Back in July I was approached to take part in a Twitter initiative to promote diversity in writing under the hashtag #DiverseAuthorDay. This was, of course, long before the announcement of both this year’s Man Booker shortlist, let alone its gay Jamaican winner. You may have seen a few tweets on September 24th, the elected day. We were all delighted when it started trending. Who wouldn’t be? I was pleased to be asked to take part although I have to admit a wee bit puzzled. I live in a whitebread town, have worked in whitebread jobs all my life and – truth be told – this is a bit of a whitebread blog, nothing very adventurous. Several participants contributed blog posts but I never quite found the time although I did think about writing one on the lack of diversity in publishing and why this might be a factor in the need for something like #DiverseAuthorDay so, rather belatedly, here it is.
I’ve spent much of my working life in the book trade. Every so often, perhaps every other year, a cri de coeur goes up in publishing about its lack of diversity, often resulting in a piece in The Bookseller. It’s usually the lack of ethnic diversity which is lamented although I’d add class to that – internships have been the way in for some time and as a great deal of publishing is still Londoncentric that requires a comfortable background. Perhaps I should include regional diversity in the mix here, too. There are many small, and a few not so small, publishers outside the capital but generally they’re Londonistas. When I was thinking about this I remembered that Kerry Hudson had raised the question of diversity, or the lack of it, in publishing much better than I could in her ‘provocation‘ at the ‘Lost Stories, Unheard Voices’ event earlier in the year. It boils down to this, I suppose: the more diverse your company is the more diverse the authors you’re likely to publish; the more diverse your authors the more diverse the readers you’ll attract.
I enjoyed taking part in #DiverseAuthorDay and was introduced to the work of many authors I might not have come across otherwise. Rosie at Greenacre Writers, whose initiative it was, decided to follow it up with a few posts highlighting some of the reviewers who tweeted on the day and I was flattered to be the first on her list. It’s an interesting initiative and one for which I wish there wasn’t a need. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that not all authors were pleased – some felt pigeon-holed, and not happy about it. What do you think? Is it worthwhile or might it be construed as patronising? Do you think about diversity in your reading or do you think it’s irrelevant?
If you’d like to read some reflections from other participants on how they felt about #DiverseAuthorDay, you can find them here.