Tag Archives: diversity in YA

#MondayBlogs My Protagonist and Illiteracy

5 Sep

My protagonist is illiterate. She recognizes a few letters, she can identify her name, and she loves listening to stories more than anything. But she cannot read.

Her name is Serena, and Serena is a bad blood.

Bad Bloods in 35 words or less: 17-year-old Serena is the only bad blood to escape execution. Now symbolized for an election, she must prove her people are human despite hindering abilities before everyone is killed and a city is destroyed.

While Serena lives in a futuristic world where magical children like her are executed, illiteracy is a very real issue in our world today. An issue I wanted to discuss in my Bad Bloods duology. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding illiteracy—some of which I discuss in an article Tackling Diversity in YA—but the main one is the fact that illiteracy isn’t as uncommon as the average reader might think.

1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read. (DoSomething.Org)

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For readers, this fact might seem startling. Readers generally know other readers, after all. And—on top of that—many of the characters in YA fiction love books, because readers love books, and it’s easy to relate to a character that loves the same things as them. For many readers, it’s impossible to imagine a world without reading, even in fantasy and sci-fi settings. I, for one, definitely struggle with that concept, but illiteracy is a reality for many young people, especially women all over the world. Granted, I will be the first to admit that I did not set out to write Serena as an illiterate person to spread awareness. No. I originally set out to write her as a character who didn’t enjoy reading due to severe dyslexia—something my brother and father deal with to this day.

As a child, growing up in a household where my two role models didn’t read was very difficult, especially when my late mother was a reader but no longer able to share that joy with me. That being said, we can relate to one another—readers or not—as people, and since so many characters are readers, I wanted to remind readers we can love those who don’t read, too (although maybe we can help them find the perfect book so they try reading again)! We can also understand how illiteracy happens, and hopefully, we can learn to sympathize with it and also help others learn to read in the future.

The issue of illiteracy developed with Serena’s character over time, but I wouldn’t change Serena for the world. She is smart. She is caring. She loves ice cream, her friends, and stories told beneath the full moon. She falls in love. She cries. She feels pain and sorrow. She laughs.

Serena may be illiterate, but she still has a story.

And so do the millions of people around the globe dealing with illiteracy today.

That is why she’s my protagonist.

~SAT

Bad Bloods: November Rain is FREE

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Bad Bloods: November Snow

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, Goodreads

Free Bad Bloods Prequel: Wattpad

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May’s Ketchup

30 May

Wow! That was one fast month.

For those of you just now checking in this month, Ketchup actually means “catch up.” At the end of every month, I write these posts describing what goes on behind the scenes at ShannonAThompson.com. Some of the topics I cover include my big moments, top blog posts, my top referrer, #1 SEO term, and more in order to show insights that will hopefully help fellow bloggers see what was popular. I also hope it entertains the readers who want “extras” for this website.

Thank you for being a part of my life this May.

Big Moments:

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#1 Clicked Item was Bad Bloods: November Rain on Amazon

I finished writing the mysterious manuscript known as D. All I’ve said so far is that it’s a YA portal fantasy that’s 93,000 words. As if life couldn’t get any better, I received my author copies of November Rain in the mail! (I also bought more copies for future giveaways, but in case you missed the giveaways…)

Sign up for the Bad Bloods Thunderclap and win signed swag by emailing me your support to shannonathompson@aol.com and enter this Bad Bloods Goodreads Giveaway.

If you really want to help me out, sign up for the Bad Bloods Book Blitz and keep sharing the teasers as they release every Tuesday! I truly hope you’re enjoying them.

This month, the free Bad Bloods Prequel continued on Wattpad with two more origin stories. Meet Michele and Maggie. In June, you’ll meet Ryne and Violet..and Violet? She’s connected to The Timely Death Trilogy, so look out!

Speaking of The Timely Death Trilogy, I really appreciate you all when you send in fan art, so thank you Devyn T for drawing Jessica with Eric’s headphones.

June is going to be a busy month! For Barnes & Noble’s first-ever national teen book fesitival, I will be signing books and hosting an author panel in TWO KC stores. Come see me on Saturday, June 11th in Overland Park, Kansas, or on Sunday, June 12th in Zona Rosa, KC, MO. More info can be found on my Events page.

Top Three Blog Posts:

1. The Worst Thing A Reader Ever Said To Me: This was a repost of a popular past article, so I was and was not surprised this post did so well. On one hand, I’m really glad my honesty is helping some of you with your struggles with writing. Writing is hard! Harder than a lot of writers admit. But on another hand, I worry that negative topics are more popular than positive/productive posts. Why do I worry? Because I worry about all the writers who are in pain while writing. I worry that there seems to be more insecurities with writing than confident, happy writers. It’s okay to worry. It is. But enjoy the journey while you write. Remind yourself that it’s a tough journey—and that it’s okay that it’s tough—but ultimately, you love writing, and that’s what matters. All negatives aside, writing is what we love.

2. The Truth Behind an Author’s Instagram: I really want to write articles like this for all my social medias, because it is important for authors (and readers) to remember that social media—while fun—isn’t the whole picture. I know we show our highlight reels every day, and things seem perfect, and everyone’s life appears wonderful, but like I mentioned above, writing is hard. Writing is a career. Writing is more than sitting around and coming up with ideas, and I hope this showed how social media can warp that, even though social media is still a lot of fun.

3. The 90-10 Rule for Marketing and Writing, and How To Love It.

#1 Referrer was WordPress' Reader

#1 Referrer was WordPress’ Reader

Continuing with the two articles above, writing is hard. It’s a business. I stay organized with my writing-marketing calendar, and I truly believe a lot of writers could help themselves by trying to organize themselves that way. It’s easy to get lost in marketing (and harder to swallow the fact that, yes, you must market, a lot, no matter how you’re published), but you can learn to love it, and you can guarantee you don’t forget to write with a few little reminders.

 

Other Blog Posts:

Authors, Add Extras to Books: I LOVE extras. When I read a series and want more, the first thing I do is stalk that author’s social media for extra tidbits, so when I became an author, I knew I wanted to share my extras: my calendars, swag, fanart, character charts, articles, etc. This article outlines how to do it and what to share.

Confessions of a Slow Writer: There’s a lot of pressure in the industry to be a fast writer. This article outlines why it’s more important to just be you.

#1 SEO Term

#1 SEO Term

Tackling Diversity in YA: After my article on diversity last month, many of you asked me how I tackle diversity in my own work. This was a Bad Bloods themed article about how I explored diversity in my latest piece.

What Changes From First Draft to Publication? Spoiler Alert: A lot.

#SATurdate: Captain America, Chunky Monkey, Paperbacks, & Minions: A weekly update on what I’m writing, reading, watching, baking, listening to, and more.

#SATurdate: The Jungle Book, Thunderclap, and Through the Looking Glass: A weekly update on what I’m writing, reading, watching, baking, listening to, and more.

#SATurdate: MWG Conference, The Crown, Allergies, and Silicon Valley: A weekly update on what I’m writing, reading, watching, baking, listening to, and more.

#SATurdate: X-Men Apocalypse, Winter, Money Monster, & Banana Desserts: A weekly update on what I’m writing, reading, watching, baking, listening to, and more.

Website Wonders: A monthly classic.

Thank you to… 

At the end of the month, I also like to take a moment to thank all of the websites who supported me by posting reviews, interviews, and features. If you want to be one of these websites, feel free to join my newsletter or email me at shannonathompson@aol.com. I always love speaking with new bloggers, writers, and readers! I will also share your post on all of my websites.

Reviewers: The Book Forums, Crazy Beautiful Reads

Calculated on May 26 at 20,765

Calculated on May 26 at 20,765 followers

#WritingTips Diversity Is VITAL, But Be Genuine

16 Mar

The word diversity is being thrown around a lot in the publishing world. Agents are asking for it, readers are requesting it, and publishers rejoice in it. As am I. Rounding out literature with realistic and varied groups of people is vital and wonderful and exciting and overall, beautiful. The world, after all, is made up of many different types of people. So should books.

That being said—and a lot of my articles are inspired by my full-time editing job—I am quite shocked when I hear questions like, “Should I make my main character a person of color, LGBT, have a disability, and/or be a part of an underrepresented religion to fit the market?”

Um…

Face to desk.

The quick answer to that question is a resounding NO.

Diversity is not a “fad.” It’s not a bullet point on your novel’s checklist. It’s not an aspect to treat like a trendy topic, and it’s most definitely not an afterthought.

Diversity is a fact of life. Diversity is all around you. Diversity is found in your friends and family and co-workers and strangers at the coffee shop. Diversity should appear in literature just as naturally as it does in real life. If you’re forcing it, there’s a likely chance you’re probably adding to the stereotypes and clichés that are even more damaging than leaving diversity out.

Case and point:

Avoiding LGBTQ Stereotypes in YA Fiction, Part 1: Major LGBTQ Stereotypes

Race in YA Lit: Wake up and Smell the Coffee-Colored Skin, White Authors!

Writing Tips: How NOT to write disabled people

Yes, we need more diversity. We need more people of color in hero roles and LGBT protagonists and characters with disabilities. We need to see a variety of religions and cultural norms and languages and backgrounds. We need varying body types and personalities and dreams and ambitions. We need more characters that are just like everyday people, but we need to be true to our stories. That means being honest. It means researching. It means taking that time to talk to those who represent the cultures we wish to write about. As authors, we need to communicate effectively and efficiently. We need to stay true to our work—not force in characters just because—and we need to love our characters because they are our characters, not because they were warped to fit a trend. Diversity isn’t about being trendy. Diversity is about being genuine. It’s about celebrating the unique characteristics of all types of people, so that readers can rejoice and relate to the stories they read. On top of that, diverse stories help teach acceptance, shape understanding, and encourage friendships to those outside of their own “box.” Diverse stories are a result of a diverse life.

So go out there and explore your world. Meet new people. Listen to their lives. Discuss topics and real trends. (Like fashion and movies and Pilates.) Get to know all the people around you, and who knows? You might find they inspire you to create a character just like them.

Favorite Go-To Article About Diversity: Diversity Writing Tool-Kit. She basically links to a million places to get in-depth knowledge about numerous topics.

Favorite (Recent) Novels Featuring Diversity: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon and Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. Both of these wonderful women tackle diversity with genuine grace. You can read both of my 5-star reviews on Goodreads by clicking the titles. I highly recommend both books, but Everything, Everything is contemporary, while Lady Midnight is urban fantasy and a part of a much larger series that I recommend you start with City of Bones. She has diversity throughout her entire Shadowhunter series. I had the absolute joy of meeting Cassandra Clare last night. She signed Lady Midnight for me, and I took home some awesome Shadowhunter runes.

I also met Cassandra Clare, just last night! She is the greatest.

I also met Cassandra Clare, just last night! She is the greatest.

Soon, I’ll share my own experience with writing and diversity. As an example, my next release is a YA duology: Bad Bloods features illiteracy, LGBT characters, deafness, people of color, PTSD, and disabilities, such as one character who only has one arm.

I didn’t force any of these aspects. In fact, the cast was inspired by real people I have met (and Barbie dolls, but that’s a different story you can read about here). Talking to those in the groups I was writing about was vital. Don’t be afraid to reach out. The world is waiting.

~SAT

P.S. Today is the day my mother suddenly passed away in 2003. You never know when your life will change forever. Take a moment to say I love you today. Thank you for changing my life, Mom.

My mother and I on Christmas, 1999

My mother and I on Christmas, 1999

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