The Reflecting Realities report published by the CLPE earlier this week paints a bleak picture of inclusivity in UK children's publishing. I had my restrained rant when it came out but today what I want to focus on is celebrating the amazing work that is already happening to help effect positive change in this area. The champions of inclusivity, the changemakers. Please read, share, and add any projects I've missed.
Finding and nurturing underrepresented voices
The FAB Prize: Faber & Faber (Faber Children's) joint initiative with Andlyn Agency to discover and celebrate children's writers and illustrators of BAME origins. The winners receive a year of mentoring. (Another Faber Children's commitment: 40% of all children's book covers from picture books through to YA to feature underrepresented characters in order to reflect the reality of our society. It's something the team is really passionate about.)
Little Tiger Press Illustrator Callout: have put out a specific call for illustrators from underrepresented backgrounds to submit illustrations for their Our Town series of books set in an inclusive town with a diverse population. In their callout, they mention the fact that underrepresented illustrators may not have the means or knowhow to put together a formal portfolio - this approach, like other programmes mentioned here, helps cast the net that little bit wider.
The Penguin Random House (PRH) UK WriteNow Programme: a one-year mentoring opportunity for underrepresented writers and illustrators (not just children's). Siena Parker who runs the scheme at PRH puts a lot of energy into getting her team on the ground across the UK to actively seek out undiscovered writers and illustrators. Applications are still open for illustrators - deadline 23rd July 2018. I've been fortunate enough to be on this life-changing programme this year and have blogged about it here.
Knights Of: a new independent publisher with inclusivity at its heart. They publish books for ages 5 through to 15. Their hiring practices are diverse, their books are "windows into as many worlds as possible" and their most unique contribution to the industry is being supremely accessible - if you want to write for them, you use their Live Chat system to pitch your idea. It's a CHAT. Doesn't get more straightforward than that. I think that's a real barrier breaker right there. They also run the #BooksMadeBetter project to get fantastic diverse books into the hands of children around the country.
Lantana Publishing: another young independent publisher focused on inclusivity. ALL their books are by BAME authors and illustrators.
Many literary agents have specifically reached out to underrepresented communities to welcome their submissions and offer support whether that's in the form of highlighting a submission (and perhaps bumping it up in the queue) or offering scholarships to attend writing festivals or courses, mentoring/support and advice re navigating the industry. I won't catch all of them (please tell me if you have more to add!) but here are a few that have particularly vocal in this respect.
Other organisations and initiatives
Commonword: an Arts Council funded, Manchester-based writer development programme. Commonword runs the Commonword Diversity Young Adult Fiction Prize for unpublished MG and YA novelists whose writing embraces ethnic diversity.
Inclusive Minds: a collaboration of consultants and campaigners around the themes of inclusivity, equality and accessibility in children's literature. They offer consulting, sensitivity readers and have brought a whole host of industry professionals together through their A Place at the Table event. A full report from the event can be found here.
Megaphone: an Arts Council funded writer development programme to nurture new BAME voices in publishing. The 2016-17 scheme was a great success - mentees have found agents and had short and long fiction accepted for publication and broadcasting. The scheme is due to be repeated in the near future.
Quarto Translations/Golden Egg Academy Award for the Golden Egg Academy children's fiction programme (application deadline 31st July 2018)
Tiny Owl: an independent publisher worth mentioning because their beautiful books all feature BAME characters and stories.
Behind the scenes: changing the demographics in publishing
A number of publishing houses have made pledges around diverse hiring practices to make sure their internal demographics make them more reflective of society.
Penguin Random House, for example, has pledged that its new hires and books acquired will reflect UK society by 2025.
Hachette has recently hired its first Diversity and Inclusion Manager.
There have also been a number of paid internships and publishing positions on offer with a specific callout to underrepresented communities. That the internships are paid is significant as income-related issues have historically been a huge barrier in this industry. Again, there are many more instances here that I've missed so please flag them and I'll update the list.
Why stop to celebrate when there's work to be done?
I know it's important to stay ambitious and focused and it's important we don't start thinking enough is being done because it's not enough. Still, sometimes it's also worth pausing to tip your hat to the heroes, the people who are already out there making a difference. Maybe there's somewhere we can fit in too. Maybe there's a gap that needs filling. Ideas spark ideas and action sparks action...