After a career working as a producer, content strategist, and marketer, Angela Dalton moved with her husband to the Bay Area and was freaking out about what to do next. One night, while looking at a full moon, a piece of advice from her great-grandmother came back to her: “Angela, if you feel lost, just look up to the sky; and, if you see the moon peeking through the clouds, know you’re in the place you’re meant to be.” Dalton sat down and turned the soothing words into the children’s book If You Look Up to the Sky. Illustrated by Margarita Sikorskaia and released by Dalton, Sky has become a critical darling for its depiction of a young girl of color learning all the ways the universe will provide her with love, guidance, and protection.
What do you hope children take away from the book?
At its core, the story is about the interconnectedness of family and how the simple act of looking to the sky can serve as a reminder that we are loved. I hope that any children reading will find comfort in this notion. I also hope that every child will be inspired by the main character, who is a girl of color. It was very important to show her being strong in any situation because, ultimately, she knows someone loves her. I want children, especially girls of color, to feel this way too.
Do you find that there is still a lack of representation in children’s books today?
Over the last few years, there have been many individuals and organizations leading the charge in changing the representation landscape in children’s literature. And while this has made a substantial difference, it seems there’s still a lack in representing marginalized authors and author/illustrators. When I’m asked to do school author visits, educators are constantly telling me how excited they are to have their kids meet an author who looks like them. Representation goes far beyond just seeing a character on a page.
How did you find the experience of self-publishing?
I loved the experience. But it was a lot of work. My background in production and marketing helped immensely. And I’m forever grateful for all the support I received from friends and family. If You Look Up to the Sky was a deeply personal story so, for me, self-publishing made sense. It was a lot of work, but I really enjoyed the journey and all the learning experiences it brought.
Do you think that self-publishing opens the door for more diverse writers?
Yes and no. Yes, because it offers authors from marginalized groups the ability to share stories that would otherwise go untold. I say no because there are many people who still apply a stigma to self-publishing. I was once at an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) event and someone said, “Oh, you’re one of those,” when I told them I had self-published. Said it to my actual face. People like that aren’t aware that so many great and prolific authors began their careers self-publishing because they couldn’t get their foot in the door due to many factors, including implicit bias and outright racism.
What can readers look forward to next?
I have new stories that I’m excited to share and have been debating next steps. The traditional publishing route is definitely under consideration. There are many great agents out there, and a few are displaying a genuine commitment to representing diverse stories and #ownvoices authors. I would definitely welcome the opportunity to partner with someone who values and champions the need for more diversity and inclusivity within the industry.
Rhett Morgan is a writer and translator based in Paris.