Day 18: Carmen Bogan

February 18, 2018

 

Carrmen Bogan

Carmen Bogan is the award- winning author of the picture books, Where’s Rodney?, Granny, Who is God? and its upcoming sequel Up in God’s House. Carmen also founded Dream On Publishing in 2013. On her website, Carmen explains that the mission of her mulitcultural children’s book publishing company is to respect and free the voices and minds of all children and youth through the journey of reading and writing because literacy gives wings to dreams.

She is a member of the Oakland Literacy Coalition and is a writing coach for children and youth. The recipient of the coveted New Voices Literary Award from Lee & Low Books, Carmen holds BA degrees in journalism and English from Stanford University and an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Carmen is a frequent trainer and lecturer to women’s groups, nonprofit professionals, and faith-based organization leaders. Carmen has two daughters and lives in Oakland, California, with her husband.

For more about Carmen, her books, and the illustrators for her book on her website, Dream On Publishing.

 

Here’s a video for a peek at Where’s Rodney

and its Kirkus Review.

You will find Carmen on her Facebook page and an interview on Ronnie’s Awesome List.

Carmen’s Artist Statement


Day 17: Gordon C. James

February 17, 2018

IMG_3215

Well. A lot has happened since the BBS team elected to honor fine artist and breakout children’s book illustrator Gordon C. James in this year’s 28 Days Later campaign. By a lot I mean the blowing up of his beautiful new book, CROWN: An Ode to the Fresh Cut (written by Derrick Barnes, published by Denene Millner Books), which has garnered the following recognition in the five months since its release:

Of James’ artwork in CROWN, Publisher’s Weekly says, “Pride, confidence, and joy radiate from the pages, both in the black and brown faces of men, women, boys, and girls featured in [James’] majestic paintings….” Essence Magazine cites the“…breathtaking visuals by the infinitely creative Gordon C. James….”  And Kirkus asserts, “One of the best reads for young black boys in years, it should be in every library, media center, and, yes, barbershop.”

We concur with all of them.

CROWN: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

On Day 17, we congratulate and welcome one exceptionally talented artist, Gordon C. James!

 

The Journey

I have a BFA in Illustration from School of Visual Arts in New York.  I honestly hadn’t wanted to be an illustrator.  I saw myself as a figurative oil painter and still do.  I was working at Hallmark Cards, Inc. when Shane W. Evans suggested I give children’s books a try.  I said “why not” and that’s when I began working with my agent, Regina Brooks at Serendipity Literary Agency.  I was jumping back and forth between fine art and illustration projects, and I still do.  I try to bring the same level of finish and beauty no matter genre I’m working in.  My books may be a child’s first exposure to art, so I feel the work is important.

 

The Back Story

SONY DSC

“Straight Razor”

 

My journey with “Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut” was not typical.  Derrick Barnes, the author, and I have been friends since our Hallmark days.  He reached out to me to ask me if I was interested in the project.  Finally the timing was right.  We had been talking about working together for years but it had never happened.  Most of the time I never meet or even speak to the author on a project.  It’s been nice to work with a friend.

 

 

The Inspiration

I’m a fine artist at heart so my first love is for painters like Thomas Wilmer Dewing and John Singer Sargent, Henry Ossowa Tanner, and Ilya Repin.  Recently I’m getting into modern art.  Anything I can put into my brain helps me to create.  I listen to a lot of music while I work.

Pop Fly

“Pop Fly” from “Campy, the Story of Roy Campanella” by David A. Adler

 

The Process

"Golden Brush"

“Golden Brush”

I start with small, cryptic thumbnails of my ideas.  Then I “cast” the book.  I look for people to play the characters in the book.  For instance, the barber in “Crown” is Reggie.  He’s my son’s barber and the owner of the shop featured in the book.  The main character is one of Derrick Barnes’ sons.  Next, we may go on location and shoot.  Heads Up barber shop is our barber shop.  It’s  a real place, located within walking distance of our home here in Charlotte.  Then I go to the sketch phase, and finally we paint.  I work almost exclusively out of my studio at ClearWater Artist Studios in Concord, NC.  I’m there most weekdays and every second Saturday.  Come by and say hi.  Seriously.  It’s a great place to work and there are lots of talented artists there.  It’s a great creative atmosphere.

CROWN...Full Cover

CROWN…Full Cover

 

The Buzz

“Crown an Ode to the Fresh Cut” has earned four starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kikus, School Library Journal, and The Horne Book.  It is also on 20 “Best of 2017” lists. It’s an Ezra Jack Keats Award nominee and, finally, I am honored to have won a Society of Illustrators Gold Medal for my work on “Crown”.

 

 


Day 16: Marley Dias

February 16, 2018

It’s not everyday that one of the authors we spotlight also happens to be a member of the primary audience of the books that those of us Marley Dias 1at BBS creates.  But today, is that day.

The same month that she turned 13 years old, Marley Dias also became a debut author. An impressive milestone on its own, yet only the latest in the young author’s journey that started in November 2015 when she launched the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign.

Famously quoted as rebuking the amount of books out there about White boys and dogs, Marley set out to collect 1,000 books that featured African American female protagonists. The campaign drew national attention and resulted in the donation of over 9,000 books.

Marley Book CoverMarley is now walking the walk by offering her own book, Marley Dias Gets It Done, a do-it-yourself guide to assist young readers with activism and tips on how to become a life long reader.

With readers (and authors) like Marley, literature is in good hands.

The Buzz About Marley & Marley Dias Gets It Done

” It’s not hard to imagine that one day soon Marley…will be the protagonist of one of the books she fought so hard to have represented in her classroom.” — Teen Vogue

“[Marley’s] a dynamic young woman who has a dynamic idea!” — Ava DuVernay

“Talk about black girl magic in a huge, huge way! Oh Marley Dias, we wanna be just like you!” — Hello Giggles

Marley at ALA

Photo courtesy of American Libraries Magazine

Check Marley out with Patrisse Cullors at 2018 ALA Midwinter

 


Day 15: Keturah A. Bobo

February 15, 2018

keturahabobo2

Born in Toledo, Ohio with strong family roots in Detroit, Michigan, Keturah grew up with parents that instilled in her the importance of individuality and creativity.

Many of her illustrations depict empowering messages of black women and girls. Her paintings are renown for having large bold beautiful hair styles and representing an underserved, but growing, population of self-aware people within the African diaspora.

And one look at the abundance of her products online is all you’ll need to see exactly what we mean. Keturah is literally a one person shop that features everything from hand-painted denim jackets, to Tees, to prints and mugs all adorned with her beautifully rendered black women.

We asked her about her journey, her backstory and her inspiration.

These are her words:

THE JOURNEY

As an artist it is my duty to make art that inspires, uplifts, and advocates for my community. Nothing is more important in my art than this. I have been consistently working as an art entrepreneur since 2013. Creating my own body of work and doing freelance art projects ranging from logos to entire bodies of work. I was contacted by HarperCollins in 2016 and they were interested in working with me on Grace Byer’s children’s book “I am Enough.”

IAmEnough

THE BACKSTORY

HarperCollins was familiar with my work via social media and presented various artists to Grace and she chose my work because the intention behind my paintings so closely relates to the purpose of “I am Enough.”

THE INSPIRATION

My favorite writer by far is Toni Morrison. She has the ability to utilize words in such a visual way, I’m inspired to paint something every time I read one of her books. My favorite illustrator is probably Kadir Nelson; I love the way he alters perspectives and makes the characters he paints appear monumental. I love music and it is always apart of my creative process.


You can learn more about Keturah and see more of her work at www.arielbrands.com

 

 

 

 

 


Day 14: Tiffany D. Jackson

February 14, 2018

Tiffany D JacksonLast winter, Tiffany D. Jackson’s debut YA novel ALLEGEDLY had a lot of people talking with it’s emotionally charged story literally ripped from the courtroom. Kirkus called the novel “searing and true,” adding it “effectively joins Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th and Michelle Alexander’s THE NEW JIM CROW (2010) to become another indictment of the penal system’s decimating power beyond its bars.” In June, we’ll be treated to a second novel, also based on a real life court case.

THE JOURNEY

TB: When did you start your writing journey?

allegedly coverTJ: My journey started when I was four! I wrote short stories for my mom, lumping random letters together to make them look like real words, and always grew frustrated when she couldn’t read them back to me. Fast forward to college, where I majored in Film and Television but still dreamed of becoming an author, working on stories during summer and winter breaks. Then in 2012, about a decade into my television career, I read of a case involving a nine-year-old being charged with murder. Fascinated, I began crafting a story that would ultimately become my debut novel, ALLEGEDLY. It took two years to polish the story, but I found an agent and landed a deal within a year and finally published in January of 2017.

TB: How do you think your background in film and television comes to play in your writing?

TJ: My background plays a crucial part in my creative process. I tend to write cinematically, meaning I treat each chapter as scenes or acts in a movie, painting pictures that can be clearly visualized. For structure, I follow Syd Field’s famous script writing “Paradigm” formula, which helps with plotting, pacing and tension building. Also, I’m used to cutting shows down to time in order to fit specific programming clocks for broadcast. This makes me a ruthless self-editor when it comes to my novels. If a scene doesn’t help to move the story forward, I trash it, no matter how pretty it is.

THE BACKSTORY

 

MondaysNotComing HCTB: Tell us about your upcoming title.

TJ: MONDAY’S NOT COMING is similar to ALLEGEDLY in that the story is loosely inspired by a real case that occurred in 2009, requiring extensive research. The story takes place in Southeast Washington D.C and deals with gentrification, mental health in the black community, and the biases of missing children. Coincidentally, I turned in my first draft a week before the story on the missing black teen girls in D.C went viral (#missingDCgirls).

But the REAL backstory I attribute to my best friend Tara. When we were in the third grade, Tara sprained her ankle and was out of school for a week. One of the worst weeks of my life! I never realized how connected we were and experienced how it felt to live without my better half. I poured those memories and feelings into every page of MNC.

THE INSPIRATION

TB: What inspired you to write?

TJ: Growing up, I was the type of girl who wanted stories that were relatable to my surroundings in Brooklyn and turned to adult novels at an early age. This inspired me to write for the type of kid that I was, in search of raw, gritty tales.

TB: Is this need for gritty tales the catalyst for choosing stories based on actual legal cases?

TJ: These two particular cases stood out and reminded me of so many unanswered questions I had as a teen. For example, I often wondered why a kid snatched and thrown in the back of a van near my elementary school was barely spoken of yet girls like Elizabeth Smart had weeks of national coverage.

I am hoping using cases will drive home the point to kids that these situations are really happening to their fellow peers. It’s not always about spoon-feeding kids lessons, it’s about putting them in another person’s shoes and letting them walk on their own, ultimately helping them to develop compassion and empathy by seeing injustice through a wider lens.

TB: What other “under the radar” African-American book creators do you want to shout out?

TJ: Liara Tamani’s CALLING MY NAME is SO stunning, poetic and beautiful. I gave five copies of it away for Christmas to friends.

TB: Liara is another one of our honorees this year, you’ll see her post on Day 20!

THE STATE OF KIDLIT

TB: What is your take on the state of the industry especially as regards African-American Kidlit?

TJ: I still consider myself quite the newbie, learning something new everyday about this industry. The good and the bad. But one thing I love about the African-American Kidlit community is the quality of the books we’re publishing, the risks and beautiful ingenuity. So although we still have a lot of work to do in order for publishing giants to respect our stories and journey, it gives me great hope that we have so much beauty to share and readers eager to receive it.

You can find Tiffany at her website, on twitter,  and Instagram.

 


Day 13: Fracaswell Hyman

February 13, 2018

fracaswellA veteran TV writer and producer, the talents of Fracaswell Hyman have brought you shows like Ghostwriter, Gullah Gullah, Island, The Famous Jett Jackson, Taina and Romeo. He never planned on writing children’s television programs, Fracaswell’s dream was to be in front of the camera. The lesson: Dream Big. He did it all. As an actor, he appeared in Malcolm X, Ghostwriter, Separate But Equal and Law and Order. He’s in an upcoming stage production of Fences in Wilmington, NC where he lives. His latest leap? Becoming a middle-grade author. His acclaimed novel, Mango Delight, has won a starred review from Booklist and earned praise for its originality, complexity and understanding of the friendship issues tweens face. We look forward to more great work from him.

Please join us in celebrating Fracaswell Hyman on Day 13 of our campaign:

The Journey

I began my career as an actor. Having spent many years touring the country in regional theater productions, I was happy to get a steady job working with the Living Stage Theater Company, the community outreach arm of the Arena Stage of Washington, D.C. Living Stage was mainly an improvisational company that did performances and theater workshops for diverse groups. We performed for kids from preschool to high school, PINS (Persons In Need of Supervision), children with disabilities, and incarcerated men and women, senior citizens and others. I was with the company for five years, and I believe getting up close and personal with such diverse audiences opened my eyes, ears and heart to people from all walks of life.

Returning to New York, I volunteered to work with The 52nd Street Project, where we wrote plays starring the children of the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan. A producer from PBS saw my work and thought I had an ear for the way kids speak and think. This lead to my first job writing for television on the literary series, Ghostwriter. From there I went on to create, produce, write and direct television shows for Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and Sesame Workshop.

Finding a child’s voice and seeing their point of view has always come naturally to me. I don’t actually look at it as though I have to write down to this audience. I write to them as I would an adult or senior citizen. For me, it’s all about allowing myself to take on the skin of whatever character is before me and striving to understand the world through their experience, emotions and actions. I guess its kind of like being an actor, except this way, I use a keyboard to perform.

The Back Story

When my daughter was in elementary school, I volunteered to work in the school mangodelightlibrary/media center. It was a good way to see what kids were reading and get to know some of her schoolmates. Each year when the book fair would come around, I’d notice how few books there were with characters that looked like my daughter on the covers. Now, my daughter loved Junie B. Jones and the Babysitters Club and other books about girls her age, but it disturbed me that the books with girls that looked like her on the covers were always connected to slavery, the Underground Railroad, civil rights, etc. Believe me, there is nothing wrong with these books, they are important, but the fact that books about contemporary Black girls like my daughter were few to none disturbed me. So, I set out to write one.

I opened myself up to the possibility of creating a character that looked like my daughter, had a diverse group of friends and dealt with the issues, problems and challenges faced by contemporary girls regardless of race. As often happens, one morning, between being asleep and coming awake, a name appeared before me, “Mango Delight.” I was immediately intrigued. Having to contend with an “odd” name my entire life, I felt an quick connection with this girl. As I lie there yawning and stretching, I began to see her, her friends and her family and what kind of dilemmas she might face. It’s not magic, it takes a lot of work to bring it all together, but when a character presents herself to you the best thing you can do is welcome her and be grateful that she’s giving you the opportunity to bring her to the world.

Full circle moment: Mango Delight, has been picked up by Scholastic and will be featured in their Book Clubs and Book Fairs across the country and various territories. Yes!

The Process

Although there are no absolutes for me when it comes to process, most of the time I start with the character. Who is s/he? What does s/he want? What is s/he willing to do to get it? What would make him/her go too far…and how do I chart a course for him/her to get to the place where they “cross the line”? I attempt to put my characters in situations that would cause them to make uncomfortable or maybe even unjustifiable choices that they have to find a way to justify to themselves and others.

I don’t concern myself with how likable a character is in the moment, because I’m not looking to create a role model. First and foremost, I’m looking to create and explore characters that are human, not perfect. Characters that make mistakes that the reader can identify with, understand, and hopefully forgive. I trust that these characters will help us all learn to forgive ourselves and others when needed.

I “try” to put myself on a schedule. (I don’t always succeed, but I set out with the best intentions and it works most of the time.) Fifteen hundred to two thousand words a day, six days a week, whether I feel inspired or not. Normally, I begin by going over what I wrote the day before and then continuing on from there. By the time I finish editing work from the day before I’m all warmed up, back in character and ready to move forward.

I have a nice, private office in my home. Sometimes I work there or sometimes I’ll go to a library or coffee shop to get away from distractions. Right now, I’m seated at the kitchen table, which I’ve taken over for months. Why? I don’t know…I just go with the flow and see where I land.

My process is born from trial and error. What works for me may not work for you at all. Trust yourself, you will find your own way. At some point, my process may shift, evolve and morph into something else. That’s fine. I relish the freedom of the journey and the mystery along the way.

The State of the Industry

First and foremost, I am grateful that my novel, Mango Delight, was picked up by Sterling Publishing. I’m very happy that they chose an illustrator of color, Frank Morrison, to create a cover that is authentic and attractive. With my editor and his team, I have been extremely lucky. Of course, I believe “luck” is at the intersection where opportunity and preparation meet, so I’m proud that I was ready for the opportunity.

That said, I’ve come across some disturbing statistics of late.

–          White authors and illustrators create 88% of all children’s literature.

–          Last year, only 2% of the 3,400 children’s books that were published featured Black characters written by Black authors.

–          In 2013, before the #weneeddiversebooks movement started, 75% of books featuring Black characters were written by Black authors. Now, only 30% of books featuring Black characters are written by Black authors.

[Data Source: Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s Publishing Statistics on Children’s Books about People of Color and First/Native Nations.]

I’ve seen this phenomenon time and time again while working in television. A white writer will create a character/show about a child very much like their own. A network will offer to pick up the show if they make the main character a Latina. They do. The show goes on to huge popularity, makes millions of dollars and has absolutely no connection to the culture they have appropriated whatsoever. There is no compunction to bring in producers, writers or consultants with any real power or influence. And ninety-nine percent of the millions of dollars generated never reach the communities of the children they’ve exploited to make their show relevant.

Illustrators/writers will draw a character, give him a little Afro and an ethnic name with a vowel on the end, and suddenly he’s the darling of the industry. The fact that this character or his experiences have absolutely nothing to do with his culture is irrelevant to those who are making money by diving into the #weneeddiversebooks pool.

Then we have to “tastemakers.” Bloggers, critics, teachers and librarians who’ve spent years getting advance copies of books so that they can gush over stories that warm their hearts. Stories where characters who look like them come to some great understanding about “the other,” or visa versa. These “tastemakers” may only come in contact with children of color in their classrooms, libraries or what they see on TV and the movies, but they have the gall to insist on whether characters sound “authentic” to them or not. Trust and believe, the image your students represent to you in the classroom can be very different from the image they find comfort in at home on in the streets.

Solutions? Let’s begin with;  #weneeddiverseeditors #weneeddiverseceos #weneeddiversetastemakers! We need diversity in the offices where decisions are made. We need to open our minds and question our own tastes when it comes to what is a valid character or credible way to tell a story. I believe some of the best intentioned people are blind to their own notions of what is authentic as opposed to what they are used to or find culturally palatable.

Sometimes it is not advisable to speak out, or speak truth to power. Throughout my career,  I’ve been warned by well-meaning friends not to let myself get painted by the “angry black man” brush. But I’ve come to believe that there is nothing wrong with anger, as long as it is channeled to bring about positive results–not to hurt. The overwhelming majority of people I’ve worked with throughout my long career have had the best of intentions. Now, it’s time for those intentions to be infused with purpose. We’ve got to be able to step out of our own comfort zones and broaden our own ways of looking at the world as we seek to not only make more room at the table, but build better, larger, sturdier, and more effective tables for the future. 

The Buzz

“Hyman marries traditional tween elements with a fresh and original plot, and his multicultural cast sparkles with individuality and authenticity. Hailey Joanne is much more complex than she originally seems, and Hyman’s supporting characters, both kids and adults, are vivid and dynamic. Mango is as delightful as her middle name indicates, and middle-grade readers will easily recognize their own experiences in her friendship struggles. This is Hyman’s first novel; here’s hoping it’s not his last.”

– Booklist, Starred Review

“The writing is accessible without being trite, and Mango’s inner struggle to be a better person is presented in an interesting and relatable fashion. VERDICT: An appealing addition, featuring an African American protagonist, for all middle grade collections; hand to reader who enjoy friendship drama and gentle realism.”

– School Library Journal

Learn more at https://fracaswellhyman.com/.


Day 12: Ebony Glenn

February 12, 2018

EbonyGlennEdit Ebony Glenn is an illustrator and artist living on the quiet outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia. With an arts degree in Drawing and Painting from UNG , she aspires to bring stories to life with fanciful illustrations that are filled with whimsy and charm.

While looking through her website,  I was captivated by her  bright colorful illustrations. And somehow everything she draws seems to have a warm childlike innocence. Even the adults!  It’s no wonder that her new book, Mommy’s Khimar, has received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist!

While we anxiously await its release date of April 3, 2018, I was lucky enough to pick her brain on a few things. Here are her comments.

THE JOURNEY

JC: When did you start your writing journey?

EG: Ever since I was a girl, I’ve always known that I wanted to make art for a living.  Illustration has always been my solace, my way of escaping reality to an imaginary world.  Yet it wasn’t until after college that I began to explore the idea of turning this passion into a career. 

While working a part-time job in the day, I worked on my portfolio at night.   I believed in my ability to create compelling imagery for children’s books, so I sought out ways to improve my skills and gain knowledge of the publishing industry.  I studied the artwork of many successful illustrators, experimented with different artistic mediums, read plenty of books on the subject, and joined the organization SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) to help me meet other like-minded folk. 

In 2016, I was fortunate enough to be approached by the Bright Agency for artistic representation, and it’s been a blessing ever since.

mommys-khimar-9781534400597_LR

THE BACKSTORY

 

JC: Tell us a little about Mommy’s Khimar.

EG: Simply put, my wonderful agents at Bright were instrumental in helping me obtain the opportunity to illustrate Mommy’s Khimar, a picture book written by the talented Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow.  It’s a story of a sweet, little Muslim girl who loves to wear her mother’s headscarves.

THE INSPIRATION

JC: What are some of the things that inspire you?

EG: I believe a story that can captivate the mind and transport the reader to another world, time, or place is a very inspirational feat. Be it a movie, a play, or a great book, a story that is told masterfully fuels my imagination.  I’m also inspired by the artwork of many illustrators from the past as well as our modern age.  For example, the illustrations of Bernie Fuchs, Kadir Nelson and Annette Marnat are just a few whose artwork currently inspire me; my favorites always differ.

 I also believe that Life is great source of inspiration.  Sometimes it’s the simplest events in my day that can inspire me to draw something new.

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THE PROCESS

JC: And finally, what’s your artistic process like?

EG: Like many artists, I work best alone in the comforts of my home.  I always begin my illustration process by brainstorming ideas and and getting them on paper.  Depending on the project, I may visit the library or scour the internet for research material, and if feasible, I may even travel to ensure that my illustrations are as authentic as possible.  I also find it helpful to post my artwork on a large corkboard.  This way I can track my progress and make sure that my illustrations are working well together.

Thank you, Ebony. To learn more about her, and see more of her wonderful illustrations, please visit her Website atwww.ebonyglenn.com

Follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @artsyebby