Racism hurts writers

diversity author

An extension of The Sensitive Writer

I want to share a story with you, and it explains a little why I doubt myself as a writer and struggle with confidence sometimes.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember because it’s cathartic, not because I wanted to make a career out of it. Yet, it’s what I do for a living.

Growing up, I did well in maths, science, history, and other subjects, but I didn’t enjoy them as much as I loved English. I was an avid reader who used writing to scream out my emotions, while I remained the shy introvert who listened rather than talked.

I moved around due to my parents’ expatriate career and lifestyle and became accustomed to different styles of writing and British and American spellings. My English teachers at the international schools were great, motivating me to meet my potential via advanced English programs.

When I hit my teens, my parents split, and my mother moved to Australia to raise three kids while going to night school and working a day job. We dealt with many struggles, yet I adapted to the new life and did well academically.

Now, here’s the thing. I am not purely white. My mother is 100% ethnically Chinese, making me a 50-50 split between Asian and European (Dad’s heritage is English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish).

Image source: Pixabay.com

A teacher who used her prejudice as power

During my mid-teens, I had a new English teacher. When I first met her, I thought the world of her. She appeared to be gentle, angelic, and youthful. However, she was anything except angelic to me after meeting my mother at a parent-teacher social event.

What shocked me was when I received my English results. I went from being a straight-A English student to getting nothing better than a C.

I confronted the teacher, asking her why I was getting average marks.

Her response? I was not Australian.

I remember feeling gobsmacked as my brain processed what she had just said. Of course, I was (and still am) an Australian citizen! So I asked her why she did not believe I was Australian. She said it was because of my mother.

My mother is Chinese (but an Australian citizen!); therefore, my teacher saw me as an English as a second language student. I explained to her that I was raised in an English-only environment, and I did not speak any other language at home. Instead of listening to me, she said that I would not receive anything higher than a pass (C) because of my ethnic heritage.

She alluded to me that I did not have the talent to write in English and suggested I write in my native language instead. I thought that English was my native language. I studied German and Japanese as second languages at school.

Image source: Pexels.com

Snobbery and racism

Now, here’s another thing I had to consider when it came to the prejudices I had dealt with and why being an academic was my survival card. I went to an all-girls Christian private school where most families were affluent and influential.

There were only two girls in my grade whose parents were divorced – I was one of them. Of the two of us, I was the only one whose mother was an Asian woman.

This particular English teacher frowned upon people like my mother, an Asian single mother, far beneath her ideal. I was a teenager who stood no chance of excelling in that teacher’s class.

My confidence was shattered in one fell swoop.

Image source: Pexels.com

Being called a “half-breed”

I hated being a mixed-race student of a single parent in that school. I was berated, belittled, and bullied that semester. I was called a half-breed and half-caste, among other things, by both students and that particular teacher. She broke my self-esteem, and I stopped writing. I lost my joy, and I lost my passion.

My mother took action and raised the issues with the school, who apologized. I had a new English teacher the following semester, and it took months to rebuild my confidence.

The confidence gamechanger

There is a happy ending in this story. In my last two years of high school, I had the most amazing English teacher who believed in my work.

At the start, I was petrified when my mother and I first met Mrs. Morrison at a parent-teacher social event. Mrs. Morrison came across as the classic strict teacher from an English boarding school. She dressed perfectly, had flawless hair, and spoke in a refined way. She had a reputation for being one of the school’s toughest teachers, unafraid of failing her students.

She approached my mother, and at that point, I wanted the earth to swallow me. I wished my mother had not attended the event because I dreaded the stigma of my ethnicity rising again.

Instead, Mrs. Morrison smiled at my mother, gently placed her hand on my elbow, and spoke kindly about me.

Mrs. Morrison saw through my physical appearance. She saw my soul.

Image source: Pexels.com

A teacher who made an author

I enjoyed my final two years of high school, excelling in English and topping the class in literature such as Hamlet, Wuthering Heights, and A Doll’s House. When we studied Gallipoli, I wept when I handed my assessment to Mrs. Morrison. In turn, her lips twitched when she returned my marked assignment – another top result. I then confided in her that my great-grandfather was an original ANZAC soldier, something I hadn’t said to any other teacher.

It’s incredible how beautiful things can happen when people look beyond ethnicity. Mrs. Morrison helped me fill out my university application form, encouraging me to study journalism, one of the toughest courses to get into. At the time, a few students laughed at me, saying I wouldn’t get in. And yes, I studied journalism at the University of Queensland.

University of Queensland, Australia. Image source: www.uq.edu.au

Final conversation

My last conversation with Mrs. Morrison happened when she called me to her office on my last day of school. I thought I had bombed in my last exam, and she rarely called anyone into her office unless it was a serious matter.

I was surprised and relieved by what she said. Mrs. Morrison told me how proud she was of my achievements and advised me to pursue a writing career. She told me she believed in me and that I had a talent.

The author today

I still get my bad days from the damage done by the other teacher, and that memory is imprinted, a part of me.

However, my memories of Mrs. Morrison remind me of who I am. I have a talent. I can write. I can read. She never saw me as a lesser student because of my ethnicity. She never held me back; she pushed me forward. She created an author.

Maybe one day, I will have the opportunity to tell Mrs. Morrison how much her words still mean to me. I think I will write her a letter. 🙂

You can find me and my books here.

The sensitive author

When I was little, I was a sensitive child. A very sensitive one.

If another student at school was feeling miserable, I was that kid who gave a piece of my chocolate to her, hoping to see her smile. That’s who I was then, and it’s who I am today.

My parents told me I was too sensitive. I know they were right, but it was hard when I was easily influenced by energies around me – positive, negative, people on highs and lows…I took it all in, and you know what? It affected me.

Image source: pixabay.com

Let’s go forward to today. I’ve learned to harness my sensitivity with time and experience.

Harnessing sensitivity

I block negative thoughts and feelings, putting up an ice barrier, kind of like the wall from Game of Thrones. Hey, it works brilliantly, which is why I thrived doing the crime and court rounds, which could be gruesome and disturbing when I wrote for newspapers.

Image source: pixabay.com

In situations when I am out of my comfort zone, I’m the quiet person who listens rather than talks, asking people questions, preferring to remain a little mysterious. It’s a technique called deflection.

Deflection means that you’re passing something over to someone else in an attempt to draw the attention away from yourself (cited in https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/psychologists/what-is-deflection-psychology-explains-this-defense-mechanism/).

However, I make sure my voice is heard when I want to speak up. That’s important.

Image source: giphy.com

Embracing sensitivity

Things are extremely intense when I see, feel, hear, smell, and taste things.

When I’m in the woods or at the beach staring at the ocean, everything around me is so rich. The rolling waves roar at me. The scent of the sea is like a smorgasbord of seafood delights (I love seafood). The wind blows viciously, sinking its icy teeth into my skin.

Image source: pixabay.com

This is great for me when I write my stories. Writing descriptively using the five senses and drawing on cultural references was always one of my strengths. A few friends call me a “sponge,” absorbing everything around me, including cultural references from the past and in the present.

Another advantage of being a sensitive writer is I get to know my characters quickly and in great depth. They become real, and I sense them wherever I am. I’ve learned that my protagonist Sapphire Blake, who is normally an introvert, becomes very open and chatty when she’s with her friend, Vera, from my novel Lessons on Seduction, published by Black Velvet Seductions. This is great for dialogue in the sequel, which I’m working on.

It’s too real at times, so I have to snap back and put that wall that blocks fantasy from seeping into reality.

Dealing with the cons

There is a downside to being sensitive. Sometimes it unleashes incredibly strong feelings, from fury, rage, and sadness to overwhelming joy, mirth, and other emotions when there’s a trigger. If you show me something funny, I can laugh for days.

Noise affects me – television noise, social media noise, and the noise of people talking loudly as I sit and write this blog article. That’s why I have a noise-canceling headset and listen to music that I enjoy.

Image source: pixabay.com

I’m sensitive to people’s energies. So much that I won’t hang out with someone I feel has a lot of negativity coming from them. We all have our issues, but we shouldn’t rain on other people’s parade is my take. In other words, I use my sensitivity to avoid negative people. I’ve learned that I cannot fix others – they need to fix themselves.

Now, I hate crowds. There’s way too much noise! Ironically, I end up in crowds a lot. I have my friends to thank. And, when you get me started, I can be extremely social, not being able to shut up.

Still, too much noise affects me, and that is why I end to shut off from the world to recharge my batteries.

Image source: pixabay.com

How about you?

Are you a sensitive writer? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Image source: giphy.com

Writers support writers

Let’s support each other. Image credit: Pixabay.

This month has been an exciting one filled with achievements.

I have joined a new family—Black Velvet Seductions, a publisher with a wide range of books, including erotic romances, sweet seduction stories, and supernatural romances. My erotic romance, Lessons on Seduction, will be available from them and I am excited!

I’ve also been badged as an official ambassador for Wattpad, an online community with over 80 million readers and writers worldwide.

Teamwork

These achievements are what I call “teamwork” because it is a shared effort together with fellow readers and writers. They supported me through the highs and lows of writing and gave me the kick I needed to do improve in all areas.

Naturally, I was over the moon when BVS accepted my manuscript and welcomed me to their team. I learned that good publishers like BVS offer strong support and encouragement for their authors. Successes are shared and motivation is ongoing among the authors in this team.

The start of the journey

Looking back, I think about where I was a year ago. I had only three or four followers at best on Wattpad. Being a painfully shy introvert, it took a lion’s serving of courage to open up, reach out, and connect with other writers and readers. Not everything has been rosy on the yellow brick road. I’ve dealt with witches, trolls, and the flying monkeys, but it’s no skin off my nose.

What gives me strength? Other writers, of course! They help me stand strong in a tough market.

Standing strong

In one year, my stories were featured on Wattpad’s official profile pages and my profile now has over 1000 followers; from these followers, I have made a few wonderful friends.

I wouldn’t have friends if I hadn’t taken the step to write, edit my work, take in suggestions for improvements, edit, and edit again. An author’s growth is a never-ending cycle; it never stops.

Sounds exhausting?

Not if you’re having fun with other writers. That’s why it’s important to have others around us as we keep writing. My writing buddies are the ones I vent to, laugh with, and smile together as we face our challenges.

Nothing is achieved without another person’s involvement. Writing can be a lonely path, but we are never alone as long as we’re brave enough to reach out. Reaching out means that we may expose our vulnerable selves as authors, but it also means that we are willing to grow.

Give support

Each of us has a personal story of pain that we mask rather well sometimes. This makes it all the more important to ask for support when we struggle.

Writers help each other out, and as I’ve been told, we adjust each other’s crowns. The world is big enough for everyone to succeed.

Unfortunately, I’ve also seen a few talented writers lose hope in their projects because of the criticism they’ve received or an award they didn’t win. This saddens me. Being an author requires thick skin; criticism and disappointment are part of life.

What can we do to support each other?

  • Reach out to connect with others.
  • Reach out when we can support someone.
  • Reach out when we need support.

Let’s all make the most to support each other’s dreams and successes. This sums up my writing journey so far, with miles ahead to go—but I’m not alone.

Here’s a little something from I Love Lucy, one of my favorite shows. Together, we can do it!