“Love, or the lack of it, is the root of everything.” ~Mister Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor
Fred Rogers was a life-long Republican. He saved PBS by testifying before Congress. He accepted all people. He cared about the arts, education, and feelings. Imagine the world today if he ran the GOP.
Because my travel plans were derailed this week, I’m in New York City instead of D.C. today. I’ll be joining March for Our Lives in my hometown, standing up for an end to gun violence and safer world for all of us, especially our young people. They are our future and I want them to have every opportunity to build a life they’re happy to live. This video by Veterans for Gun Reform articulates exactly the message we need to send to all of our policy makers.
“When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” ~Alexander den Heijer
In a classroom, if a student’s not thriving, our education system too often assumes that there’s something wrong with the child. Imagine what we could achieve in just one generation if we could instead see all children the way a gardener sees flowers: as something we cherish, nurture, and encourage. What a world, right? Let’s change the system so all children can thrive.
This week I was watching an episode of Cosmos, and Neil deGrasse Tyson told the story of how Carl Sagan invited him to Ithaca when Tyson was just 17 years old and growing up in the Bronx. Sagan encouraged him to pursue his passion in science. It was a pivotal moment in Tyson’s life, a moment he’s never forgotten.
That’s the power of mentorship, of caring about the future and the success of young people. Carl Sagan had plenty of other ways to spend his time. He chose to make time to help young people, to support their dreams and aspirations, to share his love for science.
Whatever your talents, I hope you’ll find a way to use them to help our youngest generations. They need us, and we need them.
A story of acceptance and community told from the perspective of a wise 216-year-old northern red oak tree named Red, I read the book Wishtree in one delicious (or is it deciduous) sitting. I laughed, I cried, and I was happy / sad when it was over. This is the book the world needs now more than ever. Pun-filled tree humor provides the laughter than opens the way to understanding that diversity is the key to a healthy, thriving society. Nature knows that. Nature has always known that. And it’s time for us to embrace it, too.
A new Muslim family moves into the neighborhood and faces the ugliest side of human nature. The power of friendship, bravery, and history are woven together in this tale, part magic, part science, and all love. In Applegate’s own words, there is a special kind of power in being able to stand tall and reach deep in all circumstances. Leave it to children’s literature to teach us (adults and children alike) to be the very best people we can be.
I’m so excited to be a part of this program!
Press release: 826NYC is proud to announce its first-ever cohort of Teaching Artists! These dynamic and experienced writers and educators will be running our in-schools and partnership residencies across New York City. Each residency ranges from 4-8 sessions in length and culminates in an anthology of student work, which is professionally designed and printed for distribution.
The cohort includes writers and artists from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the Watermill Center, the Minnesota Prison Writers Workshop, and more.
Learn more about Christa Avampato, Maryann Aita, Cameron Crawford, Joss Lake, Jason Leahey, Fatima Farheen Mirza, Krystal Reddick, and Helena Smith. Learn more about them here!
Last night I had the great pleasure to chat with Jed Doherty. We spoke about my young adult book, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, that will be released on November 1st. With his podcast Reading With Your Kids, Jed is on a mission to promote children’s and young adult literature as well as the act of parents and their kids reading together and discussing books. I’m so honored to be a guest on his podcast, and our interview will be published soon. In the mean time, listen to many of the other fantastic interviews that he’s has done with authors including Lizette Lantigua, Brent A. Ford, and Jenny Ford.
It took me some time to write the author’s note for my book and I decided to structure it as a letter to young adult readers. I wanted to tell them why I wrote this book for them and to let them know that their creativity and ideas are important to me, and to the world. Here it is. (https://emersonpage.com is under construction and coming soon!)
Dear young adult,
I wrote this book for you for many reasons. One of the biggest is that we don’t have enough women and girls at the center of young adult literature. So few books feature female protagonists, and there are almost no books in which a female protagonist takes control of her own life and destiny. As a young adult, I wanted someone to listen to me, to see me. Really listen to my ideas, my hopes, and my dreams, and care enough to understand how I saw the world. And I wanted someone to believe that I could make my dreams happen.
That hope brought Emerson Page into my imagination. A teenager who builds her own path through resilience, courage, and confidence, her touchstones are love and compassion. She’s strong and brave, and she cares about others—exactly the heroine I wish I had when I was her age. She’s the heroine you deserve to have now, and I’m so excited for you to meet her.
I want you to believe in the power of your creative spirit. It’s my greatest wish for you that you live the most beautiful lives you can imagine. Develop your mind, your heart, and your hands. They are the three most powerful tools you have to build a better world, one of your own design. You can’t always choose what happens to you. You can always choose your energy level, enthusiasm, and sense of hopefulness, and they will carry you through difficult times.
Life will undoubtedly hand you setbacks. When that happens, don’t give up. Make the setback mean something. Use it as fuel to work even harder. I always wanted to write a book and have it published. That has been one of my biggest dreams. I spent five years thinking about Emerson, writing down notes and ideas here and there. Then I spent two years writing her story, and another year pitching it and getting it through production.
Fourteen people rejected this book before I found my publisher. (And those are just the ones who bothered to send a rejection reply at all. Many others never even did that.) Don’t be afraid of rejection. Learn from it, but don’t let it stop you from moving forward. Your ideas have merit. Keep looking for the people who appreciate you, and don’t stop until you find them. You find what you look for. Believing is seeing. The book you hold in your hands right now is proof that dreams do come true so long as you don’t give up.
This book is also about community, and the power we have when we believe in ourselves and in others. Be good to each other. And when you see someone in crisis, don’t walk by. Help. You would want that help if the tables were turned, and someday they will be. Life is about give and take, and I’ve found that the more I give, the more it comes back to me.
More than anything, this book tells the story of a young woman finding her way in a world that is often confusing and frustrating. The same thing happens to us from time to time at every age. When that happens to me, I look to the stars. They remind me that we’re literally surrounded by miracles. That we are miracles. We are the stars and the stars are us, and we’re all connected.
When Jasper explains Emerson’s ancestry to her in the Library of Imagination, when Samuel sits with Max in the Crooked Willow Café, and when Nora finds Truman in the In-between, an adult is supporting and encouraging a young person who feels alone. No matter how old you are, I hope this book makes you feel less alone.
Whenever I feel down about the state of society, I remember that you will one day be in the driver’s seat, and that helps me to keep going. You are the hope and light of this world. I’m cheering you on and I’m rooting for you. I believe in your value and the value of your ideas. The world needs you.
I always welcome the chance to connect with readers; it’s one of the best things about being a writer. I look forward to the conversation.
Wishing you the most magical life you can imagine,
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For mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, teachers, mentors, and friends who have played an important role in the lives of children—thank you. To those who are with us, those soon-to-be, those who have passed on, and those who have lost children they love. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you. By investing time and love into a child, you have built a better world. Whenever I feel down about the state of society, I remember that those who are young now will one day be in the driver’s seat. There is always hope, there is always light, so long as we dedicate time to children and help them grow up to live the most beautiful lives they can imagine.
Today I’m writing the Author’s Note for my book and I’m framing it as a letter to young adults to explain why I wrote the book. It’s akin to the idea of writing a letter to my younger self, specifically my 13-year-old self since my protagonist, Emerson Page, is 13 in the book. If you could give your 13-year-old self advice, what would you say?