by Morgan Flodman
Kat Winters (she/her) is a 19-year-old author from southern California who is currently residing in Missouri. She writes Young Adult and New Adult fiction and is self-publishing her debut novel, Free Me, in the spring of 2021. Winters has agreed to tell Augment about her novel as well as her ethic as a writer.
What is your history in writing?
I’ve been writing for about 10 years and I’ve always written with the hope of giving people an escape where they can feel free and seen and validated.
Are there any authors who have influenced your style?
There are a few. I’m definitely inspired by other self-published authors such as Trinity Lemm, Anna D Stoddard, and Catherine Downen who showed me this was even possible. But growing up, I was definitely inspired a lot by writers like Rick Riordan, Susan Colasanti, Veronica Roth, and Lisa McMann. As far as style, I find that authors like Colasanti and McMann definitely pushed me into the contemporary style, but they’ve all influenced me.
Out of the characters you have created for this book, which one is your favorite? Are there qualities of yourself or someone you know that you put into them?
I definitely favor Zayne and Arriana (Josh’s sister). I find a lot of myself in them. I feel I resonate with Arriana in the way she always tries to stand by those she loves regardless of what people think of her and how she always just wants to see everyone smiling and being themselves; everyone needs an Arriana in their life. Zayne I feel is, sadly, a very relatable character. He struggles with his mental health and self-esteem and struggles to ask for help and I myself have gone through some of the things he has. I hope seeing a character like him, seeing his story unfold with Josh, will help others feel less alone.
What do you want readers to get out of your novel?
Love and acceptance is key. You don’t have to agree with how someone lives their life, but you do have to respect them and treat them with kindness. You never know what they’re going through or how your words can affect them. Choose kindness and acceptance and love yourself. Be unapologetically you, be kind and true.
Why do you write for young adults?
I try to write for young adults because they still have so much to learn. Arguably, each generation faces new struggles and this generation of young adults is facing so much. Human rights, police brutality, the exchange of power in the government, increasing mental health struggles—it all falls on them and they have to learn from it and grow with it. I write to show them it’s okay, and they can tackle anything that can come and they are stronger than they know. They can change the world, they can overcome anything, they can create an escape and fight for a better world and a better life for themselves and others.
What role does LGBTQ+ literature play in today’s arts? Do you think significant representation has increased over the years or is there still room for improvement?
I definitely think representation for all minorities has improved, but we can always be better. Everyone should be able to pick up a book and see themselves in it. That’s why we read, right? To escape the world and put ourselves in an adventure. LGBTQ+ literature has definitely been on the rise and is becoming more popular and it’s incredible because that means we’re making progress; people aren’t as scared to talk about it anymore. With any hope, someday there will be LGBTQ+ books in English classes along with other minorities as we keep raising these voices higher and helping these voices be heard. By making these books popular, we validate and raise up hundreds of thousands of people who identify with these groups, pulling them out of the shadows that keep them trapped and scared.
Are you working on any other projects? What plans do you have for the future?
I’m currently working on quite a bit. I’m in the middle of making my website to sell signed copies and merch (all made with the wonderful help of small businesses) and hosting a giveaway and a charity event (every June, all Free Me profits go to the Trevor Project to help at risk LGBTQ+ youth). I’m already editing my next book to be published; I’m working on two new books. I’m hoping in the next three years I will have released a second book, donated at least $200 to the Trevor Project, and have an audiobook of Free Me available so everyone can enjoy it.
What is your advice for young writers? LGBTQ+ writers?
Don’t be afraid. Write what you want, write what you would want to read. There is an audience for everything and there will always be someone to support you. Do not hold back, do not hide yourself. Embrace who you are and own it, flaunt it to the world and show them just what you are made of. Never let anyone tell you what to write or who to be.
Readers can keep up with Winters and updates about Free Me via Instagram (@kittkat4818) and Twitter (@KatWinters18 and @FreeMeBook2021). Her other books can be found on WattPad, Inkitt, GoodNovel, and other publishing sites under the username Kitty4818. Her official website will be launched by February 18th (KatWintersBooks.com).
When looking at the massive steps that feminism has taken throughout history, there has been an undeniable and constant silencing of Black women throughout. Unfortunately, 2021 hasn’t brought an end to this. I want to use this blog to shed light on the particular issue of one Black woman who is being silenced and ignored. Her name is Chidera Eggerue. The issue is that her original ideas have been stolen and white people are profiting from her own work. I wanted to write on it because it seemed like the people around me had no knowledge of the struggle Eggerue was facing. I hope the platform this blog has can spread awareness of her story and offer the spotlight to Eggerue and her work. You are able to read Eggerue’s complete response to this on her Instagram (@theslumflower) where she has a highlight running through the situation in her own words.
Eggerue rose to fame when she started #saggyboobmovement to encourage a love of one’s skin. She has taken leaps and bounds in her career, publishing two books (What A Time To Be Alone and How To Get Over A Boy) and speaking out in various interviews and on her social media platforms encouraging a movement of self-love and inclusive feminism.
What has recently been brought to light is another white author is profiting from Eggerue’s work. Praise is being sung for the white feminist, Florence Given, and her book ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’. This book is very similar both aesthetically and with the content to Eggerue’s ‘What A Time To Be Alone’ which was published two years prior.
Eggerue and Given both worked with the same management- Diving Bell Group- who seemingly saw no plagiarism and no issues between the two books. When Eggurue first spoke up on Instagram explaining her mistreatment and the blatant plagiarism, she posted screenshots of her management who were merely watching her stories and neglecting to speak or rectify things with her. After days of silence from the management, they emailed her to notify of her immediate termination. Eggerue had previously handed in her three-month contract explaining that her needs have changed and how she no longer wanted white people making money off Black people’s resistance to white supremacy. With this, they had agreed to terminate the contract mid-January 2021. Yet, since her vocalising the mistreatment, they emailed her a blunt instant termination. She has made both interactions public on her Instagram.
Eggerue has been honest throughout and has highlighted how she initially endorsed Given to publish her book when she had suggested her ideas. Eggerue believed Given was creating an anthology covering the experiences of women in her audience, not forcing her voice onto Eggerue’s original ideas and profiting off them.
However, since realising the similarities that had been stolen from her original work, she contacted Given in June 2020 about how she was uncomfortable with her ideas being stolen. As nothing changed from the conversation, she is now speaking publicly about it. Eggerue has been transparent- posting conversations she’s had with people and making her side explicitly clear and public.
While Eggerue has been very earnest about her experiences, Diving Bell Group and Given have released formal, cold statements about the situation. Given believes that she was merely *inspired* by Eggerue and believed crediting her in ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’ was fair compensation. However, the weight of it being a Black woman having her ideas and work be taken credit for from a white woman laces the situation with an added degree of insidiousness.
Given also brought to light in her statement that she regularly donates money to various charities such as Black Minds Matter as though she is able to pay off her racist actions. Black Minds Matter have since spoken up about how Given and Diving Bell Group should try to compassionately resolve things with Eggerue. It seems very performative to imply that she isn’t racist by donating money to Black charities when we have learnt that being anti-racist takes a lot more than that.
While Diving Bell Group released a shorter, but equally formulaic, statement, they also removed the BLACK LIVES MATTER landing page from their website. It’s indicative of performative racism from their part. Through removing the landing page, it highlights how their support of BLM was only when it was easy for them and not a belief they sincerely uphold.
Eggerue put it perfectly in her book when she wrote ‘Quit over-explaining. The world is still going to judge you.’ The statements from Given and Diving Bell Group are over-explained rather than either party taking any responsibility for their actions or actively trying to make things better. Their (lack of) actions speak louder than their words.
There is another dark aspect to this story based on the marketing of the two books. It brings to light the issue of the very white, very middle-class industries of publishing and marketing. Eggerue has pointed out that she only receives £1.60 from her £12.99 book. It is concerning to wonder who is really making the majority of the profit from her work.
The marketing of the books has also illustrated the inherent racism of the industry. Before Eggerue spoke out, I had seen very little promotion of ‘What A Time To Be Alone’ asides from her speaking about it. Given’s book, however, was everywhere. It was all over social media and in every bookshop.
There have been numerous accounts of people going into bookshops finding Given’s book everywhere but when asking a member of staff, finding that the shop didn’t stock Eggerue’s book at all. This is clear erasure of a Black voice- the Black voice who said it first.
Moreover, when searching online for Eggerue’s book, Given’s is often the second book suggested. (Even, in some cases, the first.) It would be easy to blame this on *the algorithm* but blaming the algorithm feels like a cop-out. If everyone directs their anger to some techno jargon that barely anyone understands, then that misdirects the anger onto a faceless concept. It means the people who are responsible for putting down another Black, female voice are off the hook when they should be held accountable for this being able to happen.
I had seen Given’s ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’ all over my social media for a few months. Every platform was promoting it despite me not following Given, herself. When I saw the initial statement from Eggurue, I bought and read both in order of publication. My take-away was that the books are undeniably similar- even the title of Given’s book is a phrase reworded from ‘What A Time To Be Alone’- ‘I do not owe anybody “pretty”’. Reading one after the other was a weird feeling. Like finishing one book and picking up the sequel where the author just repeats the plot of the first in a less eloquent tone.
One of the most ironic parts of Given’s book, I found on the back. The words ‘the game-changing book that every woman needs’ are embossed on the back. The irony is palpable. ‘Game-changing’- I was confused when I read that because the first page of her book mentions not only Eggerue but also the other women who ‘inspired’ this book. It is not game-changing, it is standing on the shoulders of numerous Black women who changed the game first.
However, one difference I found between the two was the effect they had on me. Eggerue’s book felt like a warm, maternal hug that was deepened by her mother’s sayings peppered into the pages. It was inclusive, understanding, and powerful. I came away from reading that book with a better understanding of feminism and of myself. It helped me to recognize my own actions and the actions of others.
Given’s book took a harsher stance which I felt was rooted in second-wave feminism. Second-wave feminism came about in the 1960’s and encouraged women against being housewives and living off their husbands’ money. Often women were brought up believing being a housewife was their only option so second wave feminism fell on them like a tonne of bricks saying the only way to be a feminist was by fitting in with their particular criteria. Feminism has adapted since with the idea that women can of course be housewives- the important point being that they choose to be.
The strict rules of what feminism is, is something that I felt when reading ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’. When writing about the change feminism has on peoples’ lives, Given states ‘one minute “chick flicks” are your favourite movies, the next they’re the stereotype-perpetuating garbage that you blame for making you crave male validation.’ I appreciate that rom-coms aren’t cinematic history and it is important to know that often they don’t portray healthy, functioning relationships but I think it unfair to write them off when people get somewhat harmless enjoyment out of them. In comparison, action movies aren’t particularly cinematic films either, but they’re projected more for male consumption so is that why they’re not torn apart as much and still consumable for feminists? I know I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent, but it was something that really stuck with me when reading her work.
The most important thing that I want you to take away from this blog is what Eggerue has said she wants to happen. She has been clear that we can support her in numerous ways. The first of course, would be to read in her own words on her Instagram about this situation. Another, is people are sending money via her paypal link in her Instagram stories. They are sending the equivalent of buying one of her books thus ensuring all the money goes directly to her and stops white people profiting off her Black story.
Her most recent post on Instagram is about the reparations she deserves. Considering Eggerue is the one who has been wronged, it only makes sense for these to be on her terms. She is asking for the royalties of her work to be returned to her.
It may seem an obvious solution but Given has retaliated by hiring lawyers (Law being another dangerously white industry) in what can only be viewed as an attempt to scare Eggerue into being silent and complicit. Thankfully, that didn’t work.
Eggerue also spoke about how difficult it is to navigate this situation alone and has highlighted how people who she thought would stand by her, haven’t. We need to do what we can to support her. She has stood up for herself when she has been wronged. Her work opened the door for so many and she needs to be celebrated for this. She deserves better. She deserves the mic back.