Last week, I was thrilled to sign a contract for my third novel, a coming of age romantic mystery. Leisha’s Song is scheduled for publication early next year.
Leisha’s story is a project close to my heart, and I wish I could say that the process of finding a publishing home for it was a smooth one. But it was anything but! Leisha is a young woman of color, and as many of you know, a controversy is currently raging in YA world about whether Caucasian writers are committing cultural appropriation when they write about characters of color. The publisher of my last novel didn’t want to touch Leisha’s Song. Neither did my agent, and we ended up parting ways.
I’ll be honest. I was devastated. I have an African-American grandson I adore, and I know that he and millions of other kids of color desperately need books with characters who look like them. And I felt frustrated that it didn’t seem to matter that I’d lived and worked in an African-American community, had hired a sensitivity editor to review the manuscript, and had shared the story with a group of African-American teen beta readers who were enthusiastic. “We’re so sick of being the sidekick,” they said.
But I didn’t give up. Next stop was researching publishers willing to take a look at submissions from un-agented writers. I queried a bunch of them, collected some rejections, but also, to my amazement, had five publishers express interest in the manuscript. I ended up signing with a small publisher whom I really liked—Fire and Ice, the YA imprint of Melange Books.
I’m so happy and excited to get to share Leisha’s Song with readers. The journey to finding a publishing home was mighty bumpy. But I sure am glad I didn’t give up.