I’m not usually one to make New Year’s resolutions. I never seem to be able to maintain them. But as 2022 rolled in, and the Covid-19 pandemic rolled out (I thought), I decided to set some high-bar goals. For a short while, I’d transition away from illustrating to focus more on my writing. I’d write a proposal for a graphic novel memoir. I’d finish writing some picture books I’d started but never finished. I’d also take an online writing course. 2022 was gonna be my big writing year—except that we are now into May, and I haven’t written one new thing. Sigh. How can I continue to call myself a writer when I’ve not written anything in months?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a slacker. Once I’ve had my morning coffee and chocolate (followed by a 1500 yard swim), I’m fairly productive. With schools and literary events coming back into full swing, I’m now traveling, doing in-person school visits, conferences, and book festivals. I revised and completed two picture book manuscripts written last year and under contract. I finished illustrating my next picture book. And, to my surprise, I even managed to accumulate a few accolades—the Texas Book Festival’s Texas Writer Award, a Christopher Award, and recently I was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters.
As I’ve slowly come out of pandemic lockdown and travel, I’ve had the pleasure to chat with many other writers and illustrators. We’ve had meaningful conversations about work, our families, travel adventures—and of course, the past couple of years during the pandemic. Many authors and illustrators have lost people they loved. Many have lost work and income, a sense of security—stories to turn the heart blue. These stories made me realize that I’ve been lucky—no, heck, I’ve been blessed! I haven’t lost much, and in retrospect, I’ve gained a lot.
So for the last six months of 2022, as the pandemic continues, as the world edges closer to war, and as our politics are move divided than ever, I’m adjusting my goals. I’m focusing more on being aware of the needs of others. I’m more committed to being kind, forgiving, and giving grace to those around me. I’m going to be thankful for what and who I have in my life. The writing, it will come.
Don Tate is the award-winning author and/or illustrator of numerous picture book biographies, including PIGSKINS TO PAINTBRUSHES: THE STORY OF FOOTBALL PLAYING ARTIST EARNIE BARNES (Abrams, 2021) and SWISH! THE SLAM-DUNKING, ALLEY-OOPING, HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS (Little Brown, 2020). His WILLIAM STILL AND HIS FREEDOM STORIES: THE FATHER OF THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD (Peachtree, 2020) was an SCBWI Golden Kite winner in the nonfiction category. Don is a founding host of the Brown Bookshelf, a blog dedicated to advocating for Black authors and illustrators writing for children. When Don isn’t writing, illustrating or visiting elementary schools, he enjoys working out, swimming, yoga, and anything sweet and chocolaty.