A Change Is Gonna Come
This week we’d thought we’d introduce you to one our regular supporters aka Trailblazers, Ruth Bennett. Ruth has been a long-time friend of the Abram Wilson Foundation and like so many members of our community is busy doing her own brilliant trailblazing work as Editorial Director at Stripes Publishing. Read on to find out more…
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Ruth Bennett and I’m Editorial Director for Stripes Publishing, an imprint of independent children’s publisher, the Little Tiger Group. I work on children’s fiction for six year olds right through to Young Adults and spend a lot of my spare time reading and squeezing in a bit of writing of my own! I am also a huge music lover – my husband is a musician in an alternative folk band, Farrago, and together we love going to gigs to listen to music of all genres.
What inspired you to get involved with the Abram Wilson Foundation and become a Trailblazer?
I was lucky enough to meet Abram and hear him perform, and I have followed the development of the Abram Wilson Foundation since its very beginning. It’s exciting to see the amazing work that is being achieved in Abram’s memory, continuing his legacy of musical excellence and inspiring young people. Music has real power to transform lives – both for listeners and performers – and I feel strongly that this needs supporting and nurturing, particularly at a time when challenging political and economic circumstances mean that it can no longer be taken for granted within our society. The work of organisations like the Abram Wilson Foundation are essential for making sure that the value of music is never lost.
Stripes is about to launch a new anthology called A Change Is Gonna Come. Tell us more!
We’re very excited about this book! It’s an anthology of short stories and poetry aimed at a Young Adult audience, featuring Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic writers. The book contains a whole range of different genres and styles and I really think that it has something for everyone. It’s an opportunity for readers to discover authors whose work they might not know and it’s a chance to really showcase the breadth of talent and the variety of voices out there.
How did the anthology come about and what was the inspiration behind it?
There have been many discussions in the publishing industry about the lack of representation for diverse voices. It’s a widely acknowledged problem but sadly it’s one that has been slow to change. It’s particularly important, I believe, in children’s and Young Adult writing – the books you read when you’re young have a lifelong impact, and it’s important for all young people to feel like there are books out there for them. The anthology is a way to present stories in which readers can see themselves and also offer them an opportunity to see other perspectives to their own. It’s a small step towards making change in the industry but we hope it will be just the beginning of a bigger shift.
Are there any particular writers we should be looking out for?
We’re fortunate to have 12 incredible contributors to the collection – they range from established writers of adult fiction for whom this is their first Young Adult work, Nikesh Shukla and Ayisha Malik, to award-winning YA writers, Patrice Lawrence and Catherine Johnson, and writers who work across genres and forms, like Musa Okwonga and Inua Ellams, another friend of the Abram Wilson Foundation. When commissioning the anthology, we wanted to give a platform to new writers as well, and we commissioned four stories from an open-submission process for previously unpublished authors. The writers we chose – Mary Bello, Aisha Bushby, Yasmin Rahman and Phoebe Roy – are definitely talents to watch!
What advice would you give any aspiring writers reading this?
Keep writing – it sounds obvious, but it can take many hours and tens of thousands of words on the page to find your voice and hone your skills. If you want to know how to become a writer then don’t try to fit in to what you perceive to be the kind of writing or the subject matter that is being published – write what makes you excited and what you feel passionate about. And lastly, find a supportive community of fellow writers – writing is a solitary occupation but finding other people in the same boat is a great way to share tips and ideas!
And finally, what are your three top summer reads?
My three top summer reads that I’ve read and would heartily recommend are: The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla – a collection of essays from a really fantastic group of writers, Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence, a fast-paced Young Adult novel that you will not want to put down and The Power by Naomi Alderman, a gripping novel that explores the politics of gender in an imaginative and unsettling way.
And the three books on my ‘to read’ pile for before the summer is over – The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a Young Adult novel whose film-adaptation has recently been announced, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, currently collecting a host of award wins and nominations, and We Don’t Know What We’re Doing by Thomas Morris, the debut short-story collection from a talented UK writer that would have won me over on its title alone because … who does?