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This image depicts a purple sun on a white background and overlaid with the words “Exploring the need for / Sensitivity Readers / a blog series / by E.J. Dawson, Tara Jazdzewski, Alex Woodroe, Ashley Dawn, Fay Lane and Alexa Rose”. To the right of this image are a series of words arranged beside a black triangle, and from the top, the words read “disability / race / orientation / culture / sex / gender / age / beliefs”.
This banner is part of an ongoing blog series about sensitivity readers. Graphic created by Alexa Rose, August 7, 2020.
A group of friends and I decided that one of the things we can do to help people understand why sensitivity readers are important. We came together to do this tour interviewing sensitivity readers of varying areas to talk to them about who they are and what they do.
Today I’m joined by Ana, also known as Kawaii on Twitter as she talks to me a little about what its like to be a Sensitivity Reader, ad some of the issues and challenges she faces.
1. What interested you about being a sensitivity reader?
I could make income for myself at home while helping others write better characters and so on with my knowledge. I didn’t even know that sensitivity readers were a thing until I researched enough to figure out what to call the new job I was doing for someone and would like to continue.
2. Are people generally receptive to your feedback? Can you give any examples?
Speaking for the people I work for? Yes, they are. When I told one of the writers I was working with that they should describe the skin or race for all instead of just black people they agreed with me and went to work on it. Another time was when I mentioned how they described the character’s actions with their hair wouldn’t have made sense with their style, they changed it accordingly. Now not all things I suggest happen, like mentioning how someone is toxic just in case that’s not what the writer wants or spelling (I help with other things than just community topics).
3. What are the challenges of reading for (reader specific) content?
Sometimes I’m nervous about saying things to come off stereotypical or just come off in a negative way I guess. Like when I was reading some horror like book, I wanted to so badly say how the black character most likely wouldn’t even be in this situation. But of course, that’s not always the case for everyone. It still bothered me though. Also, it can be nerve-wracking sometimes when I don’t know what may pop up with the story since all writers don’t mention possible triggers.
4. What issues do you find most as a sensitivity reader?
Proper payment and being acknowledged correctly. So many people don’t understand why the job even exists and think it’s censorship, the list goes on from there. It’s so sad and hilarious to see all these people get upset that they need readers from a community or communities they are writing about but have never existed in. And they still don’t see the problem with that. All they say is it’s been years and books have been just fine without us, which they are completely wrong about.
This also somewhat ties into the proper payment part. I’ve met enough people to say that they don’t realize what they are asking from us. They want to pay you little or nothing at all for you giving them information you know from years of experience and possibly will continue to live through it while they obviously don’t and might not ever go through. Not to mention all the reading for a story you may not have even read if it was for your entertainment. So to the fellow writers out there who don’t know, if you want to get your book published, expect money to be spent and don’t try to down pay people.