I’m finally home after a long stretch in Northern Virginia. This weekend was the SCBWI Midatlantic annual writers conference, where I taught an intensive for the first time on how to write characters with depth, and how to develop a compelling voice in writing. Yikes. I had forgotten how hard it is to teach writing – and how much you learn from doing so. What I came to was this: Layers, depth and voice in writing really come from how deeply you want to go inside yourself and how honestly you can lay bare what you find. I hope my SCBWI colleagues who attended were able to find something useful during our session. I’m wishing them lots of time to remember, to record, and to write.
Then it was on to the Arlington Central Library. You could fit all of my hometown, Richmond, inside the hip pocket of Arlington. What a busy and vibrant place – especially its library. (Favorite feature: a vegetable garden planted in the beds that border the entrance.) Lisa Cosgrove-Davies, Youth Services Librarian, worked with the Arlington Teen Advisory Board to coordinate two school visits at Jefferson Middle School and Washington Lee High School, followed by an evening talk at the library.
Now, was I feeling confident? No, I was not. It’s always a crap shoot on whether people come to an evening library event, and Dallas was playing Washington to boot. But I kept channeling the words of Pat Cummings, who reminded me at the conference that the real joy in this business is in making the work. “Everything else – school visits, library gatherings, signings – is gravy!” She’s right, of course, but sometimes I forget. I’m happy to report that we did have a respectable crowd with everyone from old friends, to teens and senior citizens, all with great questions and comments. Thanks to Lisa Cosgrove-Davies, Teresa Flynn (Library Services for Arlington Public Schools, Lisa Myklestad, Kirsten Wall, and my friends at One More Page Books for all their time and attention.
And finally, I stopped by the offices of Colorín Colorado at the WETA studios. Colorín Colorado is a national website dedicated to bilingual resources for families. (Think Reading Rockets en español.)
For almost three hours, I tried not to fidget or make weird faces as we recorded material for podcasts. It was really fun, especially with the chocolate croissant they threw in with the deal. A couple of times we stopped for teary breaks that I truly hadn’t expected. (Maybe Lydia is working on being the next Barbara Walters? Or maybe not sleeping in my own bed is getting to me?)
But it felt like an important step, too. I’ve done a few interviews on Spanish language media, but the truth is that it has been an unfolding journey to figure out how to bring my work into the lives of children and families where both languages are spoken, especially since I write in English (and Spanglish). Things are coming into focus, though. My picture book for next year, Mango, Abuela and Me illustrated by Angela Dominguez – will be published simultaneously in Spanish and English editions. Best of all, the translator is the fabulous Teresa Mlawer, who has translated books like Where the Wild Things Are, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse, among lots of other beloved stories. What I especially love about having Teresa’s hand on the project is that she will translate it closer to the Cuban dialect of Spanish that I speak. It might seem like a small thing; isn’t Spanish, Spanish? But no. Having the right sabor is one of the things that will make the text feel more like my voice. Anyway, I’m so grateful to Candlewick for deciding to publish simultaneously and for being sensitive to bicultural writers and audiences.
Okay, now for some down time before I visit Thomas Dale and Meadowbrook High Schools later this week.