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September 2019

Time for a shift, I think. I'm guessing most, if not all of you follow me on social media. If that's true, you probably don't need a newsletter from me that rehashes what happened in the previous month. Assuming I'm right, I've decided, instead, to use my newsletter to let you know what's on my mind, what works I have in progress, and other tidbits that I usually don't share on social media, for one reason or another. I'll also include poems you won't see anywhere else. Sound good? Okay.

  Lee Bennett Hopkins and Toni Morrison

Lee Bennett Hopkins is on my mind, big time. How could he not be? He was not only a colleague and friend but he was a staunch champion of my work for all the years I knew him. I miss his impish smile, his unbridled laughter, and his huge heart. That's a lot to miss. I'm grateful he left so much literature behind for all of us to enjoy. So glad I got to be a part of some of his anthologies. Also feeling lucky that he introduced me to Elizabeth Harding at Curtis Brown, Ltd., the best agent I could ever have hoped for. Sigh.

Toni Morrison is on my mind, too. I was fortunate enough to know her back when she didn't even dare call herself a novelist, even after writing two novels, including Sula! Hard to imagine, isn't it? She was a great encouragement to me, as a young writer. At the time, my focus was still on adult literature. It would be a few years before I dipped my toe into literature for children and young adults.

I have to say, as an author for young readers working in today's world of school lockdowns, mass shootings, and the resurgence of the Klu Klux Klan, I shudder when someone suggests the need for picture books and chapter books that address these topics, books that might help children feel safe or normal, books that can help them navigate these new realities. I won't lie, the very notion crushes me sometimes. But in response, I have contributed to anthologies on resistance, collections that are broaching some of these tough topics. Will I ever pen a novel that take these topics on? I can't say. I'll see what calls to me.

Was so glad to finally meet Elizabeth Zunon at ALA, a few years ago. She's always at the top of my list when it comes time to find an illustrator for one of my projects!
Sneak peek Bedtime for Sweet Creatures, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

For now, I'll take Ordinary Hazards on the road, a book that's all about darkness and light, and I'll finish Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance, a companion to One Last Word, published by Bloomsbury.

I also have two new picture books headed to bookstores in 2020. Bedtime for Sweet Creatures, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, is one of them.

Also on the horizon is Southwest Sunrise, illustrated by the one and only Wendell Minor. And yes, when it comes to illustrators, I'm completely spoiled.

Wendell and I have wanted to do a book together for years. Eventually, we tired of waiting for a publisher to pair us, so we decided to work on something ourselves. We're both in love with the landscape of the Southwest. I visit Santa Fe and Taos as often as possible, sometimes managing twice in a single year. Loving the region as we both do, we created a picture book on the subject. It comes out next spring. We hope you'll like it!

Nikki Grimes and Wendell Minor
Nikki and Wendell, together at last! So looking forward to signing copies of our book together at upcoming bookstores and literary festivals. Wendell and I snapped this when we connected at the Hudson Children's Book Festival in the spring. At next year's festival, we'll get to sign Southwest Sunrise!
Surprise! A spread from Southwest Sunrise!

Ordinary HazardsI'm headed out for my Ordinary Hazards Book Tour soon. Check out my tour schedule and see if I'm coming to your area. Hope to see some of you on the road!

All for now.

From Nikki's Journal

The poet carries
a torch of words
into the gathering gloom,
piercing the path
with star-shine.
Sinister as Darkness may be,
he/she cannot overcome
the Light.

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Nikki Grimes

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