Vol. 5: Literary Agent Ayanna Coleman "Looks Too Much Into It"

Recently, the New York Times published an article called “What It’s Really Like to Work in Hollywood (If you’re not a straight white man),” a collection of stories from actors, directors, producers, and other film professionals who are consistently marginalized and underrepresented in a white male-dominated industry. To draw attention to similar issues in publishing, an industry with a dramatic disparity in racial demographics, we're collecting stories from writers, agents, and editors of color about what it's like to work and publish in an industry historically dominated by white people.

In advance of the Writers of Color Roundtable event at GrubStreet's Muse and the Marketplace conference on Friday, April 29, we’re kicking off the conversation with #Muse16 presenters. In this installment is literary agent Ayanna Coleman, who will be leading 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. It is even more frustrating to share your experience and perceptions, however, to a group that make up the majority of publishing — white women — and have your experiences dismissed with thoughts of, "That was just one time" or "You're looking too much into it." These thoughts are a problem that I think recently are being more forthrightly addressed. We must remember that the one time we're hearing about a situation very well could be the fifteenth example chosen at random and looking too much into it dismisses the countless times actions or words were actually dismissed and forgotten in order to persevere.


Ayanna Coleman founded Quill Shift Literary Agency in 2013. With an educational background in marketing and English, Ayanna has worked within the publishing industry at a publishing house, literary agencies, as a book reviewer, programming and event director, and many years as a children’s librarian. She also earned a Master of Science degree in Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, currently the top program in the nation. 

Ayanna is looking for middle grade and young adult fiction in all genres. Bring her stories with plucky, realistic characters that represent our multicultural society who grow throughout an engrossing plot in a setting that sucks the reader in. 

About the Author

GrubWrites is a space for the writing and reading community to share ideas and seek advice, a place where writers at the very beginning of their careers publish alongside established authors. Book lovers, we bring you reviews, recommendations, and conversations with exciting new authors to keep you up to speed on all things lit. Writers, this is your one stop shop for expert craft talk, opinions on how we learn and teach writing, and essential advice about the publishing industry.

Plus, we want to hear from you! Our ongoing call for submissions is open to literary community members of all types and persuasions. We want to hear from students, teachers, authors, readers, editors, agents, publicists, and any devotee of the written word. If you have something to say about writing, reading, the publishing industry, or anything related to the literary world, this is the place to voice it. We’re particularly committed to advocating for a diverse range of voices in the literary marketplace and raising the visibility of writers from under-represented communities.

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