I came across Dana Clark Colors’ book fair back in December or November of last year and was really excited to see a group of independent Black authors and illustrators putting on their own event. The organizer J.D. Wright was kind enough to answer a few questions about the event, which happens several times a year throughout the DMV (Washington DC, Maryland, & Virginia) areas at museums, churches, and community centers. The focus of the event is on children’s literature affirming and illustrating stories about Black children and families. Starting in August of last year, JD and a collective group called “Children’s Book Authors Align” has hosted 4 such events and plan to do more!
Robert Liu-Trujillo: Tell us briefly who you are, what you do, and what made you start working with kids books?
JD: I am J.D.Wright. I am the creator of DanaClarkColors.com. I create books featuring children of color. My books promote self-confidence, self- love, and provide journaling tools. I produce Children’s Book Fairs (4 per year). I sponsor prizes and trophies towards the Social Sciences in local Science Fairs. I am a proactive parent who created Dana Clark Colors for my daughter when I realized that the books/movies/toys did not fully include her in the mainstream
RLT: What made you decide to go independent and how did you go about creating your books?
JD: I went independent because I was ready and did not want to wait for anyone to give me permission. I researched how to publish a book on my own and then I did it. I used an Amazon print-on-demand company and followed all their instructions. This is not the only way to go. I have since learned that there are many avenues to Self Publishing.
RLT: How do you feel about the current offering of children’s activity books, children’s books, and literature?
JD: I feel that there are several activity books on many topics, but I have yet to see any that help children to know who they are, love who they are, and be who they are. I wanted my books to provide this. Therefore I think my books stand out from the rest. I love many children’s books besides my own, but I never noticed the need for more books featuring black children until I had a child of my own. It was clear to me that today’s children’s books needed more stories and images that my daughter could relate to. I think that books can be better.
RLT: What is the independent children’s book scene like in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area?
JD: I always say that the best coworkers in the world are children’s book authors. There is a strong unity among the indie children authors in this area. Our books stores are amazing and we all hold great relationships with them. Nearly any black owned business or any children’s based business is always willing to participate in the supporting of our books. The DC area is surely the best place to be for a children’s book indie author.
RLT: Are there many events or venue’s where parents can find diverse kids books?
JD: In our area, yes. Mahogany Books, Party Palace, Sankofa Bookstore, Alexandria Black History Museum in Virginia, Local Churches, Bowie Barnes and Nobles, Prince George’s County Libraries, The Children’s African American Book Fair in Baltimore, (there are many book festivals in Washington, DC).
RLT: Can you tell our readers about the book fairs you started? Where? And why?
JD: The BACK TO FUN BOOK FAIR is a Dana Clark Colors production which is a local book fair in the DC, MD, VA area. I created this book fair to bring opportunity to local Indie Authors. Often times Indie Authors seek out vending opportunities to get their books known and to help with sales. With our Book Fairs we keep the vending cost low and we cross promote. We cross promote so that each author’s audience has a chance to know another author in the fair. Our Fairs are held at community centers, museums and soon college campuses. You can find our Book Fairs on the Dana Clark Colors face book page or at DanaClarkColors.com.
RLT: Are the folks who sell books at the fair published by larger companies, smaller publishers, or independently?
JD: The Authors who participate in our book fairs hold a diverse publishing background, but most of whom are independent.
RLT: How did you come across some of the folks who sell at your book fair? And why is it important to create a fair that features Black authors, illustrators, etc?
JD: I have met many authors at other fairs that I myself have participated in. Many times authors reach out to me. They admire what I have done and I love sharing with them how they can do the same. There is a great community of indie authors to explore at expos, fairs, bazars, and other children educational events.
At every event that I have participated in with my books, a customer says to me “I wish we had this when I was a child”. At our book fairs parents know they do not have to grab the last “black” book off the shelf or ask management to order the doll that looks more like their kid. Parents know that we care about the wellness of our community as we do for our own children.
This means Women Authors, Children Authors, and most importantly Black (of African descent) Authors, impact my daughter’s belief that she can have, be and do the same things. Seeing someone “like her” at book fairs signing books, with amazing websites and products, speaking to large audiences… this strengthens her beliefs of accomplishing the same things.
RLT: What type of folks do you get coming to your events?
JD: We have parents and children who attend our events along with teachers, our social media followers, and local residents.
RLT: What is your ultimate goal with making books and providing a space for both book makers and book lovers?
JD: My ultimate goal is to have fun and show my daughter what “AWESOME” really means. I want for Dana Clark Colors Book Fairs to grow to be a national phenomenon and our books to grow in sales. My goal is also to encourage authors to keep creating, to not stop at one book or one product, but to expand and keep going. It is also my goal to serve other creators as a Mentor/Consultant/Collaborator.
The next Back to Fun Book Fair will be June 22, 2019 at the Alexandria Black History Museum in Alexandria Virginia.
For more photos including links to the many authors and illustrators present at the book fairs go to Dana Clark Colors on Facebook. And support these book makers and artisans such as Me’sha Bazemore of Cocoa Twins, Katrina Denise (The Message in the Mirror), Keianna Johnson (Coming of Age), and James Tate (Kool Kids and the Land of the Giants)