(NOTE: For this entire week, I will post a new blog every day by 6 AM PST here. So check back daily! Also – I will post fun Tweets live each day! Follow me on Twitter @paulayoo and use the hashtag #NAPIBOWRIWEE)
WELCOME TO DAY TWO OF NAPIBOWRIWEE!!!!
A lot of folks posted in my Day One blog that they wrote and completed their first draft! YAY! Congrats! But remember – pace yourself! We still have six days left. 🙂
MY DAY ONE UPDATE: I barely finished my Book #1 in time! Unlike previous years, I usually at least have 7 ideas or some research done before NAPIBOWRIWEE begins. Because I’ve been so busy this year, I didn’t have time to prep. So I’m just flying by the seat of pants and getting whatever I can done off the top of my head. 🙂 LOL! Let’s see how this goes!
My week was busy with other writing deadlines for my next picture book coming out plus some orchestra rehearsals (for those of you who don’t know, I’m also a violinist). So I decided my Day One book would be very short and for super young children. For fun, I bought this poetry app that a lot of people have given good reviews to on my new iPad (birthday present!).
It’s called the POET’S PAD. Here’s the link and a screenshot below:
It has a huge 70,000 word rhyming dictionary, a recording device (designed for spoken word artists and if you want to hear your poem out loud), and other great features.
So I wrote my Book No. 1 with this iPad app! Yay! It was SUPER short. But at least it had a beginning, middle and end. I really love those good-night lullaby poem books so it was my attempt at one.
BTW… If you are writing any poetry for NAPIBOWRIWEE, check out this helpful article on other fun poetry apps:
2014 NAPIBOWRIWEE THEME: DIVERSITY IN CHILDREN”S LITERATURE
As I mentioned before, this year’s theme for NAPIBOWRIWEE is multiculturalism in children’s books. I’ll be featuring some interviews with authors and a list I compiled of some great multicultural books that should be in every school library and home.
In fact, coincidentally, a viral social media campaign was launched for May 1-3, 2014 called “WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS.” For May 1-3, people are posting photos with the tagline “We need diverse books because…” and it’s getting posted on Twitter (#WeNeedDiverseBooks) and at this blog: http://weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com
For more information on this viral social media awareness campaign, read this PUBLISHERS WEEKLY article on it:
Here’s my picture that I posted (any excuse to take photos of my cats! LOL!). (Beethoven and Charlotte pictured below. Oreo was napping somewhere.)
In the meantime, for Day Two, here’s Part One of a Two-Part interview with LEE & LOW BOOKS. For more than twenty years, LEE & LOW BOOKS has published award-winning children’s books that are “about everyone, for everyone.” The company is committed to fostering conversations about race, gender, and diversity in publishing and beyond. For more information, visit leeandlow.com.
(Keep reading after the break for our Q&A with LEE & LOW BOOKS!)
LEE & LOW BOOKS is an award-winning independent multicultural children’s book publishing company. They’ve recently gone viral this past year with their intensive research into statistics about diversity in children’s books as well as in larger media arenas, including Hollywood. Their meticulous charts and statistics on diversity have been published in hundreds of news outlets including The New York Times and spurred a national debate on the importance of diversity and multiculturalism in the arts.
TK HERE We spoke with Hannah Ehrlich, Director of Marketing & Publicity at LEE & LOW about the far-reaching effects of Lee & Low’s diversity research. Here’s what she had to say…
QUESTION: Lee & Low has gotten a lot of national media attention for its recent charts posted about diversity in not just kid lit but in Hollywood. What motivated Lee & Low into doing such in-depth research on these statistics?
ANSWER: Lee & Low Books is a children’s book publisher that specializes in diversity, so apart from promoting our books we are also always working to foster conversation about why diversity matters. We were founded 20 years ago because of the dearth of children’s books by/about people of color, but lack of representation is not a problem confined to publishing. It repeats itself over and over across many industries including film, and the root causes and challenges are the same nearly everywhere. The same issues that keep books by authors of color from being published keep films with main characters of color from being greenlit. We wanted to do these studies to look at those issues in a comprehensive way and through hard data, to really prove that this is a consistent problem. We’re hoping the studies encourage people to think a little more about the nuanced ways in which race affects all forms of media: which movies get made, which books get published, which TV shows get made, and on and on.
QUESTION: Was Lee & Low surprised by the startling statistics revealing how things have not improved that much for diversity in either the children’s book world or Hollywood? Are there any theories or answers behind these dismal numbers? What can we do to improve it?
For years we were perplexed by why it was so difficult for the overall number of diverse books to increase from year to year. So we became curious, and began measuring diversity levels in other media outside of publishing. We weren’t that surprised to see that television, theater, and film all suffer from the same lack of diversity we face. But the actual level of underrepresentation was pretty shocking.
Underrepresentation in any particular industry is a symptom of larger inequalities: in the way we perceive people who are different from us, and whose stories matter. We are definitely not in a post racial society yet. Stereotypes and racism persist, and there’s entrenched institutional racism in a lot of places so that leaving things as they are or just going along with the status quo naturally results in the exclusion of many people.
Luckily there are some small, concrete things that anyone can do to help change the situation. The biggest one is to vote with your wallet. It’s often said that “buying books is a political act,” and this is true for all forms of media. If you want more books or movies about people of color, support the ones that come out to prove there’s a market. Aside from that, continuing to talk about the issues and think critically about what is and isn’t being made – and to challenge companies that are not inclusive – is important.
QUESTION: Lee & Low is a famous and award winning multicultural publisher that has been around for many years. What goals does this company have for the future in terms of promoting more diversity in children’s books?
ANSWER: We always joke that our goal is to one day become obsolete: that eventually children’s book publishing will be so inclusive that we no longer have to focus on diverse books in order to fill a gap. However, we are still a long way away from that. So our goal is to continue to publish great, high-quality books that feature a wide range of characters and stories, to continue expanding our definition of diversity to include other underrepresented groups, and to keep the conversation going in any way we can.
QUESTION: Why is multicultural children’s literature vital and important to our society? Is it for everyone? How can we inform our readers that multicultural literature is universal and appealing to people of all backgrounds? (Some readers worry that it’s divisive or fear they can’t relate to a diverse child character – why is that not true?)
Diverse children’s literature is vital because we live in a diverse society: even from a black-and-white economic standpoint, if you want to raise young people to compete in a global society you have to make sure they grow up learning and being comfortable with other cultures. For young readers of color, it’s also important that they have access to books in which they can see themselves so they don’t grow up feeling erased or invisible.
But ultimately it’s all about a good story, and a good story has nothing to do with the race of the main character. For many years, people of color have read and loved stories about white characters because that’s what was primarily available, so it is definitely possible to identify with a character who doesn’t look like you. Why can’t white readers do the same with books about characters of color? And, as people who love books, don’t we want access to stories that truly reflect the wide range of human experience?
Thanks again to LEE & LOW BOOKS for taking time out to answer our questions. We also appreciate all the hard work they’ve done to promote diversity as well as diversity awareness in the media.
Stay tuned for DAY THREE’s blog tomorrow featuring more interesting (and shocking!) statistics from LEE & LOW BOOKS about diversity in the media and Hollywood. All of this does pertain to children’s literature as well.
Until then, please comment below on how your DAY TWO went. Hope everyone is having fun! As always… HAPPY WRITING! WRITE LIKE YOU MEAN IT! 🙂