Diversity: Is Research Enough?

What can we do as children’s writers to include every child? At a recent NM-SCBWI ShopTalk meeting, a panel came together to discuss this question and to share their personal stories. First, the panel displayed the graphic “Equality/Equity,” from the Interaction Institute for Social Change, by the artist Angus Maguire, then participants broke up into small groups to discuss the graphic and what privilege means to them.

Some of the findings:
  • Fear can keep us from including everyone, regardless of our circumstances. Fear that we might lose our place, our social standing, our opportunity to get ahead.
  • But what happens if we give up our box? Does that mean that we give up something? Or do we gain in the knowledge that giving up our box means everyone can see over the fence and now everyone is happy?
Panelists Weigh In
  • Giving up our box helps us become better creators. Her first pass while writing her books is to check and correct for “white as default,” which is “when whiteness is the litmus test for what is considered normal behavior, culture, and appearance. Through media, books, visual media, politics...etc. we are socialized to think it's normal to be white and everyone else is defined by their proximity to whiteness.”
  • Having an ally is important for those who need help. As an example, this panelist observed an Asian family at the airport who didn’t speak English were pushed to the back of the line because others used their privilege to get in front of them. She saw this, stepped up and spoke up for the family, saying that they have the right to go on ahead.
  • One panelist brought up the question: Is research enough when writing in diverse characters? She says of course research is vital, but that is only the bare minimum. She urges writers and illustrators to put themselves out there—get involved with the community you want to write about. This panelist has been a Muslim for thirty years. To learn more about her community, she says interviewing is fine. But to truly immerse yourself in it, fast at Ramadan, learn what it is to be a Muslim. But she cautions that even for her it is difficult to break through the gatekeepers—agents, editors—who decide whether to take you on the way to publication. A book that her eight-year-old son loves and feels empowered by is Young Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes From Past and Present, by Jamia Wilson, and Dream March: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the March on Washington, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Sally Wern Comport.
Participants’ Turn
  • One author said her books go by the saying: DO NO HARM TO NO CHILD. She believes, we as children’s writers need to give a lot of thought to who we want to feel included in our narratives.
  • Another author volunteered as a mentor for the first SCBWI Emerging Voices Award. She mentored Mary Louise Sanchez, whose middle grade novel featured a family during the Depression. They move from New Mexico to Wyoming, where they face racism against their Hispanic culture. Mentor and mentee went through two rounds of critiques and revision together. Lee & Low Books published The Wind Called My Name in 2018. Mary Louise will have a picture book highlighting santeros out soon. Her mentor says we can all be mentors and we can let people know we’re here for them.
  • Another author pointed out that not all agents and editors have a shared experience, so they don’t understand what it is to be a diverse person. Diverse books have trouble getting through the gatekeepers; they don’t want to take the risk of spending time on diverse books so they avoid them. Another author agreed and said that in picture books, many editors feel safer publishing diverse material with animals as protagonists.
What Can We Do?
There isn’t one answer. But we’ve decided our SCBWI-NM chapter can make a start, and are currently seeking interest among our members. Here’s how we're doing it:
  • Asking our members for interest in mentoring a diverse author.
  • Asking for volunteers to go into the schools to read books by and about diverse authors and illustrators to students.
Here are a few statistics, compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and can be found on the Reading Spark website listed below, to give you an idea of how books depicting characters from diverse backgrounds have grown, but still have a long way to go:
                                     2015            2018
American Indians/
First Nations                0.9%                1%
Latinx                          2.4%                5%
Asian Pacific Islander/Asian
Pacific American         3.3%                7%
African/African American      
                                     7.6%              10%
White                           73.3%            50%

For more information, please visit:

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter, and is working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Social Media and Powerful Headlines

 As authorprenuers, we market our work through our website and social media

Delivering great content value for our readers is the goal.  So, show them where to find it. Enter—social media.

As you register for social network accounts, pay close attention to building your profile and the name you choose for your account. Using your brand is powerful. Is your name your brand or is your theme your brand? Consistency matters, use it throughout all the social media accounts you create.

Let’s select from the highest rated social networks to promote our writing.  
The highest-rated networks for authors are:
Instagram, and
•    Choose two networks to start your consistent focus and frequent attention.  Post to your page, and comment on others. When you’re active on two networks, add two more.
•    Nail down your focus theme(s) for great content. (We work headlines that grab below.)
•    Plan ahead by creating an archive of blog posts and schedule ahead on your website
•    When your article is live on your website, create a social media post that grabs readers’ attention and directs them to your website. I prefer to spend the few minutes it takes to copy & paste my social media posts directly and not use a service to automate those tasks. I do this because each of my networks’ have slightly different requirements and I want to control the links to my website for ease of use.
However, if you choose automation, check out: https://www.socialoomph.com/ 
https://dlvrit.com/  , or  https://buffer.com/ 

Let’s move on to Great Content, Powerful Headlines!
Powerful trust or intriguing words to use in your title headlines:
Thought Provoking

Eight questions for title idea selection:
•    Is it memorable?
•    Is it intriguing and believable?
•    Is it useful and rewarding to the reader?
•    Does it depict benefits to the reader?
•    Does it match my message?
•    Does it offer a solution to a problem?
•    Is it unique to my niche?
•    Does my image enhance the meaning?

Deliver more value benefit to the reader and more readers will come.

“How-To” articles rate highest in the benefit category, as well as “How I” improved or “How I did” this or that articles.

“Lists” are powerful. Include the number of tips you list within the post and you are off and running. List posts help build expert status for your area of expertise. Ideas: Secrets of … Get rid of a problem… Quick ways to solve… 7 Ways to …

Links to Headline Analyzers, Post Ideas, Marketing Organizing:

IsItWP https://www.isitwp.com/headline-analyzer/
Tweak Your Biz  https://tweakyourbiz.com/title-generator
Headline Generator  https://www.contentrow.com/tools/link-bait-title-generator/
Jeff Bullas  https://www.jeffbullas.com/5-key-steps-to-mastering-the-social-media-marketing-landscape/
Organize Your Marketing In One Place  https://coschedule.com/

As authorprenuers, we must market our products i.e., books, articles, and niche.  

Platform, Brand, and Website form the vehicle to make that happen.

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her writer’s website at: https://deborahlynwriter.com/  
And her caregiver’s website at: https://deborahlyncaregiver.com/
Facebook: Deborah Lyn Stanley, Writer    https://www.facebook.com/deborahlynwriter/?modal=admin_todo_tour

Four Reasons I Wrote 10 Publishing Myths

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

An acquisitions editor at a New York publisher, I spent many hours speaking with authors about their manuscripts and their own expectations for their book.  Often they will tell me, “I want my book to be a bestseller.” In part, I love to hear those words because as an editor, I'm looking for bestsellers or books that will actively sell into the market. As someone who has been in publishing many years, I understand over 4,500 new books are published every day and 1.6 million books were self-published. The additional bit of information about self-publishing is on average these books sell 100–200 copies during the lifetime of the book. To beat those odds, every author needs to have a plan and strategy for selling their book.

I've seen many plans get changed as books get published. Years ago one of my books which received a large advance, had a different title in the publisher's catalog than when the book was published. This publisher never showed the cover to the high profile author—and he strongly disliked it. As a result, he never promoted the book and the sales were dismal. The book was taken out of print after six months. I was disappointed for all of the effort I put into writing and creating this book but many critical factors in the success of a book are outside of my control.

From other authors, I've heard many of these types of stories about their books. The process of publishing and promoting a book is filled with pitfalls and possible errors. I took my years in publishing and poured it into writing 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Suceed.

I want to give you four reasons I wrote 10 Publishing Myths:

1. To give authors a realistic picture of publishing. Many authors have written a manuscript but do not have aany idea of the details of publishing. I've written about these details in my book.

2. To help authors understand much of the process is outside of their control. There are many things that can prevent your book from successfully selling in the marketplace.

3. To give authors practical advice they can do to sell books and be successful. While much is outside of the author's control, there are numerous practical actions every author can take in the process. It's the focus of each chapter.

4. To understand there is not a bestselling formula but there are bestselling practices. Many authors are looking for a magic formula to make a bestseller. If such a formula existed every book would be a bestseller because each of us would follow that formula. It does not exist but there are active steps every author can take which is my emphasis. For example, I have worked with other professionals to create a short book trailer. Book trailers are all about exposure. Someone has to hear about your book a number of times before they purchase it. My trailer helps in this process.

5. To take the long view and not look for short term success. (A Bonus Reason) Many authors are looking for a way to rocket to the top of a bestseller list and a short-term gain instead of taking the long view for their book and continuing to tell people about it. From my experience it is the long view that will eventually bear fruit or get you book sales.

My book releases December 17th but can be ordered in four different ways on my website. In this gift giving season, I encourage you to get a copy and give it to a writer you know.

Have you fallen for a publishing myth? Let me know in the comments below.


Learn four reasons for 10 Publishing Myths from this prolific writer and editor. Get insights here. (ClickToTweet)


W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  One of his books for writers is Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success. One of Terry's most popular free ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has over 205,000 twitter followers 

Write for One

Contributed by Colin Dunbar

There's the blank page.

Maybe you have an outline, and although you get going on your blog post, momentum slows down.

Here is an idea you can try, and see if it helps to keep your impetus going all the way to the end.

Do you find it easier to talk to one person rather than to a crowd? Do you find it easier to talk to someone you know rather than to a stranger?

Use the following idea when writing your blog posts (or any content.) You may find your writing becomes easier, and the quality cud even be better.

I have seven people I "talk to." These characters all have different personalities and experiences. What I'm writing about determines my choice of audience (i.e., one of the seven people). The seven personalities vary between stubborn and skeptical, while experiences vary from very experienced to very newbie.

Depending on the subject matter you're writing about, for example is it's complex or sensitive, you could have a photo of the photo near. It doesn't necessarily have to be a photo of a real person. By doing this it makes the "personal" part of writing just a little easier.

When I start writing my first draft, I actually start with a salutation, "Dear Gordon" for example, and then go on to explain what it is I want to "tell" Gordon about. Sometimes, I use his name throughout the article. And then when I go onto the second draft, I remove references to his name. Often there are very little changes needed, because just as I would use "you", when talking to the person, it's very close to ready. Occasionally, I may need to make some revisions (depending on the topic) but most of the time, there's very little I have to change.


Dear Sam, I've heard you struggle to keep your writing flow. I'd like to share an idea with you that you may want to try. Before you start writing, decide that you're actually going to write to one person. Choose someone you now, Sam, and then write your article or blog post directly to that one person. After your first draft, you can edit out any references to the person's name. etc., etc.

Also, depending upon what I'm writing about, I may use a voice recorder and narrate the article to "my person." This exercise sometimes has some funny bits because I have the person "talk back" to me.

Give this tip a try and see if it helps with your writing.

Colin Dunbar is a veteran technical writer with 40 years' experience. He offered a book design service for over 7 years, and is the author of How to Format Your Book in Word. He shares his vast knowledge at www.colindunbar.com. (https://colindunbar.com/self-publishing-newsletter/)


Where Does Your Story Really Start

So You Want to Write a Book - Now What?

Point-of-View and Children’s Storytelling

The Writing Details are Important

The Importance of Believing in Yourself as a Writer

Are you struggling with a writing project that seems overwhelming?

All writers go through this at one time or another.

Usually it means that YOU—the writer—are not quite convinced you can pull off this particular book, article, novel, or whatever the project may be.

In fact, you probably spend precious energy second-guessing yourself thinking, What in the world did I get myself into this time?

But here's the rub.

The project will only start to fall into place once YOU are convinced you can complete it.

So take a deep breath and relax.

Figure out why you're struggling with this project and write down the problem(s).

For example—Do you have a too-tight deadline?

Does the project require intensive research and you're overwhelmed with all the facts and figures you'll need?

Are you spinning your wheels just trying to figure out how to get started?

Once you've figured out the real problems behind your struggle, take some steps to solve them.

For example, if you're on a too-tight deadline, contact your editor right away and ask for more time.

Your editor wants quality work, and if you contact her now, rather than at the last minute, more than likely she won't be upset about giving you more time.

Editors usually allow a little wiggle room for all projects anyway.

If your project requires intensive research, make a list of the source materials and experts you wish to use for this project.

Then, BEFORE you contact the experts, do enough research about the topic to develop a structure for the book or article you are trying to write.

You'll have to do enough research to develop the topic headings, or chapter titles for your work.

But, once you've done that, THEN contact the experts with questions that relate to each of your topic or chapter titles.

That way, you'll get quotes that relate closely to the material you already have for the project instead of lots of other material and quotes that will be difficult to work into your chapters or subtopics.

If you're stuck at a point in your novel and you just can't get your characters to move the story along, you probably don't know the characters well enough and you're trying to get them to do something they don't want to do—or wouldn't do if they were actual people.

Take one or two of the main characters and ask them some questions (yeah, this sounds crazy to people who aren't writers, but I know YOU know what I mean).

Find out more about their backgrounds and you'll learn more about their passions, desires, and fears, which will translate into motives and actions that will come naturally for these characters—and will be easier for you to write.

You really CAN complete that writing project that seems overwhelming.

YOU just have to believe it first.

Try it!

For more tips, resources, and other helpful information about writing and the business of writing, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge at www.morningnudge.com.

Suzanne Lieurance is a fulltime freelance writer, writing coach, and the author of over 35 published books. She offers more tips and resources for writers at writebythesea.com.

Challenge Yourself Year Round

There are no shortages during the month of November. In addition to National Novel Writing Month (aka #NaNoWriMo), there's National Podcast Post Month (#NaPodPoMo challenges you to post 30 podcasts in 30 days) and #BlogLikeCrazy (a daily blogging challenge). 

These types of "events" are really helpful for productivity. When you have a massive project to do in a short amount of time, you get it done ... and then you go back to perfect it.

Now, I "won" the first NaNoWriMo I tried around 10 years ago. Since then, and over the years I've used National Novel Writing Month for other purposes: non-fiction projects, blogging, and general writing productivity. 

Last year, I discovered National Podcast Post Month, which was created by Jennifer Navarrete and is now in its 12th year. "The goal of NaPodPoMo is to use the challenge of podcasting daily as a form of podcasting bootcamp," she says.

Well, this year, I was tempted by both. However, between client projects and a book launch in January, I didn't have time to do either. So I did the next best thing. I created my own.

I named my November challenge #DebMo. And the concept is simple. Post a different piece of content on my The D*E*B Method Facebook page every day during the month. It can be a video, graphic, link, or text post. In creating content every day, I am developing a pattern of posting, increasing the value of my page as a resource, and growing my community. And I am having fun! 

What to create a challenge of your own to help you progress in your career, business, or passion project?  Put some parameters in order to set yourself up for success.

1. Choose a Month. Look at your calendar and make sure you don't have other major obligations. 

2. Choose an Activity. What are you doing? Writing, editing, sending pitches? Cooking, reorganizing, working on a home project?

3. Choose a Daily, Weekly, or Monthly Goal. What are you counting and how are you counting it?

4. Choose your purpose. How will this challenge benefit you personally or professionally? Even something for fun has personal benefits.

5. Invite Friends. Projects are much more fun when you have others along for the ride. You can hold each other accountable, too.

There are numerous specialty months throughout the year, including National Novel Editing Month and National Poetry Month ... both in April, so do a search to see what is out there. And if you can't find a challenge to fit your timing and needs, create your own. You'll be glad you did.

For more on the more traditional November challenges, read the #GoalChat Twitter moments recaps.

* * *

What sort of challenge will you take part in? What will you create for yourself? Please share in the comments.

* * *

Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of The D*E*B Method: Goal Setting Simplified and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook Group.  Debra is the author of Your Goal Guide, being released by Mango in January 2020, as well as Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages. She is host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat and the Guided Goals Podcast, and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Tips for Creating Subplots in Middle Grade Novels

by Suzanne Lieurance   If you’re writing a middle grade novel, you want to include at least one or two subplots. Subplots in fiction are sec...