Tag Archives: writers process

What I’ve learned as a Sensitivity Reader and a Diversity Editor.

I’ve been a Sensitivity Reader and Diversity Editor for my full career as a writer.  I’ve been diligent in my creation of characters and story and have constantly checked my own biases. Being Mixed Blood, Indigenous and Black, I write from my worldview but even then, for the sake of the story, I check myself. And have others check me. Sometimes it’s taken other people to see what what I can’t.

I was often asked by other writers to do the same for their projects, so making this service a job made sense. Makes sense. I have to admit, I began thinking there would be element of teaching in this job and I wondered how I would do that in a manner that was understanding to the struggle writers face if their goal was authenticity. What I didn’t expect to happen was that I would learn so much about my clients and therefore I would get to celebrate the growth of a stronger writers’ community.

This is just a short list of what I’ve learned about my clients, these writers:

  • Writers are trying. They want to be respectful and they’re aware of the possibility they won’t be because they just don’t know some things.
  • Writers believe in inclusivity, even when they don’t know for sure if what they’re doing is enough. Or correct. They believe in it even if the definition of what’s correct shifts on them over time. 
  • Writers have the courage to ask for help. And they strive to understand.
  • Writers may hesitate to develop the character or describe them or give them full dialogue, but it’s from a fear of insulting them. 
  • Writers appreciate the assistance.

They want their words and stories to be seen, read, heard and felt. If whatever the project is gets shut down before it lives its full possible life, then doesn’t that work against the reason to write it in the first place?

I’ve had the joy of working for individuals and publishing firms on beautiful children’s books, YA novels, literary novels, memoirs, nonfiction books, textbooks, website content, inclusivity statements, columns, plays, essays, screenplays and TV shows. I’ve been asked to read specifically for one character, while other times the request is for the full world. There are some incredibly talented writers out there that I can’t wait for everyone to know.

I love this job. I love being of service in this company of writers. And I love all that I’m learning in a time of much needed stories and art.

So if you’re in need of a Sensitivity/Authenticity Reader or Diversity Editor, or a Story Consultant, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

Write on.

Be safe.

A Storyteller’s Lazy Susan

screenshot 2019-01-09 11.05.10

You know what a lazy susan is, right? Aside from this nagging question of why do folks think Susan is so lazy, I find myself coming back to a visual of one when I think about the stories I’m telling. The stories I’m writing. The ones that have space in my head. Some of them.

Years ago I had the pleasure of hearing the brilliant, award-winning playwright, Susan-Lori Parks, speak at a bookstore in St. Paul, MN.  She was so great. I’m just gonna take a second and sigh here.

I was a very new playwright working in theatre administration but filling my days with plays and workshops and soaking up everything I could from the more successful than I.  Which was pretty much everyone in my theatre world!  lol!  But to hear her speak was a thrill.

She told us that her plays, the projects she’s writing at any one time are kept on a lazy susan of sorts in her mind. I am completely paraphrasing this so there is no direct quote from her. She explained, though, how she would spin that lazy susan when she got ready to write and where it stopped, there would be the story she worked on. I think this was the part of her talk where she was sharing process. Some writers take one story and only one at a time, while others, like me and Susan, have multiple ones. (notice how that reads like we’re friends, me and Susan. We’re not but ya know… )

Since then I have learned the value of following the sage advice of having more than one story, one project, one script, one book, at a time because if the question from some producer, agent, publisher, director, investor is “What else you got?” then you have to give them something.  Shrugging and saying “Can I get back to you in a month…” doesn’t fly.

So some mornings, it’s the lazy susan that comes to mind when I sit down at the page. Which story is calling for me to “come on in, the water’s warm” or which character is demanding to be heard, to be seen.  Or which story is a murky fog on the page aching for some light to cut through.

This the curiosity of being storyteller.

Of course, this means there’s a lot of voices in my head and sometimes I look and feel a bit dizzy but it’s a good kind. A writer’s kind.  So, don’t worry about me. I’m really okay.