#KidLit4BlackLivesCanada: A Rally to Support Black Lives in solidarity with #KidLit4BlackLives and #Juneteenth was a success with over 2000+ viewers (in spite of having gone over 45 minutes and Zoom having made the mistake of capping at 100 viewers even though it was extended ahead of time.) One thing is certain: we love and care for our children and youth. Many courageous conversations were had and will continue after this event. To my presenters: Thank you for getting to the tough stuff, being so real, and vulnerable. Thank you for your creativity— poetry, storytelling, music, art. I suppose that it was ambitious to get this all in within time constraints (the event went over by 45 minutes). The kids’ section was fun, brave, and creative. The teen section was the kinds of things I wish I heard as a teen, gritty, and genuine. The adult section really encouraged them to be informed and to act. On our panel consisted of 100+ books published, 22 presenters, 17 authors of which 9 were self-published, 6 Black female and 5 Black male authors, 5 allies, 3 time zones, 3 Canadian provinces, 2 countries, Goals reached: Educate, empower, heal, call to action. What else was accomplished? So much more. I wish to thank all of our participants. To watch the full length event, visit A Different Booklist Cultural Centre’s Facebook Page. An edited version with resources list will be available on youtube soon.
Meet the presenters here!
Let’s face it. It’s been a challenging season. Staying at home more has brought a lot of gifts but for many of us are dealing with new work arrangements, managing children, supporting sick family members, recovering, loss of employment or income, or grieving. My original thought at the start of the pandemic was that I could blog and post weekly but I realize that was a lot to demand myself. I have been doing a lot of journaling, working (although it feels much slower), spiritual life, and goal setting. I will do my best to share what I have been learning along the way. The optimist in me believes that there is good that can come from these challenges.
A “piece of positive news”... I am going back to school. I decided to fulfill a dream and pursue my passion. Once upon a time, I applied to an Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in #CreativeWriting program at UBC in 2011 and Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) in 2014. I did not get into either. I let go of the dream. I found many other ways to “get into” writing through courses, workshops, conferences, critique groups, mentorships, and on-one-on feedback sessions. I now have 6 books published and a 7th on the way, plus 1 poem in an anthology, which I have been able to do without an agent. I have a Master of Education (MEd) degree (2015), jury writing awards, review books, and present all over, including teaching an upcoming course in writing for children at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. You may be asking, why an MFA now? I have blogged a lot about how to have an “MFA experience” without going into loads of debt (read about that here). However, I realized I still held a flame for pursuing one. Part of applying was for me to know that I could get an offer of admission. Secondly, many of my favourite authors completed MFAs and I wanted to learn how they were able to write such great books. I am a multi-genre writer who wants to develop further in my other genres, especially non-fiction, fiction, and drama. With this program, I am amazed at the writing of the award-winning faculty like Carrianne Leung and Dionne Brand and graduates like Canisia Lubrin, Ayelet Tsabari, #SimoneDalton, #JaelRichardson, #RichardScrimger, and Wendy Motion Brathwaite that the MFA program of interest boasted. The MFA in #CreativeWriting Canada as a degree is still fairly new, only 5 institutes offer it in this country. The University of Guelph-Humber program offered a lot of advantages— Toronto’s only MFA in #CreativeWriting program, it’s super close (#Rexdale represent!), it’s tiny (less than 15 students, so the faculty to student ratio is very low), and there are other benefits too. Admittedly, I don’t know what I’m getting into as I’m not sure what it will be like in this #pandemic/#physicaldistancing climate. I will need to juggle studying with other responsibilities. In spite of all of this, I am super excited. I look forward to applying time to my many works in progress— plays, novels, books in my head and being with a group of such talented and focussed people. Thank you so much to all Paul Coccia, Danielle Daniel, Harold Underdown, Ann-Marie Metten, Richard Scrimger, Melanie Fishbane, Shauntay Grant, Jael Richardson, and Karen Krossing who were part of my decision-making process. #writerlylife #writeordiechick #writerwithadayjob The University of Guelph Creative Writing MFA #maturestudent #2nddegree
How are you doing? How are you coping? The Novel COVID-19/ Corona Virus Pandemic has brought up a lot of different feelings for people from panic to concern, anxiety to uncertainty. For many of us, it has brought up the feeling of “loss of control”. We pore over news feeds and stock up on essentials at the stores. It has resulted in generosity and greater concerns for vulnerable members of society. Never have we seen such a pandemic in my generation or in this century. This time is causing me to think a lot about what we can do help people in difficult situations such as domestic abuse in which a “lockdown/social isolation” can have dire consequences, and holding each other up. As a teacher who currently does not have my own children, I understand that many parents have to keep their young ones at home and in social isolation. Museums, movie theatres, shows, and even places of worship have closed down or reduced their hours and capacities. Literary and other conferences are being cancelled left right and centre or moved to virtual platforms. Authors, including myself on March 24, are presenting and doing readings online.
I have probably spent way too much time online, reading Facebook posts, watching the numbers on the news, trying touch base with loved ones, and finding out what exactly is gong on? It is possibly way too soon to know.
In the meantime, I am using this time for self care and check in on loved ones. Sure, it may feel like a luxury.
Since this week is technically my March Break from my teaching career, I have been using this time for writing projects. Below is my schedule. PLEASE NOTE: I have not followed this schedule exactly as I’ve been flexible with the times, here and there. If I get to most of the things on this list, major success especially since some days it’s more about reading COVID updates on social media, meeting deadlines, and checking in with loved ones. Perhaps, you’ll find it helpful.
You will notice that my faith is an important part of my day. I am a practicing Christian and I’ve begun writing prayers this week (as in first time ever). I wrote my first ever prayer for healthcare workers. Much of my family members work in the US and Jamaican 🇯🇲 healthcare systems so in addition to my Canadian home, I am following the novel COVID-19 pandemics there as well. If you would like a copy, please contact me here.
On a different note, please join me on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 at 11am EST for FOLD Kids Academy webinar. Click here for details. Check www.nadialhohn.com/events or my social media for updates on any more online visits.
Staying healthy is also essential! I am thinking of ways to serve my community more in the next few weeks. All of this will also be dependent on what this social distancing will look like in my career as a teacher.
Check on your loved ones! Take good care!
MY WEEKDAY SCHEDULE
7:00 am or whenever I wake up
Tea, Prayer, the Word, Devotions, Journal, Read spiritual book, Listen to praise songs
Draft edits to MG or YA novel manuscript
Run (on my run days)/ walk or outdoor (10km to Finish from Running by John Stanton)
30 Days of Yoga (Yoga with Adriene on youtube)
Breakfast (Intermittent Fasting)/ Dishes
E-mails/ Networking/ Blog
“Jury Duty” Read through entries of an undisclosed writing contest
Course planning for Writing for Children (University of Toronto) here
Lunch/ Meal prep/ Dishes
Online Les Mills BodyPump exercise here on Tues, Thurs, Sat
Music, Reading, Art Time on Mon, Wed, Fri
Listen to Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) podcast, learning (doing this while meal prep or washing dishes)
Dinner/ Dishes/ Meal prep
Call a friend/ check-in
Evening Entertainment (TV)/ Netflix
Gratitude journal, read, pray
I am the February 2020 Open Book writer in residence. Here ye! Here ye! My name is Nadia L. Hohn and I am proud to be the February 2020 Open Book writer-in-residence. Not only do you get to read my posts about writing, #kidlit, and Canadian publishing all month long— an opportunity of which I will be taking full, repeat, FULL advantage. You will get answers to questions like:
This blogpost is about the decade that changed my writing career. The 2010s was a huge decade for me— both professionally and personally. At the start of the decade, I was fresh and fly with my beautiful dredlocks a flow. These photos were taken during a significant week in 2010– professionally (finished teaching my first year at the first ever publicly-funded Africentric school in Canada, I was part of the inaugural staff), personally (I just got engaged), and physically (my doctor discovered a lump in my neck). Below, you will find the highlights of my 2010s decade which focuses on my writerly life and some of my personal life. (I have not included much about my teaching career other than what is connected to my writing.). I also have not included all of the things I got rejected from because then this post may get dull.
So here goes...
2010-2019 DESIGN OF A DECADE: MY WRITER LIFE!
I am so blessed to be alive! Each day is a chance to live my best life.
2019 has been a year filled with many “ups” and “downs”, challenges that promoted me to grow and learn, take on new roles, expand my brand and travel. In one year, I presented in 5 Canadian provinces and 2 American states, realized dreams (travelling across Canada by train, presenting at schools in Jamaica, and delivering writing workshops), and launched two books— HARRIET TUBMAN, FREEDOM FIGHTER and A LIKKLE MISS LOU: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett Coverley Found Her Voice. It’s been an incredibly busy year. So much so that I had not blogged as much as I typically do. So hopefully you will be caught up soon enough. Below you will find the 2019 Highlight Reel of my Writerly Life.
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!
I have done quite a lot of reading this year. My goal was to read 200 books in 2019. As of December 31, 2019, I have read 260 books so far this year. (Who knows what will happen before midnight?) I stopped posting all of my book reviews to this blog as it is incredibly time consuming. However, if you wish to read my book reviews, please "friend me" on Goodreads where my reviews are posted there. This year, most of my books were written by authors of colour. Also in 2019, I did not read enough science fiction/fantasy/speculative fiction books to merit creating its own list as I had in 2018. Instead, I have added an adult fiction, a middle grade, and an adult non-fiction list. As an author, I dream about finding my book on variety of reading lists, including the ones I have compiled below. Books that are not listed here, does not mean I don't like them. I chose books that I love over the moon and back. I have a soft spot for diverse characters, #ownvoices, and social justice themes. If an author released two books in 2019, I chose one of the two so no repeats(looking at you SK Ali). I will share my list on social media outlets and tag most of the creators so they could feel some validation (we all need some) and that another "writer who supports writers". (Cue in: You are not alone by Michael Jackson.)
My 2018 Top 10 Favourite Canadian Books I Read in 2019:
These books were written by authors who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents, authors residing in Canada, or Canadians living overseas. Regardless, these authors all have a Canadian connection.
Love from A to Z by SK Ali
Learning to Breathe by Janice Lynn Mathers
My Top 10 Favourite Young Adult (YA) Books I Read in 2019 (I cheated a bit here)
With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo,
Love from A to Z by SK Ali, and
Learning to Breathe by Janice Lynn Mathers
My Top 10 Favourite Middle Great (MG) Books I Read in 2019
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
My Top 10+ Favourite Picture Books I Read in 2019
Winners (I cheated a little bit, included my own):
Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier,
A LIKKLE MISS LOU: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett Coverley Found Her Voice by Nadia L. Hohn, and
Sulwe by Lupita Nyongo, illustrated by Vashti Harrison
My Top 10 Favourite Adult Fiction That I Read in 2019
My Top 10 Favourite Adult Non-Fiction That I Read in 2019
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell,
Well-Read Black Girl edited by Glory Edim
Top 12 Overall Favourite Books I Read in 2019 That Were Published in 2019
In this issue...
Letter from the editor
It has been a beautiful and productive summer. I did not travel to any foreign countries but instead went to new places within Canada and the United States— Winnipeg, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Whistler, Seattle, Chicago, Cleveland, Vancouver, and Victoria. This summer was incredibly busy (see Writer in Residence at Historic Joy Kogawa House Wrap-Up in 2019 below) but fun. Being on the West Coast, I was blessed with slow mornings and quick evenings, hot yoga and strolls along the Arbutus Trail. I marvelled at the variety of trees, flowers, and spiders. I found a church and connected with members of the writing, Jamaican, Caribbean, and #kidlit communities. I also met wonderful BC-based writers and creators like Junie Desil, Janice Lynn Mather, Kathryn Shoemaker, and Eva Campbell. I even had the opportunity to meet author, poet, activist Joy Kogawa in whose childhood home, I conducted my writing residency. It was also wonderful to meet again with author Sarah Ellis who I spoke with 8 years ago during her writing residency at the Toronto Public Library (TPL).
In the words of the late Miss Lou, “Walk good!”
Writer in Residence at Historic Joy Kogawa House Wrap-Up in 2019
by Nadia L. Hohn
This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to be a writer in residence at the Historic Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The summer was quite busy and I realized quickly that prioritizing tasks was necessary to realize my personal and professional writing goals. The following is a list of achieveables/achieved tasks this summer. I was able to accomplish:
I would like to believe that it was a productive summer 2019.
A LIKKLE MISS LOU in the media
By Nadia L. Hohn
A LIKKLE MISS LOU: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett Coverley Found Her Voice was officially released on August 13, 2019 in the United States and on August 15, 2019 in Canada weeks shy of what would have been her 100th birthday (September 7, 1919). In fact, in Jamaica, the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Honourable Olivia Grange declared 100 days of Miss Lou commemorations and celebrations. My new book, published by Owlkids and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes, is available online (publisher website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indigo-Chapters) or a bookstore near you (if it isn’t, you can ask for it to be ordered). (However, several stores stocked this book on their shelves weeks before the release date.). All celebrations and upcoming book tours aside, the media response for this book has been positive. I was excited to have completed an interview with the Toronto Star which became the front page of the entertainment section. I was impressed that a photographer was sent to capture photos of me while I was in Vancouver. The Globe & Mail, Open Book, and an upcoming edition of the Quill & Quire magazine are all excited about A LIKKLE MISS LOU in Canada. In the United States, the reviews so far have also been favourable in Booklist, Kirkus Review, and Publishers weekly. To check out all of the media articles so far, please visit the link for A Likkle Miss Lou reviews and interviews. Have you bought your copy of a A LIKKLE MISS LOU today?
FOLD Kids 1st Festival 2019
I am excited to announce that the first ever Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) Kids festival will be taking place on September 27-29, 2019 in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. As a member of the planning team, I am excited about the upcoming program and the amazing authors who will be part of this line-up. Visit www.thefoldcanada.org/kids for more information.
Important A LIKKLE MISS LOU Upcoming Tour and Fall 2019 Dates
My fall 2019 tour dates are filling up fairly quickly and I have other related events which are listed below. It is quite an exciting time! For updates to this schedule, please check my website at www.nadialhohn.com/events. To request a presentation or signing near you, please send me an e-mail at email@example.com.
Malaika’s Surprise release date
Details to follow
November 24, 2019
Washington, DC, USA
November 21-24, 2019
2019 National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention
Baltimore, MD, USA
November 21, 2019
Enoch Pratt Library Presentation (details to follow)
Baltimore, MD, USA
November 20, 2019
School Book Fair (details to follow)
Manhattan, NY, USA
November 17, 2019
Draft Reading Series (details to follow)
Toronto, ON, Canada
October 30, 2019
Mentor, BIPOC Writers Connect (details to follow)
The Writers' Union of Canada (TWUC)
Toronto, ON, Canada
October 27, 2019
October 6, 2019
October 5, 2019
September 27-30, 2019
FOLD Kids Festival
September 22, 2019
A Likkle Miss Lou: How Jamaican Louise Bennett Coverley Found Her Voice Brooklyn Book Launch and Storytime
11:30am Prospect Leffert Gardens location
1:30pm Fort Greene location
Brooklyn, NY, USA
September 21, 2019
Bank Street Bookstore
Manhattan, NY, USA
September 17, 2019
Celebrating Miss Lou: Queen of Jamaican Culture
Toronto Reference Library (TRL)
Beeton Hall (1st. Floor)
September 15, 2019
Telling Tales Festival
Westfield Heritage Village
Rockton, ON, Canada
Early Settlement Area
September 14, 2019
A Likkle Miss Lou: How Jamaican Louise Bennett Coverley Found Her Voice Toronto Book Launch
A Different Booklist Bookstore and Cultural Centre
September 5-12, 2019
Miss Lou 100th Birthday Celebration
c/o Jamaican Canadian Association
© Nadia L. Hohn, 2019
Toronto, ON, Canada