Since February, I’ve been working as the managing editor at American Journal and Lakes Region Weekly papers and editor at Maine Women Magazine and My Generation. These newspapers and magazines take a local approach to news and features. I’ve been grateful to work with a group of dedicated and kind journalists and editors.

Since the shootings at Parkland, the reporters have been researching and writing for student mental health series that I proposed. My hope in instigating the series was that readers would be able to use the information from the reporting to advocate for their needs and beliefs at their local school boards and in our state capitol. When we have good and balanced reporting, communities are informed to speak up for their priorities. Isn’t that really what all news is about?

That three-part series, “Under Pressure,” started publishing last week and I’m eager for people to read the amazing reporting. Please follow the links.  I’ll edit this to add Part 3 next week.

Part 1:

Under pressure: Mental health needs challenge southern Maine schools

Part 2:

North

Under pressure: Topsham school counselor has seen the profession evolve

Midcoast

Under pressure: Yarmouth team responds to variety of student needs

South

Under pressure: As South Portland schools become more diverse, so do needs

Portland

Under pressure: Mental, emotional support for Portland students largely ‘crisis driven’

American Journal/Lakes Region Weekly

Gorham High takes team approach to mental health

 

 

Member Monday: Old news or news to you?

I’m just back from a two-week research/family trip to Italy where I visited Florence and small red-roofed, hill topped towns in Tuscany. I’ll be posting more about that later this week, but first I’m passing on some of the news, blogs and articles that I missed while I was away. Perhaps these are just old news, but perhaps you missed some of these too. Hope they are helpful.

Most important on my list is this announcement from SCBWI. The On-the-verge Emerging Voices Award. I’ve been sitting on this since before my trip, itching to tell you all about this news and then they go and announce it at the LA SCBWI National Conference. Follow the link above for the full press release but here is a quick snippet.

The annual award, established by SCBWI and funded by Martin and Sue Schmitt, will be given to two writers or illustrators who are from ethnic and/or cultural backgrounds that are traditionally under-represented in children’s literature in America and who have a ready-to-submit completed work for children. The purpose of the grant is to inspire and further the emergence of diverse writers and illustrators of children’s books.

Here is the link for the grant eligibility, process, and deadline. 

This issue is close to my heart. I hope that writing programs across the country, most notably VCFA, my alma mater,  and Hamlin College– and publishing programs, NYU and others will stand up and take notice. Action can be taken to increase diversity in publishing. Here are some thoughts from the CBC Diversty blog from those in the industry.

Here is a wonderful post from Laurie Halse Anderson that discusses the lack of diversity on the recently released NPR YA list.  Happy & Sad about the NPR Top 100 YA List In her post she also posts the following links which are important enough for me to list them again here:

On NPR’s Very White Best Young Adult Books List, by Shaker Laurie.
Reading in Color’s Booklists

And… one of my favorite sites The Brown Bookshelf.

(The link for the NPR Top 100 YA List is here if you haven’t seen it.)

In other old news:

Women On The Rise Among The World’s Top-Earning Authors This is an interesting article on celebrity authors but I’m not exactly sure what it says for the rest of us. The article celebrates that there are now six women on the list at all. Perhaps I’m a glass half empty person, (No, I’m not.) but what I see here is a continuation of women earning 78% of what men earn. Even if you go from the Stephen King’s $39 million (instead of James Patterson’s $94 million) 78% of that is about $30 mill. That- and below- is where we find the women.Of course, once you get into the millions of dollars, this may matter less but it is still true. For more on gender and writing see my post here or take a look at VIDA- Women in the Literary Art’s annual count for 2012. 

Publishing Is Broken, We’re Drowning In Indie Books – And That’s A Good Thing Okay. I need a while to both read and process something like this but if you are interested in the economics of the publishing industry and are concerned/interested in the changes in traditional vs. digital, this is the article for you.

That’s it for today, friends. Read, write, draw and do at least one of those outside. Two weeks and counting until kids go back to school in the home of Creative Chaos.

Book Review Wednesday: A Wreath for Emmett Till

Recently,  the name Emmett Till has surfaced quite a bit in relation to the  Trayvon Martin case in Florida. Houghton Mifflin’s teacher guide to A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL gives the following short explanation of Emmet Till’s death.

Emmett Till was a fourteen-year-old African American boy murdered in 1955 in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at or speaking to a white woman. Though two men were tried for the crime, they were acquitted; no one has been convicted for Emmett’s murder. In 2004 the U.S. Justice Department reopened the case based on new evidence brought to light by two documentary films.


Shop Indie Bookstores

Marilyn Nelson’s  A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL is a heroic crown of sonnets– a sequence of fifteen interlinked sonnets, in which the last one is made up of the first lines of the preceding fourteen. The final poem is also an acrostic that reads RIP Emmett L Till.

The book was published in 2005 and won the 2005 Boston Globe—Horn Book Award, a 2006 Coretta Scott King Honor Book, a 2006 Michael L. Printz Honor Book, and a 2006 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book. Nelson is not a stranger to awards and prizes and holds three Coretta Scott King honors for her books EMMETT TILL, FORTUNE’S BONES, and CARVER and the Newbery Honor for CARVER: A LIFE IN POEMS.

With all of these awards, my opinion is unnecessary. Instead, this posting is a way to alert those of you interested in poetry and social justice about this sophisticated, complicated, and emotional book of poems.

I mentioned in a comment last Wednesday that we learn and retain new information when we have a scaffolding of previous learning upon which to hang the new knowledge. To this end, EMMETT TILL came across my desk at just the right time. I happen to be completing my first reading of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. The classic courtroom and coming of age novel transported me to the deep south in 1935. While writing this post I also found out about “Strange Fruit” the 1936 poem about lynching referenced in EMMETT TILL. That poem was published by Abel Merrapol and made popular by Billie Holliday.

It is the season of Easter and martyrs, death and rebirth. Further, it is the season of Passover. I spent this afternoon teaching children about the importance of remembering  history so we will not be doomed to repeat our mistakes. Each year, Jews try to put themselves ourselves in that place of slavery, and deliverance so that they we will not allow slavery and injustice to happen again. But injustice is all around– in far away lands and close to home.

The poems of Marilyn Nelson remind us of this. Below is the fifth stanza, and I’m taken with how it captures my feelings for Trayvon Martin’s parents.

Your only child, a body thrown to bloat,
mother of sorrows, of justice denied.
Surely you must have thought of suicide,
seeing his gray flesh, chains around his throat.
Surely you didn’t know you would devote
the rest of your changed life to dignified
public remembrance of how Emmett died,
innocence slaughtered by the hands of hate.
If sudden loving light proclaimed you blest
would you bow your head in humility,
your healed heart overflow with gratitude?
Would you say yes, like the mother of Christ?
Or would you say no to your destiny,
mother of a boy martyr, if you could?

This book crossed my path at the exact right time.

While researching this post, I found a video of an hour long speech/reading that Ms. Nelson presented at Politics and Prose in Washington, DC. The section of the video on this book starts around 15:00-34:00 and she discusses the heroic crown of sonnets structure and the final acrostic poem. She also reads the entire book in the most melliflulous voice.

If you are interested in more information about Ms. Nelson, please follow the links to some of these other online resources.

There is an NPR interview with Nelson who was the Connecticut Poet Laureate at the time.

More about Marilyn Nelson at the Poetry Foundation here.

And a ton of links at Teaching Books including slide shows, videos, and other websites.