Last week, I had the honor of working with a group of 5th graders from Cumberland County Public Schools, VA during the Virginia Children’s Book Festival. Together, we all started a bunch of stories. This Story Starter finished! With permission from Elena and her mother, I present….
The Alien Dentist, by Elena M.
My name is Jackson and I’m running from a alien dentist. He’s not far behind. He might catch up to me and pull all my teeth out. I’m so scared and out of breathe but I have to keep running so he can’t catch me.I found an abandoned house. I went in.
The monster couldn’t find me. When suddenly I heard a growl. Then a creak. ! Boom! the monster was right there behind me!
So I ran as fast as I could. He caught me. The alien took me to his lair. He tried to pull one of my teeth out.He couldn’t because I grabbed his arm and I ninja kicked him in the stomach.
I went to the town my mom was in. I knocked on the door. She let me in. I told her to lock the door. The alien was close behind me. My mom asked “What is going on?”
I said “There is an alien chasing me”. She said that I was crazy and I had lost my mind. I told her that this was not crazy that there was an actual alien dentist trying to pull all my teeth. She said maybe I needed to go to the dentist and see that the dentist is a good person. I told her “ NO!” and to look out the window.
My mom looked out the the window and saw an alien. She said that I wasn’t losing my mind and we started to run out the back door. The alien didn’t see us until we knocked over one of my moms plants. As soon as he saw us he ran in our direction. We screamed and ran away. He caught us but my mom and I karate chopped him and got away.
Elena…thank you for the awesome story. I look forward to the day when you’re signing a book for me. Write on!
“Alice never wants to hurt anyone again, but the robots won’t end the experiment.” ~ By Scott DuBar, from the SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Region “Ink to Inspiration” event at Richmond Public Library, 06/20/2015
This past weekend I participated in the SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Region’s Ink to Inspiration event at Richmond Public Library, and had the opportunity to lead the group in yet another rendition of Story Starters, my Mad Libs styled activity where me and the writers/illustrators create a unique opening line by committee.
Once the line’s created, the writers/illustrators have 15 minutes to write or sketch whatever that line inspires. It’s meant to be an exercise in flexibility (you never know what the line’s going to be) and a demonstration that ideas are simply what YOU make them.
Part of the deal with Story Starters is anyone who decides to write a complete story, or finish an illustration, based on our sentence, gets a spotlight here and on my social media.
Behold Illustrator Scott DuBar’s submission which. Is. AWESOME!!!
Scott’s one to watch, and I’m excited to share his work with you. I’m going out on a limb to say this won’t be the last we see of him. Thanks Scott!
I recently had the privilege of visiting Kelly Miller Middle School in Washington, DC (before we in Virginia got slammed with snow and I got slammed with the flu) as part of An Open Book Foundation’s and We Need Diverse Books’ WNDB in the Classroom initiative. I met about 75 great kids and during our time together, they each participated in an activity that I call “Story Starters”. As a group, we came up with a couple of story prompts, and the kids then ran with the concept creating their own unique short story. I’m happy to debut one of those stories right here. This one is from Jasmine J., a promising writer/poet.
Without further delay, Jasmine’s Story…
Brenaeh never wanted to fall in love again, but the new kid would not be so kind. One day in class, at wonder view middle school. In Ms Honey’s class, Brenaeh was minding her own business doing her work. But then suddenly, there was a knock on the door and coming through the door was the new kid along with the principal at his side. Ms Honey said ” attention everyone, principal Luna has someone that she would like to introduce”. Principal Luna said ” thank you for your attention, good morning students”. The class said ” good morning principal Luna”. Principal Luna said ” well, everyone this is Mason and he is your new student in your class and I want everyone to be kind to him”.
Copyright © 2015 Jasmine J.
Thank you Jasmine for such great work!
More story starters to come!
So, this happened this morning: http://www.theedgars.com/nominees.html
My debut YA Thriller, FAKE ID, was nominated for a 2015 Edgar Award for Best YA Book by Mystery Writers of America.
I have no words (even though I just wrote a bunch of them and will write some more–what can I say? I’m a man of contradictions).
To put this in context, this is the Oscars, Golden Globes, Grammy’s, for mystery writers. Now I know when people say that old line about how it’s an honor to even be nominated, they’re probably telling the truth. I know I am.
Winners are announced at a big deal, black tie banquet in April, in NYC. I will keep you posted as the time draws near.
I started my efforts around 8:30 this morning and slogged through, not hitting my word count until 6:30. Mind you, I took breaks to run to the post office, buy a new pair of badly needed casual shoes, get in a workout at the gym (still maintaining the 2015 goal), and grab some groceries. Yes, that’s a lot of breaks. And no, I wasn’t super-focused distraction free writer today, but I think that had a lot to do with words. Let me explain…
When I’m in a story, and I’m excited, the writing goes faster. When the writing slogs, one of two things are happening. Either it’s just one of those scenes that has to be slower to facilitate what’s coming, OR the scene is wrong. Today was the latter. I’d ventured down a path that just wasn’t leading anywhere. It felt dull, the pacing was off. What to do?
Delete, delete, delete. When in doubt…cut a bunch of stuff you already wrote. Maybe cry a little.
This is the importance of writing constantly. Write everyday (or most days) because a lot of that writing will be garbage, meant to be tossed. You write often to eventually get to the good stuff.
That’s all for now.
BTW, the blog is back!
Don’t forget, enter to win an ARC of my latest, ENDANGERED. Info Below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Well, you knew it was coming, right? I’m giving someone a signed ENDANGERED galley a full month before the book hits shelves. You know the drill. Contest starts on 01/10/2015 and runs through 03/10/2015. 3 ways to enter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Mr. King’s latest novel, REVIVAL, releases on November 11th, and he’ll kick off a six city tour in New York. The second stop on that tour is Washington D.C. on November 12th, two days before my birthday. I already have tickets to the event–Go Me!–but, I want to go one step further. I want to shake the man’s hand.
Any of you who know me, may know what his work has meant to my life and career. If you don’t know, I only mention it here, here, and here. I read IT when I was 11; it’s the book that made me want to be a writer. Then, every year since my 14th birthday, whenever a new Stephen King novel was released in the fall, it became my go to present (seriously, ask my mom, who will be attending the DC event with me).
I’m not going to drag this out. This is me turning on the Bat Signal without shame. Can any of the many publishing peeps I know help me facilitate a brief meeting–seriously, a handshake, maybe a photo; no Annie Wilkes stuff over here–with one of the greatest literary icons of all time? If you have a connection with Politics & Prose (the sponsor bookstore), The George Washington University (the host venue), the Scribner imprint at Simon and Schuster (Mr. King’s publisher), and/or Mr. King himself, would you please consider hooking a brother up?
Of course, we roll with Godfather rules here. There may come a day when you need a favor, I will gladly reciprocate.
Thanks in advance.
Want to spread the word, here’s a ready made tweet for you:
@LRGiles has a birthday wish: meet @StephenKing. Details here> http://tinyurl.com/k4o4whl #operationweallfloat
Lamar Giles writes stories for teens and adults, and is a founding member/VP of Communications for We Need Diverse Books. His YA thriller FAKE ID is out now, and his next novel, ENDANGERED, will be published by HarperCollins in 2015.
There appears to be some confusion among uninformed opponents1 of the We Need Diverse Books campaign. It’s the same confusion expressed each and every time anyone (usually an author, agent, or editor) points out a fact about diversity in the publishing industry (woefully low) and expresses a desire for more variety.
See this Confused People Example:
As part of the Common Sense portion of our program, I must make the following announcement:
The commentators in the above example think (incorrectly) that the campaign is about forcing writers to create and feature more diverse characters. Let’s be clear, these particular commentators are concerned with making white/cis/straight/able-bodied writers write about The Other.
So many things wrong here. Where to start?
“These people should write their own books”
Who are they talking about? The 20,000+ participants of the campaign who reached 43 MILLION people with over 150 MILLION impressions worldwide? They should all write books because their opinions don’t matter unless they do? Maybe it’s the children who only want to see heroes who look like them. They should shut their pieholes until they’re in a position to publish? Heaven forbid someone has an opinion–a want–related to a field they aren’t affiliated with professionally. Sports fan, cut out your tongues now! Voters, stop wasting time at the polls and just run for President. Because that’s logical.
The campaign was STARTED BY PROFESSIONAL WRITERS AND PUBLISHERS. The supporters represent an under served segment of the book buying public. There are many people–in both of those groups–who have and can write their own books. That’s not the point! This is about systemic neglect that has allowed statistical stagnation for years, and for reasons that don’t make total sense when we look at the make up of our country–or the world. The campaign is a rally reminding publishing’s gatekeepers that WE do, indeed, matter.
Of course everyone who supports the campaign isn’t going to write their own books. But, such expressions by detractors are telling. They reveal, at best, common internet contrarians who must be the voice of dissension. At worst, prejudicial dimwits who can’t FATHOM writers of different races/sexual orientation/levels of physical abilities/etc. actually existing, thus triggering protests for beloved mainstream writers not to succumb to Political Correctness.
I wish these guys many sleepless nights fretting over the issue. Moving on…
This is a good one:
Okay, first…Dude, look up “Racist.” You know what, I’ll do it for you:
Racist (n): A person who believes a particular race is superior to another. (Courtesy of the New American Oxford Dictionary)
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s examine this statement: “No one should be forced to read.”
Yes. You’re absolutely right. Strange you should bring it up when ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT THIS CAMPAIGN involves forcing anyone to read anything. Let’s dissect this, though. This person obviously interpreted the hashtag to mean “You, and others like you, should read and support more books about people who aren’t like you.” Now, as a general rule, that’s probably not a bad idea. If this person read more outside the comfort zone, s/he might have a better idea of what racism means, OR understand hashtags aren’t beamed directly into the brain, thus forcing involuntary expansions of horizons. Just sayin’.
Again, we’ve got someone skating the thin line between ignorance and outright prejudice. Their reasoning: a campaign for more diverse books is about forcing readers to indulge in material that doesn’t interest them. There CAN’T be a population out there that actually desires more diverse authors and characters. That’s just crazy talk.
Also, his fixation on Americans isn’t lost on me. This map of the campaign’s worldwide reach must’ve been faked, then. Like the Moon Landing, Global Warming, and Integration. Keep sippin’ the homemade shine, buddy.
Actually, I can’t put this one on the campaign. This is just me. See below:
This bit of commentary came directly to me. As you can tell, the sender clearly didn’t click my name for they would’ve seen one of the diverse books (FAKE ID) I did write. Look at me all “being the change.”
Yet another situation where a person just…can’t…grasp that there are indeed authors with the ability to write the kinds of books we’re lobbying for. It’s not “We Need (YOU To Write) Diverse Books.”
I calmly addressed the sender’s criticism, and never got another message from the person. That “be the change” statement wasn’t about the sender becoming informed (something s/he could’ve done on their own), though. It was a challenge, one I wasn’t supposed to be able to meet. It’s “there aren’t diverse books because none of you [insert expletive/slur here] can write them.” Which is BS.
[Spoiler alert] Had the conversation with this party continued, this is likely how it would’ve gone: sender makes some statement implying diverse books would be everywhere if they sold better. Publishers have to worry about the bottom line. There’s SOME truth to this. Publishing IS a business after all. That argument ignores a couple of big things…distribution and discoverability.
Example: This past Saturday was the #DiversifyYourShelves portion of the campaign. I went to a bookstore with 3 books by diverse authors on my list. The store had none of them on the shelves despite the books being recent releases.
I did see MULTIPLE copies and stand up displays for a bunch of other books that AREN’T diverse. If I was a shopper looking for a quick, impulse buy…well, my options weren’t just limited, they were manipulated in a “pick me up, look how well stocked I am” kind of way. THIS IS THE PROBLEM we’re trying to work on.
There’s so much talk of “the market” –what it will support, what it wants–that we’ve come to think of it as this Tazmanian Devil that spins unpredictably from vampires to dystopias to teens on a road trip. Unexpected things do happen, I’m sure. Hits out of nowhere. Besides those rare blockbusters, what makes it into the brick and mortars probably has more to do with store buyer’s preference and past trends. Don’t you see, if the trend has been to ignore huge segments of the populace for decades, how can there be a reasonable expectation for a breakthrough diverse hit to drive the market our way when the damned books aren’t anywhere to be found?
Can a bookstore shelve every book that’s published? No. Do books on the shelves have a better chance of selling than books that must be requested, and shipped within 3-5 business days? What do you think?
If decades of neglect tells us anything, it’s that people in favor of diverse authors and characters can’t sit back and wait for publishing’s gatekeepers to see solutions on their own. They haven’t. And they won’t.
#WeNeedDiverseBooks was a partial antidote. An outcry for variety that can’t be ignored. At least not this week.
More activism is required. More campaigns and initiatives, silly Twitter combatant. So be careful who you challenge next time, as I’ll be less inclined to wield my 140 characters in such a polite manner.
Here’s the hard reality…every week isn’t going to be #WeNeedDiverseBooks popping on 40 Million screens. Myself and the other organizers know this, and we’re taking great care to not let this become one of those “Remember that time when we…” kind of deals. I’m not at liberty to discuss what’s next for our merry band of marauders, but we’re not going on hiatus just yet. Protectors of the status quo, put on your Ignorance Armor and prepare yourselves.
We are the change.
And we’re coming.
Today we’re revealing part three of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, a project that’s near and dear to my heart!
Part three is called “Diversify Your Shelves,” and it’s all about taking a personal approach to promoting diversity in literature.
does that mean? Is this maybe something we’ll do for a week and then go back to
buying books by old white guys?
Well, no. “Diversify Your Shelves” is a continual
celebration of fabulous diverse literature, by fabulous diverse authors.
Checking out what books we have on our shelves, and seeing how we might
diversify them, is just a jumping off point.
There’s also going to be a “Diversify Your Shelves” chat on
Saturday, May 3rd at 2PM EST to discuss our favorite diverse books
and authors! Use the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag to join in!
But wait! Why is
this so important?
Because, at every conference I or my writer friends attend,
there are kids asking why they can’t find books with characters who look like
them, either on the cover or in the pages.
Because the same thing happens at book signings, except
there the kids are saying they’ve always wanted to get into writing, but don’t
think they’ll be successful because they’re people of color.
Because queer kids are still killing themselves over being
different (or being told that they’re
different) and the greater representation they have in books, the less alone
Because awesome genres like YA wouldn’t exist if we hadn’t
moved away from the old, white dude model of literature and started reading
stories written by ladies. Diversify Your Shelves is a continuation of that
principle—hearing all stories from all voices.
Because it’s 2014, but we still keep seeing all-white panels
at book festivals, or even all-white male panels (in genres vastly dominated by
women!) and that’s kind of insane to me. Diversity shouldn’t be the exception.
It should be the norm.
And because, at the end of the day, when I look at my
shelves, I think:
I can be better.
I can do more.
And I’d love for you to join me.
So, without further ado . . .
Here’s how it works: this weekend, May 3rd and 4th, we’re all going to head out to our local bookstores* to pick up books by fabulous diverse authors. (Need recommendations? Check out the May 3rd #WeNeedDiverseBooks chat!) Then, once you’ve returned home, snap a photo of your new diverse book(s)** and post it as a comment below! And if you want to get really creative, you can take Before and After photos of your bookshelves: Before, when they weren’t too diversified, and After, when you’ve added in books by fabulous PoC authors, queer authors, and authors with disabilities! Woot!
This Monday, May 5th, one lucky winner is going to win FIVE BOOKS OF THEIR CHOOSING out of the choices below!!! And every Monday throughout the spring, a new winner will be chosen to receive two fabulous diverse books! Woot!
But wait, it doesn’t stop there. Remember when I said “Diversify Your Shelves” was a continual celebration? That means any time you buy a book from a diverse author, or featuring a diverse
character, snap a picture of that book and post it to Twitter with the
#WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag! We’ll retweet you, and help spread the word about
what diverse books people are buying! And by participating in the “Diversify
Your Shelves” movement, you’ll be showing publishers the kinds of books you
want them to buy, showing conference organizers which authors you want to see on
panels, and helping tweens and teens find representation in books! Which,
really, is the awesomest prize of all!
REMEMBER: THE WINNER OF THE PRIZE PACK WILL BE CHOSEN MAY 5TH!
For my piece, I’ll keep this short because there’s a lot of information below. But, I want to give the internet a collective high five for the enthusiasm around the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign (reblogged on Tumblr over 3,500 times as I type this, and I don’t even know the numbers for other social media…but it bet they’re in the general vicinity of GREAT). Anyhow, official event details are below, and if you’re down for the cause, click this link for the FB Invite.
If you want more diverse choices in your literature, here’s your chance to let the world know. Read on and let’s shout together:
Recently, there’s been a groundswell of discontent over the lack of diversity in children’s literature. The issue is being picked up by news outlets llike the NYT, CNN, EW, and many more. But while we individually care about diversity, there is still a disconnect. BEA’s Bookcon recently announced an all-white-male panel of “luminaries of children’s literature,” and when we pointed out the lack of diversity, nothing changed.
Now is the time to raise our voices into a roar that can’t be ignored. Here’s how:
On May 1st at 1pm (EST), there will be a public call for action that will spread over 3 days. We’re starting with a visual social media campaign using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. We want people to tweet, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, blog, and post anywhere they can to help make the hashtag go viral.
For the visual part of the campaign:
• Take a photo holding a sign that says “We need diverse books because __________________________
• The photo can be of you or a friend or anyone who wants to support diversity in kids’ lit. It can be a photo of the sign without you if you would prefer not to be in a picture. Be as creative as you want! Pose the sign with your favorite stuffed animal or at your favorite library. Get a bunch of friends to hold a bunch of signs.
• However you want to do it, we want to share it! There will be a Tumblr at http://
• Starting at 1:00PM (EST) the Tumblr will start posting and it will be your job to reblog, tweet, Facebook, or share wherever you think will help get the word out.
• The intent is that from 1pm EST to 3pm EST, there will be a nonstop hashtag party to spread the word. We hope that we’ll get enough people to participate to make the hashtag trend and grab the notice of more media outlets.
• The Tumblr will continue to be active throughout the length of the campaign, and for however long we need to keep this discussion going, so we welcome everyone to keep emailing or sending in submissions even after May 1st.
On May 2nd, the second part of our campaign will roll out with a Twitter chat scheduled for 2pm (EST) using the same hashtag. Please use #WeNeedDiverseBooks at 2pm on May 2nd and share your thoughts on the issues with diversity in literature and why diversity matters to you.
On May 3rd, 2pm (EST), the third portion of our campaign will begin. There will be a Diversify Your Shelves initiative to encourage people to put their money where their mouth is and buy diverse books and take photos of them. Diversify Your Shelves is all about actively seeking out diverse literature in bookstores and libraries, and there will be some fantastic giveaways for people who participate in the campaign! More details to come!
We hope that you will take part in this in any way you can. We need to spread the word far and wide so that it will trend on Twitter. So that media outlets will pick it up as a news item. So that the organizers of BEA and every big conference and festival out there gets the message that diversity is important to everyone. We hope you will help us by being a part of this movement.