What is a Sensitivity Reader? A Diversity Editor? A Cultural Consultant?
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.
A Diversity Editor goes beyond the initial read for biases and stereotypes, and will make the editing changes. But of course, whether or not any changes are accepted depends on the writer’s decision.
A Cultural Consultant works with the writer on story or character development. This role includes research along with respectful suggestions.
All of my education and experience flows into my work and is the lens I use when I do sensitivity reads. These are topics I’ve read for:
Race, Race Relations, Native American and Indigenous, African American, Black, BIPOC, violence and surviving violence, depression, chronic illnesss and pain, addiction, alcoholism, women, parenthood and poverty.
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, a Diversity Editor or Cultural Consultant will only help the story you’re creating.
- Sensitivity reads, diversity editing and cultural consulting are 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 even derogatory. 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.
Rates for longer reads above 3000 words are negotiable.
Manuscripts, scripts and plays are negotiable.
Diversity Editor and Cultural Consultant projects 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.