On Saturday, I attended SCBWI San Francisco/South's discussion panel on Multiculturalism. The presenters were award-winning kidlit author Rita Williams-Garcia (via Skype) and Abigail Samoun, a former editor at Tricycle Press who's now an agent with Red Fox Literary. Being that multiculturalism is woven into a few of my writing projects and book ideas, I soaked in what the industry profs had to say.
Rita gave some insights about developing a character who could be a "stereotype" into a more authentic character:
- Every character has a function. Find the truth of the character and what their journey is.
- Sometimes stereotypes exist because of some statistical truth. As writers we have to dig deeper and add more layers to such characters by sharing, for example, the character's soul and values.
- If there are things in our culture we have to address, we shouldn't put lipstick on a pig to cover it up.
-The writer has to be brave and come from a place of integrity when addressing such characters.
Abigail read aloud excerpts from YESTERDAY I HAD THE BLUES by Jeron Ashford Frame (Picture Book-Tricycle Press) as an example of what a solid multicultural story looks like, even if it was written by a "cultural outsider." Then she shared the characteristics of a good multicultural story:
-A consistent, authentic, and evocative voice
-Research and craft
-Intimate knowledge of character, their culture, the environment the character was raised in (Know a character right down to what breakfast cereal they eat!)
I enjoyed listening to Rita and Abigail talk. After their presentation, I stuck around and mingled with the other attendees. Glad I came.