Our special industry guests were:
Bestselling author and former editor Jane Yolen, who has published over 360 books, some with gay characters.
Art director and author/illustrator Laurent Linn, who both works at Simon & Schuster and has a debut illustrated YA novel with a gay main character, Draw The Line, coming out this Spring.
Author/illustrator Mike Curato, who shared his illustrations for the same-worm marriage picture book Worm Loves Worm.
And acquiring editor Michael Joosten, who focuses on picture books at Doubleday and Random House Books for Young Readers.
Jane spoke about how times have changed, and the group consensus was that while there's still a long ways to go, we're making progress towards towards more representation and inclusion of LGBTQ characters and themes. Laurent and Michael discussed the different imprints they work with, and the conversation was encouraging as everyone got the chance to introduce themselves and share a bit about what they were working on (lots of dealing with gender, and characters choosing their gender in science fiction and fantasy in the works.)
A few quotes I jotted down quickly as the discussion flowed...
"Make bold choices and be fully committed to the story you want to tell"
Author Michelle Parker-Rock spoke of how "being different crosses lots of barriers... let your voices ring out!"
Author, Southern Breeze Regional Advisor (and ex-Civil Rights lawyer) Claudia Pearson quoted Kwame Alexander ,who had spoken of how if you want to write diverse books, you need to live a diverse life, and said she was there because, "I want to live a diverse life."
We even learned (from the author/illustrator himself) that Mouse in the Little Elliot books is gender neutral! It was a great session, and people lingered long after the session's formal end-time.
Thanks to all who attended!