A Prize and a Promise: My Year of Writing Dangerously

Toby surveys multiple translations of Manjhi Moves a Mountain from Room to Read, a non-profit based in San Francisco, dedicated to getting books to kids in literature-deprived communities in the language they speak.

Toby surveys multiple translations of Manjhi Moves a Mountain from Room to Read, a non-profit based in San Francisco, dedicated to getting books to kids in literature-deprived communities in the language they speak.

It’s been a big, thrilling year for me. This marks the first year of my taking the plunge into being a full-time children’s book writer. My seventh book, Beautiful Shades of Brown, the Art of Laura Wheeler Waring, is at the printer for a Feb. 2020 release. My eighth book, For Spacious Skies, Katharine Lee Bates and the Inspiration for “America the Beautiful” will be going to the printer this month for an April 2020 release.

On Friday, I fly to New York City to accept the Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice Award for Manjhi Moves a Mountain — an award that the Westchester Library Association gives out once every two years. My fellow honorees include Jane Yolen, Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman, Emily Jenkins, Carmen Deedy and Oge Mora! You can be sure I’ll be packing translations that Room to Read did for kids in India, Sri Lanka and the African continent as well as the Braille translation published by the National Braille Press.

Where I’ll be Saturday, Sept. 14!

Where I’ll be Saturday, Sept. 14!

On Sunday, I’ll head over to the Hillcrest Jewish Center in Queens to share Irving Berlin, the Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing and Martin & Anne, the Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank with the students there. Irving Berlin is a 2019 Sydney Taylor Notable and 2019 Social Studies Trade Book for Young People Notable. My amazing year with Martin & Anne, a book that looks at the parallel stories of these great spirits, both born in 1929, kicked off with The Ruby Bridges Reading Festival at the National Civil Rights Museum in May and the Tulisoma South Dallas Book Fair at the African American Museum in Dallas in August and continues with presentations at the Jewish Community Center in Dallas and the National Conference of NYC Public School Librarians at CitiField in Queens in November.

I’ll return Sunday to a busy schedule of writing, of Skype and in person Author Visits and supporting fellow writers through my work for SCBWI-North Texas, my Non-Fiction Ninjas group and my Book Meshuggenahs group. I’ll also start teaching the first of my two six-week online classes on picture book biographies for The Writing Barn starting Tuesday. I’ve been working hard this week, preparing Power Points for the class, distilling the best of what I have learned on my journey into six cogent lessons. Well, actually, I’ve created five detailed lessons and left the sixth open for critiques and questions aimed at helping my students get their manuscripts where they want them to be.

I’ll be teaching two six-week online picture book biography classes for The Writing Barn in Austin.

I’ll be teaching two six-week online picture book biography classes for The Writing Barn in Austin.

So what have I learned? Lots of craft, to be sure, but also courage, passion and love. I’m increasingly aware that as I write about the journeys of those I admire, I am on my own hero quest. Every book is a step into a void where I’m creating something that didn’t exist before. Every book comes with challenges, dangers, moments when it may seem that the goal is beyond my grasp. Every book asks me to persevere, to part doubts like brambles blocking my way and disregard scratches and tears until I find my heart beating in rhythm with that of my subject’s. Only then can I hope to craft a tale that young readers will want to take, with stories that may beat in rhythm with their hearts. I write in the hope that these stories will bring a little light to them in their journeys that I may never see, that I may have but a glimmer of knowing, of sensing.

It’s been a big, wonderful, glorious responsibility, this year of writing dangerously. I am grateful to be on this quest and will strive every day to be worthy of it.

Beautiful Shades of Brown, the Art of Laura Wheeler Waring, illustrated by Felicia Marshall, is at the printers and will be released Feb. 5, 2020.

Beautiful Shades of Brown, the Art of Laura Wheeler Waring, illustrated by Felicia Marshall, is at the printers and will be released Feb. 5, 2020.

You will find teacher’s guides, resources, trailers, projects here on nancychurnin.com

Come visit me on Facebook at Nancy Churnin Children’s Books and The Book Meshuggenahs, on the Non-Fiction Ninjas website; on Twitter @nchurnin and Instagram @nchurnin. You can book me for an Author Visit at authorsandmore.com.