Frequently asked questions
How old were you when you started writing?
What would you say the style of your books are?
My books are distinctively bright, playful, rhythmic, and multicultural. I love to bridge the gap between generations. I try to show young children connecting to elderly characters in all of my books. I think this comes from my own relationship with my grandparents, as they are the ones I think of when I write those moments.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by many things, mostly family, nature, music, and seeing kids learn new things.
Why do you hide peppermints in your books?
When I was a young girl my grandfather started the Peppermint Candy Club. He'd hand kids a peppermint as a way to show them love. Receiving a peppermint made them members, but there was a catch. Members had to pay it forward by showing love to others! So the club is about spreading love. I hide peppermints in my stories to remind kids to do that.
How do you pick your illustrators?
When I am writing a story, I start to sense what I want the book to look like. I search many artists and compare their styles to see if they will be a good fit. It's hard to explain. You can just tell when someone's imagination matches your heart. One of my artists, Simon Stewart, helps match other illustrators, like Robert Muhammed, to my work. He "gets" me, so I include him in everything. Jude is perfect for animating my characters. I love his ideas! I'm always on a quest for beautiful art.
How did you know you were going to be an author?
I didn't. I thought I'd be a lawyer or teacher. I taught for a short while and story time with the students was my favorite! They would scoot closely to hear me read. They would tell me that my voice made them feel better. The light bulb went off and I realized that I could use my voice to make more kids feel that way. After work one day, I pulled out my notebooks that had been tucked away. The rest is history.
How do you come up with ideas?
How long did it take for you to write each story?
Over the years, I have written so many stories. I write every day! But, for my published books - Ashti Meets Birdman Al, one year; The Gifted Guitar and Social Eyes, each took four months; Honcho Hates Mud, one year.
Do your characters come from people that you know?
Yes, I personally know a ton of characters. Including myself! I'll tell you a secret. Honcho Hates Mud is my autobiography.
What is your favorite book that you've written?
Ashti Meets Birdman Al is dear to my heart. It reminds me of Jazz singer and friend, Al Jarreau. He is the inspiration behind the story.
How did you come up with Honcho's hair?
My youngest daughter wore finger-waves to a roaring 20's event. "What if Honcho had finger-waves?", I thought to myself.
How many kids are in your grandfather's Peppermint Candy Club?
Imagine my grandfather starting the club over 50 years ago with the kids in his church. Now imagine me visiting schools around the world with hundreds of students in each school. I stopped counting a few years ago. Reaching so many kids makes Granddaddy very happy.
Who is your favorite author?
Wow! It's hard for me to choose ONE favorite. My list is very long, but I'll try to narrow it down to a few. Patricia Polacco, Shel Silverstein, Beatrix Potter, Judy Blume, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Ntozake Shange, Alice Walker, Khaled Hosseini, Nayyirah Waheed. Ok, I think I better stop now.