Wednesday, October 23, 2013

CBC Diversity Moves Homes

To Our Amazing Readers--

Thank you for reading our blog and supporting our initiative! We're not stopping, and we're not slowing down. On the contrary, we're gearing up to provide you with more content than ever before! To do this, we've found a platform that we think you'll enjoy if you haven't already discovered it, Tumblr.

We've already got our CBC Diversity Tumblr up and running and invite you to check out our new look. After this week, we will no longer be updating our CBC Blogger page, however, all the past posts and resources will still be available for viewing on this site. We've transferred all of the last year and half onto our new Tumblog and plan to continue providing thought-provoking new posts, series, resources, and more in our new home.

We look forward to seeing you over there!

**Please note that on Monday, Oct. 28th, 2013, the proper address to reach CBC Diversity's Blogger page will be will take you to our Tumblr page.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Industry Q&A with author-illustrator Don Tate

When you were a child or young adult, what book first opened your eyes to the diversity of the world?

imageI didn’t read books as much as I should have. I struggled with comprehension and retention. There was plenty of Dr. Seus and Mother Goose around the house, but I preferred our Funk & Wagnalls Young Students Encyclopedias. That’s where I discovered a multicultural world.

As a child, I thought the world was white. That’s what my world looked like growing up in Des Moines, Iowa in the 1960s and 70s. White people, white books, white movies, white television, white music. Encyclopedias allowed me to see the world from another vantage point. They revealed a world made up of color -- brown people of every shade. Maybe that’s why encyclopedias appealed to me so much.

What is your favorite diverse book that you read recently?

I’m a little confused about the term ‘diverse book.’ It's one of those uncomfortable, elephant-in-the-room terms, that used to mean one thing, but has morphed into something entirely different. It’s an industry code word whose definition still evolves.

I’ve illustrated children’s books for nearly 30 years -- trade and educational. When I entered the business back in the 80s, people used the word ‘diversity’ interchangeably with Black or African-American. When someone said ‘diversity,’ I knew they were talking about me. I was often hired to illustrate a text because an editor had a ‘diverse,’ ‘multicultural,’ ‘African-American’ manuscript. However when I hear the term used today, it’s more inclusive, as should be. When someone says ‘diverse,’ they could mean African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Native, LGBT, girls/women, mixed-race, physically challenged, Buddhist -- or even white. A better question might be: What is a favorite book that exemplifies diversity? But even that would be a difficult question because I don’t think diversity can be about one or two books. It’s about a body of books: Heart & Soul; Diego Riveria; Dreaming Up!; Around our Way on Neighbor’s Day; Alvin Ho; Jingle Dancer. There’s so many.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Diversity 101: Blurring the Lines Between Familiar and Foreign

Part II—A Focus on Dialogue

Contributed to CBC Diversity by Uma Krishnaswami

My Personal Connection
The books you read as a child are as real as the places you live in or the people around you. They whisper to you of the possibilities the world can offer, like mental pathways into your own as-yet-unlived future.

In that category, Rumer Godden gave me permission to write. Kipling both enchanted and troubled me; only many years later did I understand my own need to write about the country he depicted with his strange colonial mixture of tenderness and disdain. But as a child of the late 1950s growing up in India, I cut my reading teeth on Enid Blyton.

I learned a lot from Enid about humor, family, friendships, and the pleasure of racing along a swiftly unfolding plot. Now, thinking back, I am pretty sure that I also learned how not to write dialogue.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Checking Boxes and Filling Blanks: Diversity and Inclusion in Children’s Literature

Guest post by educator and writer, Cory Silverberg.

Lee & Low Books'
Diversity Gap in Children's Books Infographic
The publisher Lee and Low recently mobilized social media (through the nifty infographic on the left) to jumpstart a discussion of diversity in children’s literature. No surprise to anyone who is paying attention, while the US continues to undergo a significant demographic shift, diversity in children’s books is not reflecting what we the people look like today.

When we grow up not finding ourselves represented in popular media and educational curricula it becomes just a little harder to creatively imagine our futures, to explore our identities, to try on different ways of being; all of which are essential aspects of development. 

Shame thrives in invisibility and silence. This is why representation is a critical aspect of diversity work. 

But we need to also be mindful of how easily a complicated idea like diversity becomes code for one flattened out thing. That thing is usually the visual representation of race. As authors and educators, editors and publishers, we need to notice how this is missing the forest for the trees.  

So as publishers start identifying even more specific ‘diversity markets’ and begin to make editorial “requests” to meet them, it seems like a good time to consider both the forest and the trees, and think about whether there’s a way to tend to both.

To accomplish this we need to think not only of diversity but also of inclusion.

Monday, September 23, 2013

CBC Diversity Newsletter: September 2013 v. 2

Diversity 101: Blurring the Lines Between Familiar and Foreign

Part IA Focus on Narrative

Contributed to CBC Diversity by Uma Krishnaswami

My Personal Connection
Back in the last century, when I dreamed of writing for young readers, the conventional wisdom about weaving foreign languages into fiction written in English went like this:


The stories I longed to write spanned continents. My characters often spoke in two languages, sometimes with varying degrees of fluidity. My narratives demanded a mixing of languages, reflecting the hybridity I was trying to show.

I plunged in, wanting to find my own answers. I wrote a lot of bad stories that earned the rejections they deserved. I kept asking myself, how can I represent this linguistic and cultural material while being truthful to the stories I’m trying to tell?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Is the Race Card Old School?

An It's Complicated! — Authentic Voices guest post by author, Mitali Perkins.

When my book Rickshaw Girl (Charlesbridge) came out, one reviewer said I was “drawing on my cultural roots” to tell the story.

I winced when I read that line.

I was writing about Naima, the Muslim daughter of an impoverished rickshaw puller in Bangladesh. My grandfather was a Hindu landowner who exploited people like Naima. The rift between me and my character was almost as wide as a daughter of a slave-owner writing about the daughter of a slave. Sure, we’re both Bengali, so we share a language and other cultural commonalities. But why is race the primary authenticity card when it comes to granting storytelling permission? What about power, gender, class?

The bottom line is that all fiction crosses borders. Age: middle-aged people write about children. Gender: women write about boys; men write about girls. Class: suburbanites write about inner-city kids.

If we don’t write an imagined life, we craft memoir.

Does that mean anybody can write anything when it comes to fiction? It must, with caveats. Because what an author learns before the age of seven does matter in fiction.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"I Want to Write What I Know"

An It's Complicated! — Authentic Voices guest post by author, Bil Wright.

“Write what you know!” Isn’t that what English teachers, writing instructors and even guest authors encourage beginning writers to do? Many young writers, eager to begin to unravel the mystery of how to tell a story “successfully” hold onto this advice as a foundation for their writing careers whether it be professionally, academically or writing for their own enjoyment. Certainly this adage provides a certain comfort level; writing about what is familiar almost guarantees, if nothing else, a level of credibility and even authenticity, doesn’t it? And certainly, for any writer wanting to make a deep connection with his/her reader, authenticity is a quality that is highly desirable. So then does that mean I should stay away from writing about topics or characters, indeed people who are less familiar to me? Perhaps I should not include them in my computer created world, lest I fall short of making them totally believable to my reader. Perhaps I should compile a list so that I’m careful to avoid these topics and characters as I proceed to tell my stories.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Authentically Me

An It's Complicated! — Authentic Voices guest post by author, Sharon G. Flake.

Growing up I did not see the value in being my authentic self. I was skinny, long-legged, and shy with big rabbit teeth.  Some adults and kids even called me Olive Oyl (Popeye’s Girlfriend) —enough said?

I remember wanting to be like my neighbor Yolonda. She could wear a blanket and look red-carpet ready.  I on the other hand, could never quite make fashion work, even today.

By middle school comparing myself to others was a fine art.  There was the blond I sat next to who had the most exquisite handwriting. For years I tried to emulate it.  In high school there was Pam. She absorbed information like a sponge.  Earning high A’s with ease or so it seemed.  I would study until my brain froze, only to end up with a lack luster B or C.

Thank God for my freshmen college English class.  Before then, I do not recall feeling one-way or the other about writing. Yet somehow my professor lit a flame in me. No longer did I need to be a carbon copy of others, at least on paper.  My writing was opinionated, fearless, and political. I was determined to use my work to give voice to the powerless.  And because I loved the community I grew up in, I never hesitated to draw on its strengths, challenges and uniqueness.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

First, Know Yourself

An It's Complicated! — Authentic Voices guest post by author, Diana López.

“Write about picking cotton,” my family said when they heard I wanted to be a writer. “Write about how we used the fabric from flour sacks to make our dresses, and how Grandma hates fish because that’s all she ate during the Depression, since it didn’t cost anything for them to go fishing for food.”

Closely examine my family, or any family, and you’ll discover all the drama of a telenovela. Naturally, I wanted to write about being chastised for speaking Spanish, about living on a ranch in San Diego, about my grandmother being “Rosita the Riveter” during World War II. I tried to write those stories. But my only experience working the land comes from fifteen minutes in a field off Old Robstown Road where my parents showed us how to pick cotton. It was interesting to feel the texture, so unlike a T-shirt, which is what I had imagined.
My grandmother might have hated fish, but I loved it. We had a boat that we’d take to Laguna Madre, where we’d compete to see who could catch the most, the biggest, or the strangest. (Once, my brother caught a seagull when it chomped on the bait as he cast.) Back home, Dad filleted the fish in the backyard, the cats begging and fighting over scraps. Then, Mom used cornmeal batter to fry the fish, and we ate, delicately picking meat off tiny bones.
All this to say that my family’s experiences and the emotions associated with them are not exactly mine.

Monday, September 16, 2013

It Doesn't Have to Be True to Be Truthful

An It's Complicated! — Authentic Voices guest post by author, Alex London.

Authenticity, that vicious guard-dog of truth, bedevils a teller of stories every step of the way. It is not enough to feel the truth of what you write or even to know it. The reader must feel you are right in the telling of it. An inauthentic voice can make even an honest memoir feel like a lie, while an authentic voice can make a whole pack of lies seem true. Just look to James Frey’s first book for proof of that.

In writing my YA debut, Proxy, I struggled with authenticity early on. As a gay man who was once a gay teen, I had no trouble with my protagonist’s sexuality. I well-remembered the unrequited longings, the suppressed desire for a kiss that sometimes broke out as rage, and the feeling, ever-present, that my sexuality did not define me and that I could not let the world tell me it did.

Syd, one of two main characters in Proxy, contains much of the truth of my own experience and the challenge there was the common challenge to all writing: to make sure I rendered him as vividly as I would want to be rendered myself. I had memories to draw on, fragmented conversations with my straight best-friend, felt truths that I could, with effort, put into words.

It's Complicated!: Authentic Voices Series Continues

One week down, one more week to go! 

Last week this It's Complicated! series highlighted authors who wrote brilliantly from outside of their perspectives including Graham Salisbury, Elizabeth Kiem, Walter Dean Myers, A.S. King, and Patricia McCormick. Some great takeaways?
A writer writes, and doesn’t really worry much about complaints, anyway. We’re seeking the dramatic and emotional intricacies of life wherever and however we can find them. Our job is to explore them, enlighten ourselves, and try our best to move our readers. We may all look different, but we are all intimately and infinitely connected. We are one. We are beings with parallel heartbeats. The only race out there is the human one.--Graham Salisbury, Parallel Heartbeats

My central characters all have some aspects of my personality. I don’t intend to write this way but it’s inevitable. I know I can use my personal view to create a character of depth, but I have to vary that character so that I’m not constantly writing the same book over and over again.--Walter Dean Myers, Character Development

My characters are me. I couldn’t write them if they weren’t. None of my characters are autobiographical, but every one of them is human and so am I. In the end, we all have too much in common to go on separating ourselves. We eat and we poop. We are born and we die. We struggle through. While diversity is a celebration of every type of human, I am most interested in that humanness that connects us.--A.S. King, What is Personal Perspective, Really?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Taking the Risk and Taking the Heat

An It's Complicated! — Authentic Voices guest post by author, Patricia McCormick.

When authors try to write about experiences far outside our own, we run a number of risks. We’ll be accused of getting it wrong, of slumming in someone else’s pain or,  worst of all, of being insensitive or patronizing. But for me, it’s only through trying on the experience of another human being that I’m able to recognize the limits of my imagination – and, more importantly, my unconscious biases.

For instance, in Sold, a novel based on my interviews with young Indian and Nepali women who were sold into prostitution, I chose to include a white American character. He is a photographer, based on the real-life activist who introduced me to the issue of human trafficking. It was a thank-you to that young man. But the inclusion of an American character was also a way to give my primary audience a character with whom they could identify.

Some readers criticized the book for repeating the myth of the noble white American rescuer in the land of savages.  And upon reflection, I have to plead guilty.  If I were to write the book over again, I’d probably base the ‘rescuer’ on the women in India and Nepal who are fighting trafficking. Or on the male police officers now doing that work.

Lesson learned.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What Is Personal Perspective, Really?

An It's Complicated! — Authentic Voices guest post by author, A.S. King.

Writing outside of my “personal perspective” is easy because I am fascinated by human beings, and not particularly fascinated by myself.

And what is personal perspective? Is it the body I am in? This physical, sometimes smelly, sometimes sunburnt, sometimes arthritic shell? Is it the color of my skin? The house I grew up in? The amount in my parents’ bank account in 1984? Is it my family’s traditions during holidays? How often we went to church—or the fact that it wasn’t often? This question of personal perspective concerns me because it seems to be the thing a writer is supposed to transcend when he or she writes a novel. It’s also the thing a writer is supposed to plug into. It’s tricky like that.

When thinking about my characters and how they relate to me and more importantly, how they don’t relate to me, I find the dissimilar parts the least important. For example: I am not a young man. I never have been a young man. I am also not a child from a poor home, I’ve never lived in a trailer park, neither have I lived in a gated community of mini-mansions. So how do I write authentically from the point of view of a young man? How do I write authentically from the point of view of a poor girl who lives in a trailer park? A boy who lives in a mini-mansion?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Character Development

An It's Complicated! — Authentic Voices guest post by 2012-2013 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, Walter Dean Myers.

What I knew about the character I wanted to create was that he was based on the Moroccan hero Tarik ibn Zayad. In late April, 711, Tarik led his soldiers across what is now known as the strait of Gibraltar onto the Iberian Peninsula. My problem was to keep the book as time specific as possible while making it interesting to today’s young reader.

Knowing the subsequent influence of Islamic and Moorish culture in Spain, I decided to take the trip to the areas I would be writing about. I took my usual research assistants – my wife Constance and our son Christopher. We flew from Newark Airport to Malaga where we spent a few days checking out the food and staring at the people. Christopher noted that many seemed to be of mixed race.   We then rented a car and drove to Granada.   

Granada is flat out beautiful, and I knew I wanted to include the lush scenery in my book. So throughout the book I made references to the vegetation and thus gave Tarik a careful and interesting appreciation of the wonders of nature.  

Tarik, in my story, is on a mission of vengeance. His family has been killed by Visigoth raiders and he is angry. But, needing to control that anger I gave him martial arts training from two people, one who teaches him to fight and the other who teaches him self control.  His character is coming along nicely, thank you. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Write What You Know

An It's Complicated! — Authentic Voices guest post by author, Elizabeth Kiem.

Last month, as the release date of my Cold War thriller Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy drew near, these were the things I worried about:
Would Russian readers question why I nicknamed Marina, my heroine, ‘Marya’ rather than the more usual ‘Marinka?’

Would American readers check Google earth and find that the building where Marya lives is not as close to the riverbank as I implied?

Would anybody notice that Marya flies out of Moscow on a Tupelov 134, which is actually an unmanned drone?

In other words I worried that readers might question the authenticity of my story, my setting, or my props. But it never occurred to me that I might be challenged on the authenticity of my character – a Russian ballerina with a psychic streak and a lot of family baggage.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Parallel Heartbeats

An It's Complicated! — Authentic Voices guest post by author, Graham Salisbury.

Original Cover
New Cover
My second novel, Under the Blood-Red Sun (1994), is about the power of friendship as seen through the eyes of two young boys in Honolulu when Pearl Harbor is bombed. One is Billy, a white boy, who’d moved to Hawaii from California, and the other is his best friend, Tomi , a Japanese boy born and raised in the islands. I wrote the first draft of this novel from Billy’s point of view, figuring, well gee, I’m a white guy … I had to write it from Billy’s point of view.

But that first draft wasn’t working; the editorial letter said, in effect, “This novel has no heartbeat. Try again.”   

So … should I start over, or chuck the three hundred pages and move on to something else? That may sound like a tough decision, but it wasn’t, because I realized that my problem was really quite simple: I’d written the book from the wrong point of view. This was Tomi’s story, not Billy’s.

But could I, a Caucasian, write a novel in first person from the point of view of a young Japanese-American boy? I had an audience of young readers that would very likely believe that I actually was Tomi, and must be Japanese. If they were to ever actually see me they might feel betrayed! And what about reviewers and other adults? “The nerve!”

Friday, September 6, 2013

CBC Diversity Newsletter: September 2013 v.1

Take Four! A New, Two-part "It's Complicated" Conversation

As part of CBC Diversity's ongoing effort, we're pleased to present the fourth dialogue in the "It's Complicated!" blog series starting next week, and for the first time, it will run over two consecutive weeks, starting on Monday. This time we've invited five authors to share their thoughts about writing inside their cultural perspective, and five authors to discuss writing outside their cultural perspective.

I think most would agree that in an ideal world, the diversity depicted in books and of their creators would match the diversity of our world. But I know some might disagree on the best way to get there--what if that's not immediately possible? Is it better to have white/straight/able-bodied, etc. authors write books about non-white/LGBT/disabled, etc. characters? Can those characters truly be authentic? What if the only way authors of color can achieve commercial success is by writing books with non-diverse characters? And can those books be authentic, too? Are there any topics that should be "off-limits" to outsider writers? Do you trust an author you perceive to be an insider more than you would an outsider?

Friday, August 30, 2013

CBC Diversity Newsletter

For your viewing pleasure, the Diversity in the News you've come to know and love has updated its style! All the same content will now be found in this beautiful magazine-style offering. Don't forget to sign up to get the digest in you e-mail inbox every week with a link to the formatted version at the bottom of the e-mail.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Microaggressions: Those Small Acts that Pack a Big, Negative Punch

Guest post by children's librarian at Bank Street College of Education, Allie Jane Bruce.

More and more, the word “microaggression” is cropping up in the world of children’s literature.  A “microaggression” —a term coined by Harvard professor Chester M. Pierce in 1970 — is a tiny act of bigotry. Examples include crossing the street when a dark-skinned stranger appears, giving a groan when the word “Feminism” comes up, or using “homo” as a synonym for “uncool” (Pierce used it to describe only race-related acts, but the word has evolved to encompass bigotry in general). Viewed individually, these acts are almost negligible; taken as a whole, they constitute an evolution of the very nature of bigotry, from overt, conscious and public bigotry to a more nebulous form that is hard to identify and even harder to acknowledge (Sue et al, 2007).

We who work in the field of children’s literature—librarians, teachers, booksellers, authors, illustrators, bloggers, publishers—must be aware of microaggressions. We constantly read aloud, recommend books, and do everything in our power to turn kids into bookworms. As fervently as we extoll the benefits of reading, we must also consider whether the books we love confirm kids’ dignity and worth as human beings, in ways small and large.

What one person perceives as a microaggression may be a non-entity to another. At what point does an incident become a microaggression? What responsibility do I, as a librarian and teacher, have to filter out potentially harmful books?  Is it better not to read something hurtful—or to read it, and then discuss it? These were questions with which I wrestled after a read-aloud incident a few months ago.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Industry Q&A with editor Phoebe Yeh

Please tell us about the most recent diverse book you published. 
The School for Good and Evil
by Soman Chainani

For the purposes of this response, I propose that we define “diversity” in a more expansive way.

I suggest that “diversity” should mean more than issue based books by authors of color about protagonists of color. (While I believe that these books are still needed, the definition of diversity in the 21st century needs to be broader. I encourage all of you to read Christopher Myers’ excellent Horn Book piece for more on this subject.

Please consider the work of the debut novelists Korean American Ellen Oh and Asian Indian Soman Chainani. They are part of a growing number of authors of color who are breaking boundaries with regard to the diversity of book content and genre.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Finding Diversity and My Voice with a Flashlight and a Pen

Guest post by author Angela Cervantes

I am an original flashlight girl. You know the type. Hours after parents called for bedtime; I was still up under my bedcovers with a flashlight reading a favorite book. Many times, those books under the covers with me were the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby books. The fact that the heroines of these books were white and I was Mexican American didn't stop me from enjoying these books and rereading them several times. However, the more I fell in love with reading the more I questioned why there weren’t books like these with Latino characters. At the time, I remember thinking of all the girls in my neighborhood who were just as funny, spunky and adventurous as Ramona, Lucy and Laura. Surely there were books about them out there, right?

Not so much.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Diversity in the News

August 2nd – August 9th, 2013




Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Industry Q&A with Robin Smith, children's book reviewer

When you were a child or young adult, what book first opened your eyes to the diversity of the world?

I think the first book I remember really opening my eyes was The Soul Brothers and Sister Lou. I have no idea how well it holds up over time.

What is your favorite diverse book that you recently read?

Since I am currently serving on a committee which looks at books from all over the globe, I have many books with diverse characters from all countries. I couldn't possible pick a "favorite," but a new book I think everyone should read is I Have the Right to Be a Child which is an illustrated book about UN Convention on the rights of the child. It is stunning.

If you could participate in a story time with any children’s book author or illustrator (alive or dead) who would it be?

I would love to have met and heard John Steptoe--I would love to hear him tell and talk about Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, one of my favorite books of all time.

How do you introduce books featuring characters of color to parents and kids?

I really don't do anything different when I share books with characters of color to children, to tell you the truth.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Talking to Teens

Over the past few weeks, I got to spend time with a diverse group of teenagers from the Leave Out Violence organization and Writopia Lab, and in doing so I realized how little I interact with teenagers on a regular basis. Yet, my job and career revolve around making books for them. How can I possibly be making the best books for today’s teenagers when I don’t even know them?

Well, this was my chance to get to know them and find out what they loved, hated, made them passionate, and totally turned them off about books. And what I learned really surprised me and made me re-think the way I imagine the readers for my books and YA novels in general.
With both groups, I spread out a whole bunch of YA galleys to get their takes on covers. The galleys ranged from fantasy to historical to contemporary, from photographic to iconic to illustrated, from type driven to image driven. Almost unanimously, no one liked photographic faces on the cover – they all wanted to picture the characters in their own ways and didn’t want to be told right from the start what someone looked like. Fantasy fans told me our fantasy covers looked too much like everything else out there and didn’t tell them anything about what the story was actually about. Romance readers were put off by images of single girls in pretty dresses – again, this was something they’d seen too much already. They were put off by the New York Times bestseller headline because every book they see has that. If a book was trying too hard to appeal to a teen girl, they wanted nothing to do with it.

Diversity in the News

July 25th – August 2nd, 2013




Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Guten Tag! My trip with the German Book Office.

Riky Stock holding a 
very special German cheese.
Back in April, Riky Stock, director of the German Book Office in New York reached out to me with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—to join a group of children’s book editors on a trip to Frankfurt and Hamburg to meet with German publishers and agents.  The German Book Office hosts this annual trip for editors to experience the wonders of beer, brats, and books in hopes of building a bridge between our two countries, for both American books that could succeed in Germany and vice versa.

My fellow editors for this year’s trip included Stacey Barney from Putnam/Penguin (and one of the founders of CBC Diversity!), Sheila Barry from Groundwood Books in Canada, Grace Maccarone from Holiday House, Ben Rosenthal from Enslow, and Reka Simonsen from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Our group had a great vibe, and by the end of the trip, we had our fair share of inside jokes and insightful discussion about books and, in particular, why foreign translations are so difficult for the North American market.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Diversity in the News

July 11th - July 18th, 2013



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Shelley Diaz: How I Got into Publishing

Guest post by associate editor at School Library Journal

I decided I wanted to work in children’s publishing in sixth grade. I had devoured all of the Anne of Green Gables books by this time, and I was convinced that I could be the Dominican Lucy Maud Montgomery. I kept writing through middle school and high school, and pondered over different career paths (should I be a literary agent, an editor?), and even momentarily thought about being a cultural anthropologist instead.

The fact remained: I was fascinated by stories—all people’s stories.

I declared my English Lit/Latino Studies double-major freshman year at Columbia University, and was lucky enough to snag an editorial internship with Dell Publishing (a crossword puzzle publisher) through my Hispanic Scholarship Fund mentor. That summer internship cemented my desire to work in publishing, while at the same time reinforced the fact that it had to be with work that I cared about (crossword puzzles, were just not that interesting), and at a place that gave me the opportunity to advocate for diverse literature.

Monday, July 8, 2013

"White Publishing"

There’s a unique fear that I experience as an editor--which I imagine other editors experience as well--after reading a manuscript by and about a minority group I know too little about.

For example, I’m a Persian male who was born in Iran, and raised all over Europe, and then Oklahoma. So if you send me FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, man, I am in it. I lived that experience. Maybe not exactly as Boobie Miles lived it. But I played ball in Oklahoma. I get the lingo. My first manuscript was the story of that experience.

In the same way, if you write a novel set in Rome, if you want to sample some Farsi for a character, or French, then I’m good. I’m still with you. I have firsthand knowledge of the languages, the cultural nuances, etc.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Diversity in the News

June 27th – July 3rd, 2013

We hope everyone has a wonderful 4th of July and to tide you over until the next Diversity in the News post (July 12), we're giving you one mid-week!

Illustration by Tina Kugler to show the lack of diversity
in children's literature in 2012.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Diversity in the News

June 20th – June 27th, 2013

  • July 1—31: Disability in Kidlit —Organized by Kody Keplinger and Corinne Duyvis, the blog series  “will feature posts by readers, writers, bloggers, and other peeps from the YA and MG communities discussing disability and kidlit.” Call for bloggers now closed.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 2013 Census—Numbers We "Know"

On June 13, 2013, the Census Bureau released an article that was eye-opening, but not necessarily shocking. For the past few years many of us have understood that the make-up of our nation is changing and shifting. Publishing professionals have followed the many news articles published in the last year that raise the subject of the evolving population of our country and observed that children's books don't reflect that evolution. As industry professionals, we read and  we are listening. These issues are the very reason that CBC Diversity was formed. The CBC Diversity initiative was organized before the first controversial article with the tone of "wake up and see all the white kids on covers--not OK" in 2012 was written. The publishing industry gets it. But seeing change takes time (it takes about a year + to make a book) and it requires widespread collaboration from everyone involved in children's books (librarians, teachers, booksellers, agents, parents, writers, illustrators, etc.) to solve the problem.

That being said, sitting around Diversity Dialogue sessions where industry professionals come together in a safe environment to discuss how to "solve the problem" can be frustrating at times. We all "know" that there are a whole lot of, say, Latinos who need good mirror books, but reaching that audience is easier said than done. We "know" the market is there, but is it really? Stupid question, right? Of course it's there, but just so everyone is on the same page, here are some interesting tidbits directly from the June 13, 2013 Census Bureau report to really think deeply about.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Writing Sympathetic (Gay) Characters

Originally posted on the Diversity in YA blog by Brent Hartinger.

If you’re an author, how do make and keep your main character sympathetic?

You could write a whole book on this very topic — in fact, many have. I confess, I find it a fascinating one, mostly because it was exactly this idea of “likable” protagonists that made me start writing fiction in the first place.

Some writers reject the whole notion that main characters must be sympathetic (and to a degree, I would agree: jerks and anti-heroes absolutely have their place in the world, in certain kinds of stories).

But when I started writing back in the 80s and early 90s, I found myself completely frustrated by the main characters in so many books I was reading, especially the gay books. I was looking for characters I could relate to, and too many of the ones I was reading were way too whiny and self-destructive for my taste.

My partner and I used to joke that there was a name for the genre: *sshole fiction.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The World's A Stage, Or Is It?

Originally posted on the Diversity in YA blog by Sarah Rees Brennan.

The Demon’s Lexicon series is all about roles.

I started the first book, The Demon’s Lexicon, thinking about the role of Mr. Tall, Dark, Handsome and Morally Really Freaking Dodgy, and how we almost never get that guy’s point of view, and what he’d be like from the inside. Almost unforgivably awful, maybe, because you know how bad he is from the start, and you aren’t distracted by his good looks and dashing ways. What’s it like to look into the abyss? And what makes an abyss, anyway?

That was the role that started the ball, ahem, rolling. (Everybody groans and tosses rotten fruit.) From there I thought about roles, and the different ways I could play with them, like genderswitching: what if the hero of an epic fantasy — you know the type, rash and brave and honest and initially clueless — was a girl, what if the Mother Who Would Give Up/Do Anything For Her Kid was a boy?

Some of my ideas were just about going beyond a role, because some roles are true as far as they go, but people are so complex they never go far enough. Such as the gay guy who presents as weaker than other guys — what if he was physically weaker and smaller, and also quite deliberately presenting himself in a certain way, and also a huge magical badass?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Diversity in the News

May 30th – June 6th


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What Is Authentic, and What Is Offensive?

Soho Teen is publishing a novel in August--Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by debut author Elizabeth Kiem--set in 1983. The novel begins on the day Leonid Brehznev dies, the same day the 17-year-old protagonist and prima ballerina, Marina Dukovskaya, loses her mother to the wiles of Soviet authorities. (Or apparently loses. There will be no spoilers in this blog post.) Marina and her father defect to the United States, where they take up residence in Brighton Beach, an area that was ethnically and socioeconomically mixed at the time.

The novel is written from Marina's first-person point-of-view. The author is a Russian scholar, fluent in the language, and has expertise in both Soviet-era Russia and the burgeoning 1980's Brighton Beach organized crime scene.  Her prose reads as genuinely as any I've ever read. I'm not alone in that opinion; it has already been recognized at BEA for its accuracy, honesty, and beauty by the ABA as one six Fall 2013 YAs in the "Celebrate with Indie Debut Authors." 

All that said, a passage included in the galley was struck from the final after an in-house debate. The passage reads: "The Q train dead ends in Brighton Beach, also known as 'Little Odessa' or 'Russia by the Sea.'  About a half a mile west of us, America begins, speaking English, Spanish, and Black."

Friday, May 31, 2013

Diversity in the News

May 23rd —May 30th, 2013