Month: January 2017
National Ambassador Gene Luen Yang’s Creativity in Progress Series: Part 11
In his latest post, Yang shares his approach to discerning the good ideas from the chaff. He finds that ideas rooted in emotion and that “infatuate” or linger with him are often the …
Rediscovered Mark Twain Fairy Tale Coming Soon
The manuscript was discovered by scholar John Bird at the Twain archives at the University of California, Berkeley. Bird and other scholars believe it may be the only written remnant …
Digital Book World Conference Reports Trade Book Market is Stable
The speakers were John Sargent, Macmillan CEO, and Jonathan Stolper, senior v-p and global managing director of Nielsen Book. Stolper noted that unit sales of print books rose 3.3% in …
The New Trio Behind Netflix’s ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’
On Friday the 13th of January, the series premiered on Netflix and covers the early books over an eight-episode season. In addition to Harris, the series also features appearances by …
National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang Announces the Launch of Nationwide Reading Without Walls Month
NEW YORK, NY — January 27, 2017 — The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang, in partnership with the Children’s Book Council (CBC), the Center for the Book …
Bethlehem Elementary School Takes on the Reading Without Walls Challenge
Bethlehem students have made a pledge “to remove the walls that prevent you from becoming a well-read person,” sharing photos and testimonies about their experience. Learn more about the Reading Without …
Three Debuts on the Indie Bestsellers List
The following books made the list: Children’s Illustrated Egg by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow) Young Adult Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegen Books) Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos (Bloomsbury U.S.A. …
American Library Association Announces 2017 Youth Media Award Winners
ATLANTA, Jan. 23, 2017 — The American Library Association (ALA) today announced the top books, video and audio books for children and young adults – including the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery …
Four Debuts on the NYT Children’s Best Sellers Lists
The following books made the list: Young Adult Hardcover: Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken (Hyperion) The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner and Other Stories by Terry Pratchett (HarperCollins) Young Adult Paperback: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken (Disney-Hyperion) …
Hartman and Huff Awarded YALSA’s 2017 National Library Legislative Day Travel Stipend
CHICAGO, IL — The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA) has awarded Angela Hartman and Sara Huff its 2017 National Library Legislative …
2017 Children’s Book Week Poster Revealed; Event Location Online Sign-up Now Open
New York, NY – January 20, 2017 – Every Child a Reader has revealed the official Children’s Book Week poster commemorating the 98th annual celebration of books for young people …
New Intellectual Freedom Bloggers For 2017
The Intellectual Freedom Blog has a new lineup of contributors for 2017. Founded in 2007, the blog has a history of top-notch, quality writers, and the Office for Intellectual Freedom …
Utilizing Senstivity Readers: A Conversation with Becky Albertalli
Contributed by Becky Albertalli, Author
Tell us about your upcoming (and hotly anticipated!) novel.
My second novel, The Upside of Unrequited (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, April 2017), is a loose companion to my debut, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. It’s about a chubby, anxious, seventeen-year-old Jewish girl named Molly, who’s falling in love after a long line of unrequited crushes.
Although this is an Own Voices book, you worked with twelve sensitivity readers on the manuscript. Can you share a bit about that experience?
Upside is very much an Own Voices book (a term derived from a hashtag created by author Corinne Duyvis to denote when an author belongs to the same marginalized community/ies as their character). Like Molly, I’m Jewish and chubby/fat, and I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. So much of Molly’s story was inspired by my own teen experience.
That said, I took great care when fleshing out Molly and her diverse community, which includes many POC and lesbian/bi/queer/pan characters. Many writers have shared advice for writing thoughtful, well-researched characters from marginalized communities they don’t belong to (my favorite is this piece in Writer Magazine by Nic Stone, author of the forthcoming Dear Martin).
For me, one of the most rewarding parts of this process was my work with sensitivity readers. The term sensitivity reader refers to a hired reader who belongs to the same marginalized community as your character, who reads with an eye toward critiquing the representation of that marginalized group. The author or the publisher pays the reader for their expertise, though it’s not uncommon for two authors to reciprocate sensitivity or beta reads instead of exchanging money. Authors and sensitivity readers often connect via word of mouth, but there are also resources for finding readers (for example, author Justina Ireland’s Writing in the Margins database).
For Upside, I had the opportunity to work with multiple sensitivity readers who belong to the same communities as my marginalized secondary characters. I also sought out a few second opinions on fat representation, Jewish issues, and anxiety, even though I was writing from personal experience on these three points. These readers gave me both broad and specific feedback, which I consolidated and addressed in revisions.
I found that it was particularly valuable, when feasible, to hear from more than one member of any given community. Sometimes these readers would catch the same issue. For example, two readers gave me a similar note about a factual error I’d made with respect to historically black colleges and universities. In that case, I was able to make a quick, straightforward change.
However, my readers often highlighted different moments in the text, and sometimes would even disagree on certain points. This is completely normal, and should be expected – every community includes a range of perspectives. Typically, I was able to find solutions to address the issues, even when they initially appeared contradictory. For example, one reader noted that a particular character’s ease connecting with romantic partners felt unrealistic in the context of my story. Another reader appreciated the romantic arc and felt it accurately reflected their own experiences. Ultimately, I was able to flesh out this character’s environment in a way that made her romance feel more organic.
Overall, the marginalized characters in my book felt richer and more complex after I addressed the notes from my sensitivity readers. I’m incredibly grateful for their feedback, and I encourage anyone writing outside their lane to seek similar input.
Becky Albertalli is the author of the acclaimed Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, winner of the William C. Morris Award and longlisted for the National Book Award. She is currently at work on her third novel.
Three Debuts on the Indie Bestseller List
The following books made the list: Children’s Illustrated Moana (Little Golden Book) by Andrea Posner-Sanchez, illustrated by Griselda Sastrawinata-Lemay (Random House Disney) Early & Middle Grade Readers Hidden Figures (Young Readers’ Edition) …
Barnes & Noble Launches Seventh Annual “My Favorite Teacher Contest”
NEW YORK, NY — Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the nation’s largest retail bookseller and a leading retailer of content, digital media and educational products, today announced the start …
National Ambassador Gene Luen Yang on Honing His Craft
Yang found success through his own determination and through the support of his peers, including fellow graphic novelist Derek Kirk Kim and other Bay Area artists that came together to form a …
The Children’s Book Council Partners with Educators to Present the Best STEM Books
The First Children’s STEM Book List New York, NY – January 18, 2017 – The Children’s Book Council (CBC) has announced the first-ever educator-vetted Best STEM Books list, a joint …
New Workshop: Creating Inclusive Storytimes For All Children
CHICAGO, IL — ALA Editions announces an exciting new workshop, Creating Inclusive Storytimes for ALL Children with Carol Morrone. This workshop will last 90 minutes and take place at 2:30pm Eastern/1:30 …
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Announces the Spark Award Winners
The SPARK award recognizes excellence in an independently-published children’s book in the previous calendar year. The SCBWI is proud to announce the winners of the 2017 Spark Award, an annual …
Debut on the NYT Children’s Best Sellers Lists
Middle Grade Hardcover: Dog Man Unleashed by Dav Pilkey (Scholastic)