Please go read and sign Gwenda Bond’s pledge to stand up to sexual harassment in the children’s lit industry. #MeToo
Time to listen. Time to speak up. Time.
Please go read and sign Gwenda Bond’s pledge to stand up to sexual harassment in the children’s lit industry. #MeToo
Time to listen. Time to speak up. Time.
If you’ve just gotten yourself to a writing conference, you are already on the right track. You probably already have the mindset and the practices in place that will help you accomplish your writing goals. Rather than returning from such an event feeling like you have to change everything, choose JUST ONE THING to add or change. Every conference is a rebirth, and the first thing every newborn needs to do is rest, and suckle. Set your writing aside for a day or two, inhabit your life and allow it to fill you, the way life does.
The Post-Conference Gem: Think about it right now. What is the one piece of advice, or the one idea, that struck you most during the conference? Consider that to be your message and your mission.
Gem in hand? Set it on an altar on your writing space. Mine looks like this, both tool and reminder that every minute counts; when I make my writing time sacred, I create the space for my craft to gain momentum.
The Post-Conference List: After a dreamy weekend spent at the SCBWI Golden Gate Conference in Asilomar, even with the clear gem of WRITING TIME in hand, I still needed a plan to transition myself back to regular life, and back to my writing. So I did what writers do: I made a list. If you’re like me, you want writing to be your whole life, and a list will help you pretend it can be. But here’s the caveat: You have to remember to treat your list like a map, not an expectation. Go ahead – list all the things you want to add to or change or do in your writing life. Then, choose JUST ONE THING to start. And don’t begin the day after the conference. Take some time to bask in the luminous glow of community, to bank the coals of inspiration, to tend the lantern of your ambition.
Three weeks later, here’s my list, as always separated into the categories I always use to think about my writing life. Community. Craft. Draft/Revise. Career. Practice.
Got a list or a gem? I’d love to hear about it. May your writing thrive.
That’s right, I’m registered! This will be my fourth year participating in the online online writers’ event of the year, formerly known as PiBoIdMo. Originally invented as a way for picture book writers to participate in the November NaNoWriMo frenzy, the event was conceived in 2008 when successful children’s book author Tara Lazar challenged a group of her friends to come up with one new picture book idea a day for one month. Her blog supports participating writers with daily posts from professionals in the field, offering ideas about getting ideas, recording ideas, chasing ideas, developing ideas, taming ideas…By the end of the month, you’ll feel like the Newt Scamander of picture book ideas.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. Prizes are available on nearly a daily basis when people check in, and again at the end of the month for people who complete the challenge with 30 new ideas. Now, we’re in for even more fun. Tara has moved the event from November to January, which means we’ll end up with ONE EXTRA IDEA, and also means that novelists can also more easily participate. She’s also expanding the challenge to include ANY kind of writer, not just picture book writers and illustrators, although I see her calendar of guest bloggers is still packed with picture book luminaries. Best of all, this event is still completely FREE! Thank you, Tara, for giving so generously to our community. Especially for those of us still honing our craft, meeting our colleagues, and looking for that first contract, this means a LOT.
The Storystorm challenge is both social and personal. Participants do not share ideas, we just keep track of them ourselves, and at the end of the month report on the honor system whether or not we met our goal. Speaking personally, this practice of focusing on ideas for one month in the company of other writers with a sense of accountability drives my craft for the entire year. This is where I get my ideas, this is where I learn to get ideas, and these are the ideas that shape my next year of writing.
Registration is open now. Check out past PiBoIdMo posts to get an idea of the creative wealth you’ll be invited to savor (scroll down for a link to guest bloggers from past years). Ask to join the Facebook group to meet the wonderful writers and illustrators who will jumpstart your own practice with their momentum. Storystorm starts next week, and my umbrella is upside down, ready to catch all those ideas.
“And every day after that…I looked away and didn’t smile back.”
Each Kindness, by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis, Nancy Paulsen Books (An Imprint of Penguin Group), 2012, winner of a Coretta Scott King Honor and the Jane Addams Peace Award
This atypical story about unkindness at school centers on the bully and not the bullied.
Read this book because the narrator’s journey from complicit cruelty to regret at missed opportunities will open the eyes and hearts of children, allowing them to examine their own treatment of peers critically, and yet with compassion.
Writers will enjoy the way every word counts, builds and repeats, creating a vortex around the lonely eye of the storm, where the new girl waits to be loved.
Artists will savor E. B. White’s watercolor palette of light and the way he uses expression and perspective to reveal the tensions and center of the story. From the new girl’s downcast eyes or hopeful smile, to a classmate’s sneer or the main character’s scowl, children’s faces draw a painful story to our attention and into our hearts.
Add this book to your collection because we live in a time where each kindness matters.
More books by Jacqueline Woodson:
More books illustrated by E. B. Lewis:
“Every little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world.”
This interview of Jacqueline Woodson for the September/October 2016 issue of Poets & Writers magazine highlights the deliberate and courageous choices she has made as an artist to tell the “invisible” story.
This weekly #Windows/Mirrors series of book reviews, inspired by the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement, offers children’s books created by or about people of diversity.
I am so proud of the American people at this time in history. It seems that nothing can silence the dialogue we want to have about equity, oppression, privilege and inclusion. Although at times we may find it difficult or impossible to find common ground in our conversations with each other, we are talking and we are listening.
Join the conversation! Read a diverse book to a child in your life, and tell us what you talked about. Head over to #TimeToListenTuesday to read a perspective you might not normally seek. Leave a comment and tell me what you think. Thanks for reading!
“Nearly every crop caused torment.”
Harvesting Hope: The Story of César Chávez,
by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, Scholastic, 2003, Pura Belpré Honor Book
Highlighting the fierce spirit and warm purpose of César Chávez, this book tells the story of his life from childhood to death, highlighting the birth of La Causa, the 1965 march to Sacramento, and the signing of the first contract for farmworkers in American history.
Read this book because it will evoke a deep empathy for the struggles of migrant workers to put food on America’s tables, and live with dignity and prosperity. From the mockery and punishment that César Chávez endured for speaking Spanish in school to the hunger strikes that changed the fortunes of huge produce companies, the story of César’s vision and determination will inspire all of us to fully inhabit our own power for change.
Writers will enjoy the language that quietly reveals the evolution of César from a beloved child to a fierce fighter for the rights of his fellow farmworkers. As a child, “César thought the whole world belonged to his family” when they still owned their ranch in Arizona. Later it becomes clear that this personal point of reference helped César develop his sense of injustice, first realizing that “farm chores on someone else’s farm instead of his own felt like a form of slavery,” then developing his conviction that “farmwork did not have to be so miserable.”
Artists will enjoy the warm palette and hopeful brushstrokes of Yuji Morales’ luminous artwork, as well as the thoughtful details of every spread. On a page where César’s mother cautions him against physical violence, her dress flows like the land beneath her child, embracing and connecting. When the family loses their ranch to drought, a stubborn horse and looming bulldozer in the background allude to the much larger conflict between family farms and industrial farming. The rounded body shapes in a spread describing the backbreaking conditions of farmworkers evoke Diego Rivera, and on a page where César begins recruiting people to join his fight “one by one,” a single farmworker makes eye contact with him from across the field as she hefts a flat of strawberries.
Add this book to your collection because like its title, this book grows hope that as individuals and as a people, we can make changes in our world for equity and humanity.
More books by Kathleen Krull:
More books by Yuyi Morales:
“In a fight for justice, he told everyone, truth was a better weapon than violence.”
“If my hair were a tree, I’d climb it.”
Rhythm, meaning, heart – all the elements of great poetry, employed to tell a story from a compelling point of view. Two young African American twins struggle with identity, competition, puberty and loss.
Read this book because it’s the real deal, taking on big topics like first love, brotherly love, injury and forgiveness, and especially health, illness and death.
Writers will enjoy the satisfying playfulness of the language, rhythm and onomatopoeia perfectly placed to convey emotion and energy and the ups and downs of growing up.
Add this book to your collection because there are not enough basketball-bouncing, brothers trouncing, soul-sifting, heart-uplifting stories for African American teens out there, and certainly not ones written in flawless verse.
Other books by Kwame Alexander include:
Read more about The Crossover here:
At the 2015 SCBWI LA Conference, Kwame’s keynote presentation features this advice to writers and basketball players and boys alike:
If the only images of brown people you saw in the books you read as a child were of the Gingerbread Man (a character always on the run and destined to be eaten), how would that affect your self-image, sense of identity, and understanding of the world? Six luminaries in the field of publishing for children reflect on how the availability of diverse books affected them as children and what changes they recommend in the field.
“All hands on deck! Teachers. Parents. Editors, Writers. Reviewers. Distributors. Bookstores. Literacy organizations. Youth organizations. All hands on deck!” – Wade Hudson
We Need Diverse Books NOW!
I’ll be spending the next few weeks reading and rereading this important round table discussion about diversifying children’s literature, hosted by the PEN Equity Project. Here are some thoughts from the participants to get you started. Link to full article here.
“I didn’t need to read a book to understand that I should be worried about my position in America. But I did need books to neutralize the feeling.” –Fatima Shaik
“I acquired what I now think of as the cheerful privilege of the white reader—the belief that all books existed purely for my enjoyment, with the easy pleasure of reading and judging them based on emotional reaction rather than representation.” – Cheryl Klein
“I remember how angry I was…when I was first exposed to Black writers such as Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Ellison, and Langston Hughes. I should have known about these important cultural carriers and witnesses [before college].” – Wade Hudson
“That journey of loss and recovery—a kind of reclamation which was both emotional and political—is something I carry with me every day I sit down to write and as I move through the publishing world. It informs my outspokenness, my determination to bring radical change to an industry that remains entrenched in a very particular white cultural mindset toward the creation of literature.” – Daniel José Older
“As our nation continues to become even more diverse and the world becomes even more interconnected, what we write just might help children embrace this diversity so that as they become older, they can become informed, responsible, and active citizens in our democracy, and participants in the larger world in which we live.” – Robie Harris
“There’s something that’s so magical and important about seeing yourself in a more specific way, whether it be race, or religion, or sexual orientation, or geography, or socioeconomic background, or disability, especially when you don’t often/ever see yourself represented anywhere else.” – Alvina Ling
“My question to you and to all those reading this discussion: What does it mean to be courageous in this time of change?” – Daniel José Older
“The Celt relaxes his fists. Something changes because his eyes aren’t fierce anymore. They’re a warm, bright blue like two penny-sized chunks of sky stuck in a face as weathered as our redwood deck, and he looks like he wants to cry.”
Fourth Graders Mikey and Kyler are convinced that they’ve seen a real live Celtic warrior transported to the present as part of a secret defense project. If they track him down, they’re sure to reveal the secrets of time-travel once and for all, and write the best Veteran’s Day report in the history of fourth grade while they’re at it. Instead, they discover a different secret: the invisible effects of war on veterans of all generations and their families and the transcendent power of friendship.
Read this book because of its complex exploration of what it means to be a warrior for young boys obsessed with “war games.” A. E. Conran, who grew up in England listening to the stories of older generations who lived through the World Wars on home soil, both honors the contribution warriors make to our world and also illuminates the burdens they bear on our behalf. Rich with family relationships across the generations, real with mixed-race families and absent parents, this book elevates the allure of a mystery (the cover is printed in Hardy Boys blue and yellow) with the diversity and depth of its world.
Writers will enjoy the way Conran perfectly crafts her middle grade voice. The central role of Mikey’s relationships—with his mom who requires that he “breathe toothpaste on her” to prove he’s brushed his teeth, and his Grandpa who makes him ”chocolate-spread sandwich[es] the size of [his] military history book”—ring true for a fourth grade boy still connected to his family but old enough to sneak out after dark for the adventure of a lifetime. Conran gets every detail of voice right, from Mikey’s gullibility to his desire to impress a kind teacher with his Veteran’s Day report to his confusion about a class bully.
Add this book to your collection because there are not many books for children on post-traumatic stress that tell soldiers’ stories with so much compassion and depth. Conran delivers a sensitive examination of this intergenerational and societal problem in a gripping adventure story.
Read more about debut author A. E. Conran here:
Buy the book here:
“It’s a hard battle to get back to normal.”
Every once in a while I stumble on a blog so thought-provoking and essential that it renews my gratitude for the age of information in which we live. This article by Relando Thompkins-Jones from his blog Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian, perfectly continues the dialogue Ellen Oh and Libby Bray began, about how critical it is for each and every one of us to make space to listen to those less privileged than ourselves.
“Denying the power and privilege we hold can be a way of protecting ourselves from internalizing the reality and gravity of our active and passive participation in oppressive systems…”
“Instead of actively focusing on how we participate in oppression, responding defensively can be an attempt at manipulating marginalized people into making us feel better about ourselves and taking care of our feelings first before we’re able to listen; ultimately derailing any critical dialogue that would have taken place.”
“Feeling “attacked” or “hurt” in the moment from our place of privilege, whatever that may be, fails to compare to the everyday lived experiences of the people who are on the receiving end of the oppression we benefit from.”
Read on! Link to the full article here.