Friday, September 4, 2015

Write Inclusively Submission Window is OPEN!!!

THE SUBMISSIONS WINDOW IS OPEN!!

The #WriteInclusively contest has begun! Send in your submissions. You have until Sunday, September 6th, 9 pm EST to send in your submission to writeinclusively (at) gmail (dot) com.

Make sure to follow formatting guidelines! Remember to include the sections of "System(s) of Oppression" and "Author's Identity." Those are mandatory (don't worry - your name/email will not be published).

To clarify what these things are, here's an example. Say your novel deals with racism and classism. You would then put "Racism, Classism" after "System(s) of Oppression". Then, you would disclose your "Author's Identity" in line with the 1-2 systems you picked above. In our example, you would disclose your race and class status: "Hispanic, Middle class."

There are exceptions for cis-sexism and homophobia, because disclosing the author's identity can "out" any queer authors who are in the closet. If this applies to you, and you do not want to "out" yourself, don't worry. You will still be required to disclose your identity in your submission (so that I can better evaluate the entry) but no sexual orientation or gender identity (unless the system chosen is "sexism") will be published on the blog. Meaning, even if you are a straight author writing about a gay character, and you put "straight" as your "Author's Identity," that information will not be published on my blog. If you pick homophobia or cis-sexism, your author's identity section will not be published (but will still be required). This is to protect any closeted queer writers. Out-and-proud writers, please know this is to protect those in your community who are in the closet. Closeted authors: you can trust me to remain discreet with your identity.

Reminder: I cover up names when I read submissions. I won't know who is who, so even if I know you and love you so much, bias = gone.

The Twitter prompt is: "Why am I submitting to #WriteInclusively?" Answer that question on Twitter using that hashtag. Good luck everyone! I'M SO EXCITED!!

GET GOING! GOOD LUCK! Any questions, ask them below!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Writing About Disability: An Insider’s Confession

YOU ALL. A Write Inclusively guest post is HERE!!!! *so many cheers*!! To learn more about the Write Inclusively campaign and sign up for the newsletter, click here

Today, we have the incredible Laura Brown. Take it away, Laura. (It is a beautiful post, and so incredibly true. Understand it, internalize it.)

#

As a writer with a disability, I have a confession to make. Whenever I see a book has a character with a hearing loss, my first reaction is not “Yay! Diversity!” It should be, but life has taught me to be cautious.

My first reaction involves the urge to step back and walk away. My first reaction doesn’t know if the author did his/her research. My first reaction doesn’t want to be right.

Having had a hearing loss all my life, I know one fact very, very well: people think they know hearing loss. They don’t. Hearing loss is one of those topics that everyone knows about. It’s common knowledge. But this “common knowledge” rarely involves the truth of not hearing.

Case in point: I started learning ASL when I was in college. My mother mentioned this to a family member. The response? “Shouldn’t she learn to lipread?”

1) I wasn’t taking ASL for my own benefit, not at first. 2) I’ve been lipreading my entire life; it’s not an exact science. In fact, the lips only show 20% of the words, the rest is inferred. 3) If I managed to communicate well, why did I need lipreading?

Nothing against the masses, just the simple fact of what a common notion does when put into action. I’m sure those with other disabilities will say the same. The public knows about the variety of disabilities one can have. But unless we’re actively involved, we don’t know shit.

Back to writing. Sadly, most books I have picked up with a character who has a hearing loss lead me to banging my head with my Kindle. True fact. There aren’t many, but after you read a few that are so far off the mark it isn’t even funny, you grow leery. I oftentimes try and research if the author has any personal experience prior to picking up the book.

This doesn’t mean an author can’t do research and do it right. One can. It’s been done. However, it takes the right type of author, the right type of research, to make it happen. I read a more recent novel with a Deaf main character (capital D to denote someone culturally Deaf, not just a person with a hearing loss). I bit my lip, shut down my apprehension, and read.

On the whole, this author did her research. So points for her. And she had the character in a career that many wouldn’t think to put a Deaf person in, so double points. BUT, and this is capitalized because it is huge, there were many instances in the novel that were so far off from reality I ended up banging my head with my Kindle. One small example: the continued use of first names in ASL, as in “Hi Laura, how are you?” Nope. ASL only uses sign names for those not present, or when teaching a baby their own name.

At the end of the day, research is great, but you can’t know everything. In my own research in areas I don’t have personal knowledge on, I seek out personal experiences. Since I look at the world differently due to my ears, I try and find the little nuances that make the research ring true. I won’t get it all right, and that’s okay. I don’t expect someone to get it all right with hearing loss. Even if I’m banging my head with my Kindle, if the author shows respect and understanding, that’s half the battle. And that warms my heart.

But when someone gets it wrong, the damage is huge. Even in fiction, people read novels and acquire knowledge they previously didn’t have. So if a novel depicts false information, then that false information spreads. To be fair, I feel the same way about social workers receiving a bad rap in novels, since I worked as one for a decade.

I will probably always need a moment before checking out a novel with a character who has a hearing loss. The fear of it being done wrong is huge. I do hope, with the push for diversity in books, more and more people will do their research, will put respect first in their art.

In some ways, I want to leave the disabled characters to those of us with personal knowledge. This may be selfish of me, as I write about characters with a hearing loss and I’m damn proud of my work. But like many minority groups, we want our own voices heard. Not yours, not your interpretation of what our world should be like. The truth. From us.

You might be able to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, but can you put those shoes on as they do? Can you walk and interact and have your outsider status be invisible? Can you say with 100% conviction that this is right? Think about this the next time you write about someone different than yourself.

I know I do. My goal is to make those other disabilities appear as truthful and fleshed out as my hearing loss characters. The bar is set high, since hearing loss is my life, my degree, my work. I know I won’t be 100%. But I aim for damn close.

Do you?


Laura Brown lives in Massachusetts with her quirky abnormal family. Laura and her three cats are “differently abled.” Laura is hard of hearing, her oldest cat is deaf and partially blind, and the other two cats have cerebellar hypoplasia (they shake, and they don’t find it endearing). The “normal” members of her family include her husband, who has put up with her since high school, and her young son who enjoys “typing” on Mommy’s laptop and has agreed to take full blame for all spelling errors.

Here is her Twitter and her website. Make sure to follow/visit! Send her a Tweet!

I really, truly, love this post, and I think it's a really great post to start off this new phase of Write Inclusively. There are a few quotes I really want to highlight [emphasis: mine]:

  • "Sadly, most books I have picked up with a character who has a hearing loss lead me to banging my head with my Kindle."
  • "In some ways, I want to leave the disabled characters to those of us with personal knowledge.
  • "But like many minority groups, we want our own voices heard. Not yours, not your interpretation of what our world should be like. The truth. From us."
  • "At the end of the day, research is great, but you can’t know everything."
  • "But when someone gets it wrong, the damage is huge. Even in fiction, people read novels and acquire knowledge they previously didn’t have. So if a novel depicts false information, then that false information spreads."

Please use the comments space, and #WriteInclusively on Twitter, to discuss! THANK YOU SO MUCH LAURA! Seriously, this post is incredible. Thank you so much for sharing.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Why I'm Asking that the #BigFiveSignOn

Hey all!


If you don't know, the largest multicultural children's book publisher in the United States, Lee & Low, has enacted a diversity survey for all publishers to take. In their words,

"Publishing suffers from a major diversity problem. It is obvious that the vast majority of books published are by white authors and about white characters. The majority of the staff behind the scenes, which includes publishers’ employees, and reviewers, are white. For decades there has been overwhelming agreement in the industry that there should be more diversity at all levels and in all areas of the book world, but even with greater awareness, the problem never seems to go away. Is this problem too big to solve? 
The answer is, we have no idea how big the problem is. While there is now data available about diversity among books published, there is still only minimal data available about diversity among publishing staff and reviewers. 
As in any business, when you have a problem you must understand it before you can solve it. 
Our goal with the Diversity Baseline Survey is to establish a baseline that shows where we are now so we can start taking concrete steps to address the problem."
The diversity survey will measure staff diversity among publishers and review journals in four areas: gender, race, sexual orientation, and disability. This survey will help many identities, not only the racially marginalized. Getting this information is crucial, but the trouble is, publishers and journals have it upon themselves to voluntarily sign up to take this survey. Out of the five major book publishers (Macmillan, Hachette, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster), only Macmillan has signed on (thank you Macmillan!). That's a problem.

The deadline to sign on is September 15.

We have to show the other four publishers that we readers and writers really need this information. The best way to do that? Social media!

#BigFiveSignOn

We need to show, online, that this information is crucial. We only have a little over two weeks for them to sign onto the survey. This is crunch time. #BigFiveSignOn has to be trending - today.

The Guidelines to this Twitter Storm

  1. Kindness and love. These publishers are probably on our side! They care about readers and great books as much as we do. Don't assume they do not want to do the survey.
  2. Consistency. One or two tweets won't be enough. To get this trending, we need more. We need to be tweeting throughout the day, and to be tweeting a lot, which brings us to...
  3. Community Discussion. Retweet other people's tweets! Tweet your own stories about why this is important! Respond to others in the community, affirm them, talk about the issue, get into deep intellectual discussions about systemic problems, societal issues that funnel into the lack of diversity, how unpaid internships make publishing jobs less accessible for racial minorities (who are generally poorer). Get talking! Why is this so important? Share stories, share experiences, and discuss!
  4. Direct Action. We have to contact the publishers directly so they can't look away. This is crucial. As much as possible, include at least one of the four publisher's Twitter handles (Penguin Random House, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins) in your Tweets. Try mixing them up throughout your Tweets!
The Twitter Prompts - if you're not sure what to tweet about, try responding to each of these prompts.
  • Why do I want the #BigFiveSignOn?
  • How will it help the publishing industry if the #BigFiveSignOn?
  • What will it mean to children and young readers if the #BigFiveSignOn?
  • What change can be sparked if the #BigFiveSignOn? How will the future of publishing diversity initiatives look like?
  • Why shouldn't the #BigFiveSignOn?
  • How will I feel if the #BigFiveSignOn?
  • How will it help me if the #BigFiveSignOn?
Tweetables! Click to tweet fast (although, remember, your own personal Tweets will be much more powerful):

".@HarperCollins @HachetteUS @penguinrandom & @simonschuster, I'd love for you to follow Macmillan's lead! #BigFiveSignOn to the survey!"

"I want the Big 5 publishing companies to sign on to @LeeAndLow's diversity survey. #BigFiveSignOn"

"Please, @HarperCollins @HachetteUS @penguinrandom & @simonschuster. Sign on to the diversity survey! #BigFiveSignOn"

".@HarperCollins @HachetteUS @penguinrandom & @simonschuster: Will you sign onto @LeeAndLow's diversity survey? #BigFiveSignOn"

And now, the blog hop!

If you feel like it, and if you have a blog of your own, take a moment to write up your own blog post about why you think the Big Five should sign on. Share your own stories, write about whatever you want! Take an academic angle, a sociological one, a personal one, etc. Here's mine.

#

I've always wondered why there just aren't good stories about Indians on the bookshelves. Never once have I sympathized, related, or connected with any character in any book I've read. This is okay, and for so many years, I normalized it.

I'm learning about different identities, I'd think. I'm learning empathy. I'm learning about realities outside my own.

But then I realized that no one was learning about my own identity, my race, and my culture as an Indian American. The most people saw of my race was on the Big Bang Theory, or various other forms of the nerdy Indian male. Mindy Kaling is great, and a fantastic person. At the same time, she rarely speaks about the Indian American experience, and I can't relate to her that well either. My experience, and the truths of many others who share this experience, have not made it into mainstream storytelling.

Instead, when we are "represented", we get something harmful. Stereotypes that reinforce the Model Minority myth, of us as good hard-working, overly-educated doctors and engineers. These stock narratives don't include the amount of stress many Indian children have with the pressure to succeed. The academic freedom of Indian children is also commonly limited. Careers in art, writing, history, activism, teaching, politics, human resources, and more are discouraged even if the Indian child would love to pursue this career. The reasoning behind this is severely complex; it involves cultural expectations from Indian society, and also a protective desire for Indian parents to ensure their child doesn't take up "too much space," "lead," or cause waves in the United States of America. Causing waves as a brown-skinned child of immigrants is a dangerous thing. Parents love, and parents want to protect. Being a doctor or an engineer is a safe job, well-paying and not obtrusive.

The time has come for first-born Indian Americans, like me, to feel at home. To feel like we have an identity. We go around in America not feeling at home because few people know about our experiences, and we do not feel completely Indian because we were raised in America, unlike many family members. I want my story to be told honestly, truthfully. The stories I see being published don't reflect that. And it hurts.

That's the thing. No one knows the Indian American experience like an Indian American. If publishing houses had Indian editors, the books being published that concern or have Indian issues would be much more honest. I can imagine bookshelves filled with Indians that aren't the main character's nerdy best friend, that aren't the tokenized minority, that aren't the laughing stock. I can imagine bookshelves filled with people that, for the first time in my life, reflect me.

That's a dream worth fighting for.

(Hopefully the linky list is working right - technology is not my strong suit! - but if you see the linky list below, feel free to write up your own story on your blog, and then link your blog to the list. I'll share it on Twitter, comment on it, etc.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Query Kombat & NoQS Announcement

Hey all! I know it seems a little early, but I've got an announcement for you all about the Query Kombat and Nightmare on Query Street contests. Because of my advocacy for the Write Inclusively campaign, Michelle and Mike have decided to remove me from the position of co-host. I will no longer be co-hosting either of these contests, and any other contest with them.

Let me talk to you about the history of Query Kombat, the contest that sparked our three years of contest hosting.

About three years ago, I ran the "Become an Agent" contest, and it went successfully. Mike, seeing that I had run a contest, then approached me with an amazing idea: Query Kombat. I was on board, and excited, and we thought we needed another person to co-host. I was friends with Michelle before this, and so I invited her to be our third co-host. From this, Michelle has gone on to do truly amazing things as a contest host and has built a huge platform in the online writing world.

I also want to present their reasoning for removing me from the team. It is crucial that we understand why this happened, and also to realize that understanding does not mean acceptance.

In their words, my "passion for the Write Inclusively campaign may be unsettling or uncomfortable for people who don't write from the POV of ethnic characters, or who don't portray ethnic characters as 'honestly' as you would like."

I am furious, upset, hurt...but not surprised. I've been studying the intricacies of racism in an academic setting for a long time, and I quite expected something to happen like this. From my friends, though, maybe not.

I want to pick apart their argument and hopefully turn it into a teaching moment for you, readers and writers in the community.

Was I angry on social media?

By "passion", Mike and Michelle were probably referring to my zeal on Twitter and even on this blog around the issues of police brutality, tokenization within literature and the We Need Diverse Books campaign, cultural appropriation, white supremacy, the difference in reaction between a white terrorist and a brown terrorist, and more.

Yes. I got upset many times at recent events that have taken place. And I was about to apologize, think that, "maybe I could have been more peaceful and calm." It is with further thought that I realized that I have no need to apologize.

As a brown non-black person of color, I am deeply and personally upset with the current state of racism in this country. And I am expected to remain calm.

I have seen authors go in Twitter fury storms over, literally, a night of bad sleep. And I've seen the community support and empathize with them.

I am upset and furious about black and brown deaths. The community's actions have shown that this topic is something the writing community, as a whole, simply does not care about. It is a sick place we as a community have come to where fury over a missed night of sleep gets more support than fury over murders.

It was not a mishap in judgement that I allowed myself to be so upset on Twitter. I decided I would be. There is a long history of people of color, black women especially, expected to be calm and collected and peaceful when fighting for their lives and justice. If they get angry, they become the "angry black women" and their ideas and lives are disqualified. "We're waiting for the people who can talk calmly to us," Whiteness says. To expect people with a boot on their throat to be peaceful and calm is one of the most inhumane and racist things I've ever experienced.

What does this mean for me (me = SC)?

It is upsetting. These have been contests that I have worked hard on and taken part in for many years. I co-created these contests. I have met some of my closest friends through these contests. I have helped writers come together, find agents, and mentored them through these contests. I have also been afforded a larger, more prominent voice through these contests. These contests gave me a solid platform from which I could launch Write Inclusively.

Again, the methods of racism work in many ways. One of them is to remove and chip away at the platform of those who are speaking against it, in an attempt to invalidate the speaker and the message. Portraying me as an angry person of color also seeks to invalidate me and my message, but I push you to find an instance where I spoke an untruth that did not go uncorrected. I have not spoken an untruth even in this blog post (if you find one, please please comment below).

My message is true. Discomfort with a truthful message is a problem for the discomforted. Whether Mike or Michelle seek to destabilize Write Inclusively or not, that is the consequence of their action. I have lost my platform, and so, indirectly, has Write Inclusively. That is something Mike and Michelle must take responsibility for.

Who is this protecting?

My removal is for a purpose. It is to protect feelings. Again, my "passion for the Write Inclusively campaign may be unsettling or uncomfortable for people who don't write from the POV of ethnic characters, or who don't portray ethnic characters as 'honestly' as you would like."

If you were discomforted by the viral post, "Dear Publishing Industry: Fix Your Own Racism Before You Beg For Diverse Books," my removal seeks to protect your comfort, and seeks that you do not feel the necessary racial discomfort.

Please read this article I wrote.

When Mike and Michelle talk about "people who don't write from the POV of ethnic characters, or who don't portray ethnic characters as 'honestly' as you would like," they have used a long euphemistic phrase for white people.

The Write Inclusively campaign is a campaign for, among other marginalized identities, the advancement of writers of color and white writers who do research on race to write about people of color more honestly. The campaign revolves around this post, an idea that writing American people of color in a novel who face no issues of color is simply untrue and a fantasy, and actively hurts people of color. All American people of color face some issues of color, and the tokenizing nature of other diversity campaigns like "We Need Diverse Books" doesn't center issues of marginalized peoples as prominently. It falsely creates a harmful colorblind utopia. That's why Write Inclusively is important. #WeNeedDiverseAuthors #WeNeedDiverseAgents #WeNeedDiverseEditors.

(EDITED TO ADD: I push back on some of my criticism of We Need Diverse Books. Although tokenization is a problem they face and a problem possibly out of their hands, they are truly working on an institutional level, with funding for publishing internships for qualified people of color, and more. These funds are crucial for institutional change, and exactly what we need.)

That's why I created Write Inclusively. It involves all marginalized identities, and focuses on race. To bring back the movement to the writers of color who know most about race, who have lived experience, and to force white writers to listen to them. The campaign also fully embraces white writers who seek to write honestly about race. The campaign does not even involve writers who don't write about race. That's fine!!! Not every book involves race, and Write Inclusively understands this! So, Mike and Michelle only are talking about one demographic they seek to protect: white writers who write characters of color, but do not wish to write honestly about race. They mentioned writers who don't write characters of color, but that is confusing to me - if you don't write characters of color, why should this campaign affect you?

My removal occurred because Write Inclusively is unsettling and uncomfortable for the feelings of Whiteness. Realize this: a discussion on any oppression system is inherently uncomfortable for the people who are afforded privilege by the system. Meaning: race discussion and race campaigns are inherently uncomfortable for white people. That's how it should be.

But my removal has protected them, whether they asked for it or not, whether they want it or not. My removal has protected the feelings of Whiteness. I said a while ago that black lives are more important than white feelings. I would like you to remember that, and also like you to remember how society deems the opposite to be true.

YOU are complicit.

Isn't that scary? You, the white writers in this community, you, the writers of color who have assimilated into Whiteness, you, every single one of you, are complicit. This removal was done for you. To be an ally, you must take personal responsibility for this.



"From a moral standpoint, there may be no such thing as an innocent bystander. If one is present, one is participating." - David Gushe

You are participating.

Even if you voiced your support for Write Inclusively, even if you signed up for my newsletter, even if you are on my Twitter list of super awesome Write Inclusively partners, even if you didn't say anything at all, this removal was done for you, white writers. Whether you like it or not, whether you fight it or not, your feelings have been patronizingly been protected for you. You have been given a hand-out of comfort.

How does that feel?

What can you, as white writers, do now?

Not much, honestly. That's the frustrations about being part of a system - you are afforded privileges and hand-outs whether you like them or not. You can start by voicing your concerns. By fighting against it. (And, plug (!): by submitting to the Write Inclusively contest!! It's a contest for unapologetically diverse novels! You can still submit to Query Kombat and NoQS if you submit to Write Inclusively. This is not a SC vs. Mike & Michelle, "do I have to pick a side?" thing!) You can get more involved in Write Inclusively. Talk about it on Twitter, etc. But there isn't much more you can do. And that's frustrating, and should anger you. Please, turn that anger and use it to fight, but not against Mike and Michelle as individuals: Mike and Michelle are not the only ones who center and protect white feelings at the cost of people of color; the system is designed that way, and Mike and Michelle simply reflect something much larger. We all reflect this to a certain extent, even I. I find myself biting my tongue many times to avoid upsetting a racist white friend.

(Ooo, another plug! Sign up for the Write Inclusively newsletter, please. I don't email much - once a month at most. In the last eight months of the campaign, I've only emailed once.)


Subscribe





For unapologetic writers of color:

I am so, so sorry. I'm going to keep fighting for us - I'll devote more time to Write Inclusively (maybe this has been a blessing) but these contests were a source of joy and excitement for me, and a supposed racism-free celebration to unite all writers of all races. The contests no longer reflect that racial consciousness, or racial knowledge. I am so, so sorry. I am upset and sad about this, and I'm so sorry I lost an opportunity to fight for us better, that there is now another avenue of Publishing where you must pass the Paper Bag Test.


Since Mike is the original creator of Query Kombat, I accept my removal as co-host from these contests. Thank you for a truly amazing time.

Side note: I can predict the opposition to this post already. It will be that I have played the "race card". I have no energy right now to talk about how problematic that is. Writers of color, allies, please use the comments and take over for me.

Another side note: writers, advocacy for me, or advocacy for Mike and Michelle, is NOT "taking sides"! You don't have to "pick sides". You must simply pick truth.

Update (Aug 28, 2015): 

Wow. Wow wow wow. I never expected to get the amount of support that I did. Twitter was a frenzy for the last two days.

In the beginning, when I first published this post, there were some of us writers who were outraged. And we were outraged together, and sad together, and we were also a little hopeless and angry. Because another gate had closed on us, and I would have to build another platform from scratch, and all I was getting was outrage from other writers, but limited outrage. It was a time of intense pain. Yes, many writers were united in our anger. And unity is powerful. But it is so. damn. exhausting to be unified around oppression. And it is so damn hard knowing that our frustration would get us nowhere. The institutions did not want us, or care.

Or so we thought. But then the outrage got bigger. Larger. From evening to the next afternoon, it had exploded. Some of the biggest agents voiced their opinions. #WriteInclusively trended on Twitter. I gained hundreds of Twitter followers (which included many editors and agents that I've loved/respected for years :O), and it was being discussed all over the online writing community. I got emails from agents, from editors wanting to help in any way they could. So many Twitter DMs, Tweets, caring for me, supporting me. I have so many amazing guest blog posts coming up - guest posts I was literally begging for over the last nine months of this campaign. This event of pain has blossomed into power and love. I am so eternally thankful. THANK YOU for listening! Little has changed about me, about what I write on Twitter. The only difference is that now, people are engaging, people are listening, and that's because agents have extended their support, and #WriteInclusively has gotten some institutional protection. That is so, so powerful. Nine months of Tweeting, of posting, of working and asking and begging for help/support...and it's here. And it feels incredible. (And shocking! It's like...WOAH, this is how it feels like to be heard!)

There are a few things I want to make sure we know: this is not my movement, this is our movement, the movement for all writers with marginalized identities. Take up your space in this movement. It is ours. I am not perfect, I will make mistakes, and I expect you all to call me out on it. I'm working on assembling a team that will help guide #WriteInclusively. It is your task to make sure #WriteInclusively is as amazing, intersectional, wonderful, and powerful as possible. Even if you're unpublished, even if you're young, especially if society has convinced you that your voice is not "worth it". TAKE UP SPACE. Your voice will be heard.

These last few days have been life-changing. Pivotal. Revolutionary, even. Big things are coming. Change is on the horizon. I can feel it :) Thank you, thank you, thank you for that.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Agent/Editor REVEAL for the Write Inclusively Contest!!!!!!

It is heeeerreeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you don't know what I'm talking about, the Write Inclusively contest is coming up soon. The submission window is Sept 4 - 6, and it is a simply query contest for unapologetically diverse books. Make sure to read the post for all the details!

BUT NOW, ANNOUNCING THE AWESOME AGENTS/EDITORS!

In alphabetical order, the awesome people making this contest happen:


Whitley Abell

Whitley Abell joined Inklings Literary Agency in 2013. Before joining Inklings, she completed successful internships with Carol Mann Agency and P.S. Literary Agency. She is based in St. Louis, MO, where she daylights writing proposals of the entirely unromantic variety. She graduated in 2011 with a BA in English and Creative Writing, and again in 2012 with a MAT in Secondary English Education, which basically means she can tell you anything there is to know about feminist literary theory and the Common Core Standards.

Whitley is primarily interested in Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Women's fiction. She likes characters who are relatable yet flawed, hooks that offer new points of view and exciting adventures, and vibrant settings that become active characters in their own right. She is open to almost anything with in the areas above, be it contemporary or historical, romance or thriller, realistic or supernatural, tragic or quirky. Whitley has a soft spot for the goofy guys, awkward ducks, April Ludgates, and devout fan girls of the world. Manic pixie dream girls will be turned away at the door. She is not interested in vampires, werewolves, angels, zombies, dystopian societies, steampunk, or epic fantasy.
NO picture books, poetry, non-fiction, or genre romance, crime/mystery sci-fi/fantasy for the adult market.

For more details on Whitley's #MSWL, visit her blog here.

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Natasha Alexis

After graduating with honors from New York University and working as a junior development associate at Showtime Networks, Natasha Alexis earned her J.D. from Northeastern Law School and practiced intellectual property law at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison. Prior to joining Chalberg & Sussman in 2014, Natasha worked at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth, where she built her own list of clients while assisting with business affairs and contract negotiation.

Natasha’s clients include Samuel W. Gailey, author of Deep Winter (Blue Rider Press), a Penguin Debut Author selection; Jezebel.com contributor Tracy Moore, author of Oops! How to Rock the Mother of Surprises: A Positive Guide to Your Unexpected Pregnancy (Adams Media); and Robert Tate Miller, author of Forever Christmas (Thomas Nelson).

A soccer fan and former dancer, Natasha is seeking manuscripts from all categories, including literary and commercial fiction, fun Middle Grade fiction, edgy chick lit, dark thrillers and New Adult fiction. Natasha is especially attracted to projects featuring people of color, and counts pop culture, lifestyle, and wellness-oriented nonfiction among her interests.


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Mallory C. Brown is seeking young adult, women’s fiction, and non-fiction. She is especially drawn to pieces with strong character-driven plots and witty humor. She loves contemporary fiction, low fantasy (think realistic world with a fantastical twist), and romance. Mallory also appreciates a well-placed comma and hopes you do, too.


Adriana Domínguez

Adriana has nearly 20 years experience in publishing, most recently as Executive Editor at HarperCollins Children's Books, where she managed the children's division of the Latino imprint, Rayo. Prior to that, she was Children's Reviews Editor at Criticas magazine, published by Library Journal. She has performed editorial work for many children's and adult publishers, both on a full time basis and as a freelance consultant, on English and Spanish language books. Adriana is also a professional translator who has worked on a number of translations of award-winning and best-selling children's books. She is a member of the Brooklyn Literary Council that organizes the Brooklyn Book Festival, and one of the founders of the Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference in New York City. Adriana joined Full Circle in 2009, and is based on the East Coast. 

She is interested in children's picture books, middle grade novels, and literary young adult novels. On the adult side, she is looking for literary and women's works of fiction that feature characters with unique voices telling unforgettable stories. In the area of non-fiction, she seeks pop culture, and how-to titles geared toward women of all ages, written by authors with rock-solid platforms. Adriana has a long trajectory of publishing underrepresented authors and illustrators, and welcomes submissions that offer diverse points of view. Her client list includes award-winning authors such as Reyna Grande, Angela Cervantes, Lorena Siminovich, Tim Z. Hernandez, Eric Pierpoint, and Rafael Lopez, as well as newcomers such as Michaela & Elaine DePrince, Katheryn Russell-Brown, and Lila Quintero-Weaver, among others.

When not working - which is rare - Adriana can be found at the nearest airport, waiting to be whisked away from it all; along with publishing and her family, travel is her biggest passion! Please note Adriana is not accepting short stories, poetry, romance, thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, dystopian, paranormal, or Spanish language only submissions.


Leon Husock

Prior to joining the L. Perkins Agency, Leon was an associate agent at Anderson Literary Management. He has a BA in Literature from Bard College and attended the Columbia Publishing Course. 

Leon is actively building his client list. He has a particular interest in science fiction & fantasy, young adult and middle-grade novels filled with strong characters and original premises, but keeps an open mind for anything that catches his eye. He is also looking for historical fiction set in the 20th century, particularly the 1980s or earlier. He is not interested in non-fiction at this time.



Thao Le is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego with a double major in econ-management science and Chinese studies. While interning at the agency during college, she realized where her true love lies -- books -- and joined the agency full-time in the spring of 2011.

Thao is looking for adult sci-fi/fantasy/horror, NA (new adult), YA (young adult), and MG (middle grade). She enjoys both gritty, dark narratives and fantastically quirky stories. She is also looking for light-hearted, funny, and moving contemporary YAs with a raw, authentic teen voice. She's particularly drawn to memorable characters, smart-mouthed dialogue, strong plots, and tight writing. Her favorite books are ones that reimagine familiar tales and tropes in a completely fresh new way and she has a soft spot for multicultural stories and lush settings.

Thao is not looking for: biographies, business books, cookbooks, memoirs, picture books, poetry, religious/spiritual books, screenplays, self-help, short stories, or travel books.




I’m mostly looking for science fiction and fantasy titles for adults, because that’s where my heart is, but I’m tempted by anything out-of-the-ordinary – if your manuscript fits some of my other criteria but isn’t SFF/isn’t for adults then do please submit anyway. I love strong, inventive worldbuilding and unusual protagonists, and I’m a sucker for books inspired by folklore from around the world. I’m interested in unusual or little-known historical settings (either alt-history or actual real history) and I love books with a strong sense of place (real or imaginary) – I want to feel transported when I read. I’m not super-keen on romance, and I find love/hate ‘I loathe him for his arrogance but somehow I can’t resist him’-type dynamics particularly off-putting.

I know the Bechdel Test is not the be-all and end-all of feminist criticism, but it’s fair to say that I will not take a book that doesn’t pass that test. I strongly believe that #WeNeedDiverseBooks, and I aim to support and encourage authors from marginalised groups in any way I can. I’m also interested in representing books that have been translated into English, though that’s usually something I discuss with agents in other countries.

I’m also looking for narrative non-fiction proposals on a wide range of topics – history, travel, popular science, biography, or any other area where there are interesting stories to tell.




Patricia Nelson joined Marsal Lyon Literary Agency in 2014. She represents adult, young adult, and middle grade fiction, and is actively looking to build her list.

In general, Patricia looks for compelling, well-written stories featuring complex characters that jump off the page. On the adult side, she is seeking women’s fiction, historical fiction, and accessible literary fiction, as well as contemporary and historical romance. For YA and MG, she is open to a wide range of genres, with particular interest in contemporary/realistic, magical realism, mystery, horror, and fantasy. She is interested in seeing diverse stories and characters in all genres.

Patricia received her bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary in 2008, and also holds a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Southern California and a master’s degree in Gender Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Previously, she interned at The Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency and in the children’s division at Running Press, and before joining the world of publishing, she spent four years as a university-level instructor of literature and writing.






Lydia Sharp is an editor for Entangled Publishing and assistant to the executive editorial director, Stacy Abrams. Her favorite stories challenge the mind and caress the heart. When not completely immersed in a book, Lydia binges on Netflix, pines for Fall, and hosts mad tea parties in Wonderland.

What she's looking for:

My main interest is YOUNG ADULT with strong romantic elements, in the genres of fantasy, sci-fi, and contemporary. A high concept plot with a unique hook and strong teen voice are a must. A project that blends genres would also be great, such as historical fantasy, SF mystery/thriller, contemporary fairytale retelling, or whatever you can think up! I also consider contemporary single title romance, womens fiction with strong romantic elements, contemporary category romance/series romance, and new adult romance.

In all of the above I am interested in projects with same-sex couples and/or PoC main characters. Always in search of characters that jump off the page, make me love them, hate them, or love to hate them.Submit query, 1-3 page synopsis, and full manuscript to my attention HERE.



Courtney Stevenson

Courtney Stevenson has always had her heart set on children's books, ever since elementary school when she would read books under her desk during class. She has worn many hats in the publishing industry, from collaborating with an author to edit his nonfiction manuscript, to interning in the editorial department at a children's book imprint at Macmillan, to assisting the marketing division of an academic press. Following her graduation from Cornell University, she was thrilled to join Pippin as the assistant to all three agents.

What I'm Looking For: I mostly gravitate towards middle grade and YA realistic fiction with a strong voice. Historical settings, deliciously creepy details, and a touch of fantasy are all fantastic. I also love stories that make me cry, and narrators that I can't entirely trust.



Laura Zats graduated from Grinnell College with degrees in English and anthropology. While completing her studies, she took advantage of her love of Young Adult (YA) literature and wrote a thesis on identity formation in YA. She’s been working as an editor since 2011 and has held positions at companies in both the US and the UK. In 2013, Laura joined Team Red Sofa as an intern but quickly became more of an apprentice, leveling up to Associate Agent in the same year. 

Even though she loved YA books first, titles that are Middle Grade, romance, and Sci-fi/Fantasy have been slowly taking hold. Picking a favorite genre now would be like choosing between puppies and kittens. In her free time, Laura likes to craft, swing dance, bake, and binge on Netflix marathons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who.

Recently Added!

CAITIE FLUM


Caitie Flum joined Liza Dawson Associates in July 2014 as assistant and audio rights manager and became an agent in 2015. She graduated from Hofstra University in 2009 with a BA in English with a concentration in publishing studies. Caitie interned at Hachette Book Group and Writers House. She was an Editorial Assistant then Coordinator for Bookspan, where she worked on several clubs including the Book-of-the-Month Club, The Good Cook, and the Children's Book-of-the-Month Club. Caitie grew up in Ohio where she developed her love of reading everything she could get her hands on. 

Interested in:
Caitie is looking for commercial and upmarket fiction with great characters and superb writing, especially historical fiction, mysteries/thrillers of all kinds, romance and book club fiction.

Caitie is also looking for Middle Grade, Young Adult and New Adult projects, particularly romance, historical fiction, mysteries and thrillers, and contemporary books with diverse characters.

In nonfiction, she is looking for memoirs that make people look at the world differently, narrative nonfiction that's impossible to put down, books on pop culture, theater, current events, women's issues, and humor.

I'M SO EXCITED!!! These agents are awesome. Seriously, I am 110% excited for this contest - IT'S TIME TO SHOW THEM YOUR BEST WORK!!! Submit submit submit! Get your manuscripts in shape by Sept 4th and tweet away at #WriteInclusively :D Tweet to and follow these publishing insiders; thank them for taking part. 

This list might still grow - so stay tuned :D (If you're an agent who wants in, shoot me an email.)

Who's ready for this contest?!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

There is No "Evil Racist" in Publishing - It is the System

Now that Write Inclusively has picked up *some* traction, it's time to clarify what the campaign is about, and what it is not about. Because it's clear in my head, but thoughts rarely translate well over the Internet.

The campaign is designed to view Publishing's lack of diversity as an institutional problem, and seek institutional solutions. It is not here to demonize people. Another branch of the campaign, for us writers, is to help us write more responsibly when it comes to issues of marginalized people.

When I say "Publishing is racist," that is a scary statement. That evokes images of the KKK and Governor Wallace shouting, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." But quite simply, that is not the case. There are no Governor Wallace's in Publishing and no KKK (or, at least, I hope, hehe). There's no editor snarling whenever they see a black agent or a black writer. But Publishing is still racist. I hesitate to say the word "racist" when I am describing the actions of a friend or an individual - because they will immediately run away from the label instead of investigating their actions. "Racist" has become a demonizing term because it evokes Hitler, the KKK, etc. Racism is more than that.

Racism is a system of privilege based on skin color. It is not only a "belief" - that would be a prejudice. It is a belief that is held up and promoted by society. And this system has no figure-head. 

Racism is not the hundreds of KKK members who gathered on Stone Mountain for the Confederate Flag rally. That rally became racist due to the police who defended and protected them while pepper-spraying a peaceful gathering of Black Lives Matter. Racism is not Donald Trump's demonizing of Mexican immigrants. Those statements became racist because Donald Trump surged to the top of the Republican polls after making them.

Racism is a system. And this system needs to be dismantled within Publishing in order for We Need Diverse Book's important goals to be met; we will get diverse books once we get diverse agents, publishers, editors, and writers.

Where did Publishing's racism come from? No matter how much we think otherwise, Publishing does not operate in a bubble. In 2013, the median net wealth of white households was $141,900. For black households, it was $11,000.  Inner-city public schools (black and Latin@ as the majority populations) receive much less public funding than suburban (white) public schools. Becoming an agent often requires unpaid internships and a college education - two things that poor black and Latin@ students cannot afford to take on even with all those "scholarships" (myth-busting surprise: "Caucasian students are 40% more likely to win private scholarships than minority students").

Society has been structured in a way that almost guarantees the failure of black or Latin@ agents or editors. The ones that succeed are exceptions (beautiful, amazing, incredible exceptions). To point to them as evidence of racism's end in Publishing is to point at Obama and say racism doesn't exist. The current colorblind system of racism depends on black exceptionalism (black people who did beat the odds and emerge victorious) in order to maintain the facade that millions of black and brown people living in poverty cannot be due to racism, but due to some moral or cultural flaw. To demand black and brown people to work four times as hard as white people for the same job is incredibly racist.


I can tell you so so so much more about the facts. If you want, that is. Comment or tweet me. Publishing is one of the many victims - and unknowing propagators - of a system that has been operating for centuries. In order for it not to be complicit, it must actively and affirmatively steer itself opposite the norm to be anti-racist. That's the shitty part about living in a racist system. Publishing, with all its incredible (truly incredible) people, cannot only change its mindset - which it has, beautifully, due to We Need Diverse Books. It must change its actions.

And we must do the same. Because we are complicit too.

Let's take a deep breath.

*

Alright. So don't be afraid. Don't get scared when people call something (or even us) racist. Since America's racial system is based on anti-Blackness, all of us who are not black (including me) are automatically complicit in racism even if we do not wish to be.

Did you feel that spark of outrage? I felt it. "I'm not racist, no way!" Please reread everything that was written before in the post and really let it sink in. Really think about it.  It is not your fault and no one is blaming you, individually, for it.  Just like we Americans are all capitalist and all democratic simply because we exist within this system (and of no choice or action of our own), we also exist within a racist system.

Do not take that offensively, do not go colorblind and say, "It's not as bad as a racist system." Please. Lean into that discomfort, please, I'm begging. We need to get more comfortable with saying, "I, Racist." 

And you have to realize that racism is not your fault, but it is your responsibility to challenge it - otherwise you are complicit. Just because the oppression is systemic does not mean people of color (and white people, for that matter) should be less outraged, or angry. They should be incredibly outraged, incredibly angry. Because people are literally dying. Outrage is essential. To paraphrase Sandra Bland, "People ask me if I want to racially unite, or racially instigate. I want to racially unite. But in that process, some will be racially instigated."

Do not instinctively say "But not me!" when someone critiques white supremacy. Do not police the tone of a people who are being killed, mocked, and demonized. Remember: system, not individual, and sometimes saying "white people" is simpler, language-wise, than saying, "institutional racism that favors white supremacy". Instead of saying, "but not me!" join the conversation, see how you can use your own privileges to effectively help people of color.  For example, as an Indian American, it is my responsibility to challenge the Model Minority myth at all angles. This myth exists only to demonize a race that faced an entirely unparalleled form of American oppression that has been centuries in the making.



And that's why #HireAgentsOfColor is so important. While we wait for the system to be undone (which will take decades, if not centuries), there are people of color living here, right now. Is #HireAgentsOfColor affirmative action? Yes.

Welp, that's it! *wipes hands, comes back* oh wait, you want more explanation.

#HireAgentsOfColor will not (repeat, NOT) result in hiring incapable or underqualified agents. That's not what affirmative action does. It's another big myth of college affirmative action - and test scores do not prove mediocrity. Poor students with similar SAT scores as rich students still graduate at vastly lower rates, and the SAT has been consistently shown to be a great determiner...of wealth. In fact, many colleges and universities, realizing this, have started to make the SAT or ACT optional for their application.

Affirmative action opens the institution's eyes to the unique problems facing marginalized people. Affirmative action makes the institution open its eyes to the vast amount of talent and skill within populations that the institution glanced over previously. Affirmative action ensures that the incredibly skilled black woman wanting to be an agent will not be barred as much by systemic barriers. Affirmative action does not give a free job to people of color; it ensures that employers will look at people of color and not blame their lack of experience, lack of a Harvard education, and lack of other "important" criteria as evidence of moral failure.


I know that affirmative action might make many white people angry, because it seems that people of color are getting something that people of color did not earn. Realize that all white people have gotten so much more than a job, unearned. Investigate your own privileges. We all have privileges, but different privileges, some with more power than others. Some people will say, whenever someone calls out racism, that the person of color is playing the "race card", and they'll ignore the fact that white people played the "race card" for the last five centuries and counting - and for entirely evidence-less reasons!

Affirmative action is quite honestly the best word for this policy. In order to challenge a racist society, one needs...quite literally, affirmative action. Direct action, meaningful action. Do not pity people of color who "made it" by saying they got in due to affirmative action. I've heard it said to me, and it boils my blood, as if white supremacy did me a favor by "allowing me in." No. I worked hard, and white supremacy began to realize its complicity in oppression, and decided to work against it.

But whatever. We people of color will be able to handle all those "you got in because of affirmative action" comments, because we've been dealing with them, and dealing with so much more too. Help us out, though, not to save us, but to challenge your own complicity in racism.

I'd also like to apologize. I've been, especially on Twitter, getting very angry and upset at recent news and events in America. I don't apologize for my anger, or me posting a lot about racial issues - because we cannot look away from the suffering because it makes us uncomfortable - but I do apologize because I feel like I unknowingly hurt people. I'd also like to apologize to We Need Diverse Books. They have great intentions and do some great work, and although we do not see eye-to-eye, I pressured a bit too hard on them :/

Also, the Write Inclusively contest is coming up in a month! Get ready, get excited :D

Tweetables! Click to Tweet.

"There is No "Evil Racist" in Publishing - It is the System"

"There's no editor snarling whenever they see a black agent or a black writer. *But Publishing is still racist*."

"#HireAgentsOfColor will NOT result in hiring incapable/underqualified agents. That's not what affirmative action does."


If you want to learn more about what you can do, please consider signing up for the Write Inclusively newsletter.

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Feel free to continue the conversation in the comments below! What did you think? What are your thoughts? I *still* get scared when I call something/someone/some industry "racist" because it is such a loaded term even though it shouldn't be. I have a knee-jerk reaction away from that word am I'm trying to get better at that.

Discuss discuss! This is a safe space. Does the word "racist" scare you?

Friday, July 31, 2015

ANNOUNCING: The Write Inclusively Query Contest!!!!

THE TIME IS HERE!!!!

After much teasing and hinting, I'm so happy to announce the first ever Write Inclusively contest for unapologetically diverse novels!

SOOOO, what are the details?

First off, the background!!!! This contest came as a result of this post. Please read it.


Who can submit?
  • Anyone who does not have an agent and is seeking one.
  • Anyone who has a manuscript that will be clean and polished and ready to send by the submission date.
  • Anyone who has a manuscript that involves issues concerning any one (or many) of these exclusive systems: racism, homophobia, sexism, cissexism, citizenship, religious discrimination, abelism, xenophobia (which includes books that are not set in Western countries or settings), classism, colorismpolitics of appearance, and language (although, unfortunately, I won't be able to review books that are not written in English :( ). If I missed any, please let me know in the comments.
  • Edit: we've added "family privilege"! It is the privilege that comes with having a nuclear family (cis-male and a cis-female as spouses, unseparated).

Does your manuscript fit the bill?
  • Here's an easy test! If the system of oppression present in your novel can be removed and you don't have to completely scrap the novel, that novel doesn't fit the bill.
  • ALL fiction genres and memoirs are welcome! Even fantasy/sci-fi and historical!

    Don't think your manuscript fits the bill? SUBMIT ANYWAY! Worst: you don't get picked. Best: you do :)

What are the dates? How can I submit?
  • Submissions will be sent to writeinclusively (at) gmail (dot) com. The submission window will be from September 4th, 9 am EST - September 6th, 9 pm EST. You have a whole weekend to submit!
  • The agent round, when I'll publish the entries, will be from September 18 - September 20.
  • Be warned: I might just go around giving revision tips to entries I think are close but not close enough! You do not need to take my suggestions, not in the slightest.

Submission Guidelines

Send in your email just like this, bold where bolded, caps where caps. Replace the stuff in bracket [ ] with your own information.

Subject line of email: WI Submission - [Book Title, Genre]

Title: [INSERT TITLE HERE]
Word Count: XX,XXX
Genre: [Age Category, Genre] (For example, YA Fantasy. Make sure to include both age and genre!)

System(s) of Oppression: [Pick the 1-2 systems of oppression that your book focuses most on (racism, homophobia, sexism, cissexism, citizenship, religious discrimination, abelismxenophobiaclassismcolorismpolitics of appearance, family privilege, and language).]

Author's Identity: [What is your identity? Pick the 1-2 identities that fall into the systems you picked above. Meaning, if you picked 'racism' and 'sexism', you'll mention your racial identity and your gender (South Asian and male, for example). This might be uncomfortable - that is OKAY. Your name will not be published. I am doing this because since I cannot read every manuscript, and diverse novels written by authors of marginalized identities tend to be 'truer'. Does this mean I will not be picking novels written by non-marginalized identities? Of course not!!! Simply put: there aren't enough writers of marginalized identities out here, and non-marginalized authors have written incredible books centered on exclusive systems. We're counting on those incredible books :D]

Query: 

[Insert query here. Line breaks, no tabs. Unless very relevant, no bios or comparison titles. I'll decide on an individual basis which ones to keep and which ones to delete :D

Please, unless you 'watered down' your query to pass Publishing's Paper Bag test, do not change or revise your query to make the system of oppression seem more prominent than it is in the novel.]

First 250:

[Insert the first 250 words of your manuscript here. Line breaks instead of paragraph tabs. If you have a prologue, include it. Do not stop in the middle of a sentence - if the 250th word falls in the middle of a sentence, feel free to finish that sentence and go a few words over :D]

ARE YOU EXCITED?!?!


We have eleven amazing agents and one editor on board, and more to come! (If you're an agent or editor seeing this, and want to participate in this contest, shoot me an email at SC_Author (at) yahoo (dot) com!)

GET THOSE MANUSCRIPTS READY!!!!!!!!!!!! Pitch Wars IS near the same time - however, you can submit to Write Inclusively if you don't get picked in Pitch Wars. So no worries :) 

Any questions? Please comment below! And follow me on Twitter to stay updated!

You must be subscribed to the Write Inclusively newsletter in order to participate in the contest. Don't worry! I only email once a month, at most (in the eight months of the campaign so far, I've only sent out one email).

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Also, feel free to continue the conversation in the comments below!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Taylor Swift Dilemma - Centering Whiteness in Conversations About Race

Last night, Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift had a Twitter spat.

Read this to learn the full story, come back, and let's discuss.

Here's the base essence of the tweets


In the process of decrying the racism which elevates artists that appropriate black music while ignoring black artists who created it in the first place, Nicki Minaj was greeted by an out-of-the-blue Tweet from Taylor Swift. Taylor's response was confusing, but some mass media still came to Taylor's defense. Make a note of this: Nicki Minaj specifically invites Taylor Swift to "speak on this," and Taylor stays dead silent...and proves exactly what Nicki is talking about: #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen.

Also last night, I had a conversation with a white woman whom I've long considered a second mother. (If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me talk about it. I'm going to reiterate the same Tweets I made.)

She (let's call her "Margaret") told me that she, as a white woman, felt hurt by a Facebook status I made, and told me to watch out because I could face unemployment (in my head, I was thinking "not being published") if companies looked me up on Facebook. She called my status a "rant" and insisted on calling it that.

Now, please trust me when I say, I am not a 'different' person when I am on Facebook. I know the difference between rants and telling one's story. I know the difference between being ignorant and hateful (demonizing all white people) and critiquing white supremacy. My status did not even mention white people. It told the story of me, an Hindu Indian American, being upheld as a Model Minority at the same time I am treated as an outsider. Being used as tool to demonize Blackness ("look at Indians, they're doing so well, why aren't you?") by the same people who wage war on my Muslim siblings, by the same people who unintentionally wage war on non-Muslim brown folk because we look Muslim. I told my story. And I got a LOT of love for it - from all people. But Margaret said, "As a white person, I felt very hurt by it." She told me how every race is racist, & how Indians are very racist too. Which is very true - racism is prevalent in Indian society.

This Taylor Swift - Nicki Minaj argument reveals the truth of what happened between Margaret and me. Attacking white supremacy is not at all an attack on white people - white people should join us, in fact, it will make the movement easier. But conversations on race get very testy with many white people because many feel they are automatically seen as evil, and so they do not involve themselves in the conversation. It is simply too uncomfortable for them.

As Dr. Robin DiAngelo says in his landmark piece, "Why It's So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism"
"Socialized into a deeply internalized sense of superiority and entitlement that we are either not consciously aware of or can never admit to ourselves, we become highly fragile in conversations about race. We experience a challenge to our racial worldview as a challenge to our very identities as good, moral people. It also challenges our sense of rightful place in the hierarchy. Thus, we perceive any attempt to connect us to the system of racism as a very unsettling and unfair moral offense."
Nicki Minaj never mentioned Taylor Swift. I never mentioned Margaret. And yet both called themselves out - and revealed themselves as problematic without any help from Nicki or me.

If your contribution to any conversation about race is, "But not all white people," or, "All lives matter," you are derailing the conversation. You are insisting on centering a conversation about racism on white people. That is being racist. That's okay - simply apologize, and change your behavior, but do not go silent, please.

What shook me is that Margaret told me to keep quiet or I will not find employment. What scared me even more is that she might be right. I wanted to tell her, "I know you are hurt. Imagine how we feel. We tell our stories, and so we must fear from the system. We hurt more." But I couldn't tell her that. I feared her anger. I just hugged her tight, twice, and I've been thinking about it for hours. I must speak - but at the risk of unemployment?

How beautiful it must be to never think about race. How beautiful it must be to never have racism on your mind, at all times, wherever you go. How beautiful it must be to never have to compensate for the effect your skin color has on everyone's instinctive idea of you.

White tears are not, in the slightest bit, more important than black blood. If you see black people as equals, that statement should not offend you at all.

I know I am talking to a mostly-white audience. Think about that! Aspiring writers are mostly white. Why is that? Many reasons: socioeconomic discrepancies, access to libraries, public education quality, acceptance within America, people who feel comfortable asserting their space in these industries, academic freedom, etc. 

Your whiteness is NOT a burden - you have power, and that is important! Use that power to center these conversations on people of color. Use that power to stand behind and with black people, and do not hide from your white privilege. It will always be there. Use it to talk to other white people about race. Use it to uplift the voices of people of color. Use it to encourage children of color to go into writing (and all the horrors that writing entails). Children of color don't see publishing as an option for them - you can help to create writers of color. The true mark of a white or non-Black ally is learning when to stay silent and use the power of retweeting and quoting instead, because white voices will ALWAYS be lifted above people of color voices in conversations on race (see: John Stewart).

But a word of caution: do not speak on a topic you do not know enough about. It is better to be silent than to misspeak, because with your power comes impact from your words. Trust me. People respect you so much more if you say, "Actually, I don't know enough about that topic to answer that question." If you are unsure, refer the person instead to someone who might know more about the topic. 

Another word of caution: do NOT pat yourself on the back for doing this, do not let others pat you on the back for speaking out about racism. Treating people with dignity and respect is not something to celebrate - it is something to expect. The white savior trophy will be thrust upon you. It is your duty to reject it at every turn.

White authors: consider this your invitation to the conversation. It is my Nicki-equivalent invitation for you to "speak on this." You will make mistakes, you will be called out, you will be challenged, you will be confronted (hopefully, by me - use #WriteInclusively as a safe place for these conversations). You will mess up, society has trained you to. That's okay. I'm asking you to catch yourself when you do.

I went through a tough learning curve too (thank heavens it was outside of Twitter). Let confrontation be a learning process, but do not stop uplifting people of color and make sure to center the conversation on people of color (unless you are addressing/teaching other white people specifically). Do not stop speaking. We people of color don't have the privilege to stop speaking about race.

Right now, I'm trying to start a hashtag: #HireAgentsOfColor. It is part of the #WriteInclusively campaign. Please help me get this hashtag going! Why do you think it's important to #HireAgentsOfColor? What changes might you see? Tweet Tweet Tweet (and also RETWEET writers of color!).

(This hashtag, and #WriteInclusively, are separate and not related to the "We Need Diverse Books" campaign, although we'd love to work in solidarity.)

If you want to learn more about what you can do, please consider signing up for the Write Inclusively newsletter.

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Also, feel free to continue the conversation in the comments below!