This is the language of privilege – the audacity of standing at the top of a mountain you made on the backs of others and then yelling at people for being at the bottom. If it’s not the intangible Market that’s to blame, it’s the writers of color, who maybe don’t have what it takes and don’t submit enough anyway. Read the subtextual coding here – the agent first places the onus of change on the folks with the least institutional power to effect it, then suggests we probably won’t be able to find the time (i.e., lazy) to master the craft.
"The publishing industry looks a lot like these best-selling teenage dystopias: white and full of people destroying each other to survive."
A young writer that I mentor reached out to me last week. “None of these agents look like me,” she said, “and they don’t represent anyone that looks like me.” She’s wrapping up a final draft of her first novel and I’d told her to research literary agencies to get a feel for what’s out there. “What if they don’t get what I’m doing?”
10 tips on seeing race, culture, and power while reading.
Of 3,200 children’s books published last year, only 93 featured black characters—and the numbers weren’t great for Asians, American Indians, and Latinos either. What gives?…
Entertainment Weekly's brief take on the diversity discussion.
In a world where John Green takes up nearly half of the New York Times YA Bestsellers list and can tweet something as innocuous as “The next couple of months are going to be a little nuts around here” to the tune of almost 700 retweets, why aren’t more people like him, with enormous social platforms, giving a little time to these conversations? What does he — or any other of a number of well-positioned, socially-connected YA authors (white men and some white women) — stand to lose from addressing these concerns? Would a reblog or a retweet of one of the first of a series of stories kill their career? Or would it help the voices of those who deserve to be heard get that attention?
5 Things I Learned While Writing “There Will Come a Time”
In Carrie Arcos’s new novel There Will Come a Time, Mark, a Filipino American teen, struggles with grief after the death of his twin sister.
By Carrie Arcos
1. I can write under a deadline.
Writing There Will Come a Time was such a different experience than writing my first book, Out of Reach. With my first, I had all the time in the world because I was writing it for myself, and secretly hoping to publish it. I took my time, sent it to beta readers, and made sure it was as good as I could get it before I started sending it off to agents. Once I signed with my agent, she and I did another revision together before it was bought and then there were the revisions after that.
I sold There Will Come a Time on a proposal with the first three chapters and a synopsis. When it was bought, I had only four months to complete it. I said yes, of course, but inside I wondered if I could produce something as good as my first book this way. What helped was having the synopsis, the blueprint for me to follow. I am happy to say that I’m just as proud of my second book as my first. I also now have the confidence to know that I can write just as well under a deadline.
2. I’m stronger than I thought.
In the midst of writing the first draft of this book, a strange thing happened to me. The whole right side of my body went numb. It was a kind of numb like someone was cutting off my circulation. I was referred to a neurologist and after a series of tests, including a spinal tap that went wrong and sent me to the ER, I was given the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. This was shocking and upsetting. It brought up a tremendous amount of fear and dread for my future. I researched and educated myself on the disease, and have come to feel differently about it now. In those early months, however, I wanted to retreat into my room and lie down in the fetal position.
But I had this deadline. I was deeply involved writing a story of a boy who was grieving the loss of his twin sister. Even though our circumstances were different, I think I was able to write about grief in a more intimate way because of the grief I was experiencing. I felt a little bit like I was in the maze with Mark and we were trying to find our way out together.
I learned that courage comes from facing things that scare you. And that strength, rather than being a huge powerful force, is more like a quiet flame. It builds the more you fan and tend to it.
[Image: Author Carrie Arcos]
3. I can get in the head of a 17-year-old Filipino boy.
When friends learned that I was writing a story from the perspective of a seventeen year old musician, Filipino, skater boy, they looked at me a little oddly. I know they were thinking, what could a white woman my age know about that? This is the awesome thing about being a writer. I can get inside the head of anyone I want. How do I do this? Research. It’s how authors can write about the 1600’s or about the criminal justice system or about 1976. Male authors have been writing female characters for years, so I didn’t even think anything about it. I had a story to tell. I wanted to tell it.
A former student, and a boy who used to skate down my street every day without a helmet or pads inspired Mark’s character. He was also inspired by my hometown, Eagle Rock. I wanted the story to reflect the environment of my own kids and my own friendships. To write Mark, I asked questions, hung out with teens, and spoke to friends who were from his cultural background, since it was outside of my own.
While researching, I was saddened to learn that I could not find a single YA book with a Filipino protagonist. There are two collections of short stories from Filipino authors writing about their own youth, but this was all I could find. This sealed the deal for me that I needed to tell Mark’s story.
On a side note, I did a school visit at a suburban Southern California school this year. Stepping onto campus, I was surprised to see that the student population was so diverse in that it felt more like an urban school. (Or maybe this highlights my own ignorance at assuming suburban schools are full of mainly white teenagers.) When I told the librarian what my second book was about, she was happy because of Mark’s ethnicity, the school had a high Filipino population, and that it was what she called a “normal” book. I asked her what she meant and she said that she has a hard time finding books with POC characters that aren’t set in urban environments and about all of the difficult trappings of that kind of setting. She used to subscribe to a series of urban tales, but stopped. Her kids could not relate and didn’t want to read those books, but they also longed to see themselves in what they read.
4. It does not get easier the more books you write.
I thought that the more books I wrote, the easier it would become. I’d write faster and be more prolific. I would have a system or something. I’d know what I was doing. Though there is truth that there’s confidence that builds with the more writing you do, it has not made the process any easier. I read somewhere once that of course it shouldn’t be easier because each book is being written for the first time. Each book will have its own challenges and hiccups. What I do know is that I can finish writing a book because I now at the time of writing this have finished four books. So I have learned to trust the process and work through my doubts or the sections that just don’t seem to be working. I know if I keep going, I will find the story. I will finish.
5. I write novels best with a loose outline.
When I say loose, I really mean loose. I am not one of those who outlines chapter by chapter. I usually begin playing around with a character’s voice and then I get the story. I’ve written a novel not knowing the story at all and meandered around until I found it. I’ve also written with a general outline where more of the plot has been thought through and mapped out. Both require time, it’s just with one there’s more time upfront. I would like it if I could write all my books with the loose outline approach. Having an outline definitely helped me keep my deadlines with There Will Come a Time.
I don’t know if what I’m about to rattle on about actually does involve cognitive dissonance, because I think the “contradictions” I have in mind may not be contradictory in a true sense.
I’ve been actively, genuinely participating in the ongoing diversity dialogue for the first time, and this…
A wonderfully thoughtful and complicated post from Mike Jung, a Korean American author of middle grade fiction, on his reactions to the diversity discussion and Eleanor & Park.
The Rejectionist | Sarah McCarry: How to Publish Writers of Color: Some Basic Steps for White Folks In the Industry
There are brilliant, amazing, innovative, and groundbreaking writers of color everywhere. EVERYWHERE. ALL OVER THE PLACE. Why are they not submitting to traditional publishers and agents? IDK, maybe because traditional publishing is an industry made up of nearly entirely white folks from upper-middle-class and wealthy backgrounds who routinely reject work by writers of color as “unsalable” or because “we already have one of those” and who do not bother to publicize or get behind any of the handful—literal handful, folks, come on—of books by writers of color they do manage to publish every year, thus effectively ending those writers’ careers when their books tank. I wouldn’t submit, either. (For the record, 100% of the people who have submitted directly to Guillotine have been white.)
So how do I find writers? The Internet, obviously.
This week’s diverse new releases:
There Will Come a Time by Carrie Arcos (Simon Pulse)
Book Description: Mark knows grief. Ever since the accident that killed his twin sister, Grace, the only time he feels at peace is when he visits the bridge on which she died. Comfort is fleeting, but it’s almost within reach when he’s standing on the wrong side of the suicide bars. Almost.
Grace’s best friend, Hanna, says she understands what he’s going through. But she doesn’t. She can’t. It’s not just the enormity of his loss. As her twin, Mark should have known Grace as well as he knows himself. Yet when he reads her journal, it’s as if he didn’t know her at all.
As a way to remember Grace, Hanna convinces Mark to complete Grace’s bucket list from her journal. Mark’s sadness, anger, and his growing feelings for Hanna threaten to overwhelm him. But Mark can’t back out. He made a promise to honor Grace—and it’s his one chance to set things right.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (Simon & Schuster)
“Lara Jean Covey writes romantic goodbye letters to boys “when I don’t want to be in love anymore,” never intending for them to see the light of day. She understandably panics when the five letters are somehow mailed out, especially because she wrote one to Josh, her older sister Margot’s nice, nerdy ex. … Han creates a realistically flawed cast, especially half-Korean Lara Jean and her sisters, who work hard to be good to one another after their mother’s death (even when they’re at one another’s throats).” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
Zebra Crossing Meg Vandermerwe (Oneworld Publications)
Book Description: Ghost. Ape. Living dead. Young Chipo has been called many names, but to her mother — Zimbabwe ’s most loyal Manchester United supporter — she had always just been Chipo, meaning gift. On the eve of the World Cup, Chipo and her brother flee to Cape Town hoping for a better life and to share in the excitement of the greatest sporting event ever to take place in Africa. But the Mother City’s infamous Long Street is a dangerous place for an illegal immigrant and albino. Soon Chipo is caught up in a get-rich-quick scheme organized by her brother and the terrifying Dr Ongani. Exploiting gamblers’ superstitions about albinism, they plan to make money and get out before rumors of looming xenophobic attacks become reality. But their scheming has devastating consequences.
Q:hi! I just discovered your blog - what a great resource!! I'm wondering if you now of any sci-fi/fantasy/dystopian books in which the protagonist is a person of color?
Great question and thank you!
Sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopia are not my strengths, so let me lead you to some great resources that could better answer your question.
Lee and Low has an amazing pinterest account, complete with booklists featuring stories about characters of color. They have boards for YA sci fi and fantasy featuring poc. This is invaluable.
If you don’t follow Diversity in YA on tumblr, you should. They keep excellent diverse book lists as well. I’d also recommend checking out their resource list for other blogs and websites that look specifically at diverse books over here (scroll down and it’s on the right-hand side bar).
Hope that helps!
Here are some lists: