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!
We 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.
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.
We 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!
Whaleheart 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!