So, it’s been a minute. With transitioning to taking my graduate classes online, interning via Zoom, learning about the power of stories from my elementary school students (that could be a whole other post) and reflecting on my various privileges, I’ve been trying to take as much offline time as possible. That’s meant this blog has fallen by the wayside.
I’m currently reading Bethany C. Morrow’s A Song Below Water. It’s a powerful story of a Black teen siren navigating a world bent on suppressing her voice, and the parallels to our real world are striking. And of course, the push for diverse voices in books is inspiring some thoughts.
In these times, it’s been easy for some white authors to think that their voices are being silenced in favor of authors of color, that a Black person’s book is taking their spot. I quickly realized there’s no point in thinking this way, because there are many reasons why any book could get rejected at any given time, and most of them don’t have to do with merit or the actual quality of the work. Publishers consider their own tastes, the market, and current events.
But that brings me to another point that is actually problematic for many writers and allows myths like “that book is taking my chance” to proliferate: the lack of transparency in the publishing industry. No, often times authors won’t know why we get rejected. We make our own closure after vague, subjective responses from agents and editors. It’s not their fault–you can’t quantify exactly why you didn’t connect with something.
But beyond making it near impossible to know how many books authors actually sell, what actually happens when you’re on submission, what goes into a book deal, what’s a typical book deal, what a healthy author-agent relationship is supposed to look like, the culture of “I have big news and I can’t talk about it yet”, as exciting as it is, is shrouded in mystery and power dynamics that make it all too easy for predators and narcissists to take advantage of less experienced writers who don’t have a network.
Over the past few days, I’ve seen so many authors and agents come forward with stories of abuse and grooming and generally gross behavior. I want to thank them for their bravery, and I hope this does a little bit to help querying authors like me as we start our journeys.
I’ve been reviewing new music, working on my books, stressing about schools reopening, taking time to care for my garden, being absolutely befuddled at people who refuse to wear masks, and doing a lot of reflecting, both on my own and with friends and family, trying to be a better citizen and thinker. In the next few months, I’ll have a poem in I’m Not Crazy, She Will Speak’s mental health-themed anthology, and my first ever fiction publication in a real lit mag, The Blue Mountain Review. I’ll be sharing details as soon as I have them.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you’re able to take time and space for what you need to do.