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Hidden Voices: How Being a Teen in the At-Risk School System Almost Silenced Me

  Posted by SC_Author , 30 September 2015 · 51 views

We've got another #WriteInclusively guest post. It's incredible. Buckle down, you all. Take it away, Kara.
Education is important. We spent a good amount of our lives in some type of school or class and then still learn long after we’ve grasped that shiny diploma and thrown our cap in the air. We learn not just about math, science, art, and history, but also social interaction, self-image, and confidence. We are held to standards (whether that be getting A’s, behaving in class, or getting on the basketball team) and expectations (going to college, graduating with honors, getting that scholarship) that can shape the way we think and we feel.

I went to a high school for at-risk kids.

There were a lot of us thrown in there by the public school systems that didn’t want to take the time or the effort to help us through whatever problem we were having. There were a lot of problems. Many kids grew up in bad families, in bad neighborhoods, in gangs. Others were children of illegal immigrants or young, single mothers who lived under the poverty level or were even drug addicts. Some of us, like me, had autism or other “emotional and/or behavioral disturbances” and the public school system decided that it would be easier to send them away than tailor to their special needs. We were a potpourri of different races, genders, sexualities, backgrounds. You name it.

The school system didn’t want to deal with us; honestly, they probably didn’t have the budget to. But neither did the at-risk system we went into. It’s advertised by concerned social workers as a place where you can be accommodated to your needs; in reality, we all were blurred together. To them, our problems were all the same, our stories were all similar, and our voices all didn’t matter.

Many of our voices were silenced in that school.

In a normal high school, you probably expect the textbooks to be up-to-date, the classes to be adequately challenging, and the teachers to have a degree in their area of expertise. We didn’t have that. Our textbooks (if we had them) were fifteen years old, the classes were dumbed down to the point where I was learning fifth grade level English and Math in twelve grade, and our teachers only had special education degrees and no outside education on the subjects they taught. As I quickly found out, those teachers could get nasty if you happened to know more on a subject than they did. I was personally removed from class, mocked by teachers, and set up by myself because I corrected my teachers when their facts on government, or literature, or even math, my worst subject, were wrong. When I asked my counselor at the school why my teachers seemed to hate me, she said: “It’s not that they hate you; you just intimidate them. You’re smarter than them and they don’t like it. That’s not how it’s supposed to work here.”

But, while that was a factor in our silent voices, you may be surprised to know that it wasn’t the main reason for the silence.

There was a terrible secret about that school all of us students knew: You were expected to fail. In a normal school, if you hit below a certain level of grades, you might be put on academic probation, you might be talked to by a counselor. In this school, none of the above happened. No one cared. The main mindset was that we were a group of future dropouts, criminals, and leeches on society that they had to watch. We weren’t going to go anywhere.

When we filed into school, going through a security system similar to the ones you’d find at an airport, they didn’t see us as human students. They saw us as statistics. They saw the black criminal and the white drug addict. They saw the violent teenage boy and the emotional teenage girl. They saw the pregnant whore and the gangbanger father. The illegal immigrant and the child of a family that couldn’t afford the cat-food they called lunch. And slowly, we began to conform to those statistics. Because when someone says you’re broken, or stupid, or dangerous, or irredeemable enough times, you begin to believe it. Slowly, we were molded into the mindset they had for us. Our voices, once loud, were getting softer and softer.

We were told not to expect college. We were pressured to attempt workshops that specialized in getting us “experience” that had many of us working half the school day at odd jobs for no pay instead of attending classes we “didn’t need”. Behind our backs the teachers and aides would make comments on the kids; how they would never go anywhere. They would mock the turbulent relationships the students formed with each other. We were compared to dogs doing tricks for treats when we behaved.

The environment of belittlement and negativity that surrounds at-risk children is dangerous. It cuts off many voices that don’t fit the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Heterosexual Rich Male ideal. It makes us, the victims, feel like our stories are not important because why would anyone want to listen to us if we are just going to fail? Many of us internalize the negativity until we truly believe our stories are not worth anything.

But they are.

We were a diverse, living, feeling group of teenagers whose stories were shocking, terrifying, and maybe even heartwarming. There are thousands of us in your towns and cities whose experiences are as different as snowflakes and like snowflakes, are looked over when spread apart, but unable to ignore when banded together.

This problem goes deeper than schools and teachers, it goes deeper than report cards and minimum wage jobs; it goes deep into the norms and constructs of our society where a single role and stereotype is held as the be-all, end-all. These social constructs that teach us that because we are from problem backgrounds we are unclean, unwanted, and undeserving feed into an endless cycle that perpetuates the feelings of inadequacy and our often violent lives.

Look closer at us and you’ll see that the “black criminal” is actually incredibly smart and wants to be an engineer, the “white drug addict” has abusive parents and trust issues that he covers up with weed and pills, the “violent teenage boy” was terrified because he was about to leave the school he’d come to rely on, the “emotional teenage girl” had autism and could write wonders onto a page, and the “pregnant whore” resolved to be a better mother than her own while the “gangbanger father” that impregnated her was risking his life to escape his gang and take care of his new family.

Before we learn to #WriteInclusively, we must also learn to #ThinkInclusively about others and ourselves. We must not negate the importance of our own stories or fall prey to a society that waves away uncomfortable, unsettling viewpoints as “something we don’t talk about.” We must learn to see the worth in every story. Especially those that tend to go unheard. Many of the voices from my school are silent now; I don’t know what happened to the kids I’ve been around for so long. Honestly, I don’t think their stories are any brighter than mine is. But right now, I’m the one talking. That needs to change. We need to realize that everyone’s voice deserves to be heard, whatever the expectations put in place. Those expectations must always be defied.

Kara Barbieri is a nineteen-year-old graduate from the Illinois at-risk school system and a Sociology major at her local community college. She is currently seeking representation and enjoys writing about kickass pirate queens, huntresses, and other diverse, complex women. She has Autism, likes goats, and can write wonders onto pages. She can be found on twitter at @Kara_Barbieri.

Kara is one of my close friends, an incredible person. I'm so so happy to have her on this blog. THANK YOU so much for sharing your story.

Everyone: PLEASE comment and discuss. Share this on Twitter. Thank/talk to her on Twitter. Be sure to engage and discuss, that is one of #WriteInclusively's main goals. What did you think?

If you want to get more involved with the Write Inclusively campaign and be up-to-date with it, sign up for the newsletter. We do not email much - in the last 10 months, only two emails have gone out.




The Need for Real, Honest Diverse Books: A South Asian Perspective

  Posted by SC_Author , 25 September 2015 · 60 views

A WRITE INCLUSIVELY GUEST BLOG POST IS HERE!!!!! The fantastic Meghana Ranganathan is here to speak. Take it away!


In fifth grade, my history classes focused on ancient Rome and Greece. In sixth grade, we learned about medieval and renaissance Europe. In seventh grade, we learned about United States history. Ninth and tenth grade, we learned about Europe and the United States in the 20th Century. After that, we no longer were required to take history classes.

Six years of history, and we spent one year on the Eastern half of the world. In one year, we jammed the entire continent of Africa, and China and India into nine months. And of that year, we spent most of the time discussing what those countries were like after colonialism. Our few months of learning about India were based on how the British affected India. Because these countries needed the presence of white people to make their history relevant enough to teach in a typical school.

Looking towards college, I wanted nothing more than to break out of this cycle of focusing on the West and learn something – ANYTHING – about some other part of the world. I was so looking forward to learning the history of my ancestors – India – as well as the histories of South America, more about Africa, and Southeast Asia. I’m currently in college and out of about 80 history classes, 17 are based in countries that aren’t in Europe or North America. And from those, only 6 are about the country before colonialism.

Now, I’m not trying to write off these classes or the importance of knowing the history of the West. To be fair, a fair amount of those college classes were about the experience of minority groups in America over the last century, which is really important stuff. But those numbers just show the gaping hole we have in our education system. I’m set to graduate college in two years, and yet I can say that I know absolutely nothing about South America. Literally nothing. I haven’t sat in on one lecture or one day in school where we’ve talked about the history of South America. I can’t tell you much anything about Southeast Asia, the vast majority of Africa (though I can point to the countries and name them), and all of Asia except China and India. It’s embarrassing.

#WriteInclusively means so much to me because books and movies are the way that I learn about the experiences of people from all over the world and the way that I spread knowledge about my experiences as a South Asian female and my family’s experiences. And it’s so important to have those experiences be real and true, otherwise it’s functionally the same as teaching incorrect history, or the wrong formula for the quadratic equation. It gives an incorrect vision of the world and the people that make up the world.

And yet, this happens all the time. For me as a South Asian, I pay particular attention whenever Hollywood comes out with a movie set in India, or whenever a book about India or Indian people comes out. But as I’ve come to realize, most of these movies and books end up being about white people experiencing India, not Indians sharing their experiences (e.g. Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Outsourced). There are exceptions, but I remember my first picture book about India when I was little got me so excited in the bookstore, because it was a book about someone like me. I took it home and opened it, only to find it be about a white girl going to India on vacation and her experiences. If that’s the only perspective people get on India, it creates stereotypes. Like India being this crazy country that white people have to struggle to navigate. Some part of that stereotype is true (driving in a car in India is horrifying), but we need more depth in media. I remember my mom getting so excited whenever she saw an Indian person on a television show, only to have that character be a silly stereotype of a nerdy guy with a “funny” accent who smells like curry.

The intention for my writing is to show people another side of India and the Indian people. To show people the amazing villages, the strong people who fought for Independence many decades ago, Akbar the Great and his rule over India in the 1500s, to explain the experience of a second-generation Indian female living in the United States. My parents grew up in the United States, so I’ve been called “basically white”, “whitewashed”, “only Indian by blood” and told by other South Asians that it would “do me good to take a class on India.” I grew up thinking I was the only one to experience that. In fact, I still haven’t met another second-generation person of color with whom I can share that with. I want the things that I write to tell other second-generation people of color growing up that they’re not alone, and that no one can tell them what they identify with.

And I want to learn about other identities and other countries through others’ writing. I want that to be my continuing education, and I can only do that when we support those writers who are brave enough to tell their stories and tell the stories of their countries. I will continue to support #WriteInclusively in hopes that these amazing stories start showing up on bookshelves.


Meghana Ranganathan is a writer and a student specializing in applied mathematics. She is passionate about writing important stories from new perspectives and spreading facts about science issues like vaccines, climate change, and evolution. She runs a science blog dedicated to discussing the science behind these issues and others.

Things she thinks are genius: Jurassic Park (the book), Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, Dollhouse, cheesecake, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, apple cider, the humor in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gus and Shawn’s relationship in Psych, most M.I.A. songs, the combinations of spices in Indian food. She strives to come up with something about a quarter as amazing as most of these things.

Follow/tweet her on Twitter and visit her blog!!!!

Thank you so much for being a guest blogger!! As an Indian American myself, I can relate so well to what you have brought up.

Some of my favorite quotes:

1. "And it’s so important to have those experiences be real and true, otherwise it’s functionally the same as teaching incorrect history, or the wrong formula for the quadratic equation. It gives an incorrect vision of the world and the people that make up the world."

2. "But as I’ve come to realize, most of these movies and books end up being about white people experiencing India, not Indians sharing their experiences."

3. "But those numbers just show the gaping hole we have in our education system."

4. "Because these countries needed the presence of white people to make their history relevant enough to teach in a typical school."

Writers: what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments. And be sure to tweet and share this post. If you want to possibly be a guest blogger, email me.

If you want to get more involved with the Write Inclusively campaign and be up-to-date with it, sign up for the newsletter. We do not email much - in the last 10 months, only two emails have gone out.






  Posted by SC_Author , 18 September 2015 · 5 views

****The Write Inclusively Contest for unapologetically diverse novels is OPEN!!!***

Agents/editors will be dropping by until Sunday to make requests. Some will be coming after, but don't worry; I'll email you to let you know if you get a request after Sunday.

Comments section open only to agents/editors making requests!

Ninja agents are welcome! Even if you are not on this awesome list of agents/editors that are participating, if you want to make a request, drop a comment!

 If I made a formatting, editing, any mistake on your entry, drop me a Tweet or an email. I'll fix it as soon as I can. Any questions? Ask below.

TWEET AWAY!! #WriteInclusively is where the party is at!!! Prompt: "Are you excited?!?!?!"




  Posted by SC_Author , 18 September 2015 · 5 views

Word Count: 62,000
Genre: YA Contemporary

System(s) of Oppression: politics of appearance, racism
Author's Identity: Caucasian/Portuguese and female


Meg Medina’s Yaqui Delgardo Wants to Kick Your Ass meets Jaye Robin Brown’s No Place to Fall when an aspiring Latina singer challenges a manic stranger who claims to have known her deceased mother.

Overweight sixteen-year-old CeCe’s barrio is where gangs prey on the young and Tejano music blasts from the stoops. CeCe longs for her voice to boom from those speakers, but her overprotective Papi shelters her in their cramped apartment. Determined to break free someday and prove herself, CeCe spends every free moment perfecting her pitch, rhythm, and tone singing everything from Paulina Rubio to Whitesnake.

Her opportunity appears when an eccentric stranger reveals information about CeCe’s dead mother. With the hope of stringing together episodes of her mother’s life back in Colombia, and the lure of fame, CeCe abandons her Papi to tour with the stranger. The roar of the crowd and her dream of a record deal blind CeCe to the stranger’s manic episodes and reckless ways. But she can’t ignore them for long. The stranger encourages rum and Coke consumption, sleeps with people’s husbands, and deserts CeCe in the ghetto at 2:00 a.m. This hard-living stranger turns out not to be a stranger after all but the one person her Papi has been protecting her from all these years.

Dejected and confused, CeCe flees to the underbelly of New York to uncover the shocking truth about the stranger’s real relationship to her dead mother. If she fails, her song may be silenced forever.

First 250:

Bob Marley once said the good thing about music is that when it hits, you feel no pain. I believed that in the days leading up to the stranger.

Now I know Mr. Marley was a liar.

The stench of mothballs and mold smacked me in the face as I entered the Salvation Army Store to buy the kind of music Papi hated, bubbling with bad language and boiling over with sexy lyrics. Holding my breath I rushed down the middle aisle past the women’s jeans. My little cousins, Eduard and Bertita, sped through the maze of families in the children’s section to catch up to me.

Eduard wrinkled his nose. “It stinks in here.”

“Until you get used to it, breathe into your shirt like this.” I buried my nose in my shirt.

Bertita, being a dramatic second grader, she threw herself against a glass display case and announced, “I’ll never get used to it, CeCe!”

“It’s amazing what you’ll get used to if you have to,” I said. “Like babysitting you two every day.” Smiling, I palmed the tops of their heads and guided them to the back of the store toward the bin of CDs.

After several minutes of digging, shoving aside Barney CDs and Christmas carols, I unearthed gold — two rap albums from the nineties. One by 2 Live Crew had a parental advisory label warning of “profane or sexually explicit” lyrics. Perfecto.



WI #10 - DIA DE LOS MILTON, YA Contemporary

  Posted by SC_Author , 18 September 2015 · 6 views

Word Count: 58,000 words
Genre: YA Contemporary
Systems of Oppression: homophobia/racism
Author's Identity: [removed]/white

Fifteen-year-old Enrique “Reek” Wronski has always counted on his know-it-all brother for advice. The trouble is: Milt’s been missing for days.

The LARP-loving, star-gazing, National Geographic-collecting Milton—whose kind spirit and boy-band looks make him the most popular geek in town—is a responsible high school senior with a perfect GPA, so it’s hard to believe he could ever get himself into any real trouble.
But then a search party finds his body in the woods.

There’s a weird silence about his death too—like people don’t know what happened, or don’t want Reek to find out. So Reek heads to the woods for answers, seeking solace amid the trees.

While hiking the trails in search of Milt’s Last Place, he and Jav—Reek’s best friend (and maybe—no definitely—more)—meet a girl in a purple robe with a talent for eavesdropping. She shows them the place Milton’s body turned up, and together the friends uncover the truth about a drug dealer named Curtis, a rogue cop, and a covert operation gone horribly wrong.

With the help of a local landscaper, Reek and his friends begin construction on a monument to Milton that will double as an ofrenda for a Dia de Los Muertos celebration.

But when you invoke the spirits—and sleep with your friends—not everything goes as planned.

First 250:

None of us are talking since the cops showed up last night. We’re sitting around the breakfast table, tipping soggy spoonfuls of cereal back into our bowls because we can’t quite get it to our mouths. Cassie, my little sister, is reaching for the cereal and sulking, even though she should probably get some sort of prize for being the only one that’s even tried to make conversation today. Maybe she’ll find one in that box she’s opening.

“It’s not fair!” she moans, pouring another bowl of cereal. She points at the milk and I pass to it her. When she sloshes it all over the table, I hand her some napkins too.

Dad slits his eyes. Mom closes hers—I can practically hear her eyelids scraping shut.

“It’s just rude—so rude!—to cancel at the last minute like that!” Cassie bangs her spoon on the table like she’s a judge hammering out a verdict with her gavel. If she’s the judge, then mom and dad are on trial. And they’re guilty. Of ruining Cassie’s weekend. And, possibly, her life.

She’s nine, the official age of the Drama Queen.

Mom scoffs, white-knuckling her coffee. She still hasn’t opened her eyes. Her mouth is tight and her face is pale and angry—so pale that even her freckles look tired today. She leans forward and a section of her gingery hair falls into her cup. I don’t think she’s washed it for days.

She looks kind of crazed and desperate-looking, and if I didn’t know better, I’d think she was on drugs—other than the coffee, I mean.



WI #9 - MARISOL, YA Psychological Thriller

  Posted by SC_Author , 18 September 2015 · 6 views

Word Count: 68,000
Genre: YA Psychological Thriller

System(s) of Oppression:
Author's Identity:
African American/Middle Class


Two girls. Two stories. One deadly connection.

Sixteen-year-old Soledad de la Cruz didn’t kill Carina Reyes. But no one believes her story—drugged and chased in the woods during the hazing initiation that led to Carina’s death. Especially because Carina is the one who’s dead and she’s the one locked up in a psych ward. Involuntarily.

Soledad is finally cleared and released, just to swap one institution for another—St. Francis private school. Only this time she’s back to being an outsider: on a scholarship, dumped by her boyfriend, and “unfriended” by all her besties. Then when Soledad makes a connection with another outcast, dangerous accidents continue to occur—all pointing to Soledad as the troubled perpetrator.

Back at the institution, long-term ward, Kay Foster who’s been living there since a traumatic childhood accident, slowly unravels. After recognizing Soledad during her short stay at the ward, she is sure of one thing: Marisol, the girl she was accused of killing, is still alive--and she's really Soledad.

The web linking Soledad and Kay’s stories reveals shocking truths that shattered both of their pasts. They’ll need to trust each other in order to unlock their memories, or both girls will be locked up for life.

MARISOL is a 68,000 YA psychological thriller told in dual point of view.

First 250:

Fluorescent lights hum and buzz to unpatterned rhythms against the cold AC pumping out of air ducts. My legs are popsicles while I wait in the closed off hospital transition room, smack dab in the middle of two perpendicular hallways. From here I see the foot traffic toward the right wing (for the sick) and visitors escorted through large double doors toward the left wing (for the insane).

I look down at my fingernails gnawed down, sensitive to the touch, healing from the blood that trickled when I bit too far. Rub hands through my greasy hair, watching my parents argue on the other side of the door. Like I can’t see them. Like I’m still in a daze two weeks after being checked in.

Carried in.

Okay dragged, drugged, and duped into this place that feeds off making you crazy.

Crazier. Craziest. I release a laugh at the thought of having a competition of making someone crazy to the nth degree—reality television at its finest. The big prize: a white-walled room and another journal article for the head psychologist. Fancy marketing pamphlets on the table. Oh, we’ve got crazy. We can handle your crazy.

I move my mouth around and say it faster, crazycrazycrazycrazycrazy. A word I’ve used in conversation so recklessly is now shackled to me. 

Something I’ll have to understand will never fully go away, but that I’m still me. 

I pucker my lips, and suck them in, picturing grandpa salivating over the smell of Vaca Frita and
fried plantains yelling at us, Puedo masticar sin la dentadura.



WI #8 - POSSESSION, YA Paranormal Noir

  Posted by SC_Author , 18 September 2015 · 5 views

Word Count: 72,000
Genre: YA Paranormal Noir

System(s) of Oppression:
 Homophobia, Racism / Cultural Identity
Author's Identity: [removed], Black

Ever since her mama drove her car into the Mississippi, sixteen-year-old Bria Dauphine's made it her mission to leave behind her overbearing dad and get the hell out of New Orleans, before the city drives her mad like it did her mom. Since her daddy won’t pay for her to attend college outside the city, and leave her duties as heir to one of the oldest supernatural families behind, she decides to earn the money herself by becoming a paranormal investigator. For the world she lives in is full of strange and magical things—and most of them don’t play nice with humans. That’s where Bria comes in. Takes a clairvoyant to catch a, well, whatever.

There’s just one problem. The only cases Bria receives at first are requests from old ladies asking her to find their cats. And old ladies don’t pay much, if at all. So when the ruling body of supernatural creatures enlists her and Ty—a hot wizard with a past as dark as her own—to consult on a series of murders with ties to voodoo, Bria figures, with her abilities, this will be easy money. But when there’s powerful voodoo, there’s a bokor—a sorcerer who practices dark magic—behind it. And now that bokor knows Bria’s name. If Bria and Ty don’t stop the killer soon, they’re going to be the next ones dead, washed up on the riverbank.

So much for easy money.

First 250 Words:

I would’ve been back in bed hours ago if my nose wasn’t acting up, again. I kneel on the ground like I’m about to pray. Only, I’m not. I’ve prayed to St. Anthony three times tonight, yet seeing as I’m still here, cat-less, with less than two hours before school starts, it’s time to turn, once again, to magic.Another power that seems to fail me when I need it most. 

The wind’s howl pierces the air as I’m kneeling in the middle of the park. "Here, kitty, kitty," I squeeze my eyes shut and then open them to speed up their adjustment to the darkness. Thanks to my shifter dad, on a good day I can track a smell better than a bloodhound. However there hasn’t been anything good about this summer. My powers have developed a mind of their own, working when they please rather than when I need them to. My therapist said it’s my body’s way of grieving. I stopped seeing my therapist because, well, no duh. Google could’ve told me that. 

Alright, come on Bria. Focus. What's one little cat? I snort at my mental encouragement. One little cat has been leading me across the entire city. First it was the Warehouse District, then the French Quarter, and then all three St. Louis Cemeteries. 

I shudder. Cemeteries, ew. 

Now, I’m crawling on dog shit or something, "Come on, kitty." I clap my hands; the sound echoes through the park. When I picked up the cat’s scent from the third cemetery, I got a vision of the City Park sign. I’ve been searching this park for the past hour. What's the point of being clairvoyant if I don’t see complete images? I shake my head and stand. 

I'll just have to tell Mrs. Kato the truth: I am the worst detective ever. 

I can’t even find a cat.



WI #7 - THE STATUE SAYS SPRING, YA Historical Fantasy

  Posted by SC_Author , 18 September 2015 · 6 views

Word Count: 88,000
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fantasy

Systems of Oppression: Classism, politics of appearance
Author’s Identity: Former hard up child of a struggling single mother.


As daughter to the Lord of Galedonia, fifteen-year-old Ida thinks she’s safe from tragedy … until she fails to save her oldest friend from dying in the pillory. When her father banishes her mother to the slums for defiance, Ida refuses to fail again. She smuggles her mother food and valuables until she’s caught and banished too.

Thrilled to live with her mother again, Ida throws herself into the maze of streets, befriending beggars and crypt-dwellers. But slum life is harsh: her neighbors are scapegoated, maimed, and broken, her mother slaves in a factory, and small-time parasites devour their money. Ida must learn to survive if she hopes for a brighter future, and her new friends are the perfect teachers. With the help of Fairfax, a freakishly ugly outcast with a soft spot for her mother, Ida navigates their knife-edge existence.

When Fairfax is arrested on trumped up charges and left to die in the pillory, Ida is forced to relive her worst memory in the face of a terrible choice. If she’s caught trying to save him, she’ll be sentenced to death. If she walks away, she’ll watch another friend freeze. And in her dangerous new world, where friends mean survival, letting Fairfax die isn’t just cruel … it’s suicidal.

First 250:

The pillory would be teeming with spectators by dawn. If Ida wanted to help Mr. Hanson in time, she’d have to leave soon.

Across the room, her mother hadn’t shifted in minutes and her breathing was steady. She was finally asleep. Ida crept from bed and collected her bag of supplies, coat, and glasses before sneaking out.

The icy Brimmen sea wind was a slap to the face so Ida pulled her long, lank hair over her ears. It didn’t help. Why was it so cold tonight, of all nights? It was mid-September, but it felt like February, and Mr. Hanson was confined in the pillory with only a thin shirt and breeches. He’d be frozen half to death.

“Ikshik,” Ida cursed as she passed the Basilica’s blood-red gates. Maybe he was frozen to death. It was cold enough. She cursed again, blew on her numb fingers, and sped up. Gregor Hanson was like a grandfather to her, always there when she needed him most. He’d smuggled her forbidden books, taught her to ride boy-fashion, carried her to the surgeon when she broke her collarbone. Ida knew he was innocent, she just knew it. There was no way she’d sleep peacefully in her warm bed while he suffered. If the stars had favoured her, she’d already be wrapping him in a warm blanket. But her mother had guessed she’d sneak out and sat up in her room to stop her.

Her mother never listened to reason.

“He’s our oldest friend,” Ida had argued.




  Posted by SC_Author , 18 September 2015 · 5 views

Title: Honey and Lemons
Word Count: 83,000
Genre: YA Fantasy + strong mystery elements

Systems of oppression:
Cissexism, racism
Author's identity:
[removed], South Asian/Middle Eastern/African


Stealing a magical item from the abandoned Edwards Mansion didn’t seem like a good idea, even at the time. But eighteen-year-old Aldonza is alone in a city she can’t afford, and despite daily calls, she can’t tell her parents she’s in Massachusetts instead of Minnesota, working instead of studying, and a girl instead of a boy. Bad ideas are all she has left.

She didn’t expect there to be a girl in the cellar.

Aldonza’s best guess is that she’s Melanie, the only Edwards family member who didn’t disappear in a mysterious curse six years ago, but newspapers claim Melanie killed herself when she was eighteen. The girl won’t tell Aldonza who she is, or why she followed her home. What she does say is that she’s placed a threefold curse on Aldonza’s family – a retribution only possible thanks to Aldonza’s brilliant “rob the creepy old mansion” idea. She can lift it before it takes effect, if Aldonza helps figure out what happened to the Edwards.

Even as her threats drag Aldonza into a world where servants mean less than objects and even the loveliest room has dirty secrets buried beneath, the freaky cellar girl’s surprise sleep snuggles and terrible taste in tea start growing on Aldonza. And in case that’s not scary enough, someone starts trying to kill Melanie.

First 250:

The way folks in town went on about the Edwards Mansion, you’d think it would be harder to break in.

I gripped the ivy on the gate, half-expecting the leaves to turn to dust and the vines to turn to snakes. Or for the whole plant to be an illusion--who actually has gates twined with ivy? Instead, the vines held firm. The leaves were slick with rain, but steadier than my hands. On second thought, maybe ivy was how mistreated servants helped thieves.

I got one leg over the top, then the other, and teetered, caught in a battle with my hands. My argument, muttered out loud to the empty night: “Oh, come on, this isn’t that bad. You got this far, didn’t you? Channel your inner cat burglar.” Their argument: clutching the ivy as tightly as they could. Body parts are jerks that way.

And of course the grass was too overgrown for me to tell how bad the fall would be. All the plants had spilled out of their original places, now too tall or too old or too dead.

I forced my fingers to unclench and dropped, aiming to land in a crouch. Instead, I ended up with my nose in the grass and my hand caught on a thorny branch. Cat burglary: maybe not my calling.

My hand stung in reproach as I spat out a mouthful of wet leaves and clambered through the garden. The grass gleamed black-green. Colors in the North looked wrong in the daylight, without the gold glimmers the sun cast back home, but everything looks similar in the dark.




  Posted by SC_Author , 18 September 2015 · 5 views

Word Count: 95,000
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

System(s) of Oppression:
Ableism (physical disability and neuro-atypical). The MC is also a person of color (but lives in a village where most people are also) and a religious minority.
Author’s identity:
It’s possible I am neuro-atypical.


When disabled math genius Jinxx Relinkerys observes imperial soldiers killing independence protesters, she swears to God she’ll find a way to stop soldiers from hurting people again. Learning magic should have given her the tools to help, but when she accidentally casts a potent light spell, it’s mistaken for a stupid miracle and turns into a source of violent dissent between faiths. Now she has to stop religious tensions from turning into civil war.

Armed only with a best friend who loves scandal and whatever books they can smuggle out of her mentor’s library, Jinxx must figure out how to undo the miracle before it turns into a war that will surely kill thousands—and her brother. It won’t be easy, with both her mother and her mentor trying to keep her from doing anything. She might not understand people—or even jokes—very well, but she won’t let anyone stop her from fixing the disaster she created.

THE FORTY-SEVEN WORDS is like a mash-up of Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES with Phillip Pullman’s THE GOLDEN COMPASS if Sazed from Brandon Sanderson’s MISTBORN trilogy showed up and a Dumbledore-ian mentor-mage threw the MC out of a hole in the sky without thinking of how it would effect her PTSD. This is a stand-alone first book in a planned trilogy.

First 250 Words:

The yapper at Mr. Taálix's Book Emporium frowned at Jinxx and her mother. He looked at Jinxx, his gaze moving down her crutches before pausing on her twisted foot. "Not another one.” He sighed.

Jinxx shifted so her skirt denied his view.

The clerk shook his head and looked at Jinxx’s mother. "I’m sorry, ma’am, but whatever that other one told you, we send our charity to a reading program in the city. I can't give coins to every broken child who comes in here. The Strivers have an asylum for broken people."

He glanced over at Jinxx again. "I could draw you a map, but it might be best to take her to the Convent Virgins. They accept broken girls, too, as well as orphans and widows."

Her mother said, "We’re here to buy, not ask for charity."

The yapper blushed bright pink. The color looked so nice with his natty brown suit that he should wear a dusty rose vest embroidered with white lilies.

"Well, we have the finest collection outside Timodíuv. I’m sure whatever you want, we have it. If not, our brokers can get it for you. Would you like my personal assistance or to peruse our catalog?"

"Mom, can I look at the catalog while you ask about the hymnals?"Her mother nodded. Jinxx walked up to the counter and the massive tome on the desk that surely was the index of books. Her smile was so big it hurt. The book emporium possessed so many books they couldn’t fit them on the copious shelves; they had stacked texts on the benches and every other surface available.


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