Last November, Amy Lee-Tai, author of A Place Where Sunflowers Grow, participated in a program called The Big Read, a program that exposes communities across the country to great works of literature and encourages them to read for pleasure and enrichment. Below is her blog post where she reflects on the experience:
Today is the release day of Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School, a picture book about the little-known story of Lilly Ann Granderson, an African-American teacher who risked her life to teach others during slavery. To celebrate, we interviewed author Janet Halfmann to find out more about the story behind Midnight Teacher.
Many of us have not heard of Lilly Ann Granderson’s story. How did you find out about her legacy? What inspired you to write about Lilly Ann Granderson?
I learned about it in bits and pieces. I have long been interested in early black educators, partly because so many books about teachers in the early schools for African Americans are about white teachers from the North. I wanted to shine the spotlight on an amazing early black teacher. The first mentions I found about Lilly Ann Granderson were under the name Milla Granson, the name used by a northern abolitionist who met this teacher and wrote about it in her book. Once I started researching, I learned that Lilly Ann Granderson was known as the Midnight Teacher because she held her secret classes from midnight until two in the morning. That fact made the story all the more intriguing to me, and I thought it would be for kids too. All accounts I found about this teacher ended shortly after the Civil War, so I am honored to have had the opportunity to flesh out Lilly Ann Granderson’s amazing and inspiring story and share it with the world.
Today we are pleased to welcome two fabulous authors to our blog, Cynthia Leitich Smith and Uma Krishnaswami, for a discussion about writing and reading humor. Welcome, Cynthia and Uma!
In today’s guest post, author Supriya Kelkar shares a behind-the-scenes look at the research required to write her new novel, Ahimsa—and a few neat things she learned along the way! Ahimsa was released this week and has received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist, which called it a “heartbreakingly charming debut about the universal struggle of overcoming fears and biases in order to make the world a better place.”
Take it away, Supriya!
Today is the release day of Rebel Seoul, the New Visions Award-winning science fiction debut by Axie Oh! When Lee Jaewon is assigned to partner with supersoldier Tera in Neo Seoul’s top weapons development division, he must decide where he stands: with the people his rebel father protected or with the totalitarian government that claims it will end all war.
To celebrate today’s release, we asked author Axie Oh about her writing process, the inspiration behind Rebel Seoul, and her advice to aspiring authors.
September is here and with the close of summer comes the close of our New Voices Award submissions window on September 30, 2017. It’s also a time when those who have submitted manuscripts—and those still in the process of doing so—may be grappling with some personal questions:
Should I submit my story if I’ve never written for children before?
I’ve always been an artist, but can I be a writer?
What happens to the winner and honor after the award?
Where can I find good advice from someone with experience?
These questions and others like them are not easily addressed in a FAQ page. So to provide this year’s participants with some insight to the contest and creative process, we reached out to former New Voices Award winners, honors, and artists who faced some of these same questions not too long ago. These three accomplished storytellers have forged successful careers as children’s book authors, illustrators, and even author/illustrators. In the following interview, author Paula Yoo (Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds), illustrator Shadra Strickland (Bird and Sunday Shopping) and author/illustrator Don Tate (It Jes’ Happened) share how participating in the New Voices Award helped shape their success.
Released last month, Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad is a picture book biography of José Martí, a renowned political figure and revolutionary who dedicated his life to the promotion of liberty. Known for his leadership in the fight for Cuban independence, Martí is celebrated throughout Latin America. To many Latinos, particularly Cuban Americans, he represents the bridge between the cultures of Latin America and the United States. Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad received five starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Shelf Awareness, Booklist, and Kirkus Reviews.
For this post, we asked author Emma Otheguy, editor Jessica Echeverria, and translator Adriana Dominguez to take us through the translation process for Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad:
You’re a writer working on a manuscript and you’ve finally got your two most important characters in the same room. There’s tension between them. One character has a question and the other has the answer. The conflict your plot has been riding on has finally come to a head—these characters need to say what’s been on their minds for pages!
But how do you make sure that your characters say what they need to in a way that’s believable to the reader? Nothing ruins a moment like this more than when the dialogue doesn’t flow or sound believable. If this is a problem you’re grappling with, don’t worry. We asked two previous New Voices Award-winning authors, Pamela M. Tuck (As Fast As Words Can Fly) and Glenda Armand (Love Twelve Miles Long) for their tips and tricks on writing successful, realistic dialogue.
Released this month from LEE & LOW BOOKS, Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee! is a picture book biograpy of James VanDerZee, a groundbreaking photographer who chronicled an important era in Harlem and showed the beauty and pride of its people. He took photographs of legendary figures of the Harlem Renaissance—politicians such as Marcus Garvey, performers including Florence Mills, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, and Mamie Smith—and ordinary folks in the neighborhood too.
We asked illustrator Keith Mallett to take us behind the scenes of his art process bringing Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee to life: Continue reading
At Lee & Low Books we are always interested in biographies of unsung heroes. Stories of lesser-known individuals who used their talents and overcame obstacles to achieve their dreams and serve their society fill our shelves of published titles. Each year our New Voices Award judges consider dozens of biographical submissions on the lookout for a winning combination of compelling characters and well-researched storytelling. But how do these components come together to create a manuscript? How does a writer condense someone’s entire life into a picture book? Does the writer or editor decide what information goes in the story and back matter? What is back matter, anyway? To answer these questions, and for an inside look at the editorial process, we interviewed Andrea Loney, author of the 2014 New Voices Award-winning biography Take A Picture of Me, James VanDerZee! and Jessica Echeverria, our Senior Editor who helped turn Andrea’s manuscript into an absorbing debut!