Today we’re thrilled to have Heidi Cullinan on the blog to talk about her upcoming release, Enjoy the Dance. While this book is a sequel to her gorgeous dance-centered romance, Dance With Me, it does stand alone. There are some favorite characters you’ll recognize, and it features some topics that are very dear to Heidi’s heart.
We also have not one, but TWO giveaways for you, so lace up those dancing shoes and come check out Heidi’s new book!
Enjoy the Dance, by Heidi Cullinan
Series: Dancing, Book 2 (Stand-alone)
Release Date: October 11, 2016
Dance with your heart, and love will follow.
Kindergarten teacher Spenser Harris has carved a quiet, stable future out of his tumultuous past, but his world turns upside down the night a homeless teen appears on his doorstep—a boy whose story mirrors the one Spenser has worked so hard to overcome. The decision to shelter Duon is easy. What’s tricky is juggling the network of caregivers in Duon’s life, especially Tomás Jimenez.
Tomás wouldn’t have hesitated to take Duon in, but his plate is already full working three jobs to support his family. Though Spenser’s carefully constructed walls are clearly designed to keep the world at bay, Tomás pushes past Spenser’s defenses, determined to ensure the man is worthy of his charge. As the two of them grow closer, Tomás dares to dream of a life beyond his responsibilities, and Spenser begins to believe he might finally find a home of his own after all.
But Spenser and Tomás’s world is poised to crash around their ears. Duon’s grandmother isn’t sure she wants him to be raised by a gay man and challenges Spenser’s custody. Tomás’s undocumented parents could be deported at any time, and all the while the state of Minnesota votes on a constitutional amendment against marriage equality and the US Supreme Court debates whether or not Spenser and Tomás get a happily ever after. All they can do is hold tight to their love, hope for a better future…and remind each other to enjoy the dance.
You can buy Enjoy the Dance from:
Today we have Heidi Cullinan on the blog with a very special interview:
Interviews are a staple of blog tours, but this time I’d like to shake things up, because while I did my homework as best I could to write Enjoy the Dance, I’m by no means an expert. I wanted to let you hear from some people who know a lot more than me about the subjects touched on in the story, and one of those people is Ryan Berg, who I know through the Avenues program in Minneapolis.
When we first met you’ll remember how surprised I was to discover that Avenues was not part of the foster care system. I know that explanation can become a rabbit hole, but can you give a brief illustration of the difference between programs like avenues and the foster care system and how they can coincide?
The host home model in Minneapolis is intentionally small and non-institutional. Many youth seeking stable housing come out of foster care. Typically, youth have two overriding complaints about the foster care system: they had no say over where they were placed, and the people they lived with were paid to care for them.
Within the host home model these features are flipped—the young person reads the applications of potential hosts and chooses whom to meet, and all hosts are volunteers. Host homes are thoroughly screened and trained, then provided ongoing support while they are hosting youth. But they are not “licensed,” which provides greater flexibility to address changing needs as they arise.
This model is sustainable because it is volunteer-based and community-born, but it also requires on-going examination of who gets the opportunity and who has the resources to volunteer. We strive to be creative about how to support folks who are already informally hosting or who want to host through our programs but feel they can’t afford to do so.
Avenues also has multiple satellite programs such as Brooklyn Avenues and the GLBT Host Home Program. Can you give a little detail about those? How did they come about?
The GLBT Host Home Program came about in the 90’s when the queer community in Minneapolis recognized many queer youth were experiencing homelessness but there were no culturally-specific resources made available for them. When attempting to access the general population services they were often met with discrimination and contempt. The GLBT Host Home Program was an organic response to a community need.
Brooklyn Avenues is our second site-based program in Brooklyn Park, and opened in February 2016. There is a scarcity of services for youth experiencing homelessness outside of urban centers. Most suburban and rural youth have to migrate into the city to find shelter or services and then are forced to navigate unfamiliar streets, making them more vulnerable to exploitation. Brooklyn Park, a suburb of Minneapolis, recognized the need for services in their community. They partnered with Avenues and Brooklyn Avenues was born. Both our shelter in Brooklyn Park and the one in North Minneapolis offer health and wellness support with a therapist and nurse on site, and intensive case management and independent living skills support.
We’re starting a new program called Avenues for Young Families so parenting youth will have access to housing options and services.
How unique are these programs? Do they exist in other parts of the country?
Communities and states across the country differ. Some communities have abundant services and supports, others are still in denial that youth homelessness is an issue. In the state of Minnesota there are over 4,000 young people experiencing homelessness on any given night and around 500 youth-specific beds for those youth. Obviously the gaps are enormous. And Minnesota is one of the good states, very active in trying to find solutions. When we think of responses to youth homelessness we can’t rely solely on the government. Communities need to come together and take action. That’s how the host home model in Minneapolis was born. Only 18% of youth service providers across the country provide host homes.
What are the obstacles of programs like Avenues and its satellites, both from the standpoint of simple logistics and from bureaucracy?
We know that systemic and generational oppression are at the root of homelessness in this country. We could conceivably come up with 3,500 beds today, and tomorrow we would wake up to find youth homelessness still present in Minnesota.
We can’t talk about solving homelessness without tackling economic and racial injustices.
Minnesota is known for its service provision, but like many liberal states across the country, it has not been successful at moving beyond white liberalism and charity models to true cultural change – one that recognizes, challenges and shifts power and privilege.
Service providers need to partner with community organizers to find new ways to support young people. We need to create an entree to building awareness of youth homelessness so communities can commit to improving supports for young people and their families of origin and of choice. We need to keep seeing the bigger picture, to not only focus on more beds but also on the systems that create homelessness.
Keep reading at Molly Lolly as the blog tour continues!
Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, playing with her cats, and watching television with her family. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.
Today you have TWO chances to win amazing prizes!
The first one is simple: Just comment on this post and tell us why you’re excited to read Enjoy the Dance! One random person will win an e-copy of the book delivered straight to your inbox on release day (Oct. 11)! Please be sure to leave a way to contact you. Contest ends 10/10 at 11:59pm EST, open internationally.
The second giveaway is courtesy of Heidi herself, and it’s AMAZING! Don’t believe me? Take a look:
That’s right… all of that can be yours! This awesome Enjoy the Dance prize-pack includes: Enjoy the Dance in paperback, Dance with Me in paperback, No House To Call My Home paperback, MIKA The Origin of Love CD, a box of Lady Grey tea, and a bottle of Tajìn seasoning.
(Trust me, once you read the book, you’ll be craving everything in this prize-pack!)
To enter the second giveaway, just click the image above (of the super cool prize-pack) to be taken to the Rafflecopter giveaway!