I haven’t left the house or spoken a word today and it feels GREAT! I thought I would spend the day writing and strategizing but instead I ordered in, watched Pride & Prejudice on TV, and napped. I really needed this day of silence—the semester’s winding down but it’s not over yet. On Friday night a colleague and I hosted a screening of Fruitvale Station and then the next morning I caught a 9am train to Baltimore for the African American Children’s Book Fair at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. It was a fabulous event—as soon as I walked in I was greeted with smiles and hugs. We’re like a family, really, and as Kelly Starling Lyons pointed out, Black authors and illustrators don’t have many opportunities to gather like this. Wade Hudson wisely insisted that we take a group photo at the end of the day and I *think* I can name everyone in this picture:
Left to right, starting in the back: Bryan Collier, E.B. Lewis, Shadra Strickland, Chuku Lee, R. Gregory Christie, Javaka Steptoe, Wade Hudson, London Ladd, Calvin Alexander Ramsey; front row: Pat Cummings, me, Kelly Starling Lyons, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Renee Watson, Cheryl Willis Hudson, and Tara Doaty.
This morning I thought about the three or four attendees who listened to me describe my books at length and then asked, “Are you the author?” Some authors did have relatives or friends helping them out, so maybe I shouldn’t be offended by that question. It was wonderful to see so many parents urging their children to take a closer look at the books on display. And I was glad to have something to offer the tweens and teens who so often can’t find anything in their age range. After the fair ended I went to dinner with Greg Christie and Javaka Steptoe. They say timing is everything and talking with those two award-winning illustrators was just what I needed yesterday. I’m thinking of incorporating Rosetta Press or making it an LLC. Greg, who has run Gas-Art for years and now runs a bookstore/art school in Georgia, had plenty of advice on starting a business and overcoming fear and doubt. Javaka had some great ideas of ways to get affordable books into the hands of urban kids, and both artists agreed to collaborate on future books with me. I couldn’t sleep on the train ride home because my head was spinning—so many possibilities! I’m still afraid and I still have doubts but what do I really have to lose? I’ve been trying to focus on abundance lately—instead of sulking about how few manuscripts I’ve been able to sell in the past decade, I see now that I have a wealth of material to publish on my own. I heard from 3 editors last week but even if they acquired two manuscripts each, I’d still have plenty of material to work with, never mind the stories that are still in my head and not yet on the page. I have talented friends who are willing to take risks and support me as we try to find “a third way.” So tomorrow I will finish grading my students’ essays, I’ll have my last advising session for the semester, and then I’ll go to the bank and find out what it takes to open a business account. If I take small steps, I think I can have the press up and running by the fall. Small steps, big leap…either way, I’ve got to have faith!