Perfect Picture Book Friday: HONEYSMOKE: A Story of Finding Your Color…Plus Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, my friends.

We are moving forward into 2019 and it will be my pleasure to share with you my reviews of the some of the year’s fabulous new picture books. Sometimes, we’ll even have giveaways, like today, thanks to our generous author, Monique Fields.

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ALEXANDRIA LAFAYE: Will Write for Cookies Plus GIVEAWAY

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

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ALEXANDRIA LAFAYE

When I joined Storm Literary Agency in 2015, not only did I get an awesome agent, but I also got a wonderful support system – all of the other clients – authors and illustrators. And one of the most active is today’s guest, Alexandria LaFaye. I grabbed a bit about her from her wonderful website.

ALEXANDRIA: Family is at the core of who I am which why families are at the center of most of my books whether it is families torn apart by injury (Worth) or absence (The Year of the Sawdust Man) or drawn together by tragedy (Water Steps and The Keening) or seeking each other (Walking Home to Rosie Lee). 

When I’m not joining my family for a board game, a jaunt to the park, or a trip to the zoo, I’m usually writing or reading, but I’m also an associate professor of English at Greenville College in the academic year and a visiting associate professor in the Hollins University Summer Graduate Program in Children’s and Young Adult Literature.

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ME: Welcome, Alexandria! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with us and share your writing journey. and a little bit about yourself. Can you name a book that changed the way you saw the world?

ALEXANDRIA: I seek out books that show me things about the world I did not previous know like Michelson’s The Alphabet of Angels revealing that Hebrew had nearly died out as a spoken language until one man, Ben Yehuda, popularized it in Isreal in the 19th century. Hesse’s Aluetian Sparrow opened my eyes to the horrific treatment of the Aleut people of the Aluetian Islands during World War II.  I love books that expand my world one page at a time and that’s the type of book I was trying to write  with FOLLOW ME DOWN TO NICODEMUS TOWN.  By sharing a story of the Exodusters who built Nicodemus, KS and homesteaded in Oklahoma, Nebraska, and other parts of Kansas, I hoped to celebrate their achievements and spread the world about these historical heroes who are often overlooked in historical accounts of homesteading the US.

ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?

ALEXANDRIA: How to write in way that is true to my own voice and experience, but that reaches out to readers of all walks of life and speaks to them in a way that makes them feel understood, inspired them, or lead to see things in a new way.  I’ve also always wanted this literary connection to lead readers to spread the news about my books to other potential readers.   I’m still trying to figure out this formula for great writing.

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ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?

ALEXANDRIA: The answer depends on the genre.  I prefer to write poetry and short stories with a pen and paper and usually in one of my writing journals and I can do that pretty much anywhere, but I often do it at my writing desk at home or in my office at work (I’m an associate professor at Greenville University).  I have to admit that when I write “outside” of these spaces, I’m usually too drawn into observing things around me to focus on writing.

ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?

ALEXANDRIA: I’ve always been quite bad at doing things routinely, so I write as the muse strikes most of the time.  I often get a burning idea I need to write down and that often leads to more ideas which means I put other things on hold until I’ve followed this vein of creativity to its conclusion, then I go back to my daily activities. Other times, I leave things at home in my husband’s capable hands and spend a weekend in a cabin on a nearby lake and write, write, write.  That often involves a lot of revising, revising, revising.  But it’s a great time to fully emerse myself in my work.

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ME: Why do you write for children?

ALEXANDRIA: I write the stories that come to me.  Since I so enjoy children—understanding them, raising them, helping them, I believe I’m drawn to the stories that interest them. I also have an alterior motive.  If the books children read are inclusive, inspiring, historically and culturally accurate, and open the world up to young readers, then they will grow up with a kinder, more accurate, and layered view of the world.  The things we read as children shape our views of the world and prepare us for all the learning and experience that follows, so I guess, I’m hoping to help kids build expansive and supportive views of the world through the stories that I write.

ME: What is your writing advice?

ALEXANDRIA: Write to become the best writer you’re meant to become—don’t try to measure up to some external ideal of writing and writers—find your own voice and speak in it through your writing.  You’re a uniquely made person who has a singular life experience and point of view to share with the world, so embrace that and become the best writer you can as you learn to speak in your own voice.

ME: Is there anything you’d change about your writing life right now?

ALEXANDRIA: Yes, I’d love to do more school visits!  As a greater admirer of kids, I love to create school presentations that are entertaining, educational, and uplifting.  As a geek who was bullied in school, I can inspire the kids who struggle with self-confidence and engage with the kids who are following the crowd and need to be encouraged to become the “kind kid” who says “no” to bullying.  I’m also a professor who teaches preservice teachers how to integrate literature into the classroom, so I’m uniquely skilled to help kids become life-long learners and process writers. My professional credentials also make it possible for me to do professional development programs for teachers, administrators, and librarians.  And I love the school visits where I learn as much as I mentor.  If anyone would be interested in hosting me for a school visit, they can contact me at Alexandria.lafaye@greenville.edu

with class reading

ME: WOW…thank you so much, Alexandria. I love your authenticity…it shines right through all of your answers. I know we all appreciate you stopping by…and I know you are not done yet. You’ve got a recipe to share with us that is kind of special to your new picture book, right?

ALEXANDRIA:  Yes, this is a recipe Dede’s mama would have known by heart – hoecakes:

 Hoecake

The legend is that African Americans who had been enslaved “baked hoecakes on a hoe in the fields for their midday meal.  Elizabeth Lea, a cookbook author from Montgomery County in the mid-19th century has several corn cake recipes, one of which she called a “Virginia hoe cake.”  Indeed, hoecake was the hardtack, the matzah, of enslaved Blacks for several centuries.  Some Maryland hoecakes were made over a griddle in the hearth (also known as a hoe), others were baked on a “bannock” board placed facing the fire.”  Although an African-American staple it was also a food served in many kitchens across the frontier in the 1800s.

1 cup of white stone-ground cornmeal

3/4 cup of boiling hot water

½ teaspoon of salt

¼ cup of lard, vegetable oil or shortening

Mix the cornmeal and salt in a bowl.  Add the boiling water, stir constantly and mix it well and allow the mixture to sit for about ten minutes.  Melt the frying fat in the skillet and get it hot, but do not allow it to reach smoking. Two tablespoons of batter can be scooped up to make a hoecake.  Form it into a small thin pancake and add to the pan.  Fry on each side 2-3 minutes until firm and lightly brown.  Set on paper towels to drain and serve immediately once all the hoecakes have been cooked.

Recipe and background by  Michael W. Twitty in “A Few Antebellum African American Recipes” published in Afroculinaria (2011)

https://afroculinaria.com/2011/11/10/a-few-antebellum-african-american-recipes/

My dear friends, please join me in thanking Alexandria for her wonderful insights and the fantastic hoecake recipe…plus, she is generously donating a signed copy of her wonderful picture book, Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town, so make sure you leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and I’ll see you back here next week for another review (and a giveaway!) of a fabulous new picture book, HONEYSMOKE, by Monique Fields. I’ll be cloistered away, working on the redlines for the big compilation book – 9 stories means 9 times as many edits to go through, right? So if I am a bit MIA on social media this weekend, you’ll know why.

Perfect Picture Book Friday: FOLLOW ME DOWN TO NICODEMUS TOWN Plus Giveaway

Hurray! The first Perfect Picture Book Friday post of 2019! This year is shaping up to be a wild rollercoaster of adventure for me. So it made sense to review a book about a group of pioneers who also experienced a challenging journey. Oh, by the way, did I mention these pioneers were African Americans? The book is fiction, but based on true events – the story of the town of Nicodemus, Kansas, where, in 1877, former slaves could purchase a large tract of prairie land for $5…all they had to do was chop down trees to build their homes, hunt animals to provide food for their families, plow the hardscrabble ground to plant crops, and survive the harsh winters, frozen rivers, and lack of supportive neighboring towns.

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Happy Book Birthday: FOLLOW ME DOWN TO NICODEMUS TOWN Plus Giveaway

Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to FOLLOW ME DOWN TO NICODEMUS TOWN!

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FOLLOW ME DOWN TO NICODEMUS TOWN

Written by Alexandria LaFaye

Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

Published by Albert Whitman and Company

I am so excited! I truly love picture books that uncover hidden gems of history…and Continue reading

A Writer’s Journey: Looking Back at 2018 and Moving Forward into 2019

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There is something wonderful about the New Year. I see it as a time to look back on what I’ve done and it’s also an opportunity to make adjustments as I move forward.  For the past few years, I’ve participated in Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas – a challenge to lift up all you have accomplished. Because the business of writing can be fraught with rejection and disappointment, it’s all the more important to spend time celebrating the positive. and the steps you’ve taken to follow your dream and make it a reality.

Today is Day 3 of the 12 Days of Christmas and the assignment is to list ALL of your successes for the year…big ones and little ones. I feel so blessed because in 2012, I made a conscious decision to follow my dream and now I am living it…and I’m thrilled to be taking this journey with all of  you! Here are my twelve writing success for 2018: Continue reading

Perfect Picture Book Friday: LOLA CAN’T LEAP

Is it Friday already? I’m not sure what is happening to time…is it just me or is it going faster for everyone?

But the good thing is that Friday means we get to read and review another wonderful picture book – hurray! And not only is today’s book by one of my dearest critique buddies, but it has also been KID-TESTED by my 5-year old granddaughter…I read it to her on Skype…and she loved it! She saw the cover and said Continue reading

KATY FARBER: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

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I mentioned in yesterday’s Perfect Picture Book Friday post that Katy was one of the first bloggers I connected with. Her Non-Toxic Kids blog really appealed to me and I immediately signed up to follow it – and I’m still subscribed!

Katy Farber is a Continue reading