I know I haven’t blogged in ages, but I have a good reason to come back.
I’ve been writing for children, and my agent sold Honeysmoke, my debut picture book about a little girl who discovers her color, to Imprint/Macmillan Children’s. Geneva Benton will illustrate, and publication is scheduled for Fall 2018.
I am beyond excited. First of all, the book draws its name from this blog, and it tells a story about identity that many parents and children don’t see on library and bookstore shelves. Yes, there have been some books about multiracial children and there will likely be a lot more. How the publishing industry will be able to catch up is another issue altogether. The U.S. Census reports the multiracial population has increased nearly 50 percent since 2000, making it the fastest growing group in the country.
Honeysmoke is for today’s multiracial children, those who do not fit neatly inside the boxes society has created for them. It’s also for all of the parents who came to the blog, year after to year, to read my posts about raising two biracial little girls. Simone and Nadia are tickled the story they’ve heard many times will become a book. It is my hope that my children and others will pass the book on to their children and their children’s children.
So, I am back, blogging occasionally about the process of bringing a picture book to life. There are so many people to thank, and I will celebrate all of them as I embark on the next leg of this journey. For now, I must thank my husband for not committing me as I rewrote the manuscript. To my girls, my muses, thanks for inspiring me. None of this would be possible without the love and support of writers, editors, and agents affiliated with SCBWI and Southern Breeze. Many pushed me when I didn’t want to be pushed. I said I wouldn’t give up, and I am glad I kept that promise. I am so grateful to my agent, Kevin O’Connor, who took a chance on me, and to Erin Stein, Imprint’s publisher, who is committed to helping authors make their mark and create books that leave an impression. I can’t wait to take all of you with me on this journey to publication.
Let’s do this!
I’m shocked — simply shocked that children of prominent Republicans are marrying people of color. The nerve.
In May, Lindsay Boehner, daughter of House Speaker John Boehner, married Dominic Lakhan. The groom was born in Jamaica and sported dreadlocks at the ceremony. A few days ago, Jack McCain, son of Sen. John McCain, married Renee Swift.
I have a few words for these couples. Welcome to the family.
When we sent Simone and Nadia to school last August, we were so proud we had a second-grader and a kindergartener. Our girls were excited to meet new teachers and friends. Simone walked through the doors with confidence, and Nadia barged in right behind her. All was well with the world.
Then the torrent that is public school took over our lives.
There were the requests for money. Lots of money. Money for yearbooks and T-shirts and field trips.
There were the holidays and holiday parties. Perhaps fall should be renamed HallowThankChrist.
There were the illnesses. Common colds, two mild cases of the flu, and two tick bites.
There were the challenges. Spelling tests, vocabulary words, book reports, and timed math tests.
There were the boys. The bullies who hurled insults and those who bumped and pushed anything in their way.
There was the weather. There were late starts and early dismissals. There was even snow.
And what would public school be without fundraisers? We clipped Box Tops and ate dinner at family friendly restaurants so that a percentage of our bill would be donated to the school. We even took new cars for a spin in exchange for contributions.
Whew! When I look back on the school year, I see where all of the time went. We were busy. It will be nice to have evenings free of homework and class projects. Maybe will go to the beach, once or twice. We better enjoy this newfound time because, well, a new school year is just around the corner.
Parents are apparently raising a nation of wimps.
The mental state of students is now so precarious for so many that, says Steven Hyman, provost of Harvard University and former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, “it is interfering with the core mission of the university.”
I’m trying my best not to raise two weenies. Really, I am.
Simone and Nadia have discovered their bikes. Each day they want to strap on their ladybug helmets and pink knee pads, and ride, ride, ride. Except they don’t ride very well.
I’ve watched from afar as they both have fallen over like trees for no apparent reason. It’s like someone yelled “Timber!” They just start slowly leaning until they are on the ground.
Both are sporting scabs on their knees and elbows. Simone got hers while riding her bike without training wheels, while Nadia got hers while riding her bike with training wheels. I didn’t think the latter was possible. Who falls off a bike with three wheels? My kid does.
Her problem is speed. She thinks she’s in a race or something. I’ve told her to slow down. When she doesn’t, the wheels leave the sidewalk. She’ll learn.
Simone and Nadia also get in each other’s way. Simone tries to pass her sister on a curve, and Nadia tries to keep up with her sister. Next thing I know both of them are on the sidewalk, wailing.
I don’t remember childhood being this tough. There certainly were fewer parents hanging around. I’m not there yet. I’m worried about all of the cars. When my two can show me that they can navigate each other, maybe just maybe they can go out on their own.
It’s been quiet in these parts because I’ve been working on my picture books. Yes, there are two, and I’ve been trying to get one of them polished and shiny enough to send to an agent, who requested some revisions. There aren’t many second chances when it comes to literary agents. That means I better impress her or go home.
Writing for children is not as easy. It has taken me two years to get to this point. I think I’m close. Very close. I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on, and I’m always thinking about my books, their characters, and how to turn a phrase. I’ve also been thinking about some testers. Published authors often urge aspiring writers to listen to children for dialogue and to read to them for their reactions. I just so happen to have a kindergartner, and her teacher allowed me to read my work to her students.
The first book tells the story of a little girl who discovers her color. The 5-year-olds didn’t like that one much. They told me they saw the pictures and asked a few questions, but they didn’t seem all that enthusiastic about it. Maybe it was too quiet. Children love to interact with books these days. Many of those popular today are far from quiet.
The second book is about a 5-year-old who uses every tactic in the book to delay going to school. It weighs in at about 100 words and uses the same phrase several times. The children giggled in the right places and told me the manuscript is funny. For that book, I got the highest compliment. “Read it again!” And I read it one more time.
What’s interesting to me is that the book I’ve got my heart set on, the one I’ve been working on for two years fell flat. The book I wrote in a half hour got all the praise. Maybe the lesson here is that I’m trying too hard or simply need to inject some fun into the other book. I’ll soon find out and hope to share good news soon.
“If you guys ever decided you’re going to get a tattoo, then Mommy and me will get the exact same tattoo in the same place. And we’ll go on YouTube and show it off as a family tattoo.”
President Obama, addressing what he will do if his daughters get a tattoo, on NBC’s Today Show.
I got a chuckle out of this.
Tattoos are prevalent these days. I’m not even sure if they are truly viewed as a sign of rebellion. More than 36 percent of Americans age 18 to 25 have them, according to the Pew Research Center.
I like what Obama said, but he better mean it. Only Sasha and Malia know for sure. I’ve learned children have a way of knowing when their parents are bluffing, and some don’t mind calling their bluff.
I’m not a fan of tattoos. I used to get them in Cracker Jack boxes. I’d run to the bathroom for water, stick on the tattoo and get a blurry blot or two. My interest in tattoos ended as soon as I stopped eating the snack.
Today, tattoos are more sophisticated. The ones that find their way to Simone and Nadia’s hands are intricate butterflies and dragonflies and other colorful creatures. Sometimes they last for days. I expect my girls to lose interest as soon as they outgrow their love of all things pink and purple.
My Mom told me I had a beautiful body and it didn’t need any permanent adornment. It worked for me. When it’s needed, I’ll try Mom’s line first. If that doesn’t work, it’s Obama all the way.
It’s been a rough week. There has simply been too much bad news — Boston, ricin, fertilizer explosion — and not enough good. I really need a sweet puppy video or something else to make me smile or laugh. All is well in our home, but there is danger and fear and hate just outside our front door.
In Boston, bombs took the lives of three people, including an 8-year-old boy. Then, in the wake of tragedy, some felt the need to display their racism in social media.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Maya Angelou: “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” It’s a quote I try to live by because it is our actions that really show how we were raised, what we’re made of, and what we value. We can say anything, but it is so much harder to do something.
What’s a code switch?
Well, I do it when I talk to older black folks. They are my elders, and I get all sing-songy when I talk to someone who deserves my respect. I often don’t know these people well, but I treat them a lot like I would treat my grandparents.
I didn’t think anything of my code switching, until the man, who would later become my husband, pointed it out to me way back in the 1990s. He said I talked differently with an older black gentleman. He was right. I haven’t given it much thought, but I’m sure I’ve code switched many, many times since then.
Code Switch is also the name of a new race, culture, and ethnicity blog at National Public Radio, and bloggers there have rounded up several examples of code switching. Check it out and welcome Code Switch to the race, culture and ethnicity blogging neighborhood.