Creating Diverse Characters

Next Class: Deep Dive Intensive on Creating Diverse Characters

It’s Writing the Other core class time again! I’m excited for this next one as it’s my favorite: Creating Diverse Characters. I teach this one with Nisi and Piper J. Drake, so you’ll get three deep perspectives on how to write characters different from yourself.

This year we’re doing a new class structure that’s shorter and less expensive. We wanted to make it more financially accessible to folks who may still be struggling to deal with pandemic-related budget issues. And if the price is still out of reach, we have scholarships.

When: June 12 – 20, 2021
Where: Online via Zoom or Asynchronous classroom, accessible at your own pace
Price: $200 – $300

There are two course options:

Option 1: Asynchronous ($200) — Writers who cannot join us for the live Weekend Intensive can chose this option. Starting June 12 you’ll have access to the private WordPress classroom where we will post lectures in text form and the recordings of the sessions. Starting on the 14th we’ll post readings, discussions, and more writing exercises (some of which instructors will offer feedback on). For this option you can log in at any time and participate on your schedule.

The time commitment for the Asynchronous portion of the class will depend on your level of participation. Discussions based on lectures, short readings, and writing exercises will take place during the week. Discussion threads tend to be wide-ranging, so students should try to check in at least once a day or every other day. You may manage your time as needed based on your own schedule.

Option 2: Weekend Intensive Plus ($300) — On Saturday and Sunday June 12 & 13 students will gather virtually on Zoom (see detailed schedule below) for lectures, Q&A, discussion, and writing exercises with live feedback. From Monday June 14 through Friday the 18th students can log in to a private WordPress forum for further discussions based on readings and more writing exercises. This section of the class is asynchronous, meaning you can log in at any time and participate on your schedule.

This option is limited to 25 students.

See all the details, schedule, and scholarship app info at WritingTheOther.com.

Ignyte 2021 Header

I Am An IGNYTE Award Nominee!

Best birthday week news! FIYAHcon announced the IGNYTE Awards shortlist and I am a double nominee. WOOOOOOT

Writing the Other got a second Community Award nomination, an honor I’m sharing with the amazing Nisi Shawl. I’m also nominated for the Ember Award for unsung contributions to genre. EEEEEE

I’m so thrilled and humbled by this. Especially as I’m in categories with so many people and entities I admire and love. How can I deal with being in the same category as Michi Trota or Tananarive Due or Diana M. Pho or L.L. McKinney & Tochi Onyebuchi or or or? Just… this is 100% wonderful.

Beyond that, the entire ballot is fire and I don’t care if that’s an overused pun! hee. So much thoughtfulness went into all the categories so that they celebrate a myriad of important contributions to the genre. Fiction AND non-fiction AND thoughtful criticism/reviews AND media AND community.

Voting is now open to all. I highly suggest you go down the ballot and read, watch, or listen to the things you haven’t already. There’s stuff on here I haven’t gotten to yet. Once I do, I’m going to share what I intend to vote for.

And finally: thanks to the FIYAH team and folks on the selection committee for this honor. ??????????

are you my ally header

Next Writing the Other Webinar: Are You My Ally?

Yes, I do intend to have a very busy May :D In addition to the Rekindle Unworkshop I’m also co-leading a webinar on allyship for creative folks.

Got privilege? Want to know what it’s good for? Want to make use of your advantages without insulting those who may not share them? There are so many ways creative people can help each other. With suggestions ranging from practical tips to aspirational dreams, this seminar empowers would-be allies to support BIPOC and other marginalized creatives and #ownvoices work while boosting the presence of marginalized genius.

When: May 1, 2021, 10AM – 1PM Pacific Time
Where: Online via Zoom video conference
Price: $20 – $30 or Whatever You Can Afford

Visit the Writing the Other website for for further details or to register.

Should Authors Write Characters Different From Themselves

New Webinar: Should Authors Write Characters Different From Themselves?

I get asked a version of this question all the time. So does anyone who is outspoken in the diverse literature space. It usually comes in the form of:

Should white creators write characters of color?

or

Should abled creators write characters with disabilities?

or

Should heterosexual creators write LGBTQIA+ characters?

and so on.

Truth is, the answer is simple (yes) and also complex (yes, but…), thus some people need guidance in answering the question for themselves. Lucky for y’all, Nisi Shawl and I are willing to offer that guidance.

Our next webinar is on this topic, it costs $20 – $30 or whatever you can afford, and will happen on March 6th. If you cannot make the live webinar you can register to get the video after. Details and registration are on Writing the Other.com. Hope to see you there.

New Webinar: Cultural Appropriation – What It Is and How To Avoid It

Nisi Shawl and I are teaching a webinar on Cultural Appropriation next month. This class has low-cost registrations and a donation/Pay What You Can Afford option to make it more widely available to writers affected by COVID-19. Basic details:

When: May 2, 2020, 10AM – 1PM Pacific Time (Click to see when this happens in your time zone)
Where: Online via Zoom video conference
Price: $20 – $30 or Whatever You Can Afford (Details Below)

Most writers want to avoid Cultural Appropriation but worry that they don’t fully understand what it is or how to ensure their work does not include it. They wonder what the difference is between appropriation and exchange or between appropriation and influence. And they hope avoiding cultural appropriation doesn’t mean only writing stories about people from their same race, culture, or ethnic group.

In this 3 hour webinar, authors Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford will offer concrete answers to those questions and a set of resources to help authors navigate these tricky waters. The webinar includes two short lectures and a lengthy Q&A.

Click here for full details or to register

white man writing with chalk against green chalkboard

The Rules Won’t Save You, So Stop Looking For Them

A couple years back when I wrote about cultural appropriation for NPR one of the more intriguing reactions I got was multiple people saying what boiled down to “But you didn’t tell me exactly what cultural appropriation is and the exact steps I need to avoid it in every possible scenario!” and then demanding I do so on Twitter or other public spaces where they could get at me. I tried to say both in the article and in subsequent discussions that the issue was far too nuanced for the exactness people were looking for, which… wasn’t the answer they wanted. I thought about this again while reading Jeanette Ng’s excellent piece on Medium offering advice for writers who want to create diverse fiction but worry about culturally appropriating. She says:

Stop looking for rules. There is a tendency in humans to desire rules, of what should and should not be permitted. It is very easy, however, once you’ve reduced things to rules… for some to forget why something is bad. Some will begin to argue that the rules seem arbitrary.

YES to all that. Plus, I’ve argued with enough Rules Lawyers1 to know that folks will also use the rules to look for loopholes or insist on rules so that they can get around them and then claim what they’re doing is okay because it wasn’t explicitly dealt with in Rules.

I know that this isn’t true of all people trying to work out how to deal with and avoid cultural appropriation. And I know some people are better with absolutes than judgment calls. There are some situations in life where that can’t be accommodated, and issues around writing inclusive fiction and cultural appropriation are an example of such. With these you have to develop discernment based on knowledge and understanding of the nuances.

This is why I’ve spent so much time putting together resources like the Cultural Appropriation Primer as well as many of the other links on the Writing the Other website. I want to make it easier for people to find information and grow their own knowledge. And I want them to get a sense of the complexities involved, which is why there are dozens of articles and sources instead of a handful. Hell, the resource list we give our students is around 200 links deep at this point, and still growing.

Even having read all those links I can’t and won’t create a set of concrete rules to follow because that wouldn’t be a solution. Writers could follow every rule to the T and still make mistakes that harm marginalized people2. So why even try? Because it’s not about following rules, it’s about doing your best to reduce harm and, if you don’t get it 100% right, apologizing, learning from your mistakes, and doing better in the future. That’s it. Most people aren’t looking for perfection. They are looking to see that you care, that you’re putting in a good faith effort, and that you’re willing to listen and learn.

So listen to Jeanette and stop looking for rules. They won’t save you.


Footnotes

  1. My usage of this term closely aligns with what TVTropes calls Obnoxious Rules Lawyers/Rule Sharks. []
  2. I address this in my LitReactor essay on representation when talking about Neil Gaiman’s Sandman: A Game Of You storyline. []

My #GivingTuesday Recommendations

It’s the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and the hashtag of the day is #GivingTuesday. This is the day to raise awareness for charitable causes that could use your dollars just as much (or more!) as retail stores. I am intimately involved with many charitable causes that I think deserve your donations. Some are 501(c)3 orgs, so you get a tax deduction, some are not. All of them come with my highest endorsement and recommendation. Click here to read the full list.

Cultural Appropriation What It Is and How To Avoid It

New Webinar: Cultural Appropriation – What It Is & How To Avoid It

My next class for Writing the Other is a one day webinar on Cultural Appropriation. A topic that continues to be fraught and also continues to attract opinions on the subject that are wrong-headed, maddening, and just plain dangerous. Hopefully this class will alleviate some of those problems.


When: September 9, 11AM – 2PM Eastern (Click to see when this happens in your time zone)
Where: Online via Zoom meeting  (video only registration option available)
Price: $50

Most writers want to avoid Cultural Appropriation but worry that they don’t fully understand what it is or how to ensure their work does not include it. They wonder what the difference is between appropriation and exchange or between appropriation and influence. And they hope avoiding cultural appropriation doesn’t mean only writing stories about people from their same race, culture, or ethnic group.

In this 3 hour webinar, authors Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford will offer concrete answers to those questions and a set of resources to help authors navigate these tricky waters. The webinar includes two short lectures and a lengthy Q&A.

For all the details, including information on scholarships, or to register, go to WritingtheOther.com.

Should Authors Write Characters Different From Themselves - a writing the other seminar

New Seminar: Should Authors Write Characters Different From Themselves?

We’re doing a new webinar through WritingTheOther.com as an intro into our more in-depth classes. Description:

Discussions of diversity in literature often boil down to a version of this basic question: Should white authors write characters of color? Should cisgender authors write trans characters? Should abled people write characters with disabilities? Should heterosexuals write QUILTBAG characters? The list goes on.

Though framed as a yes or no question, the answer is complicated and complex. Yet it’s the same one for every permutation that gets asked. In this 3 and a half hour webinar, authors Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford will give you the answer.

When: April 21, 3PM – 6:30PM Eastern (Click to see when this happens in your time zone)

Where: Online via Zoom meeting

Price: $50

If you can’t attend the live class, there is a video only option (you just don’t get to ask questions in the live Q&A). There are scholarships and sliding scale registrations available.

For all the details, including schedule, accessibility, technical requirements, registration, and more, click over to the Writing The Other website.

Dialect and Dialogue Deep Dive

Next Writing the Other Class: Dialect and Dialogue Deep Dive

Nisi Shawl is teaching her seminar on dialogue in a 2 week deep dive format. This class focuses on how dialogue works when attempting to write inclusive fiction and how to navigate the tricky skill of rendering dialect on the page. We start at the beginning of April and there are still spots available! Plus, there are scholarships available and sliding scale registration for folks who can afford some, but not all, of the price. Class description below, more details on the website, and you can register down below.

If you’re a person of color or Native writer interested in the class, ping me via email for a discount code before you sign up.

When: April 2 – 15, 2018
Where: Online — Available everywhere and at your own pace
Price: $200

Class Description:

An essential part of creating a character is understanding how that individual speaks or communicates. For writers who are working to create inclusive fiction with characters from races, cultures, and backgrounds different from their own, crafting appropriate dialogue is more than just idealizing and compressing speech to make it seem natural. It may also mean figuring out how to get across the nuances of language, accent, or dialect without Othering or exoticizing characters or the real cultures and identity groups they represent.

We will guide you through this aspect of writing inclusive fiction through lectures, hands-on exercises, and feedback. At the end of class you’ll have a wealth of resources for further study and practice.

Instruction begins Monday, April 2 and ends Sunday, April 15, 2018. The course does not have set meeting times. You can access class material and discussion and participate in class at any time, day or night, from anywhere in the world as long as you have an Internet connection.

This class is capped at 20 students. Continue reading “Next Writing the Other Class: Dialect and Dialogue Deep Dive”