Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

Posts tagged ‘Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass’

Kaywell Award and Texas Book Festival Photos

Running like a mad woman today, so I’m putting up some photos of last week’s travels. Met so many wonderful people – educators, literary philanthropists, fellow authors. This was also the first time that Ahora Si! magazine sponsored a tent at the Texas Book Festival where Latino authors and programming were available all day. Very cool!

Here are just a few shots.

With Melanie Griffin, archivist at USF, Dr. Joan Kaywell, and Kaywell committee chair James Leggett

With Melanie Griffin, archivist at USF, Dr. Joan Kaywell, and Kaywell committee chair James Leggett

How's THIS for a set of wheels? My ride after the awards ceremony in Tampa. Thanks, Donna Heath!

How’s THIS for a set of wheels? My ride after the awards ceremony in Tampa. Thanks, Donna Heath!

Visiting cousin Carlos

Visiting cousin Carlos

A walk along the path. I love Spanish moss in the trees.

A walk along the path. I love Spanish moss in the trees.

Yep. We're in Austin.

Yep. We’re in Austin.

The day begins in the best way: Maya Smart is my Texas Book Festival contact for the day

The day begins in the best way: Maya Smart is my Texas Book Festival contact for the day

Thank you Texas Book Festival and Candlewick Press!

Thank you Texas Book Festival and Candlewick Press!

Maya and I handing out books after my talk with Reading Rockstars

Maya and I handing out books after my talk with Reading Rockstars

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Clay tiles in Zavala ES's garden, which has chickens, goldfish, a bridge. Such a great space!

Clay tiles in Zavala ES’s garden, which has chickens, goldfish, a bridge. Such a great space!

rooftop with the fab Nikki Loftin and Lydia Gil

rooftop with the fab Nikki Loftin and Lydia Gil

The view from the amazing penthouse home of arts patrons Sandra and Walter Wilkie

The view from the amazing penthouse home of arts patrons Sandra and Walter Wilkie

Jamie and the lovely Maya Smart

Jamie and the lovely Maya Smart

The view from the author green room. Every party in Austin seemed to have a rooftop angle.

The view from the author green room. Every party in Austin seemed to have a rooftop angle.

Day 1: Renee Watson! We were both in polka dots and offered to be bestseller Eric Litwin's back up singers for Sing and Dance in Your PolkaDot Pants. We await your call, Eric.

Day 1: Renee Watson! We were both in polka dots and offered to be bestseller Eric Litwin’s back up singers for Sing and Dance in Your PolkaDot Pants. We await your call, Eric.

Catching up with Monica Brown and Katheryn Russell Brown (Little Melba and her Big Trombone)

Catching up with Monica Brown and Katheryn Russell Brown (Little Melba and her Big Trombone)

Book women trying to be divas in the restroom of the Four Seasons. With Jamie Tan from Candlewick, and authors Monica Brown (Lola Levine is Not Mean...and countless other award-winning titles) and Maggie Thrasher (Honor Girl)

Book women trying to be divas in the restroom of the Four Seasons. With Jamie Tan from Candlewick, and authors Monica Brown (Lola Levine is Not Mean…and countless other award-winning titles) and Maggie Thrasher (Honor Girl)

Our Throwing Shade panel: moderated by Holly Green (left). Authors are Jessie Ann Foley, I. W. Gregorio and me

Our Throwing Shade panel: moderated by Holly Green (left). Authors are Jessie Ann Foley, I. W. Gregorio and me

You Love Me; You Hate Me: Whiplash as an Author of Realistic YA

event-poster-4029445So, I’m getting ready to leave for the Texas Book Festival where I will hang with some of my favorite “reading rock star” authors – and with my friend Maya Smart, whose family transplanted there earlier this year to become part of the University of Texas family.

largescatterlogoBut before I head to Austin, I’ll be  making an important pitstop in Tampa, FL to receive the 2015 Joan Kaywell Books Save Lives Award at the University of South Florida. This year, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass is the winner, along with honorable mention of Openly Straight by the fabulous Bill Konigsberg.

The timing of the award couldn’t be better for my spirits. It’s Hispanic Heritage month AND it was recently Banned Books Week. That means I’ve had my usual emotional whiplash of being received with open arms or with a full dose of ugly.

L t R: David Shipler, David Levithan, Coe Booth, and me at HousingWorks

L t R: David Shipler, David Levithan, Coe Booth, and me at HousingWorks

If you read this blog regularly, you might know that I spent last week on the road, first to New York City and then down to Arkansas. Coming off of a few days in New York is always a little strange. This is a city where the word “ass” isn’t really a problem. It’s a place with Kinky Boots on Broadway (fantastic,) a painted naked lady on Times Square (not so fantastic,) and books and lecture series absolutely everywhere. Since Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass is set in Queens, there is always a sense of the safe and familiar when I talk about the book there. That’s not to say that there aren’t people in New York who oppose the title of my book or its content. But the truth is, I’ve never met them there.

Adored this play

Adored this play

Anyway, after I wrapped up in the city, I headed down to Hot Springs as the guest of the Garland County Public Library. It’s a popular place, thanks to a welcoming staff and some good ideas. Kids can borrow a Halloween costume or fishing rods, along with checking out their favorite books, for example. As it happens, I was their first YA author to visit, and I got driven around in the official library transport vehicle, which the librarians and I nicknamed the Sexy Toaster.

The Sexy Toaster

The Sexy Toaster

Mango fans!

Mango fans!

All was going fine on my school visits. The elementary school children were adorable, as usual, all of them helping me say words in Spanish and English as we talked about Mango, Abuela, and Me. What can I say?  I love little kids with missing teeth, big smiles, and stories they’re dying to tell me. It reminds me of when my own kids were little and we’d crowd around a book on the couch.

But here comes the whiplash. I don’t only write sweet picture books, of course. I write realistic YA fiction, too.  Trouble, trouble, trouble.

My first high school experience was at a small school where they kids hadn’t read the novel. My presentation consisted of a reading of the first two pages of my novel, followed by a 40 minute talk about books and bullying and the events that shaped the book.

When I finished, a teacher and (I later found out) coach approached the stage.

“I appreciate what you’re trying to do,” he said, “but there are children in this room who have heard more filth and vulgar words in the last 30 minutes than they have in their whole lives, and my child was one of them. This was inappropriate.”

My stomach clenched.  My brain went blank. I had no pithy Queens-flavored reply. I honestly felt like he’d spit on me, even though his tone was completely professional.

Luckily, there was a girl from the audience standing nearby, waiting to speak to me, so I kept my cool. I muttered something about how I was sorry he felt that way, that perhaps this would give him a chance to talk to his son about what he had heard and about what bullying looks like here in his school.

This would be a lousy story if not for what happened right after he walked away. The young girl who had been waiting approached me and said. “People make fun of me here. How I look. How I sound. How I keep to myself.”  She showed me a journal where she draws pictures to vent what she’s thinking.

I thought about her all evening, reminding myself that my 45 minutes with her was worth the two minutes of pain at the hands of the disappointed teacher.

IMG_3242The next morning, I’m happy to say, I visited Hot Springs High School, Bill Clinton’s alma mater. I was really feeling gun shy, but almost immediately, I could see a huge difference in how this school operated. Nikki Aitken, their librarian, had organized for the ninth graders to read the novel as a whole. She confessed being concerned when she first considered using the novel, but after reading it to the end, she decided that it had something important to offer kids who are trying to dig for their sense of self and for compassion. Everything about this visit was different. The ninth grade principal was on hand and couldn’t have been more welcoming and encouraging. (Thank you, Mr. Hatley.) And most important of all were the girls who crowded around for pictures afterward, asking if they could contact me on my website. “I am going through some stuff,” one whispered to me. “I have to talk to you.”

So am I vulgar or honest?  Is the book trashy or valuable? Should educators trust their kids to read and discuss uncomfortable books or should they stick to the classics and call it a day?

Getting the news that I'd won the Kaywell Award!

Getting the news that I’d won the Kaywell Award!

When Dr. Joan Kaywell first told me last year that I’d won this award, I was honored but also a little scared. It’s a big banner to put on a book and an author:  This book can save a life?  That’s a big responsibility, and I was shy about thinking of Yaqui in this way because I know that sometimes books alone won’t be enough. We need courageous adults and compassionate, informed teens to help save lives, too.

Cori Williams and Brittany Chavez of the Garland Public Library

Cori Williams and Brittany Chavez of the Garland Public Library

So as I head to Tampa and Austin, all of these experiences are still swirling inside me. Sure, I got a dose of momentary shame, but I also got confirmation about the urgent need to stand with the beautiful young people I meet all the time. They’re living complicated lives, and they need us to have faith in them.

When I walk across the stage on Tuesday, I’ll be thinking of the kids in Arkansas and the teachers and librarians who care about them. I’m going to carry with me the girl who has “stuff going on,” the one who draws in a notebook to cope, the kids who hide in the library to avoid the lunchroom at all costs. I’m going to carry all of that – with my held held high. Thank you, University of South Florida and the Florida Council of Teachers of English for what is going to be a beautiful day.

Meg’s schedule at the Texas Book Festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NY, NY: A Helluva Town

Who says you can't tell this story to a six-year-old?

Who says you can’t tell this story to a six-year-old?

Before I post the photos from BEA and BookCon in New York, I have to show you what I got in my inbox. It’s a project based on Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. My librarian friend, Shelley Armstrong, sent me the work of Jordan, Kasey, Myles, and Nick from Dr. Lee Bloxom’s 9th grade English class at the Thomas Dale High School West Campus in Richmond, VA. What better way to teach the impact of audience on writing, than to have a group of kids adapt a story for another age group?  Here’s my bad-ass YA novel as a picture book.  TDHS Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Butt. (Thanks for sending this Shelley!)

Okay, the photos I managed to get my hands on.

Next time you’re in the city, I recommend staying at the Library Hotel, at 41 and Madison Ave., just up the block from NYPL’s famous stone lions. The entire decor in the hotel is based on the Dewey decimal system, complete with an old card catalog at the reception desk. Each floor houses different categories. You can stay in the paranormal section, romance languages, botany. Even the street outside is decorated with brass plaques featuring quotes by famous literary figures. So strange and fun!

A hotel based on the Dewey decimal system. I was shelved in the Slavic Languages section.

I was shelved in the Slavic Languages section.

nypl-gwendolyn-brooks-poetry

I don’t think New Yorkers appreciated me stopping to read all the brass plaques…

 

I fell in love with a little gem of a school in the East Village called the Cornelia Connelly Center. Sweet, smart students – with great questions. Looking for a place to make a meaningful donation? This is it. Thank you CCC!

The fabulous students at Cornelia Connelley Center

The fabulous students at Cornelia Connelley Center

Thanks go to Candlewick for offering F&Gs of my new picture book and free copies of the paperback of YAQUI. I’m also psyched to read titles by my C’wick siblings. (So far, I peeked at the graphic memoir Honor Girl by Maggie Thasher. Amazing.) Look for them this fall.

After the signing of the F&Gs for MANGO.

After the signing of the F&Gs for MANGO.

New work by Todd Strasser, Laura Amy Schlitz, Maggie thrasher, M.T. Anderson, and Pat Schmatz

New work by Todd Strasser, Laura Amy Schlitz, Maggie Thrasher, M.T. Anderson, and Pat Schmatz

And finally, here is a shot of the Book Con panel on diversity. What can I say? This is what happens when you leave tired authors unattended backstage.

Aisha Saeed, me, IW Gregorio, Soman Chainani, Libba Bray, and Jaqueline Woodson. Why not pose with a forklift?  (Backstage at BookCon)

Aisha Saeed, me, IW Gregorio, Soman Chainani, Libba Bray, and Jaqueline Woodson. Why not pose with a forklift? (Backstage at BookCon)

The Big Apple: BEA and Book Con 2015

city-new-york-nyc-united-states-panoramic-heightI’ll be spending almost the whole week in the Big Apple! This year I’ll be part of Book Expo America and BookCon for the first time, which feels exciting. Here are the highlights, including some off-site places where I’ll pop up, too.

Back to the scene of the crime in Queens on May 27!  I’ll be talking about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and my other books back at the Flushing branch of the Queens Public Library, mere blocks from where I went to junior high school – and tangled with my own real-life bully so many years ago. Flashbacks here I come.

Cornelia Connelly Center in the Village, May 28:  Interestingly, this gig came as the result of a Jesuit priest who heard me speak at a Hispanic Heritage talk I gave at the Federal Reserve Bank last year. So excited to speak to the young women at this Catholic School.

IMG_2890Speed dating at the ABC/CBC Tea, Friday, May 29, 3:30 PM, Javits Center Room 1E12/13:  Booksellers will be getting lithos of my upcoming picture book Mango, Abuela, and Me, which hits bookstores in August.

Screen Shot 2013-05-11 at 9.03.50 PMPublic We Need Diverse Books reception at my favorite bookstore in Spanish Harlem, Friday, May 29, 7 PM:  Join We Need Diverse Books authors at La Casa Azul, which is – hands down – one of my very favorite bookstores. Such a beautiful spot and a thoughtfully curated collection of works by Latino authors writing in Spanish and English. (143 E 103 Street, near Lexington.) The store recently won a Chase Mission Main Street grant to further its important work in the community. Check it out.

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Get free copies of my books while supplies last:  Candlewick is generously offering free F&Gs for Mango, Abuela and Me on Friday, May 29, 1:30 PM and the paperback of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass – a summer reading list title (Tri-Li ) in New York – on Saturday, March 30, 1- 2pm. Stop by Candlewick booth number #2857, and I will be happy to sign for you.

WDNB_withtag copyDiversity talks, room 1A Javits Convention Center, Sunday May 31:  Come out on Sunday 11:15 where I’ll be with Aisha Saeed, Libba Bray, Jacqueline Woodson, David Levithan, Soman Chainani, and IW Gregorio talking books, diversity, how far we’ve come – and what’s yet to be done. Signing immediately following at 12:30, autograph area, table 5.

 

 

 

 

 

The art of the book display: librarians in GA raise the bar

Remember those book dioramas you used to make in a shoebox when you were little?  They were 3-D book reports, really, and I loved them.

Well, come to find out, they still live! And they’re bigger and more interesting than ever.

Check out details from an amazing display case created by Vicki Barbre and Jane Anderegg, librarians at Cherokee High School in Canton, Georgia, where I was a guest speaker last month. The school bought copies of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass for their English classes.  The librarians collected stuff for weeks, plucking out themes and details from the story. I’m told they make one for each of their guest authors during the year – an amazing program run and managed by teacher Dennis Jolley. This takes a ton of planning and digging around, so wow.! Thank you, Cherokee HS!

Salon Corazón!

Salon Corazón!

recreation of Piddy's locker

recreation of Piddy’s locker

Ma's piano!

Ma’s piano!

The essay Piddy writes during detention

The essay Piddy writes during detention

Looks real, but it's American  Girl doll-size

Looks real, but it’s American Girl doll-size

The kittens, and hair rollers and other beauty products Lila might love

The kittens, and hair rollers and other beauty products Lila might love

Paddy's elephant charm

Paddy’s elephant charm

 

 

On conga lines, a seaside library, and the surprise of a girl’s rehab center: REFORMA Nat’l Convention V

You haven’t lived until you’ve done a conga line to the strains of Miami Sound Machine with a bunch of happy librarians. That’s precisely what I did during the dance party/dessert reception at the fifth annual REFORMA national conference in San Diego last week.

757799_c6a406e46c834299bba5a0f4540a55de.png_srz_p_913_281_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzI’ve mentioned REFORMA here before. That’s the arm of ALA dedicated to library services to Latinos – and a partner in the Pura Belpré award, along with ALSC. This year about 300 librarians, authors, teachers, and community leaders – many sporting pins with slogans like Sí – hablo español – gathered to share ideas and best practices.

Photo via Sonia Bautista

Photo via Sonia Bautista

It had a lot of the usual conference fare: panels, keynotes (mine at the pool on a broiler of a day). But the event had the unmistakable feeling of friends coming together for support and fun, too. Maybe that’s what Ana Elba Pavon meant when she called it “time with my REFORMA family.”

Look, you can’t blame me for being a little giddy about going to San Diego, land of the eternal sunny-and-low-70s weather, especially after this winter. But I got a lot more than a few days in the sunshine.

I was surprised to run into Teresa Mlawer, who has been duking it out with the translation for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, which she says is the hardest book she’s ever had to translate. (She’s done quite a few, like classics, Where the Wild Things Are and Caps for Sale.) She’s trying her best to keep the voice and idioms, all while making the book sound not like a translation, but as though it was originally written in Spanish. She promised to come on this blog – or sit on a panel with me some time – to talk about this tricky process. All translations are not equal. All Spanish is not the same. It’s a minefield, I tell you.

Selfie with librarian Jennifer Lawson.  Hey, same glasses!

Selfie with librarian Jennifer Lawson. Hey, same glasses!

Another fantastic surprise was the morning I spent at the Girls Rehabilitation Facility through a program called the Juvenile Court Book Club. Thanks to librarian and board member Jennifer Lawson of the San Diego County Public Library, I spent the morning with girls, all under 18, who are  incarcerated, but who have earned privileges for good behavior. I didn’t know what to expect. Would I be walking into an entire room full of Yaqui Delgado’s?  What I found was an incredibly engaged teacher named Yolanda (originally from Philly) and a smart group of girls with good questions. So little separated them from the middle and high school girls I meet everywhere else.

If you’ve read Yaqui, you know that it takes a look at living through violence, making mistakes, and finding the strength to regroup. The girls at the center have probably felt lost in the face of all they’ve seen. Their mistakes or lousy circumstances have cost them dearly. But here they are, strong girls trying to find a new way to see themselves. It felt like a gift to spend time with them, and I am very grateful to Candlewick, my publisher, for donating copies of the book that they could keep.

Encinitas branch of San Diego Public library

Encinitas branch of San Diego Public library

Nice entrance to the library

Nice entrance to the library

Take a look at the Encinitas branch of the library where I did a small panel with Mary Pearson (The Adoration of Jenna Fox, among other titles) and Stephanie Diaz, who, at age 21, is about to publish her third book in a sci-fi trilogy with St. Martin’s Press. Amazingly, Stephanie wrote her first novel and query letter at age thirteen. Check out her website and share it with every kid who tells you they’ve got their novel ready. All things are possible.

With Mary Pearson and Stephanie Diaz

With Mary Pearson and Stephanie Diaz

Then it was off to REFORMA. I took in a few sessions, including one about DIA celebrations. I’ve done DIA events in the past (Paint Me a Story, remember?), and I’ve tried to be part of the diversity celebration every year since then. ALA has recently referred to Dia as Diversity in Action, to include all cultural groups. But in California, where they’ve been celebrating April (especially April 30) for ten years or more, they largely still call it Dia de los niños/dia de los libros as it was originally conceived by the legendary Pat Mora.

I think a missing piece is still DIA programming for teens. As luck would have it, the Dia day that I’m part of at the Library of Congress YRC at the end of the month is geared to parents, librarians and teachers of middle grade and high school youth. Here’s the invite: DIA UPDATED INVITE

The authors on the panel are all middle grade and YA authors representing a range of cultures. It’s a good start, but now my wheels are turning (uh-oh) on how to tap into diverse authors, especially YA Latino authors, to do a month-long Teen Dia something-or-other. (I can already imagine my writing friends reading this and trying to figure out how to put email blockers on me.)

Dancing based on Aztec storytelling at Noche de Cuentos.

Dancing based on Aztec storytelling at Noche de Cuentos.

The conference also had evening events at the San Diego Downtown library, which is a spectacle of a building with enormous glass book sculptures, and architectural wonders that make a book geek’s head explode. It even includes a school inside. Go visit.

Folkloric music from Mexico at the dessert reception.

Folkloric music from Mexico at the dessert reception.

And, finally, yes, there was the dancing. What can I say? We watched folkloric dance for about thirty minutes, and then the DJ showed up. It took all of four notes for the REFORMA past president and the San Diego County Library director to take the dance floor. After that, everyone was up and moving. Before I knew it, Keith Michael Fiels, ALA’s CEO, and I were boogying and following the conga line around the room. Pictures will surface, possibly with blackmail notes. I’ll keep you posted.

Okay – AWP in Minnesota is up next. And guess what, they’re predicting snow showers. Okay, it’s not 70-degrees-and-sunny. But who knows? I might find some great surprises there, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Paperback That Could: Thanks NBC

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So cool to be included in  NBC’s Top Latino picks for 2014. Super way to end the year with a celebration for the paperback publication of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (Aug 2014)...and with great hope for the Spanish edition that’s coming soon.

And now I have some fantastic reading to do.

 

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