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Tu Publishing is a new small press trying to raise enough money through donations to buy their first manuscripts. They are focused on promoting multi-cultural Science Fiction and Fantasy in Young Adult Literature, a goal that A Working Title fully supports. Stacy Whitman is the Editorial Director. They have 18 days left for their fundraiser at KickStarter and still have a lot of money to raise. I hope the readers of A Working Title will do what they can to help get this small press off the ground.

Q1: What drew you to create Tu Publishing?

TP: Several things, really. I’d been looking for the next step for a while, after freelancing for about six months after a layoff, and a friend actually suggested it one night—let’s start a small press. I thought she was joking, but in fact she was serious. We started putting together a business plan, and looking at niches we might be able to fill. I wanted to work on fantasy and science fiction because that’s what I love. I’ve always tried to seek multicultural characters and settings as an editor, and I’d become even more aware of the issue because of the RaceFail discussion. While RaceFail mostly addressed adult fantasy and science fiction, the discussion carried over into an awareness of how few multicultural settings and characters we really have in YA SFF, too. So it seemed quite natural to investigate how the small press I wanted to start might be able to fill at least a little of this gap.

Q2: What is the idea behind the Multicultural aspect? Do you feel that Young Adult fantasy and science fiction is currently lacking in diversity?

TP: Yes and no. A number of really great fantasies have come out lately with diverse characters—Cindy Pon’s Silver Phoenix, Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Shannon Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days, and Alison Goodman’s Eon: Dragoneye Reborn to name a few. Yet these books might not be as well-known to a general audience as some other middle grade and YA fantasy titles, and there are fewer of them. It’s hard to get solid numbers on fantasy, but if you look at the CCBC’s numbers from 2008, out of 3000 books that year, only about 3% of those books had significant African or African American content that wasn’t a geography book, and 2% were Latino.

It’s hard to say how many of those were fantasy, or if the CCBC counted fantasy separately from multicultural books, but another list that was recently put together by Elizabeth Bluemle, a bookseller (I’m looking for the link, but I believe it’s waaay back in my Twitter feed), of recent books featuring African American or other characters of color, and about 24 of over 600 books were fantasy. Even adding in the 50-some books we listed in separate book list blog posts, that’s not a large number.

We often have “diversity” in fantasy in the different kinds of fantasy species we run into—whether that be elves, dwarves, pixies, or dragons. But often the main human character is white, and the folklore upon which the story depends is Western European. There are so many cultures from around the world, and so many different kinds of foundations upon which a fantasy story can be built. I think it’s important for us in publishing to remember that. And we’ve got great examples of this kind of storytelling, but we need more of them.

Q3: What do you hope to accomplish through Tu Publishing?

TP: To publish great stories that entertain and inspire, and for those stories to reach a wide audience, including an audience that might not have seen themselves in fantasy before.

Q4: Why focus on YA and children’s books?

TP: Why not? Children’s and YA is the place to be! I love what a renaissance we’re going through in YA right now. Stories for young people tend to focus on the story more than in many adult genres: they’re more about characters and plot and less about showing the reader how artful the writer can be with a sentence. And I think this makes for better writing. Now, there are a number of adult books that I enjoy. But I love seeing individual child readers light up at finding a story they really connect with—stories that make them lifelong readers.

Q5: Why science fiction and fantasy?

TP: While realistic novels and picture books have plenty of publishers making sure that a wide variety of stories get told, with a wide variety of cultures and people represented in them, fantasy tends not to get this kind of attention. We still have a long way to go on many fronts, don’t get me wrong. But fantasy is a genre that, due to my experience and qualifications, I can do something about.

Q6: Who are some of your influences?

TP: There are so many, it’s hard to really pick! A major influence on getting started on this project in the first place would be my friend Charisa, who is the friend whose joke started the whole idea. She’s a huge anime fan and got me watching a lot of it this last year or so (I have liked it for years, but never knew where to start beyond Miyazaki and Avatar: The Last Airbender), and my awareness of anime and manga got me thinking about what I now know to be interculturalism (see below for more on that).

Robert Jordan was one of the first authors I read who created a world inspired by our whole world—not just European culture, but Asian culture, African culture, a wide range of mixing and matching of different influences. I loved picking out possible inspirations for all the different cultures he created, and I loved yelling at his characters and telling them to just talk to each other—as I kept devouring volume after volume. I’m actually in the middle of a reread of the books, because I haven’t read them for a few years and the newest volume is out now, and it takes me back to 1992 when I first picked up The Eye of the World as a freshman in college, wide-eyed, from a farm town in western Illinois where I could count on one hand the people of color I knew. As a kid, I’d always wondered why I wasn’t born Japanese, and in Jordan’s books I was able to explore a multitude of cultures.

But most of all, I blame my college roommates. :) Over the course of a few years, I lived with two Laotians, two Brazilians, two Koreans, one black Englishwoman, three Canadians, one Puerto Rican, and one Mexican (the last with whom I plan on eating Thanksgiving dinner with on Thursday!). That doesn’t even count those who came in later years. These strong, intelligent, awesome women, and many other neighbors and friends over the years, taught me about their cultures and helped me to see beyond my own. I always joke that one day I’m going to go on a world tour and never stay in a hotel, but really, they gave me a world tour by being my friends. Why shouldn’t everyone get to have a similar experience through reading?

And, of course, I hope that our books, in some small way, also might influence people to find more of a reason to seek out friends of different backgrounds from themselves in real life.

Q7: What has it taken to get Tu Publishing started? Can you walk us through a little of the process?

TP: I’ve been working on the business plan since March of 2009, and registered the business that summer. I’ve been working with a Small Business Administration coach to help me navigate the parts of starting a business I’m not as familiar with (accounting, for example), and she’s been a huge help in the process. As I built my business plan, I also have been learning Illustrator, because though I have a designer friend who will help me, I’ll be implementing a lot of his art direction. I’ve been putting together a marketing and PR plan, putting together financials such as P&Ls for sample books, cash flow statements, and budgeted income statements, and basically doing the footwork for planning a business—and of course, being in publishing makes it that much more complicated. I’ve had to calculate royalties, plan for how I’ll handle advances, and explore accounting procedures. I had to decide whether the business should be an LLC, S-corp, or C-corp. I’ve been reading a LOT of business and marketing books to be sure that I’m well-grounded in the areas of the business I’m not as familiar with.

The biggest challenge has been funding, of course. It takes a lot of money to start a publishing company. We’ve been running a fundraising campaign at Kickstarter that has about 18 days left to go (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1586632165/tu-publishing-a-small-independent-multicultural) and to support that, several friends have started an online auction (http://community.livejournal.com/kickstart_tu/) to benefit the Kickstarter. I’ve applied for grants, and I have had a private investor approach me, as well. Between all these and a small business loan, we hope to be open for submissions come January 2010.

Q8: You are relying on donations to buy your first manuscripts. How much do you still need to reach your goal?

TP: Right now, our Kickstarter is 31% funded. So we need another $6900 to reach our goal by Dec. 14. The best part about this kind of fundraising is that, much like a PBS campaign, everyone who donates–whether it’s $5 or $50–gets a reward for their donation. Bookmarks, advance reader’s copies, books donated to their library, that kind of thing.

If we reach our goal, everyone wins. If we don’t reach our goal, no money exchanges hands. It seemed like a great way to get started and to get the word out about what we hope to accomplish at the same time. We’ll also be approaching banks for a small business loan, but we’ve all been hearing about how few loans are getting made in this economy, so we hope that between the Kickstarter and a few other resources (including, of course, money out of my own savings account and out of my pocket going forward–$10,000 is only the beginning of what a company like this will need) we’ll be able to show a few sales to the banks first.

Q9: Do you have any particular authors or future authors in mind for your first purchases?

TP: I have several authors in mind, and many more who I’ve been talking with, but I’m not at a point yet where I’m ready to talk about specifics. I’ve worked with a number of authors in the past who I’d love to continue working with, and hopefully some of those authors will have something that will work for us.

Q10: Who makes up the staff of Tu Publishing? Can you tell us about some of the backgrounds of your crew?

Stacy Whitman

TP: I am the editorial director, of course. In my day job, I’m the publication manager for the Astronomical Society of the Pacific Conference Series, as well as a freelance editor working with Mirrorstone, Marshall Cavendish, and a number of other publishers. Prior to going freelance, I spent three years as an editor for Mirrorstone, the children’s and young adult imprint of Wizards of the Coast in Seattle. I hold a master’s degree in children’s literature from Simmons College. Before that, I edited elementary school textbooks at Houghton Mifflin, interned at the Horn Book Magazine and Guide, and spent a brief stint working as a bookseller.

I’ve worked with authors such as James Dashner and Tiffany Trent. Some of the titles I’ve edited include The New York Times best-selling picture book A Practical Guide to Monsters, the acclaimed YA series Hallowmere, and the middle grade fantasy adventure series that debuted with Red Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham.

My art director is Isaac Stewart, who designed the maps for the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson and draws the Rocket Road Trip webcomic (http://rocketroadtrip.com/). He’s a talented artist and designer—he designed our logo—and I’m excited to work with him.

I also have a number of talented freelancers I’ll be relying on for editorial and marketing/PR help. Mostly, though, as with most startups, I will be wearing a lot of hats while we get started, until I can hire full-time helpers. I’ll also be relying upon interns for manuscript reading, for example.

Q11: Do you have any available staff positions open right now? When will you start accepting manuscripts for consideration?

TP: Not at the moment. I already have a number of friends in the industry who have offered their assistance, and I have contacts at the local universities with whom I’m working to arrange intern help when it’ll become necessary. I hope that these freelance gigs will turn into full-time jobs for some people, but that will take time. We’re only going to publish two books our first year, so I’ll be the only full-time staff member—and I won’t be taking a salary.

Q11: Have you received support or negativity for this project?

TP: I’ve received a lot of support—overwhelming support. It’s been a good experience. My friends and friends of friends and people just out of the blue continuously encourage me and tell me that they think this is a great idea.

I have had one or two people tell me that they feel that “multicultural” to them means an attack on white people, but I honestly don’t know how to answer that. I’m white, and I don’t feel like exploring other cultures is any way an attack on my cultural heritage. I love that I’m Swedish/Irish/Scottish/English/German/Prussian—and I love exploring my heritage. Perhaps that’s why I love asking other people about theirs? I’m not sure. But I hope that the stories we publish will appeal to a broad range of people, including white people. I think that there are emotional experiences that resonate across cultures, and I think it’s entirely valid to say, “Where’s the Latino Harry Potter? Where’s the African American (or Ghanan, or Iranian) Twilight?”

On the flip side, some have suggested that the word “multicultural” might be past its prime, and that we should be able to publish a wide variety of characters and stories without having to label those stories into a ghetto of sorts. I agree that this is a niche that should appeal to everyone, and I intend to acquire books that have a wide appeal. Personally, I think fantasy and SF are a great place for expansion of the niche, because of their detachment from the real world—often, fantasy and SF can explore issues that have emotional baggage in the real world—and I hope that the stories we publish will bridge the niche to a wider readership. We don’t want to publish African American stories only for African American readers, and Asian stories for Asian readers, and so forth.

I love the term “interculturalism,” actually (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interculturalism), as a way of explaining the kind of reach we hope to have across cultures—as Wikipedia defines it, “an inherent openness to the culture of the ‘other.’” Aren’t we all “other” in some way to other people? And one way of bridging that divide is to explore stories from perspectives not our own. Check out Renee@Shen’s Multicultural Minute on the subject: http://www.shens.com/blog/2009/08/the-multicultural-minute-2-int.html.

Q12: What’s the best positive reaction you’ve received?

TP: I’m really not sure I could pin it down to just one. I think every time someone retweets what we’re talking about, every time I see that someone has linked to us and said they’re looking forward to seeing us succeed, it gives me confidence. We’re not the only people to think of this, and certainly not the first—we’re part of a huge team of people and hope to be one more force for good.

Q13: What are some ways besides donating that supporters can help get Tu Publishing off the ground?

TP: Right now, the best thing you can do is spread the word. Share links to our site with friends on Facebook, talk about it with real-life friends and on Twitter and wherever you’re having conversations. Read our blog (http://www.tupublishing.com) and comment, and point out to us people who we might want to interview for the blog. And as far as the reality of making sure we have enough money to get off the ground, the more people who know about us, the more a few people who might have an extra $20 might think, “Hey, I like this idea, and I can totally spare that much to get a coupon for a book.” Once we’re open for submissions, they can tell all their writer friends about us too (well, and that one doesn’t have to wait until we’re open, either!). We know how tough the economy has been on people—I myself made do without insurance while barely getting by as a freelancer for a year after getting laid off—and we know how much of a sacrifice even $20 can be, so we appreciate those who can spare even a little, and understand how few people might be able to do that much.

Q14: Where do you think the future of speculative fiction is going? More inclusive of diverse characters, or more exclusive?

TP: We’re at a point where a lot of people are thinking about race in children’s books—not only RaceFail but Justine Larbalestier’s Liar cover controversy has brought up the issue in the collective consciousness. So I think a number of people are thinking more consciously about the issue than they perhaps might have been in the past, and I hope that more people are paying attention to the books they buy.

But publishers publish what the “market” demands—they publish where book sales are greatest. Bookstores, of course, have a huge part in this, as do librarians, and I hope that the Liar issue helped us all in the book business to become more aware of it. What it comes down to is readers demanding books that reflect a wide variety of people by buying good books with diverse casts of characters, and publishers making sure that we pay attention to this issue.

All that is to say: Yes, I think speculative fiction is going to become more diverse. Or really, at least as far as science fiction goes—to become diverse again, because if you read Heinlein, he believed the future was a lot of shades of brown. I hope that the leaders in writing diverse fantasy will have many followers in their footsteps, too. But it will only happen if readers look for those books, and if publishers publish those books.

Q15: Finally, do you have anything else you’d like to add?

TP: Thanks so much for the interview! Also, feel free to check out our blog at http://www.tupublishing.com, follow us on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/tupublishing), or fan us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tu-Publishing/112191230046). Keep an eye on any of those venues for announcements of submission guidelines, contests, and other news.

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The first five commenters will get 2 free and awesome Tu Publishing book marks, one for you and one to pass out and spread the word, which A Working Title will mail to you, anywhere in the world.

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Delilah and the Space-Rigger by Robert A. Heinlein
Part of the The Green Hills of Earth anthology
Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Baen Books; Reprint edition (February 1, 2000)
ISBN-13: 978-0671578534

It’s a well known fact that women are a serious and often dangerous distraction on high risk jobs, such as constructing a space station. At least, that’s the attitude held by Tiny Larsen, the crew chief in charge of building Space Station One. He works with an all-male crew, trying to get this monumental task accomplished while maintaining order among the men. That all seems to be in jeopardy when G. Brooks McNye is sent up to the station to replace a man who was fired.

Gloria Brooks McNye is the first and currently only woman on a space station crewed entirely by men. Larsen fears for her safety and the respectfulness of his men, as loudly and obnoxiously as he possibly can. He goes completely out of his way to try and keep her sequestered from the rest of the crew while he hustles to get a male replacement sent up.

This is a humorous story poking fun at the sheer ridiculousness of judging competence and character based on gender. McNye sets out to prove from the beginning that she can do anything boys can do, and in some cases, better. It’s up to her and rest of the crew to convince Larsen that women have as much right to help build this huge undertaking for as men do. It’s a funny story, and I recommend it and the rest of The Green Hills of Earth for any Heinlein lovers and any newbies alike.

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The Girl Who Was Plugged In by James Tiptree, Jr.
Part of The Hugo Winners: Volume 3 anthology
Hardcover: 603 pages
Publisher: Doubleday (January 1, 1977)

P. Burke is a social pariah, deformed in body and in possession of not much mind. The near-future society in which she lives is utterly devoted to the worship of beautiful people. They are seen as gods, striding above the rest of the population on a wave of adoration. Every holocam is pointed in their direction. Burke cannot even hope to be noticed by such people and in the end, her existence becomes too much to bear. She tries to kill herself. And is miraculously offered the chance of a lifetime while recovering in the hospital.

Become a Remote for a new god. No one will ever know that P. Burke is really the brain running the beautiful doll body of lovely little Delphi, the newest splash on the celebrity scene. Burke sits five hundred feet below ground, hooked up to wires and controls and circuits, her own body nearly lifeless, and lives the life of Delphi. But why would she be offered such a chance? What’s the catch?

A set of stringent laws called the Huckster Laws have banned nearly all forms of advertising. The only way you are allowed to advertise is either on or in your product, or during an in-store demonstration. No more billboards, no more TV commercials, no more painted buses. And that just doesn’t work for the corporate men. So they’ve found a way around it. Create celebrities beloved by all, and have them showcase select products in their “everyday” lives. The millions of people who watch their broadcasts won’t fail to notice what brand of toothpaste or what kind of shoes their living gods are wearing.

P. Burke and her alter-ego, Delphi, will be a living advertisement. But when Burke/Delphi falls in love and grows a conscience about breaking the ad laws, her life is irreparably changed.

Tiptree’s deft hand in this story is wonderful to read. The narrative style is great, and the descriptions of corporate life, evil machinations, and the desire to simply be loved for who and what you are, are absolutely captivating. This is a fantastic peek at where are own world could be headed, with our reality TV shows and the incessant consumer culture we live in. Read this story, and weep for Delphi. Then break your TV.

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Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Tor Science Fiction

Ender Wiggin is just your average six-year old boy, the youngest of three siblings. Average, other than the fact that he’s a budding military genius, taken from his home on Earth and shipped off to be trained in Battle School in space. The human race has been fighting a war against an alien species that attacked the Earth a hundred years ago. They’re called Buggers, for the obvious reason that they look like giant insects. After a fluke victory during the first war, the military has been desperately searching for the next great leader. They hope they’ve found him in Ender. Ender will suffer through five years of grueling training as the men in charge manipulate him and the children he trains with in order to turn him into the best strategist the world has ever seen.

As Ender struggles to survive and thrive in Battle School, his older brother and sister back on Earth are going through their own crucible. Peter Wiggin, the eldest, is a cruel and sadistic boy with grandiose but entirely plausible ideas of ruling the world. Valentine Wiggin is the middle child, protector and defender of Ender and buffer to Peter, trying to keep him from taking out his frustrations and manipulations on the innocents around him. All three kids are scarily smart and intensely calculating; each move they make, each word they utter is analyzed unto the nth degree. Between the three Wiggin children, the world is in for a hell of a ride. But they just might manage to save the human race in the course of all their machinations.

The title Ender’s Game refers to so much more than the mock battles he learns to fight in the Battle School. He is both pawn and player, manipulated by the military men around him, but also trying his best to fight back any way he can. He is very much aware that they are playing with his life, even at the beginning of the story when he is still a child. Although Ender is still very young when the story ends, he stops being a child very early on.

The story asks many questions of us: How far will we go to turn a child into a killer? How much manipulation and isolation can one boy handle for the sake of humankind? Is the price of survival too high? Is the complete and utter destruction of another race really what it takes to ensure our continuation? Is the only true path to power through the means of manipulation and deception?

There are few easy answers in this book. What Ender, Valentine, and Peter endure and engender because of who they are and what they can would be too much for most normal children. But it is very clear that they are in no way normal children. This book is not about childhood. It is about the loss of one, two, or three childhoods for the good of many. Ender is the butt of the worst of the training, but every boy and girl he fights beside and against is a victim of necessity.

Ender, in himself, is not a killer. He has been forced into situations that cause him to defend himself, but on his own, he is a sweet and caring boy. Forces outside of his control cause the literal weight of the world to descend on his small shoulders. Card manages to portray him as very human and very real, even as Ender is pushed above and beyond the edge of human endurance. The people in charge of his life are all bad; many of them care deeply for Ender. But because of the threat of the Buggers, they can stop at nothing to create the ultimate defender. Valentine is also seen as a good sister and a kind person, as she is coldly manipulated both by the military and Peter. Peter is the real bad guy, but he’s bad in such a way that can’t be stopped or proven, but must be endured. He is a megalomaniac in the truest sense, convinced he is the only one that can prevent war between the countries of Earth after the Buggers are defeated. It’s very unfortunate that he might be proven right. In the end, even the Buggers are proved not to be all bad, but merely guilty of misunderstanding the structure of the human race.

The characters and settings within Ender’s Game are compelling. This is a true classic of science fiction. You have space battles, weightless fights, an alien species, and truly genius characters. You also have examples of the best and worst of humanity. There are strong and weak male and female characters, although the boys vastly outnumber the girls in Battle School. Valentine manages to stand out even against her two brothers, though, and she is a genuinely interesting character in her own right.

There are some mixed feelings in the Speculative Fiction community about Orson Scott Card’s works because of some of opinions he has expressed in regards to the gay and lesbian community. Because of those opinions, I can’t honestly endorse buying Ender’s Game, because I feel that the author does not deserve to be supported by the very people he admits to loathing. But sometimes a story reaches beyond petty feelings, and in this case, Ender’s Game is one of those stories. So go to your nearest library or used bookstore and get this book. It’s absolutely worth reading, regardless of the author.

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valors choiceValor’s Choice by Tanya Huff
Mass Market Paperback: 409 pages
Publisher: DAW; 1St Edition edition (April 10, 2000)
ISBN-13: 978-0886778965

Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr is a proud member of the Confederation interstellar military. She travels to far off planets and fights against The Others, a race bent on destroying or conquering every other sentient species in the universe. When the Others bumped up against the peaceful aliens of the Confederation, the Confederation realized they needed troops to help fight them off. As they themselves had lost the art of war centuries ago, they recruited the still mostly planet bound human species to be their shock troops. That was about a hundred years ago, and the humans, along with the di’Taykans and the Krai, have created a military force to be reckoned with. Staff Sergeant Kerr is one of their finest products.

When Torin and her company are tapped for ceremonial duties on a new planet the Confederation is hoping to recruit, she knows things won’t go as planned. The Silsviss are a lizard-like race that weeds their excessive number of males out by sending them into battle against each other. And Torin and her Sh’quo Company of Marines are there to convince them that the Confederation is a powerful force that would be a worthy ally for the Silsviss planet. Of course, nobody told Torin or her Marines that this would involve being shot down in a game preserve and fighting off scores of hormone-crazed adolescent Silsviss males.

Torin is a Staff Sergeant’s Staff Sergeant. She is the balancing point between the enlisted men and women on the ground and the officers in charge of her people. She must be seen to know all, see all, and be psychic besides. Staff Sergeants don’t make mistakes, at least not where their Marines can see them do it. When Torin wakes up in bed next to her company’s new Second Lieutenant, nobody will hear about it from her. It’s up to her to make sure Sh’quo gets through this ceremonial duty without too many people dying and no one finding out she’s actually human and not infallible.

The Staff Sergeant is an utterly confident woman. She knows what needs doing and she’s not afraid to get dirty doing it. She can shoot, march, and strategize as well or better than anyone, and with her eyes closed. At least, that’s the picture she must present in order to keep her people confident and unflappable. As a leader Torin is charged with upholding morale and getting them through even the most dire situations as intact as possible. What this means as she is unable to show any weakness, even that of normal emotions, for fear of letting her people down. We only learn about her emotions through her inner monologues, but that is more than enough to admire Torin for. She truly cares deeply for everyone under her command, and for the officers who depend on her. She just doesn’t let that get in the way of her job.

Valor’s Choice is a fantastic example of Military Science Fiction. You’ve got guns, troops, aliens, and lots of gore. Huff manages to instill a very human or at least human-like quality, to all of her species. They are thinking and feeling people, not just killing machines. Even as they are cutting their enemies to pieces, they retain those aspects that make good soldiers and good people. Dignity, respect, loyalty. There are three more books in the Valor series, and I suggest you go out and read every one. War isn’t pretty or heroic. Most of the time, it’s just soldiers out there doing their jobs. Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr does hers better than anyone else.
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Check out Tanya Huff’s website or follow her on Twitter @TanyaHuff

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Thanks to a comment I received today from an annoyed author, I wanted to talk a little bit about writing and relinquishing control of that writing.

Writing a story or book is often like having a child. The original idea, as it grows and changes within you and then begins to pour out onto the page, is comparable to birth and sometimes just as painful and exhilarating. As you write the story, polish it, pass it around to your friends for analysis, you are raising that story.

When you send it off to the publisher hoping for acceptance but fearing rejection, it’s like the first day of school. Once that book is published and available to the masses, your child has graduated and is at the mercy of the world at large. Just as you wouldn’t follow your kid to every friend’s house, every job interview, and every party, at some point you won’t be able to keep up with everyone who has read your book.

Some people will not like your book, it’s inevitable. They won’t “get it” in the way you had intended. There will be misunderstandings and interpretations that may not make sense to you. However, you can’t control every reaction. In most cases, you can’t even argue it. You can try to understand where the person is coming from with calm discourse and clear discussion, but a defensive posture won’t win anyone over to your side.

Criticism is the bane of every professional, be it writer, artist, or teacher. Criticism means somewhere, someone thought you did it wrong. A consummate professional learns to take criticism in the spirit in which it is given. It is directed at the work, and the impression that person garnered from it. Basically, it’s not personal. Learn from criticism; that’s its purpose. If you feel you must engage with critics, do so in a manner that reflects well on you. Cries of “My baby!” or the equivalent will not bring about real constructive conversation.

A great way to learn and grow as a writer is through discussion. Why didn’t they like this character? Why didn’t they get the tone I was trying to portray? Ask. No story is perfect and the best way to improve upon future works and future children is to learn from the mistakes of their older siblings. Once that book has left your hands, you lose control of where it will go and who will read it. You lose control of people’s responses and interpretations. If you find you don’t like what you’re hearing from critics, listen to what they’re saying and decide if you should change that in the next book.

As a reviewer, I try to ignore the author completely when I’m reading. Although I might be interested in them as people later, when I’m reading I honestly don’t care. I care about the story and characters in it. If I feel like it’s a good story, I then try to analyze why. If I feel like it wasn’t a good story, I go into as much detail as I can about why that is. If the author of the book comes across my review, it is their job to interpret my response in a rational way. If you can’t do that immediately, go away and come back later after the initial impact has passed.

Being a writer means being brave. You pour your innermost thoughts and feelings out onto a page and hope for the best. The bravest thing you can do as a writer, beyond writing, is letting go. Once that story is out there, it’s over for you. What comes next can only be another story. There will be some minds you can never change, and it frankly is not your job to go around explaining what your book really meant. It is the job of your book to tell its own story. If you’ve done your writing well enough, your book will be able to speak for itself.

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