Happy Holidays: A Few Favorites from 2013

Hello everyone!

It’s been a long time since the last post, but I’m hoping a time well spent, with good, promising seeds planted. A few people, who happen to not have a Facebook account, asked me how they could keep in touch and “follow” my progress. The answer is this blog, and my Twitter account. To answer some of the questions I’ve been asked, here is what has happened since the last post, which still reflects my current life: work, writing every day, editing a newsletter for Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators with Beth Hull, and school. Little sleep but happiness nonetheless, and gratitude for the opportunity to tend with passion to all the areas mentioned.

I’m curious: What were your highlights this year? What is one literary event, one piece of information that you wish would go viral because it’s so good it’s making a difference?
Here are some of the news or discoveries that gave me hope in 2013, in bullet points:

2013 in retrospect – click on the links for more info

Good News
* Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award 2013. I wasn’t aware of that award until recently. Though set in the United Kingdom and not in America, it positively adds to the awards created to promote awareness on the great multicultural stories told and published, and I hope it does so in America as well.
* “In March 2013, First Book purchased $1 million worth of culturally-diverse content from two publishers: Harper Collins and Lee & Low Books. Those purchases, which Kirkus Reviews called a “colossal commitment,” were unprecedented for a nonprofit, and served as the first major step in creating a new market for multicultural children’s literature.” – See more at: http://www.firstbook.org/first-book-story/media-center/press-room/288-the-stories-for-all-project-first-ever-market-solution-to-the-lack-of-diversity-in-kids-books#sthash.KCXUrSi2.dpuf
*Literary agent Barry Goldblatt created a scholarship for children’s book writers of color: “Vermont College of Fine Arts and Barry Goldblatt Literary Announce The Angela Johnson Scholarship.”

A few favorite articles
* The Horn Book: Talking About Race in Children’s Literature: Commentary and Resources.
* Tina Kügler‘s Illustration of Equality, served with sobering numbers about cultural diversity in children’s books, and links to additional helpful articles.
* npr.org: As Demographics Shift, Kids’ Books Stay Stubbornly White
* The Guardian: More calls for books about non-white children
* NBC Latino: No Latino children’s literature in annual book list – again
* Posts by award-winning publisher and activist Lee & Low Books. If you’re not already familiar with their blog, here’s a link to wet your socio-cultural appetite: Literary Agents Discuss the Diversity Gap in Publishing
* Ellen Oh: Why Being a POC Author Sucks Sometimes
* Series of posts on Courage, highlighting several writers, by librarian Edi Campbell. Here’s a sample: About Courage #3: Margarita Engle
* From Soraya Chemali, of Huffington Post: What Does it Mean that Most Children’s Books Are Still About White Boys?
* This article by a UK teacher, which I believe also applies beyond the British borders: “You can’t do that! Stories have to be about White people”

Book Lists
* The Birthday Party Pledge has a list of books with culturally diverse contents, categorized by interest. It is also a great cause to support.
* CBC Diversity’s book lists, which include: 50 multicultural books every child should know, 30 multicultural books every teen should know, 101 ways to combat prejudice, and more.
* New York Public Library’s 100 Great Children’s Books of the past 100 years. Congratulations to all books creators, notably these ones, for making it to the list – I’m so proud and excited for the groundbreaking meaning behind these nominations, for your books being so sought after, and for your hard work being celebrated: Mitali Perkins, Rucksana Khan, Lucía M. Gonzalez, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Yuyi Morales, Jerry Pinkney, Jacqueline Woodson, Ed Young, just to quote a few.
* I’m adding the following list because multicultural books can also be found via publisher’s catalogs, and because that list might be helpful to several writers and illustrators as well: Small Presses of Color, with thanks to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, Scool of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison for putting that wonderful resource together.

Causes You might be happy to know about
* Books+Water/Waterbridge Outreach: this is bittersweet to blog about. Bitter because the amazing multicultural literary non-profit PaperTigers had to stop its activities. I learned So much from their work over the years, and connected, thanks to them, with amazing books lovers and writers from around the world. I miss their website, but it is still available for everyone to consult, and serves as an archive haven. Sweet because the PaperTigers team is now focusing all its energy on bringing more multicultural books to undeserved communities, as well as drinkable water – note: the lack of drinkable water in several continents is the number one cause of death, and prevents many children from attending school, among causing other problems such as wars. Please check out their website, support that great cause if you can, and spread the word. For more information on Books+Water/Waterbridge Outreach, visit www.waterbridgeoutreach.org. Warm thank you.
* First Book. You heard the good news about First Book’s purchase of 1 million dollars worth of multicultural books. Hear this too: Publisher Random House will match 3 times any donations you make to First Book to support that great cause. I thank Media Bistro’s Galley Cat for the information. Read more about it here, please spread the word as well. This is good until December 31.
* Ventana Sierra, founded by bestselling author Ellen Hokpins. Foster care children are often left to fend for themselves once they turn 18. Ventana Sierra thrives to offer them a place to live, while setting up with a mentor with whom they learn a craft that will allow them to make a living – via internships, etc. Ventana Sierra accepts donations, but also raises money via an online store and advanced writers workshops, the next one taking place taking during the weekend of June 6, 2014. For more information on Ventana Sierra, visit http://ventanasierra.org. To learn more about the workshops, click here.

Last minute deadlines you might be interested in:
* SCBWI’s SPARK Award, recognizing and celebrating excellence in children’s books self-published or non-traditionally published in 2013. You need to be a SCBWI member to apply.
* Call for submission for Kaleidoscope, a Diverse YA Fantasy and Science Fiction anthology, published by Twelfth Planet Press.

Wishes for 2014
More buzz, a deeper connection between readers and the creators of culturally diverse books, continued smart marketing of said books, wishing more writers, publishing houses and publicists to make the most of the abundance of the social platforms to spread the word, enthusiasm and passion for kids books with characters from ALL walk of life.

Wishing you a safe, warm and inspiring holiday season,


Update 12/28/13
* From Inside ‘A Fuse #8 Production,’ by Elizabeth Bird: 2014 Kids of Color: Things Are Looking Up

MultiCultural Round-Up: SCBWI Conference and more…

I’m so excited about the following announcements!

SCBWI once again gives us something to celebrate. The Summer Conference will be open for registration on April 21 at 10 AM PDT. As always, the program is fabulous. Mouthwatering. Where do I start?

Even if the organizers do not always state so in the program, cultural diversity is never ignored in SCBWI international events. In previous conferences, I had the opportunity to listen to and sometimes interact with outstanding, award-winning authors and illustrators such as Jacqueline Woodson, Nikki Grimes, Sherman Alexie (I nearly passed out when he said “hi.” I’m ridiculous, I know. Some can’t handle their liquor. I’m like a kid when I meet my literary heroes.), Kadir Nelson, etc… The international conferences, New York and Los Angeles, could be considered pricey depending on your budget; however, trust me, they are totally worth it. If you are a writer or illustrator, it is an investment in your career. It could be a defining moment. For everyone, publishers, publicists and who-did-I-miss?, it is an extraordinary opportunity to network.

Back to the 2010 Summer conference in L.A. Among the fabulous keynote speakers are Jon Scieszka, Gennifer Choldenko, Illustrators E.B. Lewis, Ashley Bryan… The premium workshops, available for an extra fee, fill up pretty quickly. Within the hour in some cases. This year there is an opportunity to work on your YA manuscript with DelaCorte (Random House) Senior Editor Krista Marino (the link is an interview she gave on Shelli Johannes’ Market My Words in 2009), on picture book craft with Golden Books Editorial Director Diane Muldrow, to learn about graphic novels, digital illustration and more…

The conference fee includes sessions such as Writing for Magazines, Solving Plot Problems, Media 101: How to Make the Most of Twitter, Blogging etc… Read the complete program. You won’t regret it.

I saved the best for all. SCBWI did it!!! *You can’t see, but I’m actually doing the happy dance in my living room*
They’ve included the following break-out session: WRITING MULTI-CULTURAL IDENTITY. I’m dying to know who the presenter is. Will keep you update, and feel free to check SCBWI website on April 21 for the answer!

Of course, most if not all the sessions in the program are useful in regard to writing multicultural stories for kids and teens; however, it is really helpful to have at least one specifically dedicated to that topic.

Shameless advertisement: SCBWI rocks your socks, and I hope you’ll consider joining if not already. 😀 It’s $85 for the first membership fee, then $70 when you renew each year. Upon registering you will receive a package that, if you are a novice, will provide you with invaluable information regarding the publishing field: from the first steps to take as a writer, advices on query letters etc… plus list of children’s book publishers and magazines, and much more.

There is likely to be a SCBWI presence in your region. To find out about it, visit SCBWI website and click on regions, then regional chapters. The chapters often have monthly meetings open to members and non-members for a very small fee, as well as affordable local conferences that will enable you to meet agents and editors, while networking with fellow artists.

Okay, moving on. Didn’t expect to write so much about it. 😀

April is quite a busy month. I knew about National Poetry and School Library Month, but Edi at Crazy Quilts also mentioned Alcohol Awareness, Stress Awareness, Mathematics, Donate Life, National Jazz and National Garden. Are you still there?

Let’s start with National Poetry Month. I want to know: How do you celebrate? Share you deeds, leave the URL of your blog if you have one. I and I’m sure others will gladly visit and let ourselves be taken on the lyrical journey. Thought of using the s**k word but will refrain. Don’t laugh at me and my language barrier, I still haven’t figured out if “suck” is a bad word or not; so I’ll rephrase: I’m *terrible* when it comes to writing poetry, but so enjoy reading it over and over again.

I hope that you will visit PaperTigers’ Blog and read about their wonderful multicultural poetry round-up! You won’t regret it.

In addition PaperTigers had a shout-out to the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBYP) regarding the 1st National Children’s Book Award. Deadline is April 15. Head over for more info!

I also warmly recommend Donna’s blog, Word Wrangler NC, a place where you can get your poetry fix any time of the week. 😉

Bear with me, I have a few more announcements to make. Author Zetta Elliot’s blog, Fledgling, is on fire. Seriously. You gotta head over and read. You’ll be enlightened. I haven’t really been online for the past four weeks, so catching up, but still hung up on her posts. Thanks to her I learned about a tradition of oral storytelling picking up in Crown Heights, NY, as part of a project. A group of young women interview people who live or have lived in Crown Heights. The interviews will be donated to Brooklyn Historical Society. It made my heart feel warm when I read some of the interviews. That initiative tells me about the identity of Crown Heights. It’s like a glimpse at the soul of the neighborhood, something so rare nowadays, especially in era where neighbors hardly know each other and people hardly interact in person (Facebook and Twitter do not count). Oral tradition is important. Giving and knowing the identity of our neighborhood matters, as opposed to letting a label be put on it…

Niway, please, when you have a minute, visit Crown Heights Oral History Project.

Back to Zetta, she breaks down books written by or about Blacks in Canada. I shook my head in disbelief: Why such low numbers? Not enough Black writers? I doubt this. Even if you take the ratio of Black people forming the Canadian population, the number shouldn’t be so low. In addition, many of the books about Black people published there ship to Africa. Lots of them deal with slavery… I’ll keep reading Zetta’s blog. Want to know what her take and analysis of this phenomenon is.

Still reading? Good, because it just gets better: Edi Campbele is your highschool librarian, and she has much to say about School Library Month and the budget cut affecting school libraries. Most importantly, she needs your votes! Tell her what you think and show your support by voicing up and expressing your stand in a poll. Destination: Crazy Quilts.

Last but not least, author Medeia Sharif posted about winning MR’s March giveaway: APALA 2010 winner, Cora Cooks Pancit (Publisher: Shen’s Books). Thank you for participating, Medeia! 🙂 She also shares about her latest reads and much more.

Over a thousand words. Wow! Let’s wrap it, shall we? I wish you a delightful weekend, filled with happy reading moments.