Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
Today we have a super special guest: Mia Wenjen. She is one of my FAVORITE bloggers, an amazing author, and the co-founder of Multicultural Children’s Book Day! To become a reviewer for January 2021’s Multicultural Children’s Book Day, go here.
Kaitlyn: Thanks so much for joining us today on the Math Is Everywhere Blog.
Mia: Thanks so much for having me!
Kaitlyn: I have always loved reading your blog posts, but fell even more in love when I read why you started it, can you give us a brief overview of what you blog about and what inspired it?
Mia: When my oldest was in first grade, her teacher had a chronic illness and was constantly and unpredictably absent. As a result, she had substitute teachers subbing for substitute teachers. By the spring, she was way behind the other kids in her grade and I had to frantically find materials to catch her up. This ended up taking two plus years because it was hard to identify and gaps. Other parents in her class asked me what I was doing and that because the basis for my blog.
Over time, I also focused on diversity in children’s books after reading on the Lee and Low blog that the number of diverse books published had not changed in fourteen years.
Kaitlyn: I love how you took less-than-ideal situations and turned them into something wonderful! Do you have any tips or tricks you’ve learned about blogging on your adventures?
Mia: I think that being yourself is the number one piece of advice that I’ve learned. I blog on controversial topics such as sexual misconduct and racism within the children’s book industry. There might be a perception that bloggers have to “play nice with everyone” but I have found that when I drew a line in the sand around an issue, it helped to define both my blog focus and my audience.
Kaitlyn: Wonderful advice. Try to find your passion and exude it! Let’s talk about your books now. What is your author’s journey/how did you become an author?
Mia: I dipped a toe into the water by editing a fundraising book on behalf of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Read Your World: A Guide to Multicultural Children’s Books for Parents and Educators. We wanted to create a resource to help parents find the diverse children’s books they were looking for.
From that starting point, I had two daughters who played a lot of sports and had a wide range of experiences, both positive and negative. I wanted to share resources to parent volunteer coaches about coaching girls because I learned that 70% of all kids quit organized sports by age 13 but that girls quit at six times the rate of boys. How To Coach Girls was the result, co-authored with the ex-Boston College Women’s Soccer Coach, Alison Foley.
Kaitlyn: I love that your passions always guide your work! What advice would you give to new writers?
Mia: Read. Read. Read. Especially in the genre that you want to write in. Get familiar with both backlist and frontlist (older and newly published) books to see the landscape of publishing. Ideally, you want to write from the heart but also find an area that isn’t already populated with a ton of books in that particular area. I’d recommend reading hundreds of books in that genre. One easy way to get this done is to volunteer to judge a children’s book competition like The Cybils Awards http://www.cybils.com/.
Kaitlyn: Yes, reading is so important to writing, and thanks for sharing this awesome resource. Can you share a bit about your book Sumo Joe’s journey?
Mia: I took a children’s book writing course at my local high school through Community Education and wrote Sumo Joe before it started thinking that the point of the class would be to write a book. It turned out that a book manuscript wasn’t required but it did give me the opportunity to get feedback from my teacher and classmates that was very helpful.
My middle daughter liked the manuscript a lot and encouraged me to try to get it published. On a whim (and because a Query Letter wasn’t required), I sent it in to the Lee and Low New Voices Competition. I didn’t win but they wrote back and offered to help me edit my manuscript. A few months later (with several rounds of edits with their team of editors), they offered me a contract. It was such a thrill to work with Lee and Low in such a collaborative way. I really loved that experience.
Kaitlyn: That sounds like an amazing experience! And last on our list of your wonderful experiences, what is Multicultural Children’s Day coming up on January 29, 2021?
Mia: Our 8th year is coming up — the time has flown! We celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day in a myriad of ways:
–Free diverse children’s and YA books to reviewers (anyone with social media such as Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram). Sign up is open now: https://www.pragmaticmom.com/2020/09/sign-up-for-free-diverse-childrens-books/
Basically, reviewers specify what age book they want. We send them a free book. They review it and post their reviews the last week of January. It gets shared on our Giant Linky and their social media.
— Twitter Party. At 9pm EST, we host a one hour Twitter Party where we will give away a book bundle of 8 books every 6 minutes. We discuss the state of diversity in children’s book publishing. Each question is tied to a book bundle prize. Use #ReadYourWorld to find the party.
— Classroom and Library Celebrations. We give teachers and librarians two diverse children’s books and swag so that they can host a celebration the last week of January in their classroom or library.
— Free resources. We have classroom kits on different themes: Kindness, Empathy (Immigrant and Refugee Experience), Physical and Developmental Challenges, Poverty, Activist and Activism, and Homeschool and Diverse KidLit Book List and Activity Kit. These kits come with a book list, printable posters, discussion guides, and activities.
We also have a giant Diversity Book List and Activity resource: https://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/multicultural-reading-resources/diversity-book-lists-for-kids/
Kaitlyn: So much amazing stuff! Can you share how you co-founded Multicultural Children’s Day and how people can get involved?
Mia: After reading the discouraging stat on the Lee and Low blog about the number of diverse children’s books published remaining stagnant over a fourteen year period, I decided to focus my blog on promoting the great diverse children’s books already published or newly released.
I declared my new focus on social media and Valarie Budayr who blogged at Jump Into a Book at the time, contacted me. She also wanted to do something about this and suggested that we talk. During our call, she proposed creating a holiday and I said, “Can you do that?!!”
Multicultural Children’s Book Day was born from that call. We spoke during the summer and figured that the end of January would give us enough time to organize our event. It went well and the next year we decided to form a non-profit around it. And every year, we would add one more thing to our holiday.
Kaitlyn: That’s amazing! What numbers come to mind when you think of your journey?
8: Eight is a lucky number in China, Japan and Vietnam because it’s the same sound as the word for prosperity.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day will celebrate its 8th holiday on January 29, 2021!
I have only published six books so far, so I need to work on getting two more in the pipeline.
Kaitlyn: Haha, love it! I’m hoping for books 7 and 8 to come soon! Finally, if you could spend the day with your favorite author, would you rather go outside and fly a kite or sit by a fire with tea?
I’d take him/her boxing with me. My boxing trainer, Marc Gargaro of Nonantum Boxing Club, also trains the U.S. National Mens’ and Women’s Team that will compete at the postponed Tokyo Olympics in 2021. I love introducing people to boxing. It’s a great stress reducer! Afterwards, we would need a nap so sitting by the fire with tea will be the perfect way to end the day.
Kaitlyn: That sounds amazing, and I’ll be cheering for the National Teams in 2021! Thanks so much for joining us today and sharing so many wonderful resources!
Find Mia on the web:
Twitter: @PragmaticMom https://twitter.com/pragmaticmom
Instagram: @Pragmaticmom https://www.instagram.com/pragmaticmom/?hl=en
Facebook: @PragmaticMom https://www.facebook.com/PragmaticMom-Education-Parenting-and-Childrens-Books-265900409766/
Pinterest: @PragmaticMom https://www.pinterest.com/pragmaticmom/
YouTube: Mia Wenjen https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCe4MtvQVGVFcnikXF96ikLA
Also, check out Mia and Nat’s amazing interview about Sumo Joe with Matthew Winner here
Mia has generously agreed to give away four of her books to 4 winners!
- Sumo Joe
- Asian Pacific American Heroes
- How To Coach Girls
- The Elusive Full Ride Scholarship: An Insider’s Guide
To enter into the random giveaway, you can do each of the following (each will give you an extra entry)
- Comment on this post
- Share in the comments below that you added any of Mia’s books to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share in the comments that you ordered a copy of any of these books!
- Share in the comments that you did a purchase request for any of these books at your library
- Quote retweet my tweet about this blog post on Twitter and tag three friends.
I hope you all follow Mia’s blog, check out her books, and get involved in Multicultural Children’s day. I can’t wait for it myself–the book I got to review last year is just spectacular Sissy Goes Tiny. I can’t wait to see what I get this year!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez
PS. I hope you all are finalizing your Fall Writing Frenzy pieces! Lydia, the donors who are selecting their own winners, and I are getting so excited that we get to start reading soon! Please make sure to support all 35 generous donors by following them on social media, reviewing their books, and sharing our #DonorTime tweets!