Is Equality in the Children’s Book Industry Possible?

And Do We Have Time to Wait? (infographic)

When we look at CCBC’s statistics in the framework of how many books we need to make to stand in equity with white Americans, we begin to understand our real position. I estimate that the children’s book industry would have to increase its production level by 45% to accommodate an equitable increase in children’s books by PoC and indigenous voices.

Including LGBTQ and disabled numbers helps flesh out the conversation and continues to illustrate the relationship between power and presence in children’s books.

In order to significantly change these numbers and what they represent, beyond children’s books, we need to take our creativity into our own hands.

With greater accessibility to indie-publishing we NOW have the opportunity to begin not just publishing our own voice, but healing ourselves from generations of ancestral silence and invisibility through our own power.

Children's Books needed to be equitable - infographic

Join Me! Stay Connected:

speaking in circles

everyday a new revolution

morning prayer on voice

i open my root and allow my voice to rise from deep in mamiearth

i open my heart and allow my voice to sing into all the silences that have kept me safe and alive

i open my mouth and i allow my voice to fill me so fully that i flow out into sky

i open my mind and allow a new dream, a new fire, a new world to be planted

and i go back to root. voice is a revolution

our being is our prayer



Why Children’s Books are a Radical Act

I just released Children’s Books as a Radical Act on Indiegogo to support my first 6 independently published children’s books. What makes these books radical? Why is it noteworthy that they’re independently published? Why children’s books of all things?


Any time we center ourselves as POC, indigenous or queer voices, we are shifting the balance of power and expanding beyond the limits of what is laid out before us.

When I began to realize the levels of internalized silence that I was still living with after 20 years in the children’s book industry I was heartbroken, but in noticing, a deeper healing began within me and I began pushing those limits.

Now I find I cannot stop my voice. I want to claim all the stories that I have been denied. Stories about my life and the people I know. We are not a part of our society to be ashamed of, silenced, invisibilized. We are truth. We are beauty. We are rising. From silence into voice.


We tell different stories when we are with our own.

I notice for myself that when I am with other queers and POC I relax parts of myself I did not even know were tense. Deep places where different stories live.

I even have a different voice when I am very relaxed and with my people. More myself. More power. When I publish myself through my own indie-press I can access that voice. My voice. This is what independence affords me. My self.

Why children’s books?

Childhood is the first great trauma for some of us, especially if we don’t fit the box.

In many ways silence and invisibility allowed me to survive. I learned to embody them early on as Chicanx, cis girl and especially queer. Completely by accident I found that making children’s books was like retrieval, reclamation, rejuvenation all at once.

I could speak to the child that I was from the adult that I am and the conversation between us was the book. This not only healed me, I found that it had a positive impact on the children who read them.

It’s a circle that supports completion in our communities. It’s a healing I cannot deny. I have experienced it first hand and seen it repeatedly in others.

I am pushing the boundaries on a personal, community and professional level because of the kind of power and beauty that can exist in children’s books for us.

I want a new world and I’m finally ready to take my next step. I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life to begin telling my stories. I’m ready to rise. Now.

The campaign is an opportunity to pre-order my books, pre-register for next year at School of the Free Mind and learn more about our free program for kids and families.

Join me in making children’s books a radical act.


Children's Books as a Radical Act - upcoming book list

everything changes

turn turn

these words have been rolling around in my brain, like a big wheel turning in the night sky. everything changes. turn. everything changes. turn.

my last blog post was about negotiating fear after Orlando. turn.

a deep turn of the wheel that rattled my heart. counted my bones.

an old turn of the wheel swirling in new action. rising up. turn. the wheel. turn.

the summer has passed and we are well into fall. and all i can see is ACTION. i don’t want to think–i want to do. i don’t want to plan–i want to act now. words and thoughts feel like feathers in the wind. and i am rainbow.

i am hearing from many people this desire for change, for new life. the larger world stage has such a weight to it right now and for many of us that serves as a springboard to create change. i know for myself i want to leap, to fly even for a moment, to jump and jump and jump until i am in a new spot. turned.

we at reflection press and school of the free mind are doing it. we are taking a leap, jump and twirl and making a bunch of big announcements next week!

stay in touch! i’ll be blogging like a bee on my beautifully new dragged out blog site. we’ve been quiet for awhile because we’ve been deep in work, and turning, and landing–in the perfect spot!

we can hardly wait to share!

we’re about to release countless seeds into our communities. join us next week!

the revolution is a flower opening up to the possibility of sky!

let’s SEED this revolution OUT!

everything changes.

turn. turn.

kiss the sky.






finding our way through Orlando

flowers paintedWe are born to it. It doesn’t begin as a movement, as a march to equal rights. For most of us it begins as children, but it can begin later in life too.  It is a knowing within one’s self. Sometimes that knowing takes time to develop in a world that wants to deny our existence. Sometimes that knowing is a raging flower within that knows only bloombloombloom no matter the climate! Often it is just a knowing, and as kids it is often a knowing not fully verbalized, contextualized or understood. It is a raw knowing. A beginning knowing. A queerness growing.flower paint bowl

Because we are born to it and because lgbtqia2s is inherently diverse and inclusive, it is not something that can be controlled, not from the inside and not from the outside. And by controlled, I mean eliminated. No matter the effort, no matter the tool or system. Like nature herself, we are eternal. Queer eternal. In fact, we are the uncommon, common thread that holds all cultures, all continents, all people together. Our queer stories are somewhere everywhere in each and every culture and ultimately cannot be denied. Not even by ourselves.

stack of mexi bowlsBut to be queer in the Americas these last 500 years is to be denied. With the arrival of more and more Eurocentric influence a once valued and respected position of birth has been reviled, punished, demonized, pathologized and still regularly murdered in large numbers. Even the part that is the past is not in the past. The whole of our history weighs upon us, especially those of us indigenous to the Americas. Somewhere in our bones, in our blood, in the dirt we walk on, even the winds that touch our cheek, we remember not so long ago when it wasn’t like this. When we were centered. When we were consulted. When we were a natural part of all that is. When we were valued because we could see differently.big bowls mexican

In attempts to diminish so much natural power fear has been used against us. Real fear. Death fear. Pain fear. Shame fear. Long time historical institutional systemic societal fear. As the days after the horrific Orlando shooting unfold I am witnessing the intricate map of fear that has been laid into us as queers and queers of color and ties us together in story and history. I have begun to understand that most nonqueer people don’t know what we live with in the day to day. Not something in the past, not as children, not when we were young (although that is there too). But now, today, on the train, in line at the market, with our families of origin, on the job, at school, online, at interviews, in movies, even children’s movies, nearly all the time, everywhere, sometimes even at home, there is the possibility of the homo/transphobic hit.

embroidered flowers

I find past hits lining up in my imagination as I remember my friend being followed off the bus and pistol whipped because he was gay, the windows broken out of my friends’ car because they were queer and had a queer positive political sign on their lawn, my partner lying to his friends as a child because he was afraid his father and partner could be killed if they were outed while visiting him in TN, the Christmas my girlfriend’s uncle stayed at a motel because he couldn’t bear to sleep in the same house as us homos, the restaurant that refused to serve me and my girlfriend because we were visibly queer, the people who riddled my property with bullets because we were ‘3 women living alone’ aka’ countrydykes’, my sweet grandma who told me I was going to burn in hell for eternity because I was a lesbian, my mother who disowned me when I came out and my father and brother who stood by her…there’s more. There’s so much more. There’s 500 years and millions of people more. My stories are my own, but they are familiar to all of us.

more bowls

I’ve been seeing posts online about love and hate, about anger and courage, about not living in fear. But the truth is I am hearing fear around me. I am seeing the traces of fear in the voices of my friends and their posts online. I can hear it in their body stories and see it in my own body. Stomachaches and nausea, racing heart, body aches, short tempers, shaky hands, floaty feeling, crying, distracted, sleeplessness. Our stories and history aligning. Our bodies speaking what we cannot always find words for, but cannot be denied.

So this. Here. I want to acknowledge the fear that has been lit up along the inner lines that weave through both our personal and shared stories and through the colonized history of queers in the Americas.

tower flower bowl

Yes, we will dance. Yes, we will dress fabulously and we WILL be courageous. We WILL choose love. We will because we are who we are. Queer eternal. Dancing is prayer, flaming is survival. We are fierce flowers blooming through the stormy night. We will march and agitate. We WILL speak OUT! Yes.

But right now? I can barely talk, barely take action. My mouth is heavy. My heart lost. My hips wandering. Even my legs ache.


Must step into the present moment fully and pause, take time to speak with Lavender and Sage growing in the San Francisco sun beside me. Must attend to the fear that has been persistently placed in my hands, in your hands–not just for the years of our own lives, not just from the Orlando massacre, but for 500 years of oppression and violence against indigenous queers of the Americas. Our hearts, our bodies carry it. With every homo/transphobic hit we hear Colombus’ footfall on our land, on our bodies, on our spirits, on a way of life that valued our BEing. We must pause to feel our full history so that we can remember with clarity who we really are.  So that we can mend the relationship between humans and all of nature. So that we can belong to mamiearth again.

turquoise gourd

I wrote ‘how to live with fear, love and awareness’ in my journal the day after the Orlando massacre, not because I accept the fear that has been placed in our hands, but because I want to know it so fully, face it so freely, eat, digest and transform it so completely that we naturally rise again as the whole, sacred Beings we are. We are built to heal. Fear is a doorway to the truth. Fear is a midwife to our real self. It is not a wall. I embrace the fear and I hold precious the path I was born walking. My rightness cannot be used against me. It is my power. I need not fear their fear but learn to feel and let it pass through me. I am the dance. I am divine. The artistcreator of all that I see. I am rainbow butterfly unicorn serpent spinning reality. I am the truth of nature. My BEing came here now to proclaim this truth through my very BEing.

black gourd

But to begin with I must BE. I must say it. I must see it. I must pause long enough to listen to my body and understand, I am afraid. There is fear in my body. This makes sense. I will not turn away from it. Posture that I am brave and not impacted. I will embrace and know the fear they placed in my hands. I will know it so well that they can no longer use it against me or any of my people. ALL OF ME will be free. But I must feel all of this moment. The grief, the fear and when appropriate the anger, the courage, in continued preparation for the long dance.

golden gourd

Saturday I dedicate my Peace Practice webinar to Orlando and QOC. We will talk about how to practically support fear moving through our bodies, touch internalized homo/transphobia, remember indigenous/nature based frameworks of human sexuality and gender and how we can inform the revolution with our very BEing and flow of feeling. We will honor those who died dancing and we will BE QUEER ETERNAL together.

I love you familia. I love everything about you.

Nonqueers are welcome to support, heal, grow and learn through an affirming queerofcolorcentric framework. All love is welcome. xomaya

ORLANDO tú eres mi otro yo

dancing in the garden


Not last night but the night before I was woken up by something that has never happened before. Apparently I had spontaneously vomited in my sleep, just a little, but enough to start me gagging and choking. I woke up disoriented and a little shock-y because I couldn’t breathe and my throat was burning. I felt like I was drowning in fire. It was the middle of the night. I kept sucking in air. I thought this is what it’s like for your throat to fill with blood and drown you.

shell-and-succulentsGrateful that Matthew was still up, I finally calmed my body down and went back to bed, confused, still a little ramped up, but fine. I woke up the next morning not giving a second thought to the incident. I purposefully spent the early time reading, praying and being thankful for all these beautiful plants that had come into my life for my garden.

I prayed that I was up for what they had to teach me.

sageIt wasn’t until Sky had gotten up and much playing had occurred that I turned on my computer. As soon as I saw a friend’s post PRAY FOR ORLANDO on a rainbow flag, my breath sucked in and tears started pouring down my face. I didn’t know details yet, but I knew.

Later when I woke up Matthew and told him the horrific news his response was, what happened last night? And I began to repeat the news again. No, he said. What happened to you last night? And then I remembered. The tears that had not stopped got stronger. I realized that I woke up gagging at the same time this was happening across the country to queers. Many queer latinx!


En lak’ech Ala k’in.

Tú eres mi otro yo.

I shook all morning. I cried on and off all day. I watched Sky play and laugh and I planted plants, food and medicine, in my window. That’s all I could do. I was haunted by the mother who shared that her son was hiding in the bathroom texting her until he texted, he’s in here now. Heartbroken, I thought about all the queers who go dancing with their mom or like me and Matthew with his dads.

I thought about Michael and Joe and how I texted them that morning to be safe and sound while they celebrated Pride in Philadelphia.two-green-ones

I want Sky’s grandpops safe and sound.

It’s JUNE. It’s PRIDE month!

Our season to celebrate, but last night Matthew, Sky and I stood with thousands of other queers in the Castro and mourned for those lost in Orlando. It reminded me of how we dance to survive, to stave off the fear, the threat, the judgment, the constant potential for loss, the very real grief in this current society. We dance.

Orlando survivors say that at first the gun shots mixed with the beat of the music until there were so many shots they filled the air, unmistakably off beat.

The veil is thinnest when we dance. It is a space we can open up to communicate with our deepest selves, with our spirit, with each other, even with death. Dancing is not just about moving your body to the beat. It is about embodiment of sound and flow, surrendering to the nonverbal, feeling one with nature and the creative force within all things. Dancing keeps the doors open between dimensions. And between us.

It’s no wonder that we dance so!reflection-flower-head

Let us not forget who danced for us last night. The beautiful bodies who spun away, who took death by the hand and tipped their head just enough and were gone. Queers of color. QUEER LATINX. I see gorgeous hips that know the beat, feet touching mamiearth with bodywisdom, hands stretching toward the sky limitless and swaying like a flower on the wind. I see who we once were when I see who we are when we are together, when we think we are safe and sound. QUEER LATINX. We dance. We have continued dancing for 500 years no matter how much they have tried to throw us offbeat. And we will dance through this. tomato-tip-of-flag

I turn back toward the tiny garden I planted in my window yesterday. I prayed the entire time, my hands dark with dirt and grief both current and ancestral. Now Lavender and Sage are dancing in the cool San Francisco morning. lavender-alone

Hola darlings! I see you, sweet ones.

And suddenly with those words my window is not my window and my garden is not my garden, but the nightclub where the shootings took place.

Everyone is dancing and I join in. lavender-underwaterSome of us are Earthside, some of us are Spiritside. Some of us are both.The beat is strong and steady. We are not divided but whole.  Linked together one to the other, like a chain through time. One eternal queer dance. We are flowers. We are everywhere. Free.

I remember. I remember.

I didn’t know it to begin, but I have planted a memorial garden. The plants came to remember me and all of us who dance like this. All of us forever dancing together.

Orlando I am still dancing with you. My garden tells me so. xoxomaya


The Heart of It Collection

BIG NEWS! Anthology #3 will be the last one for a while

The Heart of It CollectionEver since Matthew and I learned to publish books for ourselves, we have been sharing how to do it with others! True power rises and I could feel the power as soon as we began, and the desire to share it.

What I know is that our work is never about the book even though books get made. It’s always about power. Books are the vehicle, the space we create for our voice, our self, our vision. We create a place where we can be our real selves and know each other. We create a new world!

The Heart of It Collection is a series of anthologies in direct response to inequity in the children’s book industry and is about sharing power and making ourselves visible.

I wanted a playful model to publish new and emerging children’s book artistauthors who are not historically reflected in children’s books, and do it from a supportive, holistic framework. This means centering the experience and voice of people of color, the lgbtqia2s community, American Indians, disabled people and elders.

It felt invaluable to provide real life experience on how to engage with traditional publishers or self-publish. By inviting artistauthors after the course to put the materials to practical use through the anthology, we’ve shown that everyone has a story, a unique voice and vision, and everyone can do it. Having a safe, solid community and holistic mentorship supports voice coming forward and growing stronger. This is exactly what our kids need to see us doing. Owning our voice, our creative power and taking action. We are setting the stage for them.

2-anthology-coversIn the first two anthologies we published 45 people.

I am about to begin the next Heart of It course and after some consideration we’ve decided that this round will be the third and last anthology, for a while. This has been a powerFULL experience and it has me pumped to continue exploring the many ways I can support reflective children’s books, including publishing more of my own books and developing more free materials for my communities and our kids.

Be sure that even though I’m taking a break from the anthology collection after 2016, The Heart of It immersion course and the new Make Books Now action program will continue to dance on with great energy!

AND once the 3 anthologies in The Heart of It Collection are complete, I will focus on sharing them as a set providing free curriculum about how to use them in the classroom and how they connect to my Write Now! Make Books free online kids’ program.

The Heart of It: Creating Children's Books that Matter
6 week e-course starts April 18th

If you’d like to learn how to create meaningful books for our kids in a supportive holistic frame and then put the teaching to real-world application, come be part of the 3rd anthology. My next Heart of It e-course starts April 18th.

…and since we just decided that this will be our last anthology for a while, we’re extending our scholarship deadline until April 5th.

I look forward to seeing what stories and art will arise in our 3rd and final anthology in this series!

The Heart of It Collection

If the Publishing World Were to Change Tomorrow, I’d Still Self-Publish

close-up-with-watermarkWhat if the children’s book industry changed tomorrow? And the number of books that actually reflect our communities was equitable with those of straight Euro Americans? What if I began getting calls that offered real advances and publicity for books with larger publishing houses? What if for some reason, after 20 years in the industry, I was known, valued, wanted for my experience? I’ll tell you. I’d take it. I’d be happy to support my family and my work and get my name out there. Come on change! I welcome you!!!

But I would not stop self-publishing.

I never intended to be in the children’s book industry. I initially entered the scene as an artist and an activist through Children’s Book Press. But after spending time with these books what I found was that real power lies at the heart of them. The more involved I became in creating children’s books the more I understood that. I understood the power it had for me personally to heal the experiences I had not only growing up but also as an adult, and by extension the power I got to share as my books circulated in my communities and the world.


Self-publishing stands on its own. It is about owning voice; stepping outside of historically oppressive systems to claim ownership of my perspective, my world as a working class, radical queer xicana and others like me; it is about modeling new ways of power rising and being shared, creating new systems that support us ALL equally.



Our creative power is our own and it does not have to be tied to financial viability to heal and transform our communities. Our voice is for ourselves. It is us who must hear it and claim our stories so that we become whole. This is for me. This is for my family. My communities. My world. This is for you.

Voice is a revolution. My voice. YOUR VOICE. My revolution. YOURS. Traditional publishing will do whatever traditional publishing does. But we will endure.  EVERYONE make books now! The power is OURS and it’s FREE!!! Let it rise…




“I’m not an artist. I can’t illustrate my children’s book.”

4 books & a potato to coax your inner artist to come out and play!
Simple Line Art with Ink & Watercolor
Simple Line Art with Ink & Watercolor

As I get ready to start my Make Books Now! Action Program, I’ve been exploring fun and fast ways to create good-looking art that kids will love. I imagine there are folks out there doubting their ability to make art so I always like to provide playful ways for everyone to access their inner artist. While we’ll also be covering how to hire & art direct someone else for those still not convinced they can illustrate their own book, I do always encourage everyone to at least consider making their own art.

There’s something potent about illustrating our own stories that can make us better authors too.

If you’ve ever taken a class with me than you probably already know my first rule, EVERYONE is an artist. Yes, everyone!

Usually it’s not our skill that is the issue but that we’ve lost our sense of play, our trust in our hands and our ability to let go into freewheeling creativity. When I teach my classes that’s usually where I start; learning to trust our hands and PLAY PLAY PLAY. Kids are experts at this. They haven’t yet learned to second guess or think that something has to look perfectly representative. They can see into the art and play around inside it. My 2 year old draws a squiggly oval and says, “whale!” Kids’ imaginations are alive and fresh.

A sense of play when making art lets us drop back into that space where anything is possible.

I often hear folks say that they can’t make their art look the way they see it in their heads. A lot of times what they see in their heads are classic, more formal children’s book art. They immediately dismiss the art that is naturally theirs to express. We all have our own perfect style and way. If we take the pressure off how art looks and focus more on expression and play we enter the realm of children and open up new possibilities of expression and exploration.

Here are 4 children’s books that beautifully play with & expand the idea of what art needs to look like for kids to thoroughly enjoy it.

1. any book by Todd Parr!

Artwork by Todd Parr

2. Happy, by Pharrell Williams.

Yup it’s more than just a catchy song!

Happy by Pharrell

3. Otter and Odder written by James Howe, illustrated by Chris Raschka

(I’m a terminal Raschka fan!)

Otter and Odder

4. The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade written by Justin Roberts, illustrated by (the brilliant and award winning) Christian Robinson

illustration by Christian Robinson

What’s great about art like this is that it’s accessible to kids. They see it and say, hey I can do that! I mean what’s better than inspiring our next generation of storytellers and artists?

Lately I’ve been exploring Potato Prints to illustrate a book. Besides being fabulously fun for me they’ll be hilariously fun to share doing with kids in the classroom.

Make art for your children's book with Potato Prints

You don’t feel like you can draw. Not a problem, how about playing with photos or cut paper collage? Or breakout the crayons and let your hands play freely. Or maybe a potato is what would unleash your free side. Who doesn’t love potato art?! The possibilities are endless. You could even consider it a challenge to find the most fun, or most silly, or most weird way to make children’s book art. Kids LOVE that!

And if the art’s all that’s stopping you from publishing your book this year, well … why not come play and see if just maybe there’s an inner artist just waiting to burst onto the pages!

Self-publishing is a radical, powerful act.

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” – Alice Walker

Make Books Now!I’ve met a lot of powerful children’s book makers over these past few years teaching The Heart of It: Creating Children’s Books that Matter. I decided from the beginning that whenever possible I would focus my Community Spotlights on folks who were making their books happen by any means necessary.

Some like Cory Silverberg and Innosanto Nagara used their self-published books as fulcrums into traditional publishing and have since released more books. Others like Janine Macbeth and S. Bear Bergman used their self-published books as catalysts to start their own independent presses and begin publishing other diverse authors and artists from their communities. And still others like Aliona Gibson and Robert Liu-Trujillo, self-published their books because they know their children needed to see kids who look like them in books and to hear stories that rise from their communities.

All of them claimed their rightful power to get things done, and done now.

And someone who repeatedly inspires me on the self-publishing front is Zetta Elliott. Not only is Zetta getting her books out there now but she’s also opening up new conversations and helping kids think new thoughts. Zetta has published over 15 books through her independent press, Rosetta Press. Her books have been recommended by Teaching for Change, highlighted on numerous blogs and inspire kids to say they want to make books too!

This is change that you can sink your teeth into right this minute.

When 2016 started I had numerous stories piling up. And I knew I couldn’t wait to get them out. I still publish books through traditional routes (I’m even illustrating a book right now) but I also understand the freedom, power and value of owning my own independent press. Something happens when you realize there is nothing stopping you.

I want to share that power and knowledge and support others to do the same. We don’t have time to wait for the publishing industry to catch up to the fact that our kids need stories that reflect them. Zetta knows this. Cory, Inno, Janine, Bear, Aliona, Robert and many, many others know this.

We can make our books now. And in so doing inspire our kids to own their own power as change agents. If we can be brave enough to do it, to put ourselves out there and tell our stories, we model for our kids that they can do it too. We can write our own stories, we can make our own art and if necessary we can publish them ourselves.

Reclaiming storytelling as necessary and vital to our survival (instead of a product only valuable if dollar signs and prestige are attached to it) is a radical act.

Holding your book!What if you had your book in hand by the end of this year? What doors would it open up for you?

How would it feel to hold your book in your hands and know that you did it, YOU made it happen!

How would it feel to share that book with the children in your life and in the world?

I want to read your book! I want to hear the stories that only you can tell. And I want to live in a world that values everyone’s voice. And I want it now.

I’m going to independently publish several books this year and I guarantee you Zetta and many of my friends above will too. If you’re ready to take action this year and make your book happen, here’s some helpful resources:

  • Publishing Packet – a pdf packet for a Radical & Relevant Children’s Books mini-conference we held in 2012 through our independent press
  • Self-Publisher’s FAQs – a great resource put together by Creative Minds Press
  • Write Now! Make Booksa video series geared for kids but fun and helpful for all
  • And if you’d like a support system to help guide you step-by-step through the process take a look at my Make Books Now! Action Program. We’re starting February 27th. Scholarships are available along with different options for joining in. But regardless of how or if you join in, you’re welcome to join our Facebook group for community and encouragement along the journey.

Take Action