Rewriting The Presentation of Women of Color in Women’s Literature

Slave WomanShe is often treated in 19th Century literature as a product of sin or a whore to be saved or dismissed, but the story of the mulatto woman is much grander than this. In my newest novel, The Secret Life of Lucy Bosman, I present another image of these women – of women in general – as patriots, entrepreneurs and realists.

I was actually inspired to write this novel by a story I read in an 1862 issue of the local newspaper here in Richmond, Virginia – The Times-Dispatch – while I was doing research for my other historical fiction novel, Murder on Second Street. In the report, a mulatto woman is arrested and accused of prostitution – corrupting the morals of white men – during the Civil War. I found the story fascinating because prostitution was rampant during the war, but here they were arresting a mulatto woman for doing what many white – and other colored women – were doing. That story stayed on my mind for two years until I decided to enter the National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) contest again in November 2013. It was the perfect time to write this story especially as we enter the 94th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment which not only gave women legally the right to vote, but made them officially American citizens.

There are three reasons why I feel readers would like to support such a work. First, the mulatto woman has historically been represented in literature (and film) as a helpless creature destined for ostracism or to be some man’s whore. Also, many of our secondary and undergrad students are not taught that women did own successful businesses during this period: that not all of them were willing to give up their property and what was rightfully theirs because the law of the land said they were women and did not have a voice. Marriage was not to a woman’s advantage in many respects during the 19th Century and well into the 20th. Finally, it’s a different perspective as to how the Civil War forced people, but mainly women of all colors and class, to put security and safety over morality and human rights. The institution of slavery forced people to hide and forgo true love for racial superiority. It’s the greatest tragedy!

In November 2013, I won the novel pitch contest by www.authorsensei.com and as part of my winnings, we have created a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for editorial services, print production and a few more fun things. Please support my efforts to prepare this book for publication by pledging to a monetary donation of at least $10 to http://pubslush.com/books/id/1425. You can read an excerpt from the novel as well as more personal insights from myself. I am offering some wonderful rewards in exchange including a signed copy of the book upon its release next month. Please share this link with others who wish to honor the spirit of women in America – past and present.

The Secret Life of Lucy Bosman is the story of love, race, entrepreneurship, gender and war. It is the American woman’s story – black, white, yellow or brown! And I wish to share it with the world.

Images courtesy of Black-face.com and Pinterest.com.

 The Winning Pitch

The Secret Life of Lucy Bosman

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The Edutainment Value of Writing Historical Fiction

New Cover Image 2

Happy New Year! Yes, I know I am almost 30 days late, but it’s better late than never, right? Well, I have started off 2014 with a lovely bang. Towards the end of 2013, I published my first historical fiction novel, Murder on Second Street: The Jackson Ward Murders, and have received much praise and support for the work (although a few have chided me publically for daring to write such a novel on race in this era of “post-race,” but that’s another topic for a later day). I also finally finished the first draft of my second historical fiction novel, The Secret Life of Lucy Bosman, a work set in the antebellum South in 1860. Both novels are drenched in history, but are largely fictional, hence, my decision to share with you today my guest post blog for Shelf Full of Books on the edutainment value of historical fiction.

So, please read it and share with me your thoughts on this very niche-centered genre and it’s ability to educate readers and students. Click here to read.

~Rebekah L. Pierce

 

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Write a novel in 30 days? Are you nuts? What NaNoWriMo Taught Me about Being a Writer

Writing off the top of my head is one of the hardest things for me to do. You see, I’ve been trained to always have an outline before writing; that’s what I teach my students because, well, I’m an English teacher. When I first heard of the National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo) contest back in 2009, I was immediately intimidated because I am what they call an “old school” writer; I write by hand and with an outline to guide me. But I was intrigued by this idea of sitting down at a computer sans outline and pen and just throwing it all to the wind. And, as an English teacher who was teaching formal, academic writing nearly every day of my life, I wanted to show my students my “fun side.”

And I did have an idea for a novel: a murder mystery set in an old historic black neighborhood in 1929. I told my students about it and they encouraged me to write it, and so throwing caution to the wind, I entered the NaNoWriMo challenge in November of 2009, and voila! My first book is my bestselling African American mystery/historical fiction novel, Murder on Second Street: The Jackson Ward Murders. Flash forward to 2013, and I enter the challenge again because I had this story that had been haunting me for two years. I kept saying I was going to write it, but time kept going by. But here was my chance…again. So, throwing all of my formal training to the wind, I embarked on a 30 day journey to write The Secret Life of Lucy Bosman, the story of a mulatto woman who passes for a white businesswoman in 1862 during the Civil War in Richmond, VA.

And I finished that novel too! What a profound journey it was, too! Here are five (5) things I learned about this process of writing a novel in 30 days:

1)      Social Media holds your feet to the fire. Once I told my followers what I was writing for NaNoWriMo, support came in from everywhere, and I needed it because I was free-writing, basically, and I had begun to fear quitting and wondered if this story would work. And what that also did was to force me to keep my word and complete this novel come hell or high water because, well, see #2…

2)      I hate to quit on a story! So, I made myself sit down nearly every night and write at least 2,000 words. I have two kids – 12 and 4 – so writing came after 10p. I was exhausted, but I had made this commitment to myself and to the story. I had to do it!

3)      Fighting the urge to edit. Do you know how hard it is for an English teacher NOT to edit? What I learned from this writing process – adventure – was that if I was going to finish on time, I had to let go and just tell the story. “It’s a freaking rough draft!” I’d yell at myself when I felt myself going there with edits and revision, which then leads me to #4.

4)      The art of writing is rewriting. I used to tell my students this every time they had to write an essay. The rough draft is never the final draft nor is it often very good, but it is an additional visual aid to help you get to where you want to be. This novel, like Murder on Second Street, will go through revisions. It must! All work needs fresh eyes to bring out the best in it, and to clarify transitions/storyline, character development, etc. Your writing is a reflection of you, so why not make it the best version of it/you as possible?

5)      Staying connected to my muse and the story IT wished to be told. This is the hardest part for many writers: letting the story tell itself. I had to truly shut my voice down which wanted to go here, go there, with the story. But it wasn’t my story, per se. I believe very much in sitting in silence and asking my muse to guide my pen – help me to tell the story it needs to be told. I did this every time I sat down to tell Lucy’s story. They don’t teach you this in college. Storytellers are the vehicles the creative divine spirit uses to bring forth the story.

Now, I must confess that towards the end of writing The Secret Life of Lucy Bosman (both novels, in fact), I was so stumped as to how to end the work; I was at 46,000 words and mad as hell because the ending I wanted wasn’t coming. Again, I had to go ask my muse for direction. It sent me to the outline. Yes, I ended up using what I was taught as a writer and teacher to use to help usher forth this story. And that’s okay because what I learned participating in NaNoWriMo is that a writer must use all of the tools available to them: the seed of an idea, the blank screen, a pen, paper, an outline and a strong support system. Oh! And did I mention wine? No? Are you sure? Never mind.

The Secret Life of Lucy BosmanNote: The Secret Life of Lucy Bosman will be released in February 2014.

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The Power of the Perfect Pitch

New Cover ImageMy mystery novel, Murder on Second Street, was selected as a “Pitch Perfect Pick” for Underground Book Reviews recently. According to their website, “We choose Pitch Perfect titles on the basis of originality and professional appear…ance. Basically, Pitch Perfect Picks are books that show potential and high caliber writing… books we wish we had the time to read.”

I am SUPER honored as the pitch is so often the first thing agents, book review blogs and publishers look at. It can open or close a door for you. That’s why it is SO important for aspiring authors to craft a well written pitch (check out “Why Agents Reject 96% of Author Submissions“). My pitch for this novel and my soon to be released women’s mystery novel, Sex, Lies & Shoeboxes, has taken my books to the next level in the publishing game: a manuscript request. That is GOLD! Remember, your writing is a reflection of you. If you want your to be respected and to break new ground, then put in the time and money to make it presentable.

Stop by http://www.undergroundbookreviews.com/pitch-perfect-picks.html and scroll down to the second line. My novel is the first in the row. If you need help crafting your “perfect pitch,” visit The Pierce Agency at www.ThePierceAgencyLLC.com.

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How To Define Success as a Writer

Defining success is like trying to glue water to sand. It’s impossible! That’s because it is so subjective! One’s definition of success is oftentimes based upon material things instead of emotional well-being and a clear sense of self. For the writer, this gets even tighter in regard to the former because to the publishing industry, your/their success is determined by book sales and bestseller rankings. I want to share with you five (5) “must-do’s” for success regardless of the publishing path you decide to take be it with a traditional publisher or self-publishing. I heard an agent speak about a few of these “must-do’s” and have added one or two of my own. The bottom line, for me at least, is to always keep my intentions for the work in perspective, and to remember that my writing is a reflection of me.

  • Make sure your story is GREAT
  • Edit, edit, edit (hire a developmental editor, line editor and proofreader)
  • Create a killer book cover (yes, a beautiful, professional cover is imperative – it must match the storyline)
  • Tune up your marketing skills (i.e., yes, you must engage in social media & know your platform)
  • Commit to quality (see all of the above; this also includes format, design and paper quality)

For more tips on being an authentic, successful writer, read “5 Takeaways” or “The Key to a Successful Self-Publishing Career.” Check out The Pierce Agency, LLC for a FREE 20 minute author consultation.

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5 Takeaways for Writers from the JRW Writer’s Conference

Every aspiring, emerging and established writer should attend at least one writer’s conference a year for not only the need to market your ideas/works, but to stay on top of the changes in the publishing world and, even more importantly, to establish best practices for your business as a writer. That’s right! In today’s world, writers –artists – need to be entrepreneurial in the sense that you need to create and establish methods/skills that will help you to achieve whatever goals and outcomes you have set for your works (your business). I had the pleasure of attending the James River Writer’s annual Writer’s Conference (http://www.jamesriverwriters.org/) October 19-20, 2013 in Richmond, Virginia. Although I was a moderator for a panel on small to mid-sized publishers, I also was there as an author and playwright. And I was there to LEARN. As such, here are 5 takeaways I wish to share with you that I hope will help you navigate not only this difficult terrain of publishing, but to get you thinking strategically and critically about what it takes to be  a successful 21st Century author.

The Publishing World is Ever-Changing

  • First, know the intentions for your work. What do you want to do with it? Sell it to the highest bidder? Get in on the bookshelves? Build credibility?
  • Research which aspects of publishing you wish to delve into that will help you build upon your intentions
  • There 5 significant areas of publishing today:  Traditional, Small Press, DIY (Do-it-Yourself), Partner Publishing, or Assisted Publishing. Take the time to see which one is the best fit for your reality at this moment in time (i.e., your budget, your work/family schedule, etc)
  • Advances are going the way of the dinosaur and yet, you are expected to put in even more work, time and energy to market your book…after you’ve nearly killed yourself writing the book J

 Build Your Brand

  • Create a platform – Who are you and what do you write about? Who are your readers and where can they be found?
  • Be consistent in your message  (i.e., the verbage, design, marketing, etc)
  • Put together a team of experts to help you do this (check out freelancing sites or pull from your network)

Social Media Presence is a MUST (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, etc)

  • It’s part of your brand identity
  • It’s a way to reach your intended audience
  • It’s a way to stay connected/available to your audience
  • But know your strengths/weaknesses with this skill set because working social media is a skill. (see bullet 3 in Build Your Brand above)

 Create a Pitch for Your Work

  • This is for both conferences and any other social interaction opportunity
  • A pitch is a 30 second to 1 minute blurb which contains 5 essential elements: who you are, what other books your book is similar to, 250 mini-synopsis of the storyline, and the market the book is targeted for
  • Practice, practice, practice delivering your pitch in a mirror
  • Remember, you never know where you’ll meet an agent or publisher. So be prepared!!

Create a Logline for Your Work

  • A logline is 1 sentence descriptor of your storyline.
  • For example, here’s mine for my novel, Murder on Second Street: The Jackson Ward Murders: “It’s October 1929, and WWI veteran and securities specialist Sy Sanford has been hired to find and stop the killer of Negro working class women in the affluent Negro neighborhood of Jackson Ward, but Sy has two big problems: he’s a drunk in the age of Prohibition and the killer has now targeted the love of his life.” It’s a little wordy, but it’s one sentence and it tells the meat of the story as well as the time period of the work: 1929. So you know that this is a work of historical fiction.
  • Commit to memory the logline
  • Remember, you not only never know where you’ll meet an agent or publisher, but a reader! Once you say you have written a book, they will ask the million dollar question: “So what is your book about?” BE PREPARED!!

No one knows your story better than you, so give it the best chance to reach its intended audience and be successful (whatever that means for you). No longer can writers afford to sit behind the computer screen or notepad in anonymity hoping that their agent or publisher will push the work for them. You have to get out there and do the work yourself today. We live in a technologically driven world with many different routes of communication that we expect everyone to use. You simply cannot realistically avoid Facebook or Twitter, I am sad to say. Just learn how to use it strategically – know its place in the marketing of your work.

Surround yourself with hard-working, driven people who believe in your product and get to work. And spend the money to attend a great writer’s conference. It will not only help save your sanity, but thousands of dollars in avoidable mistakes from lack of information/knowledge. Writing is a business.

Rebekah

Have more tips to share? Please leave them in the comment section below.

 

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3 Reasons to Attend Reclaiming Your Joy

In this video, I present three reasons why women and women veterans should register for the empowering women’s event, “Reclaiming Your Joy: Overcoming Holiday Blues,” on Friday, Nov. 8th in Mechanicsville, Virginia. The holidays can be a difficult time of the year for women for various reasons discussed in this video. But there’s hope. Watch “3 Reasons to Attend” and then register at reclaimingyourjoy.eventbrite.com.

If you have any questions or registration concerns, send an email to editor@averagegirlmagazine.com.

Namaste.

Rebekah

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