When It’s Time To Stop Auditioning, Give Yourself the Job: Self/Hybrid Publish

Let me start with a disclaimer: this is not a screed against traditional publishing. Yes, those are trendy and you’ll find lots of them out there, but this is not one. Life has taught me that when something sustains as long as traditional publishing has, it’s because it remains, however confounded and confused, a vital player in the scheme of things. I’d say that’s the case with the Big 5.

This is, instead, a few of my cobbled thoughts on the topic of why one might choose otherwise; why one might self-publish, or hybrid publish, or publish outside the realm of that iconic process of securing an agent who’ll, hopefully, wrangle a publishing deal, that will, hopefully, vaunt you into the stratosphere of big awards and New York Times bestseller lists. As much as one might dream of that starry-eyed path to literary greatness, there are myriad reasons why one might choose another turn. And very few have to do with not being good enough.

As someone who’s been involved in a variety of creative mediums throughout my career, the concept of stepping front and center to be judged toward some artistic goal is not a foreign one. Which is a convoluted way of saying, “I’m well-versed on the audition/rejection process,” which seems to apply to pretty much every step of life.

From birth on, in fact, we’re immersed in the act of striving for something: the cookie, the pat on the head, good grades, parental/teacher/coach approval, attention of boys/girls, that job we want, the lead in the play, first prize, the record deal, a deserved raise, and so on.

An actor? You submit your picture and resume; if you’re lucky, you book an audition. If that goes well, there’s a callback. If your luck holds, you go to the director, producer, network; whatever, and, usually, within a relatively short period of time, you know whether you’re in or out. Jobs, much the same timeframe. Record deals, boyfriends/girlfriends; that raise? All of these typically come to some recognizable fruition quickly enough to either celebrate tout suite, or launch your grieving process before the next snow.

If you’re an author? Not so much. The audition process toward getting traditionally published is far less linear, less step-by-step; less clear and more circuitous. It’s based less on talent and more on market trends; less on who deserves what and more on who knows whom. Less on right time and more on ‘how much time have you got?’ (a friend recently told me she’d just gotten a rejection from an agent she’d queried over a year ago!). Some of the words I’ve heard writers use to describe the process include: Time consuming, dismissive; rude. Arcane, confusing; contradictory. Exclusionary. Limited. Elitist. Devastating, elusive… impossible. And that’s just one Facebook writers group.

The Process

I’m sure there’s another, much jollier list of adjectives for those who actually make it through; who crack the code, score the agent, get the publishing deal. But this is about the other 96%, whose audition process might look something like this:

  1.  Write, rewrite; polish, re-polish the book and/or book proposal.
  2. Spend oodles of time (and money, if inclined to take classes, seminars, webinars, tutorials) fine-tuning the notorious query letter with the goal of meeting the arcane and specific demands of the literary agent world (which, most authors discover, will require several different versions of said letter).
  3. Diligently research which agents are open to unsolicited queries in your particular genre and note how they like to be approached.
  4. At this point, you should have your Excel spreadsheet out, organizing all the info you’ve gleaned into appropriate rows and columns (you do not want to double submit, for God’s sake, or query your novel to someone who won’t read fiction, or make the mistake of “checking back” if their site says “we only respond if we’re interested”).
  5. Once organized, put together impeccable packages with that perfect query letter and whatever else each specific agent prefers; then judiciously send them off in whatever amounts, order, and time increments you see fit.
  6. There. Done.
  7. Then you wait.
  8. And wait.

The seasons turn. You celebrate a birthday. Your sister gets married. The people next door move out. You lose the Oscar pool. Somehow you gain five pounds. You finish your non-fiction piece on elder care. You wait.

Then, oh happy day, you hear back! From some. Only some. Most are quickie email responses: “I’m not the right agent for you.” Some are scribbled notes on your snail-mail queries…same basic message. Others get more detailed: “Although it’s an interesting premise, I didn’t connect with the story the way I’d hoped.” They might give you some info as to why they didn’t connect or why they’re not right for you (usually not), but whatever you do, don’t write back and ask; they won’t tell you. Other than to tell you they’re too busy to tell you.

But, if you’re lucky, you garner a few requests for more (more pages, chapters, the manuscript). You’re excited to take that next step, thrilled that your sample grabbed them, your “premise was intriguing,” or your title “caught my eye,” and you send it all off, wishin’, hopin’, thinkin’ and prayin’…and then you wait. And wait.

Your parents take that cruise to Greece. You finally learn how to use Illustrator. More of the Arctic Shelf melts. You attempt making baklava. Your brother quits school to join a band. You start working out again. Your boyfriend gives you a cordless vacuum for Valentine’s Day. You wait.

Then you either hear back on the requested material or you don’t. If you do, you get something like, “I didn’t fall for the writing as much as I’d hoped.” Or, “Given the competitive marketplace, I need to love a project more than I loved this one.” Or, “You’re a white author writing black/Muslim/Hispanic/Asian characters and fear of cultural appropriation is too impacted a conversation right now.” Or… well, suffice it to say, rejection comes in a never-ending spectrum of hues and shades.

And then you…

You what? You’ve done your work, learned your craft, spent years honing it to a spit-shine by writing articles, blogs, short stories, screenplays, poems, etc. You’ve gained the expertise to know how to build a compelling narrative, construct a propulsive story arc, and conjure characters that jump off the page. Your dialogue is spot-on, you can make ‘em laugh and cry; your themes are resonating, universal yet unique, and those who’ve read your work are moved. Your book is loved (certainly by you), and it deserves life.

But after years of auditioning without finding the agent who is “right” enough to want you, your options are limited: traditional publishers aren’t welcoming to new writers who don’t have one of those. So what do you do now?

You shelve it. You write something else and try again. You set a bonfire in the backyard and burn your manuscript. You declare you’re done writing. You take up quilting, join a choir; finally paint the bathroom.


YOU DIY. You self-publish. You submit to respected hybrid publishers. You reach out to small presses that don’t require agents. You grab your destiny by the collar, drag it up on stage, flick on the lights, and make that sucker dance.

Like indie filmmakers, indie musicians; indie theater companies; freelance photographers, painters, potters, and mimes (yes, I do know some indie mimes), you take matters into your own hands, gatekeepers be damned.

You apply the same diligence to researching the art and craft of doing it differently, of doing it yourself, as you did researching agents. You suss out the pros and cons, talk with authors who’ve done it and have worthy experiences to share; you read everything you can on self-publishing. You zero in on the hybrid, small press, university publishers open to indie authors. You access professional book builders—content editors, copyeditors; formatters, proofers, cover designers—and you build the book you loved writing into the book you will love selling. One that reads, looks, and feels exactly as it should, with the edit, title, cover, and marketing plan you dreamed up and will launch with the help of skilled collaborators. A book that will sit comfortably next to any traditionally published book on any bookshelf anywhere in the world.

You stop auditioning and give yourself the job: published author.

And don’t let anyone tell you self-publishing is a consolation prize. It might be for some, but there are countless reasons why authors self-publish. Some, yes, see it as their only option. Others never even consider the “traditional publishing audition gauntlet.” A few straddle both worlds, bouncing back and forth, depending on the book, the available opportunities, or the experience they want to have.

My Experience

Me? After a year spent querying my first book, I stopped auditioning and gave myself the job. My second: no “auditions” at all; went right for the stage. Both experiences have been a wild ride of hard work, empowerment, and tremendous satisfaction, but after finishing my third novel at the end of 2016, I decided to set out, once again, on the traditional route. Bluntly, I wanted the experience; it was one I hadn’t had. But after another year of querying, and with time spent at writers’ conferences meeting with and listening to agents, publishers, and writers working on both sides of the publishing divide (one that is more disparate than I even imagined), it came down to this for me:

I want to write the books I’m inspired to write without limitation, without fear, without focus on “what’s trending in the marketplace” or what “impacted conversations” may dissuade others from inviting me in. I want to work with courageous, innovative people who look to nurture and develop good writers, who are willing to take chances, push against resistance, and advance compelling ideas and forward-thinking mission statements. I could either continue on my own, with like-minded collaborators helping me get it done, or, this go-around, I had the option to work with a hybrid publisher who met my criteria and welcomed me in the door. I’m lucky to have that choice: my next book, THE ALCHEMY OF NOISE, will be published by She Writes Press in early 2019, and I’m thrilled to have Brooke Warner and her team in my corner. That, too, will be a new experience.

But which ever way each of our roads turn, however we get to where we’re going, how lovely is it that we do have choices? Auditioning may be a valid option for some; that long, arduous process will likely always have a place in the publishing industry, and I wish well to anyone taking that particular path.

Luckily for us indies, it’s no longer the only path that gets us there.

“The Stage” by Laura Wielo on Unsplash
“You Are Here” by John Baker on Unsplash

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.


Teachers Are Not Snipers. They Are Not SWAT. Arming Them Is a Bad Idea

“I am a teacher. Arm me. Arm me with funding for a full-time school psychologist. Arm me with funding for mandatory school counselors. Arm me by funding smaller class sizes so I can best get to know every one of my 160 students and their families. Arm us with what we NEED.” Mrs. Heidi Bowman, California teacher

Picture this scene on any day, in any-school America:

  • The rush of backpacked bodies surging from carpools and parking lots through doors to their lockers and homerooms.
  • The pandemonium of kids of bursting into hallways intent on getting to their next period.
  • The volume and pitch of cafeterias at lunchtime, with music, mayhem, and the crowded tables of exuberant children.
  • Classrooms filled with desks and bookshelves, long tables hosting projects and homework assignments… and kids. Kids everywhere.

Now picture into those hallowed, crowded, complex spaces a gunman enters with military grade weaponry and the intent to kill. And placed between that horror and our children, charged with protecting their precious lives, are who?

Their math teacher, their soccer coach; their school counselor, who, we’re told, will be poised to gun down that advancing killer BEFORE havoc is wreaked, without mistakenly shooting any of the fleeing students, and while avoiding being shot themselves by Kevlar-wrapped police with no idea who the bad guy is.

There is NO scenario in which that picture makes sense, and anyone suggesting otherwise has clearly spent little time in classrooms, in schools, with teachers and students.

Teachers are not snipers. They are not SWAT teams. They are not police. They are people whose skill sets lie in the arena of implementing education amidst overcrowded classrooms and tight budgets. Who devote unpaid extracurricular hours to counseling needy students, rehearsing school plays, and running governance council committees. Who work tirelessly on salaries often well below those of other more vaunted professions.

Their required aptitudes include excellent communication skills, compassion, and intellectual curiosity. Leadership is in strong demand, as well as patience, empathy, and solid rapport with kids.

NOT listed in the job description? Combat training, marksmanship, and knowledge of firearms that shoot .223 bullets with projectile velocity of 3,200 feet per second.

It’s a cliché to say it takes a village to raise happy, healthy, honorable children, but teachers are often a necessary, essential bridge between parents and the outside world. Is turning that “village” into a militarized zone, with teachers armed and ready to wage war, really the answer to school shootings?

“Our main goal as educators is to create a safe space for our students, where they can trust the adults to care for them, know them, and pay attention to their needs, leaving them open to learn and grow,” a middle school dean asserted. “Any scenario in which a teacher has a gun would only work against that goal by creating a space that anticipates threat and violence. That’s the wrong way to protect children, and the antithesis of what schools should be for them.”

Her view was echoed by another teacher/coach:

“The thought of arming teachers is crazy to me, not only because innocents could be killed in the line of fire, but because that responsibility would distract them from teaching. Students would be negatively impacted by knowing firearms are in the room, in the hands of their instructors. Is that the kind of school we want?”

EVERY parent of every political stripe wants their children kept safe and protected, but intelligent people know that aptitudes and skills are not automatically interchangeable. It takes training, expertise, and specific temperament to become an effective law enforcement officer, and when even police too often shoot innocent bystanders (an 18% hit rate?), and trained soldiers can react with “friendly fire” in the fog of war, why would we expect a teacher to morph into John Rambo during a moment of deadly chaos?

It’s delusional. It’s also a dereliction of duty by politicians, police, and the current president to deflect responsibility for sloppy gun law enforcement, rescission of essential regulations, and fealty to the NRA and a base of gun aficionados, to abdicate the solution of school shootings to overworked teachers.

It’s doubtful Donald Trump, Wayne LaPierre, most congress people, police, or 2nd Amendment activists have spent enough time in schools—teaching, learning the demands of the job, or studying the nuances and idiosyncrasies of the environment—to know just how ludicrous their proposal is. A good educator would suggest they go back to the drawing board to rethink proper enforcement of existing laws, write new ones that take into account current trends and weapons; even, perhaps, debate contemporary, applicable rewording of the 2nd Amendment.

Teachers? They should be left alone to teach.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Identity Politics: How Ageism Became An Accepted Form of Discrimination

Is it fear of death, of our inexorable mortal demise? A whistling past the graveyard of diminished youthful appeal? An irrational aversion to oldness akin to the indefensible mechanics of race hate? What is it, exactly, that makes the process and consequence of aging so terrifying to the bulk of society that they’d malign, dismiss, and denigrate a person just for the fact of being older?

I was forced to ponder this (again) after reading the onslaught of ugly, sexist, ageist pejoratives flung in response to the California Democrats’ refusal to endorse Sen. Dianne Feinstein this past week. While that happenstance deserves its own weighty conversation, the issue at hand is the undeniable playing of the “age card” as people spouted their glee at her rejection.

Original photo by Hubert Chaland on Unsplash

Regardless of any tangible, defensible arguments against her politics, her votes; her views on salient topics, the prevailing strain of trollery showered over this longtime public servant was the simple fact of her age: 84-years-old. 84-freakin’-years-old, dammit! How dare she.

Snarling denunciations of, “this tired, old hag,” came with shouts of, “TimesUP,” and insults to her longevity, her dyed hair, and her aging face. You’d have thought the woman ate small children instead of devoted her life in service to the welfare of Americans, including pushing her resistant colleagues to release the Fusion GPS transcripts, and, just this week, introducing legislation to “bring the rules for AR-15 sales in line with handguns,” an addendum to the Federal Assault Weapons Ban she wrote in 1994. Nothing irrelevant about any of that.

But, while she’s had an astonishing career that demands far better than the ignorance of internet trolls, I’m not here to argue the merits of Sen. Feinstein’s tenure. I’m here to use her recent trollery as a launchpad to discuss why we think, why we’ve accepted, and why we behave as if age is a worthy weapon to devalue, determine relevance, or disallow continuing contribution. Why it’s become an accepted form of discrimination. Why we choose to prioritize age over the wisdom of good ideas, the depth of experience, or the courage of actions taken.

In the political arena (let’s face it, all arenas), society too often gives in to its crass impulse to judge participants, particularly women, on the basis of the year they were born, or cruel assessments of their physical attributes… that ugly nexus of sexism and ageism. You don’t typically hear trolls bark about Bernie Sander’s grumpy face or advanced age (76), Donald Trump’s septuagenarian bloat and blunder (he’s 71), or Ronald Reagan’s descent into dementia before his second term ended at 77-years-old. Democrats applaud the prospect of Joe Biden (75) or John Kerry (74) throwing in for 2020, yet there was endless carping about Hillary Clinton’s advanced age (jeez, only 70!). Effective leaders around the world operate vibrantly and vigorously at ages far older than Ms. Feinstein—the Queen is 91, the Pope 90—and their constituents love them still.

But here in America, land of the free, home of the brave, bubbling cauldron of isms of every kind, the population likes its leaders, its celebrities, its artists, its influencers, particularly its women, young and pretty, evidenced by some of the comments during this recent Feinstein imbroglio:

• “She’s had her chance. Now it’s time for younger people to have theirs. Buh bye!”
• “People get stale when they’ve been somewhere too long. Get rid of them all.”
• “Their time is up and their season is over.”
• “No one cares what old people think. They’re done. Young minds are what’s happening.”
• “They need to get off the stage and let younger people take over.”
• “Old people are clueless. Too much change has happened for them to be relevant.”
• “People want hip. People want now. Old people are then and they’re definitely not hip.”
• “What’s with her picture? Bad dye job and she hasn’t looked that young in decades.”

And on and on. Sigh.

But here’s the strange and self-sabotaging fact that younger people maligning older people either ignore or refuse to consider: THEY will be old some day… and sooner than they think. And when they get there; when they look in the mirror and see a version of themselves they can’t possibly imagine at this moment, it will suddenly dawn on them that they don’t feel irrelevant; they don’t feel useless and used up; they, instead, feel as potent, effective, and purposeful as they do now.

And they will suddenly face that era’s sneering trolls echoing their own words of today. They’ll feel the sting of the same age discrimination they’re wielding so blithely at this moment. It will hurt and they will be inherently responsible for it all.

Because, as they currently dismiss older people as obsolete and expendable across systems, professions, social demographics, and cultural paradigms, they are setting up their own futures. They are building—brick by brick, word by word, tweet by tweet, insult by insult—a world in which they too will become obsolete. In which their accomplishments, experience, wisdom, and capabilities will be dismissed, devalued, and ignored. And what they will discover at that pivotal point, as Dianne Feinstein knows, as Jane Goodall knows, as the damn Queen knows, is that age has NOTHING to do with any of it.

What does?

A mind, heart, and soul still creating, exploring, learning, and contributing; a person willing to innovate, experiment, and share their knowledge. That happens—or doesn’t happen—at any age.

Making age, without a doubt, a most unworthy arbiter.

Here’s the point I’d like younger people to take away: If right now, today, while you’re young and on the cusp of your youthful bloom, you build a world in which every person, regardless of age, is judged, chosen, elected, or rewarded commensurate with their accomplishments and their contemporary willingness to evolve, you will have that world waiting for you when you are that older person. Think of it as an investment in your future.

And however you judge Dianne Feinstein, refuse to let age, gender, or the color of her hair be part of the equation. If anything’s irrelevant, it’s all that.

Original Photo by Hubert Chaland on Unsplash

Related posts:

Age Is Not The Arbiter Of Relevance. See ‘Sneaky’ Dianne Feinstein

The Geeze and Me: Honoring and Illuminating Age Through the Wit and Wisdom of Musical Theater

What Young People Get Wrong About Aging and How It’s Going To Hurt Them

Pass the Mantle? Thanks, But I’m Still Wearing Mine

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.


‘Fair warning….do not read this in public!’ Latest Review of Hysterical Love

“This is aptly named! This novel is HYSTERICAL! Fair warning….do not read this in public. There are places you will laugh out loud!”

I’ve always loved making people laugh… when it’s a book? Even better.

Click the link below for the latest review on Hysterical Love… and much thanks to Reeca Elliott @ “Reecaspieces” book blog!

HL front cover_sm

“The characters in this tale are a hoot! I love the interaction between Dan and his sister, Lucy. True sibling interactions! And his mother….always wanting her dish back! 😂. But, my all time favorite is the tow truck driver! You have to read this to find out.”

To read full review: Hysterical Love by Lorraine Devon Wilke

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.


The Politics of Art: Should Artists Keep Their Opinions To Themselves?

“I have always loved the Grammys but to have artists read the Fire and Fury book killed it. Don’t ruin great music with trash. Some of us love music without the politics thrown in it.” ~ Nikki Haley, 29th and current United States Ambassador to the United Nations

The tension between art and politics has long been debated, certainly since the 1960s, when the cultural revolution introduced neon posters, protest music, and lyrics that offered more than “ooh baby baby” to the national conversation. Lenny Bruce and George Carlin made politics and changing mores the bedrock of their humor. Films, TV, art, and music found the incitement of violent unrest, sexual freedom, social controversy, and evolving standards ripe for exploration. All the rules changed and, for artists, that was a glorious thing.

Yet here we are in 2018, once again debating the explosive merge between politics and art, with some sniffing that those who create the movies, TV shows, music, books, images, and comedy enjoyed by a rapacious public should keep their politicizing pie-holes shut. Nikki was peeved, Trump took on Jay-Z, and God forbid a certain red-headed comedienne made tasteless jokes about the man in the White House…satire is dead, color within the lines, banish them from the kingdom!

Some of us aren’t having that.

When Nikki Haley tweeted the above admonition on Grammy night, she threw herself into a social media frenzy that literally exploded with response, opening up a contemporary conversation about what artists are allowed to say, what they are advised to do when it comes to that provocative alliance between creative and political personas.

The zeitgeist on that question has clearly evolved over time. Swinging from earlier eras when artists and celebrities fought hard to keep their proclivities and idiosyncrasies—both personal and political—from impacting any part of their public brand (with McCarthy’s blacklist making it a matter of career life and death), current trends find politics and identity more readily meshed, making public not only what an artist has to offer, but who they are and what they believe.

Of course, that’s not true in all genres of the creative world. It’s well known that country music defines conservatism as the go-to party line and sticking your neck out too far to the left can shatter a career’s upward trajectory (see the Dixie Chicks). Some say that hard line has been softened in more recent years; when big stars like Tim McGraw and Faith Hill can throw their support behind Obama and sane gun control, and still maintain status as one of country’s power couples, perhaps the sharper edges of political witch-huntery have been dulled. Even the TV series “Nashville” has tackled police profiling and the outing of one of its most popular characters.

On the other side of the aisle, actors like Bruce Willis, Kelsey Grammer, and Tim Allen claim their conservative politics have contributed to backlash from liberal Hollywood. Clint Eastwood, he of the famous “empty Obama chair” at the 2012 Republican Convention, has been openly mocked not only for his support of right-wing politics, but the contradiction those views present when viewed against some of his more liberal narratives (Gran Torino or Million Dollar Baby, for example). I doubt that Eastwood gives a hoot about it either way, but it might be true that being an out-and-proud red-hat Republican in the entertainment business requires a certain thickness of skin!

Writers, largely more private and introspective than their performing cousins, seem particularly sensitive to the conundrum, as their commerce and community building rely heavily on the goodwill of virtual readers and reviewers who may or may not share their civic opinions. Some, in service to that readership, refuse to reveal their political views in open forums, often advising others to follow suit for the sake of survival in a saturated marketplace. One author recently asked if I didn’t find it “dangerous” to be as vocal and public as I am about politics, if I might be scaring off, offending, or potentially losing readers who sit on the other side of the fence.

Maybe so.

But for me it comes down to this: the products of my creativity are built on the foundation of my political and social beliefs. The topics I cover, the characters I create, the messages of my stories are all imbued with one aspect or another of my perspective, either by echoing it or arguing it. In fact, it is my worldview—my philosophies, spiritual beliefs, and politics—that contributes to the whole of my assembled persona, and that persona is inexorably linked to my artistic expression. These things are inseparable.

If my views offend, put off, or otherwise dissuade readers, listeners, or viewers from appreciating or buying my work, then so be it. That is the price I willingly pay for authenticity. For me, there would be no point to creating art if it didn’t represent my voice, didn’t inspire conversation, elicit emotion, provoke thought, or offer illumination. Whether comedy, satire, suspense, science fiction, romance, or mystery, one can weave their foundational beliefs into any plot, character, or dialogue. Nothing need be wasted. My Muse, in fact, will not allow me otherwise.

Given that, I’m particularly drawn to artists propelled by the same impulse. I love that J.K. Rowling makes no secret of her liberal views on Twitter, stirring trolls into Voldemort-like frenzy! Chelsea Handler’s fierce politics make her humor all the more pointed. I appreciate that Ken Olin, Rob Reiner, Alyssa Milano, Ava DuVernay, Don Cheadle, John Leguizamo, and Jeffrey Wright relentlessly use their pulpits to push against nationalist hate and right-wing demagoguery.

But I especially applaud lesser known artists, those who have more to lose by boldly going where their politics lead. They are countless and courageous in putting their artistry where their mouths are:

Grace Amandes, a top-notch Chicago graphic artist, is not only fearless about stating her truths, she went so far as to design a slate of astonishingly beautiful protest posters for the 2018 Women’s March and donated them to any marcher or organization who requested them. Whether her more conservative corporate clients might be put off by her public stance held no sway, and she was honored to find her work widely shared both nationally and online.

Women’s March 2018, artist Grace Amandes

Or Aron Teo Lee. An east coast educator/entrepreneur who inspires the innovative thinking of kids and corporations via his company, Deilab, Lee is also a musician and a man of social conscience. Outraged by current political events, motivated to speak out for racial justice and other progressive causes, he and his band, The Funkin’ Rock Rebellion, recorded his song, “Into the Storm We March,” in time for the 2018 Women’s March and February’s Black History Month. Calling it “real funk with a meaning,” Lee describes his music as “sonic fuel to power artistic protest and social activism in response to this president and his cruel administration.” Art. Politics. Activism. No apologies.  

Aron Teo Lee

Or writer/director/filmmaker, Susie Singer Carter, and partner, Don Priess, who took their compassion and concern for Alzheimer’s sufferers, triggered by Susie’s journey with her beloved and afflicted mother, and made a beautiful film short, My Mom and the Girl, which touched a nerve for many, garnering a slate of awards at festivals around the globe. Pivotal to the story was a tender narrative arc involving a trans-woman, not necessarily a topic that plays well in some corners of middle and southern America. But being the dauntless artist she is, not only was Susie unbowed by the potential of offending viewers with more conservative views, she infused the film with a visual embrace of tolerance.

My Mom and the Girl

Artists like these are all the more admirable for making their unflinching contributions at a time when so much around us careens in chaos… when too many of the privileged and socially insulated blithely declare, “I don’t do politics,” despite the growing need for universal and collaborative involvement.

Fortunately, and increasingly, most of us do “do politics,” using the skill sets we have at our disposal to raise the bar, raise consciousness, and raise awareness. For artists, it’s their art. Their music, their books, their films. Their photographs, theater, and poetry. Their comedy. Their images. Their songs.

To answer the titular question: artists can’t be afraid to mix politics and art. The power created by that synergy is what drives revolutions, what makes change, what inspires activism… all of it pushed by the noise of our collective voices. If someone cannot tolerate the volume, they are free to take a seat in the other room.

Banner photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash  
Artists photos by permission of the artists.

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.



A LITERARY VACATION Book Blog Profiles My IndieBRAG Awarded Novels

IndieBRAG is a literary organization made up of large groups of readers, both individuals and members of book clubs, located throughout the United States and in ten other countries around the globe. Their mission is to seek out, support, and help market independent authors and their books, and one of the ways they do that is with their BRAG Medallion, an honor bestowed on select books. I’ll let them explain that process:

All ebooks brought to the attention of indieBRAG, LLC are subjected to a rigorous selection process. This entails an initial screening to ensure that the author’s work meets certain minimum standards of quality and content. This initial screening may involve a review of sample chapters available on Amazon.com (or other on-line booksellers), or portions of the nominated ebook. IndieBRAG, LLC reserves the right to reject an ebook during this initial screening assessment for any reason in indieBRAG, LLC’s sole discretion. If it passes this preliminary assessment, it is then read by a selected group of members drawn from our global reader team. In both the initial screening phase and, if appropriate, the subsequent group evaluation phase, each book is judged against a comprehensive list of relevant literary criteria.

I’ve been honored to have both my novels, After the Sucker Punch, and Hysterical Love, awarded the BRAG Medallion, and with that honor came the attention of a popular book blog, A LITERARY VACATION, who’s just posted a profile on my books.

You can find that profile, with links, details and lots of information on both books, right here: Spotlight on the Books of B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Lorraine Devon Wilke

I’m delighted to have my work acknowledged—thank you, Colleen Turner—and I look forward to connecting to new readers!

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.


Age Is Not The Arbiter Of Relevance. See ‘Sneaky’ Dianne Feinstein

Whenever I see an article that pits one generation against another, that categorizes the value and merit of any person in terms of age; that wildly asserts that terming-out is how to handle old folks and only youngsters have the sense and savvy to proceed to the route, I find my teeth grinding.

This is not only because I now happen to be in an age demographic that’s considered “old,” but because being in that age demographic has awakened me to the reality that age is not, and cannot be, the arbiter of who has value, who merits allegiance; who gets to stay and who has to go. Because relevance is not based on how quickly one can text, program a tech device, name the highest rated video game, or garner social media virality. Relevance is based on how well one balances their weight of wisdom, their experience and know-how, with pertinent, evolving, contemporary skills, demands, trends and issues of the day. What young people have on one end of that scale, older people gain on the other. It’s about the right mix; it applies to every increment of the age spectrum, and when you find that mix and act on it, amazing things can happen.

Take Dianne Feinstein. Or, as the bloviator in the White House has deemed her, “Sneaky Dianne.”

Born in San Francisco in 1933, a public servant in one role or another since the 60s, she’s at an age that is inarguably considered “old” by every standard, and yet there she was yesterday, changing the political narrative with nary a twitch of hesitation. With her pale face and smartly brunette coif, matter-of-fact and undeterred, she shoved aside the flummoxed of her own party, as well as the obfuscating Anita-Hill-bashing alumnus, Chuck Grassley, and newly minted Trump fanboy, Lindsey Graham, to step out of the Bable of political confusion to do what needed to be done: release the transcripts of the Fusion GPS testimony:


“The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice,” Feinstein, a San Francisco Democrat, said in a statement. “The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public.”

Grabbed in a hallway by news reporters after her stunning move, she’s looked at the reporter and flatly declared: “I just decided to do it,” immediately giving women another rallying cry (similar to “But she persisted”) and elevating her status as a very relevant player in the dark drama of the Trump & Russia Show. Perhaps, as history may reveal, one of the most relevant.

Whatever you’ve thought of her over the years, however you’ve agreed or disagreed with her; if you think she’s too hawkish, not progressive enough, behind the times; tired, whatever; you cannot deny the facts of yesterday. Of her bold, shocking, courageous decision to flout political pressure and the Trumpian machinery of threat and blowhardery to do the right thing; to share with the American people what is their right to know; to expose facts that parties on the other side preferred shrouded in lies. No one else did it. No one younger, hipper, more progressive, maler. Dianne Feinstein did it. An eighty-four-year-old grandma who’s been serving the American people longer than some congresspersons have been alive. Just the title of this Los Angeles Times piece says it all: Ignore the critics. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is outperforming many half her age, with old-fashioned civility.

There will be, as there is with anything related to politics these days, particularly Donald Trump, reams written about this event. It will be discussed, debated, denounced, celebrated, parsed, analyzed and argued for weeks, months, potentially centuries to come (will they still be talking about Trump in 3018??), but none of that’s the point of this piece. The point of this piece is simply this:

Age is not the arbiter of relevance. Don’t let anyone tell you it is. Don’t let culture, advertising, Madison Avenue, hipster trendsetters, narcissistic young people, apathetic old people, frothing pundits, clickbait seeking article writers; people so afraid of death they frame anyone past the age of 50 as teeterers at the abyss; any and all of them; don’t let them convince you otherwise. Age is not the arbiter of anything. What is?

Courage, wisdom, experience; a willingness to stay plugged in. A relentless curiosity about evolving life, evolving culture. An interest in every kind of person — young or old. A desire to keep learning, to keep listening; to push against dishonesty and corruption, to remain convinced of and committed to your purpose in life. And then doing it. Doing it all. Whatever that commitment may demand. In Dianne Feinstein’s case, that included releasing the papers because it was the right thing to do.

That is a defining moment. That is relevance.

Meme found on Twitter

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.


NEW Photography Reel Features Collector Favorites

When you lead an eclectic creative life, as I do, you sometimes find you’re giving short shrift to one arena while focused on another; for example:

Taking off for four months to be in a new musical (however exhilarating and joyful) does leave less time to promote your indie novels. Pounding pavements in search of publishing opportunities for a new book (less joyful 🙂 ) does demand enough energy that street shooting can get lost in the shuffle. Staying current with current culture will often distract from the craft of art. That sort of thing. And there really are only so many hours in a damn day, despite my arguments to the contrary!

I’ve been told throughout my career that I’d be wise to streamline my focus, choose a medium and stick with it; at least come up with a theme, a brand; a niche. But for whatever reason, and for better or worse, my artistic DNA will not seem to allow it. Never has. I remain convinced that ALL of art tells a story and that’s my gig: telling stories. However I choose to tell them. Hence, the eclectic nature of it all… including my photography.

And given the need to breathe some fresh life into that part of my creative arsenal, and because this medium has been tickling my brain more in recent weeks, I put together a reel of various images that have garnered the most attention from viewers and collectors over the years. Many are personal favorites, some are new, but all reflect my endless fascination with the world around me. Click the video below to enjoy the selection.

As for my gallery at-large: while I’ve been fortunate to have my work shown in the Los Angeles Center of Photography in Hollywood, CA; Chung King Road Studio in LA’s Chinatown; in You Daily Photograph features via the Duncan Miller Gallery; at the Griffin Museum of Photography outside Boston, as well as displayed in a variety of office buildings, private businesses, and on hearths and walls of many a private home, virtual viewers can click to my site at Fine Art America to enjoy the full panoply of where my eye has taken me…

Please enjoy!

Video soundtrack: “Angel Share” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com); Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.


HYSTERICAL LOVE Honored As Finalist in American Book Festival’s ‘BEST BOOK AWARDS’

From the official press release:

LOS ANGELES – American Book Fest has announced the winners and finalists of The 2017 Best Book Awards on November 9, 2017. Over 400 winners and finalists were announced in over 90 categories. Awards were presented for titles published in 2015-2017.

Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of American Book Fest said this year’s contest yielded over 2,000 entries from mainstream and independent publishers, which were then narrowed down to over 400 winners and finalists.

Keen says of the awards, now in their fifteenth year, “The 2017 results represent a phenomenal mix of books from a wide array of publishers throughout the United States. With a full publicity and marketing campaign promoting the results of the Best Book Awards, this year’s winners and finalists will gain additional media coverage for the upcoming holiday retail season.”

Winners and finalists traversed the publishing landscape: Wiley, McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, St. Martin’s Press, Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, Rowman & Littlefield, New American Library, Forge/Tor Books, John Hopkins University Press, MIT Press and hundreds of independent houses contributed to this year’s outstanding competition!

Keen adds, “Our success begins with the enthusiastic participation of authors and publishers and continues with our distinguished panel of industry judges who bring to the table their extensive editorial, PR, marketing, and design expertise.”

American Book Fest is an online publication providing coverage for books from mainstream and independent publishers to the world online community.

American Book Fest has an active social media presence with over 96,000 current Facebook fans.

A complete list of the winners and finalists of The 2017 Best Book Awards are available online at American Book Fest.

General Fiction Honorees listed HERE.

Of course I am delighted. Hysterical Love is one of my favorite creations as an author and I hope you’ll enjoy a copy of your own… click HERE.

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.


Whose Voice Gets To Represent Race In Our Literature?

Storytellers are the chroniclers of our life and times. They memorialize history, dissect our complex and evolving world; they entertain and provoke and captivate. They are as diverse and eclectic as the characters they create and the stories they tell. It is their job to reflect who we are, what we experience, and what we can imagine. That’s a big canvas. It’s huge. And there’s no end to the variety of colors and hues that can be drawn upon it. Just as there is no end to the variety of artists weaving the tales drawn there.

Yet some believe there are rules to who gets to use which colors, who gets to draw outside the lines to tell stories that involve characters from different cultures. Some believe issues of race can only be voiced from within limited perspectives. Who gets to decide that? Who determines the answer to the title question?

In May of this year, the BBC took it on, running a piece about successful British spy author, Anthony Horowitz, who’d been dissuaded from including a black character in one of his novels:

Author Anthony Horowitz says he was “warned off” including a black character in his new book because it was “inappropriate” for a white writer. The creator of the Alex Rider teenage spy novels says an editor told him it could be considered “patronising” … Horowitz, who has written 10 novels featuring teenage spy Alex Rider, said there was a “chain of thought” in America that it was “inappropriate” for white writers to try to create black characters, something which he described as “dangerous territory”.

I not only agreed with Anthony’s “dangerous territory” comment, I shared that opinion in my own piece, No, Authors Should Not Be Constrained By Gender Or Race In The Characters They Create (and since quoting my own work feels circular, I invite you to click over there to get my fuller perspective).

I ask this question not just because of the larger and, yes, “dangerous” implications of limiting literary voices and books, but from the very personal perspective of hitting the buzzsaw of “fear of cultural appropriation” within my own work, in trying to get my own book, a dramatic novel about police profiling within an interracial relationship, published.

While agents and publishers can find any number of reasons to reject a book (as they do regularly), particularly as the industry struggles under dramatically changing fortunes, I was surprised at the resounding lack of response I’d gotten to this new book, particularly after having published two previous novels that have done well, and with a resume that’s garnered a modicum of respect. Certainly I understand how subjective the process is — it’s been likened to the rarity and randomness of falling in love — but still, it was unusual how few even acknowledged my query. It wasn’t until I was able to get some specific responses from specific agents that the light finally went on.

It was a problem of “fear of cultural appropriation.”

I am a white author telling a story that involves black characters. This, as Anthony Horowitz was warned, is not considered “appropriate.” It’s seen as “patronizing.” Though, in following that paradigm, who, then, would be able to tell the story of an interracial relationship if neither race can write about the other? Personally, I find that to be madness, but I’ve now had agents from three different high-profile literary agencies specifically cite “appropriation” as their reasons for rejection:

1. The first felt my “whiteness is kind of a problem,” she wrote: “This is a well written and serious novel; an issue-oriented novel that could not be more current… but there may be an issue of whose voice gets to represent race.”

2. The second asserted she couldn’t take it on because of “all the concerns about ‘cultural appropriation’ these days.”

3. The third felt the black male protagonist “didn’t sound black enough.” I won’t even parse that implication.

But the message was clear, at least from the point of view of these particular gatekeepers: white authors writing black characters are unmarketable. Beyond “inappropriate,” “these are brutal times in fiction and we’re not comfortable representing a book, no matter how good or worthy, in which that issue is present.”

How do we feel about that? As readers, writers, and consumers of cultural content?

I find it dangerous. I find it censuring. I find it condescending and discriminatory. I find any limitation to writers of any race to be the antithesis of art. Or, as my friend and #BLM activist, Regina McRae, put it (and I echoed above): “An author is an artist, and words are their canvas. You can’t constrain art.” She’s right.

We live in a profoundly competitive world, a landscape made all the more so by the internet and its powers of equalization. Skill, craft, and expertise, once prerequisites of success, are now often trumped by what’s viral, what’s contemporary, what excels via social media marketing. A “nobody” making YouTube videos can hit the zeitgeist of youth fascination to outpace a label artist who’s put years and millions into production. A young Turk writing snarky clickbait can be valued over a brilliant journalist covering news with depth and perspective. A self-published soft-porn novelist can outsell a Pulitzer Prize-winning wordsmith by virtue of viral hype alone. And kids with iPhones can score magazines covers while journeymen photographers close shop.

Within that world, industries impacted, like the publishing industry, pendulate wildly as they attempt to transcend and reinvent, often without clarity about what’s next or what new turn culture might take while they’re trying to survive. So I get it. I get a literary agent telling me she “doesn’t have the courage” to take on a book that might stir controversy, that might garner commensurate cowardice from the publishers she’s trying to sell it to. It’s a business; she’s gotta make a living.

But I disdain the reasons why. If a white author writes a book with black characters and it’s poorly written, with little market value, or if — given art’s subjectivity — it’s simply something she doesn’t like or doesn’t believe has merit, fine. Those are understandable reasons to reject.

But if a book with black characters written by a white author is a “well written and serious novel; an issue-oriented novel that could not be more current,” and if that book — presented with fully-fleshed characters, with depth, sensitivity, and authentic reflections of all ethnicities involve — is rejected simply because it might trigger discomfort about “cultural appropriation,” what is the underlying message?

Literary discrimination. Artistic cowardice. Market segregation.

If we can only write within our cultures, our demographics, that means, if interpreted fairly, science fiction writers can’t write about aliens, men can’t write about women; women about men. Straight writers can’t include LGBT characters and vice versa. Catholics can’t write about non-Catholics, Democrats about Republicans; Jews and Muslims about people who are not of their faith. Young people can’t write about old people (though the reverse might be acceptable since old people used to be young people). And since white writers can’t include black characters, or any characters that aren’t white, we’d have to presume the commensurate would be expected of black writers, Asian writers, Hispanic writers, etc.

Silly, isn’t it? Maybe even terrifying.

Is that really what we want from our artistic gatekeepers? Fear of controversy? Cultural timidity? The negation of an entire demographic of voices who dare to include diversity outside their own? Have we really come to a time of such hair-trigger sensitivity that we require our storytellers to limit their imaginations to only the race, creed and color they are?

Tell that to Harper Lee.

Now, believe me, I’m not comparing myself to Harper Lee, but I am saying every book must be judged on the merit of the work; every author, on the quality of their skill and presentation. And if an author is telling a multicultural story, one that involves diverse characters, their only obligation is to tell that story well, with authenticity and truth.

Given my own focus and activism on issues of race in America, its conflicts and conversations (see “related articles” below), I believe I have done that; I’ve heeded that mandate. I also think I’ve written a pretty damn good story. But if I can’t find anyone in the traditional publishing world courageous enough to take it on, to transcend their fears of “cultural appropriation,” I’ll once again leap on my own and hopefully find an interested, openminded audience.

It is our job to tell our stories. It is our right to create the worlds and characters and tales we imagine. We are not limited by corporate timidity. And we are not afraid of who reads them.

I’m interested to hear what other writers, agents, publishers, readers at large think about or have encountered on this issue. It’s one that seems to be growing and needs, I believe, some serious thought and discussion. Feel free to share your thoughts in comments, on Facebook, or get in touch via my website. And if you’re curious about my book in question, click HERE.

Related articles:

Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.