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Son of a Pitch Team Ursula Entry 5: THE SPOONSTERS OF PROSPERITY ISLAND

soap-FINALTHE SPOONSTERS OF PROSPERITY ISLAND

Adult Women’s Fiction

73,000

 

 

Query: 

Nothing is as it seems on Prosperity Island. Everyone has a secret, especially Amelia, the new wife of William Prelioux, heir to a billion-dollar real estate firm. But unlike the others, Amelia has everything to lose if she’s found out, including her home and her income.

 For both survival and show, she’ll embrace five women with different backgrounds. Each will fill a void in her life, but it’s only after an all-expense paid getaway, that the group becomes the Spoonsters. Amelia will trust these women with everything she can, but not her past, until one day she lets it slip where she’s from.

 When her true identity is exposed at a town function, Amelia disappears, and her friends become desperate to find her and bring her home.

 250 Words:

Amelia’s clothes were laid out on the four-columned, Roman-inspired bed—white silk dress, nylons, and a feathered hat. She’d never worn anything but a knit cap on her head in winter and the white goose feathers itched at her ear.

She slid on her outfit and peered at her reflection in the full-length mirror: Money don’t make class. Her dead grandmother’s words cycled through her mind. How you treat others, that’s class.

William, her husband of three months, came from the bathroom. “Hands to your side, dear.”

Amelia was standing tall in heels, fitted as an heiress should be, but her arms were covering her stomach. 

“And no crossing.” William placed her arms by her sides. “Makes you look taut and fussy.”

 Amelia nodded. She had spent enough time with him to know he meant her no harm. It’s why she married him, well that, and the promise of his trust fund.

She fixed her hair one last time, held her shoulders back, and walked toward the door. What she was about to do would take all the courage she could muster from both the living and the dead.

 It wasn’t the event Amelia feared. The League of Women was holding a fundraiser for a good cause, William told her. What scared Amelia was the thought of being rejected by those in attendance.

The day would mark Mrs. Amelia Prelioux’s debut to the Prosperity Island’s most elite residents. These introductions would determine her future. Accepted or rejected, there was no going back, and there was never any going home. 

 

Son of a Pitch Team Ursula Entry 4: CUCKOO’S CRADLESONG

soap-FINALTitle: Cuckoo’s Cradlesong 

Category and Genre: Adult Memoir 

Word Count: 73,000

 

Query:

When you’re burned out and suicidal, moving to a tropical island seems like the perfect solution. But when I quit my job and dragged my husband off to live in the Canary Islands, reality was far from paradise. For one thing, we moved in with my in-laws, two teenage girls and a mother-in-law that hated my guts. For another, I got pregnant. Having a baby is stressful under the best of circumstances, but add in culture shock, diabetes, and an impenetrable language barrier and you get a combination that would test anyone’s sanity. To make matters worse, I was terrified of being a mother and had to reconcile with impending parenthood – and fast. Cuckoo’s Cradlesong is the memoir of a woman who tried to find serenity on a beach, overshot, and discovered self-acceptance in a pile of baby poop instead.    

 First 250 Words:

I finally lost my mind when Rosie died. Before then, I’d played peekaboo with my inner agoraphobe and had a brief affair with binge eating. But after Rosie dropped dead of a heart attack, I couldn’t hide the crazy anymore.

The last time I saw my friend alive, she wore a paper crown. The words “Princess Puke” were scrawled on it in glittery puff paint. Andy, one of our special ed students, had thrown up in class again. Rosie – my friend, coworker, and surrogate mom – braved the threat of inverted oatmeal to escort him to the nurse’s office and call his mother. It was a weekly occurrence. Rosie’s crown was in recognition of services rendered above and beyond the call of duty.

That afternoon, we sat in a middle school faculty room in Utah. It smelled like old Jell-O and sounded like a muted tidal wave, the roar of our students who waited on the other side of the wall. Linda and Margret, my fellow teachers, cheered as Rosie curtseyed and laughed, holding her crown on with one hand. “Speech!” we cried. “Speech!”

“Well, I don’t know what to say.” Rosie pressed her palm to her chest. The hand was wrinkly and liver spotted. Despite her youthful demeanor, she was nearing sixty. “This is so unexpected. It will go great on my resume when they really do fire me and I apply for that job as a Wal-Mart greeter. They always need someone to mop up there.”

 

Son of a Pitch Team Ursula Entry 3: TRANS LIBERTY RIOT BRIGADE

soap-FINALTitle: Trans Liberty Riot Brigade

Age and Genre: Adult

Word Count: 79K

 

Query:

Andi knows being born a queer intersex “s/he” has lethal consequences. But s/he ain’t going to spend h/er life hiding, hooked on Jet, and wanking tourists just to make a few bucks. S/he’s joined up with the Trans Liberty Riot Brigade, an underground faction of s/hes resisting the government’s war on their illegal genitalia. But it’s not enough to tag shithouse walls and sniff down the next high anymore. The government has begun a series of sweeps to crush the resistance and though Andi might be nothing but a junktard, s/he does know the only way they’re going to stay alive is to send a call for help before they’re all killed—or worse, surgically assigned. Andi, together with Brigade leader Elenbar, must get beyond the communications block preventing all radio transmission, which means crossing the seaboard Wall barricading the United Free States borders. It’s designed to keep enemies out and the citizens in, but amid increasing earthquakes and deadly pursuit, Andi will discover there’s a far more dangerous secret hidden deep within the Wall itself.

First 250 Words:

“Oh yah? Well, fuck off then, you faggin’ wanker!”

He’s a penny pickle dick anyhow.

I walk into the men’s public shithouse, slammin’ the door behind me. The splintered starburst of mirror glitters under the yellow lights. The reflection’s sportin’ a shaggy haircut like someone’s gone faggin’ buggers with a pair of kitchen shears. Pupils blown black and wide with the upshot of Jet coursin’ through my veins.

That pickle fucker ripped my skirt.

I pop the edge of the pink frill up, inspectin’ the ripped seam. Take a beat to check my bulgin’ panties in the grimy mirror. Lookin’ not quite a she or a he these days. More—Lord-in-heaven—like one of them dangerous s/he Transgressors the news is always shriekin’ about. The burnin’ brown eyes glare back, darin’ me to speak, to say somethin’—except ain’t no one but myself lookin’ at myself. Just a faggin’ s/he junkie.

I approach the urinals squattin’ against the far wall. Smell of piss cakes and wankin’ stains waft through the air, a strong reminder of this location’s dual purpose. I peek under stall doors, but there ain’t no tourist trout loafers tappin’ a signal for a blowie or a pop-off. Don’t matter though.

There’s other work to be done. I slip down my pants and jut my pubic bone and mini-man toward one of the white bowl interiors. Urine spurts and I huff with relief. There ain’t no company to gawk at me and unlike squattin’ in lady piss stalls, it’s good.

Son of a Pitch Team Ursula Entry 2: BOARDING ALL ROWS

Son of a Pitch Team Ursula Entry 1: ALWAYS GRAY IN WINTER

soap-FINALTitle: ALWAYS GRAY IN WINTER

Category and Genre: Adult paranormal thriller

Word Count: 72,000

Query:

The modern day remnant of an ancient werecat clan is torn apart while militaries on three continents vie to exploit their deadly talents.  Were-lynx Pawly, born in an ethnic Chicago neighborhood following her family’s flight from Cold War-era Poland, must return to her ancestral homeland and save the only man she’s ever risked feeling for.

 My 72,000-word adult paranormal sci-fi thriller ALWAYS GRAY IN WINTER introduces Pawly while a despotic Eastern power lays siege to American forces overseas.  Animal-enhanced soldiers developed by rogue scientist and rival werecat Mawro overrun her Navy port security unit after Pawly abandons her post to fight Mawro’s “control subject” tooth and claw.  His superior killed in the battle, Mawro assumes command of the program replicating their clan’s preternatural fighting ability and supernatural senses.  Pawly’s lover Lenny sustains grave injuries, stirring fears he will join her father and uncle on the list of her loved ones claimed by her kind’s feral bloodlust.

 Fearful for Lenny’s safety, Pawly goes underground to foil Pentagon attempts to whitewash the incident by scapegoating him for her mission’s failure.  Mawro meanwhile steals an experimental device which can quell their bloodlust with intent to weaponize it.  A search for the device brings Lenny straight to Pawly, though their bittersweet reunion is cut short when Mawro tricks her estranged kin into capturing the device’s creator–her grandfather.  Pawly’s daunting choice when the search lands Lenny in a shipside firefight:  keep her family secret and forfeit his life or chance her true nature driving him away forever.

 First 250 Words:

The speed and precision of the two combatants surpassed even the human race’s best martial artists and white arms experts.  Mawro stared up at the footage rolling for the seventh time, scrutinizing their fight on the flat-panel display above.  With a growl he leaned back in his rickety roller chair and rested one boot atop the other beside his console.  His stomach gurgled as his mind winnowed down the list of possible explanations for this spectacle.  The probable ones no longer seemed so far-fetched.

 He followed his operative’s movements to and fro across the desertscape.  Hana executed one technique after another, monolid eyes trained on target while her jet black hair bobbed about.  With neither misstep nor hesitation the young woman landed every strike exactly where he expected.  Exactly as he had taught her.

 Her hands moved so fast their surveillance equipment captured only an orange-and-white blur.  Now and again the camera locked on a frame for a split second but would lose tracking right away.  Stripes of black fur on her exposed forearms left artifacts behind, resembling speed lines following Hong Kong Phooey from the Saturday morning cartoons of his childhood.

 Hana’s opponent captivated and chilled Mawro at the same time. The other woman’s digital camo uniform pattern confirmed assertions of his Revolutionary Guard contact. She resembled scores of US Navy sailors sent to guard the Irani beachhead for Coalition supply lines into Afghanistan, but for being covered in silver-gray fur with long white ruffs lining her neck on either side.

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Son Of A Pitch is Coming!!!

soap-FINAL

Hello, everyone! It’s almost that time again! I had so much fun being a critiquer/judge in the Son of a Pitch contest last time, and I can’t wait to participate again!

For those of you not familiar with Son of a Pitch, it’s a critique-based contest that allows entrants to get feedback on their query and first 250 words from published authors as well as from other writers. It’s a great way to hone your pitch and first page, and hopefully get them in front of agents and editors! More info is here.

This go-round we have a theme: Disney heroes and villains. I have chosen to be Ursula from The Little Mermaid. I know you want to be on my team because it’s the best one: Ursula kicks butt with her dark ocean-magic.ursula

A little about myself: my name is Elizabeth Roderick. I’m the author of Love or Money, a standalone LGBT romantic suspense novel (published through Limitless Publishing), and The Other Place Series, a new adult magical realism series (also through Limitless; the first two installments (The Hustle and The Other Place) are already out, and the last two will come out next year). I have several other books in various stages of editing, and am working on a few more. I write YA, NA, and Adult, and my genres range from contemporary to fantasy and all points beyond and in between. My books usually feature characters of the sort society tends to shun (addicts, convicts, the homeless, and the neurodiverse). I think if you get to know my characters, as well as people like them in real life, you might find they’re a lot more wonderful and interesting than you originally thought.

Part of the reason I write “unlikeable” characters that is because I myself am a neurodiverse person, along with all the baggage that can come with that (I’m a recovering addict, for instance). I’ve recently “come out” about the fact that I have bipolar disorder with episodes of psychosis. This profession is one of the few where this might actually be an asset: my experiences I think lend a lot of insight to my writing and my characters. A lot of things people only know about from television, I’ve lived through, for better or worse. Believe it or not, it’s not all dark!

I use my stories as a way to explore the different ways in which people’s minds work, and the many ways in which they learn to live and love in this crazy world. It’s my strange and convoluted way of trying to find out how I fit into this society. I think a lot of writers write for the same or similar reasons.

Enough about me. I’m really excited to be part of Son of a Pitch again. I love reading everyone’s entries. The only problem is I’m always left wanting to read the entire manuscript.

Critique contests like these are so important. I would never have gotten published if it weren’t for the advice I got from other writers, authors, and industry professionals along the way. Writing is a subjective business, and we all know that sometimes the advice we get from critiquers can be contradictory. But it is always a learning experience. It’s sometimes difficult to see how our stories will be perceived by others. Readers won’t always walk away with the same perceptions, but knowing what those perceptions are gives us incredible insight into our own work, and helps us to make it stronger, even if we end up not taking the exact advice our critiquers gave us.

The support of other writers and professionals in the community is also incredibly important. My hope is to see each and every entrant published. My first job in that regard is to make sure that no one gives up. The only thing that separates writers from authors is the refusal to throw in the towel, even when it gets hard. There will always be days when you think you can’t go on, when you’re angry, when you’re sure you “suck”. Ask anyone who is published, even people who are mega-famous bestsellers. They’ve felt the same way. I want you all to love writing, and to believe in your own voice, enough that you’ll never give up.

As for what kind of stories will be my favorites, I’m constantly surprised by what I like best. Any of you who know me know that I am a huge fan of diverse stories, especially #ownvoices. That isn’t limited to stories about and by neurodiverse people—I’m massively excited to see stories from authentic points of view that I’ve never read about before. In fact, I would be so honored if you would comment on this blog post, or in a private message if you prefer, and tell me the inspiration for your diverse and/or #ownvoices story. I love hearing people’s personal stories as much as I like reading their fiction.

That said, I’m a huge fan of any sort of story that’s well-told, even if it can’t possibly be #ownvoices because it’s about a being that is a near-sentient wisp of memory contained in the scent of jasmine in a young woman’s garden. (That one sounds like a tweet from Magical Realism Bot.) I love crazy stories, and more traditional stories; quiet stories and high-action stories; stories about love and hate and everything in between. I want to read them all, and I can’t wait to!

 

The Process of Critique and Revision of #OwnVoices Stories

I decided to submit to the Pitch Wars writing contest this year. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, this isn’t the usual sort of writing contest, where you submit a “perfect” polished story and the “best” one wins. Pitch Wars contestants submit the query and first chapter of a book that has been edited and revised, but which might benefit from some revision before being pitched. The contestants chosen then spend several short weeks working with a mentor—a professional, published author—in order to rework and polish their manuscript and query. The resulting queries and books are then showcased in an agent round, where agents request to see more pages of the books that catch their eye. A large percentage of the writers chosen for this contest end up signing with agents.
The question came up during this contest, as it always does: how willing are potential mentees to do complete rewrites of their books based on mentor suggestions?
Because of the nature of this contest, everyone’s answer should be “extremely willing!” However, when this question was posed, my answer was somewhat more hesitant. “Yes, but…” I have a good reason for this hesitation, however. I’ll surely do myself no further damage by discussing why, in further detail.
Accepting hard critique and doing major revisions of your manuscript is never easy. At times, it can be excruciating and brutal. Stories about the revisions Pitch Wars contestants have done based on mentor suggestions are often tales of terror: “I had a few weeks to change the main character, their goals, the stakes, and the main love interest.” (That might be slightly exaggerated, but really not much.)
Most writers would balk at this level of rewriting, it’s true: our stories are our babies. However, we did enter this contest. It’s what we signed up for. And if we’re not willing to make revisions and go the extra mile to make our stories better, we may be in the wrong business altogether.
Don’t get me wrong: it may be hard for me to take critique sometimes, but I take it. I’ve ended up making major revisions based on critique that at first blush had me howling, because once it had sunk in I’d seen its validity. And, though I do believe an artist’s vision is something to be treasured, I’m not one of those jerkoffs that thinks tampering with it in any way is “selling out”. In my experience, the phrase “selling out” is only used by people who have never seriously tried to be artists. Critique and revision is an intrinsic part of the artistic process. Even songwriters (of which I’m one) work with other musicians, band members, producers, and engineers in order to hone and polish their work. Not all changes will be met with universal approval, but it’s still part of the process.
My reason for hesitation with regard to unconditional acceptance of critique with my Pitch Wars manuscript in particular isn’t because I think my vision isn’t to be tampered with. It’s because the book I submitted to Pitch Wars this year is an #ownvocies book. I’ve had some really bad experiences in the past with critique of my #ownvocies writing.
The Pitch Wars mentors are top notch. They are seasoned professionals with an excellent grasp of what makes a great story, and also of what makes a story marketable. I do trust them. I trust my CPs and betas, as well. I think they all have my best interests at heart. The root of the problem in an #ownvoices situation is that, sometimes, what makes a “great” and “marketable” story isn’t always compatible with an #ownvocies writer telling their story “how it is”. This is the whole reason for the need for diverse books and #ownvoices writers to begin with: we’re telling the story the way you haven’t heard it before, from our point of view. That isn’t always the story readers want to hear, or the one the market wants, because it’s not always comfortable. But there needs to be room for #ownvocies writers to tell the stories they need to tell without outsiders changing them to be more in line with what people expect.
I do know that I need to work hard to make my characters and my stories appealing and relatable for readers and agents. I DO work hard to do this. With characters like mine, not to toot my own horn, but I really have learned to bend over backwards to make them resonate with readers, in a way a lot of writers don’t have to do. That’s how I’ve gotten my books published so far, even though they’re written from the points of view of some pretty traditionally “unlikable” characters: characters that readers generally have a hard time identifying with. But if I had taken all the well-meaning suggestions of CPs/Betas/Agents/Editors, my stories would not have been #ownvoices any longer.
The first book of mine that could be called #ownvocies is The Hustle. When I first started putting the book out with critique groups in late 2014, #ownvoices wasn’t a thing yet. There was a call for diversity, and of course the idea of #ownvocies was there, but a real push for members of diverse groups to tell their own stories in their own way is startlingly new, and still developing. So, when I put The Hustle in front of critiquers, I knew that I felt differently about their advice, but I didn’t have the umbrella of the #ownvoices hashtag, as it were, under which to discuss the reason for that different feeling in a safe place where I might be understood.
The main character in The Hustle, Liria, had a pretty rough childhood. She has some mental health and addiction issues resulting from that, and when the book opens she’s homeless and addicted to heroin, with only the beginnings of realization that she won’t live much longer if she doesn’t make some changes. Liria, however, is in a position where she doesn’t have a lot of real options, and she has to do a lot of stuff she isn’t exactly proud of in order to get by and try to get ahead.
Critiquers said things about The Hustle like, “You need to give us something to like about your main character. Is she at least pretty?” (Direct quote there.) They were frustrated with Liria for her continued relapses and bad choices. “It’s like she doesn’t even want a better life.” As examples of compelling stories of people like Liria that I could integrate into my narrative to make it more compelling, critiquers would cite tales of homeless addicts they’d seen in the media: stories of beautiful blonde girls who had fallen into meth addiction because of some terrible tragedy outside their control, and ended up murdered.
The reason for these well-meaning suggestions is that Liria’s situation is something most people in the literary world truly have no concept of. They sometimes think they do, but they don’t. If you haven’t been an addict on the streets, you really can’t understand what it’s like. You can’t understand that sometimes you make bad decisions because there are no good decisions left to you. Even if by some miracle there are, you have no idea what they are or how to make them, because you’ve no experience with how to make good decisions, and/or you’ve no confidence in yourself to make them. Most of my critiquers had no insight into Liria’s hopes and fears and, despite it all, her joys and loves: because a lot of folks miss that there is good in even the most destitute and desperate of people, and that they have inner lives every bit as rich as their own. With The Hustle, the critiquers wanted me to use pity to hook the audience, instead of helping me to hone my own voice in order to draw readers in with the dark (but compelling) beauty and nuance of what life on the streets can actually be like. If I’d taken their suggestions, I might have had an easier road to publication; I might have better sales now. However, I wouldn’t have been adding my own voice to the literary world.
My voice has value. It’s all I have to offer, and I have to offer it, even if it hurts my career 
I faced similar problems with my book The Other Place (which isn’t an #ownvoices book, but it is extremely close) and with the #ownvoices book I submitted to Pitch Wars, True Story. Both of those books have neurodiverse main characters: Justin from The Other Place has schizophrenia, and Mike from True Story has bipolar psychosis, like me. Critiquers asked me to make Justin and Mike “less crazy”. They said it seemed at times like they were “acting out for attention” and like they were “bad news”: in short, all the things people sometimes say about me in real life.
People tended, also, to be disbelieving about the treatment my neurodiverse characters received from the community, the police, and mental health professionals in these books. If you haven’t experienced this discrimination first-hand, it might seem outlandish and unrealistic, but unfortunately it’s not.
I also had one very nice, very professional, and very insightful agent tell me, after reading the full manuscript of The Other Place, that she would have rather the story have been about Justin coming to terms with his toxic mother and others in his environment that misunderstood him; learning to control his schizophrenia (with the help of his well-meaning girlfriend, of course); then getting his GED and becoming a successful, somewhat stable artist. That’s a beautiful narrative. It’s also one we’ve all heard before. My experience as a neurodiverse person is not so simple, nor is it for many of the neurodiverse people I’m close to and care about. That narrative is a good narrative, but it’s not really an #ownvoices narrative. The lives of people like me tend to be messy—even rather messier than the average person’s. We tend to alienate a lot of good, well-intentioned people because they don’t know what to do for us or with us. We tend to fail at a lot of things we try to do, because our mental illness causes us to behave in a certain way and/or people in our chosen profession see us as a liability and aren’t willing to give us a chance. We tend to be exploited, hurt, disenfranchised, discriminated against, and downtrodden more than people in the general population.
A lot of folks think neurodiverse people need to be “saved” and shown how to live a “normal” life, and so these are the stories they want to hear about neurodiverse people. But I want to tell stories about people like me who save themselves and people who make good lives out of the supposedly “flawed” materials they are given. Those lives may not always look the way most people want their lives to look, but that doesn’t mean they’re not good lives.
The thing that may surprise SOME of you is that I did, indeed, take all the critiques I’ve described above into consideration. After all, this is my audience. I need to make my characters as accessible as I can, or no one will read the book in the first place. Learning to work with these critiques has been a really excruciating process, and one that has really helped me to grow as a writer: I’ve had to find ways to make my characters and stories more compelling without sacrificing their authenticity.
I still have plenty of room to grow in my craft, of course. I would really love a mentor and/or agent to fall in love with my stories, and to help me to take my writing to the next level. The best thing for me and my writing, however, would be if that person understood me and my characters, so they could help me to hone my own voice so that I can use it to the best of my ability. No matter how wonderful, talented, savvy, and well-intentioned potential mentors and agents are, this job is more difficult and nuanced when you’re working with someone’s #ownvoices story. Not everyone will be right for the job. The Pitch Wars mentors (as well as literary agents) know this, of course.
This is the reasoning behind any hesitation I’ve expressed with regard to arbitrarily accepting all revision suggestions.

Pitch Wars Bio: “Coming Out” about my #Ownvoices Book

I’m late to the Pitch Wars #Pimpmybio party, which is odd, because I usually have a bad habit of showing up way too early at most parties.

I just this morning resolved to enter the contest. This will be my third time entering Pitch Wars, and I’ve entered with a different manuscript each time. The first time, I entered the very first novel I’d ever completed, the first in a series of seven YA urban fantasy novels. I’ve since put that series on the back burner; it needs serious editing with my now-more-trained eye before I pitch it again.

The novel I entered last year, The Other Place, is an upper YA/NA contemporary magical realism novel. It’s about a young man with schizophrenia trying to make it as an artist, find love, and find his place in the world. This book was released by Limitless Publishing on 7/5/16.

Yes, I know. I’m a published author, and so I feel a little shy entering Pitch Wars. I know (from experience, unfortunately) that some other contestants are likely giving me the stink-eye, wishing I’d step aside to give the less fortunate a chance. But I don’t have an agent, and really want one; my books are getting great reviews, but I’m a marketing doofus and I think I could get wider exposure if I had an agent on my side, holding my hand and cheering me on.

This competition brings in some of the best aspiring authors in the English-speaking world, and I know I don’t have any more talent or chance of being selected than a lot of the unpublished entrants. The fact I’m published and others aren’t, isn’t a measure purely of talent, but also of hard work and persistence.

In fact, no matter how awesome I think my manuscript is, I don’t have a ton of hope it will be chosen. That isn’t the real reason I’m entering this contest. I’m entering because, in past years, I’ve made so many great friends in the Pitch Wars feed, and I’d love to make some more. I’m also entering because I’ve had so much going on in my life lately, both good and bad, so I’ve not been doing much querying. Pitch Wars will make me focus on trying to find this book a home.

The book I’m entering this year is entitled True Story. It’s a diverse YA romance. The main character is a seventeen-year-old Native American foster girl with the unusual name of Mike Charley. She isn’t trans; she was named after her grandfather by her bipolar mother, who thought Mike was his reincarnation.

This is an #ownvoices book. I’m not Native (though I have family in the same tribe Mike’s mother was from), but Mike has bipolar disorder with episodes of psychosis, like her mother did…and like I do.

I’ve been hesitant about pitching True Story as an #ownvoices book, though I know it might make some people more curious about it. I only recently “came out” about my neurodiversity, and it has definitely been a mixed bag. I’m lucky that my diversity isn’t visible; most days, I seem like a perfectly normal, if maybe somewhat eccentric, person, so not a lot of people knew about my neurodiversity. Since I opened up about it, I’ve gotten such a wonderful outpouring of support, but I’ve also suffered a lot of negative and hurtful comments.

Bipolar is a condition that comes with many misconceptions. People either think you’re a howling nutjob, or that you’re attention-seeking: “I get mood swings, too, and you don’t see me crying about it.” I’m not a howling nutjob on most days; nor am I particularly attention-seeking. These stereotypes are hurtful.

When I wrote True Story, it wasn’t my intention to “educate” the world about bipolar disorder. I was just telling a cool story about a wonderful girl. But now that the book is written and edited, and steaming up the windows in its boisterous urge to get on the road, I really do want to find a wide audience for it, to show one insider’s perspective on living with bipolar.

I also think it’s important to have YA novels with bipolar and otherwise neurodiverse main characters. After my first episode of psychosis when I was 15, I was terrified. I thought my brain would completely desert me; that I might lose control of myself and hurt people. That’s what most people think “psychos” are, after all: homicidal maniacs. Most books reflect these misconceptions, and portray psychotic characters as killers or otherwise evil antagonists. At best, characters with psychosis are often complete wastes of space, objects of nothing more than pity and contempt, and are there only to be somehow “saved” by a neurotypical character.

Because I’d swallowed all those stereotypes, it was decades before I had the courage to admit even to a doctor that I’d suffered psychotic episodes. Instead, I got pretty good at managing them myself. I tried to avoid the situations that might trigger them, and I self-medicated. A lot. When I was in my late teens, I discovered that heroin made my brain chill out, and eased my crushing episodes of (sometimes suicidal) depression. It took me years and a trip to prison to kick that habit, but I eventually found healthier ways to deal with my symptoms.

But those ways don’t always work, especially when you’re like me and don’t even try to control your episodes of mania.

I love being manic. My last manic episode started in the summer of 2013. That’s when I first started writing in earnest: I finished seven novels in a year, and another five in the year after that. However, the episode coincided with a huge shift in my marriage dynamics and caused it even more strain. My husband became very insulting about my inability to “grow up and act right”. His behavior felt very abusive to me, which triggered both my bipolar disorder and my PTSD, and made my behavior even more erratic. I ended up having a psychotic break last summer (my first one in more than a decade), and a few close brushes with suicide, before the relationship finally ended for good.

My dream with regard to True Story, and my other books (and other authors’ books) with neurodiverse characters, is that people will read them and be less afraid to talk about their own experiences with neurodiversity. I want people with mental illness to know they aren’t “less” than neurotypical people; they’re not dangerous or creepy, or in any other way unfit to take their rightful place in society. Then maybe they won’t have to go through some of the stuff I’ve gone through.

So I’m standing up (with somewhat trembly knees) and proudly declaring that True Story is an #ownvoices book. I know my admission that I have a serious mental condition might make some agents leery of working with me, but I console myself that they might not be a good match for my work anyway. When I finally do get an agent, that person will see my value, and will believe in me and my writing. They won’t buy into the negative stereotypes about bipolar disorder or PTSD. They’ll know people like me can be productive, professional, intelligent, and easy to work with.

So, that’s why I’m entering Pitch Wars: because I deserve to, because I believe in my books, and because I believe in myself and others like me.

Thank you for reading this. I’d love your comments and get links to your blogs, as well. Like I said, making new friends is one of my main goals in entering Pitch Wars 🙂

Good luck to everyone!