Semi-autobiographical writing exercise turned series celebrating LGBTQ+ youth

YA novel mirrors struggles of trans teens in conservative America– showcasing resilience against injustice

Seattle, WA – Award-winning author Kelly Vincent re-imagines their teenage years in their empowering series “The Art of Being Ugly” — a compelling story of a teen grappling with their gender identity. The anticipated finale, “Ugliest,” (KV Books LLC, August 13, 2024) is a necessary and impactful commentary on the struggles LGBTQ+ teens face amidst a hyper-conservative landscape threatening the rights of queer people. 

Life, academics, and activism. Facing hate and bigotry, can this agender teen make a difference in LGBTQ+ rights?

About the novel: Determined to excel, seventeen-year-old Nic Summers strives to find time to survive physics, build confidence, and enter a competitive art mentorship at the local university in Oklahoma City. However, Nic’s stress skyrockets when a protest video results in them and a trans friend being forced by the school to move to the girls’ dorm. Burning with a strong sense of justice, the normally shy teenager summons the courage to speak out against damaging state legislation. But when the vision goes viral, they’re shocked when the authorities hand down an ultimatum: stop or be expelled.

Can Nic dig deep and prevail against institutional bullies ready to erase their identity?

Sharing the plight of those too often silenced, author Kelly Vincent opens the door to understanding and empathy. Through the eyes of a big-hearted main character, Vincent leads the way toward accepting and appreciating each other’s differences.


Kelly Vincent | August 13th, 2024| KV Books LLC

Young Adult | LGBTQ+ | Fiction

Paperback | 9781958342169 | $10.99

Ebook | 9781958342152 | $2.99

KELLY VINCENT (they/ them) wrangles data weekdays and spends the rest of their time playing with words. They grew up in Oklahoma but have moved around quite a bit, with Glasgow, Scotland being their favorite stop. They now live near Seattle with several cats who help them write their stories by strategically walking across the keyboard, with their first novel, “Finding Frances,” a fine example of this technique. 

Their four subsequent books, “Ugly,” “Always the New Girl,” “Binding Off,” and “Uglier,” were released in 2022 and 2023. “Finding Frances” and “Always the New Girl” won several indie awards and “Ugly” was selected as the Honor book for SCBWI’s Spark Award in the Books for Older Readers category for 2022. 

Kelly has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Oklahoma City University’s Red Earth program. Learn more about Kelly on their website. 

Follow Kelly Vincent on social media:

Instagram: @kvbooks

TikTok: @kv_books

Facebook: Kelly Vincent, Young Adult Author

In an interview, Kelly Vincent can discuss:

  • How current legislation, such as the “don’t say gay” bill and attacks on gender affirming care inspired parts of the plot for “The Art of Being Ugly” series 
  • Why trans and nonbinary stories need to be showcased in the young adult genre 
  • How writing Nic’s story helped Vincent navigate their own journey with their gender identity 
  • The writing exercise that inspired the series: Vincent imagining themselves as a teenager now instead of in the 80’s and 90’s 
  • How the safety of trans and nonbinary people cannot be separated from politics
  • The importance of protecting the rights of trans and nonbinary people and how rolling back rights for LGBTQ+ folks negatively impacts everyone
  • How Vincent’s horror over the Oklahoma trans teen Nex Benedict’s real-life tragedy motivated them to expedite the release of this story well before the November US elections

Praise for “The Art of Being Ugly” Series

Honor book in SCBWI’s 2022 Spark Award in the Books for Older Readers category

Semifinalist in 2019 BookLife Prize for Fiction, Children’s and Young Adult category

“the compelling story will resonate with young adults going on their own difficult journeys and should help them feel less alone” —Kirkus Reviews

“Readers will rally behind fifteen-year-old Nic Summers as she navigates the pitfalls of adolescence in this moving and timely YA novel.” –BookLife Prize

“An impressively honest and intimate first person POV powers this story of a young person struggling with gender and trying to find their place in a world that is seemingly determined to ‘erase’ them” –Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Listed in Kirkus Reviews Top 100 Indie Picks for 2023 (December 15, 2023)

Kirkus Reviews Editor’s Indie Pick (October 15th 2023)


An Interview with Kelly Vincent

1. Tell us about the thought experiment that inspired “The Art of Being Ugly” series. 

I struggled with my gender growing up in Oklahoma in the 80s and 90s, and after I learned about the concept of gender not being a binary, I really felt like mine was a story worth sharing. That concept wasn’t in my mind when I was growing up, so I constantly felt like a girl utterly failing at being a girl and just being generally wrong. I wondered what it would be like to grow up now when those ideas are out there. I put Nic through the experiences I had been through—most of the incidents in the book Ugly really happened, although some are exaggerations and things were shifted time-wise—but also gave them Google, which made everything different. The books Uglier and Ugliest are almost all fiction, but I was still imagining myself going through those experiences, constantly asking myself, what would you have done in this situation?

2. Why did you feel passionately about writing Nic’s story and how have these stories personally impacted you as a non-binary author? 

I know that people who have never experienced uncertainty about their gender struggle to understand what that feels like. Gender is considered so fundamental to identity that people don’t question it, but I wanted to share what it’s like to have those doubts, or even the certainty that being what everyone thinks you are is actually wrong. Writing Ugly was difficult because I was reliving painful experiences, but writing Uglier and Ugliest made me feel good because I almost felt like I was having the experiences Nic was, even though it took me a lot longer to be comfortable with and proud of myself than it took Nic. 

3. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing trans, non-binary, and agender teens today?

I think it is fundamentally difficult to understand your gender when it feels different from what everyone else thinks it is, especially as a teenager (or an even younger kid) because you don’t have much life experience to build on. Most kids—especially those in red states—also don’t have exposure to ideas around what’s possible in terms of gender identity in a way that’s safe and fair. They often absorb the idea that deviating from the binary or what other people think makes them a “freak,” and in states where hateful politicians are creating legislation that takes away their ability to identify accurately (and giving permission to everyone else to mistreat anyone not conforming), it’s especially dangerous. People in positions of authority parrot anti-bullying talk when people are looking, and then turn around and back the bullies because the “freaks” deserve it for not conforming. This was my experience growing up and I honestly don’t think it’s changed much in school settings. 

4. What advice would you give to people (of any age) who are redefining their gender identity?

I think the most important thing is that you are free to explore your identity and know who you are by learning about other people’s experiences through social media and other sources. But it’s also important to think of your safety, because there are places where expressing your true gender identity is safe, and places where it’s not. I know it can be painful to have people treating you as something you’re not and making assumptions about you because of the gender they think you are, but knowing who you are in your own heart can make a huge difference if you’re not safe enough to come out. It’s hard for young people to remember that they won’t be young forever—it really does get better when you get older.

5. How have current events impacted your writing? 

Every piece of anti-LGBTQ legislation that hate pushes through red state legislatures is distressing. So many people who don’t actually support these laws have been sitting by, electing these politicians filled with hate and thinking it doesn’t matter since it doesn’t affect them. But there have been some signs that people are waking up and it’s just so important that people are made to understand how important it is to stop letting politicians strip everyone of their basic human rights. 

6. What do you hope that young readers will take away from this series? 

I want cis people to have an understanding of how much of a struggle identifying differently can be, and for LGBTQ+ kids to remember that while you can’t change everything in your world, you aren’t powerless. 

7. What is next for you in your writing career? 

I have a nonfiction project that I’m focusing on for a time, but I am revisiting an old YA LGBTQ suspense manuscript that I wrote a few years ago with a tentative plan to release it in 2025, also set at the school Nic goes to in Uglier and Ugliest, and I have a YA LGBTQ paranormal romantic suspense in the works. And although I do consider Ugliest to be the final book in the core series, I’m going to be in Glasgow this summer and I am planning to visit the Glasgow School of Art, which is where Nic is going to go to college. I may write a novella about their time there, but no promises.

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