I got some exciting mail this week! My first compensated publication is in the March issue of ASK Magazine, by Cricket Media. It's a kids' science article about decomposers in trash.
It’s been almost two months since I officially graduated from college, and in that time, I’ve been building my writing nest. I moved around furniture in my room so that my desk has more space around it. For Christmas, I got an ergonomic Bluetooth keyboard that folds in half, which I am absolutely in love with. I’ve figured out my most productive spaces around the house. And I think I’ve discovered my ideal writing schedule…I just have to actually follow it: Early morning brainstorming. Mid-morning sprint. Late morning nap. Lunchtime TV (i.e. "inspiration"). Early to mid afternoon editing or rewriting. Breathe. Dinner. Herbal tea. Evening brainstorming session. Screens off by 10. Sleep by 11. I’ve only successfully done this three times.
I hate looking at my bookshelves. Not because they’re bare since I moved across the country, not because the white paint is chipping everywhere, and not because there is hardly any room for it in my room. I scan the names of the authors on my shelf: Rowling, Riordan, Lewis, Lowry, L’Engle, Smith, Dessen, and the names go on. One name stands out above the others, Roshani Chokshi. It’s frustrating to see how many middle grade and young adult books I’ve collected over the years, and I only have one that’s written by a woman of color.
I can either let my rage fuel me or discourage me. For so long, I failed to write my protagonists as people of color. Don’t get me wrong. I included characters who looked like me as side characters. It wasn’t because I was embarrassed of my heritage; although, I’m sure that was something I felt underlying beneath all the swirls of complicated emotions churning in my heart. I just couldn’t imagine a hero that wasn’t white.
It wasn’t up until college that I had the opportunity to read works written by people of color. One of my professors managed to stun me by asking if we wanted to include non-canon works in our syllabus. We unanimously agreed. This professor taught Victorian Poetry, and her class changed my perspective of literature in many ways. For one, I don’t think I had ever read poetry that spoke to me. Victorian Poetry mimics the sentiments of today, and I loved the works for that reason. However, that’s a topic for a different day. The second reason, perhaps the most important one, she didn’t exclusively select works just because a privileged few had determined that they were the most important.
She chose works that opened themselves up for criticism for their harmful messages and works that were written during the time but excluded. I wonder how many people have heard the name Toru Dutt. I certainly hadn’t up until college. She was an Indian poetess, but she wrote during the Victorian period during the British Raj. Does that not count as Victorian poetry? It reflects on the time and the ideas of a large group of people whose lives the British Empire affected. The same goes for American literature. How many voices did we silence when they are a reflection of the times and the people? We have erased countless voices who have a right to be heard.
In this class, we did mostly read works from the canon. Why? Because of the idea of cultural capital. Cultural capital is a non-financial asset that allows for social mobility. There are many forms of cultural capital. The way you speak, your level of education, what you wear, and the way you look are just a few examples of cultural capital. I know I am speaking from a very privileged position. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that cultural capital doesn’t exist. However, I do believe that we need to stop evaluating it so highly. If we want to make a true change in our educational institutions, we must fight for equity. Cultural capital does not allow for that. It exists only to promote one school of thought, that of the privileged white male.
(The image is a bit grainy. I'm not an expert in photo editing. Read the online version here.)
That blog post called "Representation in Books"? I sent it to Khabar Magazine--an Indian-American publication in Atlanta--and they published it. That's the first piece of my writing any company has decided to publish. On top of that, it is beyond beautiful. I couldn't have imagined a better layout. Thank you so much, Khabar Magazine.
I wasn't hoping for anything MORE to come out of this, but several exciting things have!
I tweeted a picture of the article, and then Rick Riordan retweeted it. Not just liked it...he retweeted it. (Can I put that on my resume??)
Even though it's "just Twitter"...I'm honored. (Now, a few minutes earlier, he had tweeted "One of those mornings where I pour coffee in the cereal bowl and then put the cereal box back in the fridge", so maybe he was too groggy to know what he was doing. I'm still honored.)
One more thing. YES, another ocurrence I was not expecting. However, I'm not sure whether I can/should share the details, so I'll keep it vague.
A woman had read the article and she reached out to me to invite me to her organization's event, with an added bonus that I won't share yet, but which is very exciting. I'm honored (morsoe than the retweet) that she would invite me to this event.
Promising things are happening.
"I've shirked two parties, and another Frenchman, and buying a hat, and tea with Hilda Trevelyan, for I really can't combine all this with keeping all my imaginary people going.” -Virginia Woolf
“Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself…It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent.” – Harper Lee
“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” – Gloria Steinem
“Ink, A Drug.” -Vladimir Nabokov
I’ve made things hard for myself. I’ve learned that old cautionary tale that you should always listen to your heart. It’s surprising how much your heart knows. It’s probably even better at math than you are.
My heart decided its course in the fourth grade. That was thirteen years ago. My brain, the stupid thing that it is, thought my silly old heart was a hopeless romantic. “Unless you’re J.K. Rowling, you have no business writing,” it said. “Not just anyone can write. Anyone can, however, learn about chemistry and biology.”
Roshani Chokshi's middle-grade debut "Aru Shah and the End of Time" is the first book in the Pandava series, about a seventh-grade girl who lives in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture in Atlanta, and due to one questionable decision, is thrust into the very real world of Hindu mythology. Chokshi is half-Gujarati, half-Filipina, and has said that she wrote a lot of herself into Aru, and into the supporting character, Mini, who shares her mixed heritage. I am so happy that she wrote a story that I can see myself in, and that Rick Riordan Presents has made it their mission to support stories about mythologies written by authors from marginalized backgrounds.
Read the introductory blog post here!