Friday, June 24th! 5:45 to 6:30! At the PopTop Stage! Meet us for “It’s Not Just a G Thing: Exploring the LBTQ (and Beyond) in Middle Grade and Young Adult Literature.” In the hopes of getting you super-pumped for this panel, I’ve mini-interviewed the authors you’ll be hearing: Alex Gino, E.M. Kokie, and Robin Stevenson.Today, I’ll be taking to author, filmmaker, really-strong bear-hugger, and juggler of about a million other projjects, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo.
I had read Fat Angie while I was serving on the Rainbow List, and then, not long after, was lucky enough to hear e.E.’s acceptance speech at the Stonewall Book Awards Brunch. I think we were all blown away by her. She had the ability to totally captivate the room and connect with all of us so quickly. Really, I recommend listening to the whole thing. She’s just so warm, and funny, and completely inspiring. I think it was there, at the brunch, that e.E. kindly offered to show her new movie, At-Risk Summer, at my library in Brooklyn, for free.
To ensure a large enough audience, we contacted two schools to view the movie. Due to the large population we served, I had never seen any of the tweens and teens before, nor do I think I ever saw them again. Yet, in the short time it took to show the movie and have a Q+A with e.E., the students were talking about their concerns and fears about their lives in the most frank and honest manner. This is the effect e.E. has on people: You feel like you can tell her anything and your secrets will be safe, free from judgement, with her.
In addition, e.E. has two websites: Never Counted Out: A Creative Revolution to Empower At-Risk Youth, and Big Dreams Write, because apparently she never sleeps.
Here you go, everyone, the last of the mini-interviews:
Ingrid Abrams: When it comes to public speaking, you are a total powerhouse. Your speech at the 2014 Stonewall Brunch made everyone feel motivated, validated, and just totally inspired. Then, when you talked to the kids at my last library, after a showing of your movie At-Risk Summer, you had them opening up and participating in very honest and open conversations. What’s your secret to connecting so well with your audiences?
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo: I think the secret is seeing the value in every person I connect with, with a sincere desire to hear and understand each person’s story. It’s incredibly important not to be dismissive of someone else’s journey, and that requires actively listening. And of course, I have no shortage of enthusiasm. If I’m excited about what I do, audiences will be excited too.
IA: YA literature is becoming more inclusive with every new book, but, when it comes to protagonists, there’s a patent lack of body diversity. Fat/plus-sized characters are few and far between. Why was writing about a girl named Fat Angie important to you?
e.E.: It’s important in the way that any incarnation of a character who is struggling to be seen in the world and struggling with self-acceptance is important. And because there is no one like Fat Angie in teen lit, and young people needed someone like her. And because we all have things we struggle with, that we hurt from, that we have to fight to overcome. That’s what’s important – those are the universal truths that any reader can relate to. Angie’s story transcends race, gender, even sexual orientation.
IA: Like the title of your movie suggests, you are juggling what seems like a thousand projects devoted to at-risk youth. What do you think is the biggest misconception about this group of kids and teens?
e.E.: The theory seems to be that these kids are uneducated, that they’re problem children, or criminals, or that they’re worthless, that they have no voice and what they have to say doesn’t matter. We lose sight of the fact that these are kids. Kids who face a behemoth of challenges, when what they really need is someone to say “I believe in you” – and mean it. They need to see their value mirrored back to them. So many of these kids have the richest, most exciting ideas. We just have to meet them where they are so they can access it.
IA: What do you do to relax? Do you relax?
e.E.: This is a tough one because I am always thinking about story or empowerment and the brains stays busy. I do meditate and often. It really clears out the noise. Anyone following my Instagram knows I document the world around me. Um, what else? Oh, I’m a music fiend … the full spectrum. And I film this little web-show on occasion called The Taste Buds with author CG Watson. We do it for fun, just because it’s goofy and people seem to enjoy some of our antics.
IA: If you could pick one fictional world to magically insert yourself into, what would it be?
e.E.: You know, if I were going to pick a fictional world it would be for my teen self. It would probably The Outsiders or The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. Both are stories about stepping into your own voice and accepting and/or finding your tribe.
Just for funsies, I’m including two affectionately glitter-bombed pictures of e.E., just because I can:
e.E. reminded me of this picture from my This is What a Librarian Looks Like days, and, if you’ve seen her aforementioned Instagram, you know this is her patented default face:
Oh, hey, e.E.’s upcoming book is called When We Was Fierce. It’s gotten crazy good reviews and you can look for it in August of this year.
Lastly, once again I kindly ask you to donate to the following:
- The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
- The Pulse Tragedy Community Fund
- The Center in Orlando (you can find their donation button on the top right-hand corner)
e.E. also mentioned that she has been involved with an LGBTQ Book Donation Drive. Click through to donate books to the Orlando Youth Alliance.
I hope to see you all in Orlando. If you come to the panel, please come say hi.
~Love and Libraries, Ingrid