Our platform is part of the project Every Story Matters (ESM), a collaboration between partners across Europe that is supported financially by Creative Europe. In this article we take a closer look at how our Dutch partner ROSE stories approaches diversity and inclusion within its organisation and its partnership with ESM.
ROSE stories is a Dutch collective of storytellers, producers and talent developers with an eye for talent and a soft spot for innovative stories that have rarely been told. The collective has a clear mission statement: to make the voices and faces in which we are reflected daily even more diverse. This makes the story collective a perfect match for an Every Story Matters partnership. ROSE stories is always on the lookout for storytellers to collaborate with, in order to create stories that enable dialogue in books, on stage, in films and in podcasts.
Helping authors explore their talent: ROSE Academy
ROSE Stories believes that talent is not reserved for the happy few, but the
opportunity to do something with that talent often is. To change this they have created several ROSE Academies. One of them is the Children’s Stories Academy. The aim of this four-month programme is to create a more inclusive range of children’s books. The participants are guided by renowned children’s book authors and when they have finished they are given the opportunity to pitch their work to an audience of professionals.
One of the books to come out of the programme is Idje Doesn't Want a Haircut. The story introduces a new superhero. Idje is seven years old and his lush afro hair comes to life, giving him superpowers and challenging him to use them to do good. The story was so well received that it’s being made into a movie by Lemming Films.
Making inclusive children’s books mainstream
In partnership with Every Story Matters, ROSE Stories has taken its Children’s Stories Academy to a European level. The Talent Development Programme is intended for six emerging authors and illustrators from our partner countries and offers them coaching to help them create their first inclusive children’s book. Each participant is paired with a mentor and afterwards the stories will be presented in schools and libraries at the Zagreb Book Festival 2022, as well as to publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
See the full list of authors and information about their books here
Rozemarijn of ROSE Stories is happy to say more about the ROSE Academies and their experience as partners in the ESM project.
Storytelling is a very broad concept. How do you deal with that?
‘An important starting point is that the story should come from the person themselves. We prefer the story to be told by the target group, so not about them but by them. We are continually looking for a kind of individuality and unity between the story and the author, for innovative stories with new outlooks.’
Is inclusion a much-discussed subject in the literary sector in the Netherlands?
‘Definitely. In the Dutch literary sector there is more and more talk of inclusion, and you’ll also notice that it’s increasingly a matter of concern to even the larger publishing houses. An encouraging development.
There was a great need for inclusive children’s books in the Netherlands. Many children didn’t recognize themselves in the stories around them as they were growing up. We had hardly any children’s books with a person of colour in the leading role.’
What kind of guidance do you give to authors and illustrators? What do you focus on when deciding what to offer?
‘Everyone is coached by a person from the book trade and together they set out to create a unique story, concentrating on the development and the way diversity is woven into it, implicitly or explicitly. Beforehand, participants are given three masterclasses, one of which is training on unconscious bias, one a masterclass about the book trade and one about marketing. Marketing is an important aspect of making a book. Ultimately we want our titles to be commercially successful, so that the stories can be distributed as widely as possible.’
Was it the first time that you were able to operate at a European level with your talent development programme? What was that like?
‘Working with Every Story Matters was the first time our talent development programme had been organised internationally. It was an enormously enjoyable and instructive experience. Its value lay above all in getting to know talents and coaches from all over Europe, exchanging ideas and learning about inclusion.’
Diversity can be about so many different things and the concept can differ markedly from one country to another. It’s hugely important to embrace diversity in every sense of the word.