The birth of a story is a magical process. From the start of an idea or inspiration to a finished product that can be held in hands, read, and cherished, there are many midwives and midhusbands involved in the process. Here I show the story of the Malaika's Winter Carnival book launch is shown through photos and video (see the slideshow below) which convey a bit of the magic felt this afternoon. Thank you to A Different Booklist, Sheila Barry, Irene Luxbacher, Cindy Ma, Emma, Nan, writing and critique groups, and the rest of the Groundwood Books family for helping me tell my story and who loved it enough to help bring it into the world. Thank you to my friends, family, writing, church, and other community members who came out to support, ask questions, and support by buying a diverse book published by an independent publisher at an independent bookstore. Special thanks to my Emily, Susan, Nadine, Denise, Tierra, Notisha, Alison, and Camille whose photos and videos of the event are featured here. Malaika’s Winter Carnival is also available on Amazon and in stores and libraries across North America as of September 5. Stay tuned for the French version coming out in December with Scholastic book club.
Please join us TODAY 2-4pm for the launch of Malaika's Winter Carnival, the sequel to my award-winning picture book Malaika's Costume at A Different Booklist bookstore . Meet author Nadia L. Hohn and illustrator Irene Luxbacher. This is a kid-friendly book launch for a reading, book signing, soca dancing, cookie decorating station, winter photo booth, refreshments, and more. After the launch, we will go to caribbeancanteen.ca/site2/AF1 Caribbean Canteen restaurant at 5pm for the Malaika's Winter Carnival After-Chill. Please share with your contacts.
Here ye, here ye! The July/August Nadia's Notables Newsletter is my electronic newsletter. It is hot off the press! If you wish to receive this in your e-mail inbox, please send me your e-mail address on the Contact link.
Nadia’s Notables Newsletter
In this issue…
It has been a busy and eventful last few months. I completed my teaching job in Dubai, moved back to Canada, and traveled to Portugal, Spain, Germany, and the Caribbean. I decided to cover two months, July and August, for this issue of Nadia's Notables Newsletter.
It is with my deepest sadness that I share that my youngest brother, Roury Hohn, passed away on July 15, 2017 at the age of 26. This was very sudden and devastating news. Roury went into hospital shortly after my return to Canada so I got to spend his last moments with him in hospital. Roury was an amazing, hardworking, loving, intelligent, wise, "old soul", handsome, entrepreneurial, "go getter", and inspiring. Like me, he too was a musician, a vegan, active, listened to motivational speakers. He was a supporter of my work as a writer and left the world too soon. I am still grieving this loss and I miss him tremendously. I am exploring ways to keep Roury’s memory alive through an educational fund as he was a proponent of healthy living, goalsetting, and education. Please stay tuned for details.
I am learning much from this loss. Writing has been a challenge but also a "saving grace" at this time. I have dedicated some of my #100daysto40 Instagram series as I process and make sense of my grieving. I continue to pursue and live my dreams in life and keep Roury's memory alive.
1. Hands Across the Sea…
I think this is also a great time to announce that “Malaika’s Costume” will be distributed to children in 6 countries in the Eastern Caribbean (Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts & Nevis, and Antigua, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines) through Hands Across the Sea. This organisation does amazing work.
2. Winter is Coming... Malaika’s Winter Carnival Book Launch
Winter is coming… “Malaika’s Winter Carnival” will be in bookstores and available for purchase online in September 2017. Please join me for my book launch on Saturday, August 26, 2017 at A Different Booklist in Toronto and share the invite with others.
3. Americas Award: Washington DC Here I Come
“Malaika’s Costume” has received an Americas Award honourable mention by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP). The presentation of this honour will take place on Friday, September 22, 2017 at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. In addition, I have been invited to co-present a workshop to teachers and librarians on Thursday, September 21, 2017. Please join me if you are able. The information is found on the following links:
http://claspprograms.org/pages/detail/69/Award-Ceremony on September 22, 2017
4. Toronto Public Library, presentation at Yorkwoods Library
I presented “Malaika’s Carnival Adventure” workshop at Yorkwoods Library on July 15th 2-3pm. I did a reading of the picture book, "Malaika's Costume", storytelling, soca, singing, and so much more. Children made lovely Carnival masks and colouring costume sheets just in time for Toronto's Caribbean Carnival season. This activity was for children 2 to 10 years old.
Im not going to lie. This was the toughest book talk I've done in my life. The children had fun making Carnival masks, listening to my story, and dancing to soca at Yorkwoods Library on July 15th however but I had to shift the presentation around after visiting the hospital where I had just spent time with my brother Roury Freeman in his 3rd day of coma and met with his care team. I didn't cancel my library visit because Roury would have wanted me to do it. Plus, he attended my very first library visit in April 2016 at the Albion branch in Rexdale. The Yorkwoods one was in my other childhood neighbourhood of Jane&Finch. I dedicated this library visit to him.
5. Caribbean Travels, Author Talk and Guest Blogging in Trinidad
This summer I had the pleasure of traveling to the Caribbean. My original plan was to have a 3-island trip to commemorate my upcoming 40th birthday. I had a revised itinerary after my brother’s passing. I had a wonderful time visiting Trinidad where I participated in an author talk with Summer Edward of Anansesem: Caribbean Children’s Online Magazine at Arima Library on August 2, 2017.
There, I also attended the Emancipation Day festivities on August 1 about which I wrote this guest blogpost for the Groundwood Books website here: http://groundwoodbooks.com/celebrating-carnival-on-emancipation-day/.
In Barbados, I played mas’ in Kadooment Day parade as part of the Cropover festivities and attended many parties. I had layovers in other Caribbean nations of Saint Vincent and Saint Lucia.
6. Visit to Groundwood Books
I visited my publisher at Groundwood Books in Toronto this week. It is so nice to have a home for Malaika's Costume and it's upcoming sequel, Malaika's Winter Carnival (September 1, 2017, it will be a Scholastic Canada book club book in English and French in December). You can visit my publisher's bookstore at 128 Sterling Road in Toronto to purchase a signed copy of my book and there are also comfy chairs so you can curl up and read at your leisure.
7. Today’s Parent: Picture Books and Social Justice
Today’s Parent is a Toronto-based magazine dedicated to parents and children. The online publication highlighted five books that help children to understand privilege and socioeconomic differences. “Malaika’s Costume” made the list. Please read it here: https://www.todaysparent.com/family/books/social-justice-books-for-kids/#gallery/5-books-to-teach-your-kid-about-privilege-and-socioeconomic-differences/0
8. Words of Advice
Write (not stalk) your favourite authors. On social media, it is much easier to reach your favourite authors. Send them a line of encouragement or ask them a question. If they are able to and have the time, they will respond. My experience is that they do answer your questions, more often than not. It is about building your network of peers, learning from those you respect, and encouraging a fellow writer.
9. Important Dates
Bonjour! Bienvenue! I am pleased to invite you to the launch of "Malaika's Winter Carnival", the sequel to my award-winning first picture book "Malaika's Costume" I look forward to sharing with you the continued story of Malaika through a reading, book signing, and meet and greet. Also there will be crafts for the kids, refreshments, and who can leave out the soca all with a Carib-Quebec flare. Join me at A Different Booklist where you can purchase Malaika's Winter Carnival, Malaika's Costume, and Le costume de Malaika. You can get a preview of the book by checking it out here on the Goodreads website: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33988208-malaika-s-winter-carnival Walk good!
June 12, 2017 was Loving Day and marked the 50th Anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision to end all anti-miscegenation laws that still existed in sixteen U.S. states. This decision meant that Black and white couples could legally marry without being arrested, charged, or thrown in jail. The law was changed thanks to the love and persistence of Richard and Mildred Loving who were part of a famous court case called Loving vs. Virginia. There have been 2 movies about this couple-- one for Mr. & Mrs. Loving, ABC television in 1996 starring actress Lela Rochon and the Academy Award-nominated Loving (2016).
Then there is also this HBO documentary film called The Loving Story from 2011.
Books have also been published about the Lovings' story including two non-fiction children's books including The Case for Loving: The fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko, Sean Qualls and Selina Alko (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015) and Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Shadra Strickland (Chronicle Books, 2017).
I think that it is important to remember, revere, laud, and commemorate the Lovings alongside other Civil Rights leaders. Let us remember the sacrifices that everyday people like the Lovings have made to change the laws but also to rewrite history and the future. It is wonderful to have books like these to share with our children as they too may have an intercultural and interracial family. It is also important for us to create dialogue around our diversity and how we can live in harmony and in a diverse world. We acknowledge that there are still many people today who cannot marry without experiencing social injustice and discrimination not only in the world and communities but also in their families. Also, many young readers grow up in multiracial, multicultural, multilinguistic, and multifaith homes. These children need to see reflections of their lives on the written page too. Hopefully, these diverse books and my upcoming picture book Malaika's Winter Carnival (2017) can normalize but also depict the diversity within all families in the world.
For this week's post, I share from my #100daysto40 Instagram series. Please read on.
Day 76: Keep your love life private. If you are a frequent reader of my Instagram or Facebook posts, you will know that I share a lot of things about myself (a little too much if you ask my mother). However there are some areas of my life that I do not discuss openly and one of these is my love life. Because I write mainly for children and I also teach young people, it is particularly wise that I don't discuss my love life on social media. Some may call it prudish or paranoid but I am pretty sure no one wants to hear about Dr. Seuss', Robert Munsch's, or Judy Blume's love lives as juicy as they may be... not unless you're an adult who grew up on their work and would be interested in their bios but certainly not for young readers researching their fave authors on the internet. I know J. K. Rowling has shared some of her struggles with divorce, miscarriage, and mental health and I applaud her but I have different circumstances. First, I am a newly published author. Second, I am a Black woman who grew up in a workingclass immigrant household which comes with a lot of early lessons of "being twice as good to get half as far" and "don't mess with your job". (I'm proud and benefited from many of the values my parents taught me.) Even though I'm university-educated and technically middle-class, I don't have certain privileges. One of these is knowing how an action can be perceived negatively coming from my Black female self but more benignly from someone else. We see this in the media all the time. I don't want to oversimplify this conversation and say it's only about race because it's not. It's also tied into gender as well as archaic views of what it means to be a teacher. It may sound restrictive but I've found a happy medium/space that works for me and, for now, there is no expose about my love life. But who knows? One day, I may publish my romantic writing under a pseudonym or a slightly fictionalised autobiography. In the meantime, I choose to stay mum on this one.
This was posted as part of my #100daysto40 series. Yes, it's true. I am leaving the UAE:
Day 83: When one door closes, the other one opens. As I said in yesterday's lesson, I am leaving the UAE. I am proud to say that I am leaving on my own terms... my head held high... when only a few months ago, I was suddenly dismissed from a teaching job in Abu Dhabi... for the first time from any job in my life... for the first time in my fourteen year teaching career... and I had a difficult experience through all of that but thank God another door opened. After two months and having my bags and boxes packed to leave the UAE, another door opened suddenly-- a music-teaching contract at a wonderful school in Dubai that feels like a community, full of hope and encouragement and support and appreciation and great kids (and roses and hugs even from the Grade 4 boys who are not embarassed to hug their teachers and thank you cards and parents who leave your performance with tears in their eyes) until the end of June. The kind of place that makes my job easier... so easy that I could stage two full musicals within two months while teaching 400 kids in music and 15 teenagers in music appreciation. The kind of place that reminds me of why I chose my profession in the first place. The kind of place that does not feel like a job because it's so fun even when working my ass off. So what's next? Although I would love to stay there, another door has opened. I will be teaching music in Vietnam. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought there but I have a new opportunity there and I love adventure (plus a host of other professional and practical reasons too). I am looking forward to this new open door and visitors. Photo credit: Angela Mitchell Hudson
Yesterday, my first travel essay was published online. I have been journaling since age 9 and posting about my life and travels on blogs and social media for the last 10 years. I have wanted to travel the world and "learn every language" since I was a child. I've also noticed that most travel shows do not have people who look like me... Having me wondering where are the "people of colour" perspectives? Don't get me wrong. I do have friends who travel but it was something I could not picture myself doing although I really wanted to. A number of years ago, I asked a mutual friend named Denise for coffee. She was also Jamaican-Canadian like me and would share photos from her international trips online and she also self-published. I grilled her with questions about how she was able to travel, as I wanted to also travel widely and write and publish books. I am happy to say that I realized the latter dream and I am working on the former.
Over the past few years, I've been inspired by travellers of colour like Oneika Raymond and Nomadness Travel Tribe. I decided to fulfill my dream of living overseas. Originally, I wanted to go to Brazil as I had been studying Brazilian-Portuguese and I wanted to research a book. However, when I was presented with four jobs from different countries at an international teaching fair (none of which was Brazil), I chose to accept the position in Abu Dhabi which seemed the strongest candidate. By moving to the UAE and over the past year have visited 5 new countries so far (not including flight layovers). (Before coming to the UAE, I had only visited 5 within the Caribbean and the United States. I plan to visit 7 new ones by November.) Here I have befriended people of colour travellers who helped me to see that international travel is possible and imagine me in unique spaces, event that I could be welcomed in these spaces. These people have helped me to see that people who looked like me could and do travel and came back with positive experiences. In 2014, I went on my first "faraway" trip to Accra, Ho, and Dzodze in Ghana where I took the Orff Afrique Masterclass through the San Francisco Orff School.
Although I've been writing and publishing books in children's literature, for the past few years, I have been tossing a travel-related book idea around in my head for a while too (and slowly working on it, this past week I wrote my first 13 pages in 12 Times New Roman font, double-spaced). Fastforward to July 2016, after taking a weeklong workshop at Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA) with Faith Adiele and Bani Amor at University of Miami, travel writer Ernest White II invited my class to submit our pieces to Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel. I was very interested. Finally, a new travel journal focused on diverse voices and perspectives like my own. After my travelwriting workshop, I attended the Essence Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana. This article that I wrote was inspired by a photo taken on that trip (below). You can read my article here.
Imagine! Posting 100 days of life lessons until I turn 40! I have had this idea for almost a year now. It reflects my love for "listicals"-- both reading them on Facebook and sites like Buzzfeed, Atlanta Black Star, Madame Noire, and Bored Panda and creating my own as I did with First 100 Days in the UAE in 2016 and 40 Days of Gratitude for Lent in 2017. 100 days until I turn 40 or #100daysto40 is both a birthday gift to myself and an invitation for you to celebrate with me. Through these posts, I will share with you the scary and fabulous things I have learned so far on this road called life. I have been going strong so far and today is Day 89. I am gearing up for this new decade by trying to live fabulously and adventurously. I am truly thankful that I am getting ready for my 40th year of life. As a cancer survivor, I have come to know many young adults who did not make it to this point or used 40 as their "goal age". I also remember there was a time in my early 20s when I just "could not see past 30". It was a strange, depressing, and desperate place to be. Today, I know there is so much I need to work on and learn about myself but I assure you my #100daysto40 is not preachy. I think of them more as instructions for life just as much for me as it is for me to share with those who wish to know. This series is also telling of my foray into other genres. I love and will always be committed to children's books first but I am also adding spoken word, travelwriting, memoir, playwriting, non-fiction, and romance to my arsenal. Please join me for these daily posts on Instagram which connects links with Twitter, Facebook, and my website. You can also track my posts with the hashtags #nadias40th #100daysto40 #40daysto20 #turning40.
This week, my second picture book "Malaika's Winter Carnival", the advance copy of my sequel to "Malaika's Costume", arrived from my publisher Groundwood Books all the way in Toronto, hand-delivered to my classroom in Dubai. I don't typically open mail in front of my class but the "mysterious package" couldn't wait and this class was well-behaved enough so I agreed to open it in front of them. (The previous class saw the package delivered and were just as curious but a little too rowdy for me to give them this special privilege. Besides, this was going to be the first time I held my book and boy, did it feel good.) This Grade 2 class had just celebrated their Writer's Workshop the day before so they had amazing questions like "What is your summary? But don't tell me about the whole thing." "Why do you write books?" "How long did it take you?" "Do you have an editor?" The grade 4 class asked me questions that had me talking about contracts, translation, advances, royalties, publishing rights, and legal fees. How's that for throwing your music class on to a different track? Sheesh. I'm not complaining though. I loved every minute of it.
I still get a thrill out of seeing my name in print. Holding the book in my hands, stroking the smooth surface of the cover jacket, seeing the bright blue (my favourite colour and shade) of the end papers, feeling the cool energy of the blues in the illustrated contrasted by bright bold colours, I truly have a greater appreciation of the publishing process. I really love how the pictures and feel of Malaika's Winter Carnival make me feel 20 degrees cooler. It seemed like the illustrator Irene Luxbacher took the best things from Malaika's Costume but then gave it a fresh look. I love how the words and the pictures work together. I'll stop here though. I don't want to ruin it for anyone. Besides, I am allowed to critique my own picture book, aren't I?
Can't wait for the Malaika's Winter Carnival release date of September 1, 2017! Stay tuned for the launch information which should be scheduled for late August.