Falling, Fire and Fierce Creativity

The Release of Whaleheart and News of the Next Season at our School plus NEW BOOKS from the Community!

Fall Updates 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.

Whaleheart is here!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.

23 ArtistAuthors in WhaleheartI 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
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 Anthology #2 is in process
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.

You are an Artist, You are a Storyteller
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!

1-on-1 sessions with Maya
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
Furqan’s First Flat Top

written and illustrated by Robert Liu-Trujillo,
Translated by Cinthya Muñoz

Read more here and to pre-order>>

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 Sausal Creek
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.

Read more here and to order>>

I Love Snow
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!

Check out her website for a full list of all of her books for kids>>

Sex is a Funny Word
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!

Read more or to order a copy>>

Joelito's Big Decision
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!”

Read more or to order a copy>>

Counting on Community
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!

Read more here>>
or pre-order your copy here>>

As you can see the creative fires are burning.
The Revolution is Always Now.
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The choices we make, the voice we create:

Coming into real power for the kids

stars 1I have been silent for months now. Spinning in sacred circle, spiraling further into my heart, deep fuschia ritual exploding out into dusk until night, I pray into the darkness. The blackblue night becomes me, my face pressed into my own eternity, I am star. I steer myself out as far as I can reach and there, on the edge of everything, I open my mouth and let the sky that lives within pour out. I open my mouth. Here. I can hear my real voice. Here. My voice is free. Hear. I can hear, here.

Coming into voice has been a long, slow gathering for me. My song has often been nonverbal. I am eyes and heart. I am watching and knowing. I am silence. I am safe. I have found places where words cannot touch me. But there on the precipice, on the edge of everything, I am touched. Drawn to my own song, my own desire to be, I hear me and I am touched by my need to express simply that I am here.

stars 4I have consciously worked for many years on healing everything that I can within. My promise to myself was that I didn’t have to come back if I took the opportunity to learn it all this time. I have not always liked it here on Earth. I have felt more comfortable deepdeep within or wayway out. Finding this middle ground, this living-walking the sidewalk, everyday ground, has been a radical step for me. One steeped in profound self-respect and acceptance of who I am and what I bring.

There have been many pieces I’ve had to gather, not just within myself, but tools to make the journey work. Removing judgment, seeing the largest picture, fully inhabiting my body, feeling my feelings fully and allowing them to flow, taking the responsibility that is mine, disengaging from drama, accepting what is, listening to my intuition, inner over outer authority, being in right relationship, taking action and accepting my real power to name some basics.stars 2

It’s interesting that I can make a list like that.


Markers that don’t come anywhere near the experience, the body feel, the heart.

The path and the practice.

Just words.

I have found my ‘here-ness’ is not dependent on words. Any of them. I am here. For many years this was all I was learning. Quite simply that I belong. I am a part of everything and here, I am. No matter the words around me, used to describe me, said to me, written about me and people like me, now and forever. I am here.

As I was coming here, this is all I knew. I did not expect more. It was and is glorious to relish my here-ness and the kind of life possible when I create from this place. It is truly revolutionary! Here makes all the difference in the world. Here matters. Here, I am.

stars 6I didn’t think about it as I took each step. I didn’t consider what it meant to become fully myself, what would happen when I got here. I couldn’t care about the ramifications of my wholeness. I had to trust that it must be right. And it is.

But this is a planet of intense and oft times dense lesson. I do not exist in my wholeness somehow separate from the world that created my need to heal. But what I find over these last 10 years is that while I was coming HERE, I was developing something I didn’t expect.

A voice.

It seems the more I am here, the more I can hear myself.

The more I can hear myself, the more natural it feels to speak.

stars 7So my voice has grown with my here-ness and I naturally began to seek greater and freer expression. I’ve come out more and more these last few years, and there seems to be no end in sight! Today most people know my public voice. Moving beyond just illustrating books to writing my own books, cofounding my own independent press, publishing my curriculums and opening my own online school. It feels right. But I never lose sight that all this rests on a foundation of a much deeper voice. My public voice is only audible because I have strengthened my sense of self and my here-ness.

It is from HERE that my voice and all else rises.

Like many things, it began at home. I was so near the bottom at the time, I was barely recognizable as the woman I am today. House bound with a long term illness, dependent on an abusive relationship with an ex, in general blind to the reality of my bad situation, when I became a co-parent with three other people to my first child. What could have, maybe should have proven to be my tipping point into the great abyss of nowhere-ness turned out to be the gateway to finally hearing myself and ultimately healing. Raising a baby brought me into the here and now and what’s more, it made it clear to me who I was in my relationships. Through her eyes, I could see me and I knew that I was already passing on early, nonverbal lessons of silence and submission.

Finally, during a particularly dicey experience with this ex, I found that all I could see was the baby and all I could hear was myself calling softly somewhere out on the edge,

I cannot be the person who is treated like this in front of my baby.

I didn’t know what that meant at the time, that my entire life would change because I listened to myself. I couldn’t fathom the ramifications that lay ahead and in many ways I couldn’t afford to pause for that kind of thinking. The important thing was that I could hear myself!

My real self.

My true self.

My free self.

And. I could see the baby. That’s all that mattered. The path opened and I started walking. I never stopped. I am still walking.

This week that baby began middle school. Like her, I am very different than that dicey day. I am here now. I wish that I could say something along the lines of ‘happily ever after’ and how her and I are HERE, celebrating life together as the big, strong voiced beings we are. But like many paths, this is a deep and far reaching one. A long walk with still much to learn.

Many folks didn’t know what to do with me as I became whole, as I came more into the HERE. I changed shape and no longer fit in the position I held for a lifetime. WORDS were used in every imaginable way to get me to snap back into place and return to silence. But the more I grew into my self, the stronger my voice became.

stars 3A few days ago I was informed that this child will no longer be allowed to visit me, my partner and our two year old. After years of maintaining contact through increasing restriction, silencing and often outright harassment, it has come to a close. For the first time ever, I no longer have a reason to be in contact with her three other co-parents. They have closed the door. Now unless there is a significant, unforeseeable change, I will have to wait until she finds her way back to me. It has been a heartbreaking journey. I am sad as I continue to learn. As these last vestiges of bullying and silence shake off my heart I sense something unexpected, fresh and unfamiliar. Something natural and healing gathering HERE from the deepdeep within and the wayway out.

I sense power.star 11

Not power over. But a rising power. Like a song coming on. A power that longs to be shared, equally joined in song. This power belongs to everyone all the time. Here. Hear.

I sense voice.

I see that a strong free voice is a powerful thing, perhaps the most powerful thing there is! Because real voice rises from a strong sense of self, of here-ness, and once achieved it cannot be disappeared. Words can fall apart, can slip and slide off the edge, can even disintegrate if they have no substance, no truth at the core. But VOICE?! Now that’s something! Voice can last forever. Voice can sing through time and space. It can carry us across barriers to create new ways of being, whole new worlds. Voice can gather us together.

Voice is the antidote to silence. Not words. Words are useful, but not always necessary. Once we embody voice we can no longer be silenced, even when we aren’t using words. Our here-ness speaks. Presence beyond word. Hear! I am here.star 10

And so I sing to the child I love and helped raise, with the memory that when I began loving her, I began listening to myself in a different way. This path of self-respect and acceptance opened up. I pray it serves her that I have done this work. As I sing, I am here, I reach out beyond the space that separates us physically and send her love. I create a new world. A world where one day her voice will be free to rise and rise again and be heard! I will be there waiting, listening, allways her Ma My.

This is the personal and challenging work we must do to be here, to be heard. We must begin with ourselves. If we want to be free, we must change shape. In whatever way we are submitting to power over, to being silenced, to feeling less than, we must listen to ourselves–hear those words of truth out there on the precipice. Our own voice telling us what we need to heal to feel that we belong, that we can speak freely and be heard, that we are here and we are a valuable and necessary part of all that is.

I encourage us to do this because

when we heal,

we come into voice,

and when we come into voice

we make room for our children to come into voice.

star 8It means supporting a new way of being, free from control through fear and silence. It means a whole new world. I ask myself, what vestiges of silence or invisibility lie within me? In what ways do I not listen to myself? In what ways am I silent in the world to be safe? I want to know what silence lies within me and why. I want to understand as much as I can.

I was taught silence in a million ways as a child, by my family, my church, my school, my ancestry, my cultures, my society, nearly everything in the world around me, even sometimes my friends and chosen family, until I became silence. The power structures that exist in our world bring everyone into the experience of silence. Silence is within each of us.

But, so is voice.

I am inspired by the good people I see every day



doing the most radical thing we can do right now, rise into our own voice. We are here. I join in chorus with all of us learning through silence and sing out WE ARE HERE! Let our presence be heard. Let our children hear us, HERE. Let the nation hear our presence, until this nation is changed, until there is room for everyone to be here all the time, heard.stars 5

Open your mouth with me now, maybe out there where the stars sing songs to each other, somewhere safe and free, somewhere for a moment you can be wholly yourself, relaxed, pure you, open your perfect mouth and hear what you have to say! Find that place where you can hear yourself true.

We are hear.

I here you!

love, ma my

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the story of Whaleheart

(....or how a wild idea became reality!)
I’ll never forget it.
In February of last year I had this wild idea that I thought just might work….

It was at that critical mass moment right before the diversity conversation exploded in the children’s book world with assistance from the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign later that summer.

Many of us children’s book radicals had been independently talking about the need for more diversity in children’s books for years and the momentum was building as more and more of us began to reach out, connect and align our forces. But after seeing the same old statistics from the CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center) about the lack of diversity in children’s books for yet another year, I just couldn’t take it anymore. With Children’s Book Press as an independent non-profit publisher (where I had originally got my start in children’s books) now an imprint of Lee&Low, I felt a vacuum. I wanted to do something, but what?

Right around this time I was also in the process of putting together my first ever children’s book course that I had been dreaming about for some time, The Heart of It: Creating Children’s Books that Matter. The course grew out of a desire to pass on the knowledge I had gained of making children’s books for the last 20 years, and not just the physical process but the heart and powerful healing piece too. I wanted to support my communities to reclaim their birthright as the storytellers and artists I know they are. I also personally wanted to hear their voices and see their imagery!

In the midst of creating the mass amounts of materials for the course, I came across a book on the internet The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories created by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
And it hit me…

What if instead of just teaching people what I had learned about making children’s books, I took it a step further and provided a platform to actually start publishing people?

I already had an independent press, Matthew and I knew how to publish books using the latest print-on-demand technology, we already had a stash of ISBNs. It just might work!

The initial idea:
to use Reflection Press, the independent press I co-founded with Matthew to publish anthologies of student work.

As that first class ended in May 2014, the idea took root as 23 ArtistAuthors joined me on the adventure. Just like working with a traditional press, we went through the process from manuscript to thumbs to final art to produce one spread each for the upcoming anthology that we hoped to release around December of 2014. Ha!

Little did I know exactly what we were getting into because as the work of those 23 ArtistAuthors gathered, a story emerged. And that simple anthology idea turned into a re-visioned format complete with a night journey, storyfish, and a ship of storytellers! I found myself compelled to create an entire book around the beautiful work that was being submitted!

Matthew and I had never done a print-on-demand full color children’s book before, our experience was mainly with traditionally published children’s books and predominately black and white for print-on-demand. The whole process took a lot longer than expected, especially on a teeny weeny shoe-string budget and stealing time away in between taking care of a growing rambunctious 1 year old (now 2!) and our other work to pay the bills. And probably also because we really wanted to present this first one as gorgeous as we could while maintaining a grass roots, easily accessible, affordable way for anyone to publish books!

And NOW here we are! We’ve got our final proof and we’re gearing up to release Whaleheart out into the big wide world!

…and such is the story of Whaleheart
Whaleheart - The Heart of It Anthology #1Releasing into the Night…
This August.

“By the light of the moon, the storyteller stands in the river and gathers what the storyfish bring her, but the wind promises something more….”

The first book in the new anthology series that came out of The Heart of It children’s book course featuring new and emerging diverse children’s book ArtistAuthors from around the world. Check out the Featured ArtistAuthors Bios tab to read more about all the contributors!

and I guess I should also mention that….

The Heart of It Anthology #2 is already in the works to be released in 2016!
with over 20 MORE new and emerging ArtistAuthors!!

The Revolution is Always Now.

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why they're so important for our children to have!

Our culture has a powerful trend toward the boy-girl gender binary and conformity comes into play from a child’s earliest possible moment. By being gender free, Call Me Tree provides for some a much needed break from the constant boy-girl assumptions and requirements. It can also provide a moment to pause and consider those assumptions, requirements and their impact.

i’m very excited to share my interview with the huffington post!

Call Me Tree is by no means the first book to not use pronouns. it happens. however i’m consciously not using them to bring  attention to gender and how the compulsory binary system impacts ALL of our children. it’s an important opportunity to open these conversations up with our kids! very hopeful that there will be many more books and lots more conversations to support our children being exactly who they are without the burden of the binary and the pressure of societal conformity.

long live the trees!!! viva la difference!

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storyteller drag

somewhere in san francisco grows a tree (gown)
tree dress at paul's
photo and dress in the works by paul gallo


i love clothes

all my life i have loved clothes

my mother sewed for me when i was young

wide leg bell bottoms and butterfly sleeved pinafores

at 13 i started sewing all my own clothes

maya gonzalez and sky

overalls, walking skirts, bolivian milkmaid jackets

dressing is an art to me

it expresses more than the moment

it is a gathering of where i’ve been, what i find beautiful,

a conversation between color, pattern and texture,


maya gonzalez and paul gallo
me and paul gallo

a painting made live

a ritual and a poem

sometimes i don’t talk about what i think about clothes

their power, spirituality and ability to time travel but

sunday i got to play with someone who’s gift i truly cherish

and who totally understands the depth of dressing…

the incredible fashioneer paul gallo.
i came to paul with one request and a tote full of pieces of clothes and cloth. i need a tree gown to wear when i read my children’s book Call Me Tree.

paul and i played the pieces into place until we’d fashioned

the beginnings of a funky gown for me to wear and storytell! yay!!!!!!maya gonzalez and paul gallo

and check out paul! he’s not only a gorgeous fabulous friend! he’s an awesome teacher through sf city college and through craftsy and invented the getta grip clip!!!! you can see the clips in action in the photographs. totally revolutionary.

Call Me Treei can’t wait to post the final dress in all its glorious treeness! and believe you me, this is just the beginning!!! now i want a dress for every book i make!  and paul’s the man to help me dream BIG!!! this one was a quicky, you should see what other plans we have!!!!

(*look at sky! she leaned into paul as he was working. maybe we’ve got another designer in the family!? one can only hope!)


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#LGBTkidlit #LGBTofcolorkidlit #LGBTlatinokidlit #LGBTQIkidlit #LGBTfamiliesofcolor

I knew what I would find when I began researching LGBTQI children’s literature to include in my Heart of It/Creating Children’s Books That Matter eCourse’s ever expanding library.

*Every time I teach my class on writing and illustrating children’s books, I bring in new interviews and book reviews as reference materials and inspiration. Focusing on communities that are under or misrepresented in children’s books allows us to learn from each other while expanding our appreciation. My last course was African American children’s literature and Spring 2016 will be Native American children’s literature.

I’ve been around a long time. So I didn’t think to prepare myself. I just plunged in! It was sneaky silent at first. I looked at blogs and lists. I read the reference book. I went to the library, looked on our own bookshelf. Then it began. I started feeling funky. Back ground funky at first.

Until it hit.

While looking for key LGBT figures in children’s books, I realized there was one, only ONE nonfiction book. It was specifically about a gay man and his gay activism, and he got shot. I got stuck on that…

As far as a nonfiction children’s book about a lesbian? I did find ONE, sorta. Thanks to a very awesome and diligent librarian’s work for the reference book, Rainbow Family Collections. In an autobiographical picture book published in 1981, the award winning illustrator vaguely acknowledges 3  significant relationships with women in her life.

It just kept hitting me. One. Just. One. No Bayard Rustin. No Audre Lorde. No Gloria Anzuldua. gloriaNo Paula Gunn Allen. No James Baldwin. No Barbara Jordon. No Ma Rainy. No Sylvester. No We’wha. No books that show kids historically who we are, who we can become, what we’ve done, where we can go, how we experience life.


And what about the historical figures who are more commonly known, but whose LGBTQI identity has been invisibilized? Leonardo Da’Vinci. Michelangelo. President Buchanan. Walt Whitman. Oscar Wilde. Abraham Lincoln. Tennessee Williams. Eleanor Roosevelt. Hans Christain Anderson. And SO MANY more!

I realized that out of necessity I’ve dulled some of my awareness with…it’s just the way things are. Best to accept it and move on. Once I got stuck in the funkiness though, the truth was all I could see. THIS IS THE WAY IT IS. I couldn’t help but think about the 7 transgender women of color who have lost or taken their lives just two months into 2015! One woman even here in SF.

I want to be clear, there is not just a lack of relevant and meaningful reflection, it’s nearly a complete absence of reflection for LGBTQI children and families of color. It’s staggering. There are so few LGBTQI children’s books produced every year that they aren’t even included in diversity statistics. Sadly what I could find in abundance were statistics on bullying.bayard

As of 2015, there are approximately 4 million kids growing up LGBTQI in the US and approximately another 6 million with LGBTQI parents. Research shows that up to 9 out of 10 of these kids have been bullied for who they or their family members are.

Race and LGBTQI identities are among the top 4 reasons for bullying and we know that these combined result in our country’s most at risk youth—transgender or gender creative children of color.


7 deaths in 2 months.

I wish I had the mind right now to write something cohesive, insightful and compelling about the connections. I don’t. I’m too blown away. I just want to consider what would happen if things were different. What would the impact be if the amazing activist Bayard Rustin was taught alongside Martin Luther King Jr? What would the impact be if the insightful writer Gloria Anzuldua’s Prietita and The Ghost Woman was coupled with E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web? What would happen if the lessons included teaching, in an age appropriate way, how Rustin and Anzuldua’s lives were impacted by homophobia?ri-sees

I find myself thinking about our LGBTQI kids and families of color seeing themselves possibly for the first time in a book! But equally I find myself thinking about the kids and families who are not LGBTQI. It’s just as important for them to see positive reflections of LGBTQI kids and families of color. Misconceptions still abound. It wasn’t until 1986 that homosexuality was officially removed entirely as a mental disorder and being transgender was changed from a disorder to dysphoria in 2012.

I considered closing with my dismay over Arkansas’s anti-gay law that just got on the books and how Texas is considering following suit to illustrate how seriously we need children’s books in the face of legally sanctioned discrimination in 2015! But instead I’m going to close with what I found while I was writing this blog post.

I like to research on the side as I go so I can add links, etc…zp_langston-hughes-in-1941_portrait-photograph-by-gordon-parks

as I was writing I thought of Langston Hughes and wondered if there was a children’s book about him. I am still smiling about what I just found. Alice Walker wrote one! Reminding me of how many of us code our experience into our work. It is not explicit that a woman who has had lesbian relationships is writing about a gay man. No. A great writer of our time is honoring the childhood of a great poet who reflected her within the context of their shared culture as African Americans, and quite possibly their common homosexual experience. Not everyone will see this last part. But there will be those of us who do. It’s a secret language, like a passing glance. It’s a way to send out a message of hope and support to others through the distance and the haze of homophobia and transphobia. This is how we have kept ourselves ourselves whether or not LGBTQI people are explicitly reflected in the world around us. We have always endured. I know we always will. I am grateful for those sideways glances, the messages sent out through time, but I don’t want to endure anymore. I want to shout!


We are here! Right here. We have always been here. It is time to see us. It is time for us to be seen.  Speak, write, paint, share!  All of us need all of our stories!

As I prepare to teach everything I know about how to make children’s books this spring, I’m sending out a call to anyone and everyone who cares about our kids and knows the power of books! I teach everything I know for this very reason. WE NEED MORE LGBTQI CHILDREN’S BOOKS, ESPECIALLY FROM OUR COMMUNITIES OF COLOR!!! (kudos to the pioneering qoc who have already created lgbtqi content for children’s books and gotten their work into the hands of children!)Alice-Walker

The Heart of It course and the LGBTQI focus are valuable to EVERYONE, but if you or anyone you know is LGBTQI+ and have any thought about creating children’s books, PLEASE TAKE ACTION NOW!

Dig deep! Reach out! Encourage! Acknowledge! Support! Point folks in my direction! As a QUEER CHICANA and a children’s book artistauthor I know this terrain personally.  I know the heart of this more than anything else in my life!

Scholarships and payment plans are available! Publishing opportunities! Relevant mentorship!


You can go here to see the press release about the course–PLEASE SHARE WIDELY with any relevant group or individuals you know!

And thank you from the bottom of my queerheart! Xomaya

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ALSC’s Day of Diversity

one woman's ritual

Like nearly everything in life, I approached ALSC’s Day of Diversity as ritual. The invitation to co-facilitate one of the break-out sessions was the doorway in.

The very early preparation began. Flights and hotel were booked. I worked with my co-facilitators, Roxana Barillas and Gretchen Caserotti to craft our session. I borrowed a gorgeous coat and boots and a mighty red leather tote from a dear friend to weather winter in Chicago. I spoke to friends I would meet with there and looked up people I wanted to meet. I packed.

Me in Chicago
Me in Chicago, ALA Midwinter 2015

With the basics taken care of I opened up to the next stage. The real journey. The one within. I felt my heart and opened up to what I call the unknown. As a radical queer, Chicana and a children’s book author, artist and activist, I knew an event about diversity and children’s books would affect me very personally so I wanted to be prepared. I wanted to feel my ground, my sky, all of my directions holding me in the perfect place to learn, heal, know, understand what my purpose was for being there.

The morning of the conference, I savored the hugs, the reconnecting, the seeing who was doing what and where and how! Introductions and invitations and congratulations and just plain love. It was good to begin with these very real connections and the human touch with folks I had known for years and folks I was just beginning to work with. All of us here together.

The conference began. As much as I focused on what was being said, truth be known, my heart was the real speaker. My heart made its presence and its discomfort exceedingly clear. Over the course of the day, there were three times that speakers directly affected my heart, KT Horning, Pat Mora and Satia Orange. In the moments that they spoke my heart relaxed, felt met and reflected. I was grateful for these touchstones. Perfectly placed. One in the morning, one in the afternoon and one in closing. They kept me going through the ritual of the day and the healing of my heart.

It is difficult to describe the heart as it heals. What is healing and why is it necessary? In many ways I believe healing is nothing more than self-awareness and a rising clarity that leads to discernment and the ability to make conscious choices. This kind of healing is necessary because the lived ramifications of colonization, historical and current, disconnect us from the value and truth of our being and the power of our experience, the wisdom of our hearts. Decolonization is deep stuff and not part of the common conversation, the initial messages we receive from ourselves often begin without mental awareness but more as a physical feeling, an emotion, a desire, a swirling storm of thoughts.

On this day, mine began as a small pressure in my chest. A spinning vibration. Over the course of the morning, the pressure expanded. I was surprised, rather naively. For some reason, I didn’t expect my body to respond so strongly. I had fooled myself into expecting I would have conscious awareness if anything, not something this deep. But by the afternoon presentation my heart was extremely uncomfortable. At one point I jumped up and left the room, finding a separate place to attend to my heart, thinking that if I had a moment alone, maybe I could listen to it long enough to mellow the discomfort.

With no luck I finally retreated to the bathroom to gather myself so I could return to the main hall. But my heart had done more than pull me out to pay attention to it. By taking the time to listen, my heart guided me exactly where I needed to be, if only for a moment.

In the women’s restroom I spontaneously found myself with Zetta Elliott, Debbie Reese and Edith Campbell. We laughed a knowing comadre kind of laugh as we found ourselves together. We leaned in close to photograph our auspicious meet up. The words didn’t matter, something felt right. My heart softened. It was from here on that the ritual finally began to open up for me.

Zetta Edi Debbie Maya in Chicago
Zetta Edi Debbie Maya

Like many rituals, you journey in until you reach the core. The lesson lies there. You know you’ve reached the core when you begin to journey out.

Although I wasn’t fully conscious of it yet, this was the center of the ritual for me. This moment of gathering. When I returned to the main hall, I began to draw. My energy began to flow, no longer a building pressure, a spinning vibration trapped in my chest. I could feel the power in my hands now. I drew a large round circle on my paper. Round and round. Then I drew the four directions out. Suddenly I could sense what I was feeling all along as I wrote into the center.



The words poured out without thought or censor. Some words felt ancestral, some cultural, some communal. I did not judge, but kept on.

As I was writing and drawing, Pat Mora came on stage and began speaking.

Pat Mora and Me

Heartened, I wrote the essence of what she said down on my paper.




Then I wrote,



just then Pat saiddiversity’ is heartbreaking work

I wrote that down and stared at my paper.

It was as if my entire day, the entire trip for that matter had been leading me to this moment.

Diversity is heartbreaking work

I could feel this reverberate through my chest.

Not because this was news to me. But because Pat was saying it, I did not feel so alone with it.

This was a conference to inspire and incite everyone to take action toward diversity. But for some of us, who have been doing the work for a very long time, who have lived or are living the experience we’re talking about, who negotiate sometimes daily how this affects our lives, our hearts, our families, our communities, for those of us whose lives are our work and whose work is our lives… for us, who are already deep in action, it was not a call to greater action, but more a time of gathering in power. Something equally important.

Maya Sarah Zetta
Maya Sarah Zetta

It was a time to be in each others presence, within each others eyes, to feel the courage that informs our bones, the resilience that keeps us standing, our longevity, and emotional honesty, as we continue purposefully in the larger ritual of a mass healing that has been underway for 200 years prior to this conference, but surely will be resolved in our lifetimes. Equity in children’s books.

The ritual is closed now, but I am still aware of my heart. I know now I needed to see other radical women of color. I needed to see us follow our intuition and gather outside of the larger system. I needed to hear stories, share food, walk side by side, wonder, feel, continue. I sense that although the ritual is over, my long term lesson and connections have just begun. It is something Zetta articulated over dinner.

We are each other’s medicine.

Thank you comadres. Heart medicine. We are. xomaya

*I shared my very personal, underbelly of the conference experience. I felt that the following blogs shared beautifully 4 different perspectives of the day. Please check out some of the awesome women I had the pleasure of connecting with:

Zetta Elliott: zettaelliott.com

Debbie Reese: americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com

Edith Campbell: campbele.wordpress.com

Sarah Park: sarahpark.com


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Peace & Manifestation

[Interviews with Students] the effects of Believing is Seeing 11 months later

[1 day ’till Daily Peace] It’s nearly here! 2015 AND the start of my Believing is Seeing e-course.  I’m excited in all kinds of directions plus we also made my I See Peace e-book free to download today and tomorrow as we turn from 2014 into 2015! And what a better interview to have on this New Year’s Eve than some talk about Peace and Manifestation. What do you want to create in this new year? Let Peace be your guide.

Here is my interview with Paul Gallo! I met Paul during a time of transition for both him and myself. He provided an amazing reflection of how peace is an integral part of creation/manifestation. What a blessing and an inspiration. In fact, my contact with Paul inspired this course. Thank you darling! It is a pleasure to share your words. Oh, by the way, Paul is a fashion designer, educator and inventor!

some art from Paul’s peace journal: “Peace has my back”

Maya: Welcome Paul! You used peace as a tool while you were going through a major transition and manifestation in your life around home, how did something as seemingly ethereal as peace serve you through something so concrete as finding a place to live?

Paul: Peace served me because I realized that my living situation was not peaceful while reading the book [I See Peace] and your words and drawings inspired me to create a “Peace Palace” for myself to live in.

Maya: And it definitely worked!Now that you have home, does peace continue to serve you in your daily life? How so?

Paul: Peace is the center of myself and my home. I have not spent this much time in silence ever. Usually there is music on but I am content to be at peace usually and have been doing much more meditation since manifesting my own place to live. I have lived with people for years and years…..I feel peace at work, on the bus, i sea peace at the ocean. This book [I See Peace] made peace part of my everyday life and it is SO much better.

Maya: If there was one thing that you could say peace has taught you, what would it be?

Paul: Peace has taught me that my center is a serene place I can go to whenever I want.

Maya: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Paul: I have found that my life can be so much easier. I create from a much more calm perspective, I can negotiate the business & fashion worlds knowing what I want to accomplish without slipping into drama or fear. I really appreciate the work you are doing and this will be a positive force inside of me that will grow as long as I live.

Maya:  Thank you so much Paul. Your peace makes my peace ROCK! Here we go into 2015!

Learn more about:
Believing is Seeing: Daily Journal of TransformationBelieving is Seeing: Daily Journal of Transformation
31 days of life-altering, soul-quenching peace in an invigorating online course that challenges you to commit to your own personal peace revolution and take action to manifest the life you want. You’ll use the book & journal I See Peace as a framework and guide to transform your everyday habits and infuse your life with peace. Let the peace begin January 1st!
More info or to register>>

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Peace & Transformation

[Interviews with Students] the effects of Believing is Seeing 11 months later

[23 days ’till Daily Peace] One of the most valuable things about my Believing is Seeing e-course is it’s gentle but powerful approach, making the practice of peace more possible to sustain. Laurie is one of the peace students who gave me a powerful gift. The gift of confirmation. Change is possible. Allways. What I teach is based on my own personal experience. I relaxed into a deep personal peace. But more than that, I found a practice that I can turn to again and again when I need comfort and strength. I knew this practice was not specific to me. Sharing it has been a great honor. My peace expands as I witness Laurie transform and others like her. Together we amplify and support more peace to come through. Together we are peace transforming the world.

Maya: Welcome Laurie! You are one of the people who has really taken peace to heart in a lot of different ways in your life.  In terms of peace I’m curious how this year has gone for you? What areas do you feel have been affected by your deeper engagement with peace?

Laurie: I feel like all of my life has been affected. The world is a different color when you choose to look at it through new eyes. My experiences have evolved, and my perspective has shifted greatly. Which in turn, has affected my actions and how I connect to people.

some art from Laurie’s peace journal: “Listen”

I started this year at a place of disillusion and disappointment in myself. Nothing was going well for me and I felt like every day was swimming upstream against a very strong current. I was miserable—but not miserable enough to do anything about it. I had become very comfortable in my misery. I knew I needed to do something to change the direction I was going in, and as I asked the universe for help, this class came to me as the answer. I knew that I needed to find my core peace again.

Maya: I know you were looking for something different, something that could support a sustained transformation. I’m curious if you feel that you are in transformation now and if so what do you imagine your best tools to be?

Laurie: I have tried many different programs and practices over the years. All these prior practices worked for a while, but then I slowly forgot about them and things slid back down to the bottom again. Nothing had a lasting effect on me. I would get very excited to take a new class or begin a new program, and I would participate and do well, until the class or program ended, and then . . . I would lose it. What I really needed was a deeper sense of purpose and a belief that I had something of value to offer.

“I can soar”

I do feel a transformation throughout this year, due to the fact that I have continued to work on my peace on a near daily basis. It was very helpful to be able to restart the peace affirmations each month, so that I was reminded to keep going. I also found the journal to be a surprisingly useful tool. I have kept journals all my life and have boxes of them in storage, but what made the peace journal different for me, is that instead of writing down all my thoughts, I learned to draw them. I could bypass my brain and its crafty excuses, and let my hand show me what I needed to say. It was surprisingly powerful and worked on a whole different level. And it was very fun.

I think meditation is also a valuable tool and works in conjunction with peace. I use the “I See Peace” affirmations to begin a meditation and one flows into the other and back again. The affirmations are a great device to focus my attention. They also are great for those moments throughout the day when I get annoyed or impatient. I pull up the day’s affirmation on my phone and read it as many times as necessary to keep myself moving forward.

Maya: What do you imagine is the connection between peace and transformation? Do you imagine you can sustain it?

Laurie: I think peace and transformation are part of the same practice, one leads to the other. I don’t know if one can create any kind of lasting transformation without having a core sense of peace, a place where you know that all is well, regardless of external circumstances. And if you have a core sense of peace, then transformation seems to flow naturally.


I don’t know if I can sustain it. I believe it is possible, but I’ve learned that peace needs constant vigilance. Just like a recovering addict needs to constantly choose not to use, I need to choose to see things through the eyes of peace, and not through my surface reactions. If I continue to practice peace, I believe I can sustain it. If I lose it, it will be due to letting go of my daily attention to it.

Maya: Is there anything else you’d like us to know?

Laurie: I find I am happier and more open than I have been, and I see the bigger picture much more easily than before. I have let go of a lot of worries and stress. I trust myself much more, now. I used to be very content to play small and let myself be defined by my faults and failings. I feel much more willing to acknowledge that I can claim greatness, too, and be a larger, more expansive person.

Maya:  Thank you Laurie. All I can say is my peace deepens with you. Tu eres mi otro yo.

Learn more about:
Believing is Seeing: Daily Journal of TransformationBelieving is Seeing: Daily Journal of Transformation
31 days of life-altering, soul-quenching peace in an invigorating online course that challenges you to commit to your own personal peace revolution and take action to manifest the life you want. You’ll use the book & journal I See Peace as a framework and guide to transform your everyday habits and infuse your life with peace. Let the peace begin January 1st!
More info or to register>>

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One thing you can do for Peace

Peace as the embodiment of action

[24 days ’till Daily Peace]
Peace is a flowerAt the Teachers 4 Social Justice conference a couple of years ago, I began presenting ideas about how to use peace in the classroom. Not peace as in ‘peace and quiet,’ but peace as a tool for accelerating change and supporting each other in purposeful ways. My session was titled, Creating a Culture of Peace in the Classroom and Beyond.

Most of the nearly 50 educators that came to my session worked with extremely stressed out kids. Violence at the schools, violence in the neighborhoods, societal violence against the communities. They were looking for some ideas and hope.

Is Peace PossibleWhat I learned is that of the 50, some believed that they would find peace within themselves. But no one believed they would see peace in their communities or in the world. Period.

This pointed to two things in my imagination. One, we must change the story about what is possible on a very deep level and two, we must understand the true nature of peace.

Of course these are inherently tied to one another. When we begin to understand the true nature of peace, our stories and how we approach things naturally change.

To begin…

what-is-peaceWhat is peace? Is it something outside of ourselves? Is it something we must modify ourselves to attain?

Explaining peace is a lot like explaining love. Highly individual, often well beyond words and into a realm that is at once physical, emotional and something altogether unknown and exceptional.

Fortunately there is one very true thing that I have learned about peace that I can put into words and it makes all the difference.

Peace begins within. Perhaps not in the way you think.

The almost unbearably beautiful thing I learned about peace is that at my core, beyond everything small and petty, I AM PEACE. It is not something OUTSIDE OF ME. It never was. It never is and it never will be. It is not something I have to strive for or sacrifice to gain. I am peace. It is the eternal aspect of my core being. When I fully relax into my full self, it is not that I am peaceful or I am at peace. My BEing is peace.

What the educators were teaching me is that many of us, possibly most of us as a society, believe that outside peace is something different, unconnected to inside peace. Outside peace is something to fight for and in the face of this seemingly endless struggle the best we can do is strive to find peace within ourselves in order to cope with an unjust and chaotic world.

at core you are peaceI’m suggesting that we switch up the perspective and begin to see the true nature of our core being as peace.

Just that.

I could go on and on about what this does and how it affects different areas of your life and how it’s structurally sound, but honestly I just want to keep my mouth shut about that part for now.

I have learned to trust. Each step will unfold as naturally as a flower. If you’re willing to play with this shift in perspective things will start moving.

Do know that while it is about letting go it is not passive. Peace is the embodiment of action. In fact the more you let go into peace often the more active you become.

But, just for now.

I am peace.

Just This.

I am peace.

The revolution is a flower opening up to the possibility of sky. Be the revolution.The revolution is a flower opening up to the possibility of sky - Maya Gonzalez

Learn more about:
Believing is Seeing: Daily Journal of TransformationBelieving is Seeing: Daily Journal of Transformation
31 days of life-altering, soul-quenching peace in an invigorating online course that challenges you to commit to your own personal peace revolution and take action to manifest the life you want. You’ll use the book & journal I See Peace as a framework and guide to transform your everyday habits and infuse your life with peace. Let the peace begin January 1st!
More info or to register>>

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