Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

img_campus1For a few days after Labor Day, I’ll make the trek back up to rural Pennsylvania to the campus of the Highlights Foundation, where they’ve begun an artist-in-residence program. The inaugural writers are Jerry and Eileen Spinnelli, Suzanne Bloom, and me.

Spanish language cover of Highlights

Check out High Five Spanish edition!

You know Highlights, of course, from their magazine and the years you probably spent doing the hidden picture search at the dentist office. (It has been the favorite magazine feature since 1946.)

But, what I learned a few years ago is that they have a beautiful campus where writers come to workshop and compose away from all the distractions of their daily lives. I’ve been there twice:  once as a guest author with Kathy Erskine and Rich Wallace. The second time (sort of) last spring as part of the faculty for SCBWI Pennsylvania, which rented the space for its annual meeting.

When I was approached in June, it took all of five seconds to say sí, como no, even though I’d already closed my calendar to anything new until 2017. Who could resist? The idea is that I hide away in the beautiful mountains, where my biggest personal worries will be reduced to ticks and which ice cream to choose as a snack. Other people will cook to feed me. I will not walk a dog, throw in laundry or respond to email. At night, I will look at the stars through a telescope in the Lodge and listen to bullfrogs.

The rest is a blissful four days of writing and then helping other authors wrestle with their manuscripts every evening. What we’ll put on the table has to do with who has signed up to come. We can talk about authentic characters, about false starts and what to do with all that stuff we cut, about biases, about plots that won’t move, characters that fall flat, fear of failure, self-loathing – really the whole enchilada of what it takes to make a book in this world.  And, as if that isn’t enough, I hear that Don Tate is leading a workshop on picture books at the same time, so we can look forward to running into his crew, too.

Meg's puppy

Don’t let that cute face fool you.

Sure, I could close my office door right here in Richmond, let our new puppy eat the sofa, and work on my middle grade novel, which is due to my editor in December. (Yes. In fact I AM sweating that deadline.)

But I’ll tell you straight. I am so happy to have this to look forward to in September. It has been a horrendous summer, starting with the Pulse shootings, unspeakable violence by and against police, painful book controversies, and the election from hell. (The only break has been the Olympics. Thank you, gymnastics and swim teams!))

So I plan to make my time at Highlights the perfect way to bid this season goodbye and good riddance. While everyone marches back to school, I will instead march back into my happiness. I want to refocus on what matters to me deeply and what has always healed me when I’m most in need: writing.

So, friends, consider this an invitation for the last two spots available. ¡Vengan! Let’s go into the woods together.

Dates: Tuesday, September 6 – 10, 2016

Cost: $129 per night (no minimum stay etc.)

Register here or contact Jo Lloyd for info: jo.lloyd@highlightsfoundation.org

Cariños de,

Meg

SLJTeenLIVE_2016_HeaderLibrarians, Teachers, Book Lovers: Are you registered yet for SLJTeenLive? Hurry. It’s this Wednesday, August 10, all day, and it features the likes of Leonard Marcus, Reyna Grande, Maggie Stiefvater, me – and countless other authors and book heroes that you shouldn’t miss if you’re serving teens.

I’ll be honest, I love that I don’t have to travel for this conference. In fact, what I like best of all, is that it’s a completely free online webinar – which means you can enjoy it with your earbuds and your air-conditioning – and not go broke.

Maggie Stiefvater kicks us off at 10:15 am, and I’ll close us out at 4:15. In between, there are all kinds of sessions. (I’m really interested in the one about portrayals of mental illness in YA lit, moderated by Hannah Gomez.) As for me, SLJ asked me to talk about how we make all kinds of people feel like they belong in books and in the library. How is it that somebody comes to feel welcome inside a building, a book, or really, a literary establishment?

I’ve never done a webinar, so it should be interesting to talk for 30 minutes to the green camera light on my computer. Please God, don’t let my face freeze in one of those horrendous Skype-type grimaces.

Okay – go register.

Hope you can make it on Wednesday –

Meg

 

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
dcda8c2fd8ff6758-BarnabySOMEOFTHEPARTSjacketcropped_240percent1451927411229

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

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