Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Books I Read for Pride Month

Hello! Pride Month just ended, and I thought I'd share with you the books I read in honor of Pride!

Image result for being jazz my life as a transgender1. Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings

My Rating: 4 stars
Representation: trans girl, other queer people mentioned (#ownvoices)
Quick Review: This memoir by teenage trans activist Jazz Jennings gives a full-life view into the experiences of (one) transgender teen. I found reading about another teen trans activist very interesting, especially since Jazz came out and transitioned so much younger than most of us. Her writing was relatively simplistic, but what can you expect from a teenager that's not exactly a professional writer? That being said, Jazz's writing was much better and easier to read than other teen writers I've read, so props to her. I would recommended this book to both cis (non-trans) and trans people of pretty much any age, teen and up, that wants to get an idea of what it's like to be transgender, though I would keep in mind that this is a very privileged experience! (Just saying.)

The Traitor's Tunnel (A Trident Chronicles Novella)2. The Traitor's Tunnel (A Trident Chronicles Novella) by C.M. Spivey

My Rating: 5 stars
Representation: pansexuality, ace-spectrum, several queer characters (#ownvoices)
Quick Review: This novella is a prequel to Spivey's Trident Chronicles, though it is not necessary to read that book before reading this one. (I didn't, and it mostly made sense, though I will be reading this series after reading this novella!) I'm glad I've been finding so many LGBTQ+ fantasies lately, as I almost always love them. This story has a variety of queer characters, including the two main characters, their love interests, and other side characters. I love how this story normalizes asking someone's pronouns, getting consent from partners, and calling people by gender neutral pronouns ("ze" is used here) before you know their gender, which is something that is pretty much never seen anywhere, and I would love to see more of it, especially in YA. This novella also has a simple yet enjoyable plot, as well as lovable (and shipable) characters. And it definitely leaves me wanting more of this world!

Image result for half truths and half lies sally green3. Half Lies and Half Truths (The Half Bad Trilogy #0.5 and #0.6) by Sally Green

My Rating: 3 stars (for both)
Representation: gay male character (not #ownvoices)
Image result for half truths and half lies sally greenQuick Review: Half Lies follows the sister of a character named Gabriel (one of the main characters from the trilogy), but Gabriel also plays a major role, and his gayness is treated very well and casually, though it is not the focus of the story. Half Truths is told from three points of view, but it is focused on Gabriel right after the events in Half Lies, as well as his love interest (in this novella), Jon. Both stories were pretty enjoyable, though it's kind of hard to really love a novella. It kind of hurt to read after already finishing the Half Bad Trilogy (trying not to spoil things), but considering that each of these stories are only $0.99 on Amazon, they were definitely worth purchasing. It was also pretty entertaining to read about Europeans in America and then in Switzerland while being an American in Switzerland...


Image result for boy meets boy4. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

My Rating: 4 stars
Representation: several gay characters, bisexual character, ...drag queen/trans girl? (she's referred to as a drag queen but goes by female pronouns all the time so idk this was 2003) (#ownvoices for the gay characters)
Quick Review: For a queer book written in 2003, this book surprised me. Boy Meets Boy takes place in a strange town where homophobia is rare and gay-straight alliances exist in 2003 (12 years before my own). It's nearly a gay utopia, which is probably what queer kids needed in 2003 to be honest. This is definitely the kind of book I would give to young gay kids. Like, someone please give this to eleven-year-old me. All eleven-year-old me needed was cute gays being themselves, and that's exactly what this book is. Obviously, this isn't the kind of thing every queer kid needs (it might disappoint them when they realize that reality isn't like this), but it was a nice escape from the slurs I get called daily, and my school is considered pretty accepting! But still, that kind of thing isn't for everyone.


Did you read any LGBTQ+ books for pride? Tell me in the comments! And if you have any queer book recommendations (bonus points if you can come up with one I haven't heard of!), you can tell me there as well.

Happy July! Aka LGBTQ+ Wrath Month.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Author Guest Post: Maxine Thompson (Dialectic on the Survival of a Battery Doll)

Dialectic on the Survival of a Battery Doll

Maxine Thompson

When we talk of lusts, I always got the impression that it is mostly related to sexual lust. Personally I have lusted in many ways. Marginal levels of maturity has shown me that.

In this instance, I think I can acknowledge the three main lusts that turned me from a life of humility and true contentment, to a life of desperation and mental enslavement.

The first of these, I had initially held in the best regard, which, to be fair, is a likely condition and symptom of lust.

I had lived with him for close to a decade. I had lived with him for years, until I had to accept that he was an incubus and an abuser. He was someone that absorbed my strength, my heart, and eventually my will to live. I was left depleted, abandoned, and absent-minded. This did not happen at the end of the time we spent together, but was happening clandestinely throughout. I only opened my eyes to the truth after the fact. I guess it just seems to happen that way - something to do with denial, or worse, ego.

I internalised and fantasized my life - living through yahoo chat rooms, my avatar on second life, and a holiday romance that left me with a son, whilst still legally bound to this deception of a reality.

The incubus forced me to live an arid existence, whilst he kept two households in the same vicinity - this double-life totally unknown to me. His attitude and behaviour whilst we were together, was one of heavy condemnation. He judged me, and verbally tore me down, brutishly, and arrogantly, with a mouth like a viper. It became a competition, to prove myself just as it has always been. I was “nasty” and “lazy” with home maintenance. I did not teach the boys to clean up after themselves, and I was an overweight “pig”, with “no sense”. No other man would accept the scars on my stomach from the multiple caesareans and laparotomies that I had had to save my life, and even my “mother does not love me”. My friends were “whores and roaches”, and there were doubts about whether I had ever really been sexually assaulted, despite police and crown prosecution involvement.

No one wanted to suffer his company, and my company diminished. I did meet him whilst very vulnerable - twenty-one and extravagantly low in self-esteem…

Let me talk a little about my second lust - the idea of beauty.

Beauty has had a serious influence on me. It seems to have a serious persuasion on people in general, but obviously in different proportions, and ways. For me though, it is something of a novelty. It is a novelty first of all because of my mother, and then further on in my college years in my need to be attractive, to the degree that I ended up putting so much weight on it throughout my formative years, and adulthood altogether. I struggled to see past it, and once I thought I had set my eyes on what appeared to be good, I was hooked on it being good, until the truth was later revealed…

My third lust, the one I saw as the pride of life, and the one to make me appear wise, was my lust for achievement. It was my lust to be a success in this world. I wanted to do something good in life, and in society, and the idea of rising to a respectable office in the Home Office (an established and highly regarded organisation) also appealed to my ego. I did not really see it like that in my youth: I just wanted a job, and it was in government administration, and I thought, “that is good, maybe I will make something of myself”. I did not know what it was really like, until my love of ego nearly killed who I was.

I dream tigers that stalk me. These treacherous and calculating creatures, that hunt the weak. With piercing eyes, and intent foreheads. Their colour so striking and vivid in quite lucid dreams. I was thankful that at one point I walked into a room full of dead ones.

I was wearing only pyjamas and large green wellington boots. As though I was the hunter. I had not attacked them though, so I am in no way sure how these creatures died.

Sometimes I see big rats passing near me and I get a sense of envy. Sometimes I dream large snakes, and being choked by them as they press heavily in, and circle tightly around my throat. I dream that I am in a room filled with people who have lost their minds and can’t communicate.

I suffer severe nightmares in which I am being chased by various men, up and down escalators, running on rollercoasters, up and down hills and valleys, and in and through cubes. I dream myself bound to a chair, with my arms tied up behind my back. Sitting there in complete terror, in a dark cave…

I had always felt a deep rejection which I really could not articulate. I could not articulate it, but I knew from the beginning, I was alone. I felt myself leave, mentally and emotionally. I turned cold, and withdrew into myself, deciding that one day I would find love and feel special. This ‘feeling’ and ‘sense’ of rejection, abandonment and loneliness, really lead to my primary infirmity, because it made me feel inadequate and made me desperate for acceptance but in an exclusive, ‘everyone must work for my love and attention’ kind of way. As though, if you do not think I am good enough, then neither are you, and you must prove yourself.

I became a living doll. Life-like, and alive, but cold inside. A doll bearing invisible weights that had settled around my innocent and naive heart, forming firmament between me and people.

This memory left me wondering whether this was the beginning of my disassociation. A disassociation that I never quite understand because the whole concept is quite challenging to get my head around. When I was told by my therapist that I think my emotions, I don’t feel them, I was left confused. I had to go away and really think about what that meant. How long had I separated myself from my feelings? How long had I fallen into the habit of questioning them, and sense checking them to make myself deal with pressure and move on? I was doing this as long as I could remember. It didn’t serve me well to pander to them and sit and cry from injury. Injury was happening to me all the time so who cares. What did it matter? I needed to get up and carry on. So I did, time and time again.

Dialectic on the Survival of a Battery Doll – Maxine Thompson


Dialectic on the Survival of a Battery Doll by [Thompson, Maxine]Exposing the effects of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder from the experience of a woman This book was written to assist in individual person psychoanalysis. From the author’s experience as a woman, a domestic abuse victim, a UK civil servant (in the modern workforce where commitments are torn between work and family life), and as a result of being diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression. It is key now, because it is an important contribution to the public discussion on mental health and work, as it provides a point of view that echoes the experience, and voice of many living in the UK at a time of uncertainty: not only as a woman, but as a domestic abuse victim, and as a former employee for the Home Office. This book was written following employment tribunal, at a time of distinct trial, and in trying to face the uncertainty of income, and the possible loss of profession. It called for a change of thinking habits, and a change in perception in order to survive.


Thanks to Maxine and Publishing Push for this guest post!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

8 Things You Should Know Before Writing About Transgender Characters


Diversity has become a huge thing in the book community in the past couple years, and I'm so happy to be a part of it. There are a greatly increasing number of books that include diverse characters, but today, I want to focus on transgender characters in YA books. For those of you who are writers, I suppose I want to give you some "insider information" on the trans community. I feel like a good portion of the books I read with trans characters represent us inaccurately in some way, and I want to help that. I hope writers will read this and get a better idea of how to write a transgender character.

This is way longer than I was expecting it to be, so feel free to skim and/or skip around all you want!

1. Some Basic Vocab

Transgender (or trans): relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their assigned sex at birth. **This is an adjective, not a noun, please don't use it as one, say "transgender/trans person."**
Cisgender (or cis): relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their assigned sex.
Nonbinary: a gender identity that is neither just male or female. Noun version: "nonbinary person," "enby" is also sometimes used as a nonbinary substitute for boy or girl.
AMAB/DMAB: assigned/designated male at birth, basically, this is a more widely accepted version of saying someone was "born male," or with male genitalia.
AFAB/DFAB: assigned/designated female at birth, again, this is a more widely accepted version of saying someone was "born female," or with female genitalia.
MTF: male to female transgender, also known as a trans woman.
FTM: female to male transgender, also known as a trans man.
Transfeminine: a trans person assigned male at birth that wants to present more femininely, can apply to binary or nonbinary trans people.
Transmasculine: a trans person assigned female at birth that wants to present more masculinely, can apply to binary or nonbinary trans people.
Birth/Dead Name: the name a transgender person was given when they were born, which they may change to better fit their actual gender.
Chosen/Real Name: the name a transgender person chooses to go by when they start socially transitioning (explained in the next section).

There are also tons of other terms used within the LGBTQ+ community that you should probably be at least aware of (I suggest scrolling through this list and not one of the ones that lists "flowergender" as a gender identity), and there is a bit of other vocabulary in later sections.

2. Gender Dysphoria Is A Thing

First, a little crash course in gender dysphoria:

Gender Dysphoria, sometimes called gender identity disorder, is the dysphoria, or distress and discomfort, a person experiences as a result of the sex and gender they were assigned at birth, as well as just a strong feeling that they are not the gender they may physically appear to be.

There are two commonly-known types of gender dysphoria: body dysphoria and social dysphoria.

Body Dysphoria:

Distress and discomfort associated with one's body's primary and secondary sex characteristics, this is the kind of dysphoria that will cause people to medically transition with the use of hormones and surgeries.

There are also different types of body dysphoria:

Top Dysphoria: distress or discomfort with the presence or lack of breasts. This is sometimes cured with what is commonly known as "top surgery."

Bottom Dysphoria: distress or discomfort with the presence of what a trans person may feel is the wrong genitalia; nonbinary people may be uncomfortable with any genitals whatsoever, but it depends on the person. This is sometimes solved by what is commonly known as "bottom surgery."

Secondary Sex Characteristic Dysphoria (this is not actually a word that is used, but these are mostly just called "dysphoria about my voice" or something sooo): distress and discomfort associated with other characteristics of your assigned sex, including high/low voice, body and facial hair, fat distribution, presence or lack of an Adam's apple, amount of muscle mass, height, etc.

Social Dysphoria:

Distress and discomfort associated with being called by the wrong name and pronouns, or just people thinking you are a gender that you are not. It is generally "cured" by socially transitioning, or basically coming out and having people you by the right name and pronouns (whether you come out to everyone or two people doesn't matter).

Anyway, dysphoria. Not fun. It can seriously affect my ability to be a productive member of society. Sometimes I avoid people and mirrors just because I can't deal with anyone, myself included, seeing my obviously female body. Often I'm left crying for hours because there's nothing I can do to change my chromosomes. Anyway, here are some myths about dysphoria I've gotten from cis people and seen in a few books featuring trans characters:

Myth #1: Clothes and other accessories cause dysphoria.

Ahem, no. Nooooo. Body dysphoria might be caused by clothing that accentuates certain parts your body (a dress that is tight around the hips or has a low neck line, for example), but the dress itself does not cause dysphoria. Even if a trans person is more stereotypically masculine or feminine alongside their gender, that doesn't mean it's dysphoria, please stop saying it is (I'm looking at you, Symptoms of Being Human).

Myth #2: Dysphoria is insecurity.

GAH. I realize this may seem like the most simple way to compare dysphoria to yourself as a cis person, but in reality dysphoria is very different from insecurity. Dysphoria does not go away. People with gender dysphoria often cannot just "accept the way they are." Insecurity means that someone is dissatisfied with the way that they look; they may hate their roles of fat or their acne. This is not the same as believing that the sex characteristics of your body are wrong, or wanting the sex characteristics of another sex.

Myth #3: Body dysphoria and body dysmorphia are the same thing.

Okay guys, I know the words sound similar, but these are different things. Body dysmorphia refers to body dysmorphic disorder, a mental illness involving obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in appearance. It is commonly associated with people with eating disorders that see themselves as fatter or skinnier than they actually are. Please don't get these mixed up.

If you are writing a trans character that experiences dysphoria, I beg you to talk to some actual trans people about how it feels. It is often very difficult for cisgender people to understand what dysphoria feels like, so try to get several firsthand accounts of people with the specific gender you are writing about, as dysphoria can be felt in many different ways depending on the person and their specific identity. And it seems that many trans people have their own analogy when it comes to their dysphoria. This may be something they've always used or spontaneously came up with when they were trying to describe their feelings to someone else.

Personally, mine goes like this: For me, my body is like math. I see how it can be useful. I see how some people may like it. I don't hate it; it just doesn't work for me in particular.

3. Things To Help Alleviate Body Dysphoria

Really, the only way to help with social dysphoria is for trans people to be called by the right name and pronouns all the time, which is difficult for someone who hasn't medically transitioned, but there are several well-known things to help people with body dysphoria.

Also, I use the words breasts and penis in this. If that bothers you, get over it.

For AFAB/Transmaculine People:

Binding: the act of flattening breasts by the use of constrictive materials. Used to help with top/chest dysphoria. The term "binder" refers to the material used in this act. **If you do want to include binding in your story (and if you're writing about a trans guy, or anyone with breasts and chest dysphoria, you probably should), please read this article. I would prefer if you didn't promote unsafe ways to bind, especially if you are writing for a young audience.**

Packing: wearing padding or a phallic object in the front of the pants or underwear to give the appearance of having a penis. Used to help with bottom dysphoria. The term "packer" refers to the object used. **Packers are not as commonly used by teens, nor as dangerous, but here is a helpful video if you want to include packing in your story.**

For AMAB/Transfeminine People:

*As a trans guy, I honestly don't know nearly as much about this stuff, but I'll try. Do more research than just reading this anyway!

Push-Up Bras: bras with padding that push up any breast tissue and make them seem bigger or fuller. This can also be used in combanation with stuffing the bra to create the appearance of breasts. (I suppose preteen girls might do this same kind of thing.) **I couldn't find any articles on this, but I've seen people do it before? Obviously, don't take my word on this...**

Tucking: putting one’s penis between and behind one’s legs, so that it’s not visible from the front of the body. Some people push their testicles back as well, while others move them upward and rest them on the lower part of their abdomen before securing them in place. Some people do this with tape and underwear, but you can also use a device called a gaff. **Literally the only helpful article I could find was from BuzzFeed so here's that. And, yes, if you're wondering, drag queens use this too.**

**Important Note: Not every trans person uses both of these things, or either, for that matter, as not everyone experiences dysphoria the same way. Some people may bind, but not pack. Some may tuck but not wear a bra at all. Using these things is not required, but many trans people find them helpful.**

4. Not Everyone Figures It Out Quickly

Despite some of the stories you may have heard, not every trans person knows they are "stuck in the wrong body" or are really a different gender than what everyone calls them by the time they're 5 years old. Even if they understand their own gender identity, they often don't have the words to describe it. Or maybe they don't understand all this gender nonsense at all; they just know they like playing with boys more than with girls.

Everyone figures their gender out at a different point in their life. The worst of dysphoria usually starts when a transgender person hits puberty, which is why many people figure it out when they're 10-14, even if they don't have a word for or come out right away.

Some children may not understand what they're feeling until they hear about another transgender person. This happens to some people when they're still kids, but many don't learn about the word "transgender" until they're in their teens or later. That doesn't mean that that person isn't really trans or not "as trans" as someone who knew when they were very young, it just means it took them a little longer to understand what they're feeling!

5. How People Choose Names and Pronouns


Names:

Obviously, everyone chose a name differently. But here are some common ways people choose/narrow down names:

1. They choose a name that starts with the same letter as their birth name, or is the masculine/feminine/neutral version of their birth name. This is usually done because the person wants the same initials, or because it will be easier for other people to remember their chosen name. Some people may be too uncomfortable with their birth name, though, so they may choose a different name entirely.
2. They name themselves after someone they admire. This may be a relative, a friend, a character, or another trans person they really look up to. I did this with Alex Bertie, a trans YouTuber.
3. They ask their parents what they would have named them if they were born the opposite sex, or what other names they considered. This may make it easier for parents to get used to the name, and still feel connected to it. I've definitely met a few parents of trans people that felt pretty left out when their child changed their name, so this is also common.
4. They go through baby naming websites. This is something I attempted to do, but I was pretty attached to Alex the minute I came up with it. Anyway, if they have a specific letter in mind, these websites can give them ideas. Many of these also have the original meanings of names, which some trans people also take into consideration.
5. They pick a name that sounds like them/fits their personality. We all kind of have associations with specific names. Alex was always my go to name for any character that I couldn't come up with a name for, so it was pretty simple to apply that to myself. They may have a favorite name or a name they wished they'd been named.
6. They drop everything and become another Kaeden/Kayden/Caden (however you wanna spell it). I'm not sure this is actual thing, I just know way too many trans guys named Kaeden/Kayden/Caden/Etc. I've literally never met a cis guy with that name? I'm not sure what it's about, honestly, I just wanted to fit it in here somehow.

Pronouns:

This is a little harder. Some people may know what pronouns they want to be called from the get-go, but that's not the case for everyone.

I went by "they" for a long time because I honestly didn't know if I would like being called "he." The Only reason I started using "he" is because I came out as a trans guy and everyone called me "he." I realized I liked it even more than "they"!

Some trans people have to experiment like that, or even use a few different pronouns before they figure out what's comfortable for them. They may have a couple friends call them by those pronouns for awhile and see how it feels, or they may tell people to call them by whatever pronouns and see how they like it.

While we're on the subject of pronouns, let's talk about the different pronouns (English ones only, unfortunately).

He/him/his: traditionally used by men, but some nonbinary people or even women may use these pronouns as well!
She/her/hers: traditionally used by women, but some nonbinary people or even men may use these as well!
They/them/theirs: can refer to two or more people, but may also refer to someone of an unspecified sex or gender. Many nonbinary people use these gender neutral pronouns, but some men and women do as well!
Neopronouns: You may have seen some other pronouns floating about the internet, these are often used by nonbinary people (but can be used by anyone like the others) that want to use a specifically singular pronoun. Examples of these neopronouns include xe/xir/xirself, ze/zir/zerself, and ey/em/emself. These are not often used, especially not outside of the internet, but some people do use them.
**Note: You can use more than one of these pronouns. I consider both "he" and "they" my pronouns. Some people don't mind what pronouns you call them!**

Also, if your character does speak or is learning a different language, their pronouns are still significant then. 

For example, in German, I say my pronouns are only he/him/his. That is because the word for they in German ("sie") is the same as the German word for she ("sie"). It's quite annoying even if gender wasn't an issue.

Anyway, so in German I only use masculine pronouns. For many languages outside of English, "they" pronouns aren't an option, and often literally everything is gendered (i.e., you always have to specify between a male friend and a female friend, etc.) This can be a major problem for many people, so take this into consideration if you're writing about a trans character!

6. The Transgender Community Is Pretty Tight

I swear, every time I meet a trans guy around my age, we pretty much immediately become friends. A LARGE portion of my friend group is made up of trans people. Often, we're tighter with people of our own specific gender, but the trans community is not just a phrase. It's a pretty important part of being transgender, especially among teens and people that are not yet done medically transitioning.

Here's an example: go google "binder giveaway." You get 668,000+ results of transmasculine people dying to help some people out. In my experience, no one just throws away something like binders. We all want to help people that can't get binders themselves because most of us have been there before. We'll happily let friends, which we may describe as "any trans person," borrow clothes (or just straight up give them away) or hair products or makeup. That's a thing!

I'm not really sure how to explain this to people that aren't trans. My best advice is to see if you can go to a LGBT/trans group (one that is open to allies, obviously) and see how we interact with one another. It's honestly fascinating now that I'm thinking about it.

7. Being Accepted

In this day and age, whether or not people accept you for being trans often comes down to how old they are, where they live, what their religion is, and whether or not they understand what being transgender means.

I live in a swing state, but I still live in the US, which, overall, is much better for trans people than a lot of the world, and they are trans people all over the world, not just in the US, by the way. I do live in a pretty conservative area, but I honestly got a better reaction than I was expecting.

Here, it seems most teenagers either don't care, don't notice, call you names, or are completely supportive. The least common are the people that call you names, and the most common is the people that don't care. Generally, I don't have many problems with students at my school, but I'm also in mostly honors classes where people care more about their grades than anything else. I've definitely heard of people being shoved into lockers or beaten up in bathrooms, but personally, I have not experienced that. Teachers and parents can go either way, but more often they either hate me or don't even try. Very few are actually supportive, though I do know of a few. 

I have been kicked out of a couple friends houses, but mostly I avoid telling a lot of parents. I find that the average is one trying-to-be-supportive parent and one unsupportive parent.

This depends on where the person is, though. I suggest talking to trans people in the area where your story is set to get an idea on how accepting people are there, especially when it comes to things like bathrooms and other gendered areas. Make sure you talk to several people in different situations, as some people have an easier or harder time being accepted than others.

8. Not Every Story Needs to be Coming Out Story!

I'm not sure I've ever come across a book about a trans person AFTER they come out, except for maybe "About A Girl" by Sarah McCarry, but he wasn't exactly a major character.

As someone who's been pretty much entirely out for about 6 months now, let me just say that the story DOES NOT END THERE. I still have to deal with bullying. I still have to fight to go to the bathroom and to sing in choir. I still constantly come across trans kids that I feel completely obligated to help. I still get kicked out of friends houses when their parents find out I'm trans. I still deal with my dysphoria daily. Coming out is NOT always the climax! There's so many more stories about trans people that could be told if people would realize that.

Some Final Thoughts

If you're not a trans person yourself, part of me wants to tell you to include a trans person as a side character, not a main character, because you're bound to screw something up if you try to describe a trans person's point-of-view. We need more stories of parents of trans people and friends of trans people as well as stories with trans main characters. So if you're unsure if you can understand the point-of-view of a trans person, I suggest writing a story with a trans person included.

If you do want to try writing from the point-of-view of a trans person, though, I have one piece of advice: listen to trans people. Read about our experiences. Meet us. Talk to us. Hear us out. Don't be someone on the outside trying to describe what you think we feel. Tell our stories. Encourage us to write our own books about our own experiences. Acknowledge that you don't completely understand. Learn. Let several trans people beta read your story. Listen to their suggestions. Take their criticism. Change anything that's problematic or just wrong.

Sorry if I made you scared to write about trans people. Trust me, you still can! And I'd be happy to read any drafts or give you suggestions. (Just don't go up to random trans people and expect them to explain their life story to you, ask if that's okay...it usually is, many of us enjoy ranting about it.)

Even if you're not writing a story about a trans people, I hope you learned something from this post! Maybe you could even include a trans person in your writing at some point? ;)




PS: Here are some books about trans people written by actual trans people:

If I Was Your Girl - Meredith Russo
George - Alex Gino
First Spring Grass Fire - Rae Spoon
The Unintentional Time Traveler - Everett Maroon

Monday, February 6, 2017

Author Guest Post: Nyla Nox - My Writing Life


Nyla NoxNyla Nox leads an exciting double life.

She writes novels and articles about the secret lives inside the Big Banks in the City of London, the dark heart of capitalism.

Her trilogy 'Graveyards of the Banks' is based on Nyla's personal experience of seven years of working on the night shift inside the Most Successful Banks in the Universe, a hell of broken dreams where jobless humanities graduates work zero hours contracts next to the best paid bankers on earth. But Nyla knows all their secrets...

Social Media:

Nyla Nox - My Writing Life


I write a lot.

And I’m a bit astonished to see these four little words written down on the screen.

Yes, I write a lot.

Many years ago I took an evening class in poetry. Most of us were struggling with the writer’s bane: actually sitting down and writing something.

Our teacher, someone who had published quite a bit of poetry, told us that yes, it was a difficult process, but ‘if you write every day it will become a habit.’

A habit!

At the time, I couldn’t even imagine that, but I fervently wished for it. We were all very impressed. The teacher looked to us like a creature from another world.

And now, I suppose, it’s true. For the last seven years, I’ve been writing at least five times a week. I’m not sure it’s a habit yet, but then of course I’m no longer a poet.

I realized that poetry, while often quoted as the one thing that makes humans special, is exclusively written by people who make no money from it. You could call it a hobby, even at the highest level.
And I wanted to give myself a chance to be a professional writer, in every sense.

Now, my books, including all three volumes of ‘Graveyards of the Banks’, have been ‘hot new deals’ and in the Amazon best seller lists. I’ve been interviewed in the Guardian and reviewed in many different countries. My articles about the world of the Graveyard trilogy have been translated into German, French and Mandarin.

Hold on - is that really me?

People talk about the ‘impostor complex’ – when you are actually something (like a writer) but you feel as if you are an impostor, just pretending to be a writer, and you are secretly convinced you will be found out and publicly exposed.

I think I still suffer from that. 

But meanwhile I write.

The ‘Graveyards’ trilogy has taken me seven years to complete.
If I had known that at the beginning – well, I think I would still have written it.

And it was a very emotional experience.

Many days I was sitting in the coffee shop (I write most of my books in coffee shops because I like the buzz and all the other people around me, also writing away on their little laptops), feeling angry, frightened, excited, passionate and desperate in turn.

My books are very emotional, but I was also emotional about the writing process.
I realized pretty quickly that I would only be able to sustain the long long process of novel writing that needs so much discipline and dedication, by separating the two main functions: creation and editing.

When I write a new part of the story, or a new story, I write only forward, which means I write without stopping, and I don’t read what I’ve written. At all.

I wait at least a week until I read what I’ve written, and then I edit a larger chunk of the story, not just the material from one single session of creating.

Sometimes I wait much longer, if I can. That has the advantage that I don’t exactly remember when and where I wrote what. And that means I don’t mistake the emotions of the writing process for the emotional arc of the story.

When I tried to edit as I went along, I got stuck and I got scared.

And really, being scared is the biggest part of the writer’s life. Not just for me.

It’s so confronting, telling a story that is somewhere inside me, but in a vague and dreamy form, and having to trust that it will come out, and shape itself somehow.

And it’s extra confronting if that story is based on your own life experience.

I’m a pretty timid person anyway. So for me to stand up to the journey of fear and peril that is to be a writer, I think that was only possible because I really wanted to tell that story. It was the passion that drove me on.

It was the passion that made me sit down once or sometimes twice a day, and write. 

And sometimes, when I managed to pull an exciting, lively scene from the nothingness of the empty page, when I managed to craft a long sequence from a lot of disorganized material, when I felt that the story was finally jumping off the page and hopefully into the readers heart, I was happy. And it was a deep, wild kind of happy. I’ve never experienced this kind of fulfillment with anything else.

On the way, I got to write articles and stories, and I got to meet many other writers.

I have started a new book, completely different from this one, but right now my writing life is a little disrupted. But that also makes sense. It’s the end of an era for me.

Is writing novels now a habit? I don’t know. I don’t feel compelled to do it. I just feel the passion.


Nyla's Books:


Graveyard of the Banks Trilogy:
Book One - I did it for the money

Book Two - Monsters Arising

Book Three - Slaughterhouse Morning (Available on March 12, 2017!)

Graveyards of the Banks - I did it for the money: Seven Seasons of Midnights at the Most Successful Bank in the Universe by [Nox, Nyla] Graveyards of the Banks - Monsters Arising by [Nox, Nyla] Graveyards of the Banks - Slaughterhouse Morning: Seven Seasons of Midnights at the Most Successful Bank in the Universe by [Nox, Nyla]

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

DiverseAThon TBR





DiverseAThonHello! If you've never heard of DiverseAThon, it's basically a readathon that promotes, encourages, and celebrates diverse books. If you want more info as to how it got started, click here. If you want more info on this specific readathon (starting this Sunday), check out this video. You can also follow their Twitter and check the hashtag #DiverseAThon if you wish to participate! Anyway, I read quite a few diverse books last year, and I want to read even more this year, so I'm hoping this will be a good way to start.

I bit of an important thing for me this time around is that I choose books not only with diverse characters, but also a diverse author. I've run into a few problem here and there with misrepresentation of an identity, and I'd rather not have that.

That being said, let's get started with my TBR!

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Not only is this book written about a trans woman and by a trans woman, it also has a transgender woman on the cover. I can appreciate that. I'm excited to finally get into more books actually written by trans people.

Image result for if i was your girl

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

Finally, I read a book that's diverse in more ways than just GAYYYYY. So yeah. The main character is Armenian. While I have read a couple other books set or with characters from the Middle East, I haven't managed to get to Armenia yet. I'm excited! I read about 12 pages of it a couple weeks ago, and I'm already dying to read more.

Image result for one man guy

Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings

I don't read a lot of nonfiction. It's probably time. Why not make it trans-related? I actually meant to read this book a few months ago, but it just...never happened. I'm hoping it'll be good and quick for a readathon, though!

Image result for being jazz


Are you participating in DiverseAThon? Tell me what you're reading in the comments!