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Jacqueline Woodson Named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

Juna F. Nagle

Jacqueline Woodson.


Author Jacqueline Woodson, whose professional accolades include a National Book Award, four Newbery Honors, and a stint as the Young People’s Poet Laureate, has been named the sixth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, for 2018–2019. Her appointment will become official at an inauguration ceremony on Tuesday, January 9 at the Library of Congress, presided over by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. And Woodson will accept the proverbial torch, passed from author-illustrator Gene Luen Yang, who has just completed his two-year term as Ambassador and played a key role in recruiting her.

The National Ambassador for Young People program is sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the Children’s Book Council, and CBC’s charitable arm, Every Child a Reader. The Librarian of Congress selects the Ambassador based on the recommendations of an independent committee comprised of various children’s literature experts including educators, librarians, and booksellers. Among the criteria for the Ambassador post are: contributions to young people’s literature, the ability to relate to kids and teens, and dedication to fostering literacy in all forms.

In a statement, Hayden shared her enthusiasm for Woodson’s selection. “We are delighted that Jacqueline Woodson has agreed to be the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature,” she said. “I have admired Jacqueline Woodson’s work for years, especially her dedication to children and young-adult literature. The Library of Congress looks forward to Jacqueline’s tenure of encouraging young readers to embrace reading as a means to improve the world.”

Woodson says she never saw herself as Ambassador. In fact, she had contacted Yang, a friend, about a year ago to put forward the name of someone else (who she declines to name) she thought would be a great choice. “I had called Gene to put a name in the hat,” she said from her Brooklyn home during a telephone interview. “He told me, ‘Well, we have someone else in mind.’ I figured he was blowing me off.” And even when talk of the honor came up in passing, years ago, Woodson wasn’t sure she would ever be a good fit. “Earlier on, when the position was first starting to get some traction, and Jon Scieszka was the Ambassador,” she recalled, “people were asking me if I would ever do it, and I said, ‘Heck, no! There’s no way I could do that.’” She was busy with her writing and had just welcomed a new baby at that time. Over time, “I kind of had the sense that I had put the kibosh on it,” she added.

But more recently, Yang called and asked if Woodson would consider taking on the appointment. She continued to champion another author (“someone younger!” she joked), but Yang persisted. “He went through all the ways in which he thought I would bring something to the Ambassadorship that was needed at this time,” Woodson said. “I thought about it, I talked to my partner about it, and I was still a bit reluctant. But then Gene said that Dr. Hayden was really into me taking this position. And I love Dr. Hayden.” Woodson explained that one of the rules in her life has always been, “When it comes to Enoch Pratt Library [Hayden’s former library, in Baltimore], I can never say no to them. I did my first reading there way back when Last Summer with Maizon came out, and I have loved everyone there. I thought, OK, if Carla Hayden is asking me to do this, I’m not saying no to it.” On a more philosophical note, she continued, “I think you are often called to do the work you’re not quite ready to do, or willing to do. And for me that’s a sign that I need to push through and do the work that’s needed.”

Woodson has chosen the phrase “Reading = Hope x Change,” as her platform as Ambassador. “I definitely believe that reading can change us and shape us in so many ways, and through it we can be exposed to people and places and ideas that we might not otherwise come across or confront in real life,” she said. “A platform about the importance of reading and having conversations across the lines of books is really important to me.”

Woodson says she will use her message to address something she has been noticing. “Young people are getting labeled ‘reluctant reader,’ or ‘advanced reader,’ and the labels in front of their names begin to try to tell them who they are,” she lamented. “I would like to see less of that and more of just kids who read.” What they read shouldn’t matter and how they read it shouldn’t matter, she said, “just so long as they can have conversations and have a deep understanding of and a deep love for what they’re reading.”

One of Woodson’s foremost goals as Ambassador is to reach young people in areas of the country that are traditionally underserved. “My family and I are going to the opening of the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice [acknowledging victims of lynchings] in Alabama this spring. I’m going to stay and try to visit some schools in Alabama and Mississippi in some of the places where they don’t get to meet writers or ambassadors every day,” she said. Additionally, she says she’s looking forward to going into juvenile detention centers and other places “where the underserved can begin to tell their stories.”

Though she’s not exactly sure how kids will relate to her in a new role, she’s excited to find out. “The thing that always brings me the greatest joy is meeting the young people,” she said. “I’m always surprised when a kid’s in awe of me as an author—I think ‘I’m just Jacqueline Woodson and I wrote a few books.’ But they’ve been studying you so long and you walk into the classroom and you’re like this superstar to them. Then you work yourself back to connecting to them so that they see you as a human being and they see themselves as young people who can do what you do. In this position it’s the same. I would love for young people to see themselves as national ambassadors of many things, today and always.” She cites the example of her own family. “I always tell my kids when we go to other countries, ‘You are ambassadors for this family. When you walk out there people are going to have ideas about this family, and how you represent yourself is going to make a difference in how they think.’ ”

The opportunity to talk about reading is another high point she’s anticipating. “I am excited for the young people’s reactions and the interactions that we’ll have around literature, and really talking about reading,” she said. “In the past mostly I’ve talked about my books and my writing process. Now I can talk much more about my reading process and the reading process, and the conversations that can be had where there isn’t a right or wrong. Did you infer from the book? Who cares? I want to know what you loved about the book and what made you mad and I want you guys to agree and disagree and have real true conversations and make amazing text-to-life connections about the book.”

Asked if there’s anything that might be scary or daunting about her new position, Woodson is reflective. “It is a very scary time to be alive,” she said. “And given that, I think of [poet and activist] Audre Lorde saying ‘we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles and we will still be no less afraid.’ I do believe this is all I have—my words, I have the words that I write down, I have the words that I speak out, I have the words that I take into classrooms.” Woodson says she accepts that there will be hatred in general, and hatred online questioning why she would be chosen as Ambassador. “Risk of backlash and people not being kind, but that’s been the risk my whole life,” she said. “It’s not going to keep me from what I’ve been called to do.”

Woodson notes that taking on the Ambassadorship is a bit daunting in another way, because she is an introvert—as, she notes, many writers are. “I can go out there and give a great lecture and I can shake hands and sign books, but I’m always hiding behind a book or a podium or something that protects me from my shyness,” she said. “I think this is going to be a lot more extroverted work for me.”

But any trepidation she may have certainly takes a back seat to the honor at hand. “It’s going to be so amazing to be in the Library of Congress with Dr. Hayden, and with Gene, who is one of my son’s favorite writers in the world,” she said. “It’s a little bit surreal. As a kid, I remember imagining getting an award and using the hairbrush as a microphone to accept it. But I never imagined this.”

Source: Publishers Weekly, link

Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project

Mrs. Coretta Scott King with staff of King Papers Project, 1986

Mrs. Coretta Scott King with staff of King Papers Project at Stanford, November 1986

Margo Davis

Initiated by The King Center in Atlanta, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project is one of only a few large-scale research ventures focusing on an African American. In 1985, King Center’s founder and president Coretta Scott King invited Stanford University historian Clayborne Carson to become the Project’s director.

Mission of the Papers Project

As a result of Dr. Carson’s selection, the King Papers Project became a cooperative venture of Stanford University, the King Center, and the King Estate. Its principal mission is to publish the definitive fourteen-volume edition of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.,a comprehensive collection of King’s most significant correspondence, sermons, speeches, published writings, and unpublished manuscripts. The seven already published volumes have become essential reference works for researchers and have influenced scholarship about King and the movements he inspired. Building upon this research foundation, the Project also engages in other related educational activities. Using internet communications technology to reach a diverse global audience, it has greatly increased popular as well as scholarly awareness of King’s achievements and visionary ideas.

Funding the Papers Project

In addition to core funding from Stanford University, the King Papers Project receives financial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, and individual donors. As a component of Stanford’s Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute, the Project also benefits from the Institute’s endowment.

Source: Stanford University, link

Holiday Writing Contest — Edutaining


25 days of christmas writing

Brrr…it’s cold outside and snow is on it’s way to Virginia.  It’s perfect weather for staying indoors, reading a good book, or (in my case) writing.

Since I’ve decided to hide away from the harsh weather by staying snug and warm indoors, I thought I would take the opportunity to try Susanna Leonard Hill’s Annual Holiday Contest.  This year’s theme is a holiday surprise.  The rules are fairly straight forward.

  • You can write about any holiday you celebrate
  • The story is not to exceed 250 words (not counting title)

Even if you aren’t entering the contest, I encourage you to visit the link above and take a look at some of the wonderful stories that have been submitted.  If you are participating, then I wish you the best of luck!  Leave me a comment below to let me know what you think!

Brrr…it’s cold outside and snow is on it’s way to Virginia. It’s perfect weather for staying indoors, reading a good book, or (in my case) writing. Since I’ve decided to hide away from the harsh weather by staying snug and warm indoors, I thought I would take the opportunity to try Susanna Leonard Hill’s Annual […]

via Holiday Writing Contest — Edutaining

Don’t forget about Jourstarr’s ongoing Flash Fiction contest.  More details here.

Flash Fiction Contest

flash fictionAs of December 1st we have officially opened our flash fiction contest. For new authors or seasoned writing veterans this is a great way to hone your talents and improve your writing skill. All while having fun putting pen to paper. For those unfamiliar with flash fiction let me give you a run down.


What is flash fiction?

Flash fiction is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a piece of fiction that takes a flash to read. No, really, it’s very short short story. The typical length of flash fiction stories can be anywhere between 300 words and 1,500 words. Of course, some people write six-word stories, 100-word drabbles, and so on. As long as it’s pretty short, it’s considered flash fiction.

How do you write flash fiction?

As concise as possible. Write only what matters to the story. Don’t add any filler content, just keep advancing that plot and developing those characters.

Use Unique and vivid language to get your point across. Be sure to have a clear ending in mind and figure out how you’re going to get there in 1,000 words or 700 words or 300 words.

Where should you start writing flash fiction?

Explore the flash fiction world first. Read flash fiction stories or even poetry to get a feel for a language. Of course, you’re ultimately writing in your own voice and style, but reading examples doesn’t hurt.Then, pick up your pen and just write. If you aim for 500 words, just write and see how many you end up with. Then you cut it down just like you would edit your novel. Writing prompts help come up with ideas and a timer can do wonders if you want to start and finish something as quickly as possible. Can you write 500 words in 10 minutes? Set a timer. If you write more or less, you can add and cut out words after.

Why flash fiction?

Writing flash fiction can really reel in your writing skills. It tones your writing and teaches you to cut out the filler stuff. Keep what’s only important to the plot and character development.

That, and it’s a fun challenge.

Source Rachelpoli.com

Please visit our flash fiction submission page for more information


November is National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month (often shortened to NaNoWriMo /ˈnæn ˈrm/),[2] is an annual, Internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November. Participants attempt to write a 50,000 word manuscript between November 1 and November 30.[3] Well-known authors write “pep-talks” to keep them motivated throughout the process.[4] The website provides participants with tips for writer’s block, information on where local participants are meeting, and an online community of support. NaNoWriMo focuses on the length of a work rather than the quality, encouraging writers to finish their first draft so that it can later be edited at the author’s discretion.[5] The project started in July 1999 with 21 participants. By the 2010 event, over 200,000 people took part and wrote a total of over 2.8 billion words.[6]

Writers wishing to participate first register on the project’s website, where they can post profiles and information about their novels, including synopses and excerpts. Participants are called Wrimos. Word counts are validated on the site, with writers submitting a copy of their novel for automatic counting. Municipal leaders and regional forums help connect local writers, holding writing events and providing encouragement.

source: Wikipedia.org

Everyone may enter at nanowrimo.org. Write daily, track your progress and you may just end up with a bestseller!

Check out Sara’s blog about NaNoWriMo

Or NaNoWriMo for short. Hello Friends! If you have never heard of NaNoWriMo, it is an annual writing challenge which encourages you to write daily and hopefully eventually you end up with a novel. Simply put anyway. There are progress badges which I think are fun and even sponsors and offers. These I have not looked into […]

via National Novel Writing Month — Sara in LaLaLand

Writing Flash Fiction and Short Stories

Can’t handle the daunting task of reading the latest Stephen King or James Patterson. I’m right there with you,  I have a hard time finishing books, my need for instant gratification maybe?  Most likely the A.D.D. kicking in.  I’m more of a magazine article type of guy. I have to read in short bursts and it must grab my attention quickly and hold it throughout the story. I will have that  “Hey…is that a squirrel” moment once or twice in a 20 to 30-minute span.  Flash fiction to the rescue!  Flash fiction, sudden fiction and the like are short stories that are no longer than 1000 or 750 words respectively but still offers character and plot development. flash fiction

I have recently started reading the New Yorker’s collection of flash fiction stories  A summer of very short storiesSome grab me from the first sentence some I can’t finish the second. Others I think, “Wow, that could be a longer book I would get into.” I really suggest taking a look at some of these stories. Either while waiting in the doctors’ office or your next trip to the washroom.

Both Justin and I have had many individuals come to us saying, “I want to write a book,” or, “I have a great idea for a book.” While that is all well and good there is a big difference between an idea and finished book. Many don’t realize what it really takes to write; how to structure a book or develop characters. Flash fiction is the perfect writing exercise for the aspiring author. It will help develop all the skills needed for good story creation.

Here are some tips to help you get started writing:

  1. Picking a topic – Narrowing it down.
    – When writing flash fiction, the smaller and more specific the topic the better. Look for precise ideas in broad topics and build on them. Take a topic like coming of age; narrow it down. Pick out some specific events that show the coming of age in young adolescents. For example: failing a class, standing up to a bully (or not), a girl’s first period, prom night or high school graduation. Now choose one of those events and write a story about it.
  2. No long-winded introductions – Short and sweet is key.
    – It’s fast fiction, you don’t want to spend too much time on the introduction. Yes, you want to get as much background as possible but you don’t want to go over your word count and you don’t want to lose your reader. Try to fit everything you need in the first paragraph and then get on with your story. For example, a character’s background info can be worked into the story through flashbacks and memories rather than laying it all out in the opening paragraphs. Rope your readers in, then worry about background information.
  3. Roping in your reader – Start in the middle of the action.
    – Begin right away with the action. Try to remember that flash fiction is usually a single scene in time; one moment that sticks out. Don’t describe more than you have to; let the reader fill in some of the blanks. This will keep them wanting more and in turn keep them reading your story.
  4. Think like a camera lens – Focus on a single moment or image in time.
    – As I said this is meant to be one moment in time. Focus on one powerful image to base your story around. For example, a deserted town or a cresting river. Paint a picture with your words.
  5. Don’t give your reader everything at once – Keep the suspense going.
    – It’s okay if your reader has no idea what’s going on in the majority of the story. Just tie it all together in the end with a nice bow. They’ll keep reading out of sheer curiosity and a wanting for understanding. This goes with roping in the readers.
  6. Using common knowledge is helpful – Reference telltale facts.
    – If your story is part of something that is commonly known than references will save you time and words. Refer to historical events, location, etc. For example: say your story takes place in the 1920s, a single word like prohibition or a phrase like economic boom, would reference that entire era. By doing this you give the reader a load of background information in a single sentence.
  7. Give the readers a shock – Twist endings are best for flash fiction.
    – Unlike a novel or short story, in flash fiction, there is simply not enough time or space to build up your story through its characters and background details. This can make it hard to come up with an ending that packs a punch for the readers. In this case, we can turn to the twist ending. Leave your readers with their mouth agape in surprise at the unexpected turn of events.

Taken from: https://fictionsoutheast.com/7-tips-for-writing-flash-fiction/


I am looking for some community input on this matter. I would like to start a flash fiction writing project/contest in the Ohio Valley for aspiring authors and maybe even a separate contest for middle and high school students. We would like to host submissions online. Read them aloud or invite the authors to read them during a live weekly podcast or youtube show. Then have the public pick or narrow down the winners.

Hopefully, I receive enough interest we can make this happen. I look forward to hearing everyone’s comments.

JourStarr’s Simple Writing Guide


It’s that time of year again, leaves are changing, the weather is turning colder. For most of us, the percentage of our time indoors will start to increase. Some call it book weather. Here at JourStarr, we call it writing weather. If its thriller, action or crime drama its time to get those story ideas on paper.  We can’t wait to read your masterpiece! But first, let’s get planning.  We have re-released our new author’s writing guide. It was made available a few months back but we didn’t announce it.  Now its available to everyone for free!

Writers Guide
JourStarr’s Simple Writers Guide for New Authors

Writing tops lists as one of the most satisfying careers out there. It garners respect, shares knowledge, causes change, nurtures creativity, soothes the soul and generates income. Whether you plan to write fiction or non-fiction, this guide helps you successfully navigate the first four steps of the writing process: Prewriting, writing, revising and editing. To get the most out of it, read the entire guide to get an overview. Then read each section as you move through the writing process. The guide uses examples from film (visual literature) and books to explain concepts.

  • Decide the purpose of your book.
  • Use a Hook.
  • Research thoroughly for accurate facts.

Brainstorming, planning, and research should be your cornerstones in any writing project. Our guide will help new and aspiring authors organize their thoughts and ideas while keeping the goal in sight. Creating a masterpiece!

To download JourStarr’s Simple Writing Guide For New Authors please enter your email below


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Surveys for Wheeling residents now online!

East Wheeling residents and community members may now complete our survey online! We will be also announcing more survey & interview dates within the next few weeks.

You may also complete the survey here if your browser is not compatable https://www.opinionstage.com/jourstarr/east-wheeling-resident-survey


Please contact us at admin@jourstarr.com with your unique stories, photos and newspaper articles. We need everyone’s help to compile this story of Wheeling’s history.

JourStarr holding interviews for a new book based on Wheeling WV

Come be part of Wheeling’s history

We will be holding interviews at the Ohio Co Public Library for past and present East Wheeling Residents, Business Owners, and Law Enforcement. If you have lived or lives, attends church or school and or visits East Wheeling frequently please attend. The interviews will consist of general questions on how your neighborhood has changed for the better or worse. We are working on a new book highlighting the socio-cultural changes that our local area has undergone. If you are not familiar with the term gentrification we will help bring to light the subtle and not so subtle actions or community influences that make up the process.

Webster’s Dictionary defines gentrification as:

1. the buying and renovation of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods by upper- or middle-income families or individuals, raising property values but often displacing low-income families and small businesses.
 2. the process of conforming to an upper- or middle-class lifestyle, or of making a product, activity, etc., appealing to those with more affluent tastes


JourStarr will be taking more surveys on Sunday, October 15th from 1 pm to 4:30 pm downstairs at the Ohio co. Public Library.  We are looking for unique stories on your life and time spent living and visiting the East Wheeling and downtown areas of Wheeling.  We will also be focusing on the national Weed and Seed Program and how it was used by local governments to gentrify urban areas displacing longtime residents, shuttering family businesses and uprooting their culture.

Please bring pictures and a good story, everyone is welcome! Anyone who participates will receive a mention in the book, also many of your unique stories will be featured in the text. We hope to bring a lost community together and show the enduring spirit of Wheeling’s residents.