Most of my career was spent in academia, conducting research in public health, and collaborating with federal, state and local agencies on community-based initiatives to promote healthy living and prevent disease. The Ujima Youth Initiative to prevent tobacco use among African American teens was a satisfying and successful program that I helped to initiate in N.C. When I left the university, I became a consultant and, finally, had time to write. The resulting novel, Cato’s Last Home Run, is a reflection of my upbringing in the south as well as my passion for communicating with teens like the ones I worked with in public health. It is first in a series of novels that will feature African American teens coping with the challenges of their historical times.
Cato’s Last Home Run is a young adult novel about two baseball teams; one black, one white; and their experiences with racial violence and reconciliation in the Jim Crow south of the 1930’s. The teams are hostile toward one another at first, but when black players are attacked by white boys who call themselves, The Rebel Clan, the teams work together to keep black players safe. The actions of the baseball players help to build stronger ties between black and white communities in rural Pender County.
The main character in the novel, Cato Jones, is inspired by a real person, Octavius Valentino Catto, a high school teacher, political activist, and captain of the Pythians baseball team in Philadelphia in the 1890's. Cato's dream is to play professionally with the esteemed Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Baseball League.
Although Cato’s Last Home Run is my first book, excerpts from it have received several honors: (1) first runner-up status in two contests, the 2010 Kid Lit Fellowship and the Mahoney Award for Inspirational Literature for Young Adults, both sponsored by the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow. Subsequently, I attended a ten-day retreat at the Colony. (2) third place in SCBWI’s 2012 Works-in-Progress competition.
Now, I have received the ultimate honor: first place status (among three) in SCBWI’s On-the-Verge Emerging Voices competition. I am bursting with excitement and can’t wait to meet the agents, editors, and publishers that are surely in my future. I am also anxious to broaden my collaborations with individuals and organizations whose purpose is to strengthen literacy skills; reading, writing, and self-expression; among children and young adults from underserved communities and communities of color.
Member since 2010
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