Hard Facts about Being an African American Romance Writer

I read an article today that resonates so well with my writing journey that I have to share it, vlog it, and just sit on it for a moment.

It’s a #Longread from the Guardian title “Fifty Shade of White: the long fight against racism in romance novels“. The writer of this piece, Lois Beckett, dives right into the past and current issues with romance writers of color; it’s hard to break through when the industry is slow to see that change it needs.

As it stands, when it comes to the Rita Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the romance industry given by RWA (Romance Writers of America), there has never been a black winner, like ever. The first official RWA meeting occurred Dec. 1980 – yep not one winner for the past 40 years. But to be honest, as a black woman, I’m not shocked. I grew up watching black romance books being separated from all the others to fall into an Urban Romance category. Segregation comes in many forms, and that my friend, is one of them. I remember never being able to find them, they were always tucked somewhere in the back, as if a white woman with a flowing dress falling off of her shoulders with a guy raising her leg was so much more sophisticated than a black woman’s eyes or lips.

It was then that I picked up my first Zane book and got lost between the pages. Her words reminded me that the black POV of love and lust were different but still viable for all that read it. Zane inspired me to write my own romance stories, using imagery and words that resonated with my generation and my friends. She gave me the courage to go about this writing journey in my own way.

Fast forward to now, as I continue to push my own voice through my writing and pitch an African American romance, women’s fiction, upmarket/commercial erotic fiction book (it may fall into to some other categories but I didn’t want to go overboard), I’m wondering if there will be a delay in understanding the worth and message behind my words. My romance looks and reads differently, but it feels as good as other romance stories. Can a predominately white industry recognize its value? It’s in Beckett’s article that I find some hope that it will. I just pray that it’s sooner than later…I’m so ready to take this passion on full-time.

Here’s an excerpt from Beckett’s article:

For all this diversity of genre, the romance industry itself has remained overwhelming white, as have the industry’s most prestigious awards ceremony, the Ritas, which are presented each year by the RWA. Just like the Oscars in film, a Rita award is the highest honour a romance author can receive, and winning can mean not only higher sales, but also lasting recognition from peers. And just like the Oscars, the Ritas have become the centre of controversy over unacknowledged racism and bias in the judging process.

Last year, however, many observers felt that this was sure to change. One of the standout novels of 2017 had been Alyssa Cole’s An Extraordinary Union, an interracial romance set during the civil war. The book had already won a number of awards and made multiple best-of-the-year lists.

When the Rita awards finalists were announced in March 2018, An Extraordinary Union was nowhere to be seen. A novel rated exceptional by critics had been not even been deemed as noteworthy by an anonymous judging panel of Cole’s fellow romance writers. The books that had beat Cole as finalists in the best short historical romance category were all by white women, all but one set in 19th-century Britain, featuring white women who fall in love with aristocrats. The heroes were, respectively, one “rogue”, two dukes, two lords and an earl.

What followed, on Twitter, was an outpouring of grief and frustration from black authors and other authors of colour, describing the racism they had faced again and again in the romance industry. They talked about white editors assuming black writers were aspiring authors, even after they had published dozens of books; about white authors getting up from a table at the annual conference when a black author came to sit down; about constant questions from editors and agents about whether black or Asian or Spanish-speaking characters could really be “relatable” enough.

Then, of course, there were the readers. “People say: ‘Well, I can’t relate,’” Jenkins told NPR a few years ago, after watching white readers simply walk past her table at a book signing. “You can relate to shapeshifters, you can relate to vampires, you can relate to werewolves, but you can’t relate to a story written by and about black Americans?”

Read the full article.

 

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Pitching a book: The Struggle is Real!

I’ve decided to do a video diary of my journey to publishing (with no idea how it will go) in hopes that I can help other writers through the ups and downs. Check out my new vlog and don’t forget to subscribe to the channel.

“If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.” -Maya Angelou (The Heart of a Woman)

Letting Creativity Flow

Okay passion-fy family, my words have been flowing and my motivation to push my writing and creative desires further are getting stronger and stronger by the second. And let me give a quick shout out to my personal board of directors for giving me life and tell me to quit it with the excuses. So here’s a quick download of my next steps:

Third Book is 97% Completed

I promise y’all, I thought I was finished until I uncovered another chapter in my brain dump of this novella/novel (It’s teetering closer to a novel now) but now I’m wrapping this sucker up. I plan to have this completed by mid-September so I can get it over to an editor (or two) and start pitching it by the end of September. I’m not playing folks. I can’t play anymore because I have at least four more stories dying to get out and I can barely stay focus on this one. But it’s coming I know. A two-year hiatus in publishing isn’t too bad…wait, I was published recently by Z Publishing. If you missed that news, catch up with the previous post.

YouTube Restart and Podcast Launch

I’ve been asked by several writers if I’m going to start back up on the vlogs, and the answer was yes until life happened (baby, moving, motherhood, wifin’, career change, and the list goes on). But I’m for real this time and I’m even going to partner with another fellow YouTuber to start a new channel. Videos are in progress so make sure that you’re following my channel to stay updated on the latest uploads. While you’re there, check out some of the oldies too.

Pushing the Ps: Pitching, pushing, producing

I’ve hit the producing part in the first two sections. But the other two are a bit more complicated for me. For pitching, I’m actively searching for a passionate literary agent. And I don’t someone necessarily into the topics I write about (even though that would be ideal) but someone who is as passionate about their job and role in my career as I am about writing. I’m looking for my Puff Daddy. I want my next piece to get picked up and I know that having someone like that on my team could be a career changer.

Now in regards to pushing, I’ve got to get the word out about my current and previous projects. As a writer, I’m an introvert. I like to do things behind the scene and if someone notices the final project, if not, that’s cool too…but that’s THE WRONG thought process if I want to live off of my books one day. So, to combat my introvertedness (it’s a word, I promise), I’m pushing myself to not only promote my books and passion pieces more on social media and other channels but also send out copies to people who I would love to read my book — no matter how unlikely it is that they get it. Faith always has the final answer.

Stay tuned…

With passion,

DNC

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