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Meg Medina

3 New Ways to Find Me

By The Writing Life, writing advice
Just a quick post to give you a couple of updates on three new ways to find me. I had the pleasure of chatting with Alicia Menendez on her podcast, Latina to Latina. You know Alicia from MSNBC and her long career in journalism. I am hooked on this podcast because she sits in conversation with a wide range of Latina entertainers and talks to them about what it truly takes to rise in the field. It was such an honor to talk with Alicia – a fellow Cuban American!– about both personal topics and writing for kids. I hope you'll tune in. I'm also making some changes to my social media life. Last Friday, I quietly launched Fan Mail Fridays on TikTok (@MegMedinaBooks) and Instagram REELS (@MegMedinaBooks). I'll read a snippet of a favorite letter I've received from a student or adult reader and tell you why I love it. (You can imagine what kids have to say!) It's quick, simple, and fun (especially if you're the kid whose letter got picked.) None of the clips is longer than a minute. Why the change? There's always the search for engagement with readers. But it's also because there is no way for me to answer the letters that I get from students, and it feels horrible to leave them hanging. Typically, these sweet notes are sent by classroom teachers who have assigned their students to read one of my books and write to me. Sometimes the questions are predictable – my pets,...
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Beyond Bilingual: Thoughts on How We Celebrate Language in Children’s Literature

By Appearances, Latino Life, The Writing Life
People are sometimes surprised to learn that I began my school years as a mostly monolingual, Spanish-speaking kid. I'm US-born, but my Cuban mother - and later our whole family as they arrived – spoke to me almost exclusively in Spanish in the hope that I would be bilingual. This was the 1960s, in the days before language support programs were common. So, when it was time for school, I traipsed off to kindergarten armed with only the anglo name she’d given me (Margaret) and the vocabulary skills I’d picked up from a show called Romper Room. Kindergarten school picture Who was seen in Miss Nancy’s magic mirror? A letter I wrote to my family in Cuba shortly after my uncle taught me how to write in Spanish. I was thinking about all that because I was the closing speaker last week for the Las Américas Academy's annual Biliterate Conference, where I presented on what language literacy looked like in my own family. Preparing for that talk got me thinking a lot about my whole relationship to language, as a Latina and now as an author. And, I was thrilled and honored to hear, in the Q & A that followed, that so many of the attendees shared deeply personal and sometimes painful experiences about their own journey with their identities and language. Whether or not someone is bilingual is historically tricky terrain for people who identify as Latino or Hispanic in this country, mostly because so many of us...
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A Free Gift for Your Writing Students: Latinx Kidlit Book Festival This Week

By Appearances, Giveaways, Writing Workshops
Well, we're winding down 2021, and I'll be doing my last two events that center on kids and their voices - including one that is totally free for teachers and kids. First, as I told you in my last post, the star-studded James River Writer's panel on censorship will take place tonight, Monday, Dec 6th. I'm grateful to the many of you who registered by the deadline, especially since the proceeds will go to the National Coalition Against Censorship. Also on tap this week is the online Latinx in Kidlit Book Festival, which I highly recommend. Sessions can be streamed for free into your classroom, and you can even submit a question for presenters in advance. See for yourself what you can choose from by checking here for the amazing lineup. I'll be doing a session on Thursday, Dec  9 at noon, ET, moderated by debut YA author Crystal Maldonado (Fat Chance, Charlie Vega.) It will be a combination of interviews and hands-on workshops for kids in grades 4 - 8.  You can look forward to getting some practical tips and exercises to try on your own. Please share the link and join us! Speaking of writing tips, I'll be posting my final 1-minute writing tip for 2021 on Instagram this Tuesday. It's been so fun to get your comments and notes about the little series and to track which topics are more popular than others. Thanks for being such wonderful supporters and for spreading the word. I'll be back in January with more topics....
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Mark Your Calendars: Talking Book Bans with Elizabeth Acevedo, Ashley Hope Pérez, and More

By Appearances, Community work
OK, book lovers. Mark your calendar for Monday, Dec 6, 7 pm Eastern. That's when Elizabeth Acevedo (The Poet X, Clap When You Land), Ashley Hope Pérez (Out of Darkness), librarian and author Angie Manfredi (The Other F Word), and Gordon Danning from the National Coalition Against Censorship will chat with me about their experiences with the growing number of book challenges and bans. You can access the full press release here. Virginia has been a hotbed of challenges in recent months as Michael Paul Williams wrote about this past week in the Richmond Times Dispatch. Challenges are nothing new. (For a great historical perspective, you can check out historian Leonard Marcus's new book, You Can’t Say That.) Chances are that, before long, a challenge will come to a school near you. How will you respond? I'm grateful that James River Writers, one of our state's best-known writers' organizations, has stepped up to host this conversation. You probably know JRW from their annual writer's conference, but they do lots of programs to support writers, in both craft and in community-building. As part of their mission, together we've planned a free-flowing chat that will touch on some key topics, including basic definitions of bans, challenges, and censorship. Why are we seeing so many challenges, even for books that have been in circulation for a while? What are the underlying issues for parents, authors, teachers, librarians, and readers? How can school and library communities best prepare for these difficult conversations? What are fair boundaries...
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Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and Kids: A Few Ideas to Get Moving on Solutions

By #LetsStayConnected, The Writing Life
It’s November – time to plan turkey day with our families. But it’s also Alzheimer’s Awareness month, and I want to give some space here to kids and families who are in the midst of it. First, here’s a pretty comprehensive article from the National Institute on Health on the topic if you're working with kids in this situation. It's available in Spanish, too, important since 15% of Hispanics ages 65 and older are diagnosed with the disease. The Merci Suárez trilogy is, of course, set in the world of a girl coping with middle school life as well as with her grandfather’s accelerating illness. I’ve done my best to capture all of it as honestly as possible in the pages. Still, when I book-talk the story with readers, I almost always lean heavily into Merci’s hijinks with friends and foes, in other words, the funny parts. But lurking in the background is Lolo’s illness. It's palpable, page to page, and I know that in the book, as in life, the reality of a person's decline is at times overwhelming.   I hope you’ll take a little time this month to reflect on the people in our communities who are facing this as-yet incurable illness as well as the 11 million people – including kids - who love and support them. They're in your class, at your church, on your soccer team, living on your block. The kids in these families need relief. They need moments of levity. And they...
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Stop the Madness: Banning Books Is Not the Answer

By Community work, Latino Life, The Writing Life
While Banned Books Week was last month, I've recently had a front row seat to the parent pressure being exerted on school boards across the country regarding library books and teaching materials. New Kent County pulled The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo from its shelves, and Henrico County, where I live, pulled Ashely Hope Perez’s novel, Out of Darkness, from high school libraries, pending a Superintendent review. Both novels are highly decorated young adult works, and both center narratives by Latinx and Black characters. Out of Darkness is a historical novel about the 1937 New London, Texas school explosion that killed 295 children and teachers. It won the 2016 Tomás Rivera Award and American Library Association’s 2016 Printz Honor Award, which recognizes an outstanding work of fiction for teens. The Poet X chronicles Xiomara's life as she discovers the power of poetry to understand and name her experiences. In its stratospheric debut, it won the 2019 Pura Belpré Award, the 2018 National Book Award, and the 2019 Printz Medal. I am a Latinx Virginian. I’m also a colleague of both authors, one who has chronically run into the buzzsaw of censorship myself for my novel Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. I’m also a former English teacher, a parent who raised three kids into adulthood here in Henrico County Public Schools, and a former – and active – school volunteer. In other words, I am all about books, kids, and community. To my fellow Virginians (although the sentiment applies everywhere) I...
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Writing the Bitter Truth: A Convo this Week with Rex Ogle

By Appearances, What I'm reading
This Wednesday night, Oct 6 at 8pm, EST, I’ll be in conversation with Rex Ogle. He’s the author of the much-lauded YA memoir, Free Lunch, which was the YALSA 2019 Non-fiction winner. His newest memoir, Punching Bag, which explores abuse, mental illness, and family. Anderson’s Bookstore will be our host. I don’t know Rex, so this is the first time we’ll be speaking together. I’m grateful to meet him during Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month (his mother was of Mexican descent) since mental health is so often a taboo subject in Latinx families. Seeking professional help is not the norm, or even financially feasible, typically. As a result, families under pressure continue their slow simmer with lasting, hurtful effects. As his fans know, Rex’s work cuts close to the bone as he dives into the world of a family that is imploding. My own YA work - Burn Baby Burn and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, has explored similar terrain, except through fiction. It’s fair to say, though, that both of us have chosen writing as a way to make sense of what we actually saw as children and teens. The difference has been the vehicle. Here’s what’s the same, though. When you write a book about painful family life through the eyes of teens, you’re virtually guaranteed some pushback. Adults have a strong distaste for these tales, although we all know that adults often fail young people in big ways and small. What follows is an urge to shame...
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Take 2: Revisions

By Random howls into the world, The Writing Life
I still have sand stuck in the hinges of my sunglasses, and I'm feeling a little blue. Last week, my family and I escaped to the beach for a much-anticipated vacation on Emerald Isle. As everyone headed back to school, we made the trek to North Carolina where I spent my time shelling, reading, and biking. But now I'm back, and it's time to face copyeditor revisions on what will be the final Merci Suárez book. Sunset over the marshThe view from my back deckMy daughter, Cristina, and me at the Bogue Pier Prev 1of6 Next I find myself coming to the task with the same mix of emotions I had about coming back home. I think it has to do with grieving a magical time - as that is what the "Merciverse" has been for me. By the time Merci Suárez Plays It Cool publishes next fall, I will have been writing the Suárez family and the world of Seaward Pines Academy, in one form or another, for six years. The characters and their journeys have become so real to me. It's no wonder that I'm sad about ending their story. It's hard to let go of old friends, even imaginary ones. It's always exciting to get to this stage, of course. It's when the book starts to feel real somehow. I wrote for a little under a year. Then, Kate (my editor) and I worked on the manuscript all of May and June, trading ideas for Merci's new...
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5 things I’ve Learned About DIY Book Marketing

By The Writing Life, Trailers, writing advice
One of the biggest misconceptions I once had as an author was that most of my book promotion would be handled by someone else. What I’ve learned over the years is that some part of the task of marketing my work will fall on me, regardless of where I am in my career. This has been especially true during the Covid pandemic when we’ve all had to pivot to the virtual space. How do we promote interest in our books now? How do we continue to create community with our readers long distance? And how can we do it without feeling like we've become sales people? My assistant, Kerri Poore, and I have been giving this a lot of thought. We’ve been working together since 2019, when she helped oversee the redesign of this website. And this summer, we decided together to take a closer look at social media connections, specifically at Instagram. Working in the do-it-yourself design site Canva, Kerri has designed a few fun items that support my new IGTV series, One-Minute Writing Tips, that many of you have been enjoying. (Check it out for your own practice or your students’ work.) She also created little homemade micro ads for Merci Suárez Can’t Dance. None of this is Madison-Avenue ready, but I think that’s the point. We wanted to create good looking materials that really do come from us and that don't feel overly processed. So what have we learned? Here are five things we thought we should...
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Wild and Unruly Anthologies Coming Your Way *

By Appearances, young adult
Anthologies are hot right now, and I have a couple of pieces appearing in two that will appeal to both YA and adult readers. One that you'll want to order now in preparation for Banned Books Week 2021 (supply chain problems being what they are) is You Can't Say That: Writers for Young People Talk About Censorship, Free Expression, and the Stories They Have to Tell, edited by Leonard Marcus (Candlewick Press, July 2021.) There are few children's literature historians with Leonard Marcus's credentials, and in this starred collection of interviews with more than a dozen contemporary authors, he delves into society's impulse to censor what's unfamiliar or uncomfortable – all in the name of protecting children.  You'll find personal stories shared by people like Angie Thomas, R.L. Stine, David Levithan, and Robie H. Harris, to name just a few. We all had the chance to talk about why we wade into difficult terrain and how that has looked for each of us.  I'll be discussing the book this week with Leonard through the American Writer's Museum on August 12, 7:30 pm EST/ 6:30 CT.  Hope you can tune in and get a taste for what's in store. The second anthology is Wild Tongues Can't Be Tamed: 15 Voices from the Latinx Diaspora, edited by Saraciea Fennell (September 14, 2021, Flatiron), whom you may know from her many accomplishments as the founder of the Bronx Book Festival and as part of the leadership at Latinx in Publishing. The collection is garnering lots of...
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Summer Reading Solution:  A Ready-Made Author Study Guide for You

By Discussion materials, middle grade, picture books
Summer reading is here – and this year it’s more important than ever to keep kids connected to learning through books and stories. The best way to do that? By making reading come alive beyond the page. That can sound daunting, but don’t worry. I am very proud to share with you a beautifully-prepared author study kit, based on my books, that you can use with your whole family. Everything you need is included. This kit was created by Kass Minor with assistance from The Author Village. Kass is a well-known educator, presenter, and the Executive Director of The Minor Collective. Alongside partnerships with the Teachers College Inclusive Classrooms Project and the New York City Department of Education, since 2005, she’s worked as a teacher, staff developer, adjunct professor, speaker, and documentarian. She also has impressive, kid-friendly, creative mojo! She’s taken five of my titles and designed simple, family-friendly activities to extend the story into your child’s world. You’ll find a plan for taking a walk in your community, recipes from the books to try in your kitchen, templates for sharing letters and postcards, a way to unearth old family stories, and much, much more. I couldn’t be more excited. Reading and writing aren't about levels or tests. They're about what words do inside of us and the worlds they open. The question is always, how does this story mean something to me? How does it connect me to others? What does it make me think about? What does it...
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Hot Fun in the Summertime

By Appearances, The Writing Life
Hot fun in the summertime* means I will dig into manuscript edits for the third, and final, book in the Merci Suárez series this week. I can’t even believe I am typing that sentence. What an incredible journey. Wish me luck – and please, if you haven’t done so, please leave a review of Merci Suárez Can’t Dance on Amazon, Goodreads, or any other places you review books. I also have two exciting events this Thursday, June 17, both public, that will honor amazing women. First, at 2 p.m. EST, I will record a conversation about the Pura Belpré award as part of the lead-up to the American Library Association’s 2021 virtual conference, where this year's closing speaker is former President Barack Obama. I'll let you know when it goes live. The Pura Belpré award is 25 years old this year, and celebrations of both the librarian and the award abound. You can check out a fantastic collection of essays written by current and former medal and honor winners in the May issue of The Horn Book Magazine. My own essay, "What the Pura Belpré Award Means to Me" is a call to arms about what I'd like to see come next for this award, and for Latinx children’s and YA lit, in general. The fun keeps going at 6 p.m. EST on June 17 as the She Persisted series continues its tour. Through the virtual magic of Loyalty Bookstores in DC, I will join Chelsea Clinton and the ever-fabulous Rita...
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Ask Meg on Mondays: An on-going summer chat on Goodreads

By #LetsStayConnected, What I'm reading
This summer, I'm trying something new on Goodreads. Whether you love it or hate it, Goodreads is a place for readers to engage. That's been a little tricky in Zoom-land, where there is never enough time to answer all the questions attendees post. So, I’ve refreshed my Goodreads page with up-to-date content, cleaned out my bookshelves (if only it were that easy at home) and started a new open question session called Ask Meg on Mondays. On the first Monday of every month – which is TODAY – I’ll be taking your questions about my work. So what do you want to know? I'm here to answer your questions!I also want to remind you that the Bronx is Reading Book Festival is happening this weekend. On Sunday, 9 am EST, I will give the closing keynote. Do check out the full lineup, where you can hear from some of the most exciting voices in literature today. Have a great week, everyone!
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Take My Master Class in Writing Characters

By Appearances, Writing Workshops
Blackwings: My very favorite writing and editing pencils I'll be teaching a master class this week for SCBWI on managing a big cast in your work-in-progress. If you're an SCBWI member, I'd love to see you there. (Become a member, if you're not! It's well worth the investment!) Registration is open today for the event that happens on Thursday, June 3rd, 4 - 5pm EST. It's all part of seven weeks of digital workshops which SCBWI has been hosting for its members this year. We've all been trying to find ways to keep our skills sharp during the pandemic, and I so appreciate the array of topics and approaches that have been offered up, everything from tackling the visual realm in picture books, to social media, and creating atmosphere in your novel. It's a little daunting to think of running a master class for writers, to be frank. I don't think anyone is a master of writing. I think we all continually learn and grow our tool box to varying degrees of success. My own approach will be to unpack for you how I found my characters for both picture books and the Merci Suárez novels. I'll provide rough sketches, my thinking boards, and an analysis of who made the cut into my work and who didn't. I'll have some exercises for you to try with your own work-in-progress, too. An hour goes fast, but we'll cover some good ground. Hope to see you there, fellow members.
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I ❤️ NY: Queens, NY

By #LetsStayConnected, Appearances
The Queensborough Public Library turns 125 years old this year, and that means it’s a party. Hanging out at Kissena Park, age 10 I, of course, remember our public library. Flushing, where I lived, had the Main Street branch and the smaller McGoldrick branch, conveniently located near the Prospect movie theatre and a Jack-in-the Box burger joint, respectively. Back when I was a kid in New York, though, being from Queens wasn’t exactly something you bragged about. The shiny, more educated people lived in the city, it seemed, while the rest of us mere mortals, like my mother, who worked in a transistor factory, were out in the boroughs. Our building was at the end of the number 7 line, plus a short ride on the Q 12 bus. I went to school at P.S. 22 on Sanford Avenue, survived JHS 189, and later came back to study and graduate from Queens College. All to say, the Queens connection runs deep inside me, even though I’ve lived outside of New York for 30 years now. When I think about home, Queens is the first place my heart goes. I wish I hadn’t believed the snooty hype against Queens when I was a kid. Turns out a lot of folks, who would eventually find their way in the arts, were growing up there, too. Cyndi Lauper, Jerry Seinfeld, LL Cool J, not to mention kidlit icons like Jacqueline Woodson, Mitali Perkins, and my own BFF, R.J. Palacio. Check out for yourself...
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Two Conversations with Master Storytellers

By Appearances, writing advice, young adult
I learn a lot about the writing process from friends and colleagues. Something about the safety of our relationship allows me to share and listen deeply. There’s not a novel that I’ve written that hasn't included sage input from trusted friends. The scene in Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass between Piddy and Joey, when they’re in her room and he discovers her bruises? Thank Gigi Amateau for that. Merci deciding to sell her one, most meaningful belonging to fix a terrible mistake she made in Merci Suárez Can’t Dance? It’s got Lamar Giles' fingerprints all over it. The details about Son of Sam in Burn Baby Burn? My personal friends, Alice and John, connected me to their neighbor, who was one of the cops on the investigative team back in the day. I could go on. I tell you this as a way to explain why I’m so excited for two events this week, where I’ll be in deep conversation about writing with two of my writing heroes, Lilliam Rivera and Francisco Stork. Both are well-known talents in our circle of Latinx authors, and guess what - we're not going to be talking about diversity as the main subject. What a welcome relief! We get to talk about writing. When I first met Francisco Stork at an ALAN conference a few years ago, I was starstruck, mostly on the merits of his exquisite novel, Marcelo in the Real World. The picture here is taken on that date. Since then, I’ve been...
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Join Chelsea Clinton and the Persisters at the Loft’s WordPlay

By Appearances, Chapter Books
I’ve always wanted to visit the Loft’s Wordplay Festival in Minnesota, and this year my dream comes true, albeit virtually. This Thursday, May 6, I will join Chelsea Clinton, Michelle Knudson and Sayantani DasGupta to talk about the biographies we wrote as part of the She Persisted chapter book series (Philomel, 2021), based on Chelsea’s bestselling picture book, She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World. The entire experience of joining the project was new to me, and I’m so glad I got the chance. I’d never written non-fiction or a chapter book, meaning a shorter work for kids ages 6 – 10. But when I was told I’d have the chance to write about Justice Sonia Sotomayor – and that I’d be joining an auspicious list of female authors known sweetly as the “persisters,” I couldn’t resist. (You can see the full list of biographies and authors for yourself by following the series link below.) It was an absolute honor to bring the story of Justice Sotomayor - the first Hispanic and third woman on the Supreme Court – to young readers. She is, of course, a titan in Latino history. But as I researched, I found a once-upon-a-time kid who was relatable at every step of her growing up. As a Queens girl myself, I loved our shared New York roots. But I loved the unexpected events of her life even more. She was a handful in the eyes of adults. She didn’t love her early elementary school years...
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Reinventing the Publishing Space: A Q & A with Las Musas

By The Writing Life, writing advice
On April 28, I’ll be hosting a twitter chat for Las Musas, the fantastic people who brought us the first Latinx Children’s Book Festival in 2020. I’m so impressed with this group that I thought we should take a little dive into their backstory and see what they have planned to make the publishing landscape more equitable – including a mentorship program that is accepting applications this month. Established in 2018 as a Latinx collective of women and non-binary (identifying on the female spectrum) authors, their mission is to “spotlight the contribution of their work in the evolving canon of children's literature and to celebrate the diversity of voice, experience, and power in our communities.” Sounds immense, right? But I think they’re moving the needle – and in a way that taps the talents we have in the community. So, I present, Las Musas… Hello! Thank you so much for having us here. We are Musas founding members Mia García (The Resolutions) and Aida Salazar (Land of the Cranes). Las Musas kicked off on August 28, 2018 with 12 members (J.C. Cervantes, Tami Charles, Mia García, Isabel Ibañez, Michelle Ruiz Keil, Tehloy Kay Mejia, Yamile Saied Méndez, Nina Moreno, Claribel Ortega, Emma Otheguy, Laura Pohl, and Aida Salazar) and have now grown to over 70 members encompassing Musas Debuts, Madrinas, and Hermanas. Back in 2018, Aida Salazar was approached by a couple of debut marketing groups in kidlit when her debut book (The Moon Within) was announced. However, what she noticed is...
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Happy Book Birthday, Merci Suárez!

By Appearances, Awards and news
Happy book birthday to Merci Suárez Can't Dance!  It's a busy week recording podcasts that will air later in the month, as well as taping a segment for the Bay Area Book Festival with the fabulous Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich (Two Naomis, It Does't Take a Genius,) where we'll be interviewed by young writers from Cinnamon Girl, Inc. But, here is where you can find me this week, celebrating books and writing with some of my favorite friends. Wed April 7, 7:15 PM EST in conversation with R.J Palacio via Parnassus Books Fri, April 9: LA Libreria event with Pam Muñoz Ryan via LA Librería Sat, April 10 4 PM ET/ 3 PM CT in conversation with Linda Sue Park via Brazos Bookstore ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Full details on book tour on Events page. You might like a playlist for Merci Suárez Can't Dance
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Volemos: A New SCBWI Grant for Upcoming Latinx Authors

By Awards and news, Latino Life
If you're an aspiring or early career Latinx author,  there's some new support for you. In partnership with the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), I've created a small grant called Volemos: The Meg Medina Grant. We'll be accepting submissions this month for the first time, so if you've got a picture book manuscript or a strong sample of your next novel, hurry and submit. Full submission guidelines are here.  I've been a member of SCBWI for most of my writing career. I entered the field before social media was a force (if you can even conceptualize that). Back then, I couldn't have told you what an agent did or what on earth a query letter was. More important, I didn't know any other children's book creators who could guide me or offer me an example of how to do this work. To pursue my passions felt as unlikely as pursuing a trip to Mars. A lot has changed for me over the years. I've found out that publishing is a combination of art, hardcore business skills, and community, all of which I honed with SCBWI's help. It's also a business where Latinx voices continue to be woefully underrepresented despite the growing number of new organizations and platforms now available to us. I'm proud to serve on the Board of Advisors for SCBWI and to partner with them in supporting my literary community. The organization is looking forward as it starts its 50th year in existence, and so...
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Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away Wins the 2021 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature

By Awards and news, picture books
On Friday, Hollins University, here in Virginia, announced that my picture book, Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away, has won the 2021 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children's Literature. The honor book this year is Christian Robinson's You Matter (Atheneum 2020). I'm delighted to be honored with Christian whose work I so admire. And I  am so grateful to the many friends and colleagues who sent sweet messages my way as soon as they saw the news on social media. Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away has enjoyed success beyond what I could have ever predicted - which goes to prove that, in publishing, your career includes so many things that you can't control. I wrote the book remembering my childhood friends, and I was sure it would be turn out to be a quiet book that would resonate with a core of readers. What I didn't know, of course, was that Covid 19 would upend our lives and make us long for our loved ones in new ways. I didn't know that kids might need an emotional roadmap on how to stay connected with friends. I didn't know that Jumpstart's "Read for the Record" would come along and bring the story to millions of kids. The medal is a beautiful honor also because it's named for Margaret Wise Brown, who graduated from Hollins in 1932, and went on to write Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and other children’s classics before she died suddenly, doing a can-can kick that caused an...
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Free Books: Flash Pre-Order Promotion for Merci Suárez Can’t Dance

By Giveaways, middle grade
Soooooo, the cat is out of the bag thanks to my friend Colby Sharp who made the announcement last night during our conversation on his YouTube channel. My wonderful publisher, Candlewick Press, is doing an exciting preorder incentive for Merci Suárez Can't Dance!" If you pre-order your copy at any retailer, Candlewick will send you a FREE hardback copy of the first Merci adventure, Merci Suárez Changes Gears. Wow! I'm so delighted. So, now - if you haven't gotten around to reading the first book yet, you have the perfect chance to do it. And if you loved the first book, here's a chance to get a copy to share as you continue on the Suárez journey. It's fast and easy. All you have to do is pre-order Merci Suárez Can't Dance at any retailer and then fill in this form. Candlewick will take care of the rest while supplies last. Happy reading!
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Submit a Question for the Merci Suárez Can’t Dance Book Tour

By #LetsStayConnected, Appearances
My assistant Kerri told me today:  "It smells of hope outside, and I want every bit of it." Oh, spring, how we’ve missed you! The weather is finally warming up, and in the weeks leading up to the publication of my latest book, so is my schedule! As promised, here are the details for my virtual book tour to launch Merci Suárez Can’t Dance (on sale April 6,) which comes to you with the help of some beloved indies and conferences from coast to coast.   Virtual visits are tricky in the age of Zoom. First, there's the issue of screen fatigue. Trickier still is that anyone can sign in from anywhere, so while the audience reach is exponentially bigger, the pressure is on presenters to make sure each visit is dynamically different for the fan base at each store. As you’ll see, with the exception of a solo, school-focused visit at Politics & Prose in DC, I’ve decided on the “in-conversation" model with some of the most exciting veteran authors working today. I'm so thrilled to have a chance to think aloud with them and to bring our work – and our relationship – to you. You can scroll through the gallery below to see some of the exciting books we'll talk about. Prev 1of5 Next But here’s where you come in. I’m wondering if you’d like to help me tailor our talks at each stop on the tour by shaping the topics we broach. What would you like...
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Evelyn Del Rey se muda is an Audie Finalist

By Awards and news, picture books
This week, I got a note from Candlewick telling me that Evelyn Del Rey se muda has been named an Audie finalist in the Spanish language category. The Audie’s are the highest award in audiobooks, and this year they received over 1500 submissions across all categories, the largest amount they have ever received. The news has come at such a poignant time. It has been almost a year since my friend, Teresa Mlawer, the celebrated Spanish language publishing icon, passed away. Even if you’re not up to speed on publishing en español, you’ll recognize her name as the translator of many famous children’s books, like Where the Wild Things Are and Harold and the Purple Crayon. I’m proud to say that she was also the translator of most of my own books, including Evelyn Del Rey se muda, bringing to each work the vocabulary and idioms of Cuban Spanish, the language I hear in my heart whenever I write about family. Evelyn, Teresa told me when we last spoke, was the final book project that she would work on. Many beautiful things have happened to the English edition of Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away, but I am proud to say, that with Teresa’s fine translation, the Spanish edition has been well-received, too. It was recently named by Bank Street College as one of the best Spanish-language picture books for kids in 2020. And now, of course, we have this unexpected nomination for an Audie. I want to point here to...
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A Playlist for Merci Suárez Can’t Dance

By Discussion materials, middle grade
A present for you! Here's a bilingual playlist I pulled together in honor of Merci Suárez Can't Dance, which will be in bookstores on April 6. If you attended the recent Candlewick Press 2021 preview event at ALA in January, you already received this in your virtual goodie bag. But for those of you who weren't at ALA this winter, here's a way to get in the mood for the book's release. All pre-orders at the site of your choice are appreciated, of course. I'll have finals details for you soon about the virtual indie store book tour coming in April, where I'll be talking all things Merci with some of my most admired friends in publishing. If you want a sneak peek at the dates and special guests we know so far, come over to the Events page. Remember, though, more are coming. So on to the music. You might not find all of these songs kid-friendly for students in elementary school, so listen first and pick your favorites. Why did each song make the list? Read on. Maybe readers will make their own list? I'd love to know what they'd put on their own playlist. Enjoy! Songlist X/ Artist:  Jonas Brothers, featuring Karol G I’m sure this was on the DJ’s playlist at the Heart Ball. You can find a performance of this on You Tube that features some great dance moves that Merci would struggle with, for sure! Con Calma/ Artist:  Daddy Yankee The twins and Lolo love to...
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Let’s Connect: My New Bookshop page

By #LetsStayConnected, What I'm Reading
Hi everybody! I've been such a Goodreads failure over the years, but it has never stopped me from wanting to offer readers more connection with my books and my reading tastes in a simpler, quicker way. So this weekend, my fabulous assistant, Kerri, and I worked on a super easy bookshop.org page for Meg Medina Books. I hope you'll visit from time to time, not only to see my books, but also to see what I'm reading and recommending. My first two specialty shelves are the Latinx Sampler and Favorite Writing Books. I'll be updating those frequently, so check back. As always, I hope you'll first consider making your purchases directly from your local indie bookseller. But for online shoppers looking for an alternative, here's a way to get 10% back from the purchase to indies. Happy reading! *Disclosure: Bear in mind that Bookshop links are affiliate links and if you use them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. I post them for your convenience and hope you will make your purchases where you are most comfortable. 
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Celebrate with Your Favorite Authors on World Read Aloud Day

By Appearances, What I'm Reading
It’s World Read Aloud Day this Wednesday, February 3. I hope you’re planning to take some time to read aloud to your favorite kid this week – in person, by Zoom, or in whatever way you can manage. And do the voices – no skimping! I’d be very honored if you chose one of my picture books, in English or Spanish, but any good book will do.   And just in case you're rusty, here are some tips on how to up your reading game from Reading Rockets. The celebration isn't just for the picture book set. To honor World Read Aloud Day – and give you some ideas for your bookshelves ­­‑ a few book friends and I will be on Kate Messner’s site this week doing five-minute readings of titles due out in 2021. I'll be previewing Merci Suárez Can't Dance, coming soon on April 6. The whole thing runs just under an hour, I think. So, follow #WorldReadAloudDay on twitter and bookmark this link to Kate's site on Wednesday when the video posts. Thanks, Kate, for the gracious invitation! Also keeping me busy this week is a school visit with students through Brooklyn Public Library  – virtually – of course. (In person visits? Fuggedaboudit for a while.) I'll also be marking the start of Black History month. I'm always on the fence about these designated months, like Hispanic Heritage Month and Women's History month. We should be reading inclusively all year long and encouraging those habits in young...
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A Two-for-One ARC Giveaway

By Appearances, Giveaways, middle grade
It feels good when someone says they’re happy to see you, doesn't it? That’s true in my social life, and it’s true in my book life, too. That’s why I’m so happy to have my upcoming novel, Merci Suárez Can’t Dance on Kirkus’s list of Most Anticipated Books of 2021. It officially pubs on April 6. Here’s the thing. The days leading up to bringing a new book into the world are always nerve-wracking, no matter how long you’ve been writing. Will your readers like it? Is it on par with your other books? Is a critic out there going to grind it into dust? Those questions have been on my mind even more than usual for Merci Suárez Can’t Dance, mostly because it’s a sequel to Newbery-winning Merci Suárez Changes Gears. A while back, Travis Jonker did a 20-year survey of Newbery titles for School Library Journal to see how many had sequels or prequels. It turns out, plenty of authors have written sequels to their Newbery winners, but I wonder if any of them worried like I did as they were drafting. The first problem I ran into was my writing process, which has always been largely intuitive. Typically, I start with a character and a rough idea for a conflict, and then I draft my way into the story until a plot starts to take shape. This time, though, I saw that I would finally need some sort of outline to help keep track of what happened in...
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Three brand new titles that warmed my winter break

By What I'm Reading
I'm back from two glorious weeks of  baked goods and hours spent on the sofa reading for pleasure. Part of my holiday haul always includes new books from the past year. This time around, I received Mexican Gothic, Furia and The Enigma Game, all of which I'll be savoring in the coming days. But first, I wanted to give a shoutout to three titles that were part of my couch vacation and that are due out in the next few weeks. Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo (YA; Dutton, Jan 2021):  I've been a fan of Malinda Lo's fantasy novels for a good while, but here she turns her storytelling skills to historical fiction, immersing us in San Francisco during the late 1950s. Lily Hu is in her last year of high school, a girl who dreams of space exploration – and exploring her own sexual identity as a lesbian. The novel weaves in so much erased history, not only about San Francisco's Chinatown community, but of LGBTQ Asian women, early space exploration and US/China relations. It's a hefty read, but one that is meticulously researched and told with unflinching honesty. Here's Malinda talking about Last Night...     Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson (YA; Bloomsbury, Feb 2021):  This is a sweet YA love story set in Harlem, one that follows high school senior Nala through a hot crush on Tye, a handsome social justice warrior she meets through her cousin, Imani. What's the trouble?...
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Holiday wishes – and DIY ideas – from my family to yours

By Self-care
From our house to yours Hi everyone! We've made it to the end of one of the hardest years in memory.  I'll be closing down the blog  to rest until after the new year, but first I wanted to take a minute to thank you all for sticking with the writers in your life, and for continuing to make books a part of the lives of children and families. Here are a few shots from our house in Virginia, which I've been decorating with mostly found, simple things. In case you're interested, I also got ideas from DIY sites like this one and this one to make the candyland display. Nothing says holidays like a three-foot lollipop... Found pinecones and some old ornaments were perfect A mix of natural and silk plants to bling up the doorway Dollar Store materials for a giant Candyland The finished result along the side of our house Remembering my mother-in-law who made all those wreaths more than 20 years ago. Wishing you and your family a new year that is filled with peace and health and, above all, one that is free from want and anxiety. Cariños siempre, Meg
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8+ suggestions for bookish self-care

By Random howls into the world, Self-care
So much is going on in the world, in our careers, and in our personal lives that it's easy to feel fried. And while the term "self-care" can sound indulgent when so many people are struggling to survive right now, I've begun to see that it's an essential survival skill for your mental health. The pandemic. The election. The demands for social justice. The surreal divisions in our country. The sudden pivot to all things virtual. It's not hard to see why, as a nation, we've turned to our vices against such a toxic backdrop for whatever personal crises we've also faced. In my own life - which often seems so shiny with book news on social media – there have been challenges. Both my Tía Isa and my mother-in law died unspeakably lonely deaths this year because of pandemic restrictions. Our middle daughter, a nurse working in ICU, contracted (and thankfully survived) Co-Vid two weeks ago. Are you wearing a mask to help protect people like Sandra? So, yeah, this has been a year when I've had to remind myself that it is OK to make time to take care of myself and those closest to me. Here are the top five things that have helped me. Getting good sleep:  For rest I turn to reading and ritual. I may read books written for children or I may venture into the world of books for grown-ups. Regardless, I make a ritual of warming some milk with vanilla and cinnamon (recipe...
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The Last Month of 2020… An Update.

By #LetsStayConnected, Appearances
I’ve never been so eager to wrap up a year in my whole life – and I’m sure I’m not alone. I’m hanging on, helped in part by the lovely inclusion of Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away in “best of 2020” lists at Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, New York Public Library, Chicago Public Library, and Amazon. But I also have a handful of events between now and the end of the year that are bringing me close to friends I admire – a much-needed connection. Here are a few highlights of places where we can connect around books and authors, if we’ve missed each other this year. As a heads up, I expect to keep a very quiet 2021 calendar while I finish up a manuscript and usher two new books into the world. A Conversation with Robin Farmer, author of Malcolm and Me:  I’m excited to be hosted by A Mighty Blaze on December 3 at 4 pm EST, where I’ll be talking with debut author (and dear friend) Robin Farmer, whose new YA novel, Malcolm and Me has a heroine that I think will steal your heart. Latinx Kidlit Festival:  If you haven’t signed up, please do so right away for the inaugural Latinx Kidlit Festival on December 4 and 5. It’s an astounding lineup of new and veteran Latinx authors working for kids right now. What better way to sample their work before the eventual return to in-person school visits and conferences? I’ll be the...
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2020 bookish gift guide: Pandemic edition

By #LetsStayConnected, Self-care, The Writing Life
Oh, 2020. What a year you’ve been. As I did last year, I’m posting a holiday gift guide especially designed for the bookish people on your list. Consider this a very special Covid edition as well. Book lover masks. This is the year of the face mask, and they’re going to be with us for a while. So why not make the best of it and go in style? To me, Etsy has the best selection, including those that pull up like turtlenecks. bbgb books Gift cards to our favorite bookstores are always a good idea, and this year is a really good time to support our Indies. My local go-to bookstores are bbgb, Fountain Bookstore and Chop Suey Books. And bbgb has a fabulous subscription program, aptly called A Year of Tales. Ornaments: How about trimming the tree with a way to remember how we felt about this loooong year? Here are two of my favorite ornaments: Santa and his mask, as well as this rather cute bottle of hand sanitizer. Portable lighting: Authors who normally do school visits or attend conferences have had no choice but to become video stars.  One thing is for sure:  you need good lighting. Lume cube has a range of products, from standing lights to little ones that clip on to your laptop to give you a well-lit effect. Computer eyewear: All those hours on screen has spelled eye-strain for some of us. If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer, how about glasses...
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Breaking into Writing Children’s Books:  A Beginner’s Guide Targeted to Latinx authors

By Latino Life, The Writing Life
** UPDATED: NOV 4:  This post was pre-scheduled for today. I apologize for its publication today, when there is so much post-election uncertainty. It went out before I could stop it.**   The question I get asked most often as a children’s book author is how to break in. This is especially true when the question comes from aspiring Latinx authors. Here is a quick checklist of to-dos if your heart is set on writing stories that celebrate Latinx children and families. Nail down your craft Nothing replaces the craft. A big part of this simply boils down to your talent with words and with how well you can sense how to tell a story.  But you can do things to improve your work, mainly in two ways: reading and writing. Here’s starter book set for reading. Writing Picture Books* by Ann Whitford Paul The Writers Guide to Crafting Stories for Children* by Nancy Lamb Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults* by Cheryl Klein Latino/a Childrens and Young Adult Writers on the Art of Storytelling* by Frederick Luis Aldama, University of Pittsburgh Press As for writing, I recommend a daily or weekly habit of coming to the page, whether you do that on your own or whether you sign up for writing class in your community. If you’re very serious, you can choose to invest in a low residency Master of Fine Arts program. I’ve been teaching at Hamline in St. Paul, Minnesota but there are others programs,...
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Read for the Record: Join the whole wide world as we read Evelyn del Rey is Moving Away

By #LetsStayConnected, Appearances, Awards and news
Art by Sonia Sanchez, Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away It's here! Read for the Record Day, when millions of readers will read EVELYN DEL REY IS MOVING AWAY and spend a day enjoying activities with little ones. Here is the official virtual schedule from Jumpstart, which has events throughout the day - including readings, arts and crafts and even yoga! This page will be updated in real-time as each event takes place on social media. If you want to follow along on Facebook, you can have the Jumpstart page open. And check out my Jumpstart landing page for more resources. But another truly exciting aspect are all the other events going on worldwide. Your best bet is to follow the #readfortherecord hashtag on twitter where you'll get the exact times and virtual locations of other readings, such as Sonia Manzano, as well as Hugh Jackman, and Alejandra Espinosa from Univisión and many more. I'll be closing out the evening at the Orange County Public Library in California at 7 pm ET/4 pm PT I'm a bag of nerves, but thrilled. Happy reading and thank you for joining in the fun with your little ones! Everyone at my house is ready for Read for the Record
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An author’s guide to DIY teacher materials for your books

By Discussion materials, Teachers' Guide, Trailers
Having a beautiful new book in the world is only part of the job of connecting with readers. Another important way to connect is by making it easy for teachers and librarians to use your work as part of their classroom or independent reading programs. But what does that look like if you’re making these materials yourself? And what are the most popular types of materials that teachers are looking for? Car template for Tia Isa Wants a Car To find out, I spoke to Kathleen O’Rourke, Executive Director of Educational Sales and Marketing at Candlewick Press. She confirmed what I’ve learned over the last ten years. “Teachers have limited time to teach all that is required... so providing them with materials that are simple, accessible, and effective are your best bet." Top three picks Discussion Guide for Yaqui Delgado  1. A discussion guide:  Not every title on a publisher’s list will get a discussion guide designed in-house, but that doesn’t mean you can’t design one yourself using the principles your publisher uses. “A good discussion guide can be used to start a class discussion, assign written responses, or encourage a librarian to use your title with a book group,” says O’Rourke.  “[You want] thoughtful discussion questions that a teacher can either provide the students before they read the book to help guide their reading or that can be used after the book has been read to help the students think critically about the story." When I’ve designed my own...
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Where’s Meg this week: Neustadt Conference, VA Children’s Book Festival, and SCBWI

By Appearances, Awards and news
Hi everyone - Here's a quick run-down of my appearances  and newsworthy updates for this week. L-R: Laurie Halse Anderson, Eric Gansworth, me, Linda Sue Park, Mitali Perkins, Jason Reynolds, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Laurel Snyder, and Alex Wheatle The Neustadt conference and prize announcement, today through Oct 21: I’m lucky and proud to be among nine finalists nominated for the Neustadt Prize in Children’s Literature. This week, we find out who wins. Now virtual, you can register and enjoy conference sessions over a three-day period, from today, Oct 19, to Wednesday evening, October 21, when the winners are announced. Register here. [Added after original post] Jumpstart Read for the Record Virtual Panel, Tues, Oct 20, 6 - 7:30 PM EST: I'll be joining nationally-recognized academics and policy-makers in early childhood education to discuss how to support our youngest learners during the pandemic. We'll be focusing on learning in a virtual environment, supporting kids' social and emotional health, and supporting racial justice. Register here.  VA Children’s Book Festival, Wed., Oct 21, 1 pm EST: Are you a fan of R.J. Palacio and her international bestseller, Wonder?  Yeah, me too – and that's been true since we were elementary school BFFs. We’re together at the Virginia Children’s Book Festival this week thanks to a pre-recorded session about being best friends, our latest books, and why on earth Yoo Hoo was ever a popular drink. Register here. SCBWI New England, Thursday, Oct 22, 7 - 8:30 PM EST:  Two authors, two editors, one...
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Merci Suárez se pone las pilas:  A Newbery Winner Gets Translated into Spanish

By Guests, The Writing Life
I’ve had the good fortune of having most of my work made available in Spanish translation. Tomorrow Merci Suárez se pone las pilas comes into the world to join the others. The title literally means, “Merci Suárez puts in her batteries.” Funny, right? But that is the magic of translation, the ability to capture the spirit and heart of a work. Photo credit: Valerie Block It’s the first time I’ve worked with the fabulous Alexis Romay, who was hand-picked for the project by my former translator, the late Teresa Mlawer, whose long and storied career included translations of Where the Wild Things Are and Harold and the Purple Crayon. An author, translator, and teacher, Alexis brings to this work our shared Cuban roots. He also brings his quick sense of humor, warmth, and respect for young people. In so many ways, this translation is a physical representation of our bicultural lives. On every page, I could feel him channeling Merci and bringing her to life for me in the language I spoke with my mother. It was as if two parts of myself were being knit together with his guidance. Here below is a video post by Alexis where he gives thanks to the many people who helped bring our book into the world. I especially love his explanation – about midway through - of why books in translations matter for children. As part of our celebration, please leave a comment in the comments section, and I’ll enter you to...
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4 Recipes for Hispanic Heritage Month – All Inspired By My Books

By Cuban Cooking, Latino Life, middle grade, picture books
I know lots of friends have been reading my books during Hispanic Heritage month. Since you're home, maybe you'd like to try some recipes - straight from the pages of some of my picture books and novels? From Merci Suárez Changes Gears Café con leche is Merci and Lolo’s breakfast drink. Cuban coffee is basically espresso that is heavily presweetened. To make a proper con leche, brew your espresso in whatever type of machine you use. (Here below is my collection.)  My mom used to put 2 – 3 tsp of sugar in the percolator, but some folks add it to the coffee after it has percolated. To finish, heat equal parts milk and add to the coffee. Another variation – cheating a bit, but it was Tía Isa’s favorite. She called it, simply, “la leche.”  Heat a mug of milk, adding 2 tsp of sugar. Then dissolve 1 T of instant espresso into the milk. Batidos are smoothies, basically, with a creamy backdrop. Lolo loves batidos de mamey or batidos de piña, but here’s a recipe using strawberries and bananas, which are easier to find. Tía Inés was probably the expert at these. Ingredients: 1 c strawberries with the tops sliced off 1 banana 1 T sweetened condensed milk 1 T sugar 1 T fresh lime juice 1 ½ c crushed ice Put all ingredients in a blender and garnish with a cut strawberry. Other fruits to try when the summer months return: a mix of watermelon and papaya...
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#LetsStayConnected

By Appearances, Giveaways
The woods across the street from my house backs up to the high school field where the marching band rehearses. Every August for almost 20 years, I’ve watched kids trudge in the heat to practice that strange footwork and music skills. And every year, about this time, I get to hear them improve every week. I get to hear the crowds cheer for the home team.  It’s quiet now without those squeaky saxophones and thundering bass drums. My dear friend Alice and my daughters. And last week, I watched the nightly news reports about the pandemic with that familiar ache that’s come to define 2020 for me. I tried not to focus on the trick-or-treaters that I’ll miss seeing on Halloween, or on the Thanksgiving Day meal for just the immediate family, not to mention the winter holidays, when I won’t be able to gather the same way with the people I love.    In the midst of all of this, too, my picture book Evelyn del Rey is Moving Away (illustrated by Sonia Sánchez) hit shelves. This year is clearly a hard year to connect with readers, but I believe that, in some ways, this book might just be the right story for us all now. Daniela and Evelyn, after all, are two mejor amigas who have to accept a separation and figure out how to make what truly matters endure.  So, here’s how I’d like to launch this picture book and help us cope with missing our friends and...
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Guest Post with Ruth Behar: The Island that Remains in Us

By Guests, Latino Life
Hi everyone, From time to time, I have the pleasure of hosting guest authors on this site. Today it's my honor to kick off Hispanic Heritage month with a lovely guest post by 2018 award-winner Ruth Behar. Her latest book, Letters from Cuba, is historical fiction and was published last month (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House.) It's set in Cuba during World War II, when the chokehold of anti-semitism could be felt far from Europe, in even the smallest far-flung towns. I admire Ruth's research and writing, and I think she captures the many ways that a Cuban identity has always been one of intersections. ¡Bienvenida, Ruth! We're ready for the inside story on this remarkable middle grade novel. _________________________________________________________ When I sat down to write Letters from Cuba, I knew I wanted the story to be set in Agramonte, a town in the sugar-growing region of Matanzas. I’ll always remember the first time I visited Agramonte on my own, about twenty-five years ago. I met elders who competed to greet me and bring me to their homes to relax in an old wooden rocking chair. They chuckled as they kept repeating, “Así que eres la nieta de los polacos, no me digas,” delighted the granddaughter of “the Poles” had come to say hello. Rocking chairs in a home in Agramonte where Ruth stayed while doing research for Letters from Cuba. Baba, my maternal grandmother, had bravely crossed the ocean alone to help her father, my great-grandfather, bring her mother...
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September: A Celebration of Friends and a New Picture Book

By Appearances, Random howls into the world
Hi everyone! September, how I’ve longed for you.  My new picture book, Evelyn del Rey is Moving Away, is finally out in the world on September 8th – in both English and Spanish. So far, so good. It’s garnered five starred reviews and the honor of being selected as the Jumpstart 2020 Read for the Record title. Have you pre-ordered and signed up for the pledge? Until then, enjoy the most delightful book trailer...  __________________________________________________________ Are you missing your friends? Evelyn’s publication has had me thinking a lot about friends, those from childhood as well as the ones in both my personal and professional life now. I found this old shot from one of my birthdays back in Queens. (I can still feel the plastic slipcovers on that couch.) My elementary school friends. Anybody see R.J Palacio in there? Anyway, I really find myself longing for my friends now, and I’m guessing I’m not alone in this. It’s just the little things that I miss. Meeting someone for coffee. Hugging a hello. Taking in a movie or a drink somewhere. These days, even photos of myself with maskless friends, readers, and librarians can make me a little a little teary. But you know what? The universe has a way of helping sometimes. This month it turns out that I am doing a lot of video events in support of author friends, from debut to superstars.  Four conversations in eight days – and I’m asking all the questions. Here’s the lineup:...
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La Maleta: Grief meets a 50-year-old suitcase

By Latino Life, Random howls into the world
It’s been a minute since I’ve checked in.  Many of you know that my Tía Isa passed away a couple of weeks ago. I want to thank all of you who were so kind in sending our family condolences, comfy socks, chicken soup, wine, meal delivery vouchers, and flowers. I so appreciate the love and support. La maleta I’ve been climbing out of the haze by doing all the grown-up things you have to do to settle people’s affairs. Death certificate applications, closing bank accounts – all that official stuff. The real work, though, has been going through the things that my mother and aunt thought were vital. And for that, I had to face la maleta. For as long as I can remember, my mother and Tía Isa told me about the suitcase in the back of their closet. It is a battered hardshell piece of luggage in that Pan Am airlines blue. It has a key on a string and an old belt from the 1970s holding it together. Inside, Ma and Tía kept documents they knew I’d need some day, but also the ones I suspect they couldn’t part with because they told the story of their lives. La maleta had their Cuban passports wrapped in plastic, my grandmother’s welfare id card, Tía’s high school diploma and license as a telegraph operator, my grandparents’ birth certificates from the late 1800s, a prayer and medallion for Santa Barbara. I found my parents’ divorce papers and  prayer cards for...
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Sleepy summer?

By Appearances, The Writing Life
Hi all.  August. This should be a slow and sleepy time in publishing, right?  But no. An awful lot is happening during what should be my sleepy summer. Maybe that's a good thing, though. It will keep me from missing pool days or fun beach trips.  OK, the huge NEWSFLASH:  the SCBWI Summer Spectacular is living up to its name. Full disclosure, I sit on the board of advisors for SCBWI, but that doesn’t influence the fact that I think the digital conference has offered us an incredible silver lining of access. A lot of folks who can’t plunk down the big bucks for airfare and hotel of a live conference, can pay $100 and click a zoom link to learn from people like the legendary Phillip Pullman. That’s a huge bonus for people early in their careers when the cash flow from writing is a trickle. Check out the lineup yourself. And please, if you are registered or plan to register, join my conversation with the fabulous Laurie Halse Anderson on Tuesday morning. We’ve decided to ask each other all the stuff nobody else does. We’ll talk a little bit of craft, but also what career blips we’ve had, what we wish we could do over, things that scare us now, and new voices we’re excited about.  There’s a lot of bookstore and educator love happening in my world this month, too. I’ll be at Belmont Books, virtually of course, in support of a program called Read it Forward,...
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Summer Book Life: What’s up this week

By The Writing Life, Writing Workshops
This week I’ve been in a virtual residency at Hamline University, where I’m part of the MFA faculty for their low-residency program in writing children’s and teens literature. The days are long and exhausting, but also so very creatively nourishing right now. It’s a blessing to be immersed in imagination, whether by helping students work on their skills in workshop or by listening to lectures and follow-up conversations with our faculty and visiting authors, like Tracey Baptiste.  Anyway, we’re unpacking theme this summer, doing deep dives into all the ways that theme takes shape across genres, age groups, and individual styles. It's been wonderful so far. Tomorrow – Thursday July 16 – I’ll also be part of a virtual gathering with SCBWI called Sticks and Stones and the Stories We Tell.  Ten authors and illustrators – all well-known to you – will be sharing our personal encounters with racism in the publishing industry and how we responded in both our work and in our lives.  Should be good. It’s open for everyone, so I hope you’ll tune in. In book news – Merci Suárez Changes Gears is part of B&N’s summer reading program. If there’s a young reader in your life who’s looking for something to read, please point them to this list and maybe earn a free book! Meanwhile, Merci Suárez Can’t Dance, the sequel, has moved into production. I finished responding to the copyeditor comments last week and just got a sneak peek at the cover by Joe...
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Cuban Comfort Food continued: picadillo con arroz blanco

By Cuban Cooking, Latino Life
OK, foodies. You have under an hour to make something to eat for dinner and you (naturally) want Cuban comfort food. Here’s my quick and easy – shortcuts included – path to making picadillo con arroz blanco. Photo journal for picadillo con arroz blanco Prev 1of9 Next Ingredients (Serves 4 people) 1-1 ½  lb ground beef, extra lean 1 8-oz can of tomato sauce ½ cup green pimento-stuffed olives, sliced ¾ c white cooking wine Sofrito…which is 1 small onion, diced small ½ green pepper diced ½ red pepper diced (or if you can find it, about 1.5 c of frozen sofrito that you can get in the store) 3 -4 crushed cloves of garlic (or about 1 ½ tsp of the prepared kind) ¼ cup white raisins (black ones will do) ½ tsp cumin Salt to taste Adobo seasoning to taste 1 Bay leaf 1 ½ c white rice Frozen plantains from Chiquita (don’t give me grief, you’re in a hurry, aren’t you?)* 2 – 3 T olive oil, enough to sautée sofrito Directions Brown the meat slightly and drain the fat. Remove to a bowl. If you are making sofrito from scratch, dice your onion, core and dice the peppers. If you are using the frozen kind, measure out about 1 cup of the frozen mix. In pan, heat oil and add sofrito and the garlic. Cook until vegetables are soft but not soggy. Add the can of tomato sauce and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the...
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Nothing is ever really lost: a picture book resurrected in a time of pain

By Random howls into the world, The Writing Life
Summer 2020. What will we say about all this one day? When the pandemic first hit, I was asked by School Library Journal to join other writers in explaining how I was dealing with the sudden changes to writing life. You can read the piece here. Photo credit: Mark Gormus, Richmond Times Dispatch When I reread it this morning, I was struck by how quiet and contemplative all of us seemed compared to how things went after we all witnessed George Floyd’s murder – and Breonna Taylor’s and Ahmaud Arbery’s and Rayshard Brooks', all in the span of a few weeks. I would love to feel calm, but the truth is, that everything is boiling over. Here in Richmond, where I live, we’re dealing with the long-standing disconnect between the police and black communities, and, of course, with the overdue push to remove our city’s racist iconography, the most of any other city in the US. And, of course, at the heart of it all, are the searing conversations that have to be had right now about dismantling all the systems that have been allowed to erase, injure and oppress generations of black people in this city and throughout the country. Lots of reading lists are being shared for classrooms and libraries. I’d like to add one suggestion. Try The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love, and Truth, edited by Wade and Cheryl Hudson and due out next month. It features a long list of some of your favorite names in...
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Virtually Mad: how author life has morphed

By Random howls into the world, Self-care, The Writing Life
Is it Monday? Of what month? Did I wear this shirt yesterday? Is my hair clean? Why am I sleeping until 10 am? It must be because I’m binge-watching all six seasons of Downton Abbey like a crack addict. Welcome to Authors in Pandemics, where book nerds like me are being stretched harder than any at-home yoga app can do. Here we are at the start of another week of my new, virtual author life, where everything, right down to my office, has become part of a video. That means it’s you, me and my phone camera, my friends. Let's just hope I remember to point it in the right direction. Here's the schedule this week: Tuesday, April 28: a takeover of the Texas Book Festival Instagram feed during which I plan to make a café con leche in my kitchen and ponder 'what would the Suárez family do in a pandemic'? Thursday, April 30: video panel for the Virginia State Reading Association’s virtual seminar series, featuring me and fellow Virginia authors A.B. Westrick and Steven K. Smith, along with teacher extraordinaire, Pernille Ripp following us. Friday, May 1: keynote as part of the much-anticipated Everywhere Book Festival, launched largely to help authors with books pubbing during the pandemic shut-downs. Texas Book FestivalEverywhere Book Festival Prev 1of3 Next   In the past few weeks, children’s and YA authors have been scrambling to stay calm while we help teachers, librarians, and kids survive the pandemic as best we can. Some folks...
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Comfort foods a la Merci Suárez: My recipe for croquetas

By Latino Life, Self-care
When the going gets tough, a lot of us turn to our comfort foods. Mine is Cuban food, of course. But first, my apologies to those who received an email from me before my post was actually ready to be seen. Promise I'm much less dangerous in the kitchen! So, here's my recipe for croquetas, one of the foods Merci loves in Merci Suáerz Changes Gears. Croquetas can be eaten as appetizers or as part of a main meal, with a side of black beans and white rice, the way I like. They're basically made from any left over meat, usually red meat and ham, but it doesn't much matter. I won't lie; they're messy to make, even though the individual steps are easy. It's much faster to go to a Latinx bakery and point at what you want in the case. But making croquetas calms me. It reminds me of the people I love. It's also a great way for several people in the kitchen to work together and pass the time, talking and laughing. And this week, when I've felt fretful and sad about so many different types of losses, I found comfort in making them. IngredientsCut meat into chunksAdd onions to the food processorMilk and flour and nutmegMilk and flourEggs and breadcrumbsBefore fryingAll done Prev 1of11 Next Ingredients leftover beef, chicken or ham, about 8 oz or so 2 or three slices of deli ham 1/2 c of white flour 1 can evaporated milk (you will use...
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Living, learning and working from home

By Appearances, Discussion materials, The Writing Life
Hi everyone – You’ll find me online in the coming weeks as we all settle in to living, learning, and working from home. If you’re using my books with your kids, feel free to download and use any of the resource materials for my books, which you can access here. Here’s where you can find me this week: A (friendly) twitter takeover of Candlewick Press on Twitter on Tuesday, March 24. It starts at 2 pm EST. I’ll be posting pictures, giving updates, taking a tour of my office and answering questions you might have. Talk to you then! A Spanish-language story time on Instagram live Thursday, March 26, noon – 12:20 EST. I’ll be reading Mango, Abuela y Yo, and giving you a sneak peek into my new picture book, Evelyn Del Rey Se Muda (Candlewick, September 2020). Kate Messner put out a call for author materials. She’s collecting them on her website under Read, Wonder, and Learn at home learning library. You’ll find lots of great authors there. I made a 10-minute tutorial for student writers on how to increase tension in your writing. It will also be part of her online writing program, soon to be unveiled. Abrazos, Meg
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Digital resources

By Discussion materials, The Writing Life
Dear Educators and Parents, I will have some online activities coming up in the next few weeks and I will send that schedule soon. But until then, please find a collection of digital resources for my books below. I hope that you find them useful during these trying times. Please enjoy and share! Also, be sure to find more information with my publisher, Candlewick Press. Discussion Guides The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind Burn Baby Burn Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass Yaqui Delgado quiere darte una paliza Merci Suárez Changes Gears Teachers' Guides Merci Suárez Changes Gears Tia Isa Wants a Car Picture Book Resources Mango Abuela and Me: Color in Mango Tia Isa Wants a Car: Car template   See Teacher's guide for writing project Arts and crafts for my books on Pinterest And, for a extra special challenge, check out this paper bag Mango puppet!
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Lolo meets Grandpa Ray: A Rick and Merci Suárez Changes Gears Mash-up – plus swag!

By Guests, middle grade, picture book, middle grade, YA, Pre-order giveaway
I’ve always loved birthdays, especially book birthdays. They’re even better when you share them with a friend. That’s what’s happening next month. Merci Suárez Changes Gears appears en rústica (paperback) with its beautiful new art on April 7. (Thanks again, Joe Cepeda!)    Rick, the follow-up to George by Stonewall award-winner (and my book pal) Alex Gino, pubs on April 21. It has been starred in Kirkus, SLJ, PW, and Booklist! Both our books take a close look at friendships, bullies, and beloved grandpas. Which got Alex and me thinking:  What would happen if two of our characters – Lolo and Grandpa Ray – met in person? We were sure they’d have a lot to say about their grandkids, memories and secrets, so we decided to… um… listen in. Check it out, and read about our pre-order swag below!  The Scene: Lake Worth Beach pier, in Lake Worth Beach, Florida.  It is February and the sand is crowded with tourists, young families and their children, who are making sand castles or skim-boarding at the shore. Overlooking the sand is the paved walkway with benches. Two older gentlemen, LOLO (aka Leopoldo Suárez) and GRANDPA RAY (aka Raymond Ramsey) sit on either end of a bench along the walkway, facing the ocean. They are watching the waves and enjoying the roller bladers, the dogs racing for frisbees, the woot of the people fishing far out at the end of the pier. LOLO, white haired and wearing a Sol Painting, Inc. baseball cap, is digging...
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A beautiful spot in the world

By Self-care, The Writing Life, Travel
Well, I'm back to reality after a revitalizing 10 days with women writers in upstate New York. It was such a gift to be able to write and share conversations with these amazing people as part of the Rowland Writers Retreat. Here are a few photos.  The inns are open all year, although summer must be spectacular. Could be that I'll book myself a separate getaway some day to get back to this part of the country. More soon! Don't forget to check out my events page to see what's next. After a school event in Baltimore and some time at home, I'll be off to sunny California! The lovely women of my Rowland RetreatHello!Another view of Rowland HouseThe view from the back porch!Restored school house where we did our yoga practice and other activitiesInside the school houseThe LibraryThe teeniest bankCanadian Geese on Lake Cayuga
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Taking a Creative Breath in Upstate New York

By Self-care, The Writing Life, Travel
I have a strict policy of traveling with only carry-on luggage. But this week, I boarded  a plane with my trusted backpack and a suitcase the size of a small coffin. That’s because I discovered that fat sweaters don’t like cramped quarters – and neither do imaginations. I’ll be needing both for my trip to the Finger Lakes Region of New York, where I’ll be doing a residency at the Rowland Writers Retreat, now in its second year. For ten glorious days, I’ll be living and writing with women whose careers are inspirations to me. This generous residency is fully funded by Pleasant Rowland, founder of American Girl, and by the Rowland Reading Foundation. It's by invitation and it's free for authors, except for the cost of getting to Aurora. My only obligation will be to use the precious time to work on projects that I’ve been thinking about. I will not cook a meal or walk a dog or answer emails or sign-scan-fax anything whatsoever. In short, it will be a godsend, for which I am profoundly grateful. When the invitation came, my first thought was, unbelievably, to decline. There are a million reasons to stay home. Hadn’t I traveled too much for work? Wasn’t this just an indulgence? Couldn’t I write perfectly well in my home space? Not to mention Tía Isa at the nursing home; who would sponge bathe her or change her diapers on Sundays when the staff is thin? And there was the dog walking,...
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Happy New Year! 

By Appearances, The Writing Life, What I'm reading, Writing Workshops
I’ll be honest. It was tough for me to say goodbye to 2019, a year that began and ended with beautiful career highs. So it’s a good thing that January is looking is so fly. To start, I pressed send on my next novel featuring Merci Suárez, and I got to see the gorgeous final art for my upcoming picture book, EVELYN DEL REY IS MOVING AWAY.  You can read all about that and other upcoming book news right here in Publishers Weekly. Ta Da! Check out this gorgeous cover by Sonia Sánchez. But, I’m also doing a few sweet events at the end of the month, including two in my hometown of Richmond, VA, that I’ve been looking forward to for months. First stop: I’ll be in New York City on January 23 for a presentation to teachers. Carl Anderson, author of A Teacher’s Guide to Writing Conferences*, will be presenting, and then I’ll speak on my own days as a writing teacher and my life as an author. Did what I teach about writing reflect what I actually do as an author today? Sometimes – but there’s plenty I’d do differently. Pre-order it now!* I head home on January 25th for an "In Conversation With" appearance with one of my favorite authors, Lamar Giles, at the main branch of the Richmond Public Library. He’s on tour for his new contemporary young adult novel, NOT SO PURE AND SIMPLE (HarperCollins.) It's new this month, and it's been crushing it...
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2019 Richmond Times-Dispatch People of the Year Award

By Appearances, Awards and news, Community work
Meg Medina and Rodney Robinson, RTD 2019 People of the Year, Photo credit: Clement Britt On Monday, I had the enormous surprise and pleasure of being named Richmond Times-Dispatch Person of Year. I share this honor along with Rodney Robinson, who is the 2019 National Teacher of the Year. It feels especially sweet to be named together with Rodney as both of us work with the needs of young people at heart. Here’s to Richmond’s children! I hope you’ll take the time to read about the contributions that all 24 honorees have made to our community this year. I think you’ll see why I feel so lucky and humbled to have been named to this auspicious group. It was a shock when we were revealed as the recipients. Neither one of us was told we had won in advance – which makes the fact that there was a “reveal” video pretty amazing. It was all thanks to an undercover web of elaborate lies from Lewis Brissman at the Richmond Times Dispatch, who I now know has the ultimate poker face. Photo credit: Alexa Welch Edlund/Richmond Times-DispatchPhoto credit: Clement BrittPhoto credit: Clement BrittPhoto credit: Clement Britt Prev 1of4 Next It’s safe to say that 2019 has been one of the most memorable of my entire professional life. It began in January with the Newbery Award and now winds down with this beautiful show of respect from my hometown. Thank you, Times-Dispatch, for the recognition and for the terrific event at the...
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Stuff your writer’s stocking: last minute gift ideas for your bibliophile

By Self-care, The Writing Life
There are just a couple of weeks until the holidays. Are you panicking about the writers on your list? Here are a few of my favorite ideas that have a quick turnaround. Happy holidays, everyone! Worth it! Tools of the trade: These are the best pencils in the world: Palomino Blackwings*. And spring for the sharpener, too. Flash drives* for all our presentations are welcome, especially if they're stylish. My favorite drive is Marvin the Martian, but bright colors will do. It's amazing how much printing you need done: cool stationery to write thank you’s, stickers as swag, postcards for new books, or business cards to share at conferences. I like to design at Moo.com. These days, I'm ashamed to say that I forget the details of a book fairly quickly. Here's a book journal* to help keep track of the plots and important info on the ga-zillion books we read. I am guilty of dog-earring pages. But a set of beautiful bookmarks in wood* might change that. These are pretty. Writers have to be big readers, so help us as we keep up with our professional libraries by giving us a gift card to our favorite local indie. Are you in Richmond? Try bbgb, Fountain Bookstore, and Chop Suey Books. Self care: Literary candles* to soothe the nerves when deadlines loom! Literary candles* I saw a version of this Resting Book Face t-shirt at NCTE this year, but they were all out by the time I went to buy...
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When an Epidemic Calls

By Discussion materials, The Writing Life
You’re never sure how a book is going to connect with readers. Sometimes it’s a character that hooks readers. Other times, it's a plot point. Sometimes just your voice or style is enough. Turns out, though, sometimes it’s about loss and pain, too. Merci Suárez Changes Gears has drawn readers in lots of ways, but one of the most important ways has been in its unvarnished view of Alzheimer’s Disease, one of the most rapidly growing epidemics in the US. When I included that storyline in Merci, I was unaware exactly how many people face this situation every day with no caregiving safety net in place. All I really knew was that my uncle, Diego, was taken from us that way – a little bit at a time, until the once sweet and charming man was left virtually erased in a world of strangers. It was grueling to watch my cousin and his family face the many hard days and difficult decisions about his care. This past June, when I traveled to DC to accept the Newbery award, Candlewick scheduled a signing for the librarians at the ALA conference.  The first woman in that line placed several copies on my table and just asked for my signature. When I was about halfway through, she leaned in and whispered tearfully, “I just lost my mother to Alzheimer’s a few months ago.” I put my pen down. My heart broke for her instantly because I knew what that journey must have looked like....
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NaNoWriMo Thoughts

By The Writing Life, writing advice
Happy NaNoWriMo everybody! We're five days into the month. Have you already started the draft for this month's project? How is it going? Did you start a new project or are you picking up an old one? Normally, I write up my thoughts, but this time I wanted to share a few of ideas about writing through the magic of video. I hope it inspires you just a bit... Enjoy!
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Where in the World? My quick trip to the UK and Ireland

By Self-care, Travel
Baked beans for breakfast. The Queen's stunning coach. Cliffs and castles. Sheep, sheep, sheep. I’m getting ready to head out to the Texas Book Festival this week, but I wanted to post some shots of our time in London, Edinburgh, Dublin and Galway. The trip was a feast for the eyes, particularly volcanic Edinburgh, my favorite, which looks and feels like Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter series. We always talk about the influence of place on an author. I can't think of a better example than J.K. Rowling and the world she created for us. We stayed in 700 year-old Dalhousie Castle, just outside the city, which has been restored to a hotel and spa, complete with the dining room in the dungeon.    The inside of our hotel at the Dalhousie Castle A view in Edinburgh Oh Edinburgh…I could wander these streets forever But really, there were treasures in every city. Some highlights: We stayed in the Kensington neighborhood at the Ashburn Hotel, a 38-room boutique hotel around the corner from the Gloucester Road underground station, which made getting around the city very easy. On our first outing, we emerged at Parliament Square to find hordes of people. What was happening? London was was waiting for Queen Elizabeth II to ride by on her way to Parliament as part of the Brexit discussions.  Like most tourists, we cued up for the Churchill war rooms and the next day at the Tower of London, with all its chilling history...
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What an honor!

By Awards and news, Community work
Wow, wow, wow! This year has been something else. And now I am delighted to share that the Richmond Times-Dispatch has included me alongside a number of other Richmond citizens, as an honoree for their Person of the Year! Every year, the newspaper selects servant-leaders and others who strengthen and highlight the Richmond region. Wow. I am delighted to share this space with so many wonderful people and am grateful to the Richmond Times-Dispatch for acknowledging my work. Meanwhile, I am off on a much needed vacation and will look forward to celebrating with everyone once I am back home! Until then, all my love.  
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Some titles for Hispanic Heritage Month

By Latino Life, What I'm Reading
Repeat after me:  "I will read works by Latinx authors throughout the year." It goes without saying that good books are good books - any time of the year. And yet, I know it's Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 through October 15. So, here's a quick look at a few hot-of-the-press works that I think you might want to pick up. Prev 1of7 Next Dancing Hands by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López (picture book, August 2019) The Gumazing Gum Girl: Book 4 Cover Blown by Rhode Montijo (chapter book, October 2019) Strange Birds:  A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia Pérez (middle grade, September 2019) The Fresh New Face of Griselda by Jennifer Torres  (middle grade, August 2019) Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya (middle grade, August 2019) The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Barcarcel (middle grade, August 2019) The Truth Is by NoNieqa Ramos (young adult, September 2019) For more great title ideas all year long (remember, you promised,) visit my go-to site for the latest in Latinx kid lit: Latinosinkidlit.com
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Travel like an author

By Appearances, Self-care, The Writing Life, Travel
It’s been eleven years since I started my life in publishing, and in that time, one of the biggest changes has been the amount of travel I do. There was a time in my life when I traveled for vacations – and most of those locations were within driving distance. Fast forward a decade, and now I’m often on the road every week, particularly during heavy conference times in the spring and fall. Between now and the end of November, I'll visit about a dozen cities. It’s joyous because of the interesting people I meet and the communities I get to learn about.  In 2020, for example, I'll go to Shanghai and Hawaii for author visits, places I could only have dreamed about earlier. But despite those plusses, business travel can also be a grind. Crowded airports, canceled flights, strange hotel rooms and time away from your family and routines are tough on the mind and body when you have to do it long-term. How to survive? I’ve invested in TSA Precheck to minimize the hassle of screening lines, and I can safely say that the cushy Delta Skylounge has been worth the investment for the free food and comfort that it provides when I've had it up-to-here on a frustrating travel day. But there are also smaller purchases I’ve made along the way that have made life easier. For all you bookish travelers out there, here’s my survival kit. Luggage Travel Pro Luggage* Invest in one good piece of...
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Let’s Go Write in the Woods

By Appearances, The Writing Life, Writing Workshops
How do we survive as people, as artists and as publishing professionals?  If you have three days in September, I’m extending an invitation to join me in the woods to figure it out. With the lovely Alison Green Myers who makes every Highlights Workshop amazing I will lead a workshop at the Highlights Foundation with illustrator Carolyn Dee Flores and art director Ellice Lee. If you’ve never been to this beautiful place, picture rolling hills and cabins, all the ice cream you can eat and a chance to think and write for three days with people who, like you, are working to become professional, self-sustaining writers. I’ve been to Highlights before, sometimes as a special guest, once as a writing fellow, other times leading workshops. Over the years, I’ve worked with all kinds of folks, from scholars trying to write academic papers on subjects no one was covering, to teachers, like Ernesto Cisneros, whose upcoming debut novel, Efrén Divided, we worked on together in two rocking chairs in front of his cabin. What we both remember most is his reaction to hearing his words read aloud for the first time, that moment when he thought he might actually see this through to publication. An evening reading from one of my past times at Highlights There are selfish motives for me, too. The truth is that while I’ve given advice, I’ve also received beautiful gifts of inspiration and practical help in return. For example, a few years ago Andi Michelson created a reusable Velcro...
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The National Book Festival

By National Book Festival, The Writing Life
Where will you be on Saturday, August 31st? If you're free and near Washington, DC, you should definitely head to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for the Library of Congress' 19th annual National Book Festival. And if you are so inclined and would like to help out, you can sign up to volunteer with the Library of Congress and support the event. While you are there, stop by the Politics & Prose sales booth where you'll see Merci Suárez Changes Gears representing Virginia on the Great Reads list. For more info, check out: Virginia Center for the Book.
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Scenes from L.A.

By Appearances, The Writing Life, Young Adult
I spent the last five days in glorious Southern California, and I came home to the exciting news that Merci Suarez Changes Gears is # 7 on the New York Times bestseller list. It's thrilling to see some renewed book love. Thank you to everyone who's been reading and sharing the novel. Anyway, I'm too jetlagged to write much, but here are some photos from the road. I love book people, plain and simple... With the fab librarian team at L.A. Public libraryThe LA Public Library is beautiful.You can't tell you're underground...The ceiling at LA Public Library main branch'memba these?Sample of a mural by Jose Ramirez at LA Public LibraryA love note from a LA library patronSigning on the patio at LA PublicJen Rofe's agenting family!Discovering new books!An adorable chapter book seriesI went to the Woodstock party. Here I am with Paul ZelinskiWith Raul III at the SCBWI Woodstock partySome of my dearest book friends: Lilliam Rivera, Renée Watson, Brandy ColbertWith Jenn Laughran, Linda Sue Park, Ruta Sepetys, and Cynthia Leitich SmithThis reader was excited to find her two favorite books in the same place.
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Heat waves, blackouts, and the beauty of a backlist as I hit the road to California

By Appearances, Middle Grade, Young Adult
I’m having déjà vu as I head to Los Angeles this week. The trip includes a library visit, the SCBWI conference, and a bookstore event to discuss one of my backlist titles that's eerily relevant this summer. Hugo on a reluctant summer walk July 2019 has been a roaster for most of us, no matter where we live. Almost 200 million people have been affected by record high temperatures in July and several deaths were blamed on the heat. Here in Richmond, Hugo – who is stuck in his black fur coat – has flat out refused to go farther than a block for his walk. This, from a dog who lives for them. But as I read about the 50,000 people who lost power in New York City last month, my mind wandered to how eerily similar it was to the summer of 1977, when 9 million people lost power in New York City for 25 hours. It happened during one of the worst heat waves on record, just like now, when even the night temperatures wouldn’t drop below the nineties. What followed in that overheated desperation was looting and arsons, a communal scream about all the ways the city was failing its residents back then. What I remember most of that year is that the heat was a mere backdrop for Son of Sam, a serial murderer who was still on the loose in the boroughs killing young women and their dates. The task force assigned to his capture was located in...
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Gardening with plants and words

By The Writing Life, writing advice
I don’t know exactly how I began to garden. It definitely wasn’t part of my childhood. I grew up in Flushing, Queens; the largest plot of green was city-owned Kissena Park. Besides, gardening always seemed like a rich, older lady pursuit, a pastime for people who ooh and ah over blue hydrangeas or roses. Definitely not me. But I’ve lived in Virginia for 20 years now, a state that brims with trees and flowers of every kind. Every season in Virginia is a feast for the eyes. It’s one of the things I have loved most about it here. Whenever I fly home after book travel, I feel so comforted when we circle all those acres of trees beneath me. It lets me know I’m home. Ready to get filthy I’ve come to understand that Richmond is a city that prides itself on its gardening chops. It boasts an award-winning botanical garden, for one thing. And every spring, like a lot of other places, fancy homes open their doors so that the rest of us can ooh and ah at their beautiful plantings. That’s to say nothing of the everyday beautiful yards you can see on a daily walk with your dog. My house isn’t one of those fancy spots, I’m sad to say. I don’t have a grand house, for starters. But that hasn’t kept me from getting out there and trying my hand at nature. Over the years, I have somehow warmed to digging in the dirt –...
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Summer reads on the airwaves in a city near you

By Appearances, Chapter Books, Middle Grade, Picture Books, What I'm Reading, Young Adult
So, I’ll be on a radio tour for the next couple of weeks, which I love, since it involves zero travel and lots of time to talk books. They’ve asked me to recommend a few summer reads, both older and new. Here’s the list of titles I’m drawing from. I won’t be able to talk about all of them every time, but I hope to plug each of them at some point. Check out the list of stations on my events page and tune in if you can! Picture Books A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero and illustrated by Zeke Peña Under My Hijab by Hena Khan and illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed and illustrated by Anoosha Syed  Chapter Books and Early Middle Grade A Boy Called Bat by Elana Arnold (other titles in series: Bat and the Waiting Game and Bat and the End of Everything) Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas by Juana Medina (other titles in series: Juana and Lucas) The Magnificent Mya Tibbs by Crystal Allen (other titles in series: Spirit Week Showdown and The Wall of Fame Game) Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon (four books in series; next installment this fall.) Middle Grade The Last-Last Day of Summer by Lamar Giles Silver Meadows Summer by Emma Otheguy The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden New Kid by Jerry Craft The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins by Gail Shepherd...
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Wimps and Winners: Getting Ready for This Week’s Award’s Ceremony

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life
This is the one week I've been thinking about for a while. First, I had a terrific weekend in Massachusetts. The first stop was with illustrator Angela Dominguez at Adventures in Storytelling, an event with the Girls Scouts Eastern Massachusetts Division. We joined forces with staff from Candlewick Press to give an inside look at how a book goes from an idea to the book you buy at your favorite indie. I also celebrated Father’s Day morning with readers at An Unlikely Story, the epic indie bookstore owned by Julie and Jeff Kinney, creator of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid empire. What a store!  Jeff was on his way to write in a cemetery for the day (as fathers do on special holidays?) but he stopped by to wish me luck before my event. His bookstore is easily the most beautiful indie I have seen so far in my travels. Every detail is lush and playful. See for yourself,  and put this on your to-be-visited list. Yes. A drum kit in the ceiling.Even the staircase is gorgeousA sound proof booth for phone meetings!a model of the wimpy kid Macy's parade floatJeff's desk on the second floorA super cafe insideView from across the street of An Unlikely StoryThe stage has great lighting, acoustics, and morewith owner Jeff Kinney Prev 1of12 Next Looking forward, though, the big news now is that we’ve arrived at the American Library Association’s Annual Meeting, where I’ll officially receive the Newbery medal. AGH! I'm in a...
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A Teachers’ Guide on steroids, in the best way possible.

By Discussion materials, middle grade, Schuyler VanValkenburg, Teachers' Guide, The Writing Life

Candlewick Press sent along their hot-off-the-press Teachers’ Guide for Merci Suárez Changes Gears. The former teacher inside me is going to gush here. It’s fabulous, and that’s because it’s written by a super-charged educator and reading coach. The questions and activities across the curriculum are smart and get the kids talking, thinking, and working on everything from Ancient Egypt to the social dynamics of their school. So I’m sending a big applause to Kellee Moye, a middle-school reading coach and teacher from Orlando, Florida. Kellee is the coauthor of the blog Unleashing Readers, a member of the 2016–2018 ALAN Board of Directors, a member of NCTE, ALAN, and ALA, the chair of the 2014 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award committee, and her school’s 2017–18 Teacher of the Year. Here it is as a pdf [ MerciSuárez_TG ]for you to download. Or you can follow the link at the top of the article. Either way, I think folks who’ll be using the book in their classrooms next fall will find something useful. OK, next stop… Massachusetts!

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Events! Events! Events! Join me in Las Vegas, New York City or Washington DC

By Appearances, Awards and news, middle grade, The Writing Life, young adult

I’ve recently had several glorious weeks filled with family, local friends, beautiful spring weather and time to write. It’s been wonderful. BUT, I will be hitting the road again soon and I so hope to see you in one of my upcoming events. If you’re near Las Vegas on May 29th and 30th, join Padma Venkatraman, Phil Bildner and me at the 2019 Summit on Teaching YA Literature at the University of Nevada. Next up, I’ll be jetting to New York City for this year’s ever-popular BookCon on June 1st! Join Tracey Baptiste, Soman Chainani, Raina Telgemeier and me for a conversation about the very best in middle grade. Soon after, I will be in the best company with my friends and well-respected authors Elizabeth Acevedo and Robin Benway for an evening conversation at Politics & Prose Bookstore at the Wharf. We’ll chat about our writing and how our personal experiences and recent awards have influenced our work. See you there? Check out my calendar of events for more details and other upcoming dates. Until then, I’ll have my head down working and enjoying my family and, of course, taking long walks with Hugo.    

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Celebrating my Newbery with Richmond peeps and Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

For several months now (and on into the rest of this year), I’ve had the pleasure of traveling all over the country to talk to teachers, librarians and students about my books, especially Merci Suárez Changes Gears. What I haven’t been able to do enough is celebrate the Newbery with my local friends and family in Richmond.  So, if you’re here in RVA or nearby, won’t you please join me and Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg on Saturday, May 25th at 11am at the lovely Libbie Mill Library?  I know it’s Memorial Day weekend, but I’d love to see you there before you head off to your barbeques so that we can have a chance to say hello. Bring along your copy of Merci and I’ll be happy to sign it for you! And my thanks to Delegate VanValkenburg for House Joint Resolution No. 934 and the honor of his commending resolution in the Virginia Legislature. It means so much to me for my work to be honored in such a way.  Location: Libbie Mill Library, 2100 Libbie Lake East St, Richmond, VA 23230 When:  Saturday, May 25, 2019 Time:  11 am Free and open to the public More info:  804 501-1940 Directions here

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Recording Gratitude

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

I took a ride downtown yesterday to In Your Ear Studios here in Richmond, VA, where I recorded my acceptance speech for the 2019 Newbery Award.  Hands down, this speech was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to shape into words.  How do you properly thank everyone who has helped you along the way and still make it bearable for the audience?   I’ll share the text when I’m allowed to. For now, though, know that I talked about… bikes and life and books.         

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Coming Up: Sunny California for the L.A. Times Festival of Books

By Appearances, middle grade, The Writing Life, young adult

Sunny California, here I come. I’m in town for this weekend’s LA Times Festival of Books and I couldn’t be more excited. Come say hello! Here’s where you can find me: On Sunday at 11am I’ll be on a YA panel with friends and fabulous authors Ibi Zoboi and Elizabeth Acevedo:  “Young Adult Fiction: Writing the Real World, Conversation 2101.” We’ll be in the very good hands of Claudette S. McLinn, as moderator, who is the executive director of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature. Later that day, I’ll “change gears” (ha!) and chat with three wonderful authors Marie Cruz, Karyn Parsons, and Lisa Ramee for the “Middle Grade Fiction: Grown Up Challenges” panel at 1:30pm. My friend and Hamline MFA colleague Brandi Colbert will be our moderator. Besides these panels, I can’t wait to meet up with fellow authors, librarians and, most of all, READERS! And, of course, enjoy some delicious California cuisine… See you there!

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San Antonio, Dr. Monica Muñoz Martinez, & historical erasure

By Appearances, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

I just spent a few days in Texas where I spoke at the San Antonio Book Festival, which is now in its seventh year. Bright  and early on the first session, I spoke with librarian Viki Ash about Merci Suárez Changes Gears. This time around, my husband came along, and we had a chance to do some sightseeing – a luxury that almost never occurs when I do author travel on a tight schedule. We visited the Riverwalk and the Tower of the Americas, which was just too tall for me, I’m sorry to say. We did catch an amazing storytelling event at The Moth as well as a cool laser light show that’s shown nightly for free at San Fernando Cathedral, a sort of 20-minute mini-history of the city. All in all, we ate too much good food and got well-earned blisters. But the thing that I wasn’t prepared for was a chance to wrestle with in-your-face historical erasure.  Javier and I visited the San Alamo Mission because, well it was down the block, and “Remember the Alamo”, and all that. But in walking the beautiful grounds and reading the placards describing the “heroic last stand” against 1,800 Mexican troops during the Texas Revolution in 1836, I wondered about all of the history that seemed missing, a bloody history that eventually led to the lynching of people of Mexican descent at the hands of the Texas Rangers and other authorities.

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A chat with Jennifer Laughran at a.k.a. Literaticast. Take a listen!

By Appearances, Awards and news, Latino Life, picture books, The Writing Life

Last week, I had the pleasure of chatting with literary agent Jennifer Laughran over on her podcast where she chats about all things kidlit with those of us in the industry. If you don’t subscribe, do so fast. Jennifer gathers publishing people from across the spectrum, so you get the benefit of understanding this business from multiple perspectives. For our segment, we talked about Merci Suárez and her family. We chatted about creativity and writing for kids of all ages. We touched on world-building in realistic fiction. I explained the importance of community for me especially in the world of social media. I made a few book recommendations, too, and of course, my dog and writing partner briefly joined the conversation. Happy Monday everyone!

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The Theme of Last Week: Video!

By Appearances, Awards and news, Community work, Film work, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life

I had the hair-raising experience of being on BuzzFeed live for their #AM2DM program. I followed Corey Booker, who had smart ideas but somehow couldn’t name the ingredients in a Margarita. (Really, hermano? All that political know-how aside, how is that possible?) Anyway, they were merciful and kept my comments to Merci Suárez Changes Gears. Here’s the link of the whole segment. It’s about five or six minutes, I think.

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Disco and Housing in St. Paul: A photojournal of my READ BRAVE trip

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life
5K copies of this book went to young people for free. Last stop at Central HS. One of St. Paul’s most famous writers, so naturally he has his own section at the main library. Charles Schultz lived in St. Paul, so Snoopy is everywhere! The beautiful materials the library distributed everywhere. These puppies cause roof damages if they get under the tiles, but they’re so pretty. Getting reading for a Facebook Live chat, plan B for the snow day. The Main Library is stunning. Just another day of moving the snow out of the way. Look at that pile! Minnesota pencils! Watch where you’re walking…Yikes! He adores libraries and community: Mayor Melvin Carter Well, we had a snow day that cancelled two of my school visits. My first stop for Read Brave in St. Paul. Look at those sweet faces. My crew from Hamline’s MFA program: Ari, me, Muddonah, Terry, and Dr. Mary Rockcastle With Mary Dubbs, of this year’s Newbery committee.
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Read Brave Write Brave: My upcoming visit to St. Paul

By Adult books, Appearances, Community work, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life

This week, I’m heading back to St. Paul, Minnesota (average temperature in February is 23.7 degrees F). This time I’ll be there for a community visit that has some unexpected ties right here to Virginia, where I live. Last year, St. Paul reached out to me with the big news that my 2016 YA novel, Burn Baby Burn, had been adopted as part of its community-wide read through a program called Read Brave.

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SCBWI winter conference time

By Appearances, The Writing Life, writing advice

I’m rushing to type this and then head to the airport for the SCBWI winter conference, where I’ll have the privilege of introducing some winners of this year’s Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Awards.   I’m thinking back on my own career as I get ready to take this trip. I’m considering all the ways that I learned the ropes of the publishing business and how this organization was part of that journey. No organization can provide you with everything, but my membership with SCBWI was a first important step for me. It was my declaration, I think, that I was a writer.

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It’s All a Blur: on winning the Newbery medal this week

By Awards and news

First of all, thank you everyone for the joy you shared with me all week. Your calls, tweets, messages, emails, flowers, and presents have been so generous and loving. I don’t know how to explain the feeling of having you all behind me in this experience. Book friends, librarians, old students, my kids’ friends, teachers, former colleagues from past careers, people at the gym, our dog trainer, relatives – the list goes on. I wish my arms were big enough to throw around you all.  All I can really say is thank you for making the experience of winning the Newbery medal truly unforgettable. I hope I do you proud this year.

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Want an early copy of Merci Suárez Changes Gears? Get to the National Book Festival

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Cooler weather, pansies, and pumpkin-everything are on my mind as we head into Labor Day weekend, but this year, I also have a new book. And while it has felt like a long year of nail biting, here we are. How do I handle all that pre-publication angst? Here’s a little clip. Say what you will, though, bookmarks are useful. And I didn’t lose my mind, just the pads on my fingertips! [wpvideo vy0XcJgf]

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I’ve Been Quiet Lately. Thinking.

By Random howls into the world

Straight up. It has been a tough summer. Three weeks ago, while I was on my annual beach vacation, my aunt, Tia Isa, collapsed.  Her legs had been weakening for a while, and now , at last, they stopped working just as she was being helped from the bathroom to her wheelchair. By the time I returned, she was also struggling with a deep cough I didn’t like. It rattled in her chest and made her wheeze. So, before I had unpacked a single thing, we drove to the hospital where we spent the next six days trying to stabilize her.

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What this writing life teaches me: Steinfirst Writer’s Residency at UNC

By Community work, Latino Life

June has been a busy month with Girls of Summer, followed by travel to Book Expo and the ALA annual conference, where I started introducing readers to my new middle grade novel, MERCI SUÁREZ CHANGES GEARS. The early reviews are strong (more on that when I can share), and so I’m hopeful that all is going to go well. But I had a chance to sit back and reflect on something else today that reminded me again why so many of us write for children and, why in the end, it’s a privilege to do this work. Last spring, I packed up my art supplies and laptop and had the pleasure of spending a whole week working with students at Carrboro Elementary School as a writer-in-residence through the University of North Carolina. I’m almost never gone from home for a full week, but this time, that was the deal. The truth is that it’s hard to be on the road sometimes and away from my own family. But librarian Elizabeth Porter, graduate assistant Melissa Ferens and these sweet, hand-picked kids made the trip one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had. I dream about these little ones and wonder what is ahead for them. I still miss them. The official video is below. Here, too, is the text of a draft of a poem written by “A,”one of my fourth grade girls. I’ve withheld the name to shield her privacy, but all of us who were there remember this powerful piece…

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Juune is Bustin’ Out All O-O-ver…

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I woke up this morning with that song in my head, which is horrible, but June is, in fact, looking exciting on my end. Here’s the news.   BEA AND BOOK CON I’ll be at Book Expo America and BookCon to introduce MERCI SUÁREZ CHANGES GEARS. Here are the highlights so we can cross paths: Children’s Breakfast, Friday, June 1, 2018 8 am, Javitz Special Events Hall I’ll share some of what went into crafting that novel at the fancy children’s breakfast with fellow panelists Jacqueline Woodson, Dave Eggers, Yuyi Morales, and Viola Davis. (Gulp.) Latinx BookExpo Party, Friday June 1, 6 – 8 PM, at La Biblioteca (622 3rd Avenue, between 40 and 41 St) If you want to decompress and surround yourself with friends and love, please join us for drinks, micro-readings, a raffle, and fun. It’s an event sponsored by Latinx in Publishing and Duende District books. Free, but you should register. ¡Vengan! Wonder Women panel (Saturday, June 2, Javits, Room 1E16; 3:45 PM.) Woot! Where are my tights? With Kate DiCamillo, Shannon Hale, T.R. Simon, and Jessica Spotswood The scoop on signings: Friday, June 1, 2018 Signing galleys of Merci Suárez Changes Gears   10 am – 11 am, Immediately following the breakfast (ABA member lounge) 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm, Candlewick booth # 2021 Saturday, June 2, 2018 10:15 am – 11:15 am (Autograph Area tables 7 & 8) with Shannon Hale, Kate DiCamillo, T.R. Simon and Jessica Spotswood. This is where you can get paperbacks of Burn Baby Burn…

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Register for the Live Dia Webcast at the Library of Congress

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

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. 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…

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From Harlem to Brooklyn: How I’m Celebrating Burn Baby Burn’s release in paperback

By Appearances, The Writing Life

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…

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#KidLitWomen: Money

By The Writing Life, writing advice

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. 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….

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Heads Up: Some Latinx-focused events in RVA

By Latino Life

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.   And a PS, you’ll have to hurry if you haven’t seen…

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The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary: An Interview with NoNi Ramos

By Guests, picture book, middle grade, YA, What I'm reading

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…

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The First Rule of Punk: A Guest Blog Post by Celia Pérez

By Guests

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…

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