A Death in the Family: Francisco X Alarcón

longing and authenticity
francisco mariposa by maya
francisco mariposa by maya


Francisco X. Alarcón let go of his body January 15. His passing is moving me very much. I am finishing drawings on our latest book together. A book of days. I look at spending the next few months very intimately sitting with Francisco as the arte unfolds. I am so sad.

I find myself thinking of his partner of 28 years. I keep thinking of their home. Their arte, their space, their colors, their feel. Less than a year ago I was sitting there interviewing Francisco. I keep thinking of the books and the vision he and I were beginning to conjure. Francisco had responded in his most-wonderful-Francisco-way to my call to create LGBT children’s books by QOC. He wrote a poem. He envisioned a book.

Francisco was incredibly enthusiastic about children’s books. Like me he led a double creative life. In one a radical queer poet activist, in the other a multicultural children’s book author. I have always believed people like me and Francisco are exactly who kids need to come into contact with and our coming into our children’s book queerness together seemed beyond awesome. It would cast a queer light on our other 5 books together and as artists it would serve to unite our individual visions and work. This is powerful stuff. In so many directions. “The personal is political”, as another QOC activist/author knew and wrote. Audre Lorde.

This brings me back to crying. Francisco has dropped the body. I miss him. I want him here. I want to keep playing. I want to change the world. I want him by my side. I know death. I am familiar with it. I do not fight death. So my longing is very noticeable to me. My tears taste different than I thought they would. My tears are strong and full. These are not the tears for a colleague or collaborator. These are the tears reserved for family.

And there it is.

Queer family. I found myself intuitively calling Francisco ‘Papa’ this last month. Not a paternal vibe but ‘papa’ in a queer sense. His voice. His words. His presence. His enthusiasm. His daring. His life. Respeto. Queer family is those people who hold a foundation for us when there is none. Those people in our lives, close or community, near or far, who create connection, reflection. I see Francisco’s presence and poetry fulfilling the role as a queer shaman in our community. Speaker to the queers and the children. Speaker to our Mexica memories. Francisco is family.

Crying. I am missing the world where Francisco stayed and we made multicultural LGBTQ children’s books together. I want to know those books. I want to hold those books. I want to see those books move in the world and cast rainbows in a million directions. I feel longing and sadness.

A woman, who taught my heart many things, Harriet Rohmer, (visionary and founder of Children’s Book Press) partnered me with Francisco years ago. After a number of books and playing in schools together, I told Harriet that I understood why. There was a resonance of vision between us. Francisco, his self, his vision, his way, was a relief to me in so many ways. I could relax. I could just be. Queer. Chicana. Mamiearth. Spirit. Poet. Artist. Oh Papa.

When I found out about Francisco’s death, I took a long hot bath. My form of meditation. I saw him, caught between the pages, ancestors everywhere. Orienting himself to himself without physical form. I know you are here. I know you are eternal. I know you are the 5th direction now. I know.

But in the knowing I also know,

I am in the time of longing. I make room for it and trust that death provides a path. Each step has value. Thank you so much Francisco for coming and Being. For bringing me joy and books, for playing with me, even for so many tears of love

and for the longing.

1/24/16 (my birthday)

Friday his family laid Francisco’s body to rest in mamiearth. In the week before his sister shared that he never used periods at the end of his poems because his life was his poem. The period would signify the end. In my imagination I saw Francisco himself as his final period, his body the last punctuation as it entered mamiearth.

I know his voice and his spirit press far beyond this period. There is no mistake. He is here. He is everywhere. I feel his spirit loosening my tongue, strengthening my heart, preparing my legs and arms for the next dance. I let the feelings move slowly and steadily. I will stay with the longing until it is spent. Until I am new.

I will stay with the longing too because I will miss him in a different way when it has passed. And I’m not ready for that yet.

The drawings for our book are folded up under my writing this now. I am getting closer to working on them again.

In preparation I imagine my heart like an empty chair, an open place for Francisco to join me as I draw and paint, create and pray into our book. I know he will be with me more than ever for this one.

And I know he will be with me as I continue our work together and create the books I began dreaming with him.





Holiday queers! What I Know Now!

30 Years After Being Disowned for Xmiss

maya-then-and-nowAhhh the holidays! My mother stopped talking to me on Christmas day, the rest of my family followed suit. Later, I was actually disowned! I don’t know if my name still appears on any of the papers that connect me to my family of origin.

santa-fire-7Jajaja! I laugh my queer little tuckus off now, but for many years the holidays felt like hell.

Eventually, the holidays felt like my ex’s and her family’s charade. I watched from the sidelines. Included, but totally not. Slowly I carved out what felt meaningful to me during this time of year.

The darkest day, honoring trees and lights, LOTS OF LIGHTS and being…


vancouver sisters

I’m back in distant contact with my family. I’ve spoken my love and appreciation, which grows day by day. But I’m also aware that I am a far more solid, sane and happy person independent of them.

I must be about 22 in the photo above. My friend Leah sent it to me just the other day. Blew me away! Thank you very much Leah!

uofo symbol

Her and another dyke hired me as a co-director of the Women’s Referral and Resource Center at the UO. I was supposed to be the straight one. I was soon out, disowned and massively stressed out. All I can see in this photo, besides the absolutely fab hairdo (please note the fluffy*pink*chiffon*bow holding my long ponytail!), is a wtf kind of sadness. Shocked with the world I am.

Now, 30 years later, aware of the world and it’s lessons, I am not shocked. I am whole. I can say I feel healed. My partner just took the current photo. He always makes me smile. You can see our bubba Sky napping behind me. She’s still asleep as I scratch this out! I’m holiday decked–xmiss is oh so gay! My super loved partner (who has fabulous gay dads who rock the holidays all year!) has helped bring my heart into a big open place even during xmiss! QUEER I can play. QUEER I am free. QUEER I am at peace.


I want to share what I learned and what keeps me rockin. I share it because I want you to stay alive my lovelies! And more than that, GROW STRONG! We need you. We need all of your gorgeousness.

SO this is for my holiday queers  (although it can apply to anyone, but I’m extra lovin on my queers right now!):

  1. don’t care about what anyone says, except for the love part! Love is all that matters. The rest is theirs.
  2. listen to your body, even if it’s fear or panic. Take time with your good body. Feel your weight! Gravity is mamiearth reminding us that we belong here!
  3. listen to me! YOU ARE A PERFECT AND NECESSARY PART OF THE NATURAL WORLD! Look at nature all around you and know that you are looking at queer and trans plants and animals! We have and always will exist because we are perfectly natural.
  4. speak your name, tell your story, write it down, draw it out! USE YOUR CREATIVE POWER TO CLAIM YOUR BEING! You have a great power within. Expressing and not repressing sets us free. Art changes everything.
  5. I LOVE YOU. I LOVE YOU. I LOVE YOU. Write this down. Carry it with you. Sign my name and then yours. Tu eres mi otro yo. You are me. I am you. I love me. I love you. I will love until you remember!

Rock on my HOLIDAY QUEERS!xmiss tree

Forever and a day, xomaya

*more loving treats:

8 Queer Tips to Get Through the Holidays

Trans Lifeline

GLBT National Help Center


Bringing in Wholeness

Planting Seeds for Ourselves in the Dark of the Winter Solstice

solstice candleSome of my earliest and fondest memories are of spirit in my life. In Just Like Me: An Anthology by 14 Artists, I wrote about a vision I had in the middle of the night when I was 5 years old. I saw a light so bright that it woke up my brother across the hall. In the morning when we asked our mother about it, she said casually that it was an angel. Growing up, visions were a part of life. They happened. Both of my parents and myself. My brother walked and talked in his sleep.

Spirit like creativity has been my mainstay throughout life.  I experience them as one breath. This is how I approach everything because they are everything. It’s not a magic formula. It’s real. I have learned the more I can acknowledge the whole (all wholeness), the stronger I am.solstice candles

Ironically I’ve spent many years learning how not to talk about spirit. Not spirit in the sense of religion of course, but spirit in the sense of the vision I had as a child, the kinds of experiences many of us have, often in relation to birth, death, nature and creativity.

Being able to acknowledge and include this part of my life is a big part of what’s missing for me in Western culture. I believe this disconnect is part of how power and privilege are able to play out. The legacy of colonization is a false separation from our whole and natural self and consequently our knowing that we are connected to all things and in all things we are reflected.

solstice moonSo often I feel flattened out when I engage in a world that only validates a small sliver of my actual experience. As a creative, (a devotee of the creative force), and a queer Chicana activist, I do what I can to open up to the unknown edges of spirit and creativity to expand into what I sense may be my most valuable inner resources.  It feels subversive, edgy and massively powerful.  I’ve found that so much of who we are has been shut down. But I know these resources are still there waiting to be awakened.

When I engage with my holistic self it widens my base and gives me a platform from which to reach both higher and deeper within myself. This is what gives myth, symbol, meaning and sacred purpose to my being and from here, all my doing. This is what makes life arte.night reflecttion

As the darkness of this year comes in, I’m using it as a reflection to press into my unknown: the edges of my own self–beyond what I think I know about myself and my world. As I do this I know that I press further into my purpose here on mamiearth. I open up to be who I didn’t know I was, but who I have always been becoming.

I acknowledge that I want to talk now. I want to make room for spirit and the unknown in the world. I want to talk about death and birth, about visions and inner knowing, miracles and healing, nature and the force of creativity. I want to talk spirit because I know everything is alive. There is support everywhere if we stop looking where Western culture wants us to place our attention.

I open up to see a new world. A whole world.

owl black and whiteThis begins my entry into teaching Believing is Seeing in January. Like life, it is ritual; it is arte. One breath. I begin the year with peace and working with what we believe about ourselves, our lives, our limitations, the world, our historical and cultural context because this affects who we are and everything we do. Each one of us is the revolution. Each one of us is the healing we all need. I believe.

Many blessings on this glorious time of year. May the seeds that you plant in the dark be the most precious your heart can hand you. And may your unknown rise up to dance with you in the most inviting and flirtatious way to help those seeds GROW! I love to watch a revolution in motion, all of us waking up and becoming whole in circles ever expanding, reaching out.


dancing in the dark

I am dancing in the dark with everyone,

Tu eres mi otro yo.

Happy solstice!


the edge of death…10 years later

the release of my new fine art website as I reflect on 10 years after healing from heavy metal poisioning

Dancing with Death

It can be difficult to talk about death. Or pain or sickness; or loss or grief. When I first healed from heavy metal poisoning in 2006, I wanted to run and run and run and live. I wanted to live like mad. I didn’t want to remember 10 years of sickness, the last 3 years of it spent totally housebound. I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t even want to talk about Master Hai and the miraculous healing! I wanted to dance off the ridiculous horribleness of all of it, even the mystery and beauty of it. I wanted to become strong and create a new life, and I have. These last 10 years have been the best in my entire life, which is not to say there haven’t been challenges.

I don’t know how to articulate what happened when I realized that 2016 is my 10 year anniversary. 10 years sick. 10 years well. I used to think I’d be dead by now. There is a softness in acknowledging that. A big large eternal sunset kind of perspective of compassion and genuine kindness toward myself and the hard lessons I’ve learned. I’m living a new, backdoor life. I’ve stepped outside of the life I once lived, even the person I once was. I am free. I used to feel trapped. In my body, in my life, in my thoughts and even the life I had been given. Now as I look at where I’m at and where I imagine I may be going, everything makes sense and I can see how healing from such a powerful experience literally redirected my life and healed my heart.

It still feels hard to talk about. There was fabulous emotional and physical discomfort for so long, but when I look at the art, there is something else too. I was never alone. My ancestors were a constant part of supporting me in aligning with my deepest work and pushing me toward my own greatest good. I believe throughout my life I have been on a path of healing that is at once my own and is always a part of a greater lineage. I feel that more than ever as I am 10 years into why I am still here.

I feel like I can begin telling the stories of my healing journey and the art I created during that time, much of which has never been shown. I’ve spent the last few years investing deeply in my curricula and teaching everything I know about children’s books. With Reflection Press and School of the Free Mind becoming more solid, I can take the time to celebrate the creative power that kept me alive and taught me that I am my greatest work of art.

A new life begets a new look.

I may always and forever think of myself as an artist above all else. It still feels like the word that best describes me!

So here’s my gorgeous updated fine art website:

My New Art WebsiteMatthew is a magician!
Complete with artwork gallery, specific time periods, an art timeline, ability to search by artwork themes, symbolism and medium, and more! We’re still putting the finishing touches on it, adding more art, and updating my bio and such but felt that Day of the Dead was a perfect day to release it. And if you want to test out it’s functionality, here’s an example of searching by symbolism to see all my artwork with skeletons in it.

I’ll also be offering giclees in my new online shop that should be up and running in the next week.
…and we’ve been making updates to my main site as well (www.mayagonzalez.com)

Sending love to everyone as we celebrate Dia de los Muertos. xomaya

It’s time to involve kids in the talk about diversity in children’s books

While giving them the tools to take action!

Write Now! Make Books Field Guide for kids!Matthew and I are finally coming to terms with the fact that we LOVE to make fun, smart, creative materials for kids with a holistic, social justice frame. It’s just who we are together. It’s awesome. We have the best conversations about everything (like the Interrupting Chupacabra!) and we see Write Now! Make Books as the beginning of a great conversation with kids. We’re already playing with some ideas for our next adventure! We see another story filled path for our lgbt, disabled and kids of color to travel to my studio and learn more ways to grow into their voice, their strength and beauty in the world.

In our big dream moments we see a kid’s series as what we were always meant for…hhmmmmmm we shall see!!?! What we know for sure is that there are many more additions coming to Write Now! Make Books: a bookmaking map poster, educator materials to help bring the program into the classroom, an associated mural project, possible online visits with me, how to take your project and publish it for real with the help of some cool grownups…even sshhhhhh… publishing kids ourselves! Ssshhhhhhhhhhh…we’re barely even talking about that part right now!!! But you know us. It’s all a matter of time.

maya-with-booksWhen I look back at where my body of work has been able to go with Matthew by my side I am crazy grateful and completely excited. Write Now! Make Books feels like a final piece has landed and we’re looking forward to resting down and expanding on the work we’ve created over the last 5 years. We’ve got long term plans to create workbooks for Claiming Face for kids and grownups, and for the Heart of It/Creating Children’s Books that Matter. This fall we’re releasing a workbook and a small pocket book related to my book I See Peace and the related Believing Is Seeing course. Yay! Matthew is amazing!!!!

On the children’s book front, I’m set to begin thumbnails with a new book for Lee and Low with Francisco Alarcon!  And I have story and art already brewing about rabbits and the moon for the 2016 edition of the Heart of It Collection. The (creative) force feels strong!

Today’s final installation for Write Now! Make Books is Beyond the Book. What to do with a book once you’ve made it. I know this one! For example last night I finished up a power point to talk about Whaleheart at the SCBWI conference and the possibilities of self publishing; I got interviewed yesterday morning for a newspaper in Texas because I’ll be talking about silence and the power of telling our story to a conference of young girls next month and oooo oooo next month I also get to go into a school in the North Bay and do Claiming Face!!!! Oooooo oooo AND I got asked to coauthor a chapter with a professor who integrates me and my work into her teaching and community work in the south. Aaaaaaaaaaaaa!!! Work like this rocks! And I’m not even telling you the half of it! I’ve got about 15 books on the drawing board!

Beyond the BookSo yay! Here’s installation 7 of Write Now! Make Books. You made a book! Now what?

Do you know a kid who just might be a bookmaker like me? Or maybe growing strong in their self and their voice is the point? Please feel free to share these materials widely with the kids, the educators, the communities you know! I want to call out all the beautiful voices waiting to sing, tell us a tale, rip a good joke, open our eyeballs with their truth and just BE FREE in their voice and power!

It’s time to involve kids in the diversity talk and children’s books are the perfect path in!

Let’s do this.


for some extra inspiration here are some recent kid authors:




Write Now! Make Books


the revolution is always now--self publish!

The Time is NowMatthew and I opened Reflection Press at the end of 2009. We had NO IDEA what we were doing. We had heard tale and had seen a few things around the edges and then BOOM! we were doing it!

We published Claiming Face and Gender Now in 2010. When we realized what we had done and how easy and accessible it was, we immediately started teaching everything we knew, and held our first Radical & Relevant Children’s Books mini conference in 2012. (you can download the publishing packet here)

Since then we’ve published I See Peace and Yo Veo La Paz, and now we’re mentor/publishing our annual anthology in The Heart of It course taught through our online School of the Free Mind, opened in 2013.

Write Now! Make Books feels like the logical extension of what we do. It’s time to share FREE RESOURCES FOR OUR KIDS to come into VOICE and MAKE BOOKS now!

We have lots more rolling around our imaginations, but one thing we know for sure, it will involve sharing what we know and lifting up our kids in POWER!


Write Now! Make Books with Maya GonzalezWrite Now! Make BooksWelcome to installment 6 of Write Now! Make Books. It’s about bringing the story and the art together in a handmade book!

It’s about sharing your VOICE, your fabulous SELF with the world. We need to hear you! We need to see you! We need you!

I always say this to the kids I play with, I say this to everyone who knows the shape of silence!

You are an Artist, you are a StorytellerWhaleheart taught me, ALL STORIES are important because all stories ARE CONNECTED. We cannot see the whole story unless all the stories are told.


tu eres mi otro yo

In Lakech Ala K’in

sending you a large hug on your journey! xomaya

Knock Knock Who’s There? Interrupting Chupacabra!

Social Justice, Critical Thinking, Social and Emotional Learning Wrapped in a JOKE!

Saturday I am speaking at the Bay area SCBWI Oktoberfest. One of my talks is titled, Get Radical! Why Radical Thinkers Are Needed in the Children’s Book World. Apparently my reputation precedes me because I didn’t come up with the title. I simply and happily slid into place upon arrival. I was planning to talk about my nonwestern, holistic approach to children’s books and how as poc, disabled and lgbtqi2s folks, creating children’s books can provide an amazing opportunity to heal the effects of silence and exclusion at the same time as we create strong powerful stories for our kids. (wow, talk about an elevator pitch!)

Buuuuut, I’m feeling the pull to talk about something more. I’ll touch on that stuff, but I LOVE to listen to my pulls. I also love it when I’m invited to speak specifically because I can talk radically to the radical. So I’m thinking this talk will have more to do with following our desire and owning our power and agency. In other words, I’ll bring the creation of Whaleheart into the convo!

23 ArtistAuthors in WhaleheartI’m realizing Whaleheart was a doorway for me. The opportunity to feel completely free to do what I wanted to do, to publish who I wanted to publish, to write what I wanted to write, make arte the way I wanted, everything was mine to decide with Matthew. It was exhilarating. The only thing that comes close to matching that feeling of pure power and joy, was sharing it with the 23 artistauthors we published.

It’s a small and simple book. But for many of us writing and making art are acts of noncompliance in a world of silence. I want to revel in that moment of noncompliance, that break away feel when you realize nothing can hold you down and you’re writing everything and drawing everything, unfurling the layers to make room for the true. It feels contagious. I don’t know where this feeling stops! If we’re lucky it’s unstoppable because it sounds like the kind of thing that could completely remake the children’s book industry. Our children deserve nothing less!

Monsterize Yourself!Write Now! Make BooksNOT SUPRISING, this is totally the spirit of the interrupting chupacabra! Beautiful, loving noncompliance. As I share installment 5 of WRITE NOW! MAKE BOOKS, I interrupt this moment to invite you to monsterize yourself! You can see the creation from start to finish of The Interrupting Chupacabra through the videos. OR if you need, you can go straight to interrupting if you like! Just download this chupacabra and go at it! Draw yourself as the interrupter you are! Knock, Knock! Who’s there?

There’s some good monster in everyone and it’s time to come OUT!

In the spirit of total interruption and new ways of thinking I’m also including a link to two free coloring pages from Gender Now:

Gender Now Coloring Page #1
Gender Now Coloring Page #2

THERE’S A LOT OF PLAYING TO DO! Better get to it!

Rock on in the revolution! xomaya

Claiming Face with Dick and Jane

Write Now! Make Books Installment 3 and 4

when i look back at the books of my childhood, in my imagination, i see myself looking back. my strong proud forehead alive with thought. my clear eyes open wide to see. i am here! this is my face. i am hear! this is my face. this is where my story begins. where my ancestors live. this is my face. where the stars live. where tomorrow lives. here in my face, i am.

black-leaf-dickjaneto Claim Face:

1. to recognize and assert one’s place/face and inherent belonging in the world;

2. to embrace and celebrate what one’s face expresses, how it reflects one’s life and historical context in relation to ethnicity, gender expression, individuality, selfhood and more;

3. to declare and require in community the birthright to be exactly who one is inside and out;

4. to know one’s self inside and out.


is the personal teacher within each of us. As our birthright it is the inherent ability and energy, we as humans are born with, to transcend current ideas, forms and patterns and to create meaningful new ones that are relevant to the moment and our deepest selves. This allows us to connect with, maintain and perpetuate flow and integrity with who we are at core.

black-snow-dickjane Artist:

Creativity is the teacher that lives within each of us. Being an artist means that no matter what activity we are engaged in, we are listening to and guided by our inner teacher.


    the power to exercise choice and make decisions without constraint from within or without. to allow an unencumbered flow of energy to move through one’s self and life.

little-child-curls-dickjane Respect:

is an awareness and admiration for someone who is being true to their deepest, most creative self. It never remains a one sided experience but always transforms into a circular or reciprocal experience, because as we admire others being true to themselves, we ourselves change and become more true to our deepest, most creative self. This results in self-respect and continues the cycle for others to then see us and be transformed. And so on. Respect leads to self-respect. Self-respect leads to respect.

orange-dress-dickjaneClaim Your Face!

Write Now! Make Books

learn about thumbnails,


and 3 fun art ideas

installments 3 and 4

Write Now! Make BooksWrite Now! Make Books

NEEDED TODAY: 94% Increase in Latino Children’s Books

How Do We INTERRUPT SILENCE like that?

Write Now! Make BooksI estimate that if
Latino and African American communities were to create an equitable number of children’s books as Euro Americans, Latinos must create another 890 books and African Americans must create another 600 booksper year.

That’s a 94% increase for Latinos and 88% increase for African Americans. ALL communities of color need serious increases in their representation in children’s books, but these are THE MOST STAGGERING of the numbers.

I’ve been in the industry for 20 years, blabbing about diversity all along, citing the CCBC and I’m still blown away by the numbers. But the truth is these are the numbers I find the most sobering. A 94% increase in stories being told? That also means 94% more art being made, 94% more editors, 94% more moments when publishers say yes, 94% more hearts and hands open to telling our story from the inside out. This is not something that’s going to change overnight just because the larger society is now beginning to get hip to our conversation. It’s not just a political, intellectual, philosophical question. It’s not a matter of what sells.

It’s a real life human concern.

Write Now! Make BooksIf we want to see change in these numbers, real change, lasting change; we must consider what is effective, long term action on a human level that can remedy 10-25 generations of socially mandated silence? Latino/as and African Americans are still substantially silenced if we need equity increases in the ballpark of 88 and 94%! That silence has a very real impact on our sense of entitlement to our own stories and the power to tell them in public. When I began teaching adults how to create children’s books, I did it from a holistic perspective because I knew many of us have to heal our hearts as we go in order to complete the journey.

I don’t know if today

890 more Latino/a authors,

890 more Latino/a artists and

890 more publishers saying yes to all that first voice Latino/a work

are even available much less ready to begin making children’s books.

If we hope to reclaim our storytelling power and see that translated into published books in the public sphere, then in my imagination, we need to attend to the kids. As Latinos and African Americans, we need to ask how we can engage our kids at each developmental level to integrate the importance of story, art and bookmaking. It’s no longer just about learning to read or needing more books. Or diversity sells. It’s about a sense of agency rooted in belonging rising through voice.

As kids experience story, art and book creation alongside learning about the realities of inequity, they have the opportunity to care about their lives from a place of action. This gives them time also to develop that caring into purpose and skill that could flower into much needed work in children’s books later in life.

Write Now! Make BooksToday’s WRITE NOW! MAKE BOOKS installment is about storytelling. Included later this week is a complete story for kids to download, color and make into their own practice book. At the end of the video today I talk about the process of developing that small story. I used a common joke, the interrupting cow as my base, but before I knew it there were chupacabras and cow propaganda and goat demonstrations. I surprised my own self and even snort laughed a couple few times.

Tell me,

do you know how to tell a good story? How about a good joke Do you make art? What about books? Maybe WRITE NOW! MAKE BOOKS is a great opportunity for you to come into some more of your creative power. Come play! I know it’s for kids and it is!!! Please share widely! But you too! Come interrupt the silence! Come play with the kids. The chupacabras are waiting! And they’re nothing like you expected.

The revolution is always now!

See you tomorrow!


The Simultaneous Release of Whaleheart and WRITE NOW! MAKE BOOKS

Whaleheart: The Heart of It Anthology #1I am pleased to officially introduce WHALEHEART, the first anthology in The Heart of It Collection, and Reflection Press’ first full color children’s book!

Whaleheart grew out of my desire to begin creating change right now.

After nearly 20 years of sharing the CCBC’s annual diversity statistics of who does and doesn’t make children’s books, I decided to publish an annual anthology as an extension of my Heart of It: Creating Children’s Books that Matter course. I didn’t want to just teach people what I knew. I wanted them to experience a piece of the power, their own version of what it’s been like for me as a queer Chicana to be published as a children’s book artist and author.

After completing the course, everyone was invited to go through the real life experience of submitting and being mentored all the way through to publishing one full spread. I was expecting to create a relatively classic anthology, but in the spirit of the course, I found myself revisioning the format and instead created an entire children’s book within which to spotlight the 23 artistauthors and their one spread. Through and through it was an amazing experience; to be with the artistauthors each step of the way, to writing and illustrating my own book that could hold both the artistauthors’ work and the meaning of storytelling, and then as Reflection Press to publish our first full color print on demand children’s book while trying to push the limitations of the format and get the best book possible! So much was a revelation!

Write Now! Make Books Field GuideWe had a soft release this summer for our artistauthors and now we are sharing it worldwide! In conjunction with this first edition, we are also unveiling our brand new series for kids and teens called Write Now! Make Books, available for free through Reflection Press.

Combined, Whaleheart and Write Now! Make Books provide a window into the power of storytelling for everyone.

Me and Matthew’s experience creating Whaleheart was so exciting and eye opening that we knew we had to share more than just the book with kids. We had to share the whole how-to too! We wanted kids to experience some of what we saw happen with the amazing artistauthors in the anthology. The courage, the creativity, the coming into voice, the change in perspective. It was power and voice and art! OH MY! And it wasn’t a one-time thing either. We’re already half way through our second edition and our minds are blown again. This confirms for us that no matter what, it’s been the right thing to do.
Write Now! Let's Make a Book!With that in mind, I guess we couldn’t help but create something similar for kids and teens. Initially we thought we were just doing a page—simple, low key and then something started to happen.

Maybe it was the power in what we were doing that guided us,

maybe it was because we trusted the creative process and where it would lead us,

or maybe it was just tons of our kind of fun.

Whatever it was the kids page turned into a free, playful, in depth program that engages kids and teens in the very real conversation of diversity in their books. Through direct learning, the materials teach how to make books from story through arte all the way to book creation in many of the same ways a professional artist/author like me does. It includes 2 hours of instructional videos, a field guide, a complete sample story with art to color and make into a practice book. And of course, it uses a social justice frame to support kids and teens in understanding and reclaiming the power of story and how we can use it to strengthen ourselves today and change our world. Yay!

Wow. It feels so good to finally get to share all this! OK, here’s how it’s going to work.

Write Now! Make BooksWe will begin posting Write Now! Make Books and other related materials every day starting today-Monday, and going through Saturday.

This will complete our first full installment of the series. While Write Now! Make Books is focused on directly supporting kids and teens in grades 4-7 in coming into voice and making books; there is also related educational materials for the classroom, library, community and home in the makes; and we see value for adults in all of the materials too!

Creating children’s books can be one of the most radical things you can do and we want everyone to know how to do it!

Basic free materials seemed like the smart thing to do!

Stories Got you Here - WhaleheartWhaleheart taught me that all stories are important because all stories are connected. Although the timing was unintentional, today is a perfect example of why we need everyone’s story. In many parts of the country people are still celebrating the myth of Columbus today, unaware of indigenous peoples’ devastating experience in relation to him and how its impact continues. We need to listen to all of the stories to understand where we come from, how we got here and how to dream of a tomorrow that holds equity and freedom at its core for all. Only then can we hope to understand the larger narrative and our position in it with a sense of hope and meaning and purpose.

Tomorrow the story continues. There are lots more surprises in store.

The revolution is always now!

See you then!