On Thursday, August 1, 2019, I had the honor of delivering my first ever lecture at Denver Publishing Institute. Now, I've done plenty of public speaking engagements before like book buzzes, panel discussions, and webinars, but this time I had the opportunity to speak in front of this year's class of almost 100 students at the University of Denver. There's something invigorating about talking to the students at this institute who were all eager, energetic, and so willing to learn as much as they could about the business. While I was there, I talked to students about their hopes, their fears, what they expect, and what they were surprised to hear about the world of publishing.
Honestly, this lecture reminded me of why I wanted to work in publishing in the first place. And I'm honored I was invited to speak, because I learned so much from what the students also had to say.
First, let me share a little more about Denver Publishing Institute (DPI). From the University of Denver website:
The Denver Publishing Institute is the ideal launching pad for your career in book publishing. During four weeks, it will introduce you to the exciting and ever-changing world of book publishing. The course will provide a solid educational foundation and an excellent network for your subsequent job search.
Needless to say, this program is great crash course in publishing for college graduates who are looking for their first job in publishing, someone who's looking to shift careers, or someone who wants to learn more about the publishing industry. Publishing professionals are invited to speak on a specific topic. For me, that was Diversity in Publishing.
Now, that is a huge area to cover. At the beginning of my lecture, I advised that unpacking privilege, implicit bias, and undoing racism is a lifelong process that everyone would have to be invested in if we wanted to see any change. I noted my socioeconomic privilege that allowed me to work in publishing, I discussed barriers into publishing for writers of color and people of color who want to work in publishing, I described how institutional racism manifests in publishing, I talked about the diversity gap in children's book publishing, and what it looks like to work towards not only racial equity in publishing but also LGBTQIA+ and disability equity as well.
Many questions were asked: How do we improve representation? What do you say to those who are not receptive to diversity issues within publishing? When will the fight for accurate disability representation be at the forefront of diversity conversations? What advice do you have for a person of color who would like to work in publishing?
I'm thankful for the chance to be able to discuss these issues with future publishing professionals in this setting. It's clear that they're paying attention to conversations surrounding diversity and representation, and they're looking at publishing as a whole to engage. I know that's a rough road ahead, considering some houses still see diversity as a trend (nope, I'm not even joking about that). But to have more folks entering publishing that will continue to discuss these issues alongside those who've been doing the work for years means that this conversation isn't going away any time soon.
To the future graduates of DPI, keep learning, keep researching, and keep fighting the good fight!
Author | Reader | Publishing Professional | Afro Enthusiast
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