Diversity in YA, Take 2

I can’t read fiction right now. (I hate when this happens, but it usually means my brain is working on my own creative projects, which is a good thing.) I can barely read non-fiction, which makes my hour-long commute bo-ring.

So instead I’ve been pondering.

And one of the things I’ve been pondering is why I liked the Diversity in YA panel so much.

First, it’s a subject near and dear to my heart: diversity among the authors of fiction (especially YA and scifi/fantasy, the genre I read the most) and diversity among the characters in fiction. And the diverse panelists were there to talk about this very subject to a sympathetic audience. I say sympathetic because this topic can become very fraught with accusations of white-washing or intolerance and racism. Because of the nature of the panel and the questions asked by audience members, the audience was filled with fans, people of color and allies; sympathetic.

Many of the panels of authors I’ve been to have had one or two people of color, or none at all. Ditto on the gay or queer, or gay or queer friendly authors. So to have a whole panel that was diverse was a joy, a validation, and an exciting mirror and window, as someone said. As best I remember, three of the panelists identified themselves as Asian Americans (one South Asian and two South-East Asian), three as black and one as Latino. Among them, three said they identified as biracial as well, one as a lesbian and one as queer.

Second, they were all awesome authors. Ok, I admit, I have only read the books of two of the seven, but they sure came across as awesome.

Third, the moderator, Cheryl Klein, from Arthur A. Levine Books, who is white (I assume, although you know what happens when you assume. However, since she didn’t say, I have to), was everything you want a moderator to be:  prepared, a good speaker, a good timekeeper, had excellent questions and of course knew her stuff.

Fourth, I think everyone is curious about race, ethnicity and sexual diversity. Oftentimes that curiosity gets constricted by notions of what it is acceptable to speak about, discomfort with the topic, racism, lack of ways to express it, etc. So to have a panel on the topic — and one where, at least to me, it didn’t seem like the authors were being asked to or expected to represent for their entire group —  was fun. More, it satisfied a deep seated need to think about and explore these topics with like-minded people in a very specific context: the YA reading and writing context.



From the marvelous Jennifer Garam, Founder, Writeous Chicks Writing for Women
In this seminar you will:
Gain an introduction to Writeous Chicks & Jennifer’s creativity techniques
Get a sampling of 6-week class Celebrate Your Voice! (and celebrate your SELF while you’re at it)
Participate in fun & freeing exercises
Mix & mingle with other fabulous women
WRITE, in a supportive, nurturing, & celebratory environment
This seminar is designed for women at ALL LEVELS with their writing practice – from brand-new beginners to experienced pros.  All that matters is that you have a passion for writing & a desire to write!
Date:  Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
Time:  6:45pm-9:45pm
Place:  A convenient Midtown Manhattan location, close to the A/C/E trains
Contact:  Jennifer Garam ● (917) 509-7564 ● jeng@writeouschicks.comRegistration Fee:  Only $25!
Space is limited, sign up today!
What Students Have To Say About Writeous Chicks Classes & Workshops…
“Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!  This class has been amazing!  It was everything I expected and so much more.  The goals I had coming into class have all been met – it pushed my limits, forced me to delve in further and made me more comfortable sharing my thoughts and feelings.  I am grateful for what it has opened up in me…All of the assignments are fun, exciting, unique and juicy!  Absolutely fabulous!”
     -Julie, 33, Event Planner
“First of all, thank you Jen for creating this writing workshop.  It felt so great to just be free and moving and alive and writing without any censors… or naysayer voices telling me I have no time…it empowers me to be around women who are on the path of self-knowledge, self-growth, self-praise….willing to let go of the negative to pursue their dreams.” 
   -Sara, 30+, Investor Relations
“Jennifer Garam is inspirational, she opens the door to the path of creativity and boundless opportunity.  Her writing is her own voice she holds nothing back, as her student it created a safe and open space for me to delve deeper into my own life.  She is true, authentic, loving, and one of the greatest writing instructors I will ever have.”
   -Rachel, 22, Operations Assistant
“I love your workshops.  You really attract a great group of women, and I love the personal growth context in them as well.  I’ve come to the right place to learn.”
“I just had the most wonderful experience on Saturday…It’s not only a freeing, creative process but a wonderful bonding experience as well…And of course…thank you so much for all the wonderful things you did, taught, and helped to create!  I’m still energized.”
“Things are crazy good with me.  I feel such a shift since “removing obstacles.”  The work you do is soooooooo empowering!”
   -Robyn Myhr, Holistic Health Coach
Jennifer Garam graduated summa cum laude from Boston College with a degree in English and Theatre. She has studied writing at the Northwestern University Summer Writers’ Conference, Sarah Lawrence Playwriting Conference, and Ensemble Studio Theatre, and acting at The Neighborhood Playhouse and The Barrow Group. Three of Jennifer’s one-act plays have been selected for The Samuel French Festival. In addition to readings at The Lark Play Development Center, The Belt Theatre, and the Time Inc. Author Connection Reading Series, she has performed her solo material at the Drama Desk Award-Winning Barrow Group Theatre. Jennifer’s celebrity music articles have appeared in Interview magazine. She writes the blog “One Writeous Chick” at http://www.writeouschicks.wordpress.com/, and her writing has also appeared on DailyOm.com, DivineCaroline.com, the blog “Hip Slope Mama,” Health.com, and The Huffington Post.  As the founder of WRITEOUS CHICKS®, she teaches writing workshops for women with an emphasis on personal growth, self-care, and having fun!  Jennifer has been practicing yoga for 11 years, and infuses her passion for spirituality in all her teachings.

Copyright © 2006-09 by Jennifer Garam

Finite Words

I volunteered at the Brooklyn Book Festival  today thanks to Marcela Landres  and sat in on a portion of Edwidge Danticat’s talk. Edwidge is a great writer, but she’s also a good speaker and has the kind of presence that makes you want to be around her. The fifteen minutes I stole to listen to her were well worth the 4 hours I put in volunteering. (Tickets were free all sessions, but I hate waiting on those lines.)

During the question and answer section, a woman in the audience asked Edwidge what she liked most about writing and what challenges she encountered. Her answer: what she likes most about writing is the writing. She said she’s not happy unless she’s writing. As for the challenges: that what you put on paper never matches what you have in your mind. Early on, Edwidge talked to one of her mentors about her frustration with a writing project. The mentor told her: Everyone has the same problem. The mind is infinite and you are attempting to capture that with the finite number of words contained in language. (More or less, I didn’t write it down.) And that you have to just keep going.

It always helps to hear it one more time: Just keep going.

Other pluses of the day: I met Paul Auster …well, he asked me where he could sit and I told him. That counts as meeting in my book. Plus my husband is going to be so jealous that I got to breathe his second-hand cigar smoke. I attended the session with Jonathan Lethem and Mary Gaitskill and learned how to pronounce his name. Lee-them not Ley-them. I ran into Teri and Matt at Horse+Dragon.

Also I got to spend the day outside, after two weeks chained to my computer and I biked there, ditto the two weeks and my computer. And I talked to people, ditto ditto.

All in all, no minuses. Definitely check it out next year.