Obamas to Produce New Netflix Project Based on Collection Co-Written by Dhonielle Clayton M.A. ’09

In 2020, Dhonielle Clayton M.A. ’09, an alumna of Hollins University’s graduate programs in children’s literature, joined with five other bestselling African American young adult authors to create Blackout, a collection of stories about Black teenagers navigating love during a power outage in New York City.

Now, Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions is partnering with fellow production company Temple Hill (Twilight, The Fault in Our Stars, Fatherhood) to develop Blackout as what The Hollywood Reporter (THR) describes as “a film and TV ‘event'” for Netflix. “The project,” THR explains, “is being developed concurrently as a TV series and film adaptation. That means that some of the six stories could wind up in the film, while others are in the TV show.”

Netflix says of the project, “From the perspective of 12 teens with six shots at love, Blackout takes place as a heatwave blankets New York City in darkness and causes an electric chaos. When the lights go out and people reveal hidden truths, love blossoms, friendships transform, and all possibilities take flight.”

In addition to Clayton, Blackout features stories by Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon. Since its publication in June, the collection has earned wide acclaim. NPR’s review states, “In Blackout, young Black love with all its insecurities, mistakes, emotion, honesty, and humanity makes for a lush read. Even amidst their fears, these characters are wonderfully respectful of each other’s choices. You will root for them all to find their own right love at their own right time. And though it was written for young adults, Blackout is a must-read for all generations.” Publishers Weekly calls it a “joyful collaboration” that “brings a necessary elation to stories of Black love, queer love, and alternative forms of affection, all of which are all tenderly highlighted in these narratives.” And, the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books remarks, “There’s plenty to smile, sigh, or swoon at here, and readers will happily keep the lights on to see these charming romances to the end.”

All six of Blackout‘s authors are on board as screenwriters for the Netflix adaptation. An air date has not been announced.

Blackout will be Clayton’s second association with Netflix. In 2019, the internet TV network ordered 10 episodes of Tiny Pretty Things, an hour-long series based on the novel co-written by Clayton and Sona Charaipotra. The first season of the series premiered in December 2020 and follows the triumphs and challenges of students at an elite dance academy where the competition to succeed is fierce.

Originally from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., Clayton holds a B.A. from Wake Forest University. After earning her M.A. in children’s literature at Hollins, she completed her M.F.A. in creative writing at The New School. A former secondary school teacher and elementary and middle school librarian, she is co-founder of CAKE Literary, which is described as “a creative kitchen whipping up decadent – and decidedly diverse – literary confections for middle grade, young adult, and women’s fiction readers,” and is also chief operating officer of the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books. Her other works include The Belles (her debut solo novel, released in 2018) and The Everlasting Rose (Book Two in The Belles series, published in 2019). She has also contributed to the story collections Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America; Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet; and Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens. Her middle grade fantasy series, The Marvellers, is forthcoming. She joined the faculty of Hollins’ graduate programs in children’s literature in 2020.

 

 

 

 


M.F.A. Student Wins Essay Award from the Children’s Literature Association

Amanda Becker, who is pursuing her Master of Fine Arts degree in children’s literature at Hollins, has been honored with a 2021 Graduate Essay Award by the Children’s Literature Association (ChLA).

A four-member committee of children’s literature scholars selected Becker’s essay, “A Story in Fragments: An Analysis of Poetry and Perspective in October Mourning,” as the winner of this year’s master’s level award.

The Graduate Student Essay Awards recognize outstanding papers written on the graduate level in the field of children’s literature. They are considered annually and awarded as warranted. In 2008, the ChLA Board approved giving two separate awards each year, one for an essay written at the master’s level and one for an essay written at the doctoral level.

“A Story in Fragments” focuses on Leslea Newman’s October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard, a novel in verse responding to the 1998 murder of Shepherd, a gay 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming. “Written with love, anger, regret, and other profound emotions, this is a truly important book that deserves the widest readership, not only among independent readers but among students in a classroom setting, as well,” noted Booklist in its review. “Most importantly, the book will introduce Matthew Shepard to a generation too young to remember the tragic circumstances of his death. Grades 8-12.”

Of Becker’s essay, a judge stated, “One thing good scholarship does is strengthen its readers’ commitment to the literature it discusses: it prompts some to return to works they thought they knew and others to pick up those works for the first time. I think this is good scholarship. The analysis of the poetic effects of diverse perspectives…is sharply focused, sensitive to textual detail, and above all resists the temptation of reductive readings.” Another judge called it “original and interesting – not just related to interpretation of the specific text but also to the larger genre of poetry.”

Becker will receive a $400 award, a one-year complimentary ChLA membership, and an invitation to present her paper at the ChLA’s annual conference, which will be held virtually this year, June 9 – 13.

ChLA is a nonprofit association of scholars, critics, professors, students, librarians, teachers, and institutions dedicated to the academic study of literature for children.


Hollins Announces Winner of the 2021 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature

Hollins University has honored Newbery Medalist and New York Times bestselling author Meg Medina as the winner of the sixth annual Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature.

Medina will receive an engraved medal and a $1,000 cash prize for Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away, a story of friendship and change illustrated by Sonia Sánchez and published by Candlewick Press.

Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away is all at once poignant and hopeful, poetic but utterly child-centered,” the judges for this year’s prize stated. “From the moment you meet the moving truck ‘with its mouth wide open’ you know you’re in their world – these nearly twin mejor amigas who are having to say goodbye. Thankfully, Medina and Sánchez make the experience – even the really sad parts – sing.”

Medina’s other books include Merci Suárez Changes Gears, the 2019 John Newbery Medal winner; Burn Baby Burn, long-listed for the 2016 National Book Award; and The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind, a 2012 Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year. She resides in Richmond, Virginia, and in addition to writing, she works on community projects that support girls, Latino youth, and/or literacy. She serves on the National Board of Advisors for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and is a faculty member of Hamline University’s Master of Fine Arts program in children’s literature.

Judges for this year’s Margaret Wise Brown Prize also named one Honor Book: You Matter by author/illustrator Christian Robinson and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers. “A quirky, whimsical, nearly circular text that can be read in more than one way, helping young readers understand that they might be both specks of stardust and the stars themselves,” commented the judges. “Lyrical and affirming but also funny and particular in such a Margaret Wise Brown way.”

Hollins established the Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature as a way to pay tribute to one of its best-known alumnae and one of America’s most beloved children’s authors. The cash prizes are made possible by an endowed fund created by James Rockefeller, Brown’s fiancé at the time of her death.

“The Margaret Wise Brown Prize is one of the few children’s book awards that has a cash prize attached,” said Lisa Rowe Fraustino, director of the graduate programs in children’s literature at Hollins.

The engraved medal presented to the winners was conceived by award-winning sculptor, painter, and Hollins alumna Betty Branch of Roanoke. Winners and Honor Book recipients are presented an original linocut certificate designed and donated by Ashley Wolff, author and/or illustrator of more than 50 children’s books.

Margaret Wise Brown graduated from Hollins in 1932 and went on to write Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and other children’s classics before she died in 1952.

The study of children’s literature as a scholarly experience was initiated at Hollins in 1973; in 1992, the graduate program in children’s literature was founded. Today, Hollins offers summer M.A. and M.F.A. programs exclusively in the study and writing of children’s literature, an M.F.A. in children’s book writing and illustrating, and a graduate-level certificate in children’s illustration.

This summer, Hollins’ children’s literature program will release information on how to submit books for consideration for the 2022 Margaret Wise Brown Prize.


Friendship, Empowerment Triumph Over Bad Dates in New Picture Book by Children’s Lit Alumna

When Rebekah Manley M.F.A. ’11 set out to create not only her first book but one designed to defy the standards of a whole genre, her chosen muse was none other than one of Hollins’ best-known graduates and one of America’s most distinguished children’s writers.

“I like to think I channeled the spunky spirit of Margaret Wise Brown (a member of Hollins’ class of 1932 and the author of Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and other timeless children’s classics) as I broke through the expectations of what a picture book ‘should be’ and wrote the one I wanted to read,” the Austin, Texas-based author explains. “One for adults that might break the mold a bit.”

The result is Alexandra and the Awful, Awkward, No Fun, Truly Bad Dates: A Picture Book Parody for Adults, published this fall by Ulysses Press. This hilarious take on dating horror stories, in which the title character embarks on 30 bad dates in 30 days, is also at its core a heartwarming tale.

“Ultimately, it’s a story about friendship and empowerment,” says Manley, who runs the Texas Center for the Book and works to encourage literacy, reading, and library use in the Lone Star State.

Alexandra’s story blends fiction with Manley’s own real-life misadventures. “Honestly, there were some dates I’ve experienced that seemed too ‘unbelievable’ for the book,” she explains. During one of Alexandra’s disastrous dinner dates, “Her date insisted she get prime rib – and that women should just accept the wage gap. ‘Your brains are just different,’ he mansplained. Alex grabbed her steak to go and let him enjoy the financial success of buying her meal.”

Manley praises Catalina Oliveira, the book’s illustrator, for “bringing this book to life with warmth. I’m grateful she was onboard to add a special character I created, Lottie the French bulldog. Lottie has her own unique role, even though she is never mentioned in the text.”

Authors and illustrators typically don’t communicate directly while a picture book is in progress, so Manley and Oliveira’s editor served as the go-between. “It’s always important to give the illustrator space to Alexandra and the Awful, Awkward, No Fun, Truly Bad Datescreate and I didn’t want anything I said to stifle her creativity. We were, however, on a tight deadline and my editor wanted me to give a lot more feedback and direction that might normally occur in creating picture books for children.” As a bonus for readers, Manley reveals there are a number of “Easter eggs,” or almost hidden illustrations, placed throughout Alexandra and the Awful, Awkward, No Fun, Truly Bad Dates: A Picture Book Parody for Adults. “It might take a few reads for people to discover them – they mostly center around friendships in the book.”

Manley also cites her time at Hollins, where she earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in children’s literature “and believed I would become an author. My professors were so knowledgeable and supportive. Hollins gave me that immersive creative experience I needed to dream, hone my craft, and get a solid portfolio of work together. The ‘magic’ felt almost palpable, and I’ll always be grateful for the green and gold foundation.”

Alexandra and the Awful, Awkward, No Fun, Truly Bad Dates: A Picture Book Parody for Adults has earned rave reviews.

“In this funny, clever, rueful, and ultimately uplifting picture book parody, debut author Rebekah Manley taps into universal anxieties about loneliness and singledom while addressing the special agony of dating apps for today’s single woman,” says Amy Gentry, bestselling author of Good as Gone and Last Woman Standing, while Bethany Hegedus, author of Rise! From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou, notes, “What we all need right now is a connection and a good laugh. With humor and heart, Rebekah Manley’s Alexandra and the Awful, Awkward, No Fun, Truly Bad Dates: A Picture Book Parody for Adults has both.”

Manley believes her book can be enjoyed and appreciated as a shared experience. “I hope people will buy and read this with their single friends and family members and be reminded: yes, the dating struggle is real, but there is a whole lot of humor and goodness along the way.

“I also think this is a book our Hollins sisters will enjoy – those central themes of friendship and empowerment are two pieces that rang loud and clear from my education there.”

She adds, laughing, “And maybe people will read this and get some info on what NOT to do on a date!”


Submission Guidelines Announced for 2021 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature

Publishers of picture books released in 2020 are invited to have their works considered for the 2021 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature. The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2021.

Presented annually, the Margaret Wise Brown Prize recognizes the author of the best text for a picture book published during the previous year. The award is a tribute to one of Hollins University’s best-known alumnae and one of America’s most beloved children’s authors. Winners are given a $1,000 cash prize, which comes from an endowed fund created by James Rockefeller, Brown’s fiancé at the time of her death. Each recipient will also receive an engraved bronze medal as well as an invitation to accept the award and present a reading on campus during the summer session of Hollins’ graduate programs in children’s literature.

Judges for the 2021 prize include:

  • Liz Garton Scanlon, author of the 2020 Margaret Wise Brown Honor book One Dark Bird and the Caldecott Honor book All the World.
  • Anika Aldamuy Denise, author of the 2020 Pura Belpré Honor book Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré.
  • Chris Van Dusen, illustrator of over two dozen children’s books authored by himself and others, including the popular “Mercy Watson” series by Kate DiCamillo.

The publisher should submit four copies of each book they wish to nominate for the Margaret Wise Brown Prize: one copy to Hollins University and one copy to each of the three judges. Books must have been first published in 2020; reprints and translations are not eligible. The winner will be announced in May 2021.

Please contact Lisa Rowe Fraustino at fraustinolr@hollins.edu for the judges’ addresses and further submission instructions.

The study of children’s literature as a scholarly experience was initiated at Hollins in 1973; in 1992, the graduate program in children’s literature was founded. Today, Hollins offers summer M.A. and M.F.A. programs exclusively in the study and writing of children’s literature, an M.F.A. in children’s book writing and illustrating, and a graduate-level certificate in children’s book illustration.

 


Hollins Announces Winner of the 2020 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature

Hollins University has honored a writer/illustrator/academic from the United Kingdom as the winner of the fifth annual Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature.

Wendy Meddour, an internationally best-selling children’s author whose books have been translated into 18 languages, will receive an engraved medal and a $1,000 cash prize for Lubna and Pebble, illustrated by Daniel Egnéus and published by Dial Books. In a story that subtly addresses the refugee crisis, a young girl must decide if friendship means giving up the one item that brings her comfort during a time of uncertainty.

Lubna and Pebble stands out as exemplary picture book writing,” the judges for this year’s prize stated. “Concise and poignant, its simple words dramatize a child’s resourcefulness and hope in the face of her difficulties as a refugee. That she ultimately transfers her fortitude to another child, in an act of self-denial, is her greatest triumph.”

Time magazine selected Lubna and Pebble as one of the “10 Best YA and Children’s Books of 2019,” while both the New York Public Library and Chicago Public Library placed it on their respective “Best Books” lists for the year. Horn Book noted that “Meddour’s short, simple sentences pack and emotional punch….This tender, understated story honors the emotional resilience of young people.”

Judges for this year’s Margaret Wise Brown Prize also named one Honor Book: One Dark Bird, written by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon, and published by Simon and Schuster.

Each year, Hollins invites nominations for the prize from children’s book publishers located across the country and around the world. A three-judge panel, consisting of established picture book authors, reviews the nominations and chooses a winner.

Hollins established the Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature as a way to pay tribute to one of its best-known alumnae and one of America’s most beloved children’s authors. The cash prizes are made possible by an endowed fund created by James Rockefeller, Brown’s fiancé at the time of her death.

“The Margaret Wise Brown Prize is one of the few children’s book awards that has a cash prize attached,” said Lisa Rowe Fraustino, director of the graduate programs in children’s literature at Hollins.

The engraved medal presented to the winners was conceived by award-winning sculptor, painter, and Hollins alumna Betty Branch of Roanoke. Winners and Honor Book recipients are presented an original linocut certificate designed and donated by Ashley Wolff, author and/or illustrator of over 50 children’s books.

Margaret Wise Brown graduated from Hollins in 1932 and went on to write Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and other children’s classics before she died in 1952. Hollins celebrated her life and work with a year-long Margaret Wise Brown Festival in 2011 and 2012, which featured stage and musical adaptations of her work along with readings, workshops, guest lectures, and other activities for all ages.

The study of children’s literature as a scholarly experience was initiated at Hollins in 1973; in 1992, the graduate program in children’s literature was founded. Today, Hollins offers summer M.A. and M.F.A. programs exclusively in the study and writing of children’s literature, an M.F.A. in children’s book writing and illustrating, and a graduate-level certificate in children’s book illustration.

This summer, Hollins’ children’s literature program will release information on how to submit books for consideration for the 2021 Margaret Wise Brown Prize.


M.F.A. Student Selected As “We Need Diverse Books” Mentee

Donald A.D. Sutton, an aspiring author and illustrator who is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in children’s literature and children’s book illustration at Hollins, is one of ten book creators chosen to take part in the We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) Mentorship Program for 2020.

WNDB is a nonprofit organization of children’s book lovers that advocates for essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.

Sutton, who hails from Hazlehurst, Mississippi, discovered his passion for children’s literature and illustration while completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in animation at the Savannah College of Art and Design. He and the nine other mentees, whom Mentorship Program Co-Chair Meg Cannistra called “phenomenal, an extremely talented group,” will spend a year engaged in one-on-one relationships with authors and illustrators who are established in the picture book, middle grade, and young adult genres. Some of the program’s former mentees have gone on to sign with prominent industry agents, publish multiple works, or secure a debut book contract.

Sutton will be mentored by Floyd Cooper, an illustrator of nearly 100 books for children, including Ruth and the Green Book, These Hands, A Beach Tail, and A Dance Like Starlight, which received a Kirkus Starred Review. He is a three-time Coretta Scott King Honoree and an NAACP Image Award winner.

 


New Book by MFA Grads Supports Local Early Literacy Initiative

Two Hollins authors are helping to promote the benefits of reading with children from birth with the publication of their new book.

Copies of Slow Time, Hush Time by Jennifer Wood M.F.A. ’19 and Lucinda Rowe M.F.A. ’19, both alumnae of the university’s graduate programs in children’s literature and children’s book illustration, will be given for free to new mothers at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. The nonprofit organization Turn the Page, whose mission is to provide every child born in the Roanoke Valley with his or her own home library of books during the first three years of life, is coordinating the distribution. The book is part of Turn the Page’s Early Literacy project, which is co-directed by Hollins faculty members Anna Baynum, associate professor of education, and Tiffany Pempek, associate professor of psychology.

On every page of Slow Time, Hush Time are ways for parents to interact with their young child. The suggestions are intended to foster bonding, language, and social development, along with creating a foundation for a lifetime enjoyment of reading.


Submission Deadline for 2020 Margaret Wise Brown Prize is January 15

Publishers of picture books released in 2019 are invited to have their works considered for the 2020 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature. The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2020.

Presented annually, the Margaret Wise Brown Prize recognizes the author of the best text for a picture book published during the previous year. The award is a tribute to one of Hollins University’s best-known alumnae and one of America’s most beloved children’s authors. Winners are given a $1,000 cash prize, which comes from an endowed fund created by James Rockefeller, Brown’s fiancé at the time of her death. Each recipient will also receive an engraved bronze medal as well as an invitation to accept the award and present a reading on campus during the summer session of Hollins’ graduate programs in children’s literature.

Judges for the 2020 prize include:

  • John Sullivan, author of the 2019 Margaret Wise Brown Prize-winning book Kitten and the Night Watchman.
  • Denise Fleming, author-illustrator of over two dozen picture books, including the Caldecott Honor Book In the Small, Small Pond.
  • Dianne “Dinah” Johnson-Feelings, professor of children’s literature at the University of South Carolina and author of several picture books, including Hair Dance, a Bank Street Best Children’s Book.

The publisher should submit four copies of each book they wish to nominate for the Margaret Wise Brown Prize: one copy to Hollins University and one copy to each of the three judges. Books must have been first published in 2019; reprints and translations are not eligible. The winner will be announced in May 2020.

Please contact Lisa Rowe Fraustino at fraustinolr@hollins.edu for the judges’ addresses and further submission instructions.

The study of children’s literature as a scholarly experience was initiated at Hollins in 1973; in 1992, the graduate program in children’s literature was founded. Today, Hollins offers summer M.A. and M.F.A. programs exclusively in the study and writing of children’s literature, an M.F.A. in children’s book writing and illustrating, and a graduate-level certificate in children’s book illustration.

 


Netflix To Feature YA Drama Based On Hollins Author’s Novel

An acclaimed young adult book co-written by an alumna of Hollins’ graduate programs in children’s literature is headed to Netflix.

The Internet TV network has ordered 10 episodes of Tiny Pretty Things, an hour-long series based on the novel by Dhonielle Clayton M.A. ’09 and Sona Charaipotra. The show is scheduled to premiere in 2020.

Tiny Pretty Things follows the triumphs and challenges of students at The Archer School of Ballet, an elite dance academy in Chicago where the competition to succeed is fierce. Published by HarperCollins in 2015, the novel is described by Kirkus Reviews as “a page-turner with a heart.” Publishers Weekly notes, “This enticing glimpse into the ballet world is rich with detail and drama as the authors highlight its glamour and darkness.” Shiny Broken Pieces, a sequel, was released the following year.

Clayton’s other works include The Belles (her debut solo novel, released in 2018) and The Everlasting Rose (Book Two in The Belles series, published in March of this year). She has also contributed to the story collections Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America; Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet; and Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens. Originally from the Washington, D.C., suburbs, Clayton went on to major in English at Wake Forest University. After earning her M.A. in children’s literature at Hollins, she completed her M.F.A. in creative writing at The New School. A former secondary school teacher and elementary and middle school librarian, she is co-founder of CAKE Literary, which is described as “a creative kitchen whipping up decadent – and decidedly diverse – literary confections for middle grade, young adult, and women’s fiction readers,” and is also chief operating officer of the non-profit We Need Diverse Books.

Clayton taught a week-long workshop at Hollins in July on writing for children and will be joining the faculty of the university’s graduate programs in children’s literature in the summer of 2020.