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Dear Kid Lit Writers of Color: The odds are not in your favor.   

Face it. They are not. I don’t care how good your book is.

I’m not saying this as some emotional rant, but as a fact.

Look at this chart:

It is an infographic on kid lit publishing statistics provided by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center and designed by Sarah Park Dahlen.

Based on this illustration, the half-Latina protagonist in my YA novel—her name is Jo Lopez—has a 2.4% chance of being published. My odds would have jumped a full 10% if I had written Jo as a non-racial animal or an inanimate object like a cupcake, instead. But she is neither. She is a half-Latina from NYC having a hilarious—sometimes quirky—identity crisis while attending a cowgirl camp in Wyoming. And she was written by an author of color to connect with readers of color.

None of that matters, though. It doesn’t matter how well the book is written. It doesn’t matter that it’s an original premise. It doesn’t even matter that Latino readers are one of the fastest growing book markets in the U.S. The fact remains that Jo’s odds of publication are 2.4%. Even when one in four female students in public schools across the U.S. is Latina, according to a White House report.

What is even more astounding is that a whopping 25% of the nation’s public school students are Hispanic, yet they can only see themselves in 2.4% of children’s books that are published. How is that even possible?

It may have something to do with another fact: 80% of the publishing industry is white. Which would explain why 73% of the children’s books published in 2015 depicted main characters who were also white—I refer you back to the infographic.

Facing these staggering odds, I have come to realize that Jo may very well become a statistic. I have accepted this fact, not out of frustration but because I want to change things. It is not until we accept our reality that we are able to change it. So instead of getting angry and crying foul I am working to made a difference and so can you.

Here is how:

VOLUNTEER: I am a proud volunteer for the We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) organization. Their internship grant program gave eleven people opportunities in children’s publishing this summer. Four of them landed jobs after the internship. In January, WNDB will be publishing the short story anthology titled Flying Lessons aimed at promoting diversity among middle grade readers. WNDB’s programs also include awards, grants, contests, mentorships and resources for librarians and teachers.

MAKE A DONATION: If you can’t donate time, then donate money. WNDB needs our financial support to function. Your donations have a direct impact on the success of our mission—case in point: debut author A.C. Thomas, who won the WNDB’s Walter Dean Myers Grant in 2015. Her novel, The Hate U Give, will be published in 2017 and a feature film will follow.

ATTEND AN EVENT: Support the book launch of another writer of color, sign-up for a writers conference, join a critique group, attend a writers mixer. There is strength in numbers—show up, be seen and connect with other writers, and with industry professionals.

HOST AN EVENT: Get off your writing chair and host a local mixer, a writing group, a critique group, a writers’ retreat or a workshop. This is a great opportunity to connect with other authors and build relationships.

SPREAD THE WORD: Promote books and events that give writers of color a seat at the table. Use social media to boost signals on book releases, events and industry news.

KEEP WRITING: My personal goal is to produce one manuscript a year—regardless of whether it gets published or not. The result is that by the end of this year, I will have written three full-length manuscripts. With each one, my voice is honed, my writing flows better, and my story-telling technique improves.

We need more authors of color writing books of

all genres, for all readers.

We need our voices to be loud enough that they can’t be ignored.

Or even worse, be defined by a number on an infographic.

Join us on November 12 at 7 p.m. for Eagle Eye After Hours: Young Adult and Middle Grade Writers Mixer

Join us on Saturday, November 12 at 7 p.m. at Eagle Eye Books in Decatur for drinks, snacks and dessert! This is a unique opportunity to build and expand your local writers community. You can meet new authors or reconnect with your writer friends. It is also a great place to meet a critique partner or find a writing group. Multiple published authors will attend, so bring all your industry questions. Great advice and encouragement abound!
The evening will be hosted by Atlanta writers Marie Marquardt and Mayra Cuevas. Advance registration is encouraged, please RSVP online here.

This event is not for profit, so we ask that you contribute $5 towards the purchase of food and beverages. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks will be available. We will send you a Paypal link for payment after you register.

Event linkGeorgia YA & MG Writers Mixer

See you there!

Five ways authors can use their Twitter header to build their platform

Your Twitter page header is prime Twitterverse real estate. Think of it as your own personal billboard. What do you want it to say?

A well crafted header can introduce you to potential readers, help create buzz about an upcoming book release, promote a new book or advertise a book tour.

1.Hello, Twitterverse

Let your header introduce you to the world. This is a great concept for authors working to build their platform or if you are new to Twitter. You don’t need to be an artist to create a professional looking header. Online tools like CanvaFotor or FotoJet let you include photos, logos, a website, other social media, quotes or a short description of your work. Ask yourself, what do you want your audience to know about you?

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How a meditation on Taking away suffering and Giving love helped me process the Orlando shooting

I was still in bed on Sunday when I received a message from a CNN colleague asking if I could come into work to help cover the breaking news. A mass shooting, the message said. I clicked on CNN’s homepage, the headline read: 20 dead, toll expected to rise. By the time I finished breakfast, the death toll was 50.

That Sunday, I’d promised my family we’d go on a wilderness hike, so I spent the day with them instead. Not out of duty, but because I wanted to be surrounded by the ones I loved. I wanted to laugh with them, walk next to them and listen to their beautiful voices. I didn’t want to take a second of the day for granted. Once again we were reminded, life was so precious. In an instant, it was gone.

On Monday, I joined into the collective sense of grief on social media. The loss was unimaginable. Forty-nine lives cut short by someone consumed by their own hatred. Later I learned, one of the victims had moved from Puerto Rico to Florida, like I did in 2002. I expect we had shared memories of the home we left behind, and shared hopes for the future.  Hi family, like mine, still lived on the Island.

In the afternoon, my grief turned into deep sadness as I watched a major party’s Presidential nominee call for a ban on all Muslims immigrants and then encouraged both hatred and fear.

My heart ached for my friends—LGBTQ, Muslims and immigrants—and for the dimness of our present circumstance.

How do we begin to process such a hellish reality?

Taking and Giving—a 2,500 year old practice

I needed to do something. But what could I do from my desk in Atlanta? Or stuck in traffic on the way home? My answer came in the form of an age-old Buddhist practice called Taking and Giving. It’s been said that this practice is like a powerful crystal able to purify even the most unthinkable of sufferings. And it can be done on the go.

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What to Ask a Prospective Literary Agent When They Offer You Representation

THE CALL has arrived! Congratulations.

Aside from the normal combination of elation and disbelief, you may experience some other side-effects, such as: pacing in circles until the carpet has wore off and keeping a bucket around because you just might puke any second now.

Tell yourself to get it together! THE CALL awaits and you have important questions to ask this prospective agent. This is after all, a business relationship. You must be clear as to what this relationship will entail before you sign the contract.
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