The Politics of Publishing

A Breathe In, Breathe Out Post

Dave Farland has a blog about writing aptly entitled “David Farland’s Writing Tips.” He publishes it a few times a week and each one is chalk full of excellent writing wisdom. Go check it out. 

This week, he spoke about publishers limiting what writers talk about and which writers get published. Specifically, David said publishers want socially and culturally relevant topics. It is his opinion that the publishers are handling these topics with a sledgehammer and not a scalpel – taking only those writers and topics that are culturally relevant (whatever that means).

And while I am with him applauding that more socially relevant topics and writers of colour are being published, it made me wonder if that limits what I as a writer of colour will be allowed to write about.

When I began my writing journey, I wanted to write about characters who looked like me because I didn’t see enough Chinese or Japanese protagonists in works of fiction, especially genre fiction (this was a while ago. The landscape has changed). I still do this today.

Back then, I tended to write what I wanted. I set my stories wherever and whenever I felt like: present day, future, historical past, fantastic worlds. I never felt limited.

But in today’s politically charged landscape, if I continue this trend of writing main characters who have Asian backgrounds, will I be expected to write only about race or how it affects the main characters? Will I have to write deep or can I write shallow? Just to be my racial background brings with it a huge amount of baggage that I don’t necessarily want to deal with in my writing. Just putting my character’s race into the equation is a political decision. It comes with it a large number of factors that some people will be expecting me to deal with. 

I’m not a political writer. I know whatever I write will be political anyway, but I never want to be seen as being a political animal. I shy away from that kind of writing. I give props to those writers of colour who can write with such grace and precision about such maters, but I don’t think that is my calling. 

What do you think? As a writer of colour, should I be expected to comment on racial politics and how it affects my characters all the time? Is this the only relevant way for me to get published? Leave your comments below.

Personal Update

My reading from a short story.

I want to thank Vivian Hansen for all the work she did putting together the University of Calgary Cafe for the Continuing Education Creative Writers. It was a great success. I also want to thank the folks at Shelf Life Books for providing such a stellar venue to showcase such great writers. I know another of my fellow IFWits is entering the Creative Writing program and I wish her all the luck. She will do great. It was also fantastic to finally meet Jude. Up until now, she has just been a voice on the phone whenever I needed to sign up for a course. It was great to finally meet her in person.

Vivian Hanson

And thank you to everyone who made it out to listen to me read and gab on about the Creative Writing program. I had some great conversations with students and former students of the Creative Writing program and hope to one day see you all published.

Finally, congratulations to my friend and fellow Creative Writing Program student, Neal Debreceni (spelled that correctly, right?). The creative non-fiction story he read from, Life in the Fab Lane, was recently published in The Malahat Review, issue 205. And Neal, contrary to popular belief, signing the magazine doesn’t make it valueless, it makes it priceless. To me. 🙂 Keep writing, Neal.

Next up – Calgary Comic Expo. I will be appearing at the Calgary Comic Expo. First, I will be at a IFWA Table in Artists Row (the Big 4 Building) in Booth 5422 on Friday and some of Saturday and Sunday. Come around and say hi and pick up a bookmark. I will also be on a Panel entitled The Author’s Journey with several other IFWA members. The panel will take place on Saturday, April 27, 2019 at 3:45 pm in the Palomino Room. The seating is limited, so get there early.

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