Beyond Busy Podcast Features QSLA Founder Ayanna Coleman


A few months ago I was approached by a friend and colleague about participating in a podcast. If you recall, I’ve done these before and although that last time was pretty painless, I’m not one to test fate.


Podcasts are all about your voice and your composure and what you have to say.


Yes, some amazing people read and appreciate the QSLA blog posts that my fabulous interns and I create–we are so grateful for your attention–but actually listening to me speak for an hour without any visuals? That doesn’t seem fair.


But I forged ahead and embraced my discomfort and said yes to participating.


Enter Graham Allcott of Think Productive and author of How to be a Productivity Ninja. He runs is a one man podcast machine and it was my pleasure to chat with him for his show, Beyond Busy. That April afternoon in the Madison Avenue NYPL, we taped what I later found out would be the culminating podcast of the first season of his show.


His podcast is interview format where he focuses on people from all walks of life and asks them to tell him about their thoughts on productivity, work/life balance, happiness, and success.


Graham was lovely. He put me totally at ease and teased out some interesting points all at the same time. We talked about the publishing industry and the children’s literature world, stress relief, balance, fear, guilt, success, and of course productivity. Feel free to share your comments below or on social media about anything that resonated with you during our chat.


Listen to the conversation

Take Your World-Building to the Next Level

By Michaela Whatnall


World-building is an essential part of writing any novel, be it fantasy, sci-fi, or even realistic fiction. The world which your characters inhabit must come alive for the reader in order to be believable and compelling. And it’s clear when a novel has succeeded in creating a living, breathing world—how many times have you heard someone wish they could live at Hogwarts?


So you’ve done the basics—you’ve developed a world for your characters and story to inhabit, filled with its own rules and unique details. But how do you make sure the world will exist vividly for the reader? How do you take it a step further to ensure yours is a world your reader will feel they know intimately?


While this post will be focusing on world-building in fantasy and sci-fi novels, world-building is equally important for realistic fiction or any other genre. What makes your world unique, be it the dragons that lurk in the mountains or the wacky neighbors who populate your main character’s street, is what is going to bring your story to life.


Take a look at these five tips for taking your world to the next level.

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Be Brave & Write Inclusively: A Resource List

On Sunday, May 1, I had the pleasure of presenting a workshop at GrubStreet’s Muse & the Marketplace conference. Here’s a snippet of what it was about:


“Character” refers to the people in your book and keeping them real in word, deed, and circumstance.  But “character” also refers to the need for the writer to exhibit true character in the crafting of the stories s/he tells. Attendees will explore how to write through fear and with empathy and compassion to tell the stories that are either not told enough or not told at all. This requires risk-taking and a bit of bravery, especially in our highly-charged political environment. Come prepared for a frank and generative discussion.

Of course, with this description, some attendees were a little surprised when my talk focused almost entirely on writing diverse characters. I’m happy to say that I didn’t lose very many listeners after the first five minutes and, even better, everyone in the room participated throughout the talk and after during the 30-minute discussion session.


Note that I did not say 30-minute Q&A. I’ve done my fair share of programming, especially around talking about diversity in children’s literature, and I’ve found that opening up avenues for attendees to not only speak with the presenter on the same level, but also communicate openly with their fellow writers (or agents, marketers, editors, librarians, etc.) is imperative to generative conversations. Everyone should feel heard and be able to contribute their knowledge and experiences.


After the workshop, which ended exactly on time (thank you very much), I promised attendees that I would share the many resources I used to create my presentation. Of course, I want these resources to go beyond the conference attendees so…eat your heart out, readers! And a huge thank you goes out to Michaela Whatnall, one of my amazing spring interns who did a lot of digging and compiling to make these resources shareable.

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In advance of the 2016 Writers of Color Roundtable event at GrubStreet’s Muse and the Marketplace conference they kicked off the conversation with #Muse16 presenters. In this installment is literary agent Ayanna Coleman, who lead a Muse session on The Character of YA Literature.


Have you ever felt pressure to be representative of your nationality, culture, ethnicity, or race?

Definitely, yes. More times than not I’ve been in a room where I am the only minority and, even more often, the only African-American. It’s an interesting thing to watch the room get quiet because no one wants to “step in it” when discussing diversity and the inequity minorities in our society face — this happens when discussing characters in books as well as the current state of the industry. It’s frustrating to be perceived as the voice in the room who has authentic experience to share as “the other,” knowing that my experience is still so very different from many others.


Read the full piece here!

Caution: Speed Bumps Ahead

By Hannah Andrade


As a resident of San Diego, I dislike anything that slows my rate of travel. Traffic is a blight to the sunny beaches and, when the roads are clear, I take full advantage. Anything that causes me to press the brake pedal are irritants. Pot holes fall into this category, as do speed bumps.


Not only do speed bumps occur in inconvenient places but they require me slowing to a crawl so that the bottom of my car won’t scrape the asphalt. They are an interruption to my drive, a disruption to the rhythm of my journey.


Unfortunately, speed bumps are not limited to the road. They pop up in novels, used as a tool to create suspense. Writers equate suspense with anything that slows the journey to the story’s climax. As we saw in a previous article, this is not the case.

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