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

Author/Illustrator Interview: Edna Cabcabin Moran, part 2 of 2

Hi there, here’s part 2 of Edna’s interview. You’ll be hungry by the end of it.

One of the latest books you illustrated, Can You Catch a Coqui Frog, published in 2009 by BeachHouse Publishing, takes the readers on
a discovery journey of the animal kingdom in Hawai’i; it is also a tale about family
and friends…

The Coqui Frog book is a light rhyming picture book that introduces the animals of Hawai’i. When I read the manuscript, I envisioned a secondary story featuring children from different places around the island, having a connection of sorts with the animals
highlighted in the book. I also wanted the page spreads to share something special
about the animals in their habitat.

I found this book tricky to illustrate because the animals ranged in size from the wee little happy-face spider to the large, very rotund monk seal. I wondered how to give each animal its due attention plus keep the “wordless” tale going. I was able to find a happy solution with the creation and use of “borders” for each two-page spread.

On your path to publication and as a multicultural author/illustrator, what is the
most valuable lesson you’ve learned?

I’ve learned a number of lessons but here’s a key one: Do your homework about the culture or tradition. There are reasons why stories are told a certain way. Take the time to find out why. When I first started my research for The Sleeping Giant, I came across many different versions. I wore the hat of a sleuth, half the time, at the beginning as I tried to uncover as much as I could about the story’s origins. It was an enriching experience that led me to many wonderful sources such as the Kupuna (elder) storytelling program in Kapa’a, Kaua’i. Also, a good retelling does not imitate another’s voice or copy a tale verbatim. I liken it to sculpting with clay–massaging tale and shaping it with your own touch. So, develop a solid perspective and write in your own voice.

Are there any resources you would recommend to writers and/or illustrators
working on multicultural stories?

The public library is full of excellent multicultural books and folk tales. Also, check out: Tarie Sabido‘s multicultural literature blog, Into The Wardrobe, articles on writing multicultural stories by award-winning PB author Aaron Shepherd; and Papertigers.org which introduces and reviews multicultural kid lit.

What are your current projects?

I’ve several illustration assignments in other book genres, a couple of illos and book dummies for several PB’s (not yet contracted) and WIP’s for a number of stories and poems.

You are in Kaua’i with three of your favorite writers or illustrators. Who are they and where do you take them?

This is a difficult question to answer as I have many, many favorites! Off the top of my
head, I’d love to spend a day with Maurice Sendak (he’s the reason I fell in love with
picture books), Naomi Shihab Nye (her words are paintings) and Yuyi Morales (her
paintings are poetic).

I’d take them on a hike into the forests of Mt. Wai’ale’ale where
we would listen and look for the native ‘i’iwi bird, explore the plants and enjoy a picnic
lunch. Next, we’ll break out our sketch books and draw and paint whatever we wanted.
Then we’ll talk story for a while–but they’d do most of the talking because I’d love to
hear about their writing and illustrating adventures.

Any Hawaiian dish and drink you’d recommend? 🙂

A must is fresh poi~just scoop it up with your fingers! 🙂 I really like it with lomi lomi
salmon (a fish salsa type of dish). Another favorite is Chicken Lau Lau which is
prepared with butterfish and chicken, wrapped with ti or taro leaves and steam cooked
to perfection. Yum. I’m getting hungry just answering your question. As for a drink… try
drinking the water straight out of a coconut. It’s very refreshing and delicious.

Last but not least, is there any question you wish I had asked?

Nathalie, 🙂 These questions are perfect. Mahalo nui loa!

Edna, thank you again for your time and for sharing your experience with us. I wish you the best in your current projects, and look forward to your next books.

To keep in touch with Edna, visit:
o Edna’s website
o Edna’s blog, Just Sketch