Mind the Gap: Questions about Power for Storytellers

I'm an advocate of safe spaces. I like creating them, especially for children. I also like creating in them. In my years as a writer of children's stories, it feels to me like the tension and hostility about issues such as appropriation and authenticity is growing. Sometimes this exhausts me, and I'm tempted to crawl off the fire escape and hide. But there's too much at stake (i.e., the well-being of children). So, in order to keep pressing on in my mission, I offer these questions as a checklist for fellow authors and illustrators, perhaps as fodder for discussion in critique groups and conferences, or for your private journaling pleasure.

As always, conversation is encouraged as we pass the tea and biscuits.
  1. "How big is the power gap between me and my main character?"
  2. "What kinds of power gaps exist between me and my characters in the time and place of their story?" (i.e., class, culture, education...)
  3. "How do these gaps matter in the time and place of potential receivers of my story?"
  4. "How have I crossed those gaps in real life?"
  5. "Given my answers to 1-4, should I begin the work of listening, learning, and loving needed to tell this story? Or should I leave it for another to tell?"



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