Saturday, October 18, 2014

Kickstart Diversity in Kidlit


It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway), we need diversity in children's literature. Thankfully, here comes Dreaming Robot Press to help make a difference:

"Girls need to read stories where any number of possible roles are modeled for them. Just as importantly, boys need to read stories where girls are active participants in adventures. And children of all colors and backgrounds need to know the future includes them."

If you have a square -- I mean, dollar -- to spare, then please check out this Kickstarter page for the Young Explorer's Adventure Guide. 20 middle-grade sci-fi short stories. 80% with central female characters. Black, white, Asian, Latino. Human and robot. Everyone belongs.

I'm SO excited to be a part of this anthology (especially one that pays the pro rate. woo-hoo!). And as of October 17, a little over 50% of the goal has been pledged, but the project will only be funded if the full $3,500 is pledged by November 19thAny and all support is greatly appreciated. 

Please help spread the word!
PlayWrite
http://www.bysonjathomas.com/

Monday, October 13, 2014

We Need Diverse Everything



There's been a lot of talk in the children's publishing industry around diversity. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign started in a Twitter exchange on April 17, 2014 between authors Ellen Oh and Malinda Lo expressing their frustration with the lack of diversity in kidlit in response to the all-white, all-male panel of children's authors assembled for BookCon's reader event.

This need has been expressed many times over the years. From the 1965 article published in The Saturday Review titled "The All-White World of Children's Books" to the 2013 New York Times piece "Where Are the People of Color in Children's Books?"

The sad truth is that the need for diversity is critical in all forms of media, expression and entertainment. And it doesn't end with the color of skin. Whether it be female, sexual orientation, or differently abled, the world is more than your average white guy.

What makes reading such a unique collaboration between author and reader, is that the reader brings their individual perspective and world outlook to add to the story, truly bringing the story to life. I can only speak for myself, but the "visual" that goes on in my head while reading doesn't necessarily match the description on the page (or even the book cover jacket). Most times it's as if I'm in the main character's shoes, experiencing his adventure.

I don't want to be spoon-fed only physical characteristics or stereo-typical traits and situations in order to bring more diversity into the world of books. Books need diverse experiences where the reader connects emotionally to the story line. I'm not a white girl growing up in New Jersey, nor did I ever wear belted sanitary napkins. But I remember being fully in love with the book Are You There God? It's Me Margaret, because I connected with the 6th grader's authentic truth of exploring religion and dealing with preteen female issues (buying a first bra, getting her first period, liking boys, etc).

Stories...no matter if it's a song, movie, book or news segment...connect us with others by "living" through another's experience. I would love more than anything to see greater diversity, on the screen and on the page. The more we see and read other's struggles and triumphs, of people with different beliefs, status and race, the more we'll realize that we all experience the same emotions and desires, just in different ways.

diversify your world,
PlayWrite
http://www.bysonjathomas.com/

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Inspiration Station

Inspiration Station, DoubleTree by Hilton PDX, NE 9th & Multnomah


On my way to the Willamette Writer's Conference back in August, this "box on a pole" caught my eye. Turns out there are five Inspiration Stations in the Lloyd District based on the poetry post concept: a wooden pole, usually mounted on private property, facing pedestrians...a box on top with a a glass face and lid...inside a sheet of paper containing a poem or some other artwork.

What a wonderful reminder to pay attention to the world around us. From a bird's morning song, to the calming aroma of Stumptown coffee, to the smile of a stranger. Inspiration is everywhere.

be inspired!
PlayWrite
http://www.bysonjathomas.com/

Friday, September 26, 2014

To Plot or Not to Plot



I used to plot-to-death. Then, I was a pantser. But now you may address me as part of the converted --- I'm a bit of both.

The trick is discovering what works best for you. There are endless plotting methods to play with (Hero's Journey; Save the Cat; Story Engineering; 3 Act Structure; and so on) or mash 'em up to create your own perfect plan.

When I saw Larry Brooks at the 2013 Willamette Writer's Conference, I loved his presentation "Fix Your Novel with One More Draft". Then a year later my friend loaned me her book, Story Engineering (by none other than Larry Brooks). I totally connected with it. No new concepts (as he even says himself), but for some reason taking the time to plot finally clicked.

So, I decided to take what I learned, along with what already worked for me, and apply it to my short story "The Doom of Wonder Bread." It was the best writing experience I've ever had...from idea to acceptance. And not once did I ever dread going back to my draft. I actually had to force myself not to touch it while waiting on critique feedback. Sure, it was sometimes hard, but it was never complicated.

For those that are curious, the entire process for my 6000 word middle grade sci-fi story lasted two and a half months. I found out about the 2014 Young Explorer's Adventure Guide in early June and spent ~ two weeks brainstorming ideas. Once I had a concept and theme and knew my main character, I started to write.

Tweeking Larry Brooks' story structure, I outlined my first plot point, decided how I wanted my story to end, and then backed into my midpoint and second plot point. Three weeks later, I had a clean first draft that I submitted to my critique group. A week later I received feedback and completed a second draft in two weeks (a scene cut, two scenes added, but the same plot). Another round of critiques and one final revision done in a week.

Then the best part: I submitted to Dreaming Robot Press on a Thursday, received an acceptance email the following Monday.

So there's something to be said about the right amount of plotting (just enough so you know where you're going), with the right mix of pantsing (to let the story show you how to get there). But the most important thing, enjoy the process.

plotter, pantser, whatever...just write!
PlayWrite
http://www.bysonjathomas.com/