The Sidekicks gets a US cover

sidekickswebHere it is! The Sidekicks has its US cover. My friends at Barnes & Noble invited me to pop by their Teen Blog to reveal it, and chat a little about the real-life inspiration behind the novel.

When someone dies, it carves a line through your life. Everything before it becomes the past, and everything after is never the same.

My best friend died in the summer between my sophomore and junior years.

Read the full essay here.

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The Sidekicks hardcover edition is now available for pre-order.

In other news, The Sidekicks has been longlisted for the Gold Inky! It joins Shivaun Plozza’s Frankie, Zana Fraillon’s The Bone Sparrow, Sarah Ayoub’s The Yearbook Committee, Alice Pung’s My First Lesson, Randa Abel-Fattah’s When Michael Met Mina, Justine Larbalestier’s My Sister Rosa, Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight, Cath Crowley’s Words in Deep Blue, and Claire Zorn’s One Would Think the Deep.

The Centre For Youth Literature is currently looking for teen judges to decide the shortlist. It’s a wonderful opportunity, especially if you love reading and discussing books. They’re looking for applicants Australia-wide, aged 12 to 18. Applications close 9am AEST Wednesday 22 March.

Being political

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I’ve wanted to write something about marriage equality and the election for some time now. Whenever I attempt to write a piece, though, a voice in my head tells me not to be so political. It’s a neat trick. Conservatives politicise the way I live and the way I love, then make me feel as though it’s inappropriately political to speak from my own experiences.

As a result, I’ve written nothing.

And when you write nothing, you relinquish the pen to somebody else. Somebody who says that he, as a heterosexual white male with “very strong religious views”, encounters the same “dreadful hate speech and bigotry” as LGBT Australians.

With the Coalition’s expected return to power will come an expensive plebiscite over whether marriage equality should be granted. Yes, a federally funded opinion poll asking whether two consenting adults should be allowed to marry is ludicrous, but the plebiscite will be so much more. It will be about the validity of homosexual love, the acceptability and quality of homosexual parenting, and a whole load of other homophobic concerns.

It will finally put a numeric value on the disdain some people have for same-sex-attracted people. See, even if it is overwhelmingly successful … Like, let’s say 70% vote in favour of marriage equality, it will still stand as a reminder to every gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual, questioning person, adult or child, that 30% of Australians disapprove of them.

I might not ever get married, but I want marriage equality. I do not believe in trickle-down economics, but I believe in trickle-down morality. So long as our politicians debate and bicker over whether LGBT Australians ought to have equal rights under the law, the homophobic fringes of society are vindicated.

Marriage equality will change attitudes, and … Sorry, Fred Nile, but it will also change schools. Male and female teachers will have husbands and wives respectively. More kids with same-sex parents will enrol. Kids who’ve been to gay weddings will know that they can be just as boring. ‘Gay’ will eventually lose its meaning as a slur.

And let’s be honest, schools do need to change. My heart shouldn’t skip a beat when I hear a teacher say something about respecting the LGBT community at an Anglican school assembly (last week). I shouldn’t have a librarian tell me how much she enjoyed The Sidekicks and boast about encouraging teachers to borrow it because it was on their ‘Adults-Only’ shelf.

We’re being left behind by the rest of the world. I feel it now. I felt it last year, when I toured with a gay author from the United States. Having read their bio, a teacher at a secular school approached us and delicately implied that it would not be appropriate for this author to talk about certain things, because “there were square parents at their school”. Having seen this author speak for a few days, I was beginning to feel inspired to come out professionally myself – that incident alone pushed me back into the closet until earlier this year and … we all know what happened then.

My heart breaks just thinking about the students who are affected by those same … “square parents”.

On the other side, Bill Shorten has said that marriage equality will be the first law Labor passes if the party wins the election. It makes me deeply uncomfortable that a party that was in power three short years ago is now dangling equal treatment under the law as some eleventh-hour sweetener in a marathon election campaign.

If the alternative is a divisive plebiscite, on top of the parallel importation of books and the general feeling that our parliament is some unfunny Benny Hill skit, I’m game.

The Vegetarian and the Meatlover by the BrigoPotatoes

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Today was my final day as Writer In Residence at Brigidine St Ives. I was sad to say goodbye, but as one last hurrah, the Year Sevens united to produce what they believed to be the best worst romance ever written. Selected at random, students contributed a sentence each, while I stood to one side shouting encouragement. I now present you with the fruits of their labour, The Vegetarian and the Meatlover by the BrigoPotatoes:

Victoria walked past the butcher with disgust, how could be so cruel, she would never go in in her life. As she was looking through the window she saw her reflection in the window, no it was gross. The boy in the shop was looking at her through the shop window. Her eyes melted as she gazed into his beautiful eyes. As she was taken back to reality she knew that she could never be with him. She wanted to go in now but knew she couldn’t. he watched as her curly orange hair disappeared into the distance. He would never see that georgeous face again. The reason she left was cause she literally puked on the pavement.She saw him chowing down on a piece of steak as he licked his lips in delight,YUK! As she glanced back at him she pondered ‘ could I ever become a meateater?’ but she pushed that horrid thought away. She started to walk away from the shop until she had a thought, “Do I love him”? She laughed at herself in disgust and ran away, the boy saw her and ran after her luscious locks. The next day, I walked arcross the carb shop and I noticed a familiar face and tall figure. He leans across the counter to grab hid big bread loaf that’s my favouriyte she said. He waved at her and she blushed at the sight of his biceps. “Hello, my name is Wayne!”
‘Wow, that’s an amazing name! My name is Victoria. She sighed dreamily without knowing it.
He pushed his thick blonde hair out of his face showing his tunning crystal eyes, how could anyone be as beautiful as the human infront of her? Maybe?
“why are you following me?”
“you dropped somemthin.”
“IM A VEGETARIAN!!!!! I DON’T EAT MEAT!!”
He thought about this for a minute in his head, now he couldn’t be more attracted to her than ever but suddenly his girlfriend came around and hugged him. Then suddenly, Victorias mum, a nun walked in, and stared at the three.
“whats gping on ere you lovebirds?” she said
“he is a meat eater I do not love him momma” Victoria said with a huff>. The disgust Victoria saw on her mothers face was absolutely hallarious, the thought of eating an animal was atrocious.
“come on darling we have to go home to feed your dog”
“don’t you mean Tiana-Kyle Umpa?”
She stared back in horroer as wayn and his girlfriend kissed. She thought to her self “ I thought I loved him” then she told him that she was ay to pretty to have him as her girlfriend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Beautiful. Georgeous, even.

Vale #PTAChat

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Tonight at 7:30pm AEDT, Twitter is hosting the final #PTAChat. While I’m certain there’s amazing bookish stuff just around the corner, this is a bittersweet moment for me. It was the #PTAChat community who embraced me when I resurfaced with The First Third. Their encouragement was inspiring, and the book banter was always top-notch. My TBR pile is five times its usual size because of the recommendations I’ve accumulated over the years, and I just wanted to say thanks, not only to the awesome @PenguinTeenAus but to every author, reader, blogger who made #PTAChat the incredible beast it was.

We’re sad to see you go, Felicity (@FlossAus). You led the way, and made us so. excited. about. everything. Thanks for believing in me, @FlossAus. And for old times’ sake, here’s a collection of my greatest shirtless selfies, ordered by gym pump …

Loving someone is never age-inappropriate

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I thought I’d post a quick hello (Hi!), and thank you to everyone who commented and shared messages of support (Thanks!). Last week was an intense week, both professionally and personally, and I really appreciate your words. While I haven’t heard back from the school regarding last week’s events, I’ve been made aware of the school’s response, copied in below:

FROM THE PRINCIPAL
Dear Parents/Caregivers,
Over the last few days, there has been story in the media that involves [Redacted school name]. I am writing to you to clarify some of the details about that story.
In 2015, author Will Kostakis was invited to the College to speak about writing and, in particular, his first novel, The First Third. The talk to students was well-received and Mr Kostakis was invited back to speak to the Year 7 and Year 8 students at the end of March this year. At that presentation, Mr Kostakis would have the oppor[t]unity to promote his new novel, The Sidekicks, which was about to be released.
Part of the due diligence that teachers undertake in preparation for these visits is to ensure that what is being presented to students is content and age-appropriate. Because The Sidekicks had not been released and therefore read by teachers, a request was made to Mr Kostakis to reference his first book in his presentation to students. Mr Kostakis’ blog had indicated that his new novel includes a same-sex relationship between two young people. Without having had the opportunity to read the novel, and to ensure that the content was appropriate for Year 7 and Year 8, a request was made to Mr Kostakis to reference his first novel rather than his soon-to-be-released one. I want to make clear that Mr Kostakis’ invitation to the school was not withdrawn.
As a Catholic College, we are inclusive and compassionate and tolerant. I am disappointed that there could a perception anywhere that would suggest something different than that. Of course, the teachings and the ethos of our Catholic faith sit at the heart of who we are and what we do. We also take our responsibilities to our students and our parents very seriously. The request to Mr Kostakis was made in this context.
Thank you for your understanding with this matter and for your continued support of the College.

My return visit in March was intended as a book launch for The Sidekicks. While some might argue that you can’t have a book launch for The Sidekicks without the book, The Sidekicks, I have sought to clarify whenever interviewed that I was only told I could not talk about my new book (as evident in the initial Buzzfeed article).

I respect the school conducting its due diligence. I had, erroneously, assumed that since The First Third was deemed “age-appropriate” (it features a same-sex relationship, consensual casual sex organised through a gay dating app), then a novel that features a similar sub-plot, written with similar language, would be equally appropriate.

I call it a sub-plot because it is “sub” to the actual plot. The Sidekicks is about three different young men navigating grief after the sudden death of a close friend, learning to be more accepting of each other’s difference. There was no mention of the sub-plot on my website beforehand, because I wanted the reader to experience that part of the story unspoiled.

In the school’s email requesting that The Sidekicks launch event go ahead without The Sidekicks (which again, is not technically cancelling the event), it was stated:

We have a concern about promoting your new book at our school as it is a Catholic school. We were reading over your blog and I think it might not be appropriate, and parents might not be happy.

The only blog post that touched on same-sex attraction was my own “coming out”, a personal reflection on how a former partner’s cancer diagnosis made clear just how my being in the closet during our time together diminished his significance in my life.

In embracing The First Third, and its representation of diverse sexualities, the school did prove it was inclusive, compassionate and tolerant. The school then rejected The Sidekicks for not being content or age-appropriate without reading it, based on a blog post I wrote about my own personal experiences.

I need to make this clear: I am a male author who is attracted to men. While my experiences inform who I am, and how I write, that is not all I am, that is not all I write. When I visit schools, my main priority is to foster a love of reading, and I cannot do that without promoting my own work.

In the spirit of being inclusive, compassionate and tolerant, I would suggest that the school treat a book that features two boys kissing in the same way it would treat a book that features a boy and a girl kissing.

Loving someone is never age-inappropriate.