I’m pretty much beyond the point of no return with regards to publishing with a big 5, or even being represented by an agent, (lol, unless my very outspokenness nets me one or the other, and yes, I’ve seen that happen, recently) so I think it’s safe enough for me to speak out about what so many of us are thinking and feeling.
There is a fuck ton of elitism and ableism within the glorified walls of traditional publishing and larger small press.
I’m not going to call out any one person (though I do have a few saved tweet threads about it).
Usually, it’s editors or agents (though I’ve seen authors say it too) who say things like:
“Keep trunking novels.”
“Write the next thing.”
You get my drift, right? If you’ve been around the publishing industry on twitter for a second you’ll have seen the types of threads and comments I’m talking about.
Authors and writers will talk about it privately (which kinda says something all by itself), but most won’t say boo about the publishing industry in public for fear they’ll lose their shot at publication.
Happened just last night.
Firstly. I say publishing has a problem with elitism, and it so does. It comes from all levels too, it comes from big 5 pub, agents, editors and agented/published authors (not all, of course).
The idea that you can *ONLY* be an author if you’ve pubbed with a big 5, or if you have an agent or if you can bootstrap yourself to write another book while one is out on query or submission. It’s so freaking elitist that I can’t even wrap my head around it.
There’s a helluva lot of elitism going on.
Secondly: It’s ABLEIST to say keep working, keep trying, write the next thing to people, especially marginalized people, many of whom have Mental Illness/Psychiatric Disorder. MANY writers do, so that very concept really needs to die by fire.
Not everyone is as open as I am about their mental illness… for stated reasons. They’re afraid they won’t get picked for publication/mentorship if it’s perceived that they can’t do the work due to mental illness. This fear is so common it’s mindboggling.
I did a thread about this last night, so I won’t repeat myself.
PSA Telling marginalized writers(many of whom have MI) 'write the next thing' =a wee bitty bit ableist! You're welcome Thank gods for indie
There have been panels and discussions at cons about why there is STILL so little diversity in fiction.
The answer has always been that the people who buy/produce/market books don’t resonate with diverse voices.
I hope to see change in the near future, so that new authors (or even, hell, salty old curmudgeonly authors like me) don’t have to fear not being picked because we speak out about problems we see or things we experience.
I won’t be holding my breath, though.
There’re are very valid reasons so many marginalized writers are self-pubbing or going with boutique presses.
It’s the only way we can get our stories out.
Another thread that may be of use to any of my marginalized readers.
Bit of a ST. Not interested in interacting, but *you* the person who wrote *your* book? Only *you* get to decide what career is *right* +
I really wonder why agents act like they’re the be all and end all of publishing? Of course, it’s not ALL agents.
I just closed out a bunch of queries after they hit the 90 day mark. Sure, I might still hear back on some of them, but at that point it’s unlikely.
I happened to read the note one of the agencies had (that I copied into my query tracker private comments section) and it said something along the lines of, don’t send multiple queries, it can take years and we might contact you later when markets shift… basically a don’t call us, we’ll call you sort of thing.
Are theythat out of touch with how much easier it is for an author to go with indie small-press or with indie self-pub?
This isn’t the same market as it was 29 years ago when I started writing.
It’s not even the same market it was 10 years ago.
I’m the one with the product here (and a good one, based on my stats and reviews) so, what gives?
Seriously. I’m asking the question, because some of my friends are agents, and they’ve been very supportive of the indie market and my choice to go indie.
So obviously it’s not ‘all’ agents.
Another thing I wonder… do the ones who do the whole ‘no response means no‘ thing realize that in any other industrythat’d be a firing offense? Not to mention they’d be a laughing stock in any other professional field with that kind of policy.
Why is it de rigeur in publishing and other creative fields like acting?
That makes no sense to me, at all. I really do NOT understand how it’s even remotely okay.
Just ’cause they’re busy?
Yeahhhhnope.That doesn’t work for me. *I’m* incredibly busy between running the press and writing.
Everyone gets a response, and usually a reason if it’s a rejection or revise/resubmit. Even if it’s just an… I’m sorry, it’s subjective and I didn’t love it enough… people get something. It’s basic politeness as far as I’m concerned.
So why is it okay? Why do writers… the ones with the product, the ones who pay the agents in the end of things… why do we put up with it?
Especially when indie is so much easier in a lot of ways, especially if you’re marginalized.
I think this is one of those questions I’ll never get an answer to.
It’s me, so you gotta know this is likely going to be an uncomfy topic to talk about. Seems I excel in finding those to blog about.
A little forward for those who don’t follow my blog, I’m an excellent writer and a phenomenal editor (not my words). I’ve been writing for 29 years on and off, on spec for 5 years, I’ve queried 5 of my own books now, plus answered 4 proposal calls and submitted numerous short stories.
and I’m unpublished as far a traditional publishing is concerned. With no hope of an agent on the horizon. Now, it could be that my writing sucks, logistically minded, that’s me. But when I have international renown and high ratings on what I have self-pubbed, and a lot of strangers go out of their way to email me to tell me they love my work… well, I’m erring on the side of it being ‘not me/my writing’.
So… I’ve just finished my fifth official book-query go round in the query lists. My mind feels exactly like I imagine a jouster’s would after the lists are closed.
So many different kinds of forms to fill out, so many different kinds of submission packages to put together, so much sheer research to be done to make sure each particular agent represents what your current project is. (Especially formultiple sub-genre writers like me, this is incredibly hard.)
We have to, (and should) make sure that their tastes haven’t changed, that they’re still where all the programs like querytracker.com and absolutewrite.com say they are as far as agency, that they’re OPEN to queries right then.
Making sure you’ve dotted all your eyes and crossed all your tees, and all the many other parameters are met or fulfilled or…
It’s bloody exhausting. I’ve been doing this most days for over a month now and in that time I could have drafted another book, or most of one. A novella and two short stories for my readers at the very least.
And… I think I’m done. This is likely the last book I’ll try to query to agents. Every time I get another rejection in my inbox, I’m basically checking off ever querying that agent for anything ever again. It’s not even anger, or angst or even negativity. It’s a cost/benefitscenario in my mind. It wasn’t worth the time to query that agent, hence I won’t do it again when I could be writing a book for indie-pub that will make me money doing what I love. Things could change, but… this isn’t the kind of thing one considers lightly.
I admit, the first few books I tried weren’t that great, so it’s perfectly logical that they weren’t picked up. As far as quality of writing goes, though, there is no reason for the last two not to have been agented. No, that’s not my arrogance speaking, that’s professionals (editors, agent friends who don’t rep my genre etc) telling me that the writing is excellent. I have readers telling me the same, that the stories are amazingand could I maybe hurry up and write another one, please?
I know all the arguments, that the market isn’t buying that kind of book, that the agent doesn’t have enough time, that, that, that…
But this go round, I’ve already gotten a very warmly worded rejection asking me to definitely query an agent with my next completed work because they loved the writing sample.
But. No. Unless something changes, I don’t think I will.
Here’s why, We’re in a time of changing markets where the ease of self-publishing, and marketing groups, freelance editors, and cover artists, micro-presses and un-agented submissions to mid-level presses, all of it has completely changed the face of publishing.
I’m not the first person to point this out, to write an article like this one.
When I first started writing, oh… 29 years ago? The only way you got published was if an agent took you on and IF they managed to sell the book to one of the big 5 (then 6).
If that didn’t happen, and you didn’t pay the massive amount of money to a vanity publisher just to see your words in print, you didn’t get published.
You HADto keep trying with new books, had to keep querying agents, had to just keep trying. While the other books you’d written sat shelved. All that creativity wasted.
In this age, I don’t have to do that. We as writers don’t have to do that.
We don’t have to obey the dictates of a publishing industry that limits debut authors to a short book, even when anyone who listens to readers(you know, the ones who actually buy the books??) would repeatedly hear them say they don’t like to spend their hard earned money on a short book, especially from a new author.
My readers keep asking me when I’m releasing another book. Because I’m sitting on three books in the query trenches right now… I don’t have an answer for them.
I work as an editor and I see a lot of books in that role, many aren’t that great, much like my first few, (because it is true that almost every book you write is going to be better than the last). Some areabsolutely outstanding and the authors often ask me, why, if it’s at least good, isn’t it getting picked up?
Why can’t I make it as a writer?
Why am I still un-agented?
Because that is still the end goal for many writers, (no shame in that at all) to be agented, to be partnered with someone who can sell their book, works contracts, have contacts in the industry and maybe inform them of the markets and all-in-all, help them along.
It’s why I’ve been trying. I don’t really like to talk to people on the phone, and that’s part of what I’m willing to pay an agent to do for me.
Forgot about that part? That it’s the writer paying the agent for their expertise and connections?
Well. It is. it’s not the fault of the writer at all, it isn’t even the fault of the agents. It’s the industry behind everything that is a hide-bound dinosaur that doesn’t seem interested in change.
I mean, why would they? It’s worked this way for a long time and if it isn’t broke, why fix it? Don’t forget that publishing is a corporation, they work like corporations do.
So many agents I see list on their blogs the ‘ideals’ for a perfect client. Most will say commitment, ability to write, in it for the long haul, and you know, so many of us are?
But the way the system works just doesn’t work for us. Not the ones for whom this is a calling. The ones who have to make themselves stop writing vs the ones who have to make themselves start.
I’m going to, lol, as I usually do, share an unpopular opinion.
Agents may have to change the way they do things.
The way they still function (on the surface anyway, I don’t have an agent so I don’t actually see behind the curtains) is very much the same as it was 20 years ago.
In today’s day and age, where it’s so much easier for a talented writer to say ‘screw this’to the way THINGS ARE DONE and strike out on their own… I really think agents might need to be looking more to the clients, and not just at a book they can sell right now.
This is especially true for people like me, who write fast and self-edit well (no, not perfectly, I stand by my words that no author ever can see ALL their own mistakesbecause we’re too close).
I highly doubt any agents are likely to read this blog post. But if you are, I’d suggest that when you find an author with a voice you love, you consider signing them on their voice and talent alone, vs whatever book they have at the time.
In a market as demanding as the one we’re all in, someone like me who has written custom stories for years, (and many good writers have, it’s easy money to ghostwrite, edit on spec, write custom kink stories…) those kinds of writers could very easily turn around a saleable book quite quickly. It takes me, probably 3 months (at most) to draft a book,
Another month, maybe 2 (at most) to self-edit it to the point where it’s in better shape than a lot of NYT bestselling titles.
Seriously, one of my biggest complaints with big 5 pubbed books is the lack of editing that goes into many of the titles. (My other huge one is the lack of interesting new types of stories. I’m bored with the same old, same old. Something new please!)
So, that’s 2 books a year, and those are ones that I’m ripping up from the depths of my soul.The hard ones to write, my own creativity.
If I had a little guidance on what was likely to sell? What the market would be looking for in the near future? It’d likely be faster.
If, for instance, I had a working partnership with an agent who loved my voice, my style and repped the genres I write in, vs a book I have right now, there’s no telling how many sales we could make. Which is rather the point of the whole author/agent relationship, isn’t it? To make sales so both of you make money? Maybe I’m romanticizing what I don’t have yet, a relationship with an agent, but I do write romance… so it’s in my nature.
Oh, I know. I’m breaking the rules, I’m thumbing my nose at the way things are done. (Probably shooting myself in the foot with any agents I DO have queries out to.) But you know what?
Change starts somewhere.
It often starts with words.
If only it didn’t hurt so much to give up this idea that I could make more money with an agent, than withoutone.
I think part of that comes from having wasted months of my time querying, when maybe, I didn’t need to do that at all.
I wrote this article in 2016, re-reading it now… it’s so obvious that I was already sick of the extreme toxicity that runs around on Twitter in the guise of… I’m not even sure what they think they’re doing.
And on June 16th, 2020 tens of thousands of people decided I needed ‘canceling’. (No one deserves the level of cruelty those self-riotous pricks sent my way, no one. I’m lucky I’m still alive. I credit that to my partner and my actual friends.)
A *lot* of people sui/cide after receiving that kind of behavior. That kind of hatred. I know the names of 5 authors who the ‘writing community’ has cyberbullied into ending their pain the only way they felt was left to them.
I know the names of 13 neurodiverse authors who have been cyberbullied off of social media; I’m one of them.
The elephant in the room of the ‘writing community’ is how depraved the level of harassment and cyberbullying really is. Y’all got issues. And being quiet in the face of that is called enabling.
The people who started it all had been stalking (what else could it be called?) me, twisting my words and actions into misrepresentations and outright lies about me for *years*. Every 6 months or so, they’d stir up trouble, probably angling to get enough people to cancel me. One doxxed me, blowing it off as unimportant. (And blowing off the 8 months of IRL and cyber harassment I and my family experiened within the 18 months they had my legal name paired with my former pseudo and libelous statements. (I had to change my name because the attacks turned it into a mental illness trigger.)
I’ll talk more about that in a different post with more details when I’ve healed/recovered enough.
Original post, edited for spelling and clarity. New commentary marked with backslashes.
Thinky thoughts, so many emotions and me, a writer, not being able to come up with a coherent way of saying them all.
Some of this emotion is likely from how shitty my day to day life is right now. I have untreated EDS/CFS/fibromyalgia (long story, not getting into it) and I’m moving house, downsizing in an unwanted move to a much smaller place and my two kids are coming down with another round of ‘public school plague’, so some of this emotion is from that.
Most of it has been boiling for a while and I’ve been too afraid to say anything because I feared judgment and dragging. // One good thing about getting cyberbullied/canceled? If anything about cancelization could be called ‘good’. I legitimately do not give a fuck about what anyone who didn’t show up for me when I truly needed them thinks about me. //
If another author can say publicly, that they won’t let down their bad ass female ancestors by being afraid. I can enby up and not be afraid to speak my truth either. I WANT THE PAIN TO STOP.
I’m not talking about my fibro pain. I’m a farm kid, raised around animals and there’s this trait I saw a lot of growing up. Ugly duckling, odd chick behavior. It’s basically where birds will, for some reason, decide to pick on a member of the flock until it dies.
The publishing community on twitter the past couple of months are acting like a bunch of chickens. Pick, pick picking at one another until the weaker bird dies. Now, I’ve written theses, I can hazard a guess about the psychology behind it, tension, stress about the election, brexit, et cetera.
You know… it’s something humans do too. It’s called bullying, maybe a bit of gaslighting.
I call it witch hunting. (I’m pagan, have been most of my life, I use the term with knowledge and respect for the fallen, ’cause y’all know what? Many of you are acting like the inquisition here.)
One thing I cannot, and will not, ever lie down for is bullying. If this post burns me bridges, or brings me grief because I’m foolish or courageous enough to point at an unpleasant truth in a group of people who ought to freaking know better? Bring it. (Seriously, I’m not spoiling for a fight like a lot of people seem to be doing these days, but I will defend myself and other people.)
To be clear, this is not brought on by any one situation, there have been nine incidences (that I’m personally aware of, pretty sure there’re more) with different people involved, with different topics addressed over the past several months. I’m plugged into a lot of communities, just because of who I am. There’ve been issues about pansexuality, religious faith, PoC, cultural (mis)representation, and tone policing to just mention a few. So I am not pointing at any ONE person or topic or incident. Though yes, why I’m saying something nowis because of the reaction to the book THE CONTINENT.
Firstly: *I* have not read the book. Neither have most of you. Which kinda calls into question the omfg issues revolving around it. One well respected and well thought out person has read it and commented upon it. In a critique which, given who it was, I have to assume is accurate. I respect the person who critiqued it. I may not always agree with the methodology or opinions of this person, but the knowledge, viewpoint and critique? That I respect.
I rather hope #TheContinent isn’t that bad, but as soon as I can finish this move and regain some sense of equilibrium-I have an ARC-I’ll read it and review it. Honestly and from my perspective as an educated, marginalized, author of mixed ethnicity. //I couldn’t get into it.//
I also know the person who wrote the book is a debut author. Aren’t we supposed to be doing our utmost as writers/authors/publishing professionals to support debut authors? Even the ones who make mistakes?
I have so many thoughts and emotions about this. (I’ve been writing this most of the day when I needed to be working on my book or packing.) I’ll try for cohesion, so that when/if I’m attacked, I’ll have my receipts. You’ll note that despite me working damned hard on wording this correctly, without censure of any one person or incident that I’m Expecting To Be Attacked. That is the feeling of the writer community on twitter right now, (it wasn’t when I joined up) and that goes out in ripples to the whole of the authorial community. I want to cover a few of the tangential issues related to the topic of harassment.
Diversity: I am passionate about all forms of diversity. Always have been. I’m a staunch supporter of being who you are, all of who you are. I will always be an advocate. We are each of us human, each of us learning, growing, beautiful individuals. Do we make mistakes? We’re human, of course we do.
I’m damned worried posting this is a mistake mistake // don’t give a fuck now. // So much so I’ve had people vet it before I click publish. (I’ve never, ever done that before w/a blog post.) Thing is, I can’t respect myself if I DON’T say something. So. To the meat of it.
Passing. I pass damned well, it gives me privilege others descended from the same bloodlines and cultures as me don’t have. But. I’m. Still. Passing. I’m aware that I’m passing, and it absolutely kills something in me when we run into racist/neurodiverse issues in publishing, in all forms of entertainment. It’s like I’m torn in half. The part of me that is *me* from the part of me everyone else *sees*. Go ahead, look at the profile pic. Look white, don’t I? I’m not. Unless skin tone is all that matters. (Whoa now, if that isn’t a shock, I dunno what could be. Skin tone as a social control? Nah. Couldn’t happen among thinking humanoid type critters.) But, if the way I look is all that matters, well… that’s prejudicial. It kills something in me to hear another gifted writer saying they KNOW they have very little chance of traditional publication. It’s something I know very well because I feel it myself, even if the reasons are different. They’re Native, but they keep writing anyway… Then the same writer has their heart broken because of the (possibly, *I* haven’t read it. I *don’t* prejudge) racist YA book that will soon be published. To hear her pain. Lord and Lady, it’s like an emotional wound inside of me. Because she speaks about her pain, about those dark and nasty thoughts I’ve had myself… (the ones that are grateful that my kids pass too ’cause they have First Nations ancestry from both their dad and me?? Because they have African ancestors through me? Yeah, those thoughts. I don’t obey those thoughts, I won’t be a coward. I teach my kids as much as I know about all of their ancestors, but I still have the thoughts. A symptom of the world we live in.)
I have not read the book, I intend to, because I cannot make an informed opinion about anything without, ya know… informing myself. It’s a thing, yeah?
I pass as being neurotypical too. I’m not what most people think of when they think ‘autistic’. SPOILER, most of us aren’t. If you know 50 people, you know someone who is passing autistic. You know someone who struggles, every second of every day to understand how other ‘normal’ people work.
On the other side of this fence, a good friend of mine is incredibly saddened because they know the author in question… my friend tells me they are a good person…
If someone is saying, ‘This hurts.’ You don’t say, ‘that’s not the way it is, you’re viewing it wrong.’ There’s a definition for that and it’s called gaslighting.
Being a good person, with good intentions does not relieve you of responsibility. If, for instance, you write YA books, you have to be concerned, always, with the kids who will be reading your work. You. Need. To. Be. Aware. Words can hurt, they can kill. We need to use ours wisely. This ALSO goes for those with influence, those who speak out and are respected for doing so. Who may feed people to their following, knowing damned well what will happen. I see you. It does not give you (no matter the color of your skin, or your ancestors or, or, or…) the right to harm or gaslight anyone. If someone says… ‘this hurts, please stop’ the ONLY answer is ‘I’m so sorry. I will listen, I will do better.’ Even if you don’t understand what you did wrong. Even if your cultural understanding isn’t aware or awake enough yet to know how badly you effed up. Someone says ‘OUCH’, you say ‘I’m sorry’. I mean, didn’t we all learn this in kindergarten?
In case it needs to be said. I. AM. SAYING. OUCH. PLEASE. STOP.
I’m talking to the writers, the publishing professionals, and you. Yeah. I’m looking at you, my reader. Maybe you personally haven’t done anything that I need to say ouch about. Maybe you’ve never done a blessed thing to hurt another human, but… maybe you have. Only you know.
This one… I honestly can’t believe I even have to say it. I’ve worked for fortune 500s, I’ve brokered million dollar deals when I sold stuff (software if it matters) to the US gov’t. I’ve been in NOAA’s headquarters and I’ve visited Fort Knox, I’ve dined w/ the US Secretary of Energy. I’m not sharing that info to brag. I was miserable in that job; I’m sharing it for perspective. So when you read the next bit, you’ll understand exactly where I’m coming from. ANY. Other. Industry. Would be bloody, fucking, appalled by this behavior. I am NOT calling out one particular person, many people do it… I am talking about something that borders on breach of privacy. It’s not ‘quite’ there, but it’s like when you smell a campfire and then feel the flame. The issue? Sharing of private DMs/videos/emails. Don’t do it. Private correspondence is private, it’s not meant for public consumption and no, sharing it isn’t right no matter how justified you feel you are in doing so. I don’t care who you are or what your motivation is to do such a thing. Same goes with taking tweets and emails and things said out of context and using them as fuel in your own personal crusade. I’ve seen quite a bit of that lately too and I’m tired of it. There aren’t many ‘issue’ crusades that don’t apply to me too. Do you see *me* doing that? I find it extremely distasteful and unprofessional. (Most everyone else does too. Just to let you know.)
Mental Health: (#ownvoices on that topic, among others) Did you know it falls into the category of being a bully to call someone out for using mental health issues as a tool? When. You. Don’t. Know. The. Person. Or. What. They. Deal. With? The person I’m thinking of didn’t say a damned word about that book. They were accused of sub-tweeting, and racism and omg… WHAT THEY SAID was, ahem (I should stop shouting, but I feel it may be warranted) don’t discount mental health issues. That person talks about their own struggles FREQUENTLY. Jaysus. I’m sick to my stomach that so much that should be bringing us together, forming bridges, is being used as tools in dividing us.
You know what? You don’t get to tell someone else they aren’t struggling, no matter what the color of their skin is, the state of their brain or their lifestyle. No matter what color YOUR skin is, or the state of YOUR brain, or what lifestyle you (hopefully) enjoy. You just don’t have that right. Even if you’re marginalized, you still don’t get to say it. See Gaslighting. I’d love to call out the names and say… hey there bully! Whas’up! We meet again… it’d be sooo nice if you’d stop. I choose to not do that. I’ve been a victim of bullying my whole damned life. I know what it looks, feels and smells like. THAT was bullying. (Not the first time I’ve seen it with the particular person, and to be utterly clear, it isn’t the person who critiqued the book.) Think it might be you? Do you bully people on the internet/twitter/fb? Then lace it up and wear it, b. Bullying, even in the name of a good cause, is still bullying.
Witch hunts. I made such a face just now, I really did. But damn people, what is WITH the witch hunt mentality in publishing? I’m pagan, and extremely well educated (many useless degrees on the walls, promise). I’m aspie, which means *my* brain acts a lot like a computer in the amount of information I have at hand at any one p0int. So when I use the term ‘witch hunt’ that is exactly the right term to use. One person points the finger at another person, shouting “WITCH” then without proof, without reason, without any sort of trial the ‘witch’ is run out of town, or twitter dragged, or suffers a pile on in the worst way. (There’ve been a lot of these hunts around issues relating to PoC, pansexuality, asexuality, representation, tone policing and fetishism lately, just to name a few) There are those of us on ‘both’ sides of any single one of these witch hunts who would like to speak up and say something along the lines of ‘wait a minute, that isn’t Actually What They Said or Did’ or ‘Whoa, Wait a minute, that was taken completely out of context and used in a way it wasn’t ever intended as’. You know what? WE can’t. The moment one of us (again, on either side here of any particular dispute, I’m thinking of at least 9 different instances on different topics in recent months) says a thing that disagrees with the ‘witch hunt’ mentality, we’re tarred with the same damned brush. There is no logic, there is no reason, there is no kindness. (FWIW, I’m not a kindness before ‘A Person’ believer. You see something wrong, you hurt? Call, it, out. I will support you, always.) There certainly isn’t an atmosphere of listening and learning in the writing community on twitter. Which–I can tell you as a marginalized person myself–I’d be somuch happier seeing. I’d be ecstatic if people learned about me and tried to understand the things I face and have to deal with rather than them ‘getting their comeuppance’ and being feather-plucked/driven out of the community at large.
You know what these recent witch hunts have done? It’s made me (passing PoC, neurodiverse, polyamorous, pagan, kinky, pansexual, chronically ill, queer, mentally ill, fat… ) the person trying to get it right in my work, (because I know what it feels like to be marginalized in so many ways) not want to share my writing. It makes me doubt every word I’ve ever written regarding a person with a darker skin than mine. Everything I’ve ever alluded to from one of the ancestral cultures I have the honor to claim. (Edit… this is a massively common feeling, since I first posted this, I can’t believe the number of people ID’ing as any form of diversity who’ve reached out to me in a positive manner about this post. It’s not just me who’s feeling this.)
I have PoC characters in a lot of my writing, because I feel so strongly that everyone deserves to see themselves in fiction. I rarely, if ever, see accurate rep of me in fiction, I think everyone should have that. To see themselves reflected. I remember hearing my mom, when I was a kid, say something along the lines of ‘she wished there were a few brown girls’ in the romances she liked to read. I remember her using lemon juice to lighten her skin and hair, and praising my (then) blond hair and blue eyes. Genetic fact, you don’t tend to tan well unless you’re pretty mixed up, ethnically. Many of us know a person who is really pale, all year round who turns into a lobster if they get a hint of sunlight? Not so mixed. Someone like me, who turns red-brown in the sun… very mixed, I have Spanish, Portuguese, African, Middle Eastern, First Nations, and European ancestors. You know… I remember my mom yanking on my hair with a brush to keep it from forming locks, (which it does even more now than it did then) because it wasn’t the ‘right way’ for hair to look. I remember her yanking out *Yes, she pulled them out of my scalp, and taught me to do the same thing* the dark, spiral curled hairs that grew in among the blond. I remember how I felt when I found the proof that, um, whups the reason we don’t talk all that much about some of your grandparents is cause they were so dark. Um… WTF? I know what it feels like *to me* to read about another mixed person in fiction. (I’ve blogged about it before, I literally cried the first time I saw it. Because I finally saw me. That feeling, of seeing ME/YOU is what I want for every person on the planet who enjoys fiction. This atmosphere… it’s driving away those of us who’re trying to get it right. These recent witch hunts, man. It’s made me say… well fuck, because I pass so well, I guess I don’t have the right to write people with angular eyes and dishy teeth (I have dishy teeth… you know? For the uninformed it’s a Native/First Nations/Asian biocline trait). I’m so light skinned (when I’ve been being writer chick and staying out of the sun) how dare I even think about writing a guy with dark skin and blue eyes, or, to refer (not rep, I won’t do that) but simply refer to one of my characters as rez raised Native. (My granddad was, left the rez to marry my grandmother… but my skin is awfully damned light to be writing someone with darker skin, isn’t it?) These witch hunts… damn people. What are you trying to do with them? To bastardize The Princess Bride, I don’t think you’re doing what you think you’re doing.
Are you trying to drive authors who work very freaking hard at getting it right away from writing PoC? (I excoriate myself to get it right, to not use ‘food’ terminology when describing a skin tone or eye shape, just for instance. If I mention a culture or trait, I try my damnedest to not use stereotypes and, and, and, and.)
Are we as a community trying to drive other authors away from just talking about their own ancestries? From learning and asking questions? It feels like that to me today. It really does. (I’m not speaking of that book now, I have not read it, I don’t know, if you haven’t read it, neither do you.) I AM speaking of how *I* feel trying to describe my characters. Is the fact that I see and write one of my characters as a girl with angular green eyes, gold skin and black hair going to get me tarred and feathered as being an Asian/First Nations Fetishist? I’m describing someone in my family when I use those terms, I had them vet the description before I used it. They thanked me for not comparing the shape of their eyes to a nut. (dude… white people’s eyes look more like almonds than Asian/First Nations… have you actually looked?) Is the fact that I see one of my characters as a dark brown man with blue eyes going to get me accused of another form of fetishism? (It’s a gene I studied in University, how the African diaspora encountered blue eyed people around the Baltic Sea around 10k years ago. There are blue eyed black people, shocker, I know, right? Did you know there’re red haired black people too? Red haired Native/First Nations? Is it wrong to depict them?) I have freaky silver-blue, color-changing eyes (Danish biocline trait) but my skin isn’t dark… how about if I only write light skinned Danish immigrants? I’ll ignore the other half of my ancestry, as I’ve been taught to do my whole damned life… is that what’s needed and wanted here? If I refer to my rez raised Native character as red-brown (my mom’s skin color btw, and mine in the summer after even a hint of sun) is it going to get me skinned alive by someone respected in publishing? Because my profile pic is taken in winter and I’m kinda pale in it? Oh! I know! I’m cream colored in my profile pic… doughy even, maybe even porcelain… means I’m white, right? What the hell are y’all trying to do?
Is the end goal here a more diverse publishing atmosphere? It’s what *I* thought we were all doing and trying for. How does picking the feathers off of a debut author contribute to that? If the book is as reviewed, wow, yeah, some learning and fixing up needs to happen, and it shouldn’t have been published that way. Twitter dragging the author/the editor/the publishing house… that’s not going to help them learn. No, it’s not *OUR* responsibility to teach or educate anyone else about our marginalization’s. It is our responsibility to act like human beings. Like higher reasoning primates and not a bunch of featherheads toting pitchforks.
I highly doubt many people are reading this… my experience of my mixed up ethnicity, of all of my experienced marginalizations and the pain I feel at seeing these… witch hunts… because I’m never on just one side of them. Each one of them splits me in half, or thirds… it’s crazy. It hurts, it hurts badly. If you are reading, if you’re on either side of these conflicts… could ya’ maybe step back a bit and say… I’m listening. I will read/research/think about the issue at hand and maybe talk privately to people I trust about it… rather than grabbing a torch and pitchfork?
By grabbing a torch and pitchfork, I mean piling on in support of one side or the other in ANY conflict. Public call outs… this is probably the aspie me in (I really loathe being accused of something in public. Which might clue you in to how strongly I feel about this topic, to step up and say something I’ve been feeling for a while, KNOWING I’m likely to get taken to task for it.) but, does it actually HELP anything? It sure as hell isn’t changing publishing. Only thing going to change publishing is using your money to talk with. Buy the authentically diverse books with good rep. SUPPORT authors who are diverse, in whatever fashion their diversity shows itself in. I’d give a body part for some accurate kink rep in mainstream fiction other than the few that are out there… how about an adult aspie? Asexual? Grace? Mixed ethnicity? Adult polyamory other than love triangles? How about a fat girl in a romance? A disabled romantic MC who doesn’t get a miracle cure by the end of the book? I’d love one of those. There’s some kink and poly but not a lot, can’t think of many Grace or Aspie characters in adult fiction. I swear on all I hold holy I will give whoever brings up the movie The Accountant the lecture of their life on bad representation.
This entirely human/chicken habit of tearing down, witch hunting, et cetera. It’s not helping. To be clear, I’m not talking about sharing an educated opinion of a book, nor am I talking against speaking your own pain. I’m talking about personal attacks against an author/entertainer, you know… name calling, career shaming, calling into question their integrity or their intelligence, rudely rolling ones eyes (virtually) about how damned dumb this particular person HAS to be to be making that mistake… that kind of thing. Damn. Here’s a question for those of you who may feel I just insulted you. Did you see the movie THE ACCOUNTANT? RAINMAN?? Were you entertained? Chilled? Excited? Thrilled? Or were you appalled at the rep? If you didn’t answer the latter, you got some work to do.
Oh… and just cause I’ve seen it and I’m annoyed by it… piling on in support of PoC, LGBTQA+ (insert marginalized individual) doesn’t absolve you of your own guilt. If you’re light skinned (I am too, it’s part of the culture we live in) you’re racist. If you’re not Asperger’s/Autistic, you’re prejudiced against us. If you’re not mixed race, you have no idea what it feels like. If you’re not polyamorous, you have no idea how much it hurts to only be able to find monogamous romance to read, even when you LOVE romance. If you’re straight, you have no idea how badly we queer people want to see ourselves in fiction. If you’re not kinky… boy… I could write a whole damned thesis, probably a couple of them, on bad representation and the damage a certain series of books has done there because of piss poor research. If you aren’t part of a/the marginalized community, the only thing you can do is LISTEN. LEARN. Attempt to make bridges instead of tearing things apart. And for fucks sake. Do. Better. Maybe a good start would be to try leaving the plucking of feathers to the ducks and chickens.
There were a few great threads on twitter tonight about representation of asexuality in fiction. (I retweeted, so they should be relatively easy to find.) Since it struck a chord and I kinda almost write sexy smexy books, I figured since I’m in a wordy mood, I’d attempt to express this part of me.
A bit of history. For most of my life I’ve felt broken. Like the thing that made the world go ’round (love/relationships) was a puzzle piece that just didn’t fit in my life. It’s not that I didn’t have sexual/loving relationships. If anything I started early, but it wasn’t out of actual ‘desire’ to do so. I started having sex around the age of 16, (in the early 90’s) and it was with my boyfriend. I wasn’t with the person because I liked him, I was with him because he treated me decently and because it was an escape from a really terrible home environment. (that sounds so very cold and horrible, but… kids, damn, they make hard, life wrenching choices like that every damned day in so many demographics, and those types of stories need to be told. Childhood isn’t pretty for everyone, ya know?)
I had sex with him because A) I loved to read, and most of what my mom had to read was romance, and hey, all my fictional heroines were doing it (whether they wanted to or not… in case you ever wonder if fiction matters, it kinda, really does) and I thought it was what I was supposed to be doing. B) Peer pressure from the boyfriend, horny young guy about year older than me and definitely NOT grace/ace.
Did the fact that I was raised uber-Christian matter? Yeah, it did, just not enough. I had plenty of guilt. Did the fact that my parents refused to see me as anything other than a pre-teenage girl with a frilly canopy bed and a doll house matter? Yeah, in the wrong way…
Did I enjoy it? No.
We were both virgins, so, no, I don’t know that we ‘could’ have really had fun, except that I’ve talked to a lot of people who were virgins together who had a great time.
If I asked him, I’d hazard to guess he enjoyed the process. It always left me cold, distant and just, disinterested.
You hate me.
You can’t love me.
I heard all of these things.
‘What’s wrong with me!’ Rang through my soul so many times. Here I have this great guy (and for the time and environment, he really was. I bear guilt to this day that I wasn’t ‘enough’ for him).
I should treat him better.
You should marry him (thank gods I didn’t when he asked, I’d have made him miserable)
Fake the orgasm, he won’t be able to tell. (Heard that one from a friend, made my relationship better for a while, I guess, on the surface.)
I broke it off when he asked me to marry him. I’d been away to university for a year at that point, and I… realized I didn’t miss him. I realized that it was a burden to be around him, to ‘perform’ sexually for him.
I had a rebound relationship (including sex, cause I did. not. know. that. asexuality of any type existed) with one of my best friends. It ruined the friendship, of course.
I tried sex with girls, because hey, if I couldn’t enjoy it like everyone around me was enjoying it with a guy, that made me a lesbian right? (For years I thought I was a lesbian, really. Cause I had better relationships with girls.)
Bisexual? Maybe? (I’m pansexual, by the way… now that I have a label that actually fits me)
In my early 20’s I was ‘dating’ exclusively girls, by dating, I mean fucking, because I had friendly fuck buddies but no defined relationship.
I went to a really big event and met my husband. Man, I fought so hard against falling for him! I didn’t want a relationship with a guy, hadn’t worked the three times or so I’d tried it before, and he lived well over 8 hours by train away from me… in a different freaking country!!
I thought about it, and figured one more try with a guy… cause I really, REALLY liked this one. We got each other. (I’ll be honest, head over fucking heels in love within three days, it still strikes me as ridiculous that I fell so hard and fast for a stranger, but here we are, still married 18 years later, so maybe we did something right.)
Sex with him was afuckingamazing. For the first time in my life I GOT it.
I understood what the big deal was! (We’re talking lightning strike momentous proportions here people.)
That’s what gray asexuality (specifically demi-sexuality) is like for me.
It would have helped so much if I had known what it even was when I was a kid. (So, all of you wonderful people who can write/rep YA with Ace/Grace characters? Please, please write these stories, publishing, please buy and put them on the damned shelves!!)
For a demi-sexual (talking about me and those I’ve read about, and the friends I’ve talked with who ID as such) it’s the emotion and close relationship that makes all the difference in the world to the enjoyment of sex.
Now, I didn’t actually learn that the term ‘demi-sexual’ or ‘grace’ or ‘ace’ even existed until last year. (Here’s another iota of info, I’ve been a sexuality educator, it was not covered in ANY of my classes preparing me for teaching kids about sex… how’s that for horrifying?) That’s right, I was 39 when I learned the definition. (Another lightning strike) and realized that… holy shit… I’m NOT broken, or frigid, or bitchy or cold.
Being polyamorous, I’ve had relationships with others in the 18 years my husband and I have been together (so has he, and we together). Only one other time have I enjoyed sex, and it was with my girlfriend, who… yes, I loved.
You’d think I’d have clued in, right? I was in my late 20’s when I fell for her (we were part of a quad together) love=good sex?
I didn’t. Which is why knowledge and stories and fiction are so very important.
So back to the first question. If I’m grace, how can I write kinky sex?
Simple answer. ‘Cause when it’s good and I’m with someone I love? It’s off the charts amazing and I’ve a way with words. 😉 I also have a great deal of experience with kink and with great sex (now). Add to that a rather vivid imagination and I get sex scenes that sizzle (not my words, those are beta-readers words)
So. This long ramble is my way of saying, please, write the stories (if I could write YA I so would, there are girls and boys and gender-fluid and non-binary and non-gendered people out there right now, just like I was, doing things they won’t be proud of later, because they don’t get why they are different). Publish the stories. Above all, educate yourselves and your kids if you have them about all the wonderful variations of sexual expression humanity can enjoy.
I’m pretty open about having Aspergers. I’m so grateful that agents are asking more and more for #ownvoices writers to submit their work.
Yet, because they’re asking for our writing, it might help if they knew how someone neurodiverse might think about rejections. *Not an expert, and not everyone is out, so if there are aspie/autie agents hi! I’m only speaking for ‘me’.
Now… no one likes rejection. We human beings are social creatures and having someone tell you they don’t want your work hurts all of us. It’s part of the business, though, and anyone who wants to write for publication, especially traditional pub needs to accept that. I do, it’s part of the life of a writer. Hell… some of the most famous writers ever have received the most rejections. (Go here, you’ll see) so the concept of rejection doesn’t bother me, 98% of the rejections I receive don’t phase me. It’s the 2% I’m addressing. Those where someone has specifically requested more of my work after reading a query or a couple of pages.
Rejection. If you want to write for pub vs fanfic (which I love and have written myself) or to write for yourself, get used to it. You’ll feel rejected over self-pub by lack of sales too, so it’s not just for Trad.pub you’re going to run into it. This isn’t even touching on the concept of poor reviews or trolls bitching about what you write. (I get trolled a lot because I’m out about who I am, all of who I am).
Yet, I want to say something on rejection, especially for an aspie. Now, this may not apply to everyone with Aspergers, I only speak from my *own* experience. Victimized in school by bullies, I’m well versed in rejection. I’ve worked professionally in sales, I have a thick skin. I can take it, and I’ll continue to do so. I know the business of publishing as much as any ‘outsider’ ever can.
It can still throw me for a freaking loop, and here’s why.
I write so much into my stories and hell, not many people seem to like me in person, so I don’t expect a whole lot of people to like my writing… except, of course, I hope they do!
I’m aspie, and one way this makes a difference in my life is that I have a driving obsession to know WHY. About everything… why that bird looks the way it does at my feeder, why X, Y, or Z. (and the other 23 letters!)
So, rejections from agents and publishers bother me, like… a lot. The ones on query letters only are the least bothersome for me. Next step, queries with pages… those make me wonder what exactly the person didn’t like about my work. But for both of those I can brush them aside and not worry about it. The ones that are the hardest are those where an agent/publisher has specifically requested more of my work. If they tell me why they eventually said no, it makes such a huge difference to me.
‘Cause if they do…
I can slot it into a pigeonhole of ‘this is why’ it didn’t work there. That information would be invaluable to me (even if I didn’t agree with it, or if I didn’t like it,(and I’ve gotten both) I’d still have that information to use in future endeavors).
Without that little bit of information, it hurts more and niggles more than it probably does to a neurotypical person. (I’m not NT, I don’t know what it feels like to someone who is, I may be completely off base). I do know that in general, autistic individuals have fathomless wells of emotion. Even if it doesn’t look like we’re bothered or feeling something, trust me, we are. Yes, I know how busy agents must be, I know how hard it would be to write a sentence to each rejection. It would be so nice if they could, though, no, I don’t expect it. No, it isn’t going to stop me, but it may throw me for a day or two. I received one recently that almost made me stop writing, that’s how hard it was to receive. That’s my honesty.
I can’t NOT research something, it’s not in me. I can dive down the rabbit-hole so fast and hard in the blink of an eye, then spend hours there (wherever there is). It’s a trait of how Aspergers makes a difference in my life.
So, of course, I researched the industry of publishing before dipping a toe in. I know it’s the rarity to even get a rejection letter much less a reason for the rejection. Still, for me, personally, it’s like a burning itch I can’t scratch. An itch to know (and from history, that itch will never, ever, ever go away). To understand. ‘Cause trust me, I rarely understand other people, (waves from aspie-land) this obsession with how people work and why they do what they do is in part a self-defense mechanism for me.
Rejection sucks, it’s part of this business and I do collect rejections (I’m shooting for wallpaper, because at least then I know I’m trying) yet… if any agents or publishers read this… if at all possible on partials, if it’s something you’ve requested more pages on, please tell the writer WHY it doesn’t work for you, especially if you know they’re neurodiverse “It’s not for me.” Really isn’t enough. I don’t need a repetition of something you’ve already told me, for things important to me my recall is epic. (You should totally play me in geek trivial pursuit!) I do, rather desperately, need a reason why.
In a publishing industry where #ownvoices are being asked to submit their work, agents need to know how it works for us, and I know enough aspies/auties to hazard a guess that rejection probably bothers many of us as much as it does me. I can’t believe it would take more than a minute to give that bit of info to someone who you’ve already spent an hour or more on reading their work. A reason, even if it’s only a list can make such a difference in the emotions of ND people like me. Something like this would help so much. Now… on to the next rejection. 😀