Camaraderie in Meeting a Need

This weekend I attended my very first writers’ conference. It was not only my first writers’ conference, it was the first time I networked in-person among readers, writers, editors and agents as a published author.
The Tempe Arizona Desert Rose RWA chapter hosted the 2008 biannual writer’s conference in Chandler, Arizona. It was a busy weekend packed with workshops, mixers, editor/agent appointments and book signings.

Over 225 men and women descended upon the San Marcos Golf Course and Resort to serve or satisfy a need or desire. Editors and Agents were on site to offer advice and hopefully spot the next bestselling author, while writers were there to connect with readers, other writers and hopefully get recognized as potentially the next bestselling author.
Despite an allergy-induced head cold, I arrived on Friday afternoon, ready to meet a fellow author who would be my roommate for the weekend and anxious to take advantage of all the conference had to offer.
Being hosted by a chapter of Romance Writers of America, the attendees consisted of USA Today and New York Times bestselling authors, as well as lesser known successful authors all the way down to aspiring romance writers both male and female from as young as 20 to as aged as 80.

One point of interest to make is the fact that I was the only African American present. Such ethnicities as Chinese, Korean, Hawaiian, and Hispanic writers were present but there were few of them as well. Equally low in attendance were the number of men as to be expected. There were a couple of men who were there as aspiring writers, but most of the men were husbands of the attendees or employed on the sales side of the publishing field.

Although I was the only African American there and obviously the only person focused on African American romance, it was a test to my commitment every time I answered the question regarding my genre of choice. When asked, I would reply “I write interracial multicultural romance”. Most of those inquiring were pleasantly surprised. Their response seemed genuine many asking follow-up questions. The best response I received was from an aspiring mystery writer. She was a middle-aged Caucasian woman who expressed strong interest the moment I mentioned my genre of choice.

As it turns out, she was in an interracial relationship in the 1970’s and a baby girl resulted. She went on to express the difficulties she and her mate experienced and the difficulties her biracial daughter still encounters today. She seemed excited and flattered that someone was interested in telling the stories of people with experiences like hers. She beamed with excitement and laughed as she imagined her daughter’s response in hearing about my book and platform.

I asked her if she had pictures of her daughter. Unfortunately, she did not but her eyes twinkled with pride as she compared her features to that of Lisa Bonet.

An obviously shy woman stepped out of her shell as she shared snippets of her experience with me. In addition, the fact that I was a black woman interested in her experience was not lost on her. It made her feel even more comfortable as she began to chat like we were old friends.

I gave her my card and a bookmark with the realization that my audience just tripled. I assumed my writing would appeal to African American woman aged 18 to 55, but I realized in this exchange that anyone touched by the romantic bonding between ethnicities would be drawn to my stories.

Although I never say her again the rest of the weekend, I know with that encounter that biracial stories are important and need to be told and I am happy to be that vehicle as we inch closer toward acceptance of our differences and similarities.

Advertisements

The Official Release of Mismatched

Can the traditional development of love survive cyber dating and the complications of ethnic variation?

Laura Major’s debut release of the multicultural contemporary romance, Mismatched takes a lighthearted yet sensual look at what happens when love is presented in a form that is unexpected and a manner that is unconventional.
Mismatched, which is set in the center of New York’s financial district and the New Jersey Suburbs, tells the story of Tessa Dennison, an African American finance professional who decides to option love on the Internet after a series of busted blind dates. To improve her odds, Tessa incorporates the gender expertise of Justin Martin her childhood friend and secret admirer.

Join Tessa and Justin for a matchmaking game like no other.

Laura Major has an English degree from Arizona State University and is an active member of the national organization Romance Writer’s of America and Interracial Multicultural Romance Readers online group as well as several other readers and writers groups.

ISBN: 978-1-934475-40-9

Amira Press, LLC
Baltimore, MD 21216
http://www.amirapress.com
http://lauramajor.com

Power in the Stance

I’ve been in my own world for the past few weeks while I edit my contracted novel and lay the foundation for my next work. In my short 33 years, I have never been known to take the easy road and the focus on igniting my literary career is no exception.

I write Multicultural Interracial Romance.

I’ll say it again….

I write Multicultural Interracial Romance.

I write about a society where people of differing cultures, races, religions and orientations positively interact with one another and in many cases fall in love.

I knew when I joined a couple of mainstream national writers’ groups and their local chapters that while I would be embraced for my passion of writing itself, they may not understand my chosen topic. So for a while I wrote in a vacuum, not sharing my work just calling it chicklit because of my knack for sarcasm and humor. But my work is much broader than a female coming of age story. My work is about families, friends, lovers, and society coming of age. 

I emerged from my self-imposed coccoon to discover, on the first day of Black History month (gotta love the irony), that the possibility that we are evolving to a true melting pot of cultures in the publishing industry is not nearly as evident as first perceived. Yes, we are in the bookstores, but we still fight for shelf space and appropriate categorization.

While the list of African American, Gay/Lesbian, and Multicultural/Interracial romance titles are growing, there are still many agents, publishers and the like, who refuse to acknowledge the growing demand for this literature. Middle class Caucasians are not the only market for literature, and literature based on the white middle class does not speak to everyone. Why is it that we as people of color are expected to read and enjoy literature based on the white experience, while accepting the lie that our experience holds no interest for anyone? The answer isn’t to be prejudice against the white experience, but for everyone to equally value all cultural experiences.  

Well, this post is the result of an uproar regarding the 2007 Best Book of the Year contest posted by Ecataromance. A very active multicultural/interracial group of writers and readers discovered that two of their own published members were among the nominees. They were both writers of interracial romance. Not only were they nominated, but they were in the number one and number two spots for their categories. The group urged it’s members to visit the ecataromance site and place their votes for Aliyah Burke & Shara Azod.

Then suddenly the voting was halted and the poll was replaced with a new poll minus these author’s books.

http://readerslounge.catanetwork.com/?page_id=305 

The only explanation was that some books were miscategorized and the organizer wanted to ensure that all books nominated were correctly categorized. As a result, the new poll was re-posted and the voting deadline was extended. Why hadn’t this due dilligence been exhausted prior to the initial release of the poll? And why did recategorization constitute removing the works of the interracial authors?

After the ever- growing multicultural audience expressed their disgust via blogs and chatrooms and a barrage of questions from publishers of multicultural and interracial romance flooded the ecataromance webmistress’ in-box, the poll was restored and the original deadline upheld.

http://www.ecataromance.com/index.php?page_id=323

In the end, Azod came in first place in all three of her categories and Burke took second place in hers. Now we are left to wonder what the end result would have been had this poll genuinely ended on it’s own natural volition.

Nevertheless, this is a prime lesson for the power of standing firm in what you believe. We may not be fighting lynchings, church burnings, fire hose assaults, and police baton beatings, but we are still striving to maintain every inch of progress those we honor this month have acquired for us.

Caught Between Two Worlds

MismatchedIn the midst of that first literary milestone, my book cover is out, my first round of edits are in and it’s time to update my promotional web sites. My personal site was easy, just tweak the color and add the book cover, but my Myspace page proved to be more of a challenge.

Previous to being offered a contract, I went with the pizazz of a black, white and gray color scheme plus lots of glitzy glitter hearts and stars. What my site was about was a little ambiguous until you read the content.

Now with my book cover exhibiting interracial love, it was time that my promotional page reflected my writing niche. When I was done, I didn’t just have a ode to interracial love, but more specifically, an tribute to the love between a black woman and a white man.

By writing in this area, am I turning my back on the pride of my race? Am I getting in bed with the devil? I’ve often pondered these same questions in the few interracial relationships I’ve had. They are few because of the struggles they tend to carry, but my same race romantic relationships are even fewer. I have no objections to my beautiful brothers. People just tend to date what and who they know, in my case I grew up in predominantly white neighborhoods and went to white schools.  It was not unusual for me to be the only black child in the classroom.

As I promote my interracial romance, I realize more and more how many couples resonate with the experiences of my characters.

Just the other day, a bi-racial co-worker (Mexican and Caucasian) who is an avid romance reader, remarked how until she read the rough draft of my newly contracted novel, she didn’t notice how few interracial romances were on the bookshelves. She claimed to never notice the race of the characters she enjoyed reading about. After reading my book, she was compelled to search for more books that reflect her experience only to come up short.

So I ask again, am I turning my back on my heritage? No, we love who we love and we deserve to enjoy stories that reflect the uniqueness of that experience.

I look forward to fulfilling that need and also the need to write positive African American literature that reflects our strengths and how we overcome our weaknesses.

My goal isn’t to join one world and reject the other, but to create stories that will be enjoyed by both worlds and hopefully create a bridge where each world’s inhabitants can share and respect each other’s experiences.