#DVpit, updated submission guidelines, and my #MSWL

Today is #DVpit on Twitter, which is an event in which writers post pitches for their books on the hashtag and agents who like those pitches and are requesting submissions favorite the pitches as a way to say “send that to me!” and editors who like something either retweet it to say “I like this! send it to me, agents!” or favorite it if they take unsolicited submissions. To that end, I’m linking to this post for anyone whose pitch I favorite.

Recently, Cheryl Klein joined the Lee & Low team as editorial director, and that means that we’re shifting a few things around. Tu Books continues to be the middle grade and young adult imprint publishing all genres of fiction for those age groups, but because Cheryl also is interested in novels, I won’t be the sole editor acquiring for the imprint anymore. However, Cheryl and I have different interests and tastes, and she’ll also be acquiring picture books and nonfiction for the Lee & Low imprints, and older nonfiction for Tu.

Also, I’ve tweeted my #MSWL (if you don’t know, that’s a manuscript wish list) on both my own Twitter and on @tubooks from time to time—most recently being yesterday on Tu’s account:

Also:

So if you’d like a better sense of what I’m looking for, my Twitter and the Tu Books Twitter are your best resources, as I’m terrible at keeping up my blog nowadays.

We have new submission guidelines that have not yet gone up on the Lee & Low website, so for anyone looking for whether to send a MG or YA to me vs. Cheryl, some guidelines here. Obviously your first sign is whether Cheryl or I favorited your tweet. But if you’re still not sure, this is what will be put up on the Tu Books submission guidelines when we update the site:

At TU BOOKS, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS, our focus is on young adult and middle grade fiction and narrative nonfiction centering people of color. We look for fantasy set in worlds inspired by non-Western folklore or culture, contemporary mysteries and fantasy set all over the world starring POC, and science fiction that centers the possibilities for people of color in the future. We also selectively publish realism and narrative nonfiction that explores the contemporary and historical experiences of people of color. We welcome intersectional narratives that feature LGBTQIA and disabled POC as heroes in their own stories.

We are looking specifically for stories for both middle grade (ages 8-12) and young adult (ages 12-18) readers. Occasionally a manuscript might fall between those two categories; if your manuscript does, let us know.

Stacy Whitman and Cheryl Klein both acquire titles for Tu Books, and we ask that you identify which of them you wish to consider your submission. As loose rules of thumb, Cheryl has a more literary bent and does not acquire graphic novels, while Stacy takes a more commercial focus and does not acquire narrative nonfiction. You can learn more about each of them through their websites, linked above, and the interviews here.

Novel Manuscript Submissions:

  • Please include a synopsis and first three chapters of the novel. Do not send the complete manuscript.
  • Manuscripts should be typed doubled-spaced.
  • Manuscripts should be accompanied by a cover letter that includes a brief biography of the author, including publishing history. The letter should be addressed to either Stacy Whitman or Cheryl Klein, and should also state if the manuscript is a simultaneous or an exclusive submission.
  • We’re looking for middle grade (ages 8-12) and young adult (ages 12 and up) books. We are not looking for chapter books (ages 6 to 9) at this time.
  • Be sure to include full contact information on the cover letter and first page of the manuscript. Page numbers and your last name/title of the book should appear on subsequent pages.

Graphic Novel Submissions:

  • Please include a synopsis and first three chapters (or equivalent—up to 20 pages of script) of the graphic novel script. Do not send the complete manuscript.
  • If you are also the illustrator, please include art samples with a sample storyboard in PDF or JPG format.
  • Do not include illustrations unless you are a professional illustrator.
  • Manuscripts should be accompanied by a cover letter that includes a brief biography of the author, including publishing history. The letter should also state if the manuscript is a simultaneous or an exclusive submission.
  • Be sure to include full contact information on the first page of the manuscript. Page numbers and your last name/title of the book should appear on subsequent pages.

Tu Books accepts submissions electronically. Please go to our Submittable page to submit your manuscript electronically.

If you would rather send your submission via snail mail, you may address it to: 

Submissions Editor, Tu Books
LEE & LOW BOOKS
95 Madison Avenue, Suite 1205
New York, NY 10016

ALSO NOTE that for new writers of color, our New Voices Award (for picture books) and New Visions Award (for MG/YA novels & graphic novels) writing contests are opening soon for submissions! If you’ve never published a picture book before, New Voices opens May 1. If you’ve never published a MG or YA novel or graphic novel, New Visions opens June 1. Information for both contests’ submission guidelines will be updated on the L&L website soon, so check back.

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The state of MG vs YA when YA is so much older now

Let’s talk about middle grade books, young adult books, and that liminal space between, that magic spot of readers ages 10-14 who read up. 

There’s a certain kind of voice you expect from a YA book that tells you “this is about a teenage experience.” It’s different from the exploring/discovery of the world voice we generally hear in MG—it’s more mature, sometimes more cynical. It’s not an adult voice, but it is no longer the voice of a child.

YA has been aging up for about 15-18 years now. In the early 2000s, we called books like Holly Black’s “edgy,” but that sensibility is now par for the course in YA, and generally the books you see shelved in the YA section of a bookstore star protagonists who are 15, 16, 17, 18—very few YA novels star 12-14-year-olds anymore.

This coincided with the vast numbers of YA readers becoming adults, as well—last we heard, more than 80% of YA readers are over 18, purchasing books for their own reading, not that of an actual teenager in their life.

Which for me, as someone who publishes books for children and teens BECAUSE I want to serve the population of children these books are intended for, is VERY frustrating. When books I publish in the YA market for 12-year-olds get dinged for actually sounding like a real 15-year-old is talking (“this book sounds middle grade” to paraphrase one review of one of my books because it didn’t contain romance), I feel like we have fundamentally lost our way if we aren’t serving our target market (or when reviewers don’t remember or don’t care about the books’ target market).

But these are the realities of our current system, so what’s emerging out of it is that MG seems to be picking up the slack for that forgotten, now-underserved tween audience who used to be the core readership for YA books.

Where does that leave the publisher of MG and YA books, though? Do I publish what I’ve always published as YA now as a MG? That doesn’t make sense, either, because the voice doesn’t sound MG–the voice is that of an emerging teenager, not an 8- or 10-year-old.

Yes, 12-18 is a very large developmental gap. We do need to allow space for the older YA—I’m glad it’s finally finding a home. But to then define YA as just what’s happened in the last 10-15 years is to ignore the huge body of work that has been YA for decades before that.I’ve seen more bookstores have tiers (8-11, 10-14, 14 and up, etc.), which is great, but publishing only has the two categories, and B&N only has the “children’s” section (with various subsections) and the “YA” section (now also broken down by genre, but not age), so it’s a challenge to communicate to accounts exactly where to shelve the books, and confusion can arise.

So: if you are a writer for that 10-14 age range, where do your books get shelved? Editors: what solutions have you come across? Readers/teachers/parents, where do you look for books for that age group? Librarians, how do you figure out where to shelve books for that age range?

Submit your manuscript to the New Visions Award

NVAL_WinnerLogoIn case you missed it, I’m open again for submissions to the New Visions Award. Details can be found on this blog post.

This is the first year we’re taking only electronic submissions. You can submit via our Submittable site. There is no charge for any of our submissions, including the New Visions Award.

Please note that the New Visions Award is open only to authors of color resident of the United States (including non-citizens, but you must be a resident). This includes Asian Americans and other people of Asian descent, African Americans and other people of African descent, Pacific Islanders, South Asians, Native Americans and other indigenous peoples, Middle Easterners, Latino/as, and mixed race people.

If you are a white American, or any author who does not reside in the United States, you are welcome to submit to our regular submissions, guidelines for which can be found here.

This weekend: Las Comadres writing conference in Brooklyn

If you’re in Brooklyn this weekend and interested in Latino/a culture and writing, you should be at Las Comadres y Compadres! I’ll be doing one-on-one consultations with writers. It’s too late to get a manuscript in for me to read and critique, but I’m still happy to meet with anyone who wants to discuss a project and get feedback that way, and I’ll be around for lunchtime as well. My coworker Jessica Escheverria, who focuses on picture books in the Lee & Low imprint, will also be doing one-on-ones, so if you’re more of a picture book person, she’s the person to meet with.

In addition, the conference bookseller will be La Casa Azul from East Harlem, who will have books on hand from many of the presenters. Who will be there? The keynote speaker is Reyna Grande, who is the recipient of an American Book Award, El Premio Aztlan Literary Award, and an International Latino Book Award. Panelists include Matt de la Peña, Daniel Nayeri, Jorge Aguirre, and Eileen Robinson. You should go!

Social media/blogging update

A few months ago, I decided to join Tumblr and see what it was all about. I so rarely have time for real blogging nowadays, and most of my newsy things get posted on Facebook or Twitter. However, there are often longer things I’d like to share that I don’t have the time to think too deeply about for a full blog post. Those things have found a home on my new Tumblr, which is called The Other Grimoire mostly because I couldn’t think of a better name for it.*

If you already follow me on Twitter and you’re not into Tumblr, you are already seeing these links–everything I tumble auto-tweets, so I don’t have to do double duty. If you’re on Tumblr, let me know who you are (it’s much more like LJ** in the use of pseudonyms, so I don’t always know that someone I know is on there).

At any rate, I have a feeling that my blogging is only going to go down further in the coming time, because anything Tu-related such as reviews, awards, and author appearances is getting shared via the Tu Books Twitter and Facebook as well as the Lee & Low blog, where I hope to be doing some posts regarding Tu in the coming months. And I still share quite a bit of stray thoughts on Twitter and Facebook (as well as Tu news, but not as much as the Tu streams), though I’m working to really lock down personal stuff on my Facebook more as the number of writers who I don’t know personally grows. I’d prefer writers to follow me on Twitter or Tumblr, to be honest–anything related to books and writing will be mirrored there—but everyone is welcome to follow me on there for public updates. I’d prefer to start to weed down my actual friends list to people with whom I am friends in real life or through significant interaction online; it just gets too unwieldy otherwise (I am the master of lists in FB, but it really does get tiresome to have to remember who is on what list, too).

At any rate, I will continue to share news of Tu and to talk about my editorial process and the running of an imprint when I can. It’s just becoming harder to as my responsibilities grow, so I am looking for ways to make it simpler. Like reblogging interesting quotes and commenting briefly rather than publishing an entire blog post. Tumblr is great for that, so join me over there!

*I can’t tell you how many submissions I’ve gotten in the years since I started this blog on which they address the submission to “Stacy Whitman Grimoire,” and then address me as “Ms. Grimoire.” Where in the title of this blog (NOTE THE POSSESSIVE) did they get the idea that my last name is Grimoire??

**Speaking of LJ, my auto-importer on WordPress seems to have truly died, and I honestly don’t know if any of my last year’s worth of posts have actually made it to LJ. Hopefully those people I connected with on LJ are still connected to me via other networks.

#diverselit

Side note: I just realized—thanks to a congratulatory email on LinkedIn, of all things—that I’ve now officially been at Lee & Low Books for 3 years, almost to the day (I believe I started on March 5, 2010, but my memory is fuzzy). YAY for Tu Books! Yay for diversity in science fiction, fantasy, and mystery for young readers!

And to celebrate that—diversity in books for young readers, that is—we’re starting a Twitter chat that we’ve dubbed #diverselit. Tomorrow—Thursday, March 7, 2013—will be our first #diverselit chat on Twitter, and I hope you’ll be able to join us, in which I and my coworker Hannah, who is Lee & Low’s marketing manager, will be talking about Diversity 101, which covers all those frequently asked questions such as:

  • Who can write what?
  • What does “POC” mean?
  • What is privilege and why does it matter?
  • Why is diversity in books for young people a problem, and why does it matter?

If you’re an expert, join in the conversation and give us your perspective. If you’re a newbie to all of this, come to learn. Everyone, come to discuss! I will be tweeting from Tu Books’ twitter, and Hannah will be tweeting from Lee & Low’s twitter, so be sure to follow us both.

If you don’t know how a Twitter chat works, check out this handy guide to hashtag chats. Not on Twitter? You can follow along by searching #diverselit on Twitter itself or on http://www.tweetchat.com, but to participate in the chat, you need a Twitter account, which is pretty easy to set up. Hope to chat with you tomorrow!

Nanowrimo resources: diversity in your Nano (writing cross-culturally)

Vieja Maquina de Escribir. / Old Writing Machine.
Courtesy Gonzalo Barrientos/Flickr

Are you starting off on your yearly Nanowrimo marathon? If so, perhaps you’re thinking about how to diversify your cast or settings. Preferably both, right? This month I’m working on at least one new diversity post, but I also thought perhaps a list of existing resources in one place would be useful. Most of these links, which I’ve been sharing via Twitter and Facebook as I find them, can also be found on the CBC Diversity Resources page, specifically on the resources for writers page, along with resources directed at other publishing professionals such as editors, sales and marketing, and booksellers. I’ve added a few more recent articles/sites that I’ve recently run into, as well.

This is kind of a hodgepodge of links, but I think it’ll help you have plenty to think about. If I run into anything more in the next couple of days, I’ll likely add it. Most of these links apply to writing cross-culturally, but as I like to remind people, this can mean anyone writing from a perspective not their own. I’ve talked to New York City-based writers who make assumptions about Iowans based on what they’ve seen on TV that I as a Midwesterner find unbelievable at best. I’ve known probably as many writers of color who want to write about different cultures that fascinate them as white writers who would like to write about people of color. In all of these cases, if you aren’t writing “what you know,” then research is involved. You have to know what questions to ask, what assumptions you’re making because of your own worldview that your character wouldn’t make. These resources will help you with that.

Though, beware, there’s a lot of info here. If you’re Nanoing, perhaps you might want to go with one at a time to leave yourself time to write!

Stephen King’s Super-Duper Magical Negroes

Nnedi Okorafor examines Stephen King’s use of the “Magical Negro” trope and discusses how it can be avoided.

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story

Chimamanda Adichie’s transformative TED talk, The Dangers of a Single Story, shows us what happens when writers focus on only one kind of story, and how a multitude of voices from minority cultures need to be heard for that danger to pass away.

Appropriate Cultural Appropriation

When writing cross-culturally, we need to remember whether we’re acting as an invader, a tourist, or a guest. Nisi Shawl addresses how to watch out for stereotypes, bad dialects, and other problematic portrayals of people of color.

Transracial Writing for the Sincere

Nisi Shawl’s resources for those who want to get it right when they want to write cross-culturally; how to do your research.

Challenge, Counter, Controvert: Subverting Expectations

Uma Krishnaswami on challenging subverting expectations in our writing.

 

Describing characters of color in writing

N.K. Jemison on how to describe characters of color in your writing without resorting to cliches and stereotypes.

Part 1: http://nkjemisin.com/2009/04/ways-to-describe-characters-of-color/

Part 2: http://magicdistrict.wordpress.com/2009/07/30/describing-characters-of-color-pt-2/

Part 3: http://nkjemisin.com/2010/02/describing-characters-of-color-3-oppoc/

The Microaggressions Project

A Tumblr that seeks to provide a visual representation of the everyday of microaggressions, “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” Each event, observation and experience posted is not necessarily particularly striking in and of themselves. Often, they are never meant to hurt—acts done with little conscious awareness of their meanings and effects. Instead, their slow accumulation during a childhood and over a lifetime is in part what defines a marginalized experience, making explanation and communication with someone who does not share this identity particularly difficult.

 

Monika Schröder on Saraswati’s Way

Uma Krishnaswami on insider vs. outsider narratives (as she discusses Saraswati’s Way with Monika Schroder).

Don’t put my book in the African American section

N.K. Jemison’s response to the segregation of black writers (and often as a result, readers) in some libraries and bookstores.

 

Parenthetic Comma Phrases, Anyone?

Uma Krishnaswami on the use of parenthetic comma phrases to explain cultural details to the reader as if the reader were always an outsider to the culture. How else might these details be conveyed without alienating readers who come from that culture?

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

Peggy McIntosh provides a classic list of privileges which a white middle class woman enjoys that many of other socioeconomic statuses or races do not. An example for writers seeking to write from a perspective not their own to muse on their own privileges, whether similar or different, so they can see their blind spots.

 

Things I Don’t Have to Think about Today

In the same vein as the above, science fiction writer John Scalzi talks about “Things I Don’t Have to Think about Today” paired with his post on narrative usurpation, covering why he wrote “Things I Don’t Have to Think about Today.”

“Things I Don’t Have to Think about Today”

Narrative Usurpation

 

Mitali Perkins on Writing Race

A Checklist for Writers

 

There’s no such thing as a good stereotype

N.K. Jemison on the “strong female character” stereotype that also connects with racial and cultural issues.

 

Interview Wednesday: Stacy Whitman of Tu Books, a Lee and Low Imprint

Uma Krishnaswami interviews Stacy Whitman about using cultural experts to read cross-cultural writing or to check details of a controversial or historical subject (even when the writer is of that culture).

 

Is my character ‘black enough’?

From my own blog (be sure to read the comments section).

 

My SCBWI Winter Conference 2012 talk on writing multicultural books

Notes from my SCBWI Winter Conference talk in which I quote from the book below (questions to ask to knowing what questions to ask)

A Beginner’s Guide to the Deep Culture Experience: Beneath the Surface

This book by Joseph Shaules is directed to potential US expats living abroad helping them to think about cultural differences and ways to adapt to their new countries and enjoy the journey. But when read from the perspective of a writer, the questions Shaules raises can be applied to world building and culture building in writing.

 

Beyond Orcs and Elves

My talk on the need for diversity in fantasy and science fiction (includes a resources for writers section in part 3).

 

The Language of the Night
This book is unavailable electronically and also out of print, but if you can find Ursula K. Le Guin’s collection used or at your library, published by HarperCollins in 1978 and 1989, two excellent essays for writers on diversity are “American SF and the Other” and “Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?”

New Visions extension announcement

As I was talking about yesterday, Hurricane Sandy has affected us at Lee & Low—our office is still currently without power—o we understand that it has made it hard especially for those in the path of the storm to get your New Visions entry into the mail. After all, in the middle of all this, a lot of us have more important things to worry about, like electricity and food. Subway and train service is also still a problem, which might be essential for someone trying to get to the post office, and I’m not sure if many affected post offices are back up and running yet.

In light of that, we’re announcing today that we’re going to grant a 2-week extension to the New Visions contest. Our new deadline is Nov. 14. Like the original deadline, that is a postmark deadline. As long as your entry is postmarked by Nov. 14, your entry has hit the deadline. We hope this extension particularly helps those in the path of the storm, but it applies across the board.

All the other guidelines remain in effect. The contest page will be updated when we are able to do so—can’t change it myself and those who can don’t have access right now.

Given that those who need this deadline most might not even have electricity right now, please share this far and wide and please retweet, Facebook, and share on your blogs and other social networks today and perhaps a few times later this week. Please get the word out. Thanks, and for those who are hardest hit by this storm, our thoughts are with you.

P.S. If you’re in another area and wondering how you can help with the hurricane, I’ve heard that they have had to cancel several local blood drives due to the infrastructure damage. If you can donate blood, that might be the best thing you can do, particularly because on the night of the storm they had to evacuate an entire hospital down at NYU. You might also consider donating money to the Red Cross.

New Visions Award–deadline approaching!

I haven’t been blogging very consistently, I know—which made me only realize today that despite my many mentions of it on Twitter and Facebook, I haven’t yet talked about our New Visions Award here on the blog yet! With less than a month left before the deadline, I wanted to go a little into further detail about why we’re running this contest, and why you should share it far and wide with all your writer friends!

As you know, I focus on diversity in fantasy, science fiction, and mystery. We don’t require that our writers be people of color. Writing cross-culturally is perfectly valid—we’ve talked a lot here about how important it is to get a culture right if you’re writing cross-culturally, and to me, that’s what matters most when it comes to diversity in our books: that the books themselves reach beyond the status quo, and get it right while doing so.

But a vital part of getting it right is also welcoming voices from those communities we’re talking about, discovering new voices and adding them to the choral symphony. Look at CCBC’s 2011 numbers—the number of writers of color have mostly stagnated at roughly 6% of all books published, with roughly 8% of all books published featuring significant content about people of color (including formulaic non-fiction). Compare that with the population at large, which is roughly 25% PoC—or to the percentage of kids of color, our audience, which is fast approaching 50%—and you can see how stark those numbers really are, how bad we’ve been as an industry at offering “mirror” content to our readers and at sharing voices from their communities. If we were able to break it down into genres (does anyone have access to that kind of information? I’d love to see it), I have a feeling that YA SF and fantasy would have numbers that would look much worse.

So with that in mind, we started the New Visions Award, modeled after Lee & Low’s New Voices Award, to seek out new voices in genre fiction for young people. All the details can be found at our site (plus some awesome words about the contest from awesome people like Mitali Perkins and Nikki Grimes), but I’ll post a bit of it here so you can get an idea of what we’re looking for:

TU BOOKS, the fantasy, science fiction, and mystery imprint of LEE AND LOW BOOKS, award-winning publisher of children’s books, is pleased to announce the first annual New Visions Award. The award will be given for a middle grade or young adult fantasy, science fiction, or mystery novel by a writer of color. The Award winner receives a cash grant of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash grant of $500.

TU BOOKS was launched in 2010, dedicated to diversity in the beloved genre fiction market for young people. Titles include Wolf Mark, Tankborn, and Cat Girl’s Day Off. This fall will bring the publication of Morris Award nominee and Pura Belpré Award winner Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s Summer of the Mariposas. For more information about TU BOOKS, visit leeandlow.com/p/tu.mhtml.

Eligibility:

  1. The contest is open to writers of color who are residents of the United States and who have not previously had a middle grade or young adult novel published.
  2. Writers who have published work in other venues such as children’s magazines or picture books, or adult fiction or nonfiction, are eligible. Only unagented submissions will be accepted.
  3. Work that has been published in its entirety in any format (including online and self publishing) is not eligible. Manuscripts previously submitted to TU BOOKS will not be considered.

Dates for Submission:

Submissions will be accepted from June 1, 2012, through October 31, 2012, and must be postmarked within that period.

Notice that the deadline is coming up at the end of this month!! So please share on Facebook and Twitter, share with your writing groups, share with your listservs—post it wherever it might be appropriate to share it around. Let your writer friends know! And if you, reading this right now, have a book that would be right for me, send it along!

I’d also add for those who aren’t new writers of color who want to submit a book to me, we’re always open to submissions from all writers, both agented and unagented, in our general submissions.

“It’s Complicated” at CBC Diversity

As we’ve discussed on here before, diversity in children’s and YA books can be pretty controversial. Just reading the comments sections at any of the latest posts about diversity can make your head spin, between the people denying that white privilege exists and those saying that even if it does exist, it doesn’t matter, because “people of color don’t read.”

Those things aren’t true, but how do we dispel them? How do we address the multi-pronged issue of getting more diverse books out there?

The CBC Diversity Committee is working to help address this. This week on the CBC Diversity blog, the theme is “It’s Complicated.” Check out Nancy Mercado’s opening post:

The internet can often be a rough-and-tumble kind of place when it comes to complex and layered discussions, but we think it’s possible and necessary to have a respectful and open forum where we are able to chat about some of the challenges that we face, as well as the opportunities that exist when we come together as a community.

This will be a safe space for us in publishing—writers, editors, marketing folks, sales people, artists, anyone involved in getting books to kids—to discuss the issues.

Today, Cynthia Leitich Smith is talking about the fear of saying something wrong. Hop on over and join in on the conversation.

 

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On a related note, here’s some recent coverage of this issue.

The Atlantic Wire: The Ongoing Problem of Race in YA

Huffington Post: Race On YA Covers: Survey Reports A Continued Lack Of Diversity

Jezebel: White Folks Star in 90% of 2011’s Young Adult Book Covers

John Scalzi: Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is

John Scalzi: “Lowest Difficulty Setting” Follow-Up

Sarah Ockler: Race in YA Lit: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee-Colored Skin, YA Authors [at SFWA]

Sarah Ockler: Race in YA Lit: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee-Colored Skin, YA Authors [at her own blog]