Friday, December 18, 2015
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
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
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.
Thursday, November 12, 2015
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.
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
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.
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!
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
WENDY STONE, PHOTOJOURNALIST
PHOTOJOURNALISM IN AFRICA: 1988-2015
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
If you are anywhere in the NY Metropolitan area on November 4, 2015, this presentation is a must.
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
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.
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Newcomers to an American school, they are from the Chin State of Burma. Their English is limited but they understand what it means to share and care. They relate to the characters and the story told in this picture book even though it is not a story of Burma.
Four Feet Two Sandals is about two refugee girls from Afghanistan in a refugee camp in Pakistan.
Refugee children around the world can relate to loss of country, home, family. Perhaps a story they relate to will help them find their place in a new home, a new world.
Let's hope they are welcomed in their new schools by new friends. And may their classmates be caring and sharing, open to learning about the world they come from, the world we live in.
We need more books with diversity for all children!
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
We live on the Navajo Reservation in Chinle Arizona. Clear skies, unobstructed horizon.
Our youngest son Jonathan is in Paraguay with the Peace Corps. He happened to be on What's App. We shot him a photo, which reminded him about the eclipse.
I clicked photos frustrated that I could never capture the beauty knowing there would be thousands of photos on social media all better than mine. Tried to remind myself to be in the moment and not experience it through the lens.
Meanwhile our daughter in Cincinnati quips on another app, "the gods have forsaken us!"
In typical Jonathan fashion we get a brief virtual history lesson from his part of the world, " I think a Mayan or Aztec chief saw a lunar eclipse in his dream. He took it as an omen. Shortly thereafter the Spanish arrived. Is this eclipse an omen of my arrival in Paraguay? "
This is the way our family rolls.
Another sibling in DC wants to know if Jonathan is alive or has his heart been sacrificed to the blood moon.
I am beginning to wonder if this virtual togetherness is enhancing the experience or detracting from it. But we are spread all over the world and we are experiencing a significant moment together. Different worlds, same moon...sharing.
I couldn't help remembering when Steve and I had just arrived in Malawi, Africa more than 30 years ago. We too were in the Peace Corps. I was a new mother. I was away from home and family. I was homesick in a world so very far away and so very different from home.
I held Peter in my arms and looked at the full moon(no eclipse that night) and took comfort that my family could see the same moon. No virtual sharing then. It took at least two months for mail to go out and return with a response. If I had written home that night, by the time I received a response I would have been settled into life and the adventure, on to new concerns, new joys, new news.
Forgive my motherly sentimentality here. But I could not help thinking as the moon turned a gray-pink: Different worlds, different means of communication. Connecting us. Always changing.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree! He came by this choice honestly.
Steve and I were Peace Corps volunteers in Malawi more than a few years ago.
Jonathan's brother, Christopher and sister-in-law, Laurie returned from the Peace Corps in Mozambique two years ago.
But wait! His cousin, Kayla was in Panama for 2 years with the Peace Corps and her mom, Robyn was in the Peace Corps before her.
So this weekend found us celebrating. Thanks to friends and family who were with us for the send-off party. Where we tried some recipes from Paraguay.
This cookie cake with chocolate and caramel was a hit.
But what is a party without the traditional?
And the chance to share some mate...an traditional infused tea from Paraguay.
So the party is over and Jonathan is on his way to a new adventure.
We are proud that Jonathan will offer his skills and knowledge to a little part of the world as a volunteer in the environmental studies program in Paraguay.
But mostly we know that he will likely gain more than he gives and life will never be quite the same after the Peace Corps.
If you want to follow his adventures check out his blog here:
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
I am honored to have been invited to be a judge for the Young Muslim Writers Awards.
The young writers are age five to sixteen. The mission of the organization based in the UK is to "raise standards of child literacy and creative writing. To enable young people to be confident communicators to help build a vibrant society.
The top five entries for both Poetry and Short Stories will be chosen for the award. They will be published in the anthology of the Young Muslim Writers Awards.
I look forward to reading the shortlisted entries and helping to chose the finalists. Stay tuned!
Thursday, August 20, 2015
My Little Sangoel has been paired with Americanah by Chimamanda Ngoci Adiche for the Greenwich Connecticut Read Together Celebration this October.
WOW! What an honor for Sangoel, for me.
I might even get to go to Greenwich. Not far from where I grew up, another connection. stay tuned to this blog for more about that.
Just when an author least expects it her books make new friends and connections in unexpected places.
See more about Americanah, a story about race, immigration and identity and the Greenwich reading Celebration here:
And a big shout out to Greenwich teachers, librarians, parents and community for promoting READING!
Sunday, August 16, 2015
We settled back on the beach blanket to watch him build castles and throw rocks into the ocean. And we saw the exact moment when he looked back to find us and then the sudden moment when he panicked and began running wildly down the beach. From his vantage point all the umbrellas and towels and blankets must have looked the same. Steve jumped up and ran down the beach to "rescue" Peter.
So 25 years later I had a story idea, something about a child who finds his way home or back on the trail by being observant. The original draft took place in the woods but it wasn't working.
Then I remembered Peter on the beach. The rest is history. Except any writer knows it is not that easy. It took some time.
And now Peter has a son who is five. We spent some time at the beach recently.
This beach was in Hawaii. Back at the house we took a break from sand and sun and ocean and I read A Beach Tail to my grandson, Ethan. What a joy to share this tale inspired by his dad to my grandchild.
But then something else happened. That afternoon back at the beach I gave Ethan a stick and suggested he write his name.
He did and then...
He drew a lion. (A nod here to Floyd Cooper)
And then he drew a tail!
Later he read A Beach Tail again.
An unexpected pleasure for this Grandma who had not carried this tale so far when she first wrote the book. An author never knows whose hands her books will end up in and what they will inspire. What a journey we take when we begin on a fresh page for a new tale..
Monday, June 29, 2015
Thanks to the Wisconsin International Outreach Consortium.
Two great events. A workshop for teachers, “Exploring Global Stories Locally: Migration Histories, Children’s Literature, and Wisconsin Experiences”
And Story Hour with some jellyfish inspired by A Beach Tail.
Here's a shout out to Wisconsin! Doing great work for children, literature, teachers and immigrants and more.