Saturday, November 26, 2016

Internship Opening at Entangled Publishing

I’m looking for 2-3 additional interns to work with me at Entangled Publishing, mostly with YA for Entangled Teen but also with single-title adult romance and category romance. POC, LGBTQ+/MOGAI, neuroatypical, and disabled applicants are encouraged.

Entangled books are distributed by Macmillan Publishers, which means we can reach 120 countries with English versions of our books. Entangled print books reach Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and many other bookstores, and we have a list of 60+ USA Today and New York Times bestsellers as well as RITA award winners. We also have a shared imprint with St. Martin's Press that allows us to showcase titles in mass-market paperback.

This is a remote, unpaid internship. Regular access to the internet will be necessary. Substantial training, mentorship, and copies of the print books from my list are provided. Applicants for the internship should have 8-10 hours per week available, though the internship is somewhat flexible. Prior experience in publishing is not required, but experience in a library or bookstore is a plus.

In addition, applications should be:
  • well-read across the genres in YA especially, as well as adult romance
  • able to appreciate romantic fiction of most sub-genres
  • open to reading explicit adult romance
  • seriously interested in publishing as a career
  • able to critically analyze big-picture elements of fiction

Tasks include reading submissions, writing reader reports, helping to proofread galleys, research comparison titles, edit associated materials for client work, and attend monthly virtual team meetings. Interns will work directly with me and my list of authors, including Lydia Kang, Ingrid Paulson, Kimberly Bell, Tristina Wright, Erica Cameron, and Julie Hammerle.

To apply, please email a resume and cover letter detailing what you'd bring to the team, your reading interests (including top 5 favorite recent reads), and your related experience to katebrauning@entangledpublishing.com

Applications close Dec. 18, 2016. Internship period starts after the holidays in January, though I can be flexible with the start date. Alternate structures for students may be possible.
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Kate Brauning is a senior acquiring editor at Entangled Publishing and an author of young adult fiction (How We Fall, Merit Press). Kate acquires YA, NA, and adult fiction across Entangled’s imprints. She’s especially interested in funny/charming or dark YA, and high-concept stories regardless of genre. In adult fiction, she’s looking for small-town or community-driven romances with clever or hilarious meet-cutes, and romance-driven women’s fiction. In her spare time, she makes three-tier cakes, hunts down new music, and reads just about everything. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KateBrauning

Monday, October 31, 2016

On Chasing The Diversity Trend

Someone approached me recently, asking me if I was the “diversity agent.”

She wanted advice on how to make her story “more diverse.” Someone told her to throw a marginalized character into her novel to make it more marketable. So first, I asked her if she thought it was a good idea to “throw” anything into a novel.



Remember: if you can’t justify every writing decision you make beyond citing “market demand”; if you don’t *believe* in your own story or characters—you’ve got a problem. And I encourage you not to play into any kind of perceived trend if it diminishes the veracity of your book’s world.

BUT.

You might want to contemplate making a thoughtful, thorough change to increase your book’s scope. A change that might, you know, make its world more accurately reflect the world we live in?

Here’s what I think: books are mirrors, and every reader should have the opportunity to find themselves in the books they read. So yes, consider making the world of your book reflect the diversity that exists in our world—if this is something you’re serious and passionate about doing, and not because it's a trend. You shouldn't feel as though you’re not equipped to write a story from a perspective or a cultural background you don’t personally share—but at the same time, I urge you to honor the complexity of that perspective, and to do the work you need to do to make it authentic.

Writing outside of your own experience is a serious responsibility. It isn’t a matter of “throwing” in a token character, or any careless detail that belittles an entire tradition or lifestyle. If you choose to write any kind of stereotype, you are saying to everyone: this representation is sufficient. This person doesn’t need depth. This culture is not multifaceted. You’d be limiting the scope of your book, you’d be doing a disservice to your readers—you’d basically be saying, “I don’t care enough.” You’d be endorsing a reductive view of the world. And I’m sure you’d never want to be accused of that.

Another thing to remember: obtaining one person’s approval of how you represent anything isn’t a free pass. Get more eyes on your work, as many eyes as possible. Seek out readers from different backgrounds, different literary sensibilities. Encourage all kinds of feedback, and prepare to encounter a fair share of negativity. Like I always say: mastering the art of accepting criticism gracefully will serve you well in this industry. Writing requires courage, determination, and a strong stomach. Be prepared to defend what you think is right, but know when to step down and admit that you’ve made a mistake. Know when to listen. And always, always, take steps to make amends.

Readers want stories that feel true. They want characters that are emotionally accessible, feel real, and are fully human. Readers don’t want empty shells for characters. Even if they look like them.

Writing is an art, and art is subjective. So don’t chase trends, any trends. Don’t try to make your story fit someone else’s concept of what’s in vogue with current readers. Don’t feel the need to make your characters be something different for difference’s sake, or speak or behave in way that doesn’t feel right to you. It will almost always backfire, because publishing professionals can sense writing that doesn’t feel genuine, even if it’s competent otherwise.


Write honestly. Honor the process. Give it the respect any art deserves.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

When Inadequacy Shouts in Your Face (and other writer struggles)


If I had to encapsulate the sum of my writing and publishing experience in one theme it is this: overcoming fear. There are other themes, of course, but truly in twenty years of writing and trying to get published, and then getting published—this is the overarching element. Face your fears or quit.

Fear of rejection, fear of failing, fear of being inadequate to complete the task, fear of not measuring up to whatever expectations I or the world sets for me. And always, the refrain: face your fears or quit.


This quote lives on the wall above my desk. What fears are you facing right now? What giant stares you down and crowds your vision, until all you see are your inadequacies? I have a few of these lumbering specters filling my creative horizon currently, but I’m going to tell you about the one I crashed into most recently. The one I still wear bruises from. If it had to name this particular giant—it would be Daunting.

Daunting crept up on me (yes, even these largest of giants can slip into our lives and catch us unawares,) when I was drafting the sequel to FLASHFALL. More specifically, Daunting made itself known about the time I realized that writing Book Two was not at all like the experience of writing book one. The words didn’t flow, they trickled through cracks in the barren wasteland of my reluctant imagination. I sat at my computer, days on end staring at all that blank space . .  . and saw Daunting staring back at me.

I tried music, change of location, taking breaks, reading—all the things we are supposed to do to “fill our creative wells”, but all I could hear was a voice, growing louder day by day, “You are not up to this. There’s no magic. You’re more likely to fail than succeed.”

That blank page was my nemesis. It filled me with dread. And so I began to avoid it. (Not good for a writer with a book under contract.) Ignoring Daunting wasn’t going to make my deadline disappear. There it was again: face your fears or quit.

Two things happened.

I went to a YA book festival, desperately hoping for assurance and inspiration--that illusive spark to my creative wick. Instead, I encountered one negative experience after another, and they crushed me. It was like all my fear giants came out to play Let’s Show Jenny How Inadequate She Is. They dogged me for two straight days at the conference, and I can still see some of the scars they left. However, I managed to hear something past my crippling self doubt that weekend. An author on a panel shared about the hardships of writing and the old adage: “You can’t fix a blank page.”

I’d heard the saying before—so often repeated at writers’ conferences that it’s almost trite. But that weekend—on that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, day—I heard it past all the other crap my subconscious was screaming at me. I heard it from a wounded place, a fearful place, the highest peak of Doubt Mountain. It wasn’t a cure, or any kind of silver bullet to knock out Daunting and his pals, but it was . . . a start. To something. A shift of focus. A believing that maybe, I could.

The next day I stared at my computer, determined to at least put down words, even if they sucked. I had created an entire world for FLASHFALL, filled with characters and problems; I had brought Orion and Dram to life and then made their lives horrible with one conflict after another. Why was this time around so. freaking. hard?

I went for a run. I veered from my normal path, aimlessly plodding through neighborhoods, my steps mirroring my chaotic thoughts. I wrestled with plot points—all met with walls. I raked my fingers through the sands of my imagination for anything—one granule of a good scene. I prayed. Where had my muse gone? Was I dried up before my first book had even made its debut?

Suddenly, I was jogging over a child’s art, a design that stretched across the pavement in bold strokes of sidewalk chalk. I smiled, momentarily rescued from my self-absorbtion. Here was something good. Art in its purest form. And then my attention was caught by letters scrawled at the top of the design. One word. Start.



I took it as a Sign From The Universe. A little echo of the author’s words from the conference. Start. Begin. Take the next step. You can’t fix a blank page. So I did what I typically do in these instances, and got out my phone to take a picture and Instagram it.  That’s when I noticed the rest of the picture: a stick figure with a name beside it. Orion. 

My main character’s name. The girl whose story I’d been struggling to find. And yes, ladies and gentlemen—I cried. But these were happy tears. Here was proof of magic. And magic—even a little—trumps fear giants every time. Daunting receded to my periphery, and “I could” became “I would.”
 


 I would like to say that I sprinted home and words just poured onto my keyboard. They didn’t. That desert still remained. I wrote some sucky scenes. But I STARTED. The next day was only just a tiny bit easier. Daunting wasn’t gone completely, but every step I made took me a step farther from hearing that giant’s voice.

We all have our giants. This life is filled with them, and this artistic, writing life—even more so. What voices are you listening to? Do you have a Daunting of your own? Take a step. A step closer to your goals. We can’t always make our insecurities disappear, but we can choose to shift our attention away from them. Sometimes we just need to start, take the next step. If you’re finding that difficult, imagine my voice, shouting above all the other noise, saying, “You can do this. Your words matter.”

It’s the truth. Even if you have to remind yourself of it every day.

So what goals are you going to conquer?

I’ve waited months for my editor’s revision notes. Truth? I’m nervous. I took some risks writing that draft. Book Two was born from a desert, the words pulled from cracking earth. But I’ve grown some writerly muscles I didn’t have before, and I’ve got the knowledge that—whatever specters I face in the revision cave—I can find the courage to forge my way through.

Jenny Moyer is the author of YA sci-fi/fantasy FLASHFALL (Holt/Macmillan, 11-15-16 ) She studied writing at Seattle Pacific University, and currently lives in Iowa with her filmmaker husband and three boys. She's currently at work on the sequel to FLASHFALL.

Where to find Jenny: Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube
Where to find FLASHFALL: Amazon |  Goodreads













Wednesday, September 28, 2016

VOYA's Biphobia and My Response

The following is a guest post from Tristina Wright, author of YA sci-fi 27 Hours (Entangled 2017)

Trigger Warning: The following article contains instances of biphobia, misgendering, transphobia, and gaslighting.

Up until last week, I’d never written a letter to the editor for any reason. Sure, I’ve jumped in on conversations about biphobia and ableism and racism and more. I’ve lent my social media voice to active conversations, which has at times resulted in less than savory responses from people who don’t think these things are a big deal. I’ve learned a lot, become braver, made mistakes, and tried to speak out where I can, as my anxiety disorder allows.


Last week, librarian Angie Manfredi shared a screenshot of the VOYA Magazine review of Kody Keplinger’s RUN.


The review reads: Agnes is legally blind, and leads such a sheltered life that she cannot even take the bus home from school or attend parties. Bo Dickinson has a drug addicted mother, an absent father, and is rumored to be the town slut. Although opposites, they become good friends through their kindness and acceptance of each other. Bo’s cousin Colt is almost a brother to her; they have grown up together and are part of the family “you steer clear of because nothing good can come of getting mixed up with that bunch.” Agnes has a different problem; her parents hover over her and limit her activities so it is impossible for her to be a normal teenager, until she begins sneaking out to go places with Bo. When Bo hatches a plan to leave town to find her father, Agnes decides to go along, thinking she and Bo will live together. They steal a car from Agnes’s family and begin their road trip, along the way visiting Colt, with whom Agnes has a sexual encounter. When Agnes discovers that Bo intends to live with her father, they separate and she gets in touch with her parents, leaving Bo to a disappointing meeting with her father, and an eventual return to the foster care system. The story contains many references to Bo being bisexual and an abundance of bad language, so it is recommended for mature junior and senior high readers. –Rachel Axelrod. 304p. VOICE OF YOUTH ADVOCATES, c2016. 

Many people, including myself, immediately noticed the microaggression in the final sentence. By putting bisexuality and foul language in the same breath as the reasons for the mature content rating, Voya Magazine was effectively rating a character’s sexuality as for mature readers only.
This is a biphobic statement because it equates sexual orientation with the act of sex itself. It says that bisexuality is only appropriate for older teenagers. It places bisexuality in the same column as foul language – something to avoid and watch out for.

Imagine being an elementary-age child or a middle school student and seeing something like this written about who you are. Many children have very strong feelings about their gender and sexuality at a young age. The choice we have to make as parents, teachers, librarians, caregivers, authors, etc. is how we foster those feelings.

Or, in this case, squash them.

The review sparked conversations on social media, namely Twitter, about the inappropriateness of the idea that bisexuality was something to be warned against. How it was telling that a character merely mentioning her sexual orientation warranted a mature content rating, but there was no mention of the actual sex scene between a heterosexual male/female pairing.


I participated in the conversation online for a while, my hurt especially sharp because it was Bisexual Visibility Week. This is a week-long celebration where we educate people about common stereotypes and microaggressions. The publishing community talks about books with respectful and honest bisexual representation. It’s a week to celebrate bisexuality and biromanticism and everything that entails. To see a phobic review from a major literary magazine during that week drove home the continuing need to fight against stereotypes and content warnings.

I decided to write an email to Voya magazine.


I didn’t expect to get a response. They are a major literary publication and I’m a relatively unknown debut author. But I needed to do more than speak up on Twitter. I thought perhaps someone over there would see my email and, at the very least, take it to heart for future reviews.

The editor in chief (EIC), RoseMary Honnold, did respond to me and it was not at all what I was expecting (however, given the events which have transpired since then, I should have expected it).

It’s been long enough that I can address this email without my anxiety taking over, so I want to unpack this response.

“I am sorry that you took offense…” This is the most non-apology statement ever. Celebrities use it. News media uses it. It places the blame of hurt on the person who was hurt instead of the person perpetuating the hurt. Already this email starts out placing the burden of my hurt on my own shoulders.

Then instead of addressing my concerns, she then continues on to talk about how great VOYA magazine is for teens and librarians and how very helpful they have been. That’s…great? But completely irrelevant. You can be an absolute saint and still mess up. That was the case here. Yes, VOYA is a respected magazine – that doesn’t free them from making mistakes. Your good deeds in the past don’t absolve you from missteps in the future.

“Knowing if a book had mature content, which would include sexuality and ‘foul’ language…” There’s that double-down. Sexuality is considered mature content. But, curiously, only queer sexuality. And curiously more (as author Phoebe North discovered with some minor Googling) only queer female sexuality as far as VOYA is concerned.

She’s also insisting sexual orientation is for mature readers only. As if young children wouldn’t be exploring non-straight feelings. Our society is so steeped in heteronormativity that every child is assumed straight at birth. How many babies do you see wearing onesies that say “Ladies’ Man” or “Dad Won’t Let Me Date Til I’m 35” or “I Love Boobs” or how many times do we tell little girls that little boys hit them because they like them? We as a society perpetuated straight as being “normal” and everything else as “mature readers only” and even then there’s a hierarchy. Cis gay men are more favored than lesbians. Bisexuals are seen as stereotypes such as sluts and liars, and if you’re going to write about them, you must prove they’re bisexual. Trans narratives are seen as up and coming trends instead of real people. And any other letters of the queer umbrella exist in a literary desert where good representation is few and far between.

To add another layer, I cringe at the thought of what VOYA thinks about intersections of race and sexuality, how they would’ve reacted to this book if the bisexual character in question had been Black.

“I find it awkward that you feel it is relevant and necessary to announce and label your five-year-old child’s sexuality to me.” This was the most hurtful part of the email. Not only did she get my child’s age wrong, but she conflated sexuality and gender, which are two completely different things. When I say my child is genderqueer, it means that she (she still uses female pronouns) is exploring gender. Some days she asks all about being a boy and how one becomes a boy. Some days she refers to growing up as “when I become a daddy.” Some days she says she’s going to talk like a boy that day. Some days she says she feels like a girl. Some days she says she doesn’t feel like either. She’s exploring. She’s swimming up and down the spectrum, trying to find her place, and I’ll be damned if anyone is going to attack her for that.

Also, note the word “awkward” in that sentence. Here’s the thing about non-straight sexual orientations – people immediately relate them to sexual intercourse.

“How do you even have sex?”
“How can you be bisexual if you’re sleeping with a guy/girl?”
“Men shouldn’t do that.”
“Can I watch?”
“Can I join?”

Anyone queer is assumed to be defined by who they do or do not have in their bed at the time, which is irritating at best and harmful at the very worst. To place this on the shoulders of my six-year-old child is grossly immoral and wrong, and I’m especially uncomfortable this editor immediately considered my elementary child in this manner.

“Our writers and reviewers have various lifestyles and beliefs and that has never been a concern of mine…” That’s nice. Also, being queer is not a lifestyle. Gaming is a lifestyle. Living at a certain level of wealth is a lifestyle. Lifestyle implies choice. Bisexuality is not a choice. It’s how we were born. It’s not something that can be converted or prayed away or cured. Can it change over time? Yes, absolutely. Sexuality is a fluid thing and we evolve and learn more about ourselves as we grow (hopefully). But the only person who can dictate that is the self. No one else. So for the EIC of VOYA to not only label this as a “lifestyle” but to also say it’s of no concern to her makes me very concerned for the environment they foster at VOYA. Are queer people safe to be out of the closet there?

Based on this, my guess would be no.

“…the assumption that I or VOYA magazine might be bi- or any other kind of phobic is just that. Your assumption. A misguided one.” Note that she turns it personal. Even though it was revealed later she didn’t even write the review, she takes the idea of the sentence itself being biphobic and turns it into me accusing her and anyone at VOYA as being biphobic. This is gaslighting. This is, again, shifting the burden of hurt onto my shoulders plus accusing me of attacking her personally. How could you call me biphobic? I’m a good person.”

“Since this is Bi Visibility Week, I understand your need to find and destroy your enemies in a public forum…” Okaaaaaaaaaaaaay. So this statement is a doozy. Not only is it inflated hyperbole and paints me as a super-villain, but it undercuts my entire email by the level of exaggeration. By accusing me of looking for someone to fight during Bisexual Visibility Week, it undermines the validity of my concerns. It also insinuates I was looking to go after a big target to bring attention to Bi Visibility Week. That I was doing nothing more than starting trouble. That this was a marketing ploy. That this was nothing more than a stunt.

In the interests of visibility because the conversation was still ongoing, I posted my email and the reply to my Twitter.

The YA book community immediately responded. They were upset and offended at such a reply. Several people said they would be emailing as well. Many called out VOYA Magazine directly for their callous and offensive reply. Many authors, agents, and editors stated they would be requesting their books not be sent to VOYA anymore for review. Several librarians reached out to VOYA in alarm, asking what steps they would be taking regarding the review in question and to prevent this from happening again. There was talk of ads being pulled from VOYA Magazine entirely.

It has since been removed, but VOYA Magazine did post my email and their response on their website as a letter to the editor and then emailed me to inform me of this fact. I’m not sure if I was supposed to be flattered or what, but after an outcry, the post was deleted.

VOYA Magazine locked their Twitter account and began blocking various authors, editors, agents, and librarians. This serves two purposes. With only a block, the blocked user could simply log out and be able to read the timeline anyway. But with the addition of a locked account, they effectively kept everyone shut out. They continued to block people over the period of about a day and a half. I wasn’t blocked until sometime in the early hours of the next day, which I found amusing.

VOYA Magazine then issued their first apology on their public Facebook Page.
Again with the blame-dodging. This mentions nothing about their response to me and puts the onus on the queer community. They demanded an apology. They took offense as if it was a choice. With this apology, and even with RoseMary’s email to me, VOYA took the defensive. Amanda MacGregor, a book reviewer who’d worked with VOYA for thirteen years, then announced she’d submitted her resignation in light of VOYA’s response.

When the first apology didn’t go over well with the book community, the reviews editor, Lisa Kurdyla, issued an apology as well.

It’s a better attempt, but it still shifts blame and still makes a similar statement in the email to me in the claim that she isn’t –phobic or –ist and is a good ally. Here’s the thing: I do not decide if I’m not –phobic or –ist or a good ally. All I can do is my best and hope that those in the affected communities view me as such. To claim it in this instance is another form of gaslighting. “I’m a great ally! If you can’t see that, that’s your fault.”

Concerned readers, librarians, authors, editors, and agents responded to the two posts, asking polite questions and tackling the issues of gaslighting and blame-shifting. At this point, I still hadn’t heard anything from them. No apology, nothing.

VOYA Magazine then deleted both Facebook posts and all the comments therein and went dark. But people took screenshots of some very unsettling behavior.
I don’t know who for certain is behind the VOYA social media accounts, but in the end it doesn’t matter because they were never reined in, nor did VOYA Magazine ever disavow them or apologize for any of the commentary. A third apology appeared.

I found out about this apology three hours after it had been posted. At that time, I still hadn’t heard anything personally from VOYA. This particular apology mentioned me by name publicly, which was a start, but my inbox remained empty.

This apology, while long, also evolved into gaslighting and blame-shifting. The most egregious example is bringing up the fact that the original review was several months old and my email was the first they’d heard of anything being wrong with it. Since it went months without any push-back, the complaints now, according to them, lost their merit and reinforced VOYA’s belief that I had instigated this to attack them and bring attention to Bi Visibility Week.

They then go on to claim that they have the right to defend their staff against accusations of bigotry and biphobia and, once again, list out how great of a magazine VOYA has been for youth advocacy.
When folks discovered this third apology, many asked if VOYA had emailed a private apology to me. Many asked if VOYA would respond to the disquieting discovery Phoebe North had made about VOYA’s troubling pattern of rating F/F and queer girls as mature content while leaving M/M and M/F books alone, despite many of the latter having far more sex and explicit language than many of the former.

It was only when asked and I made a comment about it (three hours after this third apology was posted), did VOYA publish a fourth apology. This was from RoseMary herself.
RoseMary then copied and pasted the top bit from the Facebook post and emailed it to me.

I didn’t respond. My plan was to let the apology sit for a day and see how I felt about it then. But I spent several hours reading comments on the two Facebook apologies.
As of writing this post, I still haven’t responded to her or to VOYA. I’m going to do so now, here, publicly. I feel it is only fair and in the interest of visibility since they posted all of their attempts publicly as well.

Dear VOYA Magazine,

When I received the copy/paste job, which indicated you’d put it up elsewhere before sending it to me, I considered accepting it. I figured it was the best I’d get from you and maybe, just maybe, you would sit back and take the advice of countless people in the book community who gave their valuable time and words to educate you when none of them were under any obligation to say one word to you.

Then I went on Facebook and saw both apologies and the comments which followed. I saw one of your owners purposefully misgendering an author simply because they had a female-sounding name. I watched in horror as the commentary from VOYA became more and more abusive and hateful, a lot of it along the same lines as the original response to me only a few days ago.

A lot happened in just a few days.

Not once did anyone else at VOYA step in and say something. Not the other owner, no other employees, no one. The words of the owner chillingly mimicked the tone of the editor in chief to me, so how am I supposed to believe any apology is genuine? How am I supposed to think for even a moment you’re actually sorry about the review or your treatment of me or your attitude toward the book community and the queer community as a whole?

And I realized this:

You’re not sorry about the review. You’re sorry you got caught.
You’re not sorry about the email to me. You’re sorry I posted it and exposed you.
You’re not sorry about your attitude. You’re sorry people keep calling you on it.

Your email to me was unprofessional at best. You insulted me. You insulted my child. You insinuated I was out to destroy you and that my email had something to do with Bi Visibility Week. You are a major literary magazine which claims to advocate for the younger generation, yet you call things like genderqueer “Twitter lingo” and still claim it can’t possibly apply to a child. You are woefully out of touch and condescending toward the generation you claim to speak for. You were brutally hateful toward me and other authors who write for the younger generation.

So, no, I don’t accept your apology. I can’t because I don’t trust that you mean it.

Sincerely,
Tristina Wright

While my part in the incident seems to have come to a close (I hope), VOYA Magazine continues to insult and belittle nearly anyone who comments on their Facebook posts. The other owner, Edward Kurdyla, put up a short post which basically asks everyone to back off while they sort things in house. It gives no indication anyone – especially Phoebe North or Angi Manfredi or Tess Sharpe – was even heard. They’ve also banned YA author Hannah Moskowitz from their page entirely.

As far as my role in everything…

No, I didn’t write the initial email with the agenda of taking down a literary magazine. No, it had nothing whatsoever to do with Bi Visibility Week. I would’ve reacted the same way no matter what time of year.

Part of me wishes I’d never said anything. Part of me thinks if I’d never written that email, none of this would’ve happened. All the people who’ve been hurt since then wouldn’t have gotten hurt. My oldest child wouldn’t have been insulted. I wouldn’t still be hurting and guilty over everything that’s happened since then.

Yes, I know a lot of that is bullshit and, as my friends have told me several times, I might have prevented teenagers from being hurt in the future. Prevented queer children from being harmed by a magazine that doesn’t respect who they are in the slightest.

Throughout this entire fiasco, VOYA has insisted they are the victim. They’ve apologized for somethings but not others. They’ve dug their heels in on insisting the timing is suspect and intentional. They’ve insulted YA authors and others in the industry over and over with hateful and unprofessional remarks. Every apology they’ve posted thus far has been nullified within mere hours once VOYA starts responding to questions and comments.

I don’t know how this will all end. An overturn of management, perhaps. New owners. The magazine folding. Nothing at all. Maybe they’ll just wait it out until people forget or bank on most of their subscribers not paying attention to social media. I don’t know. I don’t have any idea what I would want to happen beyond children being protected from such hate.

All I know is, for me, I can never trust VOYA Magazine again.

But I do want to address the queer teens out there who may be watching this all unfold.
I’m on your side. These fierce and giving authors are on your side. We stand with you in your high times and your low times. We stand with you in your closet where it’s safe. We stand with you outside of your closet where it might be scary. We walk with you in your halls. We give you our stories so you can see others like you and have an afternoon of pure escape like you deserve. We’re here for you. We understand you. We respect you. We love you.

And we will always defend you.
==
For more information, please see the following posts:

And for continuous updates, please follow YA Author Saundra Mitchell on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaundraMitchell

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Art of Success

I’ve been asked in one way or another by almost everyone I know if my book is “a success.” 





The short, easy answer, is “of course it is.” I’ve had a lifelong dream to see my name on a book cover in a bookstore, and I’ve done that (and more are on the way).



Of course, I think the “success” of a book can actually be measured in three ways: commercial success (how many copies you move), critical success (i.e., good reviews, awards, etc.) and creative success (did you tell the story you wanted to tell). There are books that sell a million copies that are universally panned, and there are those critically-acclaimed novels that sell a couple of thousand.  Either way, I think one would say those books were successful.

However, the only measure that we as authors can really take of our own work is the last one: is it a creative success?  Did the work satisfy the artistic and creative urge that compelled it? 


At some point, we started with a story/question burning in our brain, something so important  that we were willing to spend  countless days/nights alone trying desperately to fit one perfect word after another to capture that vision or idea on the page. Being creative is damn hard work, and we do it with the expectation and understanding that some number of people (hell, maybe a whole lot of people), won’t appreciate our efforts; that they’ll never see our vision as clearly. But that’s okay, as long as we can look back at the work we produced and believe it reflects (to the best our ability) our original intentions.



Publishing is a business, but the writing itself is art, and no amount of sales or reviews or awards can or should change the satisfaction you get from your own art. 


I know when I start a new story, when I’m really in the grip of creating, I can't really rest or relax until I get that story out...every single bloody word. I’ve finished whole books knowing they were unpublishable, but I was just as thrilled when I wrapped them up as I did those I honestly expected to see the light of the day. The outcome didn’t change my need to get that story out of me, if for no other reason than as my own best audience, I had to see how it all ended!

I’ve been tremendously fortunate. My first book has sold nicely, and I’ve received some wonderfully generous reviews. But more importantly, I can still flip through that novel and find sentences and passages that I'm just as happy with as when I first wrote them. They're perfect; exactly what I wanted to say. And they're mine.

In the end, when we succeed in getting our words out and getting our stories done, that's a success worth bragging about for all of us....  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Family Values

Two questions I try never to ask my friends and family…

Have you picked up my book? And the natural follow-on, did you like it?

 
First of all, I never want to put anyone on the spot about whether they’ve purchased the book or not. Although I’m the type to readily support a family member or a friend in this way (whether the item or topic is in my wheel-house or not), I understand that not everyone is, for a thousand and one reasons. Money, time, interest. I can imagine some of my friends not buying a book, any book, even mine, just because reading is not their thing.


Similarly, my book – even for those friends and family who enjoy reading – still may prove not to be “their thing,” which is why I never, ever ask if they liked it. I always thank them for supporting me, and make sure to suggest other authors I’ve come to know and books I’ve read since getting involved in publishing, but unless they open the flood gates with an off-the-cuff review or opinion, I won’t solicit one. 

I think it makes it more comfortable for both of us.

I’ve been lucky that The Far Empty has, by and large, been very warmly received. 



But I learned right out of the gate that what you do creatively isn’t going to be everyone, and if you put it out there publicly, you have to accept that. Some folks REALLY didn’t like The Far Empty, and while it’s never fun to hear (no matter how creative and witty they are in their diatribes), that’s part of the whole artistic skin-thickening process. I respect everyone’s opinion, even if I don’t share it, and if someone has spent hard-earned money on something I wrote and isn’t happy about it, I support their right to say so. 

That’s as easy stance to take, though, when that person is simply an avatar or a name attached to an email or a  review; that’s just me getting rejected solely as a writer. It’s much harder to hear from someone you know and like; someone that you may see everyday and have a personal connection with. Then, I think, it feels more like a rejection of me as a person.





Family and friends can be a wonderful support network as you slog through the writing and publishing process. All of mine were for me, but I found that's the best role for them: cheerleaders, and not critics....

Always keep writing, JTS
 
 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

12 LGBTQIAP+ Music Videos

I love music videos--they add surprising layers to songs I already loved and they can bring a brilliant, dynamic performance that jogs my brain creatively. I've been watching a ton of them this year as quick breaks in between writing and editing during my work day, which often stretches until 9pm and into the weekends.

But it can be difficult to find the inclusiveness I work toward in my writing and reading in the music I listen to and the music videos I watch. I want that inclusiveness in my music for all the same reasons I want to write and read inclusively, but also because music and my writing are so closely linked for me. It's part of what I use to feed my creativity and tune my brain. What I'm consuming needs to be reflective of what I want to write.

So here's a list of music videos worth watching that feature LGBTQIAP+ characters or storylines. Some are ownvoices, some are tragic, some are happily ever after. Let me know in the comments what ones you recommend! I'm always looking for more.

"Youth" Troye Sivan:




Broken Hearts/Bones- Parlour Tricks:



Girls Like Girls- Hayley Kiyoko:


Cliff's Edge- Hayley Kiyoko:



Ghost- Halsey:


I loved You- Blonde (feat. Melissa Steele):



Hold On When You Get Love- Stars:



She Keeps Me Warm- Mary Lambert:

The Blue Neighborhood trilogy below from Troye Sivan contains some of my favorites. Also worth noting: the 2nd video below is completely wonderful happy version of "Wild" with Alessia Cara, and it stole my heart. 

Wild, Fools, and Talk Me Down (director's cut)- Troye Sivan


Wild- Troye Sivan feat. Alessia Cara: 



Kinks Shirt- Matt Nathanson



Modern Love- Matt Nathanson


Kate Brauning: Kate is the author of How We Fall from Merit Press/F&W Books and an editor with Entangled Publishing. Kate loves unusual people, good whiskey, dark chocolate, everything about autumn, bright colors, red maple trees, superstitions, ghost stories, night skies, pie, and talking about books. Where to find Kate: TwitterFacebookPublishing WebsiteAuthor Website

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Give Yourself A Hand

The Far Empty has been out over a month now.



I went on the book tour, did the radio interviews, signed the books, watched my sales, read and fretted the reviews, searched random book stores for my book, trumpeted social media, and really did nothing but obsess over it for the last few weeks.


  
It’s been wild, wonderful, nerve-wracking, and honestly, so anxiety-producing, that I’m glad it’s over. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it – because trust me, I wanted to enjoy every second of it – it’s that I had to learn the hard way how little control over the outcome that I have. I wrote the best book I could, and the rest of it – where it gets reviewed, what those reviews say, which stores do or don’t carry it, how many copies it sells – are now all out of my hands. I put myself in the hands of people who know what they’re doing, and then had to figure how to let it go. It's been hard for me to wrap my head around (or pry my fingers from), but if I had done it earlier, I might actually have embraced the last few weeks more.

And still…

I had a book published! It’s in stores! People are reading it!


  
Those were the only goals I had when I started this journey (actually, my original goals when I began writing again were even more modest), and seeing my book published has been a lifelong dream. But when it finally happened, although I promised myself I'd only focus on the “hits,” I still found myself dwelling on the perceived “misses” as well…I learned quickly what a small window of opportunity any debut author has to catch lightning in a bottle, so I kept waving that bottle all round, redefining at every opportunity what it meant to me for my book’s release to be “successful,” and in doing so, robbed myself of the chance to simply revel in the fact that something I had written was actually released into the world at all (and there’s actually a whole another post I might do about creative, critical, and commercial success, and what those things might mean). 

Look, it’s good to push yourself and never to settle, and to always, always, set new goals, but not to the detriment of that present, oh-so-fleeting “I did it” moment. We creative types need to truly celebrate that, and I wish I had more in my case. You're a debut author only once, and although in my daydreams I imagined holding my book, flipping through it over and over again, or walking into a bookstore and grabbing a copy from the shelf just to read a few pages as if I hadn't written the damn thing, I really didn't make the time for that. I’m glad this month is over only because now I know what to expect - what I can and can’t control - and next time around maybe I’ll be a little less anxious about the whole thing, and just sit back and enjoy the ride.

So now I am an official, published author. The confetti is all swept away and I'm back to the regular grind. I got through the first pass pages of Book 2 the other day...

 
and I just crossed the 2/3 mark on Book 3. And THAT'S the reality of a published author. Taking the time to celebrate the book that's out, and getting right back to work on the next one...

JTS