What Do You Do?

No, not that

Hi friends,

Welcome new subscribers. On Twitter, I offered a free year’s subscription to Black creators and I have a few spots left. If you know anyone who’d need or want this, please tell them to DM me their email address and I will add them.

I’ve been reading Chani Nicholas’ book on astrology, YOU WERE BORN FOR THIS, and, before I lose all my credibility with you, yes I know astrology is fake and no, I don’t care. I am a Taurus sun, a Capricorn rising, and a Leo moon, which means, as I interpret it, you shouldn’t fuck with me when I set my mind to something. Anyway, as I read more about astrology, because I like it, I am learning that I identify much more with my Capricorn side than my Taurus, at least outwardly. And what does that mean, here and now, in the face of centuries of racial injustice, murder by police, a pandemic, economic uncertainty and strain for millions? Nothing tangible. The world is not in one big Mercury Retrograde. But for me, it connects me for this drive to DO something, because Capricorns must DO.

There have been thousands of lists and links online telling you what to DO. You might be able to donate to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute to support Black transgender people. You can donate to hundreds of bail funds. You can donate to your local mutual aid fund. That is good. Do this if you can. I have done this.

You can protest. There are protests all over this country. There is one nightly a mile from my home, and even though I do not feel I can participate, for many reasons I have the privilege to exercise, maybe this is something you can do. Or not. There are other things you can do if it is not safe for you to protest.

As an agent, and a teacher, and a Capricorn, I want to show you what I know so that might help you do what you want to do. I know that centers me, and I’m trying to work through that. But I alone cannot fix racism in this country with my platform or my dollars or my vote. What I have is this body of knowledge in this one area that other people might be able to use to make more of a difference in the world than I can make with my voice, or dollars, or vote. I am struggling to figure out how to write about that here, because we’re not all in the same place. Many of the people who know first hand about what can help change the world are extremely traumatized right now, and low on their priority list is WRITE A BOOK PROPOSAL!!! YAY!

But maybe you’re a Capricorn, too. Maybe a little direction of what to do first, where to start, would help. If you are, this is what I would do if I wanted to write a book right now, any kind of book. If writing a book, or something, would help you now, I want to help.

Here’s where I would start:

  1. Just write. Don’t worry about form or content or spelling or anything. Just get the words out of your brain and out somewhere else. Use your notes app on your phone, or google docs or whatever you have at hand, 5 minutes at a time, or 5 hours. The act of getting it out helps you figure out what you actually want to say. You will not use 99% of this writing and that is ok, too. There are always more words.

  2. Figure out what you actually want to say. Your book needs a thesis (I know, I know) and you need to support your thesis with arguments. I’m sorry to report that we have to use this stuff in our real adult lives and not just in school.

  3. Start on a Book Proposal. Read more about that here.

  4. Or start your novel. Read more about that here.

  5. Examine your platform, especially if you’re writing non-fiction.

  6. Draft a query letter. Non-fiction tips here. General stuff for everyone starting here.

  7. Research agents.

  8. Send out your queries.

  9. Get good at waiting because this shit takes a long time. I know your message is urgent but publishing is slow, and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. I’m sorry.

This just scratches the surface about how to do this stuff, but if you’re like me, Capricorn or not, just knowing the steps makes me feel more in control and more motivated to actually do it. I have it easy in so many ways. SO many. I know this isn’t going to be easy for so many of you. But I hope this little thing helps. Books only happen little by little anyway. Word by word.

Next Thursday, let’s have another Q&A Thursday. If you’re new here, paid subscribers (and you are one if you’re reading this) get to email me and ask questions and I’ll answer them here. No names are used—only an initial. Just reply to this email with your question, and I’ll answer it next week. (But please don’t pitch me your work. You can do that by sending me a query. Directions here.)

Lastly, here are three books by Black authors that I’ve read or can’t wait to read.

I read George M. Johnson’s beautiful memoir-manifesto ALL BOYS AREN’T BLUE. There are so few YA memoirs and this one is exemplary, especially for the Black and queer community. I’m neither of those things, and I learned so much from it.

My client Nefertiti Austin’s MOTHERHOOD SO WHITE is another memoir that everyone should read, whether you’re a parent or not, POC or not, white or not. The parenting sphere is so white it’s blinding, Nefertiti’s experiences and viewpoint here are so valuable. Get the hardcover now or pre-order the paperback here.

I am so unimaginably excited for Brit Bennett’s new book THE VANISHING HALF, out this week. Her first book, THE MOTHERS, was an astounding book that I read in basically one sitting on submission and by the time I finished she had probably 15 offers of representation and I didn’t stand a chance and that is ok because it is such a remarkable book. I bought a copy when it came out, even though I’d already read it. I have been counting the days until her new book came out. If I can steal the time from everything else, I hope to read this in a sitting or two, too.

Stay safe. Take care of yourself and others.