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May 2020
A Message from Kristin Nelson

A New Denver Conference Shines a Light on Diverse Voices

Kristin Nelson

It’s rare to have a guest interview here at Pub Rants. I am delighted to welcome Viniyanka Prasad to the blog. I’ve known her for years. She has something awesome cookin’ here in the Mile-Hi city, so I’m shining the spotlight on her and The Word, a nonprofit Denver-based writing sanctuary for diverse voices. This terrific organization launched in 2016 and their first programs became available in 2017, and now Viniyanka is launching a new conference called [margins.] this summer. This is a welcome addition to the Denver scene, so welcome, Viniyanka!

You are the founder and executive director of The Word. Tell us about your mission.

Hello and thank you so much for having me to share more about The Word! In a whirlwind few years, we’ve had the privilege to offer dozens of workshops, mentorships, submissions opportunities, and reader events.

We fight for equity and celebrate storytelling from marginalized communities. In the ideal literary world, there is equal access to resources that amplify stories and equal freedom to share with the creator’s own vision.

You are launching a new conference called [margins.] in 2020. Tell us about this conference. What should readers know about how they can participate in various capacities?

The [margins.] conference (August 1-2) is a space for community and craft building that places writers from the margins at the center. We’ll be talking writing craft, publishing know-how, and literary activism.

We’re creating small-group gatherings, one-on-one feedback opportunities, and community roundtables so that attendees will walk away with writing/publishing tools as well as a new family to look to for support.

Our celebration is for everyone in a number of ways! We’ll be hosting a public virtual bookfair with readings and titles everyone will want to explore. We’re already hosting a series of discussions that are free and open to the public, so please join in throughout the next month!

We also invite potential presenters and publishers who would like to submit titles or presenters to reach out. Finally, everyone can be a part of supporting this vision during our Kickstarter, which has just a short time left to meet our goal—that’s also a place to build community, for example with our virtual book club offering! More information can be found here, and our continually updated list of programs and speakers is here.

Why is it important to provide safe spaces for marginalized voices to be heard both by each other and by the world?

Writing from the margins often means explaining the need for your story to be told, the need for greater representation. It is an exhausting way to exist in literary spaces. When a wide range of writers from across marginalized backgrounds gather, everyone can show up as themselves—no majority within which you do not fit. And when we remove the need to explain why we are here, we get to actually do the things that brought us: find our strongest voices, brainstorm the best ways to represent our communities while sharing our truths, and learn how to navigate healthy writing careers.

Creating this space shows our communities, and everyone, what a literary world that embraces a variety of perspectives can be. The incomparable poet and activist Suzi Q. Smith, also [margins.] co-organizer, reminds us often that we have to imagine ourselves in the future we want before we can build the future we need. With [margins.] we get to do one better: we get to make that future a micro-reality right now.

What would you like to tell agents who are looking for #ownvoices clients? What do agents need to learn most?

A very welcome question, and an agent who is asking this is asking the best one. To answer this thoroughly would probably require an entire conference itself, and certainly a range of voices other than mine (another project for us one of these days)! With hopes of being helpful here, I’ll focus on an important and core consideration: the agent’s questions about their own identity.

In any space where equity and inclusion are challenges, each of us brings our own vulnerabilities, which, yes, come with defenses. To be truly open to other perspectives, we need to clear out our own junk by acknowledging our own internal tapestries of challenges and privileges. It helps us trust in another person’s “unimaginable” experience without feeling that it erases what we each have lived. It helps us balance our gut connection with a humble openness to artforms that we haven’t been primed to understand.

To find out and more and to read the complete interview, pop over to my blog Pub Rants

Recent News

Liza Kaplan at Philomel has bought, in a preempt, in a two-book deal, The Memory House by debut author Stacy Stokes.

Think Like an Agent

Are We Ready for Pandemic Stories Yet?

By Joanna MacKenzie

Here, in my neck of the woods, we’re heading into our eighth week of lockdown. The longer I’m in this new reality, trying to balance work with homeschool and family life, the more I’ve been pondering what types of stories this moment in history will give us. I’ve also being speaking with editors and my agent colleagues about what types of stories we’re looking for and what we’d be comfortable reading. The big truth is that everyone’s experiences are varying so vastly. We don’t see an end in sight, and without closure, can anyone pen a story right now that captures a universal truth? While a pandemic is ripe fodder for writers, when can one write about it, and how can it be written about? These are interesting questions with answers that will only come over time. All I can offer here is what types of stories I would and wouldn’t be interested in seeing at this time:

YES: Pandemic as inciting incident. I am excited to see stories that use the pandemic as a plot propeller—as a circumstance that, without it, the story (centered around a conflict not directly virus related) could not have happened.

  • Mystery and suspense: Your character is stuck inside, so now what? I’m thinking about Rear Window or The Girl On the Train narratives that can evolve only because circumstances set the characters on a certain path. What do you discover if you finally have the time to clean out your daughter’s room? Or your partner’s office? What do you learn if you’re spying on your neighbors all day? What if a restaurant-delivery person becomes obsessed with a family she regularly delivers to?
  • Romance: I’ve been hearing a lot about the idea of people forced to quarantine together, but also what if you and your office crush find yourselves having to come into work to keep the business running? Or what if your character takes a job as a grocery-delivery person and falls in love with someone they deliver to? What if your character is a teacher falling in love online with a homeschooling parent?

NO: Woe-is-me pandemic stories. I could not read anything that takes a glib approach to this time just as I can’t stand celebrities complaining about being stuck inside their mansions. I’m not alone here. This isn’t the time for stories about how much of an inconvenience this is. That approach will not win any fans.

NO: Science-based or speculative fiction about viral outbreaks. As mentioned above, I’d love to see stories that use the pandemic as a springboard for a plot that is not specifically about an outbreak. However, I am not interested stories in which an outbreak is the central conflict, i.e., outbreak thrillers featuring heroic scientists or politically motivated villains.

MAYBE BUT NOT RIGHT NOW: The defining story. Somewhere out there, a writer is composing the beginnings of a story that will define this moment for us. That will speak to us as a nation. That will make us feel seen. I can’t wait to read it. But it’s too soon. Defining stories require a matured perspective—and facts—that only time, distance, and due contemplation can provide. We don’t know how this will end or how it will impact us as a society in the long run, so hypothesizing about it now in fiction seems moot. In the meantime, keep a journal. Write down your experiences and your ideas for new novels. Capture it all now so that when the time is right, you’ll have what you need to work with.

Kristin's Book Club

The Backyard Social Distanced Book Club

And it’s definitely BYOB. In fact, it’s bring your own camp chair, bring your own picnic, and bring your own Clorox wipes. But we are doing it. For the first time in two months, book club is gathering in Rebecca Taylor’s backyard to discuss (at long last) INHERITANCE: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro.

An early celebration for Ms. Rebecca’s June release: HER PERFECT LIFE. Book Club supports our own. Pre-orders are in. Join us, as it’s the perfect summer read and what Book Club has decided to dive into next.

Reclusive Clare Collins crafts her novels like she crafts her life: perfectly. So the world is stunned when the famous author is found dead on a beach from a self-inflicted gunshot—the morning after her latest book hits the shelves.

Her sister, Eileen, is at a loss. Clare led a charmed life: success, mansions, money… Why would she throw it all away? But while reading through her sister’s latest—and greatest—novel, Eileen discovers a clue that unravels the fiction and reveals the painful truth. Suddenly, the life that Eileen had envied doesn’t seem so sparkling…

New Releases

You & Me & Us

by Alison Hammer

Alexis Gold knows how to put the “work” in working mom. It’s the “mom” part that she’s been struggling with lately. Since opening her own advertising agency three years ago, Alexis has all but given up on finding a good work/life balance. Instead, she’s handed over the household reins to her supportive, loving partner, Tommy. While he’s quick to say they divide and conquer, Alexis knows that Tommy does most of the heavy lifting—especially when it comes to their teenage daughter, CeCe.

Their world changes in an instant when Tommy receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, and Alexis realizes everything she’s worked relentlessly for doesn’t matter without him. So Alexis does what Tommy has done for her almost every day since they were twelve-year-old kids in Destin, Florida—she puts him first. And when the only thing Tommy wants is to spend one last summer together at “their” beach, she puts her career on hold to make it happen…even if it means putting her family within striking distance of Tommy’s ex, an actress CeCe idolizes.

But Alexis and Tommy aren’t the only ones whose lives have been turned inside out. In addition to dealing with the normal ups and downs that come with being a teenager, CeCe is also forced to confront her feelings about Tommy’s illness—and what will happen when the one person who’s always been there for her is gone. When the magic of first love brings a bright spot to her summer, CeCe is determined not to let her mother ruin that for her, too.

As CeCe’s behavior becomes more rebellious, Alexis realizes the only thing harder for her than losing Tommy will be convincing CeCe to give her one more chance.

You and Me and Us is a beautifully written novel that examines the unexpected ways loss teaches us how to love.

Buy It Here:

       

The Paper Girl of Paris

by Jordyn Taylor

Code Name Verity meets Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution in this gripping debut novel.

Now:

Sixteen-year-old Alice is spending the summer in Paris, but she isn’t there for pastries and walks along the Seine. When her grandmother passed away two months ago, she left Alice an apartment in France that no one knew existed. An apartment that has been locked for more than seventy years.
Alice is determined to find out why the apartment was abandoned and why her grandmother never once mentioned the family she left behind when she moved to America after World War II. With the help of Paul, a charming Parisian student, she sets out to uncover the truth. However, the more time she spends digging through the mysteries of the past, the more she realizes there are secrets in the present that her family is still refusing to talk about.

Then:

Sixteen-year-old Adalyn doesn’t recognize Paris anymore. Everywhere she looks, there are Nazis, and every day brings a new horror of life under the Occupation. When she meets Luc, the dashing and enigmatic leader of a Resistance group, Adalyn feels she finally has a chance to fight back. But keeping up the appearance of being a much-admired socialite while working to undermine the Nazis is more complicated than she could have imagined. As the war goes on, Adalyn finds herself having to make more and more compromises—to her safety, to her reputation, and to her relationships with the people she loves the most.

Buy It Here:

       

Dear Universe

by Florence Gonsalves

A wildly witty and deeply profound chronicle of teenage anxiety and yearning, perfect for fans of Jesse Andrews and Robyn Schneider

It’s senior year, and Chamomile Myles has whiplash from traveling between her two universes: school (the relentless countdown to prom, torturous college applications, and the mindless march toward an uncertain future) and home, where she wrestles a slow, bitter battle with her friend’s terminal illness, Enter Brendan, a man-bun-and tutu-wearing hospital volunteer with a penchant for absurdity, who strides boldly between her worlds–and helps her open up a new road between them.

Dear Universe is the dazzling follow-up to Florence Gonsalves’s debut. Love and other Carnivorous Plants, hailed by School Library Journal as “a must-have sharp, powerful, and witty immersion into the complexities of…mental health.”

Buy It Here:

       

The Elephant's Girl

by Celesta Rimington

A magical adventure about a girl with a mysterious connection with the elephant who saved her life, for fans of Katherine Applegate and Jennifer Holm.

An elephant never forgets, but Lexington Willow can’t remember her past. When she was a toddler, a tornado swept her away from everyone and everything she knew and landed her near an enclosure in a Nebraska zoo, where an elephant named Nyah protected her from the storm. With no trace of her family, Lex grew up at the zoo with her foster father, Roger; her best friend, Fisher; and the wind whispering in her ear.

Now that she’s twelve, Lex is finally old enough to help with the elephants. But during their first training session, Nyah sends her a telepathic image of the woods outside the zoo. Despite the wind’s protests, Lex decides to investigate Nyah’s message and gets wrapped up in an adventure involving ghosts, lost treasure, and a puzzle that might be the key to finding her family. Can Lex summon the courage to hunt for who she really is—and why the tornado brought her here all those years ago?

Buy It Here:

       

My Kind of People

by Lisa Duffy

From the author of The Salt House and This Is Home comes a profound novel about the power of community and a small town’s long-buried secrets as a group of New England islanders come together for a recently orphaned girl.

On Ichabod Island, a jagged strip of land thirteen miles off the coast of Massachusetts, ten-year-old Sky becomes an orphan for the second time after a tragic accident claims the lives of her adoptive parents.

Grieving the death of his best friends, Leo’s life is turned upside down when he finds himself the guardian of young Sky. Back on the island and struggling to balance his new responsibilities and his marriage to his husband, Leo is supported by a powerful community of neighbors, many of them harboring secrets of their own.

Maggie, who helps with Sky’s childcare, has hit a breaking point with her police chief husband, who becomes embroiled in a local scandal. Her best friend Agnes, the island busybody, invites Sky’s estranged grandmother to stay for the summer, straining already precarious relationships. Their neighbor Joe struggles with whether to tell all was not well in Sky’s house in the months leading up to the accident. And among them all is a mysterious woman, drawn to Ichabod to fulfill a dying wish.

Perfect for fans of J. Courtney Sullivan and Ann Leary, My Kind of People is a riveting, impassioned novel about the resilience of community and what connects us all in the face of tragedy.

Buy It Here:

       

The Archer at Dawn

by Swati Teerdhala

Romantic intrigue and electric action fill the gripping sequel to The Tiger at Midnight, a world inspired by ancient Indian history and Hindu mythology. Perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir and Victoria Aveyard.

A stolen throne. A lost princess. A rescue mission to take back what’s theirs.

For Kunal and Esha, finally working together as rebels, the upcoming Sun Mela provides the perfect guise for infiltrating King Vardaan’s vicious court. Kunal returns to his role as dedicated soldier, while Esha uses her new role as adviser to Prince Harun to seek allies for their rebel cause. A radical plan is underfoot to rescue Jansa’s long-lost Princess Reha—the key to the throne.

But amidst the Mela games and glittering festivities, much more dangerous forces lie in wait. With the rebel’s entry into Vardaan’s court, a match has been lit, and long-held secrets will force Kunal and Esha to reconsider their loyalties—to their countries and to each other.

Getting into the palace was the easy task; coming out together will be a battle for their lives. In book two of Swati Teerdhala’s epic fantasy trilogy, a kingdom will fall, a new ruler will rise, and all will burn.

Buy It Here:

       
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