This is a continuation of the series of blog posts concerning issues presented to Pitch Wars. You can read the beginning of the series HERE. This post addresses the issue of inclusion and diversity in Pitch Wars.
I’d like to address the need for more inclusivity in Pitch Wars as well as what we hope to do moving forward. First, as mentioned in the previous post, there were mentors who expressed concern about a mandatory fee. Many of these mentors were from marginalized communities. Though it was never the intention of Pitch Wars to ignore any voice or opinion in our community, by not fully considering the concerns brought up by these marginalized mentors, we hurt the writing community.
As leaders of a program that many look to for guidance, we have a responsibility within that community. To acknowledge our privilege and listen to others. To believe the underrepresented in our community when they say that we are creating barriers to access. To accept responsibility when we fail to do so. We are fully committed to making Pitch Wars a safe space for all members of the writing community this year and for many years to come. In order to do so, we have to make sure there is open and honest discussion in all groups associated with Pitch Wars, from the mentor and mentee groups to the #PitchWars and #Pitmad hashtags.
Additionally, the Pitch Wars committee is ensuring that the makeup of the leadership reflects the diversity of the community we serve. We know there is no way that every part of the community can be represented fully in such a small group (especially when taking into account the varying degrees of intersectionality that exist). However, the hope is that by committing ourselves to including diverse leadership, we will have good perspectives and be able to address concerns moving forward.
One of the biggest goals is to ensure that the mentor and mentee pools are also diverse in a way that appropriately reflects the writing community.
We also need to be more responsible and accountable for providing support for marginalized writers and mentors when it seems like their voices are being drowned out by the crowd. In order to provide that support, we will enact new codes of conduct for the program that will be given to those who wish to participate (be it as a mentor, mentee, or behind the scenes volunteer). This code of conduct will include a strict policy for any abuse or harassment seen within the closed Facebook groups or on social media in relation to Pitch Wars (e.g. on the hashtag).
- If a mentor/mentee/volunteer says anything to belittle a marginalized person’s experience as stated in the group, they will receive one warning. On the second offense, we will ask them to leave Pitch Wars.
- If we receive verified proof that a mentor/mentee/volunteer has belittled a marginalized person’s experience on Twitter, they will receive one warning before they are asked to leave Pitch Wars.
- If a mentor/mentee/volunteer is claiming to represent Pitch Wars and espouses racist or harmful views, they will be asked to leave Pitch Wars.
- The injured parties will always be informed of actions taken even if the case isn’t made public.
We know this issue of true inclusivity is one with many nuances and encourage you to provide us feedback or suggestions. If you’d like to do so anonymously you can write in to our curious cat (just note that it is a suggestion and you would like for us not to post it on our feed). Or DM us at our @PitchWars twitter handle.
Again, we’re excited for these upcoming changes to Pitch Wars and we’re looking forward to this upcoming year.
This is a wonderful approach. I have one suggestion however. Belittling anyone, regardless of whether that person is a member of a marginalized group, should not be allowed. Not related to this group, but in other forums, I’ve witnessed behavior unbefitting of professional writers (or anyone for that matter). Some of that was toward marginalized populations, but the majority was just blatant disregard for human decency. All should be treated with respect, regardless of who they are.
The problem with that as a policy is it often gives cover for people who attack marginalized writers, then hide behind that policy when those writers react/respond. We want to err on the side of protecting the most vulnerable parts of our community.
Agree with Michael, so many times POC and very specifically BW have been called “aggressive” or “angry” when all their doing is pointing out injustice. It makes for a he/she/they said-he/she/they said situation. It’s important to acknowledge the already existing disparity in power that exists in both society and the industry.
Many thanks to the Pitch Wars organizers and mentors for their valuable time and knowledge. I hope everyone who participates in Pitch Wars knows about and will join the query revolution coming with the Authors Seeking Agents Wish List website currently under construction (ASAWL.com). The concept is simple—take the format of a pitch party and the reverse of the MSWL to provide authors with a FREE platform to pitch their work and agents and publishers with the means to conduct FREE searches to find their author matches. To maintain integrity of the site, only publishers and authors will have the ability to post responses to authors and ask to see more. I’ve written several blogs about what the website will and won’t do, so please check it out at Raucouswriter.com.