Today on the blog we are honored to be able to interview Joseph McGill, Founder of the Slave Dwelling Project, which works to preserve extant slave dwellings and organizes overnight stays in them to bring attention to the history and experiences of enslaved people. Welcome, Mr. McGill! Continue reading
Last month, we were excited to announce the establishment of the Lee & Low and Friends Scholarship in conjunction with Simmons College. This scholarship will provide opportunities for students of color to enroll in the Simmons College graduate program in children’s literature, one of the country’s finest.
In this interview, we talk to two of the key players behind the new scholarship. Cathryn M. Mercier, PhD is the Director of the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College and the director of the center’s M.A. and M.F.A. programs. Jason Low is the Publisher/Co-owner of LEE & LOW BOOKS. Continue reading
Coming this month, Poems in the Attic is a collection of poetry that creates a tender intergenerational story that speaks to every child’s need to hold onto special memories of home, no matter where that place might be. We interviewed master poet Nikki Grimes on her process for writing poetry and if she has any tips to share. Continue reading
Jan Reynolds is a writer, photographer, and adventurer who has written over fourteen nonfiction books for children about her travels. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including National Geographic, The New York Times, and Outside Magazine. Reynolds is an avid skier, mountain climber, and adventurer who held the record for women’s high altitude skiing, was part of the first expedition to circumnavigate Mount Everest, and performed a solo crossing of the Himalayas.
You are a world-class adventurer and athlete in addition to being a children’s author. Were you always a writer, or were you inspired to begin writing by your travels?
I’ve always been a writer…. I had a short story, fiction, that was published when I was in high school. I’m working on a young adult fiction book right now!
What was your hardest trip or exploration? Was there ever a moment in your travels when you wanted to turn back? What inspired you to keep going?
When I was crossing the Himalaya solo, I almost turned back, I was so sick (I talk about this in my documentary video, “Cultural Adventure with Jan Reynolds”). I lived in my tent alone for about four days and nights, and was found by a Sherpa and his son who nursed me back to health, and I finished my journey going from Nepal into Tibet over the Himalaya following the salt trade. I kept going because I needed to complete my trade on this salt trade route. I was working for National Geographic magazine, and I wanted to get my story!!
Amy Cheney is a librarian and advocate who currently runs the Write to Read Juvenile Hall Literacy Program in Alameda County, CA. She has over 20 years experience with outreach, program design, and creation to serve the underserved, including middle school non-readers, adult literacy students, adult inmates in county and federal facilities, students in juvenile halls, non-traditional library users and people of color.
Cheney was named a Mover and Shaker by Library Journal, has won two National awards for her work, the I Love My Librarian award from the Carnegie Institution and New York Times, and was honored at the White House with a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. Her six word memoir: Navigator of insanity, instigator of enlightenment. Her theme song is Short Skirt, Long Jacket by Cake.
Thank you for being with us, Amy! Let’s start with the basics: how would you describe your job, for someone who has no idea what you do?
Entrepreneur, innovator and relationship builder. But my overall job title would be Schlepper.
How did you become a librarian for incarcerated youth? Was it something you always knew you wanted to focus on, or did you begin your career with a different focus?
When I was a teen, a neighbor was friends with Maya Angelou, and they invited me to hear her speak in a church basement. I remember clearly not wanting to be there, and then as Maya Angelou spoke with such passion and intensity, I felt the hard armor around my heart begin to crack. I remember the struggle to hold onto what I thought was me, or at least my protection: the rage, indifference and sullenness. I recognized that if I was struggling with it, then I wasn’t a fundamentally hateful person. That was life changing for me. I felt such a deep connection with her as a result of this inner experience, I read every book she wrote as it was published.
It took me a long time to realize that this experience is the basis of my passion for bringing in speakers and activities to stimulate the minds and hearts of those incarcerated. From Shakespeare to Cupcake Brown to Ishmael Beah to MK Asante (wonderfully, one of Maya Angelou’s protege’s), I see kids feel encouraged, enthusiastic and interested in a place that tends to dampen all of that.
In the 80’s I was a part of the anti-nuclear protests – when my friends were released from jail I was horrified to hear there were no books where they had been housed. I immediately started a book drive for the jail and that ultimately led to employment at the library serving those incarcerated in Alameda County.
As Fast As Words Could Fly tells the story of Mason, a teenager growing up in North Carolina who becomes one of the first black students to attend an all-white high school. In this guest post, we interview author Pamela M. Tuck’s father, Moses Teel Jr., whose experience during integration inspired the New Voices award-winning title.
Lee & Low: In the Author’s Note, it says that you used your “typing talent to defy the prejudices of people who considered [you] inferior.” Did you also participate in a typing contest similar to the one Mason was in? What was that experience like?
Moses Teel Jr.: Yes. In my typing class, we had five-minute timed typing exercises. Five strokes counted for one word and every error took one word away from your total word count. I participated in a lot of these classroom competitions and won. That’s what helped me qualify for the tournament. By the time I had to compete, I felt pretty confident in my skill and I stayed focused by telling myself, “I can do this.”
To celebrate the release of her book Hammer of Witches, author Shana Mlawski is doing a blog tour from today until May 16!
For all you Shana groupies out there, her schedule is below. Whether or not you’ve picked up Hammer of Witches yet, stop by the following blogs for some thoughtful conversation: