‘Cultural Appropriation, Unconscious Bias and Colonial Aspects of Collections’ – YLG conference session

Anyone who has ever attended a professional conference knows that such events are a mix of the good (catching up with friends after one of you has moved on, being able to look round the room at other attendees and know that you share a passion for the same type of work, FREE STUFF), the bad (trying to sleep in an unfamiliar bed in a room next to the lifts, being reminded of the ever-increasing pressure of working in your field, endless queues for tea and coffee), and the ugly (a full buffet breakfast is inclusive but the packed schedule means you’ve no time to linger and enjoy the spread). Few aspects of the conference experience, however, are as dreaded as those two little words:

BREAKOUT SESSION.

The horror of potential interaction with our fellow attendees – being forced to participate in ice-breaker activities, being asked to share anecdotes, being close enough to the facilitator to make eye contact – nothing can make one break out into a cold sweat faster. Or maybe that’s just me?

It was, therefore, a relief to find that the first breakout session I attended at this year’s YLG Conference (Reading the Future, at the Mercure Manchester Piccadilly, 21-23 September 2018) required none of these things. Titled ‘Cultural Appropriation, Unconscious Bias and Colonial Aspects of Collections’, this session took the format of a panel discussion followed by a Q&A, introducing me to creators whose excellent work I had not previously encountered. Ably guided by academic Chloe Germaine Buckley, Senior Lecturer in English and Film at Manchester Metropolitan University, authors Candy Gourlay and Miriam Halahmy each introduced us to their most recent novels before engaging in a discussion of why and how, even nearly two decades into the 21st century, publishing and libraries still struggle to present readers with a choice of books that accurately reflect the enormous diversity and reality of the world in which we all live.

Buckley began the session by quoting some hard numbers, drawing from data collected and reported by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE): of the 9,115 children’s books published in the United Kingdom during 2017, a mere 391 – just four percent! – of these featured Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) characters. Even more shocking, over half of this paltry total were what is often referred to as ‘social issues’ books – giving the strong impression that BAME characters and lives aren’t thought of by many authors – and therefore, many readers – as ‘normal’, ‘mainstream’ or otherwise ‘unremarkable’, but rather disrupted by racism, violence, or other incidences of social disorder. After allowing a moment for the audience to fully absorb this information, Buckley introduced Miriam Halahmy, author of numerous books, poems and short stories for children, teens and adults.

Those who follow the Youth Libraries Group blog on the CILIP website may recall Halahmy’s recent opinion piece ‘What is on our Bookshelves’, in which she discussed her experience as Head of Special needs in a Camden secondary school during the period in the early 1980s when The Rampton Report ‘on the education of children from ethnic minorities’ was published. The recommendations of this report had far-reaching effects on, in particular, school libraries across the United Kingdom; librarians and teachers, horrified by the exaggerated and stereotyped depictions of children from non-Anglo backgrounds, discarded enormous numbers of books in their attempts to embrace a multicultural society, but often did not have the funds to adequately replace these castoffs with new books reflecting positive depictions of other cultures and peoples. Halahmy says that the question is often asked, is the lack of BAME representation today because ‘[her] generation of teachers threw them all away?’

Of course, the real answer is much more complicated; overcoming the current deficiency of representation will require the cooperation of authors, literary agents, publishers, media reviewers, readers and librarians. Halahmy is certainly doing her part: as a Jewish woman with four Polish grandparents, married to an Iraqi Jew, different languages and cultures (including Polish, Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, and Arabic) have always been a part of her life – in her words, she ‘cannot help but write multicultural characters because this is the world I inhabit.’ Halahmy’s beliefs complement my own primary philosophy as a librarian – that all children deserve to be able to see themselves reflected in the pages of a book. Her newest book, Behind Closed Doors, is about two teenage girls on the verge of homelessness for very different reasons, and features a cast of characters from a range of backgrounds, including Black British schoolboy Dom and Japanese-American swimmer Jordan.

Next to speak was Filipino author Candy Gourlay, whose 2018 novel, Bone Talk, originated when the author was conducting research into Filipino immigration for a non-fiction book on the subject, and came across a photograph from the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. This photo, depicting a woman dressed in the customary Edwardian fashion of the time, standing alongside a man naked but for a G-string, piqued her interest, for alongside the spectacular displays of scientific and technological progress – including the first electrical socket, incubator, x-ray machine and Ferris wheel – the sights advertised by the Fair’s organisers also included ‘exotic peoples’. Gourlay went on to explain how the subjects of these grotesque living exhibits included a number of displaced people; in this case, the man in the G-string was a Native Filipino, a member of a group of highland people known at the time as the Igorot – but better known to Americans as head-hunters. [Note: in my research for this piece, I learned that the exonym ‘Igorot’ is considered somewhat of a pejorative by the people whom it describes, and that the tribal people of the Cordillera region prefer a number of other terms; hereafter, I shall use the term ‘Cordillerans’.] A number of Cordillerans were brought to St Louis following the Philippine-American War (1899-1902), in anticipation of the World’s Fair; once there, the Native Filipinos duly reconstructed a mock village as part of the wildly popular ‘Philippine Exhibition’, in which they lived in plain view of gawking fairgoers, staging daily shows for the entertainment of their Western audiences.

Gourlay’s research into these people and how they came to be part of the 1904 World’s Fair took her from archives in St Louis all the way to the mountain provinces of the Philippines, where she made two important determinations. Firstly, the story of the Cordillerans was one she wanted to tell; secondly, although she herself is Filipino, this was not her story – and writing it as such would be cultural appropriation. Gourlay went on to clarify this point, saying that to an extent, ‘all fiction is cultural appropriation’; however, the problem with writing a story from the perspective of the Cordilleran people at the turn of the twentieth century is that no authentic record of their voices survives – only American versions. For this reason, although Bone Talk takes place amongst the Cordilleran community – specifically, the people of the Bontoc – it does so during the period of the Philippine-American War, thus enabling Gourlay to draw from those American chronicles of life amongst the Bontoc people at that time and thereafter as she constructed her work of fiction.

Gourlay’s mention of cultural appropriation reminded her audience of our reasons for attending this session in particular, and the subsequent discussion between the authors was fascinating, so much so that I must admit I rather abandoned my note-taking. Particular highlights, though, include:

  • Gourlay’s explanation of what she calls ‘The Lack’ – specifically, the something-that-is-missing at the beginning of every story, which is filled in over the course of the narrative – and how it is our job as librarians and authors to help promote authentic voices to fill that missing element;
  • Halahmy’s reminder that authors have to ‘murder [their] darlings’ – characters should have more purpose than just ‘representation’, and if not furthering the plot, they are just weighing it down; and
  • Gourlay’s discussion of how her writing critique group is made up of cisgender white people authors, and how she had to ‘knock back’ certain aspects of Bone Talk as a result.

Halahmy pointed out that ‘we are very much on the cusp of change’ in terms of elevating lesser-known voices within libraries and publishing, though there still exist ‘a lot of barriers to be broken down’. Gourlay concurred, going on to say that what will really help increase diversity is ‘not having diversity panels’ but instead making the effort to ‘move in the realms of the people you want to invite in’ to the conversation; Halahmy nodded in agreement, musing, ‘the number of book launches I go to where I’m the darkest person in the room…’ before declaring that ‘this is not a box-ticking exercise’, a statement that was met with applause, and brought the panel to a close.

I could not agree more with these sentiments. After nearly two decades of librarianship, I have learned that establishing diverse representation in my collections and avoiding (as much as possible) unconscious bias in my reading is only possible through hard work, constant education, and an open mind. As a white man – and an American one, at that! – stories about people like me have been front and centre for far too long; it is my responsibility to use the privileges afforded to me as a member of that demographic to elevate and promote the voices of those who may be overlooked, and who may struggle to find and connect with readers or books featuring people like themselves. I was still in grade school when Dr Rudine Sims Bishop, children’s literature scholar and Professor Emerita from The Ohio State University, published her seminal essay ‘Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors‘ (Perspectives: Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom. Vol. 6, No. 3. Summer 1990), in which she introduced teachers, librarians and other educators to a framework with which we can build and foster multicultural literacy. Nearly three decades later, I firmly believe in Sims Bishop’s philosophy; our primary duty as librarians is to provide as many different mirrors and windows as possible, in order to enable all of our users to both see themselves reflected, and to learn about other cultures. Gauging by the number of my colleagues who attended this panel, I am not the only one.

As a first-year judge for the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals, I was especially gratified to see so many of my fellow judges in attendance; frequent readers will recall that CILIP has recently released the final report summarising the Independent Review of the CKG undertaken from June 2017 and has, or will shortly be, implementing a number of changes to the process as a result of these findings. I feel enormously lucky to have joined the judging panel at this point in time, as the various training opportunities made available to us will be of great use to me both personally and professionally; indeed, I can already identify a subtle shift in how I evaluate this year’s nominated titles against the awards criteria. (Time spent on said evaluations – and the sheer scale of the 2019 nominations list – may explain why this piece is being published some two months after the annual conference. Oops?) My heartfelt thanks to Chloe Buckley, Candy Gourlay and Miriam Halahmy for their time in presenting this panel, to all of the conference organisers for a fantastic experience, and to Caroline Fielding for the extremely late submission of this report….

Emerson Milford Dickson

Emerson is a secondary school librarian living and working in NE London. He represents London as a judge for the 2019/20 CKG Medals, and tweets about libraries, politics, cats and more at @microfichetaco

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed the ‘mirrors and windows’ theory to another individual, when in fact it is Dr Rudine Sims Bishop to whom we librarians owe a debt of gratitude for her lifetime of scholarship in the field of children’s literature. I wholeheartedly apologise for this error, which I hope will serve to remind all reading that no matter how much effort any of us may put into ‘getting it right’, our work is never truly done! – EMD 19/11/2018

Day of the Dead Display Idea

If you saw the title of this post and thought “Wait a minute… wasn’t the Day of the Dead over a week ago?” Yes you are right, it was! I had this idea too late for his year but wanted to write about it as a reminder for next year (and to share it with readers of TeenLibrarian).

For those of you who do not know what the Day of the Dead is, here is an introduction:

…Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is not a Mexican version of Halloween. Though related, the two annual events differ greatly in traditions and tone. Whereas Halloween is a dark night of terror and mischief, Day of the Dead festivities unfold over two days in an explosion of color and life-affirming joy. Sure, the theme is death, but the point is to demonstrate love and respect for deceased family members. In towns and cities throughout Mexico, revelers don funky makeup and costumes, hold parades and parties, sing and dance, and make offerings to lost loved ones.
[source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/north-america/mexico/top-ten-day-of-dead-mexico/]

Basically if you have seen The Book of Life


or Coco

you will have a basic understanding of what it is all about.

If you have not seen one or both of these films then take some time and watch them, they are beautiful and highly educational and thoroughly enjoyable for viewers of all ages.

For a deeper understanding of the Day of the Dead you can visit this resource page

My idea is rather than creating a display to educate passers-by (although this is not a bad idea to foster cultural awareness) you create an ofrenda celebrating favoured authors that have passed away.

Ofrenda: An ofrenda (Spanish: “offering”) is a collection of objects placed on a ritual display during the annual and traditionally Mexican Día de Muertos celebration.

My author display next year will feature Terry Pratchett, Ray Bradbury, Mary Shelley, Virginia Woolf, Robert Heinlein, Herge, Vita Sackville-West, Jane Austen, Jules Verne, Emily Brontë anda number of other writers I have loved.

For a great guide on how to set up an ofrenda, follow this link:

How To: La Ofrenda

CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards 2019

It is finally here! The biggest ever (again) nominations list for the best ever children’s books awards.

For those of you who don’t know, the Carnegie medal is awarded to the author of an outstanding piece of literature for children and young people while the Kate Greenaway medal recognises the illustrator of an outstandingly illustrated book for children and young people (the 2019 awards are for titles published in the UK between September 2017 and August 2018). Most nominations come from members of CILIP and so for a book to be nominated it must have been read and loved by at least one individual…hopefully, before nominating, that individual will have also considered whether the book meets the criteria that the judges then use to whittle the huge nominations list down to a long list of (up to) 20 each to a shortlist of (up to) 8 each to the eventual winners. Some of us (lucky us) get sent books by publishers, sometimes with a “we’d like this to be considered for CKG” note, but the nominations are all made by people with an interest in libraries for children and young people.

This summer a report was published into the diversity review (Matt blogged about it here) bringing a few changes to the process to ensure that it is as diverse and inclusive as possible:

This year, 254 books have been nominated for the 2019 Medals; 137 books are in the running for the CILIP Carnegie Medal and 117 for the Kate Greenaway Medal. Books have been put forward by a record number of nominators which, alongside CILIP members, includes several external bodies − BookTrust, CLPE, Commonword, IBBY, Inclusive Minds, National Literacy Trust and RNIB − invited to nominate as part of CILIP’s diversity and inclusion action plan for the Awards.

As part of this action plan, this year also sees:

o   an expanded judging panel of librarians, bringing a broad range of lived experiences and perspectives

o   enhanced diversity training for the judges

o   an equality, diversity and inclusion advisory panel to support and advise on the Awards process

o   a new prize voted for by children and young people

o   and a quarterly publication of Top 10 New Voices eligible for the upcoming Medals.

Scanning the lists, some favourites are there along with a few that I keep meaning to read. In the years before my judging tenure I read the full nominations list every year, and then obviously while judging I read everything (some things many times over), but as the list grows ever longer and more and more books continue to be published that will be eligible for 2020 (…2020! Wishing my life away in CKGs…) this year I’m going to alternate one book from the list with one new book and see how far I get. So far, I’ve only read 1/3 of the Carnegies (clearly spent too much time re-reading Pratchett) and nearly half the Kate Greenaways (will have to raid the public library for the rest).

What do I love that I’ve read so far? Oooh, it is fab to be able to think about favourites and not just about criteria. Every year I guarantee you every one of the judges will have to lose at least one of their favourites to those that the panel agree best meet the criteria. Judges can’t say “I loved this book because…”, they have to say “it meets this criteria because…”.

  • So my top 10 Carnegie favourites so far are: David Almond Colour of the Sun, Jo Cotterill Jelly, S.E. Durrant Running on Empty, Candy Gourlay Bone Talk, Frances Hardinge A Skinful of Shadows, Catherine Johnson Freedom, Zanib Mian The Muslims, Philip Reeve Station Zero, Jason Reynolds Long Way Down, Dave Shelton The Book Case.
  • Top 10 Kate Greenaway that I love, so far, are: Mehrdokht Amini Nimesh the Adventurer, Francesca Chessa Is it a Mermaid?, Rebecca Cobb The Day War Came, Ruth Hearson Zeki Gets a Checkup, Jean Jullien I Want to be in a Scary Story, Fiona Lumbers Luna Loves Library Day, Poonam Mistry You’re Safe With Me, Jackie Morris The Lost Words, Chris Priestly Long Way Down, Catell Ronca The Drum.

It was hard to whittle it down to 10 each and I’ve got so many left to read! I’m certain they won’t all be longlisted, but that’s the joy of picking favourites. It seems to me that the Kate Greenaway list has far fewer titles for older children than in the last few years, but of course that may well just be because half the ones I’ve not read yet are for teenagers and (having a 3 year old) I’ve gravitated more towards classic picture books! The Carnegie list seems to have something for everyone in there, I don’t envy the judges having to make those decisions*!

(*who am I kidding, of course I do, those judging meetings are intense but absolutely brilliant)

You’re Snug With Me – picture book review

 


At the start of winter, two bear cubs are born, deep in their den in the frozen north. “Mama, what lies beyond here?” they ask. “‘Above us is a land of ice and snow.” “What lies beyond the ice and snow?” they ask. “The ocean, full of ice from long ago.” And as they learn the secrets of the earth and their place in it, Mama Bear whispers, “You’re snug with me.”

You’re Snug With Me is the second time Lantana have paired Chitra Soundar with Poonam Mistry, after You’re Safe With Me, and they are a fabulous team. It is not quite a sequel, but they are both environmentally minded and each have some factual science behind the lyrical stories. My favourite example of that from this book, is:

“As the snow fell harder, the cubs grew curious. “Will it always be dark?” they asked.

“It is dark because we are far from the sun during the winter months.”

The cubs trembled.

“Don’t be afraid,” said Mama Bear. “The Earth dances on her toes and when she tilts, our nights will get shorter and spring will return.”

While the style of drawing remains consistent between the two books, the minimal colour palette in this chilly tale is completely different to that of You’re Safe With Me:  blue, white, and yellow. It is perfect for the snow filled setting, just as green, red, and yellow was perfect for the rainforest setting of Safe. The illustrations are anything but minimal though, taking up all the space with beautiful patterns making up stylised animals in breathtaking scenes. The view changes depending on how close you are to the book, with so much detail to take in.

Although Lantana are small, their growing list of picture books is extremely impressive, some of my absolute favourite titles of recent years have come from them, so do take a look at their catalogue. They make a point of working with authors and illustrators from a wide range of cultures and nationalities to ensure that every child has a chance to see themselves in stories; ‘a publishing house with inclusivity at its heart’

Teen Librarian Monthly October

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A Storm of Ice and Stars by Lisa Lueddecke

I hope you read our guest post from Lisa Lueddecke as part of a blog tour promoting her second book, A Storm of Ice and Stars, earlier this month. I was also sent a copy of the book to read and review.

Ice, myth, magic and danger in this bone-chilling, page-turning, beautifully written fantasy novel set in the same world as A SHIVER OF SNOW AND SKY. Blood-red lights have appeared in the sky over the frozen island of Skane, causing a cloak of fear and suspicion to fall over the village like a blanket of snow. In a desperate attempt to keep out the plague, the village elders barricade its borders – no-one, no matter how in need of help, will be permitted to enter in case they bring infection with them. Teenager Janna refuses to turn her back on people seeking refuge and is banished to the swirling snow and lurking darkness beyond the village. Can she survive?

The opening paragraphs gracefully introduce us to the vast, quiet, cold island of Skane and the dangerous sky that promises death for many. Our main character has long been considered odd by the village and, when something terrible happens the night after the villagers close their borders for fear of plague, these whispers of witchcraft turn into loud accusations and she is forced to leave. I was turning the pages at speed at this point, fearing what was coming, but once her trek from the village begins it became (for me) less tense and more clearly pre-destined, turning into a quest to plead with the Gods to save those who were kind to her. The writing is truly atmospheric, it is a very wintery read. Well paced, with character building flashbacks that do a lot to explain her behaviour, and a satisfying end.

Follow the Funny

Those of you who attended the YLG national conference in Manchester last month will remember the panel discussion about funny books for children and writing comedy. In response to an audience question about judging the quality of comedy, one of the panellists, Dave Shelton, recommended some podcasts about the mechanics of writing comedy. Afterwards I asked if he’d be able to share them for the blog and, after a gentle prod, he has!

Barry Cryer is fond of saying that analysing comedy is like dissecting a frog: nobody laughs, and the frog dies. And Barry Cryer has been extremely funny for about three centuries now, so he knows a thing or two. But personally, possibly because I don’t have funny bones like Mr Cryer’s, and because I’m naturally a bit nerdy, I quite enjoy taking a scalpel to a joke and figuring out how it works. I wouldn’t want to do it all the while: I’d hate to lose the pure joy of laughing at a great gag, or a sketch, or a bit of slapstick, and not worrying about the craft that went into it. But some of the writing I do is meant to be funny, and I want to be good at my job, so I do like sometimes (to switch metaphors) to open the bonnet and take a look at the engine. And happily, in the Age of the Internet, there are some pretty good comedy Haynes manuals available for those of us who take an interest in the mechanics. So here, for anyone similarly interested in poking about in the inner workings of all things funny, are my favourite podcasts on the subject.

The Comedian’s Comedian podcast, with Stuart Goldsmith

Stand up comedian Stuart Goldsmith interviews (mostly) other stand up comedians and nerdily analyse their craft. Goldsmith (not a comedian I was aware of previously) is a knowledgable, enthusiastic and thoughtful host and (at time of writing) there are 265 shows to choose from, including an excellent two-parter with the aforementioned Mr Cryer. Well worth a dig through his archives. http://www.comedianscomedian.com/podcasts/ 

The Adam Buxton Podcast

Adam Buxton (of former Adam and Joe fame) casts his net a little
wider, occasionally interviewing film directors, actors and other creative
types, but the majority of his interviews (or “ramblechats”) are with comedy
types (comedians, writers, comedic actors) and Buxton’s personable interviewing
style often takes an idiosyncratic approach that gains insights that a more
straightforward approach would fail to reveal, especially when the interviewee
already knows him (as is sometimes the case). Less analytical and technical
than Stuart Goldsmith’s show, but more likely to be funny in itself. http://www.adam-buxton.co.uk/podcasts 

Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast (RHLSTP)

Another interview podcast (the guestlist of which overlaps
somewhat with that of Adam Buxton’s) in which Richard Herring (also formerly
half of a double act – Herring used to work with Stewart Lee in the ‘90s)
interviews mostly fellow comedians for about an hour in front of a live
audience at the Leicester Square Theatre (as you had perhaps already guessed
from the title). Gloriously wayward, sometimes gleefully childish, and
occasionally stomping over the boundaries of good taste, Herring won’t be to
everyone’s taste, but he knows his stuff and he’s an insightful interviewer,
especially when the chemistry really clicks with his interviewee. http://www.comedy.co.uk/podcasts/richard_herring_lst_podcast/ …

Sitcom Geeks

Hosts James Cary and Dave Cohen discuss the art of sitcom
writing for TV and Radio, either between themselves or with a guest. I
personally find this one a little more hit and miss than those above, but
there’s plenty of gold amongst their (so far) 90 episodes, not least the two
part interview with my particular current radio comedy writing hero, John
Finnemore. http://www.comedy.co.uk/podcasts/sitcom_geeks/ …

Rule of Three

I’ve saved the best till last: this one is the baby of these
choices, having only begun in April 2018, but it’s my particular favourite.
Hosts Joel Morris and Jason Hazeley (creators of those irritatingly successful
and hilarious spoof Ladybird books, and jobbing writers for all kinds of folk
across radio, TV and film) take a different, more focussed, approach to the
other four shows. To quote Joel’s introduction to the show: “We’re joined by
someone who makes comedy to talk about something funny that they love. By
taking it apart maybe we’ll learn something about how comedy works. Or we’ll
just quote bits from it and giggle till we’re finished. Both approaches are
valid.” Subjects chosen range from Armando Iannucci’s groundbreaking On the
Hour (the radio forerunner of The Day Today) to Father Ted, via a Monty Python
LP and cartoonist Leo Baxendale (creator of The Bash Street Kids). All great,
hugely entertaining, and deeply interesting. http://www.ruleofthreepod.com

Dave writes and illustrates books and comics, including the unsettling ‘Thirteen Chairs’, ‘Good Dog Bad Dog’, and contributing to The Phoenix. His latest offering, ‘The Book Case‘, is a gloriously madcap tale beginning the adventures of a trainee Assistant Assistant Librarian (there are more to come, hooray!). Honestly, one of my favourite books since ‘A Boy and a Bear in a Boat’.

 

 

The Hate U Give – the film

Have I mentioned before what a privilege it is being involved in the CILIP YLG London committee? Because the book by Angie Thomas was shortlisted for the 2018 Carnegie medial, we were invited by Walker books to a special preview of the film at 20th Century Fox in London last week.

Having read the book multiple times during the judging process, I was pretty nervous about how a film might live up to the source material. When we got into the small screening room there were bags of popcorn and packets of tissues waiting for us on the seats and boy were they needed (the tissues, although the popcorn was much appreciated)! In some respects it is very different to the book, lots cut out or rearranged in order to tell the story in 132 minutes – but the bits they kept the same were brilliant and the bits they changed worked. In fact <spoiler redacted> was completely different to the book and such a shock that I cried so hard I couldn’t stop a strange noise escaping my throat…and I still want to cry thinking about it. It translated the core message of the book superbly. But it is also funny! And sweet! Lots of reviews have focussed on the Dad character, Maverick, who is played to perfection by Russell Hornsby, but the whole family was amazing. I especially loved Sekani, that boy really is joy personified.

This is one of those rare occasions where the film is as special as the book, and I highly recommend you make your way to the cinema to see it when it is released. And if you haven’t read it yet, well I just don’t know where you’ve been…

A STORM OF ICE AND STARS by Lisa Lueddecke – Guest Post

How I Write

By Lisa Lueddecke

 

If you’re interested in how I go about writing the books that you read, then this is the place for you. Let me just caveat this post by saying that this is a description of my normal writing life, when I’m not pregnant and repulsed by coffee, etc.

My writing days always start very early. I have long been a morning person, far more inspired by the dawn than the dusk. Particularly when I was writing A Storm of Ice and Stars and living in Cumbria, England, I would set my alarm for five or five thirty am every day, when it was still very dark outside (I wrote most of the book over winter), and after feeding the cat and making my first cup of coffee, I would get into my writing room just as the sun was starting to come up, or close to it. For me, especially when writing fantasy, I find that early morning, pre-dawn time more inspiring than anything else. I even mention it from time to time in my writing, those early hours when the sun is just began to yawn and wake up.

In addition to coffee and mornings, one thing that I usually cannot write without is a scented candle. For A Shiver of Snow and Sky and A Storm of Ice and Stars, I most often wrote with a forest/pine/evergreen/fir scented candle, with the occasional Christmas one sprinkled in. Writing, for me, needs to be a very immersive experience, so I can really feel and see and smell and hear the world. Alongside my candle, I would play some sort of ambience to fit whatever scene I was writing, like an icy cave or crashing waves on a beach. I find that by doing my best to recreate elements of the scene that I’m working on, I can better immerse my readers in the world. I find more details, more descriptions, more bits and pieces that make the world seem real. My fantasy stories have always been very setting-based, and I think that’s why I need so many elements to have a successful writing day. I have to believe in it in order to make other people believe in it.

Although I have moved to America, my writing routine has not changed. I still write very early in the morning, and I try not to set word count goals for myself unless I’m on a very tight deadline. I have to just let the words and the scenes flow, or I feel like my brain stops working with me. I write until I start to get distracted, or I realize that I’m forcing the words out, and then I just let it be for the day, or until the afternoon when I’m feeling fresh and revived. I’m not one of those people that thrives when writing somewhere like a coffee shop. I wish I was, because I usually love coffee, but I’m not. I need mostly quiet, save for my ambiences or my wordless music, and I write either at my desk, or sitting my my couch.

Even if my country and my writing space changes, the way that I write does not, and I’m not sure that it ever will. Scented candles, relevant ambiences, and coffee have always been necessary for me, and I suspect they always will.

 

A STORM OF ICE AND STARS by Lisa Lueddecke out now in paperback (£7.99, Scholastic)

@LisaLueddecke      www.lisalueddecke.com

#ICEandSTARS

The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals: a change has come

Full disclosure: I am a member of CILIP and a former judge for the 2015 & 16 CILIP CKG Medals.

I knew it was coming, and was even expecting it, but what with some changes in my life and location, the announcement that the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards Independent Diversity Review Final Report was published on Thursday 27th September still managed to catch me by surprise.

As an ardent fan (although not an uncritical one), follower and commentator of the Medals, I was excited to read the recommendations, but still approached them with a sense of trepidation; owing possibly to the sense of ownership I felt as a librarian and as a member of CILIP and the Youth Libraries Group. Nevertheless I shook off these feelings and approached the report with a cautious optimism and told myself that the Awards do not belong to me, that I know they are a living thing that can and have changed in the past and that change is good.

The ten recommendations made in the final report are:

  • Explicitly champion diversity through the Awards’ strategies, development plans and messages including a statement of a robust and proactive strategy for the Awards that clearly states a commitment to diversity and inclusion with clear vision, objectives, and positive action towards stated intended outcomes.
  • Recognise a diverse range of voices and perspectives in the nominations, longlist, shortlist and prize winners.
  • Expand the diversity profile of the judges by increasing the variety of backgrounds and lived-experiences amongst CILIP’s panel of librarian judges.
  • Establish an equality, diversity and inclusion advisory panel to accelerate the embedding of diversity and inclusion throughout the Awards.
  • Strengthen the diversity training that librarian judges receive to instil heightened awareness of diversity and inclusion and understanding of the impact of power dynamics, as well as acknowledgement of inevitable personal biases in all members of the panel.
  • Review the Awards criteria through an open and collaborative process that includes a diversity of perspectives and lived-experience. Consider the inclusion of criteria for innovation, shifting perceptions, or writing about different backgrounds and experience as indicators of quality and excellence.
  • Empower and celebrate the children and young people involved in the Awards through the shadowing scheme by giving them a significant voice and visible presence in the process and prize giving.
  • Strengthen the governance that supports the Awards’ strategic direction, calling on internal and external experts to lead the Awards through a sustainable change process over the short and long term.
  • Raise greater awareness of diverse books amongst librarians and identify opportunities for further championing of diversity with the library supply sector.
  • Increase outreach by opening up and amplifying the nominations process, discovering and recognising new and diverse talent and forging new partnerships.

  •  
    CILIP’s immediate actions are to:

  • Creating a new mission for the Awards: To inspire and empower the next generation to create a better world through books and reading.
  • Opening up the nominations process to external nominating bodies as well as librarians including BookTrust, CLPE, Commonword, IBBY, Inclusive Minds, National Literacy Trust and RNIB.
  • Creating a list of eligible books by diverse authors and illustrators, to raise awareness amongst CILIP members.
  • Expanding the judging panel to bring in a broader range of perspectives and experiences into the judging process.
  • Setting up an equality, diversity and inclusion advisory panel to bring greater representation and lived experience into the Awards process.
  • Providing judges with enhanced diversity training including coaching sessions, bias testing and guidance notes on identifying inclusion in children’s books.
  • Introducing a new children’s choice prize to be presented by participants of the Shadowing scheme at the June Awards ceremony.
  • Celebrating new and emerging talent though a quarterly publication of top 10 new voices eligible for the upcoming Medals.

  •  
    The recommendations and actions that give me a sense of joy and elation are that future Awards will include recognition from the Shadowing scheme, I and many other judges and observers over the years have asked for and pushed for this, or something like it to be included in the ceremony. The already excellent training that judges go through before they sit on the panel is to be improved with diversity training to assist judges in identifying bias and inclusion.

    I must admit to feeling a bit smug at being ahead of the curve when I read that CILIP is curating a list of eligible diverse books for the 2019 awards as that is something I was working on for the 2018 Awards; such lists are important, for, as I wrote then: I believe that it is possible for books to slip past fairly easily, due to the sheer volume of books published for children and young readers and the limits that publishers publicity departments face with regard to budget, many books are released with little or no official fanfare at all.

    Maintaining awareness of new books is an on-going struggle for library workers, this is made more difficult with services such as supplier selection which removes choice from staff in libraries; often popular titles and authors are purchased to the exclusion of new authors and illustrators or small and independent publishers. I will just say that many of my best sources of information about new and diverse books are librarians that I know personally and on-line as we are passionate about discovering new authors to enable us to put books in the hands of readers who will enjoy them.

    Allied with this is the inclusion of new nominating bodies, including IBBY, CLPE, Booktrust, Inclusive Minds, the RNIB, CommonWord and the National Literacy Trust. At first I was skeptical of opening nominations to outside organisations but after some reflection I have come to realise that the organisations involved are all allied in some way with CILIP and may catch and nominate diverse titles that are missed by librarian nominators.

    Expanding diversity and experience among the judging panel is a process that has already begun with judges being recruited from a wider pool within CILIP, the first judges recruited in this way will be judging the 2019 Medals.

    I am curious as to why the panel is being enlarged to 14 judges; in previous years judges have represented the 12 YLG regions in the UK. I am assuming that the extras will be chosen from the pool of applications for the original 12 places. An added point of concern is that it will place more pressure on finding judges, as I am aware that in the past filling slots on the panel has been a bit fraught due to a lack of available librarians. I wonder whether the extra judges be chosen in rotation from the different regions every two years in the interests of balance and equality?

    The call to review the awards criteria is one that I feel may be redundant, as the criteria are already regularly reviewed and updated when short-comings are discovered. The most recent example of this is the addition of the illustrator’s name to illustrated novels nominated for the Carnegie Medal in 2016 . I do however recognise that the explicit language used may be needed to inform those unaware of how the criteria are governed and updated.

    Adding an equality, diversity and inclusion advisory panel to the panel that already exists to advise and monitor the awards process can only assist the judges in their deliberations and making the strongest possible selections. I will watch with interest and look forward to discovering who will make up the panel.

    The championing of new voices is a great idea and one that will lead to a closer working relationship between CILIP and publishers & authors in the UK and abroad.

    The creation of a new mission for the CKG Awards firmly embeds the purpose of the awards and extends it to make them two of the most inclusive book awards, and not just for books and illustration for children and young people:

    Mission

    To inspire and empower the next generation to create a better world through books and reading.

    We will do this by:

  • Celebrating outstanding writing and illustration for children and young people.
  • Recognising a broad range of perspectives, experiences and voices.
  • Championing the power of librarians to connect children and young people with outstanding books that represent their identities and help them shape a better world.
  • Encouraging authors, illustrators and publishers to create more books for children and young people that reflect all identities and promote diversity.
  • Promoting a readership and market that values diversity, representation and inclusion in books for books for children and young people.
  • Challenging children and young people with a diversity of ideas and perspectives to promote empathy, tolerance and understanding.
  •  
    The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards have been in existence for over 80 and 60 years respectively, and under the stewardship of the Youth Libraries Group and CILIP they have grown in prestige and awareness over the decades. I trust the stewards to do the right thing for the awards, to make them stronger and ever more inclusive; in supporting the judges as the work that they do grows ever harder with no end in sight to the growth in publishing for young people.

    I look forward to watching the awards progress in coming years, to see how the largest changes in over a generation affect them; but remain confident that it will be change for the better, as their defining purpose, the recognition of outstanding writing and illustration for children and young people, has not changed!

    Links

    CILIP post on the Final Report

    Independent Diversity Review: Final Report

    Bookseller article: CILIP makes changes at Carnegie and Kate Greenaway following diversity review

    Guardian article: Carnegie medal promises immediate action over lack of diversity