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Children’s Literature Writing Conference Canceled Due to a Lack of Diversity

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Complaints about a lack of diversity caused a star-studded conference on writing children’s books to be canceled.

The StarTribune reports the Loft Literacy Center’s Children’s and Young Adult Literature Conference was scheduled to take place between Oct. 20-21 in Minneapolis. However, after an unspecific number of complaints about the lack of physical diversity represented at the conference, it was ultimately canceled two weeks after tickets went on sale.

According to the StarTribune, with the exception of one of the featured authors who is Cuban-American, all of the 22 expected participants who agreed to speak were white.

Britt Udesen, the executive director of the Loft Literacy Center, said, “We have set a goal for ourselves to be inclusive and to work toward equity, and we didn’t think the conference would live up to that mission.”

Ultimately, Udesen said, “We made a mistake.”

While only one “writer of color” agreed to speak at the conference, the StarTribune claims 10 more “writers of color” were asked to attend. Organizers allegedly expected the other authors “to come through at the last minute, and then they didn’t” (although the event was not scheduled until October).

One of the writers who was not invited, Shannon Gibney, criticized the conference for its lack of diversity.

“The times I’ve been to that conference it has felt stiflingly white, definitely stiflingly older white woman, stiflingly suburban. And because of that it hasn’t been a space where, as a newer writer of color, it is really useful for me,” she claimed.

Gibney called what the StarTribune described as the “whiteness of children’s literature” an “urgent matter that kid-lit needs to respond to.”

“There are more white writers saying, ‘I’ll have more protagonists of color,’ but there are certain kinds of representation you can only get if you have experience in it. So the number of black protagonists has gone up, but the numbers of black writers has either stayed the same, or gone down,” Gibney said. “As a black writer, that’s not the kind of progress I’m looking for.”

Although the conference is canceled, the 13 people who bought tickets to the event will get free tickets to attend the keynote speech.

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