Friday, December 5, 2014

Author/Blogger Cops Out, Re-Posts Old Humor Piece for the Holidays.

Oh come on, it's funny. Relying on this piece every December is my new holiday tradition.


I'm fascinated by America's obsession with holiday yard art. Like everything else in America, it just keeps getting bigger, and true to our American way of life, it's not really getting any better—just bigger. 

Seems the large inflatable figures that light up are here to stay. We're not content to simply watch others haul dirigibles along 5th Avenue in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, we must have them in our own front yards. One day soon, these will come with helium tanks so we can fly them above our roofs. Imagine the chaos when one comes untethered and interferes with air traffic: Police shoot down inflatable Rudolf, owner sues. It's coming.

But back to our present day Holiday-ous Gigantes. Being that I have a somewhat dark sense of humor, my favorite aspect of this American holiday trend is the grim morning-after scene that plays out every 24 hours. What looks brightly festive by night is depressingly deflated in the light of day. Splayed out on the lawn, Santa looks like he's been on a three-day bender and Frosty is an ugly reminder of Climate Change. 

Festive, depressive. Festive, depressive.  

One night I might just knock back a couple hot toddies and find a way to crawl into one of those large inflatable snow globes to spend an evening with the happy snowman family. Think what a brilliant holiday selfie this would make—me, in a scarf and mittens, posing with my adoptive snow people family—tons of tiny styrofoam balls in my hair (and probably up my nose). Imagine the fun when the owners of said inflatable snow globe discover me face down in a polystyrene snowdrift. The police are called, Tom has to come get me, I’ve ingested styrofoam... Okay, maybe not.

Those holiday yard art fanatics who freely mix Christian religious figures with ones of popular culture hold a special place in my heart. Nothing brings me more delight than a nativity scene surrounded by animated reindeer, or The Grinch lurking nearby as a poser fourth Wise Man. He took the Who pudding, he took the roast beast. He's eyeing the Baby Jesus, this really must cease

I often wonder what those unfortunate souls who crank out this avalanche of cheap holiday crap in China must think of us as they sit in factories for hours on end, day after day, assembling the plethora of gaudy decorations for our American holidays. Imagine if things were reversed. Can you picture yourself sitting in a factory somewhere in America painting Chinese characters on thousands of plastic dragons, having no idea what they said or meant? Exposed to god only knows how many toxic chemicals so you could earn horrible money making hideous doo-dads for a holiday in another country? 

Sorry, I seem to have strayed down a dark path. And we really don’t want to think too far down the line during "the most wonderful time of the year." Shake it off, Kel, and get back to your previously scheduled humor piece. 

Last year, Tom and I were simultaneously dumbstruck and impressed when we discovered our neighbor out putting up his Christmas lights just days after Thanksgiving. He doesn't usually have "game" when it comes to this kind of stuff and Tom was even a tad jealous since we were nowhere near spelunking into the garage to bust out the X-Mess boxes. 

But true to his nature, at a certain point our neighbor lost interest in the whole thing and simply walked away. Though he managed to get one section of the eves done, as the holiday light project rounded a corner, it suddenly came to an abrupt halt. And there they sat for the remainder of the season; a good-sized cardboard box and two tangled mounds of Christmas lights left behind on the roof. Up on the housetop, click, click, click. Down to the sofa, I’m o-ver it.

Believe me when I say I’m not bagging on our neighbor. The truth is, as a writer, I totally get this. That's why I find it so damn amusing. 

I can relate to that moment of inspiration when you bust out the ladder, climb to the roof of your imagination, and start staple-gunning magic to the eves. But sometimes, you simply run out of steam, lose interest, and toddle inside for a beer or a nap (probably both) vowing to return to the project just as soon as creativity strikes again. Here’s proof: I began an article entitled, The Obligation of Holiday Yard Art about five years ago. So you see, sometimes you actually do finish stringing up the lights. 

Happy holidays, America. Whether you light the menorah, plug in the nativity scene, or fire up the giant inflatable Snoopy—enjoy. Just be grateful you didn't have to make any of that cheap plastic crap yourself.

                Subversive neighborhood photos by Tom Size

Saturday, October 25, 2014

KidLitCon 2014

It's been 2 weeks since the conference in Sacramento and I've finally managed to carve out some time to write about my experience attending this wonderful event. I know I'm late in reporting but perhaps my delayed post will help keep the positive energy flowing a bit longer.

This year's KidLitCon organizers: Maureen Kearney, Tanita Davis, Jen Robinson,
Charlotte Taylor, Melissa Fox, Reshama Deshmukh, and Sarah Stevenson
KidLitCon is an annual gathering of bloggers who focus on Children's & YA Lit. These dedicated literati hail from all over the country. They are librarians, teachers, authors, parents, and other voracious readers who can and often do change a life with one book recommendation. That's this year's team of organizers pictured above—the ones who made it all happen.

Sadly, I was a bit off my game during the conference. After almost a year of experiencing a mysterious chronic cough, my condition was recently diagnosed and is being treated as environmental asthma until further testing. And it was in full swing during this two day conference.

My persistent cough has rendered me the person for whom I usually reserve my most searing stink-eye. You know, the one whose cough is distracting during a talk. The one who slinks in late to a session (due to yet another wracking coughing fit) OR gets up and leaves in the middle (to hit the inhaler). Yeah, I'm suddenly that person. My apologies to all—especially Jen Robinson who had the unfortunately pleasure of sitting next to me during one of my most challenging episodes and refrained from smacking me. Thanks, Jen, I owe you.

But back to what really matters. Blogging Diversity, What's Next? was this year's KidLitCon theme, a conscious decision by organizers to help keep the focus on this critical issue. They filled their presentation line-up with authors and bloggers who were out there fighting for this cause even before We Need Diverse Books brought it forth as a mainstream issue. There were so many outstanding speakers that I won't be able to cover them all. Just know that each and every presenter brought vital information and enlightenment to the gathering. There's a reason they were chosen to speak and why they have hordes of followers.

Meeting Guinevere Thomas!
Being a white author who writes across racial/cultural boundaries can be interesting at times. And let's face it, I'm not just white—I'm blue-eyed, blonde-haired, Irish pink-pale white. For the most part, I've found incredible support and encouragement from authors and bloggers of color and I can't begin to express how much this means to me.

Meeting Libertad Thomas!
Two of my greatest supporters are the amazing bloggers of Twinja Book Reviews and now Diverse Book Tours. Libertad and Guinevere Thomas are quickly becoming respected leaders of the Diversity in KidLit movement. They came all the way from the East Coast, bringing their undeniable energy and presence to KidLitCon. And let me tell you, people naturally gravitate toward them. To finally meet these incredible writer/bloggers in person was a gift.

Author, Mitali Perkins, was a great choice for keynote speaker. She's just such a positive, engaging speaker and we all got ARC's of her latest book, Tiger Boy. Of course, I totally related to her saying that she wants to feel free to write for characters outside her own race/culture/gender—doesn't want to be relegated to writing only Bengali girl characters! Having a successful author of color say that was reassuring.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about of the scientific law of nature; how positive attracts and negative repels. It's natural and right to be angry about inequality and injustice in the world. But when that anger is turned into positive action and moves forward in a way that's inclusive and attracts others, it becomes something powerful. We Need Diverse Books is the perfect example.

Now a non-profit organization, WNDB has quickly become a force of nature the traditional publishing industry can no longer deny (and is wisely clamoring to sign up with). Four members of the We Need Diverse Books Team presented on Saturday. It was so great to see some of them in person and in action. Mike Jung has a brilliant sense of humor and he made me laugh a lot during their presentation. Laughter heals and I needed it.
Authors and WNDB Team Members, Karen Sandler, S.E. Sinkhorn, Mike Jung.
(Martha White's not pictured as she insisted on taking the photo.)  
Please keep in mind, I wasn't able to interact with every blogger and author who attended KidLitCon but those I did get a chance to meet made a lasting impression. Their very way of being in the world gives me hope for the future of diversity in Children's and YA Lit and therefore, future generations period.

Nathalie Mvondo & Libertad Thomas
One such blogger is Nathalie Mvondo of Multiculturalism Rocks! Together with Kim Baccellia of Si, Se Puede they presented, Finding and Reviewing the Best in Diverse Children's & YA. It was the first session I attended and set the tone for all that followed. Sorry I didn't get a pic of Kim but that's Nathalie with Libertad who presented later that same day. Teaming up with with editor, Laura Atkins and author, Zetta Elliot, Libertad spoke at Sistahs (and Brothers) are Doing It For Themselves, enlightening bloggers to the growing number of authors and illustrators who are independently creating diverse literature and encouraging bloggers to support them. FYI Twinja Book Reviews and Diverse Book Tours focus almost exclusively on Indie Authors, so check them out if you are serious about supporting Indies like me. Remember, lots of us couldn't land an agent or publisher because of our diverse characters and stories. The tide is turning.

Faythe Arrandondo and Hannah Gomez. If I had snarky hip librarians like these
when I was a kid, I would have read WAY more!
Faythe Arrendondo of YSLA-The Hub and Sarah HANNAH Gomez of McLicious are bloggers and librarians who work in libraries at opposite ends of the spectrum. Hannah brings the real world to kids in a predominately white area of economic wealth, while most of Faythe's library population struggle daily with the realities of socio-econonic strife.  On day two, Hannah and Faythe joined forces with bloggers Kelly Jenson and Summer Khaleq (she's only 16!) to present, We're Not Going To Take It Anymore, Why Bloggers Have the Ability To Make Diverse Books Happen. A brilliant bookend to a successful conference.

When Faythe spoke to the realities of not having books her young library clients can relate to—it was powerful. How is she supposed to hand a kid who struggles daily with poverty yet another book with a protagonist who is likely white (either wealthy or middle-class) and heading off to an adventure at boarding school or vacation?! Faythe's mission to bring change in this regard gave me pause and I'll not soon forget her words or her passion.

Housemade veg gnocchi at Grange.
Side note: At the end of the first day of KidLitCon, I decided it was best I not talk anymore as it only resulted in more coughing fits. Instead of attending the first night's dinner at a local Brew Pub, I slipped downstairs at the Citizen Hotel to sample the locavore cuisine of Grange—once a foodie, always a foodie. As some of you know, in real life, I work at The Kitchen. Delta Legend is based in the Sacramento Delta, a region known for agriculture. I grew up enjoying the asparagus, corn, pears, and strawberries grown there. Therefore, a restaurant that focuses on a locally sourced menu was calling my name.

There were quite a few ARC's for the taking at KidLitCon and when I saw Jewell Parker Rhodes', Buyou Magic on the table, I snapped it up in a heartbeat and started reading it at dinner. Jewell herself was also in attendance and a presenter. Her writing is lovely and her characters enchanting. This author is not only a prolific writer of both adult and children's novels, she's also the Virginia G. Piper Endowed Chair of Creative Writing at Arizona State University (just to mention one of her many affiliations). Yeah, she's that level of writer, as well as, a kind and gracious person.

ARC of Jewell's latest book. 
A great book, lovely food, and a glass of wine after a full day at KidLitCon was just what I needed. I crashed out early to rest up for day two of the conference.

I could go on and on about this awesome event, but by now I've likely lost most of my audience. Unless of course you were there and like me, are wanting to keep the experience and feeling alive until the next gathering of this amazing tribe.

Thank you to all who made KidLitCon 2014 happen and who graciously allowed me to participate and included me in your circle. Until we meet again...

And now it's time to post this and watch the World Series. You might be surprised who I'm rooting for (hint: I love an underdog). I'll make any corrections tomorrow but for now, I'm off the clock!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Staring at Trees

West Sonoma County is the place I return to when in need of R&R. For me it's actually RR&R— that last one being Reboot.

There is magic in these woods.

I lived on the Russian River and in Sebastopol, CA from 2006-2010. I've always found peace and healing among the vineyards and redwoods, not to mention my beloved Sonoma Coast.

After a pretty stressful year of all work and no play, I was longing to return here to the redwoods and just be. Thankfully, I didn't have to twist Tom's arm to spend time in Cazadero.

We rented Ken and Cindy's lovely little cabin, Cloud 9, in the woods on Austin Creek near where our dear friends Gina and Lonnie live full time.
Two chairs in the creek bed by the fire pit Tom built.

Several days of no obligations (other than deciding what to eat). No cell service, even a brief power outage that meant no WiFi, has been as my mom would say, "heavenly."

Of course, Rox got to come along on this mini vacay. Even though she's turned the corner to being a senior doggy, she can still while away the hours being The Creek Monkey. The exact rules of Rock Ball remain ambiguous, yet it's a game she has endless energy for. And at night, she sleeps like, well, like a dog.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a very full schedule today: A morning hot tub, another walk in the woods, maybe a short drive to the coast followed by a bonfire down by the creek. And yeah, there will be more barbecuing and some West SoCo craft beer and wines thrown into the mix. My Goodreads list shows that I am reading nothing. Actually, I read one short story, a Sunset Magazine, and a few cooking magazines. But mostly, I just stared at trees and water and fire.

Four days of work next week and then I head off to Sacramento for KidLitCon. I'm so pleased Diversity is this year's focus and theme. I hope to meet some of you in person at KidLitCon next Friday and Saturday.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Introducing Diverse Book Tours

Long before the now famous We Need Diverse Books movement, Guinevere and Libertad Thomas were a driving force in calling attention to the need for diversity in Children’s and YA literature. 

Libertad Thomas
As bloggers, activists, writers, book reviewers, and promoters, they continue to keep the focus on this important issue. Joining forces with Sasha of So Bookishly,
these talented bloggers are transforming their passion into a new venture, Diverse Book Tours, launching at the end of August.

Guinevere Thomas
I first connected with Libertad and Guinevere Thomas via their blog, Twinja Book Reviews. As an independent author of diverse/multicultural YA, finding quality and result-driven promotion is always on my mind. I know first-hand how challenging it can be to find literary bloggers willing to read, review, and promote your work. That’s why I’m delighted Diverse Book Tours will soon be a reality.  

Here’s my conversational interview with Libertad and Guinevere Thomas as we discuss their new venture and the state of diversity in publishing.

I know Diverse Book Tours has been brewing for a while. Tell me a little about how it came to be, from inception to where you are today, about to launch this new venture.

This has been on our minds for a long time. As readers, we wanted books that featured a MAIN character who was: of color, disabled, queer/Quiltbag, non-Christian, or otherwise—essentially anything that might not be the "default" for a protagonist. We've always wanted to promote diversity in books on a larger scale and we’ve been at it since September of 2013, blogging about and promoting diversity in YA Literature on Twinja Book Reviews. 

An author we hosted on our blog suggested the Book
Tour idea, which got us thinking, so we started researching exactly what went into a successful book tour company. We also write, so wanted to better understand the industry for self-published authors, since we plan to publish our own work. It was quite eye opening, because there aren't nearly as many resources for diverse books as there are for just "books." And the traditional publishing industry, as far as we knew, wasn't exactly moving on this issue.

Then, Sasha approached us about joining her to start a virtual book blog tour company that promoted diversity. She saw what our blog did, how we connected to other bloggers and authors (both traditionally and self-published) and thought it'd be a good idea to make us general partners. It was a good fit. 

If someone is completely new to the whole process of book tours, can you break it down and explain how your service works?

Traditional book tours are events that require an author to travel to certain venues to promote their book. However, not all authors, including the traditionally published, have the resources or sales to fund a physical book tour.

Over time, technology has grown stronger and now virtual book tours have everything physical book tours do, but are exclusively online. It is a planned, consistent source of online promotion for a book.

A book tour company like ours offers the service of “booking” your tour. We arrange for tour hosts, online stops for guest posts, author/character interviews, cover reveals, etc. We can also place ads on websites and provide reviews for a book (depending on the service you want). We utilize our numerous social media contacts on a client's behalf and market strongly to bloggers who read diversely. 

It would be very time consuming for an author to do what we’ve already done: research bloggers, the books they've read, if they focus on diversity in their reviews, and then connect with each and every one of them.  

The services we offer are affordable. We accept both traditionally and self-published books, but we strongly encourage self-published authors. Their works often do not make it into physical stores, making it much more difficult to promote.  

As most authors already know, publishers expect you to do a considerable amount of self-promotion. Virtual book tours are a cost efficient option, considering it requires little traveling but provides accessibility to be in the pcs and laptops of many.

I imagine you used your many contacts via social media and other marketing connections to gather all the bloggers who will be participating in Diverse Book Tours. How receptive was the literary blogging community to DBT and what’s the post #WeNeedDiverseBooks climate like?

The response so far has been great, very well received. Nearly everyone we've asked has signed up. Mind you, we team-up with literary bloggers who already read diversely.

As far as the post #WeNeedDiverseBooks climate? We still need diverse books. We still need to understand how to market them. We need to have more conversations about diversity, to understand why it is important. When you talk about needing diversity, I think it intimidates those who don't see a need for it but diversity is about making sure everyone is represented. Traditional Publishing, are you listening?

If you went to a bakery and all they had was one item, you'd get sick of that bakery and go find variety. Same for literature, if all that’s offered is just one narrative, readers will start to go elsewhere—they want something fresh and new. Which is why we wholly support self and independently published authors.

If an author only has an ebook, will you work with them or do they need to have a physical book as well?

It would be most efficient if an author has an ebook. On our own blog, yes we do like physical copies. But ebooks are much more cost effective if a tour is booked that requires multiple people to read and review.

We would not expect an author to start sending multiple copies to tour hosts just to get read. It would be different if an author queried us on our own book blog, Twinja Book Reviews, however, anything involving Diverse Book Tours, it would be more cost and time efficient for an author to have their work released in ebook form.

In my mind, the process of bringing a book into the world divides into three equal parts: Writing/Packaging/Promoting. Traditionally published authors hand the last two steps off to an agent and publisher. I know you are open to working with both traditionally and independently published authors, but what can an independent author of a diverse book do to ensure they get the most out of their experience with Diverse Book Tours?

An independent author's best shot at ensuring a positive response from our service is to make sure their book has first met the industry standard. Editing is an important part of that.

Self/Indie published authors have what it takes just as much as any traditionally published author. But we must stress: your work is in direct competition with not only other well-edited indie books, but also the traditionally published. We want self/indie published authors to feel welcome with us, to know we are out there making sure they get the most out of whichever service they pay for, but we do not want authors to pay for promotion and services that may work against them.

We've done a lot to gather our dedicated team of bloggers. Many bloggers will not accept self-published books for fear they will have to read low quality work due to past experiences working with other tour companies. We’ve worked really hard to gather the amount of tour hosts we did in such a short amount of time. We need to be able to assure them that the books they will be signing up to host, read, and promote are industry ready. We stress this now because we haven't officially launched and we want authors to consider doing more to make sure their work is well edited before they book with us.

There are many options an author can take to do this, and not every option is an expensive route. We would even be happy to suggest options to authors, whatever their price range. While we do not provide editing services, we can provide suggestions.

I’ll be at KidLitCon's  8th Annual KidLitoshpere Conference in Sacramento, CA (October 10 & 11). This year’s theme is “Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next?” In your opinion, what IS next?

Aw, we wish we could go! Charlotte Taylor, one of the coordinators of KitLitCon extended a personal invitation to us. Unfortunately, we had other obligations. This year out of any would have been the best to attend (especially meeting great people like you in person!). But there will be other times, so we hope you tell us all about it!

As far as what's next? Well, diverse books always have been and should continue to be what's next. Anyone promoting these books is a part of this. Anyone who writes diversely is a part of this. Anyone who reads, YOU ARE ALL A PART OF THIS.

Watch out for our official launch! We are building our site with a new custom layout and we will soon announce the winner of our giveaway!

I know I’m looking forward to the launch of Diverse Book Tours. For too long I felt like I was out there alone, trying to drum up promotion for Delta Legend. It’s good to know the tide is turning for authors of diverse lit, thanks in part to entrepreneur advocates like Libertad Tomas, Guinevere Tomas, and Sasha Beatty.

In the meantime, you can get an idea of their mad skills in book promotion by visiting Twinja Book Reviews and
So BookishlyThen be sure to stop by the beautifully evolving Diverse Book Tours site and enter to win their giveaway. I’m donating a paperback of Delta Legend and some Oakland & Delta swag to this monster giveaway!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Thoughts from a Plain-Belly Sneetch

Thanks to the tenacity of Ellen Oh along with the entire #WeNeedDiverseBooks team and subsequent panel at BookCon, many agents, publishers, booksellers, and librarians came away from BEA 2014 with a new perspective on the market for diverse books.

And while this is wonderful news, I've been pondering what this will mean for those of us who were out ahead of this movement and ultimately self-published, the ones without "stars upon thars." 

Independent Authors of diverse books continue to deal with a challenging Catch 22. We are the recipients of a double shunning. First, by agents and publishers who could not envision anything past a niche market for our stories, and secondly, by those bloggers, literary reviewers, libraries, and booksellers who refuse to promote independently published books. The irony is that in doing so, they further perpetuate the state of lack when it comes to diverse literature.
This site will make you smile.
I started to address this issue via social media in the week leading up to BEA, but then I stopped. With something as powerful as We Need Diverse Books about to take center stage at BookCon, there should be no dissension amongst the ranks. What this panel and everyone who participated in #WeNeedDiverseBooks made happen was nothing short of amazing. The need for diversity in Children's and YA literature far outweighs the needs of one little saber-rattling author. 

Sure it’s disheartening to think that some of us who were previously told “no” by traditional publishing might actually find a "welcome" mat in this new climate. But the greater message of Dr. Seuss’s The Sneetches is that at certain point, after things got a little crazy, none of the Sneetches could tell who initially had stars, and who didn’t.

Dr. Seuss's, The Sneetches and Other Stories
Random House, First Edition, 1961. N
 read it as a child? It's even better as an adult.

Perhaps there’s a silver lining in #WeNeedDiverseBooks for us Indie Sneetches. 
Maybe we'll find a bit more acceptance from those who typically only recognize books by Star-Belly Sneetches. I hope so. Even though I ultimately had to go it alone, I did not publish Delta Legend haphazardly. I knew it would be scrutinized within an inch of its spine by those who look to find fault with independently published books. 

Participating in the We Need Diverse Books campaign was like a gift out of the blue for me and I am so grateful. For years I've felt like I was out here alone. Now I realize that even those with agents and traditional publishers have felt their diverse books are not getting the level of attention and promotion they deserve.

I'm always checking myself when I post about this issue and I often go back in to soften my words—afraid to risk angering the publishing gods. Then I read Ellen Oh's guest post on Angry Asian Man detailing her personal reasons behind #WeNeedDiversBooks. She turned her anger and frustration into unapologetic action and we've all benefited. 

The audio from BookCon's We Need Diverse Books panel is available here. It's about an hour long but so worth the time (or listen in increments as I did). Every author on the panel is positive and inspiring. This was history in the making and has already changed the future of Children's and YA Lit for the better. 

Here's to the upstarts, like Ellen Oh. The ones who say, "I'm not gonna sit around and wait for things to change, I'm gonna go out and make it happen." And for that, this Plain-Belly Sneetch says, thank you. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Waiting for a Sign

Here we are, on approach to Summer Solstice, and I have Karen Carpenter’s, “Merry Christmas Darling,” stuck in my head.

It's not because Tom is away, tracking an album in England—he’s having a brilliant time and I've needed the solitude. No, it’s because of the line, “Greeting cards have all been sent, the Christmas rush is through… “ It speaks to that moment after a hectic time when things finally start to slow down and you can take stock of your emotions.

As it relates to me at this moment: the screenplay polish of Delta Legend is complete. It honors the novel while ratcheting up the action and suspense needed to carry a film. 

It’s been a while since I’ve faced the Hollywood firing squad and I’m waiting for that moment of brave, a sign that I'm really ready to do this again. If you can't handle rejection, better go find some other place to play.

Whatever comes, it’s been extremely satisfying to incorporate the growth of the novel back into the original spec. They really do compliment each other and it's ready should the need arise. 

I plan on taking a very short break before getting back to the business of writing the next installment. Only this time, there won’t be years between novel and film—they are happening simultaneously. I've written about this before but a screenplay really is a beautiful blueprint for a novel.

This is going to sound crazy, but whenever I get beaten down from going it alone as an indie author/publisher/one-woman marketing team for Delta Legend, I visualize handing the keys to Calvin and telling him, “You gotta drive this thing.” Without hesitation, he nabs the keys and says, “I got this.” And he does.

As writers, we sometimes feel like we’ve given birth to our characters. Most of the time, however, I feel as though characters come out of the ether. Needing their stories to be told, they find me. Calvin, Mei Li and the gang—this is their time. Beyond a niche market, young adults of color need to see themselves as protagonists and heroes of contemporary stories that appeal to a very wide audience. 

As I'm writing this post, UPS just delivered the latest box of physical books … at 8:15 p.m.?  It wasn't due here until June 9th. 

When I hold this book, I am reminded how very fortunate I am to have had the opportunity to tell this story. For all the push-back against self-publishing, it has afforded many of us an opportunity that would have been impossible otherwise. Prior to digital publishing, if no one in traditional publishing found value in your story, that was it, game over. How many writers went to their graves leaving behind an unpublished, type-written manuscript wrapped in brown paper and tied with string? (I warned you I was being sentimental.)

Thanks to Ellen Oh and her merry band of #WeNeedDiverseBooks upstarts, the tide is turning. Querying with my African American protagonist would likely be a bit easier in the current climate. But thanks to independent publishing, Calvin's story didn't have to languish on the back burner, waiting for this day to come. One need only look at the demographics of reviewers on Goodreads and Amazon to see that Delta Legend easily transcends any notion of a niche market.

I am blessed and grateful, and yes, proud. Turning a screenplay into a novel is not often done. Independently publishing that story has been a tough row to hoe, but I did it. And I'll do it again if I have to.

Thinking back to when I was finishing the novel, I did readings with a class of at-risk students from the projects. Remembering how they went from showboating and mouthing-off to quiet and engaged in a matter of pages. The way they embraced Calvin and expressed shock that someone was writing a story they could actually relate to. When one of the toughest guys in the class came up to me afterward to ask what the word "imbibe" meant… How could I not do this?

Seems UPS just delivered that sign I was waiting for. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

An Open Letter To Agents, Publishers, Booksellers, and Librarians Regarding Diverse Literature.

Thanks to the incredibly powerful #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign, many of you will soon be heading off to BEA 2014 with a renewed sense of what is marketable.

As you do, please remember that for every wonderfully talented author appearing on BookCon’s, We Need Diverse Books panel, there are countless numbers of us who were out ahead of this movement, yet could not find a champion willing to be in our corner.

If you are truly invested in finding and promoting diversity in literature, you’ll need to rethink the way you view independently published authors of these books. Most of us are talented, hardworking, and brave individuals who refused to let the “no’s” of traditional publishing keep us from telling our diverse stories. We are one of the greatest resources of diverse and multicultural literature available. 

I hope you will keep this in mind the next time you are approached by an independent author of a diverse book. Our champions are found in those who recognize and promote quality literature regardless of who published it.

Kelan O’Connell