Girl Mans Up Book Launch #1: Toronto

Last night was the official book launch for my debut YA novel Girl Mans Up. It was downtown Toronto, at Glad Day Bookshop’s new location. The space is amazing, and I highly recommend having literary events there. It was the perfect spot for my launch, and I’m sure you’ll see that by looking at the photos.

Glad dayWhat is Glad Day Bookshop? Glad Day is the oldest surviving queer bookstore in the world (established in the ‘70s. It is also Toronto’s oldest bookstore. They have been location on Yonge Street, but are now working toward moving to a new (and accessible!) location on Church Street, reinventing themselves as a café/nightspot/bookstore/literary event venue.

Let me describe the scene and events for you a little (especially for those to whom the photos are useless!): The space is a modern-looking restaurant/bar. The reading/Q&A was set up in the front, with the window wall opened so we could experience the nice September downtown-Toronto night. I had a station set up with a canvas for attendees to sign. That’s going up in my office as a Toronto launch keepsake! I also had a photo area where attendees picked up a sign (that I made myself so it was nothing fancy :P) and posed for photos, which will be turned into a cool photo diary series I’ll be posting separately. For those who read the book, you’ll know why this photo idea was significant. 😉 There were amazing snacks set up (including the world’s best cupcakes), and Glad Day was there to serve beverages. We all just stood or sat around, mingling. I was so freaking pumped to see each face that popped in. I was floored by how many people I didn’t know personally came!

Around 8pm, Michael, one of Glad Day’s owners—the dude who worked his magic to make my launch happen there—came on to quiet the room. He then introduced Suzanne, my editor at HarperCollins Canada. She gave me the best intro ever. I felt like my face was going to split in half from smiling so damn much. I went up to the mic and instantly, I felt like doing karaoke. Instead, I talked a little bit about GMU, then I did a short reading. I was about to walk off when Michael stopped me! Apparently I was about to give up the opportunity for a Q&A. I honestly thought I’d be boring everyone by staying up there talking. Ha! I got some awesome questions, and I really felt like people had a good time, judging by all their engaged, smiling faces. That was an amazing experience.

And now, can we talk about the lineup of people who bought my book and had it signed? What a crazy-cool experience. I just wanted to sit and chat with everybody forever, especially because I hadn’t seen some of these people for a while. I’m blown away by the number of people who turned up, including some of the HarperCollins Canada team (Hi Suzanne, Melissa, Shamin, and Jessica!), and my agent Linda Epstein who flew up from New York. (I wish my HarperTeen editor Jill Davis would’ve been able to attend!)

Linda also brought me a gift: Earlier, she’d sent out one of her GMU ARCs out to her clients who then passed it around and scribbled inside as they read. They then wrote me notes at the back, almost the way we’d sign each other’s yearbooks in high school. This is one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever gotten. Getting to read people’s thoughts as they experienced the story is magical. I am going to find a way to hang this well-worn ARC on my wall to display it.

I’d done my research on book launches, and I tried to plan for a fun evening, but I could never have planned for all the awesomeness that came from having the best venue, the coolest gang of attendees, and for the publishing people who took the time to come celebrate with me. I really think this was the best book launch in the entire world.

And now I get to have another one! Next Wednesday, September 7th 2016, in Ajax (Ontario). I cannot wait!!!

Now for the photos! (And for just the individual photos, check out this post.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Quill & Quire Review of GMU

I got a pleasant surprise a few days ago. I found out not only did Quill & Quire review my book, but they gave it a starred review! The whole write-up is so amazing, and I am so grateful for this reviewer’s careful analysis of the story. I cannot wait to buy the September issue when it’s out in stores (and my mom may have already reserved a few copies at our local Chapters…!).

I’m sharing the review here for those who might want to see it! It’s so good!!! 😀

 

Quill and Quire - M-E Girard - GMU

My Crazy Summer: The 2015 Edition

I’m spreading myself thin this summer (ha! I wish). Maybe I’m a little insane, but there are just too many awesome things to be done.

First off, I leave for LA in just a few weeks. The 2015 Lambda Literary Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices is 964125_10151485539816105_1442015370_ohappening at the end of June, and I will be part of the Genre Fiction Workshop, with author Sara Ryan as my faculty. (Check out who’s a fellow in 2015, and read my bio.) Deep down inside, I’m pretty pumped about going back this year (I went in 2013), but right now, I’m sort of consumed with thoughts about how I’m going to get body to squish into those regular-people-sized airplane seats. I apologize in advance for whoever’s side I end up flattened against.

(To the left, we have a photo of me at a Starbucks in LA during the 2013 retreat, and that studious person in the middle of the shot became my friend, and she’s also coming back for the 2015 retreat, so we’re gonna hang, and it’s gonna be grand.)

A week after getting back from California, I’ll be headed to Huntsville, Ontario for the annual Muskoka Novel Marathon. (Check out who’s writing in 2015, and

read my bio.) This will be my third time going, and I am so so excited to be participating this year. It’s a fundraiser for literacy, and so far, I’ve reached $230—yay! I’m trying to get to $500, so if you are feeling generous (or receptive to my begging), please help support me with donations! (Check out my online donation page and get a charitable receipt instantly.)

(To the right, we have a group shot of the 2013 MNM gang. I’m at the top right, rocking the shades.)

Throughout all this trip-preparation goodness, I’m revising like mad. My first novel—whose title might not be set in 22792_10152777837751105_4551462735320304753_nstone at all at this point—is due out in 2016 (Katherine Tegen Books | Harper Collins) and I’m in the cave, working at turning the story into the best version of itself it can be. It’s an interesting place to be, let me tell you.

(To the left, we have a photo of the cave as of this week, which is beautiful and not very cave-like at all. Coffee Culture is wonderful.)

And I also decided to move through it all. So there’s all the packing, and all the coordinating. I own so many books. That has become apparent since I’ve started packing them all. Books and toys will probably end up being 89% of the boxes. Which is why I am moving into a bigger place, so I can have more room for my stuff.

It’s madness! Until September, it will be complete insanity (the positive kind of complete insanity).

What do you guys have going on this summer? Anyone else went and booked too many good things at once?

Girl: My YA Manuscript is Going to be a Novel!

Update (July 9, 2015): My novel title has been changed from GIRL to GIRL MANS UP!

On January 8th, the news hit: My debut YA novel is set to hit shelves in 2016!

confettiI’ve known for a few months now, and it’s been really hard to keep it all inside. Girl, a young adult novel, will be published by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins.

Here’s the Publisher’s Marketplace announcement: Lambda Literary Retreat fellow M-E Girard’s debut, GIRL, about a queer girl who looks and dresses like a boy, whose guy friend bullies her, whose parents attempt to change her, and who falls in love for the first time, challenging our ideas about the words we use to describe people, and who has the right to judge or define us based on what they see, to Jill Davis at Katherine Tegen Books, for publication in 2016, by Linda Epstein at the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency (World English).

the-story-1440526-mI thought I might write a little about how the story was born, how it turned into a novel.

In 2010, I was taking a fiction-writing class through the continuing ed program at a Toronto college. I was working on a draft of something (that probably sucked since I don’t even remember what it is). A fellow classmate sent me this link for the 2010 Young Adult Novel Discovery contest, thinking I might be interested. Contest requirements were to enter a novel title and the first 250 words of it. I definitely wanted to enter, but I had maybe 3 days left until contest closing, and I didn’t have a novel manuscript written. But I had this little idea that had recently turned into a Chapter 1, so I decided to send that. The title was Bois Can’t Have Babies, and the 250-word paragraph was about a boyish-looking teen girl peeing on a pregnancy stick and it coming back positive.

Totally unexpected, but I ended up being a finalist, which won me a 15-minute telephone pitch with an agent, and from that phone call, I got a request for the full manuscript…which wasn’t written. Between entering the contest and finding out I was a finalist, I’d added maybe…3 chapters. It took a while, but I did get the entire thing written and polished, however things just sort of fizzled with that agent. It was fine, though, because I had a story I felt good about, and I was ready to start querying.

I sent out 6 query letters to my Top Tier agents (I wanted to start small to see what kind of response I’d get). Two never responded, and 3 sent form rejections. The 6th one to respond was my agent, Linda Epstein. (She responded the day after I’d decided my query letter sucked and needed revamping, which I’d done, along with preparing all the emails to my 2nd Tier agent batch. Ha!)

Until last spring, the story was very much following the path of my main character Pen’s queer pregnancy. Then I attended the 2013 Lambda Literary Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices, and it was there that I started to figure out what I was really trying to say with this novel, what themes I wanted to explore. The pregnancy thing was so big, and it didn’t allow me time and freedom to explore within the story. I remember author Malinda Lo (my workshop facilitator) saying “Does she really need to be pregnant?” After ruminating on that one, I realized, no, she doesn’t need to be pregnant. Yeah, it made for a flashy one-line pitch, but ultimately, it wasn’t letting me tell the story I wanted to tell. I wanted to explore gender norms and gender identity. I wanted to explore the complicated dynamics of friendships and other close relationships as experienced by a girl who presents more like a boy to those around her, and who sometimes feels like she’s way more of a boy than she is a girl—even though, to be clear, my character is cisgender and doesn’t experience any kind of inner conflict about her birth-assigned gender; her conflict is in relation to the way society dictates what being a girl has to look like, has to feel like.

After that realization came the major rewrite from scratch (not my first, but by far my most extensive with this story), with a heads up to my agent that I was changing everything, including the entire premise for the plot. Maybe my agent was panicking inside, but if she was, she didn’t tell me that. She said she trusted me to do whatever I needed to.

Last spring, the current version of Girl was written.

Obviously, in this case, starting over with a completely different story was the right move. Once the constraints of the original plot were removed, I found I could actually preserve what was good about the initial version and make it shine. I don’t remember hitting a point of worry while writing the new version (like “Oh man, I am making a huge mistake?!”), but I have to say, it’s really really difficult to rewrite a story that you’ve already written before. All the versions were melding in my mind, and keeping track of what I’d actually done versus what I remember doing in an old draft was dizzying. The experience changed my writing process a bit, teaching me to consider my themes and think about what I’d like to say with a particular story before I set off on this path of blindly following the plot as it unfolds. Having a clear vision of the point of the story allows me to make sure every scene works for it.

If I were to describe the story in one sentence, it would go like this: Girl is a YA novel about a 16-year-old named Pen who struggles to own her identity as a girl when she looks and acts like a boy and everyone around her expects her to be one or the other.

There you have the journey of the novel, thus far. (The title had to change, for obvious reasons.)

I am so very grateful for my agent being so kickass in letting me do my thing, but also for providing me some great insights into revising the story, and then, of course, for finding me a great publisher and editor to work with.

Now that it’s official, I guess I’m entering an exciting new phase in my career as a writer. To celebrate that, I decided to revamp my formerly tacky website (check it out!).

1 2 3 4