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December 2017

Hello, Friends,

It's a mad dash around third base and I'm hauling it home. The end of 2017 is in sight. Whew! It's been one hell of a year. I'm not quite ready for a review, though. For now, I'll just focus on November.

On the business side of things, there was an insane amount of travel. I flew to upstate New York for the Rochester Children's Book Festival, which is always a highlight. It was especially fun to hang out with good friends Jane Yolen, Heidi Stemple, Bruce Coville, Pam Munoz Ryan, and Linda Sue Park.

St Francis Cathedral, Santa Fe
So wonderful to catch up with Matt de la Peña! We served on the National Book Award committee together, a few years back.

Next, I flew to St. Louis, Missouri, for the National Council of Teachers of English conference, where I moderated one panel and was on two others. This is one of my favorite conferences, and it doesn't hurt that I get to see so many of my author and illustrator friends, like Matt de la Pena, Renee Watson, Kate Messner, Laurie Halse Anderson and Christine Taylor Butler. I also enjoyed wonderful visits with Donalyn Miller, Tracey Baptiste, and Olugbemi A. Perkovich, among others. Good times, also, with a gaggle of poets! It was especially fun to connect with Laura Purdie Salas.

St Francis Cathedral, Santa Fe
Power trio: Linda Sue Park, Pam Munoz Ryan, and moi!

Finally, it was off to Rhode Island for the first time! I was honored to do a four-day residency at the Gordon School in Providence. That I did assemblies and gave poetry workshops will surprise no one. But how about the two card-making workshops I conducted—with kindergartners? Yep! I did that and lived to tell the tale! Of course, I had great help from librarians Frances Martindale and Mimi Roterman, plus an assist from Ellie Field, as well as the classroom teachers. Whew! The children seemed to enjoy it all. Don't you love the cards they created?

St Francis Cathedral, Santa Fe

Can kindergartners learn to make cards? Yes, they can!

I had a lovely time at Gordon, but after a year packed with packing, planes, and piloting around airports, I was happy to head home.

When I wasn't on the road, I submitted poems for a new anthology by Charles Chigna; I sold a picture book manuscript for a project to be illustrated by Wendell Minor (Yay!); I happily wrote a blurb for Ghost Boys, a not-to-be-missed novel by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Be on the lookout for this one!

I received lots of welcome book news in November, I'm happy to report. One Last Word made several Best Books lists: School Library Journal, Kirkus, Chicago Library, Evanston Public Library, and New York Public Library among others. Meanwhile, Garvey's Choice popped up on the Texas Blue Bonnet Award List and VA Readers' Choice List! My work could also be found on the 2018 Ultimate List of Diverse Children's Books and Matthew Winner surprised me by including his podcast episode featuring Garvey's Choice and One Last Word among his Top Ten List for Middle Grade Books! Not bad, eh? Oh! One more thing: I learned that A Pocketful of Poems is going into paperback! So cool.

On the personal front, November was excruciating. I have to be honest. There were three hard losses in my circle of friends, and many tears were shed. A beautiful senior couple in my church died within three days of each other, leaving those who knew them stunned. We'll be grieving their loss for a long time, but none more so than their children. One of their sons is a precious friend, and I ache for him. It is no small thing to lose a parent, but to have both parents pass days apart is behond emotional comprehension.

Gone, too, is the beautiful son of a good friend. As a mother, I know there is no pain as incomprehensible as the death of a child, one who you carried in your own body. There simply are no words, and yet they are all I have to offer, that and a strong shoulder, lots of hugs, and ongoing prayer.

November was an emotional balancing act, weighing outrageous fortune and tremendous tragedy.  Such is life.

I look forward to celebrating the Prince of Peace, who came into this world as a babe. That's the tradition I honor, but I know each of you has your own. Let us each, in our own way welcome the Light during this most special season.

Bye, for now.

Until next time,
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Nikki Grimes

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