When I was a little girl, every MLK Day, my parents would take my four siblings and I to the MLK Day March in Eugene, Oregon. As parents who grew up under segregation and fought for our civil rights during the 1960's Civil Right's Movement they wanted to instill in our hearts a passion and desire to make the world a better a place for our children, and their children' children.
As a child I watched my parents navigate many obstacles within my hometown. They moved from Chicago, IL in the late 70's and wanted to get away from the discrimination and hardships they faced in the inner-city. However, even in Oregon they faced many injustices but as a child I wasn't privy to everything they faced.
For example, when I was about five or six years old, I remember that my father was a fireman. My mother would take us down to the fire station to bring my dad food and I remember saying prayers to God to keep him safe and bring him back home. One time I remember going to visit him at the station, but during the visit the firemen got a call and I watched him jump on the firetruck and ride off in the distance.
Art by Estefania Razo
I never liked my dad being away from home and sleeping at the fire station so I never thought about why he stopped going. It wasn't until I was older that my father revealed the racism and discrimination he experienced at the fire department.
As an author, I wanted to capture his story because I believe it will be an important tool for parent's and teacher's to teach empathy, compassion, and equity. As I interviewed my dad for this story I was challenged with how to make the subject of racism palatable for young children.
I wanted to leave them with a hopeful outlook and so I took Dr. King's quote, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” as a source of inspiration for the story.
Dr. King was arrested over 30 times. He was beaten, threatened, and ultimately killed for his willingness to fight for the rights of Black people. His powerful words spoke to me as I wrote the story about my father. As I was writing, I kept hearing the words, "Keep Moving Forward, Keep Moving Forward." Not original to King, as many generations of African Americans have had to repeat this phrase to themselves after being locked, blocked, and kicked out of parts of American society.
My book, "Keep Moving Forward, Henry" is a story that I hope will teach children what they should do if they ever get knocked down. I am proud to say that it is slated to be released next month for Black History Month.
That's right folks--the Bear Learns to Share Activity Book is now complete! This was such an exciting project because it took me back to when my kids were in preschool and as their teacher--I loved teaching them basic foundational knowledge. I can't believe I have four teenagers now!
Anyway I designed the workbook specifically for kids ages 3-5, and it is a great accompaniment to the picture book, Bear Learns to Share, which shows that sharing is fun!
So now you can get the book, coloring book, AND the workbook!
This 50-page workbook includes recognizing and tracing shapes, identifying colors, coloring, counting, mazes, and more. It's the perfect workbook for kids to practice their fine motor skills and a great way to develop skills for school readiness and success.
Learn more here.
Ya'll I am so so so so excited! Did I mention I was excited?! I have been writing for six years now, developing a nice size body of work of various themed children's books.
I am happy to announce that I have my first black history themed book coming out in February 2021!!
This story is particularly special to me because it is based off my father's real life experience of being one of the first African-Americans to serve as a fireman in my hometown--Eugene, Oregon. The story takes a difficult issue like racial discrimination and addresses it in an age-appropriate manner. It will be a great tool for parents and teachers alike to use for teaching empathy, respect, and self-determination.
I will be sharing more as the months get closer to the release date but here is a sneak peak at a couple of preliminary sketches.
With this project I am working with an illustrator who lives overseas and it has been such an amazing experience. The artist is so talented and I can't wait until the coloring process begins--that's when things really come alive!
Anyway--stay tuned and follow me on my Facebook Author's Page for more updates.
I am so excited to share, that after 6 years of writing, I am officially a published author! What’s really special about this book project is that I co-authored it with my 14-year-old daughter Anaya. And to make it even more significant, my 16-year-old daughter, Jayda was the illustrator and book cover designer.
We started the project in May 2019 but moved from New York to the south so basically, our momentum and publishing process was completely interrupted.
However, a few months ago, I picked the story back up and now we are happy to present, “Bear Learns to Share” with an accompanying, “Bear Learns to Share Coloring Book.”
Kids will relate instantly with the main character, Little Bear, an only cub who loves to play by himself and is not used to sharing. He becomes terribly upset and engages in a full out tantrum when his cousins come to play. Ultimately, Bear realizes that if he calms himself down, he too can experience great joy and fun when sharing his things.
The girls and I plan on writing a complete Bear Learns series which is geared towards children pre-school through second grade.
Learn more by clicking here.
If you are a writer, the path to becoming a published author can sometimes feel like an impossible task. For writers to overcome the mental challenges placed before them, they’ll need to have 3 important things:
Saying things like, “You don’t know what you are doing.” “You’ll never get published.” “Your work isn’t good enough.”
In order to persevere, a writer must be able to silence the mental naysayers. Speaking back with positive phrases like, “I can do anything!” “I was made for this!” “I am getting better and better!” and “No matter what, my books will be published!” Positive thinking will help you endure the writer's life.
2. Passion For Storytelling
Writers need to have a passion for their stories. They need to be convinced that the world needs and is waiting to hear their voice. Their voice is unique and will have its own impact on the culture and society.
"You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you're not passionate enough from the start, you'll never stick it out."
3. Perseverance to Endure
Writing isn’t easy and it’s not for the faint of heart. Sometimes a writer’s career can seem to move along very slowly. Perseverance is an attribute that will keep you on the road to publishing when it seems completely out of reach.
One of my favorite quotes by Charles Spurgeon states:
"By perseverance, the snail reached the ark."
The quote and the video below should encourage you to keep pushing forward. If a snail can do it, so can you!
Play the video!
So it’s been four years since my last blog post. The last post was entitled, “Rejection, My New Partner” and let me tell you so much has happened in my life since that post. I decided then that it was too challenging to keep a consistent blog writing schedule and keep up with my children’s manuscripts. With this in mind, I intentionally took a break from updating the blog.
So what have I been doing for the last four years?
Writing, writing, and more writing! The decision to focus solely on writing has afforded me the time necessary to build my portfolio. I have so many new stories that I can’t wait for you and your families to enjoy.
So to keep this balance, I will only write an occasional blog post. If you follow me on Instagram (Ayanluv) you can get more updates on my author’s journey and you will start hearing about the books that will be coming out very soon!
It was a blow to my confidence. Doubt swept over me. Another “no.” Another pass by a major publishing company.
This week I had to do mental gymnastics to encourage myself in this process of becoming a published author. It has become crystal clear that rejection has joined me in my journey.
What is surprising is that I found encouragement in other author’s rejection letters in order to get out of my emotional slump.
On the website LitRejections it lists many best-sellers and how many times they were rejected before getting a book deal. Some of my favorites were:
Diary of Anne Frank as it was rejected over 15 times and eventually sold over 25 million copies. In addition, C.S. Lewis’ work was rejected for years before Chronicles of Narnia was accepted and went on to sell over 100 million copies.
Even author J.K. Rowling received 12 rejection letters in a row before the famous Harry Potter series was published. And we all know how crazy popular this series has been abroad and in the United States.
According to Scholastics.com, “The Harry Potter books are distributed in over 200 territories, are translated into 68 languages and have sold over 400 million copies worldwide.” Amazing right?!!
So, it looks like rejection is just par for the course!
The biggest hurdle is rejection. Any business you start, be ready for it. The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is the successful people do all the things the unsuccessful people don't want to do. When 10 doors are slammed in your face, go to door number 11 enthusiastically, with a smile on your face.
In Put Your Dream to the Test, author, John Maxwell says that every dream needs to be put to the test and one way to do that is by asking yourself the question, “Am I willing to pay the price for my dream?”
My answer is yes! I am willing to travel with rejection as my partner. I won't stop but will keep moving forward. I won’t give up because my dream is calling me to continue to press on. And then, one day, rejection will have to go find someone else.
A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.
I am currently doing the research for my next manuscript and I had the privilege of traveling to the place where the story begins….La Hispaniola or as the Native Taino people called it “Ayiti” which means mountainous land.
The left side of the island was later renamed Haiti in 1804 by the slaves who won their independence from France and the right side was declared the Dominican Republic.
The history of Ayati is amazing and from June 15-20th I had the opportunity to visit the west side of the island, the country of Haiti.
I traveled with five other ladies and our purpose was to partner with the organization Share Hope whose mission is to help alleviate poverty through responsible textile trading. Our goal was to partner with Share Hope in order to provide their pregnant factory workers health education regarding the Zika virus.
We partnered with Share Hope’s Her Health educators and visited over 10 factories while speaking with over 300 pregnant women. It was such an honor as a mother of four to be able to travel across the ocean to help inform my dear sisters on how to protect their babies from Zika.
We not only informed them about the latest research on the virus but gave them practical ways to fight against the Aedes mosquito. We gave out over 300 mosquito nets and taught them how how to make their own mosquito repellent and cream. Here are the directions to making your own mosquito repellent:
I’m not sure how this trip will influence my story, but I will not forget the beautiful Haitian people. Although they live in very oppressive circumstances they still exemplify a strength that I have not witnessed before and I hope to share that with the world.
How do you respond to rejection? This week I received my first “no” from a publisher. Rejection never feels good but I took it pretty well.
I am so amazed that I’ve made it this far in the process of becoming published and I really believe my day will come. The story I’ve written needs to be told and with divine help, it will make it out into the world!
No word yet. It’s been a month since my editor sent my manuscript out to publishers. So far at least five major editors in New York have my story.
I’m really hoping that the right person, at the right time will read it and connect with the message. Here’s a video that shows the process once an editor chooses to pitch to the publishing house:
In the publishing industry a month is not a long time. So in the meantime I’m waiting patiently and researching for the next book!
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.