In a Zoom with Cape High students, up-and-coming young adult author Ryan La Sala dished on drag queens, arts and crafts, and what drove him to write books with gay teenagers as main characters.
La Sala, who is also part of the LGBTQ community, said he grew up in Connecticut with very progressive parents who wanted to expose him to all kinds of things, which included taking him to drag shows as a kid.
“Drag is an incredible art with a lot of versatility,” La Sala said.
Growing up in the 1990s, La Sala said, he didn’t see a lot of queer characters on TV or film, and there were few examples of queer characters being heroes or powerful. Like other children of that era, he read all the Harry Potter and Twilight novels.
“The books were good, but I couldn’t find myself in them,” he said.
La Sala told students while he was in high school, he wanted to write a book about a gay teenage character who could travel to multiple worlds. He said he likes writing about highly personal things, and wanted to see people like himself in stories.
While in high school, he began writing what would become his first book, “Reverie.” The novel garnered several accolades, including January 2020 Young Adult Book Club Pick for Barnes & Noble, Amazon Best of the Month Editor’s Pick and Kids’ Indie Next Pick for Winter 2020.
La Sala’s next young adult novel, “Be Dazzled,” follows the story of a crafter and gay cosplay competitor. Third novel “The Honeys,” a horror story, is set to come out in summer 2022.
Now a recognized author of young adult fantasy fiction featuring LGBTQ characters, La Sala said it took him years of hard work and small successes to be published.
Students attended the virtual event either in person in the school theater or via Zoom, hosted by Cape High Library/Media Specialist Debbie Supplee. Before the event took place, Supplee said she was speaking with Jayne Fetterman, Cape High Gay-Straight Alliance club advisor, about La Sala’s books.
“I was telling her about him, his personal life and books, and Jayne said, ‘Wouldn't it be cool if he could come speak with the students?’ and I said, ‘I think I could make that happen!’"
Supplee said she reached out to La Sala via his Instagram page and his website, and he replied about a week later.
“We loved the idea of him being a member of the LGBTQ+ community for our GSA, but also that he's a young adult author, and all our students could learn from, ask questions of, and meet an up-and-coming author!” Supplee said. “Some students knew his work, but for most, it was the first time they had heard of him. We were able to give away over 20 copies of his books thanks to donations from CAMP Rehoboth and Cape Henlopen High School GSA.”
The author Zoom was a collaboration among the Cape High GSA, CAMP Rehoboth and a CHEF reading grant.