Skip to main content
All Posts By

Meg Medina

I'm Meg Medina, author of libros for kids of all ages. I'm the 2019 Newbery medalist for Merci Suárez Changes Gears. I write strong girls, tough circumstances, and the connecting power of culture. Thanks for visiting my blog!

AppearancesThe Writing Life
March 20, 2012

The Hope Tree is Growing

Just a little update about The Hope Tree Project. (Details en español here.) Student artists are working out their answer to What is a dream you have for yourself or for our community? I got a sneak preview of their milagros thanks to Megan McConnell, art teacher at Meadowbrook High School, who brought a few to share at my book launch party for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind this past weekend. (Thanks, Megan!) I'm also happy to announce that the fabulous Latin Ballet of Virginia will be joining us for the launch on April 30 and will perform selections of Verde. This work celebrates nature, hopes and dreams. What could be more perfect? (And check out these costumes!) Let me know if you are interested in an invitation to the opening. Latin Ballet of Virginia, scenes from Verde Where I'll be next:    March 21, 2012: University of Richmond, Gotwald Science Center, 5:30 pm. Lecture, reception and  book signing. March 23, 2012: The Steward School 11600 Gayton Road, Henrico, VA, 9 am. International Day presentation March 28 - 30, 2012: National Latino Children's Literature Conference: University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. Presentation on YA and community building -- The Hope Tree Project!
AppearancesThe Writing Life
March 10, 2012

Another Reason to Love WriterHouse

I had a glorious day working at WriterHouse in Charlottesville. We ran short on time, but managed (I hope) to start sifting through some memories and figuring out how to reshape them for our work.  A sample: Gravel on the driveway -- and a long black car delivers a first look at The Terrible Grandmother. A boy stays out all night, shivering on the streets, too afraid to ring the doorbell. A hair-do that opens a child up to love. A girl plays innocently as her family waits for the train to leave their Nazi-occupied city. A mother and daughter try to make sense of an addiction. Trapped in a windowless building, a schoolgirl is lured by flowers blooming near the roof outside. Poets, journalists, children's book writers, aspiring authors. Thank you Bea,Sandy, Warrick, Bev, Doreen, and Connie.   Truly a wonderful day. Be fearless and let me know how your projects keep evolving. P.S. Shout out to James Madison Regional Library  -- this means you, David Plunkett -- for inviting me.
AppearancesThe Writing Life
March 7, 2012

The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind blog tour starts today

Just wanted to give you the heads up this morning. I'm on tour. Yep -- and I'm still in my pajamas as I'm telling you this. That's because it's a blog tour -- the single most author-friendly invention since the pencil. Eight YA bloggers have invited me to answer questions -- some serious, some funny -- about my novel, The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind. For me, it's a chance to channel my inner Where's Waldo without ever leaving my kitchen computer. I meet their readers, talk about my project, and get the word out in anticipation of the March 12 pub date. For the bloggers, it's a chance for fresh content and connections. For you, it's a chance to win stuff (sometimes) and get the scoop on what is behind the book you're reading. Today, you can catch me on Waste Paper Prose, where I did  a  v-log (video version) at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens here in Richmond, VA. Don't make fun of my hair in the last section. It was windy, okay? Visit at I hope you'll make time this week to stop in on these blogs and get to know some rabid book lovers. You can see the dates and stops on the skyscraper that I've posted in the sidebar to the right. A big thanks to:  Waste Paper Prose, Book Briefs,, The Book Cellar, Teen Reads, A Cupcake and a Latte, Joyousreads, and The Hispanic Reader. You're invited to Meg's book launch party for The…
Awards and newsThe Writing Life
March 6, 2012

Tía Isa Wants a Car wins the Ezra Jack Keats New Writers Award

I just saw the official press release announcing that I've won the Ezra Jack Keats New Writers Award for 2012 for my picture book. I'm still a little stunned, but very happy. This is an enormous honor, and I am so especially proud that it comes for a story that pays tribute to the valiant women in my family. Thank you to everyone who was involved in finding and sharing this story, those I know, like Gigi Amateau, Kate Fletcher, Jen Rofé, and Laura Rivas, and those who have been secret cheerleaders in far flung places. I'm sending you all muchos abrazos fuertes! Here is a little snippet from the release to tell you about the award: "Fifty years ago, Ezra's book The Snowy Day, which featured an African American child, broke the color barrier in mainstream children's book publishing when it was embraced by families across racial, economic and ethnic lines," said Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. "Like Ezra, this year's Book Award winners have, in their own way, celebrated the similarities—and differences—of people whose life experiences are dramatically varied." Since 1985, the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award has been awarded annually to an outstanding new writer and new illustrator of picture books for children (age 9 and under) by the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by the late Keats and dedicated to enhancing the love of reading and learning in all children. The Book Awards come to the de Grummond for the first time this year from…
AppearancesThe Writing Life
March 4, 2012

Shameless mining: A free workshop for VA writers

"Do you have my teeth?" That's what my mother asked me, her mouth caved-in like a dried apple, just as she was being wheeled into surgery last January. I shook her dentures in a plastic cup and chomped my own teeth clownishly, too terrified to say anything as her gurney disappeared into the operating room. Thankfully, those weren't the last words my mother would ever say to me. And as an added bonus, I get to keep that weird exchange in my brain for some future use in a novel or short story. Don't give me that look. Writers are opportunists when it comes to pearls of dialogue like that, and I'm no different. This one is already flagged under the label, "Dialogue, sub-heading Crazy shit people say.  What will I do with it? Who knows? It might find its way into a soul-searching look at helping my mother through illness, but it might take years for me to figure out how to tell that story. Besides, it would work just as well as a line for a hockey player to his girlfriend. Or an actor playing Dracula. Or...oh, I don't know. One thing is for sure, those. Those dentures are going to get immortalized one way or another. I bring this all up because this Saturday, March 10, I'll be leading a free writing workshop at WriterHouse in Charlottesville on how to take these million scraps of personal events and turn them into fiction -- especially fiction that captures culture and…
AppearancesAwards and newsLatino LifeThe Writing Life
February 24, 2012

The Hope Tree Project

There are all sorts of ways of launching a new book into the world. This time around I've decided to go big. I'll have my regular launch at the ever-fabulous bbgb tales for kids on March 17. But when The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind pubs next month, I'll have about 500 high school students to help me celebrate, too. That's because they're part of a project I'm working on in partnership with The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and eight area high schools here in Richmond. The Hope Tree Project is a connection of art, reading, and community building for young people - a good addition to the Virginia Commission of the Art's Minds Wide Open 2012 celebration of children and the arts. The students and their art or ESOL teachers have agreed to create Latin American ex votives -- or milagros -- that symbolize a hope or dream that they have for themselves or for the community. When they're done, we'll decorate five crape myrtle trees in the beautiful children's garden with their collective wishes. Milagros are part folk art and part religious votives in Latin America. The tiny charms are attached to statues of saints, to the walls of churches, or even to women's jewelry. Why? To ask for a favor or to thank a saint for help, of course. It's a connection of the sacred or mystical to every day needs. Not that this is new, of course. The ancient Romans made them, too, as did many…
The Writing Life
February 16, 2012

Wanted: Writers under 18

Just a newsflash for writers under 18:  Richmond Young Writers summer camp has opened registration.  Its got all the elements needed for a great time for the literary set:  a charming used bookstore, a cool part of town -- and Bird Cox and Valley Haggard at the helm. Here's the schedule. I'll be teaching July 25 during Julie Geen's Magical Creatures week. See you this summer!
The Writing Life
February 4, 2012

Have a short story you want to share?

A quickie - Just got news from Luisa Igloria, poet and director of  the MFA Creative Writing program at Old Dominion University. Barely South Review and ODU's Creative Writing program are partnering on an inaugural short story contest. The Norton Girault Literary Prize offers publication in Barely South Review and $1,000 for the top selection. Best of all, it is being judged by the fabulous Latina author Cristina Garcia. Here are the details:  Remember: it's a Feb 29 deadline. ¡Vamos! Dust off your mss, have courage and submit.
Awards and newsThe Writing Life
January 25, 2012

A Spot on the Amelia Bloomer Prize List

Today my whole day was brightened by finding out that Tía Isa Wants a Car won a spot on the 2012 Amelia Bloomer Prize list.  This is a list of best feminist books -- which I am so thrilled to say includes picture books for our youngest readers. Thank you to the committee for such an honor. Of all the happy things that have come my way as a result of this book, this is one that I am so proud of. Mil gracias, chicas...
Awards and newspicture book, middle grade, YAThe Writing Life
January 19, 2012

Charlotte Zolotow Award

A big thank you to the Charlotte Zolotow Prize committee for selecting Tía Isa Wants a Car as a highly commended book for 2011. I'm also happy to join in a standing ovation for this year's big winner, Patrick McDonnell, whose nifty picture book, Me … Jane is the 15th annual winner of the prize. The Charlotte Zolotow Award recognizes outstanding writing in a picture book. Thanks to Patrick's book, kids from birth to age seven can learn about the incredible life of Jane Goodall.
Adult booksLatino Life
December 19, 2011

When Wilbur Meets Noche Buena

The year my cousin Carlos turned 50, his wonderful wife, Adele, threw him a Latin- style yard party in June. By definition, that includes a roast suckling pig on the menu. She didn’t go all the way by digging a pit and roasting the pork in the yard. No, this little guy was delivered from Queens in aluminum foil. Still, that didn’t keep him from looking adorable (if grotesquely suntanned) with that apple in his mouth and his stitched up lids. And it didn’t keep my daughter – a life-long reader and Charlotte’s Web fan – from whispering “Wilbur” with more horror than if she’d been Fern Zuckerman herself. The result? She’s in college now, and not a shred of meat has passed her lips since that fateful day. ¡Que cosa mas grande! Especially at Christmas. Having no lechón (or as my Puerto Rican friends say, perníl) on Noche Buena is a travesty. Slapping down a piece of dill salmon is just not the same. The Christmas meal for Cubans is as traditional as turkey on American Thanksgiving. We eat roast pork, black beans over white rice, fried bananas, and yucca. For dessert we serve Spanish turrones (almond candies) and flan (recipe on my Oct 10 post). We also keep Pepcid handy. Sure, we’ve learned to add things around this menu – especially since most of us live in culturally blended families by now. But whether apple pie sits next to your frijoles or not -- if you have a…
The Writing Life
December 7, 2011

Trailer for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind

Okay, friends. Steven Spielberg has been in town shooting for his Abe Lincoln film. Unfortunately, that means he's been too busy to make my book trailer. Ha! So, instead, I offer you my humble, homemade effort. The Girl who Could Silence the Wind, is my young adult novel due from Candlewick in March 2012. I'm so excited to see this project finally come together. Of all my  novels, this is the one that I wrote and re-wrote to the point that I almost lost hope. But here it is -- at last! If you're curious about how to make one of these mini-movie ads for your own book projects, here's how to get started on a Mac, using i-Movie or Garage Band. I recommend contacting Chris Cheng at SCBWI Australia for the specific, step-by-step directions on how to turn your laptop MAC into your own movie studio. (He gave a very worthwhile session at SCBWI a couple of years ago.) In a nutshell, I did this one by creating a Keynote slide presentation (just like Powerpoint, really.) I exported  the slide show to QuickTime and then used the movie as the movie track in a Garage Band podcast. For sound effects and music, I browsed the library available on Garage Band. All in all, not fancy, pero bueno, it was pretty fun. Thanks for watching, and please share this trailer with all your reading friends. Con muchos cariños Meg
The Writing Life
December 6, 2011

Beloved Little Blogs

I had stopped by his roadside stand in Florida to admire the potted bougainvilleas. Their color caught my eye. Mine at home were skimpy on blooms despite fertilizers.“What’s the secret?” I asked the guy, dazzled. “Plants are like beautiful women,” he explained in Spanish. "You have to neglect them a little to make them want to show themselves to you.” Don’t worry. I didn’t buy a single plant from that imbecile. Still, all these years later, I realize his silly theory might work just fine for blogs. That’s because Marci Rich, blogger at Midlife Second Wife, selected my very often-neglected blog as one of her nominees for the Liebster Award. As far as I can tell, the Liebster is a love note-meets-chain-letter  for blogs. In getting this award, my blog was cheered on by Marci as one of her small time favorites (fewer than 200 followers) – and (best part) I get to pay it forward and pick 3 - 5 of my own favorite small blogs to announce. Like a lot of us, I read the larger blogs. A friend recently pointed me to Jane Friedman's Being Human at Electric Speed, which is wonderful for writers. I also love Being Latino and Bicultural Mom, mostly for all the inside jokes and experiences that are shared. But this award is for the bitty blogs. So, first and foremost, a big thanks to Marci Rich, for reading my blog and nominating it. And now….¡Atención señores! My favorites: Gail Shepherd; Paradoxy  Gail Shepherd and…
picture book, middle grade, YAWhat I'm reading
December 2, 2011

My December reading list

I did some holiday shopping today, but to treat myself kindly (and to avoid becoming a lunatic by Noche Buena), I made a pit stop at my favorite public library. That's the Tuckahoe Area library in Henrico, VA, where the librarians make me feel like family and don't mind walking me around to the different shelves like a lost puppy. These days I'm on the hunt for books at every age group that really dazzle me for their appeal for girls. (All suggestions welcome.) You might remember that I'm half the brains behind Girls of Summer with my friend, Gigi Amateau. We are spending this winter and spring discovering new writers and dreaming of what will make our Must Reads for 2012. Vicky Smith at Kirkus recently posted a nifty list of best books for 2011, so naturally I got curious. Very helpful, as it's divided by categories. I picked up Inside and Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai and The Fires Beneath the Sea by Lydia Millet on her recommendation. Then, because I'm a browser, I grabbed How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr (Nat'l Book Award finalist for Story of a Girl) and Mary Hooper's Fallen Grace, which the Times of London compared to Philip Pullman's work on Victorian life. Finally, I took a drive to my closest indie bookstore, bbgb, where a team of design "elves" were making snowflakes and other store decorations. I picked up Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. If you follow Shelf Awareness, you know…
The Writing Life
November 14, 2011

Why Writers Should Run Away

I never outgrew my fantasies of running away from home. When I was little, I wanted to leave Queens and live on a tropical island instead. Later as a teen, I imagined the pleasure of ditching my mother and renting an apartment of my very own in Manhattan. These days, I fantasize about living in Italy for a year. You know, eating, writing, drinking, writing, pedaling my bike through the hillside with a loaf of bread in the wire basket. Sweet fantasies one and all. In all these years, though, I've never managed to escape the way I hoped. One thing or another (life? money? my lack of nerve?) always seemed to get in the way. But things are finally looking up, if on a modest scale.  On the spur of the moment, four friends and I -- all writers -- are heading to the gorgeous mountains of Virginia. The Porches is a rambling 1854 farmhouse on the James River run by authors Bill and Trudy Hale. It offers gorgeous grounds,  a private room, walking trails, WiFi, and a communal kitchen. That, and utter respect for a writer's work. Our group's mission:  three full days of writing, interrupted only by evening meals and (if one of us has her way) cocktails by the fire. "Pack warm socks," a friend told me. "And be prepared. You won't want to leave. Ever." I don't know why it's taken me this long to do something so simple and healthy as going on a writer's retreat. I…
picture book, middle grade, YAWhat I'm reading
November 7, 2011

My Favorite Book This Year: A Monster Calls

I love so many books, it's usually impossible for me to say that I love one more than another. It's the mother spirit in me, wanting to love them all in some special way. But all that changed this morning when I finished reading A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (Candlewick Press, 2011). The chilling illustrations by Jim Kay, the balance of tenderness and rage, the magical realism  -- I can't heap enough praise on this work about a boy visited by a monster during the final days of his mother's illness. Even more awe-inspiring is the fact that Patrick Ness was asked to complete a story idea first proposed by Siobhan Dowd, the human rights activist who lost her own battle to cancer in 2007, shortly after her spectacular debut novel, A Swift Pure Joy, was published. Let me just say this: I started reading this gem Saturday, while I was manning a volunteer table at a school function, and it took no time to go deaf to the world around me. Sunday morning before the sun had even come up, I ignored the chance for an extra hour of sleep and reached in the darkness for the book. A parent and child having to let each other go too early is, in fact, a monstrous event. To me, Patrick got it exactly right in this magical book, and as frightening as it is to follow a tale of a boy's grief, it is a beautiful and resonant story.
The Writing Life
November 2, 2011

Gifts for Book Geeks Like Us

It's nearly holiday time, and that means that biblio-geeks all over Richmond and beyond will get lots of bookstore giftcards in our stockings. Not that I mind getting a lump of money to spend on books. (Keep it coming!) It's just that I found another cool alternative right under my nose at ArtWorks Studios in Richmond. Lorraine Hoff Meade works around the corner from the JRW offices. She's a mosaic artist, but at heart, she's a geek, too. Exhibit A:  Twice a month she runs the Richmond Scrabble Meet Up Group, a 280-member organization made up of people who know (and care about) how to get Triple Word glory out of words like qua (adv. meaning "in the function of.") When she's not playing Scrabble, she's playing with Scrabble. Her studio is filled with wordy gifts from as little at $10, everything from coasters made from Scrabble boards, to Scrabble tile wine-charms, trivets, and mirrors. I already have a wish list taped to my husband's shaving mirror. Lorraine makes other lovely mosaic pieces, too, but I'm blinded by vocabulary love. What can I say? But here's the thing. All those tiles have to come from somewhere and Hasbro is prickly. (They tried to shut down online Scrabbulous a couple of years ago. Seriously.) So, for now, Lorraine works from cast-offs. If you have old Scrabble games, donate them to a good, artistic/literary cause. Mail to: Mosaique Creations/ 320 Hul Street/Studio 151/ Richmond, VA 23224. And don't worry: she'll deal with old…
picture book, middle grade, YAThe Writing Life
October 24, 2011

For my Holladay ES Peeps

So fun to visit Holladay ES this morning. They've been reading MILAGROS in the fourth grade and also TIA ISA in the second grade.  We ran out of time for questions, so as promised, I'm answering here. From grade 2: How did you get to be so good at writing? Practice, practice, and more practice. I took lots of writing classes in high school and in college. Even today, I will take a writing class to learn how to tell a story better. Best of all, I have a writing group where I share my work with author friends and get their advice.   How do you go about writing a book? I usually start with a good character who has one big problem to solve -- but that's all I know. I write for a few hours every day, and I always start my day by fixing what I wrote the day before. (Sometimes that means I throw it all out and start that work again!) Slowly, slowly -- chapter by chapter -- the story starts to take shape. One secret is that I usually rewrite the first chapter after I've finished writing the whole book. Why? I like the first chapter to give a good hint about everything that is going to happen in the rest of the book.  Since I don't know what's going to happen until the book is done, I have to go back and redo it.  What was your favorite book when you were…
The Writing Life
October 17, 2011

A Day at Marie Reed Elementary School

Last Thursday, I trekked up to DC to spend a day at Marie Reed Elementary School in Adams Morgan. Four years into my life as a published author and I've realized that I'd rather do a thousand school visits than a book signing, which for me are often skimpy on attendance. There's something about being around little people with no teeth that is much more satisfying. Marie Reed is a lovely school, if a little oddly appointed. (Partitions offer a reminder of the open education experiment of the 1960s.) Truly, if Christine Reuss, my host, hadn't been with me, I would never have found my way around. There's a surprise around every corner. They have a garden that Michelle Obama planted to help them attract butterflies, and they have murals of the late salsa goddess Celia Cruz (¡azucar!) and Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor. The auditorium is an amphitheater. What I loved most about this little gem of a school, though, is that it offers both an English only and a dual language curriculum. This seems so much more sensible to me than trying to teach a language in middle school, when we all know that their tongues go thick and their courage, thin. To see an Asian kindergarten student rattling off “Asi Baila Juanito” like a native is about the loveliest thing I can imagine. I read to the students, told them about how I wrote Tia Isa Wants a Car and Milagros.Then I listened to their songs and dances,…
Latino LifeThe Writing Life
October 10, 2011

Sweet Endings

Whew!  We just finished the JRW Conference - two amazing days of friendship, good writing, and inspiration. My own high points were being on a panel with fabulous children's book authors Kathi Appelt and Troy Howell. Mermaids, dragons, revision, writing across age groups - we chatted about all of it.  I also reconnected with poetry thanks to Hermine Pinson, whose wisdom and calm drew me in completely. This year, the conference ended with a hilarious, nail-biting session of Pitchapalooza, where authors had a mic and 1 minute to pitch their novels to an agent panel. Two hundred people doing belly laughs and erupting into applause is a wonderful thing to experience. I was actually sad to see the conference end. But speaking of endings... We're also getting to the end of Hispanic Heritage Month. I've been sharing recipes this month, so how about a sweet ending to our meals, too. Today, amigos, I bring you my flan recipe. Ingredientes 4 eggs 1 c whole milk 1 can evaporated milk 1 can condensed milk 1 tsp vanilla 2 cups of sugar (divide into 1/2 cup and 1 1/2 cups) Instrucciones Heat oven to 350 degrees In a pan, melt 1 1/2 cups of sugar. It will take about 5 - 7 minutes over medium heat. You want to stop at a light brown liquid. Remove from heat as soon as the last of the sugar dissolves. Pour into a bundt pan and coat all sides. In a blender:  eggs, all three milks, 1/2 c…
The Writing Life
October 5, 2011

Support writers in the next 36 hours

Hi friends! If you are a writer, if you love one, or if you ever wanted to be a writer, please listen up. You have 36 hours to show some serious love for the readers and writers who live in Virginia. I'm a children's book author, I live in Richmond, and I'm a proud  member (and employee) of James River Writers, a non profit dedicated to the literary arts. For almost ten years, we've been building a community that values books, ideas and expression because we believe that an interesting city has writers - lots of them. This year JRW is part of The Amazing Raise,  a 36-hour on line giving event run through the Community Foundation. We're one of 350 area non profits  "racing" for donations -- and for the insane cash prizes that the foundation has dreamed up for us.  Take the Night Owl prize, for instance. $1,000 goes to the organization that gets the most donations between 2 am and 5 am. See? There are all sorts of perks, but this year's grand prize is $10K from the Foundation. For the record: If JRW wins, we plan to fund all our youth writing programs the way we have always dreamed of doing. I've made my donation, but I'm only one person. I need lots of partners on this one. If you've enjoyed my books, please consider helping me out by donating to JRW Oct 5 and 6. Click here to help.
Adult booksLatino Lifepicture book, middle grade, YAThe Writing LifeWhat I'm reading
September 27, 2011

Latino reads for you

Last Saturday I did a Hispanic Heritage presentation at Richmond's Fountain Bookstore. Here is the list a couple of you have asked for. These are some of my favorite Latino reads, oldies and new releases, from picture books to adults. I could list dozens more, but here is a start. Feel free to add recommendations in the comments section. (P.S. Fountain had most of these titles on their shelves, so give them a call.) Picture books  Los Gatos Black on Halloween by Marisa Montes and Yuyi Morales A poetic spanglish romp on Halloween night. Gorgeous illustrations. Fantastic bilingual vocabulary and La Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha Vamos A farm maiden decides to make arroz con leche – rice pudding. Energetic, bilingual vocabulary, gorgeous illustrations. Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, by Carmen Agra Deedy Carmen is a storyteller of Cuban origins. Also the author of Growing Up Cuban in Decatur Georgia. This is a classic folktale about how to find the right mate in life. The illustrations are gorgeous and the text gets at kids funny bone. My Name is Gabriela by Monica Brown Brown presents a beautiful bilingual biography of Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral. In 1945, Mistral became the first Latin American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for literature. Middle Grade  The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan and Peter Sis This middle grade novel is about the early life of poet Pablo Neruda. It is written in a style that parallels Neruda’s THE…
Latino Life
September 25, 2011

Moors and Christians

Our foodie celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month continues... ¡Ay  frijolito negro! No Cuban kitchen is without black beans of some kind. You can serve  them as soup, thicken and pour them over white rice, can make moros con cristianos -- Moors and Christians. The name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Arab influence in Spain. In our house, we serve this dish at major holidays -- including Thanksgiving. Ingredientes bag of dry Goya black beans 3 C white long grain rice (Tío Ben brand is our favorite) 1 onion, finely chopped 1 green pepper, finely chopped 3 cloves garlic, crushed 6 strips of bacon 2 bay leaves 1 T oregano salt 1 envelope of Sazón Accent sin Achote or 1/2 tsp of cumin a couple of splashes of red wine vinegar Pressure cooker or large pot Instrucciones Inspect and rinse bag of beans in a colander. Fry bacon strips and crumble. Remove from pan. Sautee vegetables in remaining bacon oil until onions are transparent. (Sorry cardiologists!) In a pressure cooker place rinsed beans, sauteed vegetables, vinegar, and 6 cups of water. Cover and pressure cook for 20 minutes after the steam starts spouting. When 20 minutes are up, remove cooker from stove and put it in the sink. Run cool water over the lid until the steam stops completely and it is safe to open. (If you don't have a pressure cooker (!que pena, chica!), simmer this mixture covered in your pot until the beans are soft but not mushy...maybe an…
Latino Lifepicture book, middle grade, YAThe Writing Life
September 19, 2011

Indi Love

The Southern Independent Booksellers Association conference was this weekend in Charleston, SC -- four days of food, free books, and figuring out how on to help independent bookstores duel with Amazon, electronic books, and big box sellers. Un-Chain America is the basic battle cry -- and they mean it. Some highlights from #SIBA11: ~First 180 Days Celebration, a sort of meet-and-greet for the booksellers and authors whose books came out in the first half of 2011. As someone who has had her share of quiet book signings, it was nice to have a line of rabid book lovers waiting for a copy of my book. ~The Exhibition Hall: Booksellers who dress in costume! Charms from The Hunger Games. And my favorite find: “A Little Can of Whoop Ass,” which I plan to purchase and put into use right away. (You have been warned.) ~I met fellow Candlewick author Allan Wolf, whose book The Watch That Ends the Night, follows the story (in verse) of an undertaker who came to attend to the dead on the Titanic. Look for it next month. ~I got a present: my very own necklace made from the cover image of Tía Isa Wants a Car. It’s made by All Things Small Pendants, and I plan to wear it proudly. ¡Muchisimas gracias! ~I slipped into the panel discussion called Not Your Mama’s Teen Reads, a fantastic YA panel of Simon & Schuster authors, moderated by Richmond’s own Kelly Justice, owner of Fountain Bookstore. The panelists included Ellen…
Latino LifeThe Writing Life
September 10, 2011

Eating Old Clothes

Many thanks to the folks at Tuckahoe Library for a great time today. And congratulations to first grader Zack S. who won a free author visit for Ridge Elementary School! Okay - our culinary celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month continues. From my kitchen to yours, I bring you my recipe for Old Clothes --aka Ropa Vieja. Don't worry; it tastes much better than it sounds. Ingredientes flank or skirt steak 3 whole cloves of garlic onion (quartered) 1 carrot cut up in large chunks tomato (seeded and quartered) 6 cups of water small red pepper, cored, seeded, thinly sliced small green pepper, cored, seeded, thinly sliced 2 crushed cloves of garlic 1 onion thinly sliced olive oil 3/4 cup tomato puree 3/4 c red wine salt and pepper cumin In a big pot, put your meat, water, quartered onion, carrots, tomato and whole garlic cloves. Bring to boil and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes - 1 hour. Latin cooks often use a pressure cooker to reduce time (about 20 minutes total pressure time), but so many of my Anglo friends don't even OWN a "Presto" that I'm going to tell you the long way. When the meat is done, remove it from the pan and shred it with two forks. The pieces should be thin. In a pan, heat olive oil (enough to coat bottom). Add garlic and sliced peppers and onions. Cook until the vegetables are soft. Add tomato puree and cook another 5 minutes. Add the wine and…
Latino LifeThe Writing Life
September 5, 2011

It’s Hispanic Heritage Month. Let’s eat!

September ushers in the strangely straddled Hispanic Heritage month (Sept 15 – Oct. 15). I'll be doing lots of appearances around town to celebrate, but this month I thought I'd share some Latin magic through my kitchen. Here’s Arroz con Pollo - chicken and yellow rice. It’s one of those dishes that every Latin cook aspires to make well, the kind women fight about and secretly criticize behind each other’s backs. There are a million recipes, but here’s mine. Ingredientes Olive oil (about 5 T) 1 whole chicken cut up or (better) a collection of thighs and legs 2 T red wine vinegar 1 T dried oregano ½ pound medium grain white rice 1 small red pepper, finely chopped 1 small onion, finely chopped 3 cloves of garlic mashed 1 small tomato, seeded and chopped ¼ cup pimento-stuffed olives (I cut these in half) 1 T tomato paste 1 beer 2 ½ c water 1 c white cooking wine salt to taste Also, the following spices you’ll have to borrow from me or pick up at the International Food aisle: Bijol Sazón Accent con azafrán (comes in a box) Instrucciones: You’ll need a pot that’s not too deep. I have a nifty pan for this, see? It’s large, but a little shallow. A dutch oven works fine, too. Put your chicken pieces, vinegar, salt and oregano in a gallon-size ziplock bag. Squish around to coat. Let marinate for at least an hour. Pat each piece dry. Using half your olive oil,…
Random howls into the worldThe Writing Life
August 30, 2011

A Random Howl: Is writing for children “really writing?”

Okay, friends. Earthquakes, hurricanes, book deadlines, sending a kid off to college: It has all hit me in the last month. I  hope you'll forgive my silence on this blog.This morning, I'm just going to post a quick Random Howl. I do this kind of post from time to time when faced with inexplicably ludicrous moments that happen in every writer's life.Recently I was toying with the idea of applying for an Artist Fellowship Award in fiction. (That's not the ludicrous part, although some could argue otherwise.) Only four fellowships of $5,000 are awarded in my state, so the chances were to be very slim. Virginia, I'm proud to say, has no lack of exceptional writers who live and work here. Still, according to the arts commission's web site, the fellowship application process is "open to Virginia-based writers of fiction." Why not try? I reasoned.Turns out, I needn't have bothered. When I called the commission to check on the grant details, they confirmed what I had already suspected. The award is geared for writers of adult work. Interestingly, I could find nothing in the application itself that would not apply to a children's book writer, most certainly to anyone who writes YA. This is all especially disappointing as Virginia continues its Minds Wide Open celebration for 2012: Children and the Arts. I love our arts commission. They support lots of programs that would flounder without them, and they have to fight for survival in the General Assembly every year.But still I have to ask:…
The Writing Life
August 10, 2011

What a tough book can teach you

Well, we're back from the beach and feeling rested in a way that only a seaside vacation can provide. But this year, instead of coming home and feeling gloomy, I had a present waiting for me from my fabulous editor, Kate Fletcher. Ta-da! The galleys for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind due out in March. I started writing this novel a few years ago, thinking it would be the story of  a girl named Sonia, a seasonal crab worker on Virginia's Eastern Shore. Originally, the title was Jaibera - which means "crab girl" in Spanish. If you know anything about crab picking, you know it's hard and dangerous work. The young women who pick crab these days are increasingly from other countries. They come to feed their families, but they miss home --  and they're vulnerable. My early manuscripts were met with very mixed results, and the truth is that I almost gave up on this book many times. Was it an adult book or YA? What was most exciting -- her life at home in her own country or her life here? And what about that little taxi-boy, Pancho, who kept snagging my attention? Was romance going to be part of this story? I think every book teaches the author something new. My first novel taught me to dare to be a writer. My picture book taught me to try new forms. This novel taught me to be fearless in revision and to have faith that a solution…
picture book, middle grade, YAThe Writing Life
July 24, 2011

A Back Porch Chat with Writers

What are you doing Thursday night? If you’re anywhere near Central Virginia, I’m inviting you to a back porch chat with five authors – all of whom care passionately for strong girls who read.  This is a relaxed night for girls, parents, librarians, and teachers to talk about how books help girls make sense of the world. We'll look at strong girls and the lessons we've learned along the way about raising them, loving them, and writing for them. If you’ve had a chance to visit Girls of Summer, you know we’ve been posting new Q & A's with the fantastic authors who grace our list. Now, it’s time to meet some of them in person. Please help us welcome: Steve Watkins, What Comes After Valerie O Patterson, The Other Side of Blue Rebecca Lauren, poet, women’s studies professor, and author of In the Fifth Grade Locker Room (special guest) Kaylan Adair, editor at Candlewick Press And  of course, your hosts Gigi Amateau and me. To sweeten the pot, we're raffling off a complete set of the 18 titles on the Girls of Summer reading list. Feeling lucky? See you then! JRW Writing Show July 28, 6:30 pm, Children’s Museum of Richmond Tickets $10 in advance at
Random howls into the worldThe Writing Life
July 18, 2011

Living la vida loca

I haven’t written in more than a week, but that’s because my life has sped up like a Toyota with a stuck gas pedal. It’s hard to complain, though. My days are crammed with things I love. The Girls of Summer Q & As are coming in. I hope you caught Cathryn Clinton this week -- and Jacqueline Woodson before that. (Every Friday, a new author answers our questions, so stay tuned.) I’ve been corresponding with students who are working with author (and professional gummie bear eater) Wendy Shang in northern Virginia, and my own summer residency with the Latino Education Advancement Program wrapped up. Here's Freddie's piece so you can see why I love this group. ESL had just finished, and I jostled my way towards the lunch line. Passing by the fifth grade hallways, I was hoping to be as big and smart as they were one day. I got in the cafeteria line and as usual, the cafeteria cashier smiled and said, “Have a good lunch, my little tootsie roll.” I went to the table where my class sat and talked to my friends: Tyler, Patterson, Michael, Michael, and Conner Lugio.  As we swapped our lunches, I had to crush my napkin because my mom left me a note saying she loved me. Although it was in Spanish and my friends could not read it, it was still embarrassing.   It was halfway through lunch when I saw her: Alexa.  She had blonde hair and green eyes, and…
Adult bookspicture book, middle grade, YAThe Writing LifeWhat I'm reading
July 8, 2011

Dream author interviews and other news

Happy Friday! Red-letter day for the  Girls of Summer site.  As you know, GOS is a curated reading list that I compiled with the ever-fabulous Gigi Amateau. It is 18 of our favorite books for strong girls. We launched a week ago, and the response has been terrific. Thanks to all of you who have visited and sent sweet emails. But what makes today great is that we add our new Q & A feature. Our fist interview is with Jacqueline Woodson, winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, the Newbery Honor, the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement, the National Book Award --- do I have to go on? Jacqueline was a headliner at last year’s James River Writer’s conference here in Richmond, where I had the pleasure of getting to hear her insights on writing.   I hope you’ll check in today -- and every Friday for a new author interview. Together these authors offer the most empowering images of young women today.  Please continue to spread the word, visit each week, and leave comments. In other news, I’ve been spending a few mornings a week working with my LEAP students at the Steward School. There never seems to be enough time with them, but maybe every teacher feels that way. We’ll be wrapping up our writing and photography work next week. ¡Ay, Chihuahua! There is a lot to do! I’ll be sure to post some of the final projects when I get their permission. Let’s see…stuff I’m reading: …
The Writing Life
June 26, 2011

Four Days as a Kid’s Book Radical: CHLA

I’m just back from four days at the Children’s Literature Association’s conference. This year's theme? Change and Insurrection in Children's Literature. The conference was held at Hollins University. For me that meant a three-hour ride through some of the most beautiful countryside in Virginia. Scholars of children’s literature from universities across the world came to present papers and debate ideas about books for kids.  I sat in on sessions about apocalyptic heroines and the use of music as a catalyst in YA literature; on racial whitewashing in The Babysitters Club and “kick-ass slayers and teen terminators;” on gendered portrayals; on how Maurice Sendak tackled taboo. Often, it made my brain hurt the way a good workout reduces my muscles to Jello. Here are a few other reasons I’m so glad I got invited. Steve Withrow’s documentary The Library of the Early Mind. Steve is a children’s book author and now a film producer. His documentary is a collection of the big names in children’s literature – authors, influential critics, librarians -- talking about the books that are on everyone's shelves. It is by turns informative, heartbreaking and hilarious. (Yes, Lemony Snickett is just as over-the-top in real life). I hope this movie gets shown everywhere and that it finds its way to PBS because it’s fantastic. Beyond the absolute “cool factor” of seeing what each author looks and sounds like – it’s an intriguing look at why and how writers compose.  Here’s a peek at his trailer. A beautiful exhibit on…
Random howls into the world
June 22, 2011

Where do YOU come from?

Today I started my annual volunteer work at a place that I will never stop helping. The Latino Education Advancement Program (LEAP) is housed at the Steward School, one of those blindingly beautiful independent schools here in Virigina. The program serves about fifty Latino middle and high school youth from all over the Richmond area. It's free thanks to the dogged efforts of Program Director Melanie Rodriguez and Head Master Ken Seward, who cobble together deals with a whole range of small and large funders.  (I'm grateful to James River Writers for being among them.) The result is four weeks of classes that prepare Latino kids to take more challenging classes in their own high schools, which in turn, opens doors for them when it's time to pick colleges and beyond. None of that is why I show up every summer. I go because I think that Latino kids need the tools to find and tell our story. For all the ways this country has embraced  JLo, Pitbull, Sophia Vergara, and even zumba, you can't get away from all the negative messages about Latinos in the media, images our youth soak up before they can even name their shame. Scan the newspaper and see what you find. "Illegal aliens" blamed for starting fires in Arizona. Graphic stories of drug wars in Mexico s[illing across our borders. Gang violence in DC. Drop out rates. Job stealing (whatever that means). The list goes on, ignoring, of course, the story of most Latinos in this country,…
The Writing Life
June 13, 2011

Tips on book launches

This past weekend I celebrated two important milestones: my birthday and the launch of my new picture book. I love birthdays, even though the numbers are getting uncomfortably high. Books signings and launches? Hmmmm. I'm still new enough on the block that I get really excited -- and then paralyzed by fear -- at the thought of these events. The thought of an empty bookstore is my most gruesome professional fear beyond (1) developing a terminal case writer's block, and (2) earning bad reviews from places I respect. Luckily, I was spared this time. In fact, I had a great launch that left me feeling grateful for the many blessings I've received as a writer. So, by way of sharing helping writers who are getting started, here's what I learned. Pick a sensible launch spot: Richmond has many big box and fantastic independent bookstores. I chose the magical bbgb tales for kids. It's  a tiny bookstore with a huge heart, loyal customers, and the kind of personal attention that I need to feel comfortable. Jill, Janessa, Diane, and Juliana love kids, love good books for kids, and they have a creative spirit that I admire. The shop was just the right size for me since I'm a mid-list author right now who needs a cozy spot to fill. You can see  the detail they put into my welcome signs,  the window display, and the refreshments. Plan early: I started my conversation with bbgb about three months out. We decided that 2…
The Writing Life
June 1, 2011

Girls of Summer

It’s nearly 100 degrees in Richmond, and my air conditioner is broken. It’s going to take a lot to make me happy this week, folks. So, thank God for a project I’ve been working on with my friend and fellow Candlewick author, Gigi Amateau.  It’s called Girls of Summer, and it’s our own answer to those official summer reading lists that used to suck the joy out of reading for both of us. How we kept reading, we'll never know. If you’re not familiar with our stuff, you should know that Gigi and I both write about strong girls. Hers are southern, mine Latina – but we write about tough cookies, and it turns out, those are the same the world over. This summer, as our own beautiful daughters are graduating from high school, we’ve decided to celebrate girl power through the thing we love most: writing. Here’s a little taste of what we have in mind via a Mac-made trailer. (Thank you Chris Cheng at SCBWI for teaching me how!) But you'll have to be patient. We're still putting the finishing touches on things. In the next few weeks, we’ll roll out the blog with our selections and why we like them. We hope you'll comment, read interviews with the authors and enjoy hearing snippets of work. Then on July 28, 2011 we’ll feature the list as part of James River Writers’ July Writing Show in Richmond, VA.  You'll be able to hang out with librarians, teachers, kids, and writers -- and…
May 25, 2011

Bound books here at last!

Just a quick note:  My box of books arrived today! I was all misty eyed when the delivery guy brought them to my stoop. And, here's the correct link for the review of Tía Isa Wants a Car in PW. Sorry if you had to fish around for the info with the old link. Finally, hope you can come to the book launch at bbgb tales for kids on June 11, 1 - 3 pm or, later in the month, to an arts-crafts-and-reading activity June 26 at Barnes & Noble (Short Pump) 2 pm. Check out events page for other dates.
The Writing Life
May 23, 2011

If you could write to your teen self, what would you say?

I once knew a guy in Florida who made a living diving in alligator-infested canals to retrieve golf balls. His name is forgotten, but I remember his permanently sunburned skin and his eyes, shimmery as bottle glass.  I never could decide whether he was an environmental hero (what do you think happens to all those lousy golf shots on the green?) or just one sick puppy. All these years later, though, it’s that barefoot giant I remember when I have to write things that feel scary.  Turns out, writing sometimes requires submerging into mucky, monster-infested waters, too. Take this week, for instance. My piece appears in Dear Teen Me, a project by authors E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally. It's a compilation of today’s YA authors writing letters to themselves as teens. God - where to begin? Some of the entries are hilarious; some painful. All are addictive. But what I like most is that these pieces are a testament to how strong kids can be – and to the role that writing plays in saving even the weariest survivor. What would you write to yourself?
April 30, 2011

A poem to share

Last night I went to a Writing Show sponsored by James River Writers here in Richmond. In honor of poetry month, we feasted on the work and wisdom of Daniel Custódio, a slam artist from the Bronx; Luisa Igloria, a contemporary poet from the Virginia Beach area (also the head of the MFA writing program at Old Dominion University); and Susan Greenbaum, our local singer/songwriter and all-around darling person. Nathan Richardson hosted. I don’t consider myself a poet…for reasons that may become self evident in a second. But, so what? I’m not an Olympic swimmer either. That doesn’t keep me from enjoying my own sad paddle across the pool -- or from getting the benefits. What I learned from the panelists is that what matters more is the daily exercise (Luisa called it a devotional) of writing in a form that connects image and personal meaning so tightly. So on this, the very last day of poetry month, I’m sharing a very early piece. The backstory is this:  My father-in-law’s first love was a girl named Bella Lechuga, which translates roughly to “beautiful lettuce” in English. “What happened to her?” I asked him once. He didn’t know. After they left Cuba, everyone scattered to the winds. Señora Bella Lechuga Beautiful Lettuce Leans over the sewing machine Puts one good eye close To be sure her stitches are still straight. Knuckles lumped hard and red Claw her fingers around the lace. In the hot metal and threads She finds her white wrist…
The Writing Life
April 20, 2011

Win my book on Latin Baby Book Club

I took my son, the baby of our family, to see colleges this weekend -- a road trip that featured a lot of sweet memories, perhaps fueled by eating too much ice cream made on an on-campus creamery.  Yum. But that wasn't the only delicious thing that happened. I was also featured on Latin Baby Book Club.(Check it out;  you can win a free copy of TIA ISA WANTS A CAR). How I wish I'd had a blog like that 15 years ago when I was raising my own "latin babies" and teaching them to love books - and their roots.  We live in Richmond, Virginia, a southern city with a growing Latino population, but it's not like other places we've lived, like South Florida, where Latino culture has so significantly shaped communities. Nobody here was whipping out an empanada from their lunch sack. Cinco de Mayo  and Three Kings Day was about all anybody knew. My three kids are all American in so many ways. In fact, they speak Spanish so poorly that their abuelas can barely forgive me. Back then, they read Lily's Purple Plastic Purse and the Magic Treehouse series and Harry Potter. Still, something like Latin Baby Book Club might have helped me do the important work of making my kids proud of where they come from. Sure, you can't  keep Latino kids from being as American as anybody else in their class. (Ask my mother; she'll tell you.) It's inevitable; you belong to the place you…
Random howls into the world
April 11, 2011

A love letter to librarians

Tomorrow is National Library Worker’s Day. How are you celebrating? By happy coincidence, I’ll be speaking at the spring conference of the Richmond Area Reading Council. RARC is a group of Virginia book lovers banded together across sixteen counties to celebrate books and get people reading. Naturally, librarians and teachers will make up most of the mix. Nice! Hands down, there’s no edgier group than librarians. For a relatively new author like me, they’re my lifeline in a sea of splashy commercial titles. When they're not battling censorship from the foolish, they're figuring out how to stretch their measly budgets to bring living, breathing authors - big time and small -- into the lives of kids. To Lucinda Whitehurst and Shelly Dean. To Janet Craft and Cindy Ford. To Sue Van Tassell and all the rockin’ librarians who love books, writers and readers. To all of you who have so generously helped me get started, gracias. So, how to celebrate? Let’s laugh. Here’s Betty White’s interpretation of the stereotype from The Middle. (If only BW made friends with a librarian, all her techno woes might be over!)
Random howls into the worldThe Writing LifeUncategorized
April 4, 2011

Tía Isa: the book and the woman

I never thought of myself as a picture book writer, but this June all that changes. TÍA ISA WANTS A CAR (Candlewick Press) will be in bookstores. It’s the story of a girl and her favorite aunt working together to buy the first family car. I wrote the text when I was in between novels and needed to play with words for a while to clear my mind. I'd been thinking about my aunt and our first family car – an old Buick Wildcat. It was a dented heap that never wanted to start, and it stalled at the most inconvenient times – like in the middle of a u-turn with on-coming traffic. Truth is, though, that the car was only half the trouble. My aunt – the real tía Isa – was a lousy driver. She'd arrived in this country in 1968, having completed a year of required labor in Cuba’s sugar cane fields to earn her way off that island. Maybe as the result of all she’d been through during the revolution (or maybe just because she was cursed with “anxious genes” as is common in my clan), tía Isa was a ball of nerves, filled with ticks and odd habits that sometimes frightened me as a kid. Her jumpy lip always reminded me of a bunny’s. In any case, when she came home one day with her driver’s license, the family was shocked but grateful for the milagro. A car – even an   old jalopy like the…
The Writing Life
March 21, 2011

Ashley Bryan at Virginia Festival of the Book

This past Saturday, I spent the day manning a booth for James River Writers at the fabulous Virginia Festival of the Book. As I was packing up at the end of the day, I looked up and got star-struck. Ashley Bryan was standing there. Eighty-eight years old, an artist, musician, poet,  intellectual -- a lover of life.  Mr. Bryan is a white-haired Titan in children’s literature, the author of more than 30 books, and the recipient of countless awards, including the Coretta Scott King. I lumbered over with my box of flyers and a wooden easel on my shoulder – no real plan in mind. “It’s you,” I said stupidly, his name instantly flying from my brain. “Yes, I think so,” he replied. My mind was back to last summer when he came to the  SCBWI conference in LA.  He had all of us on our feet -- an entire ballroom filled with famous and not-so-famous children's book authors -- reciting Langston Hughes with a passion you’d expect to find at a revival. Hands raised, thundering voices, we sang out as he cued us. The night is beautiful! So the faces of my people! “I thought about our poem all the way home from California,” I explained. “I think about it still. Thank you so much.” He was characteristically gracious, but even as he headed off a few minutes later, I wanted to kick myself for not having really gotten at what I meant: That those few minutes under his spell…
The Writing Life
March 14, 2011

Where Characters Come From: La Factoría

Whenever I sit down to write, it doesn’t take long before my mind floats back to la factoría. It sounds like the name of an opera, but it’s what we called the transistor factory where my mom worked most of her life. It was a dreary place in Queens, with cement floors, a stench of cleaning chemicals, and thunderous sound effects from the bowling alley upstairs. More than one of my sick days was spent watching mice running high along the pipes. But what really lodges la factoría in my creative brain is what lodges every good book in my heart: its characters. This was a factory of almost all women -- mothers from all over Latin America and Eastern Europe. The common thread was that they needed work and they spoke lousy English.  La factoría became the great equalizer. Old country socialites sat across from those who’d grown up in the Bronx projects. Intellectuals exchanged recipes with ladies easily taxed by picking out their nail polish. It didn’t seem to matter. Instead, they shared all they could figure out about this country -- everything from how to get a driver’s license to how to get expensive shoes from an Iraqi guy who sold them cheap. It was a family – so much so that when, Rosie, the forelady, had her first baby, the playpen came in so she could keeping working – and so everyone could stand around and coo. Even as a kid, I knew their days were long…
The Writing Life
March 8, 2011


After a long day of sitting at the library, where I wrestled endlessly with a chapter, I came home to a great surprise. My editor, Kate, sent me a finished copy of Tía Isa Wants a Car -- my picture book that pubs in June. Thank you Claudio Muñoz for the beautiful, retro art and all of your insights.  Thank you Kate for loving this little story. And muchisimas gracias to the real tía Isa who taught me that everyone has the power to get behind her own wheel.
picture book, middle grade, YA
March 7, 2011


I've been reading Sonya Hartnett lately. She's from Australia -- a Candlewick author -- and her  prose is just gorgeous.  True, her YA is dark and also borders on adult, but that's a line that I love to flirt with myself. Besides, isn't "dark and bordering on adult" an exact definition of adolescence? Just finished BUTTERFLY - which came out last  August.  Several sections veer straight into the adult perspective, but she captures these characters so well that I don't mind at all. (Cydar is especially fantastic.) Other Hartnett titles I've admired:  SURRENDER and THE GHOST'S CHILD.
March 4, 2011

¡Mucho gusto!

Introductions are always a little awkward, except when you’re an author meeting kids of any age. Thankfully, they go right for what matters, no small talk. So here, by way of introduction, are my vitals in kid format. I live in Virginia with my family (husband, mother-in-law, three teens), a black, shaggy dog (Noche) and a fierce hunting machine cat named Wolfe. My house is, in fact, messy, especially around deadlines, when I forget to bathe and I wander around mumbling dialogue. My favorite candy is MilkDuds, no matter what my dentist says. I buy the extra big box at the movies every time. I write for about four hours a day at a little desk tucked in my livingroom. When I can’t think of what to write I walk Noche or throw in some laundry. Yes, I speak Spanish and English. My family is from Cuba. No. I’m not especially rich or famous. I don’t need extra big sunglasses or anything. You can ask me other burning questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them.