Preparing for their upcoming regional conference (taking place in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 25-27, 2015) the RA team of Teresa Fannin and Bonnie Adamson got in touch to share their story of diversity defined... and expanded.
EXPANDING THE DEFINITION OF DIVERSITY
It all began with the 2014 SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles. The LA conference gives regional team members the opportunity to scout out editors, agents, authors, illustrators and approach faculty about their willingness to participate in a regional conference. But for Teresa Fannin and Bonnie Adamson, [RA and ARA of SCBWI Carolinas] it turned out to be much more.
Teresa: Yes, much more. We had chosen Your Story, Your World as our theme. Bonnie couldn’t make it to 2014 conference so I was shooting her emails and texts about the sessions I was attending and whom I thought might be interesting. I attended the diversity panel and was impressed with the quality of presentations, marking Adrianne Dominguez of Full Circle Literary as a possible agent for our faculty. I also attended a breakout on Page Turners with YA thriller author and VP of Communications for We Need Diverse Books, Lamar Giles. The subject of diversity is huge for SCBWI. Even with the Emerging Voices award and participation in We Need Diverse Books program, some still equate diversity with only race and gender. Little did we know we were about to challenge that idea for the Carolinas.
Bonnie: I also liked the idea of an agent who was tuned into diversity. So I began to search for additional faculty under the same topic. My search took me to North South Books, which had just opened up to accepting manuscripts from US authors to sell outside the US. North South primarily published books that were written by Europeans and published in the US. Editor Beth Terrell agreed to come.
Teresa: But we were missing a whole half of the globe so we approached YA author and SCBWI Japan RA Holly Thompson on presenting a breakout: TELLING STORIES ACROSS BORDERS. CAUTION, LANDMINES. Holly agreed to participate in a diversity panel and discuss the new membership category, translator. [For more about translation and SCBWI, see this recent post.]
Bonnie: About this time, Teresa found a Ted Talk with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The theme of her talk was The Danger of A Single Story and the idea of how necessary it is to share one’s own story. Now we were at the point where we needed to add to the theme of our conference and it became Your Story, Your World: A Celebration of Diversity in Children’s Lit.
Teresa: We then realized we had a tremendous resource on diversity, that diversity was not some exotic concept, but a vibrant reality in our own backyard. We put out a call for proposals. Now we have breakouts on USING YOUR OWN DIVERSITY, BUILDING AUTHENTIC LGBTQIA CHARACTERS, DIVERSITY, EQUITY & SOCIAL JUSTICE: CREATING STORIES FOR ALL KIDS, PICTURE BOOKS AND DIVERSITY, and more.
Bonnie: Our definition of diversity now includes not only what you might call the ‘traditional diversity topics’ but also topics about mental illness and writing for a foreign market. We’ve also brought in Workman Press Editorial Director Daniel Nayeri, and Charlesbridge Editorial Director Yolanda Scott both of the CBC’s Diversity Committee to discuss the industry side of diversity in children’s literature.
Teresa: With this conference we are pretty intent on keeping diversity out of a small pigeon-holed category. Our goal is expand the definition of diversity-- to show our membership diversity is a huge topic with a very inclusive definition: telling stories for children by authors and illustrators from every situation and from every viewpoint possible.
Thanks, Bonnie and Teresa!
You can find out more about this SCBWI Carolinas conference here.