Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hidden Voices: How Being a Teen in the At-Risk School System Almost Silenced Me

We've got another #WriteInclusively guest post. It's incredible. Buckle down, you all. Take it away, Kara.
Education is important. We spent a good amount of our lives in some type of school or class and then still learn long after we’ve grasped that shiny diploma and thrown our cap in the air. We learn not just about math, science, art, and history, but also social interaction, self-image, and confidence. We are held to standards (whether that be getting A’s, behaving in class, or getting on the basketball team) and expectations (going to college, graduating with honors, getting that scholarship) that can shape the way we think and we feel.

I went to a high school for at-risk kids.

There were a lot of us thrown in there by the public school systems that didn’t want to take the time or the effort to help us through whatever problem we were having. There were a lot of problems. Many kids grew up in bad families, in bad neighborhoods, in gangs. Others were children of illegal immigrants or young, single mothers who lived under the poverty level or were even drug addicts. Some of us, like me, had autism or other “emotional and/or behavioral disturbances” and the public school system decided that it would be easier to send them away than tailor to their special needs. We were a potpourri of different races, genders, sexualities, backgrounds. You name it.

The school system didn’t want to deal with us; honestly, they probably didn’t have the budget to. But neither did the at-risk system we went into. It’s advertised by concerned social workers as a place where you can be accommodated to your needs; in reality, we all were blurred together. To them, our problems were all the same, our stories were all similar, and our voices all didn’t matter.

Many of our voices were silenced in that school.

In a normal high school, you probably expect the textbooks to be up-to-date, the classes to be adequately challenging, and the teachers to have a degree in their area of expertise. We didn’t have that. Our textbooks (if we had them) were fifteen years old, the classes were dumbed down to the point where I was learning fifth grade level English and Math in twelve grade, and our teachers only had special education degrees and no outside education on the subjects they taught. As I quickly found out, those teachers could get nasty if you happened to know more on a subject than they did. I was personally removed from class, mocked by teachers, and set up by myself because I corrected my teachers when their facts on government, or literature, or even math, my worst subject, were wrong. When I asked my counselor at the school why my teachers seemed to hate me, she said: “It’s not that they hate you; you just intimidate them. You’re smarter than them and they don’t like it. That’s not how it’s supposed to work here.”

But, while that was a factor in our silent voices, you may be surprised to know that it wasn’t the main reason for the silence.

There was a terrible secret about that school all of us students knew: You were expected to fail. In a normal school, if you hit below a certain level of grades, you might be put on academic probation, you might be talked to by a counselor. In this school, none of the above happened. No one cared. The main mindset was that we were a group of future dropouts, criminals, and leeches on society that they had to watch. We weren’t going to go anywhere.

When we filed into school, going through a security system similar to the ones you’d find at an airport, they didn’t see us as human students. They saw us as statistics. They saw the black criminal and the white drug addict. They saw the violent teenage boy and the emotional teenage girl. They saw the pregnant whore and the gangbanger father. The illegal immigrant and the child of a family that couldn’t afford the cat-food they called lunch. And slowly, we began to conform to those statistics. Because when someone says you’re broken, or stupid, or dangerous, or irredeemable enough times, you begin to believe it. Slowly, we were molded into the mindset they had for us. Our voices, once loud, were getting softer and softer.

We were told not to expect college. We were pressured to attempt workshops that specialized in getting us “experience” that had many of us working half the school day at odd jobs for no pay instead of attending classes we “didn’t need”. Behind our backs the teachers and aides would make comments on the kids; how they would never go anywhere. They would mock the turbulent relationships the students formed with each other. We were compared to dogs doing tricks for treats when we behaved.

The environment of belittlement and negativity that surrounds at-risk children is dangerous. It cuts off many voices that don’t fit the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Heterosexual Rich Male ideal. It makes us, the victims, feel like our stories are not important because why would anyone want to listen to us if we are just going to fail? Many of us internalize the negativity until we truly believe our stories are not worth anything.

But they are.

We were a diverse, living, feeling group of teenagers whose stories were shocking, terrifying, and maybe even heartwarming. There are thousands of us in your towns and cities whose experiences are as different as snowflakes and like snowflakes, are looked over when spread apart, but unable to ignore when banded together.

This problem goes deeper than schools and teachers, it goes deeper than report cards and minimum wage jobs; it goes deep into the norms and constructs of our society where a single role and stereotype is held as the be-all, end-all. These social constructs that teach us that because we are from problem backgrounds we are unclean, unwanted, and undeserving feed into an endless cycle that perpetuates the feelings of inadequacy and our often violent lives.

Look closer at us and you’ll see that the “black criminal” is actually incredibly smart and wants to be an engineer, the “white drug addict” has abusive parents and trust issues that he covers up with weed and pills, the “violent teenage boy” was terrified because he was about to leave the school he’d come to rely on, the “emotional teenage girl” had autism and could write wonders onto a page, and the “pregnant whore” resolved to be a better mother than her own while the “gangbanger father” that impregnated her was risking his life to escape his gang and take care of his new family.

Before we learn to #WriteInclusively, we must also learn to #ThinkInclusively about others and ourselves. We must not negate the importance of our own stories or fall prey to a society that waves away uncomfortable, unsettling viewpoints as “something we don’t talk about.” We must learn to see the worth in every story. Especially those that tend to go unheard. Many of the voices from my school are silent now; I don’t know what happened to the kids I’ve been around for so long. Honestly, I don’t think their stories are any brighter than mine is. But right now, I’m the one talking. That needs to change. We need to realize that everyone’s voice deserves to be heard, whatever the expectations put in place. Those expectations must always be defied.

Kara Barbieri is a nineteen-year-old graduate from the Illinois at-risk school system and a Sociology major at her local community college. She is currently seeking representation and enjoys writing about kickass pirate queens, huntresses, and other diverse, complex women. She has Autism, likes goats, and can write wonders onto pages. She can be found on twitter at @Kara_Barbieri.

Kara is one of my close friends, an incredible person. I'm so so happy to have her on this blog. THANK YOU so much for sharing your story.

Everyone: PLEASE comment and discuss. Share this on Twitter. Thank/talk to her on Twitter. Be sure to engage and discuss, that is one of #WriteInclusively's main goals. What did you think?

If you want to get more involved with the Write Inclusively campaign and be up-to-date with it, sign up for the newsletter. We do not email much - in the last 10 months, only two emails have gone out.


Friday, September 25, 2015

The Need for Real, Honest Diverse Books: A South Asian Perspective

A WRITE INCLUSIVELY GUEST BLOG POST IS HERE!!!!! The fantastic Meghana Ranganathan is here to speak. Take it away!


In fifth grade, my history classes focused on ancient Rome and Greece. In sixth grade, we learned about medieval and renaissance Europe. In seventh grade, we learned about United States history. Ninth and tenth grade, we learned about Europe and the United States in the 20th Century. After that, we no longer were required to take history classes.

Six years of history, and we spent one year on the Eastern half of the world. In one year, we jammed the entire continent of Africa, and China and India into nine months. And of that year, we spent most of the time discussing what those countries were like after colonialism. Our few months of learning about India were based on how the British affected India. Because these countries needed the presence of white people to make their history relevant enough to teach in a typical school.

Looking towards college, I wanted nothing more than to break out of this cycle of focusing on the West and learn something – ANYTHING – about some other part of the world. I was so looking forward to learning the history of my ancestors – India – as well as the histories of South America, more about Africa, and Southeast Asia. I’m currently in college and out of about 80 history classes, 17 are based in countries that aren’t in Europe or North America. And from those, only 6 are about the country before colonialism.

Now, I’m not trying to write off these classes or the importance of knowing the history of the West. To be fair, a fair amount of those college classes were about the experience of minority groups in America over the last century, which is really important stuff. But those numbers just show the gaping hole we have in our education system. I’m set to graduate college in two years, and yet I can say that I know absolutely nothing about South America. Literally nothing. I haven’t sat in on one lecture or one day in school where we’ve talked about the history of South America. I can’t tell you much anything about Southeast Asia, the vast majority of Africa (though I can point to the countries and name them), and all of Asia except China and India. It’s embarrassing.

#WriteInclusively means so much to me because books and movies are the way that I learn about the experiences of people from all over the world and the way that I spread knowledge about my experiences as a South Asian female and my family’s experiences. And it’s so important to have those experiences be real and true, otherwise it’s functionally the same as teaching incorrect history, or the wrong formula for the quadratic equation. It gives an incorrect vision of the world and the people that make up the world.

And yet, this happens all the time. For me as a South Asian, I pay particular attention whenever Hollywood comes out with a movie set in India, or whenever a book about India or Indian people comes out. But as I’ve come to realize, most of these movies and books end up being about white people experiencing India, not Indians sharing their experiences (e.g. Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Outsourced). There are exceptions, but I remember my first picture book about India when I was little got me so excited in the bookstore, because it was a book about someone like me. I took it home and opened it, only to find it be about a white girl going to India on vacation and her experiences. If that’s the only perspective people get on India, it creates stereotypes. Like India being this crazy country that white people have to struggle to navigate. Some part of that stereotype is true (driving in a car in India is horrifying), but we need more depth in media. I remember my mom getting so excited whenever she saw an Indian person on a television show, only to have that character be a silly stereotype of a nerdy guy with a “funny” accent who smells like curry.

The intention for my writing is to show people another side of India and the Indian people. To show people the amazing villages, the strong people who fought for Independence many decades ago, Akbar the Great and his rule over India in the 1500s, to explain the experience of a second-generation Indian female living in the United States. My parents grew up in the United States, so I’ve been called “basically white”, “whitewashed”, “only Indian by blood” and told by other South Asians that it would “do me good to take a class on India.” I grew up thinking I was the only one to experience that. In fact, I still haven’t met another second-generation person of color with whom I can share that with. I want the things that I write to tell other second-generation people of color growing up that they’re not alone, and that no one can tell them what they identify with.

And I want to learn about other identities and other countries through others’ writing. I want that to be my continuing education, and I can only do that when we support those writers who are brave enough to tell their stories and tell the stories of their countries. I will continue to support #WriteInclusively in hopes that these amazing stories start showing up on bookshelves.


Meghana Ranganathan is a writer and a student specializing in applied mathematics. She is passionate about writing important stories from new perspectives and spreading facts about science issues like vaccines, climate change, and evolution. She runs a science blog dedicated to discussing the science behind these issues and others.

Things she thinks are genius: Jurassic Park (the book), Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, Dollhouse, cheesecake, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, apple cider, the humor in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gus and Shawn’s relationship in Psych, most M.I.A. songs, the combinations of spices in Indian food. She strives to come up with something about a quarter as amazing as most of these things.

Follow/tweet her on Twitter and visit her blog!!!!

Thank you so much for being a guest blogger!! As an Indian American myself, I can relate so well to what you have brought up.

Some of my favorite quotes:

1. "And it’s so important to have those experiences be real and true, otherwise it’s functionally the same as teaching incorrect history, or the wrong formula for the quadratic equation. It gives an incorrect vision of the world and the people that make up the world."

2. "But as I’ve come to realize, most of these movies and books end up being about white people experiencing India, not Indians sharing their experiences."

3. "But those numbers just show the gaping hole we have in our education system."\

4. "Because these countries needed the presence of white people to make their history relevant enough to teach in a typical school."

Writers: what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments. And be sure to tweet and share this post. If you want to possibly be a guest blogger, email me.

If you want to get more involved with the Write Inclusively campaign and be up-to-date with it, sign up for the newsletter. We do not email much - in the last 10 months, only two emails have gone out.



Friday, September 18, 2015


****The Write Inclusively Contest for unapologetically diverse novels is OPEN!!!***

Agents/editors will be dropping by until Sunday to make requests. Some will be coming after, but don't worry; I'll email you to let you know if you get a request after Sunday.

Comments section open only to agents/editors making requests!

Ninja agents are welcome! Even if you are not on this awesome list of agents/editors that are participating, if you want to make a request, drop a comment!

 If I made a formatting, editing, any mistake on your entry, drop me a Tweet or an email. I'll fix it as soon as I can. Any questions? Ask below.

TWEET AWAY!! #WriteInclusively is where the party is at!!! Prompt: "Are you excited?!?!?!"

WI #20 - THE CAMBRIDGE CLUB, Adult Thriller

Word Count: 99K
Genre: Adult Thriller

System of Oppression:
Author Identity: Middle Class


Devon Wang is a MIT student with a supercomputer for a brain. She’s also a member of the most elite gentlemen’s club in Boston. When bodies start piling up around the Cambridge area, and fingers start pointing back in Devon's direction, there’s not a book in sight that can get her out of her mess.

Born into a life of prostitution, Devon financially supports her siblings so they won’t face the same ill-fated lifestyle that’s been passed down in her family for decades. But when Devon flees from her troubles in Boston, she’s horrified to find out things are much worse at home. Her sisters are missing, and sources on the street lead to a dangerous biker gang notorious for child trafficking.

Devon is distraught, but refuses to give up. She has a plan to rescue her sisters, until a Boston cop, Michael Cooper, tracks her down in her sister's Queens, New York apartment, offering to help her in exchange for testimony in court against the gentlemen’s club. Devon’s skeptical of Michael’s motives after he reveals his romantic involvement with one of the women linked to the club. With all of Devon’s street smarts and book smarts, she can’t figure this guy out. She just hopes she can solve the equation and save her sisters before it’s too late.

First 250:

I never looked at their faces, because they were always easier to forget that way. His whiskey breath and soiled laundry smell wouldn’t be as easy to dismiss, alcohol and filth rising up to greet me with every motion. This one didn’t move the entire time I rode his lap. I focused on the wall over his head. Hanging there was a broken crucifix and a paint-chipped Jesus.

After he was finished, I quickly slipped on my black wrap dress, the silky fabric chilling me to the bone. The chill wasn’t from trading the sweat off one man’s back for some cash so my siblings and I could eat—that was my everyday. It was the foreboding feeling in my belly that something else bitter and dark was coming for us.

I carefully strapped my holstered knife back around my thigh and slipped on my knee-high boots. The tens and fives were wet and bundled at my feet in a wormy rubber band.

“Ugh,” my customer grunted, rather than spoke, as if the very act of tossing the wad of bills at my feet had been taxing to him. He pointed to the door, so I slammed it in his face as I exited.

An icy rain began to pelt. The drop in temperature and bruised-colored clouds had been threatening to downpour all day. It was time for me to get out of there, but something stopped me.

WI #19 - THE PERFECT WIFE, Women’s Historical Fiction

Word Count: 70,000
Genre: Women’s Historical Fiction

Systems of Oppression: racism, sexism
Author’s Identity: South Asian female


Shanta Deshpande grew up sheltered. Her father, a high-ranking officer for the British, protected her from any unpleasantness exposed by politics and ensured that she had an idyllic childhood. Thus, her desire in life was simple: find a husband to love and take care of her.

Gandhi’s declaration of India’s independence and the onset of World War II shatters these dreams. Shanta starts to face an unhappy reality: she notices the disgust in the voices of the British when they talk about Indians and she sees Indian protests turn violent. “Put your country before all else” becomes the Freedom Fighters’ mantra, and her husband does so. He quits his job and leaves her, with two children and little life experience, to work with Gandhi. As the British fight for their occupation and the Indian men fight for India’s freedom, she finds herself left with no one to fight for her. Without income, her family, or a precedent of female independence, Shanta is forced to find in herself a protector and provider to survive in a way she never thought she would: on her own.

THE PERFECT WIFE is the story of a woman’s personal fight for independence in the midst of a broader struggle. This story is particularly important to me because it is heavily based on the life of my great-grandmother. It tells a well-known story, that of the freedom movement in India, from a new perspective of the wives of the men who fought for their country.

First 250:

Bangalore, India 1939

On April 3rd, Mahatma Gandhi began a three-day fast in protest of British rule and this had very little impact on Shanta. She spent those three days wandering the town with her little sister, Mangala, collecting snacks from street food vendors and playing games. Shanta paid no notice to the whisperings in the streets, the concerned faces among her neighbors, and urgent discussions between her father and British visitors. She easily dismissed these anomalies, as they did not pertain to her. More important decisions lay ahead for her.

Her father, J. Deshpande, honorary Deputy Commissioner in Bangalore, leaned back on his elbows, resting on the long arms of the dark rosewood planter’s chair, his hands folded over his belly, and pondered a significant marriage proposal. Shanta trusted Appa to choose a man for her - a man like him, with a delicate balance of frivolity and practicality and an abundance of kindness and generosity.

Shanta peered into the drawing room, where Appa sat near a grand wooden desk piled high with papers and statue of Ganesh peeking out from the corner, delicately close to the edge but never having fallen off. The rest of the room looked like an intellect’s heaven; the walls were all dark with wooden bookshelves built into them, full of books, paperbound with the stitching pulled tight on the spine and Shanta was sure that Appa had read them all. She used to stare up at them as a child and wonder if she could read them all too, one day.

WI #18 - A LINGERING SORT OF MAGIC, Adult Historical Fiction

Word Count: 90,000
Genre: Adult Literary Historical Fiction

Systems of Oppression: Homophobia, Classism
Author's Identity: [removed]


For twenty-year-old Mason Elliot, the wedding between his twin sister Melissa and Thomas Grady, the mechanic's son, is nothing more than an annoyance. To their small English town, it's a momentary reprieve from the Second World War that has drafted so many of its young men.

And while Mason is excused from war, thanks to his father’s clout and reading medicine at Cambridge University, getting out of his sister’s wedding is another story. Helping Thomas finalize last minute details seems a waste of his time, until a series of events leads to a brief dalliance in the barn with his sister's husband-to-be.

Desperate to keep their confusing and accidental moment a secret, Mason and Thomas go their separate ways, never to speak of the incident again. But even though both boys never speak again, the lingering effects of that moment in the barn shift their trajectory for years to come. And not only changes their own lives, but the lives and their relationships with every person they touch, in ways no one could imagine.

Following Mason and Thomas' life through alternating perspectives, A LINGERING FORM OF MAGIC intertwines a story of class, secrets, and repressed homosexuality with the chaos and carnage of WWII.

First 250:

The manor—which lived its previous lives as a plantation with just as many mysteries and sins as it had overly ornate rooms—was nothing less than gargantuan. Its size gave off an inaccurate assumption. An assumption that the manor was a labyrinth so complex even the Minotaur himself would need a ball of yarn. But Mason Elliot had learned at a young age that the building should be more accurately described as stout, rather than sinewy.

Until the day he died, he would remind his parents what a poor investment such a building was. It didn’t even provide good alcoves for him to hide. How selfish of it.

But Mason was resourceful, if not anything else. From the age of five he meticulously examined the blueprints of the building, mapping out all possible nooks and crannies, and used his eagle eye to justify scrutinizing any possibly hiding place with a physical visit. Settling on his own microcosm of tranquility wasn’t an easy feat, one he would neither rush, nor compromise on. It was why even now, fifteen years later, living in the same house—living in the same room he had imprinted on years ago---he decided to smoke his blunt against the rust strangled truck in the backyard, rather than somewhere more private.

Each sweet drag of grapefruit laced smoke calmed him in a way nothing else could. Nothing besides a deafening silence, perhaps. That might be a more healthy solution to calming the constant knuckle rapping against his frontal lobe.

WI #17 - HAPPILY EVER AFTER, Adult Fantasy

Word Count: 101,000
Genre: Adult Fantasy

System(s) of Oppression: Sexism, homophobia
Author's Identity: Female, [removed]


Lavie Streaver has many identities: castle troublemaker, reluctant bride, knight. When the war she started ends with her enemy’s unexpected surrender, Lavie obtains a new role: Hero.

But while the kingdom is at peace, Lavie struggles. She panics in crowds, she sleeps on the floor rather than a bed, and every day brings her closer to losing her temper and drawing her sword on someone who doesn’t deserve it. The only person who understands her is her friend, Harry, but he has his own troubles. The new king’s love affair with Harry puts him in conflict with his duties to the throne, and Lavie is caught between supporting the stability of the kingdom, and standing up for her closest friend.

Lavie finds herself questioning more and more of the king’s decisions. And like a scab she can’t stop picking, she returns again and again to the usurper she defeated, trying to understand his motivation for surrender. When raiders attack the coast and assassins threaten the king, Lavie must discover who is trying to bring down the kingdom or lose Harry, her home, and her identity.

Beginning where most fantasy novels would end, HAPPILY EVER AFTER is an adult fantasy of 101,000 words featuring a strong LGBT+ cast, including an asexual lead.

First 250:

Today, I take back my home. Today, I kill a man and end the reign of a tyrant. The idea makes me tingle. Everything ends today. Either we defeat the Usurper and set the true prince on the throne where he belongs, or we fail and nothing matters anymore.

The sea-warped gate in the bailey opens with a squeal, dusting me in flakes of rust. I cringe, hoping the keening seagulls cover the screech. Salt in the wind mixes with the scent of blood and anticipation as I slip into the narrow space between the inner and outer wall, then signal my team to follow me.


I start at the sound of my name, and curse under my breath. One of my soldiers points past me. Footsteps echo from the stairs ahead.

“Sir,” I correct the man sharply as I draw my sword. “Wait here.”

I slip into the inner bailey and press my back against the wall by the steps. The footsteps grow louder, and my fingers twitch on my hilt. As the figure emerges, I step out and drive my sword into his belly.

Our eyes meet in the gloom and I feel sick. He’s not a soldier, just a runner. He’s also barely more than a boy. His pale hands clutch at his stomach, as if trying to push the blood back. A gurgling cry spills from his lips. I give him mercy and put my sword through his heart. He doesn’t even make a sigh as he falls, eyes now glassy, to the ground.

WI #16 - GATEKEEPER, Adult Fantasy

Word Count: 110,000
Genre: Adult Fantasy

System(s) of Oppression: Abelism (Deaf protagonist), xenophobia (handled allegorically)
Author's Identity: Neurodiverse with Deaf family members, immigrant grandparents.


A Deaf woman lost in a magical otherworld must defy the Gatekeepers guarding her reality to return home, not to mention stay human.

Hearing-impaired Elle Tanning wanted a normal life after college. Instead she got conned into buying a statue from Jonah, an eccentric antiques dealer, who didn't warn her the statue might come to life and start cleaning her apartment. Things get even weirder when the statue drags them both into the Other, an alternate dimension filled with creatures from nightmare and fairy tale. It’s a good thing Jonah is a Gatekeeper, a magician who keeps the Other and the human world separate. As a Gatekeeper he is duty-bound to escort Elle safely home.

Or rather, he would’ve been duty-bound had Elle not worked magic in a moment of crisis and sprouted horns.

Gatekeepers like Jonah are forbidden from guiding magical beings out of the Other. Thanks to Elle's unexpected transformation and magical abilities, she's looking less human by the hour. In fact, Jonah suspects she's an inhuman creature called a Stanchion, and he isn't above violence if it means keeping her away from the human world. And this is bad, way bad, because every time Elle is exposed to magic she becomes and more like the creatures that populate the Other.

If Elle can’t convince Jonah to take her back to her world, she might lose her humanity for good—or worse. She could die in the dangerous Other before she gets anywhere at all.

First 250:

Grandmother braided my hair before bed like always, unaware I meant to steal her car as soon as she fell asleep. I would’ve found the tugging at my scalp soothing on any other night. My fingers twisted the hem of my shirt until Grandmother covered my hand with hers.

“Something bothering you?” she asked, signing over my shoulder in the vanity mirror. She signed with American Sign Language grammar but spoke aloud in verbal English. When I shook my head she signed and spoke: “Cherry picking the truth won’t do you any good, you know.”

I didn’t answer. I tugged the hearing aids from my ears, instead, and set them on the vanity.

After she bound my hair in a tight plait she kissed the crown of my head. Her amber pendant bumped my nape, the resin sphere in its silver band cold like a January night. I studied her in the mirror, cataloguing the crow’s feet around her eyes and the furrows at her lips. She wasn’t as old as other grandmothers but silver hair marked her age. Though we both had blue eyes she had sky-colored irises with a midnight rim, mine were dark throughout and not nearly as expressive. We had the same oval face, though, and the same sharp nose. It comforted me to know when I looked in the mirror I could see her—even in small ways, like the curve of my jaw or the way we braided our hair.

Soon the echoes of her face in mine would provide my only way of seeing her.

WI #15 - JAILBREAKER, Adult Sci-Fi Thriller

Word Count: 92,000
Genre: Adult Science Fiction Thriller 

Systems of Oppression: Homophobia, Racism
Author's Identity: [removed], Black

Twenty-year-old Jason “Jay” Cunningham never concerned himself with the crime reports his parents read religiously over the dinner table. He heard of people getting their Neural Chips hacked, forcing them to do things against their will, but thought it would never happen to him. That was until a night with the mayor’s son, Asher West, ends with him wakes up covered in Asher’s blood & his chip recalling him brutally killing the man—a memory Jay has no conscious recollection of. Jay has become the thing he never thought possible: a victim to the rising epidemic of Thought Crimes.

Proving his innocence won’t be easy. With the mayor letting his personal opinions of his son’s sexuality and choice in romantic partner cloud his judgement & no evidence supporting Jay’s claim of innocence, his case is as good as lost. Until a mysterious savior ventriloquizes Jay’s arresting officer & gives him a way out—find a Jailbreaker to undo the limits preset by the neural chip on his brain & fight back. By any means necessary.

Though Jailbreaking is highly illegal, Jay knows his options are slim. Weighing the odds, Jay ventures into the criminal underworld of Philadelphia in hopes to find his own innocence. But what he finds instead will make him question not only himself, but the system, & most importantly, the value society places on free will.

First 250:

With Jay’s first and only request, granted to him by the legal system, he asked for a glass of water. If he had another wish, he would have asked for a lawyer, but his priorities were slightly out of whack.

The scratching at the back of his throat, just out of reach of his tongue, was distracting. The tightness of the metal cuffs, teetered somewhere between irksome and painful. He had every intention of telling the guards he lost sensation in his rubbed raw wrists about twenty minutes back, but again—priorities.

But when he got the chance to speak, the moment the guard returned with his water, Jay opted for another declaration.

“Is that sparkling? I specifically asked for sparkling.”

The square jawed guard barely made eye contact with him. Jay narrowed his eyes, attempting to see himself in the curved reflection of the man’s black shades. He had to be a comical sight—just barely under twenty-two, arrested in only his tee shirt and black boxer briefs, chained to a Philadelphia Police Station chair, at 4 am, asking for sparkling water—while speckled in blood that wasn’t his own. At least he was confident (truthfully, only relatively confident) it wasn’t his own. It had been a wild night, after all.

'Note to self when I get out of here, flush out that joke. There’s certainly one there,' he thought.

WI #14 - JACKED, NA Contemporary

Word Count:
Genre: NA Contemporary

System(s) of Oppression:
Homophobia and classism
Author's Identity: [removed], Grew up in poverty


Jack thought his freshman year of college would help him escape from his parochial, poverty-stricken hometown in Appalachia. That is, until his mom tried to commit suicide right before the start of the first semester. If she hadn’t found him in bed with Casey—the only boy from home who ever came close to understanding him—Jack could’ve left town and never looked back.

Fitting in with strangers in a college town isn’t as easy as he’d hoped, especially when the only money to his name is his scholarship, and the only calls he receives are from his unforgiving mom. It doesn’t help that he hasn’t slept since his mom kicked him out of her room at the psychiatric clinic, or that Casey hasn’t returned any of his calls since the “incident.”

Overwhelmed with guilt, and desperately trying to understand why he needs a guy who’s too stubborn to open up about what he wants, Jack finds his mental state heading in the same direction as his mom’s. Jack must learn to set boundaries between the life he’s been dealt and the life he wants before he can patch up the situation with his mom and win back the guy he might love.

First 250:

I wouldn’t have recognized Mom if a nurse hadn’t led me to her room.

The first thing I noticed was her head. Her bushy hair was haphazard and choppy, like a careless nurse threw a chainsaw in her general direction. Her neck kinked to the side, and her tongue sagged out of her mouth as she snored. Mom’s wrists hung from the cuffs pinned to the bed rail, as if to show off her filed-down fingernails. The sheet tangled ’round her ankles like she’d tried to kick it off before the drugs took effect. I did my best to ignore the gauze coverin’ her left forearm.

She wasn’t goin’ anywhere.

I stared through the glass door leadin’ to Mom’s room. The nurse said I’d be allowed in when she was more responsive, probably in a couple days. God, I wouldn’t’ve wanted to talk to her even if I was allowed. I could already hear the conversation: “Hi Mom, how’s it goin’?” “What do you care, Jack?” “Nice talkin’ to you too, Mom.”

I helped myself to the coffee and Styrofoam cups at the end of the hall, even though I wasn’t sure if they were free. I paced in front of Mom’s glass door and waited for my coffee to cool. The nurses whispered to each other and stared at me with scrunched-up faces, never once thinkin’ to offer me a chair.

It wasn’t long before I realized I didn’t need to linger; if no one would let me inside, there was no reason to stare at mom’s patchwork head and dried-up tongue.

WI #13 - SILENT ATTRACTION, NA Contemporary Romance

Word Count: 81,000
Genre: NA Contemporary Romance

System(s) of Oppression: Abelism
Author's Identity:
Hard of Hearing


As a college senior, Carli Reynolds' goals in life are simple: survive her classes, mask her hearing loss, and suppress her debilitating headaches. If she succeeds, no one will know her internal daily struggle. These goals all but combust when “Hot New Deaf Guy,” Reed, introduces her to a world where hearing loss is not a disadvantage.

Reed Sullivan has always enjoyed exposing others to ASL and the Deaf World, until the one-two punch of a disastrous ex and his father’s death. Something about Carli ignites a passion he’s hesitant to release. There are ghosts in his closet, including the mysterious letter he assumes is from a biological family member.

When Carli confronts her overbearing father about her hearing, the hidden horrors of her abusive past are exposed. She refuses to back down, leading to an increase in her headaches, her hearing further damaged, and an uphill battle with concentration. Reed must help her envision a future she can no longer fathom and opening up about his past may be the only way to help. Their pasts will consume them unless they let go and move forward, together.

First 250:

The minute the professor opened his mouth I knew it would be a long semester. The muffled sound struck a vein deep inside my skull, vibrating tension destined to trigger one of my frequent headaches. I slid my hand under my long brown hair, scratched my cheek as a decoy, and then ran my finger over the microphone of one hearing aid. Static rang loud and clear, confirming my suspicions. My hearing aids were fine.

The professor was the problem.

His booming voice ricocheted an accent off the walls of the small classroom. An accent I identified as…not from around here. Dr. Ashen’s bushy mustache covered his top lip. Students shifted. Pages turned. Pens moved.

I flicked my pen against a random page of my thick book. Words spilled from his bottom lip and I couldn’t understand one fucking sound. Survival skill 101 of having a hearing loss: blend in. I’d grown skilled at blending, almost mastering the task of invisibility. No cloak required. Take that, Harry Potter.

I always, always, always heard my teachers. Until now.

Big Fuck Off Mustache + My Ears = Not Happening.

Mr. Scary Mustache glared my way. He tapped his textbook and went right on speaking.

I couldn’t see his book, tapping it didn’t help. Moron. I rolled my eyes and landed on my neighbor’s book. I scanned the words, hoping something, anything, would match. Nothing did. What a waste of a class. I shoved my book and slouched in my seat. No way could I keep up.


Word Count: 115,000
Genre: NA Science Fiction

System(s) of Oppression:
homophobia, colorism/racism
Author’s Identity:
 [removed], African-American


After high school, Gene Cole struggles with indecision about his future. He has a mediocre part-time job and believes he’s seen as simply a statistic: just another young, black male in an urban city being raised by a single parent. But the truth is, Gene harbors a secret—he can taste people's emotions.

He’s unique, however, living in a community where police brutality and inner city violence are headline news means Gene can get killed for wearing a hoodie. When his father breaks his silence about the identity of the woman who abandoned him and sends Gene to stay the summer with his celebrated botanist mother and her long-term female lover, he finds himself thrown into a completely different world.

If only his problems ended there. Gene learns a tornado of knowledge about his life that threatens his already fragile sanity: his mother's abandonment of him was no accident and his empathic abilities are the result of an abortion gone wrong. Then he’s bitten by one of his mother's hybrid plants and suddenly, he has healing powers. Now she wants to know everything about him.

And her motives are somewhat less than motherly. Gene finally has the chance to bond with the mom he’s never known, but he fears the woman who abandoned her only child will eventually drain his veins dry. 

First 250:

Two blocks from my house I spot the dark lump of an armadillo turned speed-bump. Roadkill: my secret obsession.

“Drop me off right here,” I say.

“Yo, you sure?” Kennison taps the brakes. “I can take you all the way.”

“Nah, I just remembered something I gotta do.” I grab the door handle. “We'll hook up later.”

We clasp grips and I slide out the car. Once the taillights of the Cadillac disappear around the corner, I bundle the dead animal in the crook of my arm. It already stinks, but in Florida’s late May heat, it's probably only been a few hours.

I can handle the smell, though. I look over my shoulder out of habit. No one’s watching me.

The armadillo's ruptured body dampens my sleeve and I almost run home to cover the patio table in trash bags. A wireless speaker blasts music from my phone. I have plastic gloves, a scalpel, and a bandana tied behind my ears to protect my face. Excitement gasses up my chest. I'm ready.

I run my fingers along the bony and bumpy ridges as I unroll the armadillo. It's a nine-banded species, common in this area. How much luckier it might've been if the three-banded sort, able to roll into a complete armored ball to protect itself.

I've heard even bullets can ricochet off its Kevlar. That sort of skill would be useful for someone like me: young, black, and born in the South. The police are dropping us like our skin has a bounty.


Word Count: 62,000
Genre: YA Contemporary

System(s) of Oppression: politics of appearance, racism
Author's Identity: Caucasian/Portuguese and female


Meg Medina’s Yaqui Delgardo Wants to Kick Your Ass meets Jaye Robin Brown’s No Place to Fall when an aspiring Latina singer challenges a manic stranger who claims to have known her deceased mother.

Overweight sixteen-year-old CeCe’s barrio is where gangs prey on the young and Tejano music blasts from the stoops. CeCe longs for her voice to boom from those speakers, but her overprotective Papi shelters her in their cramped apartment. Determined to break free someday and prove herself, CeCe spends every free moment perfecting her pitch, rhythm, and tone singing everything from Paulina Rubio to Whitesnake.

Her opportunity appears when an eccentric stranger reveals information about CeCe’s dead mother. With the hope of stringing together episodes of her mother’s life back in Colombia, and the lure of fame, CeCe abandons her Papi to tour with the stranger. The roar of the crowd and her dream of a record deal blind CeCe to the stranger’s manic episodes and reckless ways. But she can’t ignore them for long. The stranger encourages rum and Coke consumption, sleeps with people’s husbands, and deserts CeCe in the ghetto at 2:00 a.m. This hard-living stranger turns out not to be a stranger after all but the one person her Papi has been protecting her from all these years.

Dejected and confused, CeCe flees to the underbelly of New York to uncover the shocking truth about the stranger’s real relationship to her dead mother. If she fails, her song may be silenced forever.

First 250:

Bob Marley once said the good thing about music is that when it hits, you feel no pain. I believed that in the days leading up to the stranger.

Now I know Mr. Marley was a liar.

The stench of mothballs and mold smacked me in the face as I entered the Salvation Army Store to buy the kind of music Papi hated, bubbling with bad language and boiling over with sexy lyrics. Holding my breath I rushed down the middle aisle past the women’s jeans. My little cousins, Eduard and Bertita, sped through the maze of families in the children’s section to catch up to me.

Eduard wrinkled his nose. “It stinks in here.”

“Until you get used to it, breathe into your shirt like this.” I buried my nose in my shirt.

Bertita, being a dramatic second grader, she threw herself against a glass display case and announced, “I’ll never get used to it, CeCe!”

“It’s amazing what you’ll get used to if you have to,” I said. “Like babysitting you two every day.” Smiling, I palmed the tops of their heads and guided them to the back of the store toward the bin of CDs.

After several minutes of digging, shoving aside Barney CDs and Christmas carols, I unearthed gold — two rap albums from the nineties. One by 2 Live Crew had a parental advisory label warning of “profane or sexually explicit” lyrics. Perfecto.

WI #10 - DIA DE LOS MILTON, YA Contemporary

Word Count: 58,000 words
Genre: YA Contemporary
Systems of Oppression: homophobia/racism
Author's Identity: [removed]/white

Fifteen-year-old Enrique “Reek” Wronski has always counted on his know-it-all brother for advice. The trouble is: Milt’s been missing for days.

The LARP-loving, star-gazing, National Geographic-collecting Milton—whose kind spirit and boy-band looks make him the most popular geek in town—is a responsible high school senior with a perfect GPA, so it’s hard to believe he could ever get himself into any real trouble.
But then a search party finds his body in the woods.

There’s a weird silence about his death too—like people don’t know what happened, or don’t want Reek to find out. So Reek heads to the woods for answers, seeking solace amid the trees.

While hiking the trails in search of Milt’s Last Place, he and Jav—Reek’s best friend (and maybe—no definitely—more)—meet a girl in a purple robe with a talent for eavesdropping. She shows them the place Milton’s body turned up, and together the friends uncover the truth about a drug dealer named Curtis, a rogue cop, and a covert operation gone horribly wrong.

With the help of a local landscaper, Reek and his friends begin construction on a monument to Milton that will double as an ofrenda for a Dia de Los Muertos celebration.

But when you invoke the spirits—and sleep with your friends—not everything goes as planned.

First 250:

None of us are talking since the cops showed up last night. We’re sitting around the breakfast table, tipping soggy spoonfuls of cereal back into our bowls because we can’t quite get it to our mouths. Cassie, my little sister, is reaching for the cereal and sulking, even though she should probably get some sort of prize for being the only one that’s even tried to make conversation today. Maybe she’ll find one in that box she’s opening.

“It’s not fair!” she moans, pouring another bowl of cereal. She points at the milk and I pass to it her. When she sloshes it all over the table, I hand her some napkins too.

Dad slits his eyes. Mom closes hers—I can practically hear her eyelids scraping shut.

“It’s just rude—so rude!—to cancel at the last minute like that!” Cassie bangs her spoon on the table like she’s a judge hammering out a verdict with her gavel. If she’s the judge, then mom and dad are on trial. And they’re guilty. Of ruining Cassie’s weekend. And, possibly, her life.

She’s nine, the official age of the Drama Queen.

Mom scoffs, white-knuckling her coffee. She still hasn’t opened her eyes. Her mouth is tight and her face is pale and angry—so pale that even her freckles look tired today. She leans forward and a section of her gingery hair falls into her cup. I don’t think she’s washed it for days.

She looks kind of crazed and desperate-looking, and if I didn’t know better, I’d think she was on drugs—other than the coffee, I mean.

WI #9 - MARISOL, YA Psychological Thriller

Word Count: 68,000
Genre: YA Psychological Thriller

System(s) of Oppression:
Author's Identity:
African American/Middle Class


Two girls. Two stories. One deadly connection.

Sixteen-year-old Soledad de la Cruz didn’t kill Carina Reyes. But no one believes her story—drugged and chased in the woods during the hazing initiation that led to Carina’s death. Especially because Carina is the one who’s dead and she’s the one locked up in a psych ward. Involuntarily.

Soledad is finally cleared and released, just to swap one institution for another—St. Francis private school. Only this time she’s back to being an outsider: on a scholarship, dumped by her boyfriend, and “unfriended” by all her besties. Then when Soledad makes a connection with another outcast, dangerous accidents continue to occur—all pointing to Soledad as the troubled perpetrator.

Back at the institution, long-term ward, Kay Foster who’s been living there since a traumatic childhood accident, slowly unravels. After recognizing Soledad during her short stay at the ward, she is sure of one thing: Marisol, the girl she was accused of killing, is still alive--and she's really Soledad.

The web linking Soledad and Kay’s stories reveals shocking truths that shattered both of their pasts. They’ll need to trust each other in order to unlock their memories, or both girls will be locked up for life.

MARISOL is a 68,000 YA psychological thriller told in dual point of view.

First 250:

Fluorescent lights hum and buzz to unpatterned rhythms against the cold AC pumping out of air ducts. My legs are popsicles while I wait in the closed off hospital transition room, smack dab in the middle of two perpendicular hallways. From here I see the foot traffic toward the right wing (for the sick) and visitors escorted through large double doors toward the left wing (for the insane).

I look down at my fingernails gnawed down, sensitive to the touch, healing from the blood that trickled when I bit too far. Rub hands through my greasy hair, watching my parents argue on the other side of the door. Like I can’t see them. Like I’m still in a daze two weeks after being checked in.

Carried in.

Okay dragged, drugged, and duped into this place that feeds off making you crazy.

Crazier. Craziest. I release a laugh at the thought of having a competition of making someone crazy to the nth degree—reality television at its finest. The big prize: a white-walled room and another journal article for the head psychologist. Fancy marketing pamphlets on the table. Oh, we’ve got crazy. We can handle your crazy.

I move my mouth around and say it faster, crazycrazycrazycrazycrazy. A word I’ve used in conversation so recklessly is now shackled to me. 

Something I’ll have to understand will never fully go away, but that I’m still me. 

I pucker my lips, and suck them in, picturing grandpa salivating over the smell of Vaca Frita and
fried plantains yelling at us, Puedo masticar sin la dentadura.

WI #8 - POSSESSION, YA Paranormal Noir

Word Count: 72,000
Genre: YA Paranormal Noir

System(s) of Oppression:
 Homophobia, Racism / Cultural Identity
Author's Identity: [removed], Black

Ever since her mama drove her car into the Mississippi, sixteen-year-old Bria Dauphine's made it her mission to leave behind her overbearing dad and get the hell out of New Orleans, before the city drives her mad like it did her mom. Since her daddy won’t pay for her to attend college outside the city, and leave her duties as heir to one of the oldest supernatural families behind, she decides to earn the money herself by becoming a paranormal investigator. For the world she lives in is full of strange and magical things—and most of them don’t play nice with humans. That’s where Bria comes in. Takes a clairvoyant to catch a, well, whatever.

There’s just one problem. The only cases Bria receives at first are requests from old ladies asking her to find their cats. And old ladies don’t pay much, if at all. So when the ruling body of supernatural creatures enlists her and Ty—a hot wizard with a past as dark as her own—to consult on a series of murders with ties to voodoo, Bria figures, with her abilities, this will be easy money. But when there’s powerful voodoo, there’s a bokor—a sorcerer who practices dark magic—behind it. And now that bokor knows Bria’s name. If Bria and Ty don’t stop the killer soon, they’re going to be the next ones dead, washed up on the riverbank.

So much for easy money.

First 250 Words:

I would’ve been back in bed hours ago if my nose wasn’t acting up, again. I kneel on the ground like I’m about to pray. Only, I’m not. I’ve prayed to St. Anthony three times tonight, yet seeing as I’m still here, cat-less, with less than two hours before school starts, it’s time to turn, once again, to magic.Another power that seems to fail me when I need it most. 

The wind’s howl pierces the air as I’m kneeling in the middle of the park. "Here, kitty, kitty," I squeeze my eyes shut and then open them to speed up their adjustment to the darkness. Thanks to my shifter dad, on a good day I can track a smell better than a bloodhound. However there hasn’t been anything good about this summer. My powers have developed a mind of their own, working when they please rather than when I need them to. My therapist said it’s my body’s way of grieving. I stopped seeing my therapist because, well, no duh. Google could’ve told me that. 

Alright, come on Bria. Focus. What's one little cat? I snort at my mental encouragement. One little cat has been leading me across the entire city. First it was the Warehouse District, then the French Quarter, and then all three St. Louis Cemeteries. 

I shudder. Cemeteries, ew. 

Now, I’m crawling on dog shit or something, "Come on, kitty." I clap my hands; the sound echoes through the park. When I picked up the cat’s scent from the third cemetery, I got a vision of the City Park sign. I’ve been searching this park for the past hour. What's the point of being clairvoyant if I don’t see complete images? I shake my head and stand. 

I'll just have to tell Mrs. Kato the truth: I am the worst detective ever. 

I can’t even find a cat.

WI #7 - THE STATUE SAYS SPRING, YA Historical Fantasy

Word Count: 88,000
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fantasy

Systems of Oppression: Classism, politics of appearance
Author’s Identity: Former hard up child of a struggling single mother.


As daughter to the Lord of Galedonia, fifteen-year-old Ida thinks she’s safe from tragedy … until she fails to save her oldest friend from dying in the pillory. When her father banishes her mother to the slums for defiance, Ida refuses to fail again. She smuggles her mother food and valuables until she’s caught and banished too.

Thrilled to live with her mother again, Ida throws herself into the maze of streets, befriending beggars and crypt-dwellers. But slum life is harsh: her neighbors are scapegoated, maimed, and broken, her mother slaves in a factory, and small-time parasites devour their money. Ida must learn to survive if she hopes for a brighter future, and her new friends are the perfect teachers. With the help of Fairfax, a freakishly ugly outcast with a soft spot for her mother, Ida navigates their knife-edge existence.

When Fairfax is arrested on trumped up charges and left to die in the pillory, Ida is forced to relive her worst memory in the face of a terrible choice. If she’s caught trying to save him, she’ll be sentenced to death. If she walks away, she’ll watch another friend freeze. And in her dangerous new world, where friends mean survival, letting Fairfax die isn’t just cruel … it’s suicidal.

First 250:

The pillory would be teeming with spectators by dawn. If Ida wanted to help Mr. Hanson in time, she’d have to leave soon.

Across the room, her mother hadn’t shifted in minutes and her breathing was steady. She was finally asleep. Ida crept from bed and collected her bag of supplies, coat, and glasses before sneaking out.

The icy Brimmen sea wind was a slap to the face so Ida pulled her long, lank hair over her ears. It didn’t help. Why was it so cold tonight, of all nights? It was mid-September, but it felt like February, and Mr. Hanson was confined in the pillory with only a thin shirt and breeches. He’d be frozen half to death.

“Ikshik,” Ida cursed as she passed the Basilica’s blood-red gates. Maybe he was frozen to death. It was cold enough. She cursed again, blew on her numb fingers, and sped up. Gregor Hanson was like a grandfather to her, always there when she needed him most. He’d smuggled her forbidden books, taught her to ride boy-fashion, carried her to the surgeon when she broke her collarbone. Ida knew he was innocent, she just knew it. There was no way she’d sleep peacefully in her warm bed while he suffered. If the stars had favoured her, she’d already be wrapping him in a warm blanket. But her mother had guessed she’d sneak out and sat up in her room to stop her.

Her mother never listened to reason.

“He’s our oldest friend,” Ida had argued.


Title: Honey and Lemons
Word Count: 83,000
Genre: YA Fantasy + strong mystery elements

Systems of oppression:
Cissexism, racism
Author's identity:
[removed], South Asian/Middle Eastern/African


Stealing a magical item from the abandoned Edwards Mansion didn’t seem like a good idea, even at the time. But eighteen-year-old Aldonza is alone in a city she can’t afford, and despite daily calls, she can’t tell her parents she’s in Massachusetts instead of Minnesota, working instead of studying, and a girl instead of a boy. Bad ideas are all she has left.

She didn’t expect there to be a girl in the cellar.

Aldonza’s best guess is that she’s Melanie, the only Edwards family member who didn’t disappear in a mysterious curse six years ago, but newspapers claim Melanie killed herself when she was eighteen. The girl won’t tell Aldonza who she is, or why she followed her home. What she does say is that she’s placed a threefold curse on Aldonza’s family – a retribution only possible thanks to Aldonza’s brilliant “rob the creepy old mansion” idea. She can lift it before it takes effect, if Aldonza helps figure out what happened to the Edwards.

Even as her threats drag Aldonza into a world where servants mean less than objects and even the loveliest room has dirty secrets buried beneath, the freaky cellar girl’s surprise sleep snuggles and terrible taste in tea start growing on Aldonza. And in case that’s not scary enough, someone starts trying to kill Melanie.

First 250:

The way folks in town went on about the Edwards Mansion, you’d think it would be harder to break in.

I gripped the ivy on the gate, half-expecting the leaves to turn to dust and the vines to turn to snakes. Or for the whole plant to be an illusion--who actually has gates twined with ivy? Instead, the vines held firm. The leaves were slick with rain, but steadier than my hands. On second thought, maybe ivy was how mistreated servants helped thieves.

I got one leg over the top, then the other, and teetered, caught in a battle with my hands. My argument, muttered out loud to the empty night: “Oh, come on, this isn’t that bad. You got this far, didn’t you? Channel your inner cat burglar.” Their argument: clutching the ivy as tightly as they could. Body parts are jerks that way.

And of course the grass was too overgrown for me to tell how bad the fall would be. All the plants had spilled out of their original places, now too tall or too old or too dead.

I forced my fingers to unclench and dropped, aiming to land in a crouch. Instead, I ended up with my nose in the grass and my hand caught on a thorny branch. Cat burglary: maybe not my calling.

My hand stung in reproach as I spat out a mouthful of wet leaves and clambered through the garden. The grass gleamed black-green. Colors in the North looked wrong in the daylight, without the gold glimmers the sun cast back home, but everything looks similar in the dark.


Word Count: 95,000
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

System(s) of Oppression:
Ableism (physical disability and neuro-atypical). The MC is also a person of color (but lives in a village where most people are also) and a religious minority.
Author’s identity:
It’s possible I am neuro-atypical.


When disabled math genius Jinxx Relinkerys observes imperial soldiers killing independence protesters, she swears to God she’ll find a way to stop soldiers from hurting people again. Learning magic should have given her the tools to help, but when she accidentally casts a potent light spell, it’s mistaken for a stupid miracle and turns into a source of violent dissent between faiths. Now she has to stop religious tensions from turning into civil war.

Armed only with a best friend who loves scandal and whatever books they can smuggle out of her mentor’s library, Jinxx must figure out how to undo the miracle before it turns into a war that will surely kill thousands—and her brother. It won’t be easy, with both her mother and her mentor trying to keep her from doing anything. She might not understand people—or even jokes—very well, but she won’t let anyone stop her from fixing the disaster she created.

THE FORTY-SEVEN WORDS is like a mash-up of Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES with Phillip Pullman’s THE GOLDEN COMPASS if Sazed from Brandon Sanderson’s MISTBORN trilogy showed up and a Dumbledore-ian mentor-mage threw the MC out of a hole in the sky without thinking of how it would effect her PTSD. This is a stand-alone first book in a planned trilogy.

First 250 Words:

The yapper at Mr. Taálix's Book Emporium frowned at Jinxx and her mother. He looked at Jinxx, his gaze moving down her crutches before pausing on her twisted foot. "Not another one.” He sighed.

Jinxx shifted so her skirt denied his view.

The clerk shook his head and looked at Jinxx’s mother. "I’m sorry, ma’am, but whatever that other one told you, we send our charity to a reading program in the city. I can't give coins to every broken child who comes in here. The Strivers have an asylum for broken people."

He glanced over at Jinxx again. "I could draw you a map, but it might be best to take her to the Convent Virgins. They accept broken girls, too, as well as orphans and widows."

Her mother said, "We’re here to buy, not ask for charity."

The yapper blushed bright pink. The color looked so nice with his natty brown suit that he should wear a dusty rose vest embroidered with white lilies.

"Well, we have the finest collection outside Timodíuv. I’m sure whatever you want, we have it. If not, our brokers can get it for you. Would you like my personal assistance or to peruse our catalog?"

"Mom, can I look at the catalog while you ask about the hymnals?"Her mother nodded. Jinxx walked up to the counter and the massive tome on the desk that surely was the index of books. Her smile was so big it hurt. The book emporium possessed so many books they couldn’t fit them on the copious shelves; they had stacked texts on the benches and every other surface available.

WI #4 - LIKE WATER, YA Contemporary Sci-Fi

Word Count: 75,000
Genre: YA LGBT Contemporary Sci-Fi

System(s) of Oppression:
 Homophobia, Family Privilege
Author's Identity:
 [removed], family estrangement/broken home


Seventeen-year-old Micah Donaldson's no savior. All he wants is to keep his sexuality under the radar until graduation and get the hell out of town where he can escape the daily reminders of his twin's death.

But finding a half-drowned teen in the exact spot his brother was discovered dead breaks open barely healed wounds. Especially when the boy, who calls himself Jude, claims his brother was involved in psychic terrorism and he needs Micah's help to put a stop to it. If it's true, then his brother's drowning was no accident and there's something big going down at the Gilbert Academy.

Impersonating his twin, Micah sinks deeper into Jude's world, and finds himself racing the clock to find the missing piece of the Volumna Device, a giant psychic amplifier, before he's discovered a fraud. Or worse, the megalomaniacal leader of the group finds it and usurps the world's freewill.

There's just two problems: he's got zero psychic ability, and he's got a sinking suspicion the guy he's falling for is in on the whole thing.

First 250:

The first time a body washed up on the beach I wished for an asteroid the size of Texas to take the rest of us out. Because I wasn't strong enough to end it all myself. Because I knew he would be so mad at me if I even tried. But a random act of nature? I really couldn't be blamed for that, no matter how many gods I begged. And trust me, there was begging. And rash promises. Enough failed holy (and not so holy) summonings will leave a guy pretty numb.

Probably why, when the second body came to shore, I wasn't exactly surprised.

“Shit.” I took off across the beach. I hadn't moved that fast in weeks. Not mentally anyway. I'd gotten pretty good at faking the physical stuff. Which was a good thing because the sand was loose and uneven and my shoes weren't exactly helping keep me upright. I slid to a clumsy stop next to the guy lying face down in the sand as my brain struggled to kick start synapses I hadn't used in way too long. No shirt, no shoes, just a soaked pair of black shorts and a mess of dark, curling hair protected him from the chilly spring breeze.

“Oh, man.” My hands shook as my stomach heaved. There went all that blessed numbness. One second I was as Zen as I could be, the next it felt like if I didn't brace myself I'd shatter into a million pieces and they'd never be able to pick me out of the sand.

WI #3 - GENESIS, YA Sci-Fi

Word Count: 85,000 Words
Genre: YA Sci-Fi

System of Oppression:
Sexism, Some Racism
Author's Identity: Female, African American


After years of being experimented on, seventeen-year-old Kali Ravelin dreams of becoming a soldier and protecting people. In a world where humans are terrorized by venomous, mutated beasts known as dyfarniad, nowhere—from the rural villages and farmlands to the technologically advanced cities and metropolises—is safe. For Kali to achieve her goal, she will join the army, fight dyfarniad, and protect civilians. The plan sounds simple.

It’s not.

Women are highly susceptible to dyfarniad venom and their enlistment is illegal, after all.

If Kali’s able to save even one person as a soldier, however, she’s willing to chance infection. Forging a new, male identity, she becomes a cadet, only to discover a plot to assassinate Leiden Fontaine, the army’s general. Though it’s not protecting people from the dyfarniad, she refuses to let him die. But juggling her training, hiding her gender, and keeping Leiden safe turns deadly when the assassin decides Kali’s been getting in his way—and that she needs to be removed.

GENESIS, a standalone novel with series potential, is told in multiple perspectives.

First 250:

First blood had been spilt.

Kali ducked under her opponent’s next strike and grimaced, backing into the shadows cast by the cathedral. She glanced at the wound; it was shallow. I still have a chance.

Nia was struggling for breath and her simple, blue tunic was plastered to her dark skin. She grinned but didn’t press the advantage, flicking the blood from her sword without relaxing her stance. “Running scared?”

“You’re the one wheezing. Why should I be afraid?”

Around the outdoor arena the crowd cheered—but not for Kali. On her side of the ring, shattered glass and broken tech littered the ground. One man had even thrown food.

“Hey, Nia,” a man shouted. “I’m upping my bet to thirty belnin! You better win!”

Behind her, someone asked, “Are you sure? It’s 10-1 odds on Kali.”

“Like I’m going to throw away money on her. Thirty belnin on Nia.”

The clink of coins was loud as the money exchanged hands. The scratching sound of the bookies’ pencils was almost lost in the noise from the rest of the audience.

To her left, a group of men in patched overalls and thin shirts drank from canteens of liquor, while nimble waiters and waitresses served food. Women clutched at their children when they noticed Kali looking in their direction.

She snarled and tried to smother the sharp bite of satisfaction when they shrank away.

Don’t let them get to you.
Kali exhaled. Rage could come later. Winning came first.

Nia ran toward her again.


Word Count: 81,500
Genre: YA Sci-fi

System of Oppression: Sexism
Author's Identity: Woman of color (Latina, cis)


Reeka Pendleton and her brother Dek have three rules: stick together, trust no one, and always go back for each other. When Dek is recruited for the fighter pilot program at the JetStar Academy--the toughest, all-male school in their galaxy--Reeka grudgingly lets him go. But when he disappears, she vows to jump a transport from her home space station and find him.

However, several failed attempts have left her with a few broken ribs and more than a handful of enemies. Worse, her options are running out. Regulations on all space stations have increased due to the threat of the Iorge, a rogue organization determined to create super soldiers by erasing emotions from the main population. Their constant attacks have driven the stations to the brink of war.

But Reeka won’t let even a war get in her way, seizing an opportunity to be one of the JetStar Academy’s four female recruits. As Reeka battles chauvinistic classmates and dives into the secrets of Dek’s actions at the Academy, she discovers that her commanding officer knows more about Dek's disappearance than he's willing to reveal--and that Dek may have a more significant role in the impending war than Reeka ever expected.

First 250:

I collapsed in an alley as the fiery whip of pain in my ribs threatened to burst out of me. I barely had enough strength left to tap a message to Ari on my ion5:

: Are you up?

Several excruciating moments passed, the hot jolts in my ribs acting as much more than a distraction. Finally, instead of a message, Ari sent me a vid-chat:

“Reeka, where are you?” she asked, her voice cloudy with sleep.

“Downtown?” My head throbbed as I tried not to slip further down into the void.

“Wait, what time is it?” Ari’s eyes flashed over to the digi-time. “Reek, it’s three AM! Why the hell are you out?”

Her cursing made me laugh, but doing so made my ribs hurt. “Goozer,” I said, wincing. “I tried going after Dek. Didn’t make it.”

“You are so stupid, Reek. Why would you leave without telling me?” Ari sat up and turned on her bedroom low light. Her brown eyes were big behind the specs that she shoved up the bridge of her nose.

I braced myself against the wall so that I wouldn’t pass out. “I don’t know. I had to go after him, Ari.” I closed my eyes. “But you’re right, it was stupid.”

Dek and I had made three rules for survival when we were kids: stick together, trust no one, and always go back for each other. I’d been having a rough time with that last one since he’d been officially classified as MIA from the JetStar Academy.

WI #1 - BIG FAT POND FISH, MG Contemporary

Word Count: 40,000 words
Genre: MG Contemporary

Systems of Oppression:
Politics of appearance, Racism
Author's Identity: Overweight, White


When Jordan’s best friend begs him to join the swim team, the overweight eighth-grader keeps his feet firmly on dry ground. Jordan does love to swim – in the privacy of his farm pond where only the perch can see his moobs. Besides, he’s got more important things to do, like raising the Benjamins to take a master class from a world-famous baritone while keeping his operatic aspirations hidden from his unsupportive classmates and grandpa. With time running out to register for the class and not enough dough, Jordan finally accepts a lake swim-off against a racist rival who’s been bullying Jordan (because of his bulge) and his best friend (who’s Native American.) But there’s no time for Jordan to get buff enough to squeeze into a Speedo – which is good, because that extra “insulation” may just save more lives than his.

First 250:

I scanned the locker room to make sure we were alone, then peeled off my tank. “Look at me, man. I have moobs! There’s no way I’m wearing that thing.”

Zane glanced at my chest, winced, and looked away. He’d never get me into that super-sized Speedo, not when you couldn’t pay me to go shirtless in a regular pair of swim trunks. At least not in public. But that didn’t stop him from trying.

“C’mon, Jordan, swim team doesn’t start for another three months. You’ve got time.”

“I’d have to bench press a semi to get rid of these.” I grabbed my gut. “And what about this flab? How am I gonna get rid of that in twelve weeks? Starve?” I hurled the Speedo at his head. “I may be the biggest kid in Pawnee, but I’m not about to advertise it. And I’m not putting my butt in that bikini.”

“It’s a Speedo.”

“It’s a slingshot.” I turned my tank inside out and pulled it on. “Sorry, man. The Marlins will have to survive without me for another year. Some of us are born to be pond fish.”

Zane sighed and shook his head. Here came the same old guilt trip. “Dude, you’re the best swimmer in the state, and I’m the only person who knows it. Every meet the Piranha swim circles around us and the other teams, all because they have Bryant Larson. And you could blow him outta the water, easy.”

“Especially if I did a cannonball."

Friday, September 4, 2015

Write Inclusively Submission 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.

[If an author gets a request from an agent, is the author's responsibility to divulge their identities if they feel safe doing so to that agent. Don't let the agent assume you have personal experience with a system of oppression if you do not.]

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!! (Edited to Add: Here is the list of agents/editors involved in the contest!)

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.