Day 21: Rita Williams-Garcia

February 21, 2017

rita-hcFor my 28 Days Later post this year, I decided to change things up a bit and make this a little more personal. Our first inspiration post is focused on Rita Williams-Garcia. I’ve known Rita for ten years–she is an author, a teacher, a mentor, a big sister, and a wise and valued friend. She has been an inspiration to many writers, including myself. She is the reason that so many of us are authors today.

Rita Williams-Garcia had been writing for over 30 years, with titles that range from picture books to young adult novels. Personal favorites include Every Time a Rainbow Dies (HarperCollins, 2001), a lyrical love story about a boy named one-crazy-summerThulani and a girl named Ysa–both of whom have seen their fair share of challenges yet still rise to overcome them. And, of course, there is Rita’s more recent Gaither Sisters Book Series, beginning with One Crazy Summer (HarperCollins, 2010). The three novels,
featuring Delphine, Vonetta and Fern, have won multiple awards among them, including a Newbery Honor, a Scott O’Dell Award, and multiple Coretta Scott King Author Awards.

What I most admire about Rita’s work is her ability to cross genres. You never know that you’re getting from Rita next–a fun picture book, a gritty love story, a humorous historical novel–whatever it is, Rita can write it. Yet with each story, Rita embodies the text with a truth and realism that is lacking from many other novels. Rita writes about real people in the real word. When I see the Gaither girls, I see my sister. My cousins. My daughters. Rita creates characters–Black characters–that showcase who we are and who we can be.

clayton-byrdI’m excited about the new Rita Williams-Gacria novel coming this summer, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground (HarperCollins, 2017). From the publisher’s website:

Clayton feels most alive when he’s with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and the band of Bluesmen—he can’t wait to join them, just as soon as he has a blues song of his own. But then the unthinkable happens. Cool Papa Byrd dies, and Clayton’s mother forbids Clayton from playing the blues. And Clayton knows that’s no way to live.

Armed with his grandfather’s brown porkpie hat and his harmonica, he runs away from home in search of the Bluesmen, hoping he can join them on the road. But on the journey that takes him through the New York City subways and to Washington Square Park, Clayton learns some things that surprise him.

I leave you all with this note that I sent to Rita’s long-time editor, Rosemary Brosnan, about my time working with Rita:

I had been a big fan of Rita’s for years (EVERY TIME A RAINBOW DIES is one of my favorite books), so I was thrilled when I learned I’d be working with her during my second semester at Vermont College. She was the queen of contemporary YA, and I couldn’t wait to dive into my latest YA manuscript with her, the novel that eventually became SAVING MADDIE (Delacote Press/Random House, 2010).

Rita was happy to work on the novel with me—with her help I greatly fleshed out the secondary characters in the novel—but surprise, surprise: my YA manuscript wasn’t the only project I’d be working on that semester.

Rita told me that it was time for me to grow. To stretch. To try something new.

Rita told me that I was going to write a picture book.

And I did. Word by word. Page by painful page. And another surprise–I liked it.

Of course, she didn’t teach me how to write *just* a picture book. She helped me think about the economy of words, the importance of word choice, the balance between poetry and prose, and one hundred other things I won’t try to list here. One hundred other things that will enhance every future novel (and picture book) I write.

That’s Rita for you—a genius in commoner’s clothing.

What I failed to mention in the note was that I started one other project with Rita–a fun caper novel about a crew of teenage con artists. That book, The Great Greene Heist, would not have existing without Rita.

Rita Williams-Garcia is one of the greats. She is my inspiration. I am privileged and honored to call her my friend.

 

 


Day 20: Michael S. Bandy

February 20, 2017

A screenwriter and actor, Michael S. Bandy’s first children’s book began as an idea for a movie short. Inspired by his agent, he and co-author Eric Stein began the hard work of creating a picture book instead. That decision would launch a new career. White Water (illustrated by Shadra Strickland, published by Candlewick), their children’s book debut, became an award-winning title that was turned into a TV movie.

Since then, Michael and his writing partner have written two more books for kids – the acclaimed Granddaddy’s Turn and the forthcoming Northbound, both published by Candlewick and inspired by Michael’s life. We are proud to feature Michael on Day 20.

The Journey

My foray in publishing has been one of exhilaration and wonderment. It began over 30 years ago when I was an NBC Page. There with my future writing partner, Eric Stein (who was a Page as well), we attempted to come up with writing projects. At the tbandyime, there was a publishing genre fad called “novelty books.”

Novelty books basically lampooned current events. Titles like “The Yuppie Handbook” and “How to Be a Buppie” saturated bookstore shelves. I wanted to be part of that success. I (we) wrote several unpublished titles including: “How To Make Extraterrestrial Pen Pals” “The Deposed Dictators Job Hunting Guide” and “You Know You’ve Been Unemployed Too Long When” to name a few.

We went through the process of query letters and meetings with publishers with no successes. But things turned around when we took a meeting to pitch one of our ideas to publisher, Price Stern Sloan. Then, Senior Editor Spencer Humphrey told us that while our manuscript wasn’t for them, she thought we were pretty good writers. “Keep writing and I will be willing to read whatever you come up with,” she said. Nearly fifteen years later, Spencer became our literary agent.

“Write what you know about,” Spencer said. It turns out that was the best advice I ever received as a writer – and that’s exactly what I did. I reached back and chronicled events that happened during my childhood while growing up in Opelika, Alabama. I wrote about those things that were impactful and life changing.

White Water came out of an incident with a Whites Only drinking fountain. Granddaddy’s whitewaterTurn was based on an experience I had with my grandfather attempting to vote for the first time. Northbound was about me and my grandmother’s first train trip as we meandered throughout the segregated south traveling to Cincinnati, Ohio. The spin on these experiences was that they were told from a child’s perspective – that was the winning formula that propelled my writing to another level.

White Water, my first manuscript, was purchased by Candlewick Press and published on August 23, 2011, the day after my birthday – what a birthday present. Published in hardback and soft cover, it’s been nominated for an NAACP Image Award, made into a screenplay and then an award winning made for TV Movie by TV One which was also nominated for an NAACP Image Award – Best Screenplay for a Motion Picture.

My second title, Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box, was also published by Candlewick Press in 2015 and has garnered several publishing plaudits and reviews including: Kirkus Reviews, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Horn Book and School Library Journal. Granddaddy’s Turn was honored with an NAACP Image Award Nomination for Excellence in Children’s Literacy.

granddaddypicOur most recent Candlewick book is entitled, Northbound. The title is going through the editorial phase which includes the selection of an illustrator and the determination of a publishing date.

I am so happy that I’ve taken up this mantle called writing. Whether my inspiration came to me from a previous life experience or perhaps a story ripped out of a current headline – the process is the same, it completes my soul and ultimately my expression.

Lastly and most importantly, I haven’t made this journey alone – I have to give homage to my agent, my writing partner, my family, my illustrators and the thousands of folk around the planet that have taken our books to heart and shared them throughout.

The Inspiration

Inspiration is an interesting phenomenon. I like to refer it as that spark or whack on the side of your head that causes you to do something. I have learned that inspiration can be elusive – you have to catch it, hold on to it and make it a reality and most of the time it’s never easy. As I mentioned earlier, most of my literary ideas have been born out of my childhood experiences.

I grow up in the Deep South in the early 60’s. This period in time has been most fascinating as it was the crossroads of a myriad of changes: civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, Viet Nam, the list goes on. I wanted to talk about these events but from a child’s perspective.

I knew what it felt like drinking from segregated fountains and riding in the back of the bus. I wanted to say how I felt and more importantly how I viewed the world around me. For example, in White Water, the protagonist Michael discusses not the indignity of paying your fare, exiting the bus and going to the back, but the inefficiency of it all.

Michael’s message is the same but more palatable and less “preachy” at least from my perspective. Don’t lose your inspiration because the process seems insurmountable. Like anything, we want our efforts to pay off. But when the marketplace says who will buy that and every publisher you have submitted it to turns you down, inspiration is that catalyst which motivates you to keep writing.

The Back Story

Our agent once said, “Selling a kid’s book is just like threading a camel through the eye of a needle.” While she borrowed part of her comment from a literary title more lofty than mine, I understood exactly what she was saying completely – it’s hard.

White Water didn’t start out as a children’s book manuscript but it came out of another format, a short screenplay. Our White Water screenplay was shown to our agent who suggested that it would make a wonderful kids title – one problem, how do you write a kids book when you have never written one before. Eric Stein and I researched all the information we could. We spent lots of time, sitting on the floor of bookstores watching what parents were buying for their kids and more importantly what kids enjoyed reading.

After several incarnations (45 to be exact) of the manuscript, our agent took the best of the best and sent it out to five publishers and Candlewick Press said, “we want this.” Over the next five years, yes five years, an NAACP and Coretta Scott King award winning illustrator (Shadra Strickland) came aboard and in August of 2011, White Water became a reality.

Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box came about after the urging of an audience member who heard me tell the story of my experience of going with my grandfather to vote for the very first time. She told us, “I don’t care whatever project you are writing, you have to write this story.” We took her up on her suggestion, wrote it and presented a manuscript to Candlewick and it was published in 2015.

Northbound is our latest book. It will be illustrated by the award-winning artist James Ransome, who also illustrated Granddaddy’s Turn.

Under The Radar

Writing a children’s picture book is twofold. There is the written word and there are the individuals who interpret those words graphically called illustrators. There is no way White Water and Granddaddy’s Turn could have garnered the accolades that they have without the extraordinary talents of illustrators Shadra Strickland and James Ransome.

While these artists have different styles, they both put their creative stamp on our projects causing them to leap off the page.   We were amazed on how our illustrators came up with the ideas they did. In either case, the publisher discouraged any formal artistic communication with the artist and after doing this for a while; this was probably for the best. This way, the illustrator has the opportunity to showcase their vision.

The horizon is replete with several African American Writers and Illustrators with varying degrees of success. Some of my favorites are Renee Watson, Christian Robinson, and Crystal Allen. I love the books which have been illustrated by Jerry Craft and penned by Sabrina Carter. Her titles My Hair is Curly and Please Don’t Yell at We are just wonderful.

Oh course, Keith Frawley, Brian Pinkney and Kadir Nelson are the standard bearers for our industry.

Learn more about Michael here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Day 18: Benjamin Zephaniah

February 18, 2017

photo-estonia

 

 

 

I read in an interview with Lynn Baber in 2009 that Benjamin Zephaniah lives in England for seven months out of the year, the rest of the time he lives in China. Wow, that sounds like an interesting guy. Reading more about him, proved that thought to be true. He is a poet, novelist, lyricist, musician and a Tai Chi follower.

Zephaniah is the author of several young adult novels. Terror Kid (Hot Key Books, 2014) tells the story of Rico, a computer whizz kid. He wants to help during the English riots, but he also doesn’t want to attract trouble. Can he use his computer skills to help? Is the new guy, Speech, the answer? Read more about Zephaniah here The Guardian . terror-kid-final-cover-180x276-1

faceZephaniah is also the author of Face (Bloomsbury Children and Teen; Reprint edition 2004). Marin Turner’s face is badly disfigured in a horrific car accident. Taunted with names like “Dog Face” and losing his girlfriend add to his misery. As a white person, it is Turner’s first time to face discrimination. Teens will identify with with Turner’s struggle for acceptance as they struggle to fit into their own world.

 

 

 

FACE

“A worthy subject that should give kids plenty to think about.” –Kirkus Reviews
“This book will not only be enjoyed by teen readers for its entertaining story, but also for its statement about prejudice. Zephaniah is not just telling a story of a brave and inspiring young man, he is also teaching readers an important lesson through the voice of Martin.” –VOYA

 

TERROR KID 

“A powerful novel about justice, trust and idealism gone wrong that will make you look again at your definition of a terrorist. Labour Research A powerful, accessible and revelatory novel with its finger firmly on the pulse of contemporary social and political issues. Liverpool Echo”

 

englandFor more about Benjamin Zephaniah’s career, visit his website .

 

 

 

 

 

By Gwendolyn Hooks


DAY 17: ANGIE THOMAS

February 17, 2017

angie-thomas

Sometimes it’s fun to find out things about an author or illustrator that has nothing to do with their craft.  For instance, YA author, Angie Thomas, likes playing video games, driving anywhere and nowhere at all, cooking/baking, and Air Jordan collecting. Her favorite foods are baked macaroni and cheese and cheesecake. She was a teenage rapper, and even appeared in the RightOn! Magazine.

Wow.  That’s all big time stuff.  I thought she was finished until I saw the last line of her email which to me was equivalent to dropping the mic, flashing a peace sign, and giving a head nod on your way out the door.  It read:

“I once talked to Left Eye from TLC on the phone.”

I think fun finds some people, and Angie Thomas is proof of that.  Now that you know all about her life outside of writing, it’s time to find out everything about her journey to writing The Hate U Give, one of the most talked about books of the year.

On this the 17th Day of February, The Brown Bookshelf is honored to present:

ANGIE THOMAS

The Journey

I’ve told stories for as long as I can remember. I was always the one who came up with the plotlines while playing pretend with my friends, and whenever my mom would read books to me, afterwards I would tell my own take on the stories. When I was seven, I wrote my first “book” – “Mickey Mouse’s Space Adventure,” complete with illustrations. I was so proud of that little book that I took it to school and begged my teacher to let me read it during story time. Not only did she let me read it, she agreed that I could read one of my stories to the class every week. The spark was lit.

As I got older, despite how much my love for reading and writing grew, I never thought that being a published author was possible. I didn’t know any authors. No one from my neighborhood was an author. Sure, there were authors who looked like me, some of my favorites did, but it seemed unreachable. I didn’t realize it was something I could actually do until college. I decided to study creative writing, and in doing so I met several authors, including one of my professors. That professor not only told me how to become an author, but he instilled in me that I could actually become one. He also helped me find my voice. I was the only black student in the program, from a neighborhood that was notorious for all of the wrong reasons. But as my professor helped me realize, there were stories in my neighborhood that needed to be told, and I could be the person to tell them. One of those stories turned out to be THE HATE U GIVE. It started as a short story in my senior year and it was the first narrative I ever wrote about a community like mine. Ironic that it is now the first book I will ever have published.image-of-angie-thomas

The Back Story

Social media catches a lot of flack, but I will forever be grateful for it because it played a HUGE role in my road to publication. When I wrote THE HATE U GIVE, it was cathartic—a way for me to express the anger, fear, and frustration I felt as a young black woman every time an unarmed black person was killed. But I also knew that a story like it may not be well-received in YA publishing. Let’s be real – YA is mostly white. I thought my book would be seen as “too diverse.” One day though, the Bent Agency held a question and answer session on Twitter, and I decided to take a step of faith and ask if a book like mine was acceptable for publishing. Agent Brooks Sherman not only said yes, he asked me to query him. A few months later, I signed with him, and a few months after that he submitted my book to publishers. It led to a thirteen publishing-house auction. If you would’ve told Angie-who-was-afraid-to-query that THAT would happen, she wouldn’t have believed it. But it did. Soon, producers were fighting for the film rights and before I knew it, my book had a movie in development with Fox 2000 and Temple Hill with both a director and a star attached. The story I was afraid of was the story that made my dreams come true.

The Inspiration

Growing up, Hip Hop was a way for me to see myself when books did not provide that representation. I couldn’t necessarily connect with the Babysitters Club like I could a Tupac or a Nas song. For THE HATE U GIVE, Tupac provided the most inspiration by far. The title itself comes from the meaning behind the infamous Thug Life tattoo across his stomach—The Hate U Give Little Infants F**ks Everybody. ‘Pac once explained that as what society invests in youth usually comes back later with consequences, which is a big theme in the book. However, Tupac’s range influenced me more than anything. He could make you laugh, make you cry, make you angry, and make you hopeful in just a span of minutes. That’s something I want to achieve with this book and with all of my books.

The Buzz

The buzz surround THE HATE U GIVE continues to surprise me every single day. The auction and the film deal were both mind-blowing, and since then, it has been sold in 16 international territories and has received four starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal. Author John Green (yes, that John Green) called it a classic, (which is still surreal), and Entertainment Weekly named it one of their most anticipated books of 2017.

Keep up with Angie Thomas on her website at:   http://www.angiethomas.com.

Thank you, Angie, for your contribution to children’s literacy!

 


Day 15: Maya Penn

February 15, 2017

Maya Penn headshot 16 year-old Maya Penn is a CEO, activist, author, illustrator, animator, coder, and so much more. She started her first company at eight years old, has TEDtalked to millions of people across the globe (as the youngest female in history to deliver two back-to back official TED Talks–her 2013 TEDWomen Talk is ranked as one of top 15 TEDWomen talks of all time), and is now sharing her inspirational message with young people around the world with her recent release: YOU GOT THIS!. I’m thrilled to welcome this dynamic young woman to The Brown Bookshelf.

The Journey

I’m a eco-designer, artist, philanthropist, activist, entrepreneur, animated filmmaker, coder, illustrator, writer and author. I’m the author of 3 books, 2 fictional children’s books that I wrote, illustrated, and self published, and 1 nonfiction book which is my latest book called “You Got This! Unleash Your Awesomeness, Find Your Path, and Change Your World”. It is published by Simon & Schuster. I’ve given three TEDTalks and, my latest TEDWomen Talk has gone viral worldwide and with almost 2 million views and growing. It was because of this TEDTalk that I decided to write You Got This!, as I began to receive a multitude of emails and messages from people of all ages who have been inspired to follow their passion because of my TEDTalk and want to know the best place to start.


The Inspiration:

Maya Angelou, my grandfather (he is also a children’s book author), and bell hooks (I read her book Happy to Be Nappy when I was little and it really reinforced my belief in being proud of who I am, and embracing my natural hair).


The Process

Writing tends to be very spontaneous for me. When writing my latest book “You Got This!” I approached it like a journal (no really, I kept a journal). I wrote it over the course of about a year, and since the general theme was my journey as a young CEO, artist, activist, etc. and how others can put their passion into action, I just took a topic or two each day pertaining to that theme and wrote about it. Whether it be a story I lived through and what I took away from it, or just a brain-dump on the topic, I wrote it down. I just kind of let it happen. In terms of a choice location, when it comes to any form of exercising my creativity (writing, animating, designing), I love being outside. Nature always creates a kind of sanctuary for my ideas to flourish. Of course this doesn’t always permit so my second choice is my studio.
mayapenn
The Buzz

It has been incredible to see the huge impact my book has made in such a short amount of time. I’m so happy and blessed to have received such a flood of emails and messages from teens and people of all ages who have been inspired by my book. There have been a multitude of libraries, schools, workshops, conferences (such as the ALA/American Library Association Conference where I was a keynote speaker in 2016) etc. that have invited me to speak about my book. It’s been so exciting to also see organizations such as Donors Choose have been providing copies of my book to schools.

Under The Radar

Taylor Moxey is an incredible 10 year old entrepreneur, activist and author of color! Her book The Adventures of Taylor The Chef is inspiring and encouraging for all youth.

Where Do We Go From Here?

More and more young people have a chance to use their voice to make a positive impact on the world and fight for the causes they’re passionate about. This is why it’s so important for us not to take this chance for granted as more platforms are available to create awareness and be the change you want to see in the world, online and offline. This current generation of young people will be the future leaders in our world and we have to make sure our world and society will be in good hands. As for my next projects, I will launch a bigger animation and film studio in Atlanta called Penn Point Studios and the first project I will be releasing is an animated series called The Pollinators.

I will also continue my project with my nonprofit organization Maya’s Ideas 4 The Planet where I designed and have now created eco-friendly sanitary pads for women and girls in developing countries in need. They’re being shipped out to girls and women all over the world and our most recent shipment was sent to women at the St. Joseph Health Care Center of Baback in Senegal.

Now this year I’m launching an initiative through my nonprofit to provide seed grants to young female entrepreneurs that aspire to start their own businesses. I am also putting into action a girl’s empowerment event and a STEM/STEAM workshop for girls where my book You Got This! will be used during the workshop to guide and inspire the girls. It’s been so exciting to also see organizations such as Donors Choose have been providing copies of my book to schools.

Thank you, Maya!

For more about Maya and her work, visit her online, and check out her 2013 TED Talk.

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Day 14: Christine Kendall

February 14, 2017

christine-kendall-photo_credit-michael-grimmFrom Philadelphia, The Brown Bookshelf presents Christine Kendall, author of the debut middle grade novel Riding Chance. Christine grew up in a family of six children where everyone played an instrument. She studied piano and clarinet. Her readers are ecstatic that she decided to pursue writing as a fulltime occupation. Please join me in welcoming Christine Kendall to 28 Days Later 2017.

The Journey

I began writing as a child as I was raised in a family of artists where I was surrounded by a lot of creative energy. Stories have always been in my head even though I was busy with a career in the corporate world. Then, about fifteen years ago, I started spending a lot of time in nature and, inspired by the peacefulness I found, I began to write my stories down again. I realized I wanted to pursue writing seriously so I made the decision to write full time. I attended numerous writing conferences including Bread Loaf and studied children’s literature at the Southampton Writers’ Conference where I met the editor who eventually would publish my debut novel, Riding Chance.

riding-chance_cover-c-kendallThe Inspiration

I’ve always loved children’s books and have been inspired by many. My favorite picture book of all time is Hot Day on Abbott Avenue written by Karen English and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe. I love how the magnificent collage art work brings out the wonderfully simple but moving story of everyday life. One of the middle grade novels I’ve most enjoyed is Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer. It is historical fiction exploring an African-American family’s relationship with the Black Panthers in 1968. Williams-Garcia handles this provocative story with honesty and grace.

The Back Story

One of the first things I did when I decided to pursue a second career in children’s literature was attend the Southampton Writers’ Conference. I had the good fortune to participate in a week-long writing workshop led by the wonderful author/editor Andrea Davis Pinkney who saw the glimmer of a story in what I created that week and encouraged me to “write it from the heart.” Andrea reviewed many drafts of the book and provided constructive criticism every step of the way. My focus all along had been more on developing as a writer than selling a book, but once the story was complete I realized how important it was to get it out in the world. The afternoon Andrea called me with an offer from Scholastic made for a very, very happy day.

The Buzz

I am so grateful for the warm embrace Riding Chance has received from readers, librarians and teachers. The book has received the following recognition:
— NAACP Image Award Nominee in the category of Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens
— Named one of the 50 Best Books for Teens by the New York Public Library
— Named a Junior Library Guild Selection for fall 2016
— Recipient of a 2016 National Parenting Publications Award
—”A worthwhile first outing; Kendall shows promise.” — Kirkus Reviews
— “Boys at risk and polo ponies? Christine Kendall has made me a believer and a cheerleader in her promising debut of navigating trust and necessary armor.” — Rita Williams-Garcia, Coretta Scott King Award-winning author of Gone Crazy in Alabama and Newbery Honor winner of One Crazy Summer
— “A heartwarming tale of redemption and second chances, as seen through the eyes of a teen surrounded by love, and determined to press on, no matter what.” —Sharon G. Flake, Coretta Scott King Award-winning author of The Skin I’m In and Bang!
— “Christine Kendall’s powerful debut is full of hope. Her characters fill each page with resonance that will linger with readers from the book’s very first words to its final lines.” — Coe Booth, author of Tyrell and Kinda Like Brothers

Read more about Christine Kendall on her website.


Day 11: Michael H. Cottman

February 11, 2017

cottmanReading the bio page of Michael Cottman’s website, you can’t help but marvel at all of the ways he has used his gifts to make a difference. A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Michael has extensively covered former President Barack Obama, offered political analysis for The Tom Joyner Morning Show, authored books on everything from the Million Man March to the black family. And that’s just a few of his vast accomplishments. We’re thrilled that his latest project is passing on his knowledge to kids.

Here, Michael shares the fascinating world of his new book – a Junior Library Guild selection – Shackles from the Deep: Tracing the Path of a Sunken Slave Ship, a Bitter Past, and a Rich Legacy.

I am a deep-sea diver.

A pile of lime-encrusted shackles discovered on the seafloor, the remains of a ship called the Henrietta Marie, landed me in the middle of an amazing journey that stretches across three continents, from foundries and tombs in England, to slave ports on the shores of West Africa, to present-day Caribbean plantations.

I traveled to far-away places to piece together a trans-Atlantic puzzle. I studied shipping records and slave-ship captain’s logs in London. I retraced the route of the Henrietta Marie slave ship and scuba-dived the ship’s ports of call in Jamaica, Barbados, and West Africa (Goree Island off Dakar, Senegal) and conducted research in archives and libraries in Jamaica, Barbados and West Africa.

Here’s what I learned: The Henrietta Marie is the only slave ship in America that has been scientifically documented and where 20,000 artifacts were recovered, including the largest collection of slave-ship shackles ever found on one site.

In 1991, members of The National Association of Black Scuba Divers (I’m a 20-year member) placed a one-ton concrete monument on the site of the Henrietta Marie, and we believe it’s the only underwater memorial of its kind in America.

The bronze inscription reads: “Henrietta Marie: Speak Her Name And Gently Touch The Souls Of Our Ancestors.”

The Back Story

I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, watching a television show called Sea Hunt, a program about an underwater detective. From that moment, I wanted to scuba dive. My mother wasn’t wild about the idea but she did teach me to swim.

Fast-forward 30 years: After I taught my daughter to snorkel in Mexico, she encouraged shacklesme to write a book about the Henrietta Marie slave ship, underwater exploration, and the African slave trade, for young readers. And because National Geographic embraces adventure stories like no other publisher, it was a perfect partnership.

I wrote Shackles From The Deep in a conversational way for young readers to tell the story of the Henrietta Marie, a 17th century slave ship, and my underwater exploration of the ship off the coast of Florida. This is more than just the story of one ship – it’s the untold story of millions of African people taken as captives to the New World.

The Legacy

The story of Shackles From the Deep also introduces the unprecedented partnership between members of The National Association of Black Scuba Divers and white marine archaeologists who forged friendships to explore a sunken slave ship and bond around a common purpose. This is significant because it informs students about different cultures and ethnic groups which is critically important today with our ever-expanding multicultural nation.

Shackles From The Deep is part detective story, part underwater adventure, part mystery and part personal journey.

And it’s all true!

Learn more about Michael here.