Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

January 16, 2017

img_0609It’s MLK Day in our nation, during a time when our country is heartbreakingly fractured. On Saturday, January 14, 2017, the two of us took a stand and walked in the March on Monument, a peaceful coming together of the various social justice groups that serve the Richmond community.  Two thousand or so of our neighbors stood shoulder to shoulder chanting a call and response:

Show Me What Democracy Looks Like! THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!

What do we need? LOVE. When do we need it? NOW. What do we need? Unity. When do we need it? NOW.

There were older women and men. Parents pushing strollers and carrying signs. Old Basset hounds. Seasoned activists and college students. Wheelchair users. Artists, writers, musicians. And, members of the faith community.

Looking around, we saw our community celebrating diversity and inclusion at the statue of Robert E. Lee asking, How do we knit ourselves together in strength? How can we make our community a place where all people are respected and cared for? What can each of us offer?

We had been thinking long and hard about Girls of Summer, our curated reading list for strong girls, now approaching its seventh year. To be frank, last year, we wondered if it might be time to let the list go. Exhausted and overscheduled, we could point to dozens of other reading lists for girls to choose from.

But then the world got upended in deep and disturbing ways, most notably in an infamous video and talk of grabbing women by their genitals. And we realized that now was not the time to stop. There is still so much work to do together to make this world safe, secure, and nurturing of girls.

So plans have changed.

For the next four years, not only are we not letting go of Girls of Summer, but we are going to grow it big. We’ll use every ounce of our strength as authors, mothers, and literary citizens to build it up as a resource to empower young women of all ages to become lifelong readers and learners, with the tools to find their voices, to stand up, and to protect themselves.

So, here is the first of what will be many exciting changes this year:

Our Girls of Summer team is growing. We are joined by new and dynamic friends with loving ties to our city. These are book women, strong women, and advocates who will be helping to choose our list, plan our event, and spread the word to girls here at home and around the country. They are:

stacyhawkinsadamsheadshotStacy Hawkins Adams

amanda_headshot-cropped-300x294Amanda Nelson

aisha-saeed-headshotAisha Saeed

maya-smart-headshot-2016Maya Smart

 

 

 

In the coming months, you can expect to hear about new a partnership with Richmond Young Writers, too, as we develop new ways for young people to have access to our visiting authors. You’ll hear about a literary breakfast event organized by our longtime champions at the Richmond Public Library and about new schools and organizations who have asked to join us in this effort. And it’s our hope that you will, in fact, engage with us through attendance, earmarked donations to the Richmond Public Library foundation, and support with new and urgent energy.

We linked arms as we marched on Saturday, in effort to stay warm and in thanksgiving for this friendship of ours. Encircled by thousands of new friends, we got caught up in the spirit of loving kindness and the spirit of justice that rolled down Monument Avenue. How did this happen, we wondered? Just two girls: one with roots in Cuba and one from Mississippi, two friends who have found that it’s our differences that make us strong and our shared values that keep us brave.

Our friendship is what sparked Girls of Summer, but we know that friendship alone isn’t what sustains this important project. For that kind of sustenance, we need a community filled with smart people who care about books and reading in the lives of every day folks. (Here’s looking at you bbgb books and Kris Spisak – champions from the start.) We need a community that is invested in respecting and empowering females, from ages eight to eighty-eight. We need neighbors who insist on equality and inclusion where we live, work, and play.

And in Richmond, Virginia, as it turns out,  we have found exactly that.

Stayed tuned.

Meg Medina and Gigi Amateau are authors of works for young readers. Among their many projects, they are the cofounders of Girls of Summer List, a curated summer reading list for strong girls. They live (proudly) in Richmond, Virginia.

Hi all –

I’m heading to NCTE in Atlanta tomorrow, but my head is still buzzing from the election and all that it means for many of the vulnerable children and families that I meet in my life as an author.

In the days to come, I’ll especially need to remind myself to balance aggravation with joy.  So here is a bit from the joyful side. Yesterday,  Burn Baby Burn was named a Best Book of 2016 by School Library Journal and also by Amazon.

As you know, I was in NYC last week. My trip offered me really beautiful experiences at Bank Street College and also at the ever-fabulous Book Riot Live Conference, where people came from as far away as Australia and Sweden. I’ve pasted some of my favorite shots below – everything from political protest to utter joy and silliness.

Other than that, my friends, I’ll touch base with you again in a few weeks. Hide the knives if you have to and enjoy a peaceful Thanksgiving with your families.

Scenes from the Union Station subway station where citizens voiced their opposition

Scenes from the Union Station subway station where citizens voiced their opposition to the election results

The wall of sticky notes extended so long...

The wall of sticky notes extended so long…

Yes.

With RJ Palacio and Jennifer Brown, talking about childhood friendships and how they can lead to a literary life

With RJ Palacio and Jennifer Brown, talking about childhood friendships and how they can lead to a literary life

With Jennifer Brown and Dr. Cynthia Weill at Bank Street. Photo credit Cheryl Simon

With Jennifer Brown and Dr. Cynthia Weill at Bank Street. Photo credit Cheryl Simon

There are no friends like the ones we know and love from childhood. Photo credit: Cheryl Simon

There are no friends like the ones we know and love from childhood. Photo credit: Cheryl Simon

She found an old picture of us at Niagra Falls when we were 11. Photo credit: Cheryl Simon

She found an old picture of us at Niagra Falls when we were 11. Photo credit: Cheryl Simon

Where Raquel and I did our photo shoot for the New York Times

Where Raquel and I did our photo shoot for the New York Times on what has to have been the windiest day on record. Whew. I’ll let you know when the story runs.

My favorite guy at Book Riot

My favorite guy at Book Riot.

courtesy of Raquel Matos Stecher from Candlewick

courtesy of Raquel Matos Stecher from Candlewick

The Book Riot panel of librarians reminded me of the essential role the public library plays in our lives, now more than ever

The Book Riot panel of librarians reminded me of the essential role the public library plays in our lives, now more than ever

kirkus-prize-2016-170x170I’m at the airport in Richmond right now, getting ready to head out to Austin for the Texas Book Festival, which is huge and wonderful as always.  I hadn’t been on the roster, but this year Burn Baby Burn is a finalist for the Kirkus Prize for Young People’s Literature. The ceremony where the winners are announced is tonight, so Kate Fletcher (my editor) and I are getting “gussied up” and heading over. Ay…I don’t know what to think about what’s going to happen; the whole idea makes me queasy. Whatever the result, though, I just want to say this: Thank you to everyone who has read my work and told others about it. You have so many good books to choose from on any given day, and I’m so grateful that you’ve given my work some space in your life and on your bookshelf.BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2

If you’re at the festival, I hope I’ll see you at the literary gala where we’ll be guests of my friend Maya Smart, a woman who is still sorely missed here in Richmond. I can only imagine a fun night because not only is there Maya, but the whole thing is being emceed by Jon Scieszka! If not at the gala, then maybe we can see each other on Saturday during the Kirkus finalist panel, where each author will talk about their book.

After Election Day, I’ll head to NYC for so many wonderful things. (Hopefully, I’ll be in good spirits.) I’ll be visiting Mamaroneck Public Schools, having dinner with donors who gave to the I, Too, Collective campaign which established Langston Hughes’ home in Harlem as a poetry and arts center for young people. (Renee Watson, you are a hero!)

raquel-and-meg-class-photos-1But also….I’ll be at Bank Street Street on Thursday, Nov 10 and Friday, Nov 11. On Thursday, my friend Raquel (R.J. Palacio) and I take the stage to talk about our friendship when we were little girls in Queens and how those experiences helped shape us into writers. We’ll be in the able hands of Jennifer Brown. On Friday, I lecture on my own work en español, a process that always makes me a little nervous. Public speaking is tricky enough, but in Spanish, I sometimes have to play hunt-and-peck for just the right words and phrases. In the big picture, though, it’s great to be able to talk about the books that are available in Spanish and to be introduced to the wonderful community at Bank Street.

headerstatictextThe week wraps up with an event I’ve been looking forward to for a solid year:  Book Riot Live!  Check out the lineup and the panelists. I hope you are already signed up for their wonderful newsletters and podcasts. The folks at BR are funny, smart, and edgy in the best sense of the word. You can count on meaty conversation, no matter what session you sit in on.

 

 

Ok, time to board. (And no, I will NOT give you my suitcase with the fancy dress and perfect shoes, madam…)

 

 

 

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…)

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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,

Meg

 

 

 

 

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

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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,

Meg