Friday, January 29, 2021

January Diversity Reading: Open Mic

I'm posting about my last January diversity read, Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices edited by Mitali Perkins, just in time for Multicultural Children's Book Day, which is today. You can follow it on Twitter with the hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Many years ago, soon after I published my first book--or maybe my second, the publishing world thought I was funny. And maybe even a little desirable. As a result, I was invited to submit a funny short story to an editor who was putting together an anthology of middle grade humor. For the life of me, I cannot recall what I submitted, though I assume if I hunted through the office I could find it. Why can't I recall what I submitted? Because it wasn't accepted. I remember the rejection letter including something about how important the book was to the editor. I read the book after it came out. Not funny. Not well written. Not well received. Disappeared rapidly. Maybe my story sucked really big time if it couldn't make that line-up. Or maybe I dodged a bullet. That experience may have gone either way. 

Open Mic is something similar. It's a humor anthology, but on the theme of growing up between cultures. (I don't remember if the book I submitted to had a theme.) I can't say I found the book particularly funny, though I am known to have a dark, twisted sense of humor, and these people may have been too nice for me. I can say, though, that every story or memoir was well done. The book is a good read and a good way to be introduced to authors you may not be familiar with. I'd like to read some more of David Yoo's work, for instance. And maybe Debbie Rigaud, because I'm getting into the Haitian American thing.

All About Gail

In considering my January diversity posts, I realized that, though I said in my first post that with books that can be described as "diverse" I look for a situation that is new to me, I am also attracted to books that have some connection to me. Really to me, personally.  I read Jasmine Toguchi because I'm Facebook friends with the author, Debbi Michiko Florence, and she appears to be an absolutely lovely person. With One Crazy Summer I got very tied in to wanting to be a mother to Delphine and her sisters, because momming is something I know. I read Finding Langston because I read Langston Hughes back in the day. Open Mic I read because it was similar to a book I was almost involved with and I know the editor, Mitali Perkins, through blogging. (Another very nice person, btw.) In Debbie Rigaud's story for that book she begins "When I was little, my great-aunt Ma Tante..." Well, I had a great aunt who my father's cousin always referred to as Ma Tante Yvonne. In fact, Micheline refers to the late lamented Uncle Napoleon as Mon Oncle Napoleon. (And his wife as Ma Tante Josephine--I kid you not.) My grandfather was Mon Oncle Elie. We were down in New England and didn't do that with the French family, but I still get it. 

It occurred to me that maybe I'm a little (or a lot) shallow, only reading books about cultures different from my own, if I can connect with them in some way. I'm hoping that that's not the case. I'm hoping that finding connections between ourselves and people who come from backgrounds different from ours is a way of enjoying and becoming comfortable with new stories from other cultures.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

January Diversity Reading: Finding Langston

I was attracted to Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome, because I read Langston Hughes when I was in high school. We didn't study him, anymore than we studied Shirley Jackson or the authors of the Algonquin Roundtable. I don't know how I stumbled upon all those writers, unless it had something to do with me being a library aid at my high school for three or four years. I can't say I read a lot of Langston Hughes, but I recall liking him, unlike the Roundtable authors, whom I found disappointing. And, of course, everyone knows I have an obsession with Shirley Jackson

Finding Langston is a quite impressive book that can be enjoyed from three different angles. Are you interested in reading about the Great Migration, the movement of southern African-Americans to the north in the first half of the 20th Century? Finding Langston is about that. Are you interested in reading about bullying? Finding Langston is about that. Are you interested in reading about poetry? Finding Langston is about that, big time.

Poetry has always been something I respected, but rarely appreciated/understood. Finding Langston may change that for me. In addition to enjoying the Hughes poetry that appears in the book, I was struck by one character's summing up of poetry. "So the poetry you read is a way of putting all the things you feel inside on the outside." That led me to wonder, in an adult way, if poetry for readers is a way of expressing their feelings. You hunt for poets who can do that for you.

Regarding the Great Migration--I am certain I never studied that in either high school or college, where I was a history minor. At the high school level, survey courses back then often didn't get well into the twentieth century and often focused on economics and war. On the college level, I may just not have happened to take an American history course that covered much of the twentieth century. Another possibility? The Great Migration may not have been recognized as a historical event until very recently.

Finding Langston was a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and won the Scott O'Dell Award for historical fiction. Another award winning book worthy of the attention. Also, another book I read this month because Multicultural Children's Book Day is right around the corner.

More January Childlit Book Releases

I am missing November and December when there were so few books being published. I'm going to go nuts getting this post ready for the end of the month.

Once again, remember these are just books I came across through my Facebook, Twitter, and blogging connections. 

January Childlit Book Releases, first post

January 1, Scooper and Dumper, Lindsay Ward, Two Lions








January 5, Shaking Up the House, Yamille Saied Mendez, HarperCollins





January 12, City of the Plague God, Sarwat Chadda, Disney Hyperion







January 12, Clues to the Universe, Christina Li, HarperCollins/Quill Tree Books






January 12, Gone to the Woods, Gary Paulsen, Macmillan/Farrar, Straus and Girous

January 12, The Ambassador of Nowhere, Texas, Kimberly Willis Holt, Macmillan/Henry Holt






January 12, Halfway to Harmony, Barbara O'Connor, Macmillan/Farrar, Straus and Giroux






January 12, The Nightmare Thief, Nicole Lesperance, Sourcebooks 







January 12, The Power of Yet, Maryann Cocca-Leffler, Abrams 







January 19, Magic's Most Wanted, Tyler Whitesides, HarperCollins 







January 19, Amara and the Night Brothers, B. B. Alston, HarperCollins







January 19, 365 Days to Alaska, Cathy Carr, Abrams/Amulet







January 19, The Comeback, E. L. Shen, Farrar, Macmillan/Strauss & Giroux






January 19, Seaside Stroll, Charles Trevino, Maribel Lechuga illustrations, Penguin Random House/Charlesbridge

January 19, The Million Dollar Race, Matthew Ross Smith, Simon&Schuster/Aladdin 






January 19, From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves, Vivian Kirkfield, Gilbert Ford illustrations, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt






January 19, My Name is Layla, Reyna Marden Gentin, TouchPoint Press

January 26, Noah McNichol and the Backstage Ghost, Martha Freeman, Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books 







January 26, Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued, Peter Sis, Norton






January 26, The Bedtime Knight, Katie L. Carroll, Erika Baird illustrations, Shimmer Publications

Monday, January 25, 2021

January Diversity Reading: One Crazy Summer

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia was a National Book Award Finalist, a Newbery Honor Book, and won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction as well as the Coretta Scott King Award. Lots of times I read award winning books and think, Why? Not with this one. One Crazy Summer is fantastic.

Three sisters, the oldest being only eleven-years-old, head out from the east coast to California in 1968 to spend some time with the arty mother they've never known. These very traditional young girls expect to see the ocean and go to Disneyland. Imagine their surprise when they discover that mom, who doesn't seem to want to have much to do with them, is involved with the Black Panthers! 

What a terrific premise. How did I miss this book all these years?

Narrator Delphine has heard of the Panthers and turns a somewhat jaundiced eye on some of their more benign community work. She has been well brought up by her father and grandmother and tries to keep those younger sisters, upon whom she also often turns a jaundiced eye, in line while they are eating breakfast each morning at a children's day camp the Panthers run in their neighborhood. The book is fascinating and funny.

And there are two more books about Delphine and her sisters.

As an adult and a mom, I felt the kind of anxiety reading this book that I often feel when I'm reading books for children. The father and grandmother seemed way too conscientious and attentive to send the girls into a situation they knew so little about. No, no! They wouldn't have done that! Also, I wanted to snatch Delphine and the sisters away and take care of them. Realistically, three kids is one more than I know how to manage. But I would have fed them! Their mom wouldn't even feed them! She kept sending them out for takeout or to eat with the Black Panthers. Who did a good job with providing breakfast, by the way.

This is one of the books I read this month, because Multicultural Children's Book Day is coming up later this week. An excellent read.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Jerry Craft's Award Acceptance Speeches

While I was retreating in place last week, I read three back issues of The Horn Book. (The most recent one just arrived a couple of days ago.) The July/August 2020 magazine was the special issue that carried acceptance speeches for last year's ALA Awards.

I am not a fan of reading speeches, something I know I've mentioned here many times. Reading the ALA acceptance speeches is not something I look forward to, though I make an attempt to at least skim some. Which is why I got hooked on Jerry Craft's acceptance speeches for the Coretta Scott King Author Award and the Newbery Medal. I liked them both. Reading them also helped me work out why I have trouble appreciating other acceptance speeches.

As a general rule, I find that the ALA acceptance speeches (probably the only ones I read) include a lot of talk of agents and editors and how the speaker worked with them and things they've done together. The speeches often include the same kinds of things--talk of "how I got the call," in addition to those agents and editors. There's also an insider aspect to them that must be really meaningful to other writers and illustrators with agents who are on close terms with their editors. But it's hard for the rest of us, by which I mean, of course, me, to feel much connection to all that. 

Jerry Craft doesn't come across as a publishing insider. He writes about having breakfast with a couple of well-known writers who he thought seemed like nice people, though he didn't actually know who they were until later. At one point in his career, he had to ask Siri what the Newbery Medal was.

This is a guy who outsider speech readers can understand and relate to. If you're not a fan of reading acceptance speeches, you might want to try his, anyway.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Upping My Diversity Reads This Month With Jasmine Toguchi

Multicultural Children's Book Day is January 29th. This event motivated me to seek out some diverse reading instead of just randomly reading whatever drops into my lap.

I began with Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence with illustrations by Elizabet Vukovic.  This is the first in a chapter book series about a Japanese-American girl. The family is getting ready to celebrate Japanese New Year, which involves getting together to make mochi, a type of rice cake. It seems to take a great deal of effort.

As a nondiverse reader, what I look for in a diverse book is a situation that is new to me with a story line or character that is somehow universal. Jasmine Toguchi Mochi Queen has both those things. I knew nothing about Japanese New Year or mochi before I read this book. At the same time, Jasmine's issues with her place within her family transcend culture.

This is a girl chapter book series, something that I think has kind of been a thing over the years. I was reminded of Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park. When I read one of the Junie books back in 2005, I found Junie a little too wise. "Though she is definitely funny, the humor to me seems adult. I don't think she talks like a true funny first grader, she talks like an adult's idea of a funny first grader. She's a little over the top."  When I tried one of the Celementine books by Sara Pennypacker in 2007, I thought it seemed a lot like Junie B. Jones, but with better grammar. I found both girls "cute the way adults like kids to be cute. They're cute like the youngest kid in a sitcom family--not the older wiseass kid, but the one who says oddly adorable things that have some kind of significance."

That's not the case with this first JasmineToguchi book. Jasmine seems very much like a real girl responding to a real situation in a realistic way and sounding like a real girl. For that reason, this book seems more child-oriented than other girl chapter books I've read.

I'm planning on recommending this book to an eight-year-old family member, or maybe even getting it for him for Easter. I'll be interested to see what a boy thinks of Jasmine.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Time Management Tuesday: A Virtual Women's Goal-setting Workshop Opportunity

Though you can set goals for yourself at any time of the year, we are still in January when people feel particularly...goalish. Actually I Can, a life-coaching program for women run by Kelly Ramsdell, is sponsoring a three-hour goal-setting workshop, Dream It, Do It, the weekend of  Feb. 5th and 6th. You have your choice of Friday night or Saturday afternoon workshops. While this is not a writer-specific event, Kelly is an artist and author with experience setting her own creative goals. 

She is also a long-time Facebook friend. Last year I took part in a mindfulness program she ran through Actually I Can that I liked a great deal.

Friday, January 08, 2021

Retreat Week Starts Tomorrow

Our annual retreat week, when we head off for the snowy north to do nothing but read next to that wood stove you see to your right, snowshoe or walk, and eat in restaurants, starts tomorrow. Except, of course, things being what they are, we aren't heading north or anywhere else. So we are retreating in place.

I will be reading like mad next week, doing more home yoga, heading out walking more frequently, eating takeout, and maybe binge watching a French TV show Netflix e-mailed me about today. What I won't be doing is writing for Original Content.

I will probably be posting at Facebook about our walks, so if we're Facebook friends you may see me there. I may Tweet about my reading, so if you're a follower, you may see me there.

As I've mentioned a couple of times this week, I'm missing a couple of virtual book launches in order to maintain the integrity of my retreat. However, next Saturday afternoon the retreat will be over, and I'm registered to attend an on-line event with Sharon Dukett, author of the memoir No Rules, which was published last year. Sharon is a Connecticut author I met in 2019.

Virtual Book Launch Coming Up For "I Dream of Popo"

Another book launch is coming up next week (Sunday the 10th, in fact) while I'm on a reading/yoga/walking/whatever retreat. This one is for I Dream of Popo by Livia Blackburne with illustrations by Julia Kuo. They will both be at the launch, along with their editor, Connie Hsu.

Sigh. This one is on the west coast, sponsored by the bookstore Once Upon a Time. That would have been an excellent grab for what I hope will be a 2021 virtual book launch collection. 

A virtual book launch collection that I haven't actually started.


2021 Connecticut Book Award Submissions Start Next Month

The Connecticut Center for the Book will begin accepting submissions for the 2021 Connecticut Book
Award on February 1. The submission period closes on April 17, and the finalists will be announced in September. Books are considered in four categories including Books for Young Readers, which is broken down into three categories--fiction, nonfiction, and picture books.

Check out the submission guidelines.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

January Childlit Book Releases

It looks as if childlit publishing is back after it's almost break for the holidays. I'm doing the first January post early in the month, because I won't be blogging next week. More coming later.

As always, I've collected this information from various social media sources.

January 1, First Day of Unicorn School, Jess Hernandez, Mariano Epelbaum illustrator, Capstone







January 5, The Lion of Mars, Jennifer L. Holm, Random House/Penguin Random House






 January 5, Mr. Corbett is in Orbit, Dan Gutman, Jim Paillot illustrator, HarperAlley 




January 5, Unplugged, Gordon Korman, Balzar + Bray/HarperCollins





 January 5, Root Magic, Eden Royce, Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins 






January 5, I Dream of Popo, Livia Blackburne, Julia Kuo illustrator, Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan






January 5, Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance, Niki Grimes, Bloomsbury






January 5, Dr. Mae Jemison: Brave Rocketeer, Heather Alexander, Jennifer Bricking illustrator, HarperCollins






Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Time Management Tuesday: Let's Get Those 2021 Goals And Objectives Planned

For years I've been droning on about planning work goals and objectives for the year. Goals being what people want to do, objectives being how they plan to do it. I cannot say enough about how they helped me in 2020. Having something in mind I could work on was a to speak and helped me maintain normality and interest in my life.

So here's your model for planning your own writing goals and objectives. 

Goal 1. Finish a draft of YA thriller that could become an adult thriller. It has a name this year, 143 Canterbury Road


  • I haven't work on this for a few months, so I'll need to reread what I've done to bring myself back up to speed.
  • Go over the outline/blueprint.
  • Assign writing tasks to time frames each week.
  • Just work on scenes. Don't worry about connecting things. 
  • Read YA thrillers.
  • Read history, since that's a significant factor for a character and maybe in other ways.

Goal 2. Concentrate on submissions and concentrate on increasing the number of submissions I make.


  • Submit book length projects to the agents I researched last month.
  • Spend more time with essay Facebook group and flash Facebook group. Those people are publishing and share their work, exposing me to new markets. Which is not stalking them.
  • Use that agent Twitter list I made a while back.
  • Use that publications Twitter list I made a while back.
  • Do a lot more reading of markets for short-form writing.
  • Not to brag, but I got my first rejection yesterday.

Goal 3. Work on short-form writing, essays and short stories.


  • Commit a month or two to flash writing. I was happy with how that worked this past year.
  • Look for more on-line writing classes/workshops.
  • Commit more time to reading essays and short stories
  • Tinker with the 365 Story Project.

Goal 4. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

  • Provide social media support for writers/bloggers generating diversity material.
  • Pay more attention to community events like Multi-Cultural Children's Book Day; plan ahead for reading to support these events
  • Continue the monthly childlit book release posts
  • Attend virtual book launches and promote here.
  • Continue with Original Content.
  • Continue with promoting Original Content at Facebook communities, Goodreads' blog, and Twitter.
  • Get into the habit of checking my monthly plans in my bullet journal.
  • Check-in with goals and objectives quarterly. I'd say "monthly" but that was an objective for last year that I didn't touch.

I have so much to do!                             


Sunday, January 03, 2021

Barbara O'Connor's "Halfway to Harmony" Publishes This Month

Facebook friend Barbara O'Connor's new book, Halfway to Harmony, will be published on January 12. She'll be doing a virtual launch that day at 6:00 PM, hosted by Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina. 

Virtual, people. That means that no matter where you are, you can attend.

I'm going to miss this, because I'll be doing my annual retreat week. (Whatever that means in the time of Covid.) Otherwise, I would be all over this. I attended virtual launches in the midwest and Massachusetts last year. This year I want to go to book events all over the country. North Carolina would have been an incredible start for 2021.

Hmm. Maybe Barbara will do another.

Friday, January 01, 2021

New Year's Day Means The Cybils Short List Is Out

New Year's Day is my favorite temporal landmark. It's also the day each year when the Cybils folks announce the finalists for the Cybils Awards. I happen to be reading Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, a
finalist for YA speculative fiction

And would you get a load of this year's logo?