One Moore Book: The Haiti Series

My trilingual children’s book, I am Riding, is getting published by One Moore Book as part of the Haiti Series, a collection of six stories that feature the vibrant culture and people of the Republic of Haiti! The  launch will be an art exhibition featuring illustrators of the Haiti Series, including Edouard Duval Carrie. See you in New York on the 26th of January (flyer at the end of this entry).

Enjoy this interview with Wayétu Moore, Co-founder and Publisher of One Moore Book, a company that produces and publishes stories for children of countries with low literacy rates. She received her BA in journalism from Howard University, and her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. She is the former publisher and editor of The Coup Magazine, a literary publication with the goal of unifying women of color through social awareness and political consciousness. Her original off-broadway play “A Girl of Faith’s” was produced in 2004 in New York, and her writing can be found in publications like Global Woman Magazine and The Sea Breeze Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writings. She is currently based in New York.

MJ: Tell us about how One Moore Book came into existence. How did the founders come to love books so much and/or see the need for One Moore Book?

WAYETU: I used to work at a nonprofit called Everybody Wins that created literacy curriculum and facilitated workshops for child of low-performing District of Columbia public schools. I would go in to the school and take 4th and 5th grade children during their lunch periods, who could not read, and give them one-on-one tutoring and coaching.  Something I noticed then was that the girl that I worked with most was not responding to the text. Actually, I noticed that many of the children showed a general disinterest in the stories we were providing them.  I think one day I took with me Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe and her face just lit up. Her interest in literature increased significantly and I believe that it was a direct result of the fact that the characters on the page looked like her.  She and the other children wanted to know everything they could about these characters, who although weren’t necessarily from an identical culture, they felt invested in.  That experience stayed with me for a long time until it eventually became an ambition of mine to create literature for children who don’t always see themselves in books that are published and distributed through schools by major publishing companies. So after graduate school I called my sister one day and asked if she wanted to partner up to put together a book. I would write it and she would illustrate it. The book would be our first project–J is for Jollof Rice. I mentioned it to my 4 other siblings and they all wanted to take part in it; and since we are all artists (either writers or illustrators), I hired them for what I believed could become a boutique publishing company. The more I researched, the more possible incorporating my idea into an independent company seemed–so I did it. Our company has the mission of publishing and distributing multicultural children’s books, with an emphasis on books that feature children of the most underrepresented corners of this earth who have yet to see themselves or their culture on the pages of a book.

MJ: What are the series presently available?

WayetuMoore-378x414WAYETU: Right now The Liberia Series (our original initiative of 7 books) is available. On January 26th, The Haiti Series and a Liberia Signature Series will be released. In February we are releasing a Guinea Series preview book and a larger series for Guinea this winter.

MJ: What does it take to put such a series together? How do you find writers? How do you match writers and illustrators?

WAYETU: Well, for our Liberia projects, as a Liberian artist, I have access to other Liberian writers and artists who were interested in the project. For Haiti and Guinea, we sent out calls for submissions. Writers and illustrators are matched by myself and our creative director. Two books of the Haiti series were collaborative submissions so we only matched 4 books, a process which was mainly based on artist style, interest and availability. Putting a series together takes a tremendous amount of patience and organizational skills. For each series we are dealing with about a dozen artists (writers and illustrators) spread across America and our featured country. The end product is so wonderful to touch and hold that every part of the process is worth it.

MJ: Your books are also available as eReaders. What do you think is the future of eBooks for children?

WAYETU: I think eBooks are terrific. I believe that technology encourages problem solving and resourcefulness in young children and eBooks add variety to how parents connect with their children. I think the eBook industry will continue to grow; however, I don’t believe that printed books will ever go out of style. Books help new parents to archive their son/daughter’s childhoods. There is also great power in physically holding a book.

Picture 18

MJ: About the Haiti series. How were the writers selected?

WAYETU: Writers were selected based on the quality of their  submissions, their ideas for stories, and how the stories contributed to the entire package. There were two writers who submitted previously published work and after reading, I really wanted to work with them.

MJ: What are these stories about? Is there a general theme?

WAYETU: There is no general theme; however, I keep in mind that these books are mostly for beginning readers. We were excited when we ran across Haitian colloquialisms, places and nuances that really represented the essence of the culture, in a way that Haitian children would appreciate and perhaps gravitate towards. The ideas for a couple books were collaborations. We had an alphabet book and counting book for the original Liberia series, so I thought, for instance, it would be great to have those two staples in The Haiti Series and threw it out there. The books really range, from bright and fun, to deep and poetic. We have a fascinating counting book by Katia D. Ulysse about a restavek girl living in Haiti. It’s heartwrenching and we are so proud to include it.

MJ: What are some things that you, as an editor, learn about the Haitian people after reading these books?

WAYETU: I was initially so inspired by the overall interest of the Haitian artistic community. It was the sort of passion that made me wake up earlier, write more, pray longer.

After reading the books I saw that there are many similarities between Haitian culture and my own (Liberian) culture. Haiti was the first black republic and Liberia was the second. There is tremendous value in family and community; a young girl can be reprimanded and guided by a neighbor or uncle or woman down the street as much as her own mother and father. The sense that “we are all responsible” was evident in the work. It was also interesting to learn about restaveks. There is a similar culture in Liberia (house girls & house boys) although the children will usually get educated, as promised, but not without the same sort of grievances that restaveks endure.

MJ: Tell us about Edwidge Danticat’s contribution to this series.

WAYETU: Edwidge Danticat is the guest editor of this series. She edited all of the books. The Haiti Series will also include her second children’s book, The Last Mapou, which was illustrated by Edouard Duval Carrie. Edwidge is the most humble writer I have ever met. Her poise and grace have contributed so much to this project, and to my experience in producing it. I respect her highly.

MJ: Book signings planned?

WAYETU: Our launch exhibit is on January 26th and many of the writers will be there; we are also planning a few formal signings for the Spring.

MJ: Next project you guys will be working on?

WAYETU: We are currently producing a Guinea Series.

THE HAITI SERIES

  • A is for Ayiti (Also in Kreyol): Written by Ibi Zoboi / Illustrated by Joseph Zoboi
  • Elsie: Written by Cybille St. Aude / Illustrated by Marie Cecile Charlier
  • Fabiola Konn Konte {Fabiola Can Count}: Written by Katia D. Ulysse / Illustrated by Kula Moore
  • I am Riding! (Tri-lingual): Written by M J Fievre / Illustrated by Jean-Patrick Icart
  • The Last Mapou: Written by Edwidge Danticat / Illustrated by Eduoard Duval-Carrié
  • Where is Lola?: Written by Maureen Boyer / Illustrated by Kula Moore

 

3 Comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s