Where’s Your Power?

tumblr_inline_nbagwqCPUh1s70xgvI’m pleased to have been invited to contribute to the Children’s Book Council’s Diversity blog, an initiative of the Children’s Book Council’s commitment to promoting diverse voices in literature for young people. CBC Diversity believes that all children deserve to see their world reflected in the books they read.

You can read my essay, “Where’s Your Power?” on strategies for finding ways to support diversity in children’s lit here.


5-4-3-2-1 Blast Off!

Last fall, as part of a literary citizenship requirement for a short form fiction class I took with Bruce Holland Rogers in the Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA program, I attended an orientation workshop at 826 Seattle in preparation for volunteering for them on a regular basis. If you’re a children’s writer and you don’t know about 826, you should check them out. They are the best!

826 is a nonprofit writing and tutoring center dedicated to helping youth, ages six to 18, improve their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. The Seattle branch is one of seven national chapters. Continue reading

Roy City Library

I’m so proud of my writing mates in the Whidbey Writing Workshop MFA program. Grier Jewell, a CYA student, posted about kids in the tiny Washington city of Roy trying to save their library from closing due to budget cuts. Apparently, the mayor said they had to cut everything that was not “life and death” as the town only has $250 in the bank after all essential services are counted. (As an aside, Grier has written some wonderful reviews of Barbara O’Connor’s books, including her newest, “The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis.”

In a town like Roy, the library is one of the few ways the kids can have access to computers and books since most families don’t have the money for either. As it is, the library is only open three days a week to start. The kids organized garage sales on weekends, but they still needed $1,800 to keep the library open until January.

Fiction student Charlotte Morganti suggested we fundraise in the name of literary citizenship and make a donation from the Whidbey MFA program. Charlotte said,” Those kids inspire me. I can think of a lot of things people can do for children these days, and right up there is helping them access literature and the world of learning.” Not to mention how wonderful it is to see kids raising money for something other than a sports team for a change.

Anyone who would also like to donate can contact the library by send a check to: Cecelia Hanson, Library Director, 122 3rd Street, PO Box 700, Roy, WA 98580  or email roylibrary@comcast.net

Are You a Literary Citizen?

One of the tenets of the Whidbey Writers Workshop is the concept of literary citizenship. It’s a simple concept really. Are you willing to do something to contribute to the literary world or are you in it only to get published?

Kate Gale, of Red Hen Press told us that when they exhibit at the annual AWP conference (in 2010, the  conference is being held in Denver ) 99.9% of the people who approach their tables want something. And they want it without really having pounded the pavement to earn it.

You might be ask, what does that mean—earn it? Why do I need to earn it? I’ve written a work of genius; all I need now is for someone to recognize that and publish me. Well. Perhaps. But why not think of it this way instead. What you can do for the literary world, so that when you approach potential publishers, it is not as someone asking for something but as an equal. If you take this approach, basically, you’re saying you know this is hard work, you know you need to pitch in and give to the community, not just expect to take from it.

This can be contributing to something that’s already ongoing (like helping to organize a reading series) or creating something new that benefits the literary community. For example, for a children’s writer like me, I can volunteer at an organization like 826 Seattle, a writing support center for kids. You can volunteer at your local school or library or bookstore. There’s no shortage of ideas.

Just by tapping into your skills, you can easily find something that you like to do that will also benefit the greater community. And when that happens, good stuff will follow for you.

Get Out There and Do Stuff

Five of us are set to graduate, and amongst us, we span all four genre concentrations offered here at Whidbey: Joe Ponepinto (fiction), Kelly Davio (poetry), Ann Beman and Christine Myers (nonfiction) and myself in Children’s/Young Adult. Kelly, whom I’m rooming with, was just selected as one of the 2009 Best New Poets, an annual anthology of 50 poems from emerging writers from nominations made by literary magazines and writing programs. Whidbey submitted Kelly’s poem “The Way I Remember” and it was selected by the 2009 guest editor, Kim Addonizio. It’s quite an honor. Kelly and Ann are also on the editorial staff of LA Review, along with recent Whidbey alums Stefanie Freele, Laurie Junkins, Tanya Chernov, and Nancy Boutin. Continue reading