17 March 2018

#KidLitWomen - Rewriting the Cultural Narrative

Starting March 1st, we’re celebrating Women’s History month with 31 days of posts focused on improving the climate for social and gender equality in the children’s and teens’ industry. Join in the conversation here or on Twitter at #kidlitwomen. Access all the #KidlitWomen posts this month on our KidLitWomen FaceBook page at https://www.facebook.com/kidlitwomen.

Artwork from my picture book, Lula's Brew (Dulemba, 2012).

Rewriting the Cultural Narrative
by Elizabeth Dulemba

The #MeToo movement has brought the need for gender-based social reform to the forefront yet again. (Which wave of feminism are we up to now?) It’s a trend that has only just begun to take hold in children's literature as statistics clarify a pattern of underrepresentation and subjugation of females in the first books children read. It's a pattern that is not only damaging but dangerous to modern society, because, as Marina Warner said in Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale, “…what we discover in books or other media when we are young imprints us—stories communicate values, like myths, and shape our understanding of the world” (Warner, 2016, p172).

A recent promotional video by the creators of Rebel Girls revealed a disturbing lack of representation of females and female agency in children’s books, and it shook up the children’s lit world when it went live. Surely, it wasn’t this bad?
After all, as a result of previous waves of feminism, authors such as Jane Yolen, Angela Carter, Tamora Pierce, Karen Cushman, etc. have been rewriting the patriarchal narratives of fairytales and folktales for decades. "Subversion became the battle cry: the tales were to be turned inside out and upside down" (Warner, 2016, p133). Surges of new children’s book authors continue to do the same.

However, as we write forward, we should examine how we rewrite these narratives. In empowering female protagonists, writers sometimes portray females still solidly stuck within the boundaries of a hegemonic value scale. Popular stories like Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Kristin Cashore’s Graceling, and Robin LaFevers’ Grave Mercy reverse the patriarchal narrative by featuring females as assassins—a habitually male archetype. (Note: I need to clarify that I am a fan of these books and think they may be a natural first step towards rewriting the patriarchy.) Female readers have embraced these portrayals as disruptive and validating (me included). Yet, we also need to acknowledge that this trope implies that for females to have agency, their roles must swing to a violent extreme. These female warriors send the message that their physical ability to overpower adversaries is a valid measure of their worth in what remains a male-dominated world.

Movies do it too. In Pixar’s Brave, she outperforms the men in a competition where she is offered as the prize. In the newest Snow White, not only does she not marry the prince, she dons full armor to defend her kingdom. In the latest Wonder Woman, she is strong because of her ability to outperform men in war.
I'm not saying we shouldn't write these roles, only that we should be aware of what we're writing. It takes more than switching the gender of a typically male archetype or story trope to make a story feminist. To truly unweave our deeply embedded societal and cultural narratives, we need to dig deeper. We need to define new ways of empowering our female protagonists. In Don’t Bet on the Prince, Jack Zipes suggests we consider how “stories might be rearranged or reutilised to counter the destructive tendencies of male-dominant values” (Zipes, 1987, p4).

To do this, we need to examine stereotypes that are so deeply embedded in our culture, we have lost sight of them. For instance, we need to beware archetypes for which characteristics in a male are considered good, yet in a female are considered exceptional or bad.

It’s the point of my Ph.D. study, “Tricksters, Witches, and Folk Tales: Rewriting the Patriarchal Narrative in Children’s Literature.” Tricksters are characters, such as Loki and Hermes in mythology, or Anansi, Coyote, and Jack in folklore. They are clever, crafty, witty manipulators—some even switch gender to create life—and they are mostly male. There are very few female tricksters. Instead, these same traits are negatively represented in the roles of witches, old crones, and evil queens. It is pervasive. In Sandra Billington's The Concept of the Goddess, Catharina Raudvere is quoted as saying, “the connection between women, sexuality and witchcraft appears to be a globally observed pattern” (Billington, 1999, p47, p52).

Strong women are demonized in a cultural narrative that suggests men prefer obedient, silent princesses, such as Snow White or Sleeping Beauty (victims of nonconsensual sexual advances). Warner stated that "the deep malice of the witches and evil stepmothers, the unrelieved spite of some sisters, and the murderous jealousy between mothers and daughters were left to stand, unchallenged. These portraits of female evil supported male interests, too. The tales were not merely symptoms but also instruments of a strategy: divide women against one another the better to lord it over them" (Warner, 2016, p133). As writers, are we feeding into this hegemony?

As the story makers, the creators of scripts that will shape and influence new generations, we should ask ourselves, 'What do strong, female characters look like on a feminist value scale'? As we craft our stories, let us consider the world in which our characters reside. Are we still making our women struggle in a patriarchal environment, thereby reinforcing that hegemonic system? Remember, “Who tells the story, who recasts the characters and changes the tone becomes very important: no story is ever the same as its source or model, the chemistry of narrator and audience changes it” (Warner, 1995, p418). We are the front line of embedded societal symbolism. Perhaps it's time we rewrite our cultural narrative.

Billington, S., 1999. The concept of the Goddess. Routledge, London.
Dulemba, E., 2012. Lula’s Brew. Xist Publishing, Irvine, Calif.
Warner, M., 2016. Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale, Reprint edition. ed. OUP Oxford, Oxford.
Warner, M., 1995. From The Beast To The Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers, New Ed edition.
     ed. Vintage, London.
Zipes, J. (Ed.), 1986. Don’t Bet on the Prince: Contemporary Feminist Fairy Tales in North America
     and England, 1 edition. ed. Routledge, New York London.

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Remember I have lots of St Patrick's Day-themed coloring pages for you to enjoy. CLICK HERE or the image to go see!
And remember this Irish blessing:
May the Irish hills caress you. May her lakes and rivers bless you. May the luck of the Irish enfold you. May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.

15 March 2018

David Litchfield's WHEN PAUL MET ARTIE

I am thrilled to have David Litchfield on today to talk about his booming career and his newest book, When Paul Met Artie.
e: David, you surged onto the picture book scene with The Bear and the Piano (published by Frances Lincoln, 2016), but you’ve been illustrating for years. What happened!? How did you shake up your career?
I have always been drawing since I was very little and I used to make my older brother and sisters comics (which they used to fake a mild interest in and then promptly throw them away). After art school I did a few illustration commissions here and there but it wasn't until I started teaching art and design full time that I realised that being an illustrator was something that I really wanted to pursue.
      So, I quit my sensible, full time teaching job to become and took the leap of faith into being a freelance illustrator. This was just after we had our first son and we were saving for our first house so the timing was not great and it was a super scary thing to do. But luckily I got signed up by my agent at Bright a few months after. Bright arranged my first ever meeting with a publishing company and thats where I first pitched the idea for 'The Bear & The Piano' and it all went pretty bonkers from there really.
e: What is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
I make lots of watercolour washes and make a mess with acrylic paints. I also take lots of photographs of interesting textures such as tree bark, concrete, that kind of thing. These then get scanned into my computer and I experiment with overlaying them and combining them until I find something that looks really nice and interesting. These experiments will usually be used as a background, or a sky or a just a nice starting point for the pages artwork.
All the characters and scenery will usually be sketched out on paper and I will also scan these in too. I then combine all of these with the textured background and apply a bit of digital Photoshop wizardry to finish off.
Its great fun, I try and combine the feel and messiness of the practical way of making art with newer digital techniques. I have always enjoyed using watercolours and acrylic paint but once I started experimenting with Photoshop etc a few years ago it opened up this whole new realm of art making possibilities.
e: How do you advertise yourself?
Right now I have a fantastic agent who is so good at spreading the word about what I do. But before I was signed up to Bright I found that social media was probably my favourite way of advertising myself. When I realised that illustration was what I really wanted to do I challenged myself to draw a picture a day for a year. Each day I put the drawings up on Facebook and Twitter and the project really took off and built up a great following of people wanting to see the new drawing each day. By the end of that year I had learnt so much and developed new techniques and lots of great stuff came from it. But it also was a great way of spreading the word about my illustrations. (Heres a link to the 365 drawings if you fancied a look: http://davidsdrawingaday.tumblr.com/)

e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again? I’m looking for your definition of “Heart Art.”
I LOVE the term 'Heart Art'. Thats awesome.
      When I was young it was very easy to get fully immersed in illustration. Marice Sendaks's 'Where The Wild Things Are' is probably my earliest memory of this happening. Those amazing full page spreads just completely pull you in to that world. The expressions and design of those characters, the colours, the textures, the detail and emotion that is in each of those spreads was- and still is- very profound.
      Later on, the Asterix books gave me similar sensations. They are comedy books but theres something very emotive about them. They felt like friends to me and carrying an Asterix book around with me at school gave me a weird confidence. Again the exquisite artwork made it very easy for me to escape to this different time and place and spend time in ancient Gaul. Growing up in a small town in Bedfordshire, England, there was something magical about reading books that were written and drawn in a different country that at the time seemed so far away. This was in the late 80s and way before the internet, but in a funny way reading Asterix made me feel more connected to the world.
      Anyway, when I create art I always have these feelings in my mind. These books and their illustrations meant so much to me when I was a child and getting lost in the strange worlds they presented was just one of the greatest joys to have. The hope that my art will do the same and inspire children today is what makes me do what I do.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of When Paul Met Artie?
I didn't actually believe my agent when she told me about the project. It's actually a real dream project for me having loved Simon and Garfunkel's music for the majority of my life. In my primary school we sang songs from the same music book over and over again in our music lesson and one of those songs was 'Mr's Robinson'. So that was probably my earliest introduction to their music. Paul Simon then became known in our house as Princess Leia's husband, and in fact I first thought Paul Simon was Chevy Chase because of the fantastic video for 'Call Me Al'.
      But it was also a dream project because I got to visually play in the 1950s and 1960s, two of the most defining eras in terms of music and fashion. Also drawing other musical icons such as Bob Dylan and Jonny Cash for the book was just brilliant. I really did have so much fun making this book.
      I have never actually met the author G Neri in real life. We communicated a lot through email and he would send me tons of visual references regarding Simon & Garfunkel, the locations and the time period. He seems to be one of those people who is like a living, breathing encyclopedia when it comes to these subjects. I think his passion for music and history really comes through very strongly in this book.

e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
My favourite part is just doing it. I am never happier than when I am creating art in my studio. The fact that this is now my job is still pretty unbelievable to me. I try and never take it for granted and always try and appreciate that I am doing what I love.
      That's not to say that being an illustrator does not have its challenges. Working to deadlines is almost the antithesis of being an artist in a way. I always feel that my art is never finished and can always be improved upon, but I have to get it done or else the book can't be published. Juggling projects, keeping accounts, being sensible with money are all tough things to get my head around, but the fact that I am drawing every day and making a living from it outweighs all the negative stuff.

e: Is there something in particular about When Paul Met Artie you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Today I think a lot of people see success as a very straight, uncomplicated line. You learn to sing, you make a record it gets into the iTunes charts and your a success. Or you go on X Factor or American Idol or become a You Tube sensation, or whatever.
      Paul and Art worked tirelessly every day from a very young age, perfecting their craft, making huge mistakes, falling out, moving away, coming back, learning about the industry and about life. Their story is an incredibly complex tapestry that goes back and fourth until it all comes together and falls in to place at the right moment. But they worked for it, oh my did they work for it. Hopefully kids- and adults- reading the book will take inspiration from that. Failure does not mean the end, its just another part of the tapestry.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Last year was really bonkers and busy. I drew 5 books, most of which will be coming out in 2018. They are all really exciting and I can't wait to hear what people think of them. The sequel to 'The Bear & The Piano' will be out in the autumn which I'm hugely excited about. The bear starts a jazz band with a number of other musically gifted animals. Its lots of fun.
      I'm working on a few books this year too, which I don't think I'm allowed to talk about yet, but Its really nice as they are all so different. One is a fairly traditional and whacky picture book, another is a really surreal and dreamlike story, the other is an educational book and another is going to be a science fiction picture book. Its all incredibly exciting.
      To be honest, 'When Paul Met Artie' is very much my dream project. But I would love to do more illustrated books about real life people. One thing myself and a friend have been talking about recently is making a book about Buster Keaton. That would be such a fun book to illustrate. Who knows what the future holds though.

e: Thank you, David! I look forward to seeing more!

14 March 2018

St Giles Cathedral

While Mikki and I were playing, we went to St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile. Now, I have been to a LOT of cathedrals in my travels, but I can honestly say that St Giles is my favorite.
There's something about the combination of the rustic bricks and the ornate everything else that is so beautiful.
I don't know what the flags were for, but they added wonderful, festive color!
Mikki loved the confluence of all the arches. Can you see why?
In fact, these are all her photos. Thank you for sharing, Mikki!

Mikki's Visit!

I told you I haven't had to miss many friends because so many come to visit, yes? Well, this week a whole bunch of them are in town for the Kindling Words Writers Retreat at Dalhousie Castle. Michelle Knudsen, author of The Library Lion and The Evil Librarian and lots of others, came over a little early to play. She stayed with us for a few days and we had fun roaming the city. Here we are in front of the John Knox House (a.k.a. the Storytelling Centre).
We did a circle tour from our flat around the east side of town. Across South Bridge to Blackwell's Bookshop, where we found a copy of The Library Lion for sale - YAY!
Then to the Law School, and the Scottish National Museum where we saw Dolly, the first cloned sheep.
From there we went by J.K. Rowling's The Elephant House (where she supposedly wrote Harry Potter), to Greyfriar's Kirk where Mikki touched the nose of Greyfriar's Bobby for good luck. We went to Mum's for lunch where we had Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties (I'll spare you the photo). YUM! Then around the University of Edinburgh where I took pictures of lots of gloves on fences for my Instagram collection. From there we headed back to the Grassmarket, up Victoria Street, and onto the Royal Mile. Mikki posed with a bagpipe player. (The rule is you have to tip them if you take their photo!)
Hard to believe, but we found a little close off the Royal Mile that I'd never seen before, although I'd seen photos of this staircase and never knew where it was!
So cute!
Mikki went back that way the next day and got her photo taken with an owl at Gladstone's Land - how awesome is this!?
We also popped into St. Giles, but I'll share those photos in another post. We ended our mini-tour with the compulsory whisky visit.
But, of course!
I love seeing Edinburgh through visitor's eyes. I fall in love with it all over again!

13 March 2018

Coloring Page Tuesday - Protest Bear!

     Teachers, this one is for YOU! Use my protest bear to talk to your students about the upcoming protests. Let them make the sign say whatever they feel strongly about. And I left the bear's eyebrows off on purpose. Kids can draw angry eyebrows or happy eyebrows depending on how they feel about their subject. (You'll be amazed how the eyebrows will change the look of this fuzzy guy!) I'd love to see some pictures of your results to share on my blog! CLICK HERE for more coloring pages, and if they add joy and value to your life, please...
Become a Patron!
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Also, check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of over a dozen literary awards, including Georgia Author of the Year. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

11 March 2018

#KidLitWomen - Week 2

#KidLitWomen is going STRONG! Have you been reading? I'm sharing this Sunday so that you can have time to read over the weekend.
We're celebrating Women's History Month with 31 days of posts focused on improving the climate for social and gender equality in the children’s and teens’ literature community. Join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter #kidlitwomen.
Meg Medina: Show Me The Money - Learning to Value Ourselves
Elana K. Arnold: The Trouble with ChickLit
Diana Rodriguez Wallach: What It’s Like to Be a Latina Author in a Publishing Box
Christina Taylor Butler: Gender Inequity, Part 2: Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards

Nancy Werlin: Financial Fear - And Women Writers and Artists
Susan Adrian: Boy Books vs. Girl Books: How Do We Stop the Labeling?
Traci Bold: Not Just a Pretty Picture: Women Illustrators and Why I Love Their Work
Lin Oliver: Some Numbers About the Role of Women in SCBWI

Kathleen T. Horning: A Preponderance of Pink
Tui T. Sutherland: My Sons' Library
Miranda Paul: The Old Boys' English Canon (And How to Change That)
Grace Lin: The Wrong Question

Eboni Darnell: Self-acceptance Despite the Stereotypes
Holly Thompson: #KidLitWomen Celebrating #WomenInTranslation
Linda Sue Park: Continuing the conversations begun by Christine Taylor-Butler and Miranda Paul, here are links to PDFs of articles by Dr. Melanie Koss, on diversity and gender in Caldecott books
The Little Crooked Cottage: Best Books of the Year
From Kidlit Artists: #KidLitWomen Caldecott and Women

Dev Petty: Changing the Game
Kate Messner: More Voices, More Faces: A Challenge for Educators, Conference & Festival Organizers, and Authors & Illustrators
Heather Scott's: Name our female fighters!
Erin Dionne: The Fallacy of the Strong Female Character

MARCH 10th
Sarah Aronson: The Future is Female
Elizabeth Lewis: Are you a legend? The value of the age
Debbie Reese: Indigenous #KidLitWomen at American Indians in Children's Literature

In addition to Joyce Wan (3/3) and Traci Bold (3/6), a number of people are sharing daily or regular posts about women illustrators and books by women with the #kidlitwomen hashtag. Here are some of them:
Debbi Michiko Florence on Facebook
Kieren Dutcher on Facebook
Donalyn Miller on Facebook
Katherine Roy on Twitter, @KRoyStudio
Josh Funk on Twitter, @joshfunkbooks
Eve Aldridge on Facebook

You can also access the full list as it progresses at Mishka Yeager's Website.
MY post will go live on March 17th!
Did the #kidlitwomen Caldecott Gender Gap article get you down? Try some uplift! Follow @citymousedc and @AlisonLMorris for a post a day about books illustrated by women! Post your own faves, too (don't forget WOC!) with #kidlitwomen and #womeninillustration

VIDEO: R. Gregory Christie on News Channel 2 Atlanta!

My friend R. Gregorie Christie was featured on Channel 2 recently. I happily invited Greg to speak at our SCBWI events when I lived in Atlanta, because he is an inspiration. He's also an amazing artist and winner of a pile of awards. You'll enjoy getting to know him. Click the image to watch at WSB-TV 2:

10 March 2018

Zetta's Visit

Thursday I had the pleasure of hosting Zetta Elliott at the University of Glasgow. Zetta is the author of over 30 books for both kids and adults, and she is a fierce advocate for books that reflect all children.
She quoted Rudine Sims Bishop saying, "Children's books should be mirrors, windows and sliding glass doors." In other words, children should be able to see themselves in the books they read, peek into the lives of others, and open a door to fully immerse themselves in both. She shared disturbing statistics of the trends in publishing and made us examine current efforts towards correcting embedded patterns in the industry.

Photo © Osman Coban
Zetta talked about privilege and how authors of color often-times end up self-publishing because of the closed doors in traditional publishing—a problem that sets off a chain reaction. Bookstores rarely sell self-published books, which perpetuates an industry based on privilege. She talked about the markets waiting for books, serious buying power where publishers claim there is no market. She talked about how internships without power aren't enough to drive change, that diversity hiring should be higher up to avoid indoctrinating young publishers into the established (and flawed) paradigm. She talked about how publishers are hiring white authors to write 'diverse' books. Truly, it was an educational and important talk that made all of us look at these important topics with a more critical eye.
Personally, it was lovely to spend lunch, two train rides, and dinner with Zetta. We talked and shared ideas for hours! It was such an honor to get to know this dynamic author! Here I am with Suzanne, Melanie, Zetta, and Evelyn at a well-earned fall-apart dinner.

08 March 2018

Zetta Elliott on The Magic of Mythical Beasts

Zetta Elliott will be our guest at the University of Glasgow today, so it was only appropriate that I should have her visit my blog as well! You probably know Zetta as the author of the Coretta Scott King Award-winning picture book Bird, illustrated by my friend Shadra Strickland. She has a ton of other titles as well, which I've had a blast reading in anticipation of her visit, including her upcoming Dragons in a Bag (Random House), which is a totally fun read! Take it away, Zetta!
“The Magic of Mythical Beasts”
by Zetta Elliott

      During Presidents’ Week, I taught a creative writing mini-camp for eleven kids aged seven to thirteen. This was my second time teaching for Uptown Stories, and I knew I’d have a room full of engaged readers and writers. I didn’t expect to have eight boys in the class, but everyone arrived ready to talk about their favorite mythical beast! My first one-week class last summer focused on ghosts, portals, and time travel, but I actually wound up writing a medieval mystery: The Phantom Unicorn. I shared a couple of chapters with my students, incorporated their feedback, and took them on a field trip to The Cloisters so they could see my inspiration: The Unicorn Tapestries.
      I grew up reading British fantasy fiction, but I didn’t really consider myself a fantasy writer. Now that I have published close to thirty books for young readers, I can see how the books I read as a child made a deep and lasting impression on my imagination. Unfortunately, when I revisited those novels as an adult, I was dismayed to find many of them contained tropes and scenes that were racist, sexist, and imperialist. I’m certainly not the first reader to love books that don’t love me back. My particular response as a writer has been to “talk back” to those texts by changing fantasy conventions to create a more just world.
      In E. Nesbit’s The Phoenix and the Carpet (1904), five White children from London tour the British Empire and encounter scary, exotic “savages.” In the first book of my City Kids series, The Phoenix on Barkley Street, five children from racially diverse backgrounds find an ancient phoenix in the backyard of an abandoned brownstone. The phoenix helps them stand up to a local gang and the kids mobilize people in their neighborhood to create a community garden.
      I loved The Secret Garden (1911) by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and so located the portal of my first time-travel novel, A Wish After Midnight, in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I’m not a fan of traditional princess narratives, but learned of a Yoruba girl of royal birth who was given as a gift to Queen Victoria in the 19th century. Aina, renamed Sarah Forbes Bonetta, was recently featured in the PBS miniseries Victoria, and she appears in City Kids Book #3, The Ghosts in the Castle (I bought this print of Sarah as a birthday gift to myself last October while visiting the National Portrait Gallery in London).
      After the tragic events in Charlottesville, VA last summer, I knew I wanted to write a story that helped kids understand the value of allies and the importance of standing up for what you believe. In The Phantom Unicorn, a girl steps out of a medieval tapestry to save a bewitched unicorn. She enlists two contemporary boys, Qing Yuan and Ari, to help her banish a villain from her own era who is determined to trigger the apocalypse. The three children overcome their identity-based doubts and in the end, Gisla takes the unicorn to the Shadowlands—but not before changing its hide from white to black.
      All of my fantasy novels address social issues, though my priority is telling an engaging story. Dragons in a Bag (which comes out from Random House in October) blames the lack of magic in Brooklyn on gentrification. I think mythical beasts generate almost instant sympathy in young readers. Kids today have grown up knowing that humans have brought countless creatures to the brink of extinction. When my students wrote their stories last week, they pushed back against stereotypes and gave their “monster” a human ally/protector. One boy wrote about a world where zombies were separated from the living by a wall until two friends found a way to tear it down. Another girl wrote about a baby witch who was adopted by a human family; when her witch mother came back to claim her, they decided to form a blended family. Another young writer used her story to advocate for environmental justice and an end to animal cruelty. Fantasy fiction doesn’t only offer an escape from reality. It can also help us to envision a more just world.
      I have trouble embracing the title activist, but for nearly a decade I have actively advocated for greater diversity and equity in children’s literature. We don’t just need more inclusive titles for kids to read, we need to talk about how dominance in the publishing industry makes true equality impossible. When I present in schools, I start by telling kids about how books get published. They then understand why, after years of rejection, I finally decided to make my own books. Kids don’t care whether a book is self-published or from a corporate press—they just want a good story to read. But reviewers, librarians, booksellers, and other adult gatekeepers often exclude indie authors like me. If we’re committed to diversity and equity, we have to be open to the different way books can be produced, especially when writers of color continue to be dismissed by traditional publishers.
      When I’m not teaching or traveling, you can usually find me propped up on the sofa with my laptop. The TV or radio might be on, and every so often I get up and pace the apartment to ensure that I hit my 10K daily step goal. This picture of my desk shows my attempt to keep myself organized…I have an endless To Do list, a list of outstanding payments I need to chase down, a list of poems yet to be written for my latest collection, and a calendar with my gigs for the next three months. I rarely write outside my home but sometimes I get good writing done in hotels. I’m heading to Scotland next week and look forward to speaking in person with Elizabeth! Thanks for giving me this opportunity to share my work.
e: Can't wait to see you, Zetta! And THIS is what a writer's desk should look like!

07 March 2018

Candlewick Books!

Christmas came early at my wee flat in the shape of fantastic new books from the PR department at Candlewick Press! Squeeeeee!
     I bet you see a few you recognize there, yes? And perhaps a few you don't? I hope to be featuring some of these creators soon.
     The one I'm most excited about is The Foretelling of Georgie Spider by Ambelin Kwaymullina. It's part of 'The Tribe' series and I suspect this is a story based around the trickster figure Anansi - perhaps turned into a female protagonist? This is right in line with what I'm doing with my PhD. So if it hits the marks I'm hoping it does, this could become a keystone text for me. I can't wait to read it!
     In fact, several of the texts may fit into my PhD. So I have got a LOT of reading to do. I hope you're not feeling sorry for me - I'm not! Squeeeee!

06 March 2018

Coloring Page Tuesday - Reading Fairytales

     "Tell a Fairy Tale Day" got me in the mood to draw fairies again! CLICK HERE for more coloring pages, and if they add joy and value to your life, please...
Become a Patron!
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Also, check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of over a dozen literary awards, including Georgia Author of the Year. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

05 March 2018

#KidLitWomen - Week #1

#KidLitWomen is off to a great start!
We're celebrating Women's History Month with 31 days of posts focused on improving the climate for social and gender equality in the children’s and teens’ literature community. Join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter #kidlitwomen.
@YPPLaureate: women & Ageism
Christine Taylor Butler: Gender Inequity: Caldecott By The Numbers

Jacqueline Davies: The Conversation
Heidi Schulz: The Parable of the Couch, or What Are You Worth?
Megan Newcomer Lacera: Empower Yourself: 3 Key Lessons I Learned From...

Annette Dauphin Simon shares a book spine poem
Anonymous Contributor: The Mostly All-Women World of the Editorial Side of Publishing

Angie Isaacs: A Manual for Moving Forward: What Science Says about #kidlitwomen and #metoo
Megan Hoyt: Changing Perceptions: Gender Disparity in Children's Publishing and the Sinister Snare of Niceness
Holly Westlund: My Daughter's Library
Christine Taylor Butler: Gender Inequity part 2: Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards

You can also access the full list as it progresses at Mishka Yeager's Website.
MY post will go live on March 17th!
Did the #kidlitwomen Caldecott Gender Gap article get you down? Try some uplift! Follow @citymousedc and @AlisonLMorrisfor a post a day about books illustrated by women! Post your own favs, too (don't forget WOC!) with #kidlitwomen and #womeninillustration


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