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Okay, I'm chiming in because I hàve witnessed it a number of ways & I'm just wondering how mentioning the ethnicity of the character serves the plot. In today's climate, with the sensitivity of multicultural society it's very easy to offend a number of ethnic groups.
Mrs. Jones makes some very good points.
I lived n Bradford, a city which, after London in the UK, has the second largest ethnic diversity. Unless the topic of skin colour is relevant to the character, then why mention it? Sometimes, I think it could be left to the reader to take a lead from the plot & let them characterise the personality of who they are reading about.
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Nebraska / Re: Critique exchange: hooks, loglines, query letters
« Last post by Judith on Today at 11:44 AM »
Thought I'd share my latest logline draft, critique, and my revision to give everyone and one idea of how this works. My critiquer asked questions, but you can also make comments. My draft is crafted using the Save the Cat model and I also included the Kate Messner model. This example isn't perfect--it's just an example.

Draft Log line: Before fiery-tempered Kenna can master magic skills needed to rejoin her parents, she must overcome her fears and control her emotions. Through her carelessness, she endangers her cousin and her dragon, so she must dig deep to find her inner strength that will force her to suspend her pursuit of reuniting with parents in order to save her friends.

Comments from critiquer:  Doesn’t she have to master them whether or not she reunites? Is it really that her lack of mastery is keeping them apart?
Rewrite:
Fiery-tempered Kenna must learn to overcome her fears and control her emotions in order to master her innate magic skills before reuniting with her parents. When she carelessly endangers her cousin and dragon, she needs to dig deep to place their safety ahead of her own dreams.


My Kate Messner logline:

Dragon Stones is about how Kenna learns magic skills so she can save her dragon and family, but underneath, it’s really about Kenna accepting herself.

Thanks,
Judith
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. I still think the agent should let the publisher decide. They are putting up the money and taking the risk.

This IS what agents/editors/publishers are trying to do very proactively, and that's I think what everyone is trying to say. Editors are communicating in a big way that this is the approach they are taking. They want more diverse stories from authentic voices. They also want white artists and authors to consciously reflect a more diverse world. One person who gave me a critique, for instance told me something like "You can't just describe the black characters without describing the white characters, and especially when the white character shows up first." In my case I'd made this mistake: The white characters were introduced into the story first (main character and her family) with no descriptors of skin besides freckles and hair (if I'm remembering correctly). But when the black character (a friend) was introduced I described her skin. That is a typical white person mistake... why would my reader assume my main character was white? Is white the default? It shouldn't be. The point is it's important to describe everyone's skin, and not using food as a comparison. Just be frank about the way each character looks.

We're all learning here, and we'll all mistep. But this is important, and that's why we'll all keep trying to make kidlit better for the generations to come, as well as the ones who need books right now.

Again, an important conversation, and I'm so glad we're having it!

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Clarification: I am writing as author/illustrator. The delay in my submissions is my illustration studies.
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Thank you. I understand that you are just telling me how it is in the industry.  A few posts did say no black characters at all. I still think the agent should let the publisher decide. They are putting up the money and taking the risk.
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This is a good discussion, and the most important thing is that we're concerned about the issue and talking about it. I think everyone agrees that there has not been enough diversity in books, EVER. Kids should be able to pick up stories and see/imagine people who are both like them, and different from them. This hasn't been a problem for white kids. But as some have said, part of the issue has been that there hasn't been enough diversity in the number of writers and illustrators. And what Mindy added to this conversation is extremely important. It's not just race that's at issue here. I would not be the best author to write a PB (or any book) about a hearing impaired girl. Could I? Yes. Of course. It's just going to naturally be a better story coming from someone who deeply understands the experience of that girl, and in that case, Mindy is a better candidate.

Till recently, it's been an "the experience exists, so if I just learn about it, or understand it somehow better than most, I can write it." But that's unfair to all the people who are writers and illustrators who haven't had the opportunity ... what we're going through in children's publishing is a transition into a new understanding and hopefully a world that is more evenly anchored with opportunities for all creators. 

I have not heard anyone say that a white author (or any author) can't have a wide cast of characters in their book. But the current thinking is that the main character will be more authentically drawn by a person who has lived as a member of that race (or specific experience, such as being hearing impaired or autistic, etc) --- and the experience of being black or asian and living in this world right now is a very unique experience.  Besides that, I think there are more than enough black or asian artists and authors who would tell the story (from a main character's pov) better than I could as a white author. There are things about living as a person of color in this country that I just do not get. I'm trying, but honestly, my whole growing up experience, my adult experience, my motherhood experience, is/was DIFFERENT. The times I haven't been treated fairly? I can count those experiences on one hand.

Does that mean that my white main character doesn't live in a diverse world? NO. So I do my best to paint that diverse world with my supporting characters. And right now, that's what I'm doing.

Also, I have a friend who is a white PB author.  The illustrator is a woman of color. The illustrations are of a girl of color, and isn't that awesome. There was a time when the illustrator would have been asked to make the girl white.

So we're getting there, but the people who have to think about this the most? That's us white creators.

Okay, I'm late for something and have to run .... maybe I didn't say something here quite right, but I wanted to say something.

I think we're all coming from the same place in the end.



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No one is saying ALL your characters must be white. You can portray positive Black characters; just don't make them a POV character. Yes, write your story of a white and Black friendship -- if it's from the POV of the white girl. And if you have sensitivity readers to give you feedback on the portrayal of any major character who is not white. Don't make the mistake of thinking you understand the Black girl's inner life, or any part of her outward life that didn't include you, just because you were good friends, is what people are trying to say.

Also, Kim, we aren't the people you have to convince; we have no power to allow or disallow you to do this, nor would our approval mean beans. What we're doing is trying to share the reality of what you will face in the industry if you pursue this as is.
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My issue on this is not really about my stories. I have, of the many I've been day dreaming over the years, only two with black characters. The very simple one of the mother teaching her daughter to drive has nothing in it that is unique to black culture or experience.  My other story is about a friendship between a black girl and a white girl (yes, my experience). Kinda hard to write without any black characters. The black girl's father is a cardiologist. The first open heart surgery in America was performed by a black doctor but the real inspiration was the kind cardiologist who tried to save my husband's life. So it is my personal experience but you say I need to make these characters white.

Black people are saying, in the media, that they are tired of being represented as dangerous, criminals, drug dealers...So I write a scientist and it has to be white. I write a hero and it has to be white. I write any educated person and it has to be white. I write a community leader and it has to be white. Do you not see that this is the goal of the white supremacist movement?

That's what bothers me about this. Just curious, is anyone on this thread black? 

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I'm an illustrator rather than a writer.  And my illustrations are mostly for younger audiences, which tend to have less complexity in their character development than stories for older kids.  And they don't usually touch on deep issues like racism. 

I'm also white. 

However, I don't think that lets me off the hook for illustrating diverse characters.  I feel strongly enough about that that I make a deliberate point to draw all sorts of characters when the story gives me that option.  In fact, my portfolios have been skewing towards little black girls for awhile lately. 

I think this is overall good because the market already has plenty of white characters and diversity is good for both representation and marketing reasons.  However, it does put me in the odd position not always being the best choice for the job.  Although I'm fine for general stories that have characters that happen to be one race or ethnicity or another, when the story is deeper, where the race/ethnicity really matters to the tale and the full understanding of the character, it might be better to hire an illustrator that's actually of that group instead.   I would never be the right illustrator to do the cover for a book like "The Hate U Give".  But for picture books and hi-lo books, even some middle grade (depending on the story and genre) I think it's okay not to be of the race/ethnicity I am illustrating. 

I could be wrong, of course.  But that's how I'm seeing it right now. 

I'm not sure how that idea translates to all you authors in here, but is an issue I've put a fair amount of thought into from the illustration side of it. 
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It's wonderful that you want to make sure Black people are represented. But there are ways to do that without writing books that aren't your lived experience. You can help spread the word about their books, buy their books, bid in auctions that help raise money to help their voices be heard, etc.

This is a wonderful point. We do it by lifting others up, not by taking their place.
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