You could say that we’ve been on this journey towards writing a book on how to work with diversity in writing for a long time—ever since we each fell in love with stories and realized what an impact they make on our conscious and subconscious minds. The power of myth is nearly endless. And as writers of fiction, we are myth makers, collectively. This is an honor, privilege, and responsibility. We are all, with our words, hammering out the world views of our readers like blacksmiths on metal, for better or worse.
In August 2020, Mariëlle approached Bethany after hearing her speak on diversity during a series of lectures they both took part in. Mariëlle had been working on notes for the book for years already and even conducted some preliminary research. However, she was struggling to fully commit to it. On some level, she knew this project was bigger than her.
While we already knew each other, this was our first professional project together. Neither of us were strangers to the space of teaching and working with concepts of representation, culture, and minority issues.
Mariëlle taught gender and postcolonial theory for years at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. She also wrote a few blog posts on representation.
Meanwhile, Bethany worked in Asia, instructing high school students and adult professionals on issues of racism, bias, and cultural translation—alongside language instruction—to prepare them to be global citizens. Her research project at Denison University, Art and Literature as Tools of Political Propaganda, won a grant and a place in the summer research series.
Both of us are published authors and editors, but we come from different continents and have spent time abroad in very different parts of the world. By combining our experiences with that of our communities, we believe this work will be able to serve many more people than if we worked alone.
The podcast, Doing Diversity in Writing, came both from our desire and need to interact with our community while writing the book and from the urgency we both feel to release these concepts into the world. There has never been a time when this work is more relevant. If we could have this work written last year, we would have!
The book will be a manual, breaking down the writing of characters in categories of race, gender, neurodivergence, family and romantic structures, appearance, ethnicity/nationality, religion, age, sexuality, health, and ability, and so on. The intention is for the first part of the book to discuss how to craft characters beyond the identities we carry ourselves and why we should; examine our own blind spots, biases, and predilections; and bring fully fledged representations to the page. The aim for us is to provide you with a guide that will give you the courage to write diverse characters who ring with authenticity and are stimulating for the reader to experience.
The second part of the book will offer practical guidance. It will focus on the categories above and provide practical points regarding existing cliches, stereotypes, and tropes and investigations into where multiple identities come together in one person and what that means for our characterizations. A character is always made up of more than one visible or invisible identity marker: they will have a gender, a sexuality, a class, a race, an ethnicity, a nationality, a particular age, and they might have a religion, a disability, a particular education, and so on. How these identity markers intersect in each individual character influences what makes for an authentic, realistic representation.
As of now, the book will be released in 2023. There’s a lot of work to be done and we look forward to engaging our communities in the process. Ultimately, this book is for all of us. And while it will be a while before the book comes out, the podcast will be weekly and we’re hoping you will join us on the journey.
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