Monday, 5 October 2015

#diverseauthorday by Savita Kalhan

On Thursday 24th September, there was a #diverseauthorday on Twitter. It was a campaign organised by North Londoner Rosie Canning. A few months ago, Rosie sent out an email to writers she knew, diverse authors of children's lit and adult fiction and bloggers, proposing that on 24th September we tweet and retweet talk about diversity until the hash-tag got noticed. Well, it did get noticed. It was trending on Twitter, which is quite something. Yes, there were a few declaimers, a few trolls, but that's to be expected. People from all over the world got involved, which is pretty amazing.
Please read Rosie's full report on the Greenacre Writers Blog; it's a very interesting read - Reflections on #diverseauthorday

The other thing that happened was at the London Book Fair. The report, Writing the Future: Black and Asian Writers and Publishers in the UK Market Place, received backing from The Society of Authors and HarperCollins for greater cultural diversity across the publishing industry.
This is what was said:

John Athanasiou, director of people, HarperCollins Publishing, said:
"Publishing houses, like most industry sectors, are waking up to the business and ethical purpose and benefits of diversity. At HarperCollins, we have started the journey of changing the culture to one of inclusion for our employees, authors and consumers alike. This will help support more diversity in our acquisition of authors and content. It's a big job, but we are not afraid to ask for help or to work in partnership with others.

Nicola Solomon, chief executive, Society of Authors, said:
Publishers have a need to be relevant and attract readers to ensure their own survival. A publishing industry which does not reflect society fails writers, readers and itself.”

Sue Lawther, director of Spread the Word, added:
At Spread the Word we are already planning follow up work with BAME writers. We will share our findings more widely and intend to mobilise writers to make their voices heard. We will also be talking to influencers and decision-makers in the publishing industry, to see how we can work together, with the support of funding bodies, such as Arts Council England.”

You can read the full report, Writing the Future: Black and Asian Writers and Publishers in the UK Market Place - HERE

Good intentions are, well, good. Recognising and acknowledging there is a problem is good too. Beginning a dialogue, spreading the word about it is a step forward. Rosie asked me for my reflection on #diverseauthorday, and this is what I said:

The success of #diverseauthorday was best illustrated by the fact that the hash-tag was trending on Twitter. It was a clear indication of the number of people who felt that there was something missing in the books they find in bookshops and in libraries. That something is the absence of 'otherness', or the under-representation of black, asian, minority ethnic, (BAME), LGBT, and disabled characters in contemporary fiction. There is clearly an overwhelming need and desire for greater inclusiveness, and I'm not talking about the type of books which simply nod in the direction of diversity with all its outdated racial stereo-typing. That kind of box-ticking is not what diversity means.
But is anyone listening?
The publishing industry is 97% white. Who's looking into the mirror they're holding up?

Until they know the answer, will anything change? Let's hope.

My website -


David Thorpe said...

This is great news and why has it taken so long?

Miriam Halahmy said...

Great post and its so good that something like a twitter day on diversity can get such attention. Shows how important this is.

Savita Kalhan said...

Yes, it is good, but a shame that it's still very much necessary to highlight this.