When you write for children, you aren’t just trying to entertain. You’re also helping them grow and learn, opening doors to amazing new worlds filled with dazzling imagery and thrilling concepts. For children the written word is the keystone to the imagination, and once their imaginations are unlocked they will learn to think differently and more deeply about themselves, their environments, other people, and the universe as a whole, in all its spontaneity and diversity.
Like all writers I first learned my craft through reading. I relished pouring through "The Wizard of Oz," written by L. Frank Baum and "Little Women," by Louisa May Alcott among others and recall visiting the local libraries in Southern California where I grew up. The memory of visiting libraries and locating them using the pre-internet method, the Dewey Decimal Systems remains etched in my fondest childhood memories. As is the case for many other writers, being an avid reader led me to writing. It began in the most memorable possible way. My mother! My mother who enjoyed poetry would write a stanza drawing from a host of ideas running through her imagination. She then handed the paper with the stanza to me to write the next one, and when I finished, I sent it back to her for the next. This poetry exchange lasted until we had a finished piece we both were proud of. We had many poetry sessions like these in my youth. And, my mother would become my very first writing coach, if you will. She empowered me to develop my thoughts, to explore and use my vocabulary, and to use my imagination with swiftness. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the author in me was emerging. Later, I submitted my work to a city sponsored youth writing contest and I won! The ceremony was significant because of the attention it brought me and my family. These early writing experiences and memories are still so vivid to this day which I cherish dearly. But what I didn’t know then, was that one day I would become an author. I know the benefits children can gain from reading, especially about characters that share their backgrounds, cultures, and life experiences. I am delighted by the opportunity to introduce those benefits to new generations of Black children in particular, who have so much to gain by becoming eager and active readers. I knew I would enjoy writing for children, but the experience has exceeded my expectations. Hearing from teachers, parents, and children themselves about how much they’ve enjoyed my books, and how reading encouraged them to get out and explore the surrounding environment together, is priceless.