I kind of stumbled into becoming a WFH author. As a freelance writer, I was always looking for new work/clients and in late 2018, I saw on Twitter a call by Capstone for authors of color to work on children’s books. I reached out and got started with a six-book series on extreme sports, and things just took off from there.
That's cool! What do you love about working with your editors when developing a new series like the ones you've done for Capstone, and now, your latest Bo at the Buzz books being published by Lerner?
The editors that I’ve worked with have been great because they’ve always given me the latitude to come up with my own ideas or inclusions. This was true in the Bo series as well. The idea for the Bo series was developed by the librarian Cecily Lewis, who created the Read Woke program and book line. They had a skeleton of what they wanted to do with the series but left it up to me to flesh out the characters and come up with the storylines. You kind of have a whole world to play with, so it was fun to put our hero into these different situations.
Do tell a little more about your hero, Bo, and the challenges he overcomes.
The great thing about Bo is that he’s just a regular kid, living life in the city with his friends and grandpa. One of the ideas around the series was to showcase the idea of “Black joy,” meaning that these characters weren’t constantly dealing with serious trauma or life-altering drama. That’s not the only way that we can present Black youth, you know? Bo is like any other kid--he’s enjoying life while also learning some valuable lessons as he deals with issues that a lot of children can identify with.
I totally get that! Did you have fun bringing Bo's adventures to life throughout your first six books?
I did have fun writing these Bo books because the themes are universal. Who hasn’t worried about public speaking or writing a poem? Who hasn’t discovered that maybe you’re not as good as you thought at one thing but find your path down another road? Who hasn’t told a small lie that isn’t quite so small? Bo’s a curious kid, and fortunately, he’s got a lot of voices in his life from the unique customers who come to his grandfather’s barber shop, The Buzz.
Love that setting!
That’s a good question! I think for the Bo series, we had gone through a process of outlining the books and coming up with some solid storylines, so once those were set, it was easy to write them. As far as my other books, I guess I consider myself to be a fast writer, so once I get into a groove, I’m able to really get productive. I consider that a remnant of my time as a newspaper reporter when I had to produce accurate, informative copy on a tight deadline.
Handy ability when deadlines are looming! So, when you received your Bo at the Buzz author copies, what did you love about the final product? Anything about Subi Bosa's illustrations make you smile?
I thought the final product was great! I love the barber pole alongside the spine of the book! And Subi’s artwork is both colorful and warm. I thought he did a fantastic job of bringing Bo, his friends, and Pop-Pop to life. As someone who can’t draw a lick, I’m always amazed at the awesome work the illustrators do for my books.
Me too! So why do you hope all kinds of kids learning to read will pick up these books and tag along with Bo as he navigates his young world?
My belief is that reading should be fun, and I hope that all kids see these books and realize these are not only fun stories but also ones that feel familiar and relatable to their own lives in some way. I’m really excited that Bo is out in the world and I hope kids have as much fun reading the books as I did writing them.
I'm sure they will! Well, thanks so much Elliott for stopping by. Looking forward to seeing many more of your books on the shelves. They're always a delight to read.
No problem. Happy to be here!
Before signing off, I'd like to encourage everyone to learn more about Bo at the Buzz and to purchase copies, suitable for any classroom with early readers, HERE.