Diversity in writing

Let me begin by saying that I am a walking example of diversity, of intersectionality. I am a queer, disabled, aboriginal, woman. These are my primary identities. I like them. I find it funny that some people think specific identities are bad things. Coming from someone else they can be. If someone identified my as “that disabled woman”, hell yes I would be angry. So when I describe myself in the terms above, people go out of their way to assure me that they only see me as a person.

Which is great, don’t get me wrong. The principle is awesome. But it simply doesn’t apply when I am self-identifying. Am I simply April? Of course. But April is made up of her experiences as a queer, aboriginal, disabled woman. So when I came across this article “The Trouble With Non-Diverse Journalists Writing for a Diverse Audience”, I was kind of surprised. I didn’t think anyone needed to be told what the trouble with that is. It was obvious to me. But I read the piece anyway because I’m interested in the topic of diversity in writing.

While the article focuses on journalists, I think it applies just as much to any writer. Ruchika Tulshyan opens with a story about her reaction to a 2010 TIME article complaining about Indian immigration to a small town in New Jersey, which included charming references such as “dot heads”. Tulshyan then moves on to a more recent piece on Shonda Rhimes in which the author refers to Rhimes as an “angry black woman.” Sigh.

Stein may have thought he was being humourous. Stanley may have thought she was paying tribute to Rhimes’ contributions to society. What they both were actually doing is perpetuating stereotypes. It’s disturbing that these articles made it through the checks and balances of the editorial process, but it doesn’t surprise me that they were written. Diversity in the news room, Tulshyan says, would likely have prevented this. The same principle exists in reading as well.
Authors often have tunnel vision about their work, and have a difficult picking out problematic aspects of their stories. You may think you’re paying tribute when your character wears a head-dress, but you are not. That’s cultural appropriation and may alienate a lot of readers. It can be prevented, however, through the beta reading process.

I encourage authors to have multiple beta readers. And here are my thoughts on who they should be:
– Ideally one person who is familiar with the genre you are writing in, and one who is not.
– Someone to focus solely on typos, spelling, grammar
– Another to focus on plot and characterization.
– If you are using any aspect of diversity that you are not a part of, find a person who is and ask them to beta read.

I’m a bit of a snob, I must admit. I totally judge people who write about cultures they have no lived in or with. And I know that’s incredibly unfair of me, and I am trying to break myself of the habit. But usually it’s obvious in the writing when someone doesn’t have a clue about How Things Work. It makes me angry because I feel like I’m being told that “This is what a [queer], [aboriginal], [disabled] [woman]’s life is like. This is what she is and this is her perspective” and no one wants to be told that.

Ultimately, if you can’t or won’t get a beta reader to ok your text from a cultural perspective or at least give you some cultural context, there is one other thing you can do. Ask yourself if you would say it to someone’s face. If your story is all about poor, black kids in the “hood” and you are not one of them nor can you find someone who is, ask yourself if you would say to a black friend that “THIS is what life is like for poor black people.”

Chances are you wouldn’t be confident enough to say it out loud, so don’t imply it in your writing.

Throw Back Thursday – Thanksgiving

(Originally posted October 2011)

To be truly thankful
One must realize
Both what they have
And have lost

Today I am thankful
For weakness and strength
Hope and realization
Desire and surrender

For you
But more for me
For my heart
Though it was lost

And for my soul
Because it is mine again
And stronger yet
In the reclaiming

Panels I want to see at Can Con

So I have my ticket for can con and I can’t wait.  All the panels sounded great last year, which makes it even sadder that I didn’t go.  I am determined to get myself  there this year.  To that end, these are the panels I want to see:

 

FRIDAY

Be It Resolved: “Stop Writing Novels – Write Short Fiction” – The Live Debate! Matthew Johnson (m), Geoff Gander

How to get traditionally published – Max Turner, Matt Moore (m), Matthew Johnson, Alison Sinclair, Julie Czerneda

Possibly the publisher party

SATURDAY

Science Fiction: I Can’t Believe You Haven’t Read That! David Hartwell, Jo Walton, Peter Halasz, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm
(m), Jonatahn Crowe

Book Pitches I: How To Pitch, 4 Editors’ Persepctives – Sandra Kasturi, Hayden Trenholm, Gabrielle Harbowy (m), Caroline
Frechette

Blood Stain Pattern Analysis – D/Cst. Ugo Garneau, Ottawa Police (warning: graphic images)

Taking the Next Step in a Creative Career – Jay Odjick, Gabrielle Harbowy, Linda Poitevin, Marie Bilodeau (m), Robin
Riopelle

Fantasy Literature: I Can’t Believe You Haven’t Read That! Kathryn Cramer, Peter Halasz, Jo Walton, Matthew Johnson (m),
Yves Menard

Face palms of world-Building, or, How to Fail Epically: Mark Robinson, Andrew Barton, Julie Czerneda,
Cenk Gokce

Advice on the Craft to Aspiring Writers: Jay Odjick, Julie Czerneda (m), Erik Buchanan, Mike Rimar

Enhancing Creative Imagination – Dr. Jim Davies, Institute of Cognitive Sciences, Carleton University

Left-Field Approaches to Publishing – Caroline Frechette, Hayden Trenholm (m), Su Sokol, Coreene Callahan

Getting Noticed (in a good way) in the Novel and Short Story Slush Piles: Mike Rimar, Nicole Lavigne (m), Sean Moreland,
Gabrielle Harbowy

Possibly the publisher party

SUNDAY

I’m kinda meh about sunday.  we shall see!

 

Throw Back Thursday — Golem

(originally posted April 4th 2012)

 

GOLEM

There’s a girl
A woman
Inside that puppet
That mask
That golem
That was “you”

Somewhere deep
Deep inside the dirt
And mud
And dark whispers
Of the lies
You created

Is you
That woman
The girl
I still think of

She exists

And someday I hope
She digs herself out
Soiled and bloody
Damaged and torn
Regretful and
Full of effort
And calm determination

And I hope when
You finally see her
See you
In the mirror
Free of your cell
You will love her
Love you

As I tried to do.

Can Con 2014

So I finally picked up a weekend membership to attend Can-Con, the Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts & Literature.  I’ve been meaning to for a while, but wanted to wait and see what some of the programming looked like before I committed.  The full schedule isn’t available yet, but what is up on the site looks fantastic.  Last year did too (more on that later), so I should just continually buy a pass every year and stop doubting the awesomeness.

There’s a partial list of programming up, and based on that, this is what I’m looking forward to the most so far:

  • First and foremost, my friend and fellow author S.M. Carrere is doing a reading from her upcoming release The Winter Wolf (look for it October 31st 2014).  The Winter Wolf is a follow up to The Summer Bird.
  • The Economics of Self-Publishing
  • Face Palms of World Building
  • Getting Noticed in the Slush Piles
  • Reading Fantasy
  • Readers Supporting Magazines
  • Science: Can We Time Travel?
  • Social Media (101 Pts 1&2)
  • Writer Development Workshops – Are They Worth it?
  • The Whedonverse

All in all it looks great.  I bought a pass last year and didn’t go at all.  Too depressed and too much anxiety.  Lets hope I get myself there this year.