At Underdog, we believe diversity is an essential part of the #LoveOzYA movement. As a team, we did our absolute best to assemble an anthology that honours that sentiment, and we can proudly say that the vast majority of the selected short stories feature diverse characters and themes. However, given we could only select a handful of stories, we were unable to include a range of content that truly reflects the diversity of the #LoveOzYA community.
This project is an enormous learning experience for the entire Underdog team. We have never done anything like this—on this scale, with this kind of exposure—in our lives. Admittedly, if we are ever in this position again, there will certainly be some things we will do differently.
Our submission process was largely ‘blind’, meaning we didn’t (and still don’t) know anything about the ethnic or cultural background of the majority of the writers who submitted short stories. We know their names, the titles of their stories, and a few of their faces from social media, but that’s about it. Their cultural/ethnic background, gender identity, sexual orientation, address, socio-economic status, etc. were not in any way used as part of the selection process. We made our decisions based purely on the individual merit of the stories and the quality of the writing, whilst making sure to note instances of diversity in the submitted text.
Sadly, there were a bunch of things we missed out on in the anthology this time, including (as far as we know) a short story by a writer with an Indigenous Australian background. If we are fortunate enough to be in the position to create a second volume of Underdog stories, we will make sure to examine (and seek informed advice about) all of our processes—from the design of our website, to our marketing, to our methods of submission and selection—to ensure the project is accessible and inclusive to all Australians.
On another note, we appreciate the concerns of those who felt that our selection process was not completely unbiased, but we can assure you that we tried to eliminate personal bias wherever possible. If a submitter was known to a member of the Underdog team, their story was assigned to (and judged by) another team member. Again, if we ever publish a second volume of Underdog stories, there will be further, more stringent steps taken to ensure the absolute anonymity of all submissions until the selection process has been completed and the final stories have been selected.
There is nothing we want more at Underdog than to provide traditionally unpublished writers—especially those from marginalised communities—with a platform to have their voices heard. But for us to be able to do that, we first need to create that platform. We hope the #LoveOzYA community will support us wholeheartedly in that goal.