At the time of the event my main disappointment was with the lack of diversity on the panel and the message that sends to children, especially those in the audience. With hindsight, I think I could have worded my question better (I asked something like, “Aren’t there any funny women writers?”), but I thought the panelists would know what I was getting at. Mac Barnett acknowledged at the time that it was a shame the panel didn’t reflect the fact that there are indeed many funny women writers.
I’m not funny (or so my kids tell me) and I don’t write humorous books (although I wish I could), but book promotion and income are on my mind because my fiction picture book, “Hungry Coyote,” will be released on May 1st by The Minnesota Historical Society Press. (Warning: Self-promotion here. "Hungry Coyote" was awarded a starred review by Kirkus). Being included on author panels at festivals, conferences, and other book-related events has the following financial implications for an author:
- Presenting authors' books are available for purchase and for autographs which, judging from the long lines at the Tucson Festival of Books, are hugely popular. As well as the immediate sales, authors will receive future sales when readers buy more books from a series, or want more books by a particular author, or recommend their books to friends. This is great. Writers need sales!
- Teachers in an audience will recommend the authors for school visits. School visits are a source of income. That’s great! Writers need income.
- Librarians in the audience will think of these authors when purchasing funny books for their libraries. More sales. More income!
- Other festival and conference organizers may hear that specific authors gave a great lively presentation and invite them to their festivals or conferences. More publicity, more sales!
When women and writers of color aren’t invited to be on panels at book events, they lose these opportunities.
I've been around for a long time. I have a toddler granddaughter now and I can't believe we are still discussing issues like equal opportunity and equal pay, still fighting those battles. Here's what Shannon Hale had to say about the gender imbalance in animated movies in 2012 and she had a recent Facebook post to show that things hadn't improved in 2014. If this situation is to change, we have to ask the awkward questions no matter how uncomfortable we may find that to be. I don’t generally like being in the spotlight (after all, I sit for hours at my desk every day conversing with people in my head), but this is an issue I feel strongly about.
To redress the balance a little, I’d like to compile a list of funny female authors or authors of color (male or female) who write for children and teens and are still alive (because, y’know, if they’re dead they can’t be on an author panel or do a school visit). I’ll create a PDF and post the list for teachers, librarians, parents, anyone to use. I might even alphabetize it! But I need help. Please tweet your suggestions or add a comment on this post.
I’m going to begin with Kate DiCamillo, Kathi Appelt, Megan McDonald, Judy Scachner, Lisa Yee, Julia Donaldson, Jane Yolen, Sandra Boynton, and Samantha Berger.
Mac Barnett suggested Ruth Kraus (but she doesn't count for the list because she died in 1993) and others on the panel suggested Heidi Schulz and Tao Nyeu (I didn’t capture all their suggestions).
Caroline Carlson offered a long list via Twitter, including Liesl Shurtliff, Maurene Goo, E. Lockhart, Lois Lowry, Polly Horvath, Raina Telgemeier, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Sarah Ellis, Lauren Magaziner, Lizzie K. Foley, Jenni Holm, Jaclyn Moriarty, Uma Krishnaswami, Jo Whittemore, Amy Ignatow, Shannon Hale, Kristen Kittscher, Patricia Wrede, Kim Baker, and Alison Cherry.
Go to it. I know you can think of many more!