Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

Campus - Fountains - 0013I took a beautiful ride to Farmville, VA last week to be part of Longwood University’s Summer Literacy Institute. What can you say about a couple hundred teachers, librarians, and library science students gathering in the summer to study strategies for helping people fall in love with reading? These are educators with true passion for books and kids.

After the regional authors presented on Friday morning, we had a chance to workshop with the participants on a topic of our choice. (My session was on making zines with kids.)

A.B.Westrick admiring a poster about her debut novel, Brotherhood

A.B.Westrick admiring a poster about her debut novel, Brotherhood

An unexpected treat was seeing how the library science students researched our work and created posters.Poster for Meg Medina books

One of the posters for my work included links to two original trailers for my books. Here are the Vimeo links Melissa Hanes’ trailers for  Tia Isa Wants a Car and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Thank you, Melissa! It was fun to see your mini-movies!

All in all, it was a beautiful experience, so thank you Professors Wendy Snow, Francis Reeves, Audrey Church and friends.) Big shout out, too, for  L.M. Elliott, and Jason Wright, new author friends from Virginia.

Happy summer!

 

 

 

 

I’m passing this on because I love an underdog story – especially one that shows off Latino kids with super-sized brains and grit.

The documentary Underwater Dreams will be airing on MSNBC and Telemundo this Sunday, July 20, 2014 1 PM, EST.

Here’s the blurb:  “Underwater Dreams, written and directed by Mary Mazzio, and narrated by Michael Peña, is an epic story of how the sons of undocumented Mexican immigrants learned how to build an underwater robot from Home Depot parts. And defeat engineering powerhouse MIT in the process.” Get the rest of the scoop here: 

 

header_logoI might not have heard about this if I hadn’t joined REFORMA as a community supporter this year. It’s a librarian association dedicated to providing services for Latino families, but you can join as a supporter or a corporate sponsor. You can flat-out just donate, too.

Anyway, I’m so glad this crossed my screen. Thanks, Reformistas for being such a great clearinghouse of information!

 

Buttons of the winning titles. Thank you, Celia Perez!

Buttons of the winning titles. Thank you, Celia Perez!

I got home last week from the ALA conference, an experience that still makes me daydream, especially when I think of the energy and passion in the room at the Pura Belpré awards. You can find my speech and Yuyi Morales’s speech here, but the truth is that the text doesn’t replicate the emotion that was in the room. All of us receiving recognition were teary and humbled –and not just by the honor being extended to our books. A good part of our emotion stemmed from the unspoken presence of people who were not actually in the room with us.

This summer, our news outlets have exploded with accounts of the nearly 40,000 unaccompanied childrenwho have arrived on our border to find themselves not only exhausted, afraid and alone, but also the target of explosive rage. Whatever your view on immigration policy, I hope you can agree that what we’re seeing is a human tragedy on the backs of the weakest and smallest among us.

All of us writers on that stage work for young people because we respect them and treasure what should be a sacred time for all children. All of us on that stage have been touched by migration, either directly or indirectly, in our own families. All of us have been the recipients of our parents’ most ardent hopes for our futures, sometimes at the expense of their own. It is heartbreaking, then, for us to see children so completely lost and in need of help.

As Javier and I traveled back home, the TV monitors overhead in the airport  flashed with images of sign-wielding protestors and supporters, with images of children handing over their birth certificates or chugging water from empty milk jugs, with shots of them sleeping on the floors like inmates.

The difficult story of migration is the Latino story, and it is the human story since time began. It can’t be captured in two-minute news clips and it can’t be screamed and shouted down.

Here for you, then, in honor of these children, I offer a short summer reading list to add to your thinking on this issue. It’s by no means a complete bibliography of what’s out there, but it’s a start…

Picture book Rene Colato Lainez

Picture book
Rene Colato Lainez

Duncan Tonatuih Pura Belpré honor for writing and illustration, 2014

Duncan Tonatuih
Pura Belpré honor for writing and illustration, 2014

 

 

Adult fiction by Cristina Henríquez, one of my favorite reads this year

Adult fiction by Cristina Henríquez, one of my favorite reads this year

My 2012 release: A look at migration through  magical realism Finalist International Latino Book Awards, 2014

A look at migration through magical realism
Finalist International Latino Book Awards, 2014

two_red_diceKids don’t picture their librarians hanging out at a slot machine. But, I’m telling you, it could happen this week. That’s because ten thousand librarians will descend on Las Vegas for their annual meeting. I’m heading over to join the party at the Association for Library Services to Children where I’ll be among the authors receiving our medals.Yep, it’s time for the Pura Belpré ceremony among others.

Truthfully, I don’t know what to expect. But in between panic and packing, I’m giving lots of thought to this year’s theme: Transforming Our Libraries, Transforming Ourselves.

For the first time, my editor and marketing team at Candlewick, my agent, my husband, and the librarians who’ve championed my work will be in one place. These are the some of the people who took the gamble on me (sorry for that pun) and who have played the biggest role in my transformation.

One heart isn’t big enough to hold all the gratitude I have for what these people have helped make happen in my life. One speech isn’t nearly enough to thank them  - or to thank all the bloggers, teachers, conference planners, librarians, college professors, fellow authors, family, and readers at home who have also offered me their hand and encouragement along the way.

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 12.11.57 PMThank you seems so meager right now. Not even mil gracias would be enough. But that’s what I’m sending to you this week. A thousand thank you’s for letting me tell stories. May our paths continue to cross in the years ahead.

Meg

If you’re at the conference this week, please stop by and say hello. Here is my appearance and signing schedule at ALA. Meg’s signing schedule at ALA 2014

Stop by Candlewick’s booth #602 to catch your favorite authors!

 

Picture the fervor of a rock concert smashed into book geekdom and strong girls.

That’s the Girls of Summer live launch party, being held tonight, June18, 7 pm at the Richmond Public Library (Main branch).

Patty Parks, librarian, Gigi and me at Girls of Summer 2012

Patty Parks, librarian, Gigi and me at Girls of Summer 2012

Gigi and I started the project four years ago, and it has grown into a vibrant partnership that has galvanized our local library, improving their children’s and teens circulation numbers– not to mention their good mood. More importantly, it has connected girls in Richmond not only to good books but also to their own sense of what it means to be a strong girl in 2014.

shutterstock_1216096kissing girlWhen we started this, Gigi and I couldn’t have guessed how it would grow.  The idea was so simple. We had both used books so heavily in helping us raise our own daughters. What were the books we’d recommend to girls and their moms now?

Each year, we answer that question with the help of 20 or so exceptionally talented and generous authors who think girls are amazing, too.  We’ve had the titans in children’s literature, like Jacqueline Woodson, and we’ve had debut authors, like this year’s Hannah Barnaby. What matters to us is the story and the celebration of as diverse a group of girls as possible.

Our librarians and local friends help, too, as photographers, as copyeditors, as designers, as event planners. The sum total is a notable blog and a live launch event that has moved us from little mentions in local events calendars to articles and segments in big places like NPR and CNN.

What I’m most proud of, though, isn’t the press. What’s cool here is that we’ve made a reading event a big deal. Think of all the ways a kid can spend their time. How cool that they choose to spend some of it with us.

So this is what I can tell you: When you first start your life as an author, you’re not thinking about how you can impact your community. You’re thinking about writing your story and about how you can get published. It seems as though being published will be a joy in and of itself.

And it is.

But it’s what you do with your role as an author that can really bump up your joy index. Being a literary citizen means using your love and knowledge of books to make something better for your community. For Gigi and me, it means joy.

Today, I opened my eyes and thought, Its’ here! The energy is everywhere. People are jazzed about the book list. It’s tweeted and shared. The ice cream man double checked on what flavors to bring. The librarians and their readers have polished their excerpts. We’re tying ribbons around the giveaways. Somehow all the exhaustion of planning Girls of Summer has evaporated.

IMG_1560 copy

My favorite picture of my pal and me. This was when she won the 2013 Library of Virginia’s People’s Choice Award

What’s left is this: Two authors and friends spending time together. A library throwing open its doors to a city full of children. And girls of every age, hungry to find their favorite summer story. It doesn’t get better than that.

 

On Wednesday, I did my last school visit of the 2013-14 school year at Stonewall Middle School in Manassas, Virginia. They’re author visit gurus over there, rolling out the red carpet with so much attention to detail that I didn’t really want to come home. (Sorry, Javier.)

On the drive back to Richmond, I got to thinking about the many great times I’ve had meeting teachers, kids and librarians this year – and how much I’ve learned about how they build collections, how they connect with their staff, and how they have to navigate budget cut threats all the time. I feel really lucky to have met so many inventive, non-shushing, hilarious Bookish Ones this year.

What I especially loved about Wednesday at Stonewall, though, is that it was a “best practices” event for me. All the best parts of school visits were rolled into one. They pulled together an author visit so that it wasn’t just a giant assembly. Instead, they created a book experience for the kids and teachers that stretched beyond the single day that I was there.

So, in honor of the amazing job Stonewall did yesterday, here’s a little cheat sheet on School Visit Greatness, with a special thanks to Linda Mitchell, Hope Dublin,Laurie Corcoran, and Diane Hilland  who hosted me so expertly.

Good planning: I despise paperwork, but I have to admit that it helps keep things straight. Linda Mitchell contacted me early (an October email about a visit in June.) We were clear on what books I’d be talking about and what grades. She stayed on top of all the contracts, W-9s, and travel and lodging arrangements. We each had everything in writing. I’m told she also stalked me on Facebook to keep up with book news as it came up, which was especially fun.

photoWelcome your author and give her time to know your school:  Since I’d be speaking early in the morning, and DC traffic is the abomination that it is, I got to Northern Virginia the night before. Nothing makes a hotel feel friendlier than a little bucket waiting for you at the  hotel desk. Mine had the essentials, not the least of which were cookies. It also had driving directions to the school from the hotel and my schedule for the next day. (It was labeled PLOT TWIST because the lineup had been tweaked a tiny bit.  Librarian humor, people.)
Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 10.01.11 AM

Ms. Mitchell also arranged for reading specialists and fellow librarians from her district to join us for dinner at a quiet restaurant downtown. This was a time to kick back and ask them about their school and students, to find out the books they were reading, and to share ideas for new titles for their shelves. They also showered birthday love on me with chocolate and other treats, at which point I  knew we’d be friends for life.

The next morning, they had coffee, fruit, and coffee cake waiting at school. The  principal and several teachers dropped by to say hello. I should add that all of this was happening on a day of SOL testing, which ranks up there with Wisdom Teeth Removal Day. You would never have guessed it from the calm feeling in the building.

IMG_1945Think perks:  As we all know, parking lot real estate is a hot commodity on a campus. You have to rate to get one of those spiffy up-near-the-door spots. Ha! When I got there, they’d staked out a spot and labeled it “For Award Winning Authors Only.” It was funny – and I really appreciated not having to lug books and a computer a long way in heels.

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 9.11.53 PM

an activity for Milagros: Girl from Away

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 9.19.43 PM

Activity based on a quote from Tía Isa Wants a Car

Prepare your students: To be honest, I’ve been to schools where no one has read my book. This really changes the impact of the visit. It’s still fun, but not nearly as meaningful. Stonewall students, on the other hand, read several of my books and did activities around the literature ahead of time, including readers theatre of Milagros and The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind.  They even used my picture book, Tia Isa Wants a Car for a writing and brainstorming activity – very cool for a middle school.

Plan something unusual and meaningful for your particular student population. Mrs. Mitchell asked me to read Tia Isa Quiere Un Carro in Spanish, since so many students at Stonewall are Latino, a significant number recently arrived. For the non Latino students, the English text and pictures were scanned and projected on the large screen.

Have the tech worked out: They had the screen, monitor, microphones, etc. all worked out for me. All I had to do was hand off the junk drive.

BdayCard

A birthday card from a student with my same last name! (She wrote a great poem, too.

Be organized about books sales/signings:  Books were pre-ordered by teachers and students, and each had a sticky with the person’s name. I was able to sign them all in my down time.

Author care 101:  My podium was fully stocked with little bottled water, mints, cough drops, and copy of all the books I would be talking about. At lunch time, they whisked me away to lunch and we had a good hour or so to sit down and regroup before heading back for the afternoon sessions.

From the author’s perspective, this experience was heaven. Linda Mitchell and her team tell me they’re considering putting together a teaching session on how to plan visits, including the nuts and bolts of funding and scheduling – traditionally the big stumbling blocks. I hope they do it. Keep your eyes peeled.

Looking forward to meeting more of you in 2014-15! Until then, happy summer and happy reading!

Cariños de, 

Meg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

womens-media-center-wmc-live-with-robin-morgan-300webMy third grade art teacher was the first woman I ever knew to put “Ms.” before her name. I remember almost nothing about her except that astounding decision – and the fact that she let us dance to Helen Reddy’s  I Am Woman for our after school club performance. She was probably the first feminist I ever met, and thankfully she left an imprint on her little charges. A few years later, I was already reading my sister’s Ms. Magazines, and eventually I went on to a life that’s been about writing stories that in one way or another advocate for girls. Law

So this weekend, when I was featured on the Women’s Media Center Live podcast, I was thrilled. WMCL is a weekly broadcast out of DC. It’s a project of a larger initiative called the Women’s Media Center which was founded in 2005 by feminist icons Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan. What I like about the podcast is that the guests are widely varied, (Anita Hill, Jimmy Carter, just two quick examples). I also like that Robin Morgan tackles any thorny topic with grace and brains.

You can catch it every Saturday morning, but you can download episodes via i-tunes if you miss the 11 am EST stream. This week, Robin and I talked about lots of things: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, how librarians are truly the butt-kicking heroes,  Girls of Summer, REFORMA, and my favorite lists for finding pro-girl multicultural books. Check out Women’s Center Live on Facebook or twitter (@wmclive). Subscribe and enjoy!

Here’s the link to their archives.

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