BLACK LIVES MATTER.

Dear readers and writers,

This week, I am heartbroken.

I am standing in the UK, watching our brothers and sisters in the US tear each other apart. I am watching a country whose police are so high-strung and terrified that fear and prejudice are pulling triggers. A country whose deep-rooted discrimination and gun-control laws put everyone in danger, but especially those in the minorities.

A few weeks ago, after the massacre of our fellow LGBTQIA people in Orlando, we saw suggestions that if the victims had been carrying guns, the casualties would be fewer. Now, again, we see black men shot for carrying guns, or for looking like they’re carrying guns. Not for threatening anyone with them, not for using them: no, they are shot for carrying guns, the very way members of the white conservative Right keep telling us should make us feel safer.

We at Ink & Locket Press want you all to know that we will keep shouting BLACK LIVES MATTER, as a company and as individuals, for as long as it takes to enact change. We will cry out with you for police reform, equality, better gun control, and everyone’s right to feel safe in their own skin.

We will call out people who say “all lives matter” and point out that for that to be true, black lives must matter the same amount – and that right now, we treat them as if they don’t. We will call out people who talk about guns making people feel safer, and show them how lucky and privileged they are to believe that is true.

Most of all, because it’s what we can do, we will keep seeking out great diverse fiction, publishing children’s and YA literature that can make a difference: for the cops and politicians of the future, and for all the children growing up feeling that their skin paints a target on their back.

We will keep striving to amplify your voices and not mute them with our own.

Be safe and love each other,

Amelia, managing director

Presenting: WARRIOR, an anthology

Over the past few months, Ink & Locket Press has been busy putting together a collection of short stories. We have read through many fantastic submissions and chosen the best stories, and we are now in the final stages of editing what looks to be a fantastic book!

We asked for warriors—in any shape or form—in stories that included one or more LGBTQIA+ characters. As always, we did not want the diversity to be the main plot point. We wanted all manner of brave warriors, cowardly warriors, social-justice, science-fiction, fantasy and real-life warriors—we just also wanted them to be characters who identified within the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

"WARRIOR": Introducing our LGBTQIA+ anthology!

[Image: Text reads “WARRIOR”, with a rainbow-hilted dagger]

We are so excited about the collection we have gathered! Here, you’ll find a Roman gladiator, a London werewolf, a futuristic mermaid, a retiring legend, and countless other exciting characters we can’t wait to introduce you to! The stories span several genres, thousands of years, and way into the speculative landscapes of fairy-trolls and manticores. And all of them feature LGBTQIA+ characters who are woven beautifully into the narratives.

Over the next few months, we will be introducing you to the authors right here on our blog. We will also be giving you sneak peeks at some of the stories, and keep you up-to-date as we gather perks for the crowdfunding campaign. When the campaign launches in September, we are sure you will feel as passionately about this project as we do!

This brings us to our next piece of news:

We have finally set up a newsletter for you to subscribe to! We will get in touch with you once a month, summarising what we are doing behind the scenes of the publishing house. This will be a great way for you to find out when our new calls for submissions open, when our crowdfunding campaigns launch (and when we’re almost at our goals!) and when we are arranging or taking part in community events.

We promise, with our hands on our hearts, that we will never send you more than three emails a month—and usually, we will only send you one! You can sign up quickly and easily by clicking right here!

We are so excited to have you in our community, and can’t wait to share this anthology with you! How about you? Let us know what you think!

Antonica and Amelia
Ink & Locket Press

On representative writing, and an update

It’s time for an update on what’s been going on at Ink & Locket Press.

Next week, we will be announcing our upcoming short-story collection, which is all about warriors and has an LGBTQ+ focus! You’ll start to see some author profiles of our contributors popping up on the blog, and we’ll be sharing some of the experiences we’ve had throughout the project.

We will also be announcing our two upcoming picture books. Both of them feature children with queer parents, but the stories could not be more different. We can’t wait to share them with you!

On top of this, our next call for submissions is right around the corner. Our next short-story collection and picture books will have a focus on disability, and we are excited to see where your stories take you! Own-voices narratives are, as always, strongly sought after. Just remember our motto: diversity shouldn’t be plot, just reality.

And on to a task of ‘representative writing’ that many seem to forget…

The way we see it, if you’re writing representatively, you have a job to do. Your job starts out like this: take an inventory of the stereotypes and presumptions you hold. You might not know you have some of them before the inventory, and most probably, you won’t know about all of them afterwards. Inventorying sucks like that: even after you think you’ve caught them all, there are probably stacks more hidden away in closets that you’ve missed. You might not be trying hard enough to find them, or you might not want to find them—hell, if someone points to the closet and says “you have a ton more in there, man”, you might be offended at the insinuation that you’re hiding them away!—but the fact is, that closet probably exists, and it’s just going to make your job harder. So open the door now, and round up what you can.

Your next task for the day is to file those stereotypes and assumptions away somewhere with a big ‘warning’ sign hanging over the cabinet. The next time you’re writing representatively—or, in fact, writing at all—interrogate the contents of that filing cabinet. If your main character is of colour but she’s been tokenised, turned into the “sassy, big-bootied African queen” without agency while the rest of your characters have more fully developed personalities: you’re not doing your job.

You are not doing your job if the only underrepresented character in your story is a gay woman who gets killed off in the first scene, while the straight people go on fighting. You are not doing your job if all your successful characters have some form of disability but at the same time, you describe all of them as skinny, beautiful and fair-skinned, while all your bad guys are described as overweight and grotesque-looking. That’s not what representative fiction is about for us!

"If you're writing representatively, you have a job to do." Blog post: On representative writing, and an update

[Image: Text reads, “If you’re writing representatively, you have a job to do.”]

At Ink & Locket Press, we want exciting, engaging stories in which the good guys can be fat and fine with that. We want non-magical black women rescuing the damsels in distress. We want bad guys that aren’t the only characters of colour in the whole story, and mentally ill bad guys who are bad not because they’re ‘broken’, but because they’re, well, bad.

We want you to actively examine your writing to see your own subconscious bias. Of course, we do not mean that every character should represent some sort of minority or underrepresented group—not unless that’s what you’re going for. But as a representative writer, whatever that means to you, it’s part of your job to make sure your work is not negatively contributing to dominant cultural presumptions. We know you can do better than that!

This is just one small part of our job as representative writers (or editors, or artists, or filmmakers…), but we believe it’s a part that can’t be overlooked.

Antonica Jones, head editor

But aren’t you discriminating against…?

This question pops up with high frequency, and is almost exclusively finished with some combination of the following words: straight, white, people and men. Somehow, our focus on diversity in fiction is often perceived as harmful and discriminatory. Harmful towards the freedom of speech; discriminatory to those whose stories we do not aim to publish.

When I grew up, I recognised myself in every book I read. I read about families like mine (mum and dad, brother, sister) who looked like me (white, blue eyes, two arms, two legs), who celebrated the holidays I celebrated (Christmas, Easter, summer vacation), and did the things I liked to do. My family is a book-loving one, and by the time I was 12, I knew I could become just about everything, do just about everything, and that I was normal and fine and interesting. I only had to find myself a prince, and life would be grand. None of my childhood books prepared me for the idea that I might fall in love with a princess.

If I have children, they will very rarely see families like their own (two mommies) in their books. And if they are born with a disability, or lose a limb, or struggle with mental health, or are of colour, most of the heroes they will find in their books, and in the wider media they consume, will not look like them.

Ink & Locket Press seeks to publish against the traditional publishing bias. The traditional bias leans towards publishing and highlighting stories by and about men (especially white men), straight people doing ‘straight things’ and white people doing ‘white things’. We are not seeking to eliminate or change these stories. A large portion of the market wants these stories and should have easy access to them.

But we’re working towards everyone having easy access to stories they can identify with, and towards every voice with a story getting the opportunity to be heard. We are not here to discriminate against male authors. Male authors who are queer, who are of colour, who are trans or who have a disability—you are all welcome to submit to us. Likewise, we do not discriminate against straight authors, nor white authors: we just want stories that focus on other things.

"But aren't you discriminating against…?"

[Image: Text reads “but aren’t you discriminating against…?”]

When it comes down to it, though, we are not even discriminating against straight, white men who write stories about straight, white men. We are just not actively striving to tell those stories. Those stories are already being told, have been told for hundreds of years, will be told for hundreds to come, and every big publishing house in the world will consider those submissions with a favourable bias. And we will gladly read them, and support the authors, and participate in good literary debates about their works and legacy. Those stories and authors are simply not our focus.

We want every child to grow up knowing they can become just about anything, do just about anything, and that they are good, and fine, and interesting.

Where is the harm in that?

Amelia, managing director

We’re seeking women writers of colour!

The publishing industry has been abuzz again after this article about sexism in the publishing industry. A woman author tells us how she received considerably more replies to her book pitches when she signed with a male pseudonym instead of her own name.

This story is depressing, but we know this unconscious bias is far from the only bias in the industry: Authors of colour have a harder time getting represented, published and reviewed. Stories with queer or trans characters or characters with disabilities are far less likely to be published.

At Ink & Locket, our only goals are to increase representation in literature, and to amplify voices that aren’t so widely heard. We are therefore happy to announce our next project, SHADES, which will open for submissions on October 1st.

SHADES is a project specifically formed to present women* writers of colour**.

We seek women of colour who have a story they want to tell. It can be fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose, a collection of essays and articles, short stories, a novel, or something else completely. If you are a strong writer with something to say; we want to provide a way for people to listen.

We will be kickstarting this project, and we will publish as many voices we can afford throughout 2016, in individual of approximately 25-50 000 words. We know October 1st is ages away (let us keep believing that please), but you can help us find the best possible candidates now! There are a wealth of ways you can support the project:

– If you would like to write for the project, feel free to send us an email right away, and ask us any questions you might have
– Tell us if you know of interesting voices you would love to hear more from
– Then tell them about us
– Let us know if you would like to contribute to the project in other ways
– Consider backing the kickstarter when it goes up, and spread the word about our campaign however you can

We are excited! Are you?

* Anyone who identifies as woman
** This term is difficult to define, but for the sake of simplicity we will say: anyone of a race or ethnicity which historically has been considered “other” to those of white European descent.

Presenting: Our Diversity Panel!

Here is our wonderful panel of diversity consultants. These guys keep their watchful eyes on our activities, keep us on our toes, double check our posts, and make sure we don’t exclude anyone through our word choices or representation.

doraDora – 22
Gay – She/They
I’m a woman, Chinese, and a lesbian – like a triple-threat, ha! Growing up in Northern Ireland, I was quite literally the only ethnic kid around. Though I didn’t know it then, I would really have loved to see a Chinese (or other Asian) character in mainstream media that wasn’t there as just the foreigner, the exotic love interest, the martial artist, or the monk. I was always okay with my sexuality, but there definitely was (and is) a struggle to bring that in harmony with the values and expectations that were expected of me – so here I am, hoping to make it easier for kids after me!

linsdayLindsay – 23
Gay/queer – She/Her
I am an artist and storyteller passionate about kid-friendly LGBTQ+ content. There aren’t enough inclusive stories out there for young people, and I want to help make them by any means possible: theatre, YouTube, blogs, even books! Follow me on twitter @thelamerest and keep up to date with my other projects on my website lindsayamer.com.

sarahSarah – 22
Straight – She/Her
I am a recent graduate and decided to join this panel because diversity can only make the world a better and more tolerant place, and where better to start than in literature? I’m especially keen to see mental health discussed more openly as despite 1/5 people suffering ill mental health at some point in their lives this is still a very taboo subject.

isabelIsa – 22
Queer – She/Her
I recently graduated from a liberal arts school in the Twin Cities with an American Studies degree, which is an interdisciplinary field that critically examines the United States through an intersectional lens. I identify as Latina, queer, working-class, and mentally disabled. The majority of my activist work focuses on disability justice, prison abolition, educational reform for undocumented people and decolonizing borders. My love affair with books has led me to have a deep passion for diversity in literature. I am tired of the limitations that mainstream media has put upon the imagination of readers by not providing mirrors of characters and books that reflect our beauty and complexity as humans.

iramIram – 22
Queer – She/Her
I’m a student living in London who is very interested in diversity in the media and within literature. As a queer South Asian woman, I never saw anyone like me in the media I consumed as a child (and to this day I still don’t), so I’m glad to be a part of something that aims to bring more diversity into literature.

Would you like to get involved? As you can see, we are somewhat heavy on the women’s front, we don’t have any trans people, we need more people with disabilities, and people from different religious and cultural backgrounds. The job is important, and you get paid in books! If you think you could help advise us on questions of representation – please get in touch at contact [at] inkandlocket.com

Diversity shouldn’t be plot, just reality!

This the tagline of our themed projects, the first of which is now in its call for submissions phase. But what do we mean by this? Let’s break it down:

Diversity:
We believe that children’s literature should reflect the world around us. Heroes can live with single parents, same-sex parents, grandparents, in foster care, in families of all skin colours, in multicultural families, in families with strong religious practices (regardless of their own religion) – as well as the “classic” children’s book family of two white adults, and 2.4 kids.

Heroes can be in wheelchairs, on crutches, need a guide dog, be somewhere on the autism spectrum, have anxiety and panic attacks, have a chronic disease, dyslexia or other challenges that real-life kids struggle with and overcome every day.

We believe in girls wearing overalls and tool-belts, and boys wearing tutus and thimbles. We believe that gender identity is complicated, non-binary, and not important for your level of heroism.

Shouldn’t be plot:
But! Just as these aspects don’t define everything about a person in real life, neither should they in children’s books. Far too many diverse children’s books centre around the diversity. Some of these are informational, and that’s great, but some forget that children are still children, even if something in their lives falls outside the box labelled “normal”.

We want to see heroes in wheelchairs fighting dragons, and children of same-sex parents going out and solving their own mysteries. Not a bad word from us about Heather has two Mommies, but we think it’s time for Heather to move on from drawing her family in playgroup, and go out into the world to have adventures with Gingersnap and Midnight.

And if a main character is in a wheelchair, we know that doesn’t mean that all they can contribute to the cause are two wheels and an aptitude for getting down hills quickly.

Just reality: 
This is what life is supposed to be. Your body, family structure, identity, sexuality or gender shouldn’t define what life you lead, and neither should it decide whether or not you can find heroes to relate to. These things are backdrops; the real action is your own.

And those who are used to seeing themselves in every hero could probably do with a reminder: others are heroes too.

HELP! We need diversity consultants!

Do you have a lot to say about diversity? Are you focused on inclusive language? 
We may need your help! 

A big part of our mission is to write diverse children’s literature where children—regardless of their background, health, family situation or personality—can find heroes to identify with. We want heroes in wheelchairs, heroes with same-sex parents, heroes with trans* parents, heroic boys in tutus and heroic girls in tool belts.

But! We need help understanding the areas of diversity where we ourselves don’t have any first-hand experience. We want to make a small group of “consultants”—people who love literature and who happen to fit within one or more of these identities:

  • trans* people
  • people with chronic illnesses
  • people with disabilities
  • gay men
  • gay non-binary people
  • people with non-binary gender identities
  • people with strong religious beliefs
  • people of color
  • bisexual people
  • you, if you feel you can add something to our understanding of diversity that we do not yet understand that we need!

What we imagine is having you as a sort of consultancy panel—we will run our campaigns and wordings through you, and ask for your feedback. We want you to keep us on our toes and make sure we use inclusive and non-offensive language.

We have no money to offer (new start-up and mostly volunteer-run), but we can offer free books in some system we will work out. Books from the projects you work on? Books for a certain value each year? One book of every title we publish? This will be the first thing we need your input on. What would be fair?

If this sounds like something you would like to help us with, send an email to contact@inkandlocket.com with some information about yourself, and some input in regards to book payments =)

Even if this isn’t for you, please share this post so we get the best people possible, to make the best diverse literature possible!

We need you super soon! Ideally, we would like most of our group gathered before 15 June! Spread the word, and send us an email ❤

Amelia & Nica
Ink & Locket