Writing Conference Canceled For Excessive Whiteness

Reality has outrun anyone’s ability to parody it. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:

The lineup of speakers for the Loft Literary Center’s conference on writing for children and young adults was stellar. William Alexander, winner of a National Book Award. Kelly Barnhill, winner of the Newbery Medal. Phyllis Root, author of more than 40 books for children. And 19 others.

Other than Alexander, who is Cuban-American, every writer who agreed to speak was white. And so, just days after announcing it, the Loft in Minneapolis canceled the Oct. 20-21 conference.

“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,” Britt Udesen, executive director of the Loft, said Wednesday. “We made a mistake.”

Apparently someone complained, although the Loft’s spokesman “declined to say how many, or who.” But there may have been another factor, too: the conference would have had more speakers than attendees:

Another factor was dwindling interest in the event, which has been held at least every other year since 2003. Only 13 people had registered for this year’s conference.

It isn’t as though the event sponsors didn’t try to attract Authors of Color:

The Loft had invited more than 10 writers of color to speak and expected a few “to come through at the last minute, and then they didn’t,” Udesen said.

The Strib interviews an Author of Color who wasn’t invited to participate:

She said the issue of diversity is crucial, because children’s literature remains overwhelmingly white. While many Loft conferences are diverse, Gibney said, the children’s literature conference has not been.

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

The problem is crucial because of the whiteness of children’s literature in general.

She has a point. There is no way a “newer writer of color” could possibly learn anything from a more experienced author with a different skin tone.

One can only hope that the conference sponsors were insincere, and the event was canceled due to lack of interest and not on account the unbearable whiteness of children’s literature.


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