{ding-dong, the bells are gonna chime…}

chuppah

SONNET 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Mazel tov and joy to my dear Secret Agent Man, Steven Chudney & Ralph the Awesome.

{scotland calling}

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An unemployed prism; Lynedoch Crescent, Glasgow

And a lovely gray mornin’ to ya…

It’s the last rain of summer, since we can’t quite yet call it the official First Rain of autumn, the equinox not being for another handful of days yet. The brief rain has made the earth smell so sweet… and a gray, rainy morning reminded me to flip on the computer and check out the polls, since today’s Decision Day in my old stomping grounds, Glasgow, Scotland.

Except, of course, as of yet, there’s nothing to report.

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A pilot kips under a wing to stay out of the wet. Talinn, Estonia.

Half a world away, the BBC’s charter is tying them to rules that they cannot break. The election cycle is so different there. By their own charter, they’ve got to give equal time to all major strands of argument. By their charter, there will be no coverage of any of the issues relating to the referendum on polling day, from 6am until polls close at 10pm on TV, radio or bbc.co.uk. By their own charter, they’re not allowed to try and sway the vote.

No all-day-long, breathless as-it-happens (or, more likely, “as we assume and/or made it up”) approximations of poll results. No talking heads, rehashing how a politician looked, walked, what he said last week, what she did yesterday. All that’s going to go on today is reporting on how the votes are tallied and counted, what the weather is like at the polling stations, and other incontrovertible facts.

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If a raindrop falls in the forest… Charing Cross, Glasgow

Dear BBC,

Could you, however this goes today, adopt our news agencies? Just for maybe six months or so… long enough to run them through a little News Bootcamp… so that they can learn how to do things. We’ve got an election year coming, and gee, could we use your example…

Good luck, Scotland.

{we need diverse books, because…}

A la Carte
We need diverse books, because…

…too often, our idea of attractiveness tends to be a straight, pale line: Eurocentric, able-bodied, waif-bodied, gendernormative, conformist. Diverse books remind us that our stories are varicolored, many shaped, multi-shaded and arc in bright leaps along a non-conformist spectrum. Beauty – Adventure – and best of all, Love – is where you find it. ♥


So, diversity. Suddenly everybody’s talking about it. What’s it for? Why do we need diverse books? That, friends, is the question the crew at #WeNeedDiverseBooks wants YOU to answer.

Make Noise: TODAY at 1pm (EST), there will be a public call for action that will spread over 3 days. We’re starting with a visual social media campaign using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. We want people to tweet, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, blog, and post anywhere they can to help make the hashtag go viral.

For the visual part of the campaign:

♦ Take a photo holding a sign that says “We need diverse books because ___________________________.” Fill in the blank with an important, poignant, funny, and/or personal reason why this campaign is important to you.

♦ The photo – family friendly, of course – can be of you, your buds, your stuffed animals, your Barbies, your local library or fave bookstore – and should say clearly WHY you support diversity in kids’ lit. Even a photo of the sign without you will work.

♦ Make Art: There will be a Tumblr at We Need Diverse Books Dot Tumblr Dot Com that will host all of the photos and messages for the campaign. Please submit your visual component by May 1st to [email protected] with the subject line “photo” or submit it right on the Tumblr page here and it will be posted throughout the first day.

♦ Starting at 1:00PM (EST) the Tumblr will start posting and it will be our job to reblog, tweet, Facebook, or share wherever we think will help get the word out. (Have you checked it yet? Some good discussion is already going.)

♦ From 1pm EST to 3pm EST, there will be a nonstop hashtag party to spread the word. It is hoped that we’ll get enough people to participate to make the hashtag trend and grab the notice of more media outlets. This could be big!

♦ The Tumblr will continue to be active throughout the length of the campaign, and for however long the discussion keeps going, so all are welcome to keep emailing or sending in submissions even after May 1st.

On May 2nd, the second part of the campaign will roll out with a Twitter chat scheduled for 2pm (EST) using the same hashtag. Please use #WeNeedDiverseBooks at 2pm on May 2nd and share your thoughts on the issues with diversity in literature and why diversity matters to you.

On May 3rd, 2pm (EST), the third portion of the campaign will begin. There will be a Diversify Your Shelves initiative to encourage people to put their money where their mouth is and buy diverse books and take photos of them. Diversify Your Shelves is all about actively seeking out diverse literature in bookstores and libraries, and there will be some fantastic giveaways for people who participate in the campaign! More details to come!


Everybody’s talking about diversity… but is there anything we can really do about it? Let’s find out. Make some noise – so that media outlets will pick it up as a news item. Raise your voice – so that the organizers of BEA and every big conference and festival out there gets the message that diversity is important – and why. We hope you will help spread the word by being a part of this movement.

So, that brings us back to the question…

Why do you need diverse books?

{north american discworld con, ’13: girls doing science}

A geologist and a physicist walk into a panel…

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Kathryn Hoppe, geologist, and Catherine Asaro, physicist, explain how The Fifth Elephant might have slipped. Discworld Convention 2013

One of my favorite things about the Discworld Con – besides all the people-watching, and some truly inventive Maskerade costuming – was that the panels were balanced well between men and women. The Mad Science of Discworld was all done by men (Anatoly Belilovsky, Pat Harkin, Bill Mayhew, Jon Singer), and there was a lot of silliness and bwahahahaha sort of mad-sciencey stuff, but The Science of the Discworld was dominated by women (and Jon Singer, who sat and contemplated his good fortune in being next to such brilliance). Real science, real women.

Equal opportunity brilliance. Cool.

{sing out loud: the girls of summer}

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“In summer, the song sings itself.” ~ William Carlos Williams

A secret cupped like a gorgeous blossom in small, grubby hands: the first day of summer. Anything can still happen, and there is wonder and beauty around every corner, and every day is at least a week long. At least, that’s what summer seemed like, all the days of childhood. Now, it’s more people frowning about if what they’re wearing will be a wrinkled, sweaty mess by five o’clock, and if they can get away another day without shaving. Never mind. I’m here to reconnect with wonder, and do a little happy dance that I’ve been named a Summer Girl by the fabulous Girls of Summer Book Club.

The Girls of Summer are the girls of awesome. Co-founder Gigi Amateau (CLAIMING GEORGIA TATE; COME AUGUST, COME FREEDOM) is a children’s author in her own right, and as such, this is doubly wonderful that she gives back to her community in this way. Each year, she and her friend and fellow author, Meg Medina (TIA ISA WANTS A CAR; YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS) pull together a list of just eighteen books – definitely difficult! – as their Summer Girls reading list. The list covers picture book to young adult fiction that are fab for summer reading and celebrate and develop that awesomeness that makes a summer girl strong. Each year, Gigi and Meg hold a live launch in Library Park (a name that just begs you to get on the lawn with a book!) – behind the Richmond Public Library (or inside, in case of rain) where readers meet Virginia authors in person, take part in book giveaways, helped along by bbgb books, and indulge in cool, sweet treats. As PR icing on the cake, Richmond Family Magazine and the Richmond Times-Dispatch covers the events and the books in their literary section. These Summer Women are, together with their community of book people, making Richmond, Virginia an awesomely more literary place.

And this, their third summer together, they picked one of my books!

I’m in such excellent company as Ian Falconer, Sharon G. Flake, Kekla Magoon, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Atinuke, Anita Silvey, and more. Every Friday, there’s an author Q&A with one of the eighteen selected authors. I had a great time being involved – this was such a treat for me. I wish I could have been at the reading the other night – and had some of that ice cream.

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Click to enlarge; photo courtesy G. Amateau

Thanks, Girls of Summer. Thank you, Gigi and Meg. Thank you, Richmond. I’m honored.

Today is still a glowing secret, cupped in your two hands – the longest day of light. What is it, that you plan to do with this one, wild precious life?

Celebrate it.

{national history day project: go, C, J, and the Singapore American School!}

I’ve been consulting since last October with two students from the Singapore American School on their National History Day project. First, they politely approached me with a request for an interview, then they loaded on the questions, and finally they showed me their nearly completed presentation. Here, I’ll share it with you:

National History Day is a highly regarded academic study for students 6-12th grade. It gives the half a million participants a chance to research history deeply, reading it from new angles, and with a commitment to thinking critically and digging out all the details that they can. Each year the NHD team comes up with a broad theme to help guide the focused studies. This year’s theme is Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History. I very much think my guys from Singapore American School are getting it — the history of African American women in the military is all about revolution – out of the kitchens and back rooms and into the world – reaction – some men didn’t trust it and didn’t like it, but America needed everyone – and reform – the president, at the close of the war, deciding that enough was enough with a segregated military.

They’re through the regionals, and their project is going forward to the nationals, to be reviewed by actual historians and college professors! C & J from Singapore American School, I wish you the very, very best as you learn and represent your school! Woot! Go, history!

{Mom, remember that one thing about Mesopotamia?}

My poor mother.

Not only did I regale her, when I was five and six, with endless stories, when I was a high school sophomore and studying world history, I used to read her from my textbook. Well, heck, I know now it was probably kind of boring, but at fifteen, the stuff was exciting to me. My mother was valedictorian of her high school, however (and Homecoming Queen. And then beget me. Who is neither Homecoming nor valedictorian material. What is up with that?), and had already taken those classes. A long time ago. And sort of just blinked at me and let her mind wander whilst I regaled her excitedly with the mysteries of cuneiform and ancient empires.

I doubt Mom could let her mind wander during the Crash Courses, though. Put together by John Green – and his high school history teacher, natch – these funny, bizarre and informative brush-up courses are so much fun, and I would have probably been a history major if I’d run across them in high school.

I have way too much love for this project. I haven’t yet delved into brother Hank’s courses on Biology, but World History is supposed to be a forty-part series, and we’re already on part 3 – Catch up, next Thursday there’s a new one!

{Honestly? It’s Mostly A Blur}

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Yes, I am a little short. Should have pulled that mic down…

The Coretta Scott King Awards Breakfast on the last Tuesday in June was a pageant of color and music and glorious words. And I sat and chewed off my lipgloss and sipped a glass of orange juice through most of it, scribbling frantically on a sheet of paper the words for a speech that I stopped reading as soon as I got on the platform.

If you get a chance, bug Kekla Magoon into telling you about her speech at the CSK Breakfast. It was so polished, so erudite, so thought-provoking that it completely freaked me out. Why didn’t I say something like that!?” I thought. (Answer from my subconscious: Um, maybe if your book was about brothers, militancy, the Black Panthers, and the 60’s, your speech would have been more like hers? Just a thought.) I started to panic. Of course, Kekla was before me. I scribbled revisions on my speech until Robin Smith got up to introduce me.

Uh-oh.

Thank God, it was well received. I was so nervous that I hardly remember the moment, except that the very gorgeous illustrator, E.B. Lewis, afterward said, “You were fantastic,” and I have to take his word for it, because I really sort of stepped out of time the minute I got in front of the microphone (and fortunately my mother forgot to film it! Bwa-hahahaha!). This is mostly what I said — I ad libbed, and only have my original notes to go on, but this is close:

By the time I was in junior high, it occurred to me that I hated history. I hated it because I was an African American student in a predominantly Caucasian school, and the only lives of African Americans to which I was exposed were people who were naked and poor, who were slaves and sharecroppers, who were lynched and beaten and victimized — at least, that’s how I saw it. Oh, how I wanted to see a people who did something other than work and die. I wanted to hear a story where my people lived. I wanted to see African Americans make history.

As some of you know, I first began researching and writing Mare’s War for my MFA thesis project at Mills College. Originally, the novel had all adult characters. Mare was a very old woman, lying on her death bed, reminiscing about days gone by. This was important, I thought. This was an African American woman surveying her own history!

And it worked. The story was well received by all of my thesis committee, and everyone was very, very polite.

And I …was bored.

…because, really, how original is it to write about an old woman who dies?

An old woman who lives, now, that’s a story.

And what a story — 800 African American women, sent across the Atlantic in stormy seas, to do a job they weren’t sure about in a country that most of them had never seen. They braved criticism from the male Army brass, slander from the newspapers back home, and their own fears to step forward and do something. They lived. They were real. They made history.

Every year in certain circles, the question is raised whether or not there’s really still a need for the Coretta Scott King awards; whether we still need to pay marked attention to the books that illuminate the stories of African American lives and history and futures. I maintain that as long as there are junior high students, starving for stories of African Americans who lived, and changed the world, this is necessary. As long as there are pieces of the American story and stories of African Americans which remain untold, this is vital. But more than necessary, this is a joy, is it not? This is a celebration.

I’m so grateful to the members of the Coretta Scott King Awards Committee who dedicate their time and attention to unearthing and celebrating those stories and to all of you who continue to read and share and support the making of great books for young people. I’m very grateful to my editor, Erin Clarke, Knopf’s fabulous book designer, Kate Gartner, and my agent, Steven Chudney, for all that they did to make this book possible. All of you, Thank you.

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Librarian Robin L. Smith, Ensworth School Library, Nashville, TN, and me. (Both trying not to cry. I think we laughed as much as we sniffled that day.)

Afterward, I sat down with relief, and my thoughts ran along the lines of “I’m five feet from Charles R. Smith, Jr.!” and “Walter Dean Myers is right behind me!” and other fangirling nonsense. Boy was I glad the part where I had to say anything was over. I was tickled to listen to Vonda Micheaux Nelson (whose cute husband wore a ten-gallon hat and made cowboy hoots from the audience) and I really enjoyed Charles R. Smith, Jr., and his little riff on Twilight. (*snicker*) Snark is good, even that early in the morning.

I didn’t want to belabor the point on the platform when so many people were speaking after me, but I am so grateful to the Coretta Scott King Awards Jury. They were truly some of the nicest, funniest, most comfortable people EVER, and I got a chance to meet them on a one-to-one basis the morning before in our private breakfast. My editor remarked several times that, “Boy, that could have gone differently.” Not every committee gets on well, and not every author-committee breakfast is as comfortable and full of laughter and teasing as ours was. We sat and talked – seriously – like a happy family. So, thank you Carole McCollough, Eunice Anderson, Alan Bailey, Brenda Hunter, Jonda McNair, Martha Ruff and Robin Smith for generally being amazing and gracious people. I really, really enjoyed meeting you.

And I so much appreciated Editor E, who was doing all this schmoozing with me, plus getting up early with her two-year-old. I honestly do not know how she did it – but she was chipper and cheery every single day regardless.

Honestly, the ALA Convention was all the excitement I needed for the year. It was lovely, and I am so very glad it’s over.

To Everyone Who Said, “Just Have Fun With It,”

…I am. I so, so am.

It’s been so much fun meeting people whose names I only knew from their blogs. We are a shockingly beautiful bunch of people; the Poetry Princesses are not only gorgeous but vibrant and lively, and kind of hard to keep up with. (Try walking through the Exhibit Hall with Kelly Fineman. It is amusing, to say the least; it’s like following the Pied Piper.) I find that people are quick-draws on reading name tags; I’ve heard my name shrieked by people who I think are strangers until I take that slow second to find their name tag. Then I say, “OH!” I stood next to Carrie Jones and commiserated about having to take a picture and had no idea who she was for the whole five minutes of our conversation. (Dork Alert: Hello? could I actually LOOK at people’s names? What else is the purpose of wearing the stupid tag?)

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Part of the Exhibit Hall from Above

A few thoughts:

Judith Haut, the VP for communications for Random House, is really and truly one of the nicest people in the world. If you’re ever in a roomful of people you don’t know, she’ll stand in a corner with you and drink coffee so you don’t look quite so alone,

Librarians are the BEST audience. Speed dating them at the YALSA event meant that I fell in love with all of them again. Librarians you are truly awesome human beings.

Children’s lit authors are crazy. Well, most authors are crazy, but seriously? Stand in a room full of children’s lit authors and see how long it takes you to laugh. Stand next to Libba Bray and Carrie Jones and see how long it takes you to smile and shake your head. Talk to Mitali Perkins, and you’ll find a grin blooming.

I am as big a fangirling dork as anyone. I had a silent jump-up-and-down-and-point moment in the Exhibit Hall. “Oh, my GOSH, that was Cory Doctorow!!! And he was wearing striped shorts!” Fortunately, the moment was silent; I prefer not to get a reputation as That Weird Girl. Well, anymore than I already have that reputation….

I love to watch Christopher Paul Curtis’ family hang out and watch him. There is such love in their eyes, and smiles on their faces.

Bookish People hug you even when you’re sweaty. I am ALWAYS sweaty here; either through nerves, or the fact that it’s 100°F here today. I am literally taking two showers a day. I am exhausted, and completely sick of the sound of my own voice.

But it is so fun being with my tribe.