Thursday, June 18, 2020

Black Lives Matter

I don’t often find myself at a loss for words, but I have been lately. I wish I were an artist, and could capture what I’m feeling in a moving, poignant rendering that could be quickly viewed and digested by others. But words are all I have. So here it goes.

I have never enjoyed history. History class was always my least favorite—the class where names and dates (which I could never remember or keep straight) blurred hopelessly together, and where I’d fall asleep regularly, despite my most valiant efforts not to (because I am also a rule follower and falling asleep in class was against the rules, right?).

But history is important. Understanding it brings power. And I’m only just beginning to learn that.
I hate the idea of performative allyship, where you publicly pledge solidarity to a cause but don’t actually change anything. So recently when the #BlackLivesMatter movement became personal for me due to my connections in the literary world (yes, in case you're wondering, I have left Red Sofa Literary), I realized I needed to do more to educate myself. I have had the luxury of avoiding this issue for far too long and I’m only just now seeing that THAT IS THE PROBLEM! 

Until this point, I thought: I’m a nice person. I’ve never hurt or mistreated anybody. So I can’t be part of the problem, and can therefore ignore it, right? 

Wrong. On both counts. 

So I started educating myself by reading post after post, article after article, written by my friends of color, friends of friends, and other people of color in America, across multiple social media platforms. And let me tell you, my eyes are being opened. And I am deeply sorry I stayed asleep for so long. 

After reading so many personal experiences of people who face racism, both overtly and subtly, every day of their lives, I picked up the books ME AND WHITE SUPREMACY, and STAMPED: RACISM, ANTIRACISM, AND YOU (and, okay, quite a lot of fiction books by and about POC, since fiction is my first true love). And then I started reading. 

And there is one thing I read so far that has stuck out to me more than the rest. It’s been sitting in the forefront of my mind for days, causing me to see the history I’ve been taught my whole life in a completely different way. 

This is a passage from the book STAMPED (which should be required reading for EVERYONE thirteen and up, by the way) by Jason Reynolds (adapted from the original book by Ibram Kendi). The passage quoted below is about the events surrounding Bacon’s rebellion in Virginia in 1676 (a full hundred years BEFORE the Declaration of Independence).

Reynolds says, “Bacon declared liberty for all servants and Blacks, because, as far as he was concerned, though they were different races, they were the same class and should be united against the true enemy—rich Whites. But the governor knew if Blacks and Whites joined forces, he’d be done. Everything would be done. It would’ve been an apocalypse. So, he had to devise a way to turn poor Whites and poor Blacks against each other, so that they’d be forever separated and unwilling to join hands and raise fists against the elite. And the way he did this was by creating (wait for it… ) white privileges.” (pg 26)

My jaw practically dropped to the floor when I read this. According to Reynolds, white privilege was a thing created, on purpose, with the intent of dividing the people. And it was done in order to protect the interests of wealthy landowners. It also appears that before this time, the term White was not used to describe people. Early colonists were simply described by the term “people of European descent.”

The only conclusion I can come to is that dividing the races by giving them the terms White and Black, and establishing certain privileges for White people meant to give them an overinflated sense of self-importance, was all very deliberate. And that divide was then cooked into the system, so that by the time the United States of America was even established, the idea of white privilege was so ingrained as to be often unnoticeable as a force actively at work. (More on division in a moment).

In stating all of this, please forgive my simplistic view of history—I did some digging, and it appears that Bacon’s rebellion was complex and involved a lot of parties with varying agendas, and historians today still debate the causes of the rebellion. So please forgive any nuances I am overlooking. As I said in the beginning, I am not a history buff, by any means. 

But the point I am trying to make—what I feel I’ve learned—is that it seems clear to me that when people say racism is systemic, this is what they mean: it was DELIBERATELY baked into the system of our lives hundreds of years ago.

So in order to dismantle it, we are also going to have to be DELIBERATE. 

It’s going to take every single white person working to change the way they see the world and the way they see race going forward. It’s not enough to say this doesn’t affect me and so I’m not part of the problem. Nothing will ever change that way. We have to educate ourselves, and we have to do it on purpose. 

Here is how I am working to change myself:

Read, and HEAR the experiences of others. Don’t look away when the truths get hard.
Recognize and understand that I am part of the problem.
Be humble in admitting my own need to change.
Open my heart so I am teachable.
Donate to organizations that are actively working to dismantle racism in our country
Talk about what I am learning in my in-person circles, with family and friends whose experiences are similar to mine
Amplify POC voices by buying books for and about POC from bookstores owned by POC
Read these books, then talk about them with people within my sphere of influence
Read books that are hard to read, too, about truths I have been ignorant of almost my entire life. Work through them with the goal of achieving real change in myself.
Follow POC voices on social media, listen to their words and allow them to change me. 


Another thought I had shortly after reading the passage in STAMPED is this: When the governor of Virginia created these white privileges in the late 1600s, he did so in order to divide the lower classes so they wouldn’t band together and become too powerful. It’s chilling to think that these divisive tactics are probably still being used today—wealthy powerhouses trying to stay on top by doing whatever they can to divide, and essentially disarm, the rest of America. 

Division is a very powerful weapon. And its use often goes unnoticed as a weapon. One thing is clear right now—we are divided. And so we are weak. It’s time to stop fighting and come together, however we can. We are stronger together.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. If you’re white, I hope you’ll join me in trying to do better. If you’re not white, thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your stories with me. I see you. I stand with you. 

Together we are strong.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

My New Agents

Hello lovelies! I realize it's been ages since I've posted, but I promise there's a good reason. About a year ago, I decided to take a college psychology class, for reasons that will take longer to explain than your attention span will last, I'm sure. I figured if I spent all the time I'd been dedicating to writing on the class instead, I could knock it out in a month or so. (HA!)

As it turns out, I took the final exam five days ago, only eleven months and two weeks after I started the class, (and two weeks before the deadline to complete it!). It turns out that I can't actually be a writer, mom to five kids, part-time ortho assistant, frequent church volunteer, AND a student. I just can't do it--we finally found my breaking point, folks. But the good news is, the class is over, and I can now psychoanalyze my kids (and my fictional characters).

During the past year while I worked through the class, I was also querying my latest manuscript. (For those of you thinking, 'Wait, I thought she already had an agent, why is she querying?', you are right. I did have an agent. But she decided to leave the business in early 2018, so I went back to the query trenches).

Which brings us to the exciting news of the day--I HAVE A NEW AGENT!!! Actually, agents.

Want to hear all the details? Of course you do. Read on...

So, way back in, like, September or something (almost a year ago), I sent my query out to a handful of my top choice agents. One of them, Dawn Frederick, responded almost immediately with a full request. That never happens. Or at least it had never happened to me. I was over the moon. I sent it off to her and turned my attention to my psychology class, which I had just registered for.

Come December, I'd gone through several chapters of my class, but had realized that I burn out a LOT faster studying psychology than I do writing. It was clear that the class was going to take a lot longer than I'd thought it would. By this time, I also had a completely new first chapter of my manuscript based on feedback I'd received from some of the other queries I'd sent out. I hadn't heard anything back on the full that I'd sent Dawn, so I took a chance and emailed her to check in and see if she'd like the revised version. She hadn't had a chance to read it yet, so I sent her the new one. A few weeks later she responded that she LOVED it, but wanted to see several big changes with it before she'd consider offering. She asked if I'd like to revise and resubmit to her. Of course I said yes, and got right to work.

I was like a writing ninja during the month of January, working feverishly on my rewrite, and I sent it back to her at the end of the month, five-ish weeks after getting the R&R. Dawn very kindly suggested that I take a little longer to work on it, and ensure a few beta reads on the new version before having her read it again. That was hard to hear after working so hard on it, but I took a step back, sent it to some of my critique partners, and once again turned my focus to psychology.

Several months later, I had lots of feedback and a fresh set of eyes, and I grudgingly accepted that the extra time had been a good idea. I tackled yet another rewrite and sent Dawn the final revised version in May. Unbeknownst to me, she'd had to cut back on her work hours while healing from knee surgery, so she didn't get to it right away. I once again worked on my psychology class. My kids got out of school for the summer, we went on some amazing vacations, we swam a lot, and my 18-year-old spread his wings and flew from the nest--all the way to Brazil, where he is now on a church mission. So we had a busy, busy summer. By this point I'd realized that I needed to kick it into high gear if I was going to finish my psychology class before the deadline. So I kept at it, trying not to think about that fact that Dawn had my revised version and I had no idea if she'd love it or hate it.

It turns out that she loved it. Enough to share with the rest of her team, and on July 30th, she emailed to say that both her and Kelly Van Sant were interested in co-agenting, and that they wanted to "tawk"(!!). We talked, our visions matched, and I accepted their offer of rep a week later. I am seriously so excited for the opportunity to work with these two powerhouse women.

Oh, and I got an A in my psych class. Rock on!

Friday, October 5, 2018

When To Now blog tour

 When to Now: A Time Travel Anthology by [McBain, Alison, Scott, Cynthia C., Ahern, Edward, Coatsworth, Gabi, Chatsworth, Elizabeth, Richards, Teresa, Lowry, B.T., Russell, Barbara, Sengupta, Abhishek, Trionfo, Nikki]
This week I'm celebrating the release of my time travel story, Turns of Fate, in an anthology called When To Now. This anthology is published by The Fairfield Scribes, the writing group responsible for turning me from a newbie writer with stars in my eyes into what I am today.

I suppose I still have stars in my eyes--really, I don't know how anyone can pursue publication without the benefit of a little stardust--but I've grown so much since becoming a part of the Scribes. When To Now is the Scribes' second anthology, and it's all about time travel.

My first venture into time travel writing was in my first published book, Emerald Bound. The sequel, Topaz Reign, dove in even more. But time travel was never meant to be the central element of either of those books, and when the Scribes proposed the idea of doing an entire anthology on time travel alone, I was in!

In Turns of Fate, I decided to turn time travel on it's head. Rather than exploring the past and all the ramifications of time travel by having my characters go back in time, I decided to set my story far into the future. In this future, the ability to time travel is given by a specific gene, and through genetic engineering, nearly everyone in this society now has the ability to travel back in time. It's as simple as flexing  a muscle. But what they didn't count on when they started genetically gifting people with the ability to time travel, was the idea that the space-time-continuum was a natural resource that, just like the ozone layer, could be depleted. So now there are government regulations on how often a person can time travel, and, worse, they've found that the depleting space-time-continuum means they can't travel back as far as they used to. In fact, levels are so critical that the farthest anyone can go back now is thirty seconds. But because time travel produces a rush that so many people are addicted to, they still do it, giving us a society on the brink of collapse.

Within this setting, Turns of Fate is a YA story about a girl navigating her social and family life much like teens do today. She hasn't time turned in over a decade because, really, what good is a thirty second rewind anyway? Especially when the government incentivizes citizens not to travel by offering monetary compensation. But when something happens at work that humiliates her beyond repair, she decides she might need that thirty-second rewind after all. She just forgets to consider the cost.

And--enter the age-old question--will she really be able to change anything anyway?

I hope you enjoy Turns of Fate and all the other amazing stories in the When to Now anthology--The Scribes are a talented group of writers. You can find the book here.

The blog tour is almost over, but check in here tomorrow for the final stop. Happy time jumping!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Windfall App Blog Tour

Free money is not a gift. It’s a curse. 

At least, that’s what Marina’s dad says when she wins the grand prize of five thousand dollars a day—for life—after playing Windfall. Despite his warning, she’s determined to live it up, and she has no problem burning bridges along the way. But not all wins are good, and what you see is not always what you get. 
To celebrate the release of The Windfall App (find it here), I'm giving away a YA book bundle, including a copy of Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond, and of course The Windfall App by Teresa Richards.

Follow the book tour for early reviews of The Windfall App, interviews, and spotlights. And, of course, enter to win the giveaway. Here are the tour stops: 

July 27--Brookie Cowles 
July 27--Emmy Mom 
July 27--Evernight Teen
August 1--My Book a Day  
August 3--By Robin King
August 6--Alison McBain

The Rafflecopter giveaway will be live at each of these sites, and you can enter multiple times throughout the blog tour, so the more blogs you visit, the higher your chances are for winning. Please note that the giveaway for the books pictured is only available to US addresses. Internationally, ebooks will be sent. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The City by the Bay

My new YA novel, The Windfall App, releases in just over a week! The Windfall App is different from my previous publications--there is no magic, no time travel, and and no twisted fairytales. This book is a contemporary suspense about a girl who wins the lottery only to learn that the game has been tampered with and her prize comes with strings attached. Here's a short little blurb:

Free money is not a gift. It’s a curse. 

At least, that’s what Marina’s dad says when she wins the grand prize of five thousand dollars a day—for life—after playing Windfall. Despite his warning, she’s determined to live it up, and she has no problem burning bridges along the way. But not all wins are good ones, and what you see is not always what you get.

There's a full blurb on my website, if you're interested in learning more. I'm so excited for you all to meet Marina--piano prodigy and closet alternative rock junkie--and to fall in love with the city of my heart, The City by the Bay. 

The Windfall App is set in San Francisco. I grew up in a town nearby and went to the city often, so I'm kind-of in love with the place. My grandfather worked for the railroad in San Francisco in the 1950's and came to know the city so well that whenever we'd have visitors, he'd take them on a private tour. His tours became something that family members and friends would look forward to when they came to visit. (Fun fact: my grandparents got engaged at Stow Lake, which is a little spot in Golden Gate Park where visitors can rent paddle boats and take a break from city life. In my book, Marina mentions Stow Lake when she's making up a fake newspaper headline in an attempt to joke around with her dad.)

All joking aside, many of the places in The Windfall App were places I visited with my grandpa, and many of the things Marina loves to do were inspired by my childhood trips to the city. On one such trip, we went to a park and slid down giant concrete slides on old pieces of cardboard. In my story, Marina and her friends frequent a similar spot called the Seward Street Slides. These aren't the same ones I went to as a kid, but they're the same idea.

Recently, I took two of my close friends--one my critique partner and one my sensitivity reader--and we set out to find the Seward Street Slides. They are tucked away in a little neighborhood, sandwiched between houses and hills, as everything in the city is. We took some videos of us playing on the slides. Click here to watch them. And here are some pics:

Stay tuned for some giveaways and contests in the next few weeks as we celebrate the release of The Windfall App! And check back here on July 27th for the blog tour schedule--I'll be giving away a YA book bundle, and there will be lots of chances to enter over the course of the tour.