October 13, 2014

KidLitCon 2014: Small World, Diverse Voices

In my closing comments at this past weekend's KidLitCon in Sacramento, CA, I included a few notes I jotted down over the course of the conference. These were just some insights that sprang to mind over the course of the conference, and which seemed to perfectly encapsulate how I feel about KidLitCon and why I value it so highly. Ideally, it's what most conferences do, but what I feel KidLitCon does particularly well, and that's providing a space for us--kidlit bloggers, in this case--to help each other.

On an everyday basis, blogging is a rather solitary endeavor, even when you share a blog like Tanita and I do, or contribute to a group blog. You're still writing up posts and figuring things out mostly on your own. An event like KidLitCon helps us support one other in person, reminding us that we are all real people who share a passion for reading and sharing children's and YA books. We can compare notes on what works, and what we still need to work on. We help each other improve and share tips and tricks. We talk books, writing, reviewing, technology, literacy, outreach.

And this year we talked about the hot-button topic of DIVERSITY. Diverse books as well as diverse target audiences; diversity of socioeconomic class and gender and race and sexuality and religion and physical ability; checking our biases and default assumptions; and the importance of providing both windows AND mirrors when it comes to books for young readers.

I want to do a more detailed post soon with some bullet points on what I learned, especially from our fantastic keynote speaker Mitali Perkins, but for today I'll just share one huge takeaway that really resonated with me, and that was something Shannon Hale said in her Skype presentation about why it is so incredibly important to write stories about a wide range of characters, with a diversity of protagonists.

That little girl--whoever she may be--needs a story about HER.

This resonated so strongly for me. In part, it's because of an experience I had during a school visit when I was promoting my first book, The Latte Rebellion. I did a reading and Q&A with the lunchtime book club at Balboa High School in San Francisco, which was a wonderful experience in itself because they had all read the book and had so many specific and intriguing questions to ask me. But the best comment I received--one of the best I've received, ever--came from a girl who approached me afterward to say, "Thank you for writing this book. I feel like you wrote it about ME."

Yes. That, right there, is proof that what Shannon said is so, so true. It ties in with the need for books that are mirrors and not just windows. Seeing ourselves as active protagonists in stories reassures us all that we can be active protagonists in our own stories. It provides validation and recognition and presence, which are fundamental rights, and necessary prerequisites for everyone if we want a diverse community.

More soon...

4 comments:

Sheila Ruth said...

Beautifully expressed, Sarah, and a wonderful encapsulation of the ideas that resonated throughout the conference.

Sarah Stevenson said...

Thanks, Sheila! I think Tanita and I are going to be "all Kidlitcon all the time" for a few days. :)

Charlotte said...

I find myself obsessively returning to the tweets...

Sarah Stevenson said...

There was some amazing tweeting going on during the sessions!