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Luvon Roberson @LuvonRwriter

Luvon Roberson @LuvonRwriter

Top 9 Highlights of Hillary Clinton’s Q&A at Book Expo America 2017

Hillary Clinton Talks Politics, Resilience, & Books at BEA 2017

Billed as An Evening with Hillary Rodham Clinton by Book Expo America, the nation’s largest book trade convention, pant-suited Hillary Clinton walked on the Main Stage at Jacob Javits Center before a filled-to-capacity audience whose standing ovation and boisterous cheers greeted her, as she made her way to her seat next to a round coffee table. The last time the nation expected to see her at Jacob Javits Center was in November 2016, for her presidential election victory party. Instead, she lost the election. Several months later, on this inaugural day of June, she was victorious. Indeed, the first question asked by one in the audience, “Do you know how much you mean to us and how much we love you?” seemed to frame the evening.

For the next hour, she spoke with passion, conviction, laugh-out-loud humor, and deep pathos about topics ranging from being the first woman nominated by the Democratic party for president to her painful loss in her historic bid for our nation’s highest public office in 2016 to her Wellesley College speech in 1969 and her upcoming memoir to be published by Simon and Schuster this September.

In an engaging, thoughtful, and sometimes surprisingly vulnerable and other times lightly playful Q & A, with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cheryl Strayed, Hillary Clinton left me feeling that perhaps this history-making woman and politician has always lived a life of extraordinary challenge; a life that has helped her build up her resilience, almost like an inoculation helps one build up immunity. Indeed, “resilience” was one of the recurring themes of the hour-long talk.

In a response to Strayed’s question about her upcoming memoir, Clinton said, “in a way that I think is not just about me and not just about an election, but about resilience, about getting back up when you’re knocked down, because everybody is, where you find the courage to do that, and what helps you along the way. And it’s proven to be an extraordinary, very personally meaningful but painful experience; it really is painful.”

I was pleased to discover that reading books is one of the ways that Hillary Clinton faces life’s adversities and builds her resilience, particularly a life that has overwhelmingly been spent in the public eye. Clinton called writing her as-yet-untitled memoir a "very painful" experience, but one that is "not only good for my mental health...it's important for us to come to grips with what we need to do for the country in the future."

In the hour-long talk with Strayed, Clinton never voiced the name of the man who won the 2016 presidential election.

Here are some highlights of the book-focused Q & A with Hillary Clinton:

1)  Hillary Rodham Clinton autographed book label: All attendees received this keepsake from the evening

2) Clinton’s Favorite book growing up: The Nancy Drew Mysteries.

3) Among her top favorite books: The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Hillary Clinton noted she was surprised to learn this book is also a favorite of former First Lady Barbara Bush.

4) Reading immediately after her 2016 presidential election defeat: Louise Penny mysteries 

5) Just finished reading: The Jersey Brothers, by Sally Mott Freeman.

6) New, picture book version of her 1996 children’s book: It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, shares her vision for children in America. To be published September 2017.

7) Daughter Chelsea’s new children’s book: She Persisted, by Chelsea Clinton. The picture book tells stories of 13 historical women who faced opposition but persisted in pursuing their goals.

8) Hillary Rodham's Wellesley College address in 1969: 

9) Her new political group -- local, grass-roots organization for activism: Onward Together 

You can view the hour-long An Evening with Hillary Rodham Clinton, at Book Expo America 2017 here.

Carl Clay Reflects on His Illustrious Career in Film and Theatre

Carl Clay is the nationally acclaimed, award-winning founder and executive producer of the Black Spectrum Theatre Company

Playwright, filmmaker, lyricist, teacher, and mentor; these are among the few titles held by Carl Clay, the nationally acclaimed, award-winning founder and executive producer of the Black Spectrum Theatre Company.  Mr. Clay stopped by the What's The 411 TV studio recently to chat with me about Black Spectrum Theatre, its past history and future endeavors, including the theatre company's upcoming presentation of August Wilson's TWO TRAINS RUNNING, on November 4 - November 20.

In the interview, you'll see why I add yet another title -- "arts activist" -- to his long list of roles in theatre, film, music, and his starring role in bringing arts to build community across this nation.


  • Published in Theatre

Author Sighting: Nadia L. Hohn at 17th Annual SCBWI Conference

Nadia L. Hohn, author of Malaika's Costume, a book about immigration & Caribbean traditions, at Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference

Was I drawn to it or did I just happen to wander into some irresistible secret place? That can't be true, I say to myself because this so-called secret place is crammed to the rafters with hundreds of people. And, it is buzzing with life, with people, who are lining up, leaning in, poring over – yes! Those are thousands of images, drawings, paintings, collages, all manner of color-drenched illustrations, displayed on dozens of tables, running through the room like ribbons plaited through a little black girl's braids. I've wandered into the Illustrators Ballroom.

SCBWI Exhibit Hall-2 Photo Credit Luvon Roberson 600x450Illustrators Ballroom at the 17th Annual Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in New York City. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

This space is one of my highlights at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference. This is where I meet Nadia L. Hohn, who lets me know that she's an author as well as an illustrator, Canadian, and was born in and lives in Toronto, her parents hailing from Jamaica. She shows me her book, Malaika's Costume (Groundwood, 2016). I'm drawn in, once again, because it's the story of immigration.

luvon roberson with nadia hohn Photo Credit Luvon Roberson 600x450Photo (l to r): Nadia L. Hohn, author of Malaika's Costume; and Luvon Roberson, What's The 411, Book Editor. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

In reality, of course, the story of immigration is many stories, told in diverse voices, throughout human history. Today, with news headlines screaming and U.S. presidential candidates blaring anti-immigration rhetoric and crying out for walls to be erected, how refreshing that children can discover one of their voices about immigration in Malaika's Costume.

Vibrantly illustrated, with images and colors that summon the sights, smells, sounds, people and textures of life in the Caribbean, and written in an easy-to-follow, flowing Caribbean dialect, Malaika's Costume tells this story through little Malaika's search for a costume to wear at Carnival. The story is particularly poignant as it is Malaika's first Carnival without her mother, who has immigrated to Canada in search of a job with better wages, leaving Malaika back home in the Caribbean in the care of Malaika's grandmother.

In some ways, Malaika's Costume is familiar. My mother migrated from Mississippi to New York City, following her dream of a better life for her children. She left behind my sister and me for several years, with family members.

Malaika's Costume looks at some hard truths about immigration and a little girl's separation from her mother, and is a beautiful surprise to me: It is a picture book, for children, ages 3 to 7. In its gentle yet head-on look at loss, disappointment, resilience, and ultimately triumphant creativity, we see a little brown girl's learning more about herself as she seeks and finds resources in her community.

The benevolent tailor Mr. Chin gives heartbroken Malaika a bag filled with fabric scraps, and with her wise-in-Caribbean-traditions-and-family grandmother guiding her, Malaika transforms the scraps into a rainbow peacock costume. In the first Carnival without her mother, we see Malaika's dancing in her magnificent many-colored costume in joyful celebration of and with her community.

Post Script...

Author Nadia L. Hohn informed me that the seeds for Malaika's Costume have many roots. In her blog, she says: "As a child, I used to write and illustrate picture books. One of the few I still have today is called, The Greatest Carnival Ever."

Greatest Carnival Ever Collage

About Nadia L. Hohn

Malaika's Costume is author Nadia L. Hohn's first picture book. She is currently writing the sequel. Irene Luxbacher, an award-winning Canadian illustrator, brings color-drenched images to life in Malaika's Costume via collage-inspired design. 

In my next "BOOKish blog," you will meet two illustrators-writers, Heidi Woodward Sheffield, and Mischa Kuczynski, in the fourth of my five-part series on the 2016 SCWBI Conference in New York City. The previous two stories in this series are SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver's call for diverse books and a feature story on acclaimed illustrator James Ransome.

In Full Swing: Illustrator James Ransome

James Ransome: Running, Building, and Steering His Career as an Illustrator

Billed as a workshop to help you "Work Long and Prosper," I was expecting the usual 10 tips for finding-the-happy-in-your work or some lame variation of that. Instead, along with the more than 200 people in the room, I got an invitation from acclaimed illustrator James Ransome to come take a look into his life as an illustrator – literally. Known for vibrant colors, striking design, and skillful drawing, Ransome took us inside his studio, thrilling us with a presentation chock-full of slides, showing us exactly how he creates, how he organizes his work, where he sits, why he works in one visual form rather than another at one time versus another, as well as how the hundreds of books lining his studio fuel his art and how his children and wife, author Lesa Cline-Ransome, figure in his creative process.

James Ransome Illustrator Freedoms School 700x591

James Ransome Illustrator Bimmi Finds a Cat

I'm not an illustrator – indeed, I can't even fake it – but like the professional and wannabe illustrators in that jam-packed conference room, I was mesmerized by Ransome's open, warm, insightful talk about how he, an African-American illustrator of children's books, has successfully built and sustained a long and fruitful career. He has illustrated nearly 50 picture books, book jackets, greeting cards, and magazine features, in a career spanning more than 20 years.

The following day, still holding on to what felt like a chat at Ransome's home – with about 200 more people present – I met author and children's book illustrator Don Tate. I learned that Tate, a champion of diversity and equity in children's literature, interviewed Ransome for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference blog this year. The two illustrators talked about a range of subjects, including the following exchange about artistic challenges:

Don: In the past few years, it seems that you've transitioned in the mediums you use, from oil to watercolors, and now pastel. Can you talk about that transition? What were the challenges, if any?

James: Being an art geek means I enjoy a variety of mediums. I have done books in oils, acrylics, watercolors, pastels and mixed media with collage. The desire to work in different mediums actually comes from a number of sources, but I would guess it mostly comes from a class I teach at Syracuse University. The class is entitled Media Arts Techniques where I teach the students a variety of mediums. So, I spend a good deal of time discussing, discovering new materials and studying artists who work in different disciplines. When I pick up a manuscript, I try to let the text tell me how and what medium needs to be used for the illustrations.

James Ransome Illustrator Granddaddys Turn

In the future, I plan to work in graphite, gouache, collage as well as digitally.

Check out Don Tate's full interview with James Ransome. 

Ransome's generous sharing at the SCBWI workshop on "Work Long and Prosper" offered a rare, intimate look at his work and indeed his life. Like the vivid colors that are the hallmark of his illustrations, his workshop inspires illustrators everywhere -- far beyond those in the room that day.

About James Ransome 

James Ransome has been illustrating children's books for over twenty years with almost fifty picture books, many book jackets, greeting cards and pieces in magazines. Winner of several awards for his illustrations, including the Coretta Scott King and NAACP Image Awards, James received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. He recently became a published author with his book Gunner, Football Hero. James' work is part of both private and public children's book art collections and a number of commissioned murals, including three for the Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. An Assistant Professor in the Illustration Program at Syracuse University, James lives in Rhinebeck, New York, with his wife, author, Lesa Cline-Ransome and their four children.

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