Emily Timbol

Jun
13

Working Towards 10,000 Hours

When I first heard of the (wildly debated) theory of the “10,000 Hours rule” I was immediately intrigued. Roughly summarized, it’s the belief that to master anything—piano, sailing, rock climbing, or say, writing—you have to spend at least 10,000 hours practicing it the “correct way.”

Lots and lots of people think this theory is crap, but setting aside it’s practical purposes, it offered me a bit of relief as an aspiring writer. When I queried my first manuscript, I would have self-identified as an intermediate writer. Definitely not a beginner or novice, since I had written a screenplay in college, completed an undergraduate creative writing class, attended multiple writers workshops, and published dozens of essays and articles online. But maybe not yet an expert, since the manuscript I was querying was my first complete one, my lone other novella abandoned when I needed to go back to 6th grade.

As an exercise, after learning about the rule, I sat down and calculated a rough estimate of the hours I’d spent, so far in my life, writing. After I totaled it all up I was flabbergasted, and redid the math three or four times, convinced I must have made a mistake. Because at the time I first counted, I had completed less than 1,000 hours of writing. And a good chunk of that probably could be disqualified for not being “correct.” (Side note: I’m not sure the correct clause really applies to mastering writing, since the only way to become a good writer is to first write a hell of a lot of crap.)

I remember furiously googling and finding comfort in all the articles claiming that the 10,000 Hours rule had no merit. Even though most of the people de-bunking the theory didn’t say that all that practice or time spent investing in your craft was unnecessary, but rather there was no guarantee that after 10,000 hours, you’d be the next Joan Didion.

I mostly forgot about the theory as the years went by, since I was so busy working on my next two manuscripts, that first one I queried having failed to land me an agent. I only was reminded of it recently because of some conversations I’ve had with aspiring writers, devastated at the idea that their first novel, which they spent so much time on, might not get representation. A lot of these writers felt like any completed novel that doesn’t get published is a failure. That’s what I thought too, before, so I completely understand why so many writers feel that now.

That’s not something I agree with anymore, having finally signed with a literary agent. I no longer view any of the time I spent writing or editing my previous (unpublished) manuscripts as a waste, because if it hadn’t been for that time, I wouldn’t have finished a manuscript that was publishable (fingers crossed.)

Princess Bubblegum

What the 10,000 hours theory can help writers be reminded of, is how long of a process it can be, if you want to be successful in the publishing industry. I have almost certainly spent at least 10,000 hours dreaming of being published (say, 4 hours a day over the seven years I spent working towards getting an agent) even if I, at my most recent calculations, have spent only a tenth of that time actually working towards my goal. It’s not fast. It’s tedious. Suc
ceeding on the traditional publishing path is the kind of journey that while you’re on, you have to be willing to see a number like 10,000 hours and go, “psssh, more like 15,000.” 10,000 hours might be only the beginning for some writers.

But the good news (there is good news, I swear) is that writing is one of those things that, if you truly work harder at, you almost can’t fail at improving. There’s certainly some writers who will, for whatever reason, never quite capture the spark needed to capture a readers attention, but for the vast majority of writers, that spark is still obtainable, if it can be whittled out of the mud. And I say that as someone who still has many, many hours ahead of me, and lots of mud to crawl through.

All that to say, don’t give up. I’m still slogging on, racking up hours of experience, and I hope to meet lots of other writers doing the same.

A 10,000 Hours Breakdown for me – 

200+ published and drafted blog posts – average of 1.5 hours spent on each  = 300 hours

50+ published essays and articles for various online and print publications – average of 2.5 hours spent on each = 125 hours

62,000 word completed manuscript – 3 hours writing and 2 hours editing per 1,000 words = 310 hours

63,000 word completed manuscript– 3 hours writing and 2 hours editing per 1,000 words = 315 hours

74,000 word completed manuscript – 2 hours writing and 2 hours editing per 1,000 words (I got a little faster) = 296 hours

50,000 +/- total words for unfinished or abandonded manuscripts – 2 hours writing per 1,000 words = 100 hours

Three 6-week Shanty Boat Writers Workshops, at 3 hours per night, each = 54 hours

Creative Writing course in college –
2 hours per week X 30 weeks = 60 hours

Adolescent/non-serious writing when I was a kid/teenager – one novella at 15 hours, one screenplay at 21 hours, misc short stories = 50 hours

Total: 1,610 hours

May
30

How I Got My Agent (IT’S REALLY HAPPENING!)

Forewarning, this will be long and filled with gifs. The stats are at the bottom, feel free to skim!

Tom_Benedict

I still cannot believe I am writing this post. Not in a cute, faux-humility way, like when supermodels say they can’t believe people actually think they’re pretty (just shut up Gisele.) But in a “I’ve been dreaming about this for so many years while racking up SO MANY REJECTIONS that now that it’s actually happening it doesn’t feel real” kind of way. Someone slap me.

April Slapping Ben

While I’ve been writing my whole life, leaving a whole wake of started and stopped novels, novellas, short stories, and even an embarrassingly horrible screenplay, I never considered myself a “writer.” I knew that I wanted to make a difference in the world, and for a long time I thought I had to do this through other means, because I was too scared to give myself that title I didn’t feel worthy of claiming. “Writer.” It wasn’t until 2009, when the author of a book I loved replied to an email I sent her with, “why aren’t you writing?” that I allowed myself to dream. It’s sad, but I needed someone else to confirm the longing I’d always had. I was a writer. I needed to write.

So I did. It was like the first twenty-four years of my life were the warm-ups and now I WAS OFF.

Tina running

The author of the book, Susan Isaacs, became my mentor, and helped introduce me to a writing community I owe a huge debt of gratitude to, The Burnside Writers Collective. Within a year, I had a handful of articles and essays published online, a blog, and the thing I most wanted, an idea for a book.

Because everything happened so fast and so (relatively easy) I had a false sense of confidence. I’d been writing my whole life, everyone said how talented I was, surely I didn’t need to do a ton of research or prepare myself for rejection! I was unique! It would be different for me!

SImpsons crowd laughing

What followed was one of the hardest years of my life. While building an online platform and dealing with a crisis of faith and identity, I received over 100 rejections from agents and indie publishers. That first manuscript might have been written well (said the lone agent who read some of it) but it was not sell-able in a market already saturated with books like mine. If I had done any research, I would have known that. After querying it unsuccessfully for a year it became a niche book for my friends and the small community of writers and progressive Christian activists who supported me. My dream of being published traditionally still seemed far out of reach.

I took a year off to sulk and question what I wanted in life.

Lydia Deetz

Then, in late 2014 I realized a couple big things. 1) I couldn’t not write. It was killing me not creating, and 2) I didn’t want to write non-fiction, or memoir. Novels were what I loved to read, where I became most enamored. Fiction gave me life. While I enjoyed writing essays and non-fiction pieces, I cared much more about telling engaging stories with imagined characters. So I got to work on my first novel, WHERE HE SENT US. It was a YA contemporary about a teenage girl harboring a huge secret, taken captive by her strict religious family, who set sail across the ocean for a fundamentalist encampment.

I started it during NaNoWriMo 2013, and it took me about a year to finish, edit, and receive beta reader feedback on. Reader, I loved this novel. I still do, although I can now see that, despite the positive feedback I got, it was very much a “first” novel. Almost there, but not quite ready.

In 2015, while I was querying and getting (encouraging!) rejections for WHERE HE SENT US, I began to do something I should have been doing all along. I read as much as I could about querying, agents, and the publishing industry. Prior to my first book I’d only focused on building my craft (taking writers workshops, joining critique groups, reading writing books) but after that experience I realized I needed to learn the business side as well. Something unexpected happened then. I started to gain perspective. It became apparent to me that the biggest secret I needed to succeed wasn’t a secret at all. It was just persistence. Research taught me that it was totally normal to not get agented until my third, fourth, maybe even fifth or more manuscript. Success takes time! I needed to be in it for the long-haul.

Ally Sheedy bored

So, undeterred by my growing stack of rejections, in the middle of querying WHERE HE SENT US I began writing my 2nd YA novel, JUSTIFIABLE, about two 17-year-old girls whose worlds collide when their fathers are on opposite ends of a racially charged fatal police shooting. Since I wanted to see if I could “win” NaNoWriMo (I’d only made it 1/2 way in 2013), I entered in November 2015 with JUSTIFIABLE, completing my first draft of the novel and “winning” the event. I loved JUSTIFIABLE even more than WHERE HE SENT US, and the main characters, Bree and Madison, seemed more real to me than any I’d written before. By this time, I only had one full still out with an agent for WHERE HE SENT US, and I stopped querying. After a month of edits, including some wonderful beta and sensitivity reader feedback from L.D., a new critique partner I’d met through NaNoWriMo, I began querying JUSTIFIABLE, in January 2016.

I tried so hard to be objective, and level-headed, but when the requests came pouring in, I gave into hope.

Theyre looking for hope

A handful of agents had requested WHERE HE SENT US and passed, but enthusiastically asked for my next project, so I first just sent queries for JUSTIFIABLE to them. Almost all of these agents requested the full manuscript. I was ecstatic. This was going to be it! I’d be able to report my stats and be one of those obnoxious writers who sent like, six queries and gotten three requests, and as many offers! Remember that objectivity I said I had? Yeah, neither did I.

Sorry people are so jealous of me

Slowly, rejections to my requests trickled in.

Gillian Anderson FacePalm

These rejections were even more encouraging than the ones for WHERE HE SENT US. I got very used to seeing the words, “I think you’re an excellent/very good/fantastic/etc writer, and I love this concept but…..” Many, many nights were spent lamenting to my husband and family and writing friends. I began to wonder if there was something fundamentally wrong with my style, that made it impossible for agents to connect with my writing. Even though plenty of people told me I just needed to get my work in front of the right person, I struggled to believe them.

george michael bluthe

When I’d sent around 50 queries and gotten close to a dozen rejections on my requested fulls/partials, I decided to move my focus to the next book. I started on my 3rd novel, a YA thriller about a girl who begins a dangerous obsession with finding the man who kidnapped her younger sister. The advice everyone gives to start something new while you’re querying is absolutely true. Getting excited about this new manuscript took a lot of the anxiety out of, what I was convinced, would be the eventual rejection of JUSTIFIABLE.

After I’d sent around 75 queries, I told my husband I was going to shelf the rest of the ones I’d planned to send. I only had about ten left, and I didn’t think it was worth it. But he (and my father) convinced me I had nothing to lose, so, begrudgingly, I sent another batch of five.

Louis Guzman gif

One of these queries was to an associate agent at an agency I’d gotten rejections from twice in the past. I had planned to query the same agent who rejected me before, until I saw the profile for this new agent, Ashley Collom. Her interests seemed to line up perfectly with mine, and the manuscript, so I crossed out the name of the agent I’d planned to query, and sent her an email instead. This was on May 8th, 2016, almost four months after I began querying JUSTIFIABLE.

A day later she requested the full. At this point, full requests barely elicited any excitement from me, since I’d gotten so many rejections on them. I sent it to her. A day later, on May 10th, I got this email from Ashley:

Hi Emily,
Just wanted to let you know I’m only a bit into your manuscript, but you already had me crying on the train. Bravo! 😉
Troy community
I started to feel that little tingle of something I’d almost forgotten how to feel. Hope. I’d never gotten an email like that from an agent before. I told my family and my husband and they all got incredibly excited, even when I tried to convince them this didn’t mean anything.
Then, a day after the above email, I got another one from Ashley that said, “Offer of Representation” in the subject line.
Shocked gif
Fresh Prince what
I have gmail notifications set up at work, so I saw a little preview pop-up in the lower corner of my monitor, before I even opened my inbox. I’m pretty sure all of my co-workers heard me gasp. I was shaking while I read her email, which was unbelievably enthusiastic. She loved JUSTIFIABLE. Better still, she got it. Even the subtle things I’d been trying to get across, she loved them all. It needed some work of course, and she wanted to talk to me about it, but she was passionate about making it shine.
happy crying
Once my hands stopped shaking I called my husband and parents, and commenced the freaking out. Then I emailed back Ashley, and let her know I would need at least a week to decide, since I had fulls and queries still out with several agents. I wanted to be professional, and all the advice I had read said not to accept the first offer, since you needed to give the other agents still reading a chance to respond.
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That’s when things got real. When I queried Ashley, I had eight fulls out, and around a dozen pending queries. Now, if that sounds like a lot, remember I already had eleven full/partial rejections, so in my mind, those eight fulls were just rejections-in-waiting. But within minutes/hours of sending my “Offer of Rep” email, I had four more requests for fulls, from agents who only had my query. So all of a sudden I had an offer, and twelve other agents reading my full, at least half of them with the direct purpose of seeing if they wanted to make a counter offer within the week.
Daily Show Jessica What
This was SO surreal. For seven years, I’d been dreaming, hoping, fantasizing, crying, lamenting, and thinking of little else than getting an agent.  For four years, I racked up nothing but rejections. So much of the past four years was sitting in silence, days and weeks going by with no responses. And then in what seemed like a blink of an eye, my inbox was FLOODED with responses from agents. Very interested agents! Complimentary, friendly, really impressive agents.
bag of mail gif
At the end of the week, I had five offers of representation. Five(!!) No one expected this less than me. It’s not that I didn’t believe in JUSTIFIABLE, it was just that everything happened so fast. It felt like I had the literary makeover equivalent of having my glasses and ponytail removed, and now I was the most popular girl in school. I’m not used to being popular. It was incredibly stressful.
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The worst part was, because I’d done so much research before querying, all of the agents who offered I would have loved to sign with. I was mad that they were all so nice, and professional, and friendly, and that I felt like I “clicked” with all of them. The idea of disappointing any of them caused me so much anxiety and stress that I woke up one night literally choking on stomach acid. Which was a first.
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But in the end, I went with my gut. After a lot of thought and consideration, I accepted the first offer I received, from Ashley Collom at DeFiore and Company. Even though I’d have been incredibly lucky to sign with any of the agents who offered, Ashley was the most passionate, and the one who had the clearest vision for my manuscript, that best aligned with my own. I could not be more excited to work with her on getting JUSTIFIABLE ready for submission.
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From querying my first book, to accepting the offer from Ashley, it took me almost four years, exactly, to land an agent. But it feels like it took a lifetime. And I can’t wait to see what happens next.
reading rainbow dancing gif
Now, to what everyone really cares about. The stats! (I’m just including the novels):

Book 1 (WHERE HE SENT US):

80 queries.

4 full requests.

2 partials (one upgraded to full)

Time queried until put in drawer – 7 months

Book 2: (JUSTIFIABLE):

78 queries.

18 full requests.

7 partials.

5 offers of rep

Time from first query to offer – 4 months

Time from full request to offer –  3 days*

 

*The quick turnaround How I Got My Agent stories always killed me, because whenever I got a full request, I never heard back until at least two months went by. But there ARE success stories that took a few months from request to offer, I promise! I’ve read them! Don’t give up hope!

hold on gif

Mar
10

The Internet is Forever (Cringe)

I’ve always wondered if the people in grand romantic movies, when they’re off screen and sitting on the toilet or something, ever go back and read their old love letters. Do they cringe at the terrible prose and cheesy, heavy-handed imagery? Maybe I’m just weird, but we very rarely get the chance to see creatives looking back at their former work and blushing so hard they burst into flames.

Not that every writer has to hate their early work. Even though many do, there’s no guarantee that as time passes, wriburning computerting will improve. There is however a strong possibility that as time grows, so goes wisdom, experience, and knowledge.

Which is what led me to bolting upright in my chair one afternoon, while reading a blog post from a literary agent (because I’m dumb, thoroughly researching literary agents wasn’t something I did when querying my first book.)

This blog post was explaining things agents do and do not care about, when it came to potential clients. A pertinent post for me, as I’m actively querying and submitting my second novel/third book. It was when I read her sentence on “negative opinions on agents/agenting” that I felt my lunch drop.

Shit. shit. shit. Have I said stupid stuff online about the query process? Maybe when I was just trying to vent?

As someone born without much of a filter (but who worked really hard to grow one as an adult) I’m well versed with apologies. I honestly have no problem telling someone “sorry” to their face, and meaning it. But that only counts if I know who I offended, and with what. And more importantly, if I knew how to remedy it. But this was the internet we were talking about. A vast treasure trove of dumb shit I possibly tweeted while crying into a bag of M&Ms.

Thus was the beginning of my embarkation down the most embarrassing, enlightening, and strangely uplifting electronic rabbit hole of my career.

I did something that, truthfully, all querying writers should do. Starting with Twitter, then moving onto Google, I searched for “Emily Timbol” combined with the words “Agent” and “Query”, or some variations of the terms. Secretly, I hoped I wouldn’t find much. Surely I wasn’t dumb enough to say anything too negative, because how would that help me? My whole goal has been to get an agent. No way I’d be stupid enough to fire off a senseless tweet pissing on the process.

But stupid I was!

Admittedly, nothing I said was that bad. Most of the tweets I found were 2-3 years old, and more whiny and self-pitying than anything. But taken together, along with the handful of blog posts I found in my archives, it made the picture clearer. In the past, I saw agents as something they were most certainly not; obstacles or “gatekeepers” trying to keep me from my goal of being traditionally published. Which, as I know NOW, after actually spending some time getting to “know” a lot of agents, I realize is patently false. Agents are not out there batting down manuscripts like roided up goalies smacking down pucks. They get zero pleasure from rejecting aspiring writers. What they are, are professionals who love books, but because of limited time and resources can only represent the best sent to them, that they are passionate about.

Looking back, it makes total sense to me that I didn’t get an agent my first two querying go-rounds. And both times, it actually had little to do with my writing. The first time I spent so long perfecting my writing, I paid no attention to the market. I didn’t realize how many books were out, or soon to be out, saying almost the exact same thing mine did. Also, I hadn’t realized yet that as much as I enjoyed telling my story, I didn’t want to be a non-fiction writer. My passion was more for characters I would invent, than people I’d already met.

The next book I queried, my first novel, failed to connect for a variety of reasons, but none I blame the agents who read it for. The painful truth is that, for most writers, there comes a time when a book has to be shelved, and something else worked on instead. It hurts and it sucks, but that’s just the business side of writing. That’s why it’s so important for writers to not view publishing as a path for one book, but a long term career. There should always be, and will always be, a next book. Working on my fourth book has made the query process for my third that much easier, because of this. It took me way too long to realize that a quick remedy for feeling down about the hard parts of being a writer was to keep writing. A-Duh.

During the trip down memory lane, I had the opportunity to read through writing of mine I hadn’t seen in three, four, sometimes five years. I expected to be embarrassed and cringe through most of it, but was pleasantly surprised to still identify with a lot of it. Most of it actually. I still liked my writing. Huzzah. With that said, there were at least two articles so cringe worthy and awful that I actually emailed the site they were published on, to ask if they could be taken down. The site said no, which means I learned another grand lesson on this journey.

The internet is forever. So writers, before you fire off that whiny tweet that will make you feel better for 3-5 seconds, imagine how you’d feel three years from now reading it while sitting next to your dream agent. If it’s not “great” then send it as a text to your CP instead. Or better yet, write it down in your journal. That way, you’ll have something to read a few years down the road, when you’re querying the next book.

 

Nov
20

Racism in Full Color

I have a terrible memory. If you ask me the name of my 4th grade teacher, how old I was when I first rode a bicycle, or what my GPA was in high school, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Much of my youth and childhood is a (happy, normal) blur. There’s not much about the day-to-day of my education I remember.

But there is one thing, in particular, I’ve never forgotten.

I’m not sure what class it was in, or even what grade, but the footage itself is seared into my memory. Dark skinned men, women, and children captured in grainy black-and-white footage, being assaulted with high-power water cannons, police dogs, and fists. For wanting the right to vote. To sit at lunch counters. To do the things I take for granted everyday. I was sickened, horrified. Brought to tears.

Learning about our countries violent past changed me. I grew up with privilege. This is part of why the footage and history shocked me so much. Affected me in a way it wouldn’t affect non-white kids, familiar with the ways racism had stained their past. But this new knowledge opened my eyes. It sparked a longing to fight for justice. For a while I dreamed of being a lawyer, or working for a non-profit that fought for international human rights. Even going so far as to apply to overseas positions and majoring in political science, to help achieve this goal. I (wrongly) thought that the true human rights crimes were taking place in developing counties, overseas. I thought that the days of egregious human rights injustices in our country were long past.

There was always a part of me that longed to have been able to be there, before. I had a deep love for Dr. King. My high school yearbook quote was from him, and I displayed a poster of his I Have a Dream speech prominently in my college dorm. Whenever I’d look at it I’d think about how much I wish I could have been there, marching on Washington, doing something tangible to enact justice.

For a long time, I longed to be able to somehow transport myself to those black-and-white times of the past, where people of privilege like myself had the opportunity to stand up to injustice. A time when silence in the face of racial hatred and prejudice lead to death and harm, but speaking up against it could save lives. I wanted to be able to stand up, in real time, to those horribly racist people doing and saying things that were evil.

The irony, of course, is that this time is now. Racism isn’t just relegated to those black-and-white photos of the past. Racism still exists today.  The vile, evil, violent kind carried out in broad daylight by thousands of white Americans fifty years ago didn’t just die. It’s still advocated for by some people, and it’s still seen as valiant by others. This is as obvious to many black people as the weather, but many white people don’t realize it because we’re blanketed in privilege. I had to go looking, and more importantly, listening, for it.

I’ve known this truth, that the racism of the past hasn’t gone anywhere, for some time now. But it hasn’t been until this past week that I realized something depressing and terrifying. I realized that the longing I had before, to be able to march against evil men like George Wallace, can be satisfied today.

This week, the leading candidate for the GOP nomination for President advocated for a Nazi inspired registry for Muslims. When asked about the similarity to what happened to the Jews during WWII, this candidate didn’t even attempt to defend himself.refugees

In addition to that, this week, I’ve seen:

  • Christians saying that the safety of American citizens is more important than the lives of refugee children
  • Americans defending the policies of WWII era America that turned away Jewish refugees who later were killed in concentration camps
  • Christian politicians claiming that even five year old refugee children shouldn’t be allowed admittance into our country
  • Christians who oppose all forms of government aid and welfare to the homeless and veterans claiming that the government shouldn’t be taking care of refugees, because we have  homeless and veterans in need
  • Christians defending war and war casualties as something God is OK with and even supports
  • A Christian man say that, “You can love your enemy while putting a bullet between his eyes.”

I’ve experienced something I never imagined I would in my lifetime; a type of overt, hateful racism carried out in the age of color, that I used to think existed only in black-and-white. I’ve watched attitudes so many of us (naively) thought were crushed in the 1960’s and 70’s resurface, and then get broadcast on a national stage. I’ve watched my country experience a level of intolerance, fear, and injustice that I thought we were decades past.

I realized this week that in 30 or 40 years, it’s entirely possible my children or friend’s children will be watching video of events going on this week in America, and feel the same sense of revulsion I felt watching films of Civil Rights era violence.

And I realized that I—we—have an opportunity to speak out against this evil, to do something to combat it. The opportunity to stand up to racism never passed. There was never a time when people with skin darker than mine were safe from it, and they are not safe from it now.

It’s a horrible feeling, realizing that the thing I wished for came true. But now that I see what’s always been there, I will be praying for opportunities to do what I’ve always longed to do. To bring about justice. Because there’s a chance that 50 years from now a young person will asks me what I did to fight the terrible policies that led to the death of innocent refugees.

And I want to have an answer.

 

Sep
15

On Being White, But Not Really

The literary world was shaken this past week when it was revealed that white writer Michael Derrick Hudson had won a poetry contest after using an Asian pen name during submission (a name he stole from a former classmate.) Hudson was completely unapologetic. He felt that the fact the poem was rejected 40 times under his own name, yet accepted under his Chinese pen name, meant that there was some discrimination at place when editors thought he was white. This ridiculous idea was perfectly dismantled by writer Jenny Zhang in a Buzzfeed essay that went viral, They Pretend To Be Us While Pretending We Don’t Exist. I loved her essay. But it gave me some pause about whether I was the “They” in the story, or the “We.”

So, as writers are wont to do, I wrote an essay in response, for The Salt Collective. Below is an excerpt. You can read the full essay here.

I’ve only had a racial slur directed at me once in my life. It was so unexpected, so rare, that my reaction was pure confusion.

“Did that redneck just call me a ‘coon’?” I asked my friend. “That’s bad right?”

We were in high school, at a church beach retreat, and some older boys had gotten into the hot tub we were in. When I said something one of them didn’t like, he replied with, “Shut up, coon.”

I am not black. That particular summer I was incredibly tan, and it was dark out, and I do have kinky, thick, dark hair. I convinced myself that he was either really stupid or really drunk, or both. But I couldn’t shake it. Because I’m not, technically speaking, white.

This experience was one of maybe only a handful of times racism seemed to affect me, personally. I was born more resembling my white mother. My sister was born looking more like my 1/2 Filipino, 1/2 Italian father. I look white to most white people. And indeed, 3/4 of me is. Because of this, I’ve almost always considered myself white. Race isn’t about accuracy right? It’s about perception. Prejudice. Overcoming systemic disadvantages and injustices, and dealing with frequent microagressions. These didn’t happen to me.

They did happen to my grandfather, and my father, and my sister. My grandfather was segregated when he left the Philippines to join the American Navy (illegally) at 16. They made him a cook, like the other “coloreds,” and he served captains and white officers. When he met my Italian grandmother years later, they married and settled in Italy. They moved to America when my father was ten. My father met my (white) mother in the 80’s, they married, and I was born. My childhood was normal, and happy.

When my little sister came along, six years after I was born, women would sometimes stop my mother in the grocery store or on the sidewalk. They’d coo over how cute my sister was, then pause, their voices lowered to a hushed tone. “Is she adopted?” I remember feeling confused and angry each time this happened.

My sister and I both grew up surrounded by languages we didn’t speak or understand. At family get together’s there were buffets of pasta dishes lovingly made by my Italian Zia’s, sitting next to Pancit and Lumpia cooked by their Filipino husbands. Tagalog and Italian were spoken just as much as English. This was nothing but normal to me, so I never considered it wasn’t, for a “white” girl.

– See more at: http://thesaltcollective.org/am-i-a-white-writer-or-an-asian-writer/#sthash.Pb64TaWZ.dpuf