A Collage of Gratitude for UPTOWN THIEF

MELS women cropIt took a village. They are, clockwise from top right around the exterior: Jill Dearman, Toni Ann Johnson, Shannon Williams, Tracy Sherrod, Jenni Ferrari Adler, La Bruja, woman model who was my stock photo muse for Marisol, Victoria Sanders, Pastor Donna Allen, Juana the Jungle Girl, Mercedes Fernandez.

Inner circle clockwise from left: Oshun, Brooke Warner, Cara Diaconoff, Porscha Burke and me. (Not pictured but critical early readers: Adrienne Crew and Lisa McCalla)

These are women who had a direct hand in making this book. They include my agent and acquiring editor, plus four freelance editors who worked on the book or advised me. There are also a key agent and editor who turned the book down, but the interest they showed was vital and timely. Some of these women are muses. Others are consultants who read and supported my cultural competency with some aspect of the story that is outside of my personal experience. One is a crucial writing buddy. Another is an African deity of creativity, to whom I give thanks. Before I even sold the book, I made this collage as an act of faith. I am grateful to all of these women, and many more folks in my personal village, for helping me get to this point. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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Aya de Leon directs the Poetry for the People program in the African American Studies Department at UC Berkeley. Her work has appeared in Essence Magazine, xojane, Ebony, Guernica, Writers Digest, Mutha Magazine, Movement Strategy Center, My Brown Baby, KQED Pop, Bitch Magazine, Racialicious, Fusion, and she has been a guest on HuffPostLive. She is the author of the children's picture book PUFFY: PEOPLE WHOSE HAIR DEFIES GRAVITY. Kensington Books will be publishing her debut feminist heist novel, UPTOWN THIEF, in 2016. For more info, go to ayadeleon.wordpress.com.