Books

FOLD 'How They Did It' series aims to help Black children's book authors get published

The four-episode series was shared by the Festival of Literary Diversity on Instagram.
Jael Richardson is q's books columnist and the artistic director of the Festival of Literary Diversity. (Arden Wray)

Every Wednesday in July the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) hosted virtual consultation sessions for emerging Black children's authors about how to navigate the world of publishing.

Publishing a book as a first time author can be challenging, but FOLD founder and creative director Jael Richardson says it is even harder for emerging Black authors to be published — especially so in children's books. Richardson is also q's book columnist on CBC Radio.

"Since FOLD began, we've been frustrated by the underrepresentation of Black voices, especially when it comes to picture books," Richardson said in an email statement to CBC Books.

"This project started with conversations we were having with Black self-published authors about the books they had created and the energy and finances they were spending to make it happen." 

Richardson also says that she is aiming to address a lack of children's books written by Black men being published.

"There are so few Black children's books written by Black men," she said. 

Jael Richardson, artistic director of the Festival of Literary Diversity, and Whitney French, co-founder of her own Black queer literary press, discuss the realities for BIPOC writers in Canada, and just how much the industry is waking up to systemic racism. 16:14

The first two instalments featured Andre and Anthony-Marcel Wright, self-published authors of Ryan Lion: Hide & Seek, and Derek Mascarenhas, author of Coconut Dreams

The series was also designed as a way of encouraging authors to participate in Pitch Perfect, a FOLD initiative for marginalized authors to have their work seen by an editor or agent. 

"My practical hope is that others will hear their stories and apply for Pitch Perfect so they can have their work seen and viewed by a professional who can provide helpful next steps," Richardson said.

The final instalment featured a conversation with Yolanda T. Marshall, author of My Soca Birthday Party and other Caribbean-themed children's books. 

Replays of the four sessions are available on FOLD's IGTV channel.

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