There is a lot of confusion about who is an Arab American author and/or illustrator these days.
While there is a demand for diverse books from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) that specifically focus on the Arab culture, food, and people, the supply of books that are available is very small.
It does not help when libraries create lists of Arab authors/illustrators and include authors who are not Arab or Arab American. For example, the Millkin Library in Decatur, Illinois, has a list of “Children's Literature: Arab/Arab-American” however the very first book listed has neither an Arab or Arab American author nor illustrator. Also if one looks on the list further, one notices that the Arab and Arab American authors/illustrators on the list are fewer than those who are not. This is a very common problem as my own library organization, King County Library System, in Seattle, Washington, also has an Arab American list for "Celebrating Arab American Heritage Month", held in April, that includes authors/illustrators who are not Arab or Arab American.
This makes it hard for parents and teachers who want to share about Arab culture to know what books are available. It also does not help when non Arab authors portray the Arab culture in such a negative light. For example, in the picture book Silent Music, the protagonist, an Iraqi boy, finds it easier to write the word for war than for peace. And in the book The Day Saida Arrived, the Arabic word for Saida is written in the book incorrectly. And finally, in the book A Boy Asked the Wind the entire Middle East is depicted as one war zone.
To be a part of the Arab culture, the author/illustrator could be Muslim, however there are millions of Arabs who are Christian or Jewish, and millions more who are not religious at all. Further, an author/illustrator who is Muslim, isn't necessarily Arab since there are many Muslims who are not Arab. The author/illustrator must originate from the 22 countries that are in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, regardless of their religion.
These countries are Algeria, Bahrain, the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, North Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. All of them, with the exception of Syria, also belong to the Arab League.
The other two factors that determine if someone is an Arab is geologically their ancestry is linked to the Arabian Peninsula and they may speak a Semitic language.
I have a post on my blog, A Crafty Arab, that lists books not written by Arabs and also include a list of books that are written by Arabs.
Please ask your librarians to stock more Arab children's books that are historically accurate, are not full of stereotypes, depict the Arabic language in the correct way, and also encourages monetary resources to go directly to authors/illustrators who are telling their authentic stories.
By Sharon Giltrow
As creatives we all crave solitude, space, some time alone to be with our thoughts and to create. Jo Gliddon-Baker author of GET OUT OF MY TENT may have been searching for some creative solitude in a tent in her own backyard when this solitude was interrupted by her own family.
As creatives we find ourselves in a difficult conundrum. Although we crave solitude, we also need to be around people to experience life, emotions and to ‘mine’ ideas.
And of course, it is often more fun to be around others. Just take a look at Archie’s face doesn’t he look like his having fun 😊.
GET OUT OF MY TENT
Written by: Jo Gliddon-Baker
Illustrated by: Aleksandra Szmidt
Published by: Larrikin Books, 1st November 2021
Archie loves camping, he loves the fresh air. The sounds in the night, the wind in his hair. The warmth of the fire, the lovely smoke scent. But more than all that, Archie just loves his tent. When everyone else thinks that Archie’s little tent looks more inviting than their own and they begin to pile in, Archie has to come up with a quick plan to get them all out. Can you guess how?
Now, let’s see some of Jo’s favourite spreads from GET OUT OF MY TENT and find out why she loves them.
J - I love this spread because I can just imagine how cramped that poor little stretched tent is. Sometimes when we go camping as a family all kinds of ridiculous and unexpected things happen too. Archie's cheeky face as he hatches his plan is priceless.
S – This page is a great example of using a page turn to create suspense and humour. The reader is left guessing about what Archie plans to do. The illustrations give them a clue about what that could be from the mischievous look on his face.
J - Who hasn't been in a situation like this? Whether it's a tent, an elevator, or a classroom, everyone has wanted to run from a stinky fart!
S- Children reading this page will instantly relate to the situation. This scene appeals to a child’s sense of humour. After all farts are one of the funniest things. Just ask any teacher who has tried to get a class back on task after hearing the spine chilling words “Who farted?” Followed by the teacher asking “Does anyone need to go to the toilet?”
Next time you’re craving solitude and can’t seem to get it. Take a deep breath and look around. There may be many fragrant… ideas floating in the air.
See you in June with another great Aussie book.
Share a laugh, and connect with someone today.
For a chance to win a copy of our book GET OUT OF MY TENT
Sharon Giltrow grew up in South Australia, the youngest of eight children, surrounded by pet sheep and fields of barley. She now lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband, two children and a tiny dog. Sharon has taught for all of her career. Previously a teacher of children who are hearing impaired and Deaf-Blind, she now teaches young children with Developmental Language Disorder. Her humorous debut PB, BEDTIME DADDY! released May 2020 through EK books. Sharon’s humorous follow up PB, GET READY, MAMA! Is due to be released through EK books in April, 2022. Her third PB, LET’S GO SHOPPING, GRANDMA! is due to be released through Dixi Books in 2022. SAMARA RUBIN AND THE UTILITY BELT, book one in Sharon’s early MG series – THE UTILITY BELT, will be released in 2022 through Clear Fork Publishing. With book two TOBY KING AND THE UTILITY BELT to follow.
by Bryan Patrick Avery
As a magician, I’ve been taught the value (and necessity) of practice. I had one mentor who told me he would practice a new trick at 1000 times before performing it publicly. That much practice not only helped him perfect his technique, but it made the work second nature. This allows him to focus on his interaction with the audience and his presentation of the trick.
The same thing is true when it comes to writing, practice won’t necessarily make your work perfect, but it can make it much better. Here are three practice exercises you can start today that can help make you a more confident writer.
Exercise #1 – Tell a Story
When it comes down to it, whether we write picture books, middle grade, or graphic novels, we are storytellers. Be honest, how much time to spend working on telling stories when you’re not working on your work-in-progress. If you’re anything like the writers I’ve talked to, the answer is probably “not much”. Practice telling a short, fictional, story everyday for the next 30 days. It can be any genre (mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, etc.). Don’t write it down, just sit and tell the story the from beginning to end as if it actually happened. You can tell your partner, your kids, or your cat. The key thing is to get used to making up complete stories. If you want to jot down your ideas after the fact, that’s okay. Just make sure you tell the story without writing it down at first. This may seem odd or uncomfortable at first (especially if you’re talking to your dog) but stick with it. It really helps.
Exercise #2 – Write a Poem
Whether you’re a poet or not, writing a poem a day for 30 can help you become a better storyteller. Here are the rules:
Exercise #3 – Pick up a Book
Good readers make good writers. For this exercise, read the opening page of 30 books you’ve read and enjoyed. After reading the first page, note the following things:
I’d love to hear your feedback on these exercises. I hope you try them and get some value from them. That’s all for this month. Happy writing and have a magical month.
By Melissa Stoller
There are many saying that include the month of May. If you are searching for writing ideas this month, try exploring the following adages and brainstorm possible story plots, characters, titles, and opening or closing lines. Throw out some word associations and let your mind wander. You never know what might bloom in May!
1) APRIL SHOWERS BRING MAY FLOWERS - Jot down ideas centering on rain showers, puddles, thunder, storms, flowers, gardening, parks, and more. Or write about a situation that started off one way and turned into something new entirely.
2) HELLO, MAY! OPEN OUR EYES TO THE BEAUTY OF THE WORLD - Walk outside and notice the wonders of nature. Write about your neighborhood as a setting. Or use your imagination to create a new fantasy world filled with beauty. Create a word bank with synonyms for the word beautiful, and for words describing our world.
3. ALL THINGS SEEM POSSIBLE IN MAY - Brainstorm possibilities. Ask questions - what if X happened? What would Y do in that situation? Is that really possible? Could that occur . . . or could a character make it happen? See where your questioning takes you as you consider all possible situations and outcomes for a particular character.
Enjoy exploring during the month of May, and cheers to all the flowery, beautiful, possible ideas you will conjure up. And for those fans of Stars Wars, "May the (creativity) force be with you!"
Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Return to Coney Island and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush; Ready, Set, GOrilla!; and Sadie’s Shabbat Stories. Planting Friendship: Peace, Salaam, Shalom (co-written with Callie Metler and Shirin Rahman, illustrated by Kate Talbot), released from Clear Fork Publishing in October, 2021. Melissa is a Blogger and Course Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Rate Your Story judge, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY, and a founding member of The Book Meshuggenahs. She also interviews authors on her blog, This Writing Life, and offers book tips and resources. In other chapters of her life, Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her family, and enjoys theatre, museums, and Wordle! www.MelissaStoller.com
Character Leading Plot
by Mira Reisberg
As creatives, whenever we look at that blank page, whenever we’re making decisions on where to take a character, whenever we submit our work or attend a conference, we’re facing fear. Most of us are sensitive types, many come from some kind of trauma, so facing fear is an important topic for us just as it is for many of the characters in our plot-driven stories. We talk a lot about character in our upcoming Mastering Graphic Novels course, but suffice to say - character leads plot, meaning your character's personality, traits, attribute, hopes, fears, and quirks will determine what actually happens in your story. You can read more about that here
Here are the main elements of writing fiction, and a lot of nonfiction too, although structure might replace plot in some books:
4. Voice and Language
How well you know your characters makes a big difference in how well you write them. Physical descriptions (kept to a minimum in picture books) and shown through actions e.g., instead of “Because she was short, hugging was awkward” – “Angie stood on her tip toes to hug” are only part of the picture.
It’s your main character(s) hopes, fears, greatest desires that really drive the story or plot. Whatever your main character’s greatest fear is–that’s what they must face and overcome.
Whoever their greatest enemy is–that’s who they must vanquish or friend.
Whatever their greatest desire–that’s what they must strive towards and attain either in that book or one of the following books if it’s a series, or attain, if it’s a stand-alone picture book.
Challenges often become assets.
Whoever their friends are, these are either allies on the journey, or characters that they have conflict with, or characters that they must save or help in one way or another.
The more you know your characters, the better that you can write them. Even if you never use most of the stuff that you know about them, your character will still come across stronger for that knowledge. Being a visual person, I like doing mind maps. So here’s one that I did for one of my stories from way back that I’m sharing with you as well as a downloadable blank version that you can use with your own work. Let me know if you find it helpful.
If you want to learn more about creating wonderful characters and stories check out our brand new course with all its bonuses - Mastering Graphic Novels: https://bit.ly/GraphicNovelsLive
Saying it's just a graphic novel course is selling it short. It's a fabulous 7 in 1 class (not including the bonuses) that will teach you how to write and Illustrate PB through YA and how to adapt those stories to hybrid or graphic novel formats or create an original one from scratch! I'll be joining you in the course adapting and re-imagining an exiting picture book story and dummy and creating an original chapter book, which will hopefully become a series. Here are some pictures from my graphic-novel style picture book. These are still very primitive but they give you a sense of just how much fun I'm having and how much more I can now do in this new form to create something richer, more meaningful, and more marketable to publish in this fabulous hungry for talent $1 billion industry.
These images are still super rough and early stages but they show how you can add complexity in really fun and easy ways. They're done in Procreate but I'm also learning Clip Studio Paint (both of these are course bonuses) which is super exciting. Can you tell that I'm a lifelong learner who loves the thrill of the new?
The bottom image will probably be converted into more relational images with the interior animals talking with each other using text bubbles and little expository text areas at the top and bottom. Talk about making endorphins playing in this new form.
Yours in children’s book love, Mira xoxoxoxo
Dr. Mira has helped MANY authors and illustrators get published. Her students have published or contracted over 800 books and won every major US children's book award that we know of. Mira has worn just about every hat in the industry including illustrator, author, editor, art director, and literary agent. She holds a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on children's literature. Mira has taught children's literature survey and kidlit making courses at Washington State University, Northern Illinois University, San Francisco City College Extension, and UC Berkeley Extension. She is also an award-winning children's book illustrator and writer, ready to romp into the wonderful wild world of making and teaching Graphic Novels and Hybrids.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with awesome multi-published former student Shirin Shamsi who will be focusing on Muslim and cultural kidlit.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature STEM, STEAM & SEL obsessed author Kourtney LaFavre sharing delightfully dorky, quirky, and fun info.
And 5th Mondays we'll be taking a break