Kandace Coston is LEE & LOW’s summer intern. She is one of five recipients of the We Need Diverse Books Internship Program inaugural grant. She graduated from Barnard College where she majored in music and took every creative literature class possible. In her free time, Kandace pursues her other interests, which include American Sign Language, handmade jewelry, and composing cinematic adventures! Continue reading
Stacy Whitman is Editorial Director and Publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS that publishes diverse science fiction and fantasy for middle grade and young adult readers. In this blog post, she discusses what she is—and is not—looking for from New Visions Award contest submissions.
This year is the second year we’ve held our New Visions Award, a writing contest seeking new writers of color for middle grade and young adult science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. Tu Books is a relatively new imprint, and so is our award, which is modeled after the New Voices Award, now in its 15th year of seeking submissions.
Another year, another fantastic ALA Annual, this time in Las Vegas! While “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” we thought it would be OK to break that code, just this one time, in order to share our experiences with you.
Even though the weather was hot (hello triple digits!), attendance was high and spirits were up! We teamed up with the folks of the #weneeddiversebooks campaign to hand out buttons, which were a huge hit! In fact, School Library Journal reported that, “If you ran into a youth services librarian at the American Library Association (ALA) Conference in Las Vegas, odds were good that they were sporting a colorful ‘We Need Diverse Books’ button.”
We kept a white board in our booth, and got some great answers from librarians on why we need diverse books:
Quite a few of our authors and illustrators made it out to Las Vegas and our schedule was packed with signings! Don Tate, Glenda Armand, Frank Morrison, René Colato Lainez, Karen Sandler, Mira Reisberg, John Parra, Susan L. Roth, Cindy Trumbore, and Emily Jiang all stopped by the booth to sign books. In true Vegas style, we kept the party going at the LEE & LOW table!
Summer is rapidly approaching and that means our New Voices Award Writing Contest is now open for submissions! Now in its fifteenth year, the New Voices Award was one of the first (and remains one of the only) writing contests specifically designed to help authors of color break into publishing, an industry in which they are still dramatically underrepresented.
Change requires more than just goodwill; it requires concrete action. We were heartened by First Book’s recent commitment to purchasing 10,000 copies of select books from “new and underrepresented voices.” Likewise, the New Voices Award is a concrete step towards evening the playing field by seeking out talented new authors of color who might otherwise remain under the radar of mainstream publishing.
It’s no secret that here at Lee & Low Books we value diversity – it is literally why we are in business. But we don’t always get down to the basics. Sharing the low numbers of books by/about people of color is not the same as convincing people we need more of them. Just dip your toes into the comments section of any major article about diversity in children’s books and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
When you don’t convince people that the lack of diversity matters, what you get is more of the same. And in publishing, more of the same pretty much looks like this: BookCon, a major one-day event for readers in New York City, releases a lineup of 31 participating authors…and all of them are white.
BookCon is the latest example and certainly a frustrating one, but it is by no means an isolated incident. It’s heartening to see so many recent articles covering the lack of diversity in children’s books, but the question is how that discussion can be turned into action on a large scale to change things. The status quo – massive underrepresentation of people of color – is like a huge, heavy boulder that needs to be moved. Awareness alone will not move it an inch. What’s required is a lot of people to give it a push.
That’s why I love the new #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign happening this week. Here’s your chance to share with the world why diversity in books matters to you and why you want more of it: