Aug 252014
 

Jeff Cohen

UnknownMy home state of New Jersey has something of an image problem, and it is one that can teach us all something about first impressions, images, perception and memory. In other words, you can learn a lot about writing a story and promoting it if you think about New Jersey.

Yes, I'm serious.

The thing about my beloved home--and no, I don't mean that ironically--is that it is a Activity_2006compressed version of the United States. Very compressed. We're the third smallest state, and yet we have the most densely packed population per square mile. There are almost 9-million people here, and you have to figure at least some of them are not being held against their will.

In New Jersey, one finds some of the most famous beaches in the country. We have lovely suburban areas sitting right to some very accessible and cosmopolitan cities. Great restaurants, hiking, historical areas, theme parks, skiing (if you're into that sort of thing), Aerial-view-of-atlanticprofessional sports teams, casinos, performing arts centers, cultural events, theater, swimming, fishing, music, comedy, film, nature, and one-of-a-kind sights like Lucy the Elephant, which I will not picture here because you just have to see Lucy to believe it.

But there's a problem with the state's image: we are seen, for the most part, as a toxic waste dump run by the mob. Yes, there's political corruption in Pinelands_bridgeNew Jersey and guess what--there is wherever you're living, too. We actually seem to be better at uncovering and dealing with it than other places, so it gets more publicity.

I believe the problem with New Jersey's image is much more basic, and much simpler to explain than a perception of politicians who close down bridges as forms of retribution or gangsters who somehow aren't quite good enough to work in the big city.

It's Newark Liberty International Airport.

To be more specific, the problem is that most people who don't live in this area come to New Jersey through the airport, which is mostly in Elizabeth, if the truth is told. You get out of the airport, and no matter which way you're headed--onto the train to get to Manhattan or south on the NJ Turnpike--you have to pass through the area surrounding the airport to get to any of the other lovely images I've posted today. And this is what you'll see:

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That's the first impression you'll get. So people come to New Jersey--admittedly they're usually on their way to New York or Philadelphia and too cheap to fly into those airports--and when asked about the Garden State, their minds will flash onto the image above. (And we're not even discussing the smell.) When they could be seeing something completely different:

Overlooked-Attractions

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S
o what's the lesson to take away? If you're writing, make sure you start off at a gallop. Get something into your first chapter, preferably your first page (bookstore browsers are notoriously fickle and have short attention spans) that will grab the reader's interest and make your book a must-buy.

And consider the first words anyone will see online about your book. Think about how you want to introduce it. As Terri's post last Thursday points out, cover copy is written well in advance of the pub date. Be involved with your editor, the publicist on your book and anyone else on the team that creates the final package. Make the right first impression.

Be the Pine Barrens. Be Met Life Stadium. Be the Jersey Shore. Be Atlantic City, if you must.

Don't be Newark Airport.

Aug 182014
 

Jeff Cohen

A recent conversation with a certain agent we all know is leading me to address an issue I should have looked at years ago, to be honest. So add that to the roster of things for which I'm grateful to have such a good agent looking out for me.

Like all authors I keep an 4cbMBbepiemail list. In fact, I keep two email lists--one under my actual name and one for E.J. Copperman, who never checks email and forces me to do it. These lists are comprised of people who have shown interest in books I've written and might want information on upcoming events or releases, which authors know now to classify as "news". 

Cognizant of how I feel when deluged with emails from some business hoping to encourage my patronage, I send out emails very rarely. Extremely rarely. Don't expect to hear from me unless there's a new book about to be released.

When two of the Haunted Guesthouse books were sold for translation into Japanese, E.J.'s list did not get a notice. I'm guessing not that many of them were going to buy the Japanese versions anyway, and I figure most of them have already read the books in English. Call me crazy. It's not that I wasn't excited about the sale--I think it's incredibly cool--but I didn't want to bother people who probably aren't as interested in me as I am.

So it's possible that the lists are a little less hefty than they might be if I were a real email list hound. I know authors whose lists go into the tens of thousands. And I admire their dedication and skill in compiling all those names and addresses.

I just haven't got a clue how one does that.

It's true: I have actually tried to grow the lists over the years. I've mentioned them on various listservs. I've mentioned them here. I bring a sign-up sheet to any event I attend (most of the time). I offer free autographed bookmarks to anyone who asks via email, and if you think I don't add each and every name to the email list, you're adorable, but wrong.

And still my lists are, let's say, not incredibly muscular. Remember the commercials about the 98-lb. weakling who needed somebody or other's fitness program to impress girls on the beach? My email lists would lose a fight to that guy. BEFORE the fitness program.

As it happens, I have two books about to be released before the end of this year. THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD, the first Asperger's Mystery featuring Samuel Hoenig, will be on its way from Midnight Ink in early October. The sixth Haunted Guesthouse novel, INSPECTOR SPECTER, will follow from Berkley Prime Crime in early December.

My email list members WILL be hearing about those. Trust me.

But I'm trying to ensure that there will be more of them. Many more. As many more as I can possibly list. So if you're not already on the list, please get in touch and let me know, and I'll add you. If you know someone who might like to hear about the Guesthouse books or the Asperger's novels or anything else my twisted little mind might conjure up, please tell them to get in touch, and I'll add them, too. If by chance someone you've met might find an autographed (by either me or E.J. or both) bookmark enjoyable, by all means have someone get in touch. I've got bazillions of those things cluttering up the house.

Let's get the lists to look less like the Before picture of the 98-lb. weakling and more like the After picture. I promise I won't clog your inbox with "news" that doesn't really have any information in it, and I hope you'll find the (very) occasional pieces interesting.

Because if you don't, you can let me know and I'll take you off the list. I don't want to be a pest.

Aug 112014
 

Jeff Cohen

Just as a side note: Publisher's Weekly said The Question of the Missing Head (coming October 8) is "delightful and clever," and that was just for starters.

Now, on to business: I'm currently writing two books. I've done it before, and have posted about the practice here; there's good and bad to it, which I recognize. This is not about freaking out. Not yet.

What's interesting is the contrast. Since I knew there would be deadlines within a couple of months of each other, I started the second Samuel Hoenig Asperger's mystery (after the aforementioned Question of the Missing Head) early, in June for an October deadline. So by the time I started the seventh Haunted Guesthouse book, I was over 50,000 words (a little sort of 200 pages) into the Asperger's book.

So I'm essentially writing the ending of one novel while beginning another. And that creates the noticeable contrast between starting and finishing, since I get to see both at the same time.

Take it from me: Endings are way easier.

Yes, you still have to work hard at the end of a story. As a crime fiction writer, one wants to avoid the cliches, make sure the solution to the mystery makes sense, close up any plot holes, leave no threads dangling and leave your character(s) in a different place than where they were at the beginning of the book. It's a lot of balls to juggle, and often requires a good deal of rewriting.

But it is definitely the easier of the two tasks: An ending is the product of all that has come before it. That means there's been a trail blazed. Clues have been discovered. Suspects identified. There is forward momentum, and that helps when writing the last few scenes. Sure, you have to make sure the ending lives up to or exceeds expectations, but at least you know where you're going. And there's that comforting word count down at the bottom of the page to remind you that you've gotten this far, so you can certainly get to your goal. You have much less to write than you've already written.

Beginnings, on the other hand, have no safety net. You're starting from scratch, there is no word count at the bottom of the page at all, your characters haven't even shown up, let alone started on a path, and that plot idea you had doesn't seem all that clever anymore. For a pantser like me, with no 3x5 cards bearing scene ideas, no outline, no roadmap, beginnings represent nothing but uncertainty. Maybe this time they'll figure out what a fraud I am.

The Guesthouse books now have a certain familiarity and they include a feature that helps me start: In the first chapter of each novel in the series, I have to explain the premise, which is not really as simple as it used to be. That takes up a good few hundred words. So I have that security blanket: All I have to do is set up the scene, and then take a moment to write the most comfortable words I include in each Guesthouse novel:

Perhaps I should explain.

This is not to discount that explanation at the beginning of the book. It's necessary, especially for new readers who have just picked up the book because the cover is so pretty. It's been a year or so since the last one, so even devoted readers might need a refresher course on all things Harbor Haven. No, the "perhaps I should explain" moment is definitely a need, not a luxury.

I don't just plug in a canned recap there; each "explanation" is fresh and reimagined, if for no other reason than that the rules tend to change with each book and I need to continually revise to include new information. But that gets me through the beginning, and I have some words on the screen before I really have to do the heavy lifting that represents the plot of each book. Suspects. Clues. Motivations. Logic. 

Oy.

So endings are easy (ish). Beginnings are hard (er). With this many books under my belt (and you can see every one there, alas), I have at least a little confidence that I can end a book well, and some enthusiasm that the latest great idea for a plot will get me through a beginning.

But middles? Oh, man. Don't get me started.

Aug 102014
 

Marilyn Thiele

I love Hunterdon County, New Jersey, where I live and work. It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth, with farms, forests, rolling hills, and charming small towns. Halfway between New York and Philadelphia, it’s off the beaten path, yet close enough to those cities to make theater, museums and any other cultural activities one might want easily accessible. Drive for less than 2 hours east, and you are at the wonderful beaches of New Jersey. Go an even shorter distance west, and you are in the mountains of Pennsylvania.

While there are many enchanting towns (some mere crossroads) within the county, those along the Delaware River are the best known. The canal and towpath that once made them trading centers for the export of agricultural products have been repurposed into a delightful recreational area, offering a route for hiking, biking, and accessing tubing and other activities on the river. The factories that produced paper, pottery, and multitudes of other goods are now filled with artists, craftsmen, and purveyors of antiques.

Hunterdon County is celebrating its 300th anniversary this year, and there seem to be events from house tours to parades to concerts to historical and cultural lectures almost daily. The committee of volunteers organizing these events has been tireless, and the rest of us, in our individual towns and businesses, have learned to work around their schedule in planning our own activities. The event of the day today was a talk and book signing by Elizabeth Gilbert, whose most recent novel  has been weeks on bestseller lists, and whose 2007 memoir, Eat Pray Love  cannot have escaped anyone’s notice, especially after Julia Roberts played the author in the film version.  I was privileged to be the bookseller for the event. I had not met Liz before, and was glad to have the opportunity to spend some time with her both before and after the event. “Liz” may sound overly familiar, but she has become such a part of the community, and I know so many people who are friends or acquaintances of hers, that I find it hard to refer to her more formally.

Liz lives in one of the “river towns,” Frenchtown. She and her husband have a business there, “Two Buttons,” a shop full of items they have found on their world travels and sell from a resurrected ceramics factory, a remnant of the glorious industrial days of the area. She does her writing at home and helps at the shop in between.

The talk this afternoon was about her concepts of creativity and inspiration, and outlined the “story behind the story” of each of her books. The question and answer period was full of the usual “How do I get published?” questions. I was impressed with how forcefully Liz told one questioner that the key is persistence. He seemed a little shocked to hear that she had gone through six years of rejections before her first short story was published. She talked of her determination, taking each rejected manuscript and sending it out again, working constantly to improve each one. I have heard  many similar stories from published authors, and am still amazed at how many aspiring writers think that typing “The End” means publication next week.

But the question and answer that prompted this post had nothing to do with writing: “Why, after traveling the whole world, and having the means to live anywhere you want, did you come to Hunterdon County?”  Liz said that several years ago she visited a friend who lived in another small town on the river. As she explored the area, she thought, “How did I not know this was here?” Before the travels that formed the basis of Eat Pray Love, she had lived in Connecticut and New York, and had visited New Jersey, but had missed this little gem in the western part of the state. She knew that this was the place where she wanted to make her home. And she did.

It was a wonderful afternoon. I finally met Liz Gilbert, who everyone else seemed to know. I sold lots of books. But most of all, I saw the place I moved to thirty years ago more by accident than plan through the eyes of someone who chose it above anyplace else on earth.  It was a perfect reminder of how fortunate I am.

Aug 072014
 

I have been asked at conferences how many rejections I make per each book acquired. I have never actually done the math, but I would guess it’s probably somewhere around 200 rejections to one acquisition. Insane, right? As a writer, what can you do to make your manuscript stand out? What makes an automatic rejection? What makes me stop reading?

Let’s tackle the automatic rejection first. I only accept submissions electronically. When I open up the Word document, I am expecting proper formatting.

-        The entire book is saved all as 1 file – a Word document is preferred.

-        Font in Times New Roman or something similar, 12 pt font.

-        All text is double spaced.

-        Please eliminate extra line breaks, spaces, or returns. For example, only 1 space required after a period.

-        Please denote intentional white space with a # symbol.

-        Do not use the space bar to create the tab that begins each paragraph. Allow Word to do that for you.

-        Page numbers are required; please include them in the footer.

 

I have received manuscripts in funky fonts, in 14pt font, single spaced, etc. If I have to do work to make your manuscript readable, well, I’m not going to read it. Also, I am sure you have noticed those green and red squiggly lines under words. Fix those. With the exception of dialect, if a manuscript is full of squiggly lines, it’s an automatic reject. I don’t have time to fix your manuscript, no matter how good it may be. Remember, at all times, this is a business and you need present a professional, polished manuscript.

What makes me stop reading?

This is a little bit harder to put my finger on because there are so many reasons. As a writer, you need to draw the reader in immediately. When I start reading a submission, I want to be compelled to find out what is going on. I read as long as it takes for me to get to no. It might half a page, it might be 250 pages, or it might be the whole manuscript. I need to hear your unique voice. I need you to show me what is happening and where the book takes place. Don’t tell me your protagonist is freaking out and driving fast. Show me how she nearly clips a pedestrian and that she takes the turns with squealing tires. Or show me her quirky, colorful personality. Or immerse me into the scenery so much so that I feel like I am in the oppressive heat of Minnesota when it is 100 degrees outside with 90% humidity and you start to sweat the minute you step out of your office building. You have exactly one page to engage your reader. I am absolutely sure that I have rejected some great books because I haven’t read long enough. If your story really takes off on page 35, you need to cut off those first 34 pages.

No passive voices! And make sure each of your characters has their own voice. By doing so, you not only solidify the character, but you can (and should) drop dialogue tags. Create a character bible, so you know all your characters inside and out. That will keep you from having them do something that is totally against their nature. Develop your antagonist. Why is your bad guy the bad guy? Does he have any redeeming qualities? People are a mix of good and bad so your characters should reflect that. It will help the reader identify with the characters. And at the end of the day, that is what you are looking for. You need the reader to have an emotional response to the characters and the situations they are in. I know I am reading a good manuscript when my heart beats a little faster and I bite my nails to the quick.

Another hint – know your audience and what type of book you are writing. If you are looking to hit the cozy market, you can’t graphically describe the murder scene. If you are writing suspense or a thriller, you need a fast pace and danger around every curve. The tone and the action need to match.

If you can do these things, you are on your way to an excellent submission. That does not guarantee that it will sell though. Every editor has his or her own style. I like my characters to be a little quirky. I want them flawed and interesting. A different editor may be looking for something else entirely. Write your best book. Join a critique group and revise. Polish that manuscript. Knowing you only have one shot at an editor, make sure it is as perfect as you can. Then take a deep breath and send your baby out into the world!

Aug 042014
 

Jeff Cohen

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ--This past weekend was spent (after moving Eve into her apartment on 116th St. in East Harlem) at the Deadly Ink mystery conference, the only such gathering in my home state of New Jersey. I was on three panels, saw many good friends, sold a few books, discussed publishing even when I didn't know what I was talking about, and had a lovely time as I always do at this conference.

On Saturday night, the conference held its central event, a banquet at which awards were given, speeches were made, and this year, a local troupe presented a murder mystery play/game.

I didn't attend.

I never go to the banquet at a book conference (which is the only kind I attend). I realize it's the big splashy moment the conference organizers anticipate and it is where everyone from the conference will be in one room at one time. I get that people actually dress up for such things and look forward to them for months before they take place. But I never go, and I don't anticipate starting anytime soon.

A good pal of mine who happens to be a bigger deal author than me once told me, "The only time I go to the banquet is when I'm nominated for something." That's sort of a dodge, since she's nominated pretty much whenever she writes a book, but I agree with the sentiment.

The banquet is everything the hotel bar is not: Formal, structured, polite. Who needs that? In addition, one is invariably served hotel food, which is better than airline food, but easier to avoid. 

New Brunswick is actually a very nice small city and has a good number of interesting and unpretentious restaurants which I patronize on a fairly regular basis. On Friday night, a pretty boisterous bunch of us went an patronized the local microbrewery Harvest Moon and had a fine time with no speeches, no awards and no hotel food. Why spend another evening doing the opposite when you don't have to?

(Also, they charge you about $50-$75 for that dinner. I can do better than that at any restaurant in town.)

At Deadly Ink, it's easier than usual to avoid the banquet because my house is about a mile and a half from the conference. I left not long before the banquet was going to start and had dinner with my wife and my son. Then we watched a movie. And I was back at the conference in the morning for the 9 a.m. (!) humor panel, which was a lot of fun. You should have been there. Dru Ann Love was there, and Donna Andrews. 

This is all said with affection. I love conferences and enjoy seeing my writing buddies. Deadly Ink is especially fun because it is a Jersey thing, and so we get lots of the locals: Ilene Schneider (my rabbi, if I had a rabbi), Jeff Markowitz, Jack Getze, Roberta Rogow, E.F. Watkins and Cheryl Solimini were around. Special thanks, by the way, to Steve Rigolosi, who came up with the idea for this week's post. The guests of honor, Donald Bain and Renee Paley Bain, were as charming and gracious a couple as I have ever met, and I hope to see them again soon. My pal Donna Andrews picked up a punchline for me when I needed one.

It's an exhilarating feeling to meet new readers, to talk about the work and to see some really wonderful people. I love going to conventions and I will attend many more as long as I'm a working writer.

And I'll see you after the banquet. In the bar.

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 Books, Josh Getzler, Music, Writing  Comments Off
Jul 302014
 

Josh Getzler

So a friend of mine, editor and author Bryon Quertermous, late of Angry Robot and Exhibit A, took his family to Disney World. In his absence I'm going to be stepping in for him later in the week on his website (www.bryonquertermous.com), but I thought I'd tease it with a little background and explanation on the topic.

It started when I read a Facebook post by Ron Currie, Jr. last week with a link to the Warren Zevon song Boom-Boom Mancini (from the amazing album Sentimental Hygene https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZS3uDu8jy8) saying that the next time someone wants to know how to write stories, Ron would guide him to Zevon.

 

I would say that’s a great start. And it got me thinking about the artists I listen to whose songs are themselves narratives. These troubadours have always appealed to me, and I’m going to use my time on Bryon’s site to talk about several of my favorites.

 

But as I was thinking about which songs to discuss, it occurred to me that it was going to appear weird if I didn’t explain something: This particular set of artists—perhaps because I was riffing off Zevon—is specifically white, male, and (in a general sense) rock. Not hip hop, not country, not female (and Lord knows there are many great narrative voices in all three, so don’t comment about the lack of, say, Biggie or Johnny Cash or Suzanne Vega or Renaissance). Perhaps we’ll get there. And I’m not going to do Tom Waits because he’s kind of like Bonnie Raitt to me—I know I’m supposed to like them, and I understand their talent, but, I just can’t…

 

So check in tomorrow over at Bryon’s site. Then comment there, here, on Facebook—I’d love to hear your thoughts, opinions, people I missed, why I’m nuts, and why you’re all rushing to download the catalog of a broken up pub band from Australia that writes songs about cannibals and war and lovers finding time to talk between work shifts and a lonely divorced man who loves Saturdays because every Saturday is Father’s Day. (Teaser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYKNqftCkSQ)

And then maybe next time we’ll get into songs by female country rappers.

Jul 282014
 

Jeff Cohen

I'm at that mystical, magical moment in the creation of a new manuscript: the one where I start to ponder other professions I might in fact be better suited to. (As evidence, I point to the fact that the last sentence ends with a preposition.)

You hit a certain point and you can't remember why you thought this story was a good idea to begin with. You don't know what comes next, or why it should. You think the characters aren't coming to life properly, the plot is trite, the dialogue is jokey instead of conversational and wouldn't it just be a better idea to learn auto mechanics or something?

But I soldier on, without ever actually becoming a soldier, because I am in my mid-fifties and a coward. I don't give in to the urge to just "take a day off" because that becomes a week off, then a month off, and the next thing you know, a visit to the DeVry Institute seems like a really good career move. I don't believe in Writer's Block, so I keep writing every day.

The fact that at the end of this week (August 1, because that was what I promised myself) I will begin writing another manuscript at the same time I write the last third of the current one isn't really a great comfort.

But there is some solace in the knowledge that comes with experience. I'm now writing what will be my 13th published novel (along with a couple that are not-so-published, but one of which got me my master's degree), and that means this is the 15th time I've hit this wall. I always reach a spot where the work seems like a bad idea. I always think this is the end of the line. I always consider taking up the flute professionally, despite never having, to the best of my knowledge, ever touched a flute.

So this too shall pass. I'll barrel on through the wall because there's a real honest-to-goodness deadline coming up and there has to be a book by then, and besides, I don't really have a better plan. And when I'm done, I'll realize that the story actually came out pretty well, and there will be an editor out there (hi, Terri!) who will help it become better.

Is this keeping me up nights? Nah. The Yankees' complete lack of offense is making me stay awake, students are not getting their assignments in on time, I need to lose 30 pounds (low estimate) and my mom is still rehabbing a shattered ankle while my daughter prepares to move to East Harlem, so the book becomes an actual help in getting to sleep.

I think about the story when my head hits the pillow (usually that's not long after I've gotten the 1000 words in for the day) and sometimes even work out the odd plot problem. It helps me focus on something useful when all those other things threaten to weigh on my mind.

Maybe this isn't such an awful moment after all.

 

A few personal notes: Despite some unintentionally deceptive comments I might have made a few weeks ago, we now actually have adopted a rescue beagle who is--at least for the time being--named Gizmo. In the interest of driving up visits to DEAD GUY, I hereby include Imagea photograph.

As I mentioned before, my amazing daughter Eve will be moving this week to an apartment in New York City, where she will spend the next year in a project called Blue Engine, an AmeriCorps program intended to help teenagers prepare to apply to college by improving math and English scores. She'll be a teaching assistant helping with algebra. It all might seem overwhelming now, but I'm sure she'll end up loving it and the lucky students who will find her in their classrooms in the Bronx starting in September will be the better off for it. We'll miss her, but she'll be close enough to visit and give us excuses to go into the city now and again.

One other thing: The Deadly Ink Mystery Conference is being held this coming weekend, August 1-3, at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick, NJ! I've always found it to be a fun, intimate conference, and if you're in the area, you should definitely plan on stopping in! Register now!

Jul 272014
 

Jessy Randall

Or some of them anyway.

WandorasmallIn 2009, a small press called Ghost Road published my young adult novel The Wandora Unit. I got paid a tiny, thrilling advance. The book sold a few copies and got reviewed in Bitch, and then Ghost Road quietly went out of business. In 2012 another small press wanted to reprint it, but then they went out of business, too.

Maybe that's okay. I made so many mistakes in that book. Just mistake after mistake after mistake. Here are a few:

  • The book doesn't really have a plot. It's about high school poetry nerds making a literary magazine. There's friendship and love, but nothing really happens.
  • I was way too attached to my interpretation of things that occurred in actual real life, as though readers would care one fig what song was playing at the dance or what color my boyfriend's hair was.
  • When I did occasionally try to pump up the story with bits of fiction, I did a bad job of it, contriving stupid conflicts and surprises.
  • I didn't read the manuscript aloud until after it was a full-fledged published novel. DUH. IDIOT.
  • By the time the book came out, fifteen years after I'd written it, my clever postmodern format with multiple-voiced fragments was nothing particularly new in YA fiction.

Things I did right:

  • I started the novel when I was a teenager, and wrote most of it before I was 24. So it's a pretty authentic young voice, not some kind of pretending-to-be-young thing with faked-up slang.
  • I included poems by fourteen different actual teenagers. Contacting them to get permission to use their work was probably my favorite part of the whole writing/editing/publishing experience.

Maybe now that I've admitted these mistakes publicly I'll be able to move the fuck on. But I doubt it. If I knew how to fix the book and make it a marketable YA novel, I probably would never have written it in the first place.

 

Jul 232014
 

Josh Getzler

 

This week, I was lucky to have one of my newest clients, Nikki Trionfo, visit our Chelsea offices. Nikki has written a terrific, searing young adult novel about a girl in California who’s trying to investigate her sister’s death. The girl, Salem, is the daughter of a peach grower in California, and the novel, called Shatter, brings into play the conflicts among white middle-class growers, Hispanic migrant workers, unions, and gangs.

 

One of the things I enjoyed about Shatter is the way Nikki brings in characters of different races and socio-economic statuses and shows their interaction in a natural, unforced way. When I took her on, I told Nikki that one of the more sought after elements in fiction these days, both in children’s books and books for adults, is Diversity. My colleagues on both the buy and sell side of publishing are actively looking for books that address cultural, racial, and sexual diversity, and I felt that when she finishes her revisions and we go out on submission, we will have a very enthusiastic response from editors.

 

This afternoon I was looking on Nikki’s website, http://www.nikkitrionfo.com/, and I saw her latest blog post. It was fascinating. In it, Nikki brings up this conversation, and how it took her aback. She hadn’t thought she was writing a book with a Diversity theme in it at all. Rather, she was writing from her own experience growing up in the orchards of California, where different cultures mixed all the time—it felt so natural because it was.

 

Often, we spend our time in our own bubble of similar-looking and –behaving communities. And often writers, working off their own experiences, create homogenous casts. And part of the need for diversity in literature is to give future readers and writers role models to look to—so sometimes we strain ourselves looking for diversity. (And that’s not a bad thing, and has great cultural relevance and worth.) Which is why I’m so excited when I get a book like Nikki’s where the diversity is so second nature as to be that much more powerful. I can’t wait to see where it lands.