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American Dirt Hits the Dirt

February 3, 2020

 “You can’t be Twitter woke and Walmart ambitious,” says an assistant editor quoted in Slate’s article about the controversial novel American Dirt: Will the American Dirt Fiasco Change American Publishing?

The book is number three on Amazon at the moment, and has its supporters who resist the overly PC of a granddaughter of a Puerto Rican not being sufficiently Hispanicx to write about the immigrant experience. Others decry the author’s “tone deaf” characterization of and lack of understanding of marginalized people of color. The publisher canceled bookstore tours as a result of security worries.

Rather than a promoting the book as a depiction of the immigrant experience that will “wake” a white readership, Slate’s Laura Miller points out that positioning the book as a romantic novel would have shifted it to a more general category. For example, thrillers about drug cartels that rely on stereotypes are rarely negatively Twitter-critted.

This is not the first kerfuffle about author legitimacy in writing about serious topics, even those that are fictionalized. Hopefully publishers, still mostly white and often Ivy League educated, will edit with a more educated eye to understanding the experiences of people of color as depicted in fiction. 

Still, the bottom line may be the bottom line: who is buying the book.  

Doggie Philosophy

November 26, 2019

Keep writing! (and remember Charles Schultz in your hearts)

Anxiety Disorder in Kids

October 16, 2019

There’s anxiety—tomorrow’s math test, will I be invited to the popular girl’s birthday party—and then there are anxiety disorders. And the later is increasing by 20% or more, reports Atlantic editor Scott Stossel, who is himself a long-time sufferer of anxiety disorders. (Generalized anxiety is only one.) A new book by graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier, Guts, tells the story of a ten-year-old with the disorder. “No other book I have read—and to say I have read a lot of them is an understatement— has captured with such brilliant economy and psychological acuity what a severe phobia or panic attack is like,” writes Stossel in the New York Times Book Review, October 6.

He points out that Guts is dedicated to “anyone who feels afraid.”

Whatever world/plot/characters YA authors conjure for their books, showing the young reader that she/he is not alone is one of the foundations of writing for children.

Vector illustration of little kids hugging knees, feeling sad and anxious. Child emotion problem concept Cartoon character drawing

Legitimate Critiques or Shaming for YA Books with Sensitive Topics?

March 21, 2019

YA books have been withdrawn before publication as a result of social media critiques, particularly in the areas of sexual identity and racial identity.

Take a look at both sides of the page in this article from The New Yorker by Katy Waldman:

afterglow backlit beautiful crescent moon

Photo by luizclas on

Just another day at the computer

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Proof whales are magical

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“Therefores”…. not “Thens” in Your Synopsis

May 18, 2017

Subbing to agents or publishers often means writers have to produce the dreaded synopsis. The basics of plot premise, arc and resolution, along with character development, are the foundations of a one-two page synopsis.

But how to move it along without constantly indicating “and then…” ?

A few “thens” are probably appropriate. But “therefores” (even if not stated as such) are a good way to move plot and character development along.

Image result for AND Then



For example, take a look at the first Harry Potter: The Sorcerer’s Stone.

You could say:  Harry Potter is living with the nasty Dursleys AND THEN feels like an outsider. AND THEN learns he is a wizard. AND THEN he goes to Hogwarts to learn magic  AND THEN he fights Voldemort… etc.

Changing the “thens” to “therefores” however, will provide character reaction and growth, the key to attracting an agent and publisher.  “Therefores” also provide the opportunity to briefly expand on motivation and plot changes.

Harry Potter is living with the nasty Dursleys, whose mistreatment (THEREFORE) makes him feel like an outsider. When he learns he is a wizard, (THEREFORE) he understands why he is different.  He goes to Hogwarts to learn magic (THEREFORE) preparing him to fight Voldemort etc.

It doesn’t always work easily, but avoiding running down plot with “and thens” will help make the synopsis more interesting and more attractive to potential agents or publishers. AND THEREFORE it will show that character development is as important as plot points.



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