Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Honored To Have My Poem Included.

 As a judge for the Young Muslim Writers Awards I was asked to contribute to this lovely journal.

Who knew judging could be so difficult?

Six young poets, all ages.  Several submitting more than one poem.  All meaningful and well crafted.  A joy to read.

And I read them over many times.  Tried to be objective, even made a kind of grid for scoring different elements of the poems. 

But heart enters into all of it, the writing and the judging.  That is the beauty.

And here is my contribution to this years journal.  An honor to be included.  A diverse collection and lovely presentation.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Reflecting: A Real Christmas This Year

I often find myself thinking back on years gone by this time of year...reflecting.  I also find myself sometimes wishing I had a blockbuster holiday book...any holiday would do.  One that comes out every year, say with a new cover, one that is a classic, part of the (in this case) Christmas tradition.

Well guess what?  I do have a Christmas book!  It was published in 1998 (around then I think) and it is out of print (this I definitely know for sure).  You can find it on Amazon though.  Just so you know.

Funny thing is I did not write this book as a Christmas book.  Yes!  Christmas is in the book.  So are a lot of other things.  A girl, Megan, and her handicapped brother, her family and a friend for starters.  And yes she does hope for "a real Christmas this year" (read that as normal).  But she also struggles with having a family member who is handicapped ( a little like me growing up but not the same). And she begins to realize that she might not be alone with her problems(a new friend, a boy,  has a sister who goes to the same school as her brother ).

I happened to go to Google to check on my Christmas titled book and see what is happening.  (It's not a bad idea to check up on your orphaned books once in a while).

Well the reviews are pretty great.  The teacher who reads it to her class every year.  Each student loved this book.  A tremendous ending.  Wow!

They got me thinking, remembering, even made me a little weepy.

 Made me remember the people who contacted me when that book came out and told me how much it meant to them.

By the end of the book Megan does get a special Christmas, her whole family does(she helps make it happen).   Not real or normal (whatever that is).  But special.  That's not a spoiler, just a tease. 

So I reflect (with the help of Google). I do have a good little book there.  Not a Christmas blockbuster.  Maybe not even a Christmas book.  A book that resonates with readers..makes them laugh...and cry. 

An all year 'round book with some Christmas magic.

A little reflection can go a long way.  My hope for my readers is for some time to reflect over the holidays.  I hope you, like Megan, find something special and maybe even a little magic...

Friday, November 27, 2015

Grateful to get it write(right).

A writer writes what she knows from her life, her own experiences.  She writes with passion and honesty.

If she gets it right she hopes she will connect with even one reader.

She is grateful when she does.  It is remarkable that our lives can intersect so profoundly with people we have never even met.

This week I had this note from a reader.  I am grateful that I got it right and grateful that she let me know.  Lovely that she contacted me during this season of Thanks.

This little book out of print and still brings joy to readers and to me.

I have always wondered what your experiences were that inspired you to write "When Africa Was Home." When curiosity finally led me to stumble across your website and bio, I felt like I should share with you how much your book has meant to me and my family.

My parents were missionaries in a remote area of Papua New Guinea. My sisters and I all grew up there and it was and is still our home. My mom tells us that when she first read a worn and tattered copy of your book one night in a missionary guest house, she finally understood what it was like for us kids. Every time that we went to visit America her and my Dad were going to their home, but we were leaving ours.

Ever since then your book has been a cherished book in our house. My sisters and I read it over and over again as children because it was the only book that told the story of our lives. Every experience that Peter had, we had. I remember my mom telling us about how we had to wear shoes in America, and that we could not longer eat with our hands. In America we played indoors, and there weren't any trees to climb. In your book. The first time that I heard a vacuum in America I leaped on my bed to get away from it.

Thank you for writing your book and telling our story.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thankful for Diversity in my Life

Counting my blessings and shamelessly self promoting!

Check out this video discussion about books for children about refugees featuring Four Feet Two Sandals and My Name is Sangoel.

Coffee Break Confidential: Refugee Revelations
Posted by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. on November 19, 2015 in Coffee Break Confidential, Eerdfolk | 1 Comment

And the interview with yours truly.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Where is Beatrice Now?

Sometimes our dreams change.  Beatrice did go to college but she did not train to be a nurse.

At Utali College she majored in Hotel Hospitality.

Now she works in the Hotel industry in Nairobi.

She is also continuing her education.

Here is Beatrice now.
What a lovely hard working young woman!  Courageous and determined.

And here is what Wendy Stone the photographer who illustrated Beatrice's Dream has to say about the journey:

Beatrice's Dream:  I first met Beatrice in 2006 when she was 13 years
old living in Kibera slum. I met a well known children's book writer,
Karen Williams, when she was a visiting author at my daughters school in
Nairobi. She was eager to write a book about a child living in a slum.
We found Beatrice through an NGO that I worked with in Kibera. Karen met
with her and wrote her story.  I spent one day with her photographing "a
day in the life of Beatrice".  Karen already had a literary agent for
her other books. We put together a proposal but it took 2 years for the
agent to find a publisher who was interested in the book.  Finally she
found one, and the publisher wanted many more photos of Beatrice. This
was in 2008 to 2009, right after the political riots in Kenya. Large
areas of Kibera burned to the ground and Beatrice was nowhere to be
found.  I had to take more photos. So I took the photos of Kibera and
her school and teachers and friends but without Beatrice being there. 
It worked! The publisher loved the photos and they approved the book.
But then the next hitch was that they needed her to sign a release
giving them permission to publish her story and photos. It took us one
year to find her. Finally in 2010 I managed to find her through an ad
that I ran in the daily newspaper with her photo titled Missing Child.
The next morning I received an anonymous phone call informing me that
Beatrice was a student at State House Girls Boarding School in Nairobi.
Fortunately she had a sponsor who was paying for her private schooling.
I went to visit her that same day but the school refused to let me see
her without the presence of her social worker, who was her guardian, at
the time. It took several attempts before I managed to meet with her. 
It was an emotional reunion and I was relieved to see her looking so
well.  The school would not let Beatrice sign a release form for the
book since she was still a minor and her social worker guardian was very
suspicious of my motives, most probably thinking that I was eager to
make money from this book. I had to hire a lawyer to intervene in the
case. The lawyer met with the Social Worker and finally he approved the
book. This happened just two weeks before the publisher's deadline, over
a period of several months. I met with Beatrice to show her the first
draft of the book for her final approval. She asked that I omit two
photos of her brother, which I agreed to.  After the book was published,
Beatrice graduated from school and lived with her guardian's family. I
was still living in Kenya at the time and was able to assist her in
visiting colleges and making decisions about her future.  The royalty
from the book paid for her education at Utalii College where she majored
in Hotel Hospitality.  She is now working in the hotel business in

Monday, November 2, 2015

Greenwich Reads Together: I was there with Sangoel!

 Once at an author visit promoting one of my books, a grandmother said to me,  " My granddaughter is nothing like the girl in your book.  Why would I buy your book?"   I was speechless then but I have had time to think.   Look around your child's or grandchild's classroom.  It is probably the case that the child on at least one side of her is not of  the same race or socioeconomic class or same color as she is.  They may not speak the same first language.

Why read?  For entertainment, to learn about yourself, the world, to laugh, to cry, to share... 

And that is just what Greenwich, CT  is doing..the whole town!  My Name is Sangoel was chosen this year along with Americanah by Chimamande Ngozi Adiche for adults and Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate for mid-grades for the town read.

The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in 2014 more Latino, African American and Asian children were enrolled in US Public schools than non-Hispanic White children.

Indeed in one of the 5 schools I visited, there are children from 60 countries and they speak over 30 languages.

Here is what one mom had to say about my visit:  I just wanted to let you know that Lindsay could not wait to share the details from the author visit and about the book My Name is Sangoel.  It lead to a great discussion about refugee camps and especially what is happening in Syria right now.  How nice to have an author bring up such a relevant topic.   Thank you to everyone who found the author and brought her to Greenwich.

Shouldn't we be raising children ready for a future in a diverse world who can succeed in diverse communities and schools?  That is a question for the grandmother from that earlier author visit.  a question for all of us.

Greenwich, Connecticut gets it and the students there get it.
They read they discuss, the learn.  They have fun!

 Like Sangoel they are creative problem solvers.   I tried it too:

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Meet Wendy Stone: Photographer for Beatrice's Dream

Photo Presentation

Nov. 4th, Wednesday, 6 pm
The Metropolitan Opera Guild
The Rose Building
165 West 65th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam, 6th floor

Free for members of PWP, $10.00 for non- members to pay at the door

Wendy's remarkable, compelling photographs of Children in Africa captured my imagination and led to our collaboration that turned into the book Beatrice's Dream.

If you are anywhere in the NY Metropolitan area on November 4, 2015, this presentation is a must.

Wish I could be there!

Read more about Wendy:

Photojournalist, Wendy Stone, has been working in Africa covering
international aid and relief work for 27 years. Her clients include
UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR, WFP, The Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller
Foundation, Centers for Disease Control, The World Agroforestry Center,
USAID, Project Concern International and many others.

During the 1990's she worked as a news photographer and covered the war
in Somalia, the war in South Sudan, the story of the Lost Boys, famines
and droughts in the horn of Africa and the AIDS epidemic in eastern

She has also photographed colorful traditional ceremonies and
the indigenous people of Kenya including the Maasai, Turkana and
Rendille peoples. She has worked for many years in the slums of Kenya,
photographing the programs of non-profit organizations.

Her first children's book, "Beatrice's Dream: Life in an African Slum",
was published in 2011 by Frances Lincoln Press, in London. Beatrice is
the story of a 13 year old orphan living in one of Kenya's largest
slums, Kibera.

Wendy will be the guest speaker on November 4th at the meeting for
Professional Women Photographers, where she will be showing her
photographs and speaking about her work. All are welcome.