THE STONE THROWER and The Festival of Literary Diversity (The FOLD) – May 6-8

I can’t tell you how proud I am of the founder of The FOLD (Festival of Literary Diversity). A client and friend, she’s a huge writing talent and activist in the publishing community. She has big news! Jael Richardson has launched a new book today:

The African-American football player Chuck Ealey grew up in a segregated neighborhood of Portsmouth, Ohio. Against all odds, he became an incredible quarterback. But despite his unbeaten record in high school and university, he would never play professional football in the United States.

Chuck Ealey grew up poor in a racially segregated community that was divided from the rest of town by a set of train tracks, but his mother assured him that he wouldn’t stay in Portsmouth forever. Education was the way out, and a football scholarship was the way to pay for that education. So despite the racist taunts he faced at all the games he played in high school, Chuck maintained a remarkable level of dedication and determination. And when discrimination followed him to university and beyond, Chuck Ealey remained undefeated.

Groundwood Logos Spine

…And she is launching a festival this weekend. The Festival of Literary Diversity is one of a kind celebrating diverse authors and creators in Brampton, Ontario. If you are in the greater Toronto area please join us this weekend. I’ll be on a panel Saturday. Hope to see you there!

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Things I Wish I Knew: 5 Things To Know When Writing Diverse Characters by Dahlia Adler

You might know Dahlia Adler as an author, a blogger, a Twitter enthusiast (follow her)–or all three! But I know her as an intelligent advocate of marginalized voices and talented writer of diverse stories. She’s our next expert in the “Things I Wish I Knew” series.

Writing diverse characters is a life skill for a writer. It starts with the complex question: how does any writer write about things that they haven’t lived? Writing a diverse cast of characters has always been important, but with the (much needed) push of the We Need Diverse Books campaign among other things I want it to be clear that diversity is not a trend. Diversity reflects the way we live our lives in the real world–we’re all different and everyone deserves to have themselves reflected in what they read.

For advice on writing a diverse cast, please hear from the one and only Dahlia Adler…

5 Things To Know When Writing Diverse Characters

1. Diversity is not a monolith. We hear that phrase a lot, but what does it mean, practically, when writing a character? It means throwing out your preconceived notions of “A character being Black/Latina/gay/blind/Muslim/Jewish etc. means This.” The one thing being marginalized means across the board is that the characters have likely faced microaggressions in their lives, and been made conscious of ways in which they are different from the most privileged. It does not mean they’re resentful, it does not mean they view the ways in which they are marginalized as a shortcoming or something they do not celebrate.

2. Listen and watch how people within a community talk to each other, without your participation. Consume media by that community for that community. That’s where your authenticity is gonna come from more than anywhere else. You can ask someone a million questions about their identity but those things that most strongly resonate are also probably so strongly ingrained, they’d never think to tell you. As an example of this, I always remember seeing an Asian woman on Twitter (I’m sorry, I wish I could remember who!) reacting to the way Jessica on Fresh Off the Boat cut fruit in the pilot episode. It was such a bone-deep familiar thing, but I don’t think it’s the kind of detail you’d ever think to express to someone who asked; you just see it and you know – this was written by someone who Knows who I am.

3. As important as “What must be in the depiction of a marginalized character in order to write it” is “What must not be.” When doing your research, see what those people are sick of seeing, are inaccuracies, are lazy stereotypes, are stories that have been done to death in one way or another. For instance, as a Jewish person, I am very, very tired of the Holocaust being the setting for all of our stories. Yes, it hugely impacted my life. But A) we are people beyond it, and B) it perpetuates a very monolithic idea of Jewish identity as being of Eastern-European origin, when in fact there are huge, important, thriving Jewish communities of North African, Middle-Eastern, Spanish, and other origins. Is it offensive to set a book during the Holocaust? No. But is it perpetuating things about our culture and its place in media many of us would like to stop seeing perpetuated? Yes, and that should be relevant to you if you are using our culture for your story.

4. Don’t throw one community under the bus for another. I see this a lot in queer literature, where there’s a bisexual secondary character who’s some “slutty” foil to lesbians, for example. Don’t do this. If your character creation is reliant on other people looking bad so your character looks good, you are unquestionably writing a weak character.

5. There will never be a unanimous agreement among the writing community about who is permitted to write what, so think long and hard about your values in that conversation, and also the people it most deeply affects. If you’re writing outside your lane, deeply consider what already exists by creators of that group and how you can support them as well. Deeply consider why you have chosen this perspective, and why yours is a necessary voice on it. And most of all, really deeply consider your readers and the importance to them of you doing your research and how you present them. The kids seeing themselves in your books. The kids who may be doing so for the very first time. And let them guide you most of all.

More About Dahlia:

I’m an Associate Editor of mathematics by day, a Copy Editor by night, and I do a whole lot of writing at every spare moment in between. I’ve also been a Production Intern and Editorial Assistant at Simon & Schuster, a Publicity Intern at HarperCollins, and a Fashion Intern at Maxim. (I’m kind of into that whole publishing thing.)

I’m the author of the YA novels Behind the Scenes, Under the Lights, and Just Visiting, and the NA novels Last Will and TestamentRight of First Refusal (March 15, 2016), and Out on Good Behavior (Spring 2016). For information on those books and where you can buy them, check out My Books!

I live in New York City with my husband and our overstuffed bookshelves, and you can find me on Twitter at @MissDahlELama and blogging at B&N Teens, The Daily Dahlia, and YA Misfits.

My Controversial New Year’s Resolution. And Tell Me: What’s Your Reading-Related Resolution?

King QuoteThere are so many great ways to incorporate reading into your New Year’s Resolutions.

Do you want to read more books in 2016? Try Harper’s 50 Book Pledge.

Do you want to read books you wouldn’t otherwise? Here’s a great reading challenge from Pop Sugar!

Do you want to increase the diverse reading you’re doing? Check out WNDB’s campaigns.

Do you need accountability? Try the Goodreads Challenge.

Do you need help with discoverability? Why not follow the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.

Or maybe you’re like me and have decided to read fewer books next year. That’s right, my New Year’s Resolution is to read fewer books. Why? Because I want to read slower, remember more, and enjoy them more. 

Instead of trying to read everything this year–because let’s be serious, there is no way on earth to read all the books published in one year–I’m going to focus on (outside of my clients and slush-pile work reading of course!) the “special to me” books. No beating myself up about not getting to everything. Books are meant to come into your life when you need them most. I can only get out of them what I put in and rushed reading isn’t helping me.

This is my favorite Doris Lessing quote and you’ll quickly see why:

“There is only one way to read, which is to browse in libraries and bookshops, picking up books that attract you, reading only those, dropping them when they bore you, skipping the parts that drag-and never, never reading anything because you feel you ought, or because it is part of a trend or a movement. Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty-and vise versa. Don’t read a book out of its right time for you.”

Q: What’s your reading-related New Year’s Resolution? Do you agree with mine?

Writing Diversity: campaigns, resources, terms and how you can help to read between your own lines

IS09AL15JThere are so many great campaigns going around the internet about diversity in publishing and books. This is my attempt to share that wisdom and it is not an exhaustive or complete list. Diversity is a word for the growing awareness (not a trend) that all types of people should honestly and accurately be represented in literature. Learning where we’re starting from and questioning our assumptions is how we begin to grow as an industry.

Get in the know about the movements and if you’re writing fiction learn some new resources to better support your work.

Firstly, let’s get on the same page:

  • Bad representation is worse than no representation.
  • Check your privilege and your biases. Question your assumptions. Change doesn’t happen unless we ask the right questions.
  • If you’re not sure this post is for you, you’re wrong. We can all learn something. Open your mind to new ways of thinking about your work and how it reaches people.
  • Diversity is more than race. It’s socioeconomic, it’s (dis)ability, it’s religion, it’s gender, it’s sexuality, or it’s age. Most importantly, it’s about intersectional equality.

Campaigns

Resources

Terms

What can you do?

  • Share what you’ve learned with your critique partner or writing group.
  • Write real people honestly. And if you don’t know how, then do research–don’t guess or rely on secondary resources.
  • Speak up when other writers make you uncomfortable.
  • Organizing a conference, speaking event or blog tour? Think about diversity and inclusivity.
  • When in doubt, find the honesty and the truth by listening.
  • Learn how to describe characters’ physical attributes respectfully and naturally. (Try this character development master list.)
  • What you’re not saying is as important as what you do say: All white cast? Nuclear family? Stereotypes of poverty or sexuality? Are you truly representing the real world?
  • Try getting your news from diverse sources like The Root or The New Civil Rights Movement.
  • No one can change where they are from or how they were raised, but you can choose how to live your life as an educated adult.
  • I don’t believe anyone sets out to offend others. I think some writers just haven’t questioned their biases or world view. Set out to educate others with facts and resources like this. Read between your own lines.

Q: What are your favourite writing diversity resources? What did I miss?