From September 21-24, 2017, I visited Washington, DC to accept the Americas Award honour for my first picture book Malaika's Costume and present a workshop to K-12 Educators. This annual event is organized by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP).
My "Sewing Tales of Peacock Feathers and Rip Up Cloth: Teaching Malaika's Costume in the Classroom" workshop was a success! I had such fun and the forty-five minutes went by quickly. "Exploring the Diverse Roots of Migration in Latin America and the Caribbean" is an annual evening of workshops planned for K-12 teachers and is organised by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP) at American University. My workshop was one of 3 presented by Americas Award recipients. My participants were teachers, Americas Award, and CLASP members from Washington DC, Maryland, and other states. I enjoyed this opportunity to share my story and strategy with adults. I hope for more of these opportunities.
On September 22, 2017, the Américas Awards were presented at the Library of Congress. Congratulations to the other recipients of the Américas Award and Honor 2017-- Reyna Grande, Alexandra Diaz, Susan Hood, and illustrator Sally Wern Comport. Most of the books, mine included, focussed on migration or immigration in some way. Congratulations to the 13 Commended Title holders for some amazing stories too. Thank you to the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP) for hosting and organizing this amazing event and to the selection committee (pictured here) for choosing my book and exposing the realities for people in the Latin-American and Caribbean regions. I hope this is one way we can understand each other better. Thank you my illustrator Artist, Illustrator & Author | Irene Luxbacher. Un dia yo espero que Malaika's Costume sera in espanol. I hope this is one step closer to a Spanish translation.
During my time in Washington, I had two opportunities to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). I was working on the final draft of my Harriet Tubman manuscript and wished to see what the museum had to offer plus, I just wanted to visit this much anticipated institution. My second trip was to attend the Night At the Museum II: 1st Anniversary Gala which was wonderful because I got to see the rest of the museum. Both of my visits were short and I hope to go back to visit really soon as there is still so much I wish to see.
On Sunday, September 24, I presented Malaika's DC Carnival Book Bash at Sankofa Books and Video Cafe is selling my Malaika's Costume and Malaika's Winter Carnival. For every event I host or organize when the turnout is low, there are ones with amazing turnouts. Successes: There were some customers in the cafe who came to find a book or meet a friend but then found themselves dancing to soca, learning about Carnival history and resistance, or listening to a story read from a picture book. What I am thankful for is the love love of my family coming out to support when I am in their city and that is exactly what happened today. So I learned a lot and it has helped me to plan my next move.
During my time in DC, I also popped in to sign a copy each of Malaika's Costume and Malaika's Winter Carnival at Politics & Prose bookstore. It turns out that the other copies sold out. I also visited Howard University, a historically Black College (HBCU), although I missed the Open House.
Baltimore is a lot further from DC than I thought. After a ride on a filthy Greyhound bus and with a cab driver who lacked safety-knowledge for his passenger and professionalism, I made it to the Baltimore Book Festival which I just learned about yesterday. What a star-studded literary line-up? Although I missed seeing kidlit biographer Susanna Reich (who I met years ago) and Javaka Steptoe (author whose picture book Radiant Child, about the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, is sometimes in the categories for prizes as my picture book, Malaika's Costume), I saw Hema Khan present her middle grade novel Amina's Voice (the first book in the Simon & Schuster imprint of Muslim books called Salaam Reads). I also loved when she spoke about the reason she became committed to writing diverse books and recorded some of her answers to my questions. I had the pleasure of meeting Newbery award-winning author Adam Gidwitz (The Inquisitor's Tale) who is also an elementary teacher who has a unique storytelling style. I am sorry that I forgot to record a clip but I did for my question he answered. I had the chance to network with others. Unfortunately, I missed the book festival's Sunday line-up of literary heavyweights kidlit author Renee Watson (who I keep missing but know we will meet again one day) and Chimamanda Adichie (one of my all-time favourite authors and the only one I've still yet to meet). I'm so happy to get a taste of this event as I miss Toronto's Word on the Street festival which I participated in last year and also takes place this weekend.
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.