#DVPit & Why I Didn’t Know I Could Participate

Diversity as a trend upsets me.

Life is diverse.

People are diverse.

The world is diverse.

It is not a trend.

And as I wrestle with the term being oddly trendy while the concept is not I find myself straddling the definition, too. You see, I’m a Jewish cis woman. I never thought about myself as diverse. I’m just me, as much as you, however you see and define yourself and find yourself defined, are you.

My husband and I often debate when is being Jewish a minority and when is it a religion? Do both count when talking about diversity? Where do I fall on the spectrum of diversity? My Jewishness informs my writing. It’s an integral part of me and therefore my work. And Jews are the world’s smallest minority, but we are very rarely given the opportunities of other minorities because we are defined by religion.

Anti-Semitism. Anti-Israel fanatics. The KKK. Neo-Nazi’s. BDS movement. These are all organizations that hate me. I don’t know if they hate me because of what I look like. How I pray to God. Or old stereotypes and myths.

I’ve been confronted with this hate in the writing community. A NY Times bestselling YA author once turned to me at the LA SCBWI annual event and said, “You must be a Jew,” after hearing part of a conversation. I was appalled. Shocked into silence. The friend next to me said, “Yup,” and nodded with wide eyes and embarrassment knowing that writer is known for her wild unfiltered mouth. And of course she was drinking so she had that excuse, too.

Outside of the writing community I’ve been asked where I come from. When I tell them I was born in New York, went to school in Washington D.C., lived in LA for 18 years, but now make Charlotte my home they say, “No, what religion are you?”

“Jewish.”

“Oh,” and some walk away. Some look at me with distant eyes when a moment ago they were friendly. I become something other than the person they were just getting along with.

But why are they asking me that? I’ve been called a kike. My very own JCC received bomb threats this year. I feel threatened and viewed as an acceptable casualty in the war on terrorism because if something bad happened to me, it happening to a Jew is okay with the rest of the non-Jewish world.

DV Pit began yesterday on Twitter and I never even considered pitching. I didn’t believe others thought being Jewish was diverse. Until found this article on the We Need Diverse Books website and it meant so much to me. I always understood #DiverseBooks to mean #ownvoices. Stories written by people sharing underrepresented cultures depicting those cultural stories and truths.

Then I saw Beth Phelan’s Tweet:

You don’t need to be writing an ownvoices ms to participate, tho those are very welcome. ’s focus is on the creator themselves.

I always believed when an agent reads a story all they see are words on a page. It’s a blind audition. Why isn’t this true? Why isn’t the slush pile a place of equal opportunity?

I write essays as well as fiction and see how people of certain factions of diversity attack a writer for sharing their experience. That somehow that experience eradicates the readers experiences, belittles, and demeans them. And I think WTF are you doing? Write your own story and share your experience. Would Flannery O’Connor be able to publish today? Would we know about Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer? Would the bigot Archie Bunker make it on TV? Could today’s audiences stand watching All in the Family?

I wonder why the world has to agree. We don’t. We need to have open honest conversations and hear one another. We should try seeing the world through the eyes of one another. Isn’t that the whole point of reading?

And when a terrible book comes out- why is it that people attack the author? Not the agent, publisher, editors, marketing, sales teams and printer of the book?

I wish the world would embrace our differences and not fear them. I sent a message to trusted friends explaining how I felt. And one sent me this

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and I want to share it with you. I wish this for us.

I wrestle with feeling I have a right to the opportunities DVPit offers marginalized people. I’m afraid this conversation will end up with many angry at me. But all this policing is silencing some people. Making them into liars and having them doubt their own experiences. I do not know what it feels like to walk in your shoes. Do you know what it’s like to walk in mine?

What does diversity mean to you? How does it affect your habits? I’m curious. This is meant to be an open honest conversation, if you’re brave enough to share your opinion and feelings. If I see any hate I will not include it. Be respectful.

 

Puddle of Tears

Any time between now and tomorrow afternoon I’ll be a mess. All of the emotions I’ve kept inside and moved past so I could be next to my father while he had triple by-pass surgery will come bubbling out of me.

The tears will also be about me.

They will be tears of frustration with where I am in the querying process. They will be about the heartbreak I feel when I’m told:

How my writing touches them.

How I know how to tell a story, BUT they don’t know how to sell my kind of story.

I’ll watch as my friends, who are deserving of signing with agents, get the happy phone calls and do the work of revision with the support of a contract between them and an agent and I don’t. I feel traditional publishing is a series of test and I am running fast at the hurdles thinking fast makes it better.

Fast isn’t better- it’s quicker. And there is no fast track in publishing.

I’ve been twisting myself and my story into origami trying to please agents and a few weeks ago I realized I lost my way. I was working so hard to be accepted, the story suffered because of it. It wasn’t the story I was meant to write, it became a stinky version of it.

Going home reminded me that this is a position I found myself in a lot as a kid. I moved through the world trying to fit into it despite the fact I expereinced the world differently. I saw the world with texture and shape, but lived with those who saw shades of gray. In order to make it through high school I did my best to be me, but conformed to survive.

The thing is- life isn’t about surviving. It’s about thriving.

My dad is recovering beautifully from his surgery. It was challenging to be a helpless bystander as he was wheeled away and I had to wrestle with the fears that manifested despite my intuitive gifts telling me- he’s going to be fine. The person they were taking away was MY DAD not patient 007 as the board showed. It was my dad I waited for. My dad I saw unconscious at 9 PM not yet fully awake after a six-hour operation, with an intubation tube tugging the right side of his mouth slack and disfiguring the left side of his face. The man in ICU with saliva bubbling from his mouth, and spasming  with tubes in his throat, arms, neck, chest and legs was my dad. The man I love, the one who gave me the work ethic I have, the man who makes me crazy, the man who is sober for 12 years, the man who I look like, is vulnerable in a way I can’t protect him from.

I can’t understand why all the physical pain I’ve personally expereinced the past few years isn’t ending. I can’t grasp what the lesson is. What’s the lesson in the timing of my life?

And I want to grasp it. I held Dad’s hand to reassure him.

I want to find the person who will not only love my prose, but understand the magic in it without having to dissect it in terms of gray- a person who will see all the glorious color. I will always tell stories about complicated love because it’s what I know. It’s how I love.

You know what?

Complicated love is still love. Go and tell the person you love how much you love them. Do something nice for them- for me it’s the smallest acts of kindness that mean the most- they’re precious and life and dreams are precious.

Go cultivate precious.

I know this is rambly, my heart and mind have’t connected all the dots. I’m sad and I’m hopeful and I’m greatful and I’m disappointed.

I’m a mess. So excuse me while I cry for all of that because I know once I let it out the fighter in me will be back – and that’s what my Dad and I deserve, champions.

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