I just returned from my first ever SCBWI annual summer conference, and I left with some wonderful takeaways about diversity and representation.
There was talk everywhere not just of diversity and representation, but about their refinement and evolution. I sensed a shared vision of diversity and representation becoming more granular, more nuanced, and more integral. Here are some of my key takeaways:
Diversity is not enough- Renee Watson called on the industry to represent the diversity within diversity.
Adversity isn’t the whole story. Meg Medina, Renee Watson and others reminded us to represent the joy within adversity.
Agent Molly O'Neill said that any manner of diversity factors can and should work their way into the 2nd or 3rd notes of the next wave of novels, as opposed to staying pigeonholed as “top notes” of “issue books.”
These themes showed up with regard to mental health and disability representation as well. Anna Shinoda encouraged authors to let mental health conditions complicate the plot rather than constitute the plot, and hopes to see these main characters break out of contemporary realism and show up (as protagonists, not antagonists) in fantasy, speculative fiction, and other genres.
I left the conference with so much food for thought!