Kweli First Children’s Book Writers Conference, The Color of Children’s Literature

Laura Pegram, Editor Kweli Journal

Laura Pegram, Editor Kweli Journal

Congratulations Laura Pegram on the Kweli First Annual Children’s Book Writers Conference. On January 21 I attended the Kweli First Annual Children’s Book Writers Conference. The conference program started with a private reading, with Central Park East High School  students. Check in and registration, welcome ceremonies, author readings and editor and publishers panels. There was a brief break followed by pitching sessions. Some of the panelists were author & moderator Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Danette Vilgilante, Tracey Baptiste and publishers Lee & Low Books (an activist company) and Just Us Books. Some panelist joined the discussion via skpe.

One of the highlights for me was meeting and conversing with attendees. I met authors, editors and publishers in the children’s book industry. Conferences are valuable sources to meet and exchange information and ideas. I met two women self publishers Shana Bernabela author of Sparkalina Brights and Kahdeidra Martin-Thelusca author of Mwen renmen tet mwen, e wou menm? I Love Myself, Do You? and Somdi se jou mwen pi pito Saturday Is My Favorite Day. I met the author and illustrator of A Reason Smile, Javier Cruz Winnik. Javier Cruz Winnik published his book via a Kickstarter Campaign. Self publishing has really taken off. Writers dissatisfied with the lack of diversity and closed doors are being proactive and starting their own press. Writers are determined to publish and share their works with the public. Self
publishing has opened doors to a vast community of creativity and diversity.

I’ve yet to publish my children’s literature. I looked at this experience as an opportunity to learn about this vast and exciting industry. I wanted to meet and engage with other writers. Pitching was made available to attendees who registered and submitted materials in advance. I pitched with the phenomenal Cheryl Willis Hudson. Cheryl Willis Hudson along with her husband are the founders of Just Us Books. They are industry pioneers in the area of creating a venue for diverse books
in children’s literature.

Important gems shared with attendees. There needs to be better distribution networks, more diverse marketeers and more whites need to read diverse books. Tap into the digital market, start your own press and fund raise for libraries. Make certain libraries get funded. Go to conferences, submit and show your work. Remember, if you’re not sitting at the table , you’re probably on the menu. Get involved!

©Lorraine Currelley 2015. All Rights Reserved. (Photo Lorraine Currelley)


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