Poets & Writers

Mirrors and Windows

Source: Children’s book writers gather at the 2016 Color of Children’s Literature Conference.

JENNIFER DE LEON is currently a City of Boston artist in residence. She teaches at Emerson College and Berklee College of Music. Her website is www.jenniferdeleonauthor.com.

ON A drizzly Saturday morning in April, my Uber driver dropped me of f in front of Scandinavia House, a cultural center in Manhattan that resembles a fancy café where people meet to have high tea and cucumber sandwiches. I opened the wide glass door and encountered three women frantically assorting red bags, stuffing them with programs and glossy-covered books and brochures. One woman looked up and smiled brightly even though it was barely eight in the morning. “Welcome,” she said.

I did feel welcome, for all around me I saw writers of color. I was here for the second annual Color of Children’s Literature Conference, sponsored by Kweli Journal, and as a Latina I have rarely walked into a writing conference feeling like I could recognize myself among other participants, never mind the panelists. One writer in attendance, Patrice Caldwell, posted on Twitter: “Usually I’m one of the only POC at publishing events and writers conferences, being at #Kweli16 is like home.” I’m sure many of the hundred and fifty writers, agents, and editors in the room felt the same way.

When I first heard about the conference, it seemed too good to be true. Top agents, editors, authors, and a keynote by Edwidge Danticat, a one-on-one manuscript consultation (for no extra charge), breakfast, coffee, and later wine and cheese, all for the price tag of $100? I couldn’t believe it. But Laura Pegram, the founding editor of Kweli and principal organizer of the conference, wanted to keep the event accessible to all writers of color, at various

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