In the beginning, I wrote Malaika's Costume for a course in 2010. I waited 3 years to submit it to a contest which it lost but then sent it to editor Sheila Barry. It needed work but she like it. By 2014, I had my publishing contract and my first book award for this story (from the contest I lost the year before, of course). I finally got to hold this book in my hands in 2016.
Before Malaika's Costume, I became the first-time published author of two books Music and Media in the Sankofa series. (It was a close race though. In December 2013, I received offers by my two publishers-- Rubicon Publishing and Groundwood Books-- within a week of each other. The stars weren't aligned but I did get shat on by birds on two separate occasions around that time. Hmmm.... weird.) Although they were actually published in 2015, the award-winning Sankofa series was finally launched in February 2016 at Reading for the Love of It in Toronto. Super exciting!
In my high school years, I considered going into filmmaking and even made my first music video and a short documentary... on video. Since then, I have founded, organized, planned, volunteered, and worked with film festivals yet, I realized that the actual nitty-gritty of making a film is messy and a lot of work. Nothing helped me to realize this more than making the Malaika's Costume book trailer featured here. It took me about 6 hours and several more to upload. At least, I now know how to do it. Stay tuned for more!
On March 5, 2016, I held the largest Carnival book launch with my family, friends, illustrator, writing colleagues, publisher, and supporters at A Different Booklist bookstore in Toronto. We had a blast! There were 50+ people crammed into this store, the same place where I met my publisher Sheila Barry in 2011. We feted to calypso with doubles, phoulourie, Jamaican vegan beef patties, and punch. It was also important for me glad to celebrate this moment at ADB before the demolition of this space in 2017. ADB is relocating to a new space... across the street.
It was really important for me to give back to the community that raised me and the library that nurtured my love of books. I had a second launch at the Albion library in Rexdale, a predominantly working-class and immigrant community in Toronto. My illustrator Irene Luxbacher and I had a wonderful time with the kids there. My dedication in Malaika's Costume is written to my students at the Africentric School. I was so blessed to have many of these students perform at my launch as part of the Ubuntu Drum & Dance Group.
I had organized or was invited to speak at book-related events last year ranging from book launches in various cities to signings to meet-and-greets to school or summer school presentations and library visits and literary festivals. There were a few times I had to say "no" because the dates or locations wouldn't work or I was not in the country. It's truly a labour of love. Call me crazy or a shameless self-promoter, a hustler or all of the above but I had events in 9 separate cities both in Canada (numerous Toronto, Brampton, Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal), and the United States (New York City, Boston, Detroit, Atlanta). Any city I visited, I signed books that were there as I did in Miami and New Orleans.
Most of my relatives live in the United States so when several came out to the NYC launch... they came out en masse. This was a magic moment for me. For my family to see me doing what I love doing and showing me such love and support, this was such a huge affirmation. And for it all to take place at Bank Street Bookstore, one of the most important children's bookstores in the nation? (I then had a meet and greet at Grandma's Place toy and bookstore in Harlem.) Thank you, thank you, thank you! Plus, I made a new peacock friend. Thanks to a Toronto girl named Malaika and her mother, I've named him Malik!
Presenting Malaika's Costume to children in Abu Dhabi is like anywhere else... the kids love stories. I am so thankful to organizations like Wanna Read for doing the work that they do. I look forward to presenting my book to children at the Emirates Air Festival of Literature (EAFOL) in Dubai this March 2017. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is becoming my literary home away from literary home... although, of course, there is still no place like home. You can now purchase your copy of the book at Magrudy bookstores through the UAE.
In the beginning, I must admit, the media coverage seemed a little slow but I take that all back now. For this, I am so grateful. Take a look at the media page on this website here.