Monday, April 04, 2016

Guest Post: Maya Christina Gonzalez on The Heart of It & Write Now! Make Books

By Maya Christina Gonzalez
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

The Heart of It: Creating Children’s Books that Matter is an online course for aspiring and emerging children’s book writers and illustrators who want to create powerful books for kids while simultaneously coming more fully into their own power as storyteller and artist.

I combine my passion as an educator and activist along with 20 years of experience in creating award-winning multicultural children’s books to craft a course that is a journey of self as much as a practical guide to creating children’s books.

The six-week course offers writing exercises, hands-on art projects, in-depth book reviews, community interviews, Q&A webinars with special guests, and more all designed to offer a holistic approach to creating children’s books and provide opportunities for students to hone their craft, strengthen the power of their own voice and unique way of expressing through art and word, and be in community with other like-minded children’s book makers.

At the end of the program, students are invited to put what they’ve learned to practical use through creating one full spread of text and art to be included in The Heart of It Anthology, a picture book that incorporates student’s work into the story; written and illustrated by me and published by the independent press I co-founded. The first edition is Whaleheart, the second is By The Light Of The Rabbit Moon. and the third anthology will be drawn from this Spring 2016 class.

The Heart of It eCourse is a class I long dreamed of offering out of a desire to support communities to change the still dismal statistics in relation to diversity in children’s books.

As a queer Chicana children’s book author and artist, I know the effects of living in an unequal society and how it can leave many of us feeling as if we don’t get to have a voice especially a voice in children’s books.

This class is not just about learning technical skills. It’s also about how to transform limiting beliefs and ideas that we have inside of ourselves and in the world that hold us back from getting these kinds of stories out.

I center on people of color, American Indians, the LGBTQI+ community and communities still misrepresented and underrepresented in the current children’s publishing industry.

I also highlight the work of authors and illustrators pioneering alternative routes into publishing, including self-publishing, creating their own presses, crowdsourcing funds as well as reclaiming traditional routes.

The Spring 2016 community interviews and book reviews will focus on Native American children’s literature and will be in addition to the African American and LGBTQI+ materials from past courses as well as the core class materials.

I believe that something very powerful happens when we see others in our community tell stories and create images that reflect who we are and our experience in the world.

This course is about finding our voice, allowing our hearts to speak, and knowing that our books belong in the hands of children.

Cynsational Notes

The Heart of It: Creating Children’s Books that Matterwith Maya Christina Gonzalez is a six-week eCourse scheduled from April 18 to May 29 (with additional three months access through Aug. 31). Scholarships and payment plans available. See more info and/or register.

For kids out wanting to learn how to create picture books, Maya also offers a free online video series called Write Now! Make Books, inspired by The Heart of It Anthologies.

Through direct learning, the Write Now! Make Books materials teach how to make books from story through art all the way to book creation in many of the same ways a professional artist/author does.

It includes two hours of instructional videos, a field guide, a complete sample story with art to color and make into a practice book. It also uses a social justice frame to support kids and teens in understanding and reclaiming the power of story and how we can use it to strengthen ourselves today and change our world.

See more info and to download the Bookmakers Field Guide.

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