#BlackLivesMatter: Call your elected officials and vote.

Dear Friends,

Because of the massive Black Lives Matter protests, we may (finally) have a moment for real change at the highest levels. Everyone needs to write to their senators to express their support to increase funding for programs that have a foundational effect on communities: healthcare, housing, youth services, and education. A shift in priorities requires the money to come from somewhere.

For years upon years, we (primarily white people) have supported candidates who shifted monies from these community-building programs into expanding and militarizing the police, incarcerating Americans generally, and Black Americans specifically.

Together, we have built a culture that pours money into the hands of corporate prisons, detention centers, home detention, and bail on the backs of the Black community.

We have defunded conflict de-escalation, social work, education, health, addiction treatment, and mental health. For years it was under the guise of “balancing the budget” and “lowering the debt.” Since monies were always found for more weapons here and abroad, that seems (to use a military term) like a smoke screen.

And now, when we as a people are saying that we want to shift those monies, shift those priorities, the Senate majority is talking about needing yet another study. Enough is Enough.

We have had study after study. It is time to listen to the people. Democrats, it’s time to go big. It is not time to pussyfoot around the issue with minor fixes to placate swing state voters. We need to ask for everything we want—an anti-racist society.

We must keep pushing through to November when we can flip the Senate and get a new president who will sign a bill that makes substantial changes to the racist allocation of funds that support our systems.

If you don’t want to call it “Defund the Police” call it something else. I offer, The Investment for a Better Future bill or the Trying to Undo Some Bad Shit bill. I don’t care. What I do care about is that this is not the America I’ve been working to give to my children or your children.

We can do better. We must do better. Please register to vote. Please vote. Please call your Senators and Representatives today or test “Resist” to 50409 and the bot will help you get in touch with your elected officials.

#weneeddiversebooks For the Win at ALA Midwinter #alayma

Wowza, wow, wow, wow!

I use TweetDeck to watch hashtags and I can tell you that the #alayma was cruising! Those tweets were coming so quickly I couldn’t even read them. Good thing I had the live webcast going so I could hear all the cheers and gasps from the audience. It would seem librarians wear their hearts (fave books) on their sleeve. This was way better than the Super Bowl and any of those actor award shows. I also had my Goodreads window running and my To Be Read shelf is overflowing (just when I thought I was getting caught up). What a fabulous morning for readers, children’s books, librarians, teachers, writers, illustrators. I’m overwhelmed by awards. Perhaps the phrase “Sticker shock” should be re-coined?!

The biggest take-away was that #weneeddiversebooks scored a huge win today. It was amazing to see so many diverse books and their creators recognized. The awards to individuals for their contributions to the field went to diverse book creators. The following is quoted from the Children’s Book Council website (which has all of today’s categories and winners):

Laura Ingalls Wilder Award honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.

The 2015 winner is Donald Crews, whose award-winning works include “Freight Train,” which was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1979, and “Truck,” a Caldecott Honor Book in 1981. He has been consistently excellent with a wide range of titles, such as “Harbor,” “Parade,” “Shortcut” and “Bigmama’s,” all published by Greenwillow Books.

Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults:

The 2015 winner is Sharon M. Draper, author of more than 20 books, including: “Tears of a Tiger” (1994), “Forged by Fire” (1997), “Darkness Before Dawn” (2001), “Battle of Jericho” (2004), “Copper Sun” (2006), and “November Blues” (2007), all published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.

2016 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award recognizing an author, critic, librarian, historian or teacher of children’s literature, who then presents a lecture at a winning host site.

The 2016 Arbuthnot Lecture will be delivered by Pat Mora. Pioneering author and literacy advocate Pat Mora has written more than three dozen books for young people that represent the Mexican American experience.

The Newbery was a complete sweep of diverse books. EL DEAFO, by Cece Bell, and BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson received Newbery Honors and the Newbery went to THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander.

This image was borrowed from and is linked to a Kid Reporter Author Interview on Sports Illustrated Kids.

It wasn’t the only award for BROWN GIRL DREAMING which also took the Sibert Honor and the Coretta Scott King Honor. These in addition to the already prestigious National Book Award in Young People’s Literature. Good thing the cover was designed with plenty of negative space.

Jacqueline Woodson is past VCFA faculty and VCFA was also well represented by current faculty member Kekla Magoon’s HOW IT ALL WENT DOWN, the audio version of alumna Julie Berry’s THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD OF PICKWILLOW PLACE won an Odyssey Honor, and alumna Jandy Nelson took home the Printz and the Stonewall Honor with her amazing I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN.

Despite the sticker shock… it’s time to get back to work, to my own works in progress, to my own dreams and words. Congrats to all the winners!

#GivingTuesday and #WeNeedDiverseBooks

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign has been a rousing success. Far surpassing their original Indiegogo campaign of $100,000, the goals have been expanded. The money to this organization will support diverse authors in classrooms, internships in publishing, diverse books and programming, diversify classrooms, and develop educational kits for libraries and schools. The organization’s main goal is to promote non-majority narratives and the winners here are hopefully young readers and their families.

As an early #WeNeedDiverseBooks supporter, I sponsored a classroom visit from a diverse author to a Title I school. Why? There are always one or two kids for whom a school visit is magical. Those few kids who love to daydream, and doodle, and write poetry get a tingle in their spine as they meet an author or illustrator and the epiphany hits them… “Regular people like me write and illustrate books. I could do that!” Regular people–like me. School visits from diverse authors are crucial in planting the seeds for future authors who will write the next diverse books.

Some of you may know that I ran a booking agency. I can’t tell you how many times I was asked in that short year if the authors I represented could visit for free. Unfortunately, someone has to foot the bill. Authors and illustrators must be properly compensated for their expertise, their travel, and their lodging as much as they might want to give it away for free. (And trust me, many would love to not have to deal with that money stuff.) I’m hoping that more sponsors will use #GivingTuesday to step forward and sponsor a classroom. Join me in supporting #WeNeedDiverseBooks.