Choosing The Crazy – my path to SP – Part #1

Hi all, Often when I’m reading a novel, and come across a mistake, wrong word… whatever, assuming it is traditionally published, I may become annoyed, but I am rarely annoyed at the author – it’s the publisher and their editorial … Continue reading

#Nestpitch2016, David Bowie, Alan Rickman & other news

Hello all & welcome to 2016!images

I know it’s been a while since I posted & I apologise for that, between a memorial, anniversary, 11 immediate family birthdays, Christmas & New Year, I’ve been run off my feet.

First things first.

animated-saint-nicholas-image-0124St.  Nicholas Day Workshop for PB & MG authors.

To my complete surprise, shock actually, not a single person sent in their first 150 words for the workshop – Yup – Not kidding!

Given:

a)      feedback is crucial for improvement

b)      there were two successful authors (in those categories) willing and able to offer feedback, authors who make a living out of their craft full-time.

c)      the *pitch period* was just around the corner

d)     and… although it was not advertised given it was going to be a bonus surprise, a well established, successful, award-winning publishing house editor, with more than 30 years experience in PB & MG, was also going to offer feedback… with the potential of actually requesting full manuscripts…

I am quite disappointed that no aspiring author in the PB/MG category thought a workshop might be of some value. But there it is – or rather could have been!

Anyway, moving right along.Wonderwoman Bunny

– And on the same wavelength. #Nestpitch 2016.

Again another apology – I have success stories to post for #Nestpitch2015, however, for the reasons above, plus the authors who have been successful are currently extremely busy, there has been no time to ‘chat’ and let everyone know the good news – I promise this will come soon!

As for #Nestpitch 2016, I have made a decision and it has not been an easy one. After much consideration and deliberation I have decided to NOT run #Nestpitch2016
The main reason for this year Easter falls early, with Good Friday being March 25th.
Given 2-3 other pitching comps will be running either just before, during or just after this time period, and given the issues we had in 2015 with submission cross-over (and lost submissions), I feel that this is too much to ask from author’s, agents and from those of us behind the scenes.
I am planning to still run Post-it-Forward with Rhiann Wynn-Nolet (assuming people are interested) in early March as I feel this will help authors prepare for other pitching comps. 

uncle-fester#Nestpitch is NOT dead, but rather in hiatus & will return in 2017 !
The lack of interest in the December workshop & the availability of some of my #Nestpitch Team Members contributed to my decision; however I also have a personal reason. 
After A LOT of thinking and re-thinking, I have decided to self publish my WF. This has not been an easy decision, especially given the number of agents who requested partials or fulls. However, because of the the subject matter & the genre & category, there were only about 25-30 agents who best matched my MS. I sent out (in total) 23 submissions. From those sent I received requests for seven partials and  five fulls. Three of the fulls resulted in R&Rs, however those R&Rs did not result in offers. I knew if I did not get an agent offer by September 2015, the novel would not have a hope of being printed before the end of 2017. If you read point (iii) below you’ll understand why 2017 was the latest I wanted this story to be published.

I decided to try a handful of smaller publishers directly. I sent my MS to 7 and got an offer from a small publishing house. I was thrilled. But then something else happened. I’d seen/heard/read of several of my author friends who’d signed with smaller publishers… only to have the publishing house close. I am a supporter of small press – BIG TIME – but it concerned me nevertheless. And as it turned out, I too felt the sting of a small publisher fail – not for this MS but for another piece.giphy (2)

Just as I was in negotiations to sign, a small press contacted me – one who’d accepted a short story of mine  (for an anthology) in Nov 2014. First they said it was to be printed in early 2015, then mid 2015, then late 2015… then in October 2015 I was advised the anthology was cancelled.

I considered this and what if the same thing happened to my novel? So I decided to go it alone – even as I knew this was perhaps the toughest, bravest and likely silliest course of action – even so, it felt *right for me.

Some of you know of this novel. Some of you have been BETAs for me. Those who don’t, I have made this decision because of the above and also because:
(i) I believe in the novel, the storyline & my skills
(ii) I have had enough encouragement and positive feedback from various agents to know that I am not kidding myself
(iii) Because of the subject matter (which, while mostly set in modern-day Melbourne Australia, also deals with the Russian Revolution & the murders of the Romanov’s – and the 100 year anniversary of their executions is July 2017), I believe now and this coming year, is the time to strike with this particular novel.

tumblr_n6pu3mpAd81qzx3jto5_1280I have employed the services of Kate Foster & Lauren McKellar as editors. Kate & Lauren are authors in their own right and well established editors with a bank of authors they have worked with. Kate will edit it first in Jan-2016 and then Lauren in April 2016. I elected to have two editors because I feel the more eyes the better. In fact, I have already employed the services of two editors in the past. One with just the beginning of my MS and another to do a general read-through – I believe in professional eyes!

Between Edit#1 & #2 I will be re-reading and asking a few of my BETAs to re-read, and then again after Lauren is done, May will be spent re-reading. I have also employed the services of an awesome Melbourne Illustrator, with amazing talent and a wonderful reputation as an illustrator, for the cover – Sunshine Herbert

I have purposely chosen an all Australian team, this was important to me, not only because of spelling/grammar/colloquial terminology, but also because these ladies will better conceptualise my images and therefore either offer better suggestions or make greater improvements. Plus, I do think it’s important to support local people wherever possible -we are a large country in mass and volume but small in numbers & we need to support each other.

I am planning to have the novel ready for a launch date in 29th September 2016 and images (5)instead of #Nestpitch2016, this year I will run a series of “my path to self publishing” blogs where I will discuss everything from BETAs, to covers, to marketing, costs, to preparing for failure as well as success. I have been given permission from Kate, Lauren & Sunshine to discuss fees in generalities (every job is different after all). The figures will be very strong guides and will offer excellent potential cost markers for those of you looking to follow the same route. I will also be posting links to their sites as well as sites for other professionals I have used and/or would be happy to recommend, both in Australia and the US.
I will begin the SERIES in Feb-2016 and will be as honest as I possibly can about time frames, financial costs, marketing strategies, editing and other services and so forth.

I am doing this because I feel:

(i) many people are turning to Self Publishing with unrealistic expectations

(ii) no real idea what the process is

(iii) not enough structure/planning

(iv) have a lack of professional people at their dispossal – rather than scammers

(v) no realistic concept of time-frames/time management

For example, I met with an aspiring author in September-2015 who was finishing her first novel. She intended to self publish it; and wanted it out before Christmas. As that stage only one BETA had read it and her *close friend was going to edit it. (Close friend is not and has never been an editor of any kind)

She had no marketing strategy, had never heard of Netgalley, or Smashwords, intended to use stock-standard free-clip-art for her front cover and wasn’t even sure what an ISBN was or why she needed one.

As for a marketing campaign and professional reviewers, she had no idea she needed to create a marketing strategy, saying “Doesn’t Amazon market it for me?” or who/what professional reviewers were and why they need to be sent pre-copies of a novel at least 3 months in advance.

getoveritI listened with interest and then proceeded to burst her bubble, while offering advice, connections, links etc. to people and sites that could/would help her. This is what got me thinking about writing a regular “my path to self publishing” blog post update – all the way up to and including the launch party.

For this reason, after this blog has been posted, and as of Feb 2016, I will be changing the name of this site. #Nestpitch is NOT dead, but rather in hiatus, even so, this blog has become so much more than the sum of one pitching comp. It has become a place to workshop, to read interviews with agents, authors, editors, to read reviews… and now it will be the place where I place my soul up to the Self Publishing God’s and hope I’m not too humbled into submission 😉

The new name eludes me for now. I’m attempting to be clever (because there are few tumblr_inline_mq7vu1fLsQ1qz4rgpthings I am more vain about than my mind – truth!), but given I named my first cat Blackie (she was all black) and thought it was very clever, this new name could take a while. OK I was nine at the time, so perhaps that makes Blackie seem more witty – still if anyone has any suggestions – bring ‘em on!

And before I go, a quick note to remember David Bowie & Alan Rickman.

images (6)I had planned on posting this blog days ago, but those two deaths images (7)have had an impact on me; as I know they have had on so many, many of us, and I needed time to let their losses sink in…& be accepted by both my brain and my heart.

Farewell boys, I never knew you yet I loved you both! Messrs Rickman and Bowie were so much more than Snape & Ziggy, yet for many, these are the images which first form of these two wondrous talents. 

Will we remember Ziggy Stardust & likely the oldest and coolest Emo ever – ALWAYS – RIP fella’s

 

St. Nicholas Day Workshop Submission Now Open !

Hello all & a special hello to all the Picture Book & Middle Grade author’s out there – because it’s time to send in your first 150 for the workshop! If you follow my blog then you’ll know what I’m … Continue reading

Review – Rich & Rare A collection of Australian stories, poetry & artwork

Well, it’s been a while since I updated & there’s been a lot happening behind the scenes – but more on that later 🙂 Today I’m reviewing “Rich & Rare” – another from the Ford Street Publishing stable. I was … Continue reading

Today I have a special treat for you ‘all… Never Be Younger

Hi All,  Two of our very giving and exceptionally talented Nestpitch Team Members, Sharon Johnston and E.L Wicker, have contributed to an anthology and I am very honoured and happy to help them (and the other authors involved) promote Never … Continue reading

Abracadabra, Shim-Shalala-Sham: Agent Reveal – Now!

snoopyeasterHi all, 

have you been waiting for this? Yeah, I know you have… and truly, it will have been worth the wait 🙂 A MASSIVE thank you to all the agents participating, to those who couldn’t join us this year but wished us well and to my Nestpitch team for all their support and hard work. So here they are, in no particular order, an even dozen of them!

Val Noble1.         Valerie Noble

Associate Agent, Donaghy Literary Group

While studying chemistry at California State University, Long Beach, Valerie mastered the art of doing proper research, particularly for technical writing. Her love of science and reading merged when she began penning her first novel in the midst of her studies. In true scientific fashion, Valerie researched all there was to know about publishing. Valerie loves science fiction and fantasy (think Kristin Cashore and Suzanne Collins) but reads everything under the sun.

Valerie is particularly interested in Young Adult and New Adult in the following genres; Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fantasy & Historical Fiction

You can find Valerie here: http://www.donaghyliterary.com/ or on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/NobleValerie

Saba2.         Saba Sulaiman

Junior Agent, Talcott Notch Literary Services

Saba is the newest member of Talcott Notch Literary Services. She joined the team as an Assistant after working as an editorial intern at Sourcebooks, where she worked primarily on their romance line. She holds a BA from Wellesley College and an MA from the University of Chicago.

Saba’s looking for up-market literary and commercial fiction, romance (all subgenres except paranormal), character-driven psychological thrillers, cozy mysteries, and memoir, in both adult and YA. She’s also actively seeking Middle Grade, particularly contemporary realistic stories.

You’ll find Saba here: http://www.talcottnotch.net/ Here: http://sabasulaiman.com/

and on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/agentsaba

uwe stb3.         Dr. Uwe Stender

President, TriadaUS Literary Agency

A Full Member of the AAR (Association of Authors’ Representatives), and active on social media as well as a guest speaker at several major conferences, Dr. Uwe Stender has an impressive list of clients, both fiction & non-fiction. Uwe joins us again, having been a Nestpitch Agent in 2014.

On Uwe’s current wish-list is YA, MG, adult mysteries/thrillers, literary fiction, any non-fiction.

As well as many conferences and several online competitions you’ll find Uwe here: http://www.triadaus.com/ and on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/uwestender

Jordy4.         Jordy Albert 

Literary Agent, The Booker Albert Literary Agency

Co-founder of The Booker Albert Literary Agency, Jordy holds a B.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University, and a M.A. from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. She has worked with Marisa Corvisiero during her time at the L. Perkins Agency and the Corvisiero Literary Agency. She enjoys studying languages (French/Japanese), spends time teaching herself how to knit, is a HUGE fan of Doctor WhoSherlock and Supernatural, and loves dogs.
She is interested in Middle Grade contemporary or action/adventure, while in YA and New Adult, she is looking for sci-fi/fantasy (romance), contemporary romance. Jordy loves an awesome kick butt hero/heroine, especially when they have to work their way out of a tight spot. While it isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, she tends to shy away from novels with trigger topics, such as suicide and any type of abuse.

For adult works Jordy is looking for smart, sexy contemporary romances that leave her breathless. She is also looking for Historical Romances (she definitely has a soft spot for Regency).

For Jordy too this is her second year with Nestpitch You can find Jordy here: http://www.thebookeralbertagency.com/ and on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/bluedragonfly81

Patricia-Nelson-296x3005.         Patricia Nelson

Agent, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

Patricia joined Marsal Lyon Literary Agency in 2014. Previously, she interned at The Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency and in the children’s division at Running Press.

Patricia received her bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary in 2008, and also holds a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Southern California and a master’s degree in Gender Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.

Patricia represents adult, young adult, and middle grade fiction.

Patricia’s Wish-list: Adult: women’s fiction, historical fiction, and accessible literary fiction, as well as contemporary and historical romance. YA: she’s open to a wide range of genres, including contemporary/realistic, magical realism, mystery, horror, science fiction and fantasy. MG: she’s seeking stories both realistic and fantastical that are full of heart, humour and/or adventure.

You can find Patricia here: http://www.marsallyonliteraryagency.com/ and on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/patricianels

PictureCate6.         Cate Hart

Junior Literary Agent, Corvisiero Literary Agency

Cate is a Junior Agent with Corvisiero Literary Agency. This is Cate’s second time with #Nestpitch, with lasts year resulting in Cate signing a new client.

Cate mainly focuses Young Adult and Middle Grade novel length commercial fiction although she is happy to consider select New Adult, Historical Romance, and Mysteries. In YA, NA, and Adult she prefer’s stories with strong romantic elements, or even better, a heart-pounding romance.

You can find Cate here: http://catehart.com/ on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/CateHart

and the Agency here: http://www.corvisieroagency.com/

Dawn-13137.         Dawn Michelle Frederick

Literary Agent & Owner, Red Sofa Literary

After having worked in the publishing industry for many years, including being a published non-fiction author and associate agent with Sebastian Literary Agency, Dawn branched out on her own and established Red Sofa Literary.

In addition to her literary agent duties she also volunteers with her local library system. As well as many years experience in the industry, Dawn also carries a B.S. in Human Ecology, and a M.S. in Information Sciences from an ALA accredited institution.

You might find Dawn drooling over a exceptionally written MG or YA while surrounded by friends of the fluffy and fury kind. 

You can find Dawn here: http://redsofaliterary.com/ and on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/redsofaliterary

mollieL8.                 Mollie Glick 

Agent, Foundry Literary & Media

After graduating from Brown University, Mollie began her career as a literary scout, advising foreign publishers regarding the acquisition of rights to American books. She then worked as an editor at the Crown imprint of Random House, before becoming an agent in 2003. Mollie represents New York Times bestsellers and International Bestsellers but she also takes great pride in breaking out a number of debut novelists each year. Her list includes literary fiction, narrative non-fiction, popular science, memoir and YA projects.

You can find Mollie here: http://www.foundrymedia.com/ and on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/mollieglick

Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset9.         Maria Vicente

Associate Agent, P.S. Literary Agency.

Maria is a creative and editorial agent, providing support to her clients through all stages of the writing and publication process. Maria is dedicated to managing authors’ literary brands for the duration of their careers. Her reading preferences vary across categories and genres, which is reflected in her client list. She is actively looking for literary fiction, young adult, middle grade, illustrated picture books, and nonfiction projects in the pop culture, design, and lifestyle categories.

She has affinities for literary prose, strong character development, original storytelling formats, and anything geeky. Maria’s website includes articles about publishing and writing for current and potential clients, which she shares daily on Twitter

You’ll also find Maria here: http://www.psliterary.com/ and on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/msmariavicente

Camilla10.       Camilla Wray

Agent, The Darley Anderson Literary

Camilla joined the Darley Anderson Agency in July 2007 and was named as a publishing Rising Star by The Bookseller in 2013. At the Agency she represents debut, bestselling and award nominated authors in the UK and the US. She specialises in commercial fiction and represents crime, thrillers, suspense, high-concept accessible fiction, women’s fiction, love stories, YA and children’s fiction. She is always looking for characters to fall in love with, plots that keep her guessing and tales that teach the reader and leave them buzzing, crying and dying for more.

Camilla studied English Literature and Psychology at Cardiff University, specialising in Novel Writing. After gaining a distinction from the University of the Arts, Camilla went on to work for a national newspaper before joining the Darley Anderson Agency.

Camillia is another who has joined us again, having been involved in 2014. You can find Camilla here: http://www.darleyanderson.com/ And on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/camillawray

Christa11.       Christina Heschke

Agent, McIntoch & Otis, Inc.

Christa graduated from Binghamton University with a major in English and a minor in Anthropology. She started in publishing as an intern at both Writers House and Sterling Lord Literistic, where she fell in love with the agency side of publishing. Christa has been at McIntosh and Otis, Inc. in the Children’s Literature Department since 2009 where she is actively looking for picture books, middle grade, and young adult projects. She is a fan of young adult novels with a romantic angle, and strong, quirky protagonists.

Within YA, Christa is especially interested in contemporary fiction, horror and thrillers/mysteries. As for middle grade, Christa enjoys contemporary, humour, adventure, mystery and magical realism for boys and girls.

You can find Christa here: http://mcintoshandotis.com/ and on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/christaheschke

Agent bio picture12.       Jessica Schmeidler

Agent/Founder, Golden Wheat Literary

Jessica is currently mainly interested in speculative fiction however she dos encourage writers to submit Christian romance, thrillers, and suspense novels. Works of faith-based* speculative fiction, including dystopian, sci-fi, and paranormal encourage. Christian thrillers and suspense are always welcome. In other words, if your novels tend toward Christian themes, Jessica is the agent for you.

You can find Jessica here: http://www.goldenwheatliterary.net/ and on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/goldenwheatlit 

I think you’ll agree that this is quite the WOW list of agents; completely SMAWESOME wouldn’t you say?

Now, aside form checking out their bios and profiles and (of course) following them on Twitter if you haven’t done so already, there’s another reason to ‘get-to-know’ your agents – yep that’s right! We will be running Match-the-Mask-to-the-Agent again this year. The Secret Agent Bunny Masks will be revealed after Easter, and yes there will be an Amazon Voucher up for grabs for the first correct answer. More details to come after Easter.

thHoppingBunnyBut for now, all you need to concentrate on is your pitch + first 300 –words & remember, we are looking for POLISHED manuscripts.

Submission date is April 1st to 3rd 2015. Email for Submissions is nestpitch@outlook.com & for all the details & guidelines go to:https://nestpitch.wordpress.com/2015/03/23/nestpitch2015-is-your-manuscript-pitch-ready-then-april-1-2-3-go/ For a list of your Mentors & Slushies go to: https://nestpitch.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/nestpitch-2015-teams-simply-smawesome/

And one final thing. There have been some comments/questions regarding violence (etc.) in manuscripts. While it is true we do not accept the promotion of violence, hate-crimes, racism, bigotry, misogyny, etc. is a good thing, there seems to have been a little confusion by some authors. Of course there will be violence (etc.) in some genres, in fact it’s expected. I had a very long explanation planned but (after discussing with my fellow Nestpitch Team Mates) have decided to sum it up like this (words borrowed from one of our Mentors):

“…We want stories that make us laugh and cry. Stories that make us weep and scream. Stories that transport us to strange planets and different times. Stories that make you think and feel. Stories that are sexy and scandalous, that are quirky, creepy or noir,  stories that fill the imagination with mystical, mythical creatures and exotic cultures and locales, ones that change us or make us ask questions… in other words we want it all…”

I hope this goes some way toward clarifying that it’s not so much the journey as it is the mode of transport and the destination. And if that’s still unclear, please refer to the below flow-chart created and designed by another of our Mentors – it pretty much says it all (& yes a bit tongue-in-cheek):

Screenshot 2015-03-26 09.47.57

Now, spend the weekend sharpening & polishing & reading out loud and then re-writing where needed because the countdown to author submissions is ONLY DAYS away!

HappyEaster4

Diversity; Life Imitating Art – Hopefully

Diversity-BeautyHi all,

Today I want to talk about the subject of diversity. It’s become a bit of a catch-phrase; which, frankly, always makes me nervous. It’s a bit like Political Correctness. Now, don’t me wrong, I am totally for BOTH diversity & political correctness. What I don’t like it people hiding behind these terms. Or using them as ‘band-aids’ as something to say (or write) to get out of actually dealing with the core issues of diversity (& political correctness, because seriously, can one be without the other?)

I’m a massive supporter of diversity in art. I want to see more social, cultural, sexual, age, religious, political, geographic diversity in all forms; in art, in business, in science… in other words, in life. But as Artists, we are in a privileged position. I believe that through art (visual, dance, music, writing, you name it) we open understanding and dialogue. I want to see more gay characters and non-Christian characters is books and in movies. I want to see more paintings and sculptures by and about indigenous people across the world. I want people with various religious beliefs depicted beyond stereotypical cliché’s. I want people of all ages represented in media and fiction. I want to discover new traditions and legends and myths. I want physical & metal health issues portrayed in movies and see people valued for their skills and talent and not just their cup size or height. I want to see plays and music and dance written and performed by groups I’ve never even heard of; so that I can hear of them and learn from them and understand them.

OK, so, have I made it clear I’m Pro-Diversity? Great. Now let’s talk about what I DON’T want to see, hear, read, touch, smell, taste.

confused2A few days ago there was a link on Facebook to an article where Oxford University was recommending people not refer to pork products/references in novels because it might offend Jewish and/or Muslim readers. I will openly say I think this is taking political correctness too far. I also have to wonder why the same ‘study’ did not also recommend not mentioning beef products in case Hindu readers should be offended, or all meat products for fear of offending vegetarians, or all meat and dairy products, should that offend vegan’s. Sometimes things are so ‘politically correct’ that (in my opinion) they are simply wrong.

Personally, I think articles and studies like this are both divisional and unfair to the same people the studies are proclaiming to support/protect. I know a lot of Jewish and Muslim people; a lot. I would NEVER serve any of them pork, just as I never serve a vegan a piece of cheese. Having said that, my Muslim and Jewish friends don’t expect me to change everything about myself because their lifestyles vary from mine, after all, isn’t the point of diversity to acknowledge our differences and embrace what we can and accept openly even that which we ourselves do not adhere to.

Diversity. I want to see it in all its incarnations. Even so, there are things I do not want to be exposed to. I don’t wish to be exposed to bad writing or bad art. I don’t want to taste the bitter taste in my mouth with someone randomly picks a character with a political view or cultural background they know nothing about.

Jane-Eyre-Fan-Art-jane-eyre-2011-34576353-500-200I don’t want to see ‘token’ characters. The token gay guy, the token Muslim, the token Marxist, the token blue-haired, pseudo-hippy-chick.

I don’t want to be made aware of just how poor an artist’s research is into a social group, or culture, or religion, has been.

I don’t want to be insulted, as a reader or a viewer, or an audience member (etc.) with any of these.

What I’m saying is this. Don’t write a Koori single mother into your novel and that’s it. Don’t create a gay or transsexual character and not do your research. Don’t make your character one dimensional, simply for the sake of being able to ‘label’ it GLBT or Ethnically Diverse (or similar).

Yes give me an Orthodox Jewish character but don’t end it at that. I want to know who this person is. Do they work in their own community or the larger community? Show me their struggles with meeting their religious obligations (religious holiday’s for example) while also being effective in the greater community. Give them dimension. Are they also mad-crazy about a sports team? If so, how do they manage their personal passions with their family commitments? Are they loud, are they introverted, are they studious, or do they like to go for a jog every morning? Have they struggled with inter turmoil or demons? Have they questioned their faith, or their place in the world? Have they been exposed to violence, a health issue, financial struggles?

THIS IS WHAT I WANT. I want a detailed, evolved, creative tapestry of character traits and experiences. I want interaction and intrigue and love and lust and danger and symbolism and manic behaviour and sadness and joy and hope and loss and opportunity… I want WHOLE genuine characters I can relate to, learn from and support. I want to be shown their world not simply told they are an Orthodox Jew or a lapsed Christian.

Think about it. Do you have gay friends? Conservative friends? Muslim or Hindu friends? Communist friends? How do you introduce them? Do you say, “This is Sue. Sue just move in next door.”

(because that’s what I’d say)

I bet you don’t say, “This is Sue. She used to be Peter, before the operation, oh and by the way, Sue is a Communist.”

There is nothing natural about the second version. Everything after “This is Sue” will (or should) be part of the development of the character. I want to be drawn in, shown who Sue is, what struggles Sue has faced, why she is who she is. I want to learn about the relationships Sue has. This is what I mean by TOKEN. If ‘Sue’ being a Communist is part of her character arc, fantastic, lead me on the discovery. If it’s simply a line you throw in here or there, as a way of saying “look at me, I’ve got a Communist in my book” that’s a diversity fail for me.

If you’re going to create a character like ‘Sue’ DO YOUR RESEARCH.

I’m not gay, nor a man.

My current WIP has a male main character, (actually its duel POV so it also has a lead female character, but you get my point). When I write in a male voice I work hard to channel my inner guy, but I also make sure I have male reader’s giving me their opinion. My male MC has a best friend who is mixed race and openly gay, and has a crush on my straight male MC. In this particular WIP there is a lot of out right sex, drugs, violence, lust and magic (it’s a re-tell BTW). There is also a lot of suggestive stuff. Some of the sex scenes (outright and suggested) are gay and to do justice to my character’s as well as my gay friends, I have various people read scenes not long after I’ve written them. I want the scenes to sound and feel authentic. I want them to be true to the people I am representing and I DON’T want them to come off as cliché.

Because of this (and other reasons), the current WIP is taking me a very long time to finish even draft one. But I know it’s worth the struggle because, frankly I don’t want to insult the cultures or the friends I’m representing. I don’t want them to be cardboard cut-outs. I don’t want them to be stereotypes or cliché. I don’t them to be single dimensional. Being labelled diverse IS NOT ENOUGH, they must be real and true and thought out and developed and multi-faceted.

e04And this brings me to an issue I have come across.

A few years ago I finished the first novel in a series. It was (is) a historical dark fantasy which begins in 10th century Europe and finishes (Vol#3) in 2038. The history is based on Croatian, Bulgarian & Austro-Hungarian (royal) history and the mythology is Pagan Slavic mythology. I had one agent tell me they liked the writing but STRONGLY suggested I pick a better known history and mythology. I didn’t take this advice. I didn’t take it because this is what I know and this is what I wish to share. That trilogy has been set aside, but not shelved forever, as I work on other pieces. Personally, I believe that piece of advice was wrong Wrong WRONG. I know that I can make the trilogy stronger, when I do eventually return to it; and I will. I also know that my culture and history has a market. I write what I know and what I’ve studied. I write (and paint) what comes to me, naturally, infused within my core. I write this because I know the voice will be real and genuine.

tumblr_n0lnym6RlI1qj4315o1_500Recently I had someone (via email) comment on the “lack of African-American’s & all these white people” in my writing.

I did explain that I happen to live in Melbourne Australia and African-American’s are very few and far between. In fact, I have only ever met two African-Americans. One while living in France (and trust me USA friends, she was not the kind of person I’d want to base a cultural representation on) and the second, less than two months ago. The second woman is ½ African-American & ½ Turkish. She also happens to be Muslim. Her father and mother split up when she was a toddler with her (African-American) father returning to the US and having practically nothing to do with her until she was in her late teens. In other words, she knew (and still knows) virtually nothing about being African-American. She considers herself a mixed-race Muslim Australian.

What’s my point?

Do not write about people you have little or no knowledge of, without GAINING knowledge. If I happen to write about a group I‘m not so knowledgeable about, I make sure I have REAL people I can talk to, study and ask to read pages, in order to ensure I am doing them justice.

images (1)But wait I hear someone screaming, do I write about Koori’s (given I’m in Australia). My current WIP refers to Koori culture; however, as there are so many Australian Aboriginal languages, I tend to refer to more generic aspects of Koori life. For example, in my current WIP I use the myth of The Rainbow Serpent, (which I mix with Slavic, Druid and Celtic beliefs). I’ve known several people from various aboriginal groups. And because I have known several, I also know that each group has their own uniqueness. As I cannot do justice to any one group, I use my overall knowledge to represent Koori people but I don’t go into specifics, the same way I would for say a Croatian or French character.

Why? If a Koori were to read my novel(s) I don’t want them feeling insulted or misrepresented.

So I write (& paint) what I know and if I need to study a culture, or belief, or tradition, or geographic environment or era, I REALLY study it. And that is what I expect when I interact with another artist’s work.

tumblr_my29zuMUQZ1s04h2ho1_500I titled this post, Diversity; Life Imitating Art – Hopefully, as I believe that through art we open discussion and acceptance. But as artists we have an obligation to represent uniqueness and diversity with integrity and honestly. We have a duty beyond not falling into clichés; we have a duty to break them. We have a responsibility to push boundaries rather than perpetuating (often wrong) stereotypes. We have a calling to show humans for what they are, one race, and to help other’s not push people and groups into pre-conceived boxes.

tumblr_n2ec03zfU01r1v49to1_500We must encourage diversity but we must also acknowledge each of us comes from our own unique place. We should draw on the relationships we have and then expand our knowledge, our circle. We should be reading non-fiction as well as fiction. We should be the leaders in expanding our horizon’s, before expanding our art.

But most of all, (I believe), we should have a need, a hunger to present diversity with respect and with conscious endeavour to embrace all, not simply want to follow a catch-phrase or trend. We have the power to effect change, both as a consumer and as a creator. Or we can perpetuate indifference and lack of tolerance either by not embracing diversity or by not respecting the responsibility of creating diverse art. OK, jumping off my soapbox now. I would very much like to hear what others think about this post.