Executive Director of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators Speaks Out In 2014, the call for diversity in children's book publishing came from Lin Oliver, Executive Director, Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators: "I don't believe that I can authentically write from the point of view of a contemporary protagonist who is telling a unique story that derives from a racial or cultural experience not my own. Some people may feel comfortable with that. I don't. One of the reasons I'm so eager to read literature written by people with diverse backgrounds is to get their authentic take on their experience. I just don't trust that my take on it would ever be completely true or right. However, I do believe that I should always try to include people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, races, and religions in my work...to populate the world I'm writing about with all kinds of people. This is different for me than writing from the point of view of a particular ethnic or racial character or experience. That's where I personally come out on this issue." -- Lin Oliver, Executive Director, SCBWI, 2014 When Lin Oliver, SCBWI's Executive Director, speaks out on diversity, we should expect her words to reach thousands in the publishing world and help to raise the volume of discourse (and action) on this critical need in the industry and, indeed, far beyond literature into the world-at-large. After all, SCBWI is a global leader in the industry with more than 22,000 members worldwide, in over 70 regional chapters writing and illustrating in all genres for young readers. Attendees at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators 2016 Winter Conference in New York City. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson With this backdrop, I have decided to use Oliver's open letter, penned in 2014, as the framework for my experience at the SCBWI Winter Conference, held on February 12-14, 2016, here in New York City. Over the next several weeks, I will share with you stories about the writers and wannabe writers, illustrators and wannabe illustrators, publishing insiders and unpublished writers and illustrators I met as well as the electrifying community of writers I experienced in the voices, advice, and mere presence of SCBWI Conference presenters.For now, let's begin with opportunities for children's book writers and illustrators: • This month – from March 1 – March 31, 2016 – you can apply for SCBWI's Work-in-Progress Awards • Coming up in April 2016, RollofThunderbook.com opens its children's fiction contest to find talented, ethnically diverse authors writing for readers ages 8-14. The contest is in honor of the 40th anniversary of the publication of Mildred D. Taylor's Roll of Thunder. Penguin Young Readers and We Need Diverse Books are teaming up to honor Taylor to find a new, diverse voice in fiction. You will find many other opportunities for children's book writers and illustrators at www.scbwi.org. And, you'll learn more about the people who make up SCBWI in the stories and images I will share with you over the next several weeks. Stay tuned – and discover how these writers and illustrators imagine and paint their stories. Book on display at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators 2016 Winter Conference. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson In sharing their stories and images, I invite you to discover how you, too, can write and voice the story only you can tell! For more inspiration, here's SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver's full open letter: SCBWI Executive Director Speaks Out on Diversity My next "BOOKish blog" will feature James Ransome, renowned illustrator, who offered SCBWI's 2016 Winter Conference attendees a riveting and intimate look at how he creates.