Richard Gonzales’s fall workshop series, Writing Past Cliché: Reflecting Real Diversity in Literature, brings into focus the way our preconceived notions about race, gender, sexuality, and disability factor into the worlds we create through our writing. This four-session interactive workshop offers information, examples, and exercises for writers seeking to write responsibly about diverse people. Class participants will have the opportunity to share their work with the instructor and other class attendees for constructive feedback on their efforts to write responsibly. To find out more and register for the course, click here.
In our previous interview, you talked about the ways that the publishing world is changing to become more inclusive. Tell us more about why it is vital to have a class like Writing Past Cliché in this current historical moment.
At a time when more ethnic minority than white students attend our country’s public schools, there is a dearth of books with minority characters. In addition, our society has become more accepting about the wide diversity of people who are seldom seen in movies, books, and magazines, such as the mentally and physically disabled, LGTBQ individuals, and women. Current news reflects progressives growing intolerant toward groups who espouse extreme right wing or fascist ideas about our country’s diversity. Books are an avenue for the stories of traditionally marginalized groups to be told in all its diversity, beauty, and complexity. This class provides participants methods on how to break into and publish works reflective of the rich, social variety. The writers’ challenges are to explore, research and assess information about diverse groups and translate it into an entertaining, culturally sensitive novel.
How do you plan to help your students depart from the limitations of “Write What You Know?” And why is it needed?
First, we will engage in an exercise on identifying social and family factors that formed the class participants’ understanding of the world. They will share this information with one another and comprehend how these factors helped shape our different stories. We will then engage in writing exercises where the participants are asked to write from the perspective of another class member. They’re free to ask the participants probing questions to better understand their worldviews. This exercise will help the student to grasp the importance of research beyond their limited experiences.
If we are to learn to write in depth about diverse characters, we need to learn how to see the world from other people’s eyes. We need to develop empathy and compassion for other people’s experiences, to develop believable, riveting characters.
What kind of an atmosphere can students expect in the classroom?
I hope to create a class atmosphere where students can freely participate to their comfort level on discussions about writing about diverse populations. I encourage students to bring samples of their writing about diverse characters without the fear of shaming or condemnation. If they don’t want to share their writings, they can present questions about any project issues or about writing about diverse characters. We learn from reaching beyond our perceived limitations. I encourage risk-taking. At the same time, I expect that participants will strive for civil discussion and show respect for their fellow participants.
What do you most hope that students will take away from the course?
I hope students will be able to:
- Understand the need for more books and stories about diverse people
- Understand why they’ve elected to write about people different from themselves
- Understand how to research diverse groups
- Learn how to enlist the assistance of sensitivity readers
- Receive constructive feedback about their writing on diverse characters
- Understand their own stories and how it influences their writing
- Learn how to avoid writing stereotypes
- Encounter examples of well written books with diverse characters
- Learn where to locate resources on how to write with diversity
- Develop more confidence about writing with diversity
This interview is the ninth in our Fall Series. To read from the beginning, click here. Writing Past Cliché: Reflecting Real Diversity in Literature will take place at The Writer’s Garret on Tuesdays and Thursdays from October 3 to October 12. Find out more here.