Mentor Diane Marie Brown

Cherise Fisher, Wendy Sherman Associates

Book Club Fiction

BLACK CANDLE WOMEN (2023) Graydon House Books

Diane Marie Brown is a professor at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California. Growing up in Stockton, California, she moved south to earn a BA in sociology and a graduate degree in public health from UCLA. After many years working in public health and disaster preparedness with the City of Long Beach, she went back to school to complete a degree in fiction at USC’s Master of Professional Writing Program. She lives in Long Beach, California with her husband, their four daughters, and dog Brownie. Her debut novel, Black Candle Women, will be out early in 2023.

I’ve had a fairly long route to finding an agent and getting a book deal. I wrote my first book about 15 years ago, which caught the interest of an agent. I signed with her but, ultimately, she was not able to sell the book. After that experience, I wanted to work on my craft so I completed a graduate writing program with instructors that included Janet Fitch and Judith Freeman. My current novel started out as my thesis from this program. After I graduated, I developed it further for a few years and then sent it out to agents. While I had a few agents that asked for the full manuscript, I wasn’t successful at getting an agent. Disappointed (and tired), I put it away for a couple years and picked it up again, sending out queries on an updated version, yet had the same results as before. While I loved my story, I decided to put it away again and start on something new. During the summer of 2020, Graydon House Books put out an open call for un-agented Black writers, committing to give feedback to them and, potentially, make an offer to publish. One of the editors there requested my full manuscript and, several months later, made an offer to publish my book. They were able to help me connect with agents, and I ultimately signed with my current agent who, at the time, was closed to submissions – she agreed to read my manuscript only because the editor reached out. Since then, my publishing journey has taken off, and I’ve been busy with revisions and all of the other exciting tasks that come with getting a book into the world.

My day job for many years was in the world of public health. There, I’ve served as a mentor for those who were early in their public health careers. I’ve also reviewed and provided feedback to several writing peers from my graduate program who have published books over the years.

Writing can be such a solitary practice. I think many of us search for connections with other writers to share, commiserate, feel less alienated, get advice, and receive encouragement. Along with this, I think a mentoring relationship also offers practical advice, resources, and support. While I received all of these through my own research and outreach, I would have truly valued having a mentor along the way to support my efforts; and acknowledging this, I’d love to be that support for someone else.

I’m hoping to connect with writers who like to infuse humor into whatever story their telling, as well as showing a frailty and relatable truth with their characters. I’m a sucker for beautiful sentences, and love it when writers can find creative and successful ways to break “writing rules.” While I’m drawn to adult fiction, particularly about people of color and women, I really just want to read a unique and wonderful story.


  • Contemporary
  • Romance

I can get hooked with just about any trope if the telling of the story doesn’t feel stale. The journey of the characters is what has to be original.



  • Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
  • Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
  • Skype or phone call
  • Freestyle in chat

My preference is to provide big picture notes that are discussed over a call/chat, but I don’t mind adding line edits and suggestions if that’s something a writer would like.

My ideal mentee is a hustler who is enthusiastic about their craft. Bonus points if they like to write/talk about food.

Contemporary stories that touch on current issues, stories with quirky MCs, generational stories, stories with a strong sense of place.

Mysteries, suspense, thrillers.


  • Queenie (Candice Carty-Williams), Luster (Raven Leilani), The Revival of Opal & Nev (Dawnie Walton), Long Division (Kiese Laymon), Seven Days in June (Tia Williams)
  • Ted Lasso, Queen Sugar, bad reality television
  • Boxers and German Shepherds
  • Star Wars & Marvel movies, Save the Last Dance, Brown Sugar, Hitch, The Graduate