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These 3 Nonprofits Are Diversifying the Local Literary Landscape

These Denver-based organizations are tackling race, gender, orientation, and income disparities with their innovative projects.

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For an artistic trade, literature isn’t all that colorful: About 65 percent of the American publishing industry is white, straight, and nondisabled, according to Lee & Low Books’ Diversity Baseline Survey. But these three trailblazing local organizations are finding new ways to ensure the books we read better represent the full spectrum of experiences in our patchwork world.

Industry Insight

Founded in 2016 to grow diversity in the publishing industry, the Word, A Storytelling Sanctuary, based in Denver, will host its first writers’ workshop in late fall. All scribes are welcome at the free event, which features local authors such as Indian-American novelist Sandhya Menon, who penned the New York Times bestseller When Dimple Met Rishi. The speakers will tailor their advice about writing proposals and securing agents to those pitching multicultural books. The Word plans to record the discussions and broadcast them online, ensuring the only barrier to entry will be a Wi-Fi connection.

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Reading, Writing, & Accomplishment

Writers almost always start as bookworms, yet nearly two-thirds of high school seniors in America aren’t proficient in reading. That’s a problem Denver nonprofit Brink Literacy Project aims to fix with its Youth Writing Program, which had a soft launch last month. As part of English classes or during after-school programs, students at high schools in low-income neighborhoods read texts, such as Walt Whitman’s poem “The Artilleryman’s Vision,” and write stories and poems inspired by the works. Pupils can share their writings on Brink’s website, at public readings, and in “chapbooks” (self-printed booklets)—opportunities that could kick off their literary careers.

Unique Characters

To boost the number of minority authors in children’s literature, Denver-based In This Together Media comes up with book ideas and recruits diverse writers, many of whom aren’t professional authors, to pen the stories. The company then partners with large houses to publish the works. In September, for instance, it teamed up with Knopf Books for Young Readers to release Nevertheless, We Persisted. The young adult anthology features essays by athletes, activists, and other public figures about overcoming challenges due to their races, genders, or sexual identities. In other words: It’s a tome that belongs on every bookshelf.

The Book that Changed My Life

Acclaimed young adult fiction author and Golden resident Rebekah Crane, 38, will release her new novel, The Infinite Pieces Of Us, on November 1.

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“I was an English education major at Ohio University, and I had to take a class about young adult fiction. We read The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It’s the story of a boy struggling with his freshman year of high school and how the friends he meets accept him to the point that he can finally accept himself. Later, I was teaching high school English, and the kids didn’t care. I said, ‘Forget it, I’m teaching Perks.’ There were so many kids who wouldn’t miss my class because of that book. I still have former students reach out to me about it. When I have writer’s block, I’ll read a couple pages of it and remind myself about the power of teenage stories.”

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