Queer YA Scrabble Blogathon Giveaway: Team Unicorn

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. Thank you everyone for entering! :) 

Today is the day! Welcome to Team Unicorn's Queer YA Scrabble Blogathon stop! I'm so excited to introduce you to the awesome team and their incredible books!

First! A quick rundown of how this thing works.

Team Unicorn is one of FIVE times, and each of us has a post just like this one featuring our fantabulous team. Within these posts are super sneakily hidden letters that are part of an anagram. Every team has their own anagram, and your job, as you super smart sleuths, is to track down the letters and solve each anagram. Once you've solved a team's anagram you can go to the team page and enter the giveaway for that team's box of signed wonderfulness. YAY!

Anagram hint: Here on Writability, you should maybe look out for the pretty rainbow colors. Just saying. ;)

But what if you enter and don't win, you ask? All hope is not lost! Starting tomorrow is the auction that will run until the 15th (giveaway winners will be announced on the 9th), where you will have another chance to win the exact same box of prizes plus wildcard critiques from agents and editors.

Team Unicorn's wildcard prizes are:

Also, there's maybe a bonus giveaway at the bottom of this post. :)

Note: Both giveaways are open to the UK, USA, Ireland, Canada and Continental Europe except Russia.

Explanations aside, I'm delighted to introduce you to Team Unicorn! I've asked them each a couple questions, so enjoy!

Photo credit: Goodreads

Becky AlbertalliSimon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda

  1. What inspired you to write your book?

    I struggle with this question, because it truly feels like Simon just popped into my head, demanding to be written about! I have a hard time pinpointing one specific source of inspiration, but I think an important part of my process was my work as a psychologist with LGBT and gender nonconforming teens and children.

  2. It’s been fantastic seeing more and more representation of the full sexuality and gender spectrums. What was the hardest part about writing your novel?

    As a non-marginalized author writing about a character from a marginalized group, my process required a tremendous amount of care, research, and openness to feedback. I think a part of me will always worry about the potential for harm, even after receiving positive feedback from members of the gay community throughout the publication process. Readers still might choose not to read my book because I’m not a gay author, which I completely understand and respect. On the flip side, I’ve been asked why I chose to make Simon white and cisgender, which is an amazing question! It can be a really tricky balance determining which stories I think I can share authentically. I’m absolutely going to fall short sometimes, which can be really hard to accept. It helps when I find myself in a position to support LGBTQIA + causes or boost marginalized authors, both of which I try to do regularly.

Photo credit: Goodreads

Suki FleetThis is Not a Love Story

  1. What inspired you to write your book?

    My initial shockblast of inspiration came from seeing a homeless kid crying in an alley near where I live. Although I started writing This is Not a Love Story years later, ultimately, I wrote this book for him. I wanted to write a happy ending for kids who don't always get them. Homelessness (especially teen homelessness) is an issue very close to my heart.

  2. It’s been fantastic seeing more and more representation of the full sexuality and gender spectrums. What was the hardest part about writing your novel?

    Writing a novel is crazily hard :)  I'm drawn to writing the stories that don't often get written, and I enjoy bringing to life very diverse characters--characters that hopefully readers can identify with whatever their gender/sexuality/age or status in life.

Photo credit: Goodreads

  1. What inspired you to write your book?

    Lots of things! Firstly, I wanted to write a book for teens that included a gay relationship, as I thought homosexual teens were really under-represented in YA fiction. I didn't want it to be an 'issue' or 'coming out' book, though, so I paired it with another idea I'd had, which just started with a simple question: What if (the best kind of writer question!) you had a secret so powerful it stole your voice?

    The setting of Unspeakable was really important to me. Like me, my character Megan adores being outside, and I live fairly close to the New Forest, which struck me as a unique and beautiful place to set a story. In fact, I love the New Forest so much, I got married there last year, in the same village I used for inspiration for the book!

  2. It’s been fantastic seeing more and more representation of the full sexuality and gender spectrums. What was the hardest part about writing your novel?

    The hardest part for me was worrying that I somehow wasn't qualified to write about a same-sex relationship because I hadn’t experienced one myself. But it was such an important story to tell, and I reasoned that I had experience of falling in love, so why shouldn't I tell it?

    I've had some lovely messages from teens who've said that Megan and Jasmine's relationship made them feel 'normal for a change'. So I hope I've pulled it off!

Photo credit: Goodreads

  1. What inspired you to write your book?

    To make a long story short: In my job as a high school teacher, I experienced how difficult it was for LGBT students to be open and how few novels there were out there that could give them a sense of self, and of not being alone. Since I had always harbored this dream of being a writer one day, I finally got started on a novel that naturally turned out to be LGBT themed. Also, in my first teaching job I worked in a pretty remote area where being different can feel extra problematic, so years later when I started writing Supermassive, I added the same kind of setting to the plot. Though I am a city girl, I have a fondness for remote areas - my next novel is also an LGBT story set far away from urban areas!

  2. It’s been fantastic seeing more and more representation of the full sexuality and gender spectrums. What was the hardest part about writing your novel?

    I did a lot of thinking about how to best present the LGBT side of the story. When I started writing Supermassive, I used neutral gender terms, for example ‘grandchild’ instead of ‘grandson’, a neutral first name, and I never focused on specifics about the protagonist’s looks or clothes. I knew he was a boy, and as the story progressed I made it clearer to the readers too, gradually inserting more clues. In the end, I decided to insert more evidence of his gender, but I did struggle a bit with finding the right balance here. (When it got published, the blurb made it clear he was a boy, though.)

    I wanted my story to be a universal love story where gender or sexuality was not the main issue, but where those aspects still were important to the plot. The book is more about coming to terms with grief and loss, and how to approach your feelings for someone, than it is a story about sexuality. The protagonist knows he’s gay and though he’s not openly out, his sexuality is mostly unproblematic to him. His main concern is first and foremost whether or not his feelings will be reciprocated by the boy he loves so fiercely. When I wrote the book, then, I always made sure those aspects of life that are recognizable regardless of gender or sexual orientation, came first. I experienced a few moments of doubt as I wrote the story, because I sometimes worried that readers would think I ignored the LGBT issue and that I didn’t give it enough space. There is a coming out aspect in the story though, and in the end I think I reached a good balance between the themes.

Photo credit: Goodreads

  1. What inspired you to write your book?

    I lived for several years in Provincetown, Massachusetts which has always been a very GLBT-friendly place. Although I’m straight, I identified with my gay and lesbian friends in P’town who were often estranged from their parents, as I was also. When I began to write novels for teenagers I wanted to include gay and lesbian characters, not only so GLBT teens had someone to identify with, but also so my straight readers would begin to identify with gay and lesbian characters and through that process see what they all had in common.

    I didn’t feel I understood what it meant to be transgender well enough to write about it until I met my daughter’s friend, Toby, who is FTM. It turned out that Toby was a big fan of my earlier books, so when I asked if he’d help me write a transgender character, he was thrilled. I did a lot of reading before I began to interview Toby; I didn’t want my questions to be either stupid or offensive. Toby sat with me for a long afternoon and answered everything. He told me many stories about what it felt like growing up transgender, a few of which I used in the book. And once the book was finished, Toby read and vetted it for me. He’s the angel of Parrotfish.

  2. It’s been fantastic seeing more and more representation of the full sexuality and gender spectrums. What was the hardest part about writing your novel?

    This book was actually a joy to write. It always takes a little while to get your main character’s voice right, but Grady came to me pretty quickly. I loved his humor and gentleness. The only difficulty was my fear of getting something wrong, but that was alleviated by knowing that Toby had my back.


    By the way, Parrotfish will soon be available in a new edition which updates some of the language used and all of the resources at the end of the book. I’m happy that the book will remain relevant to a new generation of teenagers.

Photo credit: Goodreads
  1. What inspired you to write your book? 

    The inspiration for the book was a mashup of the two worlds I live in: writing and teaching.  I was just beginning the book, and I knew I wanted to write about radio and music, two things I love.  And I knew I wanted to write about a guy who hid behind his radio show while he tried out his identity on the air--no big deal, just the usual teenage who-am-I? stuff.  At the same time I started the book, I was prepping to teach a diversity literature class at my college.  I knew I wanted to include something that was LGBTQ, and I stumbled across a book called The Phallus Palace, by Dean Kotula. That book is an exploration of many elements of being/becoming a trans man (at the time, Kotula's term was "female-to-male transsexual").  There were very short autobiographies of trans men in the book, and they complete captured me.  I remember thinking, "These men are being themselves at enormous costs," and I was intrigued, inspired, and very awed.  Those short autobiographies collided in my head with my character, and suddenly Gabe was a trans man, hiding behind his radio show and figuring out how to be a guy as well as how to be a human being in the world.  Then, of course, I had to figure out how to write a trans man character (and that took years of research and learning!).  Because he and I are both music geeks, I started there and built slowly.

  2. It’s been fantastic seeing more and more representation of the full sexuality and gender spectrums. What was the hardest part about writing your novel?

    The hardest thing was making sure I had Gabe's transition in the realm of possibility.  How would a young trans man go about his transition?  What would he do, what would he think about doing, what would he have or not have?  It took me years of listening, learning, and thinking to get that part accomplished.  In terms of his gender expression, he sees himself as just a guy, so to write him I had to slip into a teenage guy mentality (which isn't very hard for me : ) ). I could just consult with the teenage guys I know.  Same thing with his sexuality--Gabe considers himself a straight guy, so his sexuality also wasn't difficult.  One of the biggest challenges was to figure out what he would call his penis, even though he doesn't have one.  After consultation with various guys, we settled on "imaginary dick."  I also had to figure out whether or not he'd have a prosthetic (he does).  Gabe's a pretty binary guy, by design.  I didn't feel comfortable taking on a more gender variant version of him (in my next book, there are more gender flexible characters).

Also, don't forget to check out Team Phoenix, Team Hydra, Team Dragon and Team Griffin for more amazing prizes!

Did you get all of the letters (hint: you should have fifteen)? Awesome! Now solve the anagram, head over to Team Unicorn's entry page and enter! And as a bonus I've got an extra giveaway right here! Without any anagramming, you have until Monday, June 8th at 11:59 PM EST to enter to win a paperback copy Suki Fleet's newest, The Glass House.

Good luck!

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can u marry me, i LOVE U.

KYLE said...


Tasneya said...


Julia E. said...

As this is the team with genuinely the hardest anagram -- I am SO pleased that people are actually solving it and entering! This team's box is worth it. The books are gorgeous and special.

Thanks to Ava for writing an excellent post!

Alyssa said...

I literally spent all night thinking about this anagram and OMG I actually know this word. *happydance* Also, these interview questions are THE BEST. (So are these books. And my TBR is now really way too huge.)

By the way, I was wondering if the Team Unicorn giveaway (best name ever, have I mentioned that?) is international? :D

Ava Jae said...

I'm happy (and relieved) to hear people are figuring it out! lol. Thanks for including me in this super awesome event, Julia! :)

Ava Jae said...

YAY ALYSSA! I'm so glad you enjoyed the mini-interviews and now have lovely new additions to your TBR shelf!

As for the giveaway, it's open to the UK, Ireland, Canada and Continental Europe except Russia. Probably I should've put that in the post...

Heather DiAngelis said...

I'm so thrilled you're doing this giveaway.

I could name so many QUILTBAG YA books that I love, but the first that come to mind are OPENLY STRAIGHT, WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON, and LIES WE TELL OURSELVES.

Jo said...

This is such an awesome post! I loved hearing all the the authors' answers to your questions!

Some of my fave LGBTQ YA books are Every Day by David Levithan, The Miseducation of Cameron Post by E. M. Danforth, The Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley, The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson, Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson, Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin and Coda by Emma Trevayne! :)

Ava Jae said...

You know, I haven't read any of those, but I've heard good things about many of them! In fact, LIES is being given away on Team Hydra, if I'm not mistaken. :)

Ava Jae said...

Thanks, Jo! I loved Every Day—that was actually my first QUILTBAG YA book, if I'm not mistaken. The others I haven't read, but I've heard quite a bit about Miseducation and Lies especially!

Tijana P. said...

I recently started reading, or better wording would be binge reading, David Levithan's books and one of favorites so far was Two Boys Kissing :)

Jo said...

Every Day! Oh, how I loved Every Day! So, so good! Really looking forward to Another Day! :)

They're both brilliant - and both historical; if I remember rightly, Miseducation is set in the 1980s. Modern historical?

I would highly recommend Quicksilver, though! It's one of very few (3 I think) YA novels with an asexual character - unless things have changed since I last researched them, so I try and push it when I can. There need to be more! Quicksilver is the companion novel to Ultraviolet, though, so if you do think about reading it, you may want to pick up Ultraviolet first as some things might not make much sense. :)

Carolyn said...

Thanks for the little Q&As! Another great Queer YA Scrabble post. :) Some of my favorite YA books are Bill Konigsberg's Openly Straight, Sara Alva's Silent, JR Lenk's Collide, JH Trumble's Don't Let Me Go, Kristen Clark's Freakboy, Steve Brezenoff's Brooklyn Burning, Benjamin Alire Saenz's Aristotle and Dante..., and Jandy Nelson's I'll Give You the Sun. I just listed way too many, and it's sad, but I just want to keep going.

Ava Jae said...

Ohh I haven't read that one but I've heard things! That book has such a great cover, too. :)

Ava Jae said...

Aha! Good to know about Quicksilver—trying to find Ace YA is really difficult. Thanks for the recommendation!

Ava Jae said...

I love this list! I read and absolutely loved I'll Give You the Sun, and I've heard quite a bit about Aristotle and Dante but haven't read it yet. I'm really enjoying these recommendations—I'll have to head to Goodreads soon. :)

Also, you're welcome! The mini interviews were fun.

Nebula said...

Those covers are so gorgeous :3 The only LGBTQ book I've read is Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I'm super excited :)

Ava Jae said...

They are gorgeous, aren't they? I haven't read Will Grayson, Will Grayson but if you're ever looking for some QUILTBAG YA reads, Gay YA has a really fantastic (and huge) list!

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