Sunday, November 11, 2018

Writers of Color

Crime Writers of Color, started by Kellye Garrett, Gigi Pandian, and Walter Mosley, hosts a wide and varied array of today and tomorrow’s more diverse crime writers. Follow this group and they will keep you up-to-date on new releases, recognitions, awards & other good news from this criminally under-represented cast of writers.

For the growing number of diverse writers, Crime Writers of Color will expand reader-base and further community. You’ll meet other writers and make new friends, after all, most writers need feedback and support. Crime Writers of Color even post day-jobs available within the industry. 

Robin St. Clare, Longtime member, Crime Writers of Color – 

“The group was officially started in early June when Kellye Garrett started a group and invited some writers she knew. There were about 30 of us to start, but it’s really been growing since then as we meet more writers of color in the genre.

I know it’s something that Kellye had been thinking/talking about for a little while—Gigi Pandian was also instrumental in planning and starting the group. The crime genre has been a little slow to diversify. If you go to the major conferences, you’ll see a lot of white faces, but that doesn’t mean writers of color aren’t out there.

The hope was to bring everyone together in a group that could offer support (both emotional and professional) and career boosting to writers at all levels of their career. I know that I have definitely benefited from the advice and perspective of established writers, and I’m really grateful this group exists at a time when I’m trying to break in.

In terms of upcoming events, we’re still a primarily online group at this point. We’ve done some unofficial meet-ups at cons, but nothing on our own yet. The group is still young, so there’s plenty of time to determine exactly what kind of outreach or advocacy we want to be involved in. Right now, I think of it more as a support group.

We would welcome new members! Reach out to anyone who is already a member and we can put you in touch with one of our admins. I know we’re all really happy to see the group continue to grow.”

Robin St. Clare is a pathologist, writer of adult mystery and speculative fiction and was featured author in 2017’s Pitch Wars. She lived in Philadelphia for nine years while completing her medical training before moving to the boonies to work at a community hospital. Her current works include the paranormal/mystery hybrid INTO THE FIRE and the psychological thriller IF A TREE FALLS.

We're excited to present members of the Crime Writers of Color community and their thoughts on diversity in fiction. Thanks to Ed Aymar, Sarah Chen, Shawn Cosby, Mia P. Manansala, and Alex Segura for your participation!

*Tell us about a recent project where Crime Writers of Color showed support and what they did to help you.

Ed Aymar - I did a disservice when I first started working on the other side of writing. I received a lot of support from the International Thriller Writers after my first novel was published, and was so encouraged by the organization that I asked to work with them, and support their efforts of providing research and guidance to other thriller writers. One of the things I did was take over and relaunch The Thrill Begins, their online resource for aspiring and debut writers. I put together a team of weekly contributors to the site, and made sure that I had female representation – my goal, whether in panels or readings or book recommendations, had always been to encourage and highlight female crime fiction writers. I didn’t give as much thought to diversity, and that’s the disservice I spoke of earlier; I should have. It just seemed that there weren’t WOC out there. It was like standing in the middle of Iceland and trying to find people of color. This group is a great resource to that end.

I’m assuming Iceland’s mainly white? I could be wrong. I did no research.

Sarah Chen - They are really supportive on social media. A recent example is when my book was mentioned in a blog post. Members RT’d it and congratulated me. It was nice to feel that support.

Shawn Cosby - The members of the group have been invaluable in helping with writing a query letter, making contact with agents and dealing with insensitive publishers who don't seem receptive to diversity. We try our best to look out for each other.

Mia P. Manansala - I’m doing Nanowrimo in an attempt to finish the first draft of a new story, and it’s really tough and I keep falling behind. However, we have a special subgroup dedicated to daily check-ins, brainstorming sessions, sharing resources, etc. that makes it much easier to push myself on this project.

Alex Segura - CWOC is hugely supportive in not only helping to spread the word - from sharing a link, or plugging your work - but really great as a sounding board. We interact daily, discussing news of the moment and how we can make our community more welcoming to diverse authors like ourselves, but how we can also speak out together. I really value the community CWOC has created, and I try to be active and engaged - and willing to help.

*What do you think Crime Writers of Color can offer other writers, both up and coming and established?

Ed Aymar - Publishing is a unique experience for every writer; it’s also an isolating experience. We write alone, and our successes and failures are generally faced alone. Every writer goes through those hardships, but hardships take a different, harsher, more confusing tone when you’re a writer of color. This group offers a place to find solace and empathy.

And, just as importantly, this group offers connections. Not all avenues in publishing are excited about, or understand the importance of, diversity in fiction. Knowing who to approach with your work is paramount for anyone attempting to traditionally publish. This group can help with that.

Sarah Chen - We offer support, advice, and solidarity. Whether you’re just starting out in mystery writing or a seasoned veteran, that sense of belonging is important. It’s an opportunity for those who may feel underrepresented in publishing to have a voice and a presence. And it’s easier to do that with a group standing with you rather than feeling like you’re out there alone.

Shawn Cosby - I think it offers a safe welcoming space for writers of all successes levels to learn about the craft, gain assistance on navigating the rolling rapids of the publishing industry and exchange ideas with people who are facing the same unique obstacles.

Mia P. Manansala - It’s impossible to overstate how important a sense of community is, no matter where you are in your writing journey. Writing tends to be a very solitary activity, and if you’re a writer of color (particularly one where you don’t have access to other writers and writing groups) it can be a very lonely and isolated experience. It’s hard feeling like you’re the only one out there doing what you do.

I don’t care if you’ve published twenty books or have yet to finish a manuscript, having a safe place to ask questions, give/receive career guidance, discuss craft, or even just vent is invaluable.

Alex Segura - Experience. Guidance. Feedback. There are writers at every stage in CWOC - newbies, rugged veterans, superstars - and they all bring different experiences and suggestions to the show. If you're a new author and you want help when it comes to finding an agent, pitching a publisher or just surviving at a convention, there are many strong and knowledgeable voices on the board that will help, and do so with gusto.

*What do you think they can offer readers and fans of crime fiction?

Ed Aymar - I think diversity is the next great movement in American crime fiction, similar to literary movements like realism or post-modernism. Our society has become increasingly blended, and the books of tomorrow are going to be informed by these new perspectives and voices. CWOC is a place where those voices can easily be found.

Not all readers or critics are going to agree with that sentiment, but it’s already happening in artistic mediums across the board.

Sarah Chen - Broaden your TBR pile! We can introduce readers to new perspectives and allow for a different storytelling experience.

Shawn Cosby - I think the group can introduce readers to fantastic writers they may otherwise not have an opportunity to experience. These writers offer a different perspective that can give readers a great insight into cultures and communities they may not be familiar with.

Mia P. Manansala - Right now, our group is dedicated to helping writers. In the future, we might be able to offer more to readers and fans, but in the meantime, I’ll point you to Frankie Bailey’s excellent list of diverse writers of crime fiction. She’s a CWOC member and was the first African-American president of Sisters in Crime:

Alex Segura - Different voices. Different perspectives. A love for the genre and it's strengths but a fearlessness when it comes to clich├ęs and expectations. If you're looking for a book that honors what comes before but isn't afraid to change things up and add to the chorus as opposed to imitate, you may want to try varying your reading list. It can't hurt.

*What do you hope to see happen with this bright, new spotlight on more diverse writers?

Ed Aymar - The ultimate goal is inclusion, right? To get to the place where diversity in writing is no longer (as Kellye often argues) considered a “trend.” To get to that lofty state of mind where a writer of color can win an award and it’s not considered some sort of political gift, but rather as deserved as it would be when white writers win. To broaden and invigorate readers.

Sarah Chen - Specifically, I’d love to see WOC on all types of panels, not just those about diversity or social issues. Don’t pigeonhole us or assume, oh, she’s Asian, she must write “Asian” stories. It would be wonderful to see more WOC win the top awards, like Kellye did at the Anthonys. The YA community is way ahead of us in terms of embracing stories from writers of various backgrounds. I want us to reach that level and beyond.

Shawn Cosby - I hope that eventually readers and publishers will give writers who are black and brown a chance to show what we bring to the table without the latent condescension that some people have obscuring our talent and ideas.

Mia P. Manansala - As Kellye Garrett put it during her excellent acceptance speech for the 2018 Anthony Award for Best First Novel, I can’t wait for people to stop treating diversity and diverse writers as a trend and accept us as the status quo.

Alex Segura - I hope it provides authors with an opportunity to reach a wider audience, and not be thought of as just a "great writer if you're looking for a different voice." These are great writers, full stop, and we need to give them a chance to be read an experienced, so a brighter spotlight on their work is the first step on that journey.

*Give us one good example of how we can help spread the word on diversity in fiction.

Ed Aymar - If you run a publication or an organization, ensure you have representation in all your efforts. This should be the goal of these organizations, particularly when you’re supporting writers. We read – even if we tend to read the same writers – to discover, in some way, a new experience. Diverse voices are going to bring you that new experience.

Sarah Chen - Read books by authors from diverse backgrounds and recommend them wherever you can. Tweet, write reviews. Ask your library to carry their book.

Shawn Cosby - Buy books by writers of color!

Mia P. Manansala - Don’t only promote/review/invite to speak on panels/interview diverse writers solely on the topic of diversity. Having one panel at a convention for “diverse” writers and another for LGBTQ+ writers and calling it a day isn’t enough. We have thoughts/opinions/expertise in areas that don’t only pertain to our marginalization.

Alex Segura - The first thing any reader can do is take a look at your reading list and your TBR pile - are the authors different, diverse, varied? If not, fix that. Then, if you enjoyed a book, spread the word and pass it on. Let people know when you've enjoyed something great by a writer they may not know, and the momentum will build.

Thank you to our contributors.

Ed Aymar - E.A. Aymar's thrillers include the novel-in-stories The Night of the Flood (in which he served as co-editor and contributor), as well as I'll Sleep When You're Dead (2013) and You're As Good As Dead (2015). His standalone thriller, The Unrepentant, will be published in March of 2019 by Down and Out Books.

Sarah M. Chen - Sarah has worked a variety of odd jobs ranging from script reader to bartender and is now an indie bookseller and private investigator assistant. Sarah's crime fiction has been accepted for publication by All Due Respect, Akashic, Shotgun Honey, Crime Factory, Out of the Gutter, Dead Guns Press and Betty Fedora. Her debut novel with All Due Respect Books, CLEANING UP FINN, is a Lefty and Anthony finalist and IPPY award winner. Visit Sarah at

Shawn Cosby - S. A. Cosby is a writer from Southeastern Virginia. His short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines His story "Slant-Six" was selected as a Distinguished Story in Best American MysteryStories for 2016.. His writing has been called " gritty and heartbreaking " and " dark, thrilling and tragic ". When he isn't crafting tales of murder and mayhem he assists the dedicated staff at J.K.Redmind Funeral home as a mortician's assistant.

Mia P. Manansala - Mia is a writer of geeky stories filled with sarcasm, murder, and the occasional Simpsons reference. She is the winner of the 2018 Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award, the 2017 William F. Deeck - Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers, and the 2016 Mystery Writers of America/Helen McCloy Scholarship. She's also a 2017 Pitch Wars alum and 2018 mentor.

Alex Segura - Alex Segura is a novelist and comic book writer. He is the author of the Pete Fernandez Miami Mysteries, which include SILENT CITY, DOWN THE DARKEST STREET and the latest, DANGEROUS ENDS. He has also written a number of comic books, including the best-selling and critically acclaimed ARCHIE MEETS KISS storyline, the "Occupy Riverdale" story, ARCHIE MEETS RAMONES and the upcoming THE ARCHIES one-shot. He lives in New York with his wife and son. He is a Miami native.

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