My flip-flopping stomach


Monday morning, 6:15AM. I stumbled into the kitchen, tired and bleary-eyed, and I headed straight for the electric teakettle. COFFEE!!! I NEED COFFEE!!! Somehow, my brain doesn’t fully kick into gear until I have a few sips of coffee in my system. While I waited for the water to boil, I picked up my phone and scrolled through my messages and updates. The e-mail from Jess is the one that catches my eye.

Congratulations on the Stonewall! it said.

Now, let me backtrack. Jess isn’t a close friend of mine. I know her because she works in my city councilmember’s office. In fact, I got to know her because she was trying to help me catch a stray rooster that was terrorizing my chickens and waking up the neighborhood at 4 AM every morning. (I’m not making this up. I swear. I actually wrote a children’s story about this rooster, but I scrapped it when the real-life rooster turned horribly evil.) So, on many levels, this was a totally bizarre e-mail message to be getting from her.

So I replied. Did I win the Stonewall? I hadn’t heard.

The next thing I knew, my Twitter account was pinging and dinging all over the place. My children’s picture book, This Day in June, had in fact won the 2015 ALA Stonewall Award. The most prestigious LGBT book award, as a matter of fact. Since then, my brain has been buzzing, and my stomach has been flip-flopping all over the place. I’m still in a state of disbelief about it. And I haven’t really had time to digest this – a few minutes after I found out, my daughter woke up, and the frenzied before-school routine was set in motion.

So now it’s Tuesday, and I’m at work, and I have a window of time between checking things off the to-do list and teaching classes all afternoon. Now I have a little time to process this. And what better way to do that than writing about it?

So. How do I feel about this?

I feel excited. Make that EXCITED!!! I’m excited about the award. I’m excited about the possibilities that come with it. I’m excited to see This Day in June getting national attention. And I’m excited that I have another reason to wear a dress I bought for an upcoming black-tie event. (I know, how shallow!)

I feel anxious. Sick, almost. Why, I don’t know exactly. Maybe because this is unfamiliar territory for me? I just know that my stomach hasn’t really settled down since I got the news. I feel jumpy and restless – to the point where I didn’t really want the coffee I’d made that Monday morning. (That’s a first for me.)

I actually feel a little guilty. Why? Because there are so many authors who have been writing much longer than I have whose books have not won the award. Me, I’m a first-time children’s book author, and my book gets the award. It’s a huge honor, for sure, but it’s also very humbling.

I feel energized. I want to write. I haven’t blogged for a while, mostly because I felt like I was running out of things to say. But now the words are coming back. And I’m realizing that you can never run out of things to say, just like you can never run out of stories. But sometimes, you have to take a breath in between before the next thought comes.

I feel hopeful. The ALA had diversity on the radar screen this year – the Newbury and Caldecott Award winners were books with diverse content. And not only was This Day in June the first picture book to receive the award, it’s a book that pushed the envelope in many ways.  (It’s not every day that you see children’s picture books featuring drag, leather, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.) The ALA sent a message this year, and that message was this: Get out of the box, and start taking diversity seriously.

All kinds of feelings, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But even just a few minutes of writing has settled my stomach a little, and grounded me. Amazing, the power of the written word.


Filed under children, human rights, LGBT families

10 responses to “My flip-flopping stomach

  1. Kim Renstrom

    I’m so proud of you right now, I’m literally sitting here at my desk in tears.

  2. Bravo! And I understand that sick feeling in the stomach, too. And you knew to fix it by writing… which heals so many things. Take a breath and the next thought comes–exactly! So proud of you and your fine book. You soooo deserver this award!

    • Jan, you know better than anyone else how writing can heal the most jagged of wounds. And the sick stomach feeling is starting to go away. Now I’m feeling like I want to have a party. 🙂

  3. I am beyond pleased! Well done, Gayle! Woo-hooooooo! Brava!

  4. Fred Sargeant

    Let me add my own congratulations. As one of those old timers who was at Stonewall and our first Pride march, it amazes me how far we’ve all come in these past 45 years. That Stonewall is more than the event is itself a mark of how far that we’ve come.

    Congrats, Fred

    Fred Sargeant 300 LeDuc Road New Haven, VT 05472-1109 1-802-492-3924

    Sent from my iPad


    • Fred, thank you so much! I’m so appreciative of you and all the other “old-timers” who stood up for our rights and took to the streets to make our lives better. If it’s okay with you, I’d love to send you a copy of This Day in June.

  5. fredsargeant

    Thank you very much for your book. Back in the day my partner then, Craig Rodwell, and I ran NYC’s first gay owned book store, the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, devoted to Lesbian and Gay literature. Your book will join my old and at times obscure collection of such books.

    Again, thanks so much,

    • You’re welcome! Man, I remember going to Oscar Wilde in the late 1980s. My friends and I would go into Greenwich Village and SoHo on the weekends. For this sheltered suburban teenager from New Jersey, that was a new experience for sure. That, combined with my fascination for Keith Haring’s art, was the first taste of gay culture I’d ever had, and it eventually opened the door for me to engage in self-discovery and eventual coming out. The bookstore was a great entry point for me, because I’ve always felt more at home with books than I have in the club/bar scene. That was true when I moved to Boston, and it remained true when I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, and eventually Sacramento. Sadly, all of those bookstores that provided refuge for me are now gone.

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