On the Troll Again

Brown Bookshelf Opens Submissions for 2010 28 Days Later Campaign

“Third one’s the charm,” the old saying goes. So The Brown Bookshelf (BBS), a website designed to push awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers, will open submissions for its third annual 28 Days Later Campaign on September 28, 2009 with hopes for its deepest candidate pool, yet. “I go into each year thinking, who’s left that we haven’t highlighted – because the number of African Americans writing for children isn’t huge,” says BBS member and author/illustrator, Don Tate. “And then I’m happily baffled to see the submissions stream in with names of authors I’m unfamilar with.”

Although the first two 28 Days Later campaigns, Black History Month spotlights of 24 authors and four illustrators of color, succeeded in highlighting illustrators such as London Ladd and Nicole Tadgell, trailblazing authors such as Patricia McKissack and Rita Williams-Garcia and rising talents like Tanita S. Davis and Coe Booth, submissions were down. “We had two hundred submissions our first year. But only about half that in ’09,” says BBS member and Picture Book author, Kelly Starling Lyons. “I believe there are many out there who need and deserve the spotlight. We just need them brought to our attention.”

Created just two years ago to inform librarians, teachers and parents of books written by African American authors, The Brown Bookshelf has featured nearly eighty authors and illustrators. The primary focus of 28 Days Later is on African American authors. But from its inception, members of The Brown Bookshelf have joined forces with other authors of color and members of the children’s literature community to advocate for both more diverse literature and an increase in marketing for books by authors of color. “The Liar book cover controversy reinforces that there are still plenty of systemic challenges when it comes to books centered on a person of color,” says BBS Co-founder and Young Adult author, Varian Johnson. “The Brown Bookshelf is dedicated to being a voice that doesn’t shy away from those challenges.”

To stay abreast of the state of authors of color, members of The Brown Bookshelf steep themselves in the children’s literature community and current publishing industry events. According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s annual study, of the 3,000 books submitted for the survey, 83 books were by African Americans and 172 about them. While those numbers are still low, they indicate a slight increase, from 2007, in both categories. “A seven percent increase isn’t necessarily a victory, considering the number of books by Black authors hovered in the high 90’s between 1994 and 2001,” says BBS member and Young Adult author, Carla Sarratt. “But the numbers didn’t decrease, this year. We want to continue to see the numbers increase and visibility of the books availab le may help with that.”

The Brown Bookshelf’s mission remains to make more people aware of the rich selection of children’s books by and about African Americans. The annual 28 Days Later initiative will feature under-promoted and little-known black authors and illustrators alongside vanguard African American authors. To successfully fulfill that mission, the group is calling for submissions for the 2010 28 Days Later campaign. Submissions can be submitted through the website www.Thebrownbookshelf.com or at thebrownbookshelf at gmail dot com from September 28 through November 1, 2009.

Guidelines from previous years remain intact:
– Seeking authors and illustrators of African or African-American descent
– Only one submission per author necessary.
– Submissions are accepted from individuals, librarians and teachers and are encouraged from publishers.
– Traditionally-published authors may nominate themselves.
– Self-published spotlights are by invitation only.

The Brown Bookshelf is designed to push awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers. Their flagship initiative, 28 Days Later, is a month-long showcase of some of the best Picture Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult novels written by African American authors.