NAPIBOWRIWEE 2014: Day Three – Lee & Low Interview, Part 2 of 2 (May 3)

The next NAPIBOWRIWEE will take place May 1-7, 2014
The next NAPIBOWRIWEE will take place May 1-7, 2014

(NOTE: For this entire week, I will post a new blog every day by 6 AM PST here. So check back daily! Also – I will post fun Tweets live each day! Follow me on Twitter @paulayoo)


Still having fun? I can tell by all your comments! 🙂 Glad everyone is pushing through these tough but exhilarating 7 days where we attempt to write 7 picture books in 7 days.

MY DAY TWO UPDATE: I managed to cobble out another picture book idea in the afternoon. It was music-based because I am also a professional freelance violinist. I also have a concert this weekend with the Southeast Symphony so music was on my brain all day (had a rehearsal Friday night too!). But as I wrote this book, I realized… this could actually be the start of a middle grade novel or chapter book. A few of my picture book drafts from previous NAPIBOWRIWEES have ended up being the basis for longer books. This is why I love doing my NAPIBOWRIWEE event because it helps me in a whole range of genres, not just picture books! 🙂

Did anyone write a draft today that they thought would be a picture book and realized it may be an early reader/chapter book/or novel? I’m curious to see if anyone’s NAPIBOWRIWEE drafts turned into something longer.

As for Day Three – I have a concert to play with the Southeast Symphony. I don’t know if I’ll have time to write Book 3 because of this schedule conflict. Plus maintaining my NAPIBOWRIWEE blog also takes up a lot time.

Therefore I have allowed myself the opportunity to try and get TWO drafts done on Sunday (Day 4) because of my orchestra conflict on Day 3. Talk about a Sunday Funday. My goal for Day Three will be at least to brainstorm two ideas that I can concentrate writing all day on Sunday. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, here’s Part Two of my interview with LEE & LOW BOOKS. (Part One was posted here: In today’s blog, Hannah Ehrlich, Director of Marketing & Publicity, shares with us statistics about the lack of diversity not only in children’s literature but also in Hollywood AND the New York Times Bestseller List.

Why did LEE & LOW BOOKS expand their research on diversity from children’s literature to other arenas such as the Oscars and the New York Times Bestseller List? It’s because LEE & LOW BOOKS hopes to “… shed light on the systematic challenges facing people of color and women today across many industries.”

For more than twenty years, LEE & LOW BOOKS has published award-winning children’s books that are “about everyone, for everyone.” The company is committed to fostering conversations about race, gender, and diversity in publishing and beyond. For more information, visit

(Keep reading after the break for the Diversity Gap statistics!)


The Diversity Gap in the Academy Awards (1927-2012)
The Diversity Gap in the Academy Awards (1927-2012)

The following information was provided to us from Hannah Ehrlich, Director of Marketing & Publicity at LEE & LOW BOOKS:


The Diversity Gap in the Oscars

February 20, 2014— New York, NY — A new study by children’s publisher LEE & LOW BOOKS examines racial diversity among Academy Award winners. The numbers show clearly just how deep Hollywood’s diversity problem goes.

In eighty-five years:

• Only one woman of color (1%) has ever won the Academy Award for Best Actress

• Only seven men of color (9%) have ever won the Academy Award for Best Actor

• Only one woman (1%) has ever won the Academy Award for Best Director

Startlingly, those numbers actually reflect one of the more diverse branches of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: the Actors Branch, which is 88% white. The Writers and Producers Branches are both even less diverse: both are 98% white and predominantly male.

With mostly white writers and producers calling the shots behind the scenes, it is no surprise that so few actors of color find a place in front of the camera. “The numbers do not surprise me because very few Academy Award level films with non-white leads are being greenlit,” says Gina Prince-Bythewood, a writer and director whose credits include Love and Basketball and The Secret Life of Bees.

Many actors of color are pulled between the need for work and the desire to accept roles that portray characters of color in a nuanced way. “Every actor has a right to say no,” says Jason Chan, an Australian actor, writer, and director and one of the founding partners of the production company BananaMana Films. “I’ve said no many times—sometimes at the cost of a job.”

See the Diversity Gap infographic and read the full study and interviews at

Past studies by LEE & LOW BOOKS have been featured by The Huffington Post, Upworthy, and more; several have gone viral. The studies have covered diversity in children’s and adult publishing, politics, TV and the Emmy Awards, theater and the Tony Awards, and now the Academy Awards and film. With these studies and others to come, LEE & LOW BOOKS hopes to shed light on the systematic challenges facing people of color and women today across many industries.



The Diversity Gap in the New York Times Top Ten Bestsellers List
The Diversity Gap in the New York Times Top Ten Bestsellers List

The following information was provided to us from Hannah Ehrlich, Director of Marketing & Publicity at LEE & LOW BOOKS:

The Diversity Gap in The New York Times Best Sellers

December 9, 2013— New York, NY— As reviewers reflect on the year in books, children’s book publisher LEE & LOW BOOKS decided to look at the level of diversity among last year’s New York Times Best Sellers. LEE & LOW focused on the most general category, The New York Times Combined Print & E-Book Adult Fiction Best Sellers. They examined the top ten best selling books on the list for each week of 2012.

The result? For the chosen category in 2012, only three out of 124 authors on the New York Times Top Ten Best Sellers List were people of color:

• Sylvia Day, author of the Crossfire series (half Japanese)
• E.L. James, author of the 50 Shades of Grey series (half Chilean)
• Tess Gerritsen, author of the Rizzoli and Isles series (Chinese American)

The study also showed that no African American authors made the Top Ten Best Sellers list. In addition, of the three books/book series by authors of color that made the list, only one contains a main character of color (Eva Tramell of the Crossfire series is part Latina). That means most “big” books featuring characters of color, such as The Help, are still written by white authors.

The numbers illustrate that the books getting the widest distribution and the largest marketing push are still almost exclusively by and about white people.

LEE & LOW interviewed Charles Yu, author of the New York Times Notable Book How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. Making the Times’ Top 10 Bestsellers list, Yu says, is “not something I can conceive of as being reasonably realistic. . . . Perhaps I’ve got this sort of tacit assumption that because of my particular background and areas of interest, it seems implausible for someone like me.”

Find the full study at The study is part of an initiative by LEE & LOW BOOKS to shed light on the systematic societal challenges facing people of color today across several industries. Past studies examine the diversity gap in the Tony Awards, the Emmy Awards, the children’s publishing industry, and politics, demonstrating that people of color are consistently underrepresented across many industries and arenas. The question, then, is what can we do about it?


These statistics are certainly thought-provoking. No wonder these charts went viral on the Internet! 🙂 

Again, as writers of children’s picture books, how can we not only promote diversity in kid lit but also show how diversity is for EVERYONE? I’ll ask some published children’s picture book veteran authors and illustrators their thoughts on diversity in kid lit for tomorrow’s DAY THREE blog. So stay tuned!

Also – for those of you who are doing NAPIBOWRIWEE for the first time, my past events have focused on different themes, including writing craft issues and publication industry advice. Please feel free to explore the entire archive at for past interviews with authors etc.

Until the next blog, please comment below on how your DAY THREE went! I can’t wait to hear all about your writing progress. As always, remember… HAPPY WRITING! WRITE LIKE YOU MEAN IT! 🙂 


  1. Commenting early (and reading first thing this morning!) as I’m hitting the road and will be without internet. So I’ll be going old school, writing up today’s draft on Paper. With a PENCIL. Eeeeek! 🙂

    (Not to worry, though. I won’t writing and driving!)

    As for the statistics, I’m kinda without words here. Wait–I can think of one, borrowed from an iconic Hollywood film (and wondering if maybe Andre the Giant counts as diversity…):Inconceivable.

  2. Thanks for your response to my comment yesterday. I have a ms that has one main character and 2 others. I’ve given all three of them a culturally diverse name because I would like to have all children represented in my mss, maybe I shouldn’t do that, according to your comment. Should I instead leave the ethnicity up to the illustrator? Or should I take a stance of making the story culturally diverse?

    • Hi Laura. This is a good question. Normally for picture books you do NOT list the ethnicity or race of a character if it is not central or important to the story. BUT if you want the artist to represent diverse books, you could indicate it as an art note. OR you could have a character be described as Asian American, African American, Latino etc. anyway and if it gets changed in the art, then it gets changed but at least you indicated in both ways that you want diversity. I think most artists are aware of this now and there is a conscious effort anyway to have children of color in books anyway. Another way to is to just give the kids ethnically specific names which imply that they are diverse. Good luck! 🙂 xo P.

  3. I was up extremely early for a Saturday 🙂 And, now my third draft is done. I got the idea from my 90 year old neighbor. During tea the other day she began telling me about growing up in an old neighborhood during 1920s New York. Talk about multicultural!!!!!

    Two things Paula….

    #1 I’ve read and reread your interview and find it so interesting. I sent information on the report to some teachers I’m pals with. They want to start discussing it with their students.
    I also shared it with some fellow minority writers I know. They are going to start submitting to Lee and Low Books.

    #2 Paula I keep saying thank you. After participating these last couple of years I’ve got more work done than ever before. And, most importantly, I am now starting to submit….finally. Thanks much…big sister writer:)

    • Holly thank you! I’m glad you got some good books written and how cool re: 1920s NY! I’m grateful you sent the interview to your teachers and friends. How wonderful. I’m so thrilled and touched by your kind email. Way to spread the word! xo P. PS. I’m also so glad you are now submitting! Please keep us posted on your writing journey!

  4. Hi everyone! Thanks for your comments so far. FYI I have a concert today with the Southeast Symphony (my other life is as a violinist). I may not be able to answer your questions until later tonight. Also – if you post a comment here later today and it doesn’t appear for awhile that’s because I’m gone all day at this concert/rehearsal so please be patient, your comment will be posted later tonight. Obviously I will not be able to work on Book 3 today cuz of my concert. But I will make up for it on Sunday Funday! Happy Writing! More soon later tonight! xo P.

  5. I finished it. I’m 3 for 3! Those statistics are thought provoking, Paula! I’ll be interested to see what the published children’s picture book authors and illustrators have to say. Have a lovely concert! *waving*

  6. Just started writing my draft today. Thanks for the interesting (and sad) facts about the Academy Awards, and also part 2 of the L&L interview, Paula! I wrote 2 multicultural drafts already but may do one with animals today. And, no, neither of the first 2 seem like they’ll be anything other than PBs, at least not right now. 🙂

  7. So enjoying your posts and the motivation to write! Wrote a story yesterday and today. It feels wonderful to just let go and write. May 1 was a day to brainstorm and come up with 7 possible storylines. Thanks so much for organizing this. Best of luck on your concert.

    • Thank you! Concert went well. It was a lot of fun. Here’s the group: It’s the country’s oldest African American symphony founded in 1948 due to segregation and today it’s an all inclusive group with a diverse and talented roster. Diversity is needed in ALL the arts!

  8. I’ve loved when we’ve read picture books where the text does not specific race or even gender, and the illustrator comes up with something beautiful, both universal and fitting.

    Got Draft 3 down! I know I want to add a couple of sections (and then revise like crazy, of course), but I got a beginning, middle, and end down! Loving this motivation.

  9. Thought provoking survey results, indeed. I’m surprised by the NY Times list. I would have thought it more diverse.

    I find it hard to carve out time on the weekends to write, but I did finish a draft for an alphabet book. Even did a little research to make sure it hasn’t been done already.

    Happy writing everyone!

  10. Manuscript 3 is done and ideas are still bubbling up. Day 2 and Day 3 posts about diversity have been very eye opening. I feel encouraged to in that I have an idea for a biography for a person that is a different race than me. I was worried about whether I could empathize enough with how this person felt in certain situations but I think through good research and communication I can relate his story to others because that is the important thing-the story. Thank you for this important information.

    • Congrats! It’s really all about “getting something down.” I was looking at older drafts I wrote in previous years where I just “got something down” and I’m grateful because the ideas and the structure still work and I now can revise them later in the year! Good luck!

  11. I think the statistics speak for themselves, sadly. It is important to get those #’s out there so people can ponder the how and why of them!

    Day 3 was finished while burning the midnight oil! On a Saturday night no less!

  12. Started my 2nd PB ms today for NaPiBoWriWee. Supported California Bookstore day at my favorite indie. Finally bought Mike Jung’s GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES for the third day of We Need Diverse Books campaign. Busy day for writers and did it all!

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