Meet me at the Old Homestead for a Writing Retreat!

October 10-13, I’ll be presenting at the Highlights Foundation in Boyds Mills, PA at the Writing for All Young Readers retreat. If you’ve never heard of the Highlights Foundation, you’ve probably heard of Highlights Magazine, right?

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(If not, you may not have been to the dentist often enough. Check it out and order a subscription for your favorite little one!)

The Highlights Foundation exists to support great literature for children. And they do everything they can to support authors, illustrators, and creators of content for kids. My own writing career began at a Highlights conference back in 2005.

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Patricia McKissack had a profound impact on me at the 2005 Highlights Conference.

The conference center at Boyds Mills is where Highlights magazine began and is always a treat to be at (especially for the food!) But I’m so excited about this workshop because we get to cover SO MUCH content for anyone who wants to write for young readers (see the agenda) and my co-presenters are also graduates of the conference I attended in 2005 and we get to reunite. Kelly and Crystal are two of the most successful writers I know (altogether we’ve published over 30 books since 2005) and I love learning from them every time we’re together.

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Kelly Starling Lyons
Crystal Allen
Crystal Allen

If you’ve ever wanted to write for young readers, this is the workshop you’ve been waiting for.

Here’s a little video (with one of my favorite Highlights elves, Alison) to whet your appetite! You still have time to join us!

On Representation

One of the questions that has come up about Papa Put A Man on the Moon is the representation of African-Americans in the book given that Slater, SC is a southern mill village.

The history of the United States, and the South in particular, is one of harsh injustice in relation to the treatment of African-Americans. And truth be told, Slater was no stranger to some of those injustices. But in other ways, Slater, SC was a bit of an anomaly among southern towns. The mill itself was integrated earlier than some other industries and there were opportunities in the mill village, including sports, movies, and activities for all races. The mill’s production of the all-important Beta-cloth that was used in the astronauts’ spacesuits was integrated with both races working on that cloth.

In Papa Put a Man on the Moon, my editor and I didn’t want to promote an inaccurate or romanticized view of race relations in the community; however, in my research I discovered a deep sense of belonging to the community by both races. It felt wrong to ignore that sense of belonging by limiting the representation in the book to only white people. As the Cruell sisters say in the video below, “It wasn’t strange for us to come together, ’cause my dad knew their dad.” They all had access to “the building,” which was placed there by the mill in the 1930’s. Ignoring that connection in Papa would have meant ignoring a history that, while imperfect, made Slater, SC a home for both races.

I am particularly grateful for the Cruell family’s words in this video. So many of my own childhood memories are from exploring and playing and celebrating on that mill hill and their words show me that our love for and connection to this place is human and unifying. That connection doesn’t erase all of history’s sins, but it unites us at the heart level. And I am grateful to have been able to celebrate that love and connection in PAPA PUT A MAN ON THE MOON.

Discover more in this video from the Slater Hall Historical Society, which includes a bit from many voices who grew up with a deep sense of belonging to “the hill.” As Rachel Austin says in the video, “That’s the difference between ‘Southern’ and ‘Slater.'”

In the news!

With the anniversary of the moon landing coming up on July 20, 2019, Papa Put a Man on the Moon has been featured recently in the news!

Hubpages includes a review and an interview with me here.

The Southern Indie Bookseller’s Alliance named PAPA as a Spring 2019 Okra Pick!

Geek Dad offers a review and a couple more details in a footnote about the subcontractors involved in manufacturing all it took to put a man on the moon.

And here are two round-ups of moon books that will round out your reading as we lead up to the anniversary of the moon landing! Growing Readers offers both books about the moon landing and informational books about the moon. And Read Aloud Revival offers a podcast full of a variety of engaging books to read aloud about the moon landing.

And the Washington Post included PAPA in an article about books to celebrate Father’s Day!

COMING SOON: Papa Put a Man on the Moon

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My family has a long history in a little mill village in Slater, SC. My mama grew up there with her two sisters, Kathy and Elizabeth. My grandparents, Kathryn and Oscar, lived there in a little house on Webster Street where we celebrated many Easters, Thanksgivings, Christmases, birthdays, and regular days, somehow fitting family and extended family and friends into a five-room house.

I remember walking to the general store to buy penny candy. If someone happened to be sitting on their porch as I passed by, they knew me, even though I had never lived on that hill.

The families that lived on that hill mostly lived there for generations. Many of them worked at the J.P Stevens textile mill that had given birth to the community back when companies built housing for their employees and owned all the stores in town too. My own grandparents, aunts, uncles, and parents all worked in the textile mill at one time or another. I remember visiting my grandmother Kathryn when she worked as a switchboard operator, right inside the entrance of the mill. Yes, an actual manual switchboard at which she pulled corded plugs and inserted them into the appropriate jacks to connect the caller to the correct extension. It seems like something that should have been before my lifetime, but no, I remember it clear as day. My papa had several different stints at the mill too, in between other jobs. The mill and the community center provided by the company were the center of this community.

In the late 1950s, as cotton mills moved to Asia, the Slater mill turned toward production of fiberglass fabric, a move that would eventually provide them with a government contract to produce Beta-cloth, a special fabric engineered by Dr. Frederick Dawn of NASA. The Beta-cloth would be used as one layer in the spacesuits of the astronauts who would land on the moon. This was a secret project and only a few workers at the mill were chosen for it. Those that did were grateful for the work and for the ability to continue making a living at what they knew and what they did best.

It wasn’t until Neil Armstrong actually stepped onto the moon that Slater, SC even began to consider its role in this monumental American achievement. And even then, some of the impact on this community was lost to history until recently.

This is the story of the legacy of one community, written to honor the hundreds of thousands of hands in many factories across the United States that “touched the face of the moon” through their work ethic in weaving, building, and fabricating the pieces and parts that were required to put a man on the moon.

I feel privileged to have the opportunity to share this story with the world.

Coming from Dial Books for Young Readers in May 2019, written by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Sarah Green.

My Picture Book Process and a Corny Joke or Two

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Colego FDR — The American School of Lima, Peru

 

For aspiring picture book writers (or for picture book readers!) I was recently interviewed by Brian Humek and he got me to spill the beans on one of my forthcoming books, and somehow managed to get me to expose my corny sense of humor. Also: I pontificate about self-promotion, the joy of teaching, and something most people don’t know about me!

Check out the interview at http://www.gotinterviews.com/interview-picture-book-author-kristy-dempsey/.

School Visits 2016-2017: Superheroes around the World!

So during my leave of absence from my job at the American School of Belo Horizonte during the 2016-2017 school year, I had the opportunity to do presentations in schools around the world.  Thank you to the amazing students, teachers, librarians, and parents I had the privilege of visiting with this year! Wanna see how much fun we had? Here are pics from just some of the SUPER schools I visited. (And if you’re interested in having me visit your school this year, I have a few open dates! Email me at kristydempseybooks @ gmail.com).

 

 

Why I Will Be Working Today

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Last fall, I visited a school to talk about adventure and how to live a daring life, a life that could change the world. And to be honest, most of the examples I gave were about quiet courage and daily actions that would likely never make the news. After the presentation, I had a few extra moments with one particular class while they waited their turn to file out of the cafeteria. We chatted and then I got lots of hugs as they stood up to leave. I remember telling them that I think the most important quality they can have as learners is a sense of wonder and expectation about the world. A sense of hope for the future.

I’m thinking about those kids today, about who they will each become and about how they will change their world. I won’t be watching the inauguration, not for any grand protest, but because I’ve got some work to finish. The work I need to do is the same today as it was yesterday as it will be tomorrow. This world is filled with both beauty and brokenness. And these kids — all kids — need books that celebrate beauty and mend brokenness. Sometimes the best way to live a daring life is to quietly shine a light on that which is beautiful AND on that which is broken. So whichever you are doing today, I’m with you. Shine on, friends.

Upcoming School Visits and Conferences

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I may soon be at a school or conference near you! I still have lots of open dates if you would like to book a school visit. I also have some pending and unconfirmed dates at schools that I haven’t listed here, so be sure to check with me for specific dates.

January 12, 2017: Pelham Road Elementary, Greenville, SC

January 21-23, 2017: American Library Association Mid-Winter meeting, Atlanta, GA

January 25, 2017: Mitchell Road Elementary, Greenville, SC

February 10, 2017: Paris Elementary, Greenville, SC

February 13, 2017: Bell’s Crossing Elementary, Greenville, SC

February 24, 2017: Oakland Elementary, Greenville, SC

February 25 – March 6, 2017: American School of Guatemala and Colegio Maya, Guatemala City, Guatemala

March 8-10, 2017: International School of Panama, Panama City, Panama

March 24-25, 2017: SCASL meeting, Greenville, SC

April 18, 2017: Oakview Elementary, Greenville, SC

May 2-4, 2017: The American School of Lima, Lima, Peru

 

 

 

Two thumbs (Ten fingers!) Up

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So happy about this School Library Journal review (below) for Ten Little Fingers, Two Small Hands! The book releases in just a couple of weeks: July 5, 2016! I have always been in love with books for the very smallest readers. The babies in these pages are adorably illustrated by Jane Massey and I think this book makes a perfect baby shower gift. Will it be obnoxious of me to give my own book to all the babies-to-be-born for years to come? Here’s even more good news: Ten Little Toes, Two Small Feet follows in November!

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School Library Journal:

Toddler-PreS—This ode to delightfully dimpled hands is the stuff laptime snuggles are made of. A simple rhyming text describes toddlers’ hands as little ones play, wait for treats, eat, and clean up. The fresh, child-friendly illustrations are spot-on. Adults will appreciate the easy to read verses like “One last bite, then arms up high!/Wash two hands and pat them dry.” Little listeners will be comforted by the familiar scenarios and are sure to recognize themselves in the group of diverse faces. The simple finger-counting framework facilitates learning numbers without detracting from the appeal. VERDICT A solid choice. Purchase this hardcover edition, or wait for the board book so it can be zealously enjoyed by two small hands.—Jenna Boles, Greene County Public Library, Beavercreek, OH