DAY 28: NICOLA YOON

February 28, 2016

NicolaYoonAuthorPhoto (2)Nicola Yoon is a hopeless romantic.  She says so on her website.  As a matter of fact, Nicola shares many things in her bio that are…well…I’m just going to give you the address and encourage you to read one of the best bios ever!   http://www.nicolayoon.com/bio/

She grew up in Jamaica (the island) and Brooklyn (part of Long Island), and currently resides in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and daughter, both of whom she loves beyond all reason.

Nicola is a proud member of We Need Diverse Books, and we are just as proud to honor her during our 28 Days Later Program.

So, on this, the 28th Day of February, The Brown Bookshelf presents:     NICOLA YOON

The Journey

I had a kind of a long and roundabout journey to publishing. I was a math nerd in high school and majored in Electrical Engineering in college. It wasn’t until my senior year when I took a Creative Writing elective course that I re-discovered my love of writing. After college, I worked for a couple of years and then went to graduate school for creative writing. After that I still needed to make a living, so I worked as a database programmer/analyst for financial firms. I wrote on and off on the side for 22 years before getting my first book deal for EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING.

The Process:

I write from 4 – 6 AM and then again from 9 AM – 2 PM Monday – Friday. I hand write my first drafts into Moleskine notebooks. Every few days I type what I’ve written into my computer, revising as I go. I generally do a basic outline in a three-act structure, with bullet points for the important events in each act. For me, every book is different. Sometimes I hear the voice first. Other times I get the concept/plot first. The only thing I find useful for drafting is simply showing up at my desk everyday. Some days are wonderful. Other days are miserable, but eventually the first draft gets done and I have something to work with and shape. I work from my home office or a café in Los Angeles.

The BuzzEverythingEverything cover (1)

The State of the Industry

I’m an optimistic person, and I’m really encouraged by the strides made by organizations like We Need Diverse Books. They’ve definitely helped to move the conversation forward about the need for more diversity in kidlit. They’ve also implemented some practical programs ranging the gamut from internships to scholarships to help tackle this problem. I do think that there’s still lots more work to be done, especially in getting more diverse agents, editors, assistants, etc. into the publishing industry. If we can improve diversity there, then I think we’ll get many more diverse books on the shelves.

 

You can find out more about Nicola Yoon by visiting her website:  http://www.nicolayoon.com/

Thank you, Nicola, for all of your hard work for children’s literacy!

 


Day 27: Aaron Philip

February 27, 2016

kidflycoverHave you ever felt your spirit soar just watching someone on screen? Aaron Philip’s infectious laugh, can-do attitude, talent and faith radiate and lift everyone he touches. Check out this video of him speaking to the folks at Tumblr for a bit of his magic.

Fourteen-year-old Aaron has already won fans around the world with Aaronverse, his Tumblr blog, that chronicles his life creating art, coping and thriving with cerebral palsy and achieving his dreams.

Now, he will move and motivate even more with his inspiring memoir, This Kid Can Fly: It’s About Ability (NOT Disability) (Balzer+Bray),  that debuted on February 16. Written with award-winner Tonya Bolden and featuring photos and Aaron’s illustrations, it takes you through his amazing life from his homeland of Antigua to New York City. An open and heartfelt look at his struggles and successes, this debut title is a winner that will empower kids and adults to take flight too.

We’re blessed to talk to both Tonya and Aaron about This Kid Can Fly. Here Tonya shares what it was like working with Aaron:

Collaborating with Aaron was a remarkable experience. I learned so much about what people with disabilities have to contend with—sometimes EVERY SINGLE DAY!  It’s my hope that Aaron’s book will make us all more considerate and compassionate.

Why was his story one that needed to be told?

Aaron’s story needed to be told because, as far as I know, a story like his isn’t out there. How many black boys have an opportunity to give people a front-row seat into their lives. How many people hear stories about brave black boys. How many young people with disabilities have we heard from? We so need to hear from young people first-hand if we are going to implement sound policies that affect them.

Aaron’s story also needed to be told because his father, a black man, is his primary caregiver. There are millions of black men who go above and beyond for their families, but they are rarely written about. Mostly we get the stereotype of the Dad who cuts and runs when the going gets tough.

What would you like people to know about Aaron?

I would like people to know that Aaron is more than conqueror.  We worked on the book while he was interviewing for high school. We worked on the book when he was getting over a cold. We worked on it before he received his new wheelchair and other equipment that helps reduce physical discomfort and pain.  There were times we had to break from a session because he was exhausted, but he never complained, never once wimped  out.  I also want people to know that Aaron has a heart of gold and is the soul of patience.

Thank you, Tonya. We are proud to celebrate Aaron Phillip as our honoree for Day 27. Here he talks about his wonderful new book. You’re incredible, Aaron. We look forward to seeing many more:

You have a super new book out and a wonderful Tumblr blog called Aaronverse. What inspired you to write your memoir and your blog?

As you know, I have cerebral palsy, a physical disability that requires someone to help me with everyday things like bathing, getting dressed, going to the bathroom, and getting my books and computer out of my backpack when I’m in school. My book and Tumblr blog can help people understand more about what I go through and what families like mine go through. In my case, we’re immigrants who struggle greatly to make ends meet, and on top of that my family must manage my physical care 24/7.  My parents must stay positive, focused and believe in me despite my physical challenges.  My words share those triumphs and challenges with my readers.

Why did you write this book?

I wrote this book to help people understand that just because you have to use a wheelchair to get around or have a physical disability, it doesn’t mean you can’t  dream like other kids. You still have talents and desires. This chair that I use to get around doesn’t define me or what I do in life.

Who are your heroes?

Malala Yousafzai is one of my heroes for sure. I get from her that if it looks like the cards are stacked up against you and still you rise, that’s something special, inspirational. She is one person who motivates me to be the best I can be and to keep on trying. I hope to meet her someday. Give her my number!

Fred Seibert is also one of my heroes. He really took genuine interest in me and built me up in the process. I’ve never met someone as disarming and kindhearted as he is. Fred Seibert is someone who really sees me for ME, not my disability. I remember him telling me what he told Tumblr creator and CEO David Karp (also one of my heroes due to the fact that he created my biggest creative outlet, not to mention that he is incredibly sweet himself) as I left Frederator’s NYC headquarters for the first time, “Aaron, you can come visit me as many times as you’d like, as often as you’d like, until you’re bored!” I’m bored a lot.

What are your challenges?

Obviously needing someone to help support me throughout the day. I can’t do many things by myself as my arms and hands don’t work very well. Also, pain management is hard. I don’t talk about my pain a lot. If you focus on the negative, nothing will get done. And for sure, combatting loneliness and isolation. Kids my age have tons of energy and run around. That’s not really my life, though I would love it to be.

I work hard to find meaning and purpose in my life and use my strengths to stay positive.

Finding a support system is key here. As the saying goes, “It takes a village.” All the things I wrote of in my book, the art classes at Children’s Museum of Arts where they have built a program around true inclusivity with the rights supports so that kids can socialize and learn how to make art and combat loneliness all at same time. Like going to an inclusive summer camp at Frost Valley. Like having opportltunities to speak at places like tumblr and Mercy College where I can share my story about what it’s like to be a kid with big dreams who also has major physical challenges that will be with me forever. Like sharing things about my life on my blog Aaronverse.

All these things give my life meaning and purpose.

What’s next for you? What’s your dream?

I recognize, as Malala does, that education is key. I work hard in school because my dream is to attend a great university, study whatever it is that interests me at that time, and hopefully get a great paying job as I will need to earn a solid salary if I am to maintain my independence and help my family remain out of poverty.  I hope to keep writing and making art.

Please tell us about your creative process.  What was the toughest part?

Revisiting painful and frightening moments in my life was hard. Going back mentally to the homeless shelter my dad and I had to stay in for a while. Revisiting my dad’s had his heart attack and my wondering who would take care of me physically and what would happen to me and my brother if Dad passed away. Those were hard times to remember and share.

What do you want kids to take away from your story?

That if people like me, kids like me, are given the right supports, we can be productive members of society. If we don’t get those just right supports, our talents will go to waste.

The Buzz About This Kid Can Fly:

“At once beautiful and heartbreaking, Aaron Philip found a way to make me laugh even as I choked up, found a way to bring on my empathy without ever allowing me to feel sorry for him. An eye-opening debut.”

—Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award winner and Newbery Honor author of Brown Girl Dreaming

“This inspiring glimpse into the life of a real kid goes beyond disability to celebrate his remarkable ability.”

— Booklist

“Philip’s simple, chatty account of both physical and societal challenges…will motivate readers with and without disabilities to support accessibility and inclusion.”

— Kirkus Reviews


DAY 26: NNEDI OKORAFOR

February 26, 2016

picture of nnedi

In reading her website, Nnedi Okorafor is a novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults. Born in the United States to Nigerian immigrant parents, Nnedi is known for weaving African culture into creative evocative settings and memorable characters. In a profile of Nnedi’s work titled, “Weapons of Mass Creation”, the New York Times called Nnedi’s imagination “stunning”.

Nnedi Okorafor’s novels include Who Fears Death (winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and Le Prix Imaginales for Best Translated Novel), Akata Witch (an Amazon.com Best Book of the Year), Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature), and The Shadow Speaker (winner of the CBS Parallax Award). Her latest releases include her short story collection Kabu Kabu (A Publisher’s Weekly Best Book for Fall 2013) and science fiction novel Lagoon (finalist for Best Novel in the British Science Fiction Association award for Best Novel and a Red Tentacle Award for Best Novel). In addition, her novelette, “The Girl with the Magic Hands” was released through Amazon.com’s Worldreader program , where it became their most read young adult title (read by thousands in Africa).

Her adult novel The Book of Phoenix was released in 2015 and her young adult novel Akata Witch 2: Akata Warrior will be released in Fall 2016. In September 2015, Lantana Publishing released her children’s book Chicken in the Kitchen and Tor.com released her space opera novella Binti to much critical acclaim. Nnedi’s novels Who Fears Death and Akata Witch have both been optioned for films. A producer is also currently writing a screenplay for her novel Zahrah the Windseeker. In addition, Nnedi’s screenplay Wrapped in Magic was filmed and produced in Nigeria in 2011 by award-winning Nollywood film director, Tchidi Chikere.

 

nnedi okofor picture 1     nnedi okofor picture 2 chicken-kitchen     nnedi okofor picture 3    nnedi okofor picture 4    nnedi okofor picture 5

 

Here, Nnedi talks about her work, and her life:

Nnedi Okorafor is currently working with Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu (Pumzi) on developing their feature film Camel Racer with Triggerfish Animation Studios (South Africa). Nnedi has had several short stories publishing in anthologies, magazine as journals. Several are available online.

Nnedi earned her BA in Rhetoric from the University of Illinois, C-U. Her MA in journalism from Michigan State University. And her MA and PhD in English at the University of Illinois , Chicago. She is also a graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop (2001). She is a professor of creative writing and literature at the University of Buffalo. You can also find Nnedi on twitter (@Nnedi) and facebook.

Thank you, Nnedi, for your contributions to children’s literature!

 



Day 25: Congressman John Lewis

February 25, 2016
Congressman John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis

Today our honoree is not only a children’s book author, he is a congressman representing Georgia’s 5th District. Along with writer Andrew Aydin and graphic artist Nate Powell, Mr. Lewis has written three books for young readers about his life in the Civil Rights movement: March Book One, March Book Two, and a third one, March Book Three to be released  August 2016.

Mr. Lewis witnessed segregation first hand while growing up on an Alabama farm. As a college student, he decided to work in a nonviolent way so that African Americans could eat at lunch counters, book rooms in any hotel, and attend schools of their choice.
Why did he write about his life?

“I want young people to know that another generation of young people had the same type of zeal, the same type of ‘get up, let’s do it,’” Lewis told Fusion’s Alicia Menendez. “But they did it in an orderly, peaceful, nonviolent fashion.” Listen to the complete interview here John Lewis talks to Fusion.

In Move Book One, Lewis remembers his life as a four year old:pulling corn, picking cotton,and gathering peanuts on his family’s 110 acre farm. They raised hogs, cows, and chickens. He loved taking care of the chickens. He chose names like Big Belle and his favorite, Li’l Pullet. He goes on to tell about his first meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and why the non-violent movement was so instrumental in his life.

March Book One

March Book One

 

 

 

Congressman Lewis continued his graphic novel memoir with a second book March Book Two. Here is an NPR review.

March Book Two

March Book Two

Young John Lewis

Young John Lewis with backpack

John Lewis packing

John Lewis prepares his backpack for Comic Con. Credit: Nate Powell @Nate_Powell_Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He also spoke about his life and books at the San Diego Comic Con. At the urging of Nate Powell, his co-author,  he dressed as he did when he was 25 years old marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama with 600 Civil Rights workers. He wore a trench coat and a backpack filled with two books, an apple, a toothbrush, and toothpaste.

After reading March Book One and March Book Two, I’m sure readers will line up for March Book Three!

The Buzz

March Book One

“A riveting and beautiful civil-rights story… Lewis’s gripping memoir should be stocked in every school and shelved at every library.” — The Washington Post

“A powerful tale of courage and principle igniting sweeping social change, told by a strong-minded, uniquely qualified eyewitness… the heroism of those who sat and marched… comes through with vivid, inspiring clarity.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

March Book Two

“This memoir puts a human face on a struggle that many students will primarily know from textbooks… Visually stunning, the black-and-white illustrations convey the emotions of this turbulent time… This insider’s view of the civil rights movement should be required reading for young and old; not to be missed.” — School Library Journal (starred review)

“Powell captures the danger and tension in stunning cinematic spreads, which dramatically complement Lewis’ powerful story… The story of the civil rights movement is a triumphant one, but Lewis’ account is full of nuance and personal struggle, both of which impart an empowering human element to an often mythologized period of history… this is a must-read.” — Booklist (starred review)

Keep up-to-date on the authors and artist on Twitter:

John Lewis @repjohnlewis

Andrew Aydin @andrewaydin

Nate Powell @Nate_Powell_Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


DAY 24: DANIELLE PAIGE

February 24, 2016

 

DANIELLE PAIGE

 

Danielle Paige is the New York Times bestselling author of Dorothy Must Die, its upcoming sequel The Wicked Will Rise, and the upcoming  Stealing Snow series (Bloomsbury, 2016). In addition to writing young adult books, she works in the television industry, where she’s received a Writers Guild of America Award and was nominated for several Daytime Emmys. She is a graduate of Columbia University and currently lives in New York City. On this 24th day of February, The Brown Bookshelf is honored to highlight the outstanding works of  Danielle Paige.

The Journey

I began my career in soap operas. I interned at Guiding Light while I was a junior at Columbia University. After I graduated, I worked my way up from production secretary to writers assistant to scriptwriter. I loved writing soap scripts, and I especially danielle paige book 5loved writing for teens. After that, I sold a teen soap to MTV that never made it to the screen, but it solidified my desire to write something else for that age group. I met one of my Dorothy editors at a Writers Guild East event, which is how I ended up on the Yellow Brick Road. Yellow Brick War is the upcoming third and final book in the Dorothy Must Die series, and as the series draws to a close, I get to start a new one. Stealing Snow is a dark and stormy retelling of The Snow Queen—think grown-up Frozen!

 

 

The Inspiration

I really love the classics. Everything from Great Expectations to a modern classic like Beloved. But I feel like inspiration is everywhere. I love storytelling wherever I find it. And since I got my start with TV, I also have to say that I adore Shonda Rhimes! From Princess Diaries 2 to her mega empire today, I am so inspired by her journey and the doors that she has opened. I’m also inspired by JJ Abrahams, everything from Felicity to Star Wars. I really believe in challenging myself as a writer, and I absolutely love trekking into new territory. I began in soaps, now I am on my Danielle Paige Book 1second retelling, and I don’t know what’s next but I really am enjoying the journey.

 

The Process:

I am definitely an outliner. I think it’s my soap background, but I need a map. There is usually a character or scene that lets me know that I can write this book. For Dorothy, it was seeing Indigo, my little goth munchkin, on the Yellow Brick Road. For my next series, Stealing Snow, a Snow Queen retelling, it was seeing Snow trapped in a mental hospital and what if-ing. What if she didn’t know she was the Snow Queen?  As for where I write, I write in my apartment in NY, but I like to print out pages everyday and edit in my favorite coffee shop                                                                                      

The Buzz

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbKJoaSWAFc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1lA2IkphbM&feature=youtu.be

http://www.ew.com/article/2016/01/28/stealing-snow-danielle-paige-cover-reveal

Danielle Paige Book 6Under The Radar

Nicola Yoon, Everything Everything – I blurbed her book!

Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra, Tiny Pretty Things,

Sabaa Tahir, An Ember in the Ashes

Adam Silvera, More Happy Than Not

Valerie Tejeda, Hollywood Witch Hunter

Melissa Grey, The Girl at Midnight

 

 

The State of the Industry

I think the We Need Diverse Books movement is having an impact on the YA sphere. I got to moderate the WNDB panel last year at the annual ALA conference. Seeing those books do so well since reflects the obvious hunger readers have for books that betterDanielle Paige Book 2 reflect our society, and I think the industry as a whole is engaged in the conversation now. There is actual movement in the right direction. I know firsthand of editors and agents committed to expanding their lists to be more inclusive, and I am heartened by the creation of Cake Literary, a diverse book packager. There is still a very long way to go, but WNDB has become more than a trending hashtag. So I am hopeful.

 

Thank you, Danielle Paige, for your contributions to children’s literature!


Day 23: Christopher S. Ledbetter

February 23, 2016

Author Pic 3 largeChristopher S. Ledbetter was a reluctant reader as a child growing up in Durham. His understanding of what that’s like inspires the young adult novels he creates. On his website, he shares: “I continue to write because I see it as an avenue to inspire and uplift. And, because the stories refuse to stop springing into my mind and demanding to be written.”

A former high school teacher with a deep sense of purpose, tales of discovery and transformation call to him. Ledbetter is driven by a desire to empower his young audience and his characters. His contemporary stories mix in fantasy and mythology, his first love.

Drawn (Evernight Teen),  his debut novel, won high praise from Kirkus: “Inventive, fast-paced fantasy with imaginative settings and engaging characters.” Inked, his sequel to Drawn, debuts on July 1. We are honored to feature Christopher S. Ledbetter on Day 23.

The Journey:

I began writing seriously in late 2006. Since then, a plethora of trees have been sacrificed along my journey. *Laughs* Once I decided that becoming a better writer was something I wanted to commit to, I joined American Authors Association and the Historical Novel Society. The most helpful organization I joined was SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I began attending local and international conferences. I attended workshops. I joined an awesome critique group. And even after all that, it took several more years to understand how to craft a saleable story.

I’ve written probably ten full manuscripts. One I self published, but truthfully it never drawncovershould’ve been published without further revisions and editing. The second manuscript I ever wrote back in 2011 finally got picked up by a publisher last fall in 2015 after multiple, heavy rounds of revisions. But the first traditionally published book, Drawn , was my ninth full manuscript written.

The Back Story:

As I said above, Drawn was my ninth full manuscript written. I thought it was an incredibly unique concept about a boy who gets sucked into another world simply by drawing himself into a sketchbook. Add a splash of romance to that… shake it up, and voila… Drawn. I finished writing that story in June 2014 and after consulting BETA readers and revising based upon their suggestions, I queried agents widely. *Crickets* No agent wanted it. But I knew I had a hit so I submitted directly to a small publisher that a writer friend of mine had used and they picked it up. I am so grateful to Evernight Teen for taking a chance on me.

The Inspiration:

I am inspired by authors such as Laini Taylor, Suzanne Collins, JK Rowling, James Dashner, Kwame Alexander, Kristin Cashore, Jennifer Donnelley, Jason Reynolds from afar. Aside from them, I’ve worked with some truly amazing authors in my critique group, but I won’t list them here. There’s thirty or so of us.

In a grander sense, I am continually inspired by anyone who has the guts to produce art of any kind, and put that work out into the world to be judged. Sketch artists, painters, spoken-word poets, musicians… I have much love for all of them, equally.

The Process:

Sometimes I begin with a character or set of characters. I recently sold a YA fantasy called The Sky Throne to Month9 Books. It’s due out spring 2017. With that story, I began with an ensemble of six characters. For Drawn, I began with the story concept first then dropped the characters into that madness.

I have a worksheet that I really love that I got from Martina Boone. It helps me think about the character from a lot of angles. When fleshing out a character, it’s important to give them quirks and flaws and really think about the small details that make them unique and the particular ways that the character would view their world.

I like to think of my new/ contemporary writing style as conversational. My historical writing style has been described as lyrical and sort of like it’s being told by an old sage telling stories around a campfire.

Typically once I get into a story, I will plot all the major narrative points out. Then I’ll write by the seat of my pants from one plot point to the next. Many times, twists and turns arise, and I just roll with them.

The Buzz

  • HEA-USAToday Must-Read Romance 2015
  • Evernight Publishing readers’ Choice: Best YA Book 2015
  • Library of Clean Reads: Best Read of 2015

1st place- YA & MG Art Fiction -Goodreads Listopia

1st place – Beach Books – Goodreads Listopia

3rd place – Interracial young adult novels – Goodreads Listopia

4th place – Where the Boys Are: YA & Paranormal/Urban Fantasy from Male Authors – Goodreads Listopia

“Ledbetter successfully makes his fantastic premise very believable… Inventive, fast-paced fantasy with imaginative settings and engaging characters.” ~ Kirkus Reviews

Stunning! Each word was vividly woven together, creating a brilliant read… YA lovers, look no further for your next read!” ~BTS Book Review

Under The Radar

Angela Brown, author of Beacon. GL Tomas, author of The Mark of Noba. Nnedi Okorafor, author of Akata Witch.

The State of the Industry

I love the We Need Diverse Books movement. I would love for the kidlit industry to reflect the demographics of our world. I want to see more POC main characters and to also have them reflected on the covers. This is important for youth growing up… to be able to see themselves on book covers. And they don’t all have to be “issue books.” Romance and romantic comedy books featuring characters of color in a widely distributed fashion should be the norm, not the exception.

Find out more about Christopher S. Ledbetter here.


Day 22: Edwidge Danticat

February 22, 2016

mamasnightingale In MAMA’S NIGHTINGALE, award-winning author Edwidge Danticat, who was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and grew up in New York, tells a timely and finely wrought tale in English and Kreyol of a daughter who is empowered to become an advocate on her mother’s behalf. From the publisher: “After Saya’s mother is sent to an immigration detention center, Saya finds comfort in listening to her mother’s warm greeting on their answering machine. To ease the distance between them while she’s in jail, Mama begins sending Saya bedtime stories inspired by Haitian folklore on cassette tape. Moved by her mother’s tales and her father’s attempts to reunite their family, Saya writes a story of her own—one that just might bring her mother home for good.”

School Library Journal, in a starred review, notes that “Danticat, who was born in Haiti, was separated from her parents until she was 12 years old and beautifully conveys a story about loss and grief and hope and joy.” Kirkus, in naming it a Best Book of 2015, called MAMA’s NIGHTINGALE a “must-read”, writes that “this picture book sheds light on an important reality rarely portrayed in children’s books.”

The International Literacy Association shares ideas for classroom use, and Teaching Latin America Through Literacy offers an extensive analysis of the text and imagery as well as a wealth of resources for lessons and more.


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