Guise this has literally never happened to me before so I’m pretty much blown away, not gonna lie.
Her fine work: Let me show you it.
Thank you Sarah, you honor me.
Are you the type to judge a book by its cover?
If so, get out your gavel!
Are you excited? I am. The fantastic artist, Ray Shappell, made eight–EIGHT!–cover comps to look over, and everyone fell in love with this one. And here’s a sneak peek of the first line, if that will help sway the court.
To enter the US giveaway for an annotated ARC, head to YA Books Central!
That’s right: if you win, you get to read the book 6 months early (without having to time travel!), along with all my random notes, musings, and doodles in the margins.
In the year since the book sold, I’ve seen several instances of authors stalking or threatening reviewers. So, first off because it’s most important:
Threatening and/or stalking someone is never, ever okay.
It is so Not Okay that I don’t even have a metaphor for how Not Okay it is.
In fact, “Not Okay” is a huge understatement. It is wrong. It is illegal. It is evil. No one should ever do it.
I have never been the subject of a bad review. (Because my book isn’t out yet. I’m sure that I will get some when it starts to be available. That is life. Can’t be all things to all people/there are bad reviews for classics/etc.)
But I have been stalked and threatened.
And it is terrifying.
Is a bad review terrifying? … Maybe? But not in the same way. If someone hates my work, I do not fear for my life. And if they somehow make me fear for my life with personal threats and calling my private cell and heavy-breathing their review into my ear, then, you know, I go through appropriate channels to try to protect myself. And “Appropriate Channels” is NOT threatening or stalking.
(Nor is it using a large platform to sic fans on reviewers. I don’t have a large platform so this may never be applicable to me, but it should be said because apparently some people don’t know this?)
So, okay, with the internet the way it is, people are more accessible than ever. We can tweet and email and chat and crosstalk and argue and all that, and I love that, I love connecting with people. And as the pub date approaches and my circle widens, there is more opportunity for cool conversation but also more risk. And I never want to make anyone feel unsafe, ever.
So I want to just include a personal policy, of sorts, for social media. As time goes forward, I will be thinking about and developing this policy further, but for now this is what I’ve got.
–If you ask me questions directly online, or invite me into a conversation, I will happily and respectfully try to respond. I love talking to people (though I am awkward about it at times) and appreciate conversation.
–If you Tweet about me but do not appear to be inviting me into conversation, I will err on the side of not responding. I’m not ignoring you to be rude! But I would rather risk appearing rude than making you feel unsafe.
–If you review my work, I may or may not read it, but I will always appreciate it–even if you hate the book. Why? Because you took the time, and time is your most precious resource. Thank you, truly.
–If you review my work and loved it and rave about it and it comes to my attention, I may in fact print out your review and keep it to look at when I’m unsure of myself. It means the world to me to know I did well in the eyes of a reader.
–I will always support a better safety and harassment policy on all social media platforms.
–If I hurt someone or cause harm, I will want to apologize. I will feel sorry. I will likely make some kind of public announcement of what I did wrong (keeping names out of it) and my intent to do better and any plans I have to that effect. I may or may not apologize directly, depending on my sense of whether or not a direct apology/contact is wanted by the person I hurt. (I am aware that sometimes, when harm is caused, the person harmed wants nothing more to do with the person who has harmed them and that’s okay too. Stuff is complicated and I want to try to do the right thing.)
Okay. I think this is a good policy, though again, it is evolving. And I always want to do better so feedback is welcome.
Getting back to my musical theatre roots!
Please enjoy a new recording of an old song, with New music. (er, music by Joel B. New, that is). Sung with flair by Vishal Vaidya.
I don’t always write love songs, but when I do, I–oh who am I kidding, most of my songs are love songs.
The other ones are about science and time travel. But in service of love.
You know those checkboxes you get on some official forms where there’s an incomplete list of races/genders and you’re like “Where am I on here?” and also “Is this, strictly-speaking, legal?”
|Not even an “Other” box?|
Very few of us fit in neat boxes, but you can imagine a hypothetical and inclusive checklist. And I posit that most of us feel pretty comfortable writing characters with whom we share an identity–people who would check the same boxes as we would.
In seeking to write diversity, I definitely feel like I can speak for the type of people that would check the same boxes as me. I’m bipolar. I’m biracial. So I’m comfortable writing characters with mood swings or people who never feel quite at home in any one culture. Part of this is that I have a huge amount of lived experience to draw from.
And part of it, of course, is that I never have to fear that someone can accurately say to me “We’re not like that. You got it wrong.”
I hate being wrong, of course. Most people do. But it’s more than that.
Any member of a marginalized community knows how hurtful stereotypes and misattributions can be. (If one more mass murderer is diagnosed by popular opinion with “mental illness” post-rampage, I’m going to go NUTS.) (See what I did there?) I don’t want to feed into stereotypes. I don’t want to hurt people. I don’t want to make things even worse.
But I don’t want to do nothing either, because the status quo is actively harmful.
So how to try to make things better without making things worse instead?
Two things I recommend.
1) Read and support marginalized voices outside your own experience. Listen, like, buy, retweet, signal boost. And most importantly, do this without butting into the conversation to give your own take on other people’s lives.
2) Use the learning that naturally came from listening in your own work. Try to write outside your checkbox. My main character is mixed race, her father is a bipolar addict. Those are all things I’ve dealt with. But her best friend is Persian. Her surrogate father is Nuer. I am neither, but I did my best to research, to listen, to understand, and then to write a compelling cast of diverse characters.
Did I get stuff wrong? Very likely.
Will I apologize for getting it wrong when someone lets me know? Most definitely.
Would I rather have just stuck with people that were like me? Certainly not.*
|After all, they can’t ALL be crazy.|
Trying and failing is better than not trying at all. Do your best to write diversity well, and acknowledge in advance that you can always do better.
And then write books that can proudly check loads of boxes.
*That is, unless for some reason my portrayal of these characters causes massive harm to others. I really don’t think it will. But I may be utterly clueless. You have to leave open that possibility, the possibility that you are Utterly Clueless.
Guess what I’m doing today!
If you guessed procrastinating, you are correct.
YOU WIN ONE MILLION INTERNETS.
I have a draft of book 2 that’s staring at me, and I’m steadfastly refusing eye contact. But my soft deadline is six weeks from today, which is coming up alarmingly fast.
Long ago*, procrastination looked like Netflix binges of crappy horror movies while I started internet fights. But now that I have deadlines and a small beeb at home, procrastination looks different. Here’s a list of things I do while procrastinating that still (hopefully) help me inch towards my deadline.
1. Research: This one’s great! Since I’m writing historical fantasy, I can still Netflix binge, but I get to watch documentaries instead of horror movies. Better for my psyche anyway. And I get so much inspiration from getting a visual on those old documents, photos, or letters they show with the slow Ken Burns zoom/pan. I’m not a visual person so watching something gets my brain firing in new ways.
2. Reading: This one can be dangerous. When I have writer’s block, reading is a godsend, but when I’m procrastinating, I’ll happily try to fool myself into thinking that my entire TBR list is vital to finish. I have to be selective because I will read and reread new books and old favorites, and I’ll never want to stop. Still, reading can help jog something that’s been stuck in my brain, so it’s vital. One thing that helps more than others is reading and critiquing for critique partners. Making my brain work on problems other writers are having is a good way to exercise my problem-solving muscles.
3. Blogging: HA HA. I actually don’t know if this one’s helpful. Obviously I should be laying down words on book 2 rather than here. Still, I can tell myself I’m being helpful to readers or getting out my angst or whatever. And there’s a limit. I can’t work on this post all day long. Eventually I’ll get annoyed with myself and go open my document.
4. Shaming myself by blogging about procrastinating: Yup. I’m annoyed. I’m opening my document.
*Before book 1 sold.