Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Diversity Social At #LA17SCBWI

The Diversity Social -- a partnership between We Need Diverse Books and SCBWI -- is another great reason to attend SCBWI's 2017 Summer Conference in Los Angeles, CA, this July 7-10.

Here's Linda Sue Park, Miranda Paul, and Alex Gino, all of whom will attend, with some thoughts to share:

Lee: Why is this so important to you?

Linda Sue: I am on the Board of Advisors for both SCBWI and WNDB. They are the two organizations nearest and dearest to my heart. I firmly believe that together, we're an unstoppable force for helping young readers grow up to save the world.

Alex: Children are learning what's in the world and what to think of it. Kids who are marginalized for their gender, race, religion, disability, language, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and/or family structure deserve to see themselves represented well in literature. And kids with privilege in any of those areas who read diversely are more likely become adults with compassion, which we as humans sorely need more of. I appreciate WNDB's broad vision of diversity, and our approach of addressing the need for increased diversity at every level of the publishing industry, from writers to publishers to booksellers and librarians to readers. And the more good diverse literature is available, the more those readers will turn into writers and publishers and booksellers and librarians.

Miranda: The diversity social is important to me because diversity is an important issue, period. Representation in books is a matter of social justice. Event after event from diversity campaigns lead to connections, and opportunities, and ultimately books that build empathy in our citizens. As a child, I grew up with characters who looked like me, but what about creators who are still overcoming a lack of childhood representation? The creators who will attend this event are making books for my children, who unfortunately don't have the same random chance to see themselves represented as I did. Every event WNDB and SCBWI does can help turn the tide, even if it's only a small amount. The audiences we write for are young and forming their identities. Our literature needs to honor and reflect the lives, stories, and experiences of all young people. Every event that helps to support diverse book creators ultimately helps children be more able to find books that speak to them or open their minds to others' experiences.

Lee: Why it should be important (or should it?) for every creator of content for kids and teens attending the conference?

Linda Sue: The goal is for children's books to accurately include and reflect the glorious diversity of children in this country. Until then, creating, publishing, bookselling, and sharing books will always be fraught with questions of representation and fairness. Only when we reach the point of true inclusion will we ALL be able to create and publish with total freedom. The long game: Creating a diverse landscape in children's literature BENEFITS EVERYONE.

Miranda: I don't think it's important for every creator of content for kids and teens to attend this event. I do think that diverse writers and illustrators, outspoken and considerate allies, and publishing professionals who are looking to acquire more #ownvoices material should definitely come. You're not alone!

Lee: What are your hopes for the social?

Linda Sue: It's my fervent hope that the 'Diversity Social' will be THE gathering to attend at the conference! I hope all such gatherings will grow and grow until they're so inclusive that we won't need them any longer. Every facet of children's literature--creators, readers, teachers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, SCBWI members!--should be as diverse as the world we live in. It's the first step toward the ultimate dream of 'liberty and justice FOR ALL.'

I also hope it will be REALLY REALLY FUN. ;-D

Alex: My hope is that the social will connect burgeoning and unpublished diverse writers and illustrators with information about WNDB and our programs, including our grant and mentorship programs, as well as with authors and illustrators working in the field. I also hope that writers and illustrators interested in learning more about WNDB and possibly getting more involved with what we do will take this opportunity to drop in, meet us, and ask questions about what it's like working with WNDB.

Miranda: I hope the diversity social at SCBWI's Summer conference helps attendees to kickstart new relationships or bolster previous acquaintances. Writing or illustrating books and navigating the publishing industry are not easy feats, but especially so if you're someone who is consistently in the minority at writer's events. Most creators work in isolation, and have questions about craft or business that are best answered or explored through relationships with experienced professionals. But how does one gain access to professionals who might have been through similar experiences or be writing from a similar viewpoint? The idea of gathering like-minded individuals in one room will allow some of those relationships to naturally begin through shared experience, heritage, or identity. SCBWI and WNDB, among many organizations, have been working to change the dismal diversity statistics in children's publishing. We've moved beyond hosting panels stating that we need diversity—we all know and agree. Our initiatives have shifted to taking action. I have no doubt that POCs, writers with disabilities, or those from or focused on underrepresented populations in children's literature will benefit from making connections in this casual setting.

We hope to see you there!

Get all the information about #LA17SCBWI here, and learn more about We Need Diverse Books at their website, here.

Illustrate and Write On,

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