2019 NAPIBOWRIWEE DAY 2 – Meet Guest Author Alice Faye Duncan!


Alice Faye Duncan

Welcome to Day 2!

Congratulations to those of you who finished Book #1 already! I loved everyone’s energy and fun posts on social media and in our blog comments section!

FYI I am swamped this week like many of you with outside duties (job, family etc) so I may be behind on responding to everyone’s comments, but I do read everything and appreciate everyone’s insightful thoughts. Thank you all for participating.

MY DAY 1 EXPERIENCE: So we have family staying with us all week and I’ve got some TV work meetings to prepare for, while also juggling some books deadlines. So I decided to write my Book #1 immediately first thing in the morning as a warm up writing exercise. Because we have three cats, they were very shy at first with our family house guests. Especially Charlotte. So I wrote a little poem about hidden cats. 🙂 As I mentioned in an earlier blog, because my new book is a YA narrative non-fiction book about a famous crime/tragedy/court trial, I wanted to focus on fun, happy little cat poems all week. Although a lot of the NAPIBOWRIWEE drafts that I write never see the light of day or end up being possible submissions for publications, I truly believe every book helps me as a writer on my journey. They are sometimes a great writing exercise and/or can inspire a FUTURE book.

And now for some shameless self-promotion LOL… if you are curious, my latest episode of TV airs tonight. My last job was writing for the very fun YA noir mystery spin-off series, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS: THE PERFECTIONISTS. My episode “Dead Week” airs tonight (Wed. 5/1/19) at 8 PM on Freeform! Here’s a link to a preview trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGlkbXjnKW0

Who knows? Maybe it will inspire you to write a MYSTERY-themed picture book today! 🙂

And now, to inspire us for Day 2… meet ALICE FAYE DUNCAN! Not only in today’s blog, but you can also meet her IN PERSON at this year’s Society for Children Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) national conference! She will be on faculty for the conference this August 9-12 in Los Angeles, CA. For more information on the conference, go here: https://www.scbwi.org/events/48th-annual-summer-conference-in-los-angeles-la19/ And for more info on SCBWI, go here: https://www.scbwi.org


PUBLICATION INFO: MEMPHIS, MARTIN AND THE MOUNTAINTOP—The Sanitation Strike of 1968 Publishing Company: Calkins Creek Press—2018 Synopsis: This historical fiction is a picture book about the Memphis Sanitation Strike and Dr. King’s last stand for justice in 1968. It is a collection of poems and narratives, told through the eyes of a little girl—Lorraine Jackson. She marches with Dr. King and is privileged to hear his “Mountaintop” speech on the night before his assassination. While American cities burn with flames and emotional rage, Lorraine Jackson writes a poem to vent her pain and celebrate the life of the fallen leader. Lesson plans for the book are available at www.alicefayeduncan.com.

BIO: Alice Faye Duncan is a poet and librarian. Her celebrated books include MEMPHIS, MARTIN AND THE MOUNTAINTOP, A SONG FOR GWENDOLYN BROOKS and HONEY BABY SUGAR CHILD. She uses words like music. Her books and poems are created to be spoken aloud. Big dreams require longs seasons to be born. Alice wrote MEMPHIS, MARTIN AND THE MOUNTAINTOP over the course of ten years. The illustrator is Gregory Christie, a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Book Award. Together, their book has received countless star reviews. Kirkus Magazine and School Library Journal called MEMPHIS, MARTIN AND THE MOUNTAINTOP a “Best Picture Book in 2018.” Interviews and book information are available on her website: www.alicefayeduncan.com


NOTE FROM PAULA: Alice Faye Duncan wrote a beautiful ACROSTIC full of joy and wisdom to answer our questions. (An acrostic is a word puzzle or poem where certain letters in each line spell out another word or words. In Alice’s acrostic, the first letter of every sentence to spell out a word. Can you guess what word it spells?). This is a refreshing take on our traditional Q&A format!

Alice was my grandmother’s name. She died one year before my birth.

Living in Memphis inspired me to write about Dr. King’s assassination.

I write picture books because they are lyrical—and I love music and poetry.

Concise, laconic and spare texts make writing picture books a challenge.

Every picture book follows its own unique evolution. MEMPHIS, MARTIN,
AND THE MOUNTAINTOP required 10 years of my writing life.

First book—WILLIE JEROME. It swings like Jazz. It is no longer in print.

A valuable piece of advice? Read poetry every day. Picture books are big-hearted poems.

You should expect miracles each day. The Universe offers its omnificence to your words.

Enjoy and surrender to the writing process. Follow your muse along the circuitous route from…
First Draft…Revision…Revision…Revision…Final Draft! When I surrendered to this mind-boggling, hair-pulling and refining process—publishing contracts became more frequent.

Duncan means “Black Warrior.” I write about the Black Experience as a calling—not a trend.

Unfiltered and thoughtless words can destroy a career. Season your Twitter posts with kindness.

No one succeeds without help from others. Join your local SCBWI. Join a critique group.

Can you see your book on the NYT Bestsellers List? Use your imagination to take you places.

A ruled Shinola Journal and Palomino Black Wing Pencil (602) are my favorite writing tools.

No day must pass without you writing. Write a journal entry. Write a poem. Write a letter to your mother. Write a grocery list. Write a Thank You Note. Start a new story. Finish an old story. The daily doing will lead to your writing success.


Thank you Alice Faye Duncan for your Amazing Acrostic! This was such a creative way to answer our questions! For more information on Alice and her books, please go here: www.alicefayeduncan.com You can also follow Alice on Twitter @alicefayeduncan

Alice will graciously donate an autographed copy of her latest book to a lucky winner in our annual drawing contest! (Winners are chosen at random). Winners will be announced on our May 8, 2019 blog, so stay tuned!

I am inspired by Alice to write an acrostic for my Book 2. Who’s with me? Good luck today with your writing!



  1. Wow, what a fabulous idea to write an acrostic! I love what I learned about you and writing! I first was introduced to MEMPHIS, MARTIN, AND THE MOUTAINTOP at my first Highlights workshop last summer!

  2. Wow, Alice, this is amazing! I love the creativity of answering in an acrostic. You’re words are so powerful; I can see why poetry and PBs are your thing. You choose each word so carefully.

    This gave me the happy chills: “Picture books are big-hearted poems.” And I totally agree on kindness and write everyday. Sometimes I resist my nose since it can be difficult, with your advice, I will try to follow it more.

    I love that you suggested to write anything, lije thank you letters and letters to your mom. I do this often, but so many people these days forget about how powerful those simple gestures can be!❤️

    Thanks again ladies for this wonderful I and inspiration. I got MOST of my draft 1 done yesterday, so I was almost not going to read today’s post for feeling like a failure, but, I’m so glad I did because re-inspired!

  3. Even your post, Alice, is an example of poetic style and grace. I loved so many of your phrases. Two examples are, “Black Experience as a calling—not a trend.” and “Picture books are big-hearted poems.” So inspiring!

  4. “You should expect miracles each day. The Universe offers its omnificence to your words.”
    This speaks to me. I absolutely love it and am trying to believe it with my whole heart.
    Thank you for your acrostic advice, Ms. Duncan.

  5. Such wisdom in Alice’s post. Thank you so much. I was particularly moved by “Unfiltered and thoughtless words can destroy a career. Season your Twitter posts with kindness.” I aim to “be impeccable with my word” in all forms of communication, with varying levels of success. But it is my true north.

  6. I grew up close to Memphis, too, and I honor your saying that you write about the black experience because it is your calling and not because it is a trend.

    I’d love to hear some thoughts — both good and bad about the current trends in picture books.

  7. I also agree with your comments about being disrespectful on Twitter. When I read the comments that some people make–even to editors and agents–I am stunned. I think: “How is this anger helping you in the publishing market?” Not!

  8. C – Cathy
    A – Appreciates
    T- This
    H- Helpful
    Y – Post!

    OK – there just wasn’t a “Y” word that seemed to work well for my purpose, and going to “Catherine” instead seemed like a sneaky tactic!
    Thank you Alice!

  9. Alice, you have just helped me understand that the acrostic really does have a place in the world — and can even be truly beautiful. Thank you!!

    I am spending this week writing one character into existence each day rather than a full MS (character is one of my learning edges), and am having a great time with it so far. Maybe I will try to write an acrostic — more lyrical and fluid like yours than, say, a list of adjectives — as a way in to today’s…

  10. Thank you, Paula and Alice. Congrats on your latest episode airing tonight, Paula! And Alice, thank you for sharing your insights and wisdom via a lyrical acrostic poem. I love your description of picture books as “big-hearted poems.” Perfect!

  11. Great post. I love the fun format of an using an acrostic, and that’s a fun idea for writing a picture book. Perhaps this is what I’ll try today for a new draft of something.

  12. Truly an authentic voice. Acrostic is definitely my word for today.
    Alice, you gave me a totally unique insight to use in my writing.
    Thank you,

  13. Alice, I love your writing. Thank you for sharing some bits of your writing life with us and inspiring a new day of writing. (And I learned two new words from your post!)

  14. Yesterday I ended my book with an acrostic which is new. After reading Alice’s response (which by the way was brilliant) I wrote out my inspiration for today’s book as an acrostic then wrote and finished my rough draft of a book and continued to play with this style of writing. Not sure I’m good at it but I like the challenge and the change of pace.

  15. I enjoyed this post. Love the advice about writing something (even a letter to your mom) every day, as well as seasoning your Twitter posts with kindness. I appreciate not only the sentiment, but the way that sounds. Thanks for the wisdom.

  16. So creative. I’ve been loving PB biographies lately so I’m putting urs on the list!

  17. So beautiful! I love that you wrote your post in the form of an acrostic poem. There was much to learn from this entry, but my favorite sentence was, “Picture books are big-hearted poems.” And I love that while you encourage us to write every day, you honor all types of writing. Thank you for this!

  18. Hi, peeking in to this blog to say good morning and thank you everyone for your awesome comments and progress reports. I’ll post more here shortly once I finish with my writing goals today. HAPPY WRITING!

  19. Now, I want to write an acrostic. Thanks, Alice! I love your phrasing and voice.
    Time for me to write puppy book #2. Have a productive writing day!

  20. I’m just getting started today; found out about NaPiBoWriWee a day late. I’m needing a bit of encouragement–and a kick in the pants! I love the advice: No day must pass without you writing. And this, too: Picture books are big hearted poems. Thank you!

  21. I can’t thank you enough!
    I have always had an idea for a historical picture book, but up until I read your blog, I would have never attempted it! ❤️
    Thank you, Alice Faye and Paula

  22. Thank you Alice! This post is so inspiring. I have a special focus on “E”.
    Book one is done. Number 2 is on it’s way!

  23. I have been so inspired by the fight Mr. King fought. Thank you for writing an inspirational Book from the eyes of this little girl. Your words in this blog are wonderful about the writing process and tweets. Thank you!

  24. I love music and poems too. I was recently told at a picture book writing course that poetry (and rhymes in particular) were not good writing techniques… I thought that was so strange. Poetry has rhythm and as Alice says picture books are lyrical. Thanks so much for your beautiful words Alice, you really do use words like music!

  25. Thank you, Alice!! I love your last piece of advice, and I really love that you include a grocery list as writing. That bodes well for me. 😊

    Thank you, Paula, for doing all of this while you are so busy!! I am a huge PLL fan, so I just think you are awesome all around!

  26. I love the acrostic. Such great information in a concise form. Thank you for the inspiration!

  27. I only discovered this yesterday. What a great initiative. I’ve long admired my NanoWriMo friends. Well, I didn’t get much done yesterday – but a few ideas generated. Last month I was brimming with ideas – and this week 0! Ah well – they will come…

  28. What a lovely and unique way to inspire us on Day 2 of this challenge.
    Thank you for your message of kindness, revision, and imagination.
    Congratulations on your book!

  29. Paula, how cool that you wrote for PRETTY LITTLE LIARS. Now I need to watch that trailer.

    Alice, thank you for sharing how long it took you to write MEMPHIS, MARTIN, AND THE MOUNTAINTOP. That’s encouraging to know that sometimes it takes many years to write a picture book.

    Today, I finished my second manuscript for NaPiBoWriWee. It is a sequel to one of my other manuscripts. I’m beginning to wonder if these manuscripts are actually supposed to be chapters within a chapter book.

  30. “Daily doing” is now posted on a note in my workspace. Thank-you Alice. Thank-you, Paula.
    Day 2: the story I expected to write on day 1 before another idea hijacked my pencil and paper. Done!

  31. Thank you Alice for the fun way to inspire writing and encouraging writing something daily.
    You mention you write about the black experience! That was my aha moment because most of my writing comes from my African background, and sometimes I don’t seem to find a fit when I send things out. I will keep at it. Try my hand at some poetry in writing.

  32. I’m sitting here chuckling – I don’t usually write in rhyme but I found an old Scrivener file called “New TImes Nursery Rhymes” with something I didn’t even remember writing. Nonetheless, I dove into several more attempts at rethinking old, familiar nursery rhymes and it was just a fun hour or so. Thanks for the cats inspiration. I’ve gone from three cats to now three dogs (only one is my rescue and I’m her forever home, the others are camping out for a year). Love your advice (and this challenge). It’s got me writing again. Yay!

  33. Most creative author interview I’ve read to date. Love the format and the advice. Thank you!

  34. Hello Fellow Writers!!!:
    So, I’m LOVIN’ the acrostic idea here. I think it would be a GREAT exercise in helping me with keeping word count down in my writing–which we all know is KEY in pic book writing! Day 2 was a bit CRAZY for me, too. Starting early in the morning, and continuing until dark, a construction crew was putting on a new roof across the street. And as if ALL the banging and hammering and such WASN’T LOUD ENOUGH, they also HAD TO BOOM MUSIC!!! WHAT TIMING!!! DON’T THEY KNOW IT’S NAPIBOWRIWEE!!!?!!! GOOD GRIEF!!! So, my writing started early in the morning, but had to continue late again. It was after 11p.m. (just like the day before!) when I FINALLY started writing again. And while I did go over into Day 3 by 35 minutes (this still counts, right!!!?!!! :)), I FINISHED MY STORY!!! It felt SO EMPOWERING!!!! This is a story I have had on the backburner of my brain for some time, so I am SUPER EXCITED to FINALLY have it down on paper. AND I LOVE IT!!! Here’s hoping today will be MUCH quieter!!! HAPPY WRITING!!!

  35. I’m so glad to learn about you and your work. Thank you!
    And thank you Ms. Yoo for organizing this event

  36. Thanks so much for your inspiring post and your encouragement! I love your advice: “expect miracles each day.” Your books sounds wonderful and I can’t wait to read it. Thank you!

  37. Great post, Alice! What a terrific idea to write your answers as an acrostic! I love your description of picture books as being “big-hearted poems.” I believe it was Mem Fox who said, “Writing a picture book is like writing War and Peace in Haiku.”

  38. That’s awesome about Pretty Little Liars. Congratulations! Great advice Alice about surrendering to the refining process. I haven’t quite figured out how to best approach the revision process. Hopefully with more practice I will. And I try to tell myself to write something everyday. I’ve notice it does make a difference. Congratulations on your book.

  39. As of 5/5/19: Wow thank you everyone for your comments on these blogs! And apologies for our little glitch this week where newer comments were not appearing (they were posted, just not actually appearing on the blog itself). We fixed it! I also love everyone’s posts on Twitter & Facebook, too. Thank you! I am sorry I have not been able to personally respond to comments this year because of our computer glitch. I hope to catch up before Day 7, so stay tuned. Until then, I have read all comments and am very inspired by everyone. Thank you! More soon! xo Paula

  40. Hahaha… No acrostic for my day 2. In fact, I didn’t make any progress in writing on day 2 as I was making final preparations for company through the 7th (awful timing per participating in this challenge this year). A big hurrah to Paula for running this while she has visitors and other responsibilities!

  41. This post was very motivating and lots of fun to read! The second E (Enjoy and surrender to the writing process…) really spoke to me. I needed that today. Thank you for the reminder.