A TRIBUTE TO MAYA ANGELOU, RIP.


untitled (169)A TRIBUTE TO MAYA ANGELOU by Jackie Wellington

Maya, you no longer have to be a caged bird,
confined in a tiny space,
looking out from behind those bars.

Now, your spirit is set free,
You can glide towards the moon,
sail upon the clouds,
and settle in your new home – Heaven.

I became a “Phenomenal Woman”
because you said that’s who I am.
And I believed you.

I shook hands with a “Freedom Fighter”
because you said that’s what I should do.
So I listened.

I stopped “Passing Time,”
stopped existing,
and started living.
(That was your advice to me.)

You told me, there were “Senses of Insecurity.”
“Don’t buy in to the stereotype,” you said when you recited this poem.
At that time, I lack “Communication I, Communication II,” and “Artful Pose.”

Now look at me, standing here in “Remembrance.”
Reminiscing on the life of an author, motivator, poet, actress, human rights activist, an abolitionist of mental slavery, and a wonderful human being.

You have left your imprint on the future of our nation.
The little boys and girls of all races, cultures, and ethnicities.
You will join your brothers – Martin, Marcus, Malcolm, and Mandela.
And your sisters – Rosa, Harriett, Sojourner and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Thanks for impacting my life.
Thanks for motivating me to be something bigger and better.
And thanks for being you.
Rest In Peace, Maya Angelou.

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New Challenge ~ FOOD FIGHT CHALLENGE 2014


Food Fight 2014
FOOD FIGHT CHALLENGE ENTRY 2014

I didn’t even want to go, but Momma made me.

I strolled towards the neighborhood McDonald’s lagging behind Momma and my little sister, Precious.

“You better get up here,” said Precious grabbing my hand and pulling me forward.

“Leave me alone,” I yelled, snatching my arm away. “I aine wanna come no way.”

Momma glanced in my direction. She didn’t have to say what she was thinking because the look on her face said it all.

I continued to lag behind when I heard, “You betta get yo’ narrow behine up here and stop sulking. I’m not leaving a nine year old at home by ‘imself.”

I walked faster, catching up to her and Precious. If you knew Momma, you would know that you didn’t want her to act “ethnic”; especially in public.

The McDonald’s was busy as usual. Thanks to the neighborhood high school kids who used it as their hang-out spot. Stepping through the door, the smell of french fries permeated the air and now I couldn’t wait to get something to eat. I noticed Ebony Gray moving from table to table taking selfies with her friends. She is so beautiful, I thought. Her big brown eyes, high cheekbone, and dark complexion caught my attention. Because of her, I was secretly thanking Momma for making me come along.

Ebony noticed me noticing her. She smiled, waved, and gestured for me to join her. Approaching the table, my left leg crossed my right leg. I fell. Daniel Grayson, the high school quarterback, tripped over me as he carried a tray filled with soda and french fries.

He jumped up. “Hey, you spilled my soda.”
“I’m so sorry,” I said, peeling myself off the floor. “It was an accident.”

“That mess aine gonna clean itself,” Momma bellowed, after witnessing the whole debacle. “Clean it up and get over here.”
As I began to wipe the floor, I heard, “SPLAT.” Then I heard drip-drip-drip. Daniel Grayson returned with a vengeance and I was the target.

He dumped extra large cups of soda all over me. I felt like I was standing in the bathtub taking a shower as soda ran down my body. I was drenched.

I grabbed a soda from a nearby table tossing it at him. He ducked. Ebony Grayson stood. Her white sweater was brown with Coke splash marks all over the front.

“Food Fight,” she shouted.

WRITING PICTURE BOOKS: Narrative Voice


There are many ways to write from a character’s point of view. This is referred to as the narrative voice. As I read many picture books, I realize that many are written from the third person’s point of view.

Question: How do you know it is written in third person?

Answer: The name is mentioned. Character driven books tend to be written in a formulaic way. We know the name of the character so we may connect with them immediately.

I am sharing my understanding of what I’ve learned about NARRATIVE VOICE.

When the writing is in first person, then the character uses I or we.

When the writing is in second person, the character uses you.

When the writing is in third person, the character uses name, he , she, and it, etc.

To show you what I mean, I am going to share a paragraph of my work in progress written in all three voices. This is called a HERO’S HOMECOMING. It is about a soldier coming home from the war and how his family and the community responds to his arrival. Maybe this can help clarify the three different voices.

ORIGINAL PIECE (WIP):  When you arrived from Afghanistan, you came in the middle of the night, while the children were asleep; you looked at them, and wiped the tears from your eyes, before it ran down your cheek. And I cried because you cried. “Don’t cry,” I said. “You are home now. You are safe. And I love you.” You turned, hugged me, and bawled your eyes out. “I missed you so much,” you said. And I believed you.

REWRITTEN IN FIRST PERSON:

When I arrived from Afghanistan, I came in the middle of the night, while my children were asleep. I looked at them wiping the tears from my eyes, before it ran down my cheek. My wife cried because I cried.

“Don’t cry,” she said. “You are home now. You are safe. And I love you.”

I turned, hugged her, and bawled my eyes out.

I missed you so much,” I said.

And she believed me.

WRITTEN IN SECOND PERSON:

When you arrived from Afghanistan, you came in the middle of the night, while the children were asleep. You looked at them wiping the tears from your eyes, before it ran down your cheek. And I cried because you cried.

“Don’t cry,” I said. “You are home now. You are safe. And I love you.”

You turned, hugged me, and bawled your eyes out.

“I missed you so much,” you said.

And I believed you.

WRITTEN IN THIRD (3rd) PERSON:

When Sergeant Jackson arrived from Afghanistan, he came in the middle of the night while his children were asleep. He looked at them wiping the tears from his eyes, before it ran down his cheek. His wife cried because he cried.

“Don’t cry,” she said. “You’re home now. You’re safe. And I love you.”

He turned, hugged her, and bawled his eyes out.

“I missed you so much,” he said.

And she believed him.

This was my understanding of narrative voice. As I write, I realize that I write more plot-driven stories than character-driven stories.  Next post will be PLOT-DRIVEN versus CHARACTER DRIVEN.

Why Governor Christie Should Read Picture Books


Picture Book Referral to the Governor of New Jersey: THE GIVING TREE by Shel Silverstein

I read a blog post this morning from Melissa Tomlinson, a New Jersey teacher who visited Governor Christie on his campaign trailed and had a “not-so-nice-encounter” with the politician. Here is an excerpt in my writer way. If I was writing it in a scene in my book.  This is how it would play out (This is a rough draft).

SCENE: Main Character is the teacher. This  is written in her voice.

I have never really heard him speak before. The governor that is. At least not in real life. Just the bits and pieces I’ve heard from sound bytes compliments of my computer. I can’t afford all the fancy stuff – cable, newspaper, time – not on my salary. It’s just not in the budget. I am teacher. I work sixty hours a week, but my paycheck reflects only forty. Go figure. These are the days I questioned why am I doing this? Am I really making a difference? Are my students learning anything? But then I remembered all the good teachers I had, and I wanted to be just like them.

I work for the New Jersey public schools. We don’t have everything we need, but we are surviving. And according to the Governor, “New Jersey Public Schools are failure factories.” His words danced around in my head like a child on a carousel – spinning and spinning and spinning. I came face to face with him after waiting what seem to be an eternity to make his acquaintance.

“Any questions?” he asked overlooking the crowd like Queen Elizabeth at a Coronation ceremony.  Many hands raised and questions asked. I listened intently turning my head to see who was asking questions and glancing back to hear the governor’s response.

“I have a question!” I raised my hand high waiting to be acknowledged by the governor. He glanced in my direction, nodded to the man beside him, then motioned for me to ask my question. “I wanted to know why you portray NJ Public Schools as failure factories?”

The words danced off my lips and the knot in my stomach untied itself fleeing my body. But it was not over. The governor’s face grew red, angry, and big like a pumpkin waiting to be carved on Halloween. He swung around.

“What do you want?” he asked raising his voice three octaves above the sound of the crowd.

I froze thinking about my response. The last time I felt this humiliated, I was in Kindergarten. It was the first day of school and my Mother left me with a bunch of strangers without warning. I gathered my thoughts, stood tall, inhaled before responding. “I want more money for my students.”

The cheering of the crowd sent a spark of fire in my soul. I felt triumphant. I defeated the big scary giant in my path. Now I know how –  David felt when he slayed Goliath, Jack when he cut down the Beanstalk, and Joan of Arc leading her Army to victory. But the excitement was short-lived. The giant gained strength pulling out squashing techniques from his bully bag perched on the podium shelf. It was over. I was whipped, beaten, and defeated.

You may read the true story here: A Letter to Governor Christie of New Jersey

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IT’S OFFICIAL…I AM A NaNoWriMo PARTICIPANT


I completed my registration for National Novel Writing Month.  My November will be busy which is great. The devil will not have time to play in my playground. With PiBoIdMo, National Picture Book Month celebration, and NaNoWriMo, I will be busy staying creative. This is going to be good.

 

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BURIED SECRET: CHAPTER 1


“What do we have here?” A husky, elderly man standing behind the counter smiled, reached over, and lifted my bag.

“They’re books.” I punched my number in the check-out key-pad calling each by name.

“I know they’re books. You’re in a library at the check-out desk.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out – they’re books.”

He made air quotes when he said “they’re books” and emptied my bag examining each book before waving the check-out stick over each of them.  “You have some fine choices here.”

Handing me three of my five books, he slipped the other two off to the side. “Can I have those two, please?”

He smiled gaping at the book with the bull on the cover. “Ferdinand.  I didn’t think kids read this anymore.” Flipping through pages, he paused to admire the ones with pictures and a smile of admiration covered his face.  Then he lowered his plump body in the brown leather chair reading the book aloud like he was a teacher in a kindergarten classroom.

“Are you going to let me check those books out or what?” I reached over the desk gazing at him still seated in the chair. He stood up, removed a handkerchief from his top pocket, and dabbed the corner of his eyes. Then he waved the check-out stick over the remaining books before handing them to me. “I’m sorry.  This just took me back in time when I was a -.”    He stopped in the middle of his sentence wiping away the tears forming in his eyes. I took my books, crammed them in my bag, and sat in an empty chair by the door waiting for my sister, Claudia.  She waddled towards me, hunched over, carrying a tower of books.

Claudia loved to read.  If it has words on the page, you best believe she’ll be reading it.  In a quote from her Facebook page, “I’m an equal opportunist when it comes to books.  I read it all – big books, little books, books with pictures, books without pictures, books about real people, books about fake people. I read it all.”   As a result of reading so much, Claudia thinks she knows everything.  Daddy and Momma said reading is a good thing.  But when Claudia starts correcting them, then Daddy said, “That girl reads too much!”

“Did you find all the books Lucy told you about?” asked Claudia.

“They had all the books except the “The Enchanted Castle” by the Nesbitt lady and The Tower of Treasures by that Franklin guy.”

“How do you expect to find the books if you don’t even know the names of the authors.  Did you ask the librarian?”

“No. I checked the shelf and they weren’t there.”

“Go asked a librarian. We are trying to solve a mystery.  The clues are in the books.  Go find the books!”   Claudia stumbled to the desk with gazillion books in her hands. But before unloading them, she followed my every move with her beady little eyeballs.

“Find a librarian, go!” she bellowed across the library like she was searching for me at an amusement park.

“Shhh! This is a no talking zone.” The man at the counter pointed to a sign before reaching over and taking the books from Claudia’s arm. “I’m sorry young lady, but you can only check out five books at a time.”

“Five books? I’ll be finished with those in a half-a-day.  What am I supposed to do with the other half of my day?” Claudia walked to the end of the counter, chose two more books, adding them to her pile.   Two boys watched from a distance before strolling to the counter. They stood patiently watching Claudia browse the book rack at the end of the counter.  The tallest boy blew his curly dark hair from his eyes. “Are you almost done?”

“Does it look like I’m done?” Claudia continued to browse the rack of graphic novels before grabbing two more books adding them to her batch. She moved back to the front of the counter staring at the boys.

“I‘m sorry to upset you,” said the librarian, “but five books. That’s the rule.”

“Change the rule.  I want to read.  I will read.  And you will not stop me. In Chicago, you can check out like thirty books at a time.”

“Well this is not Chicago.  It’s Wade City, Florida.  And here, our rule states five books.”

Claudia walked towards the boys in the line, took their books, and read the titles out loud – “Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Wonder, and Extra Yarn.” She looked at the man, then the boys, and back to the man.

“I have an idea. Since they can check out five books each and they each have less than five, I will take their additional book checkout.”

“It doesn’t work like that,” said the man. “They have to check their books out, you cannot use their accounts.”

“We’re family. Look at us. See the resemblance. They’re black and we’re black.  See…Family.”

“We’re not black,” the short boy interjected hiding behind the tall one. “We’re Mexicans.”

“Mexicans, blacks, we’re all the same.  The white man stole Texas from your people, stole America from the Native Americans, and stole Black people from Africa. Then they forced black people to work the stolen land and pay your people half what they would pay regular people. Then they beat and torture black people when they tried to get freedom. Then they turned around and promised black people forty-acres and mule-which we are still waiting on.  And now since those things weren’t bad enough, now you’re telling me there is a law that doesn’t want me to read.”

“Fine.  Just take ‘em.” The librarian annoyed by Claudia’s spontaneous American History lecture, threw his hands up, and gathered the books in one big pile. “The kids ‘round here never check the books out anyways.”

Claudia punched her number in the key-pad. He waved the check-out stick over the books and handed them to her.  “Bring ‘em back in 28 days.”

“I’ll have them back in 10. By the way, where can I find some information about the farm on Elm Street?”

The man took a deep breath, rolled his eyes, and grabbed a bunch of books from under the desk.  He loaded them on a rolling cart and pushed the cart between two aisles lined with picture books.  Then he motioned for us to follow along which Claudia gladly obliged.  Standing in the sections separated by alphabets, he found the authors’ names, and slid the books in their places on the shelf.

Claudia scribbled on a piece of paper.    “What are you doing?” I asked taking her backpack throwing it around my shoulders.

“I’m taking notes.  Good detectives asked questions and take notes. That’s what we do.”

“Are you guys coming?” The man asked grabbing another handful of books sliding them on the shelf.  Claudia and I caught up to him, but I was the only one who offered assistance. I handed him the books from the cart one by one. He found its place on the shelf, and sliding it into its spot. “Okay,” he said. “Ask away. What do you want to know?”

“I want to know about a girl who used to live around here long time ago.”

“Young lady, you have to be more specific than that.  This is a town and a lot of girls used to live around here long time ago.” He reached over, took a handful of books from my hands, and lowered himself to stack them on the ground shelf.

“I think she might have been murdered.” As Claudia uttered the words, the man fell backwards knocking the cart over sending books flying in the air.  Books landed everywhere – floor, tables, and other shelves.  He hurriedly gathered them and walked fast along the aisle. His face paled like a vampire drained five pints of blood from his vein.

“Hey man, you a’ight?” I asked collecting the remaining books lying on the floor handing them to him.  He snatched the books, avoided making eye contact, and walked briskly almost running away from us.

“I, I, I don’t think I can help you.” He said headed towards the double door in the back.

“Well, will you please point us in the direction of someone who can?” Claudia asked closing her notepad. She put the cover over the point of the pen and put both of them in her purse.  Claudia giggled as she watched the man disappeared in the back of the library.

“What’s so funny?” I asked. “Why are you laughing?”

“This is no ordinary laugh.  This is the laugh of progress. We just had our first break in the case.”