In the face of violence, choose Pride.

We are heartbroken this morning by the tragedy that took so many lives from our vibrant community. We stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ+ family in Florida - and especially with you, our young ones, our readers.

Last October, we released the third issue of Iris and told you that we needed to take some time off to redefine the magazine to better serve you, our readers, with a goal of giving greater voice to the incredible young people who read it. We had planned to tell you all about it on Tuesday - right in the middle of Pride month.

We’d planned to share a new look to our website, change in our content strategy, and all kinds of exciting news - and we thought there was no better time for that than Pride month, when we celebrate who we are and how far our broader community has come in advocating for the rights of LGBTQ people around the world.

That all seems rather frivolous today.

Today, our community is in mourning for the senseless act of violent hatred perpetrated on our community - and things like our news, things like our new website and new posts and all that just don’t seem as important anymore.

You all know the story: Bex and I started Iris because we wanted you to have something we didn’t. We wanted to create a positive space for LGBTQ+ youth to read affirming stories and poetry and celebrate your unique stories. We wanted to give voice to your experiences, and we wanted to maybe, just maybe, find a way to help you navigate the process of coming to know yourself and your LGBTQ identity. We hoped that through fiction and poetry, we’d ease your way just a little.

We tell you that things get better. And we tell you to be strong in the face of bullies. And we publish stories that feature characters overcoming those very challenges because they’re the challenges you - or your children, your students, your patients, your congregants - face every single day. Every single day, when you walk through heavy double doors to get to your classes, you stand up to those challenges.

You stand up to bullies by being who you are. You stand up to misconceptions, and assumptions by heading to class. You stand up to hatred by being proud of yourself and proud of your community. You stand up to prejudice by being. You are our inspiration.

And then things like this happen. And I wonder what it is that we can say to you, when over fifty beautiful people are gone because of hatred and violence and evil from which we can’t protect you.

I think that all we can say is this: keep being. Keep being proud of who you are. You are beautiful, you are strong, you are talented and brilliant and so very essential to our community. You are what we fight for, because you deserve to exist in a world that celebrates you.

With love,
Team Iris

Iris 3: Change is here!

We are excited to announce that the third issue of Iris: New Writing for LGBTQ+ Young Adults is now available for download! Inside our third issue, themed "change," you'll find characters to inspire you and writing that celebrates who you are. The magazine is completely free to download and share, thanks to the generosity of our wonderful contributors. Click the cover to the left to download!

It's absolutely impossible for us to call out favorites from this issue, so instead, we'll focus on the issue's "firsts." This issue contains the inaugural essay in our "first person" series, which features creative nonfiction from a young writer. You'll find Jack O'Brien's piece "I Should I Would I Could" at the start of this issue. This is also the first issue to feature a comic - be on the lookout for Sofia Carbonara's "A Brief History of the American Queer."

Thanks as always to our exceptional team, who so generously give of their time and talent: Marylou Mao, our illustrator and cover artist; Elis Lui, poetry editor; Jay Dresden, fiction editor; and Maria Civitello and Julie Ann Pope, staff readers.

We hope you enjoy the issue! We can't wait to hear what you think.

Love,

Amanda, Bex, and team Iris

Happy Birthday, Andrea!

Today is our contributing writer Andrea Felber Seligman's birthday! Her book reviews spotlight new and old YA favorites, drawing attention to readily accessible novels that engage with LGBT themes. We're fortunate to feature her thoughtful commentary, and grateful to have her on our team! Andrea, we wish you a year of happiness and fun in your new city!

Please wish Andrea a happy birthday in the comments, and celebrate by reading her literary spotlights!

Happy Birthday, Amanda!

Today's my birthday! One of the perks of being the organization's webmistress is that I get to write up everyone's birthday posts. It's a little different when it's your own, however!

Founding a magazine like Iris was a long-held dream of mine. When I was young and just discovering who I was, the lack of representation of LGBT themes in YA novels really bothered me. I read Annie On My Mind and clung to it - but unfortunately, beyond Nancy Garden's landmark work, my library fell short. It was not unique in that regard.

Representation of LGBTQ characters and themes in YA literature is incredibly dismal. When queer YA characters do turn up, they tend to be sidekicks, stereotyped, idealized, or demonized. When Bexy and I decided to make Iris a reality, it was because we wanted to write and publish fiction and poetry that featured characters that were well-rounded rather than one-dimensional, vital to the work as opposed to a token bit of diversity - in short, human. Necessary and human.

To our teen readers and writers, thank you. The way that you have welcomed Iris means the world to me. Your emails and comments bring me such joy, because every time I hear from a young person who enjoyed the magazine or who wants to write for us, it means that that teen has access to something I didn't have: original writing that celebrates queer characters and themes. And for our teen writers whose work I edit, working with you is the most incredibly rewarding thing.

To all of our contributors, and most especially the Iris team, thank you so much for believing in this project. I am so excited for all the wonderful things to come for our magazine!

Since it's my birthday, I think it's as good a time as any to say: YOU GUYS I'M WRITING A NOVEL. That's the next thing on my literary bucket list, and I can't wait to share it with you. It's a kind of magical realism steeped in references to arcane literature, and it stars a pretty kickass heroine and her nerdy girlfriend. It's a book with lesbians! And also a princess (who does in fact have a prince). AND FAIRIES! If you take anything away from this post, apart from the thanks, of course, let it be those four sentences, because that's basically me, in shorthand, minus the prince. Get excited, guys. I know I am.

I suppose it's bad form to wish oneself a happy birthday, but you certainly can!

Happy Birthday, Roseann!

Today is our editorial board advisor Roseann Civitello's birthday! Roseann is actually Amanda's mom (so that makes her Bexy's future mother-in-law!) and her support for Iris goes much further than her advisory role. Along with Amanda's dad, Vin, Roseann has provided invaluable financial, creative, and moral support to Creating Iris from its very inception. It wouldn't be possible without them!

Roseann's background in psychology means that she's called on whenever we receive messages from teens in crisis or submissions from young people that seem to hint at a serious situation. If you've ever received an email from us about a similar situation, Roseann previewed it. She also maintains our list of resources for LGBT kids.

We're so grateful to have her on our team and wish her a wonderful, celebratory day! Rumor has it she's spending it out to lunch and at Ravinia, so keep an eye on our social media!

Wish Iris's Board Advisor and resident Mom-in-Chief a very happy birthday in the comments!

 

Happy Birthday, Bexy!

Today is the incomparable Bexy Bennett's birthday! Although she's our Creative Director and co-founder, I think my favorite title of hers might be 'my fiancee!' She is the joy and the light in my life, and I can't imagine anything more wonderful than the knowledge that we're committed to growing through life together.

Founding a magazine like Iris was always a dream of mine, and it seemed like something that I always planned to get around to doing one day. I mentioned it offhandedly one day - you know I'd really like to start a literary magazine for queer kids one day - and she said the magic words: let's make it happen. Bexy was the first to believe in the idea, to see value in it and to commit to making it happen, together. We joke that until we have kids, Iris will be our proudest creation. It's brought us closer together and introduced us to some of the most wonderful people we otherwise wouldn't have met. But more than that, it's something that we've built together, and that has incredible meaning to me.

Happiest of days, my darling girl. Here's to a wonderful, beautiful, happy year, and to a lifetime of making the important things happen. I love you.

Happy Birthday, Elis!

Happy birthday to our favorite poetry editor, the lovely Elis Lui! Elis proofed our first issue, and then became our poetry curator extraordinaire. Elis, we are so grateful to have your voice on our editorial team - thanks for being with us from the beginning! We wish you nothing but joy in the year ahead!

Birthdays are best when the cheer is spread, so go wish Elis a happy birthday!

Happy Birthday, Jay!

Today is Fiction Editor (and writer!) Jay Dresden's birthday! Jay was one of the first writers to contribute an essay to the Voices blog, and we're so glad to have her insights on our editorial team. Jay, we hope that you find this new year to be one of much happiness!

Please wish Jay a happy birthday in the comments and read her essay if you haven't already - we think it's really important.

Inside Iris: Fiction

This month, as the editorial team behind each issue of Iris prepares our latest edition, we thought we’d take you behind the scenes with us to learn a little more about how Iris is produced. Today, we’re going to focus on fiction, and will take a look at poetry and illustration in subsequent weeks.

Iris actually began as Iris: New Fiction, when we initially thought that prose would be our major focus. (That changed pretty quickly!) After all, the lack of novel-length YA lit was what prompted us to found Iris in the first place. I had been asked to review one of the few LGBTQ novels written for the YA market and found it lacking in many ways. With a background in publishing (and education), we thought we could do better by seeking out the exception voices in LGBTQ YA that we knew were out there but just weren’t being heard.

We are so proud of the fiction that has found a home within the pages of Iris. We’ve been honored to feature award-winning writers of prose and to be the place of first publication for several writers. (There’s little that’s as exciting – at least for me! – as receiving an email from an accepted author who’s thrilled to have their first byline.) We’ve published college professors and college students in the same issue, and there’s a reason for that. Iris is committed to telling good stories, first and foremost, and we love that it represents the wonderful diversity in our community.

So, what is team Iris – including our Fiction Editor, college English professor Jay Dresden – looking for in our fiction submissions? We are looking for compelling, robust, engaging stories that are creative in their approach to our theme. We want to publish writing that illuminates what it is to grow up LGBTQ – the triumphs, the challenges, and the joy that we seek to foster in the community. In short, we believe in stories that are not only worth telling, but worth being read by young people who are not just the future of this movement, but a vital component of it today – and because of that, we know you’ll like what’s waiting in the third issue of Iris.