5 autographed copies will be given away on Friday, January 13, 2017!
For as long as he could remember, Ira Aldridge dreamed of performing Shakespeare. But in the early 1800s in New York City, options for black actors were limited. Determined to pursue his dream, Ira sets off for England. Through hard work and perseverance, Ira goes on to play major roles in The Merchant of Venice, King Lear and Othello, which becomes his signature role.
Ira Aldridge’s dream comes true as he become the most celebrated Shakespearean actor of his time.
Exclusive interview with the author:
1) What inspired you to write picture books?
Specifically, I write historical fiction picture books. I like writing picture books because they introduce children to a person or topic. I hope my books are “appetizers” that make the reader want to know more. Also, the fact that picture books can be read in one sitting makes them ideal for story time and for the reluctant reader.
2) What were your favorite books growing up?
These days we like to make sure that children see themselves reflected in books. I did not see many African Americans in the books I read as a child, but, still, I loved to read! I loved Dr. Seuss and Beverly Cleary. I enjoyed the classics. I was taken with words.
3) What do you do when you’re not writing?
When I am not writing, I am still working with books. I substitute for school librarians and teachers. I love it. I also teach basic reading to adults, which is a very rewarding job.
When I am not doing any of the above, I am gardening, another of my passions.
4) How did you get the idea for Ira’s Shakespeare Dream?
I came across Ira Aldridge when I was researching my first book, Love Twelve Miles Long. I was fascinated by his story and amazed that he was so little known. His life reminds me of the variety of experiences that people of African descent have had on this continent–before, during, and after the founding of the United States. There are so many stories to be told! Specifically, this is what drew me to Ira Aldridge: – That he was born free in New York during the time of slavery. Most of the African Americans we know about who lived during this time were born slaves in the South. Ira’s story expands our understanding of African American history. – That he attended the famous African Free School, which was founded in 1785 by the New York Manumission Society, an organization that advocated for the full abolition of African slavery. The Society’s members included the Founders, John Jay and Alexander Hamilton. – Ira’s story is unique, yet universal. How many people throughout history have gone against their parents wishes to follow their own dream? – Finally, there is the Shakespeare angle. I loved Shakespeare long before I majored in English Lit in college.
All things considered, Ira Aldridge is a fascinating figure!
5) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? Or authors in general?
I created this handout to give to aspiring authors when I give workshops. I am happy to share it here:
1. Read the kind of books you want to write. If you are not sure what kind of books you want to write, then just read everything until the revelation comes. I was convinced that I could only write light-hearted rhyming stories before I found my niche: Picture book biographies (in prose).
3. Buy the latest edition of Writer’s Market. Take the advice that you will find in this book.
4. Keep writing. Incorporate what you are learning.
5. Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Study their website.
6. Attend SCBWI Conferences: Be an active participant. Attend workshops, meet people, network, learn, buy books; always send in a manuscript for consultation; talk to guest speakers.
(I met Lee & Low Editor, Louise May, when I waited in line to speak to her after she had given a talk. I told her about a manuscript that I was working on and she suggested that I send it to L&L to be considered for their New Voices Award. That manuscript, Love Twelve Miles Long, became my first published book.
7. Keep writing and revising.
8. Continue to attend SCBWI Conferences and submitting manuscripts for consultation. Be open to advice. During a consultation at last year’s Conference, I met the person who was to become my agent.
About the author:
Glenda Armand is the author of two historical fiction picture books. Her first, LOVE TWELVE MILES LONG, recounts a childhood event in the life of Frederick Douglass. Her current book, IRA’S SHAKESPEARE DREAM, tells the story of Ira Aldridge. Glenda currently teaches in Los Angeles. Visit Glenda online at glenda-armand.com.
5 autographed copies will be given away on Friday, January 13, 2017.
PLEASE NOTE: If you already follow us (or the author) on Twitter, or Like us on Facebook, there is no need to unfollow/refollow or unlike/relike to get your entries. Just follow the directions in the widget to verify you already follow/like us and it will count your entry.