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

The Year In Review! Books – 2014 edition

Continuing the tradition from last year, I recount the books I’ve read over the course of 2014. While last year I read a ridiculous 141 books, this year I did not come that far. I did read quite a lot, though, and many of them due to graduate school. I mean seriously. The two courses I took this year were filled with books, and many of them I completely enjoyed. So let’s review, shall we?

Total books read: 128

Not bad considering my original goal was 110, but I fell behind so I dropped it back to 100!

First book of the year: Souvenir Boys by David-Matthew Barnes

I had forgotten about this one! This is why I love this process. This is a book of poetry by fellow Bold Strokes Books author David-Matthew Barnes who has some amazing YA novels that I’ve reviewed here before. I enjoyed this book of poetry as well. My favorite poem was “Dear Mr. Sanchez” from this collection. It even inspired me to write some of my own poems, one of which I submitted for publication but which was rejected. Sad face. You can read my review right here on this site!

Last book of the year: In His Arena #1: Slave Eternal by Nasia Maksima

What a great end to the year! I reviewed this book for The Novel Approach Reviews, which I was recently accepted to as a reviewer. This book was fantastic. As a fan of Spartacus I enjoy stories with gladiators, and since I love Agron and Nasir, I thought this would be perfect. While totally different because it has fantasy elements, I adored this book. At this moment the review isn’t posted for The Novel Approach Reviews, however you can read my review on Goodreads here.

Adult books read: 47 (I think. Mature graphic novels and classic fiction not included.)

Favorite: This is a tough call. I really enjoyed Valerie Bronwen’s Slash and Burn, but I ended the year on such a strong note with Slave Eternal. I guess I’ll stick with both of those!

Teen books read: 6 (not including manga, of which there was a lot).

Favorite: I feel like this number should be higher. Oh well. But my favorite was definitely I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora. It’s the book I wish I had written. Not only is it about students who are obsessed with To Kill a Mockingbird, but it takes place in Connecticut! And the author is also a Bristol native, like me!

Children’s books read: 6 (More were read to my younger students, however many of them are not listed online so I didn’t include them.)

Favorite: Definitely One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia. Having gotten into recycling plastic bags and turning them into useful products, this book was awesome. I did an environmental project for my school based on plastic bags, so this was fantastic.

Manga read: 42

Favorite: Attack on Titan series by Hajime Isayama

I completely blame my students on this one. They kept talking about this series and begging me to get it for them so I reluctantly agreed to buy the first one to preview for myself as I knew it was a violent series.

FOURTEEN VOLUMES LATER I’m all caught up. WHAT AN EMOTIONAL RIDE! Characters die left and write, it’s incredibly gruesome, but I love the characters! Jean and Levi have grown to be my favorites. Volume fourteen left on such a cliffhanger I freaked out because the next volume doesn’t come out until APRIL. My student who is reading it keeps bothering me about the book, even though there’s nothing I can do to make it come faster.

Graphic Novels read: 2

Favorite: I only read two and while both were good, they weren’t favorites I suppose. Sisters by Raina Telgemeier was cute and a graphic novel memoir. Soppy by Philippa Rice was cute and simple in it’s drawings, but enjoyable.

LGBT books read (adult and teen, not including manga): 48

Favorites: Why do I do this to myself? So many of the books I read over the year were great. I ended strong with Slave Eternal, and Sweetwater by Lisa Henry was pretty phenomenal as well. And really interesting and different was Pet to the Tentacle Monsters! by Lilia Ford. Really great year for LGBT books!

Nonfiction books read: 14

Favorite: More tough decisions as each of the books had something great to offer. I think maybe my favorite would be Why Is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality by Jared Diamond. I read it for my Spring semester course and it was a fascinating look at how human sexuality has evolved since our earliest ancestors and what drives humans today. It really was fascinating.

Books read for Graduate school: 16

Favorite: Hard to choose as both of my courses offered fantastic books. I loved Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Not only was the edition amazing, but I was so obsessed with the book I read every single annotation and then watched the miniseries. I also adored Maurice by EM Forster which I had read and enjoyed before. For my Fall course I really enjoyed The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, and I renewed my love for The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I cannot wait for my next course!

 

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!

Tristant and Elijah – OFFICIALLY RELEASED!

So excited! Tristant and Elijah has officially been released everywhere and so far the reviews are great! Head on over to the reviews section of the page to see more, but here’s a few excerpts!

I truly loved the supportive role that Tristant played for Elijah in his journey. Elijah’s anguish, and Tristant’s empathy and kindness are palpable. These two are really tender boys–and I’m glad that they found each other. – Veronica from V’s Reads

 

I found the story to be relevant and one we can all relate to. Many of us have had the experience of having a crush on someone we cannot have. – Amos Lassen

 

Have you read Tristant and Elijah? Let me know what you think! I’d love to hear from you!

 

#bookaday – Day 6: The one I always give as a gift

Another difficult one. I always give books as gifts, and I try to tailor it to that person. If they’re a big reader, it’s to what they either haven’t read, or what they should read. If they’re not a big reader, I try to find something engaging for them that fits their interests. And again, it also depends on their age.

I wish this one said “The one I always recommend,” because there are definite titles for that one!

I guess for this, the book that I’ve given most recently as a gift – and a few times – would have to be The Culling by Steven dos Santos. I loved the book so much I pretty much demand everyone read it. Conversations from my side are pretty much like this:

Did you read The Hunger Games? Yes? Read this. It’s better.

Did you read The Hunger Games? No? Good. Read this. It’s better.

Do you like dystopian literature? Yes? Good. Read this. It’s perfect.

Do you like dystopian literature? No? Read this. You will now.

Do you want a book with an LGBT main character? Yes? Perfect, you’ll love Lucky. Read this.

Do you want a book with an LGBT main character? No? Well you should, so read this. You’ll love Lucky.

Do you like books that make you sob your face off? Yes? For the love of God, read this. Students have cried in my class reading it.

Do you like books that make you sob your face off? No? Well, read this. You’ll change your mind.

YA Recommendations hosted on Women and Words

The other day – Tuesday really – I was approached by Jove Belle over at Women and Words to for a blog post on young adult fiction for middle school age girls coming out.

Now, I’ve read a lot of LGBT fiction, but it’s actually hard to find age appropriate lesbian fiction for middle school! I mean, there are tons of books out there, but so many have mature themes that not all readers are ready for.

But, thankfully I do have some books that fit the bill, and I was happy to provide a short list of six books for the website. And now I’m on the hunt for more books! I’d love to do a follow up guest blog!

You can read my recommendations over at Women and Words.

Book Review: Lake Thirteen by Greg Herren

It seemed like a good idea at the time….

Every summer three families take a trip together—this year it’s to a remote resort in the mountains of upstate New York. Scotty, a teenager who’s just come out, is nervous about how his friends will react to him. A late night visit to an old nearby cemetery seems like a great idea to the bored teens, but the old cemetery holds dark secrets hidden for almost a century—secrets that might have been better left undisturbed.

And what originally seemed like a boring week in the mountains gradually becomes a nightmare of terror for the teens and their families.

Yet another great young adult book by Greg Herren. This mystery follows Scotty and his friends on a vacation to a mountain lodge that’s more popular in the winter. As such, they are the only guests there. After visiting a cemetery on the road, the five teens start to experience paranormal activities around the lodge. And Scotty can’t help but feel a connection to deceased Albert Tyler, whose grave he found.

The story that follows brings the kids on a frightening journey, which might put them and their loved ones in danger.

The book does has its scary moments, especially when the author moves into the stream-of-consciousness style. With the lack of punctuation, you can’t help but read it faster and faster, which puts you on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen next. The scenes also shift from present to the past very rapidly. For the reader it can be disorienting, which is exactly how Scotty feels when it happens to him.

Despite it being a mystery and horror, there are some tender, romantic moments, and also some rather heavy sadness concerning Albert. I felt what Scotty felt, both the terror, the heartbreak, and the joy.

The only gripe I had was how abrupt it ended. I really wanted Scotty to get home to Marc and see the two of them interact outside of Scotty’s mind. But at the same time, the final line was perfect, and any more may have taken away from the bittersweet ending. I just wish Scotty and Marc got a moment together like the other two lovers in the story.

You can purchase this book from Bold Strokes Books.

Book Review: Swans & Klons by Nora Olsen

What does it take to survive in a world built on lies?

Sixteen-year-old Rubric loves her pampered life in the Academy dormitory. She’s dating Salmon Jo, a brilliant and unpredictable   girl.   In their all-female world, non-human slaves called Klons do all the work. But when Rubric and Salmon Jo break into the laboratory where human and Klon babies   are   grown in vats, they uncover a terrifying secret that tears their idyllic world apart.

Their friends won’t believe them, and their teachers won’t help them. The Doctors who rule Society want to silence Rubric and   Salmon   Jo. The two girls must flee for their lives. As they face the unthinkable, the only thing they have left to believe in is their love for each other.

Imagine a world where men do not exist. Women not only run society, but they ARE society. As in the only members. In the distant future, male children are born with something wrong with them that ultimately causes them to become what the women call “Cretinous Males.” They are physically and mentally weaker to a large degree, making them giant children essentially. In this future society, women do not even give birth anymore. All children are created and raised in giant tubes until they are able to be born. And in order for humans to have a more meaningful life free from menial labor, Klons are created.

This book has a wonderful plot that takes readers on a journey of self-discovery, and shows what happens when the basic principal you have been taught all your life turns out to be a lie. Rubric and Salmon Jo do not find anything wrong with their world until they see something that makes them question just how Klons and Humans are created. They begin to wonder, what makes someone human? Even though this book is set in the distant future, it is a plausible world and when you consider genetic engineering that is done, and the creation of highly advanced AI, you have to wonder what DOES make someone human? What does it mean to be human?

I can easily see this as the first in a series, because the book leaves off at a place that could be the end, but also the beginning of another grand adventure. I’d love to see more of Rubric, Dream, Salmon Jo, and everyone else. There is a lot of potential here with what the author could do.

This book will be available from Bold Strokes Books on May 1, 2013. You can preorder your copy here.