Monday, November 28, 2011

Mondays at CHICKS ROCK!

On Mondays I post at CHICKS ROCK!, the blog of The Women's Mosaic. Check out my posts there, too!
The Women's Mosaic is a New York City-based non-profit organization that provides education, inspiration, and motivation for women to rise up and rock the world! The Women's Mosaic unites and empowers women through programs that promote intercultural understanding and personal growth. We are a community of diverse, dynamic women interested in expanding our horizons by creating positive change that can individually and collectively enrich the world.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mondays at CHICKS ROCK!

On Mondays I post at CHICKS ROCK!, the blog of The Women's Mosaic. Check out my posts there, too!
The Women's Mosaic is a New York City-based non-profit organization that provides education, inspiration, and motivation for women to rise up and rock the world! The Women's Mosaic unites and empowers women through programs that promote intercultural understanding and personal growth. We are a community of diverse, dynamic women interested in expanding our horizons by creating positive change that can individually and collectively enrich the world.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mondays at CHICKS ROCK!

On Mondays I post at CHICKS ROCK!, the blog of The Women's Mosaic. Check out my posts there, too!
The Women's Mosaic is a New York City-based non-profit organization that provides education, inspiration, and motivation for women to rise up and rock the world! The Women's Mosaic unites and empowers women through programs that promote intercultural understanding and personal growth. We are a community of diverse, dynamic women interested in expanding our horizons by creating positive change that can individually and collectively enrich the world.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mondays at CHICKS ROCK!

On Mondays I post at CHICKS ROCK!, the blog of The Women's Mosaic. Check out my posts there, too!
The Women's Mosaic is a New York City-based non-profit organization that provides education, inspiration, and motivation for women to rise up and rock the world! The Women's Mosaic unites and empowers women through programs that promote intercultural understanding and personal growth. We are a community of diverse, dynamic women interested in expanding our horizons by creating positive change that can individually and collectively enrich the world.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The ARCs are here!


I just got my Advanced Reader Copies for 37 Things I Love, due out from Henry Holt in May 2012.

People sometimes ask if things like this get old after you've done a few books. Well, NOT FOR ME!!! It's differently exciting for each book, but still very exciting to see a project that was years in the making finally coming to fruition.

Happy day.

Find out more about the book, or pre-order it, at IndieBound.

Camo Girl Chat

In the spirit of posting video links, here is a short video of me talking about Camo Girl. There are a lot of random clips of me talking about The Rock and the River; I figured Camo Girl was due its turn in the spotlight.

Oh, and if you're wondering why the still image at the opening looks the way it does, I have no idea. Kind of cool, kind of weird. Not on purpose. That is how these things go. I'm new to online video.

Camo Girl from Kekla Magoon on Vimeo.

Author Kekla Magoon discusses her inspirations for her middle grade novel Camo Girl (Aladdin 2011).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

On Violence and Racism, Then and Now

I've just been reminded of this video interview that I did for Zetta Elliott more than a year ago, after a panel at the New York Public Library. This is one of my favorite videos to date of me talking about the motivations behind writing The Rock and the River.



Plus, after my part, Zetta filmed Rita Williams-Garcia and Tonya Cherie Hegamin. Never hurts to share billing with fabulous ladies like them. This was a great panel! I have a feeling that one day soon it's going to be time for us to take our show on the road....

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mondays at CHICKS ROCK!

On Mondays I post at CHICKS ROCK!, the blog of The Women's Mosaic. Check out my posts there, too!
The Women's Mosaic is a New York City-based non-profit organization that provides education, inspiration, and motivation for women to rise up and rock the world! The Women's Mosaic unites and empowers women through programs that promote intercultural understanding and personal growth. We are a community of diverse, dynamic women interested in expanding our horizons by creating positive change that can individually and collectively enrich the world.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Author's Life Cycle

There’s a talk that I give about my experience as a debut author (I call it “My Journey with The Rock and the River”), which is all about the phenomenon I’ve dubbed The Author’s Life Cycle.

The evolution of this presentation was pretty unusual, because the topic they had asked me to present on was “My Journey to the NAACP Image Awards,” which initially gave me the eemy-squeamy feeling of tooting my own horn a little too hard. But as I thought more about it, I realized there actually was an important journey I could speak about. A journey that wasn’t about the award itself (such things are windfall, entirely beyond our personal control), but about my transformation from being a person who wrote a novel once to being a person whose book was out in the world, rapidly gaining attention and reaching new readers every day.

The Author’s Life Cycle is an ongoing process, one that renews itself with each and every book. It’s not singular, or static, or a thing that you move through in a linear fashion, graduating from one stage to the next, never to return. It is practically a living entity that exists alongside you, grows with you and changes with you, always keeping you on your toes. If you’re lucky. If you’re not, it can just as easily spin you into despair or dissolution.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

I. Alone in my room: The exciting, independent creative process of developing your manuscript.
II. Publish me, pretty please: The long road to publication; the queries, rejections, hope and despair.
III. My baby, all grown up: The publication experience; the transition from manuscript to actual book.
IV. Feedback: Receiving reviews, meeting your readers, releasing ownership of your material to your audience.
V. Interfacing and Inspiration: Drawing on new activities and interactions for renewed inspiration.

I have a LOT to say about this journey and its stages (hence the decision to blog), but for now I leave you with this:

Once I began to understand this cycle, it explained so much about the roller coaster of emotions I experienced along with The Rock and the River. The overwhelming, preoccupying joy at one end of the spectrum, down to the deep, unsettling anxiety of feeling overexposed and vulnerable.

It was so hard to talk about all those emotions, especially because I couldn’t figure out who to talk about them to. Friends and family care about my well-being, but they just don’t fully get it. (“You’re published. You’ve arrived. What’s the problem?”) Writer friends got some of it, but because I was one of the first among my inner circle to publish, it was hard sometimes to talk about the ups and downs without feeling like I was bragging about what I’d achieved. (“You’re nervous about talking to your new editor? You mean the editor for your soon-to-be-published novel? Boo, hoo.”) So, I ended up shouldering this mostly alone.

I suspect that says more about me and my own little hang-ups than it does about the people in my life, who have been unfailingly supportive and sympathetic. It’s simply my way of speaking about some of the isolating aspects of authorhood. We start out in our private little worlds, writing up a storm, but there comes a point (somewhere around your first book birthday) where it’s time to step out of our heads and into the world. And it’s so much scarier than putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Turns out, that was the easy part.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

That Eeemy-Squeamy Feeling

If you’ve been around literary networking events at all, you’ve probably met those authors who feel it is their mission in life to get everyone to buy their book. Personally. Right here. Why wait? They have copies for sale. They can sign one for you. Personalize it. Give you a plastic bag, and a bookmark, and sign you up on their mailing list, for which you’ll receive an additional bag and bookmark once you’ve recommended their book to someone else or written a compelling blog post extolling its virtues. You know you want one. Come on. Please?

Arrrgh. The only thing worse than having to dodge a persistent self-promoter is dealing with the fear that you, too, come across as an aggressive, egotistical maniac whose book can’t possibly be any good if she’s having to push it so hard.

So, where is the line between assertiveness and aggression when it comes to promoting your own work? It’s so easy to see when other people cross it—why is it so difficult to see this line in relation to yourself?

The bad news is, you can never really see it. The line moves, depending on so many factors—the setting, what your intentions are, the mood of your conversation partner, their perception of you. (Notice—the list includes things that are wholly out of your control.) But do not lose faith, my dears, because here’s the good news: if you feel slightly embarrassed by self-promotion, you definitely have the self-regulatory instincts that keep you from coming across as a crazy. Whew.

Because we fear being perceived badly, most writers actually fall into the category of not being assertive enough when it comes to self-promotion. I can’t count the number of times I’ve thought to myself, “I really want to tell Person X about my book. Is that going to seem weird? Is it too forward of me?” Never mind how much we love our work, we don’t feel socially permitted to say so. (More on this later.) Thus, the anxiety of worrying about how we’ll come across collides with the anxiety of desperately wanting to talk about our work, which drives us toward a deeper existential anxiety, and the vicious cycle continues.

There’s no perfect formula. You have to feel it out. But I do have some thoughts on different levels of self-promotion, and where each might be appropriate. For example, you can be much more forward with an industry professional in a networking setting (like at a conference) than you can if you meet at a mutual friend’s wedding.

The bottom line is this: in order to be an effective self-promoter, you have to get comfortable with confronting the eeemy-squeamy feeling of Am I making this too much about me?

And then you’ve gotta just go out and do it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Trailer Discoveries

Excuse me while I take a moment to extoll the wonder that is YouTube:

"YouTube is awesome!" (Okay, I'm done.)

I never used to go on there, and in retrospect I don't understand how it eluded me for so long, but recently I've become much more proficient at surfing for videos. As a result, I have found the following:



I LOVE book trailers. I've always wanted to create one for The Rock and the River, but I never quite got the hang of gathering photos and setting it to music and such. I am now inspired to try one for Camo Girl or Fire in the Streets, the ROCK sequel that is coming out in 2012.

Thanks very much to the person who made this. I couldn't tell his/her name (apparently I'm not that YouTube-proficient yet) but I really enjoyed the end product here and I appreciate the time and effort someone took to create this for the book.

And then I found another one, by Robyn Young:



Thanks, Robyn! It looks great.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mondays at CHICKS ROCK!

On Mondays I post at CHICKS ROCK!, the blog of The Women's Mosaic. Check out my posts there, too!
The Women's Mosaic is a New York City-based non-profit organization that provides education, inspiration, and motivation for women to rise up and rock the world! The Women's Mosaic unites and empowers women through programs that promote intercultural understanding and personal growth. We are a community of diverse, dynamic women interested in expanding our horizons by creating positive change that can individually and collectively enrich the world.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Starting the Journey

The genesis for my new blog focus is somewhat sprawling. It’s taken me a long time to figure out what I want to say about the real world (fiction comes easy). But I like to think that when a course of action is the right fit, there will be multiple paths leading you to it. Even if you make some strange choices along the way, if you’re paying close attention those paths will wind you right back to where you’re supposed to be going.

I started thinking about “the author’s journey” about a year ago, during a period of time when I found myself answering lots of questions from debut authors. Questions like:

How do I prepare for a school visit? How much do I need to self-promote? How do you deal with a bad review? How important is a blog, and do I have to get on Twitter? How do I explain to my friends that writing is a real job, not just a hobby? What kinds of questions are my readers likely to ask? Where can I order cheap bookmarks? I’m dying to see my book on a bookstore shelf--how do I get bookstores to carry it? Will it ever stop being really cool to see my book on a bookstore shelf?

I could never purport myself to be a true authority on any of these things, but I found that I had answers to the questions, and a perspective to share based on my experiences. It seemed to be helpful to people. And I wanted to continue talking, because it felt reassuring to know that the years of struggle since my debut novel sold might actually be relevant to someone other than me. In other words, I’m starting to feel a lot less alone in the world, and the best thing I can think to do with that feeling is to share it.

I found this video of myself at an SCBWI conference almost two years ago, and it pretty much sums up my feelings…

…even though I didn’t immediately recognize the full meaning of what I was trying to express. At the time, it was one of my first video appearances, and I was just happy that I didn’t come across looking or sounding like a total idiot!

Many paths, same destination.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cynsational Me

My guest post was featured yesterday on Cynsations, author Cynthia Leitich Smith's awesome all-things-kidlit blog.

I blogged about my inspirations for writing Camo Girl, my novel about friendship and fitting in in middle school.

Camo Girl
deals with some hot-button issues of the day, like bullying, but mainly it is about learning to recognize real friendship and accepting yourself even when you are different from everyone around you.

Here's a teaser from my guest post.:

What’s your inspiration?” is a question that most authors I know get asked a lot—by friends, by child readers, by fellow writers.

Like most authors (I suspect), I’ve developed semi-canned answers to this question—answers which are based on truth, but which always leave me feeling a bit squirmy. I never can get to the bottom of something as unwieldy as my inspiration in a sound bite...."

...which is why I had to write an entire article about it. Read the rest here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Year, New Directions

Okay, so it isn't the new year yet, but I can't believe how fast the summer disappeared, and how quickly the fall seems to be getting chomped up, too. It's already mid-October (eek!) and I'm sure I'll be dragging out my snowboots and singing Auld Lang Syne much sooner than I can possibly imagine.

So, I just wanted to share a quick update about some changes that I'm planning and some new ideas that I'm forming about my online presence. In short: I need to step it up a notch! I started this blog when my first book was published, believing that it would be a good way to keep people informed of my activities. It is, but I've felt for a while now that I can't be an effective blogger until I find a focus and direction for my posts that is larger than myself and more content-rich than simple self-promotion.

Happy news: After only three years, I finally figured out what I want to blog about! Hooray!

The new focus for my blog (as yet untitled) is going to be the author's journey. I'll share my reflections on the experience of transitioning from being a person who aspires to publish, to a person with a book contract in hand, to a person who is a published author, especially focusing on all the steps along the journey from being a debut novelist to being an established and successful author. Writers view publication as the epitome of success, but there's also a profound personal and professional journey that begins when you get your first contract. Sometimes it feels like you've been thrust into no-man's-land, and we don't talk enough about how to negotiate the "after." I hope this blog can become a gathering place for authors to share their experiences and struggles (personal and professional) as well as a place to welcome debut writers into the fold with resources, advice and support that will help them get off to a great start.

I'm updating my website design now, and it will all launch in January, so I'll do some cross-posting at that time and try to drum up new traffic and start a broader conversation. In the meantime, for the benefit of my few but faithful followers, I'm going to be posting some initial material on these topics so that when the brand new blog (yay!) goes live, I'll already have some things posted for people to look at.

Basically, this is a warning to my existing fans (you are few, but you are loyal!): Don't freak out when I start posting more than once a week! I truly hope you'll join me when I move to the new and improved keklamagoon.com, and that you'll add your insights to the conversation there.

Image: Pixomar / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mondays at CHICKS ROCK!

On Mondays I post at CHICKS ROCK!, the blog of The Women's Mosaic. Check out my posts there, too!
The Women's Mosaic is a New York City-based non-profit organization that provides education, inspiration, and motivation for women to rise up and rock the world! The Women's Mosaic unites and empowers women through programs that promote intercultural understanding and personal growth. We are a community of diverse, dynamic women interested in expanding our horizons by creating positive change that can individually and collectively enrich the world.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sunny San Francisco

Okay, so it wasn't all that sunny in reality, but my recent visit to Northern California certainly left me with a nice sunny feeling inside.



I spent a week on the west coast, mostly in San Francisco with a few days spent up in Chico, California. Soon, I'll post about the actual work I did, which was the central purpose for my travels (four events during the course of the week!), but in between, I managed to find some time to just be a tourist.


I did some research on the Black Panther Party while I was in the vicinity of the area where the group was founded, and it turns out the legacy is alive in a lot of different ways throughout the city. The tastiest homage I ran across was Black Panther fudge at Z Cioccolato. It's their best seller. Yum!


I rode the cable cars everywhere they went! I didn't really know how cable cars worked until I went to the Cable Car Museum, and boy, did I learn a lot about cables. However, the cable cars do not go down this road, the "crookedest" street. This cracked me up. I've never seen anything like it.

Sunset on the Golden Gate Bridge. Turns out, the middle of the bridge (there's a pedestrian path) is as good a place as any to be inspired to scrawl an epic poem in your notebook, and stand there awkwardly, looking bizarre and gathering suspicious looks from passersby. Ah, the embarrasments we suffer to pursue creative arts.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Camo Girl on the Radio

I was recently invited to speak on NPR's Michael Eric Dyson show, interviewed by (you guessed it) Michael Eric Dyson, bestselling author, educator and radio personality. It's always fun and exciting to be interviewed, but it's even more so to be interviewed by someone whose books have been in my collection probably since before I really started writing. When I learned about this opportunity, it was pretty awesome for me to realize that not only had I heard of Mr. Dyson, but I could point out several volumes of his work on my own bookshelves!

I recorded the interview earlier this week in NPR's Midtown studio here in New York. Mr. Dyson was speaking to me from the D.C. studio. Now, I know radio is a relatively old technology, but it's still neat to think about having half a conversation in one room, in one city, when the other half is happening with someone hundreds of miles away, and have the capability to air that conversation nationally at the same time! (This wasn't a live broadcast, but still....I'm easily impressed by and in awe of technology at all levels.)


My interview airs today in selected markets across the country, but unfortunately I don't think it airs in New York! The good news is, a podcast of the show is available at the Dyson Show website.


It's an hour long show; my interview segment begins at 23:00, and lasts just shy of nine minutes. Check it out!

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Capitol Adventure

This weekend I traveled to Washington, D.C., and Charlottesville, Virginia, for a series of book events! First, I spoke to a cool group of middle schoolers at Politics & Prose Bookstore in D.C. And followed it up with a fun, rowdy auditorium full of sixth graders at nearby Deal Middle School. I got to share my Camo Girl slideshow for the first time--it was exciting to discuss new content in a school visit. Much as I love talking about The Rock and the River, it's really neat to have a second book out there that kids are reading, too!





Next, I traveled with friend and fellow author Tami Lewis Brown down to Charlottesville for the Virginia Festival of the Book. It's always great to spend time in the company of other authors, and it was an extra special treat to get to see my dear friend Ashley Bryan, an award-winning author and illustrator. I was invited to introduce him at the Sweet Reads book fair, where he received an honor for his work!





At the festival itself, I sat on a panel called Spinning Lives into Story, along with Tami Lewis Brown, Maha Addasi, moderated by librarian Louise Simone. We spoke about historical fiction, non-fiction, and multicultural fiction: all kinds of stories based on real lives and experiences that we as children's authors have a responsibility to make as true as possible. But what is TRUTH, when it comes to fiction? How much can authors make up, and how much should we keep perfectly true to life? What damage does it do to kids' understanding of history if authors falsify or embellish details in a biography? The discussion was lively and really drew people in. We could have talked for days!

It was particularly exciting to be able to speak briefly about my new non-fiction release, Today the World is Watching You (Lerner 2011), about the Little Rock Nine and the fight for school integration in the late 1950s, after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board decision. Here's the cover!