In my writing group, we often share ideas and thoughts on where our stories come from and why we’ve chosen to write about certain subjects. Carmen Bernier-Grand, one of the wonderful teachers in the MFA Writing program I attended at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts gave me great advice which I have taken to heart and never forgotten. “People will tell you you can only write about what you know,” she said. “Don’t listen to them. Instead, write about the things you want to learn.”
This has been on my mind these days because I have a middle grade novel that which has two protagonists, two different girls who tell parallel and intersecting stories 30 years apart. One girl is white, the other black. And I suspect there are some who may say, should I really be writing from the POV of a little black girl? Well, for that matter, should a white male author ever write from the POV of a woman? Should an adult ever write from the POV of a child?
My answer would be yes. Writers write about the human condition, human emotions and struggles that are common to all people. It’s when we begin to divide and segment humanity into narrow little slices that we start to get into trouble. Segmentation is for databases and mailing lists, not writers and readers.