What is my story, and what is not my story? Jacqueline Woodson, acclaimed author of more than two dozen award-winning books for children and young adults, broaches this question in her 2019 lecture in Portland, Oregon. A highly personable and conversational Woodson discusses how her passion for writing began and grew from a young age. Through recollections from her own life and stories from her family’s history, she shares how her past has shaped her writing craft and career. Woodson recites excerpts from a selection of her works—including her Newbery Honor-winning picture book, Show Way, and her National Book Award-winning memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming—and speaks to the importance of gathering people together to have tough conversations in an increasingly polarized world.
“One thing that’s so great about literature is that it is a way of getting people together and gathering around a narrative—or gathering around a writer—to have conversations that we might not otherwise have had.”
“A long time ago, I realized I was no longer writing for Jacqueline Woodson. I was writing for the people who had historically not seen themselves in literature, and for the people who were too scared to make that leap and meet someone outside of their own existences.”
“This is what living is and what writing realistic fiction is, right? It’s the highs and lows of our every day. It’s the stuff that makes us laugh, and it’s the stuff that makes us cry. It’s the stuff that makes us think, and it’s the stuff that we sometimes don’t want to think about.”
“Life is too short to finish a book you don’t love.”
Jacqueline Woodson is the 2014 National Book Award Winner for her New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, which was also a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor Award, the NAACP Image Award, and the Sibert Honor Award. She is also the author of New York Times bestselling novel Another Brooklyn, which was a 2016 National Book Award Finalist and Woodson’s first adult novel in twenty years. In 2015, Woodson was named Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. She is the author of more than two dozen award-winning books for young adults, middle graders, and children; among her many accolades, she is a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a three-time National Book Award finalist, and a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner. Most recently, she was named the 2018 Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress. Woodson’s latest book is Harbor Me and the picture book The Day You Begin, both published in 2018. In 2019, she will publish Red at the Bone.