Just in case you’re wondering, The Brown Bookshelf is not on hiatus. We’re recovering. The 28 Days Later campaign was a lot of fun, but it was a lot of work, too. In little over a month, we corresponded with 32 authors and illustrators, their agents, editors and publicists. I even spoke with one guy’s mom.
Since the campaign ended two weeks ago, we’ve been trying to catch up on our other work — writing and illustrating books for children. Our main purpose here is to highlight others in the children’s literary community. But honestly, my workload has been so heavy, I haven’t had time to think beyond my own literary endeavors. So today, I’m writing about myself. Here’s what I’m doing when I’m not Brown Bookshelving:
Little Ron on a Big Mission (tentative) is a picture book written by Corinne J. Naden and Rose Blue. It will publish next year with Dutton. For the past few months, I’ve had the pure pleasure of bringing Ron’s story to life. The story involves real-life astronaut Ron McNair. It is set in a library, circa mid-1950s. Both children and librarians will cheer for Ron. But that’s all I can say, not wanting to give the story away. The final paintings are due to my publisher in May. So you’ll understand why I haven’t blogged in awhile and why my postings will be spotty over the next couple months.
My next two books are both biographies. One is about a Negro league baseball heroine, the other pairs two very famous jazz music greats. I will begin sketching both books simultaneously later this summer.
In addition to illustrating, I’ve also been busy writing. I recently sold my first written work, a picture book biography, to Lee & Low Books. I was the honor winner of their New Voices contest two years ago. Since then, I’ve been revising the manuscript for publication. In addition, I’ve written several other stories, and recently signed with a literary agency.
Through this experience, I have gained such a higher regard for the picture book author. Before I started writing, I had no idea what an author went through to write a picture book and get it published. As an illustrator, I would received the final manuscript, polished and near ready for print. How hard can it be to write a 500-word, picture-heavy book? I used to think. I knew nothing about the struggle of getting through a first draft. I didn’t know about the 30 re-writes and 80 rejections. I didn’t know about the waiting and waiting and wondering, sometimes years before a manuscript would be acquired by a publisher. I certainly know now.
28 Days Later has been an eye-opener for me, too. In the past, I’d complained about not getting more opportunities to illustrate manuscripts beyond those with African American characters or subject matter. I’d felt as though I’d been boxed. Pigeon-holed. At times, I was angry with myself for allowing publishers to define me, rather than my defining myself. But I was wrong, and illustrator John Holyfield summed it up best when he said: “God gave me this particular talent to affect a particular group of people. And that group just happens to be African-American.”
Being a spiritual person myself, I can relate to his words. Publishers have a need. They need, or perhaps prefer, African Americans to illustrate certain types of manuscripts. Their need creates a niche that I can fill. And by doing so, not only do I get to stay busy in an over-crowded, competitive market, but I get to share my God-given gifts with children all over the world. I belong to a special group, and I’m happy about that. I have a new attitude!