Monday, March 30, 2009

Gender and Race in Kidlit

I've been thinking about gender and race in kidlit. I was reading another blog about the lack of diverse race in some genres (notably sci fi, apparently) and thinking about my own writing. Another blogger posted about race in writing, and about having the courage, if you are "white," to write about other races and possibly screw it up, but do it anyway.
I was thinking about my own writing and how I may be (inadvertantly) contributing to the problem. What I'm saying is that none of my major human characters is anything but white. This does not stem from a desire to have a "white" world, at all. This stems from my deep fear that if I tried to put minority characters in my stories, that they would wind up "white" with dark skin. And that I will be blamed for getting it wrong. Is this enough excuse? Should I do it anyway? I am not interested in writing books about race. But even if the book is about pffffffff..... say, eggbeaters, why can't some of the characters be other races besides white? Well, they are, but only minor characters. I'm still thinking about this.

To be honest, part of the problem that the majority of characters being "white" seems to be the distribution of authors. No one complains that Toni Morrison and Alice Walker write almost entirely using African American characters. And duh, why should they? It seem to me, the world needs more writers that aren't white. Yes, yes, the rest of us should also try to reflect the races of the world more accurately, but some of us are chicken. I feel like the pressure to do that perfectly if I do it at all is more than I can cope with.

But what about gender in picture books? Is male still the 'unmarked' gender? I realise that my default setting for anthropomorphic characters is male. So male equals neuter? Something like that. But this won't change unless we allow some of our characters to be marked for a while, until there is enough of a mix for long enough that it becomes normal.

Hmmmm... This post has come out a bit jumbled. I am going to have to think about this a bit more...

Sunday, March 22, 2009


My follow through is very poor. I have had this epiphany, you see. I get praise from my teachers for the bits and scenes I hand in as the answers to writing exercises, and if I do say so myself, they are pretty good. But it all seems to fall apart when I try to make something longer. Like, say, a plot. I can make characters. Description that blends in naturally and logically- what I mean is, there isn't really any; I just tell people what they need to know, and nothing they don't need to know. Dialogue? No problem.
But then something needs to happen. The characters need to change somehow. Grow. Fight. Why can't I do that? It makes me feel so short sighted and makes me wonder if I have some fundamental character flaw that stops me being able to imagine these complex interactions and their outcomes. Or I can think of just enough action to sustain a scene, but I can't hook them up together. Is my brain as tiny as it's beginning to feel?
Am I the only one with this problem?
Am I the only one reading this blog?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Plugging Along.

Ha! Fooled you. No, I have not fallen off the face of the earth. I have survived a whole year since we lost our boy.
The writing class. Well, my first impression is that the teacher is drinking heavily, or not getting enough sleep, or something. She doesn't proofread, that's for certain. The missing words and punctuation and the fact that she tends to wander off and not finish her sentences make her entries hard to follow.
All the same, her comments on the first week's assignment were useful. The ending was cheap. She was right. But the comments on the second assignment ranged from 'it was great' to 'this is why it was great.' A good start, but it doesn't give me anything to work with.
I feel so stuck! As if all my writing reaches exactly the same level of development and sophistication and then stops. All of the students and teachers and critique groups don't seem to be able to help me. The inexperienced among them give strange or even contradictory advice (one says 'cut this bit; it's irrelevent,' and another says 'this bit's important; expand on it!') or worse yet just say 'it's perfect, I don't see anything wrong with it.' The more experienced also see where the weak spots are, but can't seem to offer any advice on how to fix it. At first I was excited that we were finally going to have a SCBWI meeting (after nearly THREE YEARS as a member) but I'm not sure how good the turnout will be. Still, I will make the most of it.