Saturday, November 15, 2014

SCBWI Prarie Writers and Illustrators Day Diversity session

Today I am off at Harper college in Palatine, Illinois for SCBWI's annual Prairie Writer's and Illustrators day, a conference for filled with authors, illustrators, editors and agents. There are contests, workshop sessions, portfolio reviews, and general information sharing and networking. This year they are featuring something new. Lunch and Learn sessions, where people will meet and discuss different issues. I will have a table where people will come to discuss diversity and multicultural issues in children's books (which is just about my favorite topic).  I've got handouts discussing
  1. Why we need diverse books
  2. What these authors and Illustrators can do
The discussion will include the #WNDB movement, some of the historical issues in getting diversity and multiculturalism into children's books, how diversity is more than most people thing, the need for authentic voices, along with ways attendees can be more mindful of stereotypes and caricatures while still including diversity in all its facets (race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical and mental disabilities and much more) in their writing.

God, I'm on my soapbox already.

I'll also be giving a shout-out to a new group forming, the Association of Children's Authors and Illustrators of Color.  We are authors and illustrators out to meet the need for children's books featuring characters of color. Our website, ACAIC.ORG will be launching later this year.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Writer's group farewell

I am about to be completely, almost scary honest.  I'm an author, and I belong to multiple writing groups, we share our work, do critiques, give feedback, share tips and all that stuff.

Last night I attended my very last meeting of one group.

To me it's an example of what happens when good ideas go bad. There is a lot of turnover in the group. New people are allowed to walk in, read and begin critiquing with little background and no training. As a result, it has become a group of people who live to hear how great their writing is. I've recognized the problem, when I have something to critique people gush about the story details  but seldom have anything helpful to say about the writing and possible areas that need improvement.  We have several people doing memoir-type books and the so-called critiques have become gossip fests as people reminisce about an event, either the one being written about, or something similar that happened to them, or even once about something they saw on TV that was similar.  Last night I was trying to tell one young writer about plot and point of view, and the others jumped in saying "it's a fable, it doesn't need all that stuff."  The story involved a dying mother talking to her child, and one member whose father recently died gushed over the similarities. Forget that the story was in essence a soliloquy, it made her remember her own loss and cry, and that was enough for her.

I'm all for encouraging new writers. I'm teaching a class right now and have students with lots of questions who are eager to find ways to improve their writing skills instead of just having someone tell them they are stars and gush over the subject matter.  Social clubs have their place. So do venues where people read their writing and everyone applauds. But those aren't critique groups they are cheering sections.

Here's a question. What do you expect from a writer's group, Accolades? Self-affirmation? Criticism? Tell me, am I expecting the wrong things?