More conversations lead to more understanding

Photo of Jennifer Baker.

Jennifer Baker is a publishing professional, creator/host of the Minorities in Publishing podcast, and contributing editor to Electric Literature. In 2017, she was awarded a NYSCA/NYFA Fellowship & a Queens Council on the Arts New Work Grant for Nonfiction Literature. Her essay “What We Aren’t (or the Ongoing Divide),” published in Kweli Journal, was listed as a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays 2018. Jennifer is editor of the short story anthology Everyday People: The Color of Life (Atria Books, 2018). And her writing has appeared in Forbes.com, LitHub, Poets & Writers, and Bustle among other print & online publications. Her website is jennifernbaker.com. Jennifer Baker will be joining us at Tech Forum to record a live episode of her Minorities in Publishing podcast with guest Jael Richardson.

One of the best things that bridges the gap of understanding is conversation.

Through writing, and art in general, dialogues, introspections, and yes, conversations are sparked. In creating the Minorities in Publishing podcast, the aim was to have, you guessed it, more conversations with others in the industry that’s been home to my career for more than a decade. As an American, born and raised in New York City, I know there are limitations in my own thinking, which is totally based on my own experiences. The key to broadening my voice as a writer, as well as my input as an editor, has been through conversations. As a cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied, Black woman, I recognized the more I conversed with others who identified in multiple ways, the more we found commonalities and a respect for our differences. I considered the privilege I had more and found myself grateful to those who took the time to discuss their experiences with me. In reaching out to others to listen, hopefully more than I talk, I found the conversation posed through art, discussion, and other forms of media to be essential in my learning and hope that I’ve also been able to be part of sharing something with others as they learn more about various backgrounds and identities.

I look forward to participating in another conversation at this year’s Tech Forum with Jael Richardson on Wednesday, March 20 (at 11:10 a.m.) about our respective work in Canada and the United States, our experiences as women of colour in publishing, and how we envision “diversity,” not as a buzzword, but as an earnest goal that all sectors, including publishing, should be working towards in terms of inclusion, equity, and working against biases.

The bridging of technology and our day-to-day lives has been such a key instrument of enhancing conversations but also in broadening the scope of publishing. With the bevy of conversations happening at Tech Forum, I can see even more bridging of gaps and hands reaching across aisles, promoting more understanding as well as encouraging more listening.

Prior to the live conversation Jael and I will have at Tech Forum, I wanted to share some links to pieces I think are helpful in showcasing the issues that marginalized groups face and how, universally, we take steps to move forward:

Decoded with Franchesca Ramsey (MTV News series)

Why Do the Oscars Keep Falling for Racial Conciliation Fantasies? (The New York Times)

Why Dating for Asexual People is Unnecessarily Difficult (Wear Your Voice Magazine)

I’m Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much (TED Talk)

The Diversity Gap in Children’s Book Publishing (Lee & Low The Open Book Blog)

Debut Author Lessons: Sensitivity Readers and Why I Pulled a Project (Mary Robinette Kowal blog)

Jennifer Baker will be talking more about issues faced by marginalized groups and ways forward, at Tech Forum on March 20, 2019 in Toronto. You can find more details about the conference here, or sign up for the mailing list to get all of the conference updates.