What Keeps Me Strong in These Days – Checking IN and Blessings OUT

Children's Books as a Personal Practice

These days, these days, these days. Everything changing. So much discomfort. Everywhere hope and courage. So much waking up as the children take to the streets speaking truth OUT loud.

So much more waiting in the wings.

These days, I close much of my correspondence with “take good care through these bumpy times.” I can’t not acknowledge the world shaking around us, within us, reality shift, shift, shifting about. I personally feel compelled, driven, but always looking to soften and slow down to stay strong for the long dance and the ever moving earth.

Last year feels like a blur. It was a deep and challenging year and I’m damn happy it’s over, although there were some pretty fantastic times too. This year feels different. I feel strangely seasoned, knees bent, head up. Blowing in the wind like a tree.

So, what keeps me strong as I continue on…

Children’s Book Anthology Trilogy

The last book of The Heart of It trilogy is complete.

Unfurling, Voice Is a Revolution

It’s vital that our kids see adults creating books, investing in their own voice, expanding OUT into the world with their own stories, histories and truths.

It was a phenomenal journey that began in 2015. As I look at the three books and the 58 artistauthors who shared their work over this time, I’m humbled and perfectly blown away. They prove to me what I know in my heart. Everyone has a story. Everyone is an artist and it changes us when we express.

It’s vital that our kids see adults creating books, investing in their own voice, expanding OUT into the world with their own stories, histories and truths. I love indigenous, POC, LGBTQI2S+ narratives unbridled by limitation, valued from the heart, and not just included, but centered. I love creativity allowed to flow in service first to ourselves, and then overflowing out from there into our communities, changing the world.

Voice Is a Revolution mini-course in School of the Free Mind

The Holistic Self by Maya GonzalezThis last year I dropped deeply again into the practice of children’s books. I wanted to share through posting a few videos to the school, but much to my surprise it resulted in a mini course just added to School of the Free Mind called, Voice is a Revolution: Writing Children’s Books from the Holistic Self.

It validates that it can be personally challenging to come more powerfully into voice, which leads to sharing what practices supported me most during this last year and finally a series of guided worksheets to support coming into a more holistic voice. This last piece is connected to a workshop I got to do during my Fresno residency. I’m excited because this holistic piece resonates throughout my work and one of my goals is to make it as accessible as possible to folks. It expands who we are! Of course I’ve got a picture book in mind.

For me personally, a strong voice and a holistic self are fundamental to staying strong while having my own indie press. Everything I do in some way points to folks starting their own presses and expanding beyond the traditional systems. It takes a hell of a lot of strength to turn the tides of our culture, but the time is clearly NOW. Make Books Now!
They She He Me and The Gender Wheel by Maya Gonzalez

Books and Gender

Fall 2017 saw me and Matthew’s first book together, They, She, He, Me: Free to Be!, which got an SLJ starred review and The Gender Wheel, A Story about Bodies and Gender for Every Body.

I’ve got a number of more books in the makes this year. I don’t want to say what, when, where, how–too much until the time comes, but there are some fabulously marvelous bits!!!! And this Fall I’ll be sharing something I’ve never done before and it is moving me toward one of my secret dreams.

I’ve also begun a partnership with two fabulous activists, Laurin Mayeno and Mauro Sifuentes. Already deep in the mix, we’ll be doing a private presentation soon, and then present again this summer at Gender Odyssey in Seattle. Aligning our work and standing together feels revolutionary and comforting. I am beyond excited to push beyond the binary with these two.
imagery from They She He Me: Free to Be! by Maya and Matthew

Counteracting Bias with Action

The unconscious, implicit bias in some of the LGBTQI children’s books by non-LGBTQI authors communicates on a much deeper level than the “main” story and perpetuates systems and perspectives within our culture that are damaging to our LGBTQI youth.

I’ve also begun sharing my new worksheet, Vetting LGBTQI Children’s Books with Love at the North Bay LGBTQ Family Symposium last month. After two rounds of plagiarism this last year and seeing firsthand the kind of distortion and damage that can be done by non-LGBTQI people speaking about our lives and realities, I felt I had to do something.

I consolidated the framework I use to review LGBTQI children’s books with a queer-centric perspective into a worksheet to open the conversation (you can see this in practice at our School of the Free Mind/The Heart of It LGBTQI book reviews). The unconscious, implicit bias in some of the LGBTQI books by non-LGBTQI authors I’ve come into contact with communicates on a much deeper level than the “main” story and perpetuates systems and perspectives within our culture that are damaging to our LGBTQI youth. I’ll be sharing this worksheet next month as part of my Gender Month (read more below).

There are an abysmal amount of children’s books for our community. We need MORE QUEER VOICES and stories rising from QUEER WISDOM and LIVED EXPERIENCE. WE need to lead the narratives that are connected to our lives and families and LGBTQI2S kids.

Book Festivals, Interviews and Reviews

Maya and Janine MacbethMarch I’ll be at the Tuscon Book Festival. Feel free to come make art with me at one of the workshops if you get a chance. I’ll also be on a number of panels with other amazing artists and authors who have received the honor of a Pura Belpré Award. And I get to share the stage with Peter Reynolds in one panel, another favorite of mine.

In April I’ll be addressing gender again at ACL’s annual Institute at the San Francisco Public Library, Beyond the Binary: Embracing Diverse Gender Identities, with Lourdes Rivas, Alex Gino, Leslea Newman and more.

Out in the world, I’m ALWAYS grateful for those who play with me! Here are a number of folks who blessed me in different ways. Thank you, thank you! Every convo was a blast!

Up, Up and Away! GENDER MONTH is MARCH!

Ok, like I say in my workshops, I’m going to shut up now. I have literally a thousand or more things to bring in but there’s more serious play to attend to, like next month. March is Gender Month on my blog. Every Friday I’ll be sharing a big chunk of my research here and how it ties to The Gender Wheel and much, much more. There will be articles and videos and reviews, as well as coloring pages, curriculum and play!

There’s some gorgeous queer scholarship out there and I want to shine the light on who has informed my work.

Lots of information for grownups and kids. Just like with children’s books where I share everything I know from 20+ years in the biz, I’m going to share all the extra fabulously nerdy research that lies within my gender books for kids that I’ve accumulated over 30+ years of queerdom. This is an inside story. There’s some gorgeous queer scholarship out there and I want to shine the light on who has informed my work. I can’t wait!

Alright darlings, love. Love and love and love and more love.

Make it strong, make it aggressive and sure footed, aim for your own heart, your own spirit. Dive into loving your truly valuable self. We need you. We need your voice, or we are not a whole people. Together, we are the revolution. The world is changing right now. It’s going to be a long dance, but with deep self love spreading out to community love, WE ARE THE WAY. Voice is a Revolution.

Take good care through these bumpy times my love, xomaya

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