Name: Ben Greene
What you Write: LGBTQ+ Nonfiction
Agent: Jessica Faust
Why BookEnds?: A lot of agencies I queried included that they wanted to represent diverse voices but really as a footnote. Especially LGBTQ+ voices, it felt like for a lot of people it was a box they checked that they had put in the buzzwords but really weren’t walking the walk. Bookends makes it clear that lifting up as many voices as possible is their raison d’etre.
Where can readers find you on the web and social media?
Do you have any writing rituals?
My main ritual is putting my phone far far away from me. Sometimes I even turn off the internet on my computer so that I don’t have to put effort in to resisting temptations. If I’m feeling stuck, I’ll read one page of whatever book I’m reading. If I’m really coming up against a wall, it’s important to me to not try to force it and to allow myself to take that time instead to do something to recharge rather than sit and feel guilty and keep spending my energy not writing.
What do you love about writing nonfiction?
My catch phrase in life is “I want to maximize my good.” I’ve spent years trying to educate as many people as I can about the transgender community and allyship and I love the prospect that I’ll be able to share that message and that kindness so much further by putting it into a book.
I also love nonfiction in general because it’s a genre that requires so much information and knowledge (obviously) and so much continuous learning. I love to learn, and now while I’m working on this book I can pick up a really cool novel or watch a great documentary in the middle of the day and say “it’s for work”!
Why did you choose the genre you’ve chosen?
As much as I love fiction, specifically all things science fiction and fantasy, I chose nonfiction because the information that I want to share isn’t getting out there in other ways and I want to be a part of building a better world for trans youth now. I also think that I love stories, which is what draws me to fiction in my reading, but nonfiction is a genre that allows for a tremendous amount of storytelling as you try to teach your reader something.
What is the hardest part about writing?
For me, it feels very personal. The stakes feel very high. I’m not writing a memoir, but I am writing a book about trans youth, and as someone who came out at 15 I’ve been there. When I write, I’m motivated by the trans youth of today, but also by the quote “be who you needed when you were younger.” I know when I was growing up there were so few resources to support me or my family and trying to write the guide that encompasses everything we would have needed to know at the time feels like quite a weight.
For other writers trying to take on the herculean task of representing or uplifting entire communities, remember that you don’t have to be everything and fix every problem with one book, and please don’t forget to find or create spaces dedicated to your joy.
If money were no object, what would be your dream writing location?
Part of me wants to say a cabin in the woods, because I love cabins and love the peace of nature, but I think I would be so distracted by the potential to hike and be outside that I wouldn’t actually do very much writing. I think I’d love to travel the country and work in a new public library every day. I’m trying to do that with every library in St. Louis, where I currently live.
What was the most important question you asked when interviewing agents?
The main thing was making sure our values aligned. I wanted an agent who not only understood what my book proposal meant but who also understood the need for it and the urgency there. I looked for examples of walking the walk as well. Did they have other queer books by queer authors? Did they share their pronouns in meetings? I needed to know an agency would be a supportive environment for me.