It’s my birthday today, and my most recent journey around the sun ended with a piece of welcome news:
That I have missed out on a good-paying speaking gig at a children’s literature event.
Wait, why is that welcome news?
It’s definitely not because I am burdened with a surfeit of money, or because I lacked any desire to appear before that audience. This news is welcome because the author/illustrator lineup that I would have joined was already disproportionately populated with white men. If I’d been added, the children’s-book creators featured at the event would have been even less representational of the readers we create books for.
After the organizer expressed an interest in having me join the roster, I got together with a non-white-guy friend of mine and talked through my options, which ranged from taking the gig (and fee) to publicly, indignantly declining the invitation with a bit of social-media grandstanding.
That conversation helped. When I replied to the event organizer, I privately, respectfully, and somewhat nervously brought up my discomfort with the situation. I suggested some non-white-guy authors/illustrators as alternatives. When those didn’t pan out, I suggested some more.
The organizer, to their credit, kept making inquiries — for longer, probably, than they expected to — but their efforts paid off. And late yesterday I learned that, because of my encouragement, the event will now include a terrific, creative person who not only will make an outstanding speaker but will also provide balance and diversity that I absolutely would not have. A little bit of progress got made.
I’ll miss that speaker’s fee, no doubt about it. But I sure slept well last night.