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



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.

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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?