Showing posts with label books for children. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books for children. Show all posts

An Evening with Kwame Alexander

"If you don't stand for something,
you'll fall for everything."

                                            --from "swing," by Kwame Alexander
                                             with Mary Rand Hess
Anyone who has had the good fortune to see poet, educator, and New York Times bestselling author of thirty-two books Kwame Alexander in person, will come away changed. On a rare rainy night at the University of New Mexico, Kwame and guitarist Randy Preston, the terrific musician who accompanies him for many presentations, made a stop in Albuquerque on their 16-city tour. It is obvious in his books and in person that his poems come from his heart; in person memorized and recited with vigor and finesse; and punctuated by soft background guitar music, poignant popular songs chosen to go with the poems, and original songs.

Words have Power. Words can Transform our Life.
Daycare at three years old.  Living on the Upper Westside of New York City, a kid knocked over Kwame’s blocks. The only weapon Kwame could conjure up were his words. He used a few choice ones and made the kid cry. That’s when Kwame learned the power of words. From then on words transformed his life. Who else at that age would immerse himself in the Dr. Seuss book, Fox in Sox, and know it backwards and forwards? That marked the beginning of Kwame’s love of words.

Speak Out. Your Voice Matters.
A man in the audience pointed out that he could hear empowerment in Kwame’s books, and asked how Kwame’s empowerment came about. Kwame’s dad, headmaster of his school in Brooklyn, dragged him to a march—a protest against police brutality after the killing of a black man. He didn’t want to go. He was scared. Then teachers and kids started singing. He sang too, and the tears dried up. That’s when Kwame realized he has a voice. And his voice matters. He says, “You have to speak out to make wrong things right.”

The Road from Twenty-two Rejections to the Newbery Medal
The Crossover. The best book Kwame felt he has written. The book he wrote from his heart, written at Panera Bread, winner of the Newbery award, garnered twenty-two rejections before it found a home. Upon publication, no one wanted to read it. A book about basketball? Girls don’t read books about basketball. Boys don’t read poetry books. Then boys tried it. Then girls. Then they asked for more. The rest is, as they say, history.

How did Kwame begin his journey?  At a booth in Reston, Virginia. Kwame set up a card table, wore a T-shirt with Miles Davis on it—he listens to jazz while he’s writing—laid out 100 books, and sold them all in about an hour.

The evening ended with Kwame’s reading of his new book, Undefeated, while displayed on a large screen. The reading cut me to the core. I came away in awe of how Kwame’s words dig deep into the soul. Bring out feelings about how we as inhabitants of this Earth interact with each other. And how beautiful it is when we celebrate each other. Read Undefeated for yourself and you’ll see what I mean. There is so much to learn about Kwame Alexander. Please visit his website: Like me, you will never be the same.
Clipart courtesy of:

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter and is working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Write On! Annual Holiday Book Drive to Benefit Underprivileged Children

This post is short and sweet and is to promote Dallas Woodburn's Write On! annual holiday book drive for underprivileged children - and you can be a part of it.


Last year Write On! For Literacy collected nearly 1,000 books (bringing our grand total to more than 12,000 books!) that were distributed to various schools and charities including the Boys & Girls Club, Casa Pacifica, and Project Understanding. Please do your part to help children have a better holiday season. Help beat illiteracy and give the gift that lasts forever: the gift of reading!

Give the GIFT that keeps giving - make a difference.

For all the details go to:

Until next time,
Karen Cioffi

Knowing Your Readership

I've recently meet a wonderful author...Camille Matthews. After chatting with her for sometime and learning more about her books and how she came into writing them, I asked if should would be willing to share her thoughts on knowing your readership. 

Then reason I asked Camille to share her thoughts on this is because I have noticed a lot of authors don't always know who their readership is. One important key to a book's successes is knowing who your reader is. This goes beyond knowing who you are writing for: children, teens, women, men, etc. You need to really understand the genre and niche. Who makes up this readership and why your book is perfect for them.
Understanding My Young Readership with Camille Matthews

Though I am new to writing books for children, I have a broad knowledge of child development due to my work as a clinical social worker and psychotherapist for many years. This body of knowledge definitely informed my creation of the Quincy the Horse Books, which have a recommended age from 5-9 years of age. 

Two ideas I find most important in understanding child development are that human potential unfolds in stages of development as we grow and children benefit from nurturing relationships based on secure bonds with consistent care-taking figures. Children have the opportunity to develop certain personal strengths in the childhood years and having supportive relationships not only provides a context for growth, it can also result in the formation of secure attachments, which are a basis for all their relationships. Loss and change contribute to growth, but children need support not to become overwhelmed.

Many theorists have offered ideas about stages of human development.  I have always liked the work of psychoanalyst, Erik H. Erikson whose stages of human development are stated directly and without technical terminology.

Erikson was optimistic about growth and was an early believer that humans have an ongoing ability to grow throughout life. He identifies central issues for young children including the need to experience trust, to become autonomous and to develop a feeling of competence and self-esteem. His concern is children experience overwhelming feelings of mistrust, shame, guilt or inferiority. Since primary relationships are the way children tend to experience the world, consistent nurturing becomes an important factor in the child’s growth, hopefully providing a somewhat stable foundation and home base as the child ventures further and further out into the world around him/her.

My first book, Quincy Finds A New Home, begins when Quincy has experienced a loss. The family who owned him has left the farm where he lives, and a neighbor man who meets his basic needs is caring for him. Then he gets a new owner and is taken to a new home. His new home is a busy barn where there are activities that he does not know how to join. People are friendly and welcoming, but he feels sad and different. Finally, he responds to the overture of his stable mate, an old horse named Beau, who has been trying to get to know him. In doing this, he experiences trust and reassurance when he finds out that his new owner will love him for who he is. This is a task of the toddler and preschool years.

In Quincy Moves to the Desert, Quincy and Beau go on a trip across the country. Quincy has doubts about a big change, but Beau makes it an adventure by telling him how amazing the desert will be and teaching him about the states they travel through and all the things horses do in different places. Before he knows it, Quincy is learning about new things and letting his imagination take over! He begins to explore a whole range of possibilities; this is the task of the school experience that begins around 5 years of age.

It is my belief books are one of the ways children (and adults) experience the world and are a profound opportunity for growth. It is my hope the Quincy the Horse Books provide young readers with ways to expand their horizons in various areas including psychological growth, relational development and geographical awareness. 

Some children’s books draw on an exploration of the trauma and danger that are sadly omnipresent in the modern world. I try to place Quincy solidly in the security of supportive and loving relationships and draw on an exploration of his emotions and his amazement at the new things he is learning to engage his readers. 

Camille Matthews, MSW, LCSW is a clinical social worker and writer who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, complex PTSD and attachment disorders. In 2002, she received her certification in the new field of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) from the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association and established the Pathfinder Program in Farmington, NM where she treated adolescents, children and women victims of domestic violence using EAP.

She teamed with illustrator, Michelle Black to create the Quincy the Horse Books for children ages 5-10. Matthews was born and raised in the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky where her father was a law school professor. She was an only child and her favorite thing to do was visit her grandparents and cousins. She is a lifelong equestrian, avid reader and student of politics who blogs and is an op ed contributor.  She relocated to the Reading, PA area from Northwestern New Mexico in 2010.

You can find out more about Camille Matthews’ World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Matthews and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions.

Do You Have a Side Hustle?

By Terry Whalin  @terrywhalin Do you have a side hustle? Almost every writer has one but maybe you aren’t calling it a side hustle. I’m talk...