Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

Welcome to Thomas Dale High School?

Welcome to Thomas Dale High School?

It’s odd that I like high school visits as much as I do – especially since I loathed my own experience. But what can I say? I run into hilarious librarians, teachers who dream up good projects, and (most importantly) amazing young people all over the place.

Here’s some proof.  These are some shots I took today of my shared day at Thomas Dale High School and Meadowbrook High School, both in the Richmond area.

 

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass re-written as a picture book by high school students! Great way to study impact of audience on writing style...

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass re-written as a picture book by TD high school students! Great way to study impact of audience on writing style…

Don't be fooled. They aren't  mild mannered librarians...

Don’t be fooled. They aren’t mild mannered librarians…

...they are zombie lovin' librarians...

…they are zombie lovin’ biblio-freaks

A truck loaded with an English teacher's requested titles at Meadowbrook HS. So many diverse voices!

A truck loaded with an English teacher’s requested titles at Meadowbrook HS. So many diverse voices!

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Winnie the Pooh recycled into a new art form at Meadowbrook

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Loved the inky black on this one…

 

Discarded books recycled into an new art form at Meadwobrook!

Abstract!

The library team at Meadowbrook HS.

The library team at Meadowbrook HS.

 

 

IMG_2384I’m finally home after a long stretch in Northern Virginia. This weekend was the SCBWI Midatlantic annual writers conference, where I taught an intensive for the first time on how to write characters with depth, and how to develop a compelling voice in writing. Yikes. I had forgotten how hard it is to teach writing – and how much you learn from doing so. What I came to was this: Layers, depth and voice in writing really come from how deeply you want to go inside yourself and how honestly you can lay bare what you find.  I hope my SCBWI colleagues who attended were able to find something useful during our session. I’m wishing them lots of time to remember, to record, and to write.

Then it was on to the Arlington Central Library. You could fit all of my hometown, Richmond, inside the hip pocket of Arlington. What a busy and vibrant place – especially its library. (Favorite feature: a vegetable garden planted in the beds that border the entrance.) Lisa Cosgrove-Davies, Youth Services Librarian, worked with the Arlington Teen Advisory Board to coordinate two school visits at Jefferson Middle School and Washington Lee High School, followed by an evening talk at the library.

B1AUBiPIAAA9N7DNow, was I feeling confident? No, I was not. It’s always a crap shoot on whether people come to an evening library event, and Dallas was playing Washington to boot. But I kept channeling the words of Pat Cummings, who reminded me at the conference that the real joy in this business is in making the work. “Everything else – school visits, library gatherings, signings – is gravy!” She’s right, of course, but sometimes I forget. I’m happy to report that we did have a respectable crowd with everyone from old friends, to teens and senior citizens, all with great questions and comments. Thanks to Lisa Cosgrove-Davies, Teresa Flynn (Library Services for Arlington Public Schools, Lisa Myklestad, Kirsten Wall, and my friends at One More Page Books for all their time and attention.

With Lydia Breiseth at Colorín Colorado

With Lydia Breiseth at Colorín Colorado

And finally, I stopped by the offices of Colorín Colorado at the WETA studios. Colorín Colorado is a national website dedicated to bilingual resources for families. (Think Reading Rockets en español.)

For almost three hours, I tried not to fidget or make weird faces as we recorded  material for podcasts. It was really fun, especially with the chocolate croissant they threw in with the deal. A couple of times we stopped for teary breaks that I truly hadn’t expected. (Maybe Lydia is working on being the next Barbara Walters? Or maybe not sleeping in my own bed is getting to me?)

But it felt like an important step, too. I’ve done a few interviews on Spanish language media, but the truth is that it has been an unfolding journey to figure out how to bring my work  into the lives of children and families where both languages are spoken, especially since I write in English (and Spanglish).  Things are coming into focus, though. My picture book for next year, Mango, Abuela and Me  illustrated by Angela Dominguez – will be published simultaneously in Spanish and English editions. Best of all, the translator is the fabulous Teresa Mlawer, who has translated books like Where the Wild Things Are, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse, among lots of other beloved stories. What I especially love about having Teresa’s hand on the project is that she will translate it closer to the Cuban dialect of Spanish that I speak. It might seem like a small thing; isn’t Spanish, Spanish? But no. Having the right sabor is one of the things that will make the text feel more like my voice. Anyway, I’m so grateful to Candlewick for deciding to publish simultaneously and for being sensitive to bicultural writers and audiences.

Okay, now for some down time before I visit Thomas Dale and Meadowbrook High Schools later this week.

Cariños de,

Meg

TRW14_1000x200It’s a great week to love books in Richmond, Virginia – especially middle grade and YA fiction. That’s because it’s not only the Library of Virginia’s Literary Festival, but it’s also the American Library Association’s TeenRead Week. Wao! So much going on, so what can I say except, Tengo los patines puestos! (I’ve got my roller-skates on!) Here are a few highlights of where I’ll be during the week:

ByznKPqIcAMRPzSMeadowdale Library/Tomahawk Creek MS:  I’ll head down to Chesterfield County for a library book talk that is off-site on Wednesday, Oct 15, 7 PM.  We’ll talk The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Here’s the info and where you register.  Especially nice to see a partnership between the school and public libraries in a community.

 

10460756_624828830946388_5252190620263280422_nTeen 14: Locals already know that the main branch of the Richmond Public Library on Franklin Street is always figuring out ways to make reading come alive, especially for kids. So, they’re going to play host once again for a teen author event. Join Virginia authors who have works for teens published in 2014. Teen '14 poster-FIt’s a ready-made night for librarians, teachers, and readers who want to meet and make friends with the truly kick-ass authors we have in the Commonwealth. PLUS, food, music, giveaways.  If last year’s event was any sign, it’s going to be a really fun night. Details on their Facebook page or click on the jpg poster here.

Hermitage High School Anti-bullying Book Event with Erin Jade Lange. You know her novel?  It’s called Butter, about a kid who decides to eat himself to death on Internet. Here’s the trailer. We’ve cooked up (ugh, the pun!) a good conversation about our books and bullying.  Note: it’s a closed event, but it will be available by podcast to other high schools.

 

ConferenceLogo2014smallerJames River Writers Conference:  My favorite conference each year because it brings us all together – writers across every genre and age group – talking, teaching, and learning about the writing life.  The Library of Virginia’s literary luncheon on Saturday features Barbara Kingsolver as the guest speaker. (She’s one of my daughter’s favorite authors, so Sandra gets to come along!) But really, the JRW Conference will, as usual, feature an impressive A-list of award-winners and bestselling stars. Check out the full list and register.

RVAWriters-300x83I’m also giving a standing ovation to JRW for a adding a new way to share the fun of book geekdom with the community.  RVA Hearts Writers will put their conference authors all over the city to offer free workshops and panels on everything from diversity in kid lit, to the Muppets, historical fiction, and the ins and outs of self-publishing.  Check out all you can learn.  The fact is that artists of all types have always made communities more interesting and vibrant. Nice to see the literary arts so well-repp’d in that effort.

Happy reading!

Cariños de,

Meg

That silly school board in Colorado got me feeling especially proud of young people – and also appreciative about my great day this Friday. While their school board continued to pit patriotism against informed thought in its AP History classes, I was surrounded by people who dedicate their lives to doing the opposite.

IMG_2348I got to teach a workshop with the fabulous Duncan Tonatiuh, where we both discussed our writing/creation process and how we bring difficult topics to young people. Here’s a video that fourth graders did in honor of his award-winning picture book, Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale.

 

Just after the workshop, I got to peruse the children’s and YA collection at Busboys and Poets in DC, hands-down the most diverse offerings I have come across in our area. If you’re serious about including all points of view, this is the place to be. I was especially fond of the free downloadable lessons and books lists available through Teaching for Change.

IMG_2352Met the wise women who wrote Parrots Over Puerto Rico (Lee and Low), this year’s winner of the Las Américas Award.  They had the nerve to write a nonfiction book without a single photograph and without even putting the title on the book cover. That, plus a look at the ga-billion scissors and scraps of paper that it took to make all those collage parrots makes me bow low in respect. ¡Felicidades, Susan and Cindy!

IMG_2341Toured the Children’s Literature Center at the Library of Congress for the first time. (This is different from the Young Readers Center that I have talked about here before.)  At the CLC, you can meet with a librarian and study children’s books from every era. My friend Edwin Fontanez called it a candy store for adults who adore kids books – and he’s right. Free and open to the public, by the way.

Américas Award for Children's and Young Adult LiteratureMet many of the amazing librarians and educators who are part of CLASP, a consortium of colleges and other educational groups that offer Latin American studies – and which collectively support the Las Américas Award each year. (Note to my editorial friends:  Nominations for next year’s award ARE OPEN NOW.  Don’t forget to submit your titles!)

And now, it’s Saturday, so you know what? I’m going to walk the dog and rest! More soon.

 

Cariños de,

Meg

1_busboys_logo300I’m checking out another great indi bookstore. It’s Busboys and Poets  in Washington, DC, and I’m going to their 14th and V location for the first time this Friday.

That’s because it’s time for the awards ceremony for the Las Américas prize. This year, top prize went to the lovely picture book Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan Roth and Cindy Trumbore, an especially delightful pick from Lee and Low, a smaller publisher that has long been advocating and promoting diverse children’s literature.

main_parrotsfc-w-sealIt’s the story of the near extinction of wild parrots in Puerto  Rico and how that sad situation was turned around. I hope you’ll stop in to the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress to see an exhibit of the book and its art, which runs through the end of October.

As part of the festivities, Las Américas also sponsors an annual educator workshop – hosted by Busboys and Poets – where teachers and librarians can get hands-on ideas and materials for bringing high quality Latino literature into their classroom or library. I’m so happy to be able to present alongside Duncan Tonatiuh this year. (9:30 – noon). Duncan won honorable mention, as well as a Pura Belpré Honor medal, for his exquisite book Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale. My own novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, was selected as a commended title this year (along with all of these).

If you’re a teacher or librarian, it’s not too late to register. The reasonable $25 registration fee gets you breakfast, a free book, and ideas from Duncan and me on how to use our books in the classroom to help students explore culture and identity. (Registration info here: I’ll even have swag, people.

I know it’s a busy time at the start of a school year. And I know it’s easy to think that you don’t really need a workshop like this if you’ve got mostly non-Latino students. But please consider this:  Empathy is part of the 21st century skill set, and books give kids a chance to build that. There’s nothing like getting inside someone else’s skin for a while to help you consider new points of view.

Anyway, I’ll be trekking up on my favorite Amtrak. (I love you DC, but you can keep your traffic!) Hope you can be there. And don’t forget, you can join us for the author reception, 3 PM – 5 PM inside the Pickford Theater/Madison Building of the Library of Congress. Please email here to say you’re coming: dwolteri@tulane.edu

See you then!

Cariños de,

Meg

Directions to Busboys and Poets: U Street Metrorail stop Yellow/Green line

PDF on the teacher workshops: aateacherworkshop

iguacaparrotflightcagetouched670

imagesMy heroes at Book Riot have a new podcast series called Reading Lives, where authors talk about pretty much anything except their own books. I’m on there today, episode #2, where Jeff O’Neal and I talk about my book collection fetish, as well as all the titles and authors (some surprising) that have shaped everything from my sense of culture to how I parented.

These days I do a lot of interviews, but I can’t remember a time when doing one was this much fun. Maybe it’s because Jeff (aka @readingape on Twitter) is so charming, but maybe too because the hook is so simple. Two people talking about the books we love, old and new. What can I say?  It’s a literary geek’s dream.

If you’ve got some time, check it out. You can subscribe on i-tunes, too.

 

It’s a double whammy! Banned Books week and Hispanic Heritage month, so I’ve been on the road with no sign of rest in the near future.

Fellow REFORMISTA Loida Garcia Febo just shared this link to Latino books that have been challenged and banned, including the book that turned me to writing in the first place: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.  Que cosa mas grande...

imagesGracias, Loida. Lists like this inspire me to write more books that might cause alarm and discomfort – and hey, even thought. And they make me feel especially fired up about my first teaching gig at Las Comadres Writers Conference in Brooklyn this weekend. Las Comadres is more than a conference. It’s a movement based on the core principle of mentorship and culture. On Saturday, established Latina authors and publishing pros will come together at Medgar Evers College to help yet-to-be published authors learn the ropes. What’s in it for me?  Mostly getting more Latino voices at the literary table, especially those writing for kids since this year, for the first time,  our public schools will be a majority minority. Besides, I’ll be helping to create more amazing books that will end up on banned book lists.

So, hermanas, if you have a story, if you’ve been too shy to admit that you want to be a writer, if you just don’t know where to begin, register for Las Comadres.

Finally, here are a few pictures from my recent travels to the DC area.  I’m exhausted, but so grateful to Candlewick Press for helping to make some of these visits possible. And as always, I am so grateful for the lovely people I meet everywhere along the way. (I’m waving at you, Osbourn Park High School…even if you DID schedule a fire drill.)

Meg’s next appearances:  

Las Comadres Writers Conference, Medger Evers College, Brooklyn, New York, September 27, 2014

The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Richmond, VA, September 30, 2014 (by invitation only)

Las Américas Awards Teaching Workshops, Exploring Immigration and Identity in the K-12 Classroom, with Duncan Tonatiuth at Busboys and Poets, Washington, DC. October 3, 2014

#WeNeedDiverseBoosk founder Ellen Oh surrounded by adoring fans from Iguana Books at North Atlantic Booksellers Association

#WeNeedDiverseBoosk founder Ellen Oh surrounded by adoring fans from Iguana Books

The beautiful Library of Congress. Stay tuned for details about an exciting YA event on April 30, 2015

The beautiful Library of Congress. Stay tuned for details about an exciting YA event on April 30, 2015

Thank you letter from my appearance at the Library of Congress with bilingual students last year.

Thank you letter from my appearance at the Library of Congress with bilingual students last year.

Or maybe I was having a bad hair day?

Or maybe I was having a bad hair day?

Some of the great students I met at Osbourn Park HS

Some of the beautiful students I met at Osbourn Park HS

 

 

 

 

 

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