For some crazy reason I belong to a Facebook group called “The Writing Gals” that is for female romance writers.
I say crazy because I hate romance novels. This happened when I went from being a teen to an adult. Suddenly I was done with women being raped but ultimately liking the guy and having his babies. I don’t know why I ever thought it was exciting, but, I guess, the whole teen-aged-girl thing, and, in my defense, the other books I was reading in my teens were Faulkner, Hesse, and Camus, while playing Pink Floyd on my tape-Walkman. Yeah, I was a “dark” teen. And yeah, tape Walkman. Did I just “out” my age there?
I also hate women being referred to as “gals.” “The Writing Gals….” What are we all Dale Evans here?
Okay, so I belong to this FB group, and it endlessly annoys me, I gotta tell the truth. It’s not my thing, and the questions the aspiring writers ask sometimes make me grit my teeth.
And, so, yesterday, someone asked about writing Asian eyes as almond-shaped or was there another “nut” that would be a better description or some such nonsense. Of course, I had a response asking about why the writer felt the need to compare the eye shape to anything. I mean, folks, do you go through your books constantly talking about the shape of all the characters’ eyes? If you do… I’m thinking you might be writing a bit of a snoozer. Or does this woman just feel the need to drive home the “Asian-ess” of her male love-interest? And so I asked my question and another group member told me flat out that she would not be silenced by “aggressive woke culture.”
So, if you didn’t know, I have an Asian daughter, and I teach at an HBCU, and I adore “woke culture,” and do not think it is aggressive. In fact, I am grateful every time someone who is not white is kind enough to educate my dumb ass.
And because I am two annoying things, a mother and a teacher, I felt the need to go back to that group this morning and teach. However, they have us on lockdown, all posts moderated, so my teach-preachy post probably won’t see the light of day there.
Luckily here I am not moderated, and so here is my post, in case you would like some help understanding why your writing should be “woke,” and how to get it there.
“The other day, in this group, someone asked how to describe an Asian character’s eyes. Someone else responded to a point I made, and basically said she would not be censored by “woke” culture. I am the mother of an Asian person. My daughter is 100% Han Chinese, according to her DNA test, and yet, if we must make mention of it, she has big round eyes; my own Irish-British eyes are more “almond-shaped” than hers. And so, to describe my daughters’ eyes in terms of nuts would not be accurate or appreciated. It would be considered a micro-aggression. Today, in my adoptive parents’ group, we were discussing all the many micro-aggressions people of color face (POC), and I really felt that, here, where women are writing, this needs to be talked about. Now, I know in the past we have discussed things here like, “Can I use song lyrics in my writing,” and though the clear answer is no, people have vigorously argued that it “will be okay.” To that I say, enjoy the lawsuit. And I know there will be people here who will vigorously argue, as the other member did yesterday, that no one has to be cowed by politically correct jerks like me. True, and, unfortunately, for POC, they cannot sue you if you do a poor job with characters of color in the way a lyricist can if you steal his/her lyrics. However, the world is getting “woke,” whether our fellow member likes it or not, and if you do a poor job in this area you not only risk alienating a huge swath of readers, you also risk getting turned down by a lot of publishers, including me. I am a publisher, and a feminist, and I am actively seeking women writers to publish, but, yeah, they gotta be woke. As a publisher I am going to be looking for writers who not only include characters beyond white people in their books, but also those who do it well, and do their own due-diligence about it, not because they feel like they are being “censored by woke culture,” but because they would like anyone, from any race to be able to read their story and enjoy it, and because, as an author, they want to write the best damn story they can write. It is your duty to know that you will get sued if you use song lyrics that aren’t yours, and even if you get lucky and don’t get caught, it is stealing, so don’t do it. It is your duty, as well, to research issues of race and culture, and do a good job at it, or don’t do it at all. I mean, if I’m going to publish your book (or another publisher is), ask yourself, does my publisher want to sell to one group of readers only, or all groups? Aren’t you trying to make money at this? I know I am. There is probably nothing wrong with having everybody in your story be white if you are white and that is what you are interested in, or that is what you are best able to write and write well. However the world is a diverse place, and if you want to be a cut-above, you should include diversity in your characters, and if this makes you feel “aggressively silenced by woke culture,” then you may be in the wrong business. Of course, you may vigorously argue otherwise, as folks vigorously argued it was okay to steal lyrics, and I am not going to come back to this group and argue with you. I am just offering my perspective as a publisher, and it is my guess that the huge publishers already have this policy (they are more likely to face sales-crushing backlash if they don’t), and small ones like me will follow suit eventually. For a final piece of advice, I share this one small article that I have found valuable in helping me think about how I can do a better job as a writer, and expand my character pool as well, and if you are looking for more resources, they are out there, just use “the Google.”
Dear Friends of Devil’s Party Press, I thank you for reading this post, for your interest in my ramblings, in my company, and in our authors.