Laura Atkins is an author, teacher and independent children’s book editor with over twenty years of editorial experience. She’s worked with publishing companies helping to produce winners of the Coretta Scott King Award and American Library Association Notable Book selections. I’m so excited to bring her on the show to discuss her passion about diversity and her work as a co-author of the children’s book Fred Korematsu Speaks Up.
Fred Korematsu Speaks Up is the first book of the “Fighting for Justice” series which introduces young readers to real-life heroes and heroines of social progress. The story of Fred Korematsu’s fight against discrimination explores the life of one courageous person who made the United States a fairer place for all Americans, and it encourages all of us to speak up for justice.
In today’s episode, Laura walks us through the world-building of her children’s book, and how she and her co-author Stan Yogi used a focus group to help them craft their novel for their intended audience. We continue to discuss the importance of a detailed research process to accurately represent history, and how Laura and Stan used multiple storytelling techniques to make all the of the information more accessible for the young readers. We also talk about the responsibility the publishing industry has to diversify representation in the literary world.
PS. If you enjoyed this episode, I’d really love your support in growing our community by subscribing to us on iTunes, and leaving a rating and review. These specific steps help to increase our visibility on iTunes which really helps new listeners discover us. A huge heartfelt thank you for your time and support! You can click here to go directly to our iTunes page!
“We want to have this be a window that people can come through and then feel like they have the tools to dig deeper and go further.”
“I tend to think structurally as if I was closing my eyes and seeing a landscape and then seeing shapes emerge.”
“What I am looking for right now is self-belief and confidence as a writer and a creator.”
What You’ll Learn From This Episode:
- A look into the world-building of Fred Korematsu Speaks Up
- Laura shares how she and her co-author Stan used a focus group to craft their novel for the children’s book audience
- How Laura and her co-author used multiple storytelling techniques to make their story accessible to young readers
- How the format will present itself as it’s own creative process in your novel
- The importance of a detailed research process to represent history accurately
- How Laura and Stan ended their novel by giving their readers outlets to learn more about Fred Korematsu’s story
- Laura introduces Biddy Mason as the subject of her next novel
- Laura discuss the responsibility the publishing industry has to diversify representation in the literary world
Fred Korematsu liked listening to music on the radio, playing tennis, and hanging around with his friends—just like lots of other Americans. But everything changed when the United States went to war with Japan in 1941 and the government forced all people of Japanese ancestry to leave their homes on the West Coast and move to distant prison camps. This included Fred, whose parents had immigrated to the United States from Japan many years before. But Fred refused to go. He knew that what the government was doing was unfair. And when he got put in jail for resisting, he knew he couldn’t give up.
Inspired by the award-winning book for adults Wherever There’s a Fight, the Fighting for Justice series introduces young readers to real-life heroes and heroines of social progress. The story of Fred Korematsu’s fight against discrimination explores the life of one courageous person who made the United States a fairer place for all Americans, and it encourages all of us to speak up for justice.
Learn More About Laura Atkins
Laura Atkins is an author, teacher and independent children’s book editor with over twenty years of editorial experience. She worked at Children’s Book Press, Orchard Books, and Lee & Low Books, helping to produce winners of the Coretta Scott King Award and American Library Association Notable Book selections, among others. She went on to teach creative writing at the National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature (NCRCL) in London, where she also received her MA in Children’s Literature, and she completed her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts in January 2016. In addition to co-writing Fred Korematsu Speaks Up, Laura is the author of the light-hearted picture book, Sled Dog Dachshund. Passionate about diversity and equity in children’s books, and a big proponent of independent publishing, Laura is based in Berkeley, California, where she lives with her daughter and their dog.
Books & Resources Mentioned in Laura’s Episode:
Enduring Conviction: Fred Korematsu and His Quest for Justice by Lorraine K. Bannai
Wherever There’s a Fight by Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi
A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott
Oh, Oh, Baby Boy! By Janine Macbeth
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler