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Sensitivity Editors

April 30, 2017 by in category The Extra Squeeze tagged as , , , , ,
The Extra Squeeze | A Slice of Orange

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

April’s topic for The Extra Squeeze Team came from this article in the Chicago Tribune.

What does the Extra Squeeze Team think about Sensitivity Editors?

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

When I was a new author, I received a letter from a reader accusing me of being racist for using a certain adjective to describe a character of color. I was disturbed because I had offended the reader but upon reflection, I came to believe I had done nothing wrong.

I take my craft very seriously, choosing every word carefully to create a deeply visual reading experience and to express various points of view. If sensitivity editors become the norm, I will begin to second guess those words and the result will level a playing field that should be filled with intellectual and emotional obstacles. I believe it is better for a reader to close a book and to reject a writer’s work than to hobble the creative exploration of the world around us.

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

Part of editing is sensitivity — to the tone of the book and to the needs of the market.  I’ve worked on manuscripts where the content is offensive. I ask myself, is that offensive to me, or to the market?

I’m not in the business of censorship; my personal sensibilities are not the point. However, as a story editor it is my business to point out when the narrative is boring, adds nothing, or employs language that is likely to offend the intended market.

‘Sensitivity’ is relative. To edit only for insensitive material blurs, to near invisibility, the line between editing for good writing and suppression of open expression. A good editor will point out insensitivity. It is up to the author to accept or reject the edit.

Robin Blakely | The Extra Squeeze Team | A Slice of Orange

Robin Blakely

PR/Business Development coach for writers and artists; CEO, Creative Center of America; member, Forbes Coaches Council.

I am in the business of promoting author brands, so my interest in the trend of hiring a sensitivity editor is focused on the impact such a thing can have on author PR and book publicity.  To cut to the chase, I’m not a fan—yet.

Here’s why… For many readers, a book can help reflect what is wrong in the world even if the author was not trying to paint the picture of the world that the book ultimately reveals. Straight up, I think most readers are smart and I know they deserve to be treated with honesty and extreme care. From a PR perspective, it is important to me that the reader always meets the real author—no masks. That means reader/writer relationships must be authentic to the writer and genuinely tied to the writer’s real work.  Readers trust real and I trust that most writers are sensitive enough to choose words that accurately reflect their point of view and their reality.

If the author is heavily censored, overhauled, and cloaked by a sensitivity editor, then the reader is shaking the hand of a gloved stranger. From a PR-perspective, I have encountered authors who need a wake-up call regarding the impact of their voices and their word choices.  Sensitivity editors can offer feedback that broadens the author’s awareness. Or, the sensitivity editor can enable the author to be masked in a way that is unfair to the buyer of the product.

Many years ago, as a young mom, I encountered a parenting handbook that had not been edited by a sensitivity editor. The medical expert was biased against me. The author’s words perpetuated the myth that infertility was a cosmic sign and that chronic childhood illness, particularly asthma, should be largely blamed on the parent, especially if the mom was a working mother.  Luckily, I was not hurt by that book’s lack of sensitivity editing; in fact, I believe I was protected by the lack of it.  The author’s own uncensored words made it easy for me to discern that he was not good enough to offer advice to me about my baby.  I threw that book away and found a better author.

Today, when I am asked: “sensitivity editor or not?”; I like to say: “That’s up to you.”   I remain on the fence. I don’t like censorship…but, I don’t like dumb stereotypes either—especially hurtful stereotypes about young moms, children with chronic illness, people of color, single parents, older adults, immigrants, communities of faith, families living in rural areas, or the inner cities, or the suburbs. When it comes to sensitivity, there are as many stereotypes as there are people.  The real world is not very sensitive.  As a reader and as a PR professional, I like to know exactly who wrote the words I am reading…and if you had to use a sensitivity editor, I would likely wonder why.

H. O. Charles

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array


 

I think there are two types of offensive content in this context. One is where the author knowingly intends to shock or set a certain tone by using language that some/many will consider offensive. The second is unknowing offence, where the author – either through ignorance or accident – employs language/story lines that are unintentionally patronising to, or dismissive of, one group of people. The sensitivity readers in that article seem to be dealing exclusively with the second type, and my initial response is: Great! An editor like that will help the writer produce a contemporary novel that speaks from the social outlook we should be aiming for today (even if we write historical fiction). On the other hand, this sounds like research the author should have already done themselves. If the author is writing about a specific group of people who use language in a manner that is different from their own, then surely that writer should have researched such a group thoroughly already? Perhaps employing a sensitivity reader instead of doing one’s own research is easier now we have the interwebs, and it involves less travelling, so there’s that(!).

 

But the downside is that the writer will be relying upon the opinion and outlook of **one** reader. I do not believe I represent ALL northerners (in the UK, that is), and while I may be worried about stereotypes of people from Yorkshire having low educational attainment, the next Yorkshire person might think it is even worse to be conflated with a Lancastrian! And then there are the Scots, who are technically northerners in the UK too, and could feel the term’s applicability to Yorkshire/Lancashire reflects the Englishman’s arrogant tendency to forget they exist…

 

Another thing worth considering is that the nature of offence changes over time, and in spite of our best attempts, no single book will ever be truly inoffensive to everyone. What we write innocently today may be judged differently tomorrow (let’s imagine, for example, that meat-eating or using gendered pronouns becomes abhorrent to future generations – how would that alter the way you write your characters?!). That’s not to say we should abandon conveying our own sense of morality in our novels, or rejoice in our own ignorance, or that we should aim for anything other than the best book we can write, just that we should be aware that pleasing everyone for all the years to come is impossible.

 

What do you think of Sensitivity Editors? Scroll down to the comment section and tell us what you think.

If you would like to know more about Sensitivity Editors, here are a few links:

Writer Unboxed

WRITING IN THE MARGINS

Publishers Weekly

Do you have a question or topic for The Extra Squeeze Team? Use the form below to send in your ideas.

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A Pick Six Interview with Author Vicki Crum

April 28, 2017 by in category Pick Six Author Interviews tagged as , , ,

Pick Six Author Interviews are occasional features on A Slice of Orange. We send a bunch of questions to the author who then picks just six of the questions to answer.  This month we are featuring a Pick Six Author Interview with Vicki Crum.

Vicki writes contemporary and paranormal romance, creating tales full of love and laughter and discovering one’s soul mate in the most unlikely places. Her published works include Loving Luc, a contemporary romance with futuristic elements, and the first two books in her sexy, light-hearted werewolf series, Once in a Blue Moon and Moonspell.

Vicki resides with her husband in a charming seaside community in Southern California. She has two grown daughters and two adorable grandchildren who light up her world. She loves interacting with readers. Connect with her at vickicrum@homail.com, or visit her at http://vickicrum.wix.com/author and www.facebook.com/vickicrum.author

One: What kind of writer are you? A page a day or a burst writer?

I try to write for at least a couple of hours a day, especially on the weekdays, more if I can. It just depends on what’s going on. For instance, I have two young grandchildren, and if I get the opportunity to spend time with them for whatever reason, I pretty much drop everything and go for it! Sadly, I am too-easily distracted these days. A sale at Macy’s, lunch with a friend (or occasionally even my husband!) and I’ll take off and go. I like to be active, so keeping my butt in the chair can be an effort sometimes. Writing is the most fun and the most productive when I am in the middle of a particularly fun chapter or scene, and I’m really emotionally invested in the outcome. Those are my favorite writing times.

Two: How do you stay motivated? What keeps you writing?

Believe me, I’ve thought of quitting, more than once. Just before I found my current publisher in early 2014, I was seriously thinking about giving up on my writing aspirations. I’d been at it for a long time and had suffered my share of rejections over the years. My world had been expanded in the most joyous way by becoming a grandparent, and my priorities were realigning themselves in a lot of ways. Still, writing had become such a part of who I am that I couldn’t seem to give it up entirely. Sooner or later I’d end up right back at the computer with another new or intriguing idea for a story, or an interesting character rattling around in my brain. And I have to say that having a dedicated group of writer friends that I can engage with regularly is great for keeping me dialed in and moving forward. It’s fun to celebrate their various successes, and that helps keep me inspired.

Three: What are you working on now? Can you tell us about your next project?

I’m writing the third book in my “Moon” series. This is the first series I’ve ever written and also my first foray into paranormal romance. It’s been lots of fun. The first book in the series, Once in a Blue Moon, is a sexy romp about a werewolf who doesn’t know she’s a werewolf due to a stubborn case of latent genes. It takes the hero, a seriously hot, motorcycle-riding alpha hunk, to introduce the heroine to her true nature. The second book, Moonspell, was released in January, and I’m just getting underway with the third one, tentatively titled, Moonrise. Both Moonrise and Moonspell have the hero, or the male protagonist, as the dominant character in the book. The books are related through what I hope are a fun and endearing cast of characters. I like a little humor in my stories, and I’m trying to keep that sexy, light-hearted theme going as I write this series of books.

Four: What’s on your To-Be-Read-Pile?

My TBR pile, like so many other writers I know, is quite high. I’m currently reading two books, when I can find the time, Legend of Love (The Muse Chronicles) by Lisa Kessler and Rules of the Game by Lori Wilde. Next on my list is Kat Martin’s Into the Fury, Nora Roberts’ Tears of the Moon, and Frostline by Linda Howard and Linda Jones. There are so many books that I’m dying to read, but it may take me a bit of time to work my way through them since I very seldom allow myself the opportunity to curl up in the sun with a good book. I had a lot more time to do that before I started writing!

Five: In your books, who is your favorite character and why?

My favorite character of all the ones I’ve written is from my book, Loving Luc, published in 2014. Luc is the epitome of what I think a romantic hero should be. He’s strong and handsome, with plenty of those alpha-hero protective genes I love so much, but he is also thoughtful and gentle and caring. Did I mention brave and highly intelligent? Luc is one of a kind as far as my romantic heroes goes because he is not of this world. Luc is from a planet in a solar system far distant from Earth. He comes from a world, a race of people, so similar to ours that he can blend in here on Earth almost seamlessly—with a few minor adjustments, of course. His very existence is fated to be intertwined with that of my heroine, Maggie, in every way possible…spiritually, emotionally, and physically. They are, essentially, pioneers on the cusp of a brave new world, and it was so much fun creating them!

Six: If a spaceship landed in your backyard and the aliens on board offered to take you for a ride, would you go?

Absolutely! As long as I didn’t believe they posed a serious threat to my life. I’ve always loved astronomy, especially the study of the moon and stars. It’s fascinating to imagine what other life forms and worlds might exist in the universe. It’s a huge assumption to think we are all alone in the heavens. I refer back to my previous answer about my hero, Luc, who comes from a planet and life form that is parallel to ours on Earth in so many ways. I think it’s a very romantic notion to think of falling for a brave and daring, handsome and sexy alien who happens to be madly in love with you!

Thank you to Vicki for answering six questions for A Slice of Orange.

If you would like to read one or all of Vicki’s books, they are available in the Book Store.

If you would like to be featured in a  Pick Six Author Interview,  please send us your information through the Contact Form.

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A Harvest of Friends

April 27, 2017 by in category Things That Make Me Go Mmmrrh ..., Writing tagged as , , ,

Oh, what fun! It has been ages since I’ve written a blog on A Slice of Orange, but I could not pass up the opportunity to get in on this wonderful site’s relaunch. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Geralyn Corcillo and I write romantic comedy about women who try not to trip as they valiantly march to their own bongo beat. I write to amuse and delight readers, and in this column, I will write about what makes me happy – what in entertainment, literature, and life makes me go mmmrrh and fuels my zany fires. What makes me curl my toes in squeeful delight and what makes me well up with tears of utterly verklempt happiness and what makes me laugh my head off.

For instance, one day a few months ago as I was switching channels, I happened across the very first episode of Little House on the Prairie, titled “A Harvest of Friends,” which originally aired in 1974. The Ingalls family had just moved to Walnut Grove, and no one in town would take a chance on an unknown farmer and give him the seed he could not pay for until he harvested his crop in the fall. No one, that is,  except O’Neil, the hard-nosed, flinty merchant, who trades seed for Pa agreeing to stack bags of grain when it arrives in two days. If Pa does not stack the grain by midnight of the day it arrives, O’Neil will take his team of plow horses, and thus his livelihood as a farmer. And then the day before the grain arrives, Pa falls out of a tree and breaks his arm and some ribs. And O’Neil will not give Pa an extension on the deal. So Pa stalks into town, broken arm and ribs, and starts to stack the grain. Concerned for their Pa’s health and safety, little Mary and Laura follow him but stay hidden. Pa stacks grain until the pain becomes too  much to bear and he passes out, most of the grain still unstacked. So little Mary and Laura run from their hiding spot and try to stack the huge bags of grain themselves. O’Neil smugly watches all, not lifting a finger to help.

And then it happens.

Men from all over the town –  the bank, the doctor’s office, the mill, the church, the General Store – walk into the street, all heading toward O’Neil’s, where Pa is passed out and the girls struggle to move just one huge bag of grain. The men form a line and all the grain is stacked within the hour.  O’Neil’s name is now mud in the town and Pa gets to keep the seed and horses. And all the townsmen ask in return is that they can use Pa’s land to hold the church picnic on Sunday.

Gosh, I started crying like you wouldn’t believe as all the men, this harvest of friends, moved as one toward O’Neil’s in common purpose to come to the aid of a fallen man and his little girls.

Well, that is what I hope A Slice of Orange turns out to be –  A Harvest of Friends, all moving in unison toward the common purpose of loving good stories – whether we are reading them, creating them, marketing them, or all of the above. I write to make readers happy, and I adore finding pockets in life where generosity, delight, and laughter abound. In my writing, I try to capture the essence of such pockets of beauty and sparkle in everyday life.  A Slice of Orange is one such pocket.

Watch for my column on the 27th of every month and drop by to see my daily posts on Facebook and Twitter. Wherever I am posting, please feel free to comment away and we can dish – I love to connect with other lovers of good stories! And you can find all of my books on Amazon.

 

 

First and foremost, Geralyn Corcillo loves reader reviews! In other news…When she was a kid in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Geralyn Vivian Ruane Corcillo dreamed of one day becoming the superhero Dyna Girl. So, she did her best and grew up to constantly pick up litter and rescue animals. At home, she loves watching black & white movies, British mysteries, and the NY Giants. Corcillo lives in a drafty old house in Hollywood with her husband Ron, a guy who’s even cooler than Kip Dynamite.

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How NOT to Write

April 26, 2017 by in category Apples & Oranges tagged as , ,

 

Not Writing | Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of OrangeThis was going to be a blog about how to write with a day job.

Unfortunately, writing with a day job is incredibly easy. You simply keep writing material with you at all time. Paper and pencil work as well as an iPad. Then when you find a block of time  (like I usually have to wait for that student who never shows up for a scheduled appointment or arriving hours early for my appointment because the 60 freeway is completely and inexplicably free from traffic) you write. After dishes are done and the family is watching reruns on TV, you write. When you awaken hours before the rest of the world, you write. I imagined my whole blog would be one word long:

Write.

That would be the world’s shortest blog. In addition, I suspected I would be preaching to the choir. People who write and have day jobs know this. Who else would care? Maybe, I should blog about something else. But what?

Inspiration struck while I wandered the local bookstore and sipping my venti café mocha I noticed a whole wall of thick serious books on how to write everything from baby picture books to novels to true-crime police procedurals. Stuck in the middle of all this writing information were two thin books on How NOT to Write.

Heck, not even Nora can want to write all day every day. I would have thought there would be a bit more information on how not to write. Constant writing must be some type of mental illness or at the very least a nasty bad habit. Surely, there must be tons of books on breaking such a habit. I looked. There wasn’t. Just two tiny little books all alone in the vast sea of heavy writing advice.

Clearly, not writing was a topic few writers were comfortable discussing. I’m pretty brave. I can handle controversy. I’ll write a blog on how not to write. I could come up with a set of rules. Break new ground. Give out sage advice.

So here it is:

How Not to Write in Twelve Hard Steps. *

Not Writing with coffee | Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of Orange1. Pay attention, this is important. Not writing is the hardest work you will ever do. It is not for the faint of heart. Not writing takes planning, dedication, and a tenacity that many writers lack. Don’t try it unless you have the necessary backbone.

2. To not write you must get up early in the morning. The perfect time is 4:30 A.M. but for you sleepy heads 5:00 A.M. will work as well. If you sleep until 8, half the day is gone and you may as well just waste the rest by writing.

3. To not write you must have a full pot of coffee. Dedicated non-writers program their coffee pots so they can start their day with a fresh cup as soon as they leap out of bed. I suspect that tea drinkers can’t help themselves and start writing as soon as the tea bag hits the trash can, so if you really want to not write break your tea drinking habit immediately.

4. To not write you must have an outfit. You can write in your PJs and no one will care. Not writing takes more style, especially if you want to avoid pointed questions about your mental health. Your outfit can’t just be jeans and a tee-shirt unless of course, you’re male. Females must have a complete, color-coordinated outfit with jewelry, makeup, and styled hair. For women, I strongly advise pantyhose and two-inch heels as well. For men, not shaving is NOT an option.

5. To not write you must have a clean office or not-writing space. If your space is messy and cluttered, then you must take the time to make it tidy. Organizing it would be even better. I recommend categorizing all the bookshelves in your house by subject and author. Should you use the kitchen as your office, alphabetizing your spice rack while you’re at it is always an excellent idea. It wouldn’t hurt to get some of those cute little bins for all your rubber bands and paper clips. You should also consider sharpening all your pencils and testing all your pens to see if they still work. However, cleaning the bathroom or doing laundry is a bit excessive. Should you find yourself contemplating such work, just give up and write. Let’s face it if you’re going to work that hard you may as well get some recognition for it. Completing your manuscript and sending it out will, at the very least, get you an RWA Pro pin and a round of applause at the next chapter meeting. Only your mother will notice whether or not you clean the bathroom.

6. To not write you must play computer solitaire until you win. None of that two-game only nonsense; this takes a real commitment. You must win. Four Suit Spider Solitaire is an excellent choice for those truly dedicated to not writing. Less adventuresome types can try the Two Suit version or Free Cell. However, should you select One Suit Spider and not win in 30 seconds or less, well, just don’t tell me. I firmly believe everyone I know is smart enough to get an advanced degree in rocket science if only they had the time. Shattering my world view like that is just plain cruel.

7. To not write you must build into your schedule time for physical exercise. As I mentioned above, not writing is hard work. Drinking coffee, while playing Free Cell, in your spanking clean office, and keeping your outfit stylish is quite emotionally draining. If you are not careful you could actually get bored and open up your WIP. Your whole day of not writing will be shot to heck. Walking around the block, especially if you live on a steep hill should help.

8. To not write, I must caution you, taking two dogs for a walk as your scheduled physical activity will invariably set you right back on the writing path. How you may ask? Two dogs are not going to agree on speed, direction, or when to leave odorous land mines for you to pick up. This lack of coordination on their part will provide comic relief at your expense for your neighbors. If one of them says something like, “Martha, ya got to come see this” while you, of course, are in the middle of the street, tangled up in dog leashes attached to a white dog going North and a black dog going South, juggling three baggies of land mines, a pouch of special doggie treats, the training clicker that supposed to help train the dogs, but actually makes the black dog cry and the white dog sit until he gets to eat all the treats. Well, can plotting this neighbor’s death be far behind? If he’s going to die, you’re going to have to think of a better reason then laughing at you to kill him. Then you’re going to need several characters who also want him dead for equally good reasons, and finally, the proper sleuth and her love interest will just pop right into your head. The next thing you know a whole series will be in the planning stages and you won’t be able to not write for months.

9. To not write you must have a not writing buddy or sponsor. This buddy is someone you can call any time of the day or night whenever that uncontrollable urge to break out Chapter Four and fix it threatens. Your mother or sisters cannot be your not writing buddy. This is considered cheating as it is much too easy to get them chatting and waste valuable not writing time. No, your buddy must be trustworthy and kind and also dedicated to not writing. She must intuitively know when not to ask how you worked out that problem you accidentally but cleverly wrote into Chapter Eight. She should NEVER tell you she’s finished her WIP. She should always know when to invite you to Starbucks for venti mochas or to Nordstrom’s for a good day of shoe shopping. Shoe shopping is, by the way, the only shopping for which you can indulge without guilt.

10. All not writing writers should know that guilt free shoe shopping is a rule. I think it was left over from the Regan administration. Subversive media types, probably male, tried to kill this rule with cruel stories featuring Imelda Marcos and her shoe closet. (Can you imagine the press if she has attended a public event wearing pre-worn shoes? The press coverage would have rivaled the media frenzy surrounding a certain female prosecutor and her new hair cut.) More sensible wisdom prevailed and shoes are officially guilt free. I must point out that as a corollary to this rule, any other type of shopping is not only riddled with real stomach turning guilt, and it requires an actual paycheck. This will naturally require you finish that book, not a good situation for your not writing goals.

11. To not write you should avoid the Internet like the plague, especially emails. Some people think the Internet is the perfect not writing tool. They are sadly mistaken. Consider, if you will, the simple task of checking your emails. You are going to get them from your weak-willed friends who are writing. Those people are unfortunately smart. Good writing ideas follow them around like ants at a picnic and they SHARE. Read one email and you’re going to get enough ideas to keep you writing for the rest of your natural life and that of your youngest child’s. You’ll have to make a pack with the devil just to finish. Really, do you want to risk your immortal soul just for email? And if that wasn’t bad enough, they’ll answer your emails by says, “Gee that idea would make a great (pick one) book, novel, short story, article, online class, workshop.”

12. To not write you should also drop out of all your critiques groups. (See above for the primary reason.) Secondary reason: Every conversation will start with, “So how’s the writing?” You’ll feel guilty. You’ll write. That clever accident in Chapter Eight, they’ll not only fix it, they’ll give you enough material for three sequels, two novellas, and cookbook. You’ll feel guilty. You’ll write.

*This was originally titled Twelve Easy Steps, but someone recently complained that I say everything is easy. She pointed out that if I would just say things were hard she would feel heaps better when she figured out how the heck to do it. When I tell her it’s easy, she gets no sense of accomplishment. Heaven knows I want people to have a real sense of accomplishment when not writing.

Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of Orange

 

 

 

Marianne H. Donley makes her home in Tennessee with her husband and son. She is a member of Bethlehem Writers Group, Romance Writers of America, OCC/RWA, and Music City Romance Writers. When Marianne is NOT not writing, she might be writing short stories, funny romances or quirky murder mysteries, but this could be a rumor. 

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