Celebrating Tonya Bolden

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"Writing is rewriting . . . Writing is acting . . . Writing is a journey. It takes me to places I didn't know I needed to go."

Tonya Bolden enthralled her audience as she read from her works and shared her process of researching and writing nonfiction books. She thrives on highlighting less-than-famous individuals like Michael Shiner, a “slave who went around as if he was master of himself . . . a man who thought enough of himself to leave a record.” Bolden used Shiner's journal to bring his life alive in her newest book, Capital Days: Michael Shiner's Journal and the Growth of Our Nation's Capital.

On April 9, 2016, Bolden was honored with the 2016 Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award for the body of her work -- telling the stories of Sarah Rector, Maritcha, the Emancipation Proclamation, FDR's alphabet soup of New Deal organizations and more.

Tonya Bolden sharing highlights of her writing journey with Guild members and guests.
Tonya Bolden sharing highlights of her writing journey with Guild members and guests.

Maritcha: A Nineteenth Century American GirlThe Champ: The Story of Muhammad AliM.L.K.: Journey of a King
She received the award from Guild president Amy Hansen; Bolden was selected by Nonfiction Award Committee members Joan Kindig, Katy Kelly and Jewell Stoddard.
Guild president Amy Hanson presenting the 2016 Nonfiction Award to Tonya Bolden.
Guild president Amy Hanson presenting the 2016 Nonfiction Award to Tonya Bolden.
Tonya Bolden and CBG Nonfiction Award selection committee chair Joan Kindig.
Tonya Bolden and CBG Nonfiction Award selection committee chair Joan Kindig.

Bolden told more than 100 guests at Clyde's Gallery Place, Washington, D.C., that her extensive research helps her get into her characters and connect with the people she is writing about. 

“I want not just the facts. That's an encyclopedia. I want to touch people.” She feels she is following in the footsteps of her mother, who could “track down anything with just a phone and a phone book." Her parents had less than a high school education, but Bolden writes because “they valued books.”

Bolden was nine years old when Martin Luther King was assassinated. “I am a child of the dream. I didn't have to march.  I write because others made it possible for me.”

She tells young readers who think she is already old that “when I am all the way old, I want you to be informed so you can be in charge and make decisions.” She expects her books to be a springboard – she is “kicking it to the reader.”

Next Bolden will be publishing How to Build a Museum, in time for the fall 2016 opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. She is also working on a young adult novel about Sherman's Civil War march to the sea.

Tonya Bolden receiving a standing ovation at the 2016 Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award Luncheon.
Tonya Bolden receiving a standing ovation at the 2016 Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award Luncheon.

Three Washington elementary schools were also represented at the Nonfiction Celebration:

  • Ketcham Elementary School (15 St SE) - principal Maisha Riddlespigger and librarian Jamilla Coleman;
  • Whittier Education Campus (5th St NW)- principal Tenia Pritchard and librarian Bradford Stratton;
  • Kimball Elementary School (Minnesota Avenue SE) – Julianna Adepoju and Fonjia Atabong.

Each school received a basket of books donated by Guild members: 250 books (possibly a record) filled three baskets and multiple extra bags. Last year, the Guild donated $1500 for these three schools to purchase library books from the First Book Marketplace.

Guild organization Turning the Page managed the brisk sale of Tonya Bolden's books.

Eager Guild members and guests wait in line to have their books signed by Tonya Bolden.
Eager Guild members and guests wait in line to have their books signed by Tonya Bolden.
Tonya Bolden signing a book for guest Molly Mahoney Matthews.
Tonya Bolden signing a book for guest Molly Mahoney Matthews.




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