Help Shape the Diversity Evolution

Elizabeth Bluemle -- September 16th, 2014

This blog post title may sound a little grandiose, but I don’t think it is. I can’t tell you how hopeful I am becoming about the prospect of real and lasting change toward meaningful diversity in the children’s book field. I’m trying to figure out how I can be most useful in this effort, and am enlisting your help.

Now, I’ve been blogging about this topic for years, as have countless other writers and editors and bloggers, but it hasn’t been until the past year that it finally feels like all of the individual voices and efforts have started to have a cumulative weight, some real momentum. And this real desire for change comes with a whole lot of questions about how to be effective.

Since National Public Radio’s three-part series on diversity in publishing (my part on bookselling diverse titles is here), I have heard from many, many people who appreciated the discussion. A few were parents who wanted to let me know they hoped their local bookstores would beef up their multicultural selection and that publishers would provide a whole lot more variety of content; others were listeners who wanted to know where to find my diversity database; the majority were authors of color asking for my help getting their books noticed by publishers.

And I honestly don’t know how best to help with that last one. I’m not an agent or an editor, and the jobs I do already take more time than I have. I suspect these writers, like all writers, represent a range along the spectrum from beginner to editor-ready.

How can I help these writers get their work seen?

I thought about creating a private Pinterest board, where I could post authors’ and illustrators’ short book pitches and/or sample artwork. Interested editors and agents would be invited to view this board and contact contributors directly if interested in seeing more. The board would be hidden so that the work wasn’t viewable by the public; only I and the agents and editors would be able to view the pitches. (Writers new to publishing often worry a lot about their ideas being stolen. With experience comes the understanding that this is an extremely rare occurrence, and that no two people would write the same book even given the same premise. But making the Pinterest board private would protect everyone’s privacy as much as possible while offering a chance to be seen.)

I’m not convinced this is the most effective way to create opportunity, and here’s where I need you! Please, authors, illustrators, editors, and agents, share your ideas (anonymously is fine) in the comments section here about how to broaden the visibility of emerging authors of color, including and especially those writing stories featuring main characters of color. What can we do that will really help this happen?

Be part of the evolution of our field toward a truly inclusive, real-world representation of the great range of children who live in our neighborhoods and towns and villages and cities across the country.

Thank you for your ideas.

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