The Falling. It’s that delicious time of year when there’s a detectable shift in the seasons. I can feel the changing, the Falling, as everything around me shimmers through yet another of our eternal cycles. I’ve been craving this shift, longing for it. Today after a hot spell, the skies are coastal grey and I’m back to my long skirts. As I relish the chill, I send prayers out on the wind that our moist air soothes the ferocious fires still burning to our north, fueled by the summer heat and years of drought. It is a powerful time. A creative time.
I just finished reading 1491 by Charles Mann. (I LOVE THIS KIND OF NONFICTION!) One of the many important areas explored is how indigenous communities practiced burning to shape and remain in balance in their environment. The author quotes early foreign witnesses who referred to this as a land of fire. The image catches my blood and my imagination. It feels current while holding my past. It speaks to this fierce time and my own creative fires burning across my landscape.
In far too perfect of a counter balance to this fiery reality, I have just come out of a long season in the darkdark waters of the night sea, Whaleheart by my side! I am extremely excited to share that the first in The Heart of It Collection is complete.
Whaleheart is available!
Check it out here!
I’ve even taken her out for a spin in the classroom to see how she swims in the open sea. And just as I had hoped Whaleheart proved to be a powerful companion. In fact, I found her very existence inspired the conversation about equity in the publishing industry and the larger implications at the heart of that. In some ways sharing Whaleheart felt familiar, a natural maturation of my Claiming Face curriculum. But now instead of using self portraiture as the foundation of reflection like I have for the last 20 years; I’m using a fuller presence, a gathering of voice, image and even book.
I did a workshop recently with teen moms here in the Bay area. Some extremely powerful young women! Their littles got Call Me Tree and I Know the River Loves Me and the moms got Whaleheart. As is often my practice, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do for our hour and half together. But I pointed myself in a particular direction and in faith started walking. I was happy to find that Whaleheart holds a powerful flow all her own and served as a good guide, perhaps because she embodies the spirit of storytelling for me. One of the things I loved was that the book gave me the opportunity to share not only the diverse voices of the 23 ArtistAuthors spotlighted within it, but also their stories of doubt and surprising strength through the creative process as they learned to really listen to and trust themselves. Now I can talk about more than just my own experience. I can reference the stories I hear from The Heart of It Collection ArtistAuthors about finding voice and how seeing their work out in the world makes them feel differently about themselves, about their creativity and even their presence and purpose in the world. POC, the LGBTQI community, disabled folks, elders, creatives, free thinkers, outsiders: the people who would generally not be listened to in our society, like teen moms.
We talked about what the impact on our children is when they see us come into our voice, our power, our presence. We talked about stories from their own lives, their own wisdom and what they would want to pass on to their children.
That is what lights my fire. I’ve used creativity to heal myself in deep and powerful ways. But something inside me changed when I started making children’s books as part of my creative practice. In a sense, I changed the child I was. I became new. I have to say I had no intention of focusing so much of my life’s work on children’s books. I had my sights set on being a full blown fine artist. Superbly free. But when I got well, I found that the sheer, raw power of children’s books and their revolutionary potential drew me in like a moth to the flame. I literally could not/cannot step away. I think I’m coming to terms with the fact that I live in a land of fire. Children’s books are my fire. They provide me with a tool to be in balance with the world around me. They blaze through me seasonally, leaving me cleared and primed for fresh growth.
What’s your fire? Or are you deep in the night sea? Or maybe planting seeds for growth in the new year? Whatever it is, biglove on your goodwork!
…and if there’s something that can help assist you on your personal path,
here’s a little taste of what we’re up to this Fall at our school as well as new books from the community!
Children’s Books in CommUnity Study Group heads into its last 3 months for 2015
Inspired by my own obsession with curriculum, I’ll be focusing on all things educational this Fall in the Children’s Books in Community Study Group. Developing curriculum and how to work with kids in schools and libraries as a children’s book maker, what to teach for your particular book, creating handouts and workbooks, looking at how to make a living as an artistauthor, how to teach holistically, stories from the field, and more alongside our regular work reviews. No matter where you’re at in the process, your work can benefit from this kind of exploration. Our next webinar is coming up next week and you can read more about the group here>>
The Heart of It continues…
The second edition in The Heart of It Collection is already underway. This time 29 ArtistAuthors will be highlighted from the Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 Heart of It courses. We expect it to be out Spring 2016.
And then we’ll be starting again next year when we offer the next Heart of It course and begin the journey with anthology #3!
I’m also gearing up to teach a private Heart of It course hosted by AJAAS this Fall which will produce a Latino/a LGBTQI themed children’s book anthology. Matthew and I are extremely excited about this format and the possibilities of working with more activist groups to create anthologies around themes that reflect and support their work.
Empowering Our Kids!
In conjunction with the anthologies and related to the deeper messages and intent of The Heart of It Collection, we’re also currently finishing up our Kids Page over at Reflection Press, debuting in the next few weeks.
In our vast and crazy wisdom, we decided in order to create lasting world change it’s important to provide basic and free materials to our next generation of kids on how to make books. The whole thing! Story, art and publishing! So there’s that. Sign-up on the Reflection Press email list to stay up to date with the release!
Mentoring, Consultations, and New Books from the Community!
There’s so much going on these days that there’s still more I could tell you, but this is a good start for this Falling.
Two last things, I’m happy to share some fabulously exciting news from past students and Community Spotlights! BOOKS! Please check out the new titles shown below. Feel free to share widely!
And, I’ve got my Fall hours posted for mentorship, mapping and more. You can go here to schedule if you need a little extra support this fall in completing your projects.
Rock on in the way of the book darlings!
Check out these new titles from Community Spotlights and past students:
Furqan’s First Flat Top
written and illustrated by Robert Liu-Trujillo,
Translated by Cinthya Muñoz
Robert was one of the Community Spotlights in The Heart of It course, and we got to talk to him before his big explosion of work including Melissa’s book below and several others he’s currently working on! Robert’s on fire!
I Am Sausul Creek
Story by Melissa Reyes Illustrations by Robert Trujillo Translation by Cinthya Muñoz
A bilingual Spanish and English picture book about the history of Oakland told through the voice of Sausal Creek.
Published by Little Nomad, the children’s book imprint of Nomadic Press.
I Love Snow!
by Zetta Elliott Illustrated by Purple Wong
Another Community Spotlight from The Heart of It course. Zetta’s so on fire it’s impossible to list all her titles here!! But I’ll mention here newest titles, I Love Snow and A Wave Came Through our Window with another title, Dayshaun’s Gift coming soon!
Sex is a Funny Word
A Book about Bodies, Feelings, and YOU
The eagerly anticipated follow up to Lambda-nominated What Makes a Baby, from sex educator Cory Silverberg and artist Fiona Smyth, Sex Is a Funny Word reimagines “sex talk” for the twenty-first century.
You may recognize Cory as another one of our Community Spotlights from the course who’s making things happen!
Joelito’s Big Decision
Story by Ann Berlak
Illustrations by Daniel Camacho
Translation by José Antonio Galloso
A Spanish/English bilingual book about a boy and a burger and the struggle for a living wage.
“No one is too young to learn another world is possible!”
Counting on Community
Innosanto Nagara’s follow-up counting book to his hit ABC book, A is for Activist! Inno is another one of our amazing Community Spotlights who’s getting his books out there and changing the world while doing it!