Giveaway: Advance Screening Tickets to Before I Fall

before-i-fall-onesheet_bif_rgbToday, we’re excited to share a special opportunity with ChiYA’s local readers: free passes to an advance screening of the film Before I Fall. The screening will take place this Saturday, February 25th at 1 p.m. at the Regal City North Theater in Bucktown—one week before its nationwide release on March 3rd! These complimentary tickets are available through the production company’s publicist. All you have to do is request passes here.

Before I Fall is based on the 2010 bestselling novel by Lauren Oliver. The novel marked Oliver’s publishing debut, and she has since gone on to author nearly a dozen books for adult, young adult, and middle grade readers, including the popular Delirium trilogy. Before I Fall follows the story of Samantha Kingston, a girl who seems to have it all—until she finds herself stuck reliving the same day over and over. As she starts to untangle the complexities of her so-called “perfect” life, she begins to realize that things—and people—aren’t always what they seem.

In a 2011 YALSA interview, Oliver discussed her inspiration for Sam and this novel: “I wanted to write a book about a mean girl, self-involved, kind of petty, who gets the opportunity to reevaluate her actions from a variety of perspectives. The fact that Samantha dies and then relives her last day enabled me to do that. I’ve always been interested in the mean girl phenomena and in themes of change and redemption and ultimately, even though Before I Fall has a very strong narrative structure, I do see it as a character-driven book about change.”

Intrigued? You can download a pair of passes to the screening here, but please note: admission is on a first-come, first-served basis, so show up early on the 25th!

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This post is brought to you by Anna Waggener at ChiYAwriters.com.

Chicago Writes: Writing Conferences in 2017!

I’m a huge proponent of writing conferences. They’re great for honing your craft, learning about the industry, networking and meeting other writers, and many have pitch appointments and pitch events!

For YA there are many conferences all over. Here are a few great ones you can consider if you’re looking into going to a writing conference in 2017!

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Conferences in Chicago

ALA Annual Conference

June 22-27, 2017: Chicago, IL. The annual conference of the American Library Association.

Cost:

  • (non-member) Early Bird $375
  • By 6/16 at noon $400
  • Onsite $440
  • Single day $205
  • Exhibits only $75

The Writing Workshop of Chicago

June 24, 2017: Chicago, IL. A one-day workshop on “How to Get Published.”

Cost:

  • Early Bird $169
  • Add $29 to secure a 10-minute one-on-one pitch appointment.

Boston Teen Author Festival (BTAF)

Boston Teen Author Festival is September 23, 2017 at the  Cambridge Public Library. The Boston Teen Author Festival is bringing YA to Boston! They aim to unite the best young adult authors with their fans, old and new. It’s mostly for fans of books, but they have offered pitch appointments in the past.

Cost: Free

Bookcon

(more for fans of books than for writers)

Bookcon is June 2-4. 2017 in New York City. BookCon is the event where storytelling and pop culture collide. Experience the origin of the story in all its forms by interacting with the authors, publishers, celebrities and creators of content that influence everything we read, hear and see. BookCon is an immersive experience that features interactive, forward thinking content including Q&As with the hottest talent, autographing sessions, storytelling podcasts, special screenings, literary quiz shows and so much more. BookCon is the ultimate celebration of books, where your favorite stories come to life.

Cost:

  • Saturday Adult $35
  • Sunday Adult $30
  • Children $10

Las Vegas Writer’s Conference

Las Vegas Writer’s Conference on April 20-22, 2017.Throughout the weekend, you will be able to meet and socialize with our faculty, pitch to agents and publishers, and learn from experts in fields connected to writing and publishing.

Cost:

  • Early (until 1/31/17): $425
  • Full (beginning 2/1/17): $500
  • Friday Only: $300
  • Saturday Only $300

Midwest Writers Workshop

The Midwest Writers Workshop is in Muncie, Indiana on July 20-22, 2017. This annual summer conference offers 45+ different instructional sessions with top quality faculty on everything from fiction to nonfiction, marketing, and ways to get your creative juices flowing.

Cost:

  • Part I: Intensive Session (Thursday) $155
  • Part II: Thursday evening, Friday & Saturday $300
  • Part I & Part II: $400

One-Day Writer’s Day Workshops

1-day Writer’s Day workshops. These writing events are a wonderful opportunity to get intense instruction over the course of one day, pitch a literary agent or editor (optional), get your questions answered, and more.

March 25, 2017: The Writers Conference of Michigan outside Detroit.

March 25, 2017: Kansas City Writers Conference in Kansas City, MO.

April 8, 2017: Philadelphia Writing Workshop Philadelphia, PA

April 22, 2017: Kentucky Writing Workshop Louisville, KY

April 22, 2017: New Orleans Writing Workshop in New Orleans, LA.

May 6, 2017: Seattle Writing Workshop Seattle, WA

May 19-21, 2017: PennWriters Conference Pittsburgh, PA

June 8-10, 2017: Carnegie Center Books-in-Progress Writers Conference Lexington, KY

July 22, 2017: Tennessee Writing Conference Nashville, TN

Sept. 9, 2017: Chesapeake Writing Workshop outside Washington, DC

Cost:

  • Early Bird Price between $149-169
  • $29 add-on for one-on-one pitch appointments

Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference

Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference is on April 28-30, 2017 in Colorado Springs, CO. Pikes Peak Writers Conference has a welcoming, friendly atmosphere filled with the topics that interest you the most, and perhaps a few topics that you will become interested in after. You will be surrounded by industry professionals and other dreamers who are eager to learn, connect and network.

Cost:

  • Early bird pricing is $395.
  • Regular pricing is $415 from November 15, 2016 through March 15, 2017.
  • Late pricing is $475 from March 16, 2017 through April 24, 2017.

Romantic Times Convention (RTCon)

RT Con is taking place on May 2-7, 2017 this year in Atlanta, Georgia. While it is mainly for romance, there is a very robust YA section. It also lets you sign up for pitch appointments and you can do Pitchapalooza (like speed dating for pitching!).

Cost: 

  • $450 for Readers

  • $495 Published Authors, Aspiring Authors, Bloggers, and Reviewers

  • $20 for Teen Day NOTE: Teens/Tweens 15 years and younger are required to have a chaperone ($15 per chaperone). Children under 8 years old are not permitted in convention area and/or in workshops and Teen Day Party. Tickets for adults who want to attend the Teen Day Program is $20.  (Does not include the evening party)

  • $55 for FAN-tastic Day Pass (includes the Giant Book Fair, workshops, and the FAN-Tastic Day Party, but not the evening party)

Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators Annual Conferences

Annual Winter Conference in New York (February 10 -February 12, 2017)

The Annual Winter Conference is held over two days with an optional intensive day on Friday. The conference is held at the Hyatt Grand Central at Grand Central Station in New York City.

Note: This year’s SCBWI Winter Conference has passed, but it occurs every winter in New York City.

Annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles (July 7-10, 2017)

The Annual Summer Conference spans three days with an optional intensive day on Monday. The conference is held each year in Los Angeles. Registration for the 2017 conference will commence in March, 2017. Many of the biggest authors and illustrators in children’s books will be joining a bevy of agents, art directors and editors.

Writer’s Digest Annual Conference

Writer’s Digest East Annual Conference on August 18–20, 2017 in New York City has panels and workshops as well as over 50 agents and editors. You can also partake in Pitch Slam!

Cost:

  • Before 4/17 $399
  • 4/18-8/17 $449
  • Onsite $499

Online Conferences

Going to conferences can be expensive, so here are some online ones that you can look into attending!

Write on Con

Note: already passed, but it seems the idea will be to repeat this online conference annually.

Feb 2-4, 2017. WriteOnCon is a three-day online children’s book conference for writers and illustrators of picture books, middle grade, young adult, and even new adult. It was founded in 2010 and is now run by a new team of writers who are eager to hearken back to the awesomeness that they remember so fondly from being attendees over the years, while also bringing exciting new elements to the mix.

Cost:

  • $5 general admission
  • $10 to get into live events
  • $15 for extended access (so you’ll be able to see everything for a month after the conference ends)

Manuscript Academy

They offer world-class publishing instruction that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your home or your favorite coffeeshop. Unlike traditional conferences, you simply need a computer, a tablet, or even your smartphone to log in and enjoy the very best instruction from some of the top minds in the literary community. Every online Manuscript Academy conference will give you the full educational and networking value of a traditional writing conference, but without the hassle of travel, paying for meals out, or arranging childcare.

Cost: $225

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This post is brought to you by Kat Cho at ChiYAwriters.com.

Chicago Reads: Upcoming YA Book Events

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Chicago is lucky to be home to many independent bookstores that host authors for a wide variety of readings, signings, and other events. Check out these upcoming Chicago-area events with YA authors, and if you notice any are missing, add them in the comments!

CARAVAL
Stephanie Garber
Saturday, February 11 at 2:00 PM
Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville)

THE LAST OF AUGUST
Brittany Cavallaro
Wednesday, February 22 at 7:00 PM
Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville)

#FAMOUS
Jilly Gagnon
Friday, February 24, 2017 at 7:00 PM
The Book Cellar (Lincoln Square)
*wear your favorite formalwear to this prom-themed book launch!

SPLINTER
Sasha Dawn
Saturday, March 4th at 2:00 PM
Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville)

FUTURE THREAT
Elizabeth Briggs
Sunday, March 5 at 3:00 PM
The Book Stall (Winnetka)

HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD
Kelly Jensen
Thursday, March 9 at 1:00 PM
The Book Stall (Winnetka)

HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD
Kelly Jensen and Mikki Kendal
Thursday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Women & Children First (Andersonville)

THE INEXPLICABLE LOGIC OF MY LIFE
Benjamin Alire Saenz
Thursday, March 9 at 4:00 PM
The Book Cellar (Lincoln Square)

THE INEXPLICABLE LOGIC OF MY LIFE
Benjamin Alire Saenz
Friday, March 10th at 7:00 PM
Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville)

NATIONAL YOUTH POET LAUREATE CONVOCATION
Jacqueline Woodson
Saturday, March 11 at 6:00 PM
The Poetry Foundation (River North)

SEVEN DAYS OF YOU
Cecilia Vinesse
Thursday, March 30th at 7:00 PM
Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville)

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This post is brought to you by Lizzie Cooke at ChiYAwriters.com.

Chicago Reads: Zadie Smith

On November 30th, I went to a Zadie Smith event put on by The Seminary Co-op. Zadie packed the DuSable Museum auditorium and an overflow room to share her latest book, Swing Time.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Two brown girls dream of being dancers–but only one,51hi92m66bl-_sy344_bo1204203200_ Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, about what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revi
sited, but never quite forgotten, either.

Dazzlingly energetic and deeply human, Swing Time is a story about friendship and music and stubborn roots, about how we are shaped by these things and how we can survive them. Moving from northwest London to West Africa, it is an exuberant dance to the music of time.

While I loved hearing Zadie read from Swing Time (which I cannot wait to read), her Q&A session with Vu Tran was my favorite part of the event. She is so eloquent and her answers were so intelligent.

I especially loved her answer to a question about writing outside of your experience. The attendee wanted to know how to write “with honor” and how we could decide what experiences were meant for us to write. Misrepresentation is harmful and any writer risks criticism when they venture too far from their own experiences and without proper research. Yet…who are the “experts” who get to decide when someone has crossed over? And if no one ever wrote outside their experience, our books would be very limited. Where is the line?

I thought Zadie answered this well. She commented (and please note I am paraphrasing) that it is impossible to judge fictional characters. She has a Trinidadian professor in one of her novels, and as she said, he does not represent all Trinidadian professors. And is there a better portrayal of Trinidadian professors out there? Maybe, but who’s to say there is only one “correct” way to portray Trinidadian professors? This is a conversation, in her opinion, to be had between reader and author. Readers will always have different interpretations of a novel, and it’s their right to decide what is realistic to them and what is done poorly. However, in her opinion, if an author constantly worries about upsetting a potential reader, she will never write a single word.

Misrepresentation is a problem, but it’s a complex problem with no easy solution. Not only did I admire Zadie’s answer, but I’m glad important writers in the world are thinking about and discussing these issues.

Some other fun facts from the event:

  • The protagonist in Swing Time is never named. Zadie said she wanted to write a distant narrator (in first person) and purposely did not reveal her name.
  • The way Zadie described the beauty of dance and rhythm captured what I have always felt about dance but had difficulty conveying.
  • Zadie visited West Africa for research for this book.

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This post is brought to you by Gloria Chao at ChiYAwriters.com.

Examples of Excellence: Laurie Halse Anderson on POV and Focus

Examples of Excellence is an occasional series on ChiYAwriters.com that delves into the work of artists who demonstrate excellence in their craft.

speak

Speak

By Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak was named to the ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults in 2000. It was also banned in schools and libraries across America, eventually becoming the 60th most banned and challenged book of that decade [1].

Speak is the story of Melinda, a high school freshman struggling with the fallout of calling the police during a summer party. She becomes a pariah at school, loses her best friend, and retreats into herself as she tries to figure out how to survive in this new environment.

This book is a particularly strong example of using a first-person point of view to create intimacy and authenticity, and of using a character’s attention to unpack their internal life. This post will focus on both, showing how Anderson uses POV to control the narrator and the reader’s focus as she reveals a layered and sensitive story.

Melinda first introduces her world on her way to school:

The school bus wheezes to my corner. The door opens and I step up. I am the first pickup of the day. The driver pulls away from the curb while I stand in the aisle. Where to sit? I’ve never been a backseat wastecase. If I sit in the middle, a stranger could sit next to me. If I sit in the front, it will make me look like a little kid, but I figure it’s the best chance I have to make eye contact with one of my friends, if any of them have decided to talk to me yet.

– p. 3

In this moment, we scan the bus’s seats and run through the options alongside Melinda. We get an introduction to her frank voice and her more introspective decision-making process. We also get a first hint of the novel’s conflict, dumped in our laps when we least expect it: the confession is off-handed but honest, and we begin to form a picture of Melinda’s personality and world.

Shortly after, we meet Rachel Bruin, one of the most important people in Melinda’s life:

The kids behind me laugh so loud I know they’re laughing about me. I can’t help myself. I turn around. It’s Rachel, surrounded by a bunch of kids wearing clothes that most definitely did not come from the EastSide Mall. Rachel Bruin, my ex-best friend. She stares at something above my left ear. Words climb up my throat. This was the girl who suffered through Brownies with me, who taught me how to swim, who understood about my parents, who didn’t make fun of my bedroom. If there is anyone in the entire galaxy I am dying to tell what really happened, it’s Rachel. My throat burns.

Her eyes meet mine for a second. “I hate you,” she mouths silently. She turns her back to me and laughs with her friends. I bite my lip. I am not going to think about it.

– p. 4-5

Here, Anderson does several key things. Specific, realistic details indicate the length and closeness of the girls’ relationship. We also begin to see the hurdles Melinda faces in daily life, including economic disparities and possible conflicts at home. Most importantly, we see how Melinda’s initial impulse to speak is quickly tamped down. We watch her attempt to reach out and instead, after being brushed back, sink into herself.

As the book progresses, Melinda continues to make confessions to the reader. Anderson is a master at using Melinda’s attention to convey her thoughts and emotions, as when Melinda goes to the mall to avoid school and notices the birds trapped inside:

No one knows how they got in, but they live in the mall and sing pretty. I lie on the bench and watch the birds weave through the warm air until the sun burns so bright I’m afraid it will make holes in my eyeballs.

– p. 99

In addition to opening up questions about the line between captivity and freedom, this moment touches on the small sadnesses we encounter every day without realizing it. Melinda, too, is a girl running through the motions of being “fine” without ever truly feeling that way. These moments of reflection often spark more direct confessions:

I should probably tell someone, just tell someone. Get it over with. Let it out, blurt it out.

I want to be in fifth grade again. Now that is a deep dark secret, almost as big as the other one. Fifth grade was easy—old enough to play outside without Mom, too young to go off the block. The perfect leash length.

– p. 99

Through these moments, we’re able to get inside Melinda’s head. Her confessions feel familiar, since many of them capture similar feelings and secrets we all hold. They also feel extremely intimate, showing the jumps and pauses in her mind and letting us linger on something only as long as she does.

In one final moment, we again see Anderson’s expert use of focus:

He tilted my face up to his. He kissed me, man kiss, hard sweet and deep. Nearly knocked me off my feet, that kiss. And I thought for just a minute there that I had a boyfriend, I would start high school with a boyfriend, older and stronger and ready to watch out for me. He kissed me again. His teeth ground hard against my lips. It was hard to breathe.

– p. 135

Moment by moment, we follow Melindas exhilaration as it begins to soar and then dive into something much more like fear.

There is so much more to say about Speak. It’s a wrenching and compelling story—and, for writers, a master class in technique and first-person point of view.

Its place as both a classic and a highly vilified text makes it a particularly poignant read for 2017. Though her book speaks powerfully for itself, Anderson also pushed back against its censors, writing, “[C]ensoring books that deal with difficult, adolescent issues does not protect anybody. Quite the opposite. It leaves kids in the darkness and makes them vulnerable. Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance. Our children cannot afford to have the truth of the world withheld from them” (Speak, afterword).

In Speak, Anderson captures the voice of a teenage girl who wishes she didn’t care, but does—who is funny but fractured, strong but struggling, raw on the page but hiding behind a mask around everyone she encounters. Through guiding the reader’s focus and letting us in to Melinda’s mind and world, Anderson paints an intimate, believable portrait of a girl just trying to get things right.

[1] http://www.ala.org/bbooks/top-100-bannedchallenged-books-2000-2009

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This post is brought to you by Anna Waggener at ChiYAwriters.com.

Finding the Write Place: Sawada Coffee

Finding the Write Place is an occasional series on ChiYAwriters.com that highlights some of our favorite places to write here in the Windy City.

Sawada Coffee

112 N Green St
Chicago, IL, 60607

Monday-Sunday: 8:00am – 5:00pm

(hours posted as of October 2016, check Sawada’s site for up-to-date hours)

Noise level: moderate-high-conversations, sound of clatter from bar, music

Availability of space: Dependent on day (I went on a Sunday, it was full with a few empty seats still)

Bathrooms: yes

Food: yes (pastries, also connected to Green Street Meats)

Wifi: free with password

Outlets: YES! (there are wall outlets at the seats along the window and hanging outlets in the center of the main table!)

Sawada coffee is a fun,small coffee shop directly attached to Green Street Meats (a must-visit if you love BBQ). And by “directly” I mean directly attached. It’s open to the GSM space, so all the noise and music and delicious smells waft over from the BBQ place.

img_20161023_130225 That being said, it’s a very fun place to have a coffee and write if you don’t mind noise. There is always music playing and depending on who has control of the GSM iPod it varies. Sometimes I go there and it’s classic rock, sometimes it’s country, sometimes it’s the Beatles, sometimes it’s indie-alt pop. I don’t mind since I am good with ambient noise, but if you’re a person who needs quiet when you write, then this place is probably not for you.

The chairs are a bit harder than I’d like for a long writing session. The ones by the window have padding and a back, but the ones at the middle table (a reclaimed ping-pong table, complete with removable divider) has hard wooden stools bolted into the floor so you can’t move them. If you want to take your coffee and sit at the long picnic benches in the main space of Green Street Meats, then that’s totally allowed.

It’s a nice place for groups, so if you have a writing group that wants to meet up on a Sunday afternoon, then definitely try out Sawada/Green Street Meats because there’s plenty of space.

I’d suggest this place for writers who don’t mind noise, want a joint eating/writing session, or writing groups to meet up for critique or hang out sessions.

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This post is brought to you by Kat Cho at ChiYAwriters.com.

From A to Z: Writing Diversely in YA

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From A to Z is an occasional series on ChiYAwriters.com that examines the nuts and bolts of the writing process.

Take a look at bookish Twitter, and you’ll see a hot topic in YA popping off nearly every day. Most YA authors are passionate about their work and their audience and it’s amazing. They care about their readers and want to get them books they will love and embrace.

However, one topic comes up more often than not, with good reason. Diversity in YA Literature is very near and dear to me as an #ownvoices author. In this post, I’ll break down some hard questions about this heated topic.

Why diversity in YA?

Picture it, Cleveland, 1986. Little me, reading book after book and enjoying those books… but wondering why my life didn’t match the life in those books. I TRIED to make it match, but I often got made fun of, like when I wore a fancy dress to a school dance in 7th grade and got laughed at because everyone else was wearing their regular school clothes. Maybe if I’d read about a school more like mine (predominately black, all honors students, 7th and 8th grades, teachers who were strict in the best possible way), with a girl like me (a black girl nerd with big glasses and light skin), I wouldn’t have looked like a complete idiot at that school dance.

My point: representation matters. And not just one type of representation (i.e. the tragic gay coming out book, or the black person living in the ghetto book, or the Indian dealing with arranged marriages book), but ALL kinds of representation. All those books have their place, and those readers deserve to see themselves… but there are many readers whose narratives don’t fit that at all. They deserve to see themselves as well, and they deserve not to be told their lives, their experiences, their realities are “unrealistic” or a “fantasy world”—unless of course, it is a true fantasy with dragons and magic and so on.

So many people are desperate to see themselves in books, little me (and “grown up” me) included. And we don’t only want to see ourselves in the narrow boxes that have become the default and accepted narratives. Why can’t a black kid have magic, go to a wizarding school, and be the hero of that story? Why not a Chinese girl having a swoony relationship while she finds herself? Or why can’t we have non-binary characters having adventures with characters in wheelchairs? Why are most of the highly imaginative stories, stories with happy endings, stories with swoony love, given mostly to white characters? Exactly!

Who should write diverse literature?

So OK. It’s been firmly established that diverse books are needed. Organizations such as We Need Diverse Books and Rich in Color are doing great work in getting this message out there.

Now, who should write the books? Who has permission to write these stories? My answer? People can write whatever they want, but they should ask why they want to write those stories. And then be willing to do the hard work to give the representation in those stories the nuances and fair rep that the readers deserve.

The main questions authors should ask themselves before deciding to write a marginalized character as the POV character:

Am I the best person to tell this story, and why? Is it about ego? About chasing a “trend”? About mixing up the cast because you think that’s what’ll sell? Or is it because this person’s story is burning, burning deep inside you and you must tell it? I get that. It happens.

This question is not just for white, cishet authors. It’s for anyone writing outside of their own experiences. Part of the fun of writing is exploring, right? In my opinion, people shouldn’t feel limited in who they write about… but they should be careful about writing it.

Say you’ve asked this question, answered it the best way, and you decide to go ahead and write the story. Now it’s time to ask yourself:

Am I willing to do the hard work to get this character right? This means research, research, research! Using resources such as Writing with Color, Writing the Other, or Disability in Kidlit. Getting sensitivity readers and listening to their feedback. Actually interacting with people from marginalized backgrounds, rather than allowing stereotypes to shape your character. You’ll probably still mess up, so taking critiques graciously and being willing to learn is important. And that’s just to start.

Is what I’m writing going to hurt someone? I don’t mean hurting someone’s feelings. I mean large scale hurt that can have deadly repercussions. Stereotypes that enforce negative feelings about certain groups. Those feelings causing people to act out around people of those groups. People dying because of hatred fueled by what some consider art, or freedom of expression. Except all it’s causing is pain.

This is a delicate topic. But if you’re writing for children, why would you want to hurt them?

Representation. Matters.

Now that you’ve answered those questions, are you still the right person for this story? If so, great. Now it’s up to you to do the hard work to get the representation of marginalized characters right, just as you would do the hard work regarding scene structure, plotting, and character arcs. Good luck!

Now I’ll answer a few more questions about Diversity in YA.

What is #ownvoices?

According to the Google machine: #OwnVoices is a hashtag/term coined by Corinne Duyvis, co-mod of Disability in Kidlit, for a book featuring a marginalized perspective authored by a person who shares that same marginalized characteristic.

You can read more about the hashtag, and its creator, here.

What’s so great about #ownvoices? 

I read a LOT of YA. Not as much as some people (like librarians) but I try to plow through as much as I can in a given year. My first choice is contemporary, but I’ve been branching out. And this is what I’ve been noticing about #ownvoices books: They have rich layers that give readers a nuanced glimpse into a world they may not have been exposed to. Small things that an outsider wouldn’t notice or include, but those small things (and big things) make #ownvoices books special.

What can I do to uplift #ownvoices and marginalized authors, including those who may be getting passed over in favor of dominant “more relatable” voices?

The fact is that published books about marginalized groups, especially POC, are very few. Too few. And that number goes down when factoring in books BY those groups of people. Now, I’m not saying there is a quota in publishing, but when I hear of people saying their book was passed over because “we already have a [insert marginalization] book on our list for this year”, it’s hard not to think along those lines.

Look, I get it. Publishing is hard for everyone. The amount of rejection can be soul crushing. I’m still in the query trenches myself. All the layers to go through, and you’re still not even guaranteed a place in a bookstore. It’s rough out there. But there are groups who have it decidedly worse than others, and we all need all the support we can get. This can be mentoring, or beta reading, or critiquing. Referring them to your agent. Promoting their books when they finally make it past sales and marketing. It’s going to take all of us to get more diverse books on the shelves and into the hands of our kids, but the hard work will be worth it.

Who’s with me?

I want to read more diversely. Can you recommend some diverse books and authors?

Yes! There is a Diverse Reads 2017 Challenge, which lists loads of diverse books for you to check out. Click here to find out more.

Diversity in YA is very, very important to me, not just as a writer, but as a reader. Art can and does change lives. And writing diversely, with care, is an amazing way to do so.

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This post is brought to you by Ronni Davis at ChiYAwriters.com.