A Journey of Self-Discovery

I posted this on my Facebook page the other day, and I’ve decided that I’m going to continue to document my journey on my blog. It’s not my usual writing, to be sure, but I feel that it is important–at least to me–and if it helps at least one person, then great!

Over the course of several days, maybe weeks, maybe even months if I like how it’s going, I will be discussing my journey through anxiety and depression as well as my diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. I am doing this to help end the stigma against mental illness as well as ASD. I want more people to be aware of what Asperger’s is like for a woman who is diagnosed later in life.

There are many wonderful resources already available about there, including the books Aspergirls by Rudy Simone and Everday Aspergers by Samantha Craft. If you are interested in women and Asperger’s I highly recommend you check out those books.


The other day I made a cryptic post on Facebook about myself and people sticking with me no matter what. I had wanted to say something about myself that I have learned in the last few months, however, I was unable to figure out how to say it. After speaking to my therapist and Andy, I decided I’m going to say it and share my experience so people can understand me better.

Yes, I have been seeing a therapist again for my anxiety and depression. Many of you are already probably aware of that, which is fine. That’s not the revelation. While going to my awesome new therapist, we started working through some things and I have been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, which—if you don’t know—is part of the Autism spectrum.

Before you write or say anything, please let me say a few things.

There is no need to say you’re sorry. Don’t be! There is nothing wrong with having Asperger’s or being on the spectrum. It’s something that surprised me a bit at first, but now that I’ve had time to think about it, it makes complete sense to me and now I understand myself better than before. It’s been a wonderful revelation that has allowed me to understand how my brain works and why I do things differently from other people. I know can process why my teen years were so difficult, and why I felt like I never fit in with anyone.

Please do not also say “There’s no way! You must be mistaken!” or “But that doesn’t sound like you!” I assure you, this is not something that happened over night. I started this process many months ago, so it’s not something I decided in twenty-four hours.

For anyone who doesn’t know what it is, Asperger’s has a wide range of characteristics that may or may not all be present in a single person, and the degrees all very. Some of the characteristics include:

  • limited or inappropriate social skills,
  • tendency to discuss self rather than others,
  • lack of eye contact,
  • awkward movements,
  • and obsession with specific topics.

There are of course many more indicators, and these indicators are different for men and women. After reading the book Aspergirls by Rudy Simone, Everyday Aspergers by Samantha Craft along with other books, I discovered that my experiences are nearly identical to theirs.

Some examples of my experiences:

  • I have always had a hard time looking people in the eyes. It is actually physically painful for me to maintain eye contact, and during a conversation, my inner dialogue sounds something like this: “Look them in the eye. Hold it. Hold it. Okay, don’t stare! That’s creepy. Look around. Look back at them. At the eyes, not the nose, oh they have nice eyebrows why aren’t mine that nice, look away. Look back! Smile. Don’t smile too big, it seems fake.” I actually credit my cooperating teacher when I was student teaching in instructing me on how to maintain proper eye contact. She saw I struggled with it and gave me some tips. She called it acting class.
  • I struggle with conversations in social situations. I often say weird things, or interject at strange times. This has caused seriously uncomfortable situations where everyone will pause and stair at me, or they laugh awkwardly and ignore me for the remainder of the time. It hurts. A lot, actually. I’m trying to fit in and have friends, but it’s so difficult.
  • I also have to remind myself not to talk only about me, but to turn around and ask other people how they are. I might be an introvert, but when I get on a subject I’m passionate about, forget about it. I will steamroll over anyone. I have to consciously reign myself in and remind myself other people are present.

A great list of other attributes can be found on the Everyday Aspergers maintained by Samantha Craft here: https://everydayaspie.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/females-with-aspergers-syndrome-checklist-by-samantha-craft/

If you’re looking for books to understand, I highly recommend Everyday Aspergers by Samantha Craft and Aspergirls by Rudy Simone. They were wonderful books that helped me process my diagnosis.

If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them in the comments below or in a private message. And again, I’m not ashamed of my diagnosis, nor am I embarrassed by it. Rather, it’s been liberating for me. I now understand that my brain processes things differently from most people, and that’s why I do what I do. It has helped me cope with things that bother me and come up with strategies that actually work! I am no different from the Jennifer I was before, we just now have a name for why I’m a quirky, socially awkward person!

This has been a long time coming.

It’s been far too long since I’ve updated my website, and I have a lot I need to get off my chest. So please, hear me out.

I am a teacher. Specifically, I am an English teacher. I teach students how to read and write, how to critically analyze a text, and how to put those thoughts and opinions into words. Sometimes, however, it is difficult for me to say what I need to say. But here goes.

My students can read. 

Simple, right? Of course.

I can read. 

Also simple, right? Obviously.

Have I said anything negative about my students by stating the fact that I can read? Nope. That’s insane, right? To think that? Where in my sentence do I say anything negative? I simply said “I can read.” It follows after the statement “My students can read,” which implies that my sentence means also, in addition, as well. Those words are not necessary because it is understood that I can read as well. If you’d like a simpler word to use, you can use “too.” Example: I can read, too.

So what does this mean? It means that not only are my students able to read, but I am also able to read. No one can argue this, correct?

Thought so.

Now let’s move on to another statement.

Black lives matter.


Yes, I understand all lives matter. I’m just saying black lives matter. I didn’t say anything against every other life. I simply said black lives matter. I did not say anything against any other life. I just said that they matter.

But doesn’t that statement mean only black lives matter?

NO. No more than my statement “I can read” means “Only I can read and my students cannot read.” Just as with my first example, black lives matter has the implied meaning of black lives matter, too.

But Jennifer, the Black Lives Matter movement is violent. Look at the riots! They are horrible people and violent criminals, all of them!

It sure seems that way with the way the media covers some of these events doesn’t it? Guess who else is incredibly violent and have proven themselves to be horrible people, all of them!


No they aren’t! They are not all horrible people! Just because a few cops are bad does not mean all cops are bad.

But all of Black Lives Matter is bad. You said it yourself. You saw the riots. I’ve seen the police footage. All police officers are bad.

That’s not it at all!

Know who else is bad? Who is horrible? Sports fans. When their team wins, damn. I’ve seen those riots. Flipping cars, setting shit on fire. Those are some bad people.

No they aren’t! Some of them got out of control. They aren’t all bad, you sound ridiculous!

I know. I do, don’t I? And guess what, that’s how you sound. Black Lives Matter is not a violent movement because you’ve seen the select footage media shows you about riots. You haven’t seen the peaceful protests because guess what? That makes for boring news coverage. But I have. There was a BLM demonstration on my campus and you know why no one has heard about it? Because it was calm.

Cops are not all bad. I am well aware of this, just as you are. So why can’t that belief be extended to the BLM movement as well?

Similarly, black lives matter. The implied statement is too because let’s face it, no one means only black lives matter. I mean come on. Do you mean only white lives matter? Or only blue lives matter when you say it? If you don’t, then you understand that the word “too” is implied, and therefore you should have no problem saying yes, I understand black lives matter. End story. No need to bring up any other lives because it’s already understood. And if you have a problem saying that, then guess what? Your problem is not with lives itself but with the color of those lives that matter.

Poetry – A New Venture

Last week I submitted a poem to HIV Here and Now, a wonderful project run by poet Michael Broder, the creator of Indolent Books. When I first started following the project, I thought I would love to contribute something for consideration, but didn’t know how. However, this semester, my graduate course on Illness Narratives really opened my eyes to the importance of writing about illness in all forms of literature, and the first four books of the semester dealt directly with AIDS.

Dr. Pozorski at Central Connecticut State University has always been a source of inspiration to me, and reading these books have opened my eyes. When we had Ira Fischer come to speak on campus, I had the opportunity to see him speak. Listening him opened me to the beauty of poetry, and I jotted down several verses while he spoke.

Upon coming home, I was struck with an idea, and so I wrote. Over the course of the next three days I drafted a poem, edited, rewrote, made several changes. When I was finished, I felt satisfied with what I had to offer. I’m not a professional, but I wanted to share my thoughts.

I am extremely honored to be poem 297 for March 25, 2016 on HIV Here and Now. “Between Generations” is my first published poem. I would love for you to check it out, and while you’re on the site, read the other amazing poetry that has been selected to help countdown 35 years of AIDS, on June 5, 2016.

ALA Booklist Starred Review

Booklist starred reviewThe First Twenty has made the August 2015 print issue of Booklist, and I couldn’t be happier! It received a starred review from Michael Cart. Check out what he has to say!

In the wake of the Collapse, billions have died and society has fractured into small communities of survivors. Two such are called Settlers and Scavengers. Their natural antagonism heats up when the Scavengers kill Enrique, the leader of the Settlers. His daughter, Peyton, assumes his role and captures one of the Scavengers, a young woman named Nixie. The two quickly fall in love, a relationship that is forbidden given their circumstances. Subsequently hoping to establish radio communication with other surviving outposts, Peyton, Nixie, and a handful of others make a potentially perilous quest to the ruined city of Hartford. In the process, a closely guarded secret of Nixie’s is revealed, one that can change all of their lives. But will it be for better or worse? There is nothing terribly original about Lavoie’s somewhat tame dystopian novel, but the relationship between Peyton and Nixie is well realized and heartfelt, and there is enough action to hold readers’ attentions to the end.

— Michael Cart

Questions #2

I love the questions you’re asking, so keep them coming! Today we have two questions from ‘Nathan, who asks:

Okay, I have a two-part question: Have you bumped into much negative feedback for writing LGBTQ characters? (and, the second part, to make it a less negative topic) What have been the best moments of having written LGBTQ characters?

Writing LGBTQ characters has been fantastic. I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve honestly not had much negative feedback from the writing portion. I did have some issues with starting a GSA at the first school I worked at, but it was concerns on the part of an administration that wasn’t sure just how the GSA would benefit the school or students.

My biggest concern was with how my family–mostly my grandparents–would react. They come from a generation where being gay is just unheard of. Growing up, I found myself butting heads with my grandfather on many issues…a lot. It’s just who I am and it’s how he was raised. But even my grandfather has done me proud.

Book signing other viewWhen Andy Squared first came out, I had to explain what it was about. Of course my grandparents wanted to read it, but I did worry. I didn’t know how they would take it. I didn’t write it for them, obviously, but as my grandparents, I still wanted their approval. But I wasn’t sure if it would happen. When I had my book release party at the Bristol Public Library, they came. I couldn’t have been more nervous when I was standing at the podium reading from the book. At my feet I had my former students, and my grandfather sat right in front of me. When I opened the floor to questions and his hand went up, I wanted to crawl under a rock and hide. But he surprised me. Rather than asking about Ryder and Andy’s sexuality and some, ahem, scenes, he commented on the style of writing and how he could picture being with the boys as they rode horses.

Book Singing with students at my feetAfterwards, he admitted he hadn’t finished the book yet, but that he was enjoying it. And when he finally did finish it, he told me how it had changed his mind on LGBT people.

I cried.

Then he surprised me again. He and my grandmother read the newspaper, and they enjoy columns like Ask Amy and such. In one, a mother had asked about her teenager being gay, and what books to read to help her understand, etc.

My grandfather wrote to the columnist and explained how his opinion had changed after reading Andy Squared, and how he realized how difficult LGBT teens have it when their family doesn’t accept them. I still have the email he sent me somewhere.

I cried again.

I guess you could say that was also one of the best moments of having written LGBTQ characters. Even though my books are primarily for teens, having a 70+ year old man read the book and change his opinion was pretty spectacular.

Readers have also contacted me from all over. My first ever reader email was from a young man in Costa Rica who had to order the book from the US and have it shipped to him. Another was from a young fan who reached out to me on Facebook, telling me he was going to come out to his family. I kept in touch with him for several months after that, checking in to see how he was doing. I also recently had a reader FROM upstate New York contact me, thrilled to see his part of the state represented with gay teens!

So the best moments are definitely when readers reach out to me to talk. I love that. I will always respond to readers, so please, don’t be afraid to reach out!

Your burning questions answered!

Do you ever wonder how an author gets their ideas? What inspired certain stories or scenes? What their favorite spot to write looks like? I know I have wondered that many times for my favorite authors! It’s interesting to find out about the people we read and what inspires them.

So I’m asking you, dear readers, to submit your questions! What do you want to know about me? What burning questions do you have that you just need answered? Feel free to post a question on my blog, the Facebook page, or send me an email!

The first question comes from Shelley, who asks:

What got you started writing? Why young adult specifically? Why GLBT themed?


All great questions! And it’s a long answer. Sort of. So sit back, folks, and listen up!

I’ve always considered myself a writer because I enjoy crafting stories. I was imaginative as a child, and would play with dolls and toys like a normal child did and create stories for them. I have a very specific memory of my first grade class. The teacher would post the lessons we had to get through for the day on the board, and some of them were at our own pace. At the very end of the list was free-writing. I loved to rush through my work to get to that because free-writing involved a box of pictures cut out of magazines pasted to card-stock. We had to pull a picture out of the box at random and write a story around it. It wasn’t often that I got to the end of my lessons, but by the end of the year I had a thick folder of stories I had written.

After that, I continued writing. I would keep composition notebooks full of stories. First I started with writing fanfiction. In sixth grade I started reading the Animorphs series, which had just come out, and I was obsessed. I wrote stories with those characters in new situations. Then I discovered Sailor Moon. I wrote crossover stories featuring the Animorphs kids and the Sailor Scouts. (I think I might still have one of those notebooks somewhere…)

Once my family got on the internet, things took over. I discovered fandoms and connected with people who wrote fanfiction. I read fanfic, I wrote fanfic, I posted it on different websites and started getting feedback. Then one day I had this brilliant idea to do a crossover with Final Fantasy characters…and original characters. I had written OCs before, but usually they were Mary Sues… ahem. This new crossover had dozens of original characters, and eventually I started writing it on my own, taking the Final Fantasy characters out and creating my own mythology. I started that when I was 18, and 12 years later I’m still tweaking that world. Eventually I will finish it.

About that same time I fell into other fandoms and discovered the magical world of online RP (role-play) writing. I was hooked yet again. I made some great friends, some of whom I still talk to today. I wrote with them, interacted with other writers, created complex stories and worlds that started with characters from a series, but evolved to becomes its own world.

By now I’m in college. I know I’m going to be an English teacher. There are certain courses that you must take. The one that truly started all of this was Literature for Young Adults with Dr. Cappella. In that course we had to read between 2-3 YA books a week and write about them. But we also had to write our own book. He said, “The only way to really know how to teach and understand young adult literature is to write it.”

Back up a semester. I was hanging out with a group of friends in the student center, eating a chicken ceasar wrap, and we were talking about TV shows. I had recently discovered Queer as Folk and I was extolling its virtues, when one of my male friends told me how much he loved the show. I didn’t think anything of it. We started talking about Justin and Brian, and it never clicked to me exactly why this conversation was significant until my friend pulled me aside after and came out to me. Talk about a “duh” moment. He had been giving me signals the entire conversation, and I was just completely oblivious! After, we became close and often wandered away from our group of friends. I introduced him to my favorite place on campus: Stack 2.

The library on campus at the time had LGBT books in a separate stack. I thought it was great because I could just wander down there, grab a book, and read. I visited almost every day and I only saw another person there once. It was warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and had a couch. Basically, heaven. I had discovered I enjoyed reading about LGBT protagonists much earlier when I was about fifteen and had read Aristoi by Walter Jon Williams and had been reading it since.

So, going back to the YA class, when Cappy told us we had to write a novel, I talked to my friend about the assignment. I had no idea what to write. And he said, “Why don’t you write a book about a gay teen? I wish there had been books like that when I was younger.” And I thought…. huh. Why not?

Andy Squared was born. The first draft was incredibly rough and it took my seven years from start to finish to get it where I wanted it, but I kept going because my professor encourage me to keep going because he saw something important in the pages, and my friend read it and loved it.

I could have stopped there, but I had always wanted to be published. So I wrote, and rewrote, and rewrote some more. I eventually found a home for Andy and Ryder with Bold Strokes Books.

By the time Andy was accepted for publication I was teaching. I had students I worked with come out to me, and it meant so much to me that they would trust me with that information about them. When that first student honored me with that trust, it reminded me of my friend from college and I thought, “This. This is why I teach, and this is why I write. I need to keep writing these stories. These kids need voices. They need to see more characters like them so they know they’re not alone.”

It’s getting better out there. From the time I started writing in college until now, hundreds of LGBT books have been published for teens by small publishers and the big houses. But we can still do more. Stories need to be about more than just coming out. I keep writing because I want my students to see queer teens in the same positions as their straight counterparts. I want them to be the heroes and heroines of dystopias, fantasies, and scifi novels. So I’ll keep writing until the ideas run out. And that doesn’t seem to be anytime soon.

Boston Pride 2015

Until yesterday, I had never been to a Pride event. I had always wanted to go, but they were either too far away from me, or I forgot about it/didn’t know about it until it was too late. This year I had the opportunity not only to go to Boston Pride, but to help represent my publisher and sell copies of my YA titles.


Boston is only about an hour and half from where I live right now, so it was really exciting to be able to make the trip for the day. I left early in the morning, had a heart attack navigating the tunnels into the city, but found a parking garage close to where I needed to be.

Just some of the books we had to offer. And me posing in the background.

Just some of the books we had to offer. And me posing in the background.

I was early. But it was still nice to see everything as it was being set up with so few people around. Because when eleven o’clock hit, it started to get busier. And when the parade reached us at around one, oh my GOD it was wall-to-wall bodies.

Since Boston is the home of my favorite drag queen, JuJubee, I had been hoping to meet her. She responded to my facebook post about being there, but sadly that wasn’t the case. However I sold out of all my YA titles, and fast! By an hour into the festival I was worried I wouldn’t have any left! With a little over three hours to go, I did sell out, but that just meant helping the other authors!

I was happy to have been able to bring Julie Blair and ‘Nathan Burgoine’s books as well. It was nice to have a good selection for festival goers!

I got to hang out with great authors from my group. I knew Cathy Frizzell from the Rainbow Book Fair in NYC, and Dena Hankins from the retreat last summer, but I also got to meet Jean Copeland and Holly Stratimore and their respective partners. Fun times!

Jennifer Lavoie, Jean Copeland, Holly Stratimore, CF Frizzell, and Dena Hankins

Jennifer Lavoie, Jean Copeland, Holly Stratimore, CF Frizzell, and Dena Hankins

But what was even better was the opportunity to connect with the readers. That was amazing. There were a lot of young adults there, and I had a blast talking with them. Some readers had no idea we existed and eagerly snatched up books. Some didn’t realize we were the authors until we asked if they wanted the books signed. Some readers were young – like one girl who bought Meeting Chance with her two dads and her little sister near – or older who had read a lost of LGBT fiction in their lives. Either way, I appreciated them all.

Dena looks on while Jean signs her novel and I...stare at something.

Dena looks on while Jean signs her novel and I…stare at something.

I can’t wait to do it again. I know all of us want to go back next year, and I hope I get to do more Pride events. I was originally going to do Providence Pride next weekend, but that had to be cancelled since no other authors were interested. And it’s a bit late for NYC Pride. But hey, maybe next year?

What do you think? Would you like to see Bold Strokes Books and NYC Pride next year? If you would, leave a message here! I’ll let my publisher know you want to see us! Any other Pride suggestions or events? Let me know! I’ll pass it along!


Rainbow Book Fair – April 18, 2015

Hi everyone!

It’s that time of year again! Next Saturday, April 18, I will be at the Rainbow Book Fair in NYC, helping promote and sell books for my publisher, Bold Strokes Books. But the most exciting part? I’ll be selling copies of The First Twenty almost a month early! You can buy the book at any time of the day, but if you want to chat or have it signed, I will officially be at the table from 5-6 with YA author Jeremy Jordan King, author of the Immortal Testimonies series! It’s going to be a great event! If you’re in the area, please stop by and say hello! We’d love to meet you! RBF banner

The First Twenty – are you ready for it?

The First Twenty coverIt’s just about a month for the release of The First Twenty and I’m getting excited! The author copies came in and they are BEAUTIFUL! I mean really, look at that cover! Stunning.

This book is my longest at 233 pages, and it looks great! I can’t wait to see what readers think!

If you read it, be sure to let me know what you think! I love getting feedback from my readers, and I would love to link to your review on my page.

Reviewer for The Novel Approach

I decided I would share the links to reviews I do for The Novel Approach on my blog, as the books I get a chance to read are great. I also post the reviews on Goodreads, but these links will redirect you to The Novel Approach. I will also keep a list through my review pages.

Keep in mind, unless otherwise noted, these books are for mature audiences, and as such readers should be warned.

The Sensualist and the Untouched by Susan Laine – 12/26/14

Green the Whole Year ‘Round by Rowan McAllister – 12/31/14

On Wings of Song by Anne Barwell – 1/4/15

A Spartan Love by Kayla Jameth – 1/7/15

Slave Eternal by Nasia Maksima – 1/10/15