Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Round Up: Black History, Teachers, and More

Ah, another Friday week-in-review. This week flew by as did the last, and the week before I didn’t have time for a wrap-up but I wanted to mention the Black History Month event I went to sponsored by The Texas Book Festival, KAZI Book Review and the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center on Saturday February 12th. Friend and fellow, DDD Varian Johnson sat on the esteemed panel, in between two-powerhouse historians: Dr. Juliet Walker and Dr. Jennifer Jensen Wallach.

The two hour long conversational style panel covered books of note from the past, books of note to keep an eye-out-for and everything in between. Dr. Juliet Walker spoke much about black businesses and how the study of economics within the black community is not given its due. She was a fascinating (and funny) speaker. I was more than taken with Dr. Jensen Wallach’s energy and passion for African-American history. I snapped up her book From Black Boy to World Citizen, a biography of Richard Wright to add to my collection and was glad to have a few moments to chat with her as she signed the copy of my newly purchased book. And, Varian Johnson, as always, was charming, knowledgeable, and spoke with a tremendous love and respect for the YA field. It was a great night, followed by a great dinner with friends.

Associate Professor Sharon O'Neal and I. (Namaste)
And now, fast forward again to this week. On Wednesday I had the honor of visiting Associate Professor Sharon O’Neal’s graduate students whom are studying Children’s Literature. I was there as the students moved into looking at historical fiction, and spoke about Truth with a Capital T, though a contemporary novel is one that has historical threads running throughout. Sharon moderated the TBF panel I was on last October and it was such a treat to see her again. If one ever needs an introduction, Sharon O’Neal is the one to give it. She makes one feel like a celebrity and plums ones past for all sorts of juicy tidbits.

After the intro we got down to business, having a free-flowing discussion that covered everything from race, revision, novel structure, the back story behind my upcoming picture book Grandfather Gandhi (co-written with Arun Gandhi), the societal economics portrayed in Between Us Baxters (my historical novel set in the Civil Rights Era) to bridging the gap between the North and the South and so much more.

Teachers and soon to be teachers studying Children's Lit. Yep, and that is 4 year old Bethany up on the screen.
At the end of the evening, Sharon asked the class to share one thing they loved about the book and I was so touched hearing the student’s replies. One student shared that she came from a racial diverse family with adopted siblings and felt that Maebelle and Isaac were representative of that family dynamic, another student thought I nailed the 11-year old voice, and another wondered as she read if I—the author—was white or black since I did such a fine job portraying both races (I loved hearing this) and another student—a teacher of high school kids—read the line near the end where Isaac admits he has waited his whole life not to be the one and only—and how this line made this woman teary-eyed and gave her the way in to talk about this book to her high school kids. It was such a treat to be with these students—those in the classroom—and those looking for positions.

In an email of thanks for the wonderful evening to Sharon O’Neal this morning (did I mention there was tea and cookies, as well!), Maebelle had to have her say too. She wrote:

Dear Ms. Sharon,

A big heartfelt thank you from cousin Isaac and I for reading and sharing our story. Teachers (always spelled with a capital T, in my opinion) are the hardest working folks around and I know, without a doubt, that if you or any of your students were issuing that G&T test I never would have been kicked out of the program. But, now that I have been, I reckon it is a-okay. 'Cause like that song says, "you got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em." And, after meeting you and those book loving ladies last night I know I don't need a test score to dub me the real deal and I sure do thank you for that.

Signing off with my new fav-o-rite word.


Maebelle T (for Teachable) Earl.

Thursday night brought out the book folks for yet another celebration—this one at Waterloo to celebrate Meredith Davis for receiving her MFA from VCFA. Meredith is near and dear to all of us. She began the Austin SCBWI community fifteen years ago and we kid-lit folks owe her a big debt of gratitude. Meredith’s talents, time, efforts, and gracious smile have graced us all at one point or another. So it was a thrill to turn out and celebrate her accomplishments with cheese fries and cake!

Upcoming at the WLT (my home away from home)

The WLT YA A to Z Conference has added more folks to the upcoming April Conference. See here for details.

And the WLT Manuscript Contest and Book Awards (do not have to be a member or a Texas author to win) final deadlines are looming. Get entries in by March 1st for the Manuscript Contest and March 15th for the Book Awards. See here for more details.

Coming Up for Me (and Truth with a Capital T)

The kind folks at the Brazos Valley SCBWI are hosting me for a workshop titled “Creating Your Own Canon” on March 26th from 10am to 1pm. If in the College Station area or willing to head down that way, click here for the workshop registration materials.

Don’t forget the YA Diversity in Fiction Tour is making an Austin stop. Authors Jo Whittemore, Varian Johnson and I join Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo. Check the YA Diversity Tour website for more information.

Outside Awesome Austin

Congrats to the SCBWI Golden Kite Winners. Thrilled to see so many books I love and a big shout out to buddy, Tanya Lee Stone.

In sad news, the children’s industry which has been hit hard with a number of deaths recently is saddened to say goodbye to yet another. Author L.K. Madigan, died this week at the age of 47. This write-up is especially touching.

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