So I’m making April NaNoWriMo Lite, with the goal of finishing Darn Precious Messiah before #DVPit at the end of April. I have a few 30,000 words to go but who knows, it may be longer. It is my favorite thing besides Space Oddity yet that I have written, and a delightful story that comes from my soul.
Sensitivity readers are vital when writing outside your culture, and my best friend Misha, a Haitian-American Voodoo practitioner, is certainly an expert on the lwa. Funny thing, she told me Legba actually does have dogs due to being associated with Saint Lazarus, funny in that I included his pet because it just struck me as a very Legba thing to do. I’ve done so much research on the lwas and Voodoo since I started the novel at around 18, plus some ritual workings with them, reading everything I can get my hands on, but at the end of the day Zora Neale Hurston isn’t enough – you have to talk with your friends who live that culture, and as an outsider, I have to err on the side of caution and respectfulness while writing diversity. I don’t want to offend anyone and I want to get it painstakingly right.
As a white woman who is privileged in many ways besides being neurodivergent, I will never know what it is like to be oppressed. My book isn’t about racism at all, as the whole cast is mainly African-American, and I don’t think I have the expertise to write about such a sensitive topic. I’d probably screw it up as an outsider. That’s why I set it well after the Civil Rights movement and it’s not another book about slavery or oppression. Instead it’s the idea that the savior of New Orleans is none other than #blackgirlmagic, an awesome hashtag, quite literally.
My best friends – Ariel, Lauren, Misha, Gladys – they are all some of the strongest women I know and have overcome so much, having to be “twice as good to get half the recognition” of a white woman. They make me proud. They teach me so many things about overcoming adversity that though different, can apply to being disabled. We were all born with stigma attached to either our ambitions – a standout woman of many talents who happens to be of color or a bipolar woman trying to hold down a professional career – or our very essence – mentally ill with no hopes of recovery, or the thought that an African American woman can’t be a neuroscientist like Gladys, a psychologist like Lauren, nerdy like Ariel, or a cosplayer like Misha. I incorporated all of them into my character May Laveau, but she’s also a piece of myself, as all characters are. I’m really excited to see where this novel leads to and hopefully finish it soon, if not by April, than by the summer when my dream agent opens to queries again.
Odds are good I may find representation before that, as I still have three fulls and three partials out. But the best thing to do while waiting is to work on another project, and if my Russian novel doesn’t get me published, something else will. I am making progress – so many requests, my query letters are in great shape, and I’m finally writing novels worthy of reading. The agent who passed on my full last night was so sweet and said “I have no doubt you will find this an amazing home.” Coming from someone like her, that meant a lot to me – she didn’t fall in love with the novel enough to take it on, but still loved many parts of it overall and was overall enthusiastic. That is very encouraging and means I might actually be able to go somewhere with my Firebird retelling.
And if not this novel, than the next one! I am very happy, my new job is going swimmingly, I love my new townhouse, grad school is fun, my friends are a blessing, and all, in JK Rowling’s words, is well. Spring has sprung, my soul has awakened, and all is right in the world.