"If we're not reading diversely and broadly outside of our experience, then we're going to write that way."
I attended a conference this weekend where Shannon Hale was the keynote speaker, and she had a lot to say about gender and diversity in books. On Twitter she's a champion for diversity, and it was interesting to hear her thoughts in person. She's articulate and funny, and if you ever get a chance to listen to her speak, you definitely should!
Fun Facts about Shannon Hale:
- She's been on the NYT bestseller list multiple times, and she's a Newbery Honor winner.
- She's written books for adults, YA books, books for kids, graphic novels, and probably anything else you can think of!
- Her book, Austenland, was made into a film in 2013. It's hilarious and romantic and involves big butts.
- She has four kids, a husband who she often collaborates with, and apparently, a pet plastic pig (because who doesn't love alliteration?).
Everyone who has followed the industry for any amount of time has heard of the "we need diverse books" movement. I like how Hale took it beyond the movement to say it shouldn't be hard to write people outside of your experience, if you believe they're, you know, PEOPLE.
It's proven that reading novels improves empathy. It makes sense that reading widely makes you a better person. But it also makes you a better writer. It makes you more empathetic. More perceptive. More able to see in the heads of others who aren't exactly like you. And that should be one of the goals of writing--to create a shared experience for your readers and allow them to connect with those who are like them, just as much as they should be able to connect with those who are not.