One of my favorite parts of the job is participating in author visits and going into schools. So I was pretty stoked to have the chance to attend the annual conference of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians earlier this month in Atlantic City, NJ.
I learned about this event through my brilliant sista friend, Courtney Dunlap, who I met as a homeschool mom a few years ago. At that time, she was in the process of writing a children’s book. It was one of those things I always wanted to do, but never thought would materialize.
Fast forward to today, and I’m already in deep with not one, but two children’s books. (Moral of the story: This is what happens when you surround yourself with #goals friends!)
Courtney and I often share ideas and information, when she mentioned the conference, I jumped right in - although, honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. Sometimes it pays just to say, “yes!” When I arrived, I immediately felt very comfortable. We were in a ballroom dubbed “Author’s Alley,” which was next to where the conference sessions were happening. I shared a quaint table with Courtney. I am glad we were already friends - because covid, lol! During downtime, I was able to chat with her and several other authors. An added bonus, I was able to connect with a few other Black female authors! It all felt “right” - like second nature.
I picked their brain about their process, when and how they became authors, and what they do on the day-to-day. It was a true knowledge-sharing, bonding experience.
Ronnette Smith Powell is a kindergarten teacher and a puppeteer. Her mantra is “education meets entertainment,” and I couldn’t love it more. She had all her puppets at the event, and rocked a colorful tutu. She is very high energy and just a very sweet person.
I also met a fascinating young woman, Ssanyu Lukoma, the founder of Brown Kids Read, an organization that promotes books featuring melanated children. And when I say young, I mean 16! She happens to be a homeschooler (like my kids), and was there with her mom. She is doing amazing work, and I learned about becoming a featured author of her organization.
I met an author who is a speech-language pathologist and had a really amazing curriculum. I’m interested in working with her to further develop the curriculum for my own books beyond the accompanying activity books I created.
One author talked with me about the importance of going to writer’s conferences and workshops. She shared how, at one of these workshops, she met a woman who works for Scholastic Books. What she wrote during that workshop became the first chapter of her novel. Because she had that connection, she got published by Scholastic!
She gave me great pointers on different writer organizations to join. In turn, I encouraged her to do a picture book, because she’d been thinking about it. What's even cooler- she lives a few blocks from me in West Philly. We are going to have lunch in the new year!
Until next time,