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  • Writer's pictureCharles Waters


Updated: Sep 14, 2023

Hello my poetic pals!

Here's the latest.

Myself and Traci Sorell's new book Mascot from Charlesbridge Publishing arrived on September 5th!

Here's a Youtube video with Traci and I discussing the book. Please click here.

It was given a Gold Standard by the Junior Library Guild and received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews who called it, "A brilliant story not to be missed; deeply engaging from the first page." You can read their full review here.

Also, Kirkus Reviews namedMASCOT as one of their 150 most anticipated books for the fall, which you can read here. It's about 3/4ths of the way down to find us.

Publishers Weekly in their starred review called it ". . . a well-rounded discussion about classism and racism, as well as effective allyship, with compassion and understanding." You can click here for the full review.

We had signings at ALA to hype up interest in the book in preparation for it's Setember 5th release date as well as doing a presentation called Tradition or Discrimination: Is Your Beloved Team Mascot Cultural Appropriation.

ALA Signing. The line was long! :-)

Traci and I with Margy Stratton of the University School of Milwaukee. It's Wisconsin's top-rated co-ed, PK-12, private, college prep school. Margy and the school have been such supporters of mine through the years.

Myself and Traci with the great Carole Boston Weatherford, who was kind enough to stop by our booth and offer support.

Charlesbridge has a podcast called Between The Pages that Traci and I spoke about the process of creating our book. Thanks, Sonig Varadian, for the invitation and for hosting us. You can listen to it here.

Parnanassus Books in Nashville, TN interviewed myself and Traci about our book on their blog, which you can read here.

Award-winning writer, Padma Venkatraman, wrote a blog post on MASCOT on the Highlights Foundation website that you can read here. It was at a Highlights workshop that Padma taught, along with Kathy Erksine and Alma Fullerton, where Traci and I met. The book would not have happened without their teachings as well as the Foundation caring so much about aspiring writers and illustrators in our business.

Myself and Traci were thrilled to be a part of SLJ Day of Dialog which, according to their website, is the most anticipated librarian gathering of the spring 2023 publishing season—fully virtual and free to attend! We were interviewed by the esteemed Professor, Teacher, Writer, Presenter and Publisher Dr. Sylvia Vardell. You can link to their registration page, log in for free, and listen to it here.

Traci and I were happy to be a part of the SLJ Teen Live! virtual event panel speaking of our book. We were joined by Kim Johnson, INVISIBLE SON (Random House Children's Books) Leanne Schwartz, A PRAYER FOR VENGEANCE (Page Street Publishing Co.)

Tanya Lloyd Kyi, EMILY POSTS (Tundra Books/Penguin Random House Canada). You can also link to their registration page, log in for free, and listen to it here.

Charlesbridge Publishing had a Middle Grade Virtual Panel with authors on their roster including myself, Traci, Karen Krossing, MONSTER VS. BOY, Elaine Dimopoulos, THE REMARKABLE RESCUE OF MILKWEED MEADOW and Jennifer A. Irwin, CAPTAIN SKIDMARK DANCES WITH DESTINY. Enjoy the conversation here.

Many thanks to Booksellers from around the nation who have voted MASCOT on the Kids' Indie Next recommend list!

I signed on Sarah DeVore at How Now Booking to help ease up the time spent setting up author presentations for myself. She's so great to work with and she's been hard at work on my behalf with getting author presentations, handling the paperwork and being an overall champion in my corner. There's open spaces for me to visit your school during the 2023-24 school year!!!!!

Thrilled to announce AFRICAN TOWN, co-written with Irene Latham, has won the 2023 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction! You can read the press release by clicking here, as well as the School Library article here. We're so grateful to the O'Dell committee as well as the kind folks at Penguin Random House, in particular the editor of the book, Stacey Barney, and myself and Irene's literary agent, Rosemary Stimola. Here's the way the book looks with the O'Dell sticker now on there.

Irene and I were at ALA in Chicago more on that experience later and we received the award at an off-site luncheon.

Myself and Irene with Lauren Gerber, granddaughter of Scott O'Dell.

With Summer Ogata Assistant Director, School & Library Marketing, Penguin Random House and Stacey Barney, Associate Publisher Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and the editor of AFRICAN TOWN.

With the Scott O'Dell committee members.

The award itself!

Since the award comes with a cash prize, Irene and I thought it best to donate a small portion of our winnings to the Clotilda Descendants Association. To find out more about them, and to possibly donate if you're so inclined, please click here.

Had a chance over the summer to see the Africatown Heritage House which according to the Mobile County website is a community building that will house “Clotilda: The Exhibition,” to share the long-untold story of the nation’s last known slave ship, the Clotilda, and the community that was created by the vessel’s survivors and their descendants.

Lovely painting of Kossola in the lobby. For decades he was thought to be the last living enslaved person. DNA has proven otherwise in the past few years. His spirit — and those of the Clotilda Africans — is an inspiration to us all.

A statue called "The Memory Keeper" is outside the Heritage House.

The lobby has various books for sale of Africatown history including myself and Irene's book. #thankful

Also, deeply honored to find out that AFRICAN TOWN has made the state list in New Jersey, Oklahoma and South Carolina. Also, the state of Alabama, recognized the book to represent Alabama at the National Book Festival.

The Children's Book Council named it as one of their favorites! According to their website: Each year, young people from Kindergarten to 12th grade, teachers, and librarians across 50 states read newly-published children’s and YA books and vote for the ones they like best. 80 review teams across the country work so that kids and educators read and select books. These Favorites Award lists, selected from hundreds of titles submitted by publishers, can be counted as books children, young adults, teachers, and librarians really enjoy reading!

It also made the Cybils (Children's and Young Adult Book Lovers' Literary Awards) 2022 Novels in Verse/Poetry Category. You can find the link to the other lovely books that made the list here.

In addition the book was also named as part of the 2023 Notable Social Studies Trade Books For Young People. You can find our mention on page eight of the link found here.

The book was also nominated for the Golden Kite Award sponsored by SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

While attending ALA, Irene and I had a chance to stop by the Lerner Publishing book, meet up with the good humans there including associate publisher of Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books, imprints of Lerner Publishing Group, Carol Hinz.

Carol, Irene and myself who's holding our 4th book together, Be A Bridge.

Speaking of the book, the themes that are threaded therein inspired Evolve Gala For The Centers, a fundraiser in Little Rock Arkansas! You can read all about it here and here.

Our book was also used as a StoryWalk through the woods at the Toco-Hills Library in North Decatur, Georgia. Enjoy this video by clicking here which highlights a walk in nature with Be A Bridge as its guide.

Myself and Irene taught at the SCBWI (Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators) local conference for the Southern Breeze (Georgia, Alabama, Florida Panhandle) Chapter on March 25th in Atlanta. Our presentations were titled When One Voice Isn’t Enough: How to Craft Stories using Multiple Narrators and How to Build a Successful Co-Author Collaboration. We also gave manuscript critques to some of the attendees as well. Many thanks to Lisa Stauffer, Melissa Miles, and Michelle Kennedy for the opportunity.

According to the email I received about this cool offer: It's a new program that promotes literacy by encouraging children to read books created by local authors and illustrators. In this pilot year, elementary school students who participate in this reading challenge will have the chance to win prizes like books and virtual visits from authors and illustrators. The more you read, the more entries you’ll get into our prize drawings. What a sweet deal! For libarians, educators, parents and teachers in the AL, GA and FL panhandle area, please spread the word.

Many thanks to Lisa Stauffer and the outstanding Southern Breeze staff of Sheri Dillard, Dori Kleber, Shanda McCloskey, Shelli Johannes, and Melissa Miles for thinking of us.

Had a week of author presentations in Alabama at Gwin Elementary (you rock, Dr. Kimberly Nash White), Bluff Park Elementary (had a lovely time, Allison Lee Dolan), Deer Valley Elementary (good looking out, Raquel Lieber), Oscar Adams Elementary (super grateful, Nicole Tudor), and Vestavia Hills Cahaba Heights Elementary (you're the best, Ann Marie Corgill).

Had in-person visits to St. Andrew's School in Boca Raton, FL (thank you, Chantel Truman and Deborah Martin-Gull) and The Benjamin School in North Palm Beach, FL (appreciate the hospitality Danielle Griffis and Maureen Kane).

We also did an evening presentation at the Helen Keller Public Library in Tuscumbia, AL (thank you, Elizabeth L. Gullett for the invite). While in the area, I did a solo author presentation at R. E. Thompson Elementary School (thanks again, Elizabeth L. Gullett, as well as Amanda Arrington).

Did a solo virual visit to Red Bank Primary School (appreciate you, Kate Mills and Cheryl Cuddihy).

Irene and I taught again at The Highlights Foundation from April 16th - 19th. Carol Hinz, associate publisher of Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books, imprints of Lerner Publishing Group, returned as well, this time in a Zooming capacity. We had an additional special guest in the award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford.

Irene and I with Carole Boston Weatherford. We're so grateful she came to the retreat and gave such an inspirational talk about her life and career to the attendees.

Here's the class photo!

Also George Brown, Executive Director of the Foundation and the great-grandson of the founders of Highlights Magazine, recorded a podcast with us that you can listen to by clicking here.

During National Poetry Month, Matthew C. Winner of the Children's Book Podcast kindly asked me to contribute an audio reading of my poem "Forgiveness" from Dictionary For A Better World: Poems, Quotes and Anecdotes from A- Z. He also asked 20 other poets and verse novelist to do the same. You can find all that goodness here.

Irene and I participated in Build Your Stack sponsored by NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) where we — and other authors — talked about our creative process. Many thanks to Sarah Miller, Janet Wong, and Sylvia Vardell for the invitation.

We also did a pre-4th of July presentation at Muscle Shoals Library in Muscle Shoals, AL. Grateful to Amy Uptain for asking us to participate. What a sweet, kind audience.

At the event Traci and her family visited us, they happened to be in town while vacationing.

Traci's husband, Mark, their son Carlos, Traci, myself, and Irene.

Did my second Keynote address ever, this time at the Gulf Coast Conference on the Teaching of Writing at the Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach, Alabama. The conference was sponsored by Troy University. Also, conducted a two hour writing workshop called "Spilling Words Onto The Page." Many thanks to Dr. Robin Bynum and Margaret Hollis Folmar for the invitation. Since the event was on July 5th, I was able to spend part of the 4th of July at a resort, splashing around in the ocean, seeing fireworks, and taking a deep breather. #grateful

With Dr. Robin Bynum and Margaret Hollis Folmar of Troy University after my Keynote and Writing Workshop.

The Poetry Time Foundation or as teacher/children's poet Heidi Mordhorst calls it, the PTFoundation, continues to give back by donating to I See Me, Inc. Their mission, according to their website: is to dismantle the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” by increasing the literacy rates in children of color by engaging them in literature that reflects their culture and mirrors their image.

Read-a-Poem or R.A.P. My rallying cry to bring children’s poetry to every human being in the world continues rolling along. Not every book I mention has to be about children’s poetry, but that’s the main thrust. I have read:

ME MOTH by Amber McBride.

STANDING IN THE NEED OF PRAYER: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Spiritual by Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Frank Morrison.

HOW DO YOU SPELL UNFAIR? MacNolia Cox and the National Spelling Bee by Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Frank Morrison.

DREAM STREET by Tricia Elam Walker & Ekua Holmes.

WATER DAY by Margarita Engle. Illustrated by Olivia Sua.

WHERE'S MY TURTLE? by Barbara Bottner. Pictures by Brooke Boynn Hughes.

MOVING DAY by Ralph Fletcher. Drawings by Jennifer Emery.

THAT FLAG by Tameka Fryer Brown. Illustrated by Nikkolas Smith.

THE TALK by Darrin Bell.

MR. S by Monica Arnaldo.

JUST LIKE GRANDMA by Kim Rogers. Illustrated by Julie Flett.

BIG written and illustrated by Vashti Harrison.

FREIGHT TRAIN by Donald Crews.

FINDING PAPA by Angela Pham Krans. Illustrated by Thi Bui.

HOUSE HELD UP BY TREES by Ted Kooser. Illustrated by Jon Klassen.

TO THE OTHER SIDE by Erika Meza.

EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE: A Story of Books and Belonging by Pauline David-Sax. Illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow.

NO WORLD TOO BIG: Young People Fighting Global Climate Change edited by Lindsay Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley. Illustrated by Jeanette Bradley.

SOUL FOOD SUNDAY by Winsome Bingham. Illustrated by C. G. Esperanza.

MOMMY'S KHIMAR by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow. Illustrated by Ebony Glenn.

ME AND THE BOSS: A Story About Mending and Love by Michelle Edwards. Illustrated by April Harrison.

FIND YOUR BRAVE: A Coco And Bear Story written and illustrated by Apryl Stott.

THE BOY WITH FLOWERS IN HIS HAIR written and illustrated by Jarvis.

VIKING STRONG by Doug Cenko.

THE WALK by Winsome Bingham. Illustrated by E.B. Lewis.


ONE DAY by Joanna Ho. Illustrated by Faith Pray.

RAGGED SHADOWS: Poems of Halloween Night edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illustrated by Giles Laroche.

THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE SCHOOL edited by Jack Prelutsky. Illustrated by Jane Manning.

LOU written and illustrated by Breanna Carzoo.

GREENLIGHT written and illustrated by Breanna Carzoo.

HOPEFULLY THE SCARECROW by Michelle Houts. Illustrated by Sara Palacios.

DORIS written and illustrated by Sarah Jacoby.

I leave you with a poem about being aware ofand coming to terms withthe various moods that reside in all of us.


I swing between days

of confidence and doubt.

Some days, I’m quiet.

Some days, I shout!

Today, I smiled.

Tomorrow, I might pout.

How to balance these emotions

is what life’s all about.

© Charles Waters, 2023all rights reserved.

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