Suuuuuper occasionally, a fabulous friend of mine has such great news to share, but no blog to do it on, so I offer mine. And this is just such an occasion! If you’re not already familiar with Sarah (Fox) Benwell, well, read this post and you’ll see why one of my oldest and dearest publishing friends is someone you must get to know. Check out all the info behind your newest must-read below, compliments of one of my favorite YA authors!

I hesitated over this post, wondering whether I should go for a smart, professional announcement instead. Buuuut, that wouldn’t be the whole story, and the story is important.

A little while ago, I wrote a book.

I’ve talked a little about book 2 before – tiny teasers, hinting at a South African LGBTQ (yes, all of these) music book set in a township, all rhythm and first loves and finding your voice, all heartbreak and joy.

You might have heard me, too, talking about how I was warned that no one wants f/f. How much of queer culture and experience is still deemed too much for teen readers. How I cried myself to sleep for weeks because essentially that meant I wasn’t welcome on teen shelves, nor my friends, nor countless queer young people who deserve to find themselves.

Honestly, there was a point when I thought this book would never sell, and when I thought of walking away from publishing forever because I didn’t belong.

But I’m still here (thanks mostly to my brilliant CPs and Super Agent Gill, for talking me down from super high ledges, more than once). And I’m SO stoked to tell you how very wrong I was; that my brilliant, wonderful editor David Gale loves it just as much as I do.

I cried when he said yes. Not just out of relief that I was wrong, not just because someone believes in us and our stories, but because he gets it. We’ve had conversations about music and love and attraction and story, and we’ve talked about diversity and how important it is to do it right. He gets it, and I trust him to the end of the world and back.
KALEIDOSCOPE SONG is going to be a real book, published by Simon & Schuster in the US. And I could not be happier.

And hey, because I can finally talk about it, here’s a little bit more:

South Africa is loud. Listen. Do you hear the song and dance of it? The chorus of Khayelitsha life? Every voice is different, its pitch and tone and intonation as distinct as the words we choose and how we wrap our mouths around them. But everybody has a voice, and everybody sings…

Fifteen year old Neo loves music, it punctuates her life and shapes the way she views the world. A life in radio is all she’s ever wanted.

When Umzi Radio broadcasts live in a nearby bar Neo can’t resist. She sneaks out to see them, and she falls in love, with music, and the night, but also with a girl: Tale has a voice like coffee poured into a bright steel mug, and she commands the stage.

It isn’t normal. Isn’t right. Neo knows that she’s supposed to go to school and get a real job and find a nice young boy to settle down with. It’s written everywhere – in childhood games, and playground questions, in the textbooks, in her parents’ faces. But Tale and music are underneath her skin, and try as she might, she can’t stop thinking about them.

I’m so excited to share Neo and Tale’s story with you, I can hardly wait. But for now, I just want to say this – if you’re where I was, despairing, hurt and desperate, unsure that anyone will ever want stories like yours, please don’t give up. You’ve got this, and I want to hear your song.

Sarah Benwell Author Photo credit Jess Howley-WellsSarah (Fox) Benwell is a perpetual student of the world, a writer and adventurer, who holds degrees in international education and writing for young people, and believes in the power of both to change the world.

Sarah’s debut young adult novel, The Last Leaves Falling, is published by Random House (UK) and Simon and Schuster (US).

For more information check out www.sarahbenwell.com, or follow Sarah on Twitter: @SWritesBooks.

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