Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

Like everyone else, I’m glued to CNN and hoping for people’s safety this morning.

I’ve been on the move and squeezed with family health things, too, so I’ve had very little time left to write many blog posts. Here’s a wrap up of favorite moments of the last few weeks.

imagesAward news: First, here’s an article on Tumblr regarding all the long list titles on this year’s National Book Award. The question was, Who did you write this book for? Burn Baby Burn didn’t advance to the short list. (Yes, that’s me sniffling…) But here’s what all the authors on the long list had to say about their books last week.

Scholarships: If you’re an aspiring author or an author early in your career, a reminder to consider applying for the Meg Medina Scholarship at Highlights Foundation. Applications are due by Dec 15. Here’s the link with information and background on the award. (The how-to is at the end.)

With Marilisa at NCTE 2015

With Marilisa at NCTE 2015

Related to Highlights, I also want to share a sweet blog post by Dr. Marilisa Jimenez, a Pura Belpré scholar who joined me at Highlights last month. She started work on a pretty compelling article and used the time to talk through some of her ideas. Check out the research she’s doing on YA literature in the US and trauma/displacement in immigrant Latino communities. I love to follow Marilisa’s work because (1) she’s usually laying the groundwork for research about Latino literature that hasn’t been done before, and (2) she’s passionate about the topic from a deeply personal point of view.

The real rock stars in publishing: Here’s some serious librarian love. First, this photo from the National Book Festival in Washington, DC. The whole event was just beautiful, but the high point for me was being a slam poetry judge with the esteemed Mvskoke poet Joy Harjo and our 14th Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden. The young poets were fantastic. Every one of them. I can honestly tell you, though, that Dr. Hayden was the true rock star of the festival this year. Everywhere she went, giddy authors shook hands nervously and just gushed. She brings so much excitement and hope to this position. What an honor to meet her and Joy in one place!

Dr. Carla Hayden, me, Joy Harjo

Dr. Carla Hayden, me, Joy Harjo

Cleverness and, well, meat: My time in Texas was larger than life (in true state tradition.) Take a gander at the swag made by the librarians and teens at Irving Public Library (South.) First, a six-foot book cover of Burn Baby Burn and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass.  They also made t-shirts honoring Salon Corazón, the beauty parlor in Yaqui and even had nail decals made, too.  I wish I had those ideas myself. Thank you, Irving, for all the extra effort and attention.img_4322

As for meat… I went to what my friend Dawn McMullan calls the “best BBQ in Texas.” It’s a joint called Lockharts in Dallas. It serves meat. Lots and lots of smoked meat. Meat on everything and no plates. Here’s the photo of a Bloody Mary, just so you know…Yes, that is sausage…)



And finally, my last stop was the Morristown Book Festival, which celebrated its fourth year.  You should check this one out. An hour from NYC, Morristown has a pretty downtown and a huge core of book lovers. As usual, I forgot to use my camera, but I did manage to get one shot of some of my co-panelists before I left for the airport: Carolyn Mackler and Courtney Shienmel. (Camera shy, author David Lubar.)img_4353

More very soon! Stay safe everyone.

A happy day and a slightly disappointing day.

First, a huge congratulations to all the authors who made the short list for the National Book Award this morning. Kate DiCamillo, Jason Reynolds, John Lewis/Andrew Ayden/Nate Powell, Grace Lin and Nicola Yoon have written beautiful books. I wish I had made the cut, too, but the truth is that every one of those authors is deserving. Standing ovation from over here in Richmond.

Richmond 2016

Richmond 2016

So, this is how I spent my morning instead. I did my first audiobook recording at Red Amp 9WG Studios. I was reading the short story “Sol Painting Inc,” from Flying Lessons & Other Stories.

The middle grade fiction collection, edited by Ellen Oh, is due on shelves in Jan 2017. So far, it’s gotten two starred reviews, so I’m hoping it makes its way into classrooms far and wide. I love the stories inside – so many styles and perspectives, which we sorely need.

I wasn’t sure I could do an audio interpretation, but the draw for me was that it has always been strange to hear the characters inside my head in someone else’s voice. Still, there was the issue of whether I could stomach the sound of my own voice on an audio track.

In the end, it was pretty painless, and the engineers and audio directors were great. This may turn me on to reading my own novels as audiobooks. Who knows? 9781101934593

nbf-home-animated-banner-2016So much is going on in DC for book lovers next week that my head is spinning in that good way of little kids doing the helicopter for no reason.

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 7.21.04 AMChildren’s book icon Katherine Patterson is speaking at the Washington Children’s Book guild on Thursday, September 22, after which I will zoom over to the Library of Congress to be in the audience for the the Americas Awards at the Library of Congress that will honor Pam Muñoz Ryan (Echo) and Ashely Hope Perez (Out of Darkness) – two authors who published exceptional books last year. If you’re a teacher, you might want to register for the workshops with the fantastic Alma Flor Ada to be held that night. Co-sponsored by Teaching for Change, it’s inexpensive, and you’ll be in excellent hands.

BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2Then, of course, comes the big one: The National Book Festival  on Sat., Sept 24. I’m honored to be on the roster of authors this year, where I’ll bring a little disco inferno to the capital with a talk about Burn Baby Burn. 

That ought to be enough, but this year, I’m staying into the night because (DRUMROLL) I’m a judge for the teen poetry slam, a standing room only event. (Here’s info and video from last year.) Aaahhh! I can’t tell you how much I love spoken performance (and how much I secretly long to do this myself.) In this case, teens from around the country will come to compete in this event. There’s a special guest judge, too – that I’m not allowed to name (and it’s killing me.)

I hope you’ll put the festival on your calendar, especially if you’ve never attended.  You can visit the capital, and regardless of your reading preferences, you’ll find plenty to suit your taste. Me? I plan to be in the audience for as many panels as I can. The scheduling gods have been good to me, so I’ll be free to catch Stephen King on the main stage.  It’s true that I’m squeamish about being terrified by what I’m reading, but his memoir about the writing process, On Writingremains one of the books I return to for comfort. Anything he has to say about writing and maintaining a career in writing is gold as far as I’m concerned.

IMG_2074Meanwhile, here’s the podcast to whet your appetite. I spoke with  Karen Jaffe, Executive Director at the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress, about research, feminism, and why anyone who’s 16 today would care about 1977. Enjoy.

Cariños de,






Book Award LOGO & Image rgb copyYou might have seen that the International Book Awards were announced on Friday. I’m a little late to the game because I was in Pennsylvania, But behold the (seriously long) list of amazing titles that have won and take note, mi gente, of the new voices coming to the table. If you’re unfamiliar with the work of these authors, please take the chance now to gather their books and enjoy. All the winners – some of them my heroes and dear friends (…looking at you Isabel Campoy, Pam Muñoz, Sonia Manzano, Margarita Engle, Daniel José Older, and more…) have my deepest respect and congratulations.

So, I am excited to say that Mango Abuela and Me earned second place as best picture book in English, and Burn Baby Burn earned an honorable mention in Young Adult.

But I am hugely proud to announce that Teresa Mlawer won first place in translation for both Mango Abuela y Yo and Yaqui Delgado Quiere Darte Una Paliza


An industry veteran, Teresa has translated the likes of Where the Wild Things Are and Harold and the Purple Crayon. I had the pleasure of meeting her on the faculty of the 2014 Latino National Children’s Literature Conference at the University of Alabama. (Proof positive of the value of going to conferences…) So, when Candlewick hired her as my translator a couple of years later, I knew I was in good hands.

Having the work of Latino authors available in translation matters. It’s a statement of respect for multiple literacies, first of all. But it also opens a way for sharing literature within families (including school “families”) where multiple languages are spoken.

The nuances of translation are beastly, though. Getting the language right and ensuring that the word choice and pace are on target, are what make something feel true and accurate. In Latino literature, that’s a big job. Each country has its own vocabulary, its own slang and rhythm, its own set of rules about what is profane.What is innocent in one place is utterly vulgar in another.

At the National Latino Children's Literature Conference in 2014

At the National Latino Children’s Literature Conference in 2014

Teresa captured the sound of the Cuban dialect that my family speaks, and so what she did was tell the story the way I heard it emotionally. It helps, of course, that she is a Cuban immigrant herself. But what really matters is how diligently she went at the task. More than once as she translated Yaqui, she’d call me to say, “I have never worked so hard on a translation. I am trying to get your voice exactly right.”

She did.

I feel so lucky to have benefitted from that kind of respect and dedication. And so the joy I feel about her success is so personal.

img_1766Congratulations, mi estimada Teresa. These recognitions are so deserved.

Cariños siempre de,




Nice press in Richmond Family Magazine

I’m taking to the road with Hannah Barnaby and Kristen Paige Madonia, two fellow Virginia YA authors next week.

If you’re close to Richmond, stop in at Fountain Bookstore on Tuesday, Sept 13, 6:30 PM. We’ll be talking about what’s happening in YA lit these days, from our own perspectives. [FountainBooks Flyer Sept2016] After, we’ll be driving up the I-95 corridor to Politics & Prose on Thursday, September 15, 7 pm for our Washington friends.

Lovely KP

Lovely KP

I love both these authors for the top-notch work they’re producing. (Both are previous Girls of Summer guest authors, with Wonder Show and Fingerprints of You, respectively.) Their newer works:  Some of the Parts and Invisible Fault Lines are fantastic follow-ups.

But these women also bring a sensitivity that I like when we talk about YA. Hannah is a former editor, and KP teaches Creative Writing at JMU and UVA.  So, I always feel like the conversation they bring about Young Adult lit is deeper than just a review of storyline or  process, etc. In fact, I feel like I learn something new from them every time we’re together.

Hannah signing books at Girls of Summer 2015

Hannah signing books at Girls of Summer 2015

Anyway, I know the fall is a busy time, but if you can squeeze in some book and author love, come on out!

BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2

CqJemGWWIAAg-ppI’ll be in the woods of Pennsylvania tonight, but not even tall trees, ticks, and lousy internet can stop me from slipping  on my disco ball earrings and sitting in on a twitter chat at 2jennsbookclub. It’s all about Burn Baby Burn there.

Do you know these librarian superheroes? Here’s a link on their website as an intro. Basically, they’re two fierce YA librarians on a mission to, well,  quench their envy of Mr.Schu while there showing teen fiction some love.

I actually met one of the Jennifers ( Jennifer LaGarde) a few years ago, when I heard her speak at the Virginia School Libraries conference in Williamsburg. She was so wise and funny as she described her role as “librarian at large” for North Carolina. I especially remember her urgency around the idea of making the library the heart of a school. That idea has stayed with me in the years since, and I’m always impressed when I find librarians doing exactly that. Here’s  Jennifer Northrup‘s site for you, too. I love that they collaborate and that they have harnessed social media as a way to connect bookish ones and keep their spaces relevant.

OK,  the hashtag is #2jennsbookclub. Tonight, Sept 8, 2017, at 8 PM. Spread the word and let’s boogie.



Big news for me today: Burn Baby Burn has been chosen by the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association as their book of the year in the Young Adult category.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 6.45.15 PMI’m in some good company here. But the fact that this honor comes from independent bookstores is what’s cool.  These are the people who truly know and love books and authors. And they’re the people who have refused to lie down in the face of Amazon and (before that) other large chains. How are they doing? Take a look.

I wish I could be in Baltimore for their conference in October to accept the award in person. But I’ll be traveling back from the Oregon School Library Association conference and won’t make it back in time.

So, all I can say is thank you so much NAIBA for choosing Burn Baby Burn. Party on in my absence and please know how much I appreciate every one of you for loving books and authors as you do.