I launched my book Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter Book Launch at A Different Booklist Bookstore in Toronto, ON. The book was published on December 31 by Harper Collins Children’s Books. I continued to teach Grade 7 and 8 Core French and Grades 1-4 Music until June 2019.
I delivered 20+ school presentations, booksignings, and storytimes at bookstores and libraries in Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area, and New York City.
It’s all a blur. I think I had a signing or two and a school visit.
I attended the Kweli: Color of Children’s Literature Conference in New York, NY in April 2020. I attended a middle grade novel writing workshop with Renee Watson.
I proposed and moderated the Future of Diversity in #KidCanLit, a panel about diversity in Canadian children’s literature as part of the Canadian Society for Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers (CANSCAIP) Annual General Meeting at A Different Booklist (ADB) Bookstore in Toronto.
I presented at the Moncton Public library and local area schools as part of the Fry Festival in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.
I attended the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) in Brampton, ON. Months earlier, I joined the planning team for the first ever FOLD Kids Book Festival to be held in September 2019.
From May 4 to 11, I was one of one 30 presented in participated in TD Canadian Children’s Book Week. I presented in schools and libraries in Calgary, Lethbridge, Fort MacLeod, Coaldale, and Pincher Creek, Alberta. My host, chauffeur, and local organizer/contact, Richard Case (pictured right, above), sadly passed away in December 2019. He was very kind and made me feel very welcome. May he Rest In Peace.
From May 24 to 26, I was on faculty at the Art of Story Conference organized by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Canada East. This year’s conference place took place in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
I participated in the Annual Guelph District Multicultural Festival in Guelph as well as a booksigning in Brampton, Ontario, Canada.
I filmed a Behind the Book video with Owlkids to promote my new title A Likkle Miss Lou. The video can be viewed on youtube.
Go Raptors!!! Congratulations to the NBA Team that brought the championship to Toronto, my hometown! (Yes, I’m an insta-fan!)
I embarked on a four-day 4000+ kilometre cross-country trip on the Canadian train which departed from Toronto to Vancouver. The trip was exciting, the food delicious, and there were stops along the way. Beautiful scenes of the Canadian prairies, Rocky Mountains, and countryside, bears and moose, lakes, and valleys were evident.
I played “tourist” and visited Whistler, BC (Canada) and Seattle, WA (USA). During the month of July, I was Writer in Residence in Historic Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. During this time, I delivered a storytime, spoken word, and peacock headpiece-making workshop at Spare Time Fun Centre. In the Greater Victoria public libraries, I delivered a storytime and writing workshops in Victoria, BC. I facilitated a panel on diversity in children’s literature at the Historic Joy Kogawa House. I also participated in writing critique groups. Sadly, I was in a car accident. (It could have been a lot worse. I was supposed to have rented a smaller car but the rental office gave me the SUV to rent as a courtesy because I had a long wait.)
During my residency in Vancouver, I connected and attended several Jamaican and Caribbean community events to sell and sign books. I was a guest lecturer for a graduate studies class in Writing, Publishing, and Children’s Book Trade at the University of British Columbia (UBC). On August 15, my book A Likkle Miss Lou: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett Coverley Found Her Voice was officially released. That day, I presented a storytime at the Marpole library and held a book talk/meet n greet/goodbye party at the Joy Kogawa House. I edited one young adult novel manuscript. The Toronto Star did a large feature story about Louise Bennett and A Likkle Miss Lou and even sent photographer to take pictures of me that were used in the article. I celebrated my birthday in Chicago and Cleveland in the United States.
I took a leave of absence from teaching until December 2019. I used this time to promote my books, present in schools, and focus on my self-care.
From September 5-12, I travelled to Jamaica as part of a fifty-member group delegation from the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) for the sole purpose to celebrate the 100th anniversary of this cultural icon and celebrating the unveiling of Miss Lou Square in Gordon Town, the hometown of the late Jamaican poet. I had the opportunity to meet the Jamaican first-lady/Minister of Parliament (MP), Juliet Holness. I also presented A Likkle Miss Lou to Priory and Muirhouse Primary Basic schools in St. Ann, Jamaica. The first school was that of a former student and the latter school was that my mother and relatives attended as children.
On September 14, I officially launched A Likkle Miss Lou at A Different Booklist bookstore in Toronto. The event celebrated the seven-year journey to bringing this book to life. The Heritage Singers, a 40+ year old Caribbean choir with which I had sung, beautiful graced us with beautiful folksongs featured in the book.
I took part in an amazing lengthy CBC interview on Sunday Edition with Michael Enright to discuss A Likkle Miss Lou and the work of Louise Bennett Coverley. This was an amazing emotional experience as excerpts from Enright’s interview with Louise Bennett Coverley (four years before her death) were interspersed throughout the interview.
I also presented A Likkle Miss Lou at the Telling Tales festival in Hamilton, Ontario, the Toronto Reference Library, and a school and bookstores in New York City.
At the end of the month, the first ever FOLD Kids festival took place in Brampton, Ontario. It was a pleasure to host the Storytelling Showcase and supporting this event after months of planning.
I took part in book signings throughout the Greater Toronto area. I attended the Storytelling Through Drawing workshop for three-days at the Highlights Foundation in Pennsylvania. I also attended the annual Canadian Society for Children’s Authors, Illustrators, & Performers (CANSCAIP) Packaging Your Imagination (PYI) Conference in Toronto, Ontario. I was a mentor for the Black Indigenous People of Colour (BIPOC) Writers Connect conference in Toronto. I had the opportunity to work with three amazingly talented pre-published writers. I also attended the 2nd Annual CanKidLit Gala which donated to the TD Children’s Book Week 2019.
I had the pleasure of hosting author Tayari Jones in Conversation as part of the Toronto International Festival of Authors (IFOA) at the Harbourfront Centre. I participated in a draft reading from my young adult novel work in progress. I delivered school presentations in Toronto and New York City. This was the first time that I presented to schools within the public board in which I teach.
I saw the film Harriet which took 20+ years to be made. It is the first feature length film with theatrical release about Harriet Tubman. When I was offered the opportunity to write a book about this hero, I jumped at the chance. I knew that the film was also coming down the pipeline too ;-). One of the historians who was a consultant for my book Harriet Tubman, Freedom Fighter also was consulted for the film.
I had the pleasure of going to Baltimore to take part in the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention. There, I completed book signings, moderated a panel on Black Girl Literacies, and hosted a table at the Children’s Book Award Luncheon. I had the pleasure of presenting A Likkle Miss Lou to Grade One students at the Enoch Pratt Free Library. I also met some of my #kidlit superheroes and organized a gathering of Canadian authors who were present.
I also had the opportunity to present at Catholic and public schools in Toronto. This was especially significant for me since it was the first time that I got to do author visits within the school board I work.
This was my busiest month regarding school visits. I had many memorable experiences. I also attended a few holiday celebrations within the Canadian children’s literature community and sold and signed books at local events. I took part in recording of promotional videos for an upcoming campaign called #IReadCanadian Day which will take place on February 19. I decided to also get prepared for my return to the classroom in January 2020. I am quite excited about what I hope to experience in the upcoming new year and decade. For the holiday season, I stayed local in Toronto and celebrated Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Day. It has been a blessed and adventurous 2019. Stay tuned for my Winter 2020 newsletter and my writing goals blogpost!