Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

It’s April. How are you celebrating kids and books, or should I say niños y libros?

You’ve heard me speak on this blog before about the importance of supporting the annual Día de los Niños Dia de los Libros events every April. Libraries all over the country will have special programming to support multicultural books and kids, which you can check out by typing in your zip code on the official Día site.

But this year, the Library of Congress – the grand dame of libraries –  is doing a live, national webcast in honor of Día, too. It will feature scholars and authors, with a special focus on the spectacular lives and contributions of powerhouse Latinx librarians Arturo Schomburg and Pura Belpré. The pdf is here. (DiaProgramDescription short_sdw .)If you hurry, you can be part of it.

Just in case you’re not familiar, Schomburg and Belpré were AfroLatino librarians who advocated for justice and diverse children’s literature during the Harlem Renaissance. They were contemporaries and friends – and they saw the same problems in terms of lack of material that truly represented their communities. Their legacy endures in the formidable collections they left behind and in the medal named in their honor.

Pura Belpré storytelling at La Casita Maria community center in East Harlem

Here’s the lineup.

Dr. Marilisa Jimenez of Lehigh University who specializes in Latinx literature and in the contributions of Schomburg and Belpré;

Carole Boston Weatherford and Eric Velasquez, the decorated author and illustrator team who brought us the award-winning picture book, Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library (Candlewick Press 2017;)

Representatives from the (stunning) Hispanic Reading Room at the Library of Congress, who will share some of the holdings in the LOC’s collection;

and me, speaking on giving kids access to their heroes and to their libraries.

If you want your organization to be part of the live interactive videoconference (so you can ask questions, etc.) questions, etc.) go here.

Only four slots are left, so don’t wait.

 

 

Event: Dia de los Niños Videoconference at the Library of Congress

Date:  Monday, April 30, 2018

Time:  3:00 PM – 4:10 PM EST

Ok, Burn Baby Burn is out in paperback next week, and to celebrate I’m heading back to the scene of the crime, so to speak, for some fun.

First stop is Harlem on March 27, 7 pm, as part of the Authors in Conversation series at the hallowed grounds of the Langston Hughes House. I’m so grateful to Renée Watson for the invitation to appear at the i too arts collective, an organization that preserves this space as a place to connect young writers with their voice, with their history and with their heroes.

It’s a ticketed event, with proceeds going to support the center. You can get tickets here  Don’t wait.  That’s because I’ll be  appearing with Elizabeth Acevedo, whose spoken word shows sell out in minutes. Her debut novel, The Poet X, hit shelves this month, too. It’s a powerful novel-in-verse, set in the Bronx, about all we Latinx girls know about: family, men, and the million ways we’re boxed in by how the world defines Latina. Elizabeth is a powerhouse on stage, and I can’t wait to hear her share from her book. But, I’m also really wanting to drill down into what our characters, Nora and Xiomara, are both coping with, what we’re saying to readers about being women, and just generally what’s next as we move through publishing.

From there, it’s off to Brooklyn, where I’ll be doing a writing workshop with the middle school sweeties at P.S. 89 and then heading to the gorgeous main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library (Grand Army Plaza) to meet with 180 third graders.

The final present to myself?  A big slice of cheesy, can’t-be-found-elsewhere, Brooklyn pizza.

 

 

By ArnoldReinhold (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

My mother and my aunts all worked at the same place when I was little. It was an electronics factory in Queens. My mother worked in shipping, where she packed Styrofoam bricks with transistors. Tía Isa branded the little numbers on the smallest ones, checking her work with a powerful magnifying glass. Tía Gera tested the voltage all day long.

In the end, they worked until retirement, and in all that time – 30 years, all told – none of them ever asked for a raise. Instead, they pooled their money, covered one another in a pinch, and worked financial magic so that I don’t remember a single day of being hungry.

All to say that, early on, I lived a life where money couldn’t possibly be used as the measure of our value or we would have surely lost our minds, or at very least our dignity. Instead, our family measured our worth by how well we made do with the resources we had available.

It’s all admirable, and I’m grateful for all my family did for me.

But the truth is that some of those attitudes about money and self worth have followed me into publishing – and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

graphic by Grace Lin

Fast forward. Unlike my mother, I do not test, brand or pack transistors. In fact, I have a job that many people would kill for. But here is the ingrained script that runs through my head whenever the question of money enters the picture.

Don’t complain. You’re not starving, after all. Be grateful for what people offer because you are lucky to do this work. Be glad you have readers at all.  It’s tacky to talk about money – hush. Don’t you dare focus on money, which is meaningless; focus on “what’s really important” – the kids.

And that, my friends, is how women – especially those from marginalized backgrounds – can really get shafted in the publishing business.

For the record, I am intensely grateful that I have the privilege of writing books for young people, and that my books name the experience of immigrants and bicultural kids at a time when Latinx families are essentially under siege in the media. It’s important work, noble work, and fulfilling. I’m grateful that my life is filled with other creative authors and illustrators whose books are groundbreaking. I am grateful for every last beautiful moment this career has offered me.

But here is what is harder to say.  I have worked like a mule to make a space for myself in this field. I’m good at what I do.  I should be paid fairly and professionally in both my advances and in my fees for conferences and school visits.

Even as I type this, I feel sick. I worry immediately that this will make me sound greedy.

Interestingly, in talking recently with many of my female friends in publishing, I find that they struggle with a similar unease, even those who started out in middle class or more advantaged families.  (See earlier posts on the #kidlitwomen site.) But for many of my friends who are women of color, the unease is a more pointed, especially early on in our careers. Of course there will be the superstars who are offered top dollar right out of the gate (and more power to them.) But for the rest, whose careers unfold more traditionally, the worry is real as time goes on.  Will we make a professional, living wage? Should we close our eyes and be happy that we get to do this at all?

I can’t help but wonder if our male counterparts who have reached the same career level ever feel guilty for advocating for their finances in this way. My guess is no, not really.

Let’s pivot for a second and take on the recent movie  flap about Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg.  You may remember the jaw-dropping revelations that she was paid $80 a day to reshoot scenes for All the Money in the World while he got paid over $ 1 million to do the same. The real kick in the face?  They were represented by the same firm.

Why do I bring this up? Because money in publishing is a very opaque thing, and opacity doesn’t work to our advantage. In all the secrecy and conditional factors of our business, it’s easy for you to get low-balled and underpaid, just like Michelle Williams- and you’d never know it.  It might be as an advance for a male colleague that’s much higher than yours or it might be that someone has been paid more to speak on the very same panel. Maybe the school has paid far more for a school visit or granted first-class travel accommodations to someone else – while you’re happily still booking coach.

I wish these scenarios were just in my head, but they’re not. Every one of these things has happened to me, and I’ve been served up lots of rationalizations in response – none of which took away the sting of feeling that I’d been had.

Recently a dear friend accidentally confessed that he and his writing partner had each  made a substantially bigger advance on their novel than I had on mine. Was it sexist? After all, I have male friends who earn smaller advances than I do. Enter the murkiness.

We know advances have to do with your name recognition and with how badly your editor loves your project and what power they have at their publishing house to acquire it. Your advance has to do with your former sales figures and awards, with the “hotness” of the book’s topic – and of course, if you’re an author of color, if the marketing department believes they can sell your work in the mainstream. Don’t forget the negotiation skills of your agent and the ability of the publisher to shell over big bucks, too.

See the trouble? Negotiations are tricky. Any of those things could have been the reason I was paid less. Still, you can’t ignore the fact that bias can be folded into each and every one of those factors. And so, suspicion enters the game.

What’s the answer? I think we have to start truly assessing where we are in our careers and then putting a fair price on it. This means frank conversations with your agents, of course. But it also means that we stop worrying about asking for too much money.  In the end, maybe your agent won’t get the advance you’re hoping for, but you absolutely don’t stand a chance if you don’t ask with conviction.

Conferences and school visits are other revenue sources and there’s a lot of hand-wringing that goes on about those two subjects, too. Early in my career, I had no idea what to charge, aka, I had no idea how to value myself as a professional author. I mean, what did I have to offer? Here I owe a huge debt to my friends Monica Brown and Guadalupe Garcia McCall, comadres with some chops. They had to remind me repeatedly to price myself fairly, especially as I started to publish more. They very generously shared their own fees so that I could gauge where I wanted to set mine. I am ashamed to tell you, even now, how long I resisted their advice and how many times I second-guessed my fees, especially when it was for schools. But eventually, I learned the hard way. On more than one occasion, I did school visits for a price determined by me, only to find out months or years later, that another author had been paid much more. Who was to blame? Me.

So here are a couple of strategies – simple ways to protect ourselves from our own internalized thinking (“I’m not worth that amount.  I have nothing important to say.) and from those who may operate under their own faulty assumptions that we are not the main “breadwinners” and therefore do not need as much money as one of our male colleagues.

One: ask about money without shame. The fact is that panels can operate on the airline model. Every seat had a different price, just depending.  The person to the right of you got paid half what you did.  The person to the left of you got paid three times as much.  You’re all experts and all equal on the stage, but your wallets tell another story.

I turned to Phil Bildner, for some advice since he manages my bookings at the Author Village.  Phil’s number one question on behalf of his clients, male and female, is whether all panelists are being paid the same. “Why not ask? It’s a fair question,” he says.

Do that. Whether you’re represented by someone or whether you’re fielding your own requests. Tape the script to your computer and to your forehead. “Thank you for the invitation. Is everyone on the panel being paid the same?”  It should be the question you ask right after, “Just to verify, this is not an all-male panel? There will be people of color on this panel, too?”

And I say, why stop there?  Before you offer up what your fee is to visit a school, ask plainly what the school or panel organizers have paid presenters in the past.  It is a fair question, no matter how squeamish it makes you.

Does this mean you will never do anything for free? Is everything about the buck? Do you have to turn your back on your sense of community and generosity?

Not at all. First of all, the visits sponsored by your publisher for publicity and marketing will not earn you a dime, at least not directly. Beyond that, you can satisfy any need you have for service as you see fit.

For now, here’s what I’m trying out because volunteerism is an important part of how I want to empower Latinx communities. I’ve opted to pick two organizations a year for a free author visit. These are typically in my own state and are organizations that are very closely aligned with my interest in girls, culture, and family. They have to ask me in writing, and they have to tell me about their organization and their finances.  I look at their mission and if they truly have no other means to bring me.  If it’s a match and if my schedule is open, I’m in.

The solution for you might be different. Maybe you don’t do anything for free, period. Fine. You’ll find the right balance.

What matters here is that you decide what your time is worth and what you’re worth.  You decide what to give away, if anything at all.  It is okay to love what you do and to be paid well to do it.  It’s time for clarity, sisters, and a time for all of us to learn a new language:  Self love and money.

 

It’s International Women’s Day this Thursday, March 8, 2018.

graphic by Grace Lin

We’re celebrating Women’s History month with 31 days of posts focused on improving the climate for social and gender equality in children’s and teens industry.  Join in the conversation on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/kidlitwomen or Twitter #kidlitwomen

Please note the comment policy for #kidlitwomen: 

The #KidLitWomen project is a solutions-oriented forum, focused on improving the climate for gender equality in the children’s and teen literature industry.  While high emotions are a natural part of this ongoing dialogue, the hope is that we can always return to a spirit of problem-solving and remain a celebration of the many women who make up such a large portion of this community. Discussion should be respectful, constructive, and tightly related to our goal. We reserve the right to delete comments that are abusive, inappropriate and/or fall outside the scope of this initiative.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A quick round-up of things you might want to put on your calendar for the next few weeks.

  • Journalist Juan Gonzalez, co-host of Democracy Now, will speak at the University of Richmond this Wednesday night. His talk is called Paradise Lost, and the lens is on Puerto Rico – the roots of its economic collapse, the devastation since Hurricane Maria, and what it’s really going to take to bring back that beautiful island. (January 31, 2018, 5 PM, Ukrop Auditorium, at University of Richmond, 28 Westhampton Way, Richmond, VA 23173)

 

  • How do kids learn to love words, books and reading – especially if English is a challenge for them?  Storyteller and picture book author Carmen Agra Deedy will be at the University of Richmond to work her magic on audiences, weaving personal story and insights. (Here’s a shot of her new picture book which is all about finding your voice.) Wed., February 21, 2018, 5:30 – 6:30 PM, University of Richmond Center for Leadership

 

  • I have a new book for your bedside table:  The Distance Between Us, by Reyna Grande whose memoir is this year’s All County Reads selection in Henrico County. She’ll be appearing at Glen Allen High School, to discuss the book on Wed April 11, 7 – 8:30 PM. (Doors open at 6:30 PM.) Meanwhile, you can go to any of your local libraries after Feb 1 to register to win a free copy of her book.

    (young readers edition)

     

  • And a PS, you’ll have to hurry if you haven’t seen Nuestras Histórias at the Valentine Museum. How long have Latinos been in the Richmond region? Where are we from?  What have been our contributions so far? Hurry. The exhibit closes April 15. The Valentine Museum, 1015 E Clay Street, Richmond, VA 23219

 

As readers of this blog know, I like to introduce new Latinx writers, especially those whom I’m lucky to meet in person on the road. Today, I’m talking with debut novelist Noni Ramos about The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary (Carol Rhoda Lab Books/Lerner 2018; 292 pages; Young adult.) She’s a new voice, but it’s a startling and strong one, and I predict a long career of great work.

Macy is the girl you’ve probably seen in school at some point. She’s the one who spends a lot of time in the office being “supervised” by long-suffering deans when things get too hot in the classroom, the one who has a million labels pinned on her. LD, ADD, disturbed, at-risk – the list goes on.

Told in a dictionary format of the words that define her life, Macy’s story is about the girls who are at the heart of those labels and how they get there. It’s a heartbreakingly honest work and, at times, a darkly hilarious one, too. As an author, what Noni brings to the table is a master class on voice and edge. Here she talks a bit on finding the character and how her own experiences as teacher and foster mom led her to the story.

 Congratulations on this as your debut novel. What kind of writing had you been doing leading up to this? How did you find Macy’s story?

Muchas gracias!

Poetry and plays are my first loves. It wasn’t until well after my MFA that I delved into writing YA. Macy embodies the voice of all the kids who sit in the back of the room. The student who keeps you up at night. The student who shows up late, and you think, despite yourself (and with too much excitement), is she absent? But she is NEVER absent. She’s embodies all those students.

I’m curious about the challenges of drawing these characters since we’re in a world that’s chaotic and out of control. Macy is so difficult and violent, and yet we root for her. What were some of the decisions you made in how you developed her so that she felt sympathetic?  

Macy is concrete poetry. She’s rough and jagged. She doesn’t fall into that “wise-child” trope. The dictionary structure makes her world accessible. Gets the reader past the barbed wire. On the outside we see the child who sets a trash can fire. Inside, we get to know why.

What makes kids like Macy sympathetic to me is their fierce protectiveness of family–for Macy, her brother Zane and George and Alma. Another—the humor. The hijinks. Macy may be 25 in in inner city-kid years, but in reality she’s only 15. And sometimes, because of the childhood she’s missed, she’s more like seven, five …

The love and friendship between Alma and Macy is heartbreaking. Each girl is used and abused by her parents and is working her best to get by. I don’t want to offer spoilers, but what is it about Macy that makes her a better survivor than Alma?

I think Macy has learned not to expect anything from anybody. For all her skewed thinking, she believes in her raw intelligence. She’s never trusted externals. And for all the failures of adults in her life, she believes in justice. As a teenager, she has survived more than most adults.

So Alma—it’s complicated. When a kid of color makes it out of poverty, we celebrate. We say, they stuck with it. They studied hard. School is the answer. When I was growing up, I was told I better be good at school or I’d be cleaning up other people’s garbage.

I’m a teacher. I believe in public education. But school isn’t the only answer. At least not in isolation. For every kid we celebrate, there are hundreds more who aren’t making it. Or who aren’t living their dream. Because of segregation. Because of inequity. Because of the lack of representation (in books). Because of mental health issues. Because of rape culture. The teachers are qualified. Inspired. What tools can we give them so we have more Almas and the Almas of the world make it? We shouldn’t be expecting just that rose in the concrete. We should be expecting a whole bush. A garden. And what do we do with those Macys? What’s our dream for her?

Authors Emma Otheguy, David Bowles, and Noni Ramos at NCTE 2017

For all the hard life circumstances in this story, it’s also very funny. I’m thinking of the exchanges Macy has with the people at her school as well as the chapters focused on Macy’s insistence that vaginas should come armed or spit fire, and the day she tapes her breasts. Tell me about your choice to use gallows humor at the most intense moments of the novel. What did humor offer you as a writer that other strategies didn’t?

I think funny-but-true is what I wanted for Macy. How does a kid navigate through Macy’s world? I feel like was easier for Odysseus to get home than Macy to get to school and back again. How does a kid’s brain process all this “adult” stuff. Humor is survival for Macy. It’s sanity. It’s Macy’s feminism.

With the “gallows humor” maybe I’m pushing the reader to see Macy. Not the hair, not the piercings, not the desk-throwing.  Just that little girl hiding in a sweat shirt.

 What were the considerations you had in how you drew emotionally disabled kids and their families?

One big issue I thought about was how to write an emotionally disturbed person of color. I specifically left any mention of race or culture out unless it referred to power and triumph. I  wanted Macy’s circumstances to be distinctly separate from her being Puerto Rican.

That being said, I wrote Macy’s story.

One of my biggest sources of pride is Kirkus and Booklist saying I wrote with empathy and authenticity. Those are the keys to representing anyone with dignity. Even Macy’s mother is entitled to back story and a measure of forgiveness.

I read in your bio that you are a foster parent yourself. What has drawn you to that role, and how did that experience impact your work on The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary?

I always wanted to be a foster parent. For awhile I taught third-fifth grade and fostered! What drew me to it was my desire to avoid kidnapping charges. I had students that I was terrified were going to get taken by CPS.

These two kids in particular—their dad lived down the block, but disowned them. Their mother was MIA. Then their grandmother got breast cancer. So so many abuelas were taking care of their grandkids in our barrio. I heard the one girl talking about this casually while piecing puzzles together. I went home and said, Miguel, can we take them?

He said no, of course, but got the computer and showed me a website about foster parenting. The journey began. (Luckily my students’ aunt stepped up.)

I am not fostering now. The training required is rigorous and all-encompassing. There are months of interviews, self-defense training, CPR, character witnesses, classes …. GODDESS BLESS all those foster parents out there. My activism continues through my teaching and writing.

 What are you working on next?

Right now I’m editing my second YA book, The Book of Love, about my overachiever, Verdad, who’s struggling with her best friend’s brutal death while meeting her mother’s expectations. She falls for a classmate—who happens to be trans—and their romance forces her to confront her demons and figure out who she really is. It’s about the ordinary reality of a real POC kid: burgeoning sexuality, family expectations, dealing with institutionalized racism, planning for a future. And then there is that magical middle grade novel and picture book. Stay tuned!

Pre-order your copy of The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary.

 

Connect with Noni Ramos:

https://twitter.com/NoNiLRamos

https://www.facebook.com/DisturbedGirlsDictionary/  

https://www.instagram.com/noni.ramos/           

http://nonilramos.tumblr.com/

 

Feliz Año Nuevo, everyone!

The holidays, a chest cold, and assorted family emergencies kept me off this blog for a few weeks. Sorry about that!  But I’m back with the best launch into 2018.

As we head into award season, I’ve had a chance to think about so many of the books that I especially loved last year. Among my favorites of 2017 was a little gem of a middle grade novel: The First Rule of Punk by Celia Pérez (Viking Books for Young Readers 978-0425290408)

Celia is a librarian, a mom, and a zine addict who has confirmed for me that, yes, folding those suckers can be the hardest part.  She’s also an advocate for quality Latinx lit for kids.

What I especially love about Celia’s debut is that, like a good zine, she puts pieces of a girl together to give us something that feels completely fresh and new. Maria Luisa (MaLú) is the daughter of a college professor and a musician. She’s a punk rock fan – including Mexican punk rock –  and a kid from a blended heritage.  She’s also a kid who has to move to a new city for middle school because her mom has taken a teaching position in Chicago. Suddenly, MaLu is attending a majority Latinx school, where she’s promptly labeled a coconut – brown on the outside, white on the inside.

This is a sweet and thoughtful novel, deserving of its many starred reviews and accolades.  Moving is never easy for a kid, and Celia handles all the questions about friendship and identity with a wise touch. Along the way, the novel takes us on a fun  journey of discovery about Chicago, about zines, and most of all about music. All told, Celia wonderfully captures the experience of US-born Latinx kids, which is now the typical experience.   If The First Rule of Punk is not yet in your classroom library, you need to order now.

So, to kick off 2018,  Celia agreed to take my readers and me on a photo-tour of the city where she lives, and where her lovely novel unfolds. (This is no small feat in a Chicago winter, people.) Take a look. Makes you want to book a trip this spring…

Welcome Celia!


Chicago, A novel Photo tour

by Celia Pérez

When Malú, the young protagonist in The First Rule of Punk, is forced to leave behind everything that is familiar to her, she can’t imagine ever thinking of Chicago as her home. But it’s hard not to love Chicago. It’s a city made up of diverse, unique, and vibrant neighborhoods and is rich in arts and culture. I know, I sound like Malú’s mom trying to sell you on Chicago, right? How about a little photo tour of the city as it appears in The First Rule of Punk instead? I pulled inspiration from several places and neighborhoods. Here are some of the ones included in the book.

One of the locations people often ask about, with the hope that it really exists, is Calaca Coffee. Unfortunately, Calaca isn’t a real place, but it was inspired by two coffee shops that are. The inside of Calaca was modeled after Kopi Cafe in the Andersonville neighborhood. Like Calaca, Kopi has floor seating, short tables with lots of pillows set in a loft area you take a few steps up to. It also has a warm, inviting look and feeling to it that I wanted to be a part of Calaca. But Cafe Jumping Bean in Pilsen has the vibe I wanted for the coffee shop. There aren’t any album covers up on the walls or a paper mache Frida Kahlo greeting you at the door, but it’s funky and colorful, and they always play cool music. It’s definitely the kind of place Malú would fall in love with.

Kopi

 

Cafe Jumping Bean

Speaking of Pilsen, while Malú’s new ‘hood is never named, it was heavily inspired by Pilsen, one of two historically Mexican neighborhoods in the city. Like a lot of Chicago, Pilsen is a neighborhood where past and present come together. There continues to be a large working class Mexican community, but it also has a thriving arts scene of young Mexican Americans creating work that, much like in Malú’s story, combine history and traditional culture with more modern influences. Art is everywhere in Pilsen so keep your eyes open!

Pilsen: El Corazón

 

Pilsen Manhole cover

When Malú first moves to Chicago, her mom takes her all over the city on the L to check out the sights of their new home. These are some of the places they visit.

Pilsen 18th St L

 

Pilsen NMMA

 

Pilsen NMMAL LaCatrina

Lake Michigan! Did you know it’s the only one of the Great Lakes located entirely within the United States? It’s also pretty cold year round, but not as cold as it was when I took this photo!

Lake Michigan

At the Art Institute downtown, Malú sees Seurat’s famous painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.

Seurat!

 

Malú gets her new library card at the Harold Washington Library Center, the headquarters of the Chicago Public Library (and the biggest public library building Malú has ever seen). It’s a beauty!

Library and L

 

They also make a visit to Chinatown for tea and custard buns. Yum!

Chinatown

And finally, yes, Laurie’s Planet of Sound is a real record store. It’s in the Lincoln Square neighborhood right next to a brown line train station. You can find vinyl records, DVDs, magazines, T-shirts, and maybe even a cassette tape or two!

 

Laurie’s New & Used Records CDs & Video

I really enjoyed writing a story set in the Chicago. I was eager to see Malú find her place in her new home. I was excited for her to see the Chicago I love and to maybe learn to love it too. It’s a city of treasures. Some of these treasures are obvious, and others require that you really open your eyes and your mind to see them.

 

This week on twitter, I’ve been tagged with lots of chain-letter questions, which included things like: Who do you write for?  What was your best writer moment? I usually don’t mind being tagged, although the group replies can get crazy.

But it was one fill-in-the-blank question that got me thinking. 2018 will be…

My response?  A year of change.

So, with that, a couple of small announcements.

source: hamline.edu

I made a huge decision to join the faculty at Hamline’s low-residency MFA program for children’s literature. I’m not sure if I start this summer or in January 2019 (in sub-freezing Minnesota!), but I am really looking forward to working with colleagues like Matt de la Peña, Anne Ursu, Laura Ruby, Swati Avasti, Kelly Barnhill, Gene Yang, and the rest of the stellar faculty I plan to take my interest in diverse literature to Minneapolis, so please spread the word among emerging authors who might want to study writing in a safe (if chilly) space. Children’s publishing continues to lag in its base of writers, editors, and other book professionals from traditionally marginalized communities. We especially need authentic stories by authors who have the skills to hold their own. Some of that will happen as a result of programs like the one at Hamline. This is one part of the pipeline that I’d like to help. Note: Scholarships are available. I’ll throw in the hot chocolate.

Candlewick’s little promo card for NCTE

I also want to formally announce that I’ll be introducing myself to middle grade readers next September. For months, I’ve been enjoying writing to my inner 11-year-old. Now, it’s time for book sellers and readers to see if she will connect. It’s so far away, I know, but pre-pub materials are starting to make the rounds. I’ve been writing picture books and YA for a while, so Merci Suarez Changes Gears (Candlewick Press, September 11, 2018) feels like a big adventure for me.  The change in age range means that I’ll need to make acquaintances at places like the now-famous Nerd Camp in Parma Michigan and other venues that are new to me. Merci Suarez first came into my imagination as part of “Sol Painting,” a short story I wrote for Flying Lessons and Other Stories, which was just listed as an SLJ Best Book of 2017. It’s so exciting to see how it bloomed into a big book, and it’s fun to think about what’s going to happen to Merci out in the world.

There are other smaller news items here and there, but you can keep up with my calendar of events for 2018 here.

For now, though, I’ll leave you with some photos of my travels in November that took me from Virginia to New York and then to St. Louis.

 

With Lamar Giles and Ruta Sepetys at VAASL

Lamar Giles, Ruta Sepetys, me, Wendy Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg – and our room full of librarians at VAASL

 

The judging committee for the National Book Award’s prize for Young People’s Literature. Brendan Kiely, Kekla Magoon, Alex Sanchez, Suzanna Hermans, and me. Our deliberations on the morning of the awards ceremony. Would we agree?

We clean up pretty nicely. Here is the judging committee with our significant others and friends.

I adore Erika Sanchez’s book, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. Such a pleasure to find her at the ALAN conference in St. Louis after the awards

Yes, I gushed. This is me with Francisco Stork. (Have you read Disappeared? Such a page-turner!)  He was lovely in every way. Thank you Mitali Perkins for introducing us.

The is just one example of the beautiful interior of the St. Louis Public Library, commissioned by Andrew Carnegie. It rivals the Library of Congress and NYPL.

Every once in a while, you get a panel that is silly and wonderful. With Julie Murphy, Neal Shusterman, Angie Thomas, and Brendan Kiely in St. Louis.

XO

Meg