Book Events, Features

Book Event: An Evening with Jacqueline Woodson in Conversation With Sharon Draper


Last month I had the pleasure of attending Jacqueline Woodson’s book tour for her most recent release, Harbor Me



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Since this event had a moderator, Sharon Draper, I’m also going to be sharing a few things I learned about her as well.  I was happy to see she was going to be moderating, as I read one of her middle grade books, Stella by Starlight, a few years back and really enjoyed it!  You can read my review here → Kids’ Corner: Diverse Middle Grade Books in Review (Feb 2017) #DiverseKidLit

Sharon Draper

  • Sharon was gracious enough to warm the audience up with a “pre-show.”  She is a fascinating woman.  You can definitely tell she was a teacher for many years.  I highly recommend her for school visits if you are a teacher in Ohio or the bordering states.
  • Sharon is a good friend of Jacqueline in real life.  Every time Sharon travels to New York, her and Jacqueline have lunch.
  • Sharon has a new book releasing next month, Blended, which is about a young bi-racial girl living two lives between her divorced parents.


  • When asked about how she feels about censorship in the classroom, Sharon responded with asking “what give a person the right to censor?”  and “who are the censors?”  Sharon feels strongly that kids should not be censored when it comes to literature.  She says that it isn’t necessary because kids find their own level when it comes to reading.  Also, you learn from things that you “shouldn’t read.”  Kids should be allowed to read what they want.  She also shared that when one of her books was challenged in a small Michigan community, all the kids ran out to get her book that they were being told they couldn’t read – basically it’s counterproductive.
  • When asked about her writing process, Sharon shared that the writing process is very start & stop for her.  She writes when the words come.  She starts with a truth (draws inspiration from personal life, the real world, etc) and makes it a lie.
  • When asked if she missed teaching, Sharon admitted that she really misses watching the growth of her students over the 4 years of high school.  When she taught high school, she was famous for the “Draper Paper.”  The “Draper Paper” was a 4th quarter research paper she assigned her seniors.  She liked to keep them on their toes.
  • Sharon didn’t always know she was a writer.  In fact, she didn’t start writing until her adult life.   One of her students challenged her to enter a writing contest, and she ended up winning!  She then decided to write her first book, Tears of the Tiger.
  • She tells kids they can be writers because no one ever told her.
  • Sharon feels that books are essential to life.  She feels that nothing can ever take the place of books, and never wants to see the disappearance of bookstores.


Jacqueline Woodson

  • Jacqueline was promoting her new middle grade book, Harbor Me, and her new children’s picture book, The Day You Begin.
  • Harbor Me is about 6 young people that all come from different backgrounds.
  • For Jacqueline, it’s been really hard to be an artist since 2016.
  • In today’s society, she’s really had to ask herself what does it mean to raise a brown boy body?
  • Jacqueline writes because she has questions and tries to answer them.
  • She got the idea for The Day You Begin from asking “What does it mean to be the only one like yourself in a space?”
  • Jacqueline was just named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2018/19
  • When asked why she included a character in Harbor Me with an incarcerated parent, Jacqueline responded that she writes REALISTIC fiction.  She includes the issues that young people face.
  • Jacqueline’s favorite character in Harbor Me is Estebon.
  • The title for Harbor Me, refers to a safe place.  The original title was The Dream of America.  She had to change the title because she didn’t want people to think it was about “the American dream.”
  • Jacqueline was asked “how do you know when the book is done?” She responded that she just feels it.  She will ask herself “Did the book say what I wanted it to say?” and “Did the character get what they needed?”
  • For Harbor Me, Jacqueline had to translate poetry into Spanish.  She first wrote it in English, then translated to Spanish.  She had to do some rewriting in order for the poems to sound good in both languages.

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  • Jacqueline’s writing process is different for the different genres.  For adult books, she is able to include more inferencing.  She needs to be more direct for middle grade books.  First she has to figure out who is telling the story, then how she is going to tell it comes after.
  • Jacqueline first broke into publishing after taking a class where an editor read some of her work and wanted to publish it.
  • Jacqueline writes the stories that she is most interested at the time.  She writes for herself first, and writes the stories she feels she needs to tell.
  • Growing up, there were so many gaps in Jacqueline’s reading.  She wanted to tell her specific stories.

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LetsChatHave you read any of Jacqueline Woodson’s books?  If so, what did you think?

Have you read any of Sharon Draper’s books?  If so, what did you think?

Comment below & let me know 🙂

6 thoughts on “Book Event: An Evening with Jacqueline Woodson in Conversation With Sharon Draper”

  1. !! I AM SO JEALOUS OF THIS EVENT! Oh wow. It sounds AWESOME. I read Stella by Starlight last summer after you recommended it to me. I greatly enjoyed it. It never occurred to me to look for Draper’s other works… Have you read other books of hers? Did you pick up any at this event?

    I am sad to say I haven’t read anything by Jacqueline Woodson yet. I do have 3 books of hers (Brown Girl Dreaming, Another Brooklyn and After Tupac and D Foster) sitting on my shelf at home. O_o Why haven’t I picked them up yet? Honestly, because I’m intimidated. I’m nervous that I won’t connect to these texts people rave about. Which books of her’s have you read? Any recommendations on where to start?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have NOT read any of Draper’s other books, BUT I hear they are excellent. I’ve heard really good things about Out of My Mind… She has a new book called Blended coming out about blended families.
      I’ve read Brown Girl Dreaming & Another Brooklyn! Loved them both. Read BGD first. It is a memoir, so I feel like you’ll appreciate her other works more after you hear her story growing up.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Perfect! I appreciate the reading order tip. I didn’t realize Brown Girl Dreaming is a memoir! That’s super exciting. I love memoirs in verse and I couldn’t tell you why… Something about the creativity of it, I imagine. *shrug*


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