There has been an interesting discussion on the SCBWI liststerve that I subscribe to...about race/ethnicity and writing for children. One of the questions brought up is whether or not it is ok for a 'white' person to write about people of color? I think it depends on your experience, and what you know best (however fantasy writers don't know about flying and magicians and dragons any more than I do)...but we are all people of color, different colors, and sometimes different colors at different times. My skin color is not white, copy paper is white. I am sort of peachy-gold, tanner and more freckled in summer than winter. Our family discussed this when filling out our census forms. I wrote in European American. My ancestors, or at least the ones I know about, mostly came to the US many generations ago, from Sweden, England, Scotland, Germany, but there are many more I don't know about at all... I have lived all my life in the multi-ethnic bay area, which I think colors my world immensely. The author/illustrator Karen Katz wrote a great kids' book about comparing skin color to spices (The Colors of Us) like cinnamon, cloves, and cumin. Wouldn't that be fun to write in on your census form? I think I might be pink peppercorns mixed with some mustard.
It all began when my aunt gave me The Tyger Voyage (by Richard Adams)when I was fourteen. Looking at Nicola Bayley's glowing illustrations made me want to paint some of my own. I still love her work, and I still have that book.