Jaz Johnson is joining us on the blog to talk about Diverse Books today. Jaz is a New York based author and artist and it’s a pleasure to welcome her today to talk to us today. She’s long been a vocal supporter of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement as well as a supporter of LGBTQ+. The founder of the creative writing program Evoking Creativity, Jaz is making a very real step in the right direction with the next generation of authors.
1. What does the term “Diverse Books” mean to you?
To me, the term ‘diverse books’ hold very near and dear to me. Growing up, I had (and still have) a very diverse group of friends, whom all (like myself) love to read. And exploring different genres of books in our earlier years, we were all rather disappointed at the lack of diversity presented in books. Diversity to me is being able to see each of my friends in my favorite stories, being just as heroic and brazen.
2. You are the founder of the Evoking Creativity program, giving young people encouragement and development for their writing. How do you encourage and promote diversity in the program?
In my program, I give youth the opportunity to create. Think about it. When in a child’s life, are they really able to do anything they want and can imagine? In fiction. In my program, I teach them the structure of writing, including character development, plot structure, narration/dialogue, liability/consistency, and more, in order to let them indulge in their creativity and create their own worlds.
And not only that, but each time I read one of their works, I see their own lives reflected in the stories. I see their friends, their family. Children are such a great advocate for diversity. They love equally. They don’t see color or race. They see friendship, in its truest form. And thus, letting them build their stories, and build them strong with the diversity they have come to know is propelling us into a more diverse field of literature.
3. You’re a gifted artist as well as an author. Does your approach to diversity encompass all aspects of your creativity?
Absolutely. I try my hardest to incorporate diversity in all aspects of my work, both writing and visual arts.
4. You write across different genres – fantasy, romance, social commentary – do you find more acceptance as a diverse author in any one genre or are the same challenges faced for every diverse book?
While I’m still growing as an author, and aim to write at least one book in almost every genre, I can say that I do see a lot more interest in my books when my readers find out about their diversity. They are eager to see how their ethnicities and cultures are portrayed, and am happy to say that they are pleasantly surprised.
And while my readers love the diversity, I still face the same challenges as any other writer. Those being marketing, finding time to write, putting yourself out there, and finding typos!