Monday, February 23, 2015

Must-Watch Scenes from the 2015 Oscars

Surprisingly, the 2015 Academy Awards were the most empowering Oscars I've ever seen. Here are some of the highlights. Trust me when I say, watch them all. These speeches/performances saved the night. I'm excited. Please watch them all!











After Sean Penn (jokingly, but still) announced Alejandro G. Inarritu as the Best Picture winner by saying, "Who gave that son of a b*tch his Green Card?" this great acceptance speech happened:



And this,  because Eddie Redmayne was so excited to win :D


Things are a-changing :D I can't help but be excited. Hopefully I'll replace these videos with actual official YouTube Oscar videos (since the above videos keep getting taken down!) but I can't find them yet. 

Did you watch the Oscars? How do you feel about it? Any videos you'd like to add?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Committed to Diversity - Heather Murphy Capps

AM I HAPPY OR AM I HAPPY?

ARE YOU EXCITED OR ARE YOU EXCITED?

We've got Heather Murphy Capps as a guest blogger for the #WriteInclusively series. This post is amazing and I love it. Hopefully, you will too.

Enjoy :)
#
I am the melting pot.

My maternal family’s narrative comes from our ancestors who were slaves and displaced Iroquois. My father’s people escaped poverty in Ireland.


All this racial mixing means my ethnicity is hard to peg. I have facial features that are more white than black, but my skin is light brown.

Getting in a taxicab is usually fun – I’ve been spoken to in Spanish, Hebrew, and Arabic based on the driver’s snap judgment.

When people ask, “What are you?” I often reply, “I’m American,” which angers those who want to know what I “really” am. Usually all this makes me laugh.

The times I don’t laugh are when people assume I am nanny rather than mother to my son, who has blue eyes and fair skin. One woman even challenged me. “He’s not really yours.” When I replied, “Yes, I am his actual biological, genetic mother,” she looked at me like I’d kidnapped him. On the other hand, my daughter looks more like me than he does, which also causes a rather ridiculous amount of confusion when we are all together.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that this is what happens when you mix up the races. You get a grab bag for a family, with different skin tones, eye and hair colors, even bone structures. There’s a lot of gene pool in there to draw from.


There are a lot of people out there just like us, but here’s what bugs me: I don’t see us reflected in the books my children and I read together. Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles feature among the highest profile mixed race kids on the market, yet they’re not nearly as popular as his wildly successful Percy Jackson series.

The dearth of characters of color was even worse when I was a kid. I read All. The. Time. And although I did find kindred spirits in the white children and their magical or adventurous worlds, I wondered why there weren’t any books about kids who looked like me and my family.

Nancy Drew, Anne of Green Gables, the children of Narnia, Margaret and Fudge, and all the rest – their worlds were (basically) like mine in that I was a middle class kid growing up in a middle class world. But looking at the books on the market then – and now – you’d think middle class black or mixed families are rare or non-existent.

So, partly because of who I am and partly because of that gaping hole, I write.  I focus on kid lit because children of color need to see their faces alongside Percy and Harry and Anne.

But NOT just in books about being a person of color. While we most definitely need to talk and know more about the experience of being a minority, we also need to just read more about what all of us minorities do when we’re not busy being different. (And surviving being Black at night in New York and Missouri and everywhere else)

We need books about non-white kids who are magic. Non-white kids who are wimpy but hilarious, or who are brilliant and travel on tesseracts. These fictional kids shape us and our attitudes about real life from an early age. If we grow up expecting to see all kinds of kids in all kinds of stories, maybe we’ll also be a step closer to truly believing in the worth and universality of all those colors.
We as authors must be leaders – we must #writeinclusively in order to raise readers who are inclusive. Sadly, our kids won’t get the full benefit of a serious push to diversify the books they read, but it’s crucial we not wait so long to act that our grandchildren miss out too.



Heather writes MG and YA. When not writing, she’s wrangling her most important beta readers, her son and daughter. Well, her daughter is too young to beta yet, but she’ll get there.

She was born to write fiction, but she loves the fast-paced world of news too, so she started her career writing about real people, not the ones that talk to her in her head. She was a television news journalist with military and political beats for nearly two decades, then a mayoral press secretary.

She decided to change careers when her children came along, and is now happily raising readers and writing diverse books for them to read.  She’s fascinated by fringe science, pop culture, and quantum physics. She loves music, poetry, the ocean, and laughing.


You can reach her on Twitter and on her at blog.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Share Your Best Writing Advice

If it wasn't for advice from others, my writing would suck a lot more than it does right now. I don't think there's a good writer alive who hasn't had amazing advice. So, let's share it.

Some amazing pieces of advice I've gotten:

1. Become the person you are writing the perspective from.

2. Cut the first scene of your manuscript.

3. Kill all cliches. All. Even on the prose level.

4. Read your manuscript out loud.

5. Don't expect revisions to be done in the time frame you want it to be. Multiply your 'ideal time frame' by five and that might be more realistic.

6. Get a diverse set of beta readers. Writers that read different genres, come from different backgrounds, different ages, etc. You need multiple perspectives on your book. Beta readers are the best thing to ever happen to your book other than, well, you writing the book.

7. Learn learn learn about your subject. Write what you know - and if you don't know it, get to know it. Here's a very old blog post I did on this subject. Might be the most important advice ever, in my opinion!

8. Do whatever it takes (as long as you don't end up in prison) to get your book's voice/mood correct. For me, that meant writing it in longhand first, then writing it on a Word doc that had black pages and white words.


YOUR TURN. Share your best writing advice, however obscure it may be!! What is some really good writing advice you've gotten, advice that you constantly keep in mind while writing?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Loving an Author You REALLY Disagree With

Last August, I posted a review (more of a reaction) to The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt called "An Indian's Reaction to the Racism in 'The Goldfinch'."

Source

And now, I'm on page 449 of 629 of The Secret History, her debut novel.

As my review made obvious, Tartt and I have a lot to disagree about. A lot. In that review, I also dismissed the idea that The Goldfinch deserved the Pulitzer. I'd like to slightly amend my views.

I still think The Goldfinch has many, many ethical problems. But see, that's the thing. They're ethical problems. The novel still has problems of craft and execution but in my furor over the ethical nature of the novel, I exaggerated the problems in craft. And, as I'll show later, I have no right to discredit a novel's artistic merit due to its ethics, simply because ethics are subjective.

Donna Tartt's novels are among the most ambitious novels I've ever read. The ambition and scope of the two novels of hers that I've read/almost-read are on par and even exceed many classics. For that alone, reading her work is a pleasure.

But then the prose. What gorgeous prose. I can read anything by her for the prose alone! It's in the top three best prose list I have in my head (I have lists for basically everything reading-related -- best plotting, characters, etc. I'm a maniac, seriously). Pairing the prose with the scope in her novels... it's a winning combination. I haven't read The Little Friend and I'm not sure I will because of its meh reviews; if I do read it, it'll be for the prose.

Yet, I still stand by what I said in my original reaction. Not as much in The Secret History (because of the Arab scene), but in The Goldfinch there is a definite nostalgic desire for pre-'diverse-loving' America(if that's what you can call the USA right now). A longing for an age where the great cultural contributions of whites reined supreme, not denigrated by modern 'diverse contributions'. A sympathy for those who want to go back to those days exists in that novel, very Gone With the Wind in nature. A desire for an age that erased people of color, pretended their hardships and suffering did not exist because all that mattered where white people and what their problems were. I don't know why, but I saw a lot more of that in The Goldfinch than The Secret History. I can guess what Tartt's true intentions are (I did so in my review), but that's unfair because I don't know her.

Yes, I disagree the ethical sentiment in The Goldfinch. Of course I disagree with that. But I still love Tartt. I tried denying it before, but she really is a tremendous author, one of my favorites (although I still don't think The Goldfinch deserved the Pulitzer - maybe it won  there was no better contestant? Because of the amazing prose and incredible scope of that novel - and that amazing opening scene?).

And that's the thing. If I meet Tartt, I'd squee and ask her to sign my book and everything. I'd love to sit down and have dinner together, just talk for hours and not aggressively at all, simply to see what she meant. And if she does have that nostalgic desire, great. It's not for me to get angry about. In fact, I think we'd have a much greater discussion than I'd have with any author I agreed with on every subject.

There's a tremendous pull to equate love with agreement and hate with disagreement. Disagreeing with someone doesn't require hate, nor does it exclude love. A person and their ideas are separate. Hating one doesn't require hating both.

It's a problem with a lot of social activism in the media. With 'don't reply to the trolls' quickly slipping into 'don't discuss a topic with anyone who disagrees with you', I fear we're going to fall into a predicament similar to the one of the construction workers pictured below.

Source
There are generally two sides to social activism in the media: a conservative view and a liberal view. Discussions have been growing in number and in voice, but each side is getting louder and louder as they build their half of the bridge. We assume we're going to meet in the middle, finally join and understand what the other side is saying. But I truly fear we are simply talking past one another. I fear that soon, it'll be too late, and we'll keep talking and talking in this echo chamber until we look behind our shoulders and realize...dang. Those people we hoped to change, they walked right past us, talking and arguing in another echo chamber.

There's no point hating someone for their ideas. Yes, it's a really hard thing to do and I'm struggling really hard to do it. But it's important. If we don't join into one conversation, practically speaking, very little will get done. And an additional point, it might surprise people that (gasp!) maybe there's a pro-lifer too afraid to speak in the YA author section of Twitter. Instead of generating meaningful conversation around these topics, all that's happening is bullying and unintended censorship (down with writer self-censorship!). Engage the trolls! They speak things that the rest of the population thinks in silence.

This does not necessitate compromise in the same way Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did not and should not have compromised with Jim Crow; a wrong idea, no matter how popular, is still a wrong idea. But we do need to start talking together, or the bridge we're trying to build will be as bad and useless as the one above.

The good thing about constructing things, though? You can always tear things down and build again.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Do You Read Nonfiction? Why You Should

For the most part, I write contemporary novels. Modern issues find their ways into my books.

Rightly so, writers like JK Rowling, Stephen King, and Ray Bradbury have established the crucial importance of constant reading for anyone to be a decent writer. Read read read read read is the overarching theme; read everything you can.

For a long time, I've thought that only meant fiction. Yet, all the nonfiction that I've read (which isn't nearly enough) has helped to create a more believable and honest depiction of contemporary issues and life.

How does a writer balance reading nonfiction and fiction? And by nonfiction I don't mean narrative nonfiction, I mean actual, academic, fact-based nonfiction.

I have nonfiction books on my nightstand, but whenever my fingers itch to pick them up I grab something else. It's a waste, right? To read nonfiction when reading fiction - as all these great writers have said - is the key to being a good fiction writer. There's little emphasis on prose, no such thing as plot or characterization, and no allegory or metaphors or any such fictional devices. How can we fiction writers learn from nonfiction?

But here's the thing. Apart from it being, in my opinion, required for good social activists or public figures, reading nonfiction might be the key to great fiction writing. Seriously. I think it's the next big breakthrough in fiction writing (shhhh, don't give the secret away).

True, most writing and art is simply an autobiography (it's a cynical view of art, but I've found it to be true), but I assume that most of us aren't writing literal autobiographies. We're writing fiction, and we have characters that go through issues we don't go through.

The key is to portray these characters honestly, whether they be in a fantasy novel, a romance, a sci-fi, a mystery, anything. The problems that living beings face are universal and they have universal nuances and complexities that a simple 'I'll guess my way through it' attitude cannot address. These problems are usually also part of a societal structure, a structure that can be analyzed and understood more thoroughly.

It's one of the (few) problems I had with Harry Potter. How does race play a role in the wizarding world? How do Muggleborns not speak up against the tyranny of owl mail when text messages work so much faster (and would have solved Harry's dilemma of finding Sirius Black quite quickly - and electric objects do work in Grimmauld Place, they only don't work in Hogwarts). Where are all these complexities? The series's saving grace is the fact that it is fantasy. Rowling already painstakingly created such a nuanced world that expecting any more from her is just cruel and unusual punishment. Plus, she is Queen. I just wanted to show that these complexities and nuances (learned from nonfiction based on this world) could be translated to fantasy.

And even further complexities and nuances: gentrification, health care, law, policy, scientific methodology, university structures, etc. These exist in the real world and can exist in fantasy worlds as well.

I've completely revised my novel based on information I learned within the last few months. Pulling up an article or Googling a quick fact for research works well but not nearly as well as really researching and reading the best books on your topic. Not to mention, taking the first bit of information you receive can be dangerous.

For example. In The DaVinci Code, Robert Langdon speaks to a group of prisoners about the Mona Lisa's supposed gender duality. Using the Egyptian god Amon and the goddess Isis (or L'isa), Langdon, a Harvard professor, uses the fact that the two names rearrange to Mona Lisa as part of his proof that Mona Lisa smiles because she promotes the divine union of male and female.

Well. Well. Da Vinci never named the painting. Never. It's called La Gioconda traditionally (yes, not Mona Lisa, we English-lovers!) and was named Mona Lisa centuries after Da Vinci's death. Ugh. Just read this, it explains it all. Harvard professor? I think not.

But the fact of the matter is, how would someone have known the painting's naming history without doing thorough research? It's not a fact that most even imagine to research about. The only solution is to just research everything.

Not only did Dan Brown alienate much of his readership (I almost but the book down after reading that part), but he lost credibility with many people. But you can't really blame him. It's the case of a 'take the first bit of information given and not look into it further'. It's something we all do to save time and make quick decisions.

But fiction writing is not fast. We all know that. It's a slow-cooked meal, and the slower you cook it, the better it gets (unless it's super slow - try being good, but not overly perfectionist!). Do your research. Read nonfiction!

Reading all these books will take long. Reading nonfiction that has little to do with your subject matter is crucially important too, because having a broad knowledge base lets you pick where your novel can go, giving you a much bigger canvas to paint on. I mean, we read fiction books outside our genre, right? Why not read nonfiction books outside our topics? It'll give us the honesty that we all reach for when we write.

First on my reading list, after I finish my current book, is Merchants of Doubt or Alan Turing's biography, still have to decide.

Do you read nonfiction? Why or why not?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Very Inspiring Blogger Award!



Wowowowowowow!!!!!!!! Thank you so much P.D. Pabst for nominating me. Go clicky clicky her post to find out more about her.

The award rules are:
  • Display the award on your blog
  • Link back to the person who nominated you
  • State seven things about yourself
  • Nominate bloggers, link to them, and notify them about their nominations (I'm just going to nominate a few bloggers that really inspire me instead of a set number :D)
MY SEVEN THINGS
(It's so great that the number is seven because seven is awesome number in Harry Potter.)
  1. I love writing. I realized it after taking a two-week long break that I really just love writing, especially in winter months for some reason. The white light reflecting off the snow just feels so great to write in! And writing has saved my life. Seriously mean that.
  2. I love traveling. I'll always budget in a vacation no matter what my salary will be now and in the future (but, you know, hopefully it's $$$$ instead of $ - GOOD LUCK TO ME).
  3. I love complaining about Chicago winters even though they are nothing compared to Canadian winters.
  4. Canada is awesome.
  5. I hate censorship - and yet I think writers (writers!) censor themselves more than anyone censors writers. So I try to fight that. Because if writers are too afraid to speak, who will?
  6. Writing is my passion, but art (especially painting) is my ADDICTION. I love both of them in different ways. Art is more of an unbridled, emotion-filled, crazy passion, while writing requires a lot more professionalism. Maybe it's because I haven't tried getting into any art galleries. That's a beast I won't touch until later.
  7. I say 'awesome' way too much and have to edit my blog posts to get rid of the most excessive uses of that awesome word.
MY NOMINATIONS
  • Wendy Morrell. Love her blogging style, her humor, and her heart. She's the one who inspired me to blog about things I'm passionate about, not just writing-wise. Thank you thank you.
  • Alex J. Cavanaugh. If you've seen the amount of work he puts into building such a big community and how much time he spends visiting so many blogs, you'd know how inspiring he is.
  • Michelle Hauck. Joyful, happy, and incredibly hard-working.
  • Mike Anthony. Along with Michelle, the best contest co-host anyone could ask for.
  • Morgan Shamy. The honesty in her blog posts mixed with her NEVER-ENDING friendliness and kindness make her very, very inspiring.
Thank you thank you all of you!!!

I definitely left some people off of this list, and for that I truly apologize. This is my first post in over two weeks and I'm excited to hop back into writing and Twitter and everything. I LOVE ALL YOU GUYS! THANK YOU!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Vacation Time!


I'm so excited!!!!! 

I'm off on a two-week vacation to Peru where I'll be hiking and walking pretty much everywhere and seeing Machu Picchu. I got two Peru guidebooks from the library which I'll be reading pretty much the entire time I'm there. Hopefully it will be a good break from whatever cold will soon hit this Chicagoland area (Decembers are always warmly deceptive here(.

I'll see you guys back after Jan 6th! Hopefully this vacation works its wonders.

The year has ended, and what a year it's been. I'm so so so thankful for you guys. I seriously cannot say just how much you all have impacted me and helped me with your support - so thank you, thank you so much.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year's, and most of all, HAPPY DAYS TO ALL! Make sure to spend time with your loved ones if you can, but more importantly, be happy. Spread love and joy and everything else! 

*ho ho ho* (I feel like Santa.)

Monday, December 15, 2014

"Why I Write Inclusively as a White Woman" - Bronwyn Deaver

Happy Monday everyone!

Today we have the amazing Bronwyn Deaver with a guest post on Writing Inclusively (#WriteInclusively). Seriously, I'm in love with this post. As I am also writing a book from the first-person perceptive of a man of a different ethnicity than mine, Bronwyn's words speak volumes to me - and hopefully, to you too.

Take it away!

Books are gifts. The words contained in them can carry someone through a rough time or open his or her eyes to a world that has never been experienced before.

Children's literature is even more special. The characters that you read in childhood often help shape a piece of who you become. You can stick those characters right in your backpack and carry them around - revisiting their words over and over again. They're frozen in time even as your own sense of self changes.

Fondness flutters around a whole cast of characters in my memory. I love them all! Anne Shirley and her temper, Jo March and her writing, Ramona and the pink worm ring, Kristy Thomas and her leadership qualities, James and his adventure in a peach. I could go on and on and on. Do you see a pattern though? They are all white. That never stood out to me as a child. My world was a white world. So, they fit. But I think I deserved more and my friends who were not white definitely deserved more.

When I started writing, I had every intention of writing books that children could pick up and connect with. If you are writer of children's literature, you have the same goal too. You want your story to stay with a child forever.

With that in mind, I need to write for my audience. My audience is not just a bunch of white children. I write for all children. I can't promise that in every book I ever write any person will be able to find a character in them that looks just like they do. But I do need to write so that more than one set of people can find themselves across my work.

I'm not going to say that writing characters from other racial backgrounds doesn't intimidate me. I want to get it right. I want to give respect to culture and heritage and I want to stay away from stereotypes. But it is my duty to the children who might pick up my words one day.

The first novel I wrote had a whole cast of characters from different backgrounds. It's a YA fantasy novel and crafting those characters and their personalities was immensely fun. When I write picture books, I tend to write characters that could be drawn any way possible in regards to race, ability, socio-economic background, etc. But I also think it is important that since there is not a lot of diversity in books, that I write characters whose race cannot be ignored or changed.

A while back, I had a character get stuck in my head unlike any I had written before - a biracial male teen. I let him sit in my head for months. Could a white woman of privilege write a biracial male teen whose story isn't one of privilege? The words "write what you know" kept circling in my brain. I didn't know anything about being male or biracial – not in a first person sort of way. But I wanted to write this story.

At first I found myself writing in third person. I realized that I was keeping distance from my main character. It wasn't going to work that way. I had to let the main character, Reece, tell me about his life. So, I switched to first person and it worked.

Then I came across this by Keesha Beckford [please do read it, it's incredibly powerful - SC]. Her words just twisted my heart. I was angry that my fellow mothers had to have such fears. And they have every reason to have those fears. She solidified my resolve to "write what you haven't lived but are willing to learn about". Parents have so much on their plates these days. They deserve to be able to send their kids out to play and not worry that they will meet disaster for any reason. Skin color should never be a reason for disaster. And writers can help change that.

White kids need black role models. Make sure you read that sentence correctly.  Yes, black kids need black role models, but non-black kids do too. Children deserve safety and love and good books with characters that are similar to and different from them. We can't expect them to change the world if we don't give them stories that will help them learn what they don't know.

Our society is so divided. I think whites sit on the sidelines a lot because we don't know what to do. We think we will be seen as "invading" if we speak up. We don't want to intrude. It is the whole "I support you, but this is your thing and I don't want to get in the way." As writers of children's books we all have a right and a calling to provide the best stories possible for all children.

Books stick with people. The power of your keyboard could change perception. One character, one page, one story at a time – you could have the power to help change racial attitudes. You could help people feel valued. There may be a child right now just waiting for one of your stories to touch his or her soul in a way that nothing else will all because you decided to write for them. And maybe you will be teaching that child what he or she will need to know later in life to keep a tragedy from happening.

I am an ally. I will do what I can to promote diversity in books because that mirrors real life. The children are my audience. The children deserve no less.  

Bronwyn Deaver is a writer of children's literature. She is currently seeking representation for her work, but as she queries and stalks her inbox for positive news, she continues to write. She is currently working on a retelling of a YA classic as well as various picture books. She is a member of SCBWI. She Tweets.
 
YES. What an amazing post. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Bronwyn!

These discussions aren't just for minorities, they're for everyone. It's not taking a 'stand' on the political spectrum - it's a human rights issue, since when did that become political?

How do you approach these issues?

(This guest post is part of a series of #WriteInclusively guest posts. If you would like to take the pledge to Write Inclusively, feel free to sign up!)

The Pact to Write Inclusively and the List:
(When you click the link below, it'll ask for a URL to a blog post - feel free to link to your main blog, or your Twitter!)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Debra McKellan on Writing Inclusively

As part of my pact to Write Inclusively, I've started a blog series where guest bloggers come and talk about writing inclusively. It's time for to sit back and just listen.

We've got a great writer to start this series off - the incredible, generous, and supremely warm-hearted Debra McKellan, someone I've known for years through Agent Query Connect.

Take it away Debra :)



I will:

1) actively write, edit, and revise to challenge stereotypes that may be present in my writing;
2) actively work against the normalization of a single identity;
3) actively work towards the normalization of diversity.

SC Author started this pact for diversity in books, which you can follow on Twitter under the Hashtag #WriteInclusively. If you’ve noticed on my blog, the emblem above is the symbol for this pledge: A white flag with a gray circle. The blue rose icon is just something I use in signatures, but it’s also from one of my favorite screenplays “The Glass Menagerie.”

By the time I graduated college I'd had many instances of uncomfortable racial prejudice from both black and white people, but before that I grew up fully believing in equality for all. I’m not a big fan of culture shocks, so I still have trouble handling and understanding the deeply ingrained stereotypes of people of different races.

Racial hatred occurs not only because of those still ignorantly passing down their hatred from generation-to-generation (my cousin is a teacher, and a little girl told him she doesn’t like him because he’s black. I don’t think he teaches any higher than the 2nd grade), but because it’s been thrown in our faces as early as Antebellum America. Look up “Stereotypes of African Americans” on Wikipedia, and you’ll get part of a couple of things I learned during a couple of my history classes in college. (Side note: I’m pretty sure some people think we’ve been living in Birth of A Nation for the past term and a half. Thanks (?), D.W. Griffith.)

What's on your television? My mom just recently stopped watching Hallmark because she realized they never feature any black actors as the main character. God bless "Law & Order: SVU" and their 2 million episodes, because that might just be the most diverse show on TV today. Black reality shows are: "Love & Hip-Hop," "R&B Divas," "Real Housewives of Atlanta," etc., shows that glorify the most hood of black people who seem to reduce themselves to fights and cursing people out on an episodic basis. Rap & Hip-hip videos portray “gangsta” lifestyles that millions like to emulate but wouldn't actually last a minute living in.

Society has been trained to look at the “others” (black people in this instance) as interesting and entertaining people, but not valuable human beings (athletes, actors, comedians, musicians). So when injustices happen to black people, there is a huge apathy. When I say this, I'm focusing on the Eric Garner incident, because a cop who was supposed to uphold the law BROKE the law (and apparently Eric was selling loose cigarettes, but two negatives don’t…you know) which resulted in Garner’s death. And it was recorded. And the coroner ruled it a homicide. And there was still no indictment. And a barrage of people blame Garner.

When people get mad because a protest ruined their Christmas Tree Lighting experience, or they’re threatening to shoot protesters if they can't make an Eagles game, or the first thing they say is about a victim of an unlawful police death, “Well, what did the person do?” the love or compassion for someone else's humanity can’t possibly be there.

So how does this relate to writing inclusively? Back to my mention of Birth of A Nation. Fear is created because people take what they're given at face value and walk away believing it's true. Leave your boxes and GET TO KNOW PEOPLE. Walk into a bookstore and head on over to the "African-American Literature" (I wrote a post about that issue, too, don't remember when) and pick up a book that you find intriguing. Then, actually, pick up one that has totally different content by a different A.A. author. And keep doing that. Because black people are also diverse.

As a writer, if you really want to know how someone of another culture speaks, acts, lives, don't just place a person in your story molded by what you think you know. LEARN. Good example, Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys. Fat Charlie is a black man from England, Spider is his brother from California, if I recall. You don't see Gaiman perpetrating black men. You see Fat Charlie and Spider. I imagine Gaiman took time to learn about black cultures (because there are more than one), and he did it brilliantly. It can be done. Write inclusively. Write diversity, and be real about it.




I have been a writer for most of my life. I've been a GOOD writer for much, much shorter, but that's neither here nor there. My first story was for a class project where they gave the class a blank book. I wrote about my older sister. My next story was based on the X-Men cartoons because they were popular at the time.

I love fantasies, superheroes, a little sci-fi (I'm a trekkie and a brown coat!). I love television. I live for Final Fantasy video games. I have most of them. I've read a myriad of authors from Arthur Miller to Christopher Pike. My favorites are currently George R.R. Martin, Robert Olen Butler, and the late Octavia Butler.

Follow her Twitter and blog!

Thank you so much for sharing!!!! It's a great  post with a HUGE message: diversity within diversity exists and is true. People of color have differing ideas on their own identity as well, something that is sadly overlooked much too often.

Again, THANK YOU!!

Below is the linky list to the pact, if you would like to join. If you would like to guest blog, please send me an email.

On Monday, Bronwyn Deaver has a simply incredible post on "Why I Write Inclusively as a White Woman." Make sure to check it out! As I am also writing a book from the first person perspective of a character of another race, her post spoke volumes to me.

How would you like diversity to be seen in literature?

The Pact to Write Inclusively and the List:
(When you click the link below, it'll ask for a URL to a blog post - feel free to link to your main blog, or your Twitter!)

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Pact for Writing Inclusively - Please, We NEED Diverse Books


I haven't been quite bloggy these past few weeks. 

It's hard to admit, it's weird to admit. 

The live stream of Michael Brown's verdict played as I sat in my chair, and then the aftermath of these two non-indictments (Michael Brown's and Eric Garner's) followed soon after. It's odd because in just over a week, more frustration, anger, and hopelessness than I ever thought possible seeped into me - which is a privilege of my Indian ethnicity, because I can feel frustrated instead of afraid.

One of my friends - usually so happy and bubbly - descended into something dark and hopeless. In her words, "I am hurting. I hurt so fucking bad right now.'

And I've been exercising self-care. I needed time to deal with it all, and - recently - to realize what my place is in this discussion. Do I have a place?

It's a myth that non-blacks and non-Hispanics have no place in this dialogue on racism. One of my favorite quotes of all time has guided my action:


Let me reiterate: whites, Asians, Native Americans, all other races, have a place in this dialogue, namely, to acknowledge the privilege that comes with not being perceived as a threat everywhere we go and then to work against the systems that don't afford that privilege to other people. Non-whites have their own stereotypes to deal with, which is a whole 'nother issue. 

Firstly, we must come to terms with our privilege. Accept that it exists, realize that no one is blaming us for it, but understand that it exists. 

The media  portrays blacks and Hispanics as looters, threats, and criminals - and when a black or brown person succeeds, it is in spite of their race, their race 'doesn't hold them back,' as if being successful is not a black or brown thing to do. Their race has been erased.

The system is not fair or just (I've done so much research on this - I didn't want it to be true - but quite simply, it is true; if you want, I can talk to you one-on-one about it). Learning about the extent of its unfairness might put you in the same state I was - and am - in. 

With what little influence I have, I'm on my knees and begging you, please, change this. 

NO MORE DEAD INNOCENTS. No more corpses due to our racialized fears. No more seeing people as threats simply due to their race. We are KILLING people, children and parents and loved ones, simply due to our racialized fears.

Most of those who are reading this blog are writers. We are WRITERS. Many of us are YA writers - which is great, since I have more hope for today's children to solve race problems than today's adults to solve them. Use the power of the pen, use what amazing gifts you have. I am begging you. Our 'normalization' of one race, one gender, one sexuality, one religion, same physical/mental ability, etc. is destroying us. Our silence is murder, for our silence normalizes oppression. Please please please please, don't ignore this blog post, don't ignore this message.

Diversity is not political - and if it is, that's sad. Diversity is truth. Since when did championing for human rights ever become politicized? Fear of being 'political' has led us to quiet our tongues (we are writers). Few of us speak about these issues because no one wants to be labeled as a 'liberal' or a 'Democrat'. Is anyone not disgusted by this? Since when did empathy become a stance?

Empathy and free speech are our fundamental tools of trade! How can we have lost them? Since we create writing that enters into mass media, we must responsibly portray the subjects of our novels in a realistic way and fight against the normalization of diversity-less communities or stereotype-riddled character tropes. We must portray the truth.

Our silence is murder.

It'd be foolish to ignore the cultural impacts our words have - and how that relates to the cycle of racism and oppression. The habitual instinct to make every character white since it is 'normal' or a 'blank slate' ties in directly with the lack of nuance in society's perception of people of color. To make a character colored, for example, is a 'big deal'. To make them have problems that don't relate to their race: an even bigger deal (although, since many colored characters' biggest problems deal with their race, doesn't that prove that racism isn't over? Maybe we do need more race-dealing novels).

We have to change the portrayal of minority groups.

(I use the word 'minority' quite ironically, since globally, many Western minorities are in fact majorities.)

We are allies, not leaders. Remember to make space for those writers who have dealt with these issues: they know more about it then the rest. For the writers who have dealt with these issues: please, take space. No matter who you offend with your truths, take space. 

I can't sit here and do nothing anymore. I'm sick and tired of it. With the little influence I have, I'm begging and I'm going to try and be an ally.

I'm asking whoever wishes, minorities and majorities, to join me in a pact to write with an active goal for diversity:

The Pact to Write Inclusively:

I will:

1) actively write, edit, and revise to challenge stereotypes that may be present in my writing
2) actively work against the normalization of a single identity
3) actively work towards the normalization of diversity

This does NOT mean every single character in your novel has to be a minority at ALL! That would be the erasure of the white race (which is not our intention). It doesn't even mean most or any of your characters have to be minorities. It just means you will work towards diversity however you choose to interpret that.

This is a solid pact. Make sure you know what you're signing up for - to actively work towards the three objectives. Meaning, to look for the generalizations in your writing and then to work against it. 

Below will be the symbol of everyone on the pact. I've been searching for universal and simple signs for inclusion and diversity; the circle seems to pop up very often.

A circle of inclusion will be our symbol.

Once can easily, with some picture manipulating tools, overlay it on top of their Twitter/Facebook icons:

For example, mine! (Dang, I really should change my icon. So unprofessional! Ah well.)

If you need help overlaying the pact onto your Twitter/Facebook icon, PLEASE TELL ME! Send me an email SC_Author (at) yahoo (dot) com with your picture attached; I shall send you back the edited one :)

#WriteInclusively

If you have a blog/Twitter account, sign the pact by clicking that little blue 'Add your link' button at the bottom of this post. It's a list thing. It'll be the master list of pact-signers. I purposely made the links public: part of working towards diversity is being open about working towards it. Seriously, there's no pressure for you to sign the pact - it's your own will and no one will judge you (at least, the non-crazy people won't).

If you've signed, please please spread the word! Tweet with #WriteInclusively about what writing inclusively means to you, why it's important, how it relates with Ferguson and Eric Garner, and the power of writing to change the world. Why did you decide (if you decided) to take this pact?

Write blog posts about this pact and why you decided to take it.

This is what I came up with. This is what I can do at this stage of my life. All I know is, I'm done doing nothing or only ranting on Twitter. I'm sick of ranting. Everyone rants. I want action.

On a separate but related note, I also would like guest posts on the intersection of diversity and writing from writers of underrepresented identities, no matter what that identity is. If you have a good idea for a post and want to guest post, please send me an email (SC_Author (at) yahoo (dot) com) about your possible post. To writers that do not identify with underrepresented identities, it's time to simply read the posts. Make space instead of take space.

It's time we put our money where our mouth is. Too many promises have been made.

If you have anything to add to the pact, any ideas you think I've not incorporated, please comment and tell me! But please please, we're begging you, be an ally. Work in solidarity. Silence is murder, and people can't breathe.

The Pact to Write Inclusively and the List:
(When you click the link below, it'll ask for a URL to a blog post - feel free to link to your main blog, or your Twitter!)


Manual List since Linky Expired - If you want in, contact me!

15.Heather Murphy Capps