Latina book editor shares insights on how to get published in today’s book industry
“We don’t need more Latino authors. We need more Latino acquisition editors.” It’s a bold statement by a woman by the name of Marcela Landres but one that reveals the crux of the problem as to why Latino writers are so underrepresented among the major publishing houses.
And an insightful write-up by Stacy Whitman, original DIBs (Diversity in Books) and CBC Diversity committee member.
<I speak to this as a publisher of diverse books—-so I am not speaking from within the Latino community here, but speaking from the perspective of the need of the industry in which I work.>
Some good job-hunting advice in the linked program: letting the company know how you will make them money.
And she’s got a great point that if you know how to live poor, you can make it in publishing. Nobody goes into publishing to get rich. (I grew up poor; started working at 14 to pay for my clothes and toiletries and took extra time to graduate from my undergrad because I had to stop and make money a couple times. I was lucky enough to start out in publishing in Chicago rather than New York, so I was able to make ends meet just a tiny bit more by being 3 hours from home (could go home on the weekends and get food from my parents’ farm) and living in a city that had a slightly better cost of living than that of New York—-i.e., I was able to start paying on my student loans rather than having to devote all my money to rent and food, even if I still had to live with roommates and go without a car and depend on WalMart and yard sales for most necessities.)
As far as needing more Latino acquisitions editors vs. needing more authors, I think we need both. It’s a 3-pronged problem, actually: we need more diversity in the books, we need more diversity in the authors, and the industry needs more diversity in editorial… and all of publishing all the way to the point of sale—-from editorial through marketing and PR and the publisher’s sales force, on through booksellers and librarians—the entire chain of supply needs more people who understand how to make and sell diverse books.
What great resources!
Embracing Diversity in YA Lit | School Library Journal
SLJ spoke to industry professionals who are raising awareness on the need for different perspectives in young adult books, and compiled a list of resources to find these titles.
A comprehensive, helpful article and list of resources for librarians on increasing diversity in YA lit. (And I was interviewed for it, too!)
DiYA is in it too! And yes very good resources at the end.
Fabulous article! Three of CBC Diversity’s founders are interviewed. What a great resources section at the bottom. Way to go, Shelley!
It was tough choosing which of my Tu Books fall titles to share with you this week, as they’re both awesome, and they’re both diverse titles that I want all the world to know about. I had to draw straws, in the end, and Summer of the Mariposas
won. This time.
Guadalupe Garcia McCall is known best for her debut novel in verse, Under the Mesquite,
which was a finalist for a Morris Award—given for a debut novel—and which won the Pura Belpre Award. McCall carries that same poetic voice to prose in her second novel, a retelling of The Odyssey
starring five sisters. I sometimes like to call it a Mexican American Weekend at Bernie’s
meets Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
via The Odyssey.
Let me tell you why.
When Odilia and her four sisters discover a dead man floating in their swimming hole on the Texas side of the Rio Grande, their first instinct is to report the dead body to the authorities. But when one of the sisters, Juanita, finds a family photo in the dead man’s wallet, their path is clinched—he was a father with two small children at home. They decide they will return the dead man to his family in Mexico, despite Odilia’s opposition to this plan. Eventually Odilia is overruled and she joins them on the urging of the ghostly legend La Llorona, who tells Odilia that this quest is something the five sisters must undertake. La Llorona will be their guide. They pile into their father’s old car and set off on an adventure to Mexico.
While returning the dead man to his family doesn’t come without its disappointments, the most challenging portion of their trip comes on their attempt to return home to their mother, when they must defeat a witch, a nagual (warlock), a chupacabras, and a coven of lechuzas while navigating the desert of northern Mexico on foot. Can the Cinco Hermanitas truly stay “together forever, no matter what” through these challenges? Can they face the ultimate real-world challenge once they make it home, where La Llorona and other magical means can no longer assist them?
Featuring an excerpt from Kristin Cashore’s blog about her newest novel Bitterblue
Ever since I read this post on The Rejectionist a few years ago, I’ve tried to be more aware of how people with disabilities are portrayed in the books I edit and the media I consume. I mused a while back on my own blog about Toph from the Avatar: The Last Airbender
TV series, wondering if she fit the stereotype described by Rachel in that post, the “supercrip” stereotype. As Rachel, who is deaf, put it,
The most crucial error the Able-bodied Narrative makes is the proposition that the disability is the most important and most interesting thing in that person’s life… . Thinking of disabled people as being their disability ignores all the other things that make us fully realized and active human beings; our loves, desires, hobbies, thoughts, fears, hatreds, ambitions, and failures. It ignores the conflicts that have actual meaning to our lives and relationships—conflicts that contain within them the seeds of stories so much richer and deeper than the Able-bodied Narrative could ever allow for.
Instead, The Able-bodied Narrative defines people by their disabilities and results in stereotyped characters in predictable plots: the struggle to overcome our obvious suffering, the search for a cure or at least normalcy, and the inspiring greatness of the “Supercrip.”
How do we approach the portrayal of people with disabilities in children’s and young adult literature? Do we treat them as whole people, whose disability is just one part of who they are?*
This can be especially tough in fantasy literature, because magic can so often solve problems in ways that can’t be solved in the real world. Author Kristin Cashore faced this situation in her first book, Graceling. (Warning, spoilers ahead; the book has been out for several years at this point, though.) A character is injured in a way that we learn in this world is irreversible. It’s devastating. It changes his life forever. Yet somehow, magically, a solution is found for this injury.
Kristin wrote a note in the third book in the series, Bitterblue, that discusses how readers reacted to this, and how she handled it. Her process in acknowledging her mistake and in trying to right it is an example for all of us.
I first read Kara Dalkey’s Little Sister in college. As I discussed in my last post, I grew up on a farm, in an area of rural western Illinois that had very little diversity. You could say that my ignorance on diversity issues was pretty high, notwithstanding my desire to be Japanese in the fourth grade. But in college, I had a lot of roommates from different cultures—over the years, roughly twenty women from a variety of other countries, including Laos, Korea, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Belgium, Japan, and the UK. (I feel like I’m forgetting someone.) I also roomed with several African American and Asian American women. (I had a LOT of roommates in college and grad school.) So their influence on me as friends started seeping into the books I looked for.
I had a habit of walking through the college bookstore and wandering through the YA section on my way to various classes or the library, and one day this book stood out to me. I am a fantasy buff, and up until that point I don’t know that I’d read any fantasy books set in a world based on an Asian culture rather than medieval European.
From the Goodreads description:
As a girl in the Japanese imperial court of the 1200s, Mitsuko is shielded from reality. But when her brother-in-law is murdered, and her family taken away by a warlord, she summons the courage to venture into the netherworld. The spirit of Mitsuko’s beloved sister, still devastated by the loss of her husband, wanders between Life and Death. In order to bring her sister back, Mitsuko, with the help of Goranu, a shape-shifter, must battle the merciless spirits—to the death.
I grew up outside a small town in Illinois, on a small farm where we raised horses, pigs, cows, and rabbits (which were my 4-H project). We were pretty poor, but we also made do with a huge garden and clothes from yard sales and generally living off the land. I loved being involved in 4-H and FFA.
My first major in college was actually animal science pre-vet. I wanted to be an equine veterinarian. What else would a girl who grew up on a horse and pig farm want to do? But I worked my way through college in publishing jobs, first because they were “easy” jobs—not as much physical labor as working on the dairy farm at school, and not as many allergic reactions, either—and then because my experience and skills kept leading me to more jobs in the same field. I typeset college textbooks in Unix/LaTeX, I reported and took pictures for a local newspaper, I edited phone books—yes, phone books—I transcribed 19th-century journals and proofread them.
Eventually, after changing my major and floundering with a human development and family studies major (I loved the child development classes, but didn’t like any of the expected career tracks from the major), I realized in the midst of an elective children’s literature class that I could combine my work skills and my interests. It only took me about six years of undergrad to figure out what I wanted to do.
While we’re working hard to put together a well-organized Resources page for our readers, here is an interesting opportunity that the CBC Diversity Committee was privy to and wanted to share with the masses. Not only is this initiative about changing the children’s publishing industry from within, but it must also be about changing and refining the literature that is submitted to be published.
The Highlights Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that started in 1985 and is dedicated to raising the quality of writing and illustrations for children’s literature. The Foundation offers Founders Workshops to educate both beginners and seasoned published professionals. Not only does the Foundation offer workshops for writers and illustrators to hone their craft, but they also offer scholarships for attendees to go to the programs. One such program that directly touches on our initiative will be led by Mitali Perkins and Donna Jo Napoli with two of our very own Committee members, Alvina Ling
and Stacy Whitman
, as guest speakers at the event!
Check out the Highlights Foundation’s call for applicants below to attend this exciting workshop.
Creating an Authentic Cultural Voice
Join award-winning authors Donna Jo Napoli and Mitali Perkins, as well as editors Alvina Ling and Stacy Whitman, and special guest Kathryn Erskine for an intensive four-day workshop. Your mentors will work with you to discover your true cultural voice through impeccable research, imagination, empathy, and experience. Our goal is to gather a community of open-minded children’s book authors who wish to think deeply about questions such as:
- Who has the right to write multiculturally?
- How do we bring humility to our research?
- What audience are we writing for?
If you are interested in being a part of this amazing opportunity, please fill out the application
and submit it, with your responses to the essay questions, in addition to your writing sample.
Applications for our scholarships are available by e-mailing Jo Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling, toll-free, (877) 512-8365.