Showing posts with label guest post. Show all posts
Showing posts with label guest post. Show all posts

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Difference Between Romanticized Mental Illness and Romance with Mental Illness | YA Talk



Today I've brought Leah from While Reading and Walking on the blog to talk a bit about mental illness romanticization. Enjoy!

As writers, readers, and reviewers, there is a lot of responsibility on our shoulders when it comes to the representation of mental illness. 

Bad representations of mental illness can do real damage. Teens especially in the midst of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and more, can be influenced by what they read in books that they believe are faithful representations of what mental illness looks like—and what healing can look like.

I’ll be talking specifically about the relationship between mental illness and romance in fiction. romanticizing mental illness can mean a lot of things. Here, I’m talking about the common trope where someone has a mental illness and then falls in love. 

I am a novelist and book blogger who has depression and anxiety. There is obviously a range of experiences when it comes to these issues, and there are many more forms of mental illness that I can’t personally speak to. I am a cis white woman who has a privileged life in many respects, and others who do not have those privileges might have a different experience.

The Example

You have a character. Let’s call her Leia. She has anxiety and is susceptible to panic attacks. She often obsesses all day about small things. Her anxiety can arise from real-life issues or from nothing at all. 

She meets a girl. That girl is cute and funny and makes her laugh. What next?

  • The Right Path:
There is a lot of truth to the idea that anxiety and depression are easier to get through when you have someone by your side who will make a conscious effort to support you, listen to you, and understand what you’re going through. 

If every time you have a panic attack, there is someone on the end of the phone who is ready at all times to talk to you and talk you through that attack, then anxiety becomes just that little bit less scary to face. The world gets a little more secure when you have someone you can depend on, who can ground you and remind you that they aren’t going anywhere. That's absolutely okay to reflect in your writing.

  • The Wrong Path:
The problem is that many novels seem to imply that mental illness can be fixed and healed by being in love. That if Leia just finds this girl, her anxiety will melt away and never come back. She’ll never have another panic attack. These YA novels make it sound like love makes everything sunshine and rainbows, and mental illness flees from relationships like opposite ends of a magnet.

But having someone in your life you love doesn’t mean that your mental illness goes away. Saying it does implies that anxiety and depression are not real illnesses. But they are. Mental illness is physical, and chemical, and while it can be triggered by things in the outside world—for example, the death of a loved one or a break-up can lead to depression if you’re susceptible—it’s still a genuine illness. This is the same reason why Leia could be the sunshine optimism of her friend group, have an amazing job, pets, supportive family, and a new beautiful girlfriend and still have panic attacks. 

The Impact

When a person with mental illness reads a novel that implies that their conditions would melt away if only they had someone who loved them, it can have serious implications on their psyche and emotions. 


They can think, 'I have a boyfriend. I'm in love. Am I not in love? Or is something just wrong me?' or they can get into a headset where they believe that chasing love is the only way they'll ever get better. Teaching young people that the right way to heal is to fall in love and then things will get better ignores the real causes of mental illness, and can make people think that things won’t get better after all. 

Like I said: A person who makes you laugh can help to make a day with depression less awful. A person who grounds you can remind you that you have a handle on things in the midst of your panic attack. A person who makes you laugh might be able to get you out of the house on a day when you can’t leave your bed. 

  • But having Leia fall in love and then her panic attacks never return sends the message that loneliness is what causes mental illness. 
  • It implies that you need a savior to get better, and that you have no control over your own healing. 
  • It implies that mental illness is a neatly solved problem if you would just fall in love.

So what do I do? 

Write well.
Call out novels that clearly romanticize mental illness.
Be reasonable, but be vigilant too.

A romance in which the character has mental illness is not “romanticizing mental illness,” but it is a huge problem in the book community where we conflate the classical tale of being lost and completing your life with the addition of another person who balances you (classic love story) with the idea that a mental illness can be 100% healed if you would just find your soulmate.



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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Don’t Fear the Diversity! On Writing What You Don’t Know | Guest Post by Miri Castor


I've talked a lot about problematicness and things that I don't want to see in books this week.

I'm a firm believer in offering constructive solutions, so I brought YA Author Miri Castor on the blog to talk a little about how to write diversely.  





I think “Write what you know” has become one of the most misunderstood phrases in its existence, with regards to diversity. Diversity and representation are well-needed in the predominately white world of story-telling.

So I find when it comes to more diverse representation, some writers are scared to jump in. They don’t want to offend a marginalized group and be deemed a racist, or transphobic, etc. As a cis-gendered, straight writer, I understand and live with these fears all the time! 

These are some tips I like to keep in mind when I write “what I don’t know.”

1. Research is everything
As PhD candidate, my life is my research. I find it holds true as a writer as well. If you’re a cis- hetero writer that wants to have characters from the LGTBQ community, read LGTBQ blogs and books. Same goes for writing characters of different races and ethnicities. It also helps to talk to writers of said marginalized group and ask them questions if they’re comfortable with them. 

While real people are the best resources, they’re also real people and are not obligated to explain themselves to us.

2. Look Up Harmful Stereotypes
A major part of my first point. 

Maybe most writers know black women to be belligerent, obnoxious, and sassy, and then might be tempted to portray their black character this way. But again, do research and avoid portraying the harmful stereotypes of a marginalized group. 

Speaking as a black bookworm, negative racial stereotypes are the fastest way to turn me off. Tvtropes is an amazing site to read on tropes that’s been used for marginalized groups in all sources of media! I practically live on that site.

But also realize that stereotypes are not all bad, as long as they don’t make up the entire character. In other words, there has to be more to the character than their stereotype.

3. Avoid the Clumsy Inclusion
“Show, don’t tell” is key here, which is Writing 101. I’ve created my Black lesbian character created, backstory and all, and now it’s time to introduce them: 

“I’m a fat Black lesbian in a wheelchair with PTSD” (yes I’ve seen this in real, published books before). 
This sort of inclusion isn’t necessarily bad, but the “checklist” and “telling” style may be perceived as clumsy. My preference is to have such descriptors (race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.) seamlessly woven into a story as opposed to reading a Tumblr header.

4. Do it For the “Write” Reasons
(Sorry for the lame pun.) If you’re coming from a sincere place, and genuinely want to create beautiful, complex marginalized characters, then I believe it’ll come through in your writing. At the end of the day, “writing what know” means you’re imbuing your humanity into your writing. Take your joys, fears, and pains and embed them within characters to create something amazing.

Nobody’s perfect, and everyone (me included) makes mistakes in this process. And there’s a good chance we’ll get called out on our problematic mistakes. 

What really matters is how we take it – do we throw a social media tantrum? 
Or do we listen, learn from our mistakes, and from there write spectacular stories with diverse characters that marginalized people can see themselves in? 

I like option 2 better.




Miri Castor is the author of the Opal Charm series, She has written for Black Girl Magic Literary Magazine and was featured as a Spotlight New Author in January 2016

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

How to Find A Literary Agent!






You’d think it would be a nice straightforward process, but to be honest it’s a little like finding a wife or husband; it's important that you as individuals gel and understand each other.

It's for this reason that you must do the searching yourself and make it a thorough process.







Do I really need an Agent in 2015?

That’s a valid question given that there are many avenues available down the self-publishing route, but just bear in mind that around 80% of the books that the big New York publishing houses go on to produce are sold to them by agents. Agents know their clients and markets inside out and can achieve much more in a shorter space of time than an aspiring author with “no name” can. They will negotiate, protect your rights, ensure you are paid and save you a lot of time, money and effort.

That said it does depend on what you are selling; if you are going for one of the major publishing houses then you clearly need an agent, however if you are going for a more niche market you may not need one, or even struggle to find one willing to deal with you.

Research

PublishersMarketPlace.com is a really good resource as you can search their many listed publishers by category, niche, genre or keyword; you should be able to find some good matches. You might also want to consider the following sites:

Making the Right Choice

There are a couple of sure-fire signs that you’ve chosen the right agent:

Their enthusiasm. Do they share your passion for your work? Do you get the feeling that they believe in you and your work? Your agent has to really get where you’re coming from and understand the specifics of your work to be able to sell if effectively and passionately to publishing houses.

Their track record. You should find out what their sales track record is like; this is a rough and ready way to know whether you’ve found the real deal or not. Look at their client list and the publishers which they have recently made sales with; you’re looking for good numbers, but also the types of genre, author and publishing house. These should closely match your own work; if you find that they do then you may be on to a winner with that particular agent.

That said, it can sometimes be beneficial to get an agent who is up and coming; they may be more likely to spend time on you if they have fewer clients, but are ambitious.

Communication style. You’re looking for an agent who is timely and courteous in their responses, i.e. they are professional; you should be treated like a business partner and they should be open and transparent in everything they are doing for you. A good agent will give you feedback about any rejections as well as acceptances and will often make suggestions regarding the marketing and positioning of your work to make it more appealing.

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Lola Smirnova is an author from Ukraine. Her novels are inspired by real-life events.  Lola’s debut novel Twisted was released in 2014. The book placed as Honorable Mention in the General Fiction Category of The 2014 London Book Festival’s Annual Competition.

Lola released Craved, the highly anticipated sequel to Twisted, in August 2015.

Lola lives in South Africa, and is currently working on the third book in her trilogy.
To learn more, go to http://lolasmirnova.com/
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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Behind the Scenes: The Book Deal with Kate Brauning, Author of How We Fall | First Chapter & Giveaway:






I'm so happy to be here on The Bookavid today with Jen!

I've got an international Goodreads giveaway and the first chapter you can read below, and then I'm talking about some behind the scenes stuff-- how the book deal for How We Fall happened. Since it was my first book deal as an author, it was all new to me, and it's been interesting, now that I'm an editor on the other side of the desk acquiring books from authors myself, to see the differences in how all it can happen.


About the Book:
How We FallEver since Jackie moved to her uncle's sleepy farming town, she's been flirting way too much--and with her own cousin, Marcus. Her friendship with him has turned into something she can't control, and he's the reason Jackie lost track of her best friend, Ellie, who left for...no one knows where.

Now Ellie has been missing for months, and the police, fearing the worst, are searching for her body. Swamped with guilt and the knowledge that acting on her love for Marcus would tear their families apart, Jackie pushes her cousin away. The plan is to fall out of love, and, just as she hoped he would, Marcus falls for the new girl in town. But something isn't right about this stranger, and Jackie's suspicions about the new girl's secrets only drive the wedge deeper between Jackie and Marcus.

Then Marcus is forced to pay the price for someone else's lies as the mystery around Ellie's disappearance starts to become horribly clear. Jackie has to face terrible choices. Can she leave her first love behind, and can she go on living with the fact that she failed her best friend?


Read Chapter 1!




The Book Deal

Signing
I signed with my agent, Carlie Webber, after an R&R with her where she gave me some editorial notes on ways to deepen the story. She liked my revisions, and offered representation. We did one more round of revisions on the book after she signed me, which took from September to shortly before Christmas. During December, my agent put together the list of editors and imprints she wanted to submit the book to, and right after the holidays we went on submission. 

Submission
I was so nervous about going on submission. I think it's a law that you have to be nervous, actually-- especially with the first book. Each time an editor wrote back to my agent, I felt like that editor held my fate in his or her hands. The first few passes (kind, but still) crushed me. But after getting three or four, I figured that it was just going to keep happening, and I'd heard the industry was full of rejection even for multi-published authors. So I got a little tougher, and kept reminding myself that so much about books was subjective, and that I just needed to find someone who would love it. And honestly, I was really fortunate with this first book.

The Offer
After we'd been on submission for about six weeks, Jacquelyn Mitchard at Merit Press (F&W Media) called my agent at 7am on a Saturday and said she'd read the book almost overnight and loved it, and that the publisher loved it, too. It was early morning my time, so I woke up to an email a few hours later that I had to re-read, because I couldn't quite believe it. I called Carlie, and she told me I officially had a pre-empt offer. She hammered out the deal points with Jackie while I made my decision. I decided to accept, because it was a great offer, and the team both loved the book and seemed able to support it well. My agent agreed.

Publication
Once we accepted the offer, Merit starting drafting the contract, and then my agent and my new editor went back and forth over the contract language. It took almost two months from the offer until the contract was announced and I could announce that my book would be published. The waiting was tough, because I was so eager to announce, but I know a lot of authors who have had to wait longer, and mine happened so quickly that adjusting to all the change was the bigger issue! And of course, once I could announce, it made all the waiting worth it to see my manuscript becoming a real book.




Goodreads Book Giveaway

How We Fall by Kate Brauning

How We Fall

by Kate Brauning

Giveaway ends November 30, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway


How We Fall is available through:
Amazon.com Amazon.ca Amazon.co.uk

.............................................................................



Author Bio: Kate Brauning grew up in rural Missouri and fell in love with young adult books in college. She now works in publishing and pursues her lifelong dream of telling stories she'd want to read. This is her first novel.

Visit her online at www.katebrauning.com or on Twitter at @KateBrauning.
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Saturday, November 7, 2015

How to Make Your Book Stand Out - Tips from Eric Matheny






Now more than ever it is critical that your work be as original and polished as possible.
Why? There are just too many of us.


Anybody can publish a book

With digital publishing, mostly utilized through tablets and Kindle and Nook devices, the publishing houses are no longer the gatekeepers. Anybody with access to publishing software can create an ebook. Many of these self-publishing companies can print paperbacks, even hardcover books as well.

But in the last year, I have discovered tons of great authors who were either published by small independent presses or self-published. I read mysteries and thrillers primarily and I can honestly say that their work is indistinguishable from the top writers in the genre. So there’s no shortage of talent. A good or bad thing, depending on whether you’re a writer or a reader.

So now the marketplace is saturated with great writers whose talent isn’t halted by agents or acquisitions editors who have the power to say no. The power to accept or reject a book is vested entirely in the public. But with so many writers having direct access to the reading public, it is more important than ever that your work stand out among the rest.

...so how do you stand out?
  • First and foremost, don’t chase trends. They never last. No more vampires, post-apocalyptic dystopia, or thrillers about bad marriages. While I absolutely loved Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train, that story’s been told. Nobody wants to read a carbon copy of an original. Remember when The Da Vinci Code was all the rage and everybody started writing Jesus thrillers?
  • Don’t jump on a bandwagon. By the time your book is researched, written, edited, and published, a year or two will have passed and people will have moved on to something new. And besides, if you’re not hitting the trend right at the precise moment it arrives, you’re already late.
  • Keep it original. Avoid fads. Also, make sure you love what you are writing. Gregg Hurwitz, whose work is a clinic in style, plotting, and pacing, said it best: write stuff that you would want to read. Who would have thought it was so easy? 
  • Think about it - don’t write stuff that you think you should write or material that you believe will sell better than something else. It’s disingenuous and your craft will suffer. And people will notice. It’s the literary equivalent of faking an orgasm.

Think about the stuff that you enjoy, and I mean really enjoy. 

Take your favorite book, for instance. 
  • Why is it your favorite? You obviously enjoyed it for a reason. 
  • Without plagiarizing, how could you replicate that work? 
  • Was it the subject matter?

I’ll give you an example. I am fascinated by outlaw motorcycle clubs. Always have been, don’t ask me why. I have seen all the Gangland episodes - The Warlocks, The Pagans, Sons of Silence. I’ve read Hell’s Angels and Vagos, Mongols, and Outlaws. I loved Dead In Five Heartbeats by one-percenter legend Sonny Barger.
I find that culture so interesting. 

So when I was writing The Victim - a legal thriller - I had to somehow work a biker gang, or two, into my story. And that was the best part, creating these grizzly, tattooed behemoths, flying their colors, roaring down the highway on custom Harley V-Rods. I wrote scenes that I would’ve loved to have read. And if I must admit, I think they turned out pretty well.

In sum, there is not much I can tell you that you don’t already know, but I think the keys to success in today’s publishing marketplace are sometimes the most simple and most often overlooked. There is no recipe or magic button.

Write well, write often, write what you love.

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Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney who enjoys writing crime fiction, drawing from his experience working in the legal system. He has handled everything from DUI to murder. His latest novel The Victim was released on August 13, 2015, published by Zharmae. 

The Victim is a tense, fast-paced, legal thriller/psychological suspense novel that centers around a young defense attorney whose horrifying misdeed from his college days comes back to haunt him. 
It is available for sale on Amazon.

Eric Matheny on Facebook |  Twitter  | Goodreads
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