Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

IMG_0908Back in 2011,  I was invited to attend the VEMA conference, an annual gathering of school librarians in my state. The event was held in Richmond that year. I had one book out, Milagros, Girl from Away, and so, like a lot of new authors, I sat at a table by myself for most of the evening while other more seasoned authors signed copies and chatted up fans.

Here’s what I most remember of that night: one school librarian came to talk to me. Her name was Schenell Agee, and she listened patiently as I stumbled through my conversation about my work and diverse voices and Latino themes. She told me that she organized an end-of-year author event at her middle school. An author visit on the last day of school? I thought. Nuts. Still, we exchanged cards, and she told me that she’d keep me in mind for the future.

I expected exactly nothing. I was just grateful that someone had stopped by to ask me anything at all. Eventually, I did go to her school (Metz Middle) – alongside the amazing Floyd Cooper, as I recall. It was a fabulous school visit – not only for how well-organized it was, but also for all it taught me about why it matters to take risks on new writers.

A lot has happened since then. VEMA has changed its name to VAASL (Virginia Association of School Librarians). I’ve got a few more titles under my belt. And Schenell Agee is now the supervisor of professional development and library services for Prince William County. But as I drive to Northern Virginia this Friday to take part in the VAASL conference,  I’ll be taking with me what I learned from her and all the librarians I’ve worked with since then.

With Lamar Giles at the Highlights Foundation where we served as mentors last summer

Here’s what I mean. If we’re serious about changing the landscape of children’s lit by building collections that represent a wide range of experiences, then encouraging new authors – especially diverse ones – is vital.  These are largely new voices, just entering now, who might be sitting at tables by themselves somewhere. There’s no time to waste in getting these authors up and connected. Kids need and deserve to hear from them. The best way to do it is through librarians.

I’m using my workshop time on Friday afternoon to book talk 20 titles by a few favorites but also many up-and-coming Latino authors who had work published in 2017. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s as much as I could read in a couple of months. Book talking isn’t necessarily my best skill, but I’m going to give it a shot. And if I’m lousy at it, as least there’s a giveaway of much of the list. (Many thanks to the publishers who sent me freebies for this purpose.) Librarians are crazy busy, and it’s hard for them to keep up with the huge number of titles competing for shelf space. If I can introduce them to fresh names and faces, I’ll be satisfied. Don’t get me wrong; I definitely want librarians to stock my stuff on their shelves, too. But the truth is that the body of my work represents one voice – and only one. There are parts of the so-called Latino experience that I can’t tell, parts that someone else should.

Mutual fans – with Ruta in Tucson

On Saturday, I’ll be moderating and participating in How Books Connect: Views and Ideas from Five Favorite Multicultural Authors. Joining me will be people who need no introduction: Ruta Sepetys, fresh from adding the Carnegie medal to the list of accolades for her exceptional historical fiction, Salt to the Sea; Wendy Wan-Long Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg, long time buds and now co-authors of the well-received, This is Just a Test, and one of my dearest friends in this business, Edgar Award nominee Lamar Giles (Overturned.) Our plan is to talk the way five friends would over breakfast (except not criticizing runny eggs.) Our focus will be the way we use our books to tell stories of varied people in a way that combats erasure or stereotype.

Wendy and Madelyn about to take the stage at this year’s National Book Festival in Washington, DC

So, if you’re a school librarian heading to Chantilly, I hope to see you this coming weekend. You can check out the full roster of events here.  Some amazing speakers are coming, and I’ll be sitting in on as much as I can!

 

Hola gente –

I’ll spare you my thoughts on what’s going down in Puerto Rico with the disaster relief effort. There’s no need to start the week with bile.

Instead, I’ll concentrate on the better news. Latinos across all areas of publishing have banded together to create an auction that will benefit the relief effort.  (You can follow the news at #PubforPR.)

Bidding starts Monday, October 2, 2017 at 9 am.

So, if you’re looking for signed books, author visits, manuscript critiques, advice on your publicity efforts, etc, please consider bidding on an item.  You could get a bargain, for sure, but more importantly,  you’ll definitely be helping fellow citizens in need.

The link to the auction is here:

Thanks.

 

I’m back home after a month of coast-to-coast book travel which ended this past weekend in the best way possible. I hung out with English teachers at the Arizona Teachers of English conference and then drove up I-17 for my first-ever trip to The Grand Canyon.

Now I get to do bookish things for a month right here in my home state of Virginia. (It’s not the wide open west, but it’s gorgeous here, especially in the fall.) Whether you’re a young reader or adult, a reader or a writer, there’s something for you.

September 27, 2017, 6 pm, Chop Suey Books, Carytown, Richmond, VA. Join me and members of our local ACLU as we talk about censorship during Banned Books Week. Are you remembering to celebrate it?  Now more than ever, we need to stand up for critical reading.

October 6, 2017, Visiting Riverside High School in Leesburg, VA, where Lauren McBride and her fellow librarians and teachers are doing an incredible job of preparing the Rams for my visit. Looking forward to talking all things Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and Burn Baby Burn.

October 7, 2017, The YAVA Book and Author Party. Richmond Public Library, 101 East Franklin,  offers you a chance to party for an afternoon with Virginia’s YA authors. Food, prizes, and a lot of silliness.

October 13 – 15, James River Writers Conference at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. Have you registered?  I’m doing a master class on writing characters on Friday (held at the Richmond Public Library) and would love to see you.  Then I’ll be part of panels and basically learning alongside everyone else at our annual literary hoe down. Not to be missed – especially if you can slip off to see the Richmond Folk Festival on Sunday, too!

October 19 -21, 2017 Virginia Children’s Book Festival. It’s a star-studded lineup (see for yourself) in one of the most scenic parts of our state. Held at Longwood University, the VA Children’s Book Fest is the perfect serene spot to meet some of our country’s top authors while you roam around Longwood’s beautiful campus. Check out their graphic below. Can you guess some of the writers who are coming?  

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