I have always been a writer, since before I could even read or write. It’s simply who I am and how I was born to be in this world. But that being said, I was not born into the type of social-economic privilege that nurtures and supports writers. I was born into the type of disadvantage that restrains and diminishes creative expression…the type of disadvantage that attempts to smother the talents and abilities of anyone born under that yoke. So even though I was born a writer, it has always been a fight to find a time and a place where I could free the stories bottled up inside of me.
Years ago, when I suddenly did have a time and a place to write, I decided I would try to ‘get published’ and I did everything “right”. I researched. I bought and studied the Canadian Writers’ Guide. I spoke with someone who had experience in the publishing business. I prepared.
Also, at that time, I believed all that I had been taught about the publishing industry. It was honourable, fair and professional. Those who worked there were enlightened people always on the search for something interesting and new…new talent…new stories…old stories never been told before. They were the ones bringing the ‘magic of books’ to our society…to our world.
So, I wrote a youth novel.
I sent that novel out to the appropriate publishing companies, making sure beforehand that they were indeed accepting unsolicited manuscripts. I made certain to have the correct postage and to include self-addressed postage-paid return envelopes if they wanted to send it back. But despite all the work I put into it, the response was not what I expected.
Sometimes they sent it back saying they were not accepting unsolicited manuscripts, despite their website stating the contrary. Sometimes they only sent a rejection letter without returning the manuscript. One company had my manuscript for over a year without any reply. When I contacted them about it, they finally sent it back. It looked as though it had been read many times but was accompanied with a rejection form letter.
Alright, so it wasn’t a particularly professional or respectful industry. That I had to accept. And I thought it would end there, but it didn’t.
One morning I was reading the newspaper and turned to the page with the book reviews. There was a review for a new youth novel by an author contracted to a Canadian publishing company. When I read it, I felt sick. This novel had the exact plot of my novel, but they had swapped out my characters of colour for some white people with easily solved saccharine problems. I was so upset, that I never even took the time to ensure that they hadn’t actually plagiarized my work. I just didn’t want to think about it anymore.
After that I gave up on the idea of publishing even though I still felt the need to write and to share that writing somehow.
A few years go by and self-publishing became a thing, so that’s what I did. I self-published despite the stigma attached to it. In the end, it makes me happy, and now my works are safely copyrighted and publicly visible. In a harsh and dishonest world, you need to find those little secret corners of comfort and contentment. You need to find those special places where you can be what you were born to be.