What is a Sensitivity Reader?
An editor, writer or reader who reads manuscripts, scripts, articles, or any published work for instances of bias in representation of traditionally marginalized people.
That’s a basic definition but I believe a sensitivity reader is so much more.
I am a writer of color, I’m Mandan and Hidatsa Native American, an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota, and African-American. I’m a mother and grandmother from the Midwest, who writes about race, oppression, discrimination and the impact on cultures and people from the perspective of Mixed Blood, Native or African-American voices. I am also a women and children’s advocate with a Master of Liberal Studies in Interdisciplinary Child Social Policy in addition to two MFA’s. One in Creative Writing and one in Screenwriting.
I do sensitivity reads of my own work all the time. I have to. I check and double check many times for how I am describing my characters, for hidden bias and discriminations along with the ones that our out there in the front. I am just as conscious of my racist characters as I am my characters of color and my allies. I write about hate-crime and white supremacy which calls for a deeper understanding of the psychology of people, the impact of environment and their origin stories. This is just as deep as the work I do for characters of color. I write about Native cops and slaves who survive. I write to discover and reveal the humanity in all of them.
All of my education and experience flows into my work and is the lens I use when I read other work as a sensitivity reader. Here are some points that guide that work:
- Since the goal is to have your written work live in the public, published or produced, doing the diligence to recognize and edit your possibly blind bias before sending to agents, publishers or producers, is a smart part of your process.
- As an artist, taking the often painstaking work of being accurate and authentic, having a sensitivity read, or multiple sensitivity reads will only help the story you’re creating.
- Sensitivity reads is not censorship. There are many incredible stories, films and plays that have biased or racist characters who are described with what one person may say is stereotypical or commit racist acts. I believe that storytelling needs to continue to explore these issues because it is the world we live in and it’s compelling and necessary.
As a white storyteller, however, a sensitivity read will help you identify why a character is coming across the way they are, what their biased actions are saying, implying or causing, and what the voice, yours or the characters’, is saying.
Rates begin at
$50 for 750-1500 word essays, articles, columns, think pieces and short fiction. $50 per 1000 words above this.
$500 per month retainer for 10-15 sensitivity reads for a single manuscript, negotiable for longer reads above 2000 words.
Manuscripts, scripts and plays are negotiable.
I look forward to working with you.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to discuss your needs.