The Insecure Writer’s Support Group ~ No#46

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time.

Our awesome co-hosts today are TB Markinson, Tamara Narayan, Shannon Lawrence, Stephanie Faris, and Eva E. Solar.

Don’t forget to visit them and thank them for co-hosting!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

Don’t forget the IWSG Anthology Contest is open until November 1! The theme is Alternate History/Parallel Universe and any member of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is encouraged to enter – blogging (must post for the IWSG at least once in September or October) or Facebook member (must be a member as of TODAY.)
Winners will be published in a royalty-paying anthology next year.

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Last month I saw this quote which played on my mind…


There was a discussion that went something like this…

The author who posted it, had this to say: It’s this kind of sentiment that for years made me think that if I ever wrote a ‘real book,’ it would have to be African (and it would have to be literary). It’s this kind of sentiment that kept me from sharing my fantasy scribblings with the world for so long, because — SHOCKER — I don’t write fantasy that’s set in Africa. Now this is in no way meant to offend those who write African stories. If that’s what is in your heart then THAT’S WHAT YOU MUST WRITE, and I’m sure you write it excellently well. But here’s the thing: that isn’t what’s in MY heart. Have I misunderstood this quote somehow?

I weighed in with the following response: I write lots of flash fiction which has nothing to do with being African or non-African. It’s simply flash fiction. I’m also in the process of writing a novella, and the idea of it being African or non-African hasn’t crossed my mind. It’s simply a ‘story-in-the-making.’ Am I guilty? Probably. To a certain degree…

another author said: It do think it’s taken out of context since it is something she said at a literary event either in a speech or in an interview. If she meant it literally, then this is what I think she means – as an African writer we owe it to our roots(?) to write something within the context of our country/culture/history – is essence to benefit/uplift/advance the people and the literature of Africa since writers from this part of the world are still seen as few. I faced this years ago when submitting because my novel was African fantasy and not African literature – so there is still this division in what is acceptable for writers within the African literary circles.

Another person said: I think what this quote means is that too often, African art, culture and literature have been underrepresented and undervalued. I don’t think it necessarily means that because you are African, your stories have to be set in the kalahari or something like that. Your stories are already African because, as an African author, you are already making huge strides and representing your continent.

But the best response was this one: The quote may be true for ANY culture – but it is trumped by the rationale that – if we choose not to write ANY stories then that is impoverishing literature.

Conclusion?  I’ll plod along writing the stories that are on my heart, the best way I know how…

Happy IWSG Day!


  1. Madeline Mora-Summonte on October 7, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    I always say write the stories that want to be told, the way they want to be told. Go for it!

  2. Carol Kilgore on October 7, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    I agree about the best quote.

    You absolutely must follow your heart and write your stories. Not someone else’s stories or what someone else thinks your stories should be.

  3. Murees on October 7, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    Definitely write the story that is in your heart. Quotes like the above is what upsets me. When I first started submitting my story to international publishers, they expected me to write about being South African, or South Africa. My story was paranormal romance, set in a fictional world. So, I guess neither me, or my writing was taken seriously.

    Like so many things, music for example, doesn’t have an ethnicity. It belongs to everyone. The same goes for writing. Anyone can write . . . anything. Why can’t we just see each other as human and skip all the politics, right? Not sharing the written word is a tragedy.

    I’m cheering for you to write those stories bubbling over in your heart. You are amazing and talented. Write what you want and what feels right to you.

  4. Michelle on October 7, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    Well, here’s what I think this means (and it does sound like it’s out of context): if your stories or characters are geared toward writing about Africa in some way, then you should do it no matter what the market might say because a diversity of stories is important.

    I’m half Asian. I have yet to write a story with a major Asian-American character or with a biracial protagonist because right now, that feels too close to me. But maybe someday.

  5. Nadine Feldman on October 7, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    Our job here on this planet, IMHO, is to be who we are. It’s not our job to do what others would have us do. As writers, we need to find our passion in order to keep us going through doubts, fears, and insecurities. If we’re writing what we think we “should” instead of what fuels that passion, we wither and die on the vine.

  6. Tyrean on October 7, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    Write what you love to write, not what someone else says to write. I think it just doesn’t work very well when we try to force ourselves in someone else’s area. I have been asked why I don’t write “local” books that highlight my area. Why? Because it hadn’t really occurred to me, really. Although now, I keep thinking of writing a spoofy kind of cozy mystery set in my community with some snark involved. I don’t know that I ever will, but I have an idea – sparked by a few conversations that were uncomfortable. I’ll just take ideas anywhere. 🙂

  7. Patricia Lynne on October 7, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    I agree with the last response. Write the stories you have in you. Don’t try to force things into them because then you risk them becoming fake.

  8. joylene on October 8, 2015 at 1:04 am

    It’s difficult not to get annoyed by people and their opinions, and the fact they like to push those opinions on others. I hope I don’t do that. If I do, kick my butt, okay?

  9. Denise Covey on October 8, 2015 at 4:53 am

    Hey Michelle. I understand the sentiment and it relates to all cultures. If we don’t write stories about the Australian Aborigine the culture will be lost, etc etc. My response recently has been to add an indigenous character to a multi-character novel. Why not? It will enrich my story. I love reading stories set in Africa and anywhere I haven’t yet been (well, I’ve been to Morocco twice, but by what I read/see, life is far different in the south).

    How is your flash fiction at the beach going?

    Denise 🙂

  10. Angeline on October 8, 2015 at 9:05 am

    I would take it as ‘Africa’ can be replaced with, not just any under-represented culture or country, but any under-represented group. Our world is wonderfully diverse, and our literature should represent that. Sadly, at the moment, it doesn’t. Neither does our music, art, film, anything. But we are the people who can change that.

  11. Alex J. Cavanaugh on October 8, 2015 at 10:51 am

    Such a mixed response from one quote. I think the last two are the closest to the truth.
    Shame there is still that division between literary and everything else. But that’s someone else’s problem. Not mine and not yours. Write your flash fiction and fantasy, Michelle. They are your passion so stick with them.

  12. Hilary on October 8, 2015 at 11:35 am

    Hi Michelle – sounds like frankly we all need to do what we need to do – not to be told to do something. Crumbs – I hate being told what to do .. I just write and enjoy my posts … do your thing and after all we do do Ubuntu … etc and we do promote Africa – even though I’m not African or South African – I love the country and its roots … exactly as Alex say .. enjoy your passion and stick with it – cheers Hilary

  13. Julie Flanders on October 8, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Love that last one. So true for all of us. It was interesting to read the discussion that came out of that one quote!

  14. Susan Gourley on October 8, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    I believe you are right to write the stories from your heart. How else would your writing bring you joy?

  15. Loni Townsend on October 8, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    The stories from your heart are the best ones to write, African Literature or not. 🙂

  16. Sylvia on October 8, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    Great point!

  17. krystal jane on October 9, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    Well said! If we force ourselves to write something just because we have a certain cultural background, we’re further impoverishing literature by putting out heartless work and greatly impoverishing ourselves! We can only write from our heart. It’s the only way to produce quality work. 🙂

  18. Nilanjana Bose on October 9, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Crumbs! And all this time I’ve been thinking that African stories are those written by African authors, period. 🙂

    Seriously though, and with due respect, disagree with the quote – good writing, African or otherwise, enriches literature, independent of the cultural milieu or characters. Writers should be free to write/enjoy the stories they want to tell, without being made to feel guilty about the stories they aren’t.

  19. Yolanda Renee on October 10, 2015 at 1:47 am

    I agree with Nila, write what speaks to your heart. Enjoy your art, your talent, and tell the stores important to you! We are already judged every step of the way, why add to the process.
    Great discussion!

  20. Leslie S. Rose on October 10, 2015 at 3:40 am

    Our stories start with a vision or an imagining – who can say where they take us is right or wrong? You make some fascinating points.

  21. Shannon Lawrence on October 10, 2015 at 4:20 am

    I think the end of your post sums it up nicely. By writing, no matter where you set it or what you put into it, you are being true to yourself. In fact, the other way the quote could be taken makes me sad. How many people have shied away from writing what they love (and probably ultimately given up on writing because they weren’t writing what they loved) because there were high expectations for them to represent their culture/roots/what have you instead. An acquaintance of mine is making a big splash. His work is finally getting out there. He’s Native American, and he has stated that he doesn’t want to be seen as a NA author, but just as an author. He isn’t writing to represent a culture or a people. He writes what is true to himself and to his heart. Some of that ends up having NA characters and tones, because that is what he knows, but he writes horror, and he writes about all kinds of people. If he were constrained by someone to only write his “culture,” would he be making the waves he is now? Would he be selling those books? And would he be happy? Write what you feel.

  22. Jemi Fraser on October 10, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    That final response is perfect. We all have our unique stories to share – and that’s completely awesome!

  23. L. Diane Wolfe on October 10, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    I like the last one. Diversity comes not just from the subject matter but from who is writing it.

  24. Christine Rains on October 10, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    That last one was well said! We must write what’s in our hearts. 🙂

  25. Beth on October 11, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    always write what’s in your heart, no matter what!

  26. TB Markinson on October 12, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    It’s important to write the stories that you want to write.

  27. Michael Di Gesu on October 13, 2015 at 12:32 am

    Hi, Michelle,

    YOU MUST WRITE what’s in YOUR heart! I am an Italian American, and I don’t write about Italians or Americans per say. I set my present stories in America, because that is where my stories need to be placed. When I write my second novel in my fantasy series, much of the beginning is set in FRANCE because that is where my character lives… simple.

    Writing with passion and from your heart is the only way to go. I just had this discussion with a backer for mega movies… He had agreed to read my second novel. DON’T get excited. The guy was an idiot. Only interested in the almighty dollar. He told me point blank, even without ready one word of my novel that it would never be produced because it wasn’t high action, fantasy, or horror. “WHAT?” I stressed. What about real life dramas…. “No money in that.” So he basically blew me off. Wasted months of my time. He didn’t even have the curtesy to read my intro on the book before giving it to his son to read. He actually asked me when I had met him. “What’s your book about?”

    I was FURIOUS… He told me to write screenplays with high action, or blockbuster fantasy… Write for the trends… again I said “WHAT?” I then told him, point blank. A true writer will ONLY right from his/her heart and not for trends! He doesn’t realize by the time you finish the ms, the trend is over….

    UGH…. I despise no talent idiots who only think of money… sadly, that’s the industry….

  28. Robyn Campbell on October 13, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    Hey, buddy! PULLEASE write YOUR stories. I want to read them. I long to know everything about you. Don’t worry about how they will be received or what people will think. The world NEEDS your special stories that only YOU can write. If you need a beta reader you know where I’m at. <3 Love you, buddy. Always and forever. XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

  29. Robyn Campbell on October 13, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    P.S. Tweeting this. People need to read it.

  30. Deniz on October 14, 2015 at 9:12 am

    If it keeps authors from writing because they feel as though they’re not living up to expectations, then I agree — not writing certainly impoverishes literature. Everyone’s got great ideas for stories, we should all feel free to explore them!

  31. Crystal Collier on October 14, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    I applaud you for writing what’s in your heart, regardless of the setting. (And forgive me for taking an extra week to get here. Crazy IS life.) If I wrote just what people close to me expected, I’d never write.

  32. Cherie Reich on October 14, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    I remember that discussion on Facebook, and I think the best response really was the best. Keep plodding along. One word after the other. 🙂

  33. Lynda R Young on October 15, 2015 at 6:07 am

    Yep, that last response nails it for me, because Australia has the same problem… and I’m sure every other country in the world does too.

  34. Elise Fallson on October 15, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    I totally agree with your conclusion and the sentiment that choosing not to write (regardless from where the author is from) impoverishes literature. This is an important topic that should be discussed with writers and future writers. Plus, it totally lit a fuse under my muse about a fantasy story based in Africa. Having travelled there years ago I can say this, there is no place more magical or majestic than Africa, imo. 🙂

  35. Medeia Sharif on October 16, 2015 at 7:43 am

    Great conclusion. Write the stories that are in you. I don’t conform to what’s expected of me either. I’ve written all sorts of characters from different backgrounds, different from mine too, and in different genres.

  36. Gisele LeBlanc on October 16, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Hmmm, yeah, I’m not sure how to take that quote either, but I don’t believe any author should be told what or what not to write. I think it’s important for writers to write from the heart and not be afraid of telling their stories. I’m also in total agreement that any story that goes unwritten impoverishes literature. Very good point. 🙂

  37. Annalisa Crawford on October 17, 2015 at 8:28 am

    I think there’s room for many different types of writer. To confine African writers into a particular genre just because of where they happened to be born seems unfair. You have stories to tell, so you should tell them in which ever way is best for you.

  38. Donna McDine on October 18, 2015 at 1:36 am

    When I write from my heart the story flows much better than writing to market.

  39. Julie K Pick on October 18, 2015 at 8:21 am

    Michelle, You put your heart and soul into everything you write, and that is the purest form of writing. I agree with Donna. Keep letting your creativity flow, Michelle.

  40. Carrie Butler on October 20, 2015 at 2:16 am

    Writing from the heart is so important. Without heart, we’re just assembling words into sentences.

    Semi-related: My sponsor kid through World Vision lives in Lesotho. I always thought it would be neat to write a kids book for her and have it translated into Sesotho. 🙂

  41. Michelle Wallace on October 23, 2015 at 5:28 am

    Thank you everybody!
    I appreciate the opinions/comments! 😀

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