Bringing Allyship to Your Work in Children’s Literature

LGBTQIA+ writers and illustrators will bring their voices to our October workshop, Writing the Rainbow: Crafting Picture books With LGBTQIA+ Themes.

Fundraising efforts are helping create more scholarship opportunities. If you’d like to be involved, donate here, or apply for a scholarship here.

If you are an ally for the LGBTQIA+ community, this workshop could also be an opportunity for you to bring that allyship to your work in children’s literature.

A while back, we published an interview with Writing the Rainbow faculty Lesléa Newman and Rob Sanders, and they offered some great insights inspired by their own work. The information they provided offered authors and illustrators points to think about as they create with allyship in mind–whether it’s work that:

  • Has a clear LGBTQIA+ theme
  • Delivers a message to encourage early and lifelong allyship in children
  • Resonates with children of all types, no matter their family structure or orientation

Examples of Allyship in Picture Books from Our Faculty

Lesléa Newman shares examples of how she is conscious of family constellations, pronouns, and gender roles in her work:

For example, in my forthcoming book, Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale with a Tail (coming out from Charlesbridge in 2020) the opening scene depicts guests arriving to a home for a Seder (Passover meal). Originally the artwork showed a boy standing next to his mom and his dad on their front porch, which is kind of a default family model. Nowhere in the text did it say that the boy had a mom and a dad. So I asked my editor if we could just picture the boy opening the door to welcome the guests. That way the book is more accessible to kids from all types of families…

Sparkle BoyI’m also conscious of gender roles. For example, in Sparkle Boy, which focuses on Casey, a little boy who likes to wear sparkly skirts, bracelets, and nail polish, it’s the dad who does the grocery shopping (Dad is also the one who agrees to paint Casey’s nails). I have also written some picture books lately that do not include any pronouns at all, except for the first person pronoun “I,” And I am hoping that the illustrations will depict the characters as gender-free.

Rob Sanders shares an example of nonfiction idea inspiration:

PrideI know the exact moment I was inspired to write Pride. It was the evening of June 26, 2015, the night of the SCOTUS marriage equality decision. As I watched the news coverage that evening, I–along with everyone else–was amazed when the North Portico of the White House was washed in the colors of the rainbow flag. Do you remember that? It was an emotional moment. Since I’m an elementary school teacher I view most things thinking about my students. I knew they had seen Rainbow Flags, but I also knew most (if not all) had no idea who created the flag, why it was created, and its importance to the community. I wrote the first draft of the book that night. Gilbert Baker, the designer of the flag, read the book at two different stages, and it was Gilbert who pointed out that the 2018 release date would be the 40th anniversary of the first Pride Flag.

Rob shares thoughts on bringing authenticity to your work:

Authenticity was added to my forthcoming book The Fighting Infantryman: The Story of Albert D.J. Cashier, Transgender Civil War Soldier with the help of transgender representatives from GLADD who have editorial feedback and vetted the book, and by the illustrator, who is transgender…

I believe that every child needs to see herself/himself/themself in books, so the more authentic voices in the community who are telling stories, the better. We also need allies telling the stories of allies, family members telling stories from the perspective of family members, and the like.

The Workshop Agenda

You can see below how our Writing the Rainbow workshop agenda addresses these and various other facets of creating LGBTQIA+ themed picture books. We hope you’ll join us.

Day 1
Arrival and check in

Appetizers and dinner
After dinner: Introductions
The Possibilities Are Endless: One Topic, Many Stories, Lesléa and Rob
Hot Chocolate and Chit-chat

Day 2
Read-Aloud Mentor Text, Rob
Writing Activity #1, Lesléa
Sharing and Celebration
Finding and Telling Untold Stories, Rob

One-on-ones and free writing time
Special Guest Session

Appetizers & dinner
After dinner: Book Chat
Each participant will bring a favorite LGBTQIA+ themed book to share.
The session will end with Lesléa reading a “bedtime story”

Day 3
Q&A Session with Agent Rubin Pfeffer
Read Aloud Mentor Text, Lesléa
Sharing and Celebration
Dump Trucks, Dresses, and Dolls, Oh, My: Smashing Gender Stereotypes in Children’s Literature, Lesléa

One-on-ones or revision and free writing time
Writing Activity #2, Rob
Book signing

Appetizers & dinner
After dinner: Open Mic Readings
The session will end with Rob reading a “bedtime” story.

Day 4
Hands-on Session: Small but Mighty: Verbs, Nouns, POV, Perspective, and Tense, Rob
Hands-on Session: Exercises in Style: 99 Ways to Tell Your Story, Lesléa
Where to Go from Here: Resources to Guide You on Your Journey
Questions and Closing Remarks

Lunch and farewells

Writing the Rainbow: Crafting Picture Books With LGBTQIA+ Themes,
October 27-30, 2019
register now

Posted on: September 12, 2019

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