Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

alaac16I head to ALA this week, but it’s with a mix of emotions.

Traditionally, the ALA June conference is a joyous time to celebrate the books that were awarded medals, touch base with our far-flung colleagues, and gather new advanced galleys for our to-be-read piles. I can’t go every year, so when I do get the opportunity, it feels like a truly special occasion.

But it’s hard to feel lighthearted this year. After the terrorist attack we saw unfold against the LGBTQ community – and the maddening debates over terrorism, hate, and gun safety that (once again) ensued, I’m feeling numb. I watched the names and faces scroll – overwhelmingly Latino in this case – and my mind went to the families and friends who have been left broken and wondering about how we’ve been dislodged from our shared humanity.

I’m grateful to see that the ALA conference organizers have several activities planned in support of the Orlando community, including a memorial service for the victims being held at the Orange County Convention Auditorium from 8 – 8:30 AM on Saturday, June 25. I’ll be there with my husband and oldest daughter, who will be traveling with me this time.

Maybe as we reach for joy this year, we can do so with a mind to continuing to build unity and understanding. I’ve put my signing and speaking schedule down below, but I would especially like to invite you to join me at the Pura Belpré celebration. Mango Abuela and Me will be awarded the honor medal for narrative and illustration. (The full list of winners is here.)  But mostly I think you should come because the medal is marking its 20th anniversary – an important milestone. You’ll have a chance to meet many past and current winners, as well as the visionary women who established the award. (Latinos in Kid Lit has been doing a wonderful retrospective on past winners, by the way. Check it out.)

The party is free if you are registered for the conference. If you’re attending ALA, I invite you to support the Pura Belpré and the various other awards and recognitions that seek to celebrate the stories of all children. (The schedule is here.) This is where we can remind ourselves that we are in this life together and that our stories are really one.

PuraBelpre_flyer

Meg’s ALA schedule

Saturday, June 25:

Panel:  REFORMA President’s Breakfast:  The Case for Bilingual and Dual Language books:  A discussion with Meg, Angela Dominguez, Rene Colato Lainez, and Margarita Engle. Hyatt Regency Orlando – Room Manatee Springs 9801 International Drive, 11 AM – 12:30 PM

Panel:  “We Need Diverse Books and More: Multiple Diversities: Capturing the Experience Intersectional Identities” [Convention Center – Room W101A] (Meg Medina, Ellen Oh, Lamar Giles, Cindy Pon, Shveta Thrakrar, Eugene Myers  1 – 2 PM

Signing our upcoming anthology: Random House Booth, with Ellen Oh, Kwame Alexander, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Matt de la Peña. 3 – 4 PM

Sunday, June 26:

Signing with Angela Dominguez: Candlewick Book #1459, 10 AM – 11:30

(Party for Pura all afternoon 1 PM – 3PM!)

Peace and safe travels…

Meg

 

 

124Youth arts fans:  This weekend, the Latin Ballet of Virginia  presents their interpretation of my first novel Milagros: Girl from Away. It runs Friday through Sunday at the Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center, and tickets are free for kids under six. (You can get more info on their website or on Facebook.)

Milagros_jacket_finish5 copyThe student company performed this colorful ballet several years ago. (By now some of these kids are college graduates. Yikes!) Then as now, it’s such an honor to see a work that I wrote for children being performed by children in another art form. And I’m so grateful to the LBV for always supporting me and other Latino artists in the community. They were kind enough to perform at my Hope Tree project at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in 2012, which lent a beautiful touch to the launch party for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind.

You can catch LBV this summer at the Dogwood Dell Festival of the Arts, too. Here’s the schedule.

A walk down memory lane from the original is below, but I can’t wait to meet the new dancers during their rehearsal today!

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nevadaI just received the fun news that Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass has won the Nevada Library Association’s Young Reader’s Choice Award.

I’m so grateful to know that readers continue to connect with the story. Thank you everyone for reading and voting. Very cool!

Congratulations to Bridget Heos, Carol Weston, and Jonathan Stroud on their wins, too! Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 2.24.52 PM

LibCong

Will you be near Washington, DC on May 25?  If so, I invite you to join me for an hour at the Library of Congress where we’ll talk about the role of heritage in storytelling.

Last year, Karen Jaffe, Executive Director at the Young Readers Center, convened a successful symposium on strengthening families through diversity in children’s literature. It featured Kwame Alexander, Tim Tingle, Ellen Oh, Gigi Amateau and me. (Here’s the video).

We had such a good time that we’ve decided to do it again this year, adding to the menu of interesting initiatives the YRC is up to. (Hosting the recent Walter Awards, adding a new teen board, to name just two.)

So this year, I’m back to help as moderator, asking questions and learning along with everyone else in the room. Some of my favorite up- and-coming voices in children’s lit are on this panel: Wendy Shang, Aisha Saeed, Rene Colato Lainez, and Elizabeth Zunon. All are authors and/or illustrators whose personal stories and experiences have shaped their nuanced and honest books about how we come to see ourselves as part of the American family.

How do we face unflattering characterizations?  What is the balance of writing culturally specific stories and writing the universal?  How does the outsider come to feel like the insider, if ever? What are the challenges of naming and embracing home cultures in works for mainstream classrooms in the US?

All that and more on the 25th. Hope you’ll join us.image001

 

 

exxon-mobilWhen I tell people that it’s important for authors to love their own community, I mean it. So with this mind, I have the pleasure to invite you to my next two appearances in Virginia – one at WriterHouse in Charlottesville, and the other at my local Exxon station in Richmond.

First up: WriterHouse in Charlottesville is hosting Kristen Paige Madonia (Invisible Fault Lines) and Hannah Barnaby (Some of the Parts) and me (Burn Baby Burn) on Saturday, May 14. I’ve loved Hannah and KP’s work for a while now. (You might remember that they were each selected for past lists of Girls of Summer. Here’s the flyer with all the details: WriterHouse Flyer May2016
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As for the gas station…Crazy, you say?  Not really.

hope-photoHope Whitby is a member of the Poetry Society of Virginia, a member of James River Writers – and also the service manager at Village Exxon in Richmond. (It’s the one at the corner of Three Chopt and Patterson, for those of you who live in RVA.) Sure, they’ll fill up your tank and sell you junk food for the road. But Village Exxon also hangs art by local artists in their lobby, and – with Hope’s help – they run Books in the Bay Book Club to celebrate the work of local authors. That’s where I come in. Their next read is Burn Baby Burn, which they’ll discuss on Sunday, May 15, at 3:30.

I’m a sucker for innovation. I love Hope’s idea and the fact that she’s figuring out how to make the arts part of everyday people’s lives. So, I’m attaching the flyer here [MAYBOOKCLUB] because they’re offering an open invitation to anyone who would like to sit in on the book talk. You can fill up on gas or on refreshments; it’s your call. Added bonus: You can meet their head of security, Princess, too.

Princess

Princess

 

 

See you in Virginia!

Cariños de,

Meg

I have a new neighbor –  and it’s none other than the fabulous YA author, Anne Blankman!  Anne, a former youth services librarian, is the author of three historical novels for teens, including her latest –  Traitor Angels – starred by Kirkus.

 I invited Anne to post on writing the strong girl in history – and how she manages to tackle even the most sophisticated content so that teen readers can relate. Milton’s Paradise Lost? No problem… Here’s Anne Blackman.


 

Anne and Kirsten in Edinburgh, ScotlandMy daughter was six months old when she gave me the courage to write. Yup, you read that correctly. Although I’d wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid, as an adult I couldn’t find the courage to “put myself out there.” Once I’d had my daughter and the first few sleep-deprived foggy-minded months had passed, though, I found myself gazing at her tiny, perfect face and knowing I wanted to be a good role model for her—which meant I had to stop surrendering to fear. I needed to start writing.

y648Fast-forward a few years and two books later, and it was time for me to start drafting my third novel, the YA romantic historical adventure Traitor Angels. The idea had been growing in my mind for a decade, ever since I took a college course on English poet John Milton.

One day in class I noticed something strange about the poem we were studying. Milton’s famous epic, Paradise Lost, is supposed to be about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden—but Milton alludes to one character who shouldn’t be there: Galileo, one of the most well-known scientists in history. How weird, I thought. I wondered if Milton had included Galileo as some sort of cryptic message to readers. When I later learned that Milton had secretly met Galileo after the latter had been sentenced to house arrest by the Italian Inquisition, I began daydreaming about the men’s possible conversations. From these initial questions, Traitor Angels grew into an adventure that includes a scavenger hunt stretching across Restoration Era England, clues concealed in literary masterpieces, a fierce girl skilled in weaponry, a mysterious Italian scientist, and a conspiracy that, if it got out, could shake the foundations of civilization.

It took me a long time to write this story. One of my biggest stumbling blocks was the main character: Elizabeth, the fictitious sixteen-year-old daughter of John Milton. I wanted her to be a strong character, but mid-seventeenth century customs and Puritan culture were working against me. How, I wondered over and over, could I make Elizabeth a gutsy girl who would resonate with modern readers? It was easy enough to put a sword in her hands, but what else could I do?

Once again, my daughter inspired me. At the time, she was four years old and fascinated with the night sky. “Can I stay up late to look at the stars?” she begged me and her dad. We laid on lawn chairs in the backyard, watching stars wink into life overhead. As I saw my daughter’s eyes widen with delight, I knew I had figured out how to make my Puritan protagonist a “strong” heroine: Her true strength would live in her mind. She would want to be a scientist—a revolutionary ideal in the mid-1600s.

Tower of LondonLater that summer, my husband, daughter, and I flew to the United Kingdom so I could speak at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. We traveled throughout England, visiting the city of York where I had once lived and walking the streets of London where my main character had walked. Throughout it all, I watched my daughter’s reactions: her fearlessness when she clambered onto the lion statues in Trafalgar Square, her interest in the ravens flying across the grounds of the Tower of London, her joy as she ran up and down the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral. This was who I wanted Elizabeth to be—someone who’s brave enough to be herself, no matter who’s watching. Someone who studies what fascinates her, regardless of whether it’s deemed “appropriate” for her gender. Someone who loves the mystery and beauty of the stars.

 

Traitor Angels is in bookstore tomorrow, May 3, 2016

Watch the trailer:

Other books by Anne Blackman:

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A few photos for you from my wonderful time in Herndon Virginia as part of their Big Read event.  Thank you Signe Fredrich’s and all of Arts Herndon for the kind invitation!

The highlight, by far, was my time with the students – of every age. I visited Herndon High School and Herndon Elementary, plus a special off-site program that stole my heart. It’s called All Ages Read Together, which is housed at the Herndon Senior Center. It pairs senior volunteers with a group of off-the-chart adorable preschoolers. (See for yourself.) It seems like such a smart way to help little ones get ready for kindergarten, while also engaging our seniors meaningfully so that isolation doesn’t creep up on them.

I am so grateful for the welcome I received everywhere. (I’m looking at you, too, library staff at Fortnightly!) Special thanks to Julie Brunson for all the preparation she did to help bring Mango, Abuela and Me to life for both the students and the volunteers.

The students worked on parrot projects before I came to visit them.

The students worked on parrot projects before I came to visit them.

Adorable beyond belief.

Adorable beyond belief.

Kids run the range from readers, like this young lady, to children who are learning to hear the sound of their voice and the names of letters

Kids run the range from readers, like this young lady, to children who are learning to hear the sound of their voice and the names of letters

Telling us about the picture they drew of themselves and their families

Telling us about the picture they drew of themselves and their families

Just back from El Salvador, where he visited his abuela and ate pupusas!

Just back from El Salvador, where he visited his abuela and ate pupusas!

The senior volunteers who work with the children in ALL AGEES READ TOGETHER. (Lead teacher Julie Brunson second from the right, top)

The senior volunteers who work with the children in ALL AGES READ TOGETHER. (Lead teacher Julie Brunson second from the right, top)

Mango slices anyone?

Mango slices anyone?

Miss Olivia made us empanadas., just like Abuela did in the book

Miss Olivia made us empanadas. (Abuela would approve!)

And Carmine helped us label things in Spanish and English, just like in the book

And Carine helped us label things in Spanish and English, just like in the book

The beautiful students at Herndon High School, about to finish their years as ESL students. These students were funny, charming, and so sweet. Great questions about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, which they all read in English.

The beautiful students at Herndon High School, about to finish their years as ESL students. These students had great questions about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, which they all read in English. Such a charming and loving bunch…

It's always a party when you get to talk with Kwame Alexander, who is basically a treasure to Virginia.

It’s always a party when you get to talk with Kwame Alexander, who is basically a treasure to Virginia. (Photo by Kim Dare)

 

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