December 24, 2012

December 21, 2012

Latino Books in the News

Pat’s friend Adriana Dominguez offers 3 Reasons to Buy a Latino Children’s Book This Christmas .

In an article "Books for Young Latinos Exist – Just Not in the Classroom" Publishers Weekly continues the conversation started in a December 4 article in the New York Times. The article highlights smaller publishers, including several that publish Pat's books, who are providing books for Latino children and young adults.

December 19, 2012

December 13, 2012

Book Giveaway Winners

These people will receive a copy of The Beautiful Lady: Our Lady of Guadalupe:

Vic and Luz (please send us your contact information)

Lisa Lopez (from Facebook)

Thank you for participating!

December 12, 2012

Today is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe

From my Author’s Note in The Beautiful Lady: Our Lady of Guadalupe

People around the world, from diverse backgrounds and economic levels, come to seek her help, to fulfill a promise, and to gaze at Juan Diego’s cloak, or tilma, which miraculously still has Our Lady’s image preserved on the cactus-fiber cloth. On December 12, her feast day, millions visit the site. In 2002, the Catholic Church canonized Juan Diego as the first indigenous saint of the Americas.

It is a pleasure to share this story and cultural tradition.

A note from the blog manager about today's BOOK GIVEAWAY:
All you need to do to win one of 5 copies of The Beautiful Lady is add a comment below. Winners will be selected at random. I'll note the winners in a post tomorrow morning and you can email me your address.

See more images of Our Lady.

December 10, 2012


An interview with Pat about her new book The Beautiful Lady: Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in yesterday's El Paso Times.
"To me, she's this feminine force in the universe that reminds us that there is kindness and patience and love rather than just judgment," Mora said. "Often, religion can be about judgment, and I don't believe that's what she symbolizes."

The interview also includes a selection of the rich, evocative paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher used to illustrate the story.

December 7, 2012

Pat Interviewed on NBC Latino

Pat was interviewed for today's feature "Authors Work to Reflect Latino Culture in Childrens Books" published on the NBC Latino website. Pam Muñoz Ryan and Maya Gonzalez were also interviewed for the article.


November 29, 2012

Featured on The Writer's Almanac

Today Garrison Keillor will read Pat's poem "Teenagers" from Communion on The Writer's Almanac  produced by American Public Media. Tune into your favorite public radio station to listen, or listen and read on The Writer's Almanac  website.

November 20, 2012

Join Pat for Picture Book Month

November is Picture Book Month and the celebration happens all month long! Today, Pat shares her thoughts about why picture books are important on the Picture Book Month website.

Why are picture books important to you?

November 15, 2012

Creativity Salon: an Interview with Uma Krishnaswami

Welcome to Bookjoy Creativity Salon, Uma! I so enjoyed the video on your site about your new book, Out of the Way! Out of the Way!  Actually, I learned from each of the sections on your visually-appealing site

To begin, Uma, please tell us a bit about yourself.

I was a klutzy kid and I am now a klutzy adult. I love cats, and the colors purple and green. I like hiking, especially if rocks are involved. I knit when I revise, and I have graduated from scarves to socks. I am a very messy writer, and I throw away more words than I keep. Is that more than anyone might want to know?

1. You are from India and now live in New Mexico (though I didn’t know that until I spent time on your site). How has living in the United States affected your creative life and process?

I was born in India and live in the United States. This experience allows me to create a mental geography beyond one place. I’ve forged an identity that lets me cross national and cultural borders. It’s made me profoundly grateful for the many people on two continents who have supported and encouraged me to tell the stories that matter to me. I’ve seen the children’s and YA publishing industry in the US open its doors over the years to culturally grounded writing, so that I, a nobody in the writing universe, could dare to aspire to publication.

2. Your new book was previously published in India and has now been published by wonderful Groundwood Books, a press I admire. How has the publishing process been different?

The editorial process with Indian publisher Tulika Books was quite different from what I was used to. For one thing, even though I was corresponding with a single editor, I realized that all decisions were made in community, with many editorial meetings underlying each question raised. There was no one “editor” for my book—they all worked on everything. You’d think that might result in a hopeless muddle, but it was quite the reverse. Everything was deeply embedded in a vision for the work that went beyond individual opinions. The insights I gained from those exchanges led me away towards a stronger story with a longer reach.

3. In the video of Out of the Way! Out of the Way! You mention issues of plot and action. Do you see a move in U.S. children’s published away from “quiet books,” and a growing interest action, action, action?

Yes, especially in the realm of picture books. That saddens me. We live in such a frenetically paced world, that it seems all the more important for young children to learn the joys of stillness and quiet. But then I see books like Ashley Bryan’s glorious renderings of hymns, or Janet Wong’s Hide and Seek, and I think maybe there’s hope.

4. You also teach writing for children and young adults in Vermont College’s MFA program. Your web site section “Tips & Tools for Writers” has so much good advice. I particularly smiled at the last item, the witty note in which you reject an editor’s rejection letter. Is accepting rejection the most difficult challenge your students face?

In our business, oddly enough, lasting professional relationships, even deep friendships, can spring from criticism and rejection! But I think the most difficult challenge is to let go of one’s own words—to understand that the first words that come to mind may not last. They may reflect some mirage of the story that the author is still chasing. I tell my students to let go of the words, but not of the impulse that made the story bubble up in the first place.

5. What do you enjoy reading, Uma?

I often read three or four books simultaneously. In contemporary children’s and YA literature I like to read a sampling of books published outside the US as well, so I don't get bogged down in a kind of “marketplace” mentality. I mix that up with books for grownups, to keep my mind flexible and open to options in my own writing. I’ve just finished Ursula Dubosarsky’s marvelous middle grade novel, The Golden Day, and am now reading The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro and rereading Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel.

November 13, 2012

First Year of Estela & Raúl Mora Honor Awards

I am always inspired when I read the annual applications for the Mora Award. How wonderful that my good friends Kay and Dan Moore, both educators, wanted to honor a few of the other libraries which, in the opinion of the REFORMA Mora Award Committee, also merited special recognition. Congratulations again to all the libraries that applied.

We have a long way to go to inspire every library in the country to embrace Día and linking all children to books, languages and cultures throughout the year, with an annual April Día celebration of that good work. Join us by promoting this family literacy initiative in your own community. Let's share bookjoy and grow a nation of readers!

“We are delighted to help honor those who are doing such a wonderful job celebrating El día de los niños/El día de los libros.  Nurturing a love of books is one way to a meaningful life and a civil world for children and families from all backgrounds.  All who attend Dia events are inspired by the dedication of the sponsors and the enthusiasm of the participants.  We are also supporting outstanding Dia programs because of our love and respect for Pat Mora and her vision.” Dan and Kay Moore
It's an honor to be among the first Mora Honor Award winners. I am pleased to accept this recognition on behalf of my organization, the District of Columbia Public Library. -- Robin Imperial, Manager Mount Pleasant Library, DCPL

Sacramento Public Library is very excited to be one of the Honor Recipients for the 2012 Estela and Raúl Mora Award. Our staff, volunteers, Friends, and community partners worked diligently to provide a wide variety of family-friendly multicultural programs, and to inspire a love of books and reading on the part of children in our area. We are honored to have our efforts recognized. -- Erica Naranjo, Librarian/Teen/Adult Services, Sacramento Public Library

King County Library System is thrilled to have received an honor award for Día de los Niños/Día de los Libros programming. This year KCLS had 100% branch participation for Día--a truly collaborative effort. All in the name of reading and books across generations. Thank you to the Mora Award Committee, Kay and Dan Moore, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Pat Mora for this honor. -- José M. García, Jr., Librarian/Teen/Reference Services, King County Library System

October 31, 2012

Interview With 2012 Mora Award Winner, Lynden Public Library

For the second year, I’m honored to interview the winner of the Estela and Raúl Mora Award on my blog. Congratulations, Tina Bixby and Amelia Martinez, to you and the Lynden Public Library, a branch library of the Whatcom County Library System, WA. I was inspired by every application I read, but I don’t select the winner nor the Honor Awards started this year. Libraries all over the country are curious to know what you did that prompted the REFORMA Mora Award Committee to select your library as the 2012 winner. Deep thanks for designing an April Día celebration that teaches us all that by involving community members in planning the event, together you created a memorable community celebration.

Tell us a bit about yourselves and your library.

Tina: I am from Washington State and have been a librarian for 27 years, mostly working as a children’s librarian. The Lynden Library, where I currently work, is located in northwest Washington State, very near the Canadian border, in a beautiful agricultural area. The Lynden Library is the largest branch in the Whatcom County Library System, serving a community of 11,951, with an almost 9% Latino population.

Amelia: I was born in Mexico and came to U.S. in 1996. I started working for WCLS in June, 2010 as a Public Service Assistant for the Lynden Library. I love helping and working with families and children! I also like learning and sharing new things and participate in events that bring joy to people.

L to R: Alma Hernandez, Amelia Martinez, Tina Bixby, Sandra Ramirez, Brenda Ramirezion

1. How did you first become interested in Día and how long ago was that?

Tina: Our first Día celebration began 5 years ago as a monthly children's program. Our system Children’s Services Department arranged for a local Latino elementary school secretary to volunteer to read a couple of books and do a traditional Mexican craft. The dozen, almost entirely Anglo participants enjoyed the program. The following year was much the same. The summer before our third Día, the Lynden Library hired Amelia Martinez, a Spanish speaking Public Service Assistant. Her presence, language skills and community connections, as well as library outreach to the Migrant Head Start program made a big difference. The first time I met Amelia, I knew that we had to hire her!

Amelia: It was in the summer of 2010. I was working for Washington State Migrant Council and Tina worked for the Library. She was coming to do “story time” at the Head Start. One day, she asked me what kind of children’s celebrations we had in México, we talked about “Día del Niño,” and she told me about her idea. I got very excited and volunteered to help. This is a very special celebration in Mexico, especially in schools. I remember that it didn’t matter if we were poor or rich or if had good grades or not; that day each teacher created a wonderful, fun day for all the students. We had food, games, piñatas, candies, crafts, music, talent shows, plays, and time to share with the whole school, older siblings, friends, etc. It is a very nice memory of my childhood, and it was all about learning.

2. When did you begin to plan your 2012 celebration? Did you work with a team and, if so, who created the team? Was having a team helpful? Challenging?

Tina: Amelia was really the heart of our Día celebration. Familiar with Latino parties, she knew exactly what was needed to attract the Latino crowd that we were hoping to draw in and make the children feel very special. A cake and a piñata were essential! I worked more on the fundraising, shopping and administration side of the planning.

Amelia: We started planning it in September 2011. We were working on another program “Family Literacy Fiestas,” and we talked to the participants about our next program (Día). They all got very interested and excited talking about their own experiences. We asked them if they would like to participate and most of them said, “YES.” We have a very nice group of Latino high school students who come to help us at different events, so they came too. And when the time got closer, we started inviting other patrons, and most of them wanted to help! Having a team was WONDERFUL!

During the planning, it was a little bit challenging because of our budget, and because we were sometimes planning this during working hours. All our co-workers were great, asking how things were going, covering desk time when we needed to make phone calls or talk to volunteers, etc.

This was the other challenge; we couldn’t have all the volunteers present in our planning meetings – some were students, mothers, workers, childcare providers, etc. Everybody had different schedules, so we had to divide the work into sections – set up, crafts, learning activities, games and entertainment, kitchen, etc.

At the end, it was a lot easier than we expected, because everybody knew what they were doing; they met each other and worked as a team instantly. We all had our hearts in the event. We were happy, even when the piñata rope kept breaking because it was overloaded with candies. All dads helped.

It was WONDERFUL having everybody helping, feeling that this was their event!

3. What do you think made your 2012 celebration special?

Tina: The community involvement – Día was a celebration created by the Latino community to celebrate children and books.

Amelia: Everything, the sponsors, the Library, the volunteers, the participants, the “purpose.”

4. How do you and your library feel about winning the Mora Award?

Tina: Elated! We never thought we would win the award, but we knew we had to share our success story with REFORMA and Pat Mora.

Amelia: We are all surprised and excited. It is a wonderful and encouraging feeling to continue programs like this one—connecting with people.

5. What did you learn from your celebration this year?

Tina: The amazing things that can happen when you move away from “doing for others” into developing two-way relationships. We have learned to look to the strengths and resources in the Lynden Latino community to create services, programs and library collections that support diversity and families.

Amelia: The importance of “sharing the opportunity of giving” and “connecting with others no matter our racial or social status”. A lot of families gave us different ideas for next year, and they would like to help as well. Children were excited to see their parents interacting with other people they barely met and sharing something good about their culture.

6. What three key pieces of advice would you give to those ready to plan their first Día celebration in spring 2013? Advice to those who have celebrated before?

Tina: Be flexible, allow the program to evolve, nurture relationships

Amelia: To do it from your heart.

To listen to others’ suggestions.

Allow people to help.

7. Why are Día and sharing bookjoy important to you?

Tina: Día is all about books, children and fostering literacy – my passions in life. When children and families really know the joy of sharing books, I know that those children will succeed in life. At our Family Fiesta Literacy program in the library last week, I was playing and reading with the kids while Amelia instructed the adults. I overheard one little boy say to another “Este lugar es muy divertido, no? Muy cool, no?” At the end of a very long day of work, it was exactly what I needed to hear – they filled my day with joy! Bookjoy!

Amelia: Because it connects joy with reading and learning. We would like all families to find reading and learning as positive and happy experiences.

October 25, 2012

Creativity Salon: an Interview with Illustrator David Gardner

Welcome to Bookjoy Creativity Salon, David! I love the visuals on your site! Although we never get to visit enough in person, I’m so pleased that you and I both live in Santa Fe.

David, please tell us a bit about yourself.

Thanks so much, Pat. Let's see. . . I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. I got my Film degree from Northwestern near Chicago, was a touring puppeteer based in Atlanta, a production assistant on the old TV show Solid Gold in L.A. and an artist for Walt Disney Studios there, too, on movies like Beauty and the Beast. I still do animation, in addition to illustrating children's books. The Harvey Milk Story  was my first picture book, and I got hooked.

I’m always curious about when visual artists began their art. Did you draw as a child? If yes, what was your family’s and teachers’ reactions to your art work?

One of my earliest memories is of my parents taking my three sisters and me to the theater to see Disney’s The Sword and the Stone, the first movie I sat still for instead of chasing my little sister up and down the aisle. I got kind of obsessed by that magic -- moving paintings! -- and my mom and my pre-school teacher were happy to oblige. Jumbo Crayolas and a coloring book were my "gateway drug." From there, I went on to drawing my own pictures, copying cartoon characters, mostly. My parents and teachers encouraged me, thank goodness. They made it possible for me to see the value in being creative. In first grade, Mrs. Hester thumbtacked my drawings on the corkboard border all around the classroom -- so of course I kept on drawing!

Tell us about your new book, Sarah Gives Thanks. How did the project evolve, what particular challenges did you face, and how did you solve them?

Sarah Josepha Hale was this powerhouse I'd never even heard of, a young widow, a successful poet, novelist, editor of writers like her friends Poe and Emerson, raising five kids on her own. Mike Allegra's manuscript moved me from the first paragraph.

One challenge was to capture her strong personality, dainty and forceful all at once. I kept her moving as much as possible, energetic, almost athletic, while wearing some bit of lace or a flowery shawl. Showing the passage of time was another challenge. I relied on costumes, sets, showing Sarah aging from eight to eighty, and showing her children growing up alongside her. Research was probably the biggest challenge. Books from our local library were essential, as always, for clothing history, architecture, hairstyles. I have stacks of printouts of details I found online, from Boston Harbor, 1832, to the size of a woman's bustle in 1863. I had to get every detail just right -- I owe that to the kids (and there are teams of sharp-eyed librarians out there, I'm told!).

Published by Albert Whitman, 2012

On your web site, Flying Dog Studio, you have the words illustration, animation and fine art? Do you enjoy creating each of these equally? How is each process different for you?

I do enjoy all three, for different reasons. With fine art, I can get lost easily, in the flow. It's relaxing to paint something that's right in front of me, and it informs everything else I do. Animation and illustration meant to so much me as a kid, I love carrying that forward. Reaching a broad audience is gratifying, too. But unlike fine art, I have to dive into my imagination while keeping someone else's story and production or printing guidelines in mind. It's a fun puzzle. Ultimately, all three forms are about storytelling for me, telling a story with pictures.

How do you like to relax, David?

Sitting on the back porch with a cup of coffee and a good book, the clouds skipping over the mountains. Heaven! And curling up with my partner and catching up on John Adams and Downton Abbey. These amazing, perfect blends of history and melodrama, they just whisk me out of my day for a while. Oh, and visiting with you is very relaxing, Pat!

October 15, 2012

Announcement of the 2012 Mora Award Winner

Congratulations to the winner of the 2012 Estela & Raúl Mora Award: Lynden Public Library, Whatcom County Library System, Lynden WA!

For the first time, we are also awarding three Mora Honor Awards:
DC Public Library/Mount Pleasant, DC., King County Library, WA; and Sacramento Public Library, CA. Congratulations to these libraries and to all who submitted award applications. It’s exciting to see how these awards are growing and how the Día work is deepening to involve community members as literacy leaders.

I wish to thank the 2012 REFORMA Mora Award Committee for its careful deliberations. The Chair was Beatriz Pascual Wallace,Seattle Public Library; members included Heidi K. Becker, Denver Public Library; Hope Crandall (formerly school librarian at Washington Elementary, WA); David Suárez, Richland County Public Library and Lupita Vega, Santa Ana Public Library.

Join us for future posts about these awards, including an interview with Tina Bixby, Children's Librarian for the Lynden Public Library.

Read REFORMA's press release in English and Spanish.

October 13, 2012

Celebrating Paper Tigers 10th Anniversary

Happy Anniversary to PaperTigers! Congratulations on their vision and the many accomplishments over the past ten years.

Artist John Parra designed this anniversary poster.

Read editor's Marjorie Coughlan’s thoughts about PaperTigers now and hopes for the future.

Former PaperTigers Managing Editor, Aline Pereira, has written an article about her long involvement with the website and othr resources.

October 5, 2012

Recommendations for Hispanic Heritage Month

I was born wealthy. I had the good fortune to grow up in a loving, bilingual home in El Paso, Texas. All my grandparents spoke only Spanish. Mom and Dad were bilingual, though, so I always spoke both English and Spanish. Since Mom was a reader, I also had the good fortune to grow up with books in our home, and I enjoyed teachers who read to us at school, visits to the library, the fun of Summer Reading Clubs. Too often today, the word “wealthy” is reduced to money. Well, I was and am rich in family, books, and languages. How I wish I were tri-lingual!

Since sharing is often more fun than having, I like to share bookjoy, la alegría en los libros. I founded Día, El dia de los niños, El día de los libros/Children’s Day, Book Day, as one way for all of us to link all children to books, languages and cultures day by day, día por día. Día celebrations are held throughout the country around April 30th and are fun to plan at home, school, and libraries. I wrote Book Fiesta to show the fun of reading by ourselves, with our family, to our pets and reading everywhere—even in a hot air balloon and on an elephant.


I not only love words and languages, I love diversity: the wonder of an array of flowers, birds, and humans, families. I’ll never understand why some are valued more than others. The Hispanic or Latino national community is highly diverse. Some are new arrivals; some families that have lived on the U.S. landscape for generations. Some have ancestors from countries such as Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Peru. Some are dark; some fair. Some Catholic; some Protestant or Jewish. Some speak only Spanish, some only English, some are bilingual.

I was a children’s book author before I noticed: hey, none of the books I read and loved had any characters who looked like me or my family, who spoke Spanish and enjoyed saying both candy and dulces. How children and the young at heart enjoy learning words in other languages! Luckily, many Latino authors are now writing wonderful books for us all. Here are ten of my favorites:

Thanks to PBS Parents!

September 30, 2012

Creativity Salon: an Interview With Poet Diana Garcia

Welcome to Bookjoy Creativity Salon, Diana! It was such a pleasure to meet and hear you at AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) in Chicago last March. Your words about me at our panel were incredibly generous. I treasure them. Among other talents, you are a poet, a professor, and a committed advocate.

Diana, please tell us a bit about yourself.

“The biggest influences on me probably are being born to parents who worked in the fields and who were living in a labor camp when I was born. The camp and the people who lived and worked in the camp served as my earliest role models for what it is to live an honorable, hard-working life. At the end of your life, all you have is your reputation as a hard worker and the respect of those you worked with. Then, the San Joaquin Valley engraved its dry flatness on my consciousness. From an early age, I understood the importance of rain, the lack of rain when needed, the overabundance of rain at the wrong time. I reflect often on water and its many and various aspects. Finally, becoming a single mother when I was 20, struggling with the powerlessness of having to rely on welfare to make ends meet, filled me with a rage that's never completely left me. I discovered the tone deafness of those who have always known a privileged existence. It also makes me deeply grateful for all that I now have: a patient, generous husband and partner; parents, son and grandsons who make me proud to be part of the clan; and a university where I can teach what I've learned about writing and about living.”

Let me begin by asking about your work as a poet. You wrote the collection, When Living Was a Labor Camp, published in 2000. Such a moving title. Can you tell us about the impetus for that collection?
I wrote When Living Was a Labor Camp out of a deep commitment to the generations of farm workers whose sacrifices weren’t represented adequately in the poetry I read in the 1990s. In my own family, one uncle was poisoned and died after picking tomatoes in a field that had been sprayed with pesticides. Another uncle, a former bracero whose permit had expired, was picked up during Operation Wetback in the 50s and 60s and returned to Mexico. In both cases, the men left behind women who struggled to raise children on their own. I also wanted to capture the perseverance of the generations that followed, the children and grandchildren whose lives were impacted by prejudice. Finally, I wanted to write a book that my parents and my aunts and uncles could read, hear and understand and know their lives, and those of their children, were being honored.

In what ways does creativity shape your work and your life?
I have always trusted my response to the natural world, that sense of self that is best reflected by moments in nature. Similarly, when I write, I feel a sense of connectedness to the world around me, to the expressions and experiences reverberating in the world. Writing also is like intellectual weight lifting for me. Much as a sturdy weight lifting workout leaves me drained and tranquil, a good bout of writing leaves my brain strangely emptied and refreshed.

I know you teach an upper division course, Social Action Writing. How did that course evolve and can you tell us a bit about it?
California State University Monterey Bay, established in 1994, is the first university in the CSU system to require 30 hours of service learning at each of the lower and upper division levels. Within our interdisciplinary humanities and communication major, two such courses, “Social Action Writing” and “Creative Writing and Service Learning” (originally titled “Creative Writing for Teachers”), were developed as part of our creative writing and social action program. The focus is on learning as much as it is on service. We value the commitment our neighboring communities—Seaside, Salinas, Marina, Monterey and Pacific Grove—made to converting the former Ft. Ord to a university. Not just communities, but the neighboring counties of San Benito and Santa Cruz were also involved. We want our students to learn from this level of civic engagement, this commitment to the issues affecting our neighbors and colleagues. In “Creative Writing and Service Learning,” students focus on using creative writing to engage children’s creativity and imagination in after school and community school programs. In “Social Action Writing,” depending on the theme that semester, students might work with community partners examining substandard housing, pesticide poisoning, educational inequality, or the peace movement. Our partnerships are on-going and a vital part of our students’ education.

In a political introduction recently, Obama was described as “burning on the inside” referring to his passion for a just nation. Though I was only with you briefly, my sense is that Diana Garcia also burns on the inside. Am I right?
Injustices of any kind anger me, especially since in most cases, injustice is leveled by those with power against those who are voiceless and powerless.

What were you like as a child and what advice would you have given to that young, beautiful self?
As a child, I was a bookworm, reclusive, and living in a world of my imagination. I imagined a world of books, of teaching, of travel. I never would have imagined that all my dreams would come true, and then some!

September 25, 2012

Fall Beauty in the Desert

I’ve spent much of my life in the Chihuahua Desert of the Southwest. I’m at home in this landscape that some consider stark and bare. Yes, it gets plenty hot, but it also rains, though not often enough, and we do shiver in snow. The desert teaches me to notice: small wildflowers and the lizards I so cherish. In the fall, Santa Fe turns to gold: locust and immense cottonwood trees, sunflowers, firewheels (gaillardias), chamisa (rabbitbrush), yellow wildflowers such as golden crownbeard--all transform hills, fields, paths, gardens: suffuse them with light. I wish I could meet all of you who visit my blog. Here’s a small gift.

          A Bouquet of Wild Asters

          When nights cool,

          wild asters wriggle

          out of the desert sand, s t r e t c h

          day after day, and gradually unfold

          into surprises:

                    lavender bouquets.

                    Pat Mora ©

September 19, 2012

What Does History Teach Us?

Some months back, while skimming a magazine on a treadmill, I read an article, “The Art of Gaman” and learned that gaman in Japanese refers to “bearing the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.” The article was about a traveling exhibit (that also became a book), and I noticed that the exhibit was coming here, to Santa Fe. I saw the exhibit, and though I had read a number of articles about it, the experience was heart-breaking.

Facts seldom cause us to fully feel sorrow. The facts, that FDR issued Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, that people of Japanese descent were now officially labeled our enemies, don’t force us to ask: how did it feel to lose your rights, to be separated from your family, to live in “barracks” that were actually shacks, to be isolated, prisoners. How did families who were together strive to create a home in stark conditions? How did men in all-male camps such as one in Santa Fe draw on their emotional reserves and not only create a community, but in the various camps, create art. They taught themselves and one another to be inordinately resourceful making rings from peach pits, making beautiful wooden bird pins inspired by an article in National Geographic. The group in Santa Fe painted and wrote poetry.

And today, seventy years later, what have we learned about how we treat those who don’t look like us or who may speak another language or languages? Fear breeds hatred and heartache. How do we teach our young to learn from the past?

Watch the video "The Art of Gaman" by Smithsonian Magazine.

The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the
Japanese Internments Camps 1942-1946
by Delphine Hirasuna

September 17, 2012

Bookjoy: Developing Día for Its 17th Anniversary

Next month we will learn the 2012 winner(s) of the Estela and Raúl Mora Award. They’ll join the list of 17 other impressive, exemplary programs  since 2000. My personal theme for Día in the coming academic year is Developing Día. Zen Buddhists refer to Beginner’s Mind, the concept of trying to embark on a project with a fresh and curious mind. To all of you newbies or experienced Día planners: how can we work individually and collectively to deepen Día’s work between September and April 30th? Are we being as inclusive as we could be in building year-long partnerships with parents, schools, colleges, media, organizations, etc.? If we repeat our planning in a rote fashion, and limit that to an annual celebration, won’t we lose our initial excitement about Día’s potential? If we believe in Día’s importance as a daily commitment, día por día, day by day, how do we embrace and share progressive change?

April is the month of culminating Día book fiestas that celebrate family literacy and a year of linking all children to books, languages and cultures, but Día is not a one-day event.

An example of expanding Día comes from my friend Meryle Leonard at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Meryle and her team coined the idea of DÍA as Diversity in Action and now her collagues have instituted a Latino Task Force to increase services to the Latino families in their community. Yea to my NC friends! I'd appreciate receiving other examples of expanding Día locally or state-wide.

September 15, 2012

September E-newsletter

The September issue of the Pat Mora e-newsletter debuts a new format. Are you signed up to get it? If not, click on the sign-up image at the top left of this blog, or read the September issue online.

Image: 'Fall Fireworks'
Found on

September 11, 2012

Mora Award Judging

I'm grateful to the five dedicated REFORMA members who are currently busy reading the 2012 Estela and Raúl Mora Award  applications. Each application conveys the commitment of librarians, educators and community members willing to invest their resources and talents in spreading bookjoy, alegría en los libros. It's exciting to report that this year, we have 16 applications from 9 states: AZ,CA, CO, FL, IL, NM, NY, TX, WA. We'll announce the winner in October. I applaud and am deeply grateful to each institution that hosted a Día celebration and that took the time to submit an application. I am also, of course, grateful to the judges.

September 3, 2012

The Moon and a Poem

Love the moon? I do, especially on full-moon nights. I tend to feel a bit stunned by the beauty of that celestial radiance. Wanted to share this picture of the moon rising above the Santa Fe hills recently. Here's a companion poem from my book BORDERS(1986). Though hard, the moon seems such a benevolent body of light.



It only happened once
spinning in the desert white
with moonlight, glancing down,
rabbits, snakes, small burrowing owls
in a circle round her bare feet,
stretching too toward the moon,
snakes charmed by silent music.

Closing her eyes, feeling the pull
as they spun round
her knee, breasts, touching
her long hair, circling higher
in a funnel through which she rose
pushing upward, upward, grazing stars
with her fingertips and toes
her body light
finally curling on the moon
which circled round her
while she slept, slipped her
softly on the desert floor at dawn.

                              by Pat Mora ©  

August 30, 2012

Creativity Salon: an Interview With Poet Malena Mörling

Welcome to Bookjoy Creativity Salon, Malena! It's exciting to interview a Swedish poet now living where I do in Santa Fe, NM. I met you thanks to poet Janice Gould who was recently part of our salon. It has been such a pleasure to read fine poems in your first book Ocean Avenue. I look forward to savoring Astoria, your second book. Malena, please tell us a bit about yourself. What are you doing in New Mexico?

I live here--my family and I have lived here now for five years, which is the longest we have ever lived anywhere continuously. We came to Santa Fe in the fall of 2007 when I was invited to be a writer-in-residence at The School For Advanced Research for the school year. It became clear to us fairly soon after we arrived, that Santa Fe felt like a place where we could work, live and be. And leaving simply became impossible as the year went on. It was the first time in years that I for instance, felt perfectly at home. It is a wonderful thing to feel after years of feeling uprooted and being on the move.

You are a poet, translator, professor and mom. I’m always interested in how a busy woman creates time for her creative writing. How do you do that?
I am not entirely sure how to do anything, nor how I do and have done things. Every day is a different experience, and so is the experience of writing as well. Every time I write a poem it occurs in a different way. Writing has become a seamless part of my life, of who I am. Sometimes I write while I am doing other things, thinking about other things. Because a poem often appears when I least expect it, it is like, while out walking, coming upon a street performer after turning a corner. Every time I write something it occurs in a different way, at a different time--I think that is, in a way, what I love about writing and living. The uncertainty and the unpredictability of just how or when a poem might present itself.

 I don’t believe I’ve interviewed a translator before. How did that practice and talent evolve? What is a key challenge of translation for you?
I did not plan to begin translating. When I was an undergraduate, I was obsessed with a book of poems--it was 1933 by Philip Levine. I think he was the first living poet that I read. I must have read his book some 59 times or so and that 59th time I was reading it, I was traveling on an airplane, flying back to New York from Copenhagen and I began to hear the poems in my mind in Swedish. Maybe it was because I was still thinking in Swedish then, after having spent some weeks in Sweden. Anyway, I just wrote down the poems in Swedish next to the English originals in the book. They were quick first drafts--that I then revised for years. I just published my translation of that book in Sweden last summer. But that is how I began translating. I think one of the greatest challenges of translating is to make a poem as good or perhaps even better in the language you are translating it into, to honor, if not always the precise meaning of a poem, but maybe the urgency and or the arc of its lyrical voice. And if not that, then to attempt to bring across some other aspect of it like the formal structure, or maybe the distinct music of a poem.

And how does it feel to be a translator of Tomas Transtömer, winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature?
Oh, I was so beyond myself excited that Tomas received the Nobel Prize--he is such a profoundly resonant and influential poet. He is the most translated European poet--he has been translated into over 60 languages and has, what is unusual, a global literary presence. I also believe that I heard that he is the most translated poet into English--after Rumi, Rilke and Neruda. So I am just one of many who translate him, it is wonderful, wonderful work because I love it and I inevitably learn so much from it.

You’ve translated from Swedish to English and English to Swedish. Was one more difficult than the other?
Since I have now lived in the US more than twice as long as I lived in Sweden and since I write mostly in English, it has become a little easier for me to translate from Swedish to English than the other way around.

I’m always curious to savor the first lines of a book, the entering into a space created of words. The first lines of Ocean Avenue are such a pleasurable reading experience:
          In the shape of a human body
          I am visiting the earth;
Is there another shape in which you’d like to visit the earth?
Maybe a tree. It appeals to me to be a tree--to be rooted in the earth. Is it not what we all in a way long for? To be more rooted, more grounded in our own experience? Also maybe a mountain, that would be cool or conversely a bird since I imagine that it would be incredible to fly.

Like all good poems, yours invite re-reading and sharing. I was keenly aware of how attentive you can be: of yourself, your surroundings, and of our physical impermanence, of death. Yet, there is a quiet hopefulness in your poems as in “Three Daffodils”:
          but in the end we feed
          the earth with ourselves.
Do you sense your hopefulness?
Yes, I do. I think that I am in a sense, pretty much hopelessly hopeful. I think that I somewhere along the way must have consciously decided to be hopeful--I feel that the human world is much too negative to have yet another person contributing to its negativity. I once had a vision that what we do here in this universe does not simply occur in the space of it--it helps create it--is a seamless part of it, as much as anything else is an equal and seamless part of it.

What is particularly challenging about teaching poetry?
Possibly that I don’t quite believe in the idea or the possibility of teaching anyone anything. That teaching is not about teaching but about something else. That it is more a matter of sharing poetry and somehow engaging the students in such a way that they themselves begin to ask themselves and the world the kind of questions that are pointed enough and evocative enough to provide them with inspiration to continue reading and writing.

Has being Swedish influenced your work even when you’re not writing about anything connected with Sweden?
I am sure it has since I believe that nothing is without effect, as Somerset Maugham wrote In the Razor’s Edge. I believe that what we write is inevitably and seamlessly connected to who are, what we have experienced and so on.

Were you always a reader and did you always enjoy reading poetry?
I grew up loving to read--but never poetry, I read fiction quite steadily. I never read poetry until after I left Sweden and I went to High School in the US and my English teacher decided one day to read aloud to us T.S. Eliot’s, “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrok.” While he was reading the poem, I fell in love with poetry--I thought it was the most profoundly beautiful thing I had ever heard. I could not believe my ears, that experience changed me. That day I knew that I was going to spend my life writing poems in English, that that was what I was going to do with my life.

Visit Malena's website.

August 28, 2012

Talking About a Writing Career

This summer, Cynthia Leitich Smith began a series of "Career Builders" interviews on her Cynsations blog. This week Pat is featured talking about creativity, a writing life, success and future goals.

There's also a 4 book giveaway so stop by now.

August 15, 2012

SCBWI Announces New Award for Diverse Writers & Illustrators of Children's Books

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) announced the creation of the On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award at their 41st Annual Conference in Los Angeles. The annual award, established by SCBWI and funded by Martin and Sue Schmitt, will be given to two writers or illustrators who are from ethnic and/or cultural backgrounds that are traditionally under-represented in children’s literature in America and who have a ready-to-submit completed work for children. The purpose of the grant is to inspire and further the emergence of diverse writers and illustrators of children’s books.

August 7, 2012

Poetry, Inclusivity, and Creativity in Classrooms

Last month, I spoke at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Dr. Linda Pavonetti had invited me to visit her class, “The Author’s & Illustrator’s Art & Craft.” I was intrigued by the concept for the class. The masters students in education study the work of the visiting authors, illustrators, editors, etc. prior to the lecturer’s arrival. On the day I visited, I used my book ZING! as the basis for my PowerPoint focusing first on my books of poetry and why it’s my favorite genre as a writer. Sadly, many teachers feel hesitant to teach poetry though it’s a fine way to foster delight in language and to strengthen our writing at any age. I also stressed the importance of being inclusive of all the various parts of ourselves and of enjoying diversity in literature, colleagues and students. A key theme of my remarks was the seven practices I propose in ZING! to help nurture creativity in ourselves, our colleagues, and our pupils.

Symbols for the seven creative practices of ZING!

My flight experiences on this trip were the worst of my life (the challenge of flying these days), BUT I so enjoyed part two of the class when, after meeting in groups, the students asked me many thought-provoking questions. As educators at all levels prepare for a new academic year, I wish them excitement as they prepare to foster creativity in themselves and their students. Life’s details, technology, etc. can snare us. I find it takes daily effort to value our unique inventiveness.