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Viewing Blog: Ooh La La Design Studio, Most Recent at Top
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An artist blog of thoughts and illustrations of Vanessa Brantley Newton
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I am so looking forward to the movie, " Hidden Figures". It inspired this little piece for the cover of the fall issue of SCBWI. The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. SCBWI.org. If you are interested in learning about how to write or how illustrate children's books you want to start here.

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Sometimes we live life just waiting for the other shoe to drop. We expect bad things to happen to us most of the time. I use to think like this. Recently I just went through one of the roughest seasons in my life and people had lots to say. I find that some folks just like to hear themselves talk. They don't want truth they just want to have their ears tickled with negativity and then want to spread it everywhere they go, but what if those same person lived with expectancy? Expect some joy, peace, creativity, laughter and love. What if they went to their mailboxes and found some good news or a check? What if they expected good news on the daily news? What if they looked for it in every situation? Disappointment shows up because you expected it too. Doubt, hurt and fear showed up because you expected it too. It had to show up so that you won't think you are crazy. My challenge for you today is to EXPECT something WONDERFUL to SHOW UP TODAY! Just for today!

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Sending healing thoughts your way.

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5. School Library Journal

I was commissioned to do the cover of SLJ for the fall. School has already started for some and I can't believe it's almost here again. Time to get ready I guess. Have a wonderful week!

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Quietly singing, " He's Got The Whole World In His Hands" and He does. I know it doesn't look like it to some. I know that the world feels like it's vibe is slipping off it's axis, and that people are loosing their minds, but none of this is catching the Creator off guard. He is still in control and even if you don't believe in Him, He believes in you. Sometimes we dim our lights so that we don't stand out, but now is the time to let the light of love, kindness, understanding, brotherhood and community come forth like never before. God, I know your listening. We need you right now. We need YOU!

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Lost my Cousin Sharonda Coleman=Singleton and Ms. Sally Jackson. Just two of the Charleston 9. It feels like yesterday and it was just a few days ago 49 Beautiful people lost their lives in yet another shooting. This evil wants to take my breathe away. I am angry, but yet I forgive. Not because other people need it so badly or even want it from me, but because I need to love and live my best life and continue to be a vehicle of love to anyone and everyone who might need it. I try so hard to put love on everyday, but sometimes I forget a sock, or jacket and it only makes me want to try harder. So easy to hate people. People that don't even care that you hate them. The best way to get back at them is for us, you, me is to keep living and loving to the best of our ability. LOVE always WINS.

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Sometimes you have to be willing to unplug from the negative and plug in the positive. It's a choice. Unplugging from the negative and plugging into the positivity of hope, peace, love and joy. Again, it is a choice. Happy Wednesday.

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Sometimes you have to see it before you SEE it! I have this idea for my character,"Lil' V. She is me at 5 years old. I had the biggest imagination ever and pretended all the time. Didn't have a clue as to how powerful all of that daydreaming and imagination was at the time. Now as a grown woman, it's so hard sometimes to imagine the good and the positive. Constantly having to change the records of the subconscious mind because what we think about we bring about and I remember so vividly having adults tell me to stop daydreaming and get your head out of the clouds and somehow, they taught me to doubt myself and to think that others where better than me. That others deserved beauty, hope, joy, creativity, love and peace more than me. This is the rebooting of Vanessa Brantley-Newton. I go back now and I get to speak to my 5 year old self and I tell her to dream big babygirl and after you have dreamt big, dream even bigger. So big that when it actually happens you will know that it was something greater that brought you too it! I tell her that no one is better than you and even when they come against you and say all manner of evil about you, you have to know yourself and love yourself. Embrace the you that you are. That she is not the failure or the lack, or the disappointments that have come in her life. That these are some of the ingredients that were needed to make big Vanessa into who she needed to be for life. That there will be awesome people like Bella SinclairEric Barclay, ShellNita Jo, MelissaKJ and a host of others who come to visit this little blog. I am so blessed. One day this little book is going to find it's way into the world of children's books. It's gonna hit the shelves and speak very loudly to another little 5 year old who has a dream! Sometimes you have to see it before you see it! Peace!

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Her Grandmama was gone, but she remembered the powerful words that she shared, "Baby!", she said, " Your words have power to create your reality so speak life, love and abundance. Speak well of others even when they don't speak well of you for in doing so, good will come back to YOU." And so, I speak life, love and abundance as often and as fast as I can creating my reality. Thank you Mama.

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"Once the Pink Lady faced her fears she became stronger, wiser and more yes, fashionable!" Thanks so much Kate Thacker! Facing your fears helps you to move forward with strength, courage and wisdom. It's been inside of you all along! Working on myself and my dreams. It may be a while, but know that I'm thinking of you all!! Be good!

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If they can see themselves then they can free themselves! Ari dared to be awesome because he was awesome already. He went running and flying into his destiny! Okay, now it's your turn. See your inner wild child. Love him or her and then free yourself to run to your destiny! Gotta fly!!! See you later good Peoples!

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Fear.... false, evidence, appearing, real. Doing it a little scared, but doing it just the same. Have a good one beautiful people! You can do it!

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Hey Blogger Family!! Just popped in to say, "Hello and I miss my Beautiful Peeps!" Life has been interesting and full of surprises! I want to say Thank You to ALL of you who emailed, called, and encouraged me. Thanks so much for your kind words and support it meant the world to me. I appreciate it so very much! I'm still standing and I'm still here quietly watching and listening. Learning that we are so much stronger, bigger and better then we even know and it's not what people say about us, but what we believe about ourselves! Our situations should never define who we are and it's not what people call us, but what we answer too. Not asking, "Why me?", but rather, "How does this serve me?" Not feeling sorry for myself, but understanding that there is a bigger picture and plan and what doesn't kill you fattens you for the rest of the journey and the journey is great! All things are working for my good because God is intentional never failing and still I rise and still I move forward and still I live in abundance, joy, peace and love. Nobody and nothing can take that away from us! My joy, peace and love belong to me. It's easy to dance in the sunshine of praise, but can you still do the same dance in the storm? I've learn that I can dance in the storm, lift my hands to the sky and smile with tears streaming down my face, because I am loved and I love me some Y'ALL! I don't dwell on the negative cause it just doesn't serve me. If you live long enough there will be some rough patches, but know this, nobody get to tell you when you can speak, dance, rejoice, or smile! ONLY you get to do that. So I will keep it moving and I will keep smiling! Thanks again you Bella Sinclair, KJ, Shell, Michelle,and so many other wonderful and beautiful people who have encouraged me and supported me. Love to you all!Shalom

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16. An Open Letter By Denene Millner

Here's the thing about that children's book, "A Birthday Cake For George Washington": I can't imagine a sane, rational, reasonably intelligent African American approving a story that depicts slaves as happy. What I can certainly see, though, is the nuance of the lives our people lived during a time when our folk were in bondage. I haven't read the book; only accounts of what's in the pages, mostly from people who haven't read the book and have no idea who its editor and illustrator are. I can tell you, though, as an author of 23 books, five of which were edited by Scholastic's Andrea Davis-Pinkney: nuance, track record and dedication to our children MUST count for something. Andrea is the award-winning children's book author who, as a writer, filled bookshelves with almost two dozen children's books featuring Black characters we treasure and love, and, as an editor, opened doors for many Black authors whose sole wish was to chronicle the lives of Black folk for brown babies, including treasures like Walter Dean Meyers, Derrick Barnes and yes, me. Without her, our shelves would be that much more barren. The same goes for the illustrator extraordinaire, Vanessa Brantley Newton, whose illustrations have graced countless books showing the joy and wonder of beautiful Black children and families. Both of these sisters are dedicated to showing the beauty of us, and as a colleague, writer, parenting expert, mother and lover and collector of Black children's books, I do think both Andrea and Vanessa deserve the benefit of the doubt--at least an airing that extends far beyond calling them Klansmen, racists, ignorant, clueless and whatever other insult I've seen lobbed their way. I read Andrea's explanation for publishing the book and, while I cannot say I could get behind a book about happy House Negroes, I can appreciate the nuance for which Andrea, Vanessa and the author were reaching. Perhaps it is the same nuance that found its way into, say, "Life Is Beautiful," the award-winning film about a father who fools his child into believing that Auschwitz is a "fun" camp full of wonder, even as he understands their impending doom. Of course, this we'll never know. The book has been pulled. We'll never know if there was room there for the tough, nuanced discussions we could have had with that book on the shelves. I will say this, though: I do hope that moving forward, all the people coming for Andrea and Vanessa's necks could consider actually supporting the Black children's books that have gone out of their way to shine a lovely light for our babies. I hope, too, that after all the ruckus dies down, the publishing world considers easing up on the slave, Civil Rights and Black icon narratives and instead focuses on a new kind of Black children's book, one that considers the everyday wonders of Black children's humanity. Bring on the stories of Black babies pushing past the first-day-of-school jitters. Let's see books about Black children enjoying family get-togethers, going to church, making friends in the park, bonding with grandparents, taking care of their dogs, using their big, beautiful imaginations. (I'm actually working on a project myself that I hope helps to fill some of this void--stay tuned.) Let's use this as an opportunity to celebrate us, rather than mindlessly tear us down. Andrea and Vanessa deserve that much. So do brown babies. Denene Millner of My Brown Baby.

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THE FIRST BITE: SLICING THROUGH A BIRTHDAY CAKE TO REVEAL LAYERS OF TRUTH By Ramin Ganeshram, Journalist, Author As members of the children’s publishing community, we have a tremendous responsibility to present history with the utmost accuracy and care. Keenly aware of this, author Ramin Ganeshram, a noted culinary scholar, an expert in the field of Washingtonian history, and the mother of a school-age daughter, spent years researching the life and times of George Washington’s enslaved chef, Hercules to craft her book A Birthday Cake for George Washington. And, with this responsibility in mind, acclaimed artist Vanessa Newton made the deliberate choice to depict slaves as beautiful people who possessed great dignity, who experienced joy in their accomplishments as the president’s servants – and who smiled about their achievements in the face of slavery’s degrading evils. These depictions have engendered important discussions surrounding A Birthday Cake for George Washington and the book A Fine Dessert, most recently compared in a thought-provoking article that appeared in Kirkus, and addressed in the Scholastic On Our Minds blog. Scholastic is very proud to publish A Birthday Cake for George Washington. As the editor of this illuminating book, I am very pleased to welcome Ramin to this essential dialogue. In this post, Ramin shares her views. Here, she articulates why it’s imperative to render diverse depictions of slavery. She addresses slavery’s complex history and why this history must be addressed in its most accurate form, even when accuracy makes us uncomfortable. – Andrea Davis Pinkney, Vice President, Executive Editor, Scholastic Trade Writing about history is a tricky thing. When books center on—or even refer to—diverse historical characters, things become even trickier. We saw this with the critical backlash of Emily Jenkins’ A Fine Dessert and now with my book A Birthday Cake for George Washington (Scholastic 2016). Unlike many books that feature historical characters that are spun from their creators’ minds A Birthday Cake for George Washington, tells the story of a real American—Hercules, George Washington’s enslaved chef. He was a man renowned for his skill; a man respected by President Washington, a man who lived with pride and dignity. I know these facts from the nearly four years of research I did with the aid of historians, largely, at the National Park Service’s President’s House site in Philadelphia, where my story is set. We know from first-hand accounts that Hercules was famous in his day as a towering culinarian—admired and in-charge, despite his bondage. My story is furthered bolstered by my decades of research into American culinary heritage and the complex and varied nature of enslaved existence, particularly in Early Federal America—information used to demonstrate the range of Chef Hercules’ skill and brilliance. Yet, the discussion and criticism of the book has, instead, been focused on the literal face value of the characters. How could they smile? How could they be anything but unrelentingly miserable? How could they be proud to bake a cake for George Washington? The answers to those questions are complex because human nature is complex. Bizarrely and yes, disturbingly, there were some enslaved people who had a better quality of life than others and “close” relationships with those who enslaved them. But they were smart enough to use those “advantages” to improve their lives. It is the historical record—not my opinion—that shows that enslaved people who received “status” positions were proud of these positions—and made use of the “perks” of those positions. It is what illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton calls out in her artist’s note as informing her decision to depict those in A Birthday Cake For George Washington as happy and prideful people. In a modern sense, many of us don’t like to consider this, fearing that if we deviate from the narrative of constant-cruelty we diminish the horror of slavery. But if we chose to only focus on those who fit that singular viewpoint, we run the risk of erasing those, like Chef Hercules, who were remarkable, talented, and resourceful enough to use any and every skill to their own advantage. In our modern society, we abhor holding two competing truths in our minds. It is simply too hard. How could one person enslave another and at the same time respect him? It’s difficult to fathom, but the fact remains it was true. We owe it to ourselves—and those who went before—to try and understand this confusing and uncomfortable truth. To refuse to do so diminishes their history to one-dimension histories that may give comfort to some but ultimately rob us all of the potential for real understanding. With this in mind, we must be extremely careful about substituting old tropes for new ones. In the sadly not-so-distant past, enslaved people were often depicted in children’s literature as childlike, foolish, or happily insensible of their condition. Counteracting the industry’s previous wrongs, recent books like Dave The Potter, Henry’s Freedom Box, and The Story of African Americans have been gorgeous, intense and…pervasively somber. These depictions lend legitimate gravitas to their subjects—but the range of human emotion and behavior is vast, and there is room in between how the literary world depicted historical African American characters and how it does now. We must be mindful that we don’t judge historical figures by modern viewpoints. Knowing this, we thought long and hard about each word and depiction in A Birthday Cake for George Washington, as my editor Andrea Pinkney outlines in this post. Perhaps most diminishing within the critical commentary on blogs and elsewhere is the parsing of the race of the creators of the two projects one white (A Fine Dessert) and one of color (A Birthday Cake for George Washington). This is a reductive and divisive subterfuge that misses what should be the only point about legitimacy: If you do the deep research, ferret out the facts and are true to them then you have literary authority, regardless of color or ethnicity. When you write from your singular perspective or purely from imagination and pass it off as history, then authority is not yours. We in children’s publishing are now at a critical tipping point in discussions about race and history. Right now, we can come together to cut through the previous layers of singular perception and slice to the heart of the truth. Will you take the first bite? Ramin Ganeshram is a veteran journalist who holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. She has worked as a feature writer for the New York Times and for Newsday as a feature writer and food columnist. She has been awarded seven Society of Professional Journalist awards for her work and has been a finalist for the IACP Bert Greene Award for Culinary Journalism. Her articles have been published in Forbes, National Geographic Traveler; Four Seasons, Saveur, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, and for NPR. She is also the author of a number of cookbooks

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She was looking for abundance "What is it?" she asked. I told her, abundance has a different meaning for everyone. For me, it has nothing to do with having a whole lot of money, or friends, or a big house and car. Abundance to me is living a full life. Eyes wide open to see it all and enjoy each sweet and bitter moment. Abundance is having what you need and then overflow to share it with others. She loved how it rolled over and over in her mouth when she said it! Abundannnnnccccccceeee! Like the finest butterscotch candy ever dancing on her tongue. I will live in abundance. Thinking out loud. Have an abundantly fabulous day y'all.

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There is evil in the world, but there is also love. My heart is aching and breaking for France today. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Shalom

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My Client and friend Ms. Heidi B. Fuller will have a book that is coming out in December called, " My Mama Taught Me Better Than That" 600 and somethin' quotes that will make you laugh and holler out loud! Check out on Facebook @ Heidi B. Fuller on facebook. Another long time blogger friend Rachel Ashe is sharing her awesome new project Check it out!

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Stilling myself today. So much movement negative and positive. I need to know that these senseless killings of innocent souls is not norm. Singing soft songs to myself. Sometimes so low that nobody else can hear. I need to sing something positive to deafen the aching soul within. Why can't we just be? We were created to be free. To love. to be. Teach me to love like you love Ha-Shem. I want to love like you love.

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I can't hear, "I love you" from folks who don't love themselves. If you don't love you how can you love someone else? I don't always get it right, but I love me some me and this is just the way God wants it to be. I love my face so round, brown and full, I love my hair kinky curly as soft as lambs wool. My brown eyes, my lips, my arms and legs And all the joyful thoughts that run through my head. I love me some you, brown, white or yellow, I love me some you, all the girls and all the fellas I want you to love you because your special it's true. If you spend your time wanting to be someone else who is going to be you? Stop comparing yourself cause you can only do you Learn to love yourself and others will learn to love you too. And just incase they don't you are still fire all by yourself. The secret to love is love yourself and then you can love somebody else. Written by Phat Mo.

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Have an awesomely sweet day today! And if you are really feeling it add some sprinkles!!

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Age ain't looking like it use too these days. Boy am i glad! Happy New Year to you all.

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