Ashley Franklin

Have a Heart: Using Children’s Literature to Create More Dynamic and Inclusive Classroom Discussions (Part 1)

On April 28, 2019, I had the honor of doing my very first conference presentation. The occasion: AAIM (Arkansas Association of Instructional Media) 2019. My presentation was well-received (THANK YOU!), so I wanted to share it as a series of blog posts for anyone interested, who wanted a recap, or who might have missed it. I hope these posts encourage you to think about your role in helping to shape our youths’ minds as they learn the truly transformative power of books.

My First Conference: AAIM

What’s on your bookshelf?

A Deceptively Simple Question

“What’s in your wallet?” -Capital One

Commercials have to work extra hard today in order to be memorable. Let’s be honest. Most of us skip them whenever we’re able. However, let’s not overlook the beauty of this question. The basic answer is not truly the goal–money, cash, credit/ debit cards, and many a tiny picture of a loved one if you haven’t gone fully digital.

But that’s truly not the goal. The goal is to get you to question if what’s in your wallet is doing its job. Is it meeting your needs? Is it fulfilling its purpose? And if it’s not, what do you plan to do about it?

Today, my librarian friends, I want to ask a question of you that’s essential to your profession: “What’s on your bookshelf?”

By taking a closer look at the children’s literature on your shelves, you’ll be able to assess if your collections are:

  • Meeting your students’ needs
  • More reflective of your personal tastes than the tastes of your students
  • Providing students with the emotional tools to navigate their environments
  • Instrumental in starting and/or continuing difficult conversations

and of course, helping students to have a heart.

The Beginning

Thanks to constant rezoning and the uptick of fairly homogeneous neighborhoods, children’s literature could be a child’s first encounter with someone from another culture. For many children, those first literary experiences are rooted in fairytales.

**Coming in Part 2: Fairytales, the work of Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s, and restructuring your bookshelves**

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When a girl who has no agent starts looking for one

This is it! I’m back in the query trenches. Don’t roll your eyes. Yes, I know that there are plenty of writers out there who are in the trenches. I know that there are plenty of writers who have been in the trenches for quite some time. What makes me so special? I never spent that much time in the trenches in the first place! That’s why I am currently terrified. When I pushed send yesterday, I felt physically ill. And this isn’t be trying to be poetic or speaking in hyperbole.
Before landing my last agent, I’d queried maybe 10 agents (15 tops, but I think 10 is pretty accurate). Then, thanks to that whole flood thing, I’d all but given up. I got an agent thanks to a Twitter event that I entered at the last minute.
Now, here I am looking for a new agent. It’s different this time because I now know how brutal querying can be.
I’m also different this time around. Now, I have an idea of what qualities in an agent. Before, I just wanted one. I wasn’t picky. Another difference: I guess I’m considered pre-published since my debut picture book is scheduled to come out Summer of 2019. I’m also not querying picture books this time around. Nope! I’m querying a chapter book. If I thought few agents were interested in picture books, there seem to be even fewer interested in representing chapter books.
As usual, I have lofty goals. That’s my thing. I’ve said several times that I want to write stories that I wanted as a kid and stories that I want for my kids. Brown and black kids can do some amazing things too. I hope I get to show this in the stories I have been blessed to create.
Blessed? Yes! Creating something from nothing isn’t just talent. It’s a gift and a humbling experience when it all comes together. So yeah, blessed. Now to find an agent who wants to help me share this gift with the world. Wish me luck!
 

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It's not a competition, but it is.

Having a writer friend is awesome when you are a writer as well. You have someone who understands what it’s like to work endlessly throughout the day and still sometimes feel like you’ve done nothing. You have someone to maybe bounce ideas off of. You have someone who knows when you need a little extra support and when you need space to vent.
It can be quite the emotional ride when you are sharing in someone else’s successes and setbacks. There may even come a time when you have to admit that you are a tad bit jealous of someone else’s success.
After all, haven’t you worked just as hard, if not harder? Haven’t you attended just as many workshops, conferences, and inspired gatherings? How many agents are even still open to queries? How many books do publishers even want to publish this year? What about you? When is it going to be your turn? It’s not fair!
Well, you’re right. It’s not.
The weirdest thing happened when I signed with my agent. I was over the moon excited, but I also felt a bit guilty. While at first I thought that was crazy weird, maybe it’s not. I’m a part of several Facebook writing and kidlit groups, and I’ve seen people post about the hundreds of agents they’ve queried and the years they’ve spent writing and revising their masterpieces.
I wanted them to win too. That’s when I made a realization that I probably should have made earlier on. This is a competition, even if we don’t want it to be. There are several finite variables on the path to publishing, and there are a great deal of us with the same goal.
There’s nothing that I can change about that. But, there is still something that I can hope for. I hope that when those moments of self-doubt, frustration, and jealousy do happen, that each of us will recognize them for what they are–moments.
Those moments will pass. Don’t let them distract you from your upcoming moment when it is your time to shine. That’s the beauty of a spotlight. It highlights us at our best. You know what they say, the best is yet to come. Don’t forget that.
That’s a reminder for me just as much as it is for anyone else.
 

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