The publishing industry has been widely criticized for its lack of diversity. At She Writes Press and SparkPress, we are well aware of the need for more and broader representation of writers of color on our lists.

In an effort to address this issue head-on we launched the She Writes Press and SparkPress Toward Equality in Publishing (STEP) contest in 2018 to offer a publishing package (plus a 500-book print run) to publish on either She Writes Press or SparkPress.

It’s our second contest year, and after reading through 47 phenomenal manuscript submissions—double the contestants of last year!—we narrowed it down to five top contest finalists.

Meet our lovely finalists below, and show them some love on social!

Robin Farmer, author of Angel Dressed in Black

An award-winning journalist, Robin’s work has appeared in Publishers WeeklyThe Washington Post, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch, where she specialized in narrative nonfiction projects and was part of the Special Projects/Investigative team. Her national awards include a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and a first-place award for education reporting from the Education Writers Association. Robin’s fiction projects, which include screenplays, short stories and poems, focus on girls discovering their voices to advocate for social justice. Robin is a recipient of residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and is completing a debut novel for young adult readers. She is gobsmacked that she has lived in a suburb of Richmond longer than in her hometown of Philadelphia.

Anne Liu Kellor, author of Heart Radical

Anne Liu Kellor is a multiracial Chinese American writer, teacher, editor, and mother based in Seattle. Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in publications such as Longreads, The New England Review, Fourth Genre, Vela Magazine, Literary Mama, Waking Up American: Coming of Age Biculturally (Seal Press), and moreAnne has received fellowships for her nonfiction work from Hedgebrook, Jack Straw, 4Culture, and Hypatia-in-the-Woods. Her manuscript, Heart RadicalA Search for Language, Love, and Belonging was selected by Cheryl Strayed as the 1strunner-up in Kore Press’s 2018 memoir contest.

Odell Perry-Pittman, author of The In Between Space

Odell is a native of Newark, New Jersey and, after getting an MBA in Real Estate Finance, she made a career for herself in commercial lending. Odell got the writing bug during the 2012 economic downturn. Looking for a challenging way to spend her time, she decided to try and write a book. A part of her figured she’d get bored, or more to the point, overwhelmed, but that didn’t happen. Instead, she fell in love and has been writing ever since. Her writing focuses on the oddities of ordinary life. She’s a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, has worked with a few editors and has written two full length manuscripts.Odell is still a resident of The Garden State where she lives with her husband, teenage son, and Jerry, the twenty-pound Maine Coon who runs the house. When she’s not coming up with ideas for her next book, she’s spending time with family and friends, watching a game (go Yankees, Giants, and Knicks!), or reading a good book.

 Veena Rao, author of Purple Lotus

Veena Rao was born and raised in India but calls Atlanta home. A journalist by profession, she is the founding editor and publisher of NRI Pulse, a popular Indian-American newspaper. Although her day job involves news reports, interviews and meeting press deadlines, she devotes her spare time to creative writing and long walks in the woods. Purple Lotus is her debut novel.

Rashi Rohatgi, author of Where the Sun Will Rise Tomorrow

Rashi Rohatgi teaches English and world literature in the Arctic Circle. Her writing can be found in The Misty Review, The Aerogram, Boston Accent Lit, Lunar Poetry and other print and online publications.