Ashley Franklin

Get in, kid me, we’re going to Florida!

As promised, here’s the Scholastic post.

My childhood highlights consist mostly of book related things–reading books of all kinds, spending recess re-shelving books, the Book-It program, and the Scholastic Book Fair.

I often think about kid me when I am writing or coming up with ideas. I wonder if she would be proud of what I’ve written so far. And since she was a bit of a perfectionist, I often wonder if she thinks I’m playing it safe with my writing and need to take it a step further.

Here’s what I do know about kid me: She would have had her tiny backpack filled and ready seconds after getting the email asking if I was interested in doing a promo video for the Scholastic Book Fairs.

IF?! Months before, I thought it wouldn’t get any better than having NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE be a part of the book fairs starting in the Fall of 2020. Just a week after getting this mind-blowing email in early March, I was boarding a plan and headed to Florida.

Was I nervous? Goodness, yes! Did I show it? Goodness, no! Honestly, like Tameika in NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE, I had a moment of doubt. I wondered if I wasn’t quite right to be the one being flown out to places, having car service, shooting promo videos and the like. I wondered if they’d made a mistake and actually wanted someone more important who had been writing for longer and made a larger impact in the kidlit industry.

They got me in all of my goofy glory, and they were okay with that. Thanks to the Scholastic team for making me feel comfortable and special (At the same time!) and Quinn from Theater West End for granting us use of his gorgeous theater (more on everything I loved about the theater later).

Where will my writing journey take me to next? I have NO idea. What I do know is that I’m going to continue to write, and maybe I’ll soar past my wildest writing dreams.

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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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Note to self:Don’t get lost in animal stories.

I feel like I am truly getting closer to my dream. Thanks to my overactive imagination, I can almost smell the picture book newness with my name on it. In real life, while I’m waiting to hear back from publishers, I am continuing to write. After all, that’s what you do to avoid stalking your email. Seems logical to me.
I’m drafting 4 new picture book manuscripts at once. (I can’t think one story at a time.) I realized that 3 of them have a non-human main character. For me, this is problematic.
I grew up loving animal stories. They were my comfort zone. Why? They felt like a safe alternative since I didn’t see much of me in the stories I loved. I’ve said before that I had copies of folk tales and all that. Still, I could only relate to them but so much.
Today, I made a vow to draft a manuscript focusing on a human character for every non-human character driven story. That might not mean much to you, but it does to me. To me, it matters. For the little girl whose imagination readily filled with White characters and animals but struggled to imagine someone who looked like her doing similar things, it matters. For the little girl who will always remember being told that she could only be the neighbor or the dog when playing “house” at school because she didn’t match, it matters a lot.
 
 

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On writing diverse children's books

The We Need Diverse Books folks have done a great job of making one thing clear: We do, in fact, need diverse books. They have their reasons and their mission, and I’m all for it.
Still, I have my own reasons as to why I have chosen to write diverse children’s books. I was an only child until I was 9. I spent plenty of time with books. I read oodles of books like they fed my soul. Or…maybe I’ve always been slightly socially awkward and books are my comfort zone. Either way, many books were read!
I read lots of animal stories, and I do remember having a copy of Aesop’s fables. I loved the illustrations. I loved the fact that there were brown characters like me. I wasn’t too keen on the fact that they didn’t sound like me. Other books did. For some unknown reason, Jan Wahl’s Timothy Tiger’s Terrible Toothache was one of my favorite books. I would be lying to you if I told you I remembered anything specific about the plot. I can, however, clearly remember how that book made me feel. I didn’t like pain. I had family that helped me when I needed it. Timothy sounded like me. He was my first favorite tiger. (Please don’t tell my kids that, as they firmly believe that there shall be no other tiger than Daniel Tiger.)
I want to combine those two childhood memories. I want to write books that children of color can relate to. I want them to see themselves and hear themselves. If they can do that, imagine how that will make them feel!

A little less lonely. A little more proud.  A lot more special.

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