Many people are troubled by the social divisions in our nation, and many people want ways to respond to these divisions. I’ve written about the need for holistic and lifelong responses that involve our heads, hearts, and hands, and I will continue to write about all of these aspects of responding to the pain that continues to divide our nation. In addition, over the next few months, I’m going to offer reflections from a few people on how they have responded to the reality of their privilege on either an individual, influential, or institutional level. I asked my friend Brian Allain to share here today about how he used his influence to connect writers of color to a predominantly white publishing industry. I hope you’ll appreciate his story. I also hope you’ll use it as a way to consider where you could use your own influence in your own community.
Why I Started Publishing in Color
It was a long journey to get from working as an engineer at Bell Laboratories to putting on spiritual writers conferences!
I worked in many different communication technology businesses, both large and small, and enjoyed them immensely. Twice in my life I considered going into ministry, but in both cases I ended up concluding that it was not the best fit for my skill set. I think I could come up with a grand total of one good sermon in my entire life.
Then what literally fell in my lap was the opportunity to establish and lead the Frederick Buechner Center. I didn’t go looking for it; I didn’t apply for the job. It found me. What an amazing blessing! Then two years ago when I turned 60, I asked myself how I wanted to spend the rest of my productive time on this planet. I decided to start Writing for Your Life in order to help other spiritual writers.
I needed to gain some contacts in the Christian publishing industry in order to establish these new writing workshops, so I attended an industry conference where a panel of CEOs from Christian publishing houses took place. An African American woman in the audience asked them why they didn’t publish more books from people of color. All the executives on the panel basically said the same thing: “We realize it is a problem; we just don’t know how to solve it.”
Throughout my business career, I’ve seen time and again how important “who you know” is, or really “who knows you.” I am not a publisher; I cannot force books to happen. HOWEVER, I thought to myself, I CAN put together a conference that fosters relationships between writers of color and representatives from the publishing industry. I ran the concept past a few authors of color and publishing industry people whose judgement I respected. They all thought it was a great idea.
Thus far we’ve held two Publishing in Color conferences and they’ve been very well received. You can read some of the comments from attendees here. Between the two conferences we’ve had over 200 attendees and speakers. Several book deals, agent relationships, and article invitations have already taken place as a result. Additional Publishing in Color conferences will take place this year in Los Angeles and New Jersey.
Judging from the feedback and results, it’s a good thing. We’ve all been blessed.
Profits, if any, from the Publishing in Color conferences go into the Publishing in Color Scholarship Fund so that selected scholarship recipients can attend future conferences at no charge. If you would like to contribute here that would be greatly appreciated!