Tag Archives: writers life

What I’ve learned as a Sensitivity Reader and a Diversity Editor.

I’ve been a Sensitivity Reader and Diversity Editor for my full career as a writer.  I’ve been diligent in my creation of characters and story and have constantly checked my own biases. Being Mixed Blood, Indigenous and Black, I write from my worldview but even then, for the sake of the story, I check myself. And have others check me. Sometimes it’s taken other people to see what what I can’t.

I was often asked by other writers to do the same for their projects, so making this service a job made sense. Makes sense. I have to admit, I began thinking there would be element of teaching in this job and I wondered how I would do that in a manner that was understanding to the struggle writers face if their goal was authenticity. What I didn’t expect to happen was that I would learn so much about my clients and therefore I would get to celebrate the growth of a stronger writers’ community.

This is just a short list of what I’ve learned about my clients, these writers:

  • Writers are trying. They want to be respectful and they’re aware of the possibility they won’t be because they just don’t know some things.
  • Writers believe in inclusivity, even when they don’t know for sure if what they’re doing is enough. Or correct. They believe in it even if the definition of what’s correct shifts on them over time. 
  • Writers have the courage to ask for help. And they strive to understand.
  • Writers may hesitate to develop the character or describe them or give them full dialogue, but it’s from a fear of insulting them. 
  • Writers appreciate the assistance.

They want their words and stories to be seen, read, heard and felt. If whatever the project is gets shut down before it lives its full possible life, then doesn’t that work against the reason to write it in the first place?

I’ve had the joy of working for individuals and publishing firms on beautiful children’s books, YA novels, literary novels, memoirs, nonfiction books, textbooks, website content, inclusivity statements, columns, plays, essays, screenplays and TV shows. I’ve been asked to read specifically for one character, while other times the request is for the full world. There are some incredibly talented writers out there that I can’t wait for everyone to know.

I love this job. I love being of service in this company of writers. And I love all that I’m learning in a time of much needed stories and art.

So if you’re in need of a Sensitivity/Authenticity Reader or Diversity Editor, or a Story Consultant, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

Write on.

Be safe.

Before the search begins…agents

Can I tell from looking at their photo on the literary agency website if they’re going to be my agent?  Is there something there that can give me the extra know, that wink to my future?

I know. I can’t. But yet my thoughts go there. I look at their smiles and wonder what they’re voices are like. What it will sound like when they call and talk about Stands Alone? Is that a voice I can listen to for many calls? For great meetings? For maybe, not so great meetings?

I don’t know for sure what they’ll be saying, since this is will be my first agent. For my first novel. But I’m hoping for a lovely voiced woman who laughs at my jokes and finds me fascinating for writing such a tough hard crime suspense novel about being Mixed, history, warrior women and rape. For writing about fighting and winning.

Can I tell that from just looking at her photo? I sure as hell wish I could.

I’m building my agent database right now. I’ve been searching Publishers Marketplace, Query Tracker, and researching other writers who are in the vein of Stands Alone to find their agents. I’m doing Google searches and reading interviews and Twitter accounts.

I have a couple more super smart people in line to review my query letter and synopsis and then, I’m ready. I’m ready. I’m ready.

I’m anxious.

And feel super vulnerable. But driven and dare I say…believe in my own craft even though I still have so much more to learn and am working and writing every day. I’m creating story and birthing characters that I throw into pits of fire of pain, grief and oppression or dump in the middle of dark wildernesses created by their own fears or by some way their parents fucked them up and then hope that the trail becomes clear to get them out of there. Never unscathed but at least out to where the sun lives.

I feel like I’ve come into my own. And my voice is clear. And I hope to find an agent who sees that. Gets that. And wants to join me for that often blind rushing run through the wilderness.

Creating a White Supremacist Character

If there’s at least a tiny part of ourselves in every character we create, then what does that mean when it comes to creating bad guys? To creating the narcissist? The evil? To creating the one who wrecks havoc and tears through whatever and whoever is in their path?

Of course, writing to the humanity of these characters is the goal. That’s what gives them flesh. Finding their underbelly, exposing it, and then healing is a goal. Maybe. Destroying them? That’s a righteous goal, too.

I’m thinking about this as I prepare to go back into my novel. It’s been with beta readers and now I’m ready to enter this world again, which means I have to pull up a chair at the table headed up by a white supremacist. Of all my characters, my bad guys, and there’s plenty of them; I write crime suspense so my bad guys do heinous things, creating Raimond Davies has been the toughest.

In Stands Alone, my novel about a Mixed Blood cop who takes on a white supremacist, their ancestors are the soldiers in this war. Which means I wrote their histories, too. I know who Raimond’s father was and what he did to him. I know who his grandma was and how filthy and mean she was. I know who Raimond was as a small boy at the mercy of the adults in his life and how that set him on a course of hatred.

I think that in the many hours I’ve spent with this story, and the many more to come, my own ancestors settle on the loveseat in my office. Native men and women who fought the destructive forces of white men for their families and their tribes. African women who endured unimaginable atrocities and yet never stopped fighting for their freedom. They keep the sage burning, the drums pounding as they wrap their arms around me, whispering that this is the story that I need to tell. That only I can tell. They say it’s okay. That I’m safe from the horror on the page, from the horror in my imagination. They tell me I’m honoring the fight. Their fight.

My fight.

But damn.