Recently I watched a livestream of Toshi Reagon’s adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower into a staged opera. It was an early, in-development version of the show recorded in 2015, and it felt special to see such a powerful statement about the material conditions of our present dystopia and still feel a hope for change, for reconstituting our societies and our selves. The stream was through Parable Path Boston and ArtsEmerson and you can find out more about the project on their website.
I bring this up because one of the key moments of the show touched me so deeply and rooted itself deep in my brain and in my heart. It’s a direct pull from the book which Reagon and her team re-arranged into a musical number, reconfiguring a powerful statement into an overwhelming experience. The quote is this:
All that you touch, you change.
All that you change, changes you.
The only lasting truth is change.
I’ve been thinking about that constantly in the past week. We, as a nation, as a society, face an incredible challenge right now. The murder of George Floyd by law enforcement has led to a massive wave of demonstration, protest, and support for the victims of police violence. This has been, unfailingly, met with state violence. Beatings, assaults, and mass arrests.
The deep rooted legacy of violence and oppression faced by Black Americans has never been clearer to more of the world than right now. None of this is new. Nothing is different now than it was yesterday or last week or last year. The Ferguson protests were in 2014. It’s been six years. And that’s just the short, recent, visible history. This violence goes back to the civil rights movement. To Jim Crow. To the enslavement of African peoples.
I am not an expert in these issues. I have not been a front line activist. I don’t have a history that stretches back decades of fighting for racial justice. I’m learning. Just like all of you. Well, many of you. I’m researching. I’m reading. I’m listening. And I’m trying to help where I can.
Here’s how I believe I can change things. I believe that the work that I do, as someone who works in media, in book publishing, as an advocate for writers as well as for stories, is important for building the world we want to live in. I think stories are how we process trauma. I think it’s how we understand the world. And I think if we can shift the framing, if we can understand the root causes and future consequences of our words, our choices, and our actions then we can start towards a new vision of justice. One that doesn’t involve policing and incarceration. One that provides care and aid to the people who need it the most before the most wealthy.
I want a world rooted in empathy and one committed to community. I want to publish stories that reflect that world. Because it’s already here. We already have those communities. We need to celebrate them and build them up. Let us change them and let those voices change us. Embrace the change that’s possible by telling stories about the impossible.
But this doesn’t happen without work. I’m very proud of the work I’ve done so far and I’m more committed than ever to the work I’m planning on doing. So, in this moment, because I believe that Black voices, specifically Black voices, matter in this moment and in all moments going forward, I want to make it clear that I am looking for those voices to boost and support. I want to partner with Black writers to build sustainable careers and platforms to keep broadcasting calls for change.
As such, I’m re-opening to unsolicited submissions, but only to writers who identify as Black. I have been actively looking for Black writers and their stories my whole career as an agent and while I do have some clients in those spaces, I do not feel as if I’m doing enough. And quietly waiting for the right project, even actively trying to seek out new writers, is not enough. It just isn’t. The pipeline is too full of other voices and, right now, and probably always, Black voices in particular need to be celebrated and supported.
So, if you’re a Black writer, hit me up. Not just your stories about what it is to be Black in America. Not just stories about police violence. Not just stories of trauma. But stories of joy and comfort. Stories of adventure. Stories of just being in the world. I want to see all of it and if I know how to help you get somewhere glorious, I want to be part of that.
And this is a standing offer. I’m keeping this offer open for the foreseeable future. I’m not asking you to find the bandwith to think about this in this difficult time. You don’t need to query me today. Or this week. Or this month. I want to build this as part of my practice for years to come.
My submission guidelines are:
Send a query letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. Send me a pitch, author bio, and then 10 pages of the submission in the body of the email.
I represent mostly commercial fiction: science fiction, fantasy, horror, thrillers. But also looking for select non-fiction, particularly culture writing, personal essay, and food writing. I also represent Middle Grade and Young Adult speculative and contemporary and graphic novels.
I look forward to hearing from you. I hope to be changed by you. And I hope we can change all of this together.