Mirrors & Doors in Publishing: Jessica Smith, Sadia Anwar & Shahd Al Shammari
Date/Time: Friday 3 February 2023 15:00-15:50
Session No: 34
Inclusion in publishing is a topic that has been much discussed yet rarely acted upon. There’s a new focus on making the industry more accessible for both writers and staff – but is it working? While authors struggle with the economic challenges of building a self-sustaining writing career, publishing houses continue to face accusations of perpetuating inequality and failing to support marginalised authors.
When new authors can face one-star reviews and social media backlash before their book is even out and the small presses and independent bookshops who would usually be the champions of outsiders are struggling to keep the lights on, what does it take to break through? Our outspoken panel examines the challenges and shows us where to look for hope.
Jessica Smith is an Australian Paralympic Swimmer, public speaker, children’s author, and the Chief Operating Officer at TOUCH Dubai, an inclusive talent agency and disability consultancy which aims to educate society about the importance of inclusion, both from a professional and a social model. Since retiring from her swimming career, Smith has gone on to become an internationally recognised advocate for positive body image, diversity & inclusion, and disability awareness.
Kit de Waal is the award-winning author of My Name is Leon and editor of working-class memoir Common People. Much of her writing draws inspiration from her 15-year professional experience in adoption and foster care, and she is committed to pushing for more inclusivity in publishing. She founded the Kit de Waal Bursary for careers and the Kit de Waal Creative Writing Fellowship to help improve working-class representation in literature and the arts.
Shahd Al Shammari is a Kuwaiti-Palestinian author, academic and researcher of illness narratives and disability studies. Her work, including Notes on the Flesh and The Secret of 50/50, addresses disability and gender in the Gulf region.