Sunday, February 9, 2020

Derrick Barnes Keynote: The BLACKEST Book Ever

Award-winning author/illustrator and SCBWI success story, Vashti Harrison introduces award-winning author Derrick Barnes with these words:

His language wraps [his characters] up and hugs them . . .

And her astute observation of his work couldn’t be truer. Derrick is a writer who writes universal stories, but as the title of his keynote declares, he is also the writer of The BLACKEST Book Ever!

In opening, Derrick celebrates Black History Month by giving away four of his books to the first attendees who could recognize some Black greats in the children’s book writing world including Alice Walker, Walter Dean Myers, Virginia Hamilton, and Mildred Taylor. He also gives a special mention to fellow #NY20SCBWI keynote, Jerry Pinkney, the first African American Golden Kite Award winner in 1991 for his picture book Home Place (Aladdin) by Crescent Dragonwagon.

Derrick speaks of his love of family, his legacy, and the reason why he writes: Black children.

            “I think every child deserves to see themselves as the hero and the prettiest 
one in the story.”

Multi-awarding winning title

He talks about how 2018 changed his life with all the praise and accolades that came his way for his picture book Crown: Ode to the Fresh Cut (Denene Millner Books) illustrated by Gordon C. James. He also mentions how his road to this success was not always easy and how he spent 2011-2014 with his head down writing books none of the gatekeepers were interested in taking on. Books that spoke to his experience. The Black experience. Books he knew deserved a place on shelves. 

His dedication to his craft produced between 20 - 30 manuscripts during that time.

But clearly that dedication paid off! 

New titles on the horizon.

We are fortunate to have more of Derrick’s books coming soon, where characters and children are guaranteed to be wrapped in a hug.  

Derrick closed to a standing ovation.

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