On Saturday, August 24th, I joyously participated in the BookCamp TO Unconference, a fantastic annual event that has a tendency to start wonderful and important conversations in the Canadian publishing industry. I sat on three of the sessions: the Diversity in Publishing panel with Leonicka Valcius, an AMA session with Emily Keeler, and a discussion on the future of poetry on Canada with Jay MillAr.
Pheobe Wang has written a lovely piece on BookCamp TO in The Town Crier for The Puritan, wherein she discusses the Diversity panel that Leonicka and I led in some detail. In particular, she mentioned the 25 Book Challenge, a personal reading,writing and reviewing challenge that each of us in the session issues to ourselves and each other at the end of the conversation. As Wang explains: “A highlight of the session was the proposal of a “25 book challenge,” in which readers attempt to read 25 books by authors they didn’t self-identify with.” The idea behind the challenge is to extend the boundaries of the work that we typically read, turning to work by authors and about characters who race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity etc. are different from our own.
One of the first, and most important steps anyone can take towards making the landscape of Canadian literature more diverse is to read more and more widely. Hence, the 25 Book Challenge. Anyone who would like to participate in the challenge is welcome to do so, and if you’d like, tweet the new books you’re reading along with the hashtag #DiverseCanLit to further participate in the conversation. There is also a mega-awesome Tumblr that you should follow!
Another important conversation currently taking place is that of increasing the diversity of science fiction and fantasy writing and publishing. As someone who reviews speculative fiction, this is something I actively want to improve in my own writing. I’ve asked for recommendations on Twitter, and will do so again here! Please feel free to send me any and all recommendations to help make my spec fic reading, and subsequent reviews, more diverse.