Two Opportunities for Black Writers and One Long-Term Commitment

In light of recent events, the Good Story Company and I have decided to do our small part to celebrate and amplify Black writers in our community. Personally, as a Minneapolis resident hoping so desperately that our city can lead the world in terms of creating positive change for justice, I want to do what I can.

The US publishing industry consists of a demographic that identifies as 76% white, 74% cis woman, 81% straight, and 89% non-disabled, per the Lee & Low Books Diversity in Publishing 2019 survey. Yet our world is so much more diverse than this, in terms of both writers and readers. If I’m not actively contributing to fighting systemic inequality, I am part of the problem. So I’m offering two immediate opportunities to writers and published authors who identify as Black, and one long-term commitment to all writers of color.

Why Spotlight Black Writers and Authors?

It’s undeniable that we live in a deeply divided and unjust world. Why am I choosing to spotlight specifically Black writers for the first two offerings and not opening these particular opportunities up to all minorities, indigenous people, and people of color? I firmly believe that this particular time in history has focused its lens on the inequalities lived every day by Black people in America.

That is not at all to say that those of us who come from diverse backgrounds, religions, have visible or invisible disabilities, live with mental health struggles, or are seen by society as “other” in any way don’t deserve opportunities. However, opportunities have been systemically denied to Black people and Black artists, and this is the specific injustice I want to address right now.

The point is: I am here to stay, and I am here to serve. This is not the first or the last outreach I will do. You will notice one long-term commitment made to all writers of color at the bottom of this post. This is simply the current need, as I see it, and where I believe my efforts can do the most good right now.

A Conversation on Good Story Podcast

If you are a published Black author, how do social justice and civil rights issues shape and inform your craft and your work? Will your commitment to including social justice themes, characters, or plots change in light of recent events? Or do you  not consider it your responsibility to represent these issues in the marketplace? Have movements like We Need Diverse Books and #ownvoices affected your work or career? How do you feel publishing is doing representing your voice on the page and off?

This opportunity is open to all published Black authors writing in English.

I’d be very curious to have a conversation with several published authors (debut authors welcome!) who perhaps have varying perspectives here for the Good Story Podcast, in an interview to take place over the next few weeks. Please inquire with a short sense of your position on the above questions to mary@goodstorycompany.com with the subject line “Podcast Interview”.

Query Letter Clinic

Recently, Sourcebooks editor Molly Cusick committed to removing barriers for writers of color and accepting unagented submissions directly. This is an amazing move! While I’m no longer in a gatekeeper position, I want to do my part to help Black writers navigate the slush pile. Since a great query letter can open doors, and I want to bring my experience as a literary agent to bear, I’ve decided to run a completely free query letter clinic.

The Good Story Company team commits to giving complimentary overview feedback on all of the query letters that we receive from Black writers on Friday, June 12th. This is not a first-come, first-served opportunity. There is no selection process. Every query letter that we receive with a timestamp of Friday, June 12th will get a critique. I’m posting this ahead of time so writers have a chance to get their letters together. Your book’s category doesn’t have to be limited to children’s books, either. We will work on queries in all genres and for all audiences, from picture books to nonfiction to memoir to adult fiction. Rough drafts are welcome, don’t hesitate if your query isn’t “ready” yet! (Turnaround time may vary based on demand.)

This opportunity is to all Black writers writing in English. Though you don’t have to live in the United States, you will ideally be hoping to publish here. Our familiarity is with the US publishing marketplace, and that’s the lens we will apply to the critiques.

In order to allow us to provide this opportunity to as many writers as possible, we ask that each writer send one query letter only. You may send your query letter copied and pasted into the body of an email to mary@goodstorycompany.com with the subject line “Query Clinic”. We can’t wait to see your work!

Good Story Grant

In January 2020, I gave away the very first Good Story Grant and committed to running this grant once a year to help one writer pursue a dream project or take the next step in their growth and personal development. Starting in 2021, and going forward, I am personally committing more funding to the grant so that I may offer two awards: one to any writer who chooses to apply, and one dedicated to a writer of color.

As the world mourns George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, and many, many others—those we know about, and those we don’t—it’s very important to note that this is not just a June 2020 issue. Our support of Black writers, indigenous writers, and writers of color is not some hash tag.

Many individuals live with prejudice every day based on the color of their skin in a system that works to stigmatize them and deny them opportunities that some white people take for granted, so often without realizing it. Once this issue leaves the news cycle, it cannot leave our consciousness. We cannot stop acting. My team members and I have donated to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund as a first, short-term step, but it is far from our last financial contribution.

Please look for a completely revamped Good Story Grant in January 2021. As money changes hands with this opportunity, applications are open to writers 18 years and old at the time of the grant deadline, with the ability to accept US funds via PayPal. More details will be made available once the application goes live every year.