining.”
The evidence that Lincoln was indeed in love with another man is further explored in my award-winning non-fiction book for ages 11 and up, No Way, They Were Gay? Hidden Lives and Secret Loves (Zest Books/Lerner Publishing Group), and with their kind permission, the Lincoln chapter including the primary source letters and analysis is available as a free PDF download from my website, leewind.org
Bonus episodes of the podcast will include me being interviewed by legendary children’s and YA author and poet Lesléa Newman, a new audio recording of the Lincoln chapter from No Way, They Were Gay?, and a sneak peek at the introduction from my upcoming nonfiction title The Gender Binary is a Big Lie (Zest Books/Lerner Publishing Group, April 2024.)
It’s great synergy between the book I published myself and the books I have with Lerner, and I can’t say enough great things about the team there. Special shout-outs to Rachel Zugschwert who’s their marketing genius and my amazing editor Shaina Olmanson.
Lin: What do you have coming out next?
Lee: I’m really excited about a new picture book that will be coming out from Reycraft Books, Love of the Half-Eaten Peach. It’s inspired by a true love story from Queer history… back before China was unified, in the time of Confucius, there was a ruler of the state of Wei, Yuan, Duke Ling of Wei. Yuan loved this guy, Mi Zi Xia. They were walking through an orchard and Zi Xia picked a ripe peach off a tree and started to eat it. It was so delicious he stopped after a few bites and offered the half-eaten peach to Yuan. The Duke made a really big deal about Zi Xia giving up his own joy to share it… Something about that moment captured the imagination of people at that time, and for over 1,000 years, the way they said “gay” in Chinese was “love of the half-eaten peach.”
I took that true story, and did a lyrical, epic fairy-tale take on it. The artwork by Jeiting Chen is breath-taking – I can’t wait for the world to see it, and to learn about this amazing story from our Queer history.
Lin: Happy Pride month!
Lee: Thanks, Lin. Knowing SCBWI is a community that cares about me and my LGBTQIA2+ community means more than I can express. I continue to be grateful for the opportunity to be part of the good work SCBWI does!
Lin Oliver is Managing Director of the SCBWI Impact and Legacy Fund, is the co-founder of SCBWI, a New York Times best-selling author of over 65 books for children, and Executive Producer of numerous television series and films for family audiences. She is a prominent advocate for literacy and has served on the Board of the Los Angeles Library Foundation and Advisory Council of Common Sense Media.