Writing Tough Topics

grrI’m one chapter away from a full draft of the race and racism book.  One chapter should be about 1850 words.  Unfortunately, I’m running short.  That’s no great surprise.  When I write for Abdo, I’m used to creating a 9 chapter outline.  This time around the outline was only 8 chapters.  Because I’ve more or less internalized the “proper chapter length,” assuming a 9 chapter outline, things are running short.  Fortunately, this is a fixable problem.  In truth it is a whole lot easier than distilling all of our problems with race and racism into a single 15,000 word book.

I’m also contemplating a complete fabrication.  Not within the book.  You know me — Ms. Nonfiction all the way.  But I’m getting a little prickly about the reactions I get when I tell people what I’m writing about.

If anyone challenged my right to write about this as a white woman, I’d understand it.  Not that I really consider racism a “black” topic.  A lot of groups have been subjected to racial discrimination. It’s never just one group.  And it doesn’t happen in isolation.  It isn’t black history.  It is US history.

That said, some people make it pretty obvious that they’re amazed I would write on race.  After all, I’m white.  Why should I care?


I care because it matters.  I care because it is a topic that impacts our schools and our lives every day.  I care because it is a topic that large numbers of people cannot choose to ignore.  Maybe, at least in part, I care because other people do ignore it.  That’s something I promised myself I would never do — ignore a situation where an adult needs to step in and tell someone to knock it off.

But, when I do tackle a tough topic, I reach this point.  I start to wonder why — why did I do this to myself?  Again?  Why not pick up something easier? Why not just right about bunny rabbits and sunshine?  I could tell people that’s what I’m doing.  “Oh, Abdo asked for a book on duckies and bunnies and fluff.”

Why not?  Oh, right.  Because no one would buy it.  Sunshine and cuteness may be warm and fuzzy but they aren’t me. So it’s time to just duck my chin down and get to work.  One more tough chapter to go.

Then, I get to do the rewrite.  Oh joy.

But it is a needed book.  It is a book that will benefit young readers.  And I’m just ornery enough to write it.


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