You still read that?

Bullet points are taken from Samantha Craft’s website and post on Females with Asperger’s Syndrome, which can be found here. 

Section C: Escape and Friendship

  • Escapes regularly through fixations, obsessions, and over-interest in subjects

When I get interested in something, you can bet I devote 100% of my attention to it. I always have been like this. Some interests last for a few weeks, some a few months, others for years. Books have always been an obsession of mine, as they were one of my escapes, but other things have managed to work their way into that slot as well. Most of my obsessions, however, did revolve around books or series.

For example, when I was in sixth grade, my school, St. Matthew’s School, had a Scholastic book fair. There I discovered the Animorphs series. I was obsessed with it for years. I stuck with it until the very end. I would spend my allowance money on the book every month. When it first came out, it was $3.99, or $4.23 with tax. After a few years, however, the price of the book went up one month to $4.99, or $5.25 after tax. I was devastated because I always brought the exact right amount of money with me to the store. I was lucky because the cashiers knew me and let me bring the extra money back with me next time I visited, which was frequently.

I loved that series. I loved the short-lived TV series, too. I was convinced the characters were real and lived in my area. Every time I saw a red-tailed hawk in my area, I was convinced it was Tobias. I thought that I, too, could turn into an animal if I concentrated hard enough. In fact, I spent a good deal of time in the garage focusing on changing into my cat. I would stare at my arms and will myself to change.

The series ended in 2001. I was finishing up my sophomore year. When I was still in eighth grade, I had a friend, also named Jen, who was reading the series. We briefly remained friend in high school, and when I talked about the series and what had happened to Tobias—my favorite character—she stared at me in shock.

“You still read that?”

“Yes. Why?”

“We’re a little old for that,” she laughed.

I was horrified. Yeah, the series may have started when we were younger, but the characters were aging as well, and more mature themes had been introduced. And didn’t she want to know what was going to happen with the Yeerk invasion? Didn’t she want to know if Tobias ever gave up his hawk form?

Turns out admitting to reading Animorphs still was pretty much social suicide, and she stopped talking to me shortly after that.

I was obsessed with Sailor Moon, too. I recorded every single episode of the anime and watched it all the time. The one episode that never fails (still) to make me cry, is when Serena—in the dubs—finds out she is the Princess and Darien dies. I bawl every single time. It was the one episode that for whatever reason never recorded, and I was so upset because it meant weeks before I could watch it again.

That’s about the time I began writing fanfiction as well. I wrote about Sailor Moon and Animorphs. Sometimes I crossed them over. Sometimes I made my own characters. I did that a lot, inserting myself into the stories. I created my own Sailor Moon character, Sailor Sun, who was not based on me and I wrote fiction about her as well. Somewhere around here I still have drawings of her as well. I had the soundtrack for the English show as well, at every single night for two years I would put the CD on when I went to bed to help me fall asleep. It was half an hour long and I usually fell asleep towards the end, although sometimes I needed it twice. (This later changed to me putting on To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar every single night before I went to bed. This also went on for at least two years.)

  • Obsessively collects and organizes objects

My collection of books is ridiculous. I have several thousand. I’m not exaggerating either. If you take into account the books I had in my classroom library, there were two thousand there alone. I also own over 600 hundred volumes of manga. That’s only a portion of the books I own.

Categorizing books and organizing them brings me peace. I love putting them in alphabetical order. I think maybe that’s why I enjoyed working at the bookstore so much. My favorite thing to do was fix the shelves and make sure they were completely alphabetical. I found a sense of peace in it, and whenever a customer or staff member messed it up, I would get so angry. I felt it was disrespectful to the books. But seeing the books in the right order felt so calming. It gave me a sense of accomplishment.

When I had my own apartment, Dad liked to come over and sometimes tried to mess up my books without me knowing. He would switch a volume of the manga or two around so that they were out of order. It drove me crazy!

Sometimes I like to reorder my books, but for the most part I have found a system that works for me. What made my students laugh was how well I knew my classroom set up. They would ask if I had a book and I could tell them not only whether or not I had it, but exactly where on the shelf it was, without even looking.

I also had quite a large collection of unicorns. I loved the creatures, and had many statues. I collected them in snow globes at every swap meet my dad went to. Eventually I got rid of those, however, when the water inside the globe became filthy and, although I was a hoarder, I realized they were beyond salvaging.

Barbie also made it onto my list. I collected them in boxes, especially the different nationalities and Christmas editions. I don’t remember what year I stopped collecting them, but it went on for a long time. When I let it slip to friends in middle school that I collected Barbie…well…that didn’t go over too well.

As an adult, I continue to collect books, some Sailor Moon figures, teapots, and for a while any Poe Dameron figure I could find. Oh, and we can’t forget Bumblebee! I have dozens of Bumblebee Transformer figures that I bought or were given to me by friends and family. Hey, what can I saw? They go with the car.

 

Prologue: NaNoWriMo is here, and I’m going to write!

Before I start with anything, I wanted to give you, readers, a little bit of background on what I am doing, to hopefully shed a little more light on this project.

As many of you are probably aware—if you are writers, at least—November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. While I have not always been able to participate for various reasons, my first time doing NaNo was eleven years ago. Over the course of the years, I failed some and won some. Two of my novels written during NaNo are now published with Bold Strokes books! (Andy Squared and Meeting Chance) Due to grad school the last few years, on top of my already full teaching schedule, I was unable to really participate in the festivities. I tried, but I failed, and failed hard. I am proud to say that many of my students participated, and some of them continue to do so!

This year, however, I am getting back into it. I have the opportunity. With two different jobs that afford me plenty of time, even though I also have grad school, I feel that I can successfully complete NaNoWriMo and emerge on the other side relatively unscathed.

Most of you know that for the last several years, since The First Twenty was published, I have had a case of crippling writer’s block. It’s been dreadful. Not only do I not know what to write (despite having thousands of ideas), I just can’t sit down and focus long enough to do so. Peyton and Nixie are at a standstill with just over five thousand words in their next story. Colby and Enash are chomping at the bit, ready to go. But I just can’t do it.

This is year is going to be a game changer. Instead of doing fiction, I’ve decided to try my hand at nonfiction. A memoir of sorts, if you will. There are several reasons I decided to do this, which I’ve highlighted below:

  1. Maybe something different that isn’t related to school or novels will cancel my block and open the floodgates.
  2. Nonfiction will allow me to play with words without really worrying about structure of plot. I can say what I want and ramble if I need to, in a stream of consciousness style.
  3. I can change methods every day if need be.
  4. My recent diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome has been an eye-opening experience, one which has led me to fill a Moleskine journal with my thoughts and recollections. As a writer, I want to share what I’ve written, even if some of it is personal. I figure if I share it, maybe people will understand me more.

 

Over the course of this month I will be sharing my posts on a—hopefully—daily basis. Of course I might slack a bit, but my goal is to get out of this rut and share with everyone. To help me focus, I have decided to adapt the list written by Samantha Craft, which can be found on her website here: https://everydayaspie.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/females-with-aspergers-syndrome-checklist-by-samantha-craft/

I like having lists and checking things off. This list is particularly exciting because it pretty much describes my entire experience. Reading over it triggers so many “aha!” moments that I spent hours writing in my journal. Since then, I’ve had even more, which I intend to share over the course of November.

Please join me my journey of self-discovery. These posts will be as true as I know them to be. If at any point you have questions, please feel free to leave a comment on here or wherever this is cross-posted. You can also email me at writerjenlavoie at gmail dot com. I would be happy to answer your questions.

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.

WHOA, HOLD UP. No, Jennifer! ALL 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!

Cops. 

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.

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!

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.

WHAT A BLAST!

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

It’s not too early to start thinking, right?

So New Year’s is coming upon us. Granted it’s still quite a bit away considering, I’ve already been thinking about what I’m going to do for a resolution. Let’s face it; I haven’t been the best with keeping them in, oh, EVER. But I do at least make the attempt.

Part of the problem I think is my making the resolution ON New Year’s. But why not think about them and start now to get in the habit? Maybe then I’ll be more successful.

In my advisory I had students write a resolution they truly want to keep on an index card. On the front they wrote what they want to do, and on the back they wrote a plan of action to achieve it. Once they were done I made up a pretty poster of a tree trunk and we added the green cards on to look like a tree. It’s our resolution tree!

The resolution I added was to be more organized. A lot of my girls followed my lead, and we agreed to encourage each other to stay organized. I hope it works out! It was fun activity that got them thinking about not just how they want to improve, but ways they can improve their own lives. It puts the responsibility on them.

  • Next year I’d like to blog more. At least twice a month. I resolve to do that.
  • I also want to lose weight. But I’m going for specific. I want to lose three pounds a month until I have lost twenty-five pounds. I think that’s pretty reasonable, right? I’m not asking for a lot. Just a little progress.
  • Write more. I’d like to expand my writing into new areas.
  • Study hard. I want to keep my 4.0 GPA for grad school. It’s been three semesters so far and I’ve somehow maintained it. I’m SO proud of myself because the program is rigorous, and it’s the first time in my life I’ve achieved this!
  • Read more, specifically in new years. This past year I added several nonfiction books to my reading schedule which I enjoyed. Next year I’d like to expand my horizons and read in genres or subjects I wouldn’t necessarily check out.

What about you? What are your resolutions for 2015?

Happy Holidays!

It’s certainly been awhile – too long in fact – but today was my last grad class of the semester and now I’m on break until my next class starts! At least for my own education. Still three days left until winter break for my teaching job!

This semester has been full of hard work but it was so rewarding. This class was on gender and modernism and we read so many great novels. I got my final exam back tonight and I’m so proud! I got an A! I turned in my research paper on The Sound and the Fury, so we’ll see how that does!

Next semester I’m taking a course on Victorian literature and I’m chomping at the bits to get started on the reading for it. Of course we don’t have the full list yet, but I spoke with the professor and heard Great Expectations and Jane Eyre are likely candidates.

Finally, I have some wonderful news! Most of you already know this if you follow me on Facebook, but my fourth book, The First Twenty, was picked up my Bold Strokes Books! It will be published in May 2015 and features my first female protagonists Peyton and Nixie. I’m editing the book as we speak!

And with that great news comes the cover! I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW MUCH I LOVE IT. It is STUNNING work! Check it out and let me know what you think!

The First Twenty cover

True Colors Open House

I should probably be in bed right now – okay I DEFINITELY should be in bed right now – but I can’t. I’m too excited! Tonight (as in yesterday) I went to an Open House for True Colors in Hartford, a group that works with LGBT youth. It was for those interested in volunteering, mentoring, and fostering.

I’ve been wanting to get involved for years now, but I never could manage to get around to it. I even filled out the application – twice – but never sent it in. Life got the best of me.

But last week at the retreat (post on that later) I thought about it again and was like yeah, YEAH I’m going to do it.

And then I got the email about the open house. Before I could chicken out, I sent Amber an email saying I’d be there.

AND I’M SO GLAD I WENT.

Everyone I met was amazing. I was nervous at first going in, but that faded so fast. I love the space. It’s so positive and welcoming I was completely at ease. What an amazing place for youth to go to! I donated copies of each of my books to their library. And then I saw the library. It’s nice, but they had it arranged by color. And it needs to be fixed. I volunteered.

Okay, more like literally FLAILED at the opportunity to fix it.

What can I say? I love books. And I love organizing them. And they have BOXES to be sorted and omg I want to go tomorrow and start! D:

Focus, Jen.

So I also might be doing something with a writer’s workshop and Paul mentioned a book club and I may have flailed a little at that, too. Also putting together something for the conference in March which I was supposed to do last year…but again life got in the way of that.

Really I can’t wait to get my volunteer application in. I’m so freaking excited to start. Why did I wait this long to do it? I’m so energized I can hardly sit still! And I should be in bed!

Sleep is for the weak.

For more information about True Colors, you can visit their website here. 

And because it’s important, if you’d like to volunteer or donate to True Colors, follow this link directly for more information! Every little bit helps!