What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Posts

(tagged with 'writing contests')

Recent Comments

JacketFlap Sponsors

Spread the word about books.
Put this Widget on your blog!
  • Powered by JacketFlap.com

Are you a book Publisher?
Learn about Widgets now!

Advertise on JacketFlap

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: writing contests, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 105
1. How a Writing Contest for Students is Changing the Immigration Narrative

LEE & LOW BOOKS has two writing contests for unpublished authors of color: the New Voices Award, for picture book manuscripts, and the New Visions Award, for middle grade and young adult manuscripts. Both contests, which are now open for submissions aim to recognize the diverse voices and talent among new authors of color who might otherwise remain under the radar of mainstream publishing.

In this guest post, we wanted to highlight another groundbreaking writing contest that’s bringing attention to marginalized voices and fostering a love of writing in students: the Celebrate America Writing Contest run by the American Immigration Council. Coming into its 19th year, the Celebrate America Writing Contest for fifth graders has been bringing attention to the contributions of immigrants in America through the eyes and pens of our youngest writers.

In this guest post, Claire Tesh, Senior Manager of Education at the American Immigration Council, discusses the mission of the Celebrate America Writing Contest and how it has helped to shape the immigration narrative.claire tesh

It is impossible to escape the negative vitriol and hateful rhetoric around the issue of immigration that dominates the headlines, talk radio, popular culture, and in some cases the dinner table. In an effort to educate children and communities about the value of immigration to our society The American Immigration Council teams up with schools and community groups to provide young people the resources and information necessary to think critically about immigration from both a historical and contemporary perspective, while working collaboratively and learning about themselves and their communities.

The American Immigration Council developed “Celebrate America,” an annual national creative writing contest for fifth graders, because they are at the age where they are discovering their place in the world both locally and globally. They are also finding their own voice, opinions and ideas through writing, creating and sharing.   Students at this age start making sense of current events; they have a better working knowledge of basic history, and have a sense of global awareness.

Thousands of Entries

“Celebrate America” began 19 years ago with just a couple dozen entries. Today it has grown to over 5,000 entries annually! Since 1997 a total of close to 75,000 students have participated in two dozen cities, in nearly 750 schools and community centers across the nation.

As the lead on the contest since 2006, I have read thousands of entries and have attended numerous events featuring the writers. It is difficult to pick just one example, but in 2008 the winning entry America is a Refuge really showed how much a 10-12 year old can comprehend about the issue. That year, the winner, Cameron Busby, explained to a reporter from the Tucson Citizen that “I want to be a horror writer when I grow up,” and in order to tell the story of America being a place people come to be safe and thrive, he used bits and pieces of some of his classmate’s true horror stories of their own or their family member’s immigration journeys. This excerpt shows the young writer’s entry and how he made sense of injustice and how America has always been a nation symbolic as a beacon for hope:

A small child holds out a hoping


a crumb of bread,

or even a penny just to be fed

Hoping America is a refuge. A 

child weeps over her mother’s 

lifeless body,

the tears streaming down her


Praying America is a refuge.

Part of the reason why it’s a popular contest is because it fits neatly with the fifth grade curriculum and it is easy for teachers to implement by offering timely lessons and expository learning opportunities from classroom visits by experts to interactive web-based games. The contest is unique in that it allows for any written work that captures the essence of why the writer is proud that America is a nation of immigrants and students can express themselves through narrative, descriptive, expository, or persuasive writings, poetry, and other forms of written expressions. The teaching and learning opportunities the contest brings to both the classroom and the community has made it very popular and most teachers who participate do so year after year.In the Classroom

Monica Chun, a teacher from Seattle who has participated in the contest for several years and whose student, Erin Stark, was a national winner in 2013, starts the assignment by asking students to ask their relatives at home a question: “Who was the first person in our family to come to America?” No matter what ethnicity or how recent or distant a family’s arrival be, every student is going to have a unique answer to this question.

Involving the Community

”Celebrate America” encourages youth, families and surrounding communities to evaluate and appreciate the effects of immigration in their own lives. The unique contest includes the following components:

  • Immigration attorneys or trained volunteers visit classrooms, whether in person or virtually. The visitors give short presentations about the history of American immigration and the contributions immigrants have made over the years;
  • Teachers complement the contest by implementing lessons about immigration, social justice and diversity into their curriculum;
  • The American Immigration Council provides classrooms with innovative, relevant, and interactive lessons and resources;
  • Communities organize events, naturalization ceremonies and other celebrations to showcase the local winners;
  • The winning entry from each locale is sent to the national office and judged by well-known journalists, immigration judges and award winning authors;
  • The winning entry is read into the Congressional record, a flag is flown over the Capitol in the winner’s honor and the winner reads their entry at a 700+ person event that celebrates immigration; and
  • In the submissions the youth voice brings hope that there will be solutions to the immigration debate.

The American Immigration Council believes that teachers, parents, and students are essential to building a collective movement toward a better future: in our classrooms, in our schools, and in the larger society.   With the community’s engagement, educators, parents and students can help bridge this divide and approach the issue of immigration with intelligence and empathy.

american immigration council

Contest Impact

The contest has an impact not only in the schools and communities that participate, but also in the halls of Congress. Each year when the winning entry is read into the Congressional Record, it is rewarding to know that our leaders are hearing words of wisdom from a young person who has big ideas and who has chosen to use their voice to invite others to learn about immigration and to celebrate America’s diversity.

When the winning entries are read to new citizens at naturalization ceremonies or at dinner galas in communities of all sizes, almost every attendee has tears in their eyes because the young readers are speaking from their hearts and they represent the future. Each and every year the young writers continue to surprise us with the depth and empathy in their writings whether it is their common sense solutions to an immigration system or the story of their own immigrant background. Any writer, no matter how old and how experienced, should look at these entries to get a sense for authentic voice and various styles of writing. The thousands of students who submit to the contest get recognized in their communities and the affect is exponential because students start in the classroom and their voice continues to be shared within their schools, within their communities and beyond.

The students participating in “Celebrate America” are America’s future citizens, voters, educators and activists and it is truly an honor to shape the contest so that it provides some of the tools to think critically about immigration and to learn to explore the economic and moral effects of immigration policy as they engage in the public debates. But, today as we try to navigate the complicated maze that is immigration law and policy, it is through their incredible choice of words, that they are our guides, our teachers, and our voices of reason.

For further information on eligibility and submission process:

0 Comments on How a Writing Contest for Students is Changing the Immigration Narrative as of 8/24/2015 10:02:00 AM
Add a Comment
2. Two Authors Share What “Voice” Means To Them

New Voices Award sealThis year marks our sixteenth annual New Voices Award, Lee & Low’s writing contest for unpublished writers of color.

In this blog series, past New Voices winners gather to give advice for aspiring writers. This month, we’re talking about what “voice” means to an author.

When discussing the various elements of writing craft, “voice” seems to be the most difficult to pin down. You can’t plot it on a chart or even clearly define what the word means, and yet it is one of the most important elements of a story. Editors (and readers) are always looking for strong, distinct voices. It is an invisible string that echoes throughout a story and pulls the reader in. And when an author or character’s voice is nonexistent or inconsistent, it is the first thing we notice.

Voice builds trust between the author, characters, and readers. To develop a strong voice that will ring true, an author needs to understand both the story and him/herself as a writer. What is the tone of the story? Who are your characters? If a key feature—gender, age, cultural background—of the main character changes, would the voice change? It should! There are many ways to approach “voice,” and below, Linda Boyden and Paula Yoo share their techniques.

Linda Boyden, author of The Blue Roses, New Voices Winner 2000New Voices Winners (1)

The Blue Roses was my first published book. I had written many picture book manuscripts prior to it, most of which are still gathering dust and mold, but now I see how that process was vital for me to evolve as a writer. I developed the voice of this main character, Rosalie, by experimenting.
I wrote many versions of the book. I considered writing it inthird person, having one of the adult
characters do the narrating for about a nano-second; in my heart I knew this was Rosalie’s story and no one else’s, but that didn’t stop me from more experimenting. I tried having her voice be that of a child, but Papa’s death would have been too harsh an experience for a child to deal with objectively. Instead, Rosalie narrates as her adult self, after having had enough time to smooth the edges of her loss. So experiment until you understand the heart of your character; that’s where you’ll find their true voice. 

Paula Yoo, author of Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds, New Voices Winner 2005

For me, voice comes out of nowhere. I can’t predict when I will find the “voice” of my story. Voice is not only the way my main character narrates the story (his/her style of speaking, their point of view, their personality) but also in the tone of the entire story (humorous, tragic, touching). Sometimes I find my “voice” AFTER I do a ton of research and preparation, such as figuring out the story beats and plot twists and the character’s emotional journey/arc. Sometimes the voice finds ME first—I’ll just start writing a story from the point of view of a character that has taken over me because he/she has something important and unique to say. Ultimately, I think “voice” for me comes from my heart. What moves me emotionally when I write? What about a story or character makes me laugh or cry? For me, “Voice” is the heart of my story—what emotions do I want to bring out in not only in my readers but also in myself? You can write a book that has the most original and surprising plot, the most compelling and fascinating characters, and a unique setting. But if there is no EMOTION, then that book falls flat. That’s where “Voice” comes in—“Voice” determines the emotion behind the story. I wish I could give a more specific answer with facts and evidence, but when it comes to writing from the heart, there is no formula.


0 Comments on Two Authors Share What “Voice” Means To Them as of 8/13/2015 1:28:00 PM
Add a Comment
3. Authors of Color: Submit Your Manuscript to the New Visions Award!

new visions award winnerSummer is already here! That means that the third annual NEW VISIONS AWARD is now open for submissions! Established by Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS that publishes middle grade and young adult books, the award is a fantastic chance for new authors of color to break into the world of publishing for young readers.

The New Visions Award writing contest is awarded for a middle grade or young adult manuscript, and is open to writers of color who are residents of the United States and who have not previously had a middle grade or young adult novel published. The winner will receive a $1,000 cash prize and a publication contract with LEE & LOW BOOKS.

Ink and Ashes by Valynne Maetani, the first New Visions Award winner, was named a Junior Library Guild Selection and received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews.

The New Visions Award is modeled after LEE & LOW BOOKS’ successful New Voices Award for picture book manuscripts. New Voices submissions we have published include Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee StoryIt Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw, and Bird.

The deadline for this award is October 31, 2015.

For more eligibility and submissions details, visit the New Visions Award page. Spread the word to any authors you know who may be interested. Happy writing to you all and best of luck!



0 Comments on Authors of Color: Submit Your Manuscript to the New Visions Award! as of 6/18/2015 12:43:00 PM
Add a Comment
4. Five Authors Share Their Favorite Writing Prompts

New Voices Award sealThis year marks our sixteenth annual New Voices Award, Lee & Low’s writing contest for unpublished writers of color.

In this blog series, past New Voices winners gather to give advice for new writers. This month, we’re talking about writing prompts and what gets the creative juices flowing.

Linda Boyden, author of The Blue Roses, New Voices Winner 2000

Prompts are all around us. When I do school visits, I refer to the place where our imaginations live as the “Cosmic Goo,” and urge them to wander outside looking and listening to the wonders that spark our imaginations to awake. Nature is a never-ending source of writing inspirations. Because I am a voracious reader, I glean phrases from the books I devour. Since the Espresso Shotend of 2011, I have written a poem a day as the means to jump-start my prose writing. I use many of the phrases I’ve underlined in the books I own for my daily poetry prompt.

Paula Yoo, author of Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds, New Voices Winner 2003

My favorite writing prompt is to write from the point of view of an animal. It’s a writing exercise I teach in my writing classes as well. I love this writing exercise not only because I’m an animal lover and Crazy Cat Lady (ha) but because it forces you to think from the point of view of someone who is definitely NOT YOU. You have to know and embody the nature and physicality of the animal character, and it forces you to look at story and emotion with a new perspective. It’s a great exercise for point of view writing, and it helps me when I do write another children’s book because I am very conscious of writing from a child’s perspective, which is so different from mine as an adult.

Glenda Armand, author of Love Twelve Miles Long, New Voices Winner 2006

I don’t need much to prompt me to write. Usually I have the opposite problem. I need to a compelling reason to stop writing:

It’s past midnight and I have to substitute teach in the morning.

Clothes are mildewing in the washer.

The fridge would be empty if not for egg whites and ketchup.

On the other hand, a writing prompt for me would be an early morning after a good night’s sleep: My mind is clear.

My thoughts are flowing.

My coffee is steaming.

My computer is calling.

I answer the call.

Pamela Tuck, author of As Fast As Words Could Fly, New Voices Winner 2007

I don’t really write from prompts, but what I try to use as a guideline for all my writing is the use of sensory details: Seeing, Hearing, Feeling, Smelling and Tasting. It’s not always relevant to include all of these details, but it’s good to include at least 3 within a scene. If I feel that I can’t move forward in a story, I’ll “step inside” my character and try to figure out what “I” am seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling or tasting at that point. If my character is neutral, then it’s time to rewrite the scene.

Jennifer Torres, author of Finding the Music, New Voices Winner 2011

I enjoy finding and thinking about interesting writing prompts, but I don’t have a favorite. I have to confess, when it comes to writing prompts, I usually don’t get past the “thinking about it” stage. However, I used to work for a daily newspaper, and I learned from that experience how valuable it can be to cultivate a habit of writing – in a structured way – every day. And I turn to newspapers, sometimes, when I’m stuck or need a place to start. Headlines can make for some pretty great prompts. Direct quotes are even better – like an overheard piece of conversation. Here’s one that helped me pull FINDING THE MUSIC into focus: “He wanted to rest in peace, but with music.”

0 Comments on Five Authors Share Their Favorite Writing Prompts as of 5/27/2015 2:29:00 PM
Add a Comment
5. Submit Your Picture Book Manuscript to the New Voices Award!

New Voices Award sealSummer is almost there! That means that the sixteenth annual NEW VOICES AWARD is now open for submissions. Established in 2000, 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. 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.

NEW VOICES AWARD submissions we have published include Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story, It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw, and Bird.

The contest is open to writers of color who are residents of the United States and who have not previously had a children’s picture book published.

The deadline for this award is September 30, 2015.

For more eligibility and submissions details, visit the New Voices Award page and read these FAQs. Spread the word to any authors you know who may be interested. Happy writing to you all and best of luck!




0 Comments on Submit Your Picture Book Manuscript to the New Voices Award! as of 5/15/2015 12:53:00 PM
Add a Comment
6. Tu Books Announces Winner of New Visions Award Contest for Writers of Color

new visions award winnerNew York, NY— May 7, 2015— Tu Books, the middle grade and young adult imprint of respected multicultural children’s publisher LEE & LOW BOOKS, is thrilled to announce that author Axie Oh has won its second annual New Visions Award for her young adult science fiction novel, The Amaterasu Project.

The award honors a fantasy, science fiction, or mystery novel for young readers by an author of color who has not previously published a novel for that age group. It was established to encourage new talent and to offer authors of color a chance to break into a tough and predominantly white market.

The Amaterasu Project takes place in a futuristic Korea wracked by war and a run by a militarized government, where the greatest weapon—and perhaps the greatest hope—is a genetically modified girl. “The futuristic sci-fi setting is inspired by a combination of Japanese concept art and animated television series,” says Oh. “I hope my new book gives to readers what books have always given to me—a new world to explore and new characters to fall in love with.” Oh will receive a cash prize of $1,000 and a publication contract with Tu Books.

Last year, books by authors of color comprised less than six percent of the total number of books published for young readers, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The annual New Visions Award is a step toward the day when all young readers can see themselves in books.

Two books were chosen as New Visions Award Honors: Yamile Saied Mendez’s On These Magic Shores and Andrea Wang’s Eco-Agent Owen Chang. On These Magic Shores is a contemporary middle grade novel with a touch of magical realism about 12-year-old Minerva, who must step up to take care of her younger sisters when her mother, who is undocumented, goes missing. Eco-Agent Owen Chang is a humorous middle grade mystery about Owen Chang, a middle schooler who moonlights as a secret agent for an undercover environmental organization. Mendez and Wang will each receive a cash prize of $500.

While writing their manuscripts, both Wang and Méndez stressed the importance of seeking out books by and about people of color. “I naturally gravitate toward books by authors of color because they tell stories that mirror my experience as a person of color too,” says Méndez. Similarly, Wang says, “I’m all for reading books that are outside your comfort zone or told from an unfamiliar perspective. Personally, I would rather expand my reading horizons than restrict it.”

ABOUT: Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS, publishes diverse speculative fiction for young readers. It is the company’s mission to publish books that all young readers can identify with and enjoy. For more information, visit leeandlow.com/imprints/3.


0 Comments on Tu Books Announces Winner of New Visions Award Contest for Writers of Color as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
7. Meet Our New Visions Award Finalists: Part III

Last month we announced the six finalists for our 2015 New Visions Award. The Award recognizes a middle grade or young adult novel in the sci-fi, fantasy, or mystery genres by an unpublished author of color (our first New Visions Award winner, Ink and Ashes, will be released this June!).

As our award committee gets to know the finalists through their novels, we wanted to give our blog readers a chance to get to know these talented writers as well. We asked each finalist some questions. In previous posts, we interviewed finalists Grace Rowe and Andrea Wang, and finalists Shilpa Kamat and Rishonda Anthony.

Below authors Yamile Saied Méndez and Axie Oh answser:

Yamile Mendez thumbnailYamile Saied Méndez, “On These Magic Shores”

Tell us a little about the main character in your novel.

 My main character is twelve-year old Minerva Soledad Madrid and she can’t wait to grow up. The oldest of three girls, she’s a Latina who speaks Spanish and who’s proud of her cultural heritage. Her parents are of Argentine descent, and her mom (who’s raising the girls by herself) teaches the girls the Argentine traditions she grew up with. She sings the lullabies of her childhood, and most importantly, she passes on her belief in the Peques (short for Pequeñitos, the Little Ones), the Argentine fairies, who follow their families as they move around the world. Because the family doesn’t have a support system, Minerva had to step up and be a second mother for her sisters while their mother works two jobs to make ends meet. Minerva wants to be the first Latina president of the United States. She’s determined and focused. She doesn’t believe in magic, but she wants to, oh how she wants to believe the fairies take care of her and her sisters while their mom is away! In the story, Minerva learns how to be a child again (kind of like a reverse Peter Pan) because magic is really all around us!

What advice would you give your younger self about writing?   Don’t pay attention to the inner editor!

If I could send my younger self a message, it would be: follow you heart, write what you want to write, and trust your voice. I wrote my first story in the first grade, and looking for validation, I showed it to my uncle. Instead of the praise I expected, he told me a few things that didn’t work in his expert opinion. After that, I started writing with my inner editor reading over my shoulder, until I got to a point in which I wasn’t sure anyone would ever be interested in what I wanted to say. Don’t pay attention to the inner editor! Get the story out of your heart! There’s a lot of time to fix things during revision. Revision is your friend.

I also would say a big THANK YOU. My younger self was a little like Minerva: determined and persistent. I taught myself English at a young age, and I’m forever grateful to little Yamile for all the hard work. It’s paying off!

What is your writing process? What techniques do you use to get past writer’s block?

I wrote my first full novel during NaNoWriMo back in 2008. My goal was to win NaNo by writing 50,000 words in 24 days (I found out about National Novel Writing Month on November 6th, but I still reached my goal). Since then, I’ve learned to pour out my first draft on the page and then go back and revise. This has resulted in a lot of drafts that will never see the light of day, but it has also produced some powerful writing that came straight from my heart (like the NaNo in 2013, a few days after my mother passed away). I write every day, or at least, most days. Sometimes my ideas are born of a single word, or a person I see who makes me wonder about their lives. Sometimes the ideas simmer in my head and my heart for years, until I feel I ready to tell them. Right now I’m working on a story that was born about twelve years ago when I lived in Puerto Rico. I’ve learned that even if something I write isn’t ready for me to share with my critique group, it’s still an important piece of writing because it taught me what doesn’t work or what needs more depth. I love to do writing exercises from craft books like Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway et al, Steering the Craft, by Ursula Le Guin, and The Plot Whisperer, by Martha Alderson. Even if not all of these exercises end up in my manuscript, I often find wonderful information about my characters (or myself) that helps me tell the story better.

Recently, there’s been quite a lot of debate over the idea of readers who choose to take a break from books written by a certain group, such as white male authors. What’s your take on this?

First of all, I feel that people should read whatever they want to read without fear of mocking or teasing of any kind. I naturally gravitate toward books by authors of color because they tell stories that mirror my experience as a person of color too. As a child, I never remembered who wrote what. I loved Little Women and Heidi because I identified with Jo March and Heidi who lived with her grandpa. But as an adult and a writer, I want to learn from the masters how to tell the stories that inhabit my mind and my heart, and there’s no better way than to read their stories to know how to tell mine.

What are your favorite books or writers in the same genre as your manuscript? 

I have hundreds of favorite books, but in middle grade I love everything by Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia is my favorite), Gary D. Schmidt (Okay for Now), Shannon Hale (Princess Academy), Kelly Barnhill (The Witch’s Boy. Wow!), and Erin Bow (Pain Kate). I also love everything by Meg Medina (especially The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind) and Julia Alvarez (the Tia Lola books are the best!), and of course Pam Muñoz Ryan (Esperanza Rising). But my favorite stories ever are fairy tales, from all over the world, and of course Peter Pan has a special place in my heart.

Axie Oh thumbnailAxie Oh, “The Amaterasu Project”

Tell us a little about the main character in your novel.

His name is Lee Jaewon (Koreans put their surnames before their given names). He’s 18-years-old. He’s a quiet, keep under the radar type of person, with a strong sense of loyalty and a distrust of hope. At the start of the book, he lives alone in a dingy apartment in Old Seoul (my future Korea is split between Old and Neo Seoul). He hasn’t spoken to his best friend in three years. He’s rejecting these mysterious envelopes full of cash, sent from his mother who he hasn’t seen since he was eight. I see him as a character with a very tired soul who longs to forgive everyone who’s hurt him in his life, yet doesn’t know how to begin, or even if it matters.

 Physically, he looks like Lee Jong Suk. If you don’t know who that is, well, you’re in for a treat: Google him! (He’s a South Korean actor).

What advice would you give your younger self about writing?

You are fabulous! Keep on doing what you’re doing! Okay, maybe that’s not advice. More like ego-boosting. But every teenager needs a good ego-boost now and then, especially when writing, which is literally pouring your soul onto a page.

What is your writing process? What techniques do you use to get past writer’s block?

My writing process is pretty linear. I outline heavily, with scene-setting and dialogue for some significant scenes that will appear in the novel. I do character and worldbuilding charts. I compile pictures/illustrations of places and people who inhabit the spirit of my characters. Then I go through the whole book, from the first chapter to the last, with heavy editing in between. Then of course more revisions. The last two steps are printing the whole book out and attacking it with a bunch of colorful pens. The more colors the better! And then reading the whole book out loud while recording it. THEN I send it to my beta readers and critique partners – this is the point where I can’t make it any better by myself. As for writer’s block, when I come up

As for writer’s block, when I come up against that particular wall, I always start with the spark that made me want to write the book in the first place. The characters. I go back to the sketches I wrote of the characters and add onto them, delving deeper into their backgrounds and psyches. And/or I’ll re-read scenes I’ve already written that contain the “voice” of the characters, which makes me fall in love with the characters all over again. It’s all about making myself believe in the characters so that I want to finish their story.

Recently, there’s been quite a lot of debate over the idea of readers who choose to take a break from books written by a certain group, such as white male authors. What’s your take on this?

The idea behind this, I believe – at least for avoiding white, male authors specifically – is that by avoiding this group, you will therefore seek out stories written by women, people of color or LGBT writers, enriching your perspective of the world, which is always a viable and recommended thing to do.

As a reader, I seek out stories with strong coming-of-age themes and themes of love, in all its shapes and forms. When I read, it’s about seeking these types of books in an inclusive setting.

What are your favorite books or writers in the same genre as your manuscript, and why?

Tough one because I haven’t read enough YA Sci-Fi to have particular favorites. I watch a lot of Sci-Fi dramas and anime (which heavily influenced my novel), but I don’t particularly have favorite books that are in the YA Sci-Fi genre. For example, one of my favorite anime/manga franchises is the Gundam franchise, which deals with futuristic societies, technological advancements and very human themes of love, hate, honor and betrayal.

Recently, I read the first two books in Brandon Sanderson’s Reckoners series, which were pretty awesome – jam-packed with action and strong themes of what it means to be a hero.

On the opposite end of Sci-Fi, focusing more on character, I really love the quiet strength of Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars, a dystopic re-telling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, taking place on a futuristic Pacific Islands.

0 Comments on Meet Our New Visions Award Finalists: Part III as of 4/16/2015 1:11:00 PM
Add a Comment
8. Awards and Grants for Authors of Color

Getting your book published is difficult, and unfortunately it tends to be much harder when you’re a Person of Color. While there are more diverse books being published, there’s still a lot of work to do!

Fortunately there are awards and grants out there help writers of color achieve their publication dreams.

We’ve created a list of awards and grants to help you get started!

New Voices Award – Established in 2000, is for the unpublished author of color for a picture book manuscript.

Awards and Grants for Writers of ColorNew Visions Award – Modeled after LEE & LOW’s New Voices Award, this award is for Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Mystery middle grade or YA novels.

SCBWI Emerging Voices Grant – This award is given to two unpublished writers or illustrators from ethnic and/or cultural backgrounds that are traditionally under-represented in children’s literature in America and who have a ready-to-submit completed work for children.

The Angela Johnson Scholarship from Vermont College of Fine Arts – This scholarship is for new students of color of an ethnic minority for VCFA’s MFA program.

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson Scholarship from Hamline College – “Annual award given to a new or current student in the program who shows exceptional promise as a writer of color.”

We Need Diverse Books Short Story Contest - This short story contest was inspired by Walter Dean Myers’ quote, “Once I began to read, I began to exist.”

The Scholastic Asian Book Award – This award is for Asian writers writing books set in Asia aimed at children 6-18 years of age.

Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund – This fund enables writers of color to attend the Clarion writing workshops where writer Octavia Butler got her start.

SLF Diverse Writers and Diverse Worlds Grants – These grants are new works and works in progress. The Diverse Writers Grant focuses on writers from underrepresented and underprivileged backgrounds, and the Diverse Worlds Grant is for stories that best present a diverse world, regardless of the author’s background.

Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award – This one time grant is awarded to an emerging writer of color of crime fiction.

NYFA Artists’ Fellowships – These fellowships are for residents of New York State and/or Indian Nations located in New York State.

Golden Baobab Prizes for Literature – These annual awards recognize emerging African writers and illustrators.

The Sillerman First Prize for African Poets – This prize is for unpublished African poets.

What other awards and grants do you recommend for authors of color?

0 Comments on Awards and Grants for Authors of Color as of 2/19/2015 1:35:00 PM
Add a Comment
9. Whistle A Happy Tune

Good Monday, All!

So nice of you to pop by!

Remember on Friday I told you I had exciting news to share?

I'm guessing that's why you're here.

Because of the exciting news I promised.

I said, "Come on over as soon as you wake up!"

And look!  Here you are!

You're so wonderful :)


Exciting news!

Guess what I did?

No, really!  Guess!

Never mind.  I'll tell you.

I made up a song!


It's true!

Want to hear it?

Well, not actually hear it - I didn't have time to make a video or a recording - but hear it in the sense that I can tell you the tune and the words and you can imagine me singing it to you...

Yes?  Are you ready?

Okay.  The tune is "The Bear Went Over The Mountain" (because I live on a mountain, as you may recall, and I saw a bear a little over a week ago, which you may also recall.)


OH. . . !!!!!!!
The dog went over the mountain
The dog went over the mountain
The dog went over the mounTAIN....
Because she saw a bear!


What do you think?

Are you amazed?

I'm pretty amazed with myself, I have to tell you.  It's not every day someone writes a song like that!  (Hey!  Did someone say, "Thank goodness!"?  I heard that!  Keep it nice, people.  We can't all be as musically gifted as I am, but that's no reason to unleash the green-eyed monster!)

So I can now add "Songwriter" to my resume!

Happy sigh :)

Alrighty.  See you on Wednesday for Would You Read It.

Unless you've got nothing to do right now. . .
. . . and you're feeling reluctant to leave because you enjoyed my song so much that you want to hear it again. . .
. . . and you're also thinking that maybe... just MAYBE... you'd like to hear about. . .
(Oh, golly!  That was fun while it lasted! Hehehe!). . .

The 4th Annual Holiday Contest!!!!
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we've no place to go
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

The Contest:  Write a children's story (children here defined as approximately age 12 and under) in which wild weather impacts the holidays!  Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 350 words (I know!  So much freedom after the Halloweensie Contest :))  (It can be as short as you like, but no more than 350!)  Any kind of weather will do: sun, rain, sleet, heatwave, blizzard, tsunami, monsoon, hurricane, hail, tornado, etc!  Weather may be atypical for your setting (rain in Maine, frost in Florida), it may be extreme (blizzard instead of regular snow, drought instead of lush greenery), or it may be unheard of (spring flowers in Antarctica, snow in the Sahara, bathing suit weather at the North Pole), but whatever you choose, make us feel the impact on the holidays!  The wild weather may be a hindrance, a wish-come-true, a threat, a pleasant surprise, etc.  The field is wide open!  Have fun!  The wilder and wackier the better!  No illustration notes please. (And yes, if you feel compelled to submit more than one entry you may, just remember you're competing against yourself!)

Post:  Your entry should be posted on your blog between Monday December 8 and Friday December 12 at 11:59 PM EST, and your post-specific link should be added to the link list on the official holiday contest post which will go up on my blog on Monday December 8 and remain up through Sunday December 14 (no WYRI or PPBF during that week.)  If you don't have a blog but would like to enter, please copy and paste your entry into the comments on my December 8th post.  (If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, please email me and I'll post your entry for you!)

The Judging:  My lovely assistant(s) and I will narrow down the entrants to 10-12 finalists (depending on the number of entries) which will be posted here on either Monday December 15 or Tuesday December 16 (depending on the number of entries :)) for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Thursday December 18 at 5 PM EST and the winners will be announced on Friday December 19.  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to tenth place.  Judging criteria will be kid appeal/kid-friendliness, creativity of weather use in plot, quality of story, quality of writing, and originality.

The Prizes!:  Well, I hope these prizes are going to knock your socks off!!!  In the spirit of the holidays, winners will be named for 1st - 10th place.  In addition to the incredible fame of being able to say you won (or placed in) the Pretty Much World Famous 4th Annual Holiday Contest, the following AMAZING prizes will be awarded: (items in color are links for more info!)

 - A picture book manuscript read and critique by Shari Dash Greenspan, Editor of the multi-award winning Flashlight Press!  I encourage you to sign up for their newsletter HERE!
 - A picture book manuscript read and critique by Jennifer Mattson, Agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency!
 - Enrollment in Renee LaTulippe's highly praised and recommended Lyrical Language Lab Course (in a month to be mutually agreed upon by the winner and Renee) ($249 value!)
 - Enrollment in Jon Bard and Laura Backes's fantastic Kindle Kids Mastery Course ($197 value!)
 - Enrollment in Making Picture Book Magic (my online picture book writing class - in March or a later month to be mutually agreed upon by the winner and me)
 - A picture book manuscript critique by fabulous author Amy Dixon, author of MARATHON MOUSE and the forthcoming SOPHIE'S ANIMAL PARADE.
 - (Hopefully) 2 or 3 PB MS Critiques from other fabulous authors - TBA
 2015 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market, a signed copy of Boy And Poi Poi Puppy by Linda Boyden, and a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

I can't thank these editors, agents, authors, and other industry professionals enough for their incredible generosity!  Please visit their sites, spread the word of their classes, buy and recommend their books to your friends with kids, and show your appreciation to them in any way you can!

And now!  Sharpen those pencils!  Top off those coffee mugs!  Get those derrieres in your chairs!  And start writing those prize-winning entries!!!

I can't wait for the festivities to begin! :)

0 Comments on Whistle A Happy Tune as of 11/17/2014 5:37:00 AM
Add a Comment
10. An Interview with Lin Oliver on SCBWI’S Emerging Voices Award

On this blog we’ve often discussed our own New Voices and New Visions awards for unpublished authors of color. Today we wanted to spotlight another great award specifically for authors of color: the On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

scbwi Emerging Voices Award

The On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award is a grant created to “foster the emergence of diverse voices in children’s books.” It offers two writers or writer/illustrators from under-represented backgrounds the chance to receive:

  • An all-expense paid trip to the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles August 1-4, 2015 (transportation and hotel)
  • Tuition to the SCBWI Summer Conference
  • A manuscript consultation at the Summer Conference with an industry professional
  • An additional meeting with an industry professional
  • Tuition to the Summer Conference Writers or Illustrators Intensive
  • A press release

We interviewed Lin Oliver, Executive Director of SCBWI, about the creation of the award and the role of SCBWI in diversifying the world of children’s book publishing.

When was the Emerging Voices Award established?

The SCBWI Emerging Voices Award was established in 2012, with funding from Martin and Sue Schmitt of the 455 Foundation.  The grant was created to foster the emergence of diverse voices in children’s books. Each year, we select two writers or writer-illustrators for an all expense paid trip to the summer SCBWI conference, which includes a manuscript consultation and additional mentoring.  Qualified applicants must be from an ethnic or cultural background that is under-represented in children’s literature in America, such as Black or African-Americans, Latinos, Pacific Islanders, American Indians or Asian-Americans.

Why did the SCBWI decide to establish the award?
The SCBWI is committed to encouraging the creation of a diverse body of literature for children. We believe that all children should be able to see themselves on the page and all readers will benefit from participating in diverse experiences through literature.  The representation of many cultures of ethnicities is vastly under-represented in today’s marketplace, and we hope this Award is a step to correcting that situation.

Have any past Emerging Voices winners gone on to receive publication contracts or publish books?

The award is still very young—there were three winners in 2012, and two in 2013.  As of now, all five winners are having their work-in-progress shared with editors and agents in the field.  There are no sales to report yet, but we feel confident that their work is in professional hands and receiving every possible consideration.

Emerging Voices Award winners

From L to R: Martin Schmitt, award winner Jennifer Baker, award winner Dow Phumiruk, and Sue Ganz-Schmitt

How do you perceive the SCBWI’s role in the greater movement for more diverse children’s books?

As the largest organization of children’s book writers and illustrators, we believe we play a leadership role in the movement to increase diversity in our field. We always make sure that the faculties of our national conferences include publishers, agents, authors and illustrators of diverse backgrounds.  We encourage our members to support and promote books from these publishers, authors and illustrators.  We often publish articles and papers about the role of diversity in children’s books, and work with other organizations such as the Children’s Book Council, First Book and We Need Diverse Books who are involved in this important initiative.

We all acknowledge the need to support aspiring authors of color, but their eventual success will be determined by the marketplace.  It is crucial that the these books prove to be not only artistic and social successes, but also commercially viable.From your perspective at the SCBWI, what are a few of the biggest obstacles that you see aspiring authors of color facing?

We all acknowledge the need to support aspiring authors of color, but their eventual success will be determined by the marketplace.  It is crucial that the these books prove to be not only artistic and social successes, but also commercially viable.  This is a challenge not just for children’s books but for our whole society—-we need to all show interest in and embrace all the diverse cultures that make up America.

Has the SCBWI taken any other steps to promote diversity among its membership?

In addition to the Emerging Voices Award, we have a special category in our Work in Progress Awards for multi-cultural books.  Many of our scholarships have been awarded to students of color. And our Amber Brown Grant sends authors to low-income schools who have never been able to afford an author visit.

How can publishers and the SCBWI work together to create a more inclusive industry?

In the past year, the We Need Diverse Books campaign has done a wonderful job of creating awareness of the lack of diversity in our field. That is the first step. The SCBWI will continue to provide opportunities for publishers to discover new talent. The publishers need to put forth their best effort to publish those books, and together, the SCBWI and the publishing community need to market those books and help bring them to the forefront in the consumer consciousness.

More information about The Society of Children’s Book Writers and all of its programs can be found at scbwi.org.  Please visit us.

Filed under: Awards, Diversity 102, Diversity, Race, and Representation, Publishing 101, Writer Resources Tagged: Emerging Voices Award, SCBWI, writers of color, writing contests, writing resources

1 Comments on An Interview with Lin Oliver on SCBWI’S Emerging Voices Award, last added: 10/11/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
11. About That Exciting Announcement I Promised Last Week

Happy Monday, everyone!

I hope you all had a lovely weekend!

Last week I told you I had something exciting to tell you today and I do!

Are you ready?


This week . . .

. . .

. . . Stop & Shop bath tissue is on sale for $.75 off!!!

I know!  It's not every day you get such incredible news!

So bring the van and load up, alrighty?  I knew you'd want to know!

Okey-dokey, then.

Thanks for stopping by.

I hope you all have a Marvelous Monday :)

See you on Wednesday for Would You Read It.


Buh-bye now.

Bye! :)

Oh, but wait.  I guess there was one more thing. . .

Apparently I'm becoming very nice in my old age, because here it is, only October 6, with a full 3 weeks to go, and I'm announcing. . .


That's right!  It's about that time!

courtesy google images
The Contest:  write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (title not included in the 100 words), using the words pumpkin, broomstick, and creak.   Your story can be scary, funny or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words (you can count candy corn as one word) and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie - because it's not very long and it's for little people :)  (And yes, I know 100 words is short but that's part of the fun and the challenge!  We got nearly 80 fantastic entries last year so I know you can do it!)  Also, you may use the words in any form - e.g. creak, creaky, creaks, creaking, creaked.

Post your story on your blog between 12:00 AM EDT Monday October 27th and Friday October 31st by 11:59 PM EDT and add your post-specific link to the list that will accompany my October 27th post.  There will be no Would You Read It that week, and no PPBF, so the post and the list of links will stay up all week for everyone to enjoy.  If you don't have a blog and would like to enter, you can simply copy and paste your entry in the comments section of that post once it's up. (Or, if you have difficulty with the comments, which unfortunately sometimes happens, you may email your entry to me and I'll post it for you!)

The Judging: in a grueling, marathon weekend, my lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 3 top choices (hee hee hee - you know how much trouble I have with only 3, so we'll see) which will be posted here and voted on for a winner on Monday November 3rd.  The winner will be announced in a special Thursday post on November 6th.  If we get more than 20 entries, I will post 6 finalists and give prizes for 1st through 3rd.  If by some chance we get the kind of turn out we did last year, all bets are off.  I may post as many as 10 finalists and I'll probably end up giving everyone a prize :)  But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it :)

The Prizes:  yeah... I'm still working on the prizes :)  Feel free to chime in in the comments if there's something you'd particularly like to win! :)  But prizes will include:
 - Julie Hedlund's fantastic new course How To Make Money As An Author, interesting, educational and suitable for writers at any stage of their career,
 - a 2015 membership to Children's Book Insider, an absolutely fabulous resource for kid lit writers of all kinds generously offered by Jon Bard and Laura Backes,
 - a picture book manuscript critique from the renowned Alayne Christian (prose only, 800 words or less),
 - an e-pub or PDF copy (winner's choice) of Linda Ashman's Nuts And Bolts Guide To Writing Picture Books.
 - a PDF copy of Ryan Sias's A Spooky-Doodle E-Book, "doodle pages, drawing lessons and writing prompts inspire kids to invent their own stories, characters and artwork." 

Plus whatever else I dream up in the meantime :)

I hope those fantabulous prizes fill you with enthusiasm for the contest!

So sharpen your pencils!

Get your butt in that chair!

See what amazing, knock-your-socks-off story you can dream up!

It's a chance to hone your writing skills, practice your craft, write to specifications and a deadline, win amazing prizes, AND get to read and enjoy the wonderful stories written by all your fellows :)

Many thanks to Julie, Jon and Laura, Alayne, Linda, and Ryan for their very generous prize offerings!

I literally cannot wait to read your stories!!! :)

Now, for real, have a Marvelous Monday everyone! :)

0 Comments on About That Exciting Announcement I Promised Last Week as of 10/6/2014 5:11:00 AM
Add a Comment
12. Border-patrolling us. Fabulist fiction contest. Hard SF contest. L.A. latino sci-fi workshops.

Border Patrol Nation

Most U.S. citizens tend to think stopping undocumented workers at the border is a good thing that won't affect them. They should check out Todd Miller's new book about what militarization has done to the Land of the Free. It's entitled Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security and here's some facts from it.

"The U.S. borders have long been Constitution-free zones where more or less anything goes, including warrantless searches of various sorts. In the twenty-first century, however, the border itself, north as well as south, has not only been increasingly up-armored, but redefined as a 100-mile-wide strip around the country.

"Our “borders” now cover an expanse in which nearly 200 million Americans, or two-thirds of the U.S. population, live. Included are nine of the 10 largest metropolitan areas. If you live in Florida, Maine, or Michigan, for example, no matter how far inland you may be, you are “on the border.” You can be stopped, interrogated, and searched “on an everyday basis with absolutely no suspicion of wrongdoing.”

See a bigger No Constitution map.

Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Chapbook Contest

I own a copy of a previous winner, In A Town Called Mundomuerto, and love the magical realist writing of author Randall Silvis. Anyway, the submission period for this contest doesn't begin until August, but this posting will give you speculative fiction writers time to get manuscripts prepared. There is a reading fee.

From the Omnidawnwebsite:
The winner of the annual Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Chapbook Competition receives a $1,000 prize, publication of their chapbook with full-color cover, 100 copies, and display advertising and publicity.Fabulist Fiction includes magic realism and literary forms of fantasy, science fiction, horror, fable, and myth. Stories can be primarily realistic, with elements of non-realism, or primarily, or entirely non-realistic.

Open to all writers. All stories must be original, in English, and unpublished. 5,000 to 12,000 words, consisting of either one story or multiple stories. Online entries must be received between Aug. 1 and Oct. 22, 2014. Reading fee $18. We expect to publish the winning chapbook in August of 2015. 

About Omnidawn: "Since 2001, we publish writing that opens us anew to the myriad ways that language may bring new light, new awareness to us.
We began Omnidawn because of our belief that lively, culturally pertinent, emotionally and intellectually engaging literature can be of great value, and we wanted to participate in the dissemination of such work. We believe our society needs small presses so that widely diverse ideas and points-of-view are easily accessible to everyone.”

Issues Science Fiction Contest

If you're more into writing "hard" sci-fi, here's a contest with a $1500 honorarium and only requires one-page about what you would write! No reading fee.

"Authors should submit a précis or brief treatment (no more than 250 words) of a science fiction story idea that explores themes in science, technology, and society. Submissions must be received by June 1, 2014.

"Stories should fall into one of the following five theme areas: Big data / artificial intelligence / brain science; Education / jobs / future of the economy; Defense / security / privacy / freedom; Biomedicine / genetics / health / future of the human; Future of scientific research / automation of research & discovery. IST will select up to five semi-finalists for each category. Authors will have 3 months to submit their story, between 2,500 and 5,000 words. Winning stories will be published in IST, and authors awarded a $1,500 honorarium. Read all the details."

Issues in Science and Technology (IST), a quarterly journal that explores the intersections of science, technology, society, and policy. The editors of IST believe science fiction (SF) can help to bring key challenges and dilemmas in science and technology to an influential readership in new and compelling ways. Scientists, engineers, researchers, and policymakers often only see small pieces of an issue. SF writers can imagine entire worlds. By fully thinking through how today’s critical issues will play out, science fiction inspires, cautions, and guides those shaping our future. Throughout 2015, IST will publish one SF story per issue, on topics of broad societal interest.

Denver Museo's children's summer camp

Latino Science Fiction Explored

And if you haven't heard yet, I'll be in L.A. next week and hope to meet and talk with everyone who can attend. This is a precedent-setting gathering of 6 Latino sci-fi authors! What could happen? Quién sabe, pero vamos a ver.

The Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies Program at University of California, Riverside will host “A Day of Latino Science Fiction” next Wednesday, April 30, to be held in the Interdisciplinary Symposium Room (INTS 1113). Free and open to the public.

The morning author panel will feature 1. Mario Acevedo, author of the bestselling Felix Gomez detective-vampire series (The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, chosen by Barnes & Noble as one of the best Paranormal Fantasy Novels of the Decade, and finalist in the Colorado Book Awards and the International Latino Book Awards.

2. Science-fiction and cyberpunk novelist Ernesto Hogan (Cortez on Jupiter); the co-authors of Lunar Braceros 2125-2148, 3. Rosaura Sánchez and 4. Beatrice Pita. The afternoon panel features writer and director 5. Jesús Treviño (Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Babylon 5 and the book The Fabulous Sinkhole); and Michael Sedano, La Bloga Latino lit blogger; as well as Ph.D. candidates Danny Valencia, Rubén Mendoza and Paris Brown.

6. I'll be there talking about my alternate-world fantasy novel The Closet of Discarded Dreams (and about sci-fi stories) that took honorable mention in the International Latino Book Awards’ Fantasy/Sci-Fi, last year.

Come and find out about getting your spec lit published, the market for Latino sci-fi, the state of Latino spec lit and what the future might hold for our obras. It should be a chingón time, and we hope you come to add your voice and opinions. Check the details, especially about parking.

Es todo, hoy,

0 Comments on Border-patrolling us. Fabulist fiction contest. Hard SF contest. L.A. latino sci-fi workshops. as of 4/26/2014 10:51:00 AM
Add a Comment
13. Contests

Two contests crossed my desk that I thought might be interesting. The first is for anyone. Chronicle Books is looking for a new humorous book, of any length or genre, to publish as their second (annual?), The Great Tumblr Book Search. Unpublished writers are encouraged to submit a story.


For every hit, there has to be a sequel. The Great Tumblr Book Search is back and the search for the next big humor book is on! Last year, Chronicle Books partnered with Tumblr on the first-annual Great Tumblr Book Search. The winning Tumblr was Sht Rough Drafts by Paul Laudiero. Chronicle offered Laudiero a publishing contract and now Sht Rough Drafts the book is coming to a bookstore near you on April 15th. And YOU could be next!

How to Enter:  Use Tumblr to explain your humor book idea. Then our editors will judge the entries and choose a grand-prize winner whose idea will be considered for publication. You may use an existing Tumblr or create a new Tumblr to illustrate your book idea. Just make us laugh!

Contest Details at Chronicle Books Tumblr

Hurry, the contest ends 3/31/2014Read the official rules and submit your Tumblr entry now! Winners will be announced by April 30th.

1 Grand Prize:

  • Book idea considered for publication
  • $300 of Chronicle books
  •  Feedback session with a Chronicle Books editor

3 Runners-Up:

  • $100 of Chronicle books
  • Written critique from Chronicle Books editors

Questions? Email contests@chroniclebooks.com


“The second contest is for kids. Peachtree Publisher is asking kids to write an essay in celebration of the April release of Charlie Bumpers and the Nice Gnome (reviewed here). Mrs. Burke, Charlie’s teacher, will explain.

You vs. Who? Contest & Giveaway

Mrs. Burke“Since the title of Teacher of the Year was bestowed upon me, I’ve received a number of inquiries on an array of subjects.

“What is my first name? What activities are best for fourth graders? Did I suffer any lasting effects from the flying sneaker incident? How is my snap so impressively loud?

“I’ve been asked to answer a few of those questions here today.

Snap Fingers

“The Snap”

“The snap, I’m afraid, is one of the most fiercely guarded secrets of the Empire—Mrs. Burke’s Empire, that is. The technique was passed down in a sacred trust from my mother, and I couldn’t possibly divulge it here.

“Actually, I suppose I could, but my hood of ninjas would instantaneously escort every person reading this post to a remote island surrounded by man-eating octopi. I doubt the secret of the snap would do you much good in such an exile.

“Activities, however, I am happy to share!

“1. Plays:  Each year, the citizens of Mrs. Burke’s Empire perform a play. I’m not given to bragging, but this year’s—The Sorcerer’s Castle—might be this director’s masterpiece. I’ve found that my students learn quite a bit about themselves when they’re forced to play someone else.

“2. Writing:  I suggest having your students write about their own experiences. Here’s a prompt that works well with my own students: You vs. Who?

“Students must write a story about a time they faced some sort of obstacle. Stories can be silly or serious; true or fictional; about school, home, or extra-curriculars! Give it a title like Suzie Rice vs. The Vacuum of Suction Destruction or Mrs. Burke vs. The Slippery Ramen Noodle.

“3. Contests:  When all other hope is lost and mutiny seems inescapable, make it a contest. In fact, let’s do just that! Have your child, student, or library patrons answer the You vs. Who? prompt.

“You (the teacher, librarian, parent, etc.) must send the stories to the folks at Peachtree Publishers via e-mail or snail mail before the deadline. (March 26, 2014) See details below. Win a glorious prize and bring honor to your own empire!”

Charlie Bumpers Gnome Title


PRIZE: Peachtree Publishers is giving away ten (10) Charlie Bumpers prize packs!

Nine winners will receive one (1) hardcover copy of Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year, (reviewed HERE), and one (1) galley of Charlie Bumpers vs. The Really Nice Gnome (April 2014!).

One Grand Prize winner will receive one (1) hardcover copy of Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year, one (1) hardcover copy of Charlie Bumpers vs. The Really Nice Gnome, and one (1) Audio Book CD of Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year (performed by author and Grammy Award-winning recording artist, Bill Harley!).

TO ENTER: Students must write a story about a time they faced some sort of obstacle like Charlie does. Adult must send the stories in to Peachtree Publishers via e-mail or snail mail. Stories can be silly or serious; true or fictional; about school, home, or extra-curriculars!

E-mail Address:  publicity(at)peachtree(dash)online(dot)com

Snail Mail Address:

Peachtree Publishers

Publicity Dept.

1700 Chattahoochee Ave.

Atlanta, GA 30318

DEADLINE: Contest ends March 26, 2014, at 11:59 pm EST

OPEN TO: US Addresses Only


Okay, what are you waiting for? Get those sharp pencils or fully charged computer out and get to writing. Imagination encouraged!


Filed under: Contests, For Writers, Interesting Links Tagged: aspiring authors, Charllie Bumpers and the Nice Gnome Contest, Chronicle Books, contests, Peachtree Publishers, The Great Tumblr Book Search, unpublished authors, writing contests, writing contests for kids

Add a Comment
14. New Voices Award Winners: Where Are They Now?

New Voices Award sealLast month we brought together past New Voices Award winners to see what it was like to publish their first books. Today, in our final installment in the series, we ask these talented authors to share what they have been doing since entering the contest. guest blogger

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. The submission deadline this year is September 30, 2013, so get those manuscripts in!

Q: What have you been up to in the time since your book won the New Voices Award or Honor?

Linda BoydenLinda Boyden, The Blue Roses  (our first New Voices Award Winner)

Winning the first New Voices Award for The Blue Roses gave me something I didn’t have before: confidence in myself as a writer. I had had a distinguished teaching career, but as a fledgling writer, it seemed I’d never get out of the slush pile. After the New Voices Award, my book also garnered the Paterson Prize and Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers Children’s Book of the Year. Buoyed by this incredible good luck, I wrote more and queried more. Though not represented by an agent at that time, I was lucky again and found a publishing home with the University of New Mexico Press for my next two picture books. The UNMP editor I worked with, W. Clark Whitehorn, convinced me to do my own illustrations for both Powwow’s Coming and Giveaways: An ABC Book of Loanwords from the Americas. Recently I’ve written and illustrated my fourth picture book, Boy and Poi Poi Puppy from Progressive Rising Phoenix Press and signed with Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary for my YA novel. I’ve been very lucky and thank Lee & Low Books for believing in me and for the wonderful jump-start!

Paula YooPaula Yoo, Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

I won the New Voices Award in 2003 for Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story. Since then, I have had the honor of having two more books with Lee & Low Books. My second book came out in 2009. Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story, illustrated by Lin Wang, was a biography about Chinese American Anna May Wong’s rags to riches life from a laundryman’s daughter to an international Hollywood film star. I also have a third book picture book biography coming out with Lee & Low soon, too. Stay tuned for more details! I also had a YA novel published in 2008 (Good Enough from HarperCollins) and I’ve worked on a bunch of TV shows as a TV writer/producer, most recently with SyFy’s EUREKA. But most exciting of all… ever since winning the New Voices Award, I adopted three cats. Hmmm… now how can I sneak my three cats into my next Lee & Low book?

Glenda ArmandGlenda Armand, Love Twelve Miles Long

Since I won the Award, I have retired from my “day job” as a teacher and school librarian. While working part-time, I have been able to spend a lot more time writing.  I love it. I am also happy to say that, next year, Lee & Low will publish my second book about a very talented man with an unlikely dream who I discovered while researching Love Twelve Miles Long.

Don TateDon Tate, It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw

As a longtime children’s book illustrator, I have several new books out that I painted. But winning the New Voices Honor award launched my writing career. Winning the award boosted my confidence with words. Since then, I’ve written several more picture books. My next authored book will publish in 2015. I will also illustrate this book. I have another authored book under contract, and I can’t wait to share that news, too. I’m thankful that Lee & Low recognized and nurtured my writing talents.

Jennifer TorresJennifer Torres, Finding the Music  (2011 New Voices Winner)

The most significant thing I’ve done since my book won the New Voices Award was have a second daughter! Soledad Daisy was born in March of this year. She and her big sister, Alice, are truly delightful people and it is a joy to watch them grow.

I’ve also been working hard at editing and revising my book, Finding the Music. Though it can be challenging, this is honestly one of my favorite parts of the writing process. To hear a professional’s insights on what you’ve written is illuminating and so helpful. I’m really proud of the way the book is shaping up and of how far it has come since I submitted the manuscript.

Otherwise, I continue to write – I am finishing a book for middle-grade readers, and I contribute regularly to newspapers and magazines as a freelance journalist. I also work for University of the Pacific, helping to lead an early literacy campaign. This is exciting – and so important. We know that the ability to read proficiently by the end of third grade is a make-or-break benchmark in a child’s education. Kids who aren’t strong readers when they leave third grade tend to fall behind, and it can be very difficult to ever catch up. Unfortunately, in my community, only 34 percent of third graders can read at grade level. For children of color, and for kids whose first language isn’t English, that percentage is even smaller. That’s one of the reasons it’s such an honor for me to work with Lee & Low – it’s crucial for all of us to support the literacy of all children.

More from our past New Voices winners:

Advice for New Writers from our New Voices Award Winners

New Voices Award Winners: “How I Started Writing”

New Voices Award Winners: Publishing Your First Book

Filed under: guest blogger, Musings & Ponderings, Resources Tagged: children's books, lee and low books, New Voices Award, writing, writing contests, writing resources

0 Comments on New Voices Award Winners: Where Are They Now? as of 9/25/2013 1:48:00 PM
Add a Comment
15. A Few More Words about Contests

I have the pleasure of wrapping up this series of posts about writing contests. Unlike Mary Ann, I've never won any money in a writing contest, but several of my entries, including the first two I submitted way back in high school, did lead to publication. The poem April shared in her post perfectly captures the sense of elation those publications gave me. In fact, it was that feeling that inspired me to want to become a writer.

As Esther mentioned in her post, I've updated our Links page to include a section on writing contests. I've added a few more since Esther's post, including the Shabo Award for Picture Book Writers. Entry deadline for that one is August 10 this year, so if you're interested, don't delay. And if you know of any contests I missed, please share the information as a comment below.

There's one contest I'd like to discuss here that I couldn't provide a permanent link to because it changes every year, and that's the fiction contest associated with the annual SCBWI Midsouth Fall Conference. Last year, I entered the YA category and was fortunate to receive an Honorable Mention. While that hasn't led to publication (yet), I believe that mentioning the honor has brought more attention to my queries--at least I'm getting personalized rejections. :-) I also know that one of the agents attending the conference went up to a contest winner and asked if she was seeking representation. When the winner said "yes," the agent asked to read her winning manuscript.

Unfortunately, the 2013 SCBWI Midsouth Fiction Contest is already sold out, though there are still openings to attend the conference. But there are plenty of other SCBWI contest and grant opportunities. For example, last year, SCBWI-Illinois offered a contest as part of the annual Prairie Writer's Day. I don't know if that contest will be offered again this year, but you can watch for details on the Illinois regional events page at SCBWI. And there are all sorts of awards and grants available through SCBWI, which you can read about on the official website.

As my fellow TeachingAuthors have already mentioned, one of the benefits of entering a contest is that it provides a deadline as motivation to finish a project. I have also entered contests where, even if you don't win a prize, you receive a critique of your submission. This is true of many of the contests offered by individual chapters of the Romance Writers Association. Author Stephie Smith regularly updates an online list of such contests, including those for young adult literature. Two other contests I've entered that offer critiques and that are open to YA and/or children's literature are the Pacific Northwest Writer's Association Literary Contest and The Sandy.

If we haven't given you enough reasons for researching and entering writing contests, read this blog post at writers-editors.com. And for tips from former contest judges, see this contest tip sheetalso from writers-editors.com.

Do keep us posted if you enter any of the contests we've mentioned in this series, whether or not your entry wins. And good luck!

Happy writing!

0 Comments on A Few More Words about Contests as of 7/26/2013 9:14:00 AM
Add a Comment
16. Writing Contests: You Can't Lose

     As a kid, writing was the one thing I knew I could do well.  There weren't many opportunities for me to shine, until I discovered writing contests. 

     Ironically, (for some whose first published book was a historical fiction set in Civil Rights Era Mississippi), my first writing award was courtesy of....of all things....the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  In eighth grade I came in second place in a city-wide essay contest. The subject?General Peter Alexander Stewart, a fairly obscure Confederate officer.  Trust me, in those pre-Interenet days, it took several weekends of camping out in the reference section of the library before I dredged up enough information for a 500 word essay. On Awards Day, I proudly skipped to the auditorium stage to collect my five dollar prize.

     Five dollars equaled ten hours of babysitting.

     Winning was good.   I was hooked.

      I was blessed to have grown up when Mississippi had an annual state Arts Festival.  Along with a multitude of other arts related events, there was a statewide junior writing contest for high school students.  I won the short story contest  my sophomore year. My prize?  Fifty bucks and lunch with Willie Morris. I had no idea who Willie Morris was other than the former editor of Harpers.  (Later he would write My Dog Skip and I would come to admire his talent.) Then I just knew he was an Important Writer from Mississippi.   I later found out that my hometown writing idol Eudora Welty had been one of the writing contest judges.

     Fifty bucks = One hundred hours of babysitting.

     Winning was good.

     Winning gave me confidence.  Having conquered Mississippi, I didn't think twice about entering a contest sponsored by the Girl Scout magazine, American Girl (not to be confused with the magazine sponsored by the Pleasant Company and the American Girl dolls.) Winning the top short story prize made me positively cocky. I actually got some fan mail, plus a strange phone call from a Baptist youth group in Florida, who wanted to know the "story-behind-the-story."

      The prize? A ridiculous amount of money (to a sixteen-year-old) for something I banged out in study hall one day.  My math skills could no longer translate it to babysitting hours.

     From American Girl it was a short hop to the Grandmama of junior writing contests...the Seventeen Magazine short story contest.  Seventeen Magazine was our fashion-beauty-dating bible. In between the  pictures of Christie Brinkley in hot pants and floppy hats and the Bonnie Bell Lipsmackers ads, there were at least two short stories per issue by nationally recognized authors. (One that made a huge impression on me was by Pulitzer winner, Annie Proulx.)  I entered the contest, hardly believing my own daring.  these girls were good.  They went to fancy Eastern private schools.  Could I compete? I could and I did.  I came in second behind a teenage Joyce Maynard who had just published her first book at 19.

     So what's my point?  My point is that I was allowed to experience early success and gain confidence through these contests.  Even those there was a decades long gap between winning my last contest and selling my first book, I never lost that winning feeling, that confidence that deep down, I had what it took.

     I no longer enter contests.  Most of them aren't open to me as a published writer.  The last one I entered was 25 years ago when Delacorte Press still had their First Middle Grade contest.  However, I recommend entering contests for several reasons.

     1.  A deadline.  When you ares till a pre-published author, writing is can get shoved to the bottom of your priority list. After all, the only person who expects you to write is you. There isn't a publishing deadline, no editor emailing you for revisions.  A contest deadline makes you accountable for getting the work done.

     2.  Honing your craft.  Contests not only have deadline, they have rules. Word counts. Specific genres, formats, subject matter.  Working within contest parameters disciplines your writing.

     3.  Winning.  Winning isn't always about publication or money.  Sometimes the prizes are a conference scholarship or a free critique.  Whatever the prize, it is usually something that will help you in your quest to become a better writer.  (A caveat: I am wary of contests from entities I don't know that charge an entry fee.  Some of these are just plain scams.  When in, doubt check Predators and Editors.)

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman


5 Comments on Writing Contests: You Can't Lose, last added: 7/23/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment
17. Where Can A Young Writer Get Published? Happy Poetry Friday!

. ~
Howdy, Campers and happy 

...which is over at Check it Out today ~
thanks for hosting today, Jone!
We've returned from our blog-cation tanned and rested.  Esther kicks off this round's topic about contests with her post on Lee and Low's New Voices Contest, including several juicy tidbits (did you know that an early version of Christopher Paul Curtis's The Watsons Go to Birmingham lost a contest before it went on to win the Newbery?) 

Jeanne Marie continues the discussion, touching on Las Vegas, mowing lawns, selling one's first born, her years as a Hollywood scriptwriter, and winning Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's scholarship.

On today's TeachingAuthors menu:
  • links to contests for young writers;
  • a poem about the delicious feeling when you learn you're going to be published;
  • the secret about entering contests.
Links to contests for young writers:
Here's the page on my personal website which lists a few select contests (including a peace poetry contest), and here, on the TeachingAuthors website, Carmela has compiled a ton more.

My poem for Poetry Friday:
I vividly remember learning I'd won a writing contest when I was in second grade.  Winning came with a fancy bookmark(!) and a certificate to Martindale's Bookstore in Santa Monica for any book in the entire store!  I was intoxicated.  Any book! 

I chose Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham, much to my father's disappointment. 
(He had his heart set on The Big Book of Japanese Fairy Tales.)

Winning a contest, getting something published...the POW! of this is experience is indescribable. And no matter how many books you have published, or how many of your poems are in magazines and anthologies, most writers will tell you that an acceptance is an acceptance--the ZING! is as powerful each time.

And so, Campers: get out of your comfort zone and enter a contest or try to get something published (which is the same thing, if you think about it). 

Which brings us to today's poem. It's in my verse novel, Girl Coming in for a Landing--a novel in poems, illustrated by Elaine Clayton (Knopf, 2002).  It can be performed by one, two, or three people.  

by April Halprin Wayland

A letter in the mail!
They're going to PUBLISH my poem.
In their magazine.
In June.

My brain is exploding!  I can’t sleep!
I woke up early,
my body buzzy
like a playground ball boing-ing down a long hallway.

I won’t tell anyone. 
I’ll wait until the magazine comes out.
How can I wait that long?

I won’t tell anyone.
I’ll just casually hand them the magazine
or wait
until someone at school sees it.

What will Carlo think?
What will Frank think?
What will Yen-Mei think?
What will Leslie think?????????

I won’t tell anyone.
I won’t tell anyone
and boy,
will they be surprised.

They’re going to
publish my poem!
My poem!  My poem!
Who can I call at 5:30 in the morning?

So, teens, 'tweens, ten-year-olds, scribblers...all: go forth and enter!  

Because here's the secret:
whether or not you win, 
you've won.
poem and drawing © April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

Today's post is by April Halprin Wayland who thanks you from the bottom of her sandy toes for reading this far.

6 Comments on Where Can A Young Writer Get Published? Happy Poetry Friday!, last added: 7/23/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment
18. A Winning Writer's Jump-Start: Lee & Low's New Voices Contest

Today’s post not only officially restarts our TeachingAuthors blog after a brief Summer Hiatus.
It jump-starts our writers’ engines with a winning opportunity: Lee & Low’s New Voices Contest.
That’s right: jump-starts.
IMHO, a Writing Contest serves as the perfect external battery to get any writer goinggoinggoing and moving forward.

Think Motivation – i.e. publication, prize money, a publisher’s attention, for example.
Think Focus – i.e. a specific format, theme or subject matter.
Think Opportunity – i.e. a guaranteed reading and audience!
And don’t forget DEADLINE – in this case, September 30, 2013.
(Deadlines excel at keeping writers writing.)

For those unfamiliar with this independent publisher, Lee & Low Books focuses on diversity, specializing in high quality multicultural children’s books.  The company’s mission is “to meet the need for stories that all children can identify with and enjoy.  They pride themselves on books about everyone, for everyone.

Established in 2000, the annual New Voices Award is given to a writer of color of a children’s picture book manuscript. The Award winner receives a cash prize of $1,000 and Lee & Low’s standard publication contract, including the basic advance and royalties for a first-time author.  An Honor Award winner will receive a cash prize of $500.

Check out these published winners that went on to win – other - awards: Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The SammyLee Story and TheBlue Roses.

Writers who have published other work in venues such as children’s magazines, young adult or adult fiction or nonfiction are eligible.  Only un-agented submissions will be accepted.

Work that has been published in any format published online or independently is not eligible for this award.

To click on the previous years’ winners and learn more about embracing this winning opportunity, click HERE. 

As luck would have it, in her recent June 27 blog post, Anastasia Suen interviewed Pamela Tuck, author of AS FAST AS WORDS COULD FLY which won the 2007 Lee & Low New Voices Award.  This debut picture book tells a story based on Ms. Tuck’s dad’s journey of desegregating the Pitt County School System in Greenville, NC in the 1960’s.

Of course, when it comes to Writing Contests and external batteries, it goes without saying: one might lose the Contest but still drive away a Winner.

Just last month, one of my students shared her Good News that while she hadn’t won the Highlights Fiction Contest this year, the magazine wished to purchase her story in rhyme for publication!

And two months ago, another writer’s Honorable Mention in a themed blog’s picture book contest kept her believing in and submitting her original manuscript.

I love sharing with Young Writers how Christopher Paul Curtis’ college manuscript became the novel The Watsons Go to Birmingham which eventually lost out in the no-longer-offered Delacorte Contest.  But he did win an editor (Wendy Lamb) plus the chance to revise, allowing the book to go on to win a Newbery Honor.

TeachingAuthors is up and running again!
Stay tuned for more Contests to jump-start your writing.
And be sure to check out our newest Writing Contests Links page.
Good Luck!
(And keep us in the Loop.)

Esther Hershenhorn

3 Comments on A Winning Writer's Jump-Start: Lee & Low's New Voices Contest, last added: 7/18/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment
19. Meet Our New Visions Finalists

New Visions Award sealLast month we announced the finalists of our first New Visions Award, a new writing award for a debut author of color for a middle grade or young adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery novel. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting these talented finalists on our blog as they answer questions about what inspires them, the writing process, and more. Perhaps among these five finalists you’ll find your next favorite author!

Q: What brought you to Tu Books and to the New Visions Award competition in particular?

Ailynn Knox-Collins. Redmond, WA:

I came across Tu Books when I bid on a copy of Tankborn for a charitable cause. Soon after, I had the good fortune to sit next to the writer, Karen Sandler, at an SCBWI conference in LA. I was delighted to find an imprint that is dedicated to putting books out there that are written by and feature characters of color.

Why is it important, you say, that there be this need to highlight multi-ethnic writers and stories? Because to me the world is colorful and always has been, but many of the books I love haven’t always reflected it. Too much of my own childhood was spent thinking that to be a hero or heroine, I had to look a certain way, and mostly not like me. Yet, when I look at the amazing people in the world I grew up in, they came from all sorts of backgrounds, colors and cultures.

So I had to be a part of this endeavor and I congratulate Tu Books on their first ever New Visions Award. I submitted my science fiction story and (wow!) now I’m a finalist. The other finalists are remarkable writers from excitingly varied backgrounds. I am honored to be in this group with them.

I’m a person of mixed ethnicity. My Chinese mother married an Englishman at a time when that act alone could get you disowned by your quotefamily. I grew up in several countries from England to Singapore. As a child I had my hair stroked by strangers (“Interesting color.”), my nose pinched (“Your ‘bridge’ is so high” or “flat” depending on the country) and my eyes commented on (“Ooh! Double lids.”). I got used to being asked, “What are you?” and my answer eventually became a feisty, “Human!”

When I began writing seriously a decade ago, my fictional worlds reflected how I see the real world. My characters naturally look like people I’ve encountered in my life, and they are of all colors. In GENERATION ZERO, my entry to the New Visions Award, everyone happens to be of mixed ethnicity for a horrid, sinister reason — “Mixed breeds are sturdier, like mongrel dogs”. Strangely, someone actually said that to me long ago. Astonishing, isn’t it?

I am so excited to play a small part in bringing attention to something that has been close to my heart for so long. I fell in love with books the day a teacher sat our class under the shade of a giant Raintree and read to us from CS Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I longed to be one of the Pevensies, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that they, and many subsequent heroines I loved, looked nothing like me. I did my best to ignore descriptions, but I couldn’t help feeling left out. If, as a writer, I can make one child imagine herself the heroine of a story, and know that nothing, especially not the color of her skin, can stop her from achieving her dreams, then I will be satisfied and incredibly humbled.

Well done, Tu Books for your vision and congratulations to all the finalists of the New Visions Award.

Ailynn Knox-Collins is a mother and teacher, as well as a ‘crazy dog lady’ with four great rescues who slobber all over the furniture (well, what else is it for anyway). She is an unashamed Trekkie and is learning to speak Klingon to add to the other 6 languages she  already speaks. She loves to read everything and has been inspired to write science fiction so that young people today can experience the same wonder she did growing up. Please visit her at www.taknoxcollins.wordpress.com  and follow her on Twitter @talkc 

Valynne E. Maetani, Salt Lake City, UT

Initially, I heard about Tu Books when it was still Tu Publishing, and I was ecstatic about its mission . . .  and a little dismayed that I didn’t think my book qualified for submission.  At the time, I thought they were only interested in fantasy and sci-fi.  While my book had a fantasy fairy-tale element, it would definitely be classified as a mystery.

Imagine how excited I was when I heard about the New Visions Award given to a fantasy, sci-fi, or mystery novel.  Unfortunately, it was three weeks before the submission deadline.  With so little time and a manuscript in dire need of revisions, I realized I couldn’t make it.  block quote

Determined to support their mission, I told myself I would send a manuscript in through their regular submission process at some later date.

But then someone replied to the announcement for the award with the following response:  “I was slightly concerned to see that this publisher was seeking submissions for a contest, but only from writers ‘of color’ . . . It appears that the means to the laudable end of  ‘true diversity’ in YA/MG lit is more submissions by ‘authors of color.’”  The person went on to ask why it mattered if the writer was “white.”  S/he suggested they get rid of the term “of color” from all the fine print of their website.

I am the first to say that I have read many wonderful books, with diverse characters, written by authors who are not “of color”—books that were meaningful and shed light on different cultures such as The Good Earth by Pearl Buck or Under the Blood Red Sun by Graham Salisbury.   But to me, underrepresented voices are just as important.  This award matters.  I am a Japanese-American writer, who grew up in Utah, surrounded by people who looked nothing like me, reading books about people who looked nothing like me.  I am an author of color.  Our voices matter.

And so I worked hard to get my chapters ready for submission.

I truly appreciate that Tu Books seeks to encourage diversity in children’s literature as well as diversity in the authors who write these books.  I am humbled and awed by the talent of the other New Visions Award finalists, and I am proud to have my name listed with theirs.

Valynne E. Maetani received a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.  She has managed script editing for stories for disadvantaged youth and has edited several screenplays, including My Little War in Juarez, the winner of the 2010 Creative World Award. She can be found at www.valynne.com and on Twitter @valynnemaetani

Stay tuned tomorrow for part II as we hear from our other three finalists!

Filed under: Awards, Musings & Ponderings, Tu Books Tagged: diversity, New Visions Award, Power of Words, Race issues, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Teens/YA, Tu Books, writing contests

4 Comments on Meet Our New Visions Finalists, last added: 2/27/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment
20. Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part II

New Visions Award sealLast month we announced the finalists of our first New Visions Award, a new writing award for a debut author of color for a middle grade or young adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery novel. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting these talented finalists on our blog as they answer questions about what inspires them, the writing process, and more. Perhaps among these five finalists you’ll find your next favorite author!

Q: What brought you to Tu Books and to the New Visions Award competition in particular?

Rahul Kanakia, Baltimore, MD:
My novel has a number of autobiographical elements. I mean, obviously, I didn’t grow up in a plague-wracked authoritarian dystopia, but I did share many of the troubles and experiences of the character in my novel. I went to Catholic school and I was confused regarding my sexual orientation and I had body image issues. And when I started the first draft of my very first YA novel, all of that came out of me in a crazy rush. Nothing was filtered. Everything was on the paper. Never before nor since have I experienced that kind of pure mind to keyboard translation.

quote 2Except for one thing. The protagonist of that first draft was white. That’s because (kind of funnily, since I’m currently enrolled in an MFA program that’s more-or-less devoted to the creation of fine literature), I’m relentlessly commercial. I can’t ever get up the motivation to write something that I don’t think will sell. And, you know, I believed it was possible to sell a YA novel with a queer protagonist. And I believe it’s possible to sell a YA novel with a protagonist of color. There are (a few) examples of both of those things. But I just was not at all sure that it was possible to sell a YA novel with a protagonist who was both. Somehow, the intersection felt too narrow. I don’t know. Perhaps I was the unimaginative one there. Perhaps I didn’t give the publishing industry enough credit. But before I could even start to write that book, I felt like I had to choose one identity and discard another.

Fast forward a year. I’d had a story appear in Tu Books’ Diverse Energies anthology of YA dystopian fiction. And, because of that, I got forwarded an email where Tu called for submissions to their first contest: they actually wanted novels about people of color. I had this YA novel, which still hadn’t really been marketed to publishers, and, after thinking about it for awhile, I decided to go back in and rewrite it to fit the vision that I hadn’t originally been courageous enough to realize. Because of this contest, my novel exists in a form that it wouldn’t have otherwise had: I was able to overcome that mental block and write that book about a queer Indian kid that I always should have been writing.

I think that’s the benefit of having a publisher for books about and by people of color. It doesn’t only publish diverse and inclusive books…it also widens the entire marketplace. Just knowing that there is a potential home for books that explore all kinds of PoC experiences will do a lot to foster the writing of more and broader types of books.

Rahul Kanakia is a science fiction writer who has sold stories to Clarkesworld, the Intergalactic Medicine Show, Apex, Nature, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. He currently lives in Baltimore, where he is enrolled in the Master of the Fine Arts program in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University. If you want to know more about him then please visit his blog at http://www.blotter-paper.com or follow him on Twitter at @rahkan 

Ibi Zoboi, Brooklyn, NY

I’ve known about Tu Books since its Kickstarter campaign.  I did get a little teary-eyed watching that video because a whole world had opened up for me.  Not just for me as a writer, but for me as a reader, educator, and parent.  I was probably one of Tu Books’ first contributors, having prematurely sent an unpolished manuscript.  I’ve been at this writing thing for quite some time—submitting, revising, re-submitting—all while reading the online conversations around diversity in children’s books.  There were some good discussions but they were just that—discussions.  I was doing my part as a writer by working on my craft and submitting work.  What were agents and editors on the other side of the gate doing to actually shift the dynamics and raise the number of books published for children of color?

Lee & Low Books was one answer.  Tu Books was even better by filling the humungous need for genre MG & YA books featuring characters of color.  This was actually doing something!  The New Visions Award was a huge clarion call for us writers of color to step forward and shout like the Whos in Whoville, “We are here!”

I would’ve been first in line sending my manuscript off by Owl Post Express the day the contest was announced, but I’d just gotten into an MFA program and was at the mercy of my adviser.  I planned to work on my manuscript the whole semester and if she said that it needed work, I wasn’t applying.  I’d made a commitment to really learn the craft and wouldn’t dare send out work that wasn’t ready (I’d done that too often).  But she told me, “Get your application in yesterday!” And “yesterday” ended up being almost at the last minute on the heels of Hurricane Sandy.

I’d agonized over whether a story about a Haitian girl was good enough, whether I should send one about a regular black American girl instead and not dig so deep into culture and mythology.  It’s one thing to write fantasy as a person of color, it’s another thing to write as an immigrant and pull from your own culture to tell a story that can resonate with anyone.

There are lots of us writing, and it would be such a disservice to children who are desperately in need of mirrors and windows to not provide resources for writers of color to hone their craft. Prizes, awards, grant money, scholarships—just about anything that would close the gap in some way.  Yep, the New Visions Award is one step towards that, and SCBWI did something similar with their On-the-Verge Emerging Voices Award.  Hopefully, with time, more avenues will open up.

And yes, congratulations fellow Whos!  I’m honored to be a finalist and in such great company.

Ibi Zoboi’s short stories have been anthologized in The Caribbean Writer, Dark Matter 2,  and Haiti Noir edited by Edwidge Danticat, among others.  She’s received grants in Writing from the Brooklyn Arts Council and is studying Writing for Children & Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.  She’s a mom of three, married to a visual artist, and teaches writing in New York City public schools. You can find her at www.ibizoboi.com.

Akwaeke Zara Emezi, Brooklyn, NY

I came across Tu Books by chance, while going through the contest listings on the Poets & Writers website. The New Visions Award struck me because of how specific its guidelines were, and as a writer of color, I leapt at the opportunity to be part of something geared specifically towards children of color. I’m the Igbo and Tamil child of a Nigerian man and a Malaysian woman, and I grew up in Nigeria, straddling cultures like most mixed kids do, marked as ‘half-caste’ and essentially a foreigner in my home community. Finding places where I belong has always been important to me.  quote 4

Both my parents loved reading and made sure I had a constant supply of books as a child growing up in Aba. Most of these books were written by authors such as Enid Blyton and C.S. Lewis, and they all featured white children as the characters. Therefore, when I started writing books as a child (here’s one of them), all the people I created in my make believe worlds were also white and with Western names, even though I was born and raised in a deeply Igbo region of Nigeria. The books I’d read were the usual portal into other realities, which I ruthlessly applied to my childhood, convinced that pixies lived in the patch of grass in front of our house and that fairies filled my bedroom, entertained by my sister and I playing. It was easier to fit into these imaginary places.

My love for speculative fiction developed from this, and the chance to develop a fantasy world for the New Visions Award was a perfect match for me. I actually wrote Somadina specifically for this award after I found out about it, penning down a few chapters to meet the submission deadline and drawing heavily from Igbo culture and history to craft a world that I would have liked a portal to myself. I wrote with young adults in mind and worried that perhaps some elements of the story would be a little too dark, but I kept reminding myself that the reality for many young adults of color is that they are likely to personally witness or experience the ‘dark’ themes that are present in my narrative. I had to stay true to the story and tell it the way it was insisting on being told.

All in all, I’m deeply honoured to be a finalist with all these other amazing writers, and extremely grateful to Tu Books for its existence and for this opportunity.

Akwaeke Zara Emezi is an Igbo and Tamil writer who was born and raised in the south of Nigeria. She started writing at five and in the succinct words of her seven year old self- “Her ambition is to be a world famous writer and artist. She has a family of 5 and loves art and books. Her hobby is writing.” Akwaeke now lives in Brooklyn and can be found online at www.azemezi.com.

Meet Our Other Two New Vision Finalists

Filed under: Awards, Musings & Ponderings, Tu Books Tagged: diversity, New Visions Award, Power of Words, Race issues, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Teens/YA, Tu Books, writing contests

2 Comments on Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part II, last added: 2/28/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment
21. Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part III

New Visions Award sealLast month we announced the finalists of our first New Visions Award, a new writing award for a debut author of color for a middle grade or young adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery novel. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting these talented finalists on our blog as they answer questions about what inspires them, the writing process, and more. Perhaps among these five finalists you’ll find your next favorite author!

Q: What has been your experience writing from a different cultural background that may be unfamiliar to most young readers? 

Ibi Zoboi, Haiti.

While most readers are familiar with Edwidge Danticat, there are, of course, other Haitian and non-Haitian writers telling stories about Haitian children. M. Sindy Felin’s Touching Snow was a National Book Award Finalist.  The recent winner of the Printz Award is In Darkness, a story about a Haitian boy during the earthquake written by Nick Lake. One of my favorite Haitian YA books is Taste of Salt by the late Frances Temple.

Haiti has an amazing literary tradition and under a brutal dictatorship, writers either risked their lives or were sent into exile. So, for me, writing about Haiti is very political.  Though, my stories are cloaked in a world of magic.  What better way to convey Haiti’s complex history and mythology than in a young adult fantasy novel?  This simply adds another layer of depth to what young readers already know about Haiti, or any given culture.  They must know that culture is multi-dimensional and is not regulated to the superficial “facts” in the media. This is why mythology breathes life into everything I write.  While the names and magical systems differ, there is an interconnecting power in world mythology that can resonate with any reader.

Ailynn Knox-Collins, Earth.

I’ve lived in six countries and been a citizen of three, so it’s hard to decide where my origins lie. I immersed myself into the language and culture of each of the lands that have housed me and made me feel welcome. Yet, I belong to none in particular. Many people live in a culture different from their ancestors or like me, have ancestors from all over. We learn to hang on to the crucial values and adapt to others within our environment.

As a child, for example, I learned to ‘chameleon’ my accent simply to fit in. I write to discover who I am and I believe I’m not alone in this journey. In my books, I place my characters in almost sterile environments just to see what happens, so what is truly important can bubble to the surface. It seems appropriate in my form of science fiction, where the story is set in space, and humanity must rebuild itself by deciding what to keep and what to leave behind. I pepper the stories with values and beliefs I’ve picked up on the way, hoping that many of these are universal, since in the end, we are all but citizens of this one tiny planet.

Valynne E. Maetani, Japan.

Though I am fourth-generation pure Japanese, there were many traditions that my family maintained.  As a child, I removed my shoes before I entered the house, ate certain kinds of foods on holidays, and threw salt over my shoulder on New Year’s Day. But I had no idea why we did the things we did. For me, writing about the Japanese culture has been a way of sharing and understanding the meaning and purpose behind the traditions.

I like writing for young adults because it’s an age where kids no longer do things just because their parents tell them to. It’s an age where they begin to question why on a much deeper level. In order for traditions to be preserved, I think it’s important to first understand the why and the rich history behind those traditions and second, important to share that knowledge with others.

Rahul Kanakia, India.

There is a lot of literature about the Indian diasporic experience. And, when I was around fourteen years old, I went through a phase where I read a fair amount of it.

And I hated it.

The standard Indian immigrant narrative is about the angst and the pain of being trapped between worlds. It is about attempting to assimilate and finding that assimilation was impossible. It is about attempting to recover an Indian cultural identity and finding that to be impossible as well. It is, fundamentally, about always feeling alone in the world. Kind of a grim future to outline for a fourteen year old who just wants to, you know, experience the world and make friends and write books and be happy.

So I try to write stories where Indian protagonists aren’t oppressed by their heritage. I think part of the reason I like writing science fiction is that in an SF novel, there’s always something else going on. You might be struggling to fit in…but you’re also struggling to fight off the zombie hordes.

Akwaeke Emezi, Nigeria + Malaysia.

My cultural background is blended- I was born in Nigeria and lived there until I left for college, so I identify very strongly with being Igbo. I was also raised with my mother’s Malaysian culture, so although I can’t cook Nigerian food to save my life, I tie my own saris, wear jade, and ritually stockpile Baba’s Curry Powder. However, moving to the States brought my nationality to the foreground as an immigrant, and that was when I realized how much growing up in Nigeria impacted my identity.

I deliberately reached for what felt like home and birthright while I was writing Somadina. I was born where my father was born and his father before him, so I constructed a fantasy world around Igbo culture and traditional religion. Other than Nnedi Okorafor’s delightful work, I hadn’t seen my culture represented in speculative fiction, so I saturated this story in it.

I also write from different points of myself outside of my ethnicities, but elements of my cultures often seep through in a name/food/phrase. After all, where I come from shapes who I am now, with half a body in the otherworld, stories coming through my teeth, and all.

Further Reading:

What brought our New Visions finalists to Tu Books and to the New Visions Award competition in particular?

Ailynn and Valynne answer

Ibi, Rahul, and Akwaeke answer

Filed under: Awards, Musings & Ponderings, Tu Books Tagged: cultural diversity, different cultures, diversity, New Visions Award, Power of Words, Race issues, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Teens/YA, Tu Books, writing, writing contests

3 Comments on Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part III, last added: 3/1/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment
22. Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part IV

New Visions Award sealIn January we announced the finalists of our first New Visions Award, a new writing award for a debut author of color for a middle grade or young adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery novel. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting these talented finalists on our blog as they answer questions about what inspires them, the writing process, and more. Perhaps among these five finalists you’ll find your next favorite author!

Previous posts by our New Visions finalists:

Q: What was your relationship to books and reading as a child or teenager?  In what ways did you see yourself represented in books?

Ailynn Knox-Collins

I was seven when I attended my first boarding school. Determined to hate the experience, I succeeded at being miserable. Over the next few years, I changed school six times. I was always the new kid, but I wasn’t the nice one. I got into fights, defied teachers and even started a gang to beat up boys (I didn’t actually beat up anyone). Adults whispered about me when they thought I wasn’t listening. I was the poor child whose parents were getting a divorce. Because of that, I got away with everything which just made me more miserable.

Then one day, a teacher introduced me to CS Lewis and his worlds brought a spark into my self-imposed misery. Books became my escape. I devoured every story, mostly fantasy at first. I began to write as well, putting myself in places where I could be somewhere or someone else. Meeting Austen, Hardy and the Bronte sisters began my love affair with classical English literature. Those were wonderful years. Finally, Asimov came along and that opened the world of science fiction to me. Life became hopeful even while aliens were invading and snatching bodies, because the heroes always triumphed. And that’s where I kept seeing myself, whether or not the characters looked like me or spoke like me. They came out on top at the end and in my darkest moments, that was what I needed the most.

Ibi Zoboi

I was one of those statistical kids who did not own books. My mother worked two jobs to send me to Catholic school and we lived in a part of Brooklyn where little girls did not skip to the library on their own.  We did own encyclopedias, though, but not novels and picture books.  This had more to do with culture rather than economics.  For students in Haiti, reading was more for rote memorization of textbooks. That’s what my mother made me do with the encyclopedias.

I was dealing with some q3serious identity issues by the time I got to high school.  We’d moved to suburban Queens and I went to a mostly white Catholic high school.  I desperately wanted mirror stories but I’d settled on having some sort of movie star idol instead.  Halle Berry was just starting out then and she had starred in the TV movie Alex Haley’s Queen.  That’s what led me to reading the actual book. Then I read Alex Haley’s Roots and looked for other titles in that section of my high school’s library—slave narratives (which at some point led me to Octavia Butler’s Kindred).  Then I got mad at the world and worked in a bookstore all throughout college and read everything I could afford on my employee discount (RIP Waldenbooks).

It all started with wanting to see an image of beauty and success that was real to me. Halle’s hair was short and she was black and she’d been a heroine. I don’t think I would’ve been so superficial if I’d seen some of those images in books as a child.

Rahul Kanakia

My mom gave me Isaac Asimov’s Foundation when I was around 10 years old. She’d first read it as a kid in Mumbai in the 1960s. I loved the book’s thought-provoking premise and epic scope and I knew that I wanted more of that. Until I went to college, I only read science fiction and fantasy novels: mostly hard science fiction, space operas, military SF, epic fantasy, and swords and sorcery.

All of these subgenres are largely comprised of adventure stories. They’re about heroes who triumph over tremendous obstacles. And, because I read hundreds and hundreds of these books, I wanted to grow up and become a hero. Many SF fans of color go through a period of disillusionment when they realize that the genre doesn’t care to represent them. That did not happen to me. For whatever reason, I had no trouble identifying with the square-jawed white protagonists.

My disillusionment arose when I realized that heroism is a bit of a sham. It doesn’t exist in real life. Or, at least, not in the way that they write about it in the stories. Of course, everyone realizes that eventually. And, after growing up, some people are still able to find value in the metaphor: the hero represents some spiritual transcendence or state of striving. But I was never able to get over my disappointment. To this day, I find it difficult to read a traditionally-structured SF novel.

Valynne E. Maetani

In the third grade, I skipped recess so that I could read a series of non-fiction books. Each detailed the life of someone famous in history. Only one of those books was about a woman: Marie Curie.quote2 Shewas smart and brave, and I wondered if I could ever be like her. Often, my father would surprise me with books. Each had strong female characters like those in Little Women or The Good Earth. In our Asian culture, where emotions are rarely exposed, this was his way of telling me that he believed I could be brave and strong like Madame Curie, the March women, or O-Lan.

At some point, I fell in love with mysteries, devouring Encyclopedia Brown and eventually books by Agatha Christie. Yet I realized there were rarely characters of color. So a few years ago I decided to write a book for my youngest sister’s eighteenth birthday. I had a vague idea of the storyline but knew it would be a mystery; the protagonist would be a strong young woman; and she and her family would be Japanese. What I wanted to share through my writing is that as much as we try to fit in with those around us, we will always be different. I realized, once I was older, that being different is the precise thing my friends loved about me and my family. At the heart of it, we are all humans at the mercy of human experiences, and our differences should be embraced and appreciated rather than dismissed.

Akwaeke Emezi

My relationship to reading has always been a huge part of my life and luckily, both my parents were avid readers who happily loaded me up with books. I read everything I could find; my favorites were authors like Lewis Carroll, Kipling, James Herriot, Enid Blyton, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, etc. I also reaquote1 smalld several classics as a child/teen simply because they were in my house and I needed things to read: Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, The Odyssey, A Tale of Two Cities, etc. I remember reading Flowers in the Attic before I was ten…that was quite an experience!

I was always reading at the dinner table, at school while on break, by candlelight because the power was always out, in the bathroom- I was insatiable and churned through books quickly. We had an outdoor book market at the Post Office in my town in Nigeria, where you could bring second hand books and swap them out for more, which was a great resource.

As a child/teen, I always felt there was a place for me in all the books I read because that’s what fantasy and fiction had taught me, that I could belong anywhere because everything was possible.

Further Reading:

Meet Our New Visions Finalists I

Meet Our New Visions Finalists II

Meet Our New Visions Finalists III

Filed under: Awards, guest blogger, Musings & Ponderings, Tu Books Tagged: diversity, New Visions Award, Power of Words, promoting diversity, Race issues, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Teens/YA, writing contests

1 Comments on Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part IV, last added: 3/5/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment
23. A SUPER Writing Contest for Kids

If you are in grades 3-6, you can enter the BE A SUPER HERO, READ! contest sponsored by Capstone Publishing and DC Comics. All you have to do is write about a super hero in your life--a real one, that is.

Winners get an exclusive tour of DC Entertainment Offices, a tour of Warner Brothers Animation Studio, and a set of Capstone Man of Steel chapter books.

Who is the Wonder Woman or Man in your life? Write about him or her and you may have the chance for some SUPER prizes.

0 Comments on A SUPER Writing Contest for Kids as of 3/7/2013 4:44:00 PM
Add a Comment
24. Just CLICK and CONNECT!

When it comes to celebrating Teen Technology, I feel Mary Ann’s and Jill’s pain.
I don’t exactly qualify as a Teen. 
(Click HERE to see just which high school Reunion I’m attending this May.) 
And, this is the book I’m currently reading.
I also boldly revealed my Inner Luddite in a post last March.  (Click HERE.)


I sure do love to CLICK, then follow the links to CONNECT with all sorts of wondrous People, Places and Things.
Oh, the Possibilities!
Ah, the Opportunities!

For instance, there I was,
letting my fingers stroll the Internet on behalf of a writer with a UK-suited book,
and what did I come upon but

That’s why I’m wishing you a belated Happy World Book Day!
This site is ripe with new books, authors and curriculum connections for readers, writers, teachers and librarians.
(And yes, I found three, count ’em, three publishing possibilities for my writer.)

Booklist Editor Gillian Engberg sent me a lovely Quick Tips email, calling my attention
to Writing Resources for the Common Core Classroom.
Clicking and connecting I came upon a terrific timely opportunity for Kiddos co-sponsored by DC Comics and Capstone – The “Be a Super Hero, Read!” Writing Contest.  Running through April 15, the Contest encourages kids in grades 3 through 6 to write about a real-life superhero in their lives. 
Click HERE for the Rules.

And speaking of writing Kiddos, how could I not click on the Denver Post’s Next Gen, the online newspaper for youth-written stories.
I’d met several middle school reporters during my visit to the Colorado International Reading Association Conference in February.
Click HERE and connect to Collin Colaizzi and his write-up of author and Writing Guru Ralph Fletcher’s talk on the importance of a Writer’s Notebook.

It turns out that, despite my long-gone teenage years and my lack of Tech savvy, my  Inner Luddite and I have had One Swell Time CLICKING and CONNECTING this past week, occasioning numerous opportunities to showcase our gelasins.

(Click HERE if you’re eager to learn last week’s A.Word.A.Day.)

Who knows?
Maybe someday soon I’ll be CLICKING and MANUFACTURING, thanks to the opportunities and possibilities of  Tech’s newest child, 3-D Printing!


Happy Clicking and Connecting!
Esther Hershenhorn

Be sure to click HERE to enter to win Tamera Wissinger’s Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse. You only have until 11 pm, Wednesday, March 13.

0 Comments on Just CLICK and CONNECT! as of 3/11/2013 9:36:00 AM
Add a Comment
25. Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part V: Diversity in Genre Fiction

New Visions Award sealIn January we announced the finalists of our first New Visions Award, a new writing award for a debut author of color for a middle grade or young adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery novel. Over the last few weeks, we’ve highlighted these talented finalists on our blog as they answer questions about what inspires them, the writing process, and more. Perhaps among these five finalists you’ll find your next favorite author!

Previously, our New Visions finalists shared their experiences as young readers, and whether they saw themselves represented in books.

In this last post, they share their final thoughts on diversity in genre fiction for middle grade and young adult readers:

Ailynn Knox-Collins

I applaud the efforts that publishers like Tu Books are making to bring diversity into children’s lite  rature. I am humbled and grateful to have been given a small part to play here. I may not ever be published but I will always be writing and will most certainly be a reader for the rest of my life. As a teacher of children from all over the world, I am excited to introduce them to a new stage of diversity in books, where they may find themselves reflected in the stories.

From where I stand, the future of children's fiction is looking up.From where I stand, the future of children’s fiction is looking up. They will see more and more books where the covers feature people like them, of all races and creeds, beliefs and lifestyles. Everyone will have a chance to be a hero and every reader will find a place for themselves in the thrilling worlds of mystery, fantasy and science fiction. I can’t hide the huge smile on my face because the child in me is thrilled. I am so proud to be a part of this movement. I hope more writers of color will be encouraged to write from their cultural backgrounds and enrich the book world with new ideas. It wouldn’t surprise me that although the names and settings have been changed, in the end, we’ll discover that there is much that we share with each other; that we have more in common than we realize.

Valynne E. Maetani

Somewhere out there are children just like me. They use reading as a way to escape life’s obstacles. They enjoy being sucked into magical worlds that challenge their imaginations. Sometimes books help them realize their problems are not as bad as they seem. They realize through characters that difficulties are a part of the human experience, but there are others like them who feel and react the same way they do.

In other ways, those same children might be not like me. They are children who might know little about Japan and its foods or customs. They may not have any idea what’s it’s like to grow up Japanese-American or understand how deep-rooted our traditions are.

For all children, books are a way of making connections and allowing them to experience something new. Diversity in middle grade and young adult literature enriches the reading experience by increasing the breadth and depth of what our children have access to, and because of this, there is also an increased chance for children to connect and learn. Both characters and authors of color can provide an introduction to unique perspectives. I find that most intolerance stems from a lack of understanding, and books are one forum which can equip children with information. I’m not naïve enough to think diversity in genre fiction will change everything, but every time we connect with a child, we open doors, and that makes writing worth it.

Rahul Kanakia

In any discussion of diversity, the shadow constituency is white people. Obviously, it’s really nice for teens of color to see depictions of themselves in the media that they consume. But unless those depictions also appeal in some way to white people, then those depictions will not get the major play People don't consume media because it's good for them. They consume it because they want to be entertained.that they need in order to be published and widely distributed in a way that makes sure they get into the hands of people of color.

And, of course, we all know that it’s good for white people to see the diversity of the world. But that also doesn’t matter. People don’t consume media because it’s good for them. They consume it because they want to be entertained.

So the challenge is to create depictions of PoC that are also entertaining to white people. It’s hard. And it’s often a bit unsatisfying. Writing for an outsider audience means including explanations and “authentic” detail that insiders don’t necessarily need, or want, to see. And if you veer too much in that direction, then you alienate people of your own culture. And that alienation can often be good business, actually, because those people are actually just a tiny fraction of your audience and in terms of getting fame and book sales it makes a lot more sense to feed the preferences of a white audience that hungers for PoC characters who hang around in this tiny sweet spot where they’re alien enough to be picturesque but also relatable enough that they don’t pose a serious challenge to majority culture.

Akwaeke Emezi

I’m curious about what effect it would have had on me as a child and young adult to have had access to more fiction with characters that looked like me, or that came from cultures that I could have related to with more ease. I’ll never know, but I believe that kids nowadays should definitely have access to all that material and I am grateful for all those who are working to make this happen.

Disclaimer- I’m not very immersed in the writer world so this conversation is somewhat new to me. However, it seems to me that diversity in genre fiction (or the lack thereof) is essentially a race issue- who is considered the default race and the limited range of cultures, descriptions, etc that spring forth from that. It’s just not representative of the real world and it does people and children of color a disservice. Stories help people relate to whatever they’re reading about- I had no problem as a child believing that pixies lived in my compound or imagining that the tree in our backyard was The Faraway Tree even though all Enid Blyton characters were white. All children (all people, actually) would benefit greatly from having access to diverse fiction and being exposed to different cultures and people.

Ibi Zoboi

Culturally relevant stories will equip these students with the level of critical thinking skills the standards are asking of them.I teach in New York City public schools as a writer-in-residence.  So I have a pretty good idea of what inner city children and teens are dealing with in terms of literacy. These new Common Core Learning Standards are asking students to read broadly and deeply—more informational nonfiction texts.  And part of my job entails listening to teachers complain how this is a huge leap for many of their students. They’re being asked to argue these complex ideas and think critically, yet they have very little sense of themselves, their world and their place in it.

When I teach fiction in places like Brooklyn and the Bronx, I’d get so many blue-eyed, blonde-haired characters in these stories you’d think we were in Norman Rockwell’s America.  They’re emulating what they have to read. Reading the classics is a good thing. But culturally relevant stories will equip these students with the level of critical thinking skills the standards are asking of them.  A great number of sci-fi classics can be paired with well-written YA dystopian novels, for example.  And what if they can see themselves and their culture in these books?  Orwell’s 1984 then becomes that much more relevant.

Underrepresented students who experience school closures, substandard housing, and violence need to be able to think critically about a genre MG or YA novel and how it relates to them.  They need to see themselves taking center stage in heroic stories before they can begin to affect change in their own communities.

Further Reading:

Meet Our New Visions Finalists I: How we got involved in the New Visions Award

Meet Our New Visions Finalists II: How we got involved in the New Visions Award

Meet Our New Visions Finalists III: Writing for people of different backgrounds

Meet Our New Vision Finalists IV: Your relationship to books as a young reader

Filed under: guest blogger, Musings & Ponderings, Tu Books Tagged: diversity, New Visions Award, Power of Words, promoting diversity, Race issues, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Teens/YA, Tu Books, writing contests

3 Comments on Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part V: Diversity in Genre Fiction, last added: 3/14/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts