Thursday, February 2, 2017

Taking a Stand

I’m a week away from attending my first Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ (SCBWI) Conference and am feeling nervous and excited. The suitcase is already out. I’ve solicited advice from friends on what to wear, and disregarded it. (Everyone said to dress in black in New York, but I bought a skirt of a dozen patchwork colors because, come on, this is children’s publishing. It’s colorful!)

In recent days, the Executive Director of SCBWI, Lin Oliver, shared a statement to address, what I presume must be complaints directed at the organization for members speaking out about recent political events. The letter does all the usual things such letters must do, reinstate that SCBWI members are varied in their views, remind that individual statements by people associated with the group do not represent the whole group. But the letter doesn’t apologize for standing up for certain values.

“We stand for freedom of expression, for inclusion, for the absence of hate, and for equality of opportunity for all. These are not political ideologies but expressions of our shared human values.”

But of course, you can’t believe in that statement and not take a side on current events. Loving your neighbor has, unfortunately, become a political ideology. Some well-known children’s authors have expressed their worries that being outspoken might hurt their sales. We all know there’s a new boycott sprouting up every day, and that authors are “brands” as much as they are human people trying to do their best writing. I don’t blame authors for worrying about such things.

But I don’t have any sales to worry about quite yet; my debut picture book won’t be out for awhile. So I figured I might as well get ahead of the game by stating right now that I plan to continue to play whatever role I can in working for social justice. If that’s offensive, you probably shouldn’t buy my books, though, to be honest, you probably wouldn’t like them anyway.

I had a hard time writing after the election, and the events of recent weeks have confirmed all my worst fears about the direction we’re headed as a country. But there’s only momentary comfort in hiding under the covers, so I marched and talked to friends and got back to work. It’s an important time to be a writer, and especially I believe, a writer for children who is helping to reinforce the values quoted above in a new generation. I’m so looking forward to meeting many others next week who feel the same way.