Bill Konigsberg is the award-winning author of five young adult novels, including The Porcupine of Truth, which won the PEN Center USA Literary Award and the Stonewall Book Award in 2016, and Openly Straight, which won the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor, and was a finalist for the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award and Lambda Literary Award in 2014 and has been translated into five languages. In 2018, The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)'s Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) established the Bill Konigsberg Award for Acts and Activism for Equity and Inclusion through Young Adult Literature. He lives in Chandler, Arizona, with his husband, Chuck, and their Australian Labradoodles, Mabel and Buford.
Everyone’s a critic. In this digital age, criticism can be loud, painful, or downright vicious. It is imperative that writers exercise resilience when taking on critique. How do you know what’s helpful and what’s harmful? What critiques should catch our eyes and ears when it comes to revision of the manuscript, versus those we can cast aside as not helpful? Panelists will talk about how to cut through the noise of trolls and remain centered on genuine improvement in your work.
How do we mine our darkest moments for story, and how do we sit in that place and get the story onto the page while maintaining our mental health? In this session, we will talk about how we as writers explore our own traumas in ways that allow us to be vulnerable and open, share the experience so that others can feel what we felt, and still keep ourselves separate enough to function in real life.
Coming out as a teen was one of the hardest, most traumatic experiences I've ever had, and I think I gravitated toward writing the kinds of books I write because of this. It's a way of re-living and re-imagining my own experience, as well as "paying it forward" and helping others who are coming out now. It was a different time when I came out for the first time -- the 1980s. We didn't have all the gay role models that we have now, and I had to search the word "homosexuality" in my school library. All that came up were stories of this new disease -- AIDS -- that was killing gay men. Consequently I felt very alone, and I also felt very afraid. My experience telling family members was really mixed.
I want to include all different sorts of characters, and I do. In my current project, one of my two protagonists is an African American lesbian who lives in Billings, Montana. In creating a character like this, I need to be careful to sidestep expectations and archetypes. In reality, she is a person. A person whose background includes many different experiences, some that I share, and some that I don’t. For those I don’t, I need to find another entry point so that I can understand what it feels like to be in her skin. This is one of the great challenges of writing, and I love it. I can’t tell you yet whether I will be successful in creating this character, but it won’t be for lack of effort.
If I’ve learned one thing on my trip around the United States, talking to LGBTQ youth about coming out and suicide and depression for The Trevor Project, it’s the fact that the concept of unity in this country is an impossibility [ . . . ] I do believe the word “united” is probably the wrong word for what these states are. United in what?
The Porcupine of Truth follows the story of Carson Smith who is living with his estranged dad over the summer. When he meets Aisha Stinson, the two connect right away. After the two find a box of recent cards from Carson’s grandfather, who had disappeared thirty years ago, they decide to go on a journey to find him. This delightful, inspiring, hilarious trip transforms both Carson and Aisha’s lives.
When the announcement came over the loudspeaker that I needed to go to the headmaster’s office, I thought: Maybe they’re putting me on academic probation?
It was the first morning of classes after winter break, and as I hurried across the empty quad to the administration building, all bundled up in my brown hooded jacket, part of me realized how crazy that was — one C plus wasn’t exactly probationworthy. Another part of me couldn’t stop my heart from pounding because I was sure I’d done something bad.
I’d never been to Headmaster Taylor’s office. Swank. I sat in the waiting room, which was all wood paneling and high ceilings and sculptures. It even smelled manly, like the aftershave lotion my old roommate, Bryce, used to put on before parties.
The secretary told me the headmaster would see me, and I stood up and slowly walked toward his door, trying to get my heart to stop pounding in my ears. I opened the door.