015. Dia of the Dead Cover Reveal

I suppose I should’ve done this a while ago but here it is. Here’s the cover for Dia of the Dead!

Dia-of-the-Dead-ebook-cover-627x1024

I designed it myself and I really liked how it turned out. Dia of the Dead will be released September 16, 2014 so everyone mark your calendars! For more information about the book, click here.

014. Part of Your World pt. 2

My last post ended with a video of “Part of Your World” from my absolute favorite movie, The Little Mermaid. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately and I’ve decided that it’s time that I become more like my favorite fiery redhead. No, I’m not about to sell my soul to a sea witch in exchange for legs to impress a prince but I am about to take a risk. A big risk.

I’m about to venture out into the world of self-publishing.

I’m extremely excited about this adventure and hope my migraines won’t stop me from blogging (and maybe vlogging) about it. What has me more excited is that I’m not going it alone. Cara will be joining me. She is the co-founder of Big Moon Press, our indie publishing company. We’ve been actively working on this thing for weeks and have set up an Indiegogo to help with some of the costs. If you’d like to contribute, we’d greatly appreciate it.

I’m really looking forward to this journey. I’m on my way to becoming a part of the world I’ve often dreamed about and hopefully you guys will follow along on this ride.

013. Part of Your World

Hi Guys!

I’m back! My health is about the same but it seems to be improving little by little. My neurologist has switched up my med routine and I’m hoping that third time’s the charm. I still have headaches and migraines but they mostly aren’t as intense as they were back in the winter. It’s the other symptoms that have been kicking my butt. But I’m not here to talk about that. I’m doing better and that’s all that really matters.

I’m actually here to talk about a couple of things that I’ve been working on while I’ve been under the weather.

Over the last couple of months while dealing with severe migraines, I finished the first draft of my second novel! I’m excited about it. It’s a sequel to Dia of the Dead. I’ve decided to make it a series out of my own curiosity. I want to find out what happens to the characters over the course of their journey.

I also came to a decision about what to do with Dia of the Dead. I’ve decided to self-publish. It took me a while to reach that decision because I wanted to weigh all of my options. I queried and realized, what I wrote just isn’t what publishers are looking for right now. And that’s okay. Maybe one of the next ideas I have floating around in my head will be THE ONE that will get me a lit agent and will set me on the path to traditional publishing. If not, that’s okay too. I understand publishing is a business that’s driven by what sells and what can be the “next big thing.”

With this decision to self-publish came some pretty rad things that I’m going to be blogging about in the very near future. I’m teaming up with my writing homie, Cara Davis. Actually at this point, she’s my writing sister to do them. Stay tuned!

This is how I feel about everything:

 

012. Writing to Survive

I bought my first official journal when I was eight years old. I purchased it with my allowance from The Disney Store in Tower City. It was pink and purple—my favorite colors at the time—and featured Princess Jasmine—my favorite Disney princess at the time. I couldn’t wait to get home to start recording my thoughts just like older girls did on television. I remember I sitting down at my Little Tykes desk with a pencil and going to work, pouring out my thoughts about the world as I knew it.

I’ve talked about how I’ve been writing since I was able to hold a crayon. How I would scribble my name or words on any piece of paper I could find. Sometimes those words turned into sentences. Sometimes those sentences became (unfinished) stories. For some reason, I’ve always found solace with a pen in my hand. It has been like a security blanket or a warm hug for so many years that I can’t imagine what it’s like not to write.

Writing has especially been a comfort in difficult times. I’ve mentioned the bullying I experienced in middle school here before and how I withdrew from many things but my words were the one thing I had. When the school days were long and tough, I knew I had worlds I created waiting for me when the final bell rang. My characters didn’t mind if my tears blurred their stories, they cheered me on—urging me to keep going. I was writing to survive.

As of May 2014, I’ve found myself writing to survive once more. Since the last time I blogged, my migraines have persisted. My diagnosed has gone from “migraine” to “chronic migraine.” In the last few months, I’ve had doctors’ appointments, hospital visits, and tons of absenteeism. I’m eternally grateful that my boss also has migraines and is empathetic to what I’m experiencing.

On my headache days, I feel like a legion of tiny dudes are kicking me in the head in Doc Martens. Sometimes the pain is so bad that I have a difficult time looking at my computer screen. Or worse, I can’t keep anything down (Note: puking at work isn’t fun, guys). There have been several days that I felt like giving up. Days where I can’t leave my bed because sitting upright intensifies the pain. Or nights where I stay up past midnight because the pain has me terrified to go to sleep because it might be the last time I wake up.

But through all this I’ve managed to write. Writing has been one of the few things to keep me from tapping out. My desire to see the stories I’m currently working on and those still floating around in my migraine-ridden brain make their way out into the world has kept me going. It has been one of my many coping strategies (others include: binging on Netflix and the comfort of tofu-based meals).

Has there been a time where you wrote to survive? If you feel like sharing, I’d really like to hear about your experience.

011. My Mad Fat Diary

Hey y’all,

Long time, no talk. As you can see, I kinda switched things up around here. Back in January, I purchased my own domain. I’m committed to this writing this now. I’m N2DEEP. Since it’s been a while,  I’ll give you all a quick update on what’s going on with me. I recently celebrated another birthday and in addition to getting older, I’ve also been suffering from a severe case of Migraine Brain. I’ve had migraines since my early teens but it seems like I’m experiencing them more often in the last couple of months than I have in the past. I’ve been following up with a neurologist and hopefully we get this sorted soon. Not being able to think (or open my right eye fully) has been interfering with both work and writing. But while I’ve been coping with my migraines, I’ve had a chance to catch up with one of my favorite shows from last year.

mymadfatintro

If you haven’t heard of My Mad Fat Diary, it’s a television show airing in the UK about Rachel “Rae” Earl, an overweight 16-year-old girl who is trying to reestablish her life after spending four months in a psychiatric hospital. It’s based on “My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary” by Rae Earl. The show primarily focuses on Rae’s recovery and how she copes with the issues that proceeded her hospitalization. I’ve been hyping up this show since I first watched it early last year (along with BBC Three’s Some Girls) but since it has returned for another series that began February 17th, I felt like it deserves to be on more people’s radars.  Here are my reasons why:

REASON #1 – Rae Earl is:

coolrae

Rae is an extremely relatable character. She’s a hilarious. It’s impossible not to laugh at some of the things she says. Especially when she expresses her thoughts about the boys she encounters. She will have you ugly laughing.  Rae also has a really awesome taste in music. The show will make you want to listen to tons and tons of Oasis and Blur and the Spice Girls and BoyZone. You will be singing along with the soundtrack.

But what really makes Rae relatable are her anxieties and insecurities. Rae is overweight and that plays a large role in everything that happens in the show. I found myself recalling events that happened in my teens while watching. I know what it’s like to be the best friend of the pretty, popular girl and feeling invisible in comparison. I know what it’s like to fancy a boy and feeling inadequate because of XYZ. I am extremely familiar with the dread of trying on a swimsuit.  I have some distance between now and my teens. Those years have aided my transition out of those old fears and into a “I’M A GROWN WOMAN. I DO WHATEVA I WANT!” mindset (thanks Beyoncé). But I’ve been able to grow with age. Watching My Mad Fat Diary, you’re rooting for Rae to overcome her obstacles but you know it takes time.

REASON #2: Rae’s Recovery Process Seems Realistic

groupmmfd

I don’t have first-hand experience with being hospitalized but I am a mental health provider by day. I assist individuals with working toward accomplishing their goals. I’ve encountered people in various states of recovery. Some may have been out of the hospital for a week or so before they have an appointment with me. Some may have not have been hospitalized in years. What I’ve learned from my experience in the field is that every day is different. Some days are good and some days are not. And that’s what you witness with Rae. You catch glimpses of her home life, her interactions with friends (both in and out of the treatment center) as well as her therapy sessions. You see her highs and you see her lows. You see how she copes from day to day.  I find the portrayal of mental health stigma interesting and important. I don’t want to make this too spoilery but Rae hiding her hospitalization from her friends because she doesn’t want to be viewed as “mad” is central to the show’s plot. Being perceived as “different” by others is a real fear for persons with mental health diagnoses. In my work, I spend a lot of time talking about how “different” isn’t “wrong.” While I genuinely mean everything I say from the bottom of my heart, it’s difficult getting others to see things from my perspective. Mental health stigma is something that needs to be eradicated and one of these days, I’m going to have to get on my soapbox and rant about it.

REASON #3- Rae’s Friends Are Pretty Cool Too

gangmmfd

The gang is an interesting bunch. Everyone has their own thing going on. Some of their storylines have moments that are just as heart-breaking and tear-inducing as Rae’s. Some of their storylines are cute and funny. Some of their storylines will make you tsk, shake your head and mumble “girl, why?” to your computer screen. Once again, I don’t want to spoil too much but the subplots are well placed and allow for a breather when shit gets too real.

BONUS REASON!- Finn Nelson

finn

I’m shallow and Nico Mirallegro is a fit lad. Okay. Finn Nelson is a cool dude. His character has depth and is charming in a way that isn’t present in things aimed at young adults nowadays.

I hope my rambling persuaded you to give the show a go. If you’re looking for the show, I may be able to point you in the right direction. If you’ve watched the show, who are your favorite characters? Do you have a favorite episode? I’d really like to know. MMFD is a fave of mine and I really like discussing it with others. Since I mentioned Oasis earlier, here’s what I’ve been listening to on repeat for the last couple of days:

The screencaps featured in this post are from Grande Caps

009. With a Little Help From My Friends

Hi Guys!

It’s been a while. I know I’m supposed to be making weekly posts but I haven’t been able to decide on anything worth sharing in the last couple of week. However, the past week has been pretty interesting in terms of news. I’ve collected a few more feathers in my writing cap over the last couple of weeks in the form of query rejections. I haven’t received a lot because I haven’t queried many agents (still researching those who would be a good fit for Dia of the Dead which you read more about here) but with each one I feel more and more like a real writer. Truth be told, it’s an odd feeling–a mix of disappointment and pride. Disappointment in receiving an “eh. pass” but pride in disregarding my cautious nature and taking the leap of faith to put myself and my work out there. It doesn’t exactly soothe the sting of rejection but I stepped outside my comfort zone and that counts.

With all of this going on, I’ve been feeling a little bummed and a bit discouraged lately. I’ve been keeping up with current trends and I know my project’s going to be a hard sell in today’s market but like I’ve said, I only need one “yes.” My friends have been instrumental in keeping me going.  They have listened to me complain about how difficult writing is. They have entertained texts and e-mails from me about plot ideas that basically landed in their inboxes like Kramer bursting into Jerry’s apartment on Seinfeld. Most importantly, they have talked me off the ledge when I thought about “Select All + Delete”ing my entire manuscript. I cannot thank you all enough. I really appreciate it and you better believe that I’m going to do whatever I can to return the favor. Here’s a song that may best represents how I feel:

Thinking about my friendships caused me to think about my favorite fictional friendships. So I thought I’d share a few of them. They’re not in any particular order and this list doesn’t feature all of my favorite friends but here it is:

shawncory

I am a child of the 90s. Many Friday nights growing up consisted of watching TGIF. And while partial to most shows on ABC’s Friday night television line up of yesteryear, Boy Meets World was and remains one of my absolute favorites. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it’s about the coming-of-age of Cornelius “Cory” Matthews as he transitions from 6th grader into adulthood. One of the integral parts of the show is Cory’s friendship with Shawn Hunter. Cory and Shawn are besties, so close that they’re practically brothers. They have their ups and downs but overall they’re there for each other, always.

golden

The Golden Trio from Harry Potter is another example of great friendships. Ron and Hermione were the definition of “ride or die.” Would your best friends drop out of high school to assist you in preparing for a war against the Dark Lord?  Ron and Hermione were constantly risking their life for Harry. Not every friend would do that. Actually, this could really extend beyond Ron and Hermione to Harry’s other classmates at Hogwarts as well. Each of them rallied around Harry and provided the support–risking their lives–to ensure good vanquished evil.

Note: I thought about including The Marauders but honestly, they were teenage assholes. Fans like to gloss over the fact James, Sirius, Remus and Peter were bullies but I can’t. We know they eventually grew up and grew out of being jerks (with the exception of one) but the glimpse the readers received of their time at Hogwarts painted them in an unsavory light.

troyabed

Troy and Abed are weird. And that’s what makes their friendship so interesting. Troy started his time at Greendale Community College as the popular jock-type who didn’t have to do much of anything to acquire friends.  Abed on the other hand had his quirks that made it a bit difficult for him to interact with others. However, the two of them were able to build a friendship and pull out the quirkiness in one another. I think that’s what the best friendships do. We’re all weird and good friends are those who learn how to deal with it and love us for it.

jesscece

I thought my list was a little dude-centric and that’s a problem. I’ve noticed that most male friendships are portrayed as you know, friendships while female friendships are portrayed as catty passive-aggressive rivalries. That’s not cool. Not every lady friendship is shown as such but they’re way too many for my liking. However, the friendship between Jess and Cece on New Girl is refreshing. The two of them have been friends since elementary school and now in their late-twenties, they remain close. Jess and Cece’s friendship is like a mix of Cory and Shawn’s and Troy and Abed’s. They’ve been friends since childhood and have been there for each other through ups and downs and have learned to accept each other’s weird. The New Girl writers have done an adequate job of establishing Jess and Cece’s friendship but I wish they’d spend a little more time developing it further like they have with the rest of the roommates in the loft.

What is your favorite fictional friendship? I’d really like to hear about it.

008. You Can’t Win Child

Two posts in one week? Wow! While this blog is heavily focused on my Write Life (gotta get that tatted on my stomach like Pac),  I thought it couldn’t hurt to share things about me/are important to me. I’ve blogged about my thoughts on feminism in the past and now I’d like to talk about something else that’s been on my mind for a while.

Over the couple of weeks or so, Twitter has been abuzz with talk about body shaming. As a person living on planet earth, I’ve encountered body shaming on a pretty regular basis. Maybe slightly more often since I’m a ~plus-sized~person. I actually laughed aloud typing that. Plus-sized is coded language for fat. I wear a size 16/18. I’m fat, y’all. And guess what?  That’s cool.

As you can probably tell,  this is going to be a rambly post about body image stuff.  Yay!

I firmly believe in the statement on this graphic that features slight variations of one particular body type (sorry I couldn’t find a better one). Every body is beautiful but it seems as though society doesn’t want us to believe it.

Personal story time!

I’ve mentioned in passing that I was bullied growing up. While in elementary school, most of it centered around me being considered “smart” and being the teacher’s pet by my peers However, the bullying I experienced in  middle school was a totally different beast. Starting in 6th grade, I was bullied about my weight. Looking back on the situation, I wondered why I was targeted since I honestly didn’t look too much different from my other classmates. But without asking the perpetrators why, I’ll probably never know. So it has become a “thing that happened for whatever reason” like how I’ve somehow become a vault for life stories that people should probably take to their grave instead of sharing with another leaving soul.  The things I went through at school along with food policing and comments made by relatives that weren’t my parents at home tanked my self-esteem. Once again, in retrospect, I know those family members probably mean well but a lot of the comments made and telling me what I could and couldn’t eat were largely unnecessary. Especially when my cousins ate the same things + tons of junk food. But they weren’t chubby and I was :/. It’s a million years later and those comments pop up in my head during big family dinners and I still feel uncomfortable eating in the presence of those relatives.  Overall middle school was

While it was pretty bad, my experiences during that time became a testament to my resilience. The summer between eighth and ninth grade was my “Started From The Bottom” period. I worked extremely hard building my self-esteem from the ground up on my own. I had many Stuart Smalley moments, staring at my reflection in the mirror stating self-affirmations, reminding myself that I matter and basking in my own awesomeness.  It was a slow-going process  but it worked. I began to see myself differently. I saw my value and everything else fell into place. As a result, I’ve become a twenty-something teetering on the edge of becoming the next Narcissus.

While I’m happy with myself, that doesn’t stop people from insisting that I shouldn’t be. A fat girl with high self-esteem who openly refers to herself as “fat” is almost superhuman. It blows people’s minds to say the word in reference to yourself because it seems to make people uneasy. Even if the statement is both actual and factual. The looks you get when you call yourself fat are hilarious to be honest. They don’t know how to react and it’s like:

 To me, “fat” is not a synonym for “ugly.”  When I say “I’m fat” it doesn’t mean “I feel ugly.” I don’t need anyone to try placate me or make me feel better by insisting that I’m not fat but [insert another word that’s a nice way to spin “fat” here]. I don’t feel bad about myself when I say I’m fat because fat isn’t a bad thing to me. Though some people may believe that fatties should spend all day feeling bad about themselves for being fat, I have better things to do than stew in poor self-esteem. Like, ya know live my life. I don’t need dieting tips (unless you’ve got some good vegetarian recipes for my veggie lifetstyle). I don’t need to know how to dress for my body (I got dis). And I don’t need workout routines–well, I should probably exercise but that would be toward achieving my goal of living a thousand years rather than losing weight. In short, mind ya own business, son.

As women, the standards of beauty for us are vastly different than they are for men. We’re always chasing after an ideal that’s a moving target. Once–or if–we achieve it, we’re hit with another goal to strive for that’s completely different. We’re constantly being inundated with messages that whatever body you’re in, it’s wrong. If you’re too thin, you’re constantly questioned about your eating habits and being told that you need to put on weight. If you’re too large, you’re constantly being questioned about your eating habits and being told you need to lose weight. Take it away, MJ….

Regardless of what you do, you can’t win. You’re not going to be able to appease everyone in terms of your appearance so you know what you should do? You. You gotta do you, boo. Learning to be comfortable in your own skin takes work but once you reach that place, it’s amazing.

007. (Un)Attainable Goals 2014

Hey y’all!

I hope you had an awesome holiday and brought in the new year on a high note. I’m back here with some of the goals I hope to accomplish during the year. Since we’re five days into 2014, I’ll share a bit about how things have been going so far.

1. Stop falling for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s and Michael B. Jordan’s thirst traps.

This is actually going pretty well. Don’t know how long it’ll last though. We’ll see.

2. Set a daily word count. (500 words)

I’ve been struggling to meet my word count goal. I got an idea for a new story that ended up snowballing into a BIG IDEA that requires research and planning. While I haven’t been writing, I’ve been actively planning this novel the last couple of days. I really like this idea and am excited about working on it.

3. Meet the daily word count.

See above.

4. Write for at least 30 minutes every day.

Taking notes for my new project counts, right?

5. Complete at least three manuscripts.

This is a year-end goal. Let’s see how this goes.

6. Learn how to make edible vegetarian meals (smothered tofu, son).

I made vegetarian spaghetti yesterday and it was pretty good.

7. Learn how to write a screenplay.

My screenplay ideas are on the back-burner. I’m caught up in BIG IDEA.

8. Write a screenplay

See above.

9. Update your writing blog weekly.

I have a couple of posts lined up. I might be able to do this.

—-

So those are my goals for the year. Let’s see how well I do.

 

006. ***F L A W L E S S

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last week then you’re well aware of the monster Beyoncé unleashed on the world last Friday at midnight. If you have been living under said rock then I’ll catch you up. On December 13, 2013, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter released her fifth studio album entitled BEYONCÉ, causing damn-near the entire world to freak out. Myself included. News broke just as the lights were dimming in the theater at the midnight premiere of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug I attended, rendering me powerless until the next morning.

When I finally had a chance to listen to the album, I I fell in love. I feel like this is the first time we’re seeing the human side of Beyoncé. We’ve seen glimpses of her personality over the years in interviews and behind-the-scenes clips but it always seemed like she was holding back a bit. Like she wasn’t quite sure if we could handle her Flaws & All (See what I did there?). But this album is different. I feel like this one is really Beyoncé for real-for real. And while all the songs on BEYONCÉ are freakin’ awesome, there was one track that stood out to me the most. Track 11, *** Flawless. The song features this quote from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists”:

We teach girls to shrink themselves to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful otherwise you will threaten the man.’ Because I am female I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. A marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support, but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they can not be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist: A person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.

It was like the heavens opened and a choir of angels sang, accompanied by a wicked electric guitar riff when I heard this bridging Bow Down into ***Flawless proper. I felt like:

source: wavvey-tare.tumblr.com

This seconds-long clip summed up everything I believe in so perfectly and drove home the idea that I am a feminist. As a child of the 90’s, I grew up on the Spice Girls. At 9, I bought into the concept of “Girl Power” wholesale. To kid!Brit, “Girl Power” meant I could be anything I wanted to be. I was awesome, smart and just as good as my boy counterparts. My “Girl Power” often showed up in gym class where I went above and beyond to crush my crushes to prove I was their equal. The Spice Girls had planted a seed but growing up, feminism was always depicted as something bad in popular culture. Feminists were always presented as a group of shrewish, unshaven women who were suffering from Freudian penis envy if not misandry. Those unsavory stereotypes deterred me from claiming my spot on the team for quite a while even if though I believed and agreed with the central tenets of the movement.

Feminism seemed to become more accessible to me over time. Probably since I had grown up and was capable of digesting and processing theories with age. In recent years, feminism seems to be the thing. And you know what? I’m absolutely here for it. By including Chimamanda Adichie’s speech, Beyoncé helped some things click in my head. A light turned on. Cogs began to churn.

I began thinking about feminism and how it relates to my writing. I began thinking about the stories I want to put out into the world for young women (and possibly some young men) to consume. Ideally, I want to write stories that invoke the spirit of Run the World (Girls)— tales of young women who do great things. But upon further thought, my definition of “great things” seemed to be novels about girls who come through strong like a sword-wielding Xena riding into battle. Kick-ass girls who do kick-ass things. I was kind of buying into the whole Strong Female Characters thing and eh. Not everything has to be kick-ass. Being chill and vulnerable are desirable character traits as well. Katniss Everdeens and Olivia Dunhams can exist with Bella Swans and Sansa Starks. They’re all good. I had to think a little longer and was able to determine I want to write books that encompass all of those things while considering who my characters are as people and their role in their story. One thing I’ve come to learn about writing is, my views may not be my characters’ views. Everything has to make sense narratively.

Ultimately, I want to write stories that don’t sell teenage girls short. Teenage girls already get so much crap from society. They are the butt of so many jokes and snide comments. Read most articles about YA lit and you’ll see what I mean. I want to create things that inspire new ideas. Full disclosure, not everything I write has substance as you’ll soon learn. Some things are for giggles and light-hearted eye rolls. But for the things that are meant to have purpose, I want to make sure the reader has something to take with them.

005. Handle With Care 2.0

Hey y’all!

I’m here to share something I wrote a few years ago after reading Party by Tom Leveen. I posted a review on my old blog Taking Friday about the novel. It was okay, for the most part but I found the portrayal of the PoC characters a little….for lack of a better term, problematic. It prompted me to write a blog post entitled “Handle With Care.” I’m sharing it again with a few added thoughts because it still seems to be an issue. The following is simply my opinion which is based on a few observations. I am in no way speaking on behalf of an entire group of people. Only myself.

Earlier this week, Leonicka posed a question on Twitter of would you rather misrepresentation or no representation in regards to media. I did some thinking on the matter myself. No representation means I’m invisible yet misrepresentation means having to fight an uphill battle to dismantle negative stereotypes. It’s a no-win situation. It’s funny that the question was presented while I was thinking about reposting this blog post because my thoughts from that time seem to be 100% against misrepresentation.

In my original review of the book (which is now lost to the ages), I stated that it seemed like characters of color in some YA novels are there for the sole purpose of allowing the other characters to be able to say “Oh, it’s cool bro. I have a black/Asian/Hispanic/Middle Eastern/etc. friend.” It remains that at times it seems as though PoC characters are props and not people. Sometimes, it seems like PoC characters are there as a half-hearted attempt at diversity. What good is it to have PoC character if it’s just a flat mash-up of terrible stereotypes? Using diversity to further negative portrayals of underrepresented groups just ain’t the business and does more harm than good. A part of writing is challenging yourself to step outside your comfort zone and write about things that you may not have experienced. If you aren’t a person of color and have imagined this character that happens to be one, research is important. You don’t want to be one of those authors who rely heavily on stereotypes to create a character. The results of that method are– if not totally offensive, then definitely bordering on it. Nothing’s more cringe-inducing than reading something that feels like the author has browsed through Urban Dictionary to find the latest slang for more “ethnic” appeal. Thus giving the character some weird, unrealistic way of speaking. Or going to great lengths find a simile to describe a character’s appearance and ending up with something like “black as coal.”

No, sis. That’s not the way to do it.

I’m not saying that slang shouldn’t be used. Slang is totes fine and can help develop a character. Same with dialects—people speak differently—but, you don’t want to venture off into offensive territory. Nothing makes me put down a book faster than having difficulty understanding what a character is saying or feeling belittled by the way author chooses to have the character express themselves (given the context of the story, of course).

I believe writers should approach using characters of color with this in mind: THEY ARE PEOPLE. NOT ALIENS. It’s troubling to find that people can create an alien species with complexities that leave the reader wondering if they could exist yet will write an African-American character who’s sassy or an Asian character who is good at math. Are we that difficult to relate to? We’re people with varying interests. There are things we like and things we dislike. We have hobbies, unrequited crushes, family dysfunction, friend drama, etc. just like everyone else. We’re people. We breathe. We cry. We love. We hate. Just like everyone else.
Finding the humanity in your characters should be the starting point. Flesh out their likes, dislikes, their history just as you would any character then go on from there. View them as a human being who just so happens to be African American/Hispanic/Asian/Middle Eastern etc. Sometimes their cultural/ethnic background may impact the story you’re trying to tell. Sometimes it may not. That’s okay.

Not every African American youth has to struggle with poverty and the decision whether or not to join a gang. Not every Asian teen has an extremely strict upbringing. Not every Hispanic/Latino young person has to struggle with maintaining cultural identity while trying to assimilate into the American way of life. Yes, these are building blocks for powerful stories. Yes, this is a way of life for many people. However, these scenarios should not have to be the back story for every minority character. Yes, their cultural/ethnic background will impact the way they interact with other characters and their world but they shouldn’t be the literary equivalent of stick figures with “Hi, I’m [INSERT MINORITY GROUP]” taped to their foreheads. In the long run, it doesn’t make the characters seem well-developed or thought out.

from The Office Screen Caps tumblr


These are just a few of thoughts. Like I’ve said, I’m not speaking on behalf of anyone other than myself. I swear I’m not going to spend all my time complaining about the lack of diversity in young adult literature but it’s something that’s near and dear to me.

004. Why I Write

Hey Guys!

I actually wrote two versions of this post. The first draft was a bit light-hearted and this one, the one you’re currently reading is honest draft. I hope you all enjoy it.

I spent most of last week worrying about perfecting my query but over the weekend–thanks to my majorly awesome friends Ash, Mary and Kai–I had the opportunity to see Justin Timberlake perform live in Columbus.

My Tour Shirt (photo by me)

The concert was amazing and it was a BIG deal for me. See, Justin Timberlake was an important part of my late childhood and adolescence. Very important. No, it’s not because of those big blue eyes or the bleach blonde Ramen hairstyle he sported during his tenure as a member of the best boy band ever, NSYNC. Yeah, he was one of my first celebrity crushes but the reason why Justin Timberlake was so important to me is because back then his music along with a notebook were all I had.  And it’s largely tied into my motivation to write as well as the reason I write the stories I write.

The answer to the question of why I write is fairly simple. I write for me. No, not for the adult who knows just how real the Scrivener Struggle is but for the brown-skinned girl who loved to read and watch TV. The girl who could spend hours in a Waldenbooks if her parents let her or who could quote lines from “Serial Mom” or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” with ease. Unfortunately, that same girl was bullied for liking things she was told Black girls shouldn’t. As a result, that girl withdrew a bit and spent many Saturday nights in middle and high school scribbling down stories in notebooks because she felt there was no one who understood and had no one to talk to about it.

Like this one (this is an actual notebook filled with my writing from middle school)

Like this one
(this is an actual notebook filled with my writing from middle school)

I’m not here to go on about how many times I’ve been called an “Oreo” or a “white girl” for liking the stuff that I like. I’m not talk about how much bullying sucks. And  this isn’t going to be an “I’m a special snowflake for being different~” post because this isn’t a Donald Glover song. What I know now that I didn’t know back then is that I’m not the only Black girl who loves sci-fi, fantasy, horror and paranormal fiction. There are tons of us out here consuming it. But one thing  I noticed then that I continue to notice now is that we’re underrepresented in the genre. Especially in YA. Growing up, I had a hard time finding a book that featured a protagonist that looked like me that faced issues in a setting that was so vastly different from everyday life.

If you walk into your neighborhood Barnes & Noble (or B&N equivalent), you’re bound to come across an endless amount of books featuring white girls in prom dresses in the young adult section. Even if they aren’t in prom dresses, many of the covers still prominently feature white girls. Because most of the books are about a white protagonist. And those that are about people of color either have ambiguous covers designed not to scare off potential readers or are shelved in the book store equivalent of Antarctica. All of this prompted me to write Dia of the Dead. I felt it was time for a non-white character to be the lead in a story that would usually revolve around a pale, brown-eyed girl with dark hair. Dia– one part Buffy Summers, one part Moesha Mitchell with a dash of Taina Morales– is the protagonist I wanted when I was younger. I felt it was time for something different so I wrote something that was a twist on something I love.

Dia of the Dead is paranormal YA and though it’s not paranormal romance, I might be extremely tardy to the party. Dia is just one of many stories I have about young adults of color roaming around in my head. If nothing comes from it, that’s fine. I’m not going to stop. It’s honestly time to change the face of young adult literature and I’m going to do my part, one story at a time.  So this is why I write. I write for myself as well as our tweens and teens of color who want to see themselves represented in a genre where we’re almost invisible.

Load More