Rethink the way you approach writing in this “honest, useful craft book that all fledgling writers need” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) from fourteen diverse authors that demystifies craft and authorship based on their experiences as writers of color—perfect for fans of Fresh Ink and Our Stories, Our Voices.
So, you’re thinking of writing a book. Or, maybe you’ve written one, and are wondering what to do with it. What does it take to publish a novel, or even a short story? If you’re a writer of color, these questions might multiply; after all, there’s a lot of writing advice out there, and it can be hard to know how much of it really applies to your own experiences. If any of this sounds like you, you’re in the right place: this collection of essays, written exclusively by authors of color, is here to encourage and empower writers of all ages and backgrounds to find their voice as they put pen to page.
Perhaps you’re just getting started. Here you’ll find a whole toolkit of advice from bestselling and award-winning authors for focusing on an idea, landing on a point of view, and learning which rules were meant to be broken. Or perhaps you have questions about everything beyond the first draft: what is it really like being a published author? These writers demystify the process, sharing personal stories as they forged their own path to publication, and specifically from their perspectives as author of color.
Every writer has a different journey. Maybe yours has already started. Or maybe it begins right here.
Contributors include: Julie C. Dao, Chloe Gong, Joan He, Kosoko Jackson, Adiba Jaigirdar, Darcie Little Badger, Yamile Saied Méndez, Axie Oh, Laura Pohl, Cindy Pon, Karuna Riazi, Gail D. Villanueva, Julian Winters, and Kat Zhang.
About the Author
Nafiza Azad is a self-identified island girl. She has hurricanes in her blood and dreams of a time she can exist solely on mangoes and pineapple. Born in Lautoka, Fiji, she currently resides in British Columbia, Canada, where she reads too many books, watches too many K-dramas, and writes stories about girls taking over the world. Nafiza is the coeditor of the young adult anthology Writing in Color and author of The Candle and the Flame, which was nominated for the William C. Morris Award, The Wild Ones, and Road of the Lost. Learn more at NafizaAzad.com.
Melody Simpson is the founder of Melanin in YA, a database for all things Black in traditional young adult publishing. Her short story, “The Guardrail Disappears” can be seen in the feminist horror anthology Betty Bites Back: Stories to Scare the Patriarchy edited by Mindy McGinnis, Demetria Lunetta, and Kate Karyus Quinn. Melody is also the coeditor of the young adult anthology Writing in Color. She’s from New Jersey and currently resides in Los Angeles, California. Visit her at MelodyLSimpson.com.
Julie C. Dao is the critically acclaimed author of many books for teens and children. Her novels have earned starred reviews from Booklist, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly; won recognition as Junior Library Guild Selections and Kids’ Indie Next List picks; and landed on multiple best-of-year lists including YALSA and the American Library Association. A proud Vietnamese American who was born in upstate New York, she now lives in New England.
Chloe Gong is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Secret Shanghai novels, as well as the Flesh and False Gods trilogy. Her books have been published in over twenty countries and have been featured in The New York Times, People, Cosmopolitan, and more. She was named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for 2024. Chloe graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in English and international relations. Born in Shanghai and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, Chloe is now located in New York City, pretending to be a real adult.
Joan He was born and raised in Philadelphia but still will, on occasion, lose her way. At a young age, she received classical instruction in oil painting before discovering that storytelling was her favorite form of expression. She studied psychology and East Asian languages and civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania and currently splits her time between Philly and Chicago. She is the bestselling author of The Ones We’re Meant to Find, Descendant of the Crane, and the Kingdom of Three duology.
Kosoko Jackson is a digital media specialist, focusing on digital storytelling, email, social, and SMS marketing, and a freelance political journalist. Occasionally, his personal essays and short stories have been featured on Medium, Thought Catalog, The Advocate, and some literary magazines. When not writing young adult novels that champion holistic representation of black queer youth across genres, he can be found obsessing over movies, drinking his (umpteenth) London Fog, or spending far too much time on Twitter. He’s the author of Yesterday Is History and I’m So (Not) Over You.
Adiba Jaigirdar is the award-winning, critically acclaimed, and bestselling author of The Henna Wars, Hani & Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating, A Million to One, and The Dos and Donuts of Love. A Bangladeshi/Irish writer and former teacher, she has an MA in postcolonial studies from the University of Kent, England, and a BA in English and history from University College Dublin, Ireland. She is the winner of the YA Book Prize 2022, the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards 2021, and was a finalist for the 2022 Lambda Literary Awards. All her writing is aided by tea and a healthy dose of Janelle Monáe and Hayley Kiyoko. When not writing, she is probably ranting about the ills of colonialism, playing video games, or expanding her overflowing lipstick collection. She can be found at AdibaJaigirdar.com or @Adiba_J on X (preivously known as Twitter) and @Dibs_J on Instagram.
Darcie Little Badger is a Lipan Apache writer with a PhD in oceanography. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, Elatsoe, was featured in Time as one of the best 100 fantasy books of all time. Elatsoe also won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and is a Nebula, Ignyte, and Lodestar Finalist. Her second fantasy novel, A Snake Falls to Earth, received a Nebula Award, an Ignyte Award, and a Newbery Honor and is on the National Book Awards longlist. Darcie is married to a veterinarian named Taran.
Yamile (sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez is the author of many books for young readers and adults, including Furia, a Reese’s YA Book Club selection and the inaugural Pura Belpré Young Adult Gold Medalist in 2021. Her books have received many accolades such as the Junior Library Guild Gold Standard, Whitney Award, Cybils Award, Américas Award, and Bank Street Spanish Language Book Awards, among others. They have also been featured in the best of year lists of the New York City Public Library, Salt Lake Public Library, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and those of many states. She was born and raised in Rosario, Argentina, but has lived most of her life in a lovely valley surrounded by mountains in Utah. An inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant recipient, she’s also a graduate of Voices of Our Nations Foundation (VONA) and the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA Writing for Children’s and Young Adult program. Yamile is also a founding member of Las Musas, the first collective of nonbinary Latine authors. She taught herself English with a Spanish-English dictionary, and now has been faculty at Tin House Workshop and a keynote speaker at The Vermont College of Fine Arts. Find out more at YamileMendez.com.
Axie Oh is the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea, XOXO, and the Rebel Seoul series. Born in New York city and raised in New Jersey, she studied Korean history and creative writing as an undergrad at the University of California San Diego and holds an MFA in writing for young people from Lesley University. Her passions include K-pop, anime, stationery supplies, and milk tea, and she currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her dogs, Leila and Toro. Find out more at AxieOh.com.
Laura Pohl is the New York Times bestselling author of The Grimrose Girls. Her debut novel, The Last 8, won the International Latino Book Awards. She likes writing messages in caps lock, never using autocorrect, and obsessing about Star Wars. When not taking pictures of her dog, she can be found curled up with a fantasy or science-fiction book or replaying Dragon Age. Her favorite Disney princess is Cinderella, and her favorite Disney prince is Kylo Ren. A Brazilian at heart and soul, she makes her home in São Paulo. Find out more at OnlybyLaura.com.
Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix, which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by Booklist, and one of 2009’s Best Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror by VOYA. Serpentine and Sacrifice were both Junior Library Guild selections and received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews, respectively. She also wrote Want, which is a Freeman Book Award Honorable Mention and Ruse. She is the cofounder of Diversity in YA with Malinda Lo and on the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade. Learn more about her books and art at CindyPon.com.
Karuna Riazi is a born and raised New Yorker, with a loving, large extended family and the rather trying experience of being the eldest sibling in her particular clan. Besides pursuing a BA in English literature from Hofstra University, she is an online diversity advocate, blogger, and publishing intern. Karuna is fond of tea, baking new delectable treats for friends and family to relish, Korean dramas, and writing about tough girls forging their own paths toward their destinies. She is the author of The Gauntlet and The Battle.
Gail D. Villanueva is a Filipino writer and artist based in the Philippines. She is the author of the 2023 Panda Book Awards shortlist title Sugar and Spite, and her debut novel, My Fate According to the Butterfly was a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year, an Amazon Best Book of the Month Editor’s Pick, an NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, and a 2023 Sakura Medal nominee. Gail was born in Manila but was raised in Quezon City. She and her husband currently live in Rizal with their many pets—dogs, ducks, turtles, cats, and random birds they befriend in the backyard. Learn more at GailDVillanueva.com.
Julian Winters is the author of the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Award–winning Running with Lions, the Junior Library Guild Selections How to Be Remy Cameron and The Summer of Everything, and Right Where I Left You. A self-proclaimed comic book geek, Julian currently lives outside of Atlanta, where he can be found reading or watching the only two sports he can follow: volleyball and soccer.
Kat Zhang loves traveling to places both real and fictional—the former have better souvenirs, but the latter allow for dragons, so it’s a tough choice. A writer of books for teens and children, she spends her free time scribbling poetry, taking photographs, and climbing atop things she shouldn’t. You can learn more about her at KatZhang.com.
** "A nurturing guide for exploring one’s own literary path by reading about BIPOC authors who are actively paving the way....An important anthology that ensures BIPOC teens feel seen and included."
— Booklist, starred review
** "The honest, useful craft book that all fledgling writers need."
— Kirkus reviews, starred review
"Never patronizing or minimizing, the authors’ guidance offers young writers a solid road map for entering the publishing world. This how-to collection by writers of color is a necessity in the genre, and may likely appeal to non-writers who are fans of the authors for insight into their craft."
— School Library Journal