Query Kombat Free Pass Giveaway!


Query Kombat begins soon! Each year, I raffle off one entry into the first round. The free pass winner is guaranteed to be featured on my blog for Round 1 only, and to get feedback from about a dozen judges (possibly more).* Winning a free pass does not guarantee entry into the agent round.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the tragic death of Julie Lonewolf and what I can do to help marginalized writers. Nothing I can do can undo what happened, but I’d like to give a chance to someone whose work might have been overlooked. This year, my free pass is open to marginalized writers only. The contest itself remains open to all writers. 

For this giveaway, I’m using a definition borrowed from DV Pit

This includes (but is not limited to): Native peoples and people of color; people living and/or born/raised in underrepresented cultures and countries; disabled persons (including neurodiverse); people living with illness; people on marginalized ends of the socioeconomic, cultural and/or religious spectrum; people identifying within LGBTQIA+; and more.

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To enter, leave a blog comment. Share your story. Tell how the lack of diversity in books has affected you. Or tell a story about growing up a member of a marginalized group. Name a diverse book that has touched your life. Again, this is your story. I’m not going to put rules on what you say. You do not need to use your real name. You do not need to state how you’ve been marginalized (but please do not enter if you do not fit the above definition). Your comment can be as long or as short as it needs to be. If you have a lot to say, PLEASE draft in another program so you can break into multiple comments if it’s too long. Then, use the Rafflecopter below. The rafflecopter will pick the winner, so you must submit your entries after leaving a comment.

The Rafflecopter will remain active through May 15. The winner will be announced on my blog on May 16. You have plenty of time to prepare your comments and still get into the giveaway. If you do not want me to announce your name if you win, please email me at laura (at) pitchslamcontest (dot) com. This will not affect your chances. I’ll check it after drawing a winner. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Inappropriate, racist, homophobic, bigoted, or otherwise offensive comments will be deleted and anyone leaving such comments will be disqualified from the kompetition.

If you have any questions, please feel free to tweet me. I tend to be online less over the weekends, but will get back to you as soon as I can. 
* I reserve the right, in my sole discretion, to disqualify racist, offensive, or inappropriate entries, entries in genres we’re not accepting (i.e., picture books), or entries with words counts that are significantly outside genre standards (like if you send me a 20,000 word adult fantasy. Or a 200,000 word adult fantasy).

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  1. I remember when I read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the first time I cried so hard because it was the first time I had ever really seen myself in a story. Portrayals of YA sci-fi and fantasy characters with PTSD are surprisingly rare despite the frequent trauma the characters experience. And because they are so rare, the portrayals are all the same.

    As for YA sci-fi and fantasy with openly queer characters – those didn't start to get published until I was an adult. There were just hints and subtext that might not have been intended.

    So I write openly queer characters, and characters who react in realistic ways to trauma – some develop PTSD, some don't but they still react like they experienced something traumatic instead of bouncing back right away.

    • I didn't notice this as much as OOtP (which I clearly need to re-read), but I had the same reaction to Mockingjay. It was so difficult to read because no one was acknowledging what Katniss was going through or trying to help her.

      And yay for queer characters in SF/F!

  2. People gave me looks; it was the disregard – without me realizing it, growing up in a marginalized group stripped me of the dream of being a writer before it had a chance to flame. Many years later I stumbled across Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya. Thankfully, the flame sparked and grew thereafter.

  3. Many people don't take me very seriously as a Latina author. The House on Mango Street was the first book by a Hispanic author I read, and it still stays with me and reminds me that I can get my voice out there, I can be heard. 🙂

  4. For as long as I can remember, I've loved the English language. I'm not a native speaker – but I loved it regardless. I've been excellent at it since I was in grade school.
    When I was in highschool, I won a prestigious contest of English. That day, I was so happy. After the award ceremony, I went with my mother to get my epilepsy pills.
    My mother was tremendously proud of me. We lived in a small town, so she was sort of on speaking terms with the pharmacist. When my mother commented about the prize I had won, the pharmacist said, "oh, I didn't know you had another daughter."
    My mother said, "I don't."
    I will always remember how the pharmacist looked at me. It was like… I was suddenly contagious. My achievement had been erased because of my disability. And this was a medical professional.
    Until then I never understood why my mother told me not to tell people about my problem. I understood then.
    Fast forward fifteen years, and I'm now a writer. I have a career that I love. I'm happy. But… Nobody talks about epilepsy. Even in fiction… It's like we're not there. It's very frustrating for me. So since people aren't writing about it… I did. 🙂

  5. I am in the definition of DVPit that applies to disability and illnesses. I have several, actually. One of which makes it difficult to see (nearly impossible during a very bad flareup!) I was quite surprised the first time I read a book that had PTSD/anxiety issues. One didn't portray it well at all, in my opinion. The other was great and I felt almost relieved that it was out there. At any rate, I'm excited for the upcoming DVPit as well as Query Kombat!

  6. I've suffered from chronic migraines since childhood, and 20 years ago I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Any day can be a good day, but many are not. I just learned the term "spoonies" to identify others like myself, and the biggest problem we're facing right now is that, due to the opioid epidemic, it's becoming much harder to get the medicines we need. My insurance just raised the price of my medication to over twice as much as it was last year. I understand something has to be done, but it seems no one is considering those who actually need these drugs.

    Several years ago, I read a book that identified chronic pain sufferers as "the canary in the the mine shaft", with the mine shaft being the world full of pollutants and chemicals we're in constant contact with. I didn't want to be "disabled", but I didn't somehow mind being a canary. I write so people can hear my words as a song.

  7. Ugh, that's awful, I'm so sorry. I've had migraines for 23 years but have only had chronic ones for 6 months (my mom died 6 months ago). Have you read Andrew Levy's A BRAIN WIDER THAN THE SKY? It does talk about how it's possible we're a lil bit evolutionarily advanced–sort of like the whole canary theory.

  8. I have struggled with depression, anxiety and now what I know is Bipolar 2 disorder for years. People never understood why simple things like talking on the phone or going to parties were so hard for me. These issues were then compounded by the fact that I also have PTSD from my childhood. If someone can't understand depression or anxiety, try telling them you have PTSD when you were never a soldier. Add on to that a recent traumatic brain injury with post concussion syndrome from a work injury it makes you view everyday in a different way. Remembering words and being able to form a coherent sentence while speaking is no longer a guarantee and may or may not get better. The best part is that I am only 24. I have not read any influential books on these topics as for me it would be difficult for me depending on the content as I tend to get invested in my books. My life is still nebulous because of all the issues and working on this book has helped ground me. I also hope that my book will help other people understand more about mental illness without it just being about them.
    Anyway that is a very brief summary of my life story.

  9. I spent most of my life torn between pride in my heritage and worry that people would make fun of me for it. So I mostly ignored it. Until I began to experience life, and realized that we are all a composite of everyone who came before us. My heritage is no more or less than anyone else's and it certainly explained a few things that had always bothered me. My connections to the land and animals became more understandable once I acknowledged and accepted my heritage. Pride became a plus not a minus in my mind. I am happy to say that being part of a culture that is part of the American historical experience is pretty cool.

  10. I fall into the neurodiverse category with several issues. Ever since childhood I have struggled with fitting into society as I am from the generation before therapy and mental became more socially acceptable. My parents didn't have a frame of reference to know that I was different and not just trying to act out. So it was rough growing up and getting through school (long before the days of special accommodations). If there had been more books out about such topics, it probably would have helped everyone involved.

  11. I'm a Korean American immigrant. After having been in the US for more than 40 years, I've experienced my fair share of racism unfortunately, and some it came from well meaning folks because they're just not well informed. If there were more diverse characters with authentic voices, maybe some of the misinformation can be corrected. It's difficult when one is seen as a stereotype, and it gets old very quickly.

    • This is exactly why diverse books and especially own voices books are so important. I'm sorry that you've had this experience.

  12. Growing up the only stories I could read about gay youth involved suicide, rejection by friends/family, and paralyzing fear. Gay relationships could be represented by the protagonist would always be punished.

  13. I've been very lucky as an immigrant to the US. This nation has given me a decent shot at fulfilling my dreams. I am thankful to be here.

    That being said, other cultures have vast amounts of literature that have never reached western audiences. Or some may have attempted to tell the tales, but the concept was too foreign to digest. I'm trying to bring the story of an Iron Age empress who ruled the Indian subcontinent, sea to shining sea. She loses her empire and fights the ear to end all wars to get it back, only to dismantle it and divide into smaller kingdoms in the end. She walks away from the power and wealth, never to be seen again.

  14. Writing contests allow me to dispel the sense that I am writing in a vaccuum – there's a world out there and someone might be listening…

  15. In all the stories I write, there will be a character, not always the main character, who is scarred, who doesn’t fit in, who is not neurotypical, who is not beautiful, and who succeeds regardless of their circumstances. Because that’s life. At least that’s my life.
    I live with chronic pain, significant food sensitivities, migraines, learning disabilities, and a disfiguring disease called Neurofibromatosis (NF1). NF1 is more common than Cystic Fibrosis. It just doesn’t get the same amount of press. I grew up in a home where coping with a parent’s alcoholism was a dark cloud in our home that never lifted, even when they were sober. I never fit in and was bullied at school.
    Writing is cathartic for me. I can write my struggles into the lives of my characters and see them grow beyond their pain, just as I have learned to do.

  16. I grew up not really understanding my disabilities. I have CAPD, ADD and Dyslexia. It would have meant so much to have more books to identify with. I handed my MFA thesis today- my critical thesis was about the representation of characters with disabilities in Children's Lit.

  17. I'm an independent woman with fibro and nerve damage from a car accident. I pride myself on remaining independent, even though it can hurt to do the everyday things most people take for granted.
    I recently made a solo trip to Universal Studios (HUGE Harry Potter fanatic). I rented an electric scooter, as I am unable to make the walk from the parking garage to the park. At the end of the day my scooter died.
    I was devastated. I had to ask for help just to make it back to my car. I was embarrassed, humiliated, and sad.
    I look perfectly healthy. Which makes it even worse because people can't 'see' anything wrong with me. You can't see the migraines, the everyday morning sickness, the chronic fatigue, or the constant pain. But, it's there.
    Reading and writing are my escape when it's impossible to do anything physical.

  18. I wish you didn't have to go through this. I wish people were more understanding. I wish I was there to help you that day with the scooter.

  19. It was through reading a novel that I first wondered if I might have cystic fibrosis. We had just gotten the book, "Alex: the Life of a Child" by Frank DeFord in the mail as part of a donation solicitation. Years later at age 17, I found out that I did, indeed have cystic fibrosis.

    It's a genetic disorder that is not very common. I look healthy on the outside and have 47% lung volume on the inside. One day I can be super healthy, and the next day the common cold has reduced me to one big lungful of mucus.

    Books about individuals with health problems help everyone to learn about what others might be going through–even when it is invisible on the outside.

  20. I didn’t know I was queer until I met my fiancé. I had friends who were queer. I had family who were queer. But I didn’t know who I was. I knew that I’d dated the same boy all four years in high school. I knew that I dated a boy for another eight months in college. I knew that, sure, sometimes I liked to look like a pretty girl, others, I liked to present more ‘tomboyish’—but that was just high school me not wanting to be ‘like other girls’ because I was ‘better than that.’ Hello there, internalized misogyny. Thank god I’ve grown up.

    But then I started dating my fiancé who was pre-coming out. He presented feminine, and was designated female at birth, and it was the first time I had to question my orientation. I didn’t see myself as gay—it didn’t feel right. And neither did lesbian. Bisexual was closer, but it still didn’t hit me just right.

    It took me months to discover what Pansexual was—attraction regardless of gender—and it was like a wave of relief came over me. That’s what I am—that’s ME! There’s a word for me!

    And then my fiancé and I got into cosplay, and we predominantly found we liked to dress up as our favorite male characters. We would contour our faces and use a stipple sponge to make it look like we had facial hair. We wore tight sport bras to look flat. And those days in cosplay were some of my favorite, because I felt…better in my skin somehow. So did my fiancé.

    We sat together one night on Skype, my fiancé and I, and he admitted to me, “You know…we dress up as guys a lot…and I kind of enjoy it a lot. I think I wanna dress like this a little more. You think that would be okay?”

    And I confessed I felt the same way. So we started changing how we dressed. I alternated depending on the day and what I was doing. My fiancé started to dress predominantly masculine.

    That was where our journey of discovering we weren’t cisgender started.

    My GOD it was a long road. It was likely close to a year when I started looking up different gender identities and found gender fluid. There it was—that earth shattering realization. It took even longer for my fiancé to finally put his foot down and recognize himself for who he really was: a trans man.

    But I look back, and I think about all of the time I lost before I knew who I was. I think about all of the time my fiancé lost. I think of all the people I might have dated if I had let myself consider it. I think of all of the days where I hated myself and felt embarrassed around people because I didn’t feel like I looked right. I wonder if I would be a more confident person today. I wonder if I would have been happier growing up. I think about all of the years my fiancé lost on being the little boy he should have gotten to be.

    And it makes me wonder: what if we’d had access to stories back then that featured characters like him and me? What if I saw a brave character who described falling in love without caring what was between a person’s legs? What if I’d had a protagonist who rocked the neutral pronouns and didn’t care what anyone thought? What if my fiancé had read stories about little trans boys who liked loud punk music, but still could be soft and silly?

    I’ve always been drawn to characters—always sought out pieces of me in each of them to feel that connection. But what if I’d read about a character who truly identified the way I do? What could my life have been like?

    I wrote my manuscript because I never want someone to have to wonder. If I can give one kid that lightbulb moment, and give them a character who does AMAZING things, and whose storyline isn’t tied to their ‘otherness,’ then I’ve accomplished my goal, and I’ve made up all the time I lost, because I gave it to someone else.

  21. Diversity in books haven't really affected me. I enjoy reading all sorts of books and never one thought about someone's social status. But growing up was hard for me. I wasn't into rap, I didn't talk with the urban slang, and my mother gave me what she called a "white" name so I could get a better job. I was the only black girl in my neighborhood that watched Anime and read manga. My little brother got me into rock, punk, and metal music. We grew up hanging around the "white kids" and was teased by the black kids daily. Well, I was teased, my brother fit in with everyone.

    My love for anime and manga turned into me writing my first novel that is written like an anime. My characters have no labeled race, but from their names, most people can point out that they are Japanese (even though some of them are Lycanthropes).

  22. My experience is an odd one. My Latino father managed to wrangle custody from my Caucasian mother in the divorce (when I was four), and I grew up with him and my Ecuadorian grandmother. But that's not the odd part. The oddity stems from the extent to which I took after my mother's side. With light hair and light skin, people still do a double take when they hear me speak fluent Spanish. I never experienced racism the way darker skinned Latino's have, not to the same extent anyway. I noticed very little of it in my youth. As far as literature went, who's worried about identifying with the character's race when they're reading about elves and dwarves? By the time I started reading books of substance, I'd already assimilated. I noted the racism and bigotry, but was fooled enough into thinking those were elements of our past we were leaving behind.

    The lack of diversity in literature was not something I even noticed until I began to teach. For twenty-one years I taught in low income communities of color. There I saw the impact of the lack of diversity. I saw the difference it made in children's eyes when they could see themselves in the characters. I saw how kids on the edge of dropping out, kids who said things like "I've never finished a whole book before," talked for days about how great the opening scene of Gary Soto's Living Up the Street was. I couldn't have paid them to care about Jay Gatsby, but they couldn't get enough of Luis Rodriquez (Always Running). In fact, that novel distilled the problem for me most clearly. Rodriquez spoke of a society and an educational system that never talked about his people. He never learned of the strength of the Aztecs or the brilliance of the Mayans. He learned that everyone who had ever mattered, who had ever accomplished anything worthwhile, was white. It was why poor brown children in the hills east of Los Angeles took up guns and shot at other poor brown children. It was slow motion suicide because none of them felt like they could ever do anything worth caring about. It was life in a system that only warehoused them, crushed their spirits, and prepared them for prison and death rather than giving them a vision for carving their place in the world. Literature can be a key to unlock that mental prison, a light showing a path out of that dark place. I didn't know it until I saw it happen.

  23. I didn’t worry about my last name as a kid.

    After 9/11, things changed, but it took me a while to notice, probably because most of the people in my life aren’t Muslim.

    I rolled my eyes at the nurse’s ignorance when she yelled out for “Jihad” in the waiting room (that is what her brain saw when she saw “Islam”). She was an idiot. And the punchline for a lot of jokes I told about her.

    As long as I made my plane, I didn’t mind that I was always picked for a random bag check. Every time. More than one TSA person has complimented me on my tetris-like packing abilities.

    That became, “I don’t mind as long as the person is polite”, after a gate agent emptied my bag onto the ground on the skybridge as everyone else boarded. (Second random bag check after the first random bag check.)

    I started to pay with a credit card whenever I could because one of my sister’s bank accounts was frozen for nebulous, “suspicious” cash movements.

    Now, when someone runs a credit check, I insist that they also run a watchlist database check – just in case, if in the back of their minds, they’re thinking … I’ve done that ever since my other, very curvy sister was interrogated for six hours at an airport because she shares the same name as a male on the watchlist who looks nothing like her.

    I can belt out a hilarious cocktail story around any of these things, and I still make fun of both of my sisters for their federal lockdowns.

    Things have been uglier when I travel overseas, and they’ve gotten uglier, here, since the election … but the thing that scares me … When I heard of the Ground Zero Mosque controversy – my very first thought, my instinct – was to wonder how the builders of the mosque could be so insensitive.

    And if I’ve absorbed enough ugliness that I could be influenced to think something like that, for even a second …?

  24. As a Chinese-Canadian who grew up in a small town lacking in diversity, I always wanted to be more like the other kids around me. I was always the odd one out, whether at school or even in the books I read and movies I watched. I loved the Percy Jackson series as a kid, so when Heroes of Olympus came out and there were so many diverse characters (and even a Chinese-Canadian!) it was a great reminder that my voice matters and could be heard.

  25. When I discovered The Perks of Being a Wallflower in high school, it felt like I’d discovered the best-kept secret in existence. I was scared to death to tell anyone why I loved it so much, but I was comforted by the idea that there was a book I could relate to so easily—and it was marketed to teenagers! The story contained a side character who was queer and struggled with a lot of the same issues I was struggling with: hiding who they were and facing backlash when they actually opened up about themselves. And to top it off, the main character’s story centered around the affect-effects of childhood sexual abuse—an issue I silently struggled with but wouldn’t tell anyone about until I became an adult.

    The Perks of Being a Wallflower kept me afloat as a teenager. It gave me the power to keep going, and taught me that something good could still come out of dark times. I write YA contemporaries to pass on that feeling. My stories are the types I wish I could have read as a teenager, putting the marginalized characters at the forefront instead of on the sidelines. I hope to affect even one young adult out there who needs the courage to know they’re not alone—bonus points if I can inspire more.

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