I love reading the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was such a master and powerful wordsmith. He had the ability to paint pictures with his words and evoke deep emotions. Martin is one of my heroes in so many ways, not only because of the leadership he gave to the Civil Rights Movement, but especially in regards to writing and communicating. Whenever I listen to his speeches I get charged up and ready to fight against injustice. His writing invokes the same response--just read his words below and see what I mean.
“Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘Wait.’ But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policeman curse, kick, and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society…when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’—then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”--MLK
“This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”--MLK
“The deep rumbling of discontent that we hear today is the thunder of disinherited masses, rising from dungeons of oppression to the bright hills of freedom, in one majestic chorus the rising masses singing, in the words of our freedom song, ‘Aint gonna let nobody turn us around.’ All over the world, like a fever, the freedom movement is spreading in the widest liberation in history. The great masses of people are determined to end the exploitation of their races and land. They are awake and moving toward their goal like a tidal wave. You can hear them rumbling in every village, street, on the docks, in the houses, among the students in the churches and at political meetings.
I just want to shout "Amen' and "Hallelujah!" Kings use of word pictures were brilliant and so powerful they moved millions of people into action.
As a writer he is my mentor and I can only hope and pray that as I study his art form I will also inspire and educate others with my writing.
This week was the most
“The better the proposal, the higher your chances of making the final cut in the publishing process.” –The African American Writer’s Handbook
Once the book proposal was written I focused on drafting a query letter with the help of Forerunners, Inc. (http://www.forerunnersink.com/) and my husband. This is the first thing that agents would read in order to decide if they were interested in reading the manuscript. Here's the letter:
I recently completed a debut children’s historical fiction, picture-story book entitled Uncle Manuel and the Story of New York. The Writer's Digest listed you as an agent looking for diverse books featuring under-represented voices and I believe it is a good fit for your consideration. It’s an exciting story about the true accounts of Groot Manuel and the colonial slaves of New York City. Written in a story-telling voice, Grandma Jenny passes along the family history of Uncle Manuel to her grandson Christopher who had an incredible journey from slavery to becoming one of the first free black land owners, ultimately living in New York’s “Land of the Blacks,” today’s Washington Square Park.
Uncle Manuel and the Story of New York is full of tantalizing details of how enslaved Africans contributed to building the infrastructure and economy of colonial New York. Albeit a serious topic, it is written in such a manner that will not only fascinate young audiences but adults as well. Parents and educators will be pleased to learn of Africans’ early influence in this nation.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Oregon and currently homeschool my four children in Mt. Vernon, New York. As a writer, it is my desire to uncover golden nuggets of our history and make the information accessible to younger audiences. This is what I did with Uncle Manuel and the Story of New York. This book will not only become a wonderful teaching tool, but it will also meet the growing need of parents’ desires to captivate younger children with quality text that provide real knowledge.
Uncle Manuel and the Story of New York is complete at 1,177 words and is included in this submission. It includes two special sections, "More about Groot Manuel" and "About the Research." It will also include a glossary, a timeline of slavery in New York, a list of websites for further enjoyment, and a bibliography bringing the total word count to 2,612.
This is a multiple submission and I thank you for your time and consideration!
“Remember that I have to sell the project to an editor, and an editor has to sell your project internally to his colleagues including the marketing and sales staff, and the publisher has to sell your book to the book buyers at the chains in bookstores. You're most likely to get my attention if you write a query letter that demonstrates your platform, the market potential of your book and why your book is different. In short – get me excited!”-Jeff Herman Guide to Publishing
So over the course of three months I submitted to agencies that were soliciting for children’s paperback and diverse voices. Every agency website pretty much made it clear that if they did not respond to the email, they were not interested.
“Loosely speaking, out of every 100 queries I receive, I will request 7–10 complete manuscripts. And only about one of every 25–30 manuscripts I request will result in me signing a new client.”-Literary Agent Brian Klems
Needless to say, I didn’t know how long I would be in this phase of my journey and for months I just kept telling my friends that I was still looking for an agent. Sooo I was truly in shock when I opened my email this week and saw that an agent had replied and found my story “fascinating.”
“Oh my gosh—no way!!” I yelled.
What? Mommy what happened?
All of my children crowded.
“Someone responded to my letter. An agent wants to talk to me!”
“Yeah!!!!!!” All of them shouted, jumping up and down. “Write her back—send an email now Mommy!”
Okay, Okay but I can’t think with all of you screaming.
“Let’s tell daddy!”
What did this mean—she found my story interesting and wanted to talk about editorial suggestions? Did she think it was a good story idea but needed a complete overhaul? Did she think I should make it into a chapter book or novel instead of a paperback?
I did not sleep well that night. The next day I prepared for the phone call as if I was interviewing for a job. (I will write another post on how I prepared for the call). The next day everyone was filled with excitement and anticipation. I spoke with the agent for about 40 minutes and at the end of the call, she affirmed that she was offering her representation.
Let me just tell you there was more screaming and running through the house with the kids. Now I have a foot in the door. The journey continues!
The worst thing happened. All of my research notes, copies of manuscripts, marketing ideas, book proposal, everything in one notebook—lost. I lost it all when I sat my bag down on a street corner in Brooklyn, NY. Never mind why I sat it down in the first place but it was too when I realized it was gone. I mourned the loss of my work for a couple of weeks before I was able to push forward.
The only thing that encouraged me was that I had recently typed out my notes and had kept really good track of my sources so I didn’t have to completely start all over. Although, I prefer writing my notes by hand, this experience showed me that I have to back everything up. Unfortunately this lesson was learned the hard way.
“Here’s the point: God is in the resume’-building business. He is always using past experiences to prepare us for future opportunities. But those God-given opportunities often come disguised as man-eating lions. And how we react when we encounter those lions will determine our destiny. We can cower in fear and run away from our greatest challenges. Or we can chase our God-ordained destiny by seizing the God-ordained opportunity.
But I was stuck and not willing to take the risk. Months had passed since I had a “chance” meeting with children’s author Judith Sierra at her garage sale. Judith was very encouraged about my writing ideas and gave me the contact number to author and senior editor, Andrea Pinkney at Scholastic Inc. Before I was even in the door I had kept myself from knocking.
I was afraid of taking the risk and being rejected. I was doubting whether or not there was an audience for my book. I was doubting whether or not a publishing company would even display interest in my topic. And the truth is, I didn’t really know how to approach her so I did nothing. That is until I took a serious look at regrets.
“In his book If Only, Dr. Neal Roese makes a fascinating distinction between two types of regret: regrets of action and regrets of inaction. A regret of action is ‘wishing you hadn’t done something.’ A regret of inaction is ‘wishing you had done something.’”-Mark Batterson
I knew that if I remained in the state of paralysis I would regret not reaching out to Mrs. Pinkney. So after acknowledging my fear I began to break it apart with knowledge. I began to read tons of books on the writing process, including Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market, Guide to Literary Agents, Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents, and The African American Writer’s Handbook. After filling up with great information I didn’t stop there. I took the first step and submitted a query letter.
I didn't have any idea if Mrs. Pinkney would respond to my query but within 10 minutes I received a reply! I was elated and although nothing has really panned out from connecting with her, I moved through the door! I overcame one of my first obstacles and let go of the weight of fear. Now I’m carrying less baggage for the journey.
I'm glad you asked! I love Black History but I do have other interest. Currently, I am co-writing an action filled, computer-science themed book with my daughters. We are so excited about this project because we hope to inspire young girls to explore the field of technology. There are so many things that I hope to write about, so stay connected so that I can keep you posted!
My parents grew up during the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, while living in the urban cities of Chicago and St. Louis. They often would tell amazing stories about their experiences integrating into white schools and neighborhoods. I was always so intrigued about the African American experience in America, accomplishments and contributions made toward building this great country. It was my parent’s stories that piqued my interest in history because those were things that I wasn’t learning in school.
My parents were avid readers of history and I would often read their history books. This increased my desire to share this knowledge with my peers and I often found myself organizing Black History presentations in school. It became a passion of my entire family to share Black History.
Unfortunately, I did encounter some people who didn’t want to learn our history. I can remember giving a presentation in my AP American history class about the importance of teaching history from a multicultural perspective. My teacher was adamantly opposed and thought history should only be taught by the dominant culture.
It was then that I knew I had to continue to champion the idea that all voices matter. I’m so excited that as a writer I have the opportunity to pass this ideology on to the next generation.
I recently completed a debut children’s historical fiction, picture-story book entitled Uncle Manuel and the Story of New York. It’s an exciting story about the true accounts of Groot Manuel and the colonial slaves of New York City. Written in a story-telling voice, Grandma Jenny passes along the family history of Uncle Manuel to her grandson Christopher who had an incredible journey from slavery to becoming one of the first free black land owners, ultimately living in New York’s “Land of the Blacks,” today’s Washington Square Park. It's written for children between the ages of 8-10 years old and will fascinate young audiences as well as adults.
Ayanna is an author that enjoys writing fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, and poetry for children. She has written over 15 stories and hopes to publish them in the near future.