This year in Chicago, we hosted a joint book buzz session with Cinco Puntos Press entitled, “Talk is Cheap: A Conversation With Two Multicultural Book Publishers.” The idea was to bring people together to discuss how two small publishers are addressing diversity issues in publishing, and how we can all work together – publishers, librarians, and readers – to bring about real change.
For those who were not able to attend in person, here’s a recap of what was discussed:
Jason Low, publisher of LEE & LOW BOOKS, spoke first. The first thing he emphasized is that, when it comes to more diversity, talking about the problem itself is not enough. Talk must equal action. He gave examples of this mentality from Lee & Low Books’ 20-year history, citing times when the company has identified “gaps” in representation and taken concrete steps to change things for the better: launching several imprints that cover everything from guided reading books in the classroom (our Bebop imprint) to science fiction and fantasy (Tu Books); acquiring Children’s Book Press so their award-winning bilingual titles wouldn’t be lost; and starting the New Voices and New Visions Awards to encourage unpublished authors of color and to help them break into the industry.
Jason also shared some statistics about the makeup of LEE & LOW, both in terms of staff and authors/illustrators:
Jason closed by citing our recent CCBC study, which shows that the number of children’s books by and about people of color has not grown in eighteen years: “Children’s books are not keeping pace with the demographics of this country.” He stressed that in order to enact real change, “we have to cultivate a renewed sense of reader activism.” What does that mean, exactly? That we need to find ways to recommend these books, to make sure they’re visible. He noted that earlier this summer, his son came home with a summer reading list that was completely white. When something like that happens, he said, we as readers and librarians must speak up and ask for more diversity.
This year marks our 14th annual New Voices Award writing contest. Every year, LEE & LOW BOOKS gives the New Voices Award to a debut author of color for a picture book manuscript.
Did you know that last year, children’s books written by authors of color made up less than seven percent of the total number of books published? As a multicultural publisher, we’re dedicated to increasing those numbers. The New Voices Award is one way we can help new authors of color break into publishing.
In this new blog series, we thought it’d be fun to bring together some past New Voices Award winners on the blog to see how they got their start as authors, what inspires them, and where they are now.
Q: How did you start writing picture books?
Linda Boyden, The Blue Roses
This year our Tu Books imprint established the New Visions Award, an annual writing contest for a middle grade or young adult fantasy, science fiction, or mystery novel by a writer of color. The award was started to encourage new voices of color in genre fiction, in response to the low number of writers of color working within these genres.
Calling all aspiring authors! We are thrilled to announce the establishment of the New Visions Award, which will be given to a middle grade or young adult fantasy, science fiction, or mystery novel by a writer of color. Established by Lee & Low’s fantasy, science fiction and mystery imprint, Tu Books, the award is a fantastic chance for new authors of color to break into the world of speculative fiction, a genre that would benefit greatly from more diversity.
The time has finally come to announce this year’s winners of our very own New Voices Award! As you may know, the annual New Voices Award is given out each year by Lee & Low to an unpublished author of color for a picture book manuscript. You can see more about the whys of the award at my post here, so without further ado:
Note: This post was originally written in 2010, however we continue to update the comments section with answers to your questions.
The New Voices Award is open to all authors of color who have not previously had a children’s picture book published. The winner receives a cash prize of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor winner will receive a cash prize of $500.
We periodically get some questions about the Award, so I’d like to answer a few of them if I can:
What does it mean to be a person of color?
Well, that can be a pretty complicated question, but for the purposes of our New Voices Award specifically, we accept contest entries from people of African, Asian/Pacific Islander, Latin American, Middle Eastern, or Native American/Indigenous descent.
Why is the New Voices Award only open to people of color?
The New Voices Award was founded to encourage and support authors of color in a market where they’ve been traditionally excluded and underrepresented. That was true in 2000 when the award was started and it’s still true today (see these stats for some surprising figures about the number of books published by/for people of color). The New Voices Award is one of the ways in which we’re trying to close the gap.
This fall, we read over 100 picture book manuscripts submitted to the New Voices Award, our annual contest for unpublished writers of color. Thank you to everyone who submitted, and congratulations to Tiare Williams Solorzano, winner of this year’s New Voices Award Honor!
The submission deadline is fast approaching for Lee & Low Books’ tenth annual NEW VOICES AWARD.
Manuscripts will be accepted through September 30, 2009, and must be postmarked within that period. You can find full submission guidelines here.