A native Californian, Erica has lived in London, England, since 2009. She is currently a MPhil/PhD student at the University of Roehampton in Children’s Literature, researching love and romance in contemporary young adult fiction with lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender characters.
She has her MA in Children’s Literature from the same university, and her BAs in Feminist Studies and Literature (Creative Writing) from the University of California – Santa Cruz. She has also written for numerous blogs, including So You’re EnGAYged, Picture Book Palette, IBBY Congress 2012, and The Lesbrary.
When not reading teen novels, Erica is an avid crafter, a quiet poet, and a sometimes gardener. She lives in South West London with her gorgeous & nerdy wife, Alex.
In the spring of this year, I had the pleasure of interviewing my first poet as part of the Audio Team for Poet in the City, a London-based charity focused on creating new audiences for poetry through eclectic programming. Lucky me, that poet was Andrew McMillan! Andrew’s collection, Physical, had just won the Guardian First Book Award, the first poetry collection ever to do so. Being in conversation with Andrew about his poetry, masculinity, sexuality, and his inspirations was a true delight! You can find the interview in the Poet in the City archive, and I encourage you to listen through to Andrew’s reading of ‘The Men Are Weeping In The Gym’. (I also interviewed Dr. Lynne Segal, host of the event, about the themes in Andrew’s work.)
Next, I got the chance to meet and chat with Dr. Shahidha Bari ahead of her Casanova – Lyric and Lust event, where she read poetry that ranged from the sweet and romantic to the raunchy and bawdry! At the end of the interview, Shahidha agreed to read ‘Sea Poppies’ by H.D. as a sample of the evening’s delicacies.
As both poetry interviews dealt and delighted in sexuality and playfulness, I figured now would be an opportune moment to mention the publication of my poem, ‘This Poem Wants to be a Lesbian Country Song So Bad’. The poem was published by Fincham Press in the student anthology Screams and Silences (2015), edited by Leone Ross (available at the University of Roehampton online store). I’m including the poem here as well, for your reading pleasure.
On Wednesday 18th May, the National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature (NCRCL), my research centre at the University of Roehampton, held their annual ‘PhD Day’. This is a day where all of the children’s literature post-graduate research students gather and share a slice of our research from the most recent academic year. The title for my presentation was ‘Lip Gloss & Curling Heat: “First Kiss” Scenes and Malinda Lo’s Young Adult Science Fiction novels’.
For the last 6 months, I’ve been looking at Malinda Lo’s four YA novels: Ash (2009), Huntress (2010), Adaptation (2012) and its sequel Inheritance (2013). While the third chapter of my thesis examines all four novels, this talk focused on close readings from Adaptation. My research overall, as you might have gathered, focuses on lesbian loves stories. As such, I’ve been examining how those love stories are constructed–particularly when the two characters are teenagers who identify as lesbian/bisexual or are in a same-sex relationship. One narrative event that has become of great interest to me is the ‘first kiss’ scene. Thus, the first half of my talk looked at ‘first kiss’ scenes across a selection of lesbian YA novels in my corpus, including examples from The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2012) by Emily M. Danforth, Everything Leads to You (2014) by Nina LaCour, and Empress of the World (2001) by Sara Ryan. I then focused on Lo’s novels with close readings of the ‘first kiss’ scenes between Reese and Amber, and Reese and David in Adaptation.
Why are the ‘first kiss’ scenes so important? I’m hoping to post a video of my talk soon so you can join in the conversation, or contact me if you’re working in a similar field. I’m always happy chatting about YA novels with LGBTQ characters!
Julie Anne Peters has published more young adult novels with lesbian protagonists than any other YA author. Writing from 1999-2014, her YA novels are stylistically similar—full of melodrama and cliché—to lesbian pulp fiction novels of the 1950s and 1960s. In particular, those novels by lesbian authors hoping to reach lesbian readers in the mid-twentieth century United States, authors like Vin Packer (Spring Fire (1952)) and Ann Bannon (‘Beebo Brinker Chronicles’ (1957-1962)). This talk will compare Peters’ YA novels with the lesbian pulp fiction novels by Packer and Bannon, examining peritextual production, the ‘butch/femme dynamic’, the conventional coming out story, and ‘happy endings’ for the contemporary young adult reader.
UPDATE: My PhD colleague, Anne, recorded my talk for me so I’ve posted it online for you all to watch! I’m new to uploading videos so the quality isn’t the best, but hopefully if you turn up your speakers it won’t be too bad. Thanks for watching!
On Thursday 28th May, I was one of twenty-four students to receive The Roehampton Award 2015 for volunteering, service, leadership and extracurricular achievements at Roehampton University. The recipients were mostly undergraduate students, but there were two of us PhD’ers as well! Hurrah! The ceremony at Grove House in Froebel College was really lovely with fun, inspiring speakers and yummy nibbles.
I was nominated by my advisor, Dr Alison Waller, for: my work as Editor of the National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature (NCRCL) blog; involvement in NCRCL projects, such as the annual IBBY/NCRCL MA conference; teaching within the English & Creative Writing and MA in Children’s Literature programmes; and my general work promoting LGBT books for children and young people.
Alison and me, showing off my certificate!
I am hugely honoured to have received this award, and so grateful for such a supportive advisor in Alison and the rich research community I get to work in with NCRCL at Roehampton. xx
Four weeks ago, I kicked off the Indiegogo campaign entitled Made With Love in the hopes of funding my second year’s tuition for my MPhil/PhD programme at Roehampton University. I am pleased to report that with the help of so many generous people—through their conversations, their sharing, their love—I have raised over half of my goal: £2,325.* Wahoo!!!
My hope in running the campaign was that I could use my creative skills to design perks that might tempt people to contribute towards my PhD. I also hoped that people would be inspired by my research on love and romance in LGBT YA novels—my vision to engage in a discourse about love and same-sex relationships in young adult novels into academia—and contribute for that reason as well.
I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of so many folks and this post is for those who are ‘Loves:’ individuals who contributed and asked only for a poetic thank you in return. Those 5 people are Julie Barton, Adriana Haines, Lucy Iwamoto, Liz Chapman, and one anonymous donor. Below are four love poems by different poets that make my heart sing. I’ve also included one of my own poems, as a humble offering of gratitude.
I hope you, my ‘Loves,’ enjoy the poetry: THANK YOU. For everyone else who contributed to the campaign, I look forward to fulfilling your perks in the coming months.
I’m a Once Upon a Bookcase LGBTQ YA Month participant!
For the WHOLE month of July, Jo at Once Upon a Bookcase is hosting LGBTQ YA month! Her schedule includes everything from daily reviews of some of the best LGBTQ YA books available, but she’ll also have author interviews, discussions, link round-ups and guest posts—including a post from me on 30th July! I’m particularly excited to read the interviews she’s conducted with Joanne Horniman (author of About A Girl) and Emily M. Danforth (author of The Miseducation of Cameron Post).
I’ll be posting a link when my guest post goes up at the end of the month, but in the meantime, go check out Once Upon a Bookcase’s LGBTQ YA Month!!
This last weekend was Pride weekend. Here, in London, where I’ve made my home with my wife for the past four years, and in San Francisco, the gay mecca of my home-state. There was much rejoicing: DOMA has been struck down, Prop 8 undone, marriages newly made, and a happy one (ours) still going strong.
My pride in our community, in our commitment to gaining human rights under the eyes of the law, was fit to burst these past few days. As part of the process, I’ve looked back on what has brought me to this specific place in my life, and I was reminded of something I’d written earlier this spring on identity, and the crazy intersections of those identities that we all live with each day.
Here it is, for you to enjoy. With love.
Affinities – A Personal Reflection on Identity
Some people have coming out stories that begin before the age of five. Some say they just knew they were different, that they weren’t like other boys and girls. I identified as a girl, but the categories of ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ only appeared to represent different power positions in a country where the news still celebrated ‘The First Female Astronaut’ and ‘The First Female Poet Laureate.’ In other words, I knew I was a girl who would sometimes be challenged for being different.
On Tuesday 16th 2013, I’ll be speaking on a panel at the London Book Fair — come along!
Equal Measures: Achieving diversity and equality in children’s books
Date: Tuesday 16th April 2013
Time: 10:00 – 11:00
Location: Old Press Office, Earl’s Court 1
Over recent years, the ‘Equal Measures’ event has become a regular attraction at the London Book Fair (Earls Court). It has explored many aspects of disability and children’s books and speakers have included Julia Donaldson, Francesca Martinez, Michael Foreman, Nick Sharratt and Ros Asquith.
This year’s seminar line-up is another exciting one. As opposed to focusing purely on disability and books, the event will take a step back to reflect on the state of the children’s book landscape in relation to wider diversity issues. To what extent do the books we give our children really reflect the diverse society we live in? Which areas of diversity are still neglected and why? What are the needs in terms of schools, organisations and families? What are the challenges for publishers, writers and illustrators? Which books represent really good examples of best practice and where we can we find more?
Special guest speaker Verna Wilkins will talk about her impact on the book world and a panel of specialists in diversity issues will share their wealth of experience with the book world.
The panel includes book supplier Letterbox Library, diversity consultant and trainer Mark Jennett, writer and academic Erica Gillingham and freelance editor and inclusion advisor Beth Cox. Chaired by Alexandra Strick.
My first guest lesbrarian review has been published on The Lesbrary! Yay! When I figured out I could submit my own reviews to this awesome website, I jumped at the chance. Just having finished Adaptation by Malinda Lo, I sent through my thoughts on this brand-new sci-fi novel. I’ve been so impressed with Lo’s style, narrative and portrayal of her bisexual protagonist I’ve been telling everyone who will listen/read about it!