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800x600xGWN_Anthology_Invite_-FINAL.png,qbbde26.pagespeed.ic.pMn_igSOZtAfter guiding each mentee through so many of the rites of the writer’s life — creation, revision, submission, public presentation — the Girls Write Now Mentoring Program culminates with an annual anthology, in which each student and mentor showcases their best original work. Structured around this year’s overarching curricular theme, New Worlds, the 2013 anthology is composed of stories that celebrate the incredible diversity and creative fearlessness of our intergenerational community, showcasing poetry, fiction, memoir and more that surprise us and stretch our understanding of the world and ourselves.

The Girls Write Now anthology has been recognized as Outstanding Book of the Year in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, and has earned additional honors from the International Book Awards, the National Indie Excellence Awards, the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and the New York Book Festival.

This event is open to the public so stop by and support these amazing young women!

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Yesterday I took a break from writing to watch Serena Williams win the US Open. What an inspiration! As I post my word count on Facebook every few hours, I’m surprised at the number of people who express admiration for my sense of discipline. I’m not sure that’s what drives me…I feel like I have (or am) a sponge, and I spend most of my time soaking up ideas; writing then is simply the act of wringing that sponge dry. It’s the easy part, in a way. Last weekend I wrote 2450 words and another 120 during the week; so far this weekend I’ve written 2300 words, which puts me at 4870–below my 900 words/day quota (7×900=6300). But the day has just begun…
I have some exciting news to share: And the Crowd Goes Wild!: A Global Gathering of Sports Poems came out on September 4th! The book’s first review, which came out on Labor Day, is posted here. The ebook version (PDF file) and the paperback version can be purchased at www.friesenpress.com/bookstore. Folks are also welcome, of course, to order the paperback version of the book from local independent bookstores. The paperback version will become available on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and Amazon.co.uk later in September. Libraries/bookstores can order the collection from Ingram Book Company.

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ImageI try to avoid crowds as much as possible but it’s hard to stay away from a book festival—especially when it’s in Harlem and the street is filled with black folks who love to read, write, and talk about literature! I watched some of the Schomburg panels on C-Span before hopping on the train to give my own presentation at the Young Readers Pavilion, which was once again expertly run by the Hudsons. I read from Ship of Souls and took some questions from the young readers in the audience, and then had time to catch the second half of the panel on getting black boys to read, which was moderated by Wade Hudson. I don’t like crowds, but large gatherings do increase the likelihood of meeting folks you haven’t seen in a while. It was great to catch up with Carol-Ann Hoyte, poet, librarian, and editor/publisher of the forthcoming anthology, And the Crowd Goes Wild! Carol-Ann shared some of the sports poems with kids at the Young Readers Pavilion and she’ll be back in NYC this fall for an official launch party so stay tuned. I also met Donald Peebles, author and librarian-in-training; we talked about the importance of male role models, the need for more black male voices in YA lit, and the many different family configurations that make black boys LOVE to read. That was an issue that came up in the panel: what’s the link between fathers and better literacy among boys? I’m not a fan of the “just add MAN” remedy to what ails the black community, though I absolutely believe that fathers are important to boys and girls. But the mere presence of men doesn’t solve any problem—it’s their involvement in the family that matters and their commitment to promoting literacy by reading with and around their kids.

Later that night I had a Skype conversation with my cousin and we realized that our “fun” summer reads actually reflect our scholarship…I just finished a novel on racial violence in the post-Emancipation South, and she was reading a novel about the body’s memory of trauma. I’d been planning to self-publish my novella about black children and AIDS this fall, but somehow that conversation gave me a sharp nudge. I worked on it past midnight and ordered a proof this morning. There is a major AIDS conference in D.C. right now, and a Canadian friend sent a team from her Toronto clinic, Women’s Health in Women’s Hands. When I visited that clinic a couple of years ago, one of the researchers asked me why I didn’t write about the impact of HIV/AIDS on the black community. I assured her that I *had* written about it but couldn’t find a publisher. Well, what am I waiting for? The community is still in crisis and waiting ten years hasn’t helped matters any. I hope to have An Angel for Mariqua out by my birthday in late October. This is just a demo cover I made with the CreateSpace template.

Christmas is coming, but nine-year-old Mariqua Thatcher isn’t looking forward to the holidays. Mama’s gone and Gramma doesn’t know what to do with her feisty granddaughter. Almost every day Mariqua gets into a fight at school and no one seems to understand how she feels inside. But things start to change when a mysterious street vendor gives Mariqua a beautifully carved wooden angel as a gift. Each night Mariqua whispers in the angel’s ear and soon her wishes start to come true! Mariqua begins to do better at school and she even wins an important role in the church pageant. But best of all, Mariqua becomes friends with Valina Patterson, a teenager who lives in Mariqua’s building. Valina helps Mariqua learn how to control her anger, and reminds her pretend little sister that “everyone has a story to tell.” Their friendship is tested, however, when Mariqua discovers that Valina has been keeping a secret about her own mother. Can the magic angel make things better?

A touching story about love, compassion, and the gift within every heart.
For children age 8+.

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I woke up this morning with my introduction written out in my mind. It shouldn’t have taken me this long to turn to black feminist writer June Jordan, and thinking about my favorite poem of hers reminded me of the James Baldwin quote I used for the title of my dissertation: “the terror of trees and streets.”

Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear
my head about this poem about why I can’t
go out without changing my clothes my shoes
my body posture my gender identity my age
my status as a woman alone in the evening/
alone on the streets/alone not being the point/
the point being that I can’t do what I want
to do with my own body because I am the wrong
sex the wrong age the wrong skin and
suppose it was not here in the city but down on the beach/
or far into the woods and I wanted to go
there by myself thinking about God/or thinking
about children or thinking about the world/all of it
disclosed by the stars and the silence:
I could not go and I could not think and I could not
stay there
alone
as I need to be
alone because I can’t do what I want to do with my own
body and
who in the hell set things up

like this

Which bodies belong in which spaces? Our age, race, gender, and sexual orientation too often determine where we’re able to find sanctuary. I’ve read almost half of Ruth Chew’s books and won’t have any trouble comparing hers to mine, but need to begin with a consideration of the way African Americans relate to nature. In Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, editor/poet Camille Dungy reflects on the trauma of enslavement (and lynching) and its impact on the way blacks engage with the natural world:

    African Americans are tied up in the toil and soil involved in working this land into the country we know today. Viewed once as chattel, part of a farm’s livestock or an asset in a banker’s ledger, African Americans developed a complex relationship to land, animals, and vegetation in American culture. (xxii)

Given the active history of betrayal and danger in the outdoors, it is no wonder that many African Americans link their fears directly to the land that witnessed or abetted centuries of subjugation. (xxvi)

Even during the most difficult periods of African American history, the natural world held potential to be a source of refuge, sustenance, and uncompromised beauty. (xxv)

I’ve got a few more articles to read on the development and design of urban parks, and the memorialization of the dead…writing an essay is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. Not exactly fun, but challenging and—if it coheres—satisfying. Scheduling a midday break at the museum…

 

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Ah…a day of rest! On Friday I wrapped up my last Harlem workshop with Behind the Book. The students had finished reading Ship of Souls, and when I asked if they had any questions, it turned out most of them wanted to know what would happen in the sequel! I should have recorded my answers to all those questions because I actually sounded like I’ve got a clear sense of the narrative. Now I just have to make time to write it! The students did a great job developing outlines for their own magical stories and, as usual, several of them asked me whether Ship of Souls would be made into a film. I could have shown them the audio version of the book, which came out last week. I received my copies in the mail but have only listened to a couple of minutes so far. I think of an audio book being a lot like a radio play, but I don’t think there are any sound effects in the reading of my novel.

Yesterday I spent most of the day in the Bronx with four other Lee & Low authors and illustrators: Tony Medina, Katie Yamasaki, Mark Weston, and G. Neri (via Skype). We had a small group of kids, parents, and educators for Family Literacy Day, but they were amazingly attentive considering our presentations lasted from 10:30am to 1pm. Then each participant got a signed copy of Bird, Honda: the Boy Who Dreamed of Cars, I & I Bob Marley, and Yummy. Lee & Low’s sales manager, Abe, did a great job organizing the event and it was nice to see families resisting the lure of a sunny Saturday in order to focus on books and art. I like meeting other authors, but meeting artists is a totally different experience—it’s a blend of awe and envy because I can write a decent story, but I can NOT paint a beautiful picture. You should see the incredible murals that Katie has made all over the world—and she’s working on another with women prisoners at Rikers Island right now. After the event ended, Katie, Tony, and I talked about the publishing industry and how easy it is for some to divorce multiculturalism from social justice. We discussed the Trayvon Martin case and the news that “minority babies” now make up the majority of births in the US. Ten years from now, will those children be able to find their mirrors in books? Not unless we continue to press for change in the publishing industry. I connected with a few allies this past week, which is just what the doctor ordered—it’s too easy to feel isolated and discouraged…

Today: rest, read (I’m halfway through Toni Morrison’s Home), write out a summary of The Deep, and then prepare for tomorrow’s school visit. Just five more to go…

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…take the Birthday Party Pledge! Today is our official launch day. If you haven’t already visited the BPP site, please stop by and take the pledge. If you’re a book blogger, grab the code and add our button to your site. If you know others who could benefit from the many lists on our site, spread the word! Our team has compiled book lists with dozens of multicultural titles in all genres: poetry, historical fiction, books boys love, graphic novels, speculative fiction, books girls love, chapter books, LGBTQ, picture books, sports books, and non-fiction.

About Us:

The Birthday Party Pledge emerged from an ongoing conversation between authors, educators, librarians, and book bloggers. We wanted to promote children’s books by authors of color, and we wanted to encourage the building of home libraries in low-income communities. According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, less than 5% of all books published annually for children in the US are written by people of color. Many publishers insist that they can’t find more writers of color and/or claim that the market doesn’t exist for books about children of color. Yet a study conducted by the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation revealed that many adults want to purchase multicultural books and are simply unable to find them:

Nearly eight in ten (78%) U.S. adults believe that it is important for children to be exposed to picture books that feature main characters of various ethnicities or races—but one-third (33%) report that it is difficult to find such books, according to a recent survey that was commissioned by The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the love of reading and learning in all children.

Some parents simply can’t afford to buy books, and we encourage all families to draw on the resources available at their local public library. In other cases, buying books for children is a matter of shifting priorities and redirecting resources. Compared to video games and other toys, books are relatively inexpensive (and can often be purchased “like new” from online resellers). Buying books locally puts money back into your community, and we encourage you to support those independent bookstores that carry multicultural books.

The BPP has two goals:

1. To encourage childhood literacy in order to promote a lifelong love of books.

2. To assist adults in providing children with books that truly reflect the diverse society in which we live.

Take the pledge today!

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REVISED CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS – CHILDREN’S POETRY ANTHOLOGY ON SPORTS
Submission Deadline: March 31st, 2012

On your marks, get set, write! 

An independently published e-book anthology of children’s poetry dedicated to the wide world of sports is in the works. 

ADULTS who write children’s poetry, including those who are emerging poets, are invited to submit their work. 

We’re looking for original, unpublished poems, written in English, aimed at 5- to 12-year-olds that deal with various aspects of athletics:

  • Olympics and other major international sports events (i.e., FIFA World Cup)
  • winter/summer, individual/team sports
  • winning and losing
  • amateur/professional athletes
  • sports fans and those behind the scenes (coaches, refs, etc.)
  • equipment/uniforms and places where sports are played
  • sports history and other miscellanea (halls of fame, records, trivia, etc.)
*We are interested in receiving poems written in a variety of forms including but not limited to the following: couplet, triplet, limerick, haiku, tanka, cinquain, diamante, mask poem, apostrophe poem, list poem, etheree, palindrome, etc. 

Poets whose work is selected for the collection will receive a small honorarium. 

We will contact you shortly after the deadline if we plan to include your poem in the anthology. 

A portion of the anthology’s proceeds will be donated to Right to Play, an organization working with volunteers and partners to use sport and play to enhance child development in areas of disadvantage.

Please email poems to Carol-Ann Hoyte at kidlitfan1972 at yahoo dot ca.

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