When the Schools Shut Down by Ms. Yolanda Gladden with me as the Book Doula

Rome two years ago and today...
So you guys remember when an employee from a certain bookshop in San Antonio (The Twig) wouldn't let me use the restroom while I was on my community-funded book tour for Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO and God flipped that into a book deal at HarperCollins for me?
That book is out now!

It's the story of Ms. Yolanda Gladden (a fantastic person I am grateful to know) and the community of Prince Edward County in Virginia.
Anyone who knows me personally or professionally knows that I am not into books on racism, slavery, or segregation, so I was very hesitant to take on this story. BUT, after speaking with Ms. Yolanda and being completely inspired by her resilience, wisdom, discernment, and her truth, I said ok to helping her pen her narrative of growing up in a time when her county chose to shutter public schools for five years rather than desegregate. The Black community, her Black community, opened their own schools in homes and other buildings, and the children continued learning.
Sometimes God takes you to and through things to prepare you for what you'll need to do. It is not lost on me that experiencing racism, both on a micro and macro level during the time Tallulah The Tooth Fairy CEO was republished by MacMillan, uniquely prepared me to help Ms. Yolanda's story reach the world.
You can purchase When the Schools Shut Down here:

The English Schoolhouse Stories on are Google Assistant!!!!!


So if you've followed The English Schoolhouse for the last seven years, you know this right here is something HUGE for my indie publishing house.

Now who was it that said that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck?? Because that IG wisdom has been attributed from everyone from Mark Twain to Buddha, so I don't really know whose wise words those are...but I'm here to testify on this Monday morning that they are deep truth.

I have been consistently writing and publishing and going through the ups and downs of what this wonderful ride called life is since 2014. So last November, I received an email from a guy from Google, asking to jump on a call to discuss my stories being featured on Google Assistant. I was excited at first, but to be honest...the lows of what many call self-publishing and I call independent publishing that I have experienced really had me quite guarded. I did accept the invitation to chat, but to say I was skeptical would be an understatement.

Y'all, I got on that call and all but accused the poor guy of being a Nigerian scammer...multiple times. 

I looked at his LinkedIn and told him he looked young.

(If you work for the P.R. Police and are reading with the intention of getting offended, know that my ancestry.com test revealed I gotta whole buncha Nigerian in me, so save it.)

"How do I know this is real?!?!" I kept saying. 
It just seemed too good to be true.

Hell, even my attorney was like, "I don't know about this..."

What I do know is that when God (and if you don't believe in God, ok, just substitute the Lord for goodness, grace, universal love, the Divine, the good of it all--whatever) lines up a blessing for you, absolutely nothing, not even your own stubbornness or disbelief, can block it.

What's for you truly is for you.

And thank God, this Google Assistant partnership was for The English Schoolhouse.

I've said in so many interviews that my goal is to get my stories into as many hands and hearts as possible, and partnering with a platform like Google Assistant is definitely a leap in the right direction to making that happen.

My favorite part of the partnership is that I get to tell my stories, MY way. 

Ah, the creative freedom of it all!!!! You can expect dozens of new stories available exclusively on Google Assistant from The English Schoolhouse in the coming weeks and months.

In honor of International Day of the Girl, Google Assistant launched thirteen of my stories as well as several from Capstone Publishing. To listen to the stories, all you gotta do is make like Tallulah and say these words:

There are sooooo many great selections, and I ain't just sayin' that 'cause I wrote and narrated and art directed and edited the stories! Check out what's available NOW...

It's hard for me to pick personal favs, 'cause these really are all my book babies, but I really think the following are NOT to be missed:

-Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO and the Corona Challenge (I mean, kids wanna know how the tooth fairy and Santa are managing their duties during this pandemic.)

-Genevieve and the Giant

-Twelve Abyssinian Princesses

-Fatou and the Kora

-Mirella Rosso and the Big Bad Fabulous Wolf

So check out these stories and more on Google Assistant! I mean, who knows, like this article says, these stories on Google Assistant could very well inspire the next woman to change the world.

And lemme tell y'all, both the little girl and the grown woman within me are so proud to have my books on Google Assistant.

And make sure you get your copies of each one at theenglishschoolhouse.com!

Sundays with Schoolhouse Friends--Little Free Diverse Libraries: An Interview with Sarah Kamya

Earlier in the week I locked myself in my bedroom, crossed my fingers and said a prayer to the parenting gods that I would be left undisturbed. Then I made a call to a young woman woman I’ve been excited to talk to for quite some time: Sarah Kamya, Founder of Little Free Diverse Libraries and school counselor extraordinaire.

Here’s the meat and potatoes of our chat. I hope you all enjoy reading it and support Sarah in the important work that she began not even a full year ago.

TP: When did you start Little Free Diverse Libraries?

SK:  On June 6, 2020. When there was nothing to do, I’d go on these walks and pass by libraries in my town. I’d see these classic books, the same ones—books that really don’t have very much depth and diversity. Like, books about southern girls who ride horses. It felt like I was seeing the same books everywhere. I also just wanted books to educate the white people in my town. I wasn’t really thinking about the Black people because there are so few. 

It’s important for Black and brown people, like adults too, to see themselves in books. Books like yours, where the main characters have Brown and Black skin…and they rule by it. 

When I started Little Free Diverse Libraries, it was the week of George Floyd’s murder, and so people were starting to donate money to all of these different organizations. And so I said, “I will buy a book on your behalf and put it in the Little Free Library to help educate people.”  Because people were eager to do something and most could afford $20. At first I was telling people what books I was buying with their donation. 

Then it just blew up and I couldn’t tell them what books I was buying on their behalf anymore.

I only buy books from Black-owned bookstores, though I do have an Amazon wish list.

I don’t know how I found your book, Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO, but when I got it, I was like, I need 100 more. 

One night my mom, dad and I sat on the couch, read it, and just cracked up. You go into a bookstore during Black History Month and they’re all grouped together, the “Black books”, and it’s like there’s a big spotlight on these books and it’s kind of in your face. And it makes me think, 

“I get it, but do you get it now…bookstore? Bookstore shoppers?”

TP: How long have you been a school counselor?

SK: It’s my second year. I graduated from NYU in 2019 and I got…

TP: *Breaks into song*

“I believe the children are our future.

Teach them well and let them lead the way!”

Wait, what? You just graduated? I am so impressed. Look at what you’ve done and accomplished out the gate. That is…wow.

SK: “If it needs to get done, I get it done.”

TP: Um, that's a mantra and a sermon.

SK: I apply that approach to the littlest things and biggest things.

TP: What has the response been to the Little Free Diverse Books initiative?

SK: For the most part, extremely positive.

In some towns it’s happened that people will say, “All books matter.”

TP: Wait what?! Are they posting little signs saying that or they just verbalize such nonsense?

SK: No, they’ll just say it…and they believe it.

TP: (laughing) Unbelievable. You can’t make this stuff up! But it cracks me up because it reminds me of the boardroom scene in Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO…

TP: What did you want to be growing up?

SK: I wanted to be a school counselor.

TP: Aw, you’re living your dream! Is it everything you wished for it to be?

SK: It is.

TP: What else would you like to do career-wise?

SK: If I were to do anything else, it would be to work with children in some capacity…maybe a community-based organization that helps to uplift girls in some way.

TP: When I see photos of the Little Free Diverse Libraries, they’re all so adorable and cozy. Are people making those or are they for sale somewhere?

SK: You can build your own. Little Free Library also sells them—they’re about $300, or you can build your own. Looking back, I would have built my own. It would have been something nice to do with my dad. I’ve donated about 9 to different schools. They have them all over the world. There’s even an app where you can check to see if there are any available in your town and in the area where you live. There are four very close to my home.

We’re looking to put more of them in lower income areas. Because book access is a privilege so many don’t have. They’re such a cool way for kids to access books.

I leave hand sanitizer in a lot of the boxes as well.

TP: It warms my heart so when I see you mention or post about Tallulah. I really am grateful for the support. What’s your favorite part of the book?

SK: When Tallulah gets drinks with Mrs. Claus.

TP: Ha! That’s probably the page I get the most negative feedback for—I guess some parents think kids seeing adults at a bar…adulting…is a slippery slope to misguided debauchery for young children. I think those people, along with the wit-deficient folks on Goodreads who give Tallulah low ratings, are in desperate need of a drink.

SK: I read, feel, and tell the story better with kids because I feel personally connected to it. 

TP: Do you write books at all?

SK: I enjoy it. I want to write a book. I would love to, maybe one day. 

Maybe next summer. I have the summers off, which helps.

TP: What was your favorite book growing up as a child?

SK: My parents were big readers to me; they would read to me at night.

A series of Unfortunate Events books and Junie B. Jones were read to me.

Amazing Grace, I remember that book. I can’t believe how long it’s been around. The story is so true, still. I remember A Snowy Day.

TP: Where would you like to see Little Free Diverse Libraries go in the future?

SK: I think I want to keep getting the library boxes to school because it’s a great way to continue the conversation and for the schools that have them, it’s like a stamp that says, “This is where we stand and this is what we believe.” If the books are in a Latinx area, I want to get Spanish books in there, same for LGBTQ books—I want to continue to be a resource for others. I want to help schools set them up. I just want to keep loving and sharing and showing these books that I wish had been around when I was little.

TP: Wow. I’m so impressed and inspired and let me assure you you’re a big deal. The publishing house that rereleased Tallulah in 2019 emailed to let me know you’d mentioned Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO as your favorite book, and I was like yeah…she promotes the book all the time—unlike y’all. So thank you, truly, for all of your support and each time you’ve featured Tallulah. For Black authors, there’s a whole game that’s played and rarely if ever talked about regarding the major publishing houses. So every time we receive acknowledgement, support, and success in any way, it truly helps to validate our presence in spaces where so many, to this day, think we really ought not occupy.

I mean that.

You are doing A LOT to spotlight Black/BIPOC authors.

We don’t get the same level of support at the major publishing houses when it comes to book deals, touring, promotion—all of that. 

So having grassroots support is paramount and really goes a long way.

Thank you.

SK: Thank you. Your book truly was the book that kept me going when things got hard for me. If there are a thousand books on the table, I always look for yours.


Find and follow Sarah Kamya and all the goodness she’s gifting the world through Little Free Diverse Libraries here.

One Night in Brooklyn: How 6-Year Old Magic Just Came Full Circle

So I wanna start this post by saying that energy doesn't lie. 

Back in 2014, it really was the worst of times in my life. 
My sister had just passed away, I was going through a divorce and the very beginnings of an awful custody battle. But one thing I made sure to do during all of the storms, at that time, was to have fun. 
In the summer of 2014, that meant going to New York...a lot. 

So one summer evening, after either a book reading or having spent the day for the very first time at the Harlem Book Fair (I really can't recall), my friend and I made our way to a hot spot inBrooklyn everyone loves--Brooklyn Moon. This morning I went looking for pics of that evening, but there are none to be found...because I've learned over the last few years especially that sometimes the magic is fleeting--sometimes the moment is so pure and grand and blissful that it's not meant to be/can't be captured by convenient human devices. You can only relive it in your mind--and if you train that, it can be just as if not more satisfying than watching a playback on a camera or phone.

I just remember a sea of beautiful Black folks, coupled with the best music and the best food, and lots of likka (read: liquor). I hadn't sold all of my books earlier that day, wherever I had been, and really felt like I was kinda 'playing writer' in that room. The energy that night was just incredible...everyone in the room, to me, seemed gorgeous and accomplished--people to hold on to. My friend jumped up and told everyone in the restaurant that I was a writer and had some books on me. He pulled out all the copies I hadn't sold of The Ghanaian Goldilocks, which at the time was the only book I'd published. I blushed as much as a Black woman can and tried to hide under the table.

It was too late. The love that was in the room swarmed around and toward me, and my little engine that could of a book. And then, something so beautiful happened.

Somebody asked for the price of the book. At the time I was sellin' them for $10 (and making no profit--now it's $16.95 on Amazon!)

All of a sudden it was a scene that would have made any stripper or entrepreneur happy--

Folks were thrusting 10 and 20 dollar bills at me faster than I could take them.
By the end of that night, I had absolutely no books left.
I paid the bill with what I made, thrilled and full.
And I left there feeling like a writer.

It really is one of my favorite life memories.

While at the restaurant, we were seated close to two gorgeous women from the islands. 

I took to chatting up one of them, a woman so lovely and radiant inside and out, I couldn't fault my friend (who was also, admittedly, a love interest) losing his train of thought while speaking to her.

I mean, come on. Karla's fine, y'all.

And if the visuals weren't gift enough, the woman has a voice TO DIE FOR. We kept in touch all of these years, thank goodness, through social media.

She writes sweet messages with greetings like, "Hey sistah luv!" and signs off with "Miracles and blessings..."

A few years back she moved back home to Trinidad, and I enjoy seeing her updates...and photos--

I mean...Karla FINE, y'all.

So for the past few months I've been recording and re-recording audiobooks for my publishing house's entire catalog. Karla kept popping into mind, and then one night it dawned on me--her voice would be PERFECT as the mother, Mama Abena, in The Ghanaian Goldilocks. So I reached out to her, and naturally she agreed to do the part, adding that she had a studio in her home.

See how the universe hooked that up?

Last night I left Karla and message, all high off of hearing her perfect audios that she's already sent over, and it hit me--she was there at the very beginning...one night in Brooklyn when I was too shy to call myself a writer.

"Do you remember, Karla?" I asked her. "You were there right from the very start! Who would have thought you would do a voiceover for it?"

She laughed and said, "Yes, love. It's all in His timing."

You can follow Karla Gonzalez, who is an author, actor, singer, artist, and choreographer on ig at @bronzsoleil. Thank you, Karla, for keeping that same energy. Love you.

How to use Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO in a School Lesson - As Told to Tamara by Master Teacher Mrs. Linda Williams

So loooooooong before I ever even thought about writing and publishing children's books, I was a Kindergarten teacher in Dallas ISD. For many years I taught at Kramer Elementary, which is truly one of the best schools in the world, I believe. There are a few teachers who have been at Kramer since it opened decades ago, and Linda Echols-Williams is one of them. I was first hired to teach at the school by a Principal who has since retired name Kyle Richardson. Working under Mr. Richardson was THE BEST because as long as you did your job, he left you alone...which is exactly what good teachers wanna be...left alone. So my first year teaching at Kramer I was hired to teach Kindergarten, then the class wasn't big enough so around October I was moved to first grade, and the following year Mr. Richardson moved me back down to Kinder, at my request. At the time, Mrs. Williams was the team lead, and I'd bet money she probably is right now too. The introduction Mr. Richardson made went like this, "Tamara, this is Linda. She's the team lead. Just do everything she does and you'll be fine." And I did. Teaching at Kramer under Linda Williams was pivotal for me both personally and professionally. I had never seen a teacher approach lesson planning, classroom environment, student wellbeing and growth, and professional development with such dedication and spunk. Linda's classroom was like freaking Disney World compared to mine. She was always open to sharing--knowledge, skills, materials--some things had to be returned...many were for keeps. If I could describe Linda's teaching in a word, it would be 'excellent.' She always brought her A game, and because she did, I wanted to do the same. We team-taught dual language together for a few years and OMG we had a ball. That really is what teaching should be--for both educators and students--FUN! I do miss Kramer, and teaching Kindergarten--not enough to go back, but a lot! Ha! So I was thrilled when I received this email from Linda just a couple of days ago, detailing how she used Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO in a lesson with her Kindergartners. Ah, I wish I could have been there!
I love that she had the children use "I will.." for there future plans. So good. Thank you, Linda Lou, for your friendship and patterns over the years. You've always been incredible and a true mentor in my life. Love you. If you're a teacher and you happen to use Tallulah or any one of my books in a lesson plan, tag or email me! I love to see and share!

So You Want to Write and Publish--This is the Post for You!


It's Black History Month, and while all are always welcome, this post is speaking mainly to Black creatives.


It's been a long time! Too long, really. But I'm back in the blogging seat, which I find to be all the fun 'cause it's just writing and sharing without pressure to be perfect. For those who are new to the space, my name is Tamara, I'm the founder and CEO of The English Schoolhouse.

I'm a Black Southern writer who was raised on this--

And this--

And I went to college
at 16 here--

SMU in Dallas

You put that in a pot with a helping of divine grace, inspiration, and the ancestors blessings, you get this:

A spiritual boho-thug.

Last night I had the pleasure of curating an online exhibition entitled "Imagery as Activism: Blacks in Italy and the Art of Taking Space" for Temple University Rome featuring art by Elena Tommasi Ferroni from our books Fatou and the Kora and Lotus and the Baby Bird. Prior to the event, I'd hinted that I'd be spilling some literary tea, but the event organizer is a young Black woman named Benedicta Djumpah, whose face and questions as she guided the interactive event were so moving and touching that I ended up getting emotional instead and forgetting. But, as promised, I'm back the morning after with my fine china, southern charm, airs, wit... and all the stories.

One of the questions I received after last night events in my DM's was what advice do I, as a writer who's penned and published 25 stories, have for (aspiring) writers who want to get into publishing successfully. So I've compiled a list of (I don't know how many 'cause I ain't counted 'em yet) suggestions and tidbits of advice below. I'ma talk to y'all like I care and like I know you, because I do and I might.

Here we go! In no particular order of importance...

1. Drop the 'aspiring' adjective when you refer to yourself. Take yourself seriously. Show up as who you are.

2. UNDERSTAND THIS!!! Come here. Sit down. Listen to this 'cause there are a lot of people in the writing/publishing game who don't get this thing right here and it's PARAMOUNT: 

You listening?

Here it is--


Publishing is a game of OWNERSHIP.

No different from a house. That's why they call that ish 'INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY.'

And you can rent intellectual property, just like you can a house... you know what that's called?



My very favorite phrasal verb is 'Lawyer up.'

I ain't afraid to do it. In fact, I do it quite often. You gotta protect YOUR house, YOUR intellectual property, from start to finish and even beyond that with maintenance.

Doesn't matter if you like or love or get along great with whoever you're collaborating with on your books, roles have to be clearly delineated because people get forgetful at best and delusional at worst when success (i.e. the gravy train comes).

Like my mentor Tom told me, a contract is about what happens if things don't go as agreed.

4. Take yourself and your work seriously. Protect it at all costs.

Just like you wouldn't leave the door to your beautiful house wide open and you set an alarm when you feel like it's necessary, you gotta do the same thing with YOUR intellectual property. You gotta be able to act if the alarm is triggered; you still call the law, a lawyer. 

5. Everybody ain't necessary and everybody's opinions ain't necessary.

Make work that pleases YOU, delights YOU, makes YOU happy. 

Authenticity is a currency. The success will come.

6. If you're collaborating, set clear expectations and boundaries that MUST be respected.

Work relationships like personal relationships are built on trust and mutual respect, but if you setting a boundary is problematic for the person with whom you're collaborating, it's a deal breaker.

If telling the truth and saying what you need to be comfortable costs you a relationship, business or personal, so be it.



Like, y'all, for real. We set the tone for pop culture without even trying. We determine what's hot in vernacular, hair, music, art, *Shirley Caesar voice* YOU NAME IT!

Protect your genius ideas! Cite yourself. Trademark yourself. Copyright yourself. Watermark your 'ish.

Folks be thievin' and get mad at you if you won't let 'em.

A lot of these big publishing companies follow my independent publishing house. They swim from their ocean to what they think is my pond, 'cause they can't see I too am the ocean, and get 'inspired' by my ideas, collaborations. 

Yemaya by Elena Tommasi Ferroni, curated by me

Before you know it they're doing some of the same things with the same people, offering me a simple "thank you!" or "I love your page and I think we can do something similar at (insert huge publishing house name).

To that I say hell to the naw. 

No more.

You inspired? Cool. Run me a check. For consulting, agenting, having a damn good eye, curating, whateva. Just stop stealing. It's shady.


Don't be so quick to sell!

Again, publishing is a game of OWNERSHIP.

And I'm not just talking books, ya'll. I mean any type of creative content: music, art, literature, whateva. Own it as long as you can. And when and if you do sell, make sure the lion's share goes to you.

'Cause real talk publishing is set up on a plantation model. That's another post for another day tho...

So I feel a lot of us (writers, particularly Black writers) get caught up in the glitz and glam of major publishers coming to swoop up our content, but think about it like selling your house to Beyonce. Which would be dope, right? Right. Unless you sell it to her at a deeeeeeeeep discount, just 'cause she's Beyonce. Then the transaction is reduced to an interesting story you can tell at dinner parties, but what did YOU really get though? What are YOU able to pass down to your descendants from what transpired?


Keep your creative inspiration logged, content, emails...I know a lot of what I'm saying is legal and business, but that's honestly where the real work is because having a great idea is the easy part! Someone once told me everyone in NYC has a blunt and a good idea. And if that ain't the truth...

10. Get you a life board of directors.

This was THE best piece of advice my mentor Tom gave me years ago.

The Board of Directors of your life are the people who's opinions and values you trust. These are people who have been successful in their own lives, and who genuinely root for you. You know who they are. Not that scandalous, passive aggressive wench or dude who's always trying to knock you down a peg. No. They're of no consequence. We are talking the people who you respect and whom respect you, see you, value you. Have a conversation with each of them. Ask them thoughtful questions about your next steps. They're there to guide you.

I remember Tom suggesting this years ago, and at the time I was around, well, a different sort of group than I am now. I asked him, "Why would anyone do that? What's in it for them?"

Y'all...you know what his response was?

"What do they get out of it? The satisfaction of seeing you on top."

*Marinate on that y'all.

That conversation led to this boardroom scene in Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO:

I took Tom's advice and put together my Board of Directors in 2015.
It included my mom, sister, my family attorney and dear friend Tish, and, of course, Tom
whose political affiliation could not be further from what his shirt implies.

11. Cut the opportunists outta your life.

12. Don't share big ideas with small minded people.

13. Keep your heart, spirit, and character. Integrity is a currency.

14. How you do one thing is how you do everything. Deliver excellence and excellence is what will return to you.

15. Have fun! That's what we're all supposed to be doin' on this planet anyway. Have yourself a ball.

With that, good people, I'm off to warm some leftover lasagna and write.

If you found this post interesting and/or helpful, share it. That's another good piece of advice...share share share share share.

And if you'd like to talk more about the creative process, storytelling, publishing, editing, finding illustrators, art directing--anything of the sort, writing and publishing consulting services are available at theenglishschoolhouse.com.

*Bonus tip:

If you're reading this, you might be sitting on a bestseller.

How will you know if you don't do it?

Honor your good ideas by following through on them.

Narrate yourself.

You Make Your Own Luck

"You make your own luck." -my mentor Tom

On July 30, FSG/MacMillan is re-releasing Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO. It is my sincere desire to have this book end up in as many hearts and hands as possible. Beginning July 28, I'm setting out on a book tour to promote Tallulah. Check out the dates and cities below. I'll post actual book reading and event sites as July approaches.

If you love what The English Schoolhouse is doing and would like to support the tour financially, consider backing the indiegogo I've set up to fundraise for the tour here: igg.me/at/tallulah. Our goal is 20K in 20 days. We're about 2% there so far with 13 days to go...but everything is possible! All support is appreciated.