Public housing complexes receive books from the National Book Foundation

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I became aware of the term “food desert,” some years ago when an effort got underway among some city council members in my hometown to bring a supermarket to a section of town that didn’t have one. A food desert exists when nutritious food is difficult to obtain due to availability, affordability, distance, or limited places to shop in a given area.

I have now learned of a new term—“book desert”—and am glad that the problem is being addressed. In order to bring more books to what they’re calling “book deserts,” the National Book Foundation, the US Departments of Housing & Urban Development and Education, the Urban Libraries Council, and the Campaign for Grade Level Reading are distributing over 270,000 books to public housing authorities throughout the country.

The Book Rich Environment Initiative will bring books to thirty-six different public housing authorities, including New York City Housing Authority, whose chair and CEO Shola Olatoye said, “Books are essential for children developing reading and writing skills that will last a lifetime. This collaborative effort will bring 50,000 new books into NYCHA homes and have an immeasurable impact on young residents who we know will fall in love with reading, one book at a time.”

Penguin Random House joined the initiative as lead publishing partner and promised 200,000 books, and Hachette Book Group and Macmillan Publishers have also made large commitments.

“This initiative is unique in its multi-organizational, collaborative approach to connecting young people with books and other literary experiences,” said Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “National government agencies, non-profit organizations, local partners, and the publishing community have all leveraged their unique resources to create a model that’s far reaching, but also responsive to each local community’s needs. That’s what makes Book Rich Environments impactful.”

I say “Bravo!” to the National Book Foundation, the US Departments of Housing & Urban Development and Education, the Urban Libraries Council, and the Campaign for Grade Level Reading for launching this effort.

Exciting Publishing News! My novel has been accepted for publication!

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I got the news in an email while my husband and I were driving back to The States from the Montreal Jazz festival in early July. A women’s press had accepted my manuscript. I was giddy. I started the manuscript in 2008 and completed the first draft in 2010. I’ve been sending it out to literary agents and some small presses ever since.

Going through the experience of trying to get a manuscript published has led me to believe that writing and submitting a novel for publication is one of the most humbling experiences a person can endure. The rejection over and over again can be soul killing. I thought about giving up along the way but didn’t. I’m glad I stuck with it.

So it’s official. I’ve signed the book contract. This has been my dream since childhood and I’m finally fulfilling it. The publication date is scheduled for 2019. Now the work begins of preparing the manuscript for publication–working with the press on revisions and edits so that the finished product is as enjoyable as possible for you, the reader. Every so often I’ll provide you with updates on what’s going on in this journey toward publication.

Women’s National Book Association Awards the WNBA Second Century Prize to Little Free Library

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In November of 1917, a group of women booksellers gathered at Sherwood’s Bookstore in New York City to form an organization of women active in all aspects of the book world. Having been shut out of the all-male American
Booksellers Association and the Booksellers’ League, the women connected, educated, and advocated for themselves, and the Women’s National Book Association was born. I’ve been a member of both the Washington, D.C. and Boston chapters.

One of the signature programs of our Centennial  is the awarding of the WNBA
Second Century Prize, a $5,000 grant to an organization that supports the power of reading, past, present, and into the future. The one-time cash award will be given to the Little Free Library, a nonprofit organization that promotes reading for all ages, but especially children, by building free book exchanges.

Under the guidance of Second Century Prize co-chairs Mary Grey James and Susan Larson, nominations for the prize came from WNBA chapters throughout the country. A committee chose Little Free Library (LFL) based on its
grassroots organization, which has impacted thousands of readers of all ages and backgrounds. LFL embodies the goals of the Women’s National Book Association by promoting literacy and the love of reading.

Little Free Library was founded in Hudson, Wisconsin, by Todd Bol to honor his mother, a school teacher. In just eight years the organization has become an international movement of mini-libraries sharing the message of “give
one, take one.” LFL has over 50,000 libraries in 70+ countries with millions of books exchanged annually.

No longer known only for its charming small libraries placed in front yards and public spaces, it continuously develops new initiatives. The WNBA particularly applauds the LFL’s new Kids, Community, and Cops program,
which helps police departments set up book exchanges in their precincts —a commitment that resonates with the WNBA’s own National Reading Group Month program.

“This means so much,” said Todd Bol, creator and executive director of Little Free Library. “Little Free Library is about 90 percent women, so it really is a women’s movement, supporting friends and family and community.”

About the WNBA The WNBA is a 501c(3) organization that aims to connect, educate, advocate, and lead in the book world and broader literary community. We do this through networking and professional development, as well as public
programs including the WNBA Pannell Award, which promotes bookstores that excel in connecting kids with books; the WNBA Award, which honors visionary bookwomen, from Eleanor Roosevelt and Doris Kearns Goodwin to Ann Patchett and Amy King; and National Reading Group Month, which celebrates the joy of shared reading.

What it means to be chosen a finalist for the Still I Rise Micro-grant

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Alternating Current, a boutique independent press, is dedicated to publishing and promoting literature that challenges readers. The press publishes diverse voices and all that is electric in the literary world. This year the press inaugurated the 2017 Still I Rise Micro-grant for Black and African American Women and Women-identified Writers. Out of 117 applicants, I was chosen a finalist from the writing sample I submitted. The judges said that they were thrilled with the quality of the work. Each time I gain a recognition such as this one, I’m encouraged to continue writing in spite of rejections I receive, to continue telling stories that I hope will resonate with the reader on some level.

Applications are now open for the 2018 grant.