Wk-End Panel – Can of Worms Pt. 2

May 30, 2009

Okay, so we’ve covered the importance of diversity. Now let’s flip the topic on its head and talk about the thin line of “exclusion.”

When I’m speaking on behalf of The Brown Bookshelf I don’t believe I’m excluding my white counterparts. 9 times out of 10 I’m merely trying to get our names and books mentioned along with everyone else’s.

However, because I travel in a variety of kid lit circles and have writer friends of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, I often feel like I’m constantly waving the race flag even as I’m saying – I just want my books to be seen as teen books not exclusively black teen books.

Can an author have it both ways?

Can a brown author both wave the flag bringing attention to the fact that they’re a brown author and that of “it’s just a teen/PB/MG book?”
Or is that double dipping?

The day that more books by brown authors are simply “a book,” is that success?

I realize, this part of the discussion has even less of a solid answer than Part 1. But I welcome all healthy discussion.

Eve./Wkend Panel – Can of Worms Open

May 29, 2009

I originally posted this in the comment section of today’s earlier BEA Pout-A-Thon panel. I’ve decided to make it, its own post.

I know this may be opening a can of worms, but I’m opening them because, this is after all a panel on diversity.

As Mitali mentioned, when The BBS launched it generated healthy discussion about how to define brown and the issue of exclusion.

Within that discussion, we made it clear that here at The BBS it isn’t about exclusion. But all five members are African American so it was obvious why we were primarily focused on African American authors.

However, we have and continue to be open to embracing uplifting a myriad of brown authors within other initiatives outside of 28 Days Later.

Some feel that dilutes the cause. But I’m of the mind that a rising tide floats all boats. As diversity is discussed, within publishing, is it better for the browns to “unite” or should each brown clan carry their own flag to get recognition in publishing?

What say you? Comment away!!

BEA09PaT: Multi-Culti Panel

May 29, 2009

Hello and welcome to Day 2 of BEA Pout-A-Thon, sponsored by the lovely Laurie Halse Anderson. I’m your host for today’s panel – Who’s Who Among Brown Authors.

This panel is 100% virtual. And although I’m known to talk to myself, I’d like it very much if you guys didn’t leave me hanging today. My self-esteem needs a boost.

In the comments, please list the brown authors writing kiddie lit that haven’t been mentioned on our site before.

Ahh…if you’re new to the site you must first review our archives to see who we’ve covered!

These are authors who should be at BEA (hey, maybe some of them are!) signing, schmoozing and letting booksellers, librarians and readers know about their great work.

Remember, this is a diversity panel brown encompasses many, many racial and ethnic make ups.

I’ll kick it off with…

Neesha Meminger, author of YA novel, Shine, Coconut Moon.

* Shine, Coconut Moon has been nominated a Best Books for YA pick by the American Library Association’s Young Adult Library Services division.

* Neesha’s very active on the issue of diversifying publishing and the stories told to young readers.

* She lacks a life like me, so we kicked it quite frequently during YAIdol chats on Twitter.

Your turn. In the comments, share the brown authors you’re aware of and what they’re writing.

The CSK Debate Rages On…

May 27, 2009

EA revisits the CSK debate.

Stay tuned for an EA interview here at the BBS, mid-summer.

Don: Meet author/illustrator Jerry Craft

May 20, 2009

I’ve wanted to feature an African American cartoonist or a graphic novelist here for awhile now. Mama’s Boyz: Home Schoolin’ and Mama’s Boyz: As American as Sweet Potato Pie!, by author and illustrator Jerry Craft, are funny, informing, and inspirational.

Don: How did you come to be an artist/cartoonist?

Ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil (without trying to eat it) I’ve always loved to draw. A few months ago I found a book that had some of my old homework in it, and I had drawn superheroes all up and down the margins. Although I was always an “A” / “B+” student, it was obvious that this was my passion. Unfortunately when I was a kid people didn’t use the word “artist” without putting the word “starving” in front of it. The thought of me being an artist for a living had my parents thinking that I’d be 50 years old still living at home and asking for my allowance each week. So although I had passed the tests to be accepted into Music and Art and the High School of Art and Design, they were not going to let that happen. They ended up sending me to Fieldston High School which was is a great school located in the exclusive Riverdale section of the Bronx.

When it was time for college, I was old enough to make my own decision and chose the School of Visual Arts in NYC where I got my B.F.A. in advertising. My first job was as a copywriter where I got to write a lot of print ads and radio commercials. After about eight years I moved on to a larger firm. Unfortunately that was in the early 1990’s when the whole ad biz went in the toilet. Luckily, I was able to fall back on my cartooning skills. I worked with Barbara Slate for a few years drawing comics such as Sweet 16 for Marvel, New Kids on the Block for Harvey, and the graphic novel Yuppies From Hell.

So tell us a bit about the cartoons and the book.

Jerry: I’ve been fortunate to be able to work on some really cool projects over the years. For me, the biggest would have to be my Mama’s Boyz comic strip that has been syndicated weekly by King Features for more than 15 years. But it’s not so much as doing the comic strip each week as it is publishing my own Mama’s Boyz books. I remember back in 1997 when I first decided to try to put a book together. I made a dummy version and sent it out to a bunch of different publishers. If I had just gotten regular rejection letters, I think I might have put it aside and gone on to do something else. But one in particular said, “We are not interested in this type of ‘Good Times’ style of humor.” For me, comparing Mama’s Boyz to the old TV sitcom was a real slap in the face. It was obvious that they had NO IDEA of what I was trying to do. That’s when I decided to publish my book myself– even though I had no clue as to how to go about it. But less than a year later, and after much research, I had published “Mama’s Boyz: As American as Sweet Potato Pie!”61vC8zUt6bL._SL500_AA240_

The book was a collection of my best comics and featured a foreword by one of my favorite cartoonists, Lynn Johnston who does “For Better or For Worse.” I received great press in several comic magazines, and even got a nice write up in “Great Books for African-American Children.” Which surprised me because I didn’t consider it a children’s book. Not that there was anything that wasn’t suitable for kids, but I did the book for people like me, mainly adults, who grew up reading comic strips. However, I didn’t choose my audience, my audience chose me. So after months of being asked “Can I get this for my eight year old?” I finally started to say yes. And I’m glad I did.

Don: What is the target age range for the books?

Jerry: When I decided to publish my second book “Mama’s Boyz: Home Schoolin’” I never had a doubt that my audience were kids from 7-18. Now I know that there is a huge difference between a seven year old and a teenager, but like to think of my comic strip as having layers of content. So what a younger kid takes away from it will be a lot different than what an older kid takes away. For example, one of the stories is called “Dawn of the Dad” in which mom wants to show her 16-year old son Yusuf that being a father is an enormous undertaking. Personally, I think that so much responsibility is put on girls, while many boys are getting a free ride. So instead of telling her son how tough it is, she lets a young girl stay the weekend and rest, while Yusuf takes care of her baby. And I mean take care of him. That means the midnight feedings, the 2 a.m. feedings, the 4 a.m. changings… Plus Mom makes him shop for diapers and baby food with his own money. “Oh, you think you’re going to play basketball, Yusuf? Well think again. You need to spend time with the baby.” By the end, even this normally tough teenager realizes that the one “hood” he’s not strong enough to deal with yet is “fatherhood.”

So when my 7 and 9 year olds read it (I don’t do anything that I can’t show to my kids), they got to see a lot of humor with Yusuf trying to change and feed the baby. But on the other hand, the teenagers who I taught at a NYC High School got a whole different message. One whose message was geared more towards them. As a result of this story, I was presented with a “Conversation Starters Award” by the DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. They also distributed 100 copies to their audience. That was a great honor for me.

Don: Tell us about some of the other features in the books.

Jerry: I made sure to put a lot of other cool features in the book such as comments about certain strips, a section on how I draw my characters and construct a comic strip, and even an old-fashioned flip book at the bottom. I get comments from parents all the time who are shock at how many times their kids are rereading the book. That’s the best compliment I could ever hope for.

Over the years, I’ve also used my comic strip spread a lot of other important messages to our community. The first book has a huge section on diabetes. In fact, in the comic, Tyrell and Yusuf’s dad passed away from complications related to diabetes. For years, they acted as spokes characters for the American Diabetes Association’s African-American program. Most recently I used them for a campaign for the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition to combat childhood obesity in the Kansas City School system.

Don: Besides the Mama’s Boyz books, what other projects do you have in the works?

51HPPRdEzZL._SL500_AA240_Jerry: Two years ago, I decided to stop working for corporate America and start Mama’s Boyz, Inc. In addition to doing my books and shirts etc… I have also had the pleasure of illustrating my first two traditional children’s books. The first was “Hillary’s Big Business Adventure” (Nelson Publishing, LLC) written by Lori Nelson. This was a great experience for a few reasons. First, I loved that it was a story of a 10-year old African-American girl who wanted to buy a new bicycle, but wanted to use her OWN money! So Hillary, her baby brother, and their friends come up with a plan to raise the money themselves. I try to make sure that everything I do has some type of crucial thing to teach kids. And money management is a much-needed topic. The other great part was the satisfaction I got from helping someone realize their dream. Lori told me that she had always wanted to do this story but had had a very difficult time finding an artist. Yes, we can be flakey!

My newest book is called “Looking to the Clouds for Daddy” (Karen Hunter Media) and is the story of three sisters who lost their Dad when they were very young. It was written by my long-time friend Margo Candelario whose husband Phil died suddenly from a heart attack when he was only 32-years old. Margo wrote the story not only for her own three daughters, but also as a way to help comfort other children in similar situations. It’s our dream to put a copy of the book in the hands of every child who has lost a parent or loved one, so we can use as much help spreading the word as possible. I’d have to say that of all the things that I have done, this is one of the most special. I still remember when our families gathered to see the book for the first time. It was an amazing moment. And the response to the book, especially from children who identify with the three girls, has been equally amazing.51Q6pz0dBlL._SL500_AA240_

Don: What’s on the horizon?

As far as my dreams, I have already begun to do the layout for my third book, “Mama’s Boyz: The Big Picture” which I hope to have by mid-summer.
I also really enjoy illustrating books for people who are currently in the same boat that I was. Folks who want to publish their own book because publishers turned them down. I think that’s just part of my Aquarian nature :)

Don: Thanks, Jerry!

Jerry: Thanks for your time!

See more of Jerry’s books, shirts, illustrations and Flash animations on his website at www.mamasboyz.com

EA on the CSK

May 19, 2009

Editorial Anonymous’s post, The CSK is Dead (Long Live CSK) has generated a lively discussion about race and publishing.

Go, take a look

Real Teen Talk Live Chat – May 18th

May 15, 2009

Hey everyone. Cross-posting from Paula’s JORT today.

Can you please pass along to your teen readers (and those teen at heart) that I’m hosting my first live chat on Monday, May 18th 8 p.m. Eastern time at my blog.

It’s easy to join. Just drop in at the blog, during the chat time and start yapping.

This is the first chat but I’ll be doing them monthly, each revolved around a topic or scenario that took place in one of my Del Rio Bay books.

In honor of the ups and downs that the character Jacinta goes through with her boyfriend, Raheem and the very public spectacle of Chris Brown and Rihanna, Monday’s topic is: I love you so much, it hurts!

Stop in and chat with me and teen readers, if you dare.