Ashley Franklin

Note to self:Don’t get lost in animal stories.

I feel like I am truly getting closer to my dream. Thanks to my overactive imagination, I can almost smell the picture book newness with my name on it. In real life, while I’m waiting to hear back from publishers, I am continuing to write. After all, that’s what you do to avoid stalking your email. Seems logical to me.
I’m drafting 4 new picture book manuscripts at once. (I can’t think one story at a time.) I realized that 3 of them have a non-human main character. For me, this is problematic.
I grew up loving animal stories. They were my comfort zone. Why? They felt like a safe alternative since I didn’t see much of me in the stories I loved. I’ve said before that I had copies of folk tales and all that. Still, I could only relate to them but so much.
Today, I made a vow to draft a manuscript focusing on a human character for every non-human character driven story. That might not mean much to you, but it does to me. To me, it matters. For the little girl whose imagination readily filled with White characters and animals but struggled to imagine someone who looked like her doing similar things, it matters. For the little girl who will always remember being told that she could only be the neighbor or the dog when playing “house” at school because she didn’t match, it matters a lot.
 
 

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Won’t you be my (bookshelf) neighbor?

This week on Twitter, I had a super brief conversation (after all, it is Twitter) in which I agreed that having diversity simply for the sake of diversity in literature is an epic fail. To be honest, I hadn’t even thought of this as an issue until the original poster’s tweet graced me with its presence.
That got me thinking. If folks think writers and publishers are seeking diversity at the expense of quality, it is seriously time to offer up some clarity. For example, it is my dream to be a successful writer. (My definition of that likely differs from yours, but we’ll save that for another post.) I don’t want a red carpet rolled out for me simply because I am a POC writing diverse characters. No! I want to be right alongside of any other writer, POC or not, whose work has received accolades if my writing is of the same caliber.
Yes, recognize that I am a POC and my characters will be diverse. However, don’t box me in. If I happen to write something amazing, I don’t want someone to say that the writing has merit and I’m a good writer for a POC. Nope! If I’m awesome, don’t segregate my awesomeness. Spread it around.
How do you organize your bookshelf? The present state of my bookshelf wold likely give someone hives. It’s just that unorganized to the untrained eye. To me, I have my books arranged by how much I like them. Sula is next to Madame Bovary. Great Expectations is next to Hamza’s Heroes. See, that may mean nothing to you. To me, it means I know exactly what I’m reading next.
Maybe one day I’ll be on your shelf. I wonder who will be my neighbor.

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On writing diverse children's books

The We Need Diverse Books folks have done a great job of making one thing clear: We do, in fact, need diverse books. They have their reasons and their mission, and I’m all for it.
Still, I have my own reasons as to why I have chosen to write diverse children’s books. I was an only child until I was 9. I spent plenty of time with books. I read oodles of books like they fed my soul. Or…maybe I’ve always been slightly socially awkward and books are my comfort zone. Either way, many books were read!
I read lots of animal stories, and I do remember having a copy of Aesop’s fables. I loved the illustrations. I loved the fact that there were brown characters like me. I wasn’t too keen on the fact that they didn’t sound like me. Other books did. For some unknown reason, Jan Wahl’s Timothy Tiger’s Terrible Toothache was one of my favorite books. I would be lying to you if I told you I remembered anything specific about the plot. I can, however, clearly remember how that book made me feel. I didn’t like pain. I had family that helped me when I needed it. Timothy sounded like me. He was my first favorite tiger. (Please don’t tell my kids that, as they firmly believe that there shall be no other tiger than Daniel Tiger.)
I want to combine those two childhood memories. I want to write books that children of color can relate to. I want them to see themselves and hear themselves. If they can do that, imagine how that will make them feel!

A little less lonely. A little more proud.  A lot more special.

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