Whobert Turns 1!!

It’s the one year Whobert-versary! I can’t believe a whole year has already gone by since my debut picture book flew out into the world. It’s been a year full of school visits and book festivals and bookstore signings and it’s everything I imagined and more. Thank you for making this debut year so much fun! For more about Whobert’s first year, I did an in-depth  interview about the past twelve months with Jennifer Prevost in which I gabbed all about lessons learned and debut surprises and pushing forward.

While you’re here, let’s celebrate Whobert’s birthday! I’m giving away three copies of WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, and you can enter all three! Enter here on my website, over on my Twitter page, or on my Instagram account.

To be entered to win here on the website, all you have to do is click the Follow button over on the righthand side of the page. That’s it! I’ll give a copy away to a random follower.

To be entered to win on Twitter, be sure to follow me and then retweet the tweet about the Whobert-versary giveaway.

To be entered to win on Instagram, be sure to follow me and then tag someone in the comments of the Whobert-versary post who you think might like WHOBERT.

You have one week to enter. I’ll be announcing the winners of all three giveaways on July 25, 2018 – which is the five month mark until Christmas, if anyone’s counting. Ho, ho, ho! Or I should say who, who, who!

Happy Whobert-versary, everybody!

Spreading the Love

I am so unbelievably excited to be able to sing this from the rooftops! I get to have a book out about my favorite topic of all time: LOVE! And the amazing Lori Richmond is going to illustrate! Here’s the PW announcement:

PORCUPINE CUPID is all about a plucky porcupine who fancies himself a matchmaker. I cannot wait to see this book come to life! It’s been a long time comin’. We sold this back in December 2015, and we’ve been waiting for just the right illustrator to sign on. I could not be happier that Lori joined the PORCUPINE team. We’ve been critique group partners for years, and I had no idea she was reached out to to potentially illustrate. Lori is super good at keeping a secret!

Can’t wait for a little more love to be in the world in December 2020 when PORCUPINE CUPID hits bookstores!

The Cleanse

There are few things in life that give me more joy than Anjelica Huston. Her poise, her aura, her soul-searching looks. So if anything comes out with her in it, I have to watch it. Which is what led me to THE CLEANSE.

This movie is twacked, y’all. There’s no other way to describe it. But it’s twacked in the absolute best way. It follows a guy named Paul as he signs up for a cleanse retreat in which a very specific, very disgusting juice is brewed up for each participant that must be consumed in a day. Successful chugging of said juice results in vomiting up your demons, literally. Here’s what Paul spewed out:

First of all, I love things that are so ugly they’re cute. Cleanse vomit baby demons fall into that category. Second of all, this movie reminded me so much of the writing process it’s silly. Paul is trying to rid himself of the negativity that plagues his life to the point that he has to physically manifest it into the world. It’s just like when you’ve got that idea for a story in your head and you MUST get it onto paper. That obsessive clacking on the keyboard is just like Paul’s determined chugging. When you hit Print and hold your manuscript for the first time is just like when Paul picks up his little demon shmoop and has a sense of pride that it came out of him. Paul’s varying emotions regarding the little chunk mirrored those times when you’re loving your story one minute then thinking you’re the most terrible writer in the world the next. There were so many similarities to the writing process that I’m going to start calling my WIPs my demons. But here’s hoping that no one describes my writing as “so ugly it’s cute.”

Austin SCBWI Member Interview

The amazing folks at the Austin chapter of SCBWI asked me to do a Member Interview, and it was such a hoot! Head here to read about how my hometown inspires me, what it means to me to be a kid lit writer in the LGBTQ+ community, and how you could never convince me to become a buffalo!

Whatims – April 9, 2018

Lord and Taylor. You’ll notice that I missed last week’s post. That was because last week was a doozy. The biggest lesson I learned: when life gives you lemons, sometimes you throw them back up.

I was struck by some wicked mystery illness that knocked me out for a couple days, and the timing was terrible. I had to cancel a signing and a meeting with my editor at the Texas Library Association, which was just such a bummer. In this writing biz that can be so solitary, I was really looking forward to getting to interact with people! I’m feeling myself again, finally, and here’s what I’m doing this week.

What I’m Writing: I was able to start the third draft in my fantasy middle grade, and this draft is all about emotional layering, tugging at your heartstrings and all that. For me, the emotional layering is the hardest part. It’s got to feel authentic and right for each character in their specific life situation, but I’m feeling so connected to these characters at this point that I think I’ll be able to make them and me cry as we go down this emotional rabbit hole.

What I’m Reading: Jessica Townsend’s NEVERMOOR. This is such a great middle grade fantasy-adventure about a girl who finds herself in the fantastical city of Nevermoor after one real lousy childhood with parents who should be ashamed of themselves, Bethenny Frankel-y. But all the magical adventures she has with a cast of quirky new friends make her sad beginnings worth it.

What I’m Thankful For: Librarians! I was able to spend one nice afternoon with librarians at TLA before being struck by the Ailment from Hades. Librarians are superheroes, and I’m so thankful for them championing books everyday. Here’s me waving to all the librarians I met last week and all the ones I have yet to meet!

Whatims – March 26, 2018

What I’m Writing: I just finished the second draft of the fantasy-adventure middle grade THIS MORNING! I’m feeling on fire! Got back from Kinko’s with the printed and bound copy so that I can go through that and hand edit for Round 3. I’ll be getting into emotional layers to make sure this puppy really sings (aka makes us cry).

What I’m Reading: Carrie Jones’s TIME STOPPERS. Carrie is teaching the Write. Submit. Support. group I’m in at the Writing Barn, and she’s a middle grade master! I’m having fun diving into her fantasy world and learning from the best!

What I’m Thankful For: Customer Service! Today has been chock-full of needing to call Customer Service numbers for flights I messed up and WordPress issues that technologically-stunted me cannot always figure out. Everybody was so nice and patient with my “Wait, I need to do what-nows.” I have become my grandmother, and I’m not looking back.

Love Letter to LOVE, SIMON

It’s been a week since LOVE, SIMON, Greg Berlanti’s film adaption of Becky Albertalli’s SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA, came out (and for the first time in my life, I’m going to say “no pun intended”). I’ve seen it twice. Both times I’ve seen it I’ve been a total mess. The movie opens with Jennifer Garner as Simon’s mom covering Nick Robinson as Simon’s eyes as she is about to give him his first car, and I just instantly burst into tears. You can feel the unconditional love drip off Simon and his parents and his sister. From their first displays of unconditional love, I knew this was going to be a monumental movie. I tried to choke down my tears—sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes empathetic—for the rest of the movie, but I failed miserably.

I realized that—no matter what the reason for or type of tears pouring from my eyes—I was crying because this was 100% the gay love story I needed. Not only as a 30-year-old married gay man today, but as the 17-year-old gay kid I used to be who was so afraid to come out in high school. A TIME article was recently titled, “Love, Simon is a Groundbreaking Gay Movie. But Do Today’s Teens Actually Need It?”

Yes. Today’s teens need it. Yesterday’s teens need it. Teens who turned into 30-something millennials need it. The oldest generation of gays—those who had life-long “roommates” and who feared ever being open about their sexuality—need it.

Let me tell you why.

The TIME article’s author had this to say for his main criticism:

“Kids like Simon, in 2018, already have a good shot of fitting in. They don’t need this movie. Will they look up from Netflix to notice that it has premiered? Love, Simon feels like a film responding to an entirely different culture, like one in which gay marriage was never legalized. That decision both acknowledged that equality for gays had won the day and opened the door for far more interesting and challenging fights, ones the next generation will lead. Movies that integrate those stories are ones worth anticipating with relish. Love, Simon, by contrast, simply feels like looking back in time.”

Kids like Simon, which is to say a gay teen with loving parents and supportive friends may have a good shot of fitting in, but the very fact it has to be labeled as a “good shot” indicates there’s also the chance those teens will be ostracized, ridiculed or bodily harmed when finally taking that brave step to come out.

What the author’s criticism overlooks is even if Simon and the real-life kids like him have a supportive friend group, a loving family, and live in a world where same-sex marriage is legal, those children do not live in a bubble. They still live in a country where state supreme courts refuse rights to same-sex married couples that our right to marry was supposed to grant. They still live in a world where state senators can deny same-sex couples the chance to adopt a child and start a family. They still live in a world in which the U.S. Department of Education said it won’t hear valid complaints from transgender students who are forced to use a bathroom that does not correspond with their gender identity.

We still very much live in a world that expresses hate toward the LGBTQIA+ community, and a world in which that hate is constantly trying to be made legal. Would this make a kid, even with supportive friends and family, nervous to come out?


Just because Simon and kids like him appear “normal”  (whatever that means) on the outside, does not mean that they don’t have a very real emotional struggle going on on the inside. I found myself in a situation very much like Simon’s when I was in high school. I knew I was gay, and I found my own version of Blue. I dated him in secret, not telling my friends and family even though they routinely expressed how much they cared for me, even though I was involved enough in school to be elected homecoming royalty and high school president. This is not to say, “Look at how great my high school experience was,” but to point out that despite these superficial markers of high school popularity, I was still nervous as hell for my “huge ass secret,” as Simon calls it, to come out. I was so scared that my life would crumble and that I would be ostracized by my classmates. I had nightmares about being hated and beaten that stressed me out so much a streak of my hair turned gray when I was 17 and never turned back. So I forced myself in the closet longer than I should have so I could experience what it felt like to be liked before I became hated.

Fortunately, my fears never came true. Like Simon, I was accepted by my family and most of my peers. But this definitely was not the norm for many teens who came out in the mid-2000s, and is definitely not always the case for teens today, especially in Southern states where so much of the anti-gay legislation discussed above is being passed.

Despite being out for 13 years, I still hesitate before coming out to strangers. Even as a confident 30-year-old married gay man in Texas, I’m never sure how people will react when I tell them. There is always that split second of pause where I wonder how the person I’m talking to is going to react when I reference my husband. Will their eyes widen in recognition, their thought of “Oooooh. You’re one of those,” practically audible in the room? Or will they quickly change the subject, their eyes darting around as they try to find someone else to talk to? Sometimes those reactions are not meant with hate, but sometimes they are very much meant to somehow shame me back to heterosexuality.

So yes, we do need movies like LOVE, SIMON. Teens need it, whether they are teens today or were teens years and years ago with the pains from adolescence still holding a place in their hearts. We need movies that say the Boy Next Door doesn’t have to be straight, movies that say love will conquer all despite the world we live in where disgust for the LGBTQIA+ community can so quickly be found.

I know that this post has the potential for me to be called a dramatic millennial, or a liberal snowflake that can so easily melt.

Well you’re right about one thing: I can melt. The love I get from my husband every day makes my heart melt in the best way. If LOVE, SIMON tells us anything, it’s that having your heart melted by the person you love makes any of the lows of the world totally worth it.

And I have to say I agree.

Love, Jason