Friday, September 18, 2020

DW. 3.1. Writing Identity Elements into Our Stories: David Bowles, S.K. Ali & Linda Sue Park

It’s been a long few weeks away from our Digital Workshop series, but now we are BACK -- with more Children’s book creators ready to take up our computer screens. This means more writing, more inspiration, and trying our hardest not to let quarantine stop us from gifting kids with the magic of storytelling. Possibly our brand new Digital Workshop time (4pm PDT/ 7pm EDT) will help those of us returning to a world outside of work from home, as well? 

Kicking it off with our first workshop, we not only have one talented author, but three. David Bowles, S.K. Ali, and Linda Sue Park discuss “Writing Identity Elements into Our Stories,” a topic all writers are exploring right now and onwards, no matter your race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. “The more you read and learn and grow, the more culturally competent you become,” April Powers (SCBWI Equity & Inclusion Officer) says while introducing the workshop. While listening to Bowles, Ali and Park, we learn how. 

All three authors discuss their process of finding inspiration -- both from their own personal lives, and from walks of life they see around them. 

“I think a lot of writers don’t understand that a lot of young girls look up to [hijabs] because it's almost like trying on your mom's high heels… I took it from that [perspective], because it's the authenticity I lived through. I did a lot of contextualizing [from my own identity],” says S.K. Ali 

David Bowles discusses the importance of specification in our stories. Personal experience adds the realism needed for minority children to feel welcome and seen in literature. “There are as many ways as being Mexican American as there are Mexican Americans,” he says. “Rooting ourselves in where we are is beneficial for all kinds of people.”

Linda Sue Park found inspiration for her newest middle grade novel Prairie Lotus from the Little House on the Prairie novels; “I wanted to dismantle the little house… in order to dismantle that story, I wanted to use that setting. But I ran into a problem - there were no Koreans. So how was I going to put myself into the story?” S.K. Ali says similarly to her work, and advises young writers to do the same: “Don’t go by the cannon that came before you; because the cannon didn’t include you.” 

So - “who decides what a classic is, anyway?” asks April Powers as the Digital Workshop comes to a close. “It’s up to us to decide what a classic is for the next generation.” Every single child deserves to see themselves reflected across the pages of classics to come. I guess that means it’s time for all of us to get writing. 

~ Until next Thursday, book-loving, SCBWI friends ~

Avery Silverberg, SCBWI HQ Admin Assistant 

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