Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

Here are a few bright spots that I wanted to share for this week, despite the natural (and manmade) disasters we’ve all been following for the last two weeks.

First, the longlist for the National Book Award is being released this week. The titles for Young People’s literature go live on Tuesday morning, so please check in to see the fabulous works we fell in love with. What a process (that I can’t talk about!) Anyway, I’m donating the 300 or so books that we read to Henrico County Public Schools, where I’ve asked that they be given to the elementary, middle, and high school with the fewest resources and smallest school library. Anita Tarbox, the head of library services, is bringing a van next week to haul off the six large boxes of treasure. I’ve been living in a labyrinth since last May, so this is coming as a relief, despite the fact that it’s usually easier to pull a molar out of my head than to get me to give away books.


I’m in Los Angeles this week, which happens only every couple of years or so.

The Brentwood School invited me to speak on Monday, Sept 11 about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. So, I packed a bigger bag (in case the hurricane strands me on my flight back,) splashed myself with Jean Naté in honor of Lila, and am ready to meet their seventh and eighth graders.

 

Tuesday, Sept 12, 7 PM, I’ll be at Vroman’s for the first time, too. I had to re-read that this bookstore has been in existence since 1894, but it’s true. Even better, I’ll be appearing there with LA’s fabulous Lilliam Rivera, author of The Education of Margot Sanchez, new this year. We’ll be reading a snippet of our novels and interviewing each other. I like that we’ll both be able to talk about our love letters to New York, especially so close to the 9-11 anniversary.

While I’m in California, I’ll also be meeting the team at 3Pas studio that’s developing YAQUI into a HULU series, visiting in person with my agent, Jen Rofé, and seeing writer friends Denise Doyen, Michael Portis, and Antoinette Portis –  among the funniest and most talented people I’ve been lucky enough to meet in this business.

 


 

Looking ahead to next weekend, I cross the country  again to be part of the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday, September 17. It has a lineup that’s too long and amazing to believe, as usual.  See for yourself. It’s my first time as part of the festival, and I owe the invitation to Reneé Watson (Piecing Me Together) who pulled together a YA panel that I’m really looking forward to. Check us out:  Telling Her Own Story, 12 – 1 PM, Sunday, Sept 17, Brooklyn Law Student Lounge, 250 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Reneé Watson, Dhonielle Clayton (Tiny Pretty Things), Tracey Baptiste (The Jumbies) and me.

East or west, I hope you can come and say hi.

 

I usually blog the day after Labor Day with a wish for everyone to have a good start to the new school year. But with yesterday’s news about the six-month expiration on DACA, I’m here to say a few things because I’m too disgusted by our myopic leaders to mince words.

I travel this country pretty much from end-to-end meeting all kinds of students – including those whose lives are going to be upended by President Trump’s assault on undocumented immigrants. These students will start their school year carrying an enormous amount of stress and fear even before they open the first notebook or study for any quiz.

I ask that you consider what it might be like to be a young person who is threatened with losing everything he or she has ever known as home. From that place of compassion, I am urging you to contact your representatives on their behalf. It just isn’t enough to treat your students with kindness or to feel satisfied that you, personally, treat them well. They need all of us to advocate for them because right now – gutted and powerless as they are feeling – they can’t. Here is a place to start. 

For those of us who know the power of reading and writing to get us through even the ugliest experiences, here are a couple of things for you.  The first is a reading list that may help students understand the dilemma of young people who are undocumented. It’s from Colorín Colorado and it is being updated fairly regularly.

The second piece I got in the mail this morning from the National Writing Project. It’s a link on to materials on how to construct lessons that help kids analyze and organize around civic life. 

To close, I just have this:  I predict that we as a country are going to look back on ourselves in 2017 and 2018 with utter shame. We are being led by someone who has appealed to our ugliest instincts against each other. The only thing to do now is to ask ourselves who we really are as people, what we really stand for as a country, and to rise to the challenge.

Here’s what I know for sure. Young people are every nation’s hope, and I stand with them.  

Meg

If you’re a writer who does school visits, you know that planning details can be a killer. I’ve been handling most of this myself, with some good help from Candlewick in fielding requests when they first come in. But often I’ve felt completely overloaded by the job of organizing all that goes into making a worthwhile trip for both kids and authors. Book orders, topics, itineraries, logistics– it’s easy for important things to get overlooked.

So today, I’m so happy to announce that I’ve joined a new venture with one of my favorite authors, Phil Bildner. Check out The Author Village, where you can get info about bringing me or several other authors and illustrators to your school this year. You’ll recognize some names and a few will be brand new, but we’re all here to do the same:  make reading and writing at your school something that’s memorable.

Here’s to a good new school year filled with great books to discover!

Cariños de,

Meg

 

Angela and I got to celebrate with the other Pura Belpré winners in 2016. She’s the fifth from the left.

I’m heading out on this soggy morning for two good reasons.

One, Angela Dominguez, who illustrated Mango Abuela and Me and is the illustrator behind the Lola Levine series by Monica Brown and several of her own award-winning titles, has moved to Richmond! We’re having a “welcome to RVA” lunch, which I hope is the beginning of lots of new adventures for her in our town.

Angela couldn’t have arrived at a better time, which brings me to reason number two for venturing out. This weekend marks the opening of LATINOS IN RICHMOND/ NUESTRAS  HISTORIAS, a small but potent exhibit at the Valentine Museum.

My grandmother’s Virgen de la Caridad is on loan to the exhibit.

For about a year, I’ve volunteered as part of an advisory committee helping Wanda Hernandez and her colleagues at the Valentine curate this loving first peek at Latinos in our city. You’ll find artifacts and stories of how we began making our way here – dating back to colonial days. There is a little bit of everything, including a terrific graphic that shows the fairly recent political lift-off of Latinos here in the Commonwealth.

YAQUI DELGADO ‘s marked manuscript is on display

There’s food, music, and free admission today, so maybe I’ll see you.  But if not, I hope you’ll take a minute to walk through in the coming months and read the stories of who is here in your neighborhood, why we got here, and what we offer.

Cariños,

Meg

 

Nuestras Historias/ Latinos in Richmond

July 27, 2017 thru April 15, 2018

The Valentine Museum

1015 E. Clay Street, Richmond, VA  

What a night! Girls of Summer 2017 launched into the world on Wednesday, June 21. Dancing with Rita Williams Garcia! Book talking with Stacy Hawkins Adams, Beth Morris, Amanda Nelson, and Gigi Amateau. Eating ice pops with girls from all over Richmond. Here’s a peek at how it went down!

How’s this for a good idea on vinyl? Look closely: the book jackets are the record labels

More vinyl

Part of the dream team. Stacy Hawkins Adams and Amanda Nelson. Check the gift bags this year, compliments of Georgi Green

Gigi arrives with the hand-made bags for the girls of summer winners, courtesy of Betty Sanderson

The annual basket of book cover buttons

With the ever fabulous Patty Parks, visionary branch manager of the Richmond Public Library

Some of our guests…

Our audience continues to grow

Our third attempt at a selfie with Beth Morris, part of the GOS 2017 selection committee

Rita Williams Garcia interviewed by Maeve and Alex from Richmond Young Writers. Stacy Adams facilitating.

This is what it’s about. With my friend and co-founder, Gigi Amateau.

 

To see our entire Girls of Summer list and to start following the weekly author Q & As, visit www.girlsofsummerlist.com.

Much of the book world is descending on NYC this week for Book Expo and Book Con. I’ll be in NYC, too, but not for the fun (and the incredible line up) this time. I’m traveling north to help run focus groups with the producers who are developing YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS into a HULU series

It’s easy to get excited when a film deal is announced as an option…but it doesn’t take long to find out that there is a vast journey between an option and a show you’ll find in your “Favorites.”  That said, things are looking promising for YAQUI.  The show is being developed with mega-stars  Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) and Eugenio Derbez (How to Be a Latin Lover) as executives. But for me, an equally exciting thing is that, for the most part, this show is being conceived, written and led by a group of Latina women. And, as the cherry on top, Writer Dailyn Rodriguez (Queen of the South; Ugly Betty) is a former kid from the boroughs, too (Dailyn on Twitter).

Here’s the truth: When I was approached about my interest in having YAQUI DELGADO developed as a series, I felt cautious. First, there was the idea of letting go the characters and storylines in the exact way that I had conceived them. Surprisingly, I felt okay with that fairly quickly. In my view, I wrote the book that I wanted to write. Now, the film makers ought to be able to make the series they felt worked in their medium.

But my guard stayed on high for another, more important reason. There are precious few, accurate and nuanced representations of Latinos in the media, especially reps of young Latinas. I didn’t want my novel to be used to add to the stereotypes that hurt us. You know them: the overly sexy, gang-related girl, the one who knows how to use a knife, the air head with curves, the one who’s trouble.

“What are you most afraid that we’ll do to your novel?” the executives at 3Pas studios asked in one of our early telephone calls. “Also, what do you most want us to think about?”

That’s the question that spoke to me more urgently.

Latino Student Club at Sweet Briar College

“I don’t want you to make these girls into reductive stereotypes,” I told the team. “I want you to tell the story of all of us, in all our variations and with respect.”

And then, I thought of my readers and the question they always ask about the novel.

“I think my readers really want to know why Yaqui is so angry. They want to know what makes her tick and what makes that explosive rage in some of the kids they know in their own lives. Maybe the series is where we do that.”

And so, this week, as the pilot is being written (I saw the outline; prepare to be amazed), the writers, producers and I are meeting in NYC to visit with Latino teens in both middle and high school. We’ll be at the Cornelia Connelly Center and at the Brooklyn Public Library, Sunset Park Branch, on June 1, where we’ll ask the teens for input and insights that might help us get this pilot to look and sound as authentic as possible.

I’m so proud that their voices will be folded into this project.

Being asked matters. Being included in your own representation matters. Being taken seriously as a young person matters.

And I hope, too, that the teens will take this time with with authors, screenwriters, and producers to ask about careers that they may never have considered for themselves. The truth is that we need each other to get the story right, but we also need to build the next generation of creatives who’ll represent all people in this country.

In case you didn’t see it a couple of years ago, here’s Gina Rodriguez honoring Rita Moreno at the Kennedy Center honors. You can hear in her words how representation mattered to Gina at age 15.

 

Finally, here’s a huge shout out to everyone who stepped up at a moment’s notice to make this happen. Jessica Ng, librarian at Brooklyn Public Library’s Sunset Park Branch; Shanie Ballentine at the Cornelia Connelly Center; Erika Denn, my publicist at Candlewick Press, who donated books for the teens; Kristin Travino at the Irving Public Library in Texas who designed and sent me some nail art swag for the participants; my whole twitter family for spreading the word like wild fire. And, of course, Dailyn Rodriguez, Jessica Pavao, and Emily Gipson (I Can and I Will Productions) who are making the cross-country trek to make this project happen.

I’ll keep you posted! Pa’lante –

Cariños,

Meg

 

There are still a couple of slots open for the Brooklyn focus-group. Contact Jessica Ng if you’d like to register. 

 

 

I’ve talked about soft censorship of my novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass all over the country: how the book isn’t purchased at all, or is kept with the librarians, or is shared with only a select group of kids. And of course, I occasionally still get comments on my website that look like this:

Still, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a full-on challenge that required so much time and advocacy on the part of teachers and school leaders.

Last week, I had the pleasure of spending the day at South County Middle School in Lorton, VA, where the entire eighth grade read Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. They invited me as a visiting author to talk with the students about the book.

A welcome gift: a charm bracelet honoring the novel

South County Middle School is in Fairfax County, one of the most forward thinking municipalities in my state. The school is basically a little jewel, too. Clean building. Peaceful vibe. Decent kids from all backgrounds. Teachers who get giddy talking about new teaching ideas. Parents who show up for virtually everything.

As schools go, it doesn’t get much better.

So, it’s interesting to me that it’s also the place where use of my novel was so hotly debated. It was officially challenged by a small group of parents in a fight that dragged on and made its way up through the ranks of the School Board.

The fearless team. Ms. Manning is the lady in purple.

By the time the English staff took me to dinner, you couldn’t have guessed all they had gone through. Principal Marsha Manning, Anne Dougherty in the library, and the entire eighth grade team had to educate and advocate in ways that were surely painful and time consuming. And more, they put their reputations as educators and their relationships with parents on the line for the sake of giving kids something they felt was important to read. The good news is that the district had in place a process for how to deal with challenges, a framework that kept everyone calm in the face of what can easily become a pit of accusations and distrust. It’s hard to keep people at the table and sticking to the process in the face of fear, but this team did it. And in the end, I came to the school and had one of the loveliest experiences I’ve had on a campus.

original bookmarks made by students

A little montage for you:

“Thanks,” one girl told me, “for what you said about representation. People call me a Pocha. And I’ve never known what to say.”

Another girl wanted to talk to me in private about her body and how others have labeled it undesirable.

One girl said that she’s embarrassed that she can’t speak Spanish very well, that her parents tease her about it.

A boy asked me privately after the assembly, “So what should I do? Because I take a lot around here, and it doesn’t stop.”

“What advice do you have for me if I want to write something that’s really hard to say?” another boy asked, barely above a whisper.

That’s what a school visit looks like when the students are trusted to read. They have a chance to think about who they are and what they are living. They have a chance to consider all the ways they can respond to what comes their way. It gives them one more tool that helps in this long job of growing up.

To the faculty and leadership at South County, and to the School Board and to the PTO parents who stepped up for my novel, I want to say thank you. It would have been so easy to give up, to choose another book and move on to the next task on your list. Thank you for having courage to stand up for students’ right to read. Thank you for giving thought to how to include kids who did opt out. Thank you for modeling how to be strong. Courage and compassion are in ample supply at your school. For all the ways your students treated me as the star, I hope they never forget that the real superheroes in this have been in their building all along.

Love notes from students left in anticipation of my visit

Meg’s next appearances

Saturday May 6, Twin Cities Teen Lit Conference, Minnesota, with Jay Asher, Jeff Zentner, Box Brown and more!

Saturday, May 20, 2017, Gaithersburg Book Festival, Maryland