In this video from Reading Rockets, Rudine Sims Bishop, professor emerita from Ohio State University, speaks on Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Doors as metaphors for diversity in children’s-YA literature.
Over the summer, the children’s-YA book community has continued discussing diversity, decolonization, authenticity and representation both throughout the body of literature and the industry. Here are highlights; look for more in quickly upcoming, additional update posts.
Mirrors? Windows? How about Prisms? from Uma Krishnaswami. Peek: “…cultural content in children’s books needs to be woven into the story so the authors intention is not stamped all over it.” See also Uma on Tolstoy Was Not Writing for Me.
Twelve Fundamentals of Writing The “Other” and The Self by Daniel Jose Older from Buzzfeed Books. Peek: “Every character has a relationship to power. This includes institutional, interpersonal, historical, cultural. It plays out in the micro-aggressions and hate crimes, sex, body image, life-changing decisions, everyday annoyances and the depth of historical community trauma.”
Diversity in Book Publishing Isn’t Just About Writers — Marketing Matters, Too by Jean Ho from NPR. Peek: “For past projects, she has researched segmented audiences ranging from retired African-American women’s books clubs, South Asian soccer organizations, Trinidadian-interest media outlets both stateside and abroad, to extracurricular programs geared toward South Bronx teens.”
Looking Back: Diversity in Board Books by Joanna Marple from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “…that children as young as six months can judge others by the color of their skin. Even if a caregiver never mentions race, children may well use skin color on their own, along with other differences, to judge themselves and others.”
Drilling Down on Diversity in Picture Books from CCBlogC. Peek: “We’re keeping track of the things people want to know. Just how many picture books have animal, rather than human, characters? How many books about African American characters are historical? How many feature LGBTQ families? Or Muslims? Or people with disabilities? How many are by first-time authors or illustrators?”
Children’s Books and the Color of Characters by Kwame Alexander from The New York Times. Peek: “They all believe I am writing about them. Why is this so much harder for the grown-ups? Is race the only lens through which we can read the world?”
On White Fragility in Young Adult Literature by Justine Larbalestier from Reading While White. Peek: “…we white authors can support Indigenous authors and Authors of Color by reading their books, recommending their books, blurbing their books, and recommending them to our agents. When we’re invited to conferences, or festivals, or to be in anthologies, make sure they’re not majority white.”
When Defending Your Writing Becomes Defending Yourself by Matthew Salesses from NPR. Peek: “Here is a not uncommon experience. Writer Emily X.R. Pan was told by the white writers in her workshop that the racism in her story could never happen — though every incident had happened to her.”
There Is No Secret to Writing About People Who Don’t Look Like You: The Importance of Empathy as Craft by Brandon Taylor from LitHub. Peek: “The best writing, the writing most alive with possibilities, is the writing that at once familiarizes and estranges; it’s writing that divorces us from our same-old contexts and shifts our thinking about ourselves and the world around us.”
How Canada Publishes So Much Diverse Children’s Literature by Ken Setterington from School Library Journal. Peek: “Considering that the entire Canadian market is about the size of the market in California alone (roughly 36 million), publishers must rely on sales
outside of the country.”
Biracial, Bicultural Roundtable (Part One, Part Two) by Cynthia Leitich Smith from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “According to a 2015 Pew study, 6.9 percent of the U.S. population is biracial. According to the 2010 Census, between 2000 and 2010, the number of people identifying themselves with more than one race rose from 6.8 million to 9 million.”
Cynsational Screening Room
- 20 Diverse Books to Inspire Connection and Empathy
- How to Teach Young Girls of Color Self Esteem
- Gender Divides in the Language of Sports
- When My Authentic Is Your Exotic
- Racial Disparities Persist in U.S. Schools
- Northern Ute Teens on Racism
- Off-Reservation Histories: Native Peoples of Western Oregon
- Anti-Native Racism in Pop Culture
- The New “Iron Man” Is A Black Woman
- WWII Female Pilots Now Can Be Buried at Arlington
- Kansas City Authors Recommend Diverse Children’s Books
- How Australia’s Kid Lit Authors Create Magic on the Page
- Black Boys in Literary Deserts Don’t Get Inspiring Literary Experiences
- Sidekick No More: Writing Asian Superheroes and the Challenges of Representation
10:00 tonight at the water tower. Tell no one. -Chaos Club
When Max receives a mysterious invite from the untraceable, epic prank-pulling Chaos Club, he has to ask: why him?
After all, he’s Mr. 2.5 GPA, Mr. No Social Life. He’s Just Max. And his favorite heist movies have taught him this situation calls for Rule #4: Be suspicious. But it’s also his one shot to leave Just Max in the dust…
Yeah, not so much. Max and four fellow students-who also received invites-are standing on the newly defaced water tower when campus security “catches” them. Definitely a setup. And this time, Max has had enough.
It’s time for Rule #7: Always get payback.
Let the prank war begin.
When and where do you write? Why does that time and space work for you?
Having a full-time teaching job, papers to grade, and four children under the age of ten, let’s just say that writing time (or any free time for that matter) is pretty sparse. So basically, I’m a anytime/anywhere possible type of writer.
I write in the mornings before my students arrive, on my lunch break, in the fifteen minutes before I head home to get the kids, during my kids’ practices, or in the time after the kids go to bed if I’m not too tired and my brain is still functioning.
It can be a very piecemeal process, but I’m not too hard on myself and have a very realistic goal–500 words a day. When I get that finished, I don’t stress out about my writing the rest of the day.
That’s nice in that it allows me to focus my efforts and energy in other places they are needed.
As a teacher-author, how do your two identities inform one another? What about being a teacher has been a blessing to your writing?
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Other writers have good-naturedly ribbed me for having a secret “in” to the world of teenagers, and I suppose I do. I’m surrounded by them all day, and I hear their conversations, their worries, their humor, etc. I get to use all of that when I’m writing.
Being a writer has helped me immensely in the classroom though because kids love my honesty about how hard writing can be, about revision and brainstorming techniques I’ve learned, and about how you want to write something you’re proud of, not just something you’ve finished.
Basically, I’m not just someone forcing them to write, I’m someone going through a lot of the same struggles they are, and a lot of them appreciate that.
The Heart of It: Creating Children’s Books that Matter is an online course for aspiring and emerging children’s book writers and illustrators who want to create powerful books for kids while simultaneously coming more fully into their own power as storyteller and artist.
I combine my passion as an educator and activist along with 20 years of experience in creating award-winning multicultural children’s books to craft a course that is a journey of self as much as a practical guide to creating children’s books.
The six-week course offers writing exercises, hands-on art projects, in-depth book reviews, community interviews, Q&A webinars with special guests, and more all designed to offer a holistic approach to creating children’s books and provide opportunities for students to hone their craft, strengthen the power of their own voice and unique way of expressing through art and word, and be in community with other like-minded children’s book makers.
At the end of the program, students are invited to put what they’ve learned to practical use through creating one full spread of text and art to be included in The Heart of It Anthology, a picture book that incorporates student’s work into the story; written and illustrated by me and published by the independent press I co-founded. The first edition is Whaleheart, the second is By The Light Of The Rabbit Moon. and the third anthology will be drawn from this Spring 2016 class.
The Heart of It eCourse is a class I long dreamed of offering out of a desire to support communities to change the still dismal statistics in relation to diversity in children’s books.
As a queer Chicana children’s book author and artist, I know the effects of living in an unequal society and how it can leave many of us feeling as if we don’t get to have a voice especially a voice in children’s books.
This class is not just about learning technical skills. It’s also about how to transform limiting beliefs and ideas that we have inside of ourselves and in the world that hold us back from getting these kinds of stories out.
I center on people of color, American Indians, the LGBTQI+ community and communities still misrepresented and underrepresented in the current children’s publishing industry.
I also highlight the work of authors and illustrators pioneering alternative routes into publishing, including self-publishing, creating their own presses, crowdsourcing funds as well as reclaiming traditional routes.
The Spring 2016 community interviews and book reviews will focus on Native American children’s literature and will be in addition to the African American and LGBTQI+ materials from past courses as well as the core class materials.
I believe that something very powerful happens when we see others in our community tell stories and create images that reflect who we are and our experience in the world.
This course is about finding our voice, allowing our hearts to speak, and knowing that our books belong in the hands of children.
The Heart of It: Creating Children’s Books that Matterwith Maya Christina Gonzalez is a six-week eCourse scheduled from April 18 to May 29
(with additional three months access through Aug. 31).
Scholarships and payment plans available. See more info and/or register.
For kids out wanting to learn how to create picture books, Maya also offers a free online video series called Write Now! Make Books, inspired by The Heart of It Anthologies.
Through direct learning, the Write Now! Make Books materials teach how to make books from story through art all the way to book creation in many of the same ways a professional artist/author does.
It includes two hours of instructional videos, a field guide, a complete sample story with art to color and make into a practice book. It also uses a social justice frame to support kids and teens in understanding and reclaiming the power of story and how we can use it to strengthen ourselves today and change our world.
See more info and to download the Bookmakers Field Guide.
Lately I’ve been dancing between two publishing worlds.
I just finished the editing process on my first book with a trade publisher, Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service, illustrated by Rich Lo (Charlesbridge, Aug. 2, 2016).
I also recently finished my first books with an educational publisher, My Brain (Inside My Body) and My Stomach (Inside My Body) (both Amicus, 2015).
So how did working with a trade publisher differ from working for an educational publisher? What’s the difference between the educational press and the trade press? Educational publishers prize consistency and predictability. Trade publishers seek surprise and novelty.
The differences start at the contract level. Educational publishers generally pay a work-for-hire fee, a straightforward amount without any expectation that the writer will participate in marketing. Clarity and predictability are the hallmarks of the contract. Trade publishers offer royalties and expect the writer to be heavily involved in marketing. There’s the possibility that a book will sell very well, but there’s also a risk that it will tank. The contract leaves room for wonderful (or not-so-great) surprises to play out.
Both my educational press and my trade press publishers were thorough-going professionals who love books and language and who insisted that every word be right. Both of them demanded careful, thoroughly-documented research. But despite those similarities, their editorial priorities differed.
When I started work on My Stomach, I dreamed up a hilarious way to deliver information about the digestive system. It differed in structure from the manuscript I had just finished for My Brain, but it was so funny I was sure kids—and my editor!—would love it.
She didn’t. She decisively rejected it, explaining that I needed to stick to the structure I’d used in the other manuscript.
Now that I have the books in hand, I see her point. Part of the attraction of the Inside My Body series is that the books within it are consistent.
Any reader–including frazzled teachers looking for materials to hand to twenty-odd clamoring students—can quickly figure out exactly what kind of information she’s going to get and how it will be laid out in the book.
Practicality. Predictability. Consistency.
My trade press editor, on the other hand, told me that she was initially attracted to my manuscript because it took a familiar subject—national parks—and looked at them in a new way. I tell the story of the creation of the National Park Service through the eyes of Tie Sing, a Chinese American trail cook, whose story, up until now, has always been peripheral to the stories of the main players.
During the editing process, my editor encouraged me to consider adding a historical character who is an even smaller presence in the historical record than Tie Sing.
At first I was dubious I could find enough information to credibly write him into this nonfiction story, but I dug around and found mention of him in historical documents and saw him (literally) on the edges in some photographs. So I added him!
The story this trade editor helped me craft is one that hasn’t been told before and one that I hope astonishes and delights my readers.
Novelty! Challenge! Surprise!
There’s a place for both kinds of books. Sometimes all a frazzled second grade teacher needs to make it through the hour is a series of books she can hand out to her students, knowing she can count on the reading level to be what they can handle, and the content to be what they need for a particular assignment. Hooray for educational publishing!
But sometimes that teacher needs a book she can read to her class to carry them all to an astonishing new place. Hooray for trade publishing!
May they both thrive.
G. Neri is the Coretta Scott King honor-winning author of Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty (Lee & Low) and the recipient of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award for his free-verse novella, Chess Rumble (Lee & Low).
His novels include Knockout Games (Carolrhoda Lab), Surf Mules (Putnam) and the Horace Mann Upstander Award-winning, Ghetto Cowboy (Candlewick). His latest is the free-verse picture book bio, Hello, I’m Johnny Cash (Candlewick).
Prior to becoming a writer, Neri was a filmmaker, an animator/illustrator, a digital media producer, and a founding member of The Truth anti-smoking campaign. Neri currently writes full-time and lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida with his wife and daughter.
|Don Gallo & Will Weaver|
What is LitWeaver and how did it come to be?
Our cohort of more than sixty top authors came together to make contemporary short stories, essays, poems, and plays available to schools for e-reading or print on demand.
LitWeaver has free reading for middle- and high schools right now, though we’ll eventually add a low cost subscription to help cover our website costs.
English Language Arts teachers and school librarians have given us authors such great support over the years, buying our books and inviting us to their schools, so here was a chance for us to give back.
That’s how LitWeaver came to be.
How did you connect with author Will Weaver and the company?
Don Gallo: Will and I have known each other for nearly twenty years, ever since he wrote a short story called “The Photograph” for one of the YA anthologies I edited. He subsequently wrote other stories for me, and I did an extensive interview of him for the Authors4Teens (now defunct) website. We seem to have connected from the start.
Liking each other and, more importantly, respecting each other’s talents and trusting each other, have been significant factors in our working so well together. I am honored that he asked me to be part of this venture. It’s the most exciting thing I have done in my entire long career.
Will, besides liking him, why did you choose Don to be LitWeaver’s executive editor? What does he bring to the mix that others do not?
Will Weaver: I’ve written some of my best short stories for Don’s various YA anthologies—he’s a great editor–and it’s true, we “clicked” on a personal and literary level. But from a purely business perspective, I needed someone who was well known, and who could bring in an “A-list” of YA authors. Don has done that supremely well.
Don Gallo: Having worked with so many authors over the years—more than 200!– means I know their work, and they know and trust me.”
Will, how does LitWeaver work?
LitWeaver is like Netflix or a similar online platform, but with literary readings. Teachers sign up, stock their bookshelf with short stories, essays, or poems and more just right for their grade or their purposes.
Then teachers create “classes” and invite students. Students join the class, where great e-reading is waiting.
We’re working on the tech side right now to make LitWeaver simple and easy to use, but it’s clear that our overall vision of improving access and affordability has struck a chord with teachers.
Don, what about the concept appealed to you?
Don: Surely the whole concept is unique and exciting. Nothing like LitWeaver has ever existed. There are other recently established companies that are offering digital readings to schools, but they are all either literary works for children, or they are entirely book-length works—classical novels and a few YA novels. Nobody except LitWeaver is focusing on teens, and nobody is offering the array of short stories, poems, plays, and essays that we provide.
Will, what kind of response have you seen so far?
Will: Phenomenal. Truly. We launched LitWeaver in beta form on Feb. 15 and had hundreds of teachers, school librarians, and public librarians signed up, from Texas to Iceland. It’s clear they are looking for access, great writing, and affordability.
I might add that we at LitWeaver feel blessed by our demographic of users. Nobody shares information like English teachers and literacy specialists!
Don, what content is of interest?
Don: I am really proud of the content we have been able to acquire in just a few months. We don’t have a lot of novels or book-length nonfiction yet. Those will be coming later. But there is no better quality of short stories, poems, and essays anywhere else.
Our roster includes several winners of the Newbery Award and Newbery Honor Award, the Margaret A. Edwards Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the ALAN Award.
We have selections from Richard Peck, Katherine Paterson, Chris Crutcher, Jerry Spinelli, Joan Bauer, Jane Yolen, Terry Trueman, Charlie Price, David Lubar, Gordon Korman, Bruce Coville, Lauren Oliver, Neal Shusterman.
We have poets such as Nikki Grimes, Mel Glenn, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Kwame Alexander.
Many of our authors are from diverse cultural backgrounds, including René Saldana Jr., Lensey Namioka, Joseph Bruchac, Minfong Ho, Anton Treuer, Shonto Begay, and others already mentioned. We are adding original essays weekly—pieces from Alan Sitomer, Madelyn Rosenberg, Pete Hautman, Marc Aronson, and Sneed Collard.
We also are excited to have new selections from two of the most censored authors in the YA world: Sonya Sones and Ellen Hopkins.
And our selections in terms of interest and sophistication serve a range of grade levels from fifth grade through twelfth.
Don, how should authors get in touch?
Don: I have been sending invitations by e-mail to authors I know. But my lists are limited, of course. So any authors who have good out-of-print works or new literary selections not under contract should contact me by e-mail at GalloDon@aol.com.
Don, are you interested in working with poets? Or authors who are not traditionally trade published?
Don: As I noted earlier, we have acquired a number of poems –I think fourteen so far—along with three stories in verse and one novel in verse. We have been focusing on authors with the greatest reputations we can find.
But, yes, I will be happy to consider poems from other accomplished writers aimed at a teenage audience.
I’m also looking for short nonfiction of interest to teens but also with content that makes them informative and teachable.
Will, what else do you want Cynsations readers to know?
LitWeaver has a tidy little lesson plan for each reading. They include introductory activities, discussion questions, writing prompts, and suggestions for research projects.
Not saying teachers will need a lesson plan, but it’s nice to have just in case.
And one more thing: LitWeaver is in beta form, meaning we’re still working on the app/website. There’s always time to hear from you, dear readers, to let us know how we can improve, and what features you’d like to see.
But what we truly need is for you to help spread the news. Lots of sign-ups and users will help us get investor funding, and that will allow us to build our dream site where there’s loads of free, contemporary lit for schools.
LitWeaver is a new paradigm, we think, one whose timing is right.
Don Gallo is one of the nation’s leading authorities on books for teenagers, the recipient of the ALAN Award for outstanding contributions to the field of adolescent literature, and the foremost anthologist of short stories for teenagers in the country.
He has edited thirteen highly-acclaimed collections of short stories written by well-known young adult novelists, the most recent of which is Owning It: Stories about Teens with Disabilities (Candlewick, 2010).
His first collection–Sixteen–was identified by the American Library Association as one of the 100 Best of the Best Books for Young Adults published in the last third of the 20th century.
Don is also the author of numerous journal articles and chapters in professional books about the teaching of literature and writing in middle and high schools, the co-author with Sarah K. Herz of From Hinton to Hamlet: Building Bridges Between Young Adult Literature and the Classics, and was the editor of the Bold Books for Teenagers column in the English Journal for five years.
For 24-years, Dr. Gallo was a professor of English at Central Connecticut State University, retiring in 1997. He now serves as the executive editor of LitWeaver and currently lives near Cleveland, Ohio, with his wife, educator/consultant C.J. Bott.
Among author Will Weaver‘s novels for young adults are Striking Out, Farm Team and Hard Ball. His recent novels for teens include Saturday Night Dirt, Super Stock Rookie, and Checkered Flag Cheater (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).
His novel Memory Boy (HarperCollins) was chosen a teen “top ten” book by ALA and is in production by the Minnesota Opera for 2016. One of his adult short stories was adapted into the feature film “Sweet Land.”
A judge for the National Book Awards in 2011, Mr. Weaver lives in Bemidji, Minnesota, on the upper Mississippi River, with his wife, Rose.
The annual award will showcase the best picture book manuscript as selected by a panel of judges and will be among the few children’s book honors with a cash prize.
Roanoke, Va. – Hollins University is paying tribute to one of its best-known alumnae and one of America’s most beloved children’s authors by establishing a literary award in her name.
Presented annually beginning in 2016, the Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature will recognize the author of the best text for a picture book published during the previous year.
Winners will be given a $1,000 cash prize, which comes from an endowed fund created by James Rockefeller, Brown’s fiancée at the time of her death. Each recipient will also receive an engraved bronze medal as well as an invitation to accept the award and present a reading on campus during the summer session of Hollins’ graduate program in children’s literature.
Hollins will request prize nominations from children’s book publishers. Then, a three-judge panel, consisting of established picture book authors, will review the nominations and choose a winner.
“The Margaret Wise Brown Award will be one of the few children’s book awards that has a cash prize attached,” said Amanda Cockrell, director of the children’s literature program at Hollins.
Brown graduated from Hollins in 1932 and went on to write Goodnight Moon (Harper & Brothers, 1947), The Runaway Bunny (Harper, 1942), and other children’s classics before she died in 1952. Hollins celebrated her life and work with a year-long Margaret Wise Brown Festival in 2011 and 2012, which featured stage and musical adaptations of her work along with readings, workshops, guest lectures, and other activities for all ages.
The study of children’s literature as a scholarly experience was initiated at Hollins in 1973; in 1992, the graduate program in children’s literature was founded. Today, Hollins offers summer M.A. and M.F.A. programs exclusively in the study and writing of children’s literature, an M.F.A. in children’s book writing and illustrating, and a graduate-level certificate in children’s book illustration.
Esther Hershenhorn is an award-winning Chicago children’s book author.
She coaches children’s book writers and teaches Children’s Book Writing at the Writer’s Studio of the University of Chicago’s Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies and the Newberry Library.
Regional Advisor Emeritus of SCBWI’s Illinois chapter, Esther also served two terms on SCBWI’s Board of Advisors. Esther blogs at Teaching Authors. She was interviewed by Elisabeth Norton for the SCBWI Europolitan Conference.
Your intensive at SCBWI Europolitan is titled Rx for Children’s Books Creators: Getting Your Stories Right. Can you tell us more about the idea of the Creator’s Story?
I’d been out and about for quite some time, learning and honing my craft, receiving more than my fair share of “admirable declines,” when I was fortunate to attend – three years in a row – the sadly-no-longer-available Vassar Children’s Book Publishing Program.
That last year, still unpublished, I was thinking about how much Irene and I had in common when the venerable instructor, publisher Barbara Lucas, spoke of The Universal Plotline – the Hero-dash-Heroine, moving forward in scenes of escalating disaster to fulfill a wish/realize a dream/solve a problem until, grown and changed, he or she returns home with something even better than what he or she first sought.
I literally smacked my forehead.
I was traveling the Universal Plotline! That was it!
The inevitable yet surprising satisfactory resolution would someday be mine.
As creatives we are often focused on honing our writing or illustration skills. It sounds like your workshop at Europolitan is going to take that to the next level. How do you think a Creator’s Story intersects with the stories they are creating?
As we creators toil to tell our good stories well, it’s good to remember just how in synch we are with our questing characters.
All of us are moving forward on plotlines both physical and emotional, driven by wants/needs/wishes; each of us is acting and re-acting, with accompanying emotions, to overcome the obstacles placed before us.
Award-winning author and superb teacher Marian Dane Bauer believes a writer needs to put his story into the story he’s telling if it’s ever to resound in his reader’s heart – and I agree, wholeheartedly.
Not the actual story, but the emotional import of the story. We strengthen our story’s underpinnings – and heart – when we’re in synch with our characters emotionally.
You are an active teacher, speaker and career coach. What are some of the common issues you find in the manuscripts submitted to you for feedback?
The first time I read a manuscript, I read on behalf of the intended reader – no matter the age. More times than not, the writing in the manuscript sings, and I want to go along, really and truly, but the chinks in the story’s logic push me away, forcing me to exit what John Gardner labeled the requisite continuous dream.
Simply put, the story has holes and I’m not buying it.
The Good News is: returning to a story’s characters to dig even deeper usually solves the problem.
Returning to a story’s characters also solves a second common story problem: the absence of an emotional plotline. There needs to be a reason why we care what happens next, why we want to live inside this story and travel along.
This is true for picture books, early readers, middle grade and YA fiction as well as nonfiction.
If you could only give one piece of advice to an aspiring writer, what would that be?
My advice about craft: read like a writer and write like a reader.
My advice about the journey, because writing is just that: story gifts both the reader and the writer.
Elisabeth Norton was first published at age 16 when she had no idea what an “unsolicited submission” was. Seeing her byline on the subsequently published magazine article ignited her desire for a career as an author.
Once she realized she wanted to write for children, she joined SCBWI and now serves as Regional Advisor for the Swiss region.
Originally from Alaska, she now lives in Switzerland between the Alps and the Jura and writes for middle graders.