"How can I get my manuscript accepted by a traditional publisher and see my book in bookstores around the world?" This frequently asked question has inspired best-selling editor and writer Jevon Bolden to write and publish her new book, Get Published: Seven Secrets to Getting Your Manuscript Accepted.
Today’s post is written by a sister, not by blood but by spirit. We share the same family name, and we are still investigating if we are related. The truth will be revealed soon enough. We have been circling around in the same web community for some time. She writes. I write. She publishes. I publish. I thought it was past time for us to join forces and bring some hope and inspiration to writers out there.
It's not always easy to translate a public persona into a compelling concept. This is a common challenge for many authors, especially nonfiction authors. Being able to identify the difference between real needs and felt needs can mean the difference between a good book and a great book.
Recently, I had a great exchange on Facebook with author George Pearson. An author of two books and currently working on a third book, his books are written for the Christian market. However, the criteria George and I discussed for finding the right editor for his work is applicable for authors of various genres and topics.
I also had a chance to give a book talk on a special book that I recently read--The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, and Harlem's Greatest Bookstore. It's book that represents my desire to see publishers publish more diverse books to more fully represent kid readers of various backgrounds. It is also a book that touches on my favorite period of American history--the Harlem Renaissance. And it represents one of my favorite places to hang: the local indie bookstore.
My personal reading this year has been specifically targeted toward reading more ethnically diverse books. I am on a mission to figure out who I am going to be as a book publishing professional in light of what I see in our American culture. (You can read more about my mission here.) With all the gathering of stories, characters, platforms, ideologies, and perspectives, I don’t have words yet for how I feel like I have been shaped, emboldened, or propelled by what I’ve read.
It may come as a surprise, but it is not always easy for editors to give critical feedback on manuscripts. While I believe the editorial mind is geared toward quickly noticing what's missing, wrong, or out of place, there's also a human on the other side of that mind who knows what it is like to receive criticism on creative work.
Not too long ago, I was editing a book in which I chose to use the words enslaved people instead of slaves. A person reading over the material asked, “Why not just say ‘slaves’?” I thought it was a good question, though I didn't imagine being asked about it. I know why I chose it. It was not a second thought to me. I also understood why the person asked, and it was completely innocent. But it got me thinking about how some people would actually take issue with the word choice—enslaved people—thinking, "Here we go with all this political correctness."
What would it be like to be constantly disbelieved for your own experience? To never ever be validated, with or without proof? How does it feel to be dismissed, denied, and rejected? To have your tears and frustration met with responses like, “I don’t believe you. You are lying.”
In a previous post, I hosted guest blogger and indie author Sheridan Davis who shared her inspiration for writing her newest book, Pretty for a Dark-Skin Girl. Some of you, who may read my blog, may not be all that familiar with the concepts and issues she uncovered, so I wanted to provide additional comments to the post to provide a bit more context.
I invited Sheridan Davis, author of Pretty for a Dark-Skin Girl, to write a guest post for my blog because her book and her passion to encourage and heal people in areas concerning race dovetails closely with what I'd like to see myself do in this next season of life.
Currently the official canon of American Renaissance literature (defined by F. O. Matthiessen as literature written between 1850 and 1855) includes no women and no people of color. Across the US and the world that include American Renaissance, or the like, as part of their curriculum study this time period with only the perspectives of white men. But both women and people of color wrote landmark, culture-shifting works during this time that embody the very meaning of renaissance. I aimed to uncover and explore their works.
Adichie tells the story of a Nigerian family under the oppression of a fanatically religious father. The story is told through the sensitive eyes of fifteen-year-old Kambili. The wealthy and privileged family consists of father, Eugene; mother, Beatrice; elder son, Jaja; and younger daughter Kambili. They are members of the Igbo tribe and live in Enugu. Despite his tyrannical rule over his family, Eugene is known an upstanding businessman and kind-hearted, generous philanthropist who gives to widows, pays tuition for over one hundred poor children, and funds the efforts of his local Catholic church.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is "an eloquent and uncompromising slave narrative" and is "arguably the most comprehensive slave narrative written by a woman." (Encyclopedia Britannica) In her writings we can clearly see the intersecting, overlapping, and oppressive struggle of a person of color and of a woman.
In a Chicago Triune article, Nara Schoenberg quotes Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania: “Fewer than 40 books by African-American authors for adolescents were published in 2015….Every year thousands of books for kids and teens are published, and every year we don’t seem to be able to get that number much over 100.”
The move from twelve years in adult Christian publishing to mainstream children's book publishing was pretty monumental. The only place I've left after years and years of being there was home. Oh and when I moved away from the town I grew up in to come to Florida for the job I held for twelve years then left for this new thing at Scholastic. Yeah, pretty monumental for a tiny person like me. What may seem like everyday, noneventful occurrences not worth talking about are quite the opposite for me.
When one season ends and you are looking ahead to the next season, how do you prepare? What happens in the in-between? I don’t know if we spend enough time in that in-between space. Sometimes we were so ready for the last thing to end that we don’t pause to consider the implications and lessons that accompany both seasons.
Yesterday, I left my career home of twelve years. I was a baby when I started and I am still sort of a baby now (at least that's how I feel). And those who are interested want to know what's next. "Where are you going, Jevon?" It's hard for me to just say the company and the job title without sharing the weight of what I feel this next season is all about for me, and, really, for anyone who has an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to them during what I believe is a time of major transition for God's people around the globe. So I'll start with a little background.
There's something interesting that happens with transition: you literally have to leap to the next opportunity holding on to nothing of the past or you will not cross over into the next thing. I believe that to transition successfully you have to be willing to lose all that you gained in a previous season to seize what is ahead of you in the next season.
Gentle persistence helps decision makers understand the value you place on your dreams. Don't be annoying and don't give up.