On Writing #ownvoices Intersections

Photo credit: Sebastian Hillig on Flickr
One of the projects I'm working on right now is the most #ownvoices manuscript I've ever written. It's been both a challenge and interesting to work on, because writing one aspect of marginalization is hard enough, but this WIP has several intersections—like me.

As sometimes emotional and scary the process has been so far, it's also been somewhat cathartic. On more than one occasion I've experienced something related to one of my identity aspects—whether a microaggression or related life experience—and then I sat down and added it (or something close to it) to my manuscript to better flesh out the everyday experiences someone like me deals with.

Of course, the responsibility weighs pretty heavily as I write. Writing an #ownvoices manuscript isn't all sunshine and butterflies—it requires reflecting deeply on your own experiences, including experiences you don't really want to dwell on, considering any internalized -isms and -phobias you may have honestly and making sure it doesn't show up in your writing, and eventually getting feedback from others in the communities you're representing to make sure nothing damaging slipped in.

Then of course, there's knowing your experience isn't everyone's experience, so even things you pull from your life may feel inauthentic to someone else in your community. And there's being aware of the responsibility you're picking up, especially when you're representing an underrepresented community with your book. There's knowing the way you write it and portray these identity aspects is the difference between a kid one day seeing themself in your writing, or your writing doing undo harm to the reader who absorbs something damaging from your words.

All in all, I've been taking my time with this one because it's not something I want to rush. There are too many details to get right and ways it could go wrong. But as challenging as the experience has been so far, it's also been rewarding. Because one day I may be able to introduce the world to a character with intersections like mine—and maybe it'll speak to another reader out there like me too, who hasn't seen more than occasional fragments of themself fully represented yet, if at all.

And that's pretty darn cool.

Have you worked on any #ownvoices projects? 

Twitter-sized bites:
.@Ava_Jae talks working on an intersectional #ownvoices WIP, and the responsibilities involved. (Click to tweet)

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