Talking Diversity & Book Awards

Last week I had the privilege of hosting a conversation on the intersections between diversity and the selection of books for awards and best-of lists. I got to pick the brains of Jason Low, Debbie Reese, Marilisa Jiménez García, Pat Enciso, and Daniel Kraus. Now you can enjoy their insights, which have just been published in this post for the Booklist Reader.

Our conversation brings to the fore a number of issues that impact both what books get considered for special recognition and how discussions of those books proceed. As the participants show, we’re finally deconstructing the notion that “diversity” and “quality” are in competition. Instead, how diversity shapes our understanding of what “quality” is.

Nowhere is this work more important than in the meeting room where book awards and other distinctions are deliberated. And, as we discuss, how books are reviewed also shapes which books get noticed. In our conversation, Jason Low points out the importance of “diverse reviewers… who can serve as a cultural sounding board when issues like nuance, perspective, and authenticity issues are in question.”  School Library Journal has been actively educating its reviewers and recruiting reviewers from diverse backgrounds. Booklist is working on this, too. In fact, just as we were wrapping up our conversation last week, Booklist issued this call:

Booklist is actively seeking book reviewers of diverse background, whether that background is cultural, racial, gender, or another. We are also looking for reviewers fluent in Spanish. Candidates with critical acumen and knowledge of a public-library audience should email writing samples (preferably published work) and reviewing preferences (fiction, nonfiction, adult, YA, picture books, graphic novels, audio, etc.) to one of the following:

Daniel Kraus, Books for Youth (dkraus@ala.org)

Donna Seaman, Adult Books (dseaman@ala.org)

Sarah Hunter, Graphic Novels (shunter@ala.org)

Joyce Saricks, Audio Books (jsaricks@ala.org)

If you fit the Booklist criteria, we encourage you to get your review on! At Latin@s in Kid Lit, we put excellent books on readers’ radars and highlight issues that relate to writing, publishing, promoting, and recognizing kid lit by, for, and about Latinas and Latinos. We’re eager to have more allies!

Reviewing not your thing? You can still draw others into the conversation around diversity in publishing and literature. Do you have a colleague who may not be plugged into these issues? Invite them to check out the resources we offer here at LKL. The Booklist Reader conversation includes a list of excellent websites that offer vetted book recommendations.

I hope the Booklist Reader piece prompts you to reconsider what diversity has to do with excellence as well as how you can advance diversity in your own reading and work. As Marilisa Jiménez García puts it in our conversation, “We need more than books. We need to cultivate a system of children’s and YA literature— reviewers, librarians, educators, professors, publishers—that holistically integrates people of color. We need bridges.”

So, how about it? What bridges can we build today?

Margarita Engle: Books in Spanish Enhance Latino Family Literacy

Margarita

By Margarita Engle

A few months ago, I received a set of wonderful letters from a grandmother and her 10-year-old granddaughter. They were reading Enchanted Air together, discussing it, and using it as a way for the grandma to share her own childhood experiences during the Cold War.

It occurred to me that many Latino families can’t do this, simply because most books by U.S. Latino authors are not available in Spanish. With a few wonderful exceptions such as the works of Pam Muñoz Ryan and Alma Flor Ada, in general only bestsellers by non-Latinos, and a few specialized small press books by Latinos, ever get translated.

Soon after those heartwarming grandma-granddaughter letters arrived, I visited a Washington, D.C. eighth-grade class where Latino students asked me for books in Spanish. All I had to offer was one of my oldest books, The Surrender Tree/El Arbol de la Rendición, a dual language paperback that resulted from this title’s status as a Newbery Honor winner.

Surrende Tree NotableMy next school visit was to a rural sixth-grade class in California’s agricultural Central Valley. The students were all Latino, and most spoke English, but teachers informed me that many of the parents and grandparents were not bilingual. The only way those families could participate in their children’s education was in Spanish. Fortunately, the school had a grant to provide a signed copy of The Surrender Tree/El Arbol de la Rendición to each student. Those books will go home and be available to the whole family. That’s no guarantee that parents will read and discuss them, but at least it is a possibility.

The need for bilingual books for older children has been on my mind so much that when I served on a diversity panel at a national teachers’ conference, I answered the question, “What are your wishes for the publishing industry?” with the statement, “I wish for translations.”

I pointed out that fifty million people in the U.S. speak Spanish, and that just because the publishing industry has never figured out how to reach this vast “market,” that doesn’t mean it will never be reached. We can’t give up. Until there are more translations, family literacy in this country will never be complete.

Fortunately, I will soon have another bilingual book. A new and innovative small press called HBE Publishing has set a fall 2016 release date for a middle grade historical verse novel that I wrote in the style of magic realism. There will be both English-only and bilingual options, so that schools or individuals can order their preferred format. I won’t receive any advance, but the royalty will be much higher than the usual 10%, a trade-off I’m happy to make, in exchange for a beautiful bilingual edition that children can share with their abuelitos. Perhaps innovation is what it will take to resolve the problem of too few translations.

 

Margarita Engle is a prolific author of books for young readers, most recently of Enchanted Air and Drum Dream Girl. She has won countless awards for her work, including the Pura Belpré and the Newbery Honor. Her guest posts on this blog are favorites with readers. Check out her essay on researching and writing the stories of historical heroes. For more information on Margarita’s writing, please visit her official author website.

The same day that this guest post published, Margarita received the 2016 Pura Belpré Author Award for Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings. Congratulations, Margarita! 

 

Margarita’s experiences point to the shortage of Latin@-authored Spanish editions for middle-grade readers. When we researched available titles, we came up with the following modest sampler. Help us expand it! In the comments, please tell us about good bilingual MGs or fully Spanish editions that you’ve run across. Remember, we’re not looking for translations of mega bestsellers like the Harry Potter or Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. We’d like to identify books that center on Latin@ characters and themes. Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

Note: Some of the bilingual book covers shown below don’t include their Spanish title. 

Si, Somos LatinosEsperanza Renace  Antes de ser libres  Beisbol en abril  Yo Naomi Leon  La travesia de Enrique La Casa en Mango Street  El Color de mis palabras   Cajas de carton  Cool Salsa    Alla Donde Florecen  Upside-Down-and-Backwards-350x550  Una momia en su mochila  Tomando partido  Tia Lola Terminó  Nacer bailando  Lemon-Tree-Caper-The-350x550  Gabi Esta Aqui  El Monstruo  El Caso de la Pluma Perdida  Cuentos Sazon  con-carino-amalia-love-amalia  Cartas del cielo  Cuentos para chicos y grandes  Cuentos de Apolo

Cincos Puntos Press: Publishing Diverse Titles for 30 Years

By Patrick Flores-Scott

Cinco Puntos Press - WikipediaThe El Paso, Texas publisher, Cinco Puntos Press, has been on my radar ever since my mother-in-law—who lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico, an hour away from the Cinco Puntos Press offices—handed me a copy of Benjamin Alire Saenz’s YA novel, Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood. I fell in love with that book and went on to read Saenz’s follow-up, Last Night I Sang to the Monster. Now my wife and I regularly read Cynthia Weill’s Opuestos and AbeCedario to our toddler and Saenz’s A Gift from Papá Diego is our older son’s current go-to bedtime picture book. (Full disclosure: I cry real tears every time Papá Diego shows up to the party.)

Isabel Quintero’s Gabi, a Girl in Pieces was one of 2014’s most lauded books, winning the Morris Award, and showing up on book of the year lists put out by Kirkus, Booklist and The School Library Journal.

All these great Cinco Puntos titles beg the question: What is going on in El Paso?

Bobby and Lee Byrd, both writers, founded Cinco Puntos Press in El Paso, Texas thirty years ago. In a phone conversation, CEO John Byrd explained that, “When my parents moved here they sought out folks who were making art. In El Paso, that means Latino artists and folks writing about the Latino experience. We publish the kind of books we publish because we’re in El Paso. Our mission to do this kind of work was a natural outgrowth of where we were.”

Byrd lists El Paso as a strength for Cinco Puntos because it gives the publisher a unique perspective on life and art. He noted that New York publishers are all bound by the confines of Manhattan. “That’s why so much of what they do seems so similar. Being in El Paso, we don’t hear all that industry noise. We can develop our own unique perspective on publishing.”

A critical factor in Cinco Puntos’ growth has been their relationship with indie distributor Consortium, Book Sales and Distribution. “When we first started with Consortium, the industry had made it clear that books by Hispanic authors couldn’t sell through mainstream channels. Consortium helped change that. They successfully place a lot of stuff that really pushes the boundaries and we’re proud to have our books sold alongside others that are distributed by Consortium.”

I asked Byrd about the relationship between independent publishers and the We Need Diverse Books campaign. He noted that about half of the books (according to the most recent Multicultural Literature Statistics from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center) listed as “multicultural” were published by independent presses.

“It’s hard to find anyone who disagrees with the aims of We Need Diverse Bookseven traditional publishers all agree. Still, New York houses just aren’t publishing those books. We Need Diverse Books is crucial, but energy focused on changing New York is misplaced.” Real change, Byrd insists, will come when we support and grow the diverse publishers, small publishers, independent publishers who are already doing the work of producing great “diverse books” by and about traditionally underrepresented voices.

Check out just of few of the notable Cinco Puntos Press titles below, and while you’re at it, grab some coffee and “Pan Dulce” with founder, Lee Byrd, as she interviews Cinco Puntos authors at the publisher’s YouTube channel .

Picture Books:

       

Little Chanclas by José Lozano

Walking Home to Rosie Lee by A. LaFaye, illustrated by Keith D. Shepherd

Don’t Say a Word, Mamá by Joe Hays, illustrated by Esau Andrade Valencia

Middle Grade:

       

Maximilian and The Mystery of the Guardian Angel by Xavier Garza

Maximilian and the Bingo Rematch by Xavier Garza

Remember Dippy by Shirley Reva Vernick

Teen:

               

This Thing Called the Future by J. L. Powers

The Blood Lie by Shirley Reva Vernick

The Smell of Old Lady Perfune by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez

Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Graphic Novel/Poetry-Photography:

Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush by Luis Alberto Urrea, illustrated by Christopher Cardinale

Vatos by Luis Alberto Urrea, Photographs by Jose Galvez

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PatrickFS1Patrick Flores-Scott was, until recently, a long-time public school teacher in Seattle, Washington. He’s now a stay-at-home dad and early morning writer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Patrick’s first novel, Jumped In, has been named to a YALSA 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults book, an NCSS/CBC Notable Book for the Social Studies and a Bank Street College Best Book of 2014. He is currently working on his second book, American Road Trip

Juventud Press, a New Indie Publisher, Will Focus on Latin@ MG & YA

cropped-fcoverAs a reader of this blog, you know what we’re up against. Nearly 5,000 children’s and YA books were published in 2012, but only 1.5% of those titles featured Latin@s. Given the historical inequities our community has faced—which have resulted in our kids’ educational struggles, low average reading level, and high drop-out rate—it is more important than ever that children of diverse cultural backgrounds have access to books in which they see themselves reflected.

Since 2011, the 501(c)(3) non-profit Valley Artist Outreach has worked to promote the artistic expression of disaffected youth in the colonias of South Texas and of artists whose work touches on issues of import to the community. As part of that work, VAO’s publishing wing has released several anthologies, notably ¡Juventud! Growing up  on the Border, a collection of YA stories and poems edited by René Saldaña, Jr. and Erika Garza-Johnson that features the work of David Rice, Xavier Garza, Jan Seale, Guadalupe García McCall, Diana Gonzales Bertrand and many others.

Stemming from the success of that book, VAO is proud to announce Juventud Press, an exciting new imprint seeking to bring diverse books to young readers often marginalized by traditional publishing. Juventud Press will release three to four middle-grade and young-adult titles a year, with an eye toward expanding into children’s literature in the near future. Written by and/or featuring Latin@ characters and settings, these books will help contribute to the recent surge in diversity in kid lit.

Heartbeat coverOur first title will be Heartbeat of the Soul of the World, a new short-story collection by René Saldaña, Jr., author of books such as The Jumping Tree and The Whole Sky Full of Stars. A vital book that explores the ins and outs of Latin@ adolescence along the border, Heartbeat is a flagship publication that encapsulates the values and mission of Juventud Press.

In addition, we seek to promote the voices of up-and-coming writers of diverse YA literature by establishing the Nueva Voz Award, which will select a winner each summer from among manuscripts submitted by unsigned, un-agented writers. The winner of the award will receive a $500 advance and standard publishing contract, and her/his book will be published in the fall of that same year.

To be competitive even in the field of independent small presses, we need the initial capital to produce high quality, visually engaging books.

We are asking for pledges through Kickstarter. Each one comes with a fantastic reward, so please take a look: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1780116159/juventud-press-launch

These start-up funds will secure the visual artists needed for covers, underwrite website design, cover the deployment of the Nueva Voz Award, and purchase initial publicity for the imprint.

Please consider backing this worthwhile project that will add to the flowering of diversity in publishing for our youth.

Thanks!

The Editorial Board of Juventud Press

José Mélendez, René Saldaña, Jr., and David Bowles

Guest Post: A Sock Thief in the Making

DON’T MISS THE BOOK GIVEAWAY! THE INFO IS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS ARTICLE.

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By Ana Crespo

Sometimes I wonder what the reaction of my younger self would be if I could tell her that, at almost 40, I am investing in a career as a children’s book writer… in English.

“Awesome!” my enthusiastic five-year-old self would probably scream. Pequena1

“But you don’t speak English,” the realistic 10-year-old me would point out.

“Ha! You don’t even like to read,” the sarcastic teenager would mention. (It’s true. I didn’t. Learn about how I became a reader here.)

“You’re studying to be a journalist. Your job is to expose the facts and allow your readers to form their own opinions, not to create stories,” the determined 20-year-old me would explain.

Certainly, I never thought I would one day publish any book, let alone a children’s book, in English. Yet THE SOCK THIEF has been in the making since I was that enthusiastic five-year old in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It started when my father tucked me into bed each night and shared stories of his childhood.

PapaiAlthough my paternal grandmother came from a wealthy family, my grandfather didn’t, and their five kids lived a frugal life. This included not owning a soccer ball, a very expensive item in the 1960s, in Rio. My father and his older brother had to be creative. They would sneak into my grandmother’s bedroom, take a pair of women’s hose, stuff it with newspaper, and make a soccer ball.

Don’t ask me why, but that story stuck in the back of that enthusiastic five-year old’s mind and resurfaced in the wanna-be children’s writer I eventually became. I had wanted to write a story with a Brazilian character since I started writing for kids in 2012. During a local SCBWI conference, a speaker mentioned something that brought back the long-forgotten memory. It wasn’t a story yet, just a memory with potential.

Then, I remembered something else from long ago. One day, watching a famous Brazilian TV show called Fantástico, I learned about a kid who had to walk a huge number of miles to reach school every day. I was a middle-class kid, riding on a comfortable school bus over paved roads, completely sheltered. That different reality, unthinkable to me up until then, left a strong impression. Maybe it sat in the back of my mind, by my father’s childhood story. Together, they started to form a plot.

Although I felt there was still something missing in the plot, I wrote THE SOCK THIEF (or MONDAY IS SOCK DAY, its first title) and submitted it to two different agents. And received two rejections. It wasn’t until I found that missing something that the manuscript received some attention.

One of the things that surprised me when I first moved to the United States was the way animal sounds are represented in written English. While in English a dog says “woof, woof,” in Portuguese, it says “au, au, au.” I imagined the difference would be a surprise to others as well, and decided to add it to THE SOCK THIEF. In my opinion, it gave the story a unique flavor.

A year after the idea first sprouted, I met my future editor at the same local SCBWI conference. I had paid for a manuscript critique, which included a 10-minute, face-to-face, in-depth analysis of THE SOCK THIEF. My editor thought the story was interesting. However, it was only after she learned that making soccer balls out of socks was a real practice in Brazil that her interest really sparked.

After the conference came the cutting, and cutting, and cutting of words. In the original text, I carefully described the process of making a soccer ball out of newspaper-stuffed socks. It was a tedious and confusing text, better shown through illustrations. I fixed some weird sentences. I added an author’s note. And I submitted my revised manuscript.

I crossed my fingers, lit some candles, held on to my figa, and tied some Nosso Senhor do Bonfim bracelets around my wrists. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little. The point is that, although I really wanted a positive response, I had received so many rejections in the past, for this and other manuscripts, that I wasn’t keeping my hopes up too much.

In fact, I had set up a mental deadline. If I didn’t receive a positive reaction to my work, I was going to give up. The submission process is very stressful and the fact that it usually comes with rejections doesn’t really help. I never expected that the positive reaction I was hoping for would come in the form of a publishing offer, but it did.

From that point on, everything was new and exciting–the illustrator choice (Nana Gonzalez’s grandpa used to make soccer balls out of socks in Argentina!), the first drafts, the adjustments to the text, the illustrations in color, the adjustments to the text, the front cover reveal, the adjustments to the text, the first book review (a bit nerve-wrecking!), the scheduling of school visits, the book promotion… And, during it all, I sold four more books to Albert Whitman & Company–even more excitement.

While this journey would be exhilarating no matter what, to me it’s particularly rewarding because writing in English doesn’t come easily. No matter how long I’ve lived in the US, or how many college degrees I hold, or how much work experience I have, sometimes, I still sound foreign. I’m not talking (or writing, I should say) about my accent. It’s the word choices, the sentence structure, the weird use of prepositions. I’ve been through many funny and embarrassing moments thanks to the complexity of the English language…but that’s a whole different story.

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A BOOK GIVEAWAY!

To celebrate the upcoming release of THE SOCK THIEF, we’re launching an amazing giveaway.  Sign up for a chance to win a copy of the book, plus a total of six copies to be donated to two elementary schools of your choice (three copies to each school). This giveaway was made possible thanks to a donation from Albert Whitman & Company.  To sign up for a chance to win and to check out the terms and conditions of the giveaway, visit the giveaway page on Ana Crespo’s website.

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AnaCrespo_PURPLEAna Crespo is the author of THE SOCK THIEF (Albert Whitmam & Company, March 2015), JP AND THE GIANT OCTOPUS and JP AND THE POLKA-DOTTED ALIENS (Albert Whitman and Company, September 2015). Before investing in a career as a writer, Ana worked as an academic advisor and a translator. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a Master of Education in Career and Technology Education. To find out more about Ana, visit her website. You may also find her tweeting away at Twitter , or sharing news on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

Book Birthday: WHEN REASON BREAKS

By Cindy L. Rodriguez

Reason Breaks Blended CollageToday is the official release day of When Reason Breaks, my debut young adult contemporary novel published by Bloomsbury! Yay! The novel is about two girls, both sophomores in high school, who struggle with depression in different ways. Here’s part of the official description:

A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth Davis must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily Delgado appears to be a smart, sweet girl, with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson’s poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.

To celebrate my journey, which started seven years ago, I’m sharing some pictures I took along the way.

 

IMG_3086This first picture represents the writing, revising, and editing phase done alone and then with critique partners. It took me three years to write the draft that I used to query agents. Yes, that’s a long time, but I was working a full-time job and a part-time job, while single-parenting. My writing place is on my bed, and without fail, my dogs–first Rusty (RIP) and now Ozzie–have kept me company. This has been very sweet, except for the times they pawed the keyboard. Notice the guilty look in his eyes.

 

 

 

IMG_1294I landed an agent, Laura Langlie, after a few months of querying. I revised based on her feedback, and then the manuscript went out on submission. It stayed out there for a long, long time. We received some valuable feedback after the first round, so I revised again and went back out on submission. Finding the right agent and editor is kind of like literary Match.com. You might go on lots of dates that don’t work, but that’s okay, because the goal is finding the perfect person. So, it took a long time, but the book landed with the perfect person, Mary Kate Castellani at Bloomsbury. This is a picture of the manuscript next to my contract. Receiving the contract is one of those “oh-my-goodness-this-is-happening” moments. At this point, the deal had already been announced online, but seeing the contract in black-and-white makes it real.

 

IMG_4414AHHHHH! ARCs. This was a big moment. I didn’t taken any pictures during revising and copy editing. They wouldn’t have been pretty. But, please know that a lot goes on between the previous picture and this one (major understatement). After revisions, the manuscript went to copy edits. That day was significant because it meant drafting, for the most part, was over. Changes could still be made, but the story moved from creation into production. I received a blurb from the amazing Margarita Engle, and the cover was revealed. Soon after, these beauties arrived at my house. And AHHHHH! ARCs! Even though I had seen all the pieces–manuscript, blurb, cover art–it was different seeing it all put together in book form.

 

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The ARCs went on tour to other authors debuting in 2015, friends, and family. I also gave a couple away on Goodreads. This was the copy that went to the first winner, Ali. I have signed thousands of things, but this was the first time I signed a copy of my novel. Around this time, the book was listed on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other places and became available for pre-order. Holy wow!

And people were actually reading the book, which, of course, was always the goal, but as ARCs went out and reviews popped up, I became aware that what had once belonged to me–what had only existed in my head and heart–was really out in the world. Here is photographic evidence of actual reading going on.

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image_3Now that ARCs were out in the world, I considered ways to help market the novel. One thing I learned from other authors was that I had to do my part when it came to marketing. I didn’t go overboard with swag. I decided to create a book trailer and print book marks and postcards with a QR code linked to the book trailer.

The book trailer was a fun, family experience. My sister’s dining room table was the work station, with my image_2nephew–a high school freshman–doing all of the real tech work. He’s a genius with computers, so he handled putting it all together. The opening voice belongs is my niece, and I narrate the rest of it, although my voice was altered to be lower and much cooler, in my opinion. Bookmarks have been distributed to teachers, librarians, and bloggers. Postcards went to high schools, public libraries, and independent bookstores in Connecticut, in addition to some libraries and bookstores in other parts of the country. Writers always question “what works,” and I think the answer is different for each of us. Bookmarks worked for me because I’m a teacher and I have lots of teacher friends who asked for 50-100 at a time. I knew they’d get into the hands of teen readers. Also, I have received some positive feedback from the postcards. A few librarians emailed me saying they received the post card, viewed the trailer, and planned to order the book; some even invited me to participate in events. So, in my mind, these three things were worth it.

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While the ARCs were “out there,” the manuscript continued to be worked on through copy editing and then first pass pages, which should be called the 100th pass pages because everyone involved had read the manuscript so many times. First pass pages are cool because the manuscript is typeset, rather than being on regular paper in the standard 12-point Times Roman. After the first pass pages were returned to the publisher, the next time I saw my novel, it was in……..

 

 

 

HARDCOVER!!!

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These came earlier than expected, so I was surprised when I found them on my doorstep. My daughter hugged me and said, “Wow, Mom, they’re beautiful. Congratulations.” I might have gotten a little teary eyed. That day, I donated a copy to my local library and then brought copies to my family. My mom cried when she saw it. My mom doesn’t cry easily. I might have gotten a little teary eyed then, too.

During this last month before publication, I’ve been excited and nervous and, most of all, grateful. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in this process. It takes a village to write and publish a book, and because of everyone who supported me along the way, I saw my novel on a shelf in Barnes & Noble for the first time this past weekend. Wow!

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Available at:

Indiebound Barnes & Noble | Amazon Powell’s Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Target

And please look for it at your local libraries.