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Queer YA ScrabbleThe Art of Being Normal

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Goodreads | Amazon UK

Two boys. Two secrets.

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.

When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…


Lisa WilliamsonThe lovely Lisa Williamson, author of The Art of Being Normal, took the time to answer a few questions for me!

1. What inspired you to write The Art of Being Normal?

In 2010, I got a job working as an administrator at The Gender Identity Development Service (an NHS service offering talking therapies for under-18s struggling with their gender identity). It was just meant to be a temporary thing between acting jobs but I ended up staying for two years! As part of the role I typed up notes from all the individual therapy sessions and heard all these incredible stories – happy, sad, painful, triumphant. I was writing something else at the time and it took a while for it to dawn on me that I had some incredibly rich source material at my finger tips and should perhaps be writing about that instead! I set about looking for fiction featuring trans protagonists and found very little. It quickly became very clear young trans people were massively under-represented in the arts and media, and I became very committed to doing something about it if I possibly could. I observed several group therapy sessions for trans teens, all of whom were as engaging and complicated and individual as any great YA hero or heroine. Collectively they inspired me to create a character who was struggling with their gender identity but not defined by it. They also inspired the tone of the book. Although several of the young people were having a really tough time, there was always so much joy and positivity and energy in the room at these sessions. I didn't want TAOBN to feel like an 'issue' book or heavy or gloomy in any way. Although there are painful moments, there are also moments of magic. I wanted the book to have light and shade, and for the downs to be balanced with real ups, just like real life.

2. I know there’s been really positive response to the book. Have you received any encouraging messages from your readers that you can tell us about?

I've had lots of lovely messages following the publication of TAOBN and feel very lucky indeed to be able to connect directly with readers via social media. It's daunting knowing strangers are out there reading the words you've written, so when they take the time to contact you and tell you they enjoyed your book, it's a wonderful feeling. I've received lots of messages from young transgender people, many of which have moved me deeply. One young person told me they were going to give the book to all his friends to read, so they could better understand what he is going through. Another said she hoped it would give her the courage the come out to her family. Another told me he had used the book as a tool to tell his parents about his gender feelings, using passages of the book to help articulate his feelings. I also received a lovely email in which a young person explained how seeing a book featuring a transgender protagonist on the table in his local branch of Waterstones made him feel like he wasn't a freak anymore and finally in the spotlight in a positive way. Equally, I've been touched to receive messages from cisgender people letting me know the book made them think more about their own attitudes towards gender and identity. A friend of mine described it as a book for 'anyone who ever went to school'. I think we've all felt like we don't fit in at some point and it was always my intention that the more universal theme of feeling different and 'what is normal?' would be a big part of the book. We still have a very long way to go in terms of achieving widespread respect and acceptance for trans people and I'm under no illusions that prejudice and ignorance continues to exist on a large scale. If TAOBN can make a difference, however small, in helping to educate and enlighten, and open hearts and minds, then I'll be delighted.

3. Are you going to write more LGBT YA in the future, and if so, what other aspects of LGBT YA are you interested in exploring?

I haven't ruled out a sequel to TAOBN down the line, perhaps catching up with the characters when they're university age. It's such an interesting time of life. You're almost an adult, but not quite. Going off to uni is often a bit of a chance to reinvent yourself without the fear of being outed as the 'nerd' or 'freak' or 'bitch' you were perhaps labelled at school, and I think it would be fascinating to see how the characters deal with this new start. I like to write about characters and situations that move me in some way. If that happens to be an LBGT issue or topic, then I'll write about it. It's more a case of waiting for inspiration to strike, whether it be in the form of a TV documentary, a news article, a song, or even perhaps something I overhear in the street, than making a conscious decision to tackle a certain subject through my writing. Having said that, I think every child deserves to be able to walk into a bookshop or library and find a book featuring a character they can relate to. With that in mind, I will always aim for the casts in my books to be as diverse as the plot and setting allows (whether this be in relation to gender, race, sexuality, class etc), not as a tick box exercise, but as a true reflection of the life of UK teens in 2015.


Next up: an excerpt from Trust Me I'm Trouble by Mary Elizabeth Summer!

Queer YA Scrabble

Queer YA Scrabble is taking place this weekend! Hurrah! Join us to celebrate LGBTQ-positive YA and you might just win lots of great books! Click here to find a list of all the prizes you can win! I am honoured to be one of the blogs helping to host this event, since you all know how passionate I am about LGBTQ YA. 😊

Starting tomorrow, I will be posting six posts, each featuring one of the six LGBTQ YA books below. Tomorrow there will be five posts, going up at 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm, and 9pm, and finally on Sunday morning at 9am the last post will go up. (I'm in the UK and we're on British Summer Time right now, check for other time zones here!)

I will be scattering some letters throughout the six posts which you will then need to collect and put together to form an anagram. Those letters will be made obvious because they will be coloured red and formatted bold: like this. Here's a hint: the anagram is LGBTQ-related! There are no letters hidden in this post.

I am only one of five blogs helping to host this event! Each blog is featuring a different set of books and authors, so please remember to visit the other blogs to solve more anagrams and win more giveaways!

GayYA.org | Queer YA | YA Interrobang | Writability

There is also a CHARITY AUCTION running after the giveaway finishes! It will run for a week afterwards. The boxes for the auction are nearly the same as the giveaway except for a crucial difference: they will all contain 3 'wild-cards.' These wild-cards have been donated by agents and editors, and include: skip the query queue, query critiques, 10 page critiques, 20 page critiques and 140-char pitch critiques. Participating agents/editors are: Laura Zats, Marietta Zacker, Brent Taylor, Stephen Morgan, Patricia Nelson, Rachel Brooks, Peter Knapp, Saba Sulaman, Maria Vincente, Rebecca Podos. All of these agents/editors are actively seeking Queer YA fiction. (Find a list of all the wild-cards here.)

You'll be able to enter the charity auction on the official Queer YA Scrabble website!

Without further ado, here are the six books that I will be featuring on my blog! Edit: All six posts are now up, so you can solve the anagram and enter the giveaway. Clicking on the title of each book will take you directly to the post featuring that book where you can hunt for the hidden letters!

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Queer YA Scrabble

I'm proud to announce that I am one of the hosts for Queer YA Scrabble, an event which aims to increase awareness of LGBTQ-positive YA, taking place from 6-8 June, in support of Stonewall UK.

Want to learn more about Stonewall UK? They have a campaign tackling homophobic bullying in schools and colleges: Stonewall Education for All. They also have a website specifically aimed at young people for them to learn more about LGBTQ issues and get support if they need: Young Stonewall.

As for the Queer YA Scrabble event, participants will hunt for letters concealed in blog posts featuring queer YA books and then solve anagrams allowing them to compete for a chance to win a box full of great titles. Following the promotional game, another set of book boxes will be up for bid with 100% of proceeds donated to Stonewall.

This event is organised by Julia Ember (Twitter, website), an author of queer YA herself. She's created a blog especially for the event, where you can find more info and weekly updates! Check out the blog and stay updated: Queer YA Scrabble blog.

We already have over 30 authors who have signed up to take part in this event and send in their books for the giveaway! It's shaping up to be an amazing event.

If you're an author who writes queer YA or identifies as queer, then please do consider signing up for this event via the author registration page!

I am one of six blogs helping to host this event. You should check out the other awesome blog hosts as well!

GayYA.org | YA Highway | Writability | YA Interrobang | The Librarian Who Doesn't Say Shhh

There's already an Indiegogo page to raise money for Stonewall UK: you can start donating now!

Do help to promote this event on Twitter and on your blog if you can! We want lots of people participating so we can raise as much money for Stonewall as possible and so that more people can learn about these queer YA books!

Now mark the dates on your calendar (6-8 June), get excited and spread the word!

loveathon2015

The Book Blogger Love-a-Thon is an event hosted by Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books, taking place on 21 and 22 February, 9am-9pm EST on both days. It's time dedicated to exploring the blogging community, leaving a comment or two, meeting new friends and fostering positivity among the bloggers of the community.

Mini-Challenge #5: High Five!

In this post I'll be sharing my current "high" fives – five things that are making me happy in the following categories! (I thought it was five things for each category but I just realised that Alexa meant one thing per category! Oh well, I already wrote out 5 things for each, so here you go.)

Books

  1. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli: I was lucky enough to read an ARC of this (a personalised ARC, no less!) and it was so heartwarming and lovely and amazing.
  2. Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White: A really enjoyable standalone fantasy! Super fun and swoony.
  3. We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach: I read an eARC – this was searingly beautiful and sad and it almost made me cry. (I know, I know, things that are making me happy. WELL THIS BOOK WAS HEARTBREAKING BUT IT WAS SO GOOD IT MADE ME HAPPY TOO.) The writing was just gorgeous. It's coming out at the end of next month and you guys all need to grab a copy.
  4. The Flywheel by Erin Gough: This is such a sweet story about Del, a seventeen-year-old girl who is left to run her dad's café while her dad goes off to see the world. It's a lesbian love story and a coming-of-age tale set in Australia and it just came out at the beginning of this month!! MORE PEOPLE NEED TO BUY AND READ THIS.
  5. The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle: Coming out in July, this is seriously excellent. It's hard to talk about what it's about because it's so complex but it's a contemporary book with paranormal elements, and it's about family and secrets.

Genres

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loveathon2015

The Book Blogger Love-a-Thon is an event hosted by Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books, taking place on 21 and 22 February, 9am-9pm EST on both days. It's time dedicated to exploring the blogging community, leaving a comment or two, meeting new friends and fostering positivity among the bloggers of the community.

Mini-Challenge #4: Snapshots!

For this challenge, I present to you some photos of books. And also a photo of me, in disguise.

cynthia vs homo sapiens 2
That's my personalised ARC of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda + me dressed up as the cover on the right! (*cough* Excuse the shoddy photoshopping.)

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