My GRNW experience was great, worthwhile, and valuable, but slightly overshadowed by the emotional impact of coming home to a place that has both changed and stayed the same.
First, the conference or meet-up.
The first author-centered panel went quickly. Only 45 minutes long and I started to realize how very little we would get to say in the next one. I was a panelist on the Writing Diverse Characters panel and we could have gone for hours. Firstly, because the topic is broad and deep and necessary. Secondly, because the other panelists were bright and thoughtful and had tons of valuable insight into the needs of writers and readers in bringing intersecting oppressions to the table when planning a book.
As a genre that has some diversity by default – mainstream books don’t feature a lot of queer characters – we all agreed that it isn’t enough. That was our starting point.
From there, we immediately talked about ways of writing outside our personal experiences of color, gender, ability, etc. The author-attendees had great questions and the moderator, Marites Mendoza, didn’t even begin to get through the prepared questions. As I said, we could have gone on for a long, long time.
Pearl Love (who doesn’t keep her blog up to date, but has a Goodreads Author Profile that can get you to her books) is smart, sensible, and well-spoken. She was on later panels as well and should be considered by anyone looking to book panelists who can speak to writing both outside their personal experience (as a female M/M writer) and within personal marginalized experience (as a person of color).
Alex Powell (who does update her blog) was also a font of good advice. She has a lot of intersecting identities that aren’t usually featured in books, so she could speak to what it feels like not to read yourself and how much value there is in finding characters even remotely like you.
Pearl is fourth from the left and Alex is last on the right. This is from a later panel.
Heidi Belleau (midrange on the blog updating) did a great job helping everyone understand that intimidation is not a good reason to avoid diversity in your writing.
I hope to see more of them all as I keep making the rounds.
One particular point I brought up was about knowing more than you think. While the old saw goes write what you know, it’s also important to recognize that we also tend to write what we’re comfortable with. It’s true that most white people have mostly white friends, but it’s a rare person indeed who doesn’t know any people of color. Pay more attention in your real life and you’ll find that diversity is all around you. Learn from it, and get help making sure you’re hitting the right notes.
The book fair went…fair. I had some great conversations, but didn’t sell a ton of books. Oh well. Sitting next to Ginn Hale was a gift. She was warm and encouraging…and she’s the first person on my mailing list for Shriving, the science fiction manuscript I’m working on between romance books.
And the rest of the trip was strange and nostalgic.
Mama’s. An important location in Blue Water Dreams.
The loft, crucial to Oly’s life.
The falafel shop where Oly tells Lania about his youth.
But then there were the purely personal ones. The madrona trees all over town. I have a madrona backpiece tattoo so I could take home with me when I left.
Also, a place I used to get lentil soup for a dollar – all I could afford for lunch at that point in my life – and do the homework I’d allowed to pile up. I worked full time during college and took a full load the whole time. It’s a good thing I went for an English degree. I wrote so many of my assignments the morning they were due.
And, once again, what’s a visit to Seattle without excellent coffee?