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So sometimes. We all hang out at night in the dorms after the lectures and readings. And sometimes we imbibe a little. My dad uses the word imbibe when he wants to talk about drinking and sound fancy.

That happened last night, so I missed posting for Day 6. Also, I have no clean clothes, there is no food in the house, my cat peed on my couch three times, and I had a bachelorette party tonight. Unfortunately, life does not stop for MFAC.

AND then, I’ve got all these thoughts mixed together. My novel. Beat sheets. Agency. Physic distance. Cat pee.

It’s like one of those healthy, SICK-RICK green smoothies with, like, the spinach and the carrots, and maybe a lemon? All wonderful things separately, until you blend them together into an inedible sauce. I don’t know what this has to do with anything. Except that I have a lot on my mind.

OK, refocusing on the communicating, to you.

On Day 6, Gene Yang told us about noisli.com, where you can write distraction free and mix and match different sounds–like wind and thunderstorms. The background also changes color. It’s really cool. Also, Gene says flashbacks slow down the narrative, so make sure they are worth it.

Jane Resh Thomas, who is wise, candid, and a fabulous story teller, spoke after Gene. She was Kate DiCamillo‘s mentor as well as mentor to a hundred other successful writers. That’s just the tip of her career in children’s writing. Jane said that, in your story, if you only pay attention to the brightness or light, it’s a lie. If you only pay attention to the darkness, this is also a lie. Then she said that it’s a sin to lie to children, that we need to tell the truth, that life is made of both. Of course, she said all that much more eloquently than I’m saying it here, but those ideas felt so true to me. I mean, in my real life, there is day and then there is night and then there is day again. Why wouldn’t that be true in fiction?

Day 7, today, Brian Farrey-Latz gave us his take on LGBT in YA Publishing. He challenged us to approach our characters with empathy–especially the antagonists (I might have added that last part–can’t remember). He also called out the power story has to change the way people see the “other.” Story has the power to change stereotypes by opening up the world of someone the reader may have a prejudicious against. It was a powerful talk.

Next we had a panel discussion called “What We Talk About When we Talk About ‘Otherness'” with some of the MFAC faculty members. One of the things that I love about MFAC is that it truly is a community of writers, and in any community, there must be safe places for people to talk openly about hard issues. This panel was one of those places.

I wish I could share with you everything we talked about because it was deeply meaningful to me. What I can tell you is that there are serious racism and sexism issues present in children’s literature.

But here’s the hopeful part: as authors and hopefully-soon-to-be authors, we get to shape the conversation. So if you’re angry because you never see your own reflection in books, write a book that reflects you. If you know a story that no one is telling because it’s not popular, don’t be afraid to tell it. We need all the stories, from every background. Right now. And buy books that you feel are taking these kinds of risks, so publishers get the idea that diversity in all it’s forms can sell.

I’d also just like to note, so you truly get what MFAC is all about, that I’ve gotten to share meals with Anne Ursu, Laura Ruby, and Swati Avasthi where we talked about my novel and the writing life. I can’t even tell you how helpful those conversations have been.

OK Kittens, I’m dropping the mike and going to BED.

See you tomorrow!

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