Musings 9/7/17: What Exactly is Diversity in Writing?

It’s called Diverse Voices, Own Voices or Marginalized Voices and more recently BAME – I just saw this for the first time yesterday so really, I don’t know how long this has been in use but if I’m using the right definition according to it is, BLACK, ASIAN & MINORITY ETHNIC.  It’s called many things but what exactly do they mean?

I see that raised eyebrow.  Read a bit further before you come to a conclusion.

I asked the question on FaceBook.  Here is the original post:

I’m planning a Musing on the subject but first I would like the opinion of my fellow authors. With your permission, I would like to use your comments in my post. Question to ponder: What do you think agents/editors mean when they say they want *diverse voices*? What does *diverse voices* mean to you?

**Addition 7:23 pm** – What does this mean for speculative fiction?

Two of my FB friends were kind enough to provide their opinion in the matter:

Rhi Etzweiler commented, “Not a narrow cross section of any given culture or social class. Diversity and divergent characters. Voices that aren’t all thinking alike, parroting one another. Exploration of alternative perspectives, regardless of where the focal point stands.”

“For speculative fiction, I’d take “diverse voices” to mean a challenge to explore that which isn’t mundane and familiar to society and culture as humanity manifests it. Outside the comfort zone, way outside the box. Something profound, alien, challenging, to even the outlier perspectives of contemporary society.”

Jamie Harmon Nare commented, “Own voices stories – authors who write stories from their experience be they people of color or LGBTQ or have suffered with mental illness. But also, what Rhi Etzweiler said. I was trying to think of examples but all of the ones I come up are YA like The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas or Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson.”

It seems that’s the big thing nowadays and I want to be certain that I’m understanding the concept as it can be interpreted, I believe, in a number of ways.  It seems all agents, editors and publishers want these types of works – well that and young adult.  I’ve always believed that any author should write for themselves first and then for the readers, agents, publishers and so on.  For this Musing, I’m focusing on literary agents, since I’m currently searching for one.

All of the information you see is taken from the Manuscript Wish List or agent sites and social media pages and all quotes have the agent information attached to them.  It is not my attention to plagiarize anything, however, these words are a part of their submission guidelines which are meant to be read by all.

A few of the things I’ve seen:

“Actively looking for: BAME and #ownvoices authors across all ages and genres…”

Alice Sutherland-Hawes

Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency

 “I am particularly interested in OwnVoices (Indigenous, African/African American, Asian, Latino/a/x, Muslim and other religious minorities, people with disabilities*, Multiracial/Multicultural, LGBTQ, etc) and Inclusive Narratives…”

Quressa Robinson

D4EO Literary Agency

I must note that Ms. Robinson has very specific examples for what she would like to see, which you can also view on the Manuscript Wish List.  Explanations like that are of great help, as it leaves no doubts as to what she is looking for.  The excerpt there is from her Tumbler page.

“Diversity in genre fiction is dear to Tricia’s heart.  As an agent, Tricia wants to represent authors who reflect diversity and cultures in their work.”

Tricia Skinner

Fuse Literary

“I want books by marginalized creators.”

“…breaking away from traditional Western tropes and archetypes.”

Jessie Devine

D4EO Literary Agency

Ms. Devine (I love that name!) is specific as well.  Why am I including her comment about Western tropes?  I’ll get into that a bit later.

“Monica is serious about the fact that We Need Diverse Books and is looking for authentic representation of all characters, diverse or otherwise.”

Monica Odom

Bradford Literary Agency

When I first started seeing these words, I wondered did it mean works written by people of color about people of color?  So as a Black woman I’m already covered?  Anything I write would be considered diverse?  Or are they saying in order to be truly diverse, I can only write about subjects that are related to my heritage and background?  I’ll touch on why that’s not something I want to do, later.  Is it the same for Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans and every other culture in the world?  I don’t know about anyone else but this prospect makes me feel a bit awkward and uncomfortable.  Or maybe I’m just reading too much into it?  If this is a case then as a Black woman, I would have to write the next, The Hate U Give in order to have agents consider me as writing with a diverse voice?  I’ve seen many agents reference this particular work when saying what it is they want.

But what if I don’t want to write something like that?

It’s real life, you say?  Don’t I want to write about real life?


Why?  Because I’m at an age where I’ve lived through and seen some effed-up s*** happen, so no I DON’T want to write about real life.  Most of it I’m trying to forget, which isn’t easy and those instances have had a profound effect on me.

Hence my love for fantasy.  It’s an escape.  That’s why it exists and that is NOT a bad thing.  I enjoy reading about and creating people, places and things not known to the mundane world.  For just a little while I get to relax and let my mind be filled by my words or the words of someone else.

OK, you say, why not write a fantasy set in Africa?  Based on African myth and legends?

I’m going to direct you somewhere else to answer that question.  Author S. Jae-Jones, was asked a similar question on her Tumbler page and her response is pretty much the same as mine.  I would suggest clicking on her name link and reading through, then come back here.  I’ll wait as usual….

Back?  OK, now go to her post on the Fantasy Café blog here, and read, then back here again.  Oh, and here’s where you can buy her debut novel, Wintersong on Amazon.  It’s on my TBR List.

I’m long past the point where I try to be what others think I should be because of where my ancestors came from.  And I have very little experience in that area.  I’m an original native of my state and have been exposed to all things American.  “Born and bred in the heart of the – Northeastern suburbia.”  Life was quiet and plain and there were times when I was truly grateful for that, considering the alternatives.  No one ever told me to look into where I came from.  Sure, I’m working on doing that now and maybe once I learn more I will write something like that but for now – no.

Big Brother once commented that even in my fantasy works, I write American.

I’m wondering if I’ve gotten my point across.  I’m really not certain and again, I’m not trying to upset anyone but I feel like I’m being told that what I write isn’t truly who I am and agents only seem to want writers and stories that are directly related to some supposed voice.  That just isn’t me.

And I wonder what their motivations are.  Is it just because this is the big thing nowadays?  The flavor of the month?  Is there going to be a point where the business states the market is oversaturated and now diverse voices are no longer needed?  Now that would be a tragedy!

The New York Times Magazine published an article by author Anna Holmes, on October 27, 2015; First Words, the question is asked, has the word diversity lost its meaning?  It begins with this sentence, “How does a word become so muddled that it loses much of its meaning?”

Ms. Holmes touches on many happenings concerning diversity, starting with some totally inappropriate remarks by a CEO which was followed by a lawsuit.  He apologized but it seemed half-hearted and according to Holmes, the word itself is a euphemism and a cliché only used when someone wants to prove they know what it actually entails.

And Ms. Holmes is correct when she writes that despite these supposed efforts to include diversity in the workplace most businesses are still woefully underrepresented.  And it appears that people who use this word, only do so to make themselves look like they’re actually doing the right thing.  The article goes onto state that no one really knows what diversity means and the definition changes depending on who is doing the talking.  When she was told that the reason why she was hired was because of a diversity push and her boss had received a bonus, she was understandably upset.  I don’t blame her, I would be too.  Wondering, am I being hired because of my ethnicity or because my talent is recognized?  Or in the case of publishing, are you accepting my submissions because of its written by a person of color or because I’ve written something entertaining?

One of my favorite directors, writers, and producers,  Ava DuVernay (she was the subject of one of my university papers!) says she personally hates the word.  It’s like medicine.  She prefers the words inclusion and belonging.  Frankly so do I.

OK again, back to the subject.  I know I’ve gone off on a tangent here but I feel that all subjects are related in a sense.  I believe this subject takes a lot of thought and consideration from all of us, no matter what business we happen to be in.

And what will I do?  Keep writing what I love.  A Black woman who writes EPIC FANTASY.  Where are the calls for diverse writers of EPIC FANTASY?  Notice I capitalized the words.  There are a few of us, yes, but how many years – decades even – did it take for the very few we have now to be accepted?  I did my research of course.  There are quite a few blog posts on this very same subject.  So far, the only two I managed to find of prominence are bestsellers, N.K. Jemisin and David Anthony Durham.


I’ll keep looking and please feel free to post other authors of EPIC FANTASY.

So literary agents, editors and publishers, what do you say?  Wouldn’t you like to be responsible for bringing the next Jemisin or Durham into the spotlight?  And not just because they are people of color but because they write damn fine works in a genre that is barely touched on by people of color.  Although since you’re going for diversity that would work to your benefit as well.

Whoa, I had a lot to say, didn’t I?  And maybe I went all over the place but I feel the subjects I’ve touched on are all connected.  If you, as a publishing professional, want to do the right thing, then you need to look in all directions and not just what is the popular thing right now.  That is not being diverse.

So, we’ve seen a few opinions, I’ll try to get more, or if you’re so inclined, tell me what you feel diverse writing is in the comments.  If I get enough I’ll make a second post on the subject.  In the meantime—




Musing 8/29/17– May I Have A Word, Literary Agents?

Wow!  Two Musings in two days, that’s a record!  First I want to say that I’m not trying to offend ANYONE with this post, certainly not people in the industry.  Either way this may or may not get me into a situation but I just need to get this out of my system.

Again, if you’ve been reading my Facebook page, I’ve been writing like crazy lately and am still feeling the mojo but sometimes, I hit a small roadblock when I think of how long I’ve been waiting to hear about past works that have been sent out.  It makes me wonder why I continue to do so when I seldom if ever receive a response. 

Somewhere on this blog, I mentioned how I’ve had a number of agents never respond to queries.  Many are agents who promise to respond to everything.  And this is after waiting for a long time and then nudging and I do mean a LONG time.

Right out I have two full works out to agents.  One I was ecstatic to receive a rewrite and resend request and the other the straight full request.  Now literary agents, believe it not, we writers do know how busy you are.  Not all of us expect an answer in a month or so.  I’ll usually wait for three before nudging and depending on what the agents lists as their response time.

However with these two, I have been waiting for the rewrite and resend it’s been a year from my sending in the R&R and for the other it’s been two years and two months.  I did recently nudge again on the first and re-query on the second but to be honest, I’m not expecting to hear. 

With these long waits I can’t decide if I should put the book aside or not.  I’m assuming there must have been something good about the work, otherwise why ask to see more?  And I have every confidence in this work, and I really don’t want to file it away or start anything different until I get a response one way or the other.  It causes quite a conundrum.

My questions are first, how long are we supposed to wait when you ask for a full manuscript before we assume it’s a no?  Is it really right to leave authors hanging when you’ve practically dangled their dream in front of them?  Agents, if you’re no longer interested after a partial, full or rewrite and resubmit (especially this) is sent then PLEASE do us the courtesy of letting us know.  A simple email with an, “I changed my mind.” will suffice.

I am not talking about the queries. We know some of you get thousands per week.  I am talking about taking an author to the next level and then putting them aside indefinitely.  I often see agents posting on social media about how, “they have lives too,” and authors need to respect that.  Believe it or not, most of us know that and we do.  You shouldn’t lump all writers in with the few who don’t know how to carry themselves.  But you are also running a business and since we writers are expected to behave a certain why, why can’t this professionalism be returned?  I’ve seen other writers ask these question.  I don’t know if they’ve ever gotten a response.  Lately, I’ve just felt the need to open up about how I feel.  I don’t need to tell anyone, writers, agents, publishers, editors, how hard this business is.  We all know.  And we know how long it takes but I don’t believe anyone is so busy that it takes two to three years (not months) to conduct their business.

A few weeks ago, I was trying to enter the Manuscript Wish List program that gave writers the opportunity to have a first page critiqued by a literary agent.  The agents they had chosen have already seen my work, so I emailed the moderator/agent, asking advice on  what I should do or if I should still apply.

I won’t print the actual email responses here because I don’t have permission, however I was advised that it might be too awkward between myself and the agent and it wouldn’t help get my work to the front of the line, which is not what I was trying to do.  I just wanted the same opportunity that they were presenting to other writers.  Then the moderator/agent stated, “Believe it or not, it now takes some agents three to six months to respond.”  I responded with pretty much the same thing I’ve said here, very polite and professional of course and thanked her for her time.  I’m also curious that if this is the norm, shouldn’t agents list these time frames on their pages, so authors won’t bother them with nudges?

This does not mean I plan on giving up, although there were times, I have thought of and actually said I plan to do so.  I’ve always said take the opportunity to wallow if you need to then get back to work.  I just hope someone sees my post and it creates a better understanding of what we writers are going through in this crazy little thing called the publishing industry.



Musing 08/28/17– Weird is the New Brilliant?

I’m a big fan of the Nostalgia Critic! Well it’s sort of an off and on relationship. I gave him up a few times but came back. Why mention this? Because there is a question I was pondering concerning stories that are not quite well — they’re different and they seem to be the type of stories magazine publishers want.

I hadn’t watched before but now since I was pondering, I thought I’d give it a shot.

In this video, the Critic postulates that there is so much weirdness going on nowadays in current media, is really brilliance in disguise? To get the full picture watch the video, then if you don’t mind finish reading my post please. I’ll wait.

All done? OK, as my peeps may know, I was currently hit with a massive dose of inspiration. Yes, yes, I know, humor me, OK? The Muse was at her best and brightest and I wrote or re-wrote ten stories and have them out into the world right now.

Now of course there have been a couple of rejections but as any writer knows that’s a given. But one particular one I received invited me to first read their magazine – which I’d already done and in fact subscribed to it so I could get the exact feel for what they would like.

I thought the story I sent would be perfect but apparently not, so I continued reading/researching to be certain. Now yesterday evening, I read a story that well – I couldn’t follow at all. Absurdly weird is what I would call it but apparently there was something that caught the editors eye and it was accepted. Now I am NOT saying the story wasn’t good but to me it simply had no logic. But then again, as I’ve mentioned in the past, my Army buddies once told me I was too logical for the military.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen stories like this. Some I have understood and enjoyed perfectly well but others…

So I thought, am I missing something? And that is when I recalled the Nostalgia Critic video, so I sat and watched. Now some of the shows he touched upon were Adventure Time and Steven Universe, both *former favorites of mine.

He goes onto say how other stories we are familiar with uses their weirdness to tell the reader/watcher about important the social issues. I’ve always gotten the message despite the weirdness or at least I did once I got a little older.
But when weird goes to far and it gets crude and disgusting then there is no message no matter what the writer/animator says, IMHO. Yes, they have a right to create whatever they want. Not everything has to have a message weird or not but at least let it have some purpose besides shock value again, IMHO.

I’ll do weird every so often but it is impossible for me to write weird without there being a purpose or message. Does that still make it weird? Well according to the Critic, it can.

So what to do? Make up something weird to hopefully sell a story?

Nope, sorry, can’t do it. I may just need to leave that market behind. I really don’t want to but hey, what are you gonna do?

So do you do weird or what do you think of it? What would you do in this situation? post away.



*Sorry but, I got out of Steven because Peridot was annoying and as for AT, Finn who was always a reasonably smart boy suddenly pulls a totally messed-up stunt with Flame Princess. Hey, don’t judge me.

What is a Womanist?

I recently became familiar with this term. I believe it’s important to spread the word. I’m going to research and learn as much as I can. Thanks to the author for such an insightful post.

The Progress

Photograph of Meigan Medina, "Vibration," courtesy of Brandon Hicks. Photograph of Meigan Medina, “Vibration,” courtesy of Brandon Hicks.

“Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender” – Alice Walker.

 Alice Walker, a poet and activist, who is mostly known for her award-winning book The Color Purple, coined the term Womanist in her 1983 book In Search of Our Mothers’ Garden: Womanist Prose. Walker defined a womanist as “Womanish, the opposite of girlish…Being grown up…A Black Feminist or Feminist of Color…A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or non-sexually.  Appreciates and prefers women’s culture, women’s emotional flexibility (values tears as natural counterbalance of laughter), and women’s strength.  Sometimes loves individual men, sexually and/or non-sexually”. The complete text of the definition can be seen here.

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Not too long ago, on my FaceBook page, I left a cryptic message saying I had made the hardest decision of my life. Well here’s the skinny on that. On July 17th, I requested a reversion of rights from Liquid Silver Books for Illusion of Night, Memory in Shadow and Soul Fires. Illusion of Night and Memory in Shadow will revert back to me on August 31st and Soul Fires on December 31st, 2017. So, if you or someone you love – who loves male/male erotic fiction— wants to purchase them they have until those dates to do so.

I know I said I was going to complete the series and I apologize but the fact of the matter is, life has been pretty chaotic. Some of you may know I was recently separated from my 9 to 5 and will be filing suit. I’m not going to get into the particulars. The good thing is the change has kicked my Muse into overdrive and within the space of two months I’ve either written new stories or re-written old ones. So far, I’ve sent out about five and am working on a sixth. These I have sent them using my real name so I’ll be changing everything on my sites and social media to conform in the near future.

And I’m not going to stop writing erotica, I’ll go back to it in the future, however right now, it’s not feasible both time and finance-wise. Many of my fellow erotic authors are having the same issues with sales. They’ll tell you that it’s frustrating and disheartening to create tens, even hundreds of thousands of words only to have little if anything to show for it.

And I’m still working to get into mainstream. I’ve gotten a few full requests to agents for Tinderbox, so I’m waiting to hear on those but I’m also sending it out to publishers. And I want to keep at this momentum. I haven’t been here at a long time.

As stated, this wasn’t an easy choice but I believe it’s time for a change. And things as you may know have been changing quite a bit for me. Ten years at the same nine to five and suddenly I’m handed my walking papers for something I didn’t even do. Maybe this and my new found want to write are some kind of sign from the cosmos.

I’ll still be around though and will keep providing updates, likely on FaceBook and Twitter as those are the best places to find me. I’ll be temporarily closing my site after this, however this blog will remain open and active.

I don’t quite know what will happen in the near future. I tend to concentrate on the now but I know what I am doing is the right thing for me. And always your patience is appreciated.



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