An Oversight in My Submissions Guidelines, Now Corrected

I have been following the post-Liar-cover-controversy discussions about race and children's publishing with great interest, particularly Neesha Meminger's wonderful essay on power and privilege; Elizabeth Bluemle's ShelfTalker post, "Where's Ramona Quimby, Black and Pretty?", its followup today, and the list of multicultural books that grew out of it; Zetta Elliott's provocative "Something Like an Open Letter to the Children's Publishing Industry"; and the comments on all of these posts. This Newsweek article, "See Baby Discriminate," is also fascinating and instructive on the prevalence of white privilege that Neesha invokes and the negative consequences of that; and Mitali Perkins's "Straight Talk on Race" offered many useful questions about multicultural publishing and writing all the way back in April.

As a result of all of these articles and conversations that grew out of them, I was ashamed to realize today that my "What I'm Looking For" on my website did not include something that I've always been looking for, and something indeed my publishing reflects -- that is, my interest in seeing projects from writers and illustrators of color. This is a hard thing to talk about because race is such a sensitive issue, and people on all sides are so quick to feel slighted by the idea that someone else is getting a preference because of it. I can only say that my interest as an editor and publisher is in working to create really good books that show the whole range of children's and YA life experiences; and that most definitely includes the experience of nonwhite characters, and the contributions of nonwhite writers and illustrators.

(And it's sort of sad, frankly, that I just wrote a pre-emptive defense of this policy for white people who may feel slighted by it. White people who feel slighted: Please read all those links and comments and remember that good fiction writing is 90 percent imagining yourself in someone else's shoes. Also, while I'm recommending links, everyone of all races should read Ta-Nehisi Coates's blog at the Atlantic website; he's a gorgeous writer, and very thoughtful about race (as well as Mad Men, Renaissance art, the Civil War, and the NFL), with great commenters too. One of my favorite blogs.)

The representation of people of color in children's and YA lit is a complicated question with no easy answers; or rather, the only answer is the dialogue that will continue indefinitely on blogs, and in The Horn Book and School Library Journal, and on awards committees, and through the books we choose to write and publish. Here's my contribution to the dialogue tonight: There's now a line in my submissions guidelines stating "I'm very interested in projects from writers and illustrators of color." And if you are such a writer or illustrator, and your work suits all the other guidelines prescribed there -- in short, a literary picture book or novel manuscript with richly drawn characters who do things -- I hope you'll consider sharing it with me. Thank you.