The Sweetest Sound

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cropped-img_0296.jpgWhen you were a kid, was there ever a celebrity whom you looked upon as sort of a fairy godmother? When I was little, my cast of good-natured spirits ranged from Julie Andrews to Diana Ross.

In my latest middle grade novel, The Sweetest Sound, my main character has a fairy godmother of sorts–Mariah Carey.

Cadence is a quiet girl who enjoys her solitude. However, she is also a shy girl who longs to define her time among others as she sees fit. And one way in which she sees fit is through singing. She has an amazing voice. One that would be compared to her hero, Mariah Carey, if only Cadence would allow it to be heard.img_0298

In my late teens when Whitney Houston became an instant icon, my mother was immediately drawn to the bubbly, brown-skinned diva. She rejoiced at Whitney’s every move. And a few years later, when I first saw Mariah Carey perform the National Anthem at a Detroit Pistons game, I knew how my mother felt.

The 90s were a time when I was finding my professional self and discovering what kind of woman I was to become. And Mariah Carey was an integral voice in the soundtrack of my life.

So when I sat down to craft a tale about a young girl on a similar mission of self-discovery, a young woman whose heart is filled with song, and music and light, I drew upon the lyrical influences of one of my all-time favorite angels, Ms. Carey.

The Sweetest Sound is a delightful, lyrical story about voice, perceptions and misconceptions. It’s the story of a girl with dreams both big and modest. A gospel singer who makes a promise to God, then struggles with what will happen if she can’t keep it. Who then turns to her emotional fairy godmother to see her through her journey.

Cadence must cope with an absentee mother, over protective father and an over-the-top best friend. All the while, balancing a secret that has been eating away at her for years. One whose time has come.

Please enjoy the musical stylings of a beautiful soul. Introducing Cadence Mariah Jolly, and The Sweetest Sound.

South Florida Bound!

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To celebrate the end of Barnes & Noble’s Summer Reading Triathlon, and the newly released paperback of President of the Whole Sixth Grade, Saturday I will be speaking at the lovely, beautiful, wonderful store in Plantation, FL. Yes, non-South Floridians, Plantation is an actual place. Join us as I discuss the expanding universe of Brianna Justice as well as offer advice and inspiration to aspiring novelists.  It’s been a long time since I visited one of my favorite B&N locations. Please join me!

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The latest book about intrepid tween businesswoman, Brianna Justice.

WHEN: SATURDAY, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

WHERE: 591 S University Dr, Plantation, FL 33324

COST: Delightfully free

Workshop Success!

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Author Sherri Winston with Emma (left) and Christian at recent Barnes & Noble workshop in Michigan.

Had a blast last weekend teaching storytelling techniques using LEGO. Brianna Justice, my sixth-grade alter ego, would be proud! Speaking of everybody’s favorite class leader, President of the Whole Sixth Grade becomes a paperback on Aug. 31. I think I might celebrate with a brand new cupcake recipe. Yep! I think I will. Join me for a ooey-gooey cupcake making demonstration. See you soon!

Olympics Countdown

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Runner Allyson Felix poses with the stars and stripes flag Olympic runner Allyson Felix poses with an awe-inspiring American flag. Reminding us all that we are united under the stars and stripes. REUTERS PHOTO CREDIT

I’ve been captivated by summer Olympics since childhood. When I see strong women, like Allyson Felix overcoming injuries, doubts and obstacles to achieve greatness. As a writer, that’s my kind of chick.

Felix is just one of many great athletes I will be rooting for when the Rio 2016 games kick off on Aug. 5.

VISUAL STORYTELLING at Barnes & Noble on Orange Blossom Trail

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NEW PREZ COVER-1Barnes & Noble is challenging young readers to flex their mental muscle with a Reading Triathlon. Young readers can upload a reading journal or come into a store and to pick a copy. The more they read the more FREE BOOKS they earn. And I am blessed to have my book, President of the Whole Fifth Grade, as one of the prizes.

Well, a thing like that simply must be celebrated. So here’s the deal. I’ll be appearing at the Florida Mall B&N at 8358 Orange Blossom Trail on Friday, 4:30 p.m. What am I doing there? Well, glad you asked! I’m going to show young readers how I use sketches and doodles to help me visualize my stories. Another favorite way to spark my creativity is playing with LEGO. I use LEGO structures to help me physically connect with my stories. OK, I use them mostly ’cause they’re a hoot. Even so, deciding on the pieces and what they mean and where they stand and who they stand for requires a type of narrative. Assembling those same pieces for a stop motion mini movie demands even more storytelling skills. A great way to wile away an afternoon, a weekend or more!

I’ll be debuting my latest LEGO mini-movie based on characters in President of the Whole Fifth Grade and my yet-to-be-released novel, The Sweetest Sound.

Parents, caregivers and anyone needing to breakup the cries of “what’re we gonna’ do now” should come by and get ideas to use throughout the summer. I know, awesome, right?

To download your reading journal:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/b/summer-reading/_/N-rs9

LISTEN! IT’S BRIANNA JUSTICE!

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SOUNDCLOUD Audio Spread the word. Brianna Justice is coming to audiobooks!

Have you heard? Audiobooks have discovered a new star. President of the Whole Sixth BOX OF BOOKS3Grade will soon be available for a listening audience. How mahhhhhh-velous! Here’s a little sneak peek, um, I mean, listen, to what Miss Brianna has to say:

SOUND Cloudteforcupcakes.com/2016/03/02/listen-its-brianna-justice

 

#1000blackgirlbooks

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What a blessing. I received the most amazing news.Ng9mFTWnFaUH6hhU0NiYV7wnlFKpu1rqjC6mMc7EOIaQPfX-CByR7sRfpalh0PC1ecvL=s114

Over the weekend I was knee-deep in cupcakes. Really!

My daughter’s color guard team had a home event. That meant mommy was called upon to donate for the bake sale. A few hundred cupcakes and Rice Krispie treats later, the event was a yummy success. However, the great news wasn’t the the bake sale windfall.

Wonderful ‘tween inspiration, 11-year-old Marley Dias, of New Jersey, began a personal trek to collect 1000 books featuring black girl characters to be donated to black girls. She began a Twitter campaign #1000blackgirlbooks. And became a media darling. Little Miss Marley has met and surpassed her original goal. Better than that, she has brought the discussion of diversity in books to the world. Brava, my dear!

Well, this weekend in an NPR interview, Marley named her top five favorite books featuring African American girl main characters. And amazingly, President of the Whole Fifth Grade was on the list. I couldn’t be more honored. The same reason Marley started her journey–…because she got tired of books about white boys and dogs–is the reason I became an author. I write to give voice to young people who dream. I grew up wanting to do EVERYTHING. And I was always shocked when the black girls around me didn’t share that feeling. That joy of discovery.

Marley’s effort to find stories that reflect the totality of her world and not focus on simply negative or stereotypical imagery defines my personal mission to keep finding ways to say, “Yes, you can!” My hope is now that her drive has been a success, she will continue. Collecting books with kick-butt African American girls as lead, and donating them to children of all colors. I think a white boy with a dog could love a strong character lead.

What an honor that Marley  connected with the message and journey of my heroine, Brianna Justice, the same way I’m delighting in her journey. Thank you, Little Miss Marley Dias. You feel like someone I dreamed up for a fantastic book. Only better. Because you’re real–and wonderful. To read the NPR interview:

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The joy of singing!

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I so clearly remember the summer of American Idol’s debut. I rushed into our office the next day as giddy as a sixteen-year old with a new imagedriver’s license. One of the coolest things about the show is it reminded me how much I loved to sing. I’m not at all claiming I am a great singer, but growing up I enjoyed it to my bones. And like any pure entertainer I had favorites to “perform” while washing dishes or bagging leaves in the yard as a teen. Don’t scoff. My musical sets could include nursery rhymes, Christmas songs and Motown. My performance game was tight. Probably one of my favorite singers to mimic while getting our dishes squeaky clean was Natalie Cole. “This will be… an everlasting love!” In my later teen years I used all my breathing skills to mimic the vocal gymnastics of Teena Marie in Portuguese Love. We authors love remembering stuff that made us feel deeply or had an impact on us. Thank you, Idol. And good luck to all the fine young singers who took their performances beyond their bedrooms, showers or kitchen sinks and moved one step closer to make their dreams come true. Congratulations!

So, do you have a favorite song you like to belt out even if no one is looking? Go on. Share with me.

COUNTDOWN FOR THE HOLIDAYS

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At this time of year, everyone is posting lists of faves. Us book lovers get filled with holiday glee at the thought of books fresh from the book garden, or wherever great books are born. So here are a few goodies on my list of recommended must-reads:

Must Read:

Stunning tale of heartache and redemption.

Stunning tale of heartache and redemption.

Lost In The Sun (LISA GRAFF): Masterfully written and heart-achingly real. Trent starts middle school desperate to hit the restart button on his life. He craves a new beginning after a fifth-grade tragedy left one classmate dead and Trent feeling the weight of his friend’s loss. After all, he surmises, it was all Trent’s fault. How would you cope with causing the death of another kid? Trent’s struggle feels real and honest. The kind of book that makes you clutch your chest and shake your head while you’re reading it. A darned good book!

 

 

Monsters don't stand a chance against the PIB!

Monsters don’t stand a chance against the PIB!

Princess In Black and the Perfect Princess Party (SHANNON HALE): I mean, really? Who wouldn’t want to attend a perfect party in honor of a monster hunting princess? Welcome to the castle, y’all. Princess In Black is in the house. Is it wrong that I buy these books knowing I have no age-appropriate reader with which to share? The PIB (Princess In Black) delivers charm, hilarity and plenty of action. You may scoff, but her tales are a pure delight!

 

 

 

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President of the Whole Sixth Grade (SHERRI WINSTON): Brianna Justice thought she had sixth grade all figured out. Until she was actually in sixth grade. Then everything she thought she was sure of–her friends, her future, her Self!–began to shift. How Brianna chooses to find herself and figure out her next move is an inspiration to anyone who has ever faced a challenge and then challenged themselves to figure it out. In a story filled with Ancient Roman facts, yummy cupcake recipes and a class trip from Detroit to Washington, D.C., Brianna Justice learns a few things about life. And maybe teaches a few things, too.