Listening To My Heart

I shouldn’t be taking the time to write this, not with a tight deadline hanging over my head like a black-cloaked reaper waiting for me to fall over dead from stress and exhaustion. Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic, but I’m legitimately sweating getting this book done!

So why am I using what little writing time I have to write this post? Because I need to put these thoughts into the universe before I can shut the door on this situation and move forward.

This week I parted ways with the publisher of LIVING IN SHADOWS. I’m not sure what that’s all going to mean, but my agent is dealing with the details, and I’m so thankful to have an agent who cares enough about my heart to back me up.  Sadly, there will likely be a period of time when the book is unavailable, but I know my agent will work quickly to get the book back into the world as soon as possible. (And I know you can get some at Barnes and Noble in Blaine, MN this Saturday because they’re all stocked up for my book signing. Is it funny I’m going to a big book signing being emceed by Twin Cities Live for a book that no longer has a publisher? Further proof that it’s impossible for me to do anything like a “normal” person.)

I’m sure you’re wondering why I would walk away from a publisher.

When I signed the contract with this publisher, they were called Astraea Press, and I had never heard of them (they later changed their name to Clean Reads). My agent told me I would need to take out any swear words. I only had one, so I was ok with that. I understood they were a press that catered to publishing “clean” books, which I thought was cool.

I had never looked at the submission guidelines listed on their website, but it came to my attention this week that on the “What we are NOT looking for” portion, they had listed “homosexual characters.” I felt like the wind was punched out of me. Had I seen that verbiage, I would never have signed a contract with them. Not because I have a homosexual character in my book, but because that statement makes me terribly sad. (They have now changed their wording to say they don’t want to publish books with LGBT themes.)

Part of why I love writing for teens is because they can see themselves in the characters and situations in the books they read. They can feel a connection and know they’re not alone in the things they’re going through. Writing books for ALL people is important to me.

In real life, there are homosexual “characters.”

In real life, there are LGBT “themes.”

Even though I’m not sure what taking my rights back from this publisher will look like, I know in my heart, whatever happens with this book, I won’t regret listening to my heart. And when this all came to my attention, my heart said, “This is wrong.” And then I cried.

I cried because otherwise good people hurt others with this sort of exclusion. I cried reading the blog post written by the author who brought this submission guideline to my attention. I cried reading the responses of people defending the publisher. One person said, “I have gay friends, and I love them anyway!” Are we supposed to be impressed by that? How can a person even say that and not see how disgusting it is?!

I pray one day we get to a place where we all simply say, “I have friends, and I love them.”

Obviously, we’re not there yet. Until then, I will hope that the hearts and minds of others will be opened to how these types of words and exclusions hurt people. And I will do all I can to be part of the solution and never part of the problem.

So, I must listen to my heart and step away, wishing my publisher well.

16 thoughts on “Listening To My Heart

  1. jodiwriter says:

    You did the right thing. There are LGBT kids and teens who are struggling with who they are and seeking acceptance and they need adults to stick by them like you did.

  2. Shari says:

    Hella proud of you Jessica. Putting your compassion where your mouth is exactly what I’d expect you to do. But it’s awful to have to leave a business relationship. I know it will be ok anyway. ❤ ❤ ❤

  3. Sue LaRue says:

    Oh, Jessica, I am so very proud of your stance. If only we could al just love on another. Love is the answer no matter the question. I believe we will all b judged by how well we love and, girl, you love well. I am so grateful our paths crossed.

  4. Kathleen Lamb says:

    “I pray one day we get to a place where we all simply say, ‘I have friends, and I love them.’” What a great statement!

    It is especially hard to see friends and those who are close to us be mistreated because of who they are! I am so sorry your publisher turned out to have such terrible policies. You have shown real courage by your stance. Good luck with finding another publisher who will be a great match.

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