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Appearances

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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#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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Check out my new site – plus the Newbery speech and other goodies

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life

Welcome to my  new website!  After cobbling together a blog for a while now, I’ve given myself a fresh look that’s bright, clean, and easy. For my first news post, I’m offering the link to my Newbery speech (the official version), as well as photos from the entire  celebration, which can only be described as a huge, life-affirming love fest.

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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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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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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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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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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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Helping new voices get heard: VAASL Conference 2017

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Back in 2011,  I was invited to attend the VEMA conference, an annual gathering of school librarians in my state. The event was held in Richmond that year. I had one book out, Milagros, Girl from Away, and so, like a lot of new authors, I sat at a table by myself for most of the evening while other more seasoned authors signed copies and chatted up fans. Here’s what I most remember of that night: one school librarian came to talk to me. Her name was Schenell Agee, and she listened patiently as I stumbled through my conversation about my work and diverse voices and Latino themes. She told me that she organized an end-of-year author event at her middle school. An author visit on the last day of school? I thought. Nuts. Still, we exchanged cards, and she told me that she’d keep me in mind for the future. I expected exactly nothing. I was just grateful that someone had stopped by to ask me anything at all. Eventually, I did go to her school (Metz Middle) – alongside the amazing Floyd Cooper, as I recall. It was a fabulous school visit – not only for how well-organized it was, but also for all it taught me about why it matters to take risks on new writers. A lot has happened since then. VEMA has changed its name to VAASL (Virginia Association of School Librarians). I’ve got a few more titles under my belt. And Schenell Agee is now the…

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It’s All About Bookish Virginia This Month

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’m back home after a month of coast-to-coast book travel which ended this past weekend in the best way possible. I hung out with English teachers at the Arizona Teachers of English conference and then drove up I-17 for my first-ever trip to The Grand Canyon. Now I get to do bookish things for a month right here in my home state of Virginia. (It’s not the wide open west, but it’s gorgeous here, especially in the fall.) Whether you’re a young reader or adult, a reader or a writer, there’s something for you. September 27, 2017, 6 pm, Chop Suey Books, Carytown, Richmond, VA. Join me and members of our local ACLU as we talk about censorship during Banned Books Week. Are you remembering to celebrate it?  Now more than ever, we need to stand up for critical reading. October 6, 2017, Visiting Riverside High School in Leesburg, VA, where Lauren McBride and her fellow librarians and teachers are doing an incredible job of preparing the Rams for my visit. Looking forward to talking all things Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and Burn Baby Burn. October 7, 2017, The YAVA Book and Author Party. Richmond Public Library, 101 East Franklin,  offers you a chance to party for an afternoon with Virginia’s YA authors. Food, prizes, and a lot of silliness. October 13 – 15, James River Writers Conference at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. Have you registered?  I’m doing a master class on writing characters on Friday (held at the…

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NBA Longlists & other happier sides of life during a bleak week

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Here are a few bright spots that I wanted to share for this week, despite the natural (and manmade) disasters we’ve all been following for the last two weeks. First, the longlist for the National Book Award is being released this week. The titles for Young People’s literature go live on Tuesday morning, so please check in to see the fabulous works we fell in love with. What a process (that I can’t talk about!) Anyway, I’m donating the 300 or so books that we read to Henrico County Public Schools, where I’ve asked that they be given to the elementary, middle, and high school with the fewest resources and smallest school library. Anita Tarbox, the head of library services, is bringing a van next week to haul off the six large boxes of treasure. I’ve been living in a labyrinth since last May, so this is coming as a relief, despite the fact that it’s usually easier to pull a molar out of my head than to get me to give away books. I’m in Los Angeles this week, which happens only every couple of years or so. The Brentwood School invited me to speak on Monday, Sept 11 about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. So, I packed a bigger bag (in case the hurricane strands me on my flight back,) splashed myself with Jean Naté in honor of Lila, and am ready to meet their seventh and eighth graders.   Tuesday, Sept 12, 7 PM, I’ll…

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Want a Good School Visit? Introducing The Author Village

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

If you’re a writer who does school visits, you know that planning details can be a killer. I’ve been handling most of this myself, with some good help from Candlewick in fielding requests when they first come in. But often I’ve felt completely overloaded by the job of organizing all that goes into making a worthwhile trip for both kids and authors. Book orders, topics, itineraries, logistics– it’s easy for important things to get overlooked. So today, I’m so happy to announce that I’ve joined a new venture with one of my favorite authors, Phil Bildner. Check out The Author Village, where you can get info about bringing me or several other authors and illustrators to your school this year. You’ll recognize some names and a few will be brand new, but we’re all here to do the same:  make reading and writing at your school something that’s memorable. Here’s to a good new school year filled with great books to discover! Cariños de, Meg  

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Latinos in Richmond Exhibit at the Valentine

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

I’m heading out on this soggy morning for two good reasons. One, Angela Dominguez, who illustrated Mango Abuela and Me and is the illustrator behind the Lola Levine series by Monica Brown and several of her own award-winning titles, has moved to Richmond! We’re having a “welcome to RVA” lunch, which I hope is the beginning of lots of new adventures for her in our town. Angela couldn’t have arrived at a better time, which brings me to reason number two for venturing out. This weekend marks the opening of LATINOS IN RICHMOND/ NUESTRAS  HISTORIAS, a small but potent exhibit at the Valentine Museum. For about a year, I’ve volunteered as part of an advisory committee helping Wanda Hernandez and her colleagues at the Valentine curate this loving first peek at Latinos in our city. You’ll find artifacts and stories of how we began making our way here – dating back to colonial days. There is a little bit of everything, including a terrific graphic that shows the fairly recent political lift-off of Latinos here in the Commonwealth. There’s food, music, and free admission today, so maybe I’ll see you.  But if not, I hope you’ll take a minute to walk through in the coming months and read the stories of who is here in your neighborhood, why we got here, and what we offer. Cariños, Meg   Nuestras Historias/ Latinos in Richmond July 27, 2017 thru April 15, 2018 The Valentine Museum 1015 E. Clay Street, Richmond, VA  

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On Latinx rep, NYC, and Yaqui Delgado

By Appearances, Film work, Latino Life, The Writing Life

Much of the book world is descending on NYC this week for Book Expo and Book Con. I’ll be in NYC, too, but not for the fun (and the incredible line up) this time. I’m traveling north to help run focus groups with the producers who are developing YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS into a HULU series It’s easy to get excited when a film deal is announced as an option…but it doesn’t take long to find out that there is a vast journey between an option and a show you’ll find in your “Favorites.”  That said, things are looking promising for YAQUI.  The show is being developed with mega-stars  Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) and Eugenio Derbez (How to Be a Latin Lover) as executives. But for me, an equally exciting thing is that, for the most part, this show is being conceived, written and led by a group of Latina women. And, as the cherry on top, Writer Dailyn Rodriguez (Queen of the South; Ugly Betty) is a former kid from the boroughs, too (Dailyn on Twitter). Here’s the truth: When I was approached about my interest in having YAQUI DELGADO developed as a series, I felt cautious. First, there was the idea of letting go the characters and storylines in the exact way that I had conceived them. Surprisingly, I felt okay with that fairly quickly. In my view, I wrote the book that I wanted to write. Now, the film makers ought to be able to make the…

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Hey book lovers: A LitCrawl Comes to RVA

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Sometimes, it pays off when somebody loses their mind. That’s certainly true for Richmond, which is going to host its first LitCrawl on April 21 and 22, 2017 thanks to what founder Cheryl Pallant calls “writerly insanity.” A LitCrawl is a city-wide event where readings and performances are led by area authors in a variety of venues, from prisons and bars to bookstores and record shops. It’s a movement that grew legs in San Francisco and is spreading far and wide (Here’s how other cities have done it.) But how it reached us here in Richmond, VA, boils down to Cheryl, who was busy planning her wedding, writing a non fiction book and getting ready to publish both a book of poetry and a memoir about her time living in South Korea. “I reached a point in my writing day when I needed a distraction. I too readily checked out Facebook and saw that a friend of mine was involved in a LitCrawl in Denver. I immediately recognized it as a great event and queried if anyone in Richmond was interested. Within an hour, I heard from about 50 folks saying yes.” “Did I really need another sizeable commitment?” Well, no, but she grabbed a few friends anyway and here we are….LitCrawl RVA Now that authors are signing up and making plans for their contributions (website here), she’s sharpening her vision and looking forward to this becoming an annual event with sponsorship behind it. For me, it’s exactly the right idea. Now…

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March Madness – Bookish-style

By Appearances, Latino Life, picture books, The Writing Life

I’ve been writing like a crazy woman against an upcoming deadline for a new middle grade novel. Right now, I’m at the point when I’m turning to algebra for some sort of comfort –which is a stretch, considering that math was always my worst subject. Still, in my head, I keep looping a word problem that goes like this: “Meg has 140 pages written. If she writes 2 pages a day for 3 days per week and then tosses one page a week, when will she reach an arbitrary  (but kind of respectable) number like 250 pages? And, more important, will they be good?” Anyway, I’ve been working fairly close to home since December, which has felt like a blessing. It’s quiet. I have the comfort of my coffee pot, my dog, stretchy pants and fuzzy slippers. I can slip into someone else’s wonderful book when I’m lost. (Thank you Kelly Barnhill for The Girl Who Drank the Moon.) My spring calendar is almost all within the mid Atlantic, too. But there are a few presentations to mention. As I look ahead to March, I have a day trip to Orlando for a Girl Bullying and Empowerment Conference and  a few school visits. (Schedule here). In the spirit of staying close to home, though, I especially wanted to highlight two events that are happening in my area, in case you want to join in. The first is a shared book talk at the University of Richmond with my good friend, Lila…

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Take that winter! Burn Baby Burn a 2016 LA Times Book Prize Finalist

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life

A wonderful surprise to beat back my February blues, which have really been a challenge this year. Burn Baby Burn was named a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize today. It’s quite a list, including the award-sweeping MARCH by John Lewis, so I’m especially honored – and also not envious of the judges. The fun/harrowing thing is that you don’t know who actually wins until the day of the event. So stay tuned for April 21 at the kick off for the LA Times Book Festival this year. Thank you, LA Times, for inclusion on this lovely and thought-provoking list. And thank you, Candlewick, for my brand NEW pair of disco ball earring to wear for the occasion. I’ll be traveling west with my editor, Kate Fletcher, to attend the ceremony. Fingers crossed ( and TUMS in my purse.) Press release here. Young Adult Literature Socorro Acioli/ Daniel Hahn (Translator), The Head of the Saint, Delacorte Julie Berry, The Passion of Dolssa, Viking Books for Young Readers Frances Hardinge, The Lie Tree, Harry N. Abrams John Lewis. Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell, March: Book Three, Top Shelf Productions Meg Medina, Burn, Baby, Burn, Candlewick

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#CelebrateYoungReaders grand opening at the Library of Congress

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

    The Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress is having a grand opening for its Saturday hours this weekend. That means, when folks visit the capital, their kids can have a place to rest from museums and seek shelter in a story time with mom and dad. I’ll be kicking off the festivities with our beloved Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden. I’ve planned a Mango, Abuela and Me read-aloud and book talk, followed by Q& A with kids from around the country. There will be games, book talks, and performances led by Erica Perl author of Capybara Conspiracy, for older kids, as well. I hear through the grapevine that there’s a wrap up that honors the Chinese New Year (Rooster), too. I plan to stay the whole day, so whether you’re a fan of picture books or a YA reader, please come keep me company! Now more than ever is the time to celebrate books, reading, and knowledge. Our twitter hashtag for the day: #CelebrateYoungReaders PDF for you to download: yrc-grand-opening  

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Photo round-up of my post election travels

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life

Hi all – I’m heading to NCTE in Atlanta tomorrow, but my head is still buzzing from the election and all that it means for many of the vulnerable children and families that I meet in my life as an author. In the days to come, I’ll especially need to remind myself to balance aggravation with joy.  So here is a bit from the joyful side. Yesterday,  Burn Baby Burn was named a Best Book of 2016 by School Library Journal and also by Amazon. As you know, I was in NYC last week. My trip offered me really beautiful experiences at Bank Street College and also at the ever-fabulous Book Riot Live Conference, where people came from as far away as Australia and Sweden. I’ve pasted some of my favorite shots below – everything from political protest to utter joy and silliness. Other than that, my friends, I’ll touch base with you again in a few weeks. Hide the knives if you have to and enjoy a peaceful Thanksgiving with your families. Scenes from the Union Station subway station where citizens voiced their opposition to the election results

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Kirkus, Book Riot, Bank Street and more: Keeping my sanity despite this election

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’m at the airport in Richmond right now, getting ready to head out to Austin for the Texas Book Festival, which is huge and wonderful as always.  I hadn’t been on the roster, but this year Burn Baby Burn is a finalist for the Kirkus Prize for Young People’s Literature. The ceremony where the winners are announced is tonight, so Kate Fletcher (my editor) and I are getting “gussied up” and heading over. Ay…I don’t know what to think about what’s going to happen; the whole idea makes me queasy. Whatever the result, though, I just want to say this: Thank you to everyone who has read my work and told others about it. You have so many good books to choose from on any given day, and I’m so grateful that you’ve given my work some space in your life and on your bookshelf. If you’re at the festival, I hope I’ll see you at the literary gala where we’ll be guests of my friend Maya Smart, a woman who is still sorely missed here in Richmond. I can only imagine a fun night because not only is there Maya, but the whole thing is being emceed by Jon Scieszka! If not at the gala, then maybe we can see each other on Saturday during the Kirkus finalist panel, where each author will talk about their book. After Election Day, I’ll head to NYC for so many wonderful things. (Hopefully, I’ll be in good spirits.) I’ll be visiting Mamaroneck Public Schools, having dinner…

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Long Lists, Scholarships, Rock Star Librarians, and Meat: What my last three weeks looked like

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Like everyone else, I’m glued to CNN and hoping for people’s safety this morning. I’ve been on the move and squeezed with family health things, too, so I’ve had very little time left to write many blog posts. Here’s a wrap up of favorite moments of the last few weeks. Award news: First, here’s an article on Tumblr regarding all the long list titles on this year’s National Book Award. The question was, Who did you write this book for? Burn Baby Burn didn’t advance to the short list. (Yes, that’s me sniffling…) But here’s what all the authors on the long list had to say about their books last week. Scholarships: If you’re an aspiring author or an author early in your career, a reminder to consider applying for the Meg Medina Scholarship at Highlights Foundation. Applications are due by Dec 15. Here’s the link with information and background on the award. (The how-to is at the end.) Related to Highlights, I also want to share a sweet blog post by Dr. Marilisa Jimenez, a Pura Belpré scholar who joined me at Highlights last month. She started work on a pretty compelling article and used the time to talk through some of her ideas. Check out the research she’s doing on YA literature in the US and trauma/displacement in immigrant Latino communities. I love to follow Marilisa’s work because (1) she’s usually laying the groundwork for research about Latino literature that hasn’t been done before, and (2) she’s passionate about the topic from a deeply personal point of view….

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The High Holy Week for Book Geeks (Like Me)

By Appearances, The Writing Life

So much is going on in DC for book lovers next week that my head is spinning in that good way of little kids doing the helicopter for no reason. Children’s book icon Katherine Patterson is speaking at the Washington Children’s Book guild on Thursday, September 22, after which I will zoom over to the Library of Congress to be in the audience for the the Americas Awards at the Library of Congress that will honor Pam Muñoz Ryan (Echo) and Ashely Hope Perez (Out of Darkness) – two authors who published exceptional books last year. If you’re a teacher, you might want to register for the workshops with the fantastic Alma Flor Ada to be held that night. Co-sponsored by Teaching for Change, it’s inexpensive, and you’ll be in excellent hands. Then, of course, comes the big one: The National Book Festival  on Sat., Sept 24. I’m honored to be on the roster of authors this year, where I’ll bring a little disco inferno to the capital with a talk about Burn Baby Burn.  That ought to be enough, but this year, I’m staying into the night because (DRUMROLL) I’m a judge for the teen poetry slam, a standing room only event. (Here’s info and video from last year.) Aaahhh! I can’t tell you how much I love spoken performance (and how much I secretly long to do this myself.) In this case, teens from around the country will come to compete in this event. There’s a special guest judge, too –…

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YA Lit Virginia style in RVA and DC

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’m taking to the road with Hannah Barnaby and Kristen Paige Madonia, two fellow Virginia YA authors next week. If you’re close to Richmond, stop in at Fountain Bookstore on Tuesday, Sept 13, 6:30 PM. We’ll be talking about what’s happening in YA lit these days, from our own perspectives. [FountainBooks Flyer Sept2016] After, we’ll be driving up the I-95 corridor to Politics & Prose on Thursday, September 15, 7 pm for our Washington friends. I love both these authors for the top-notch work they’re producing. (Both are previous Girls of Summer guest authors, with Wonder Show and Fingerprints of You, respectively.) Their newer works:  Some of the Parts and Invisible Fault Lines are fantastic follow-ups. But these women also bring a sensitivity that I like when we talk about YA. Hannah is a former editor, and KP teaches Creative Writing at JMU and UVA.  So, I always feel like the conversation they bring about Young Adult lit is deeper than just a review of storyline or  process, etc. In fact, I feel like I learn something new from them every time we’re together. Anyway, I know the fall is a busy time, but if you can squeeze in some book and author love, come on out!

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Get Down 2night: Burn Baby Burn on #2Jennsbookclub twitter chat

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’ll be in the woods of Pennsylvania tonight, but not even tall trees, ticks, and lousy internet can stop me from slipping  on my disco ball earrings and sitting in on a twitter chat at 2jennsbookclub. It’s all about Burn Baby Burn there. Do you know these librarian superheroes? Here’s a link on their website as an intro. Basically, they’re two fierce YA librarians on a mission to, well,  quench their envy of Mr.Schu while there showing teen fiction some love. I actually met one of the Jennifers ( Jennifer LaGarde) a few years ago, when I heard her speak at the Virginia School Libraries conference in Williamsburg. She was so wise and funny as she described her role as “librarian at large” for North Carolina. I especially remember her urgency around the idea of making the library the heart of a school. That idea has stayed with me in the years since, and I’m always impressed when I find librarians doing exactly that. Here’s  Jennifer Northrup‘s site for you, too. I love that they collaborate and that they have harnessed social media as a way to connect bookish ones and keep their spaces relevant. OK,  the hashtag is #2jennsbookclub. Tonight, Sept 8, 2017, at 8 PM. Spread the word and let’s boogie.

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Peace, Quiet & Writing: An invitation to the woods

By Appearances, The Writing Life

For a few days after Labor Day, I’ll make the trek back up to rural Pennsylvania to the campus of the Highlights Foundation, where they’ve begun an artist-in-residence program. The inaugural writers are Jerry and Eileen Spinnelli, Suzanne Bloom, and me. You know Highlights, of course, from their magazine and the years you probably spent doing the hidden picture search at the dentist office. (It has been the favorite magazine feature since 1946.) But, what I learned a few years ago is that they have a beautiful campus where writers come to workshop and compose away from all the distractions of their daily lives. I’ve been there twice:  once as a guest author with Kathy Erskine and Rich Wallace. The second time (sort of) last spring as part of the faculty for SCBWI Pennsylvania, which rented the space for its annual meeting. When I was approached in June, it took all of five seconds to say sí, como no, even though I’d already closed my calendar to anything new until 2017. Who could resist? The idea is that I hide away in the beautiful mountains, where my biggest personal worries will be reduced to ticks and which ice cream to choose as a snack. Other people will cook to feed me. I will not walk a dog, throw in laundry or respond to email. At night, I will look at the stars through a telescope in the Lodge and listen to bullfrogs. The rest is a blissful four days of writing…

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A conference from your living room couch: SLJ Teen Live

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Librarians, Teachers, Book Lovers: Are you registered yet for SLJTeenLive? Hurry. It’s this Wednesday, August 10, all day, and it features the likes of Leonard Marcus, Reyna Grande, Maggie Stiefvater, me – and countless other authors and book heroes that you shouldn’t miss if you’re serving teens. I’ll be honest, I love that I don’t have to travel for this conference. In fact, what I like best of all, is that it’s a completely free online webinar – which means you can enjoy it with your earbuds and your air-conditioning – and not go broke. Maggie Stiefvater kicks us off at 10:15 am, and I’ll close us out at 4:15. In between, there are all kinds of sessions. (I’m really interested in the one about portrayals of mental illness in YA lit, moderated by Hannah Gomez.) As for me, SLJ asked me to talk about how we make all kinds of people feel like they belong in books and in the library. How is it that somebody comes to feel welcome inside a building, a book, or really, a literary establishment? I’ve never done a webinar, so it should be interesting to talk for 30 minutes to the green camera light on my computer. Please God, don’t let my face freeze in one of those horrendous Skype-type grimaces. Okay – go register. Hope you can make it on Wednesday – Meg  

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ALA Orlando: A Bittersweet Affair

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I head to ALA this week, but it’s with a mix of emotions. Traditionally, the ALA June conference is a joyous time to celebrate the books that were awarded medals, touch base with our far-flung colleagues, and gather new advanced galleys for our to-be-read piles. I can’t go every year, so when I do get the opportunity, it feels like a truly special occasion. But it’s hard to feel lighthearted this year. After the terrorist attack we saw unfold against the LGBTQ community – and the maddening debates over terrorism, hate, and gun safety that (once again) ensued, I’m feeling numb. I watched the names and faces scroll – overwhelmingly Latino in this case – and my mind went to the families and friends who have been left broken and wondering about how we’ve been dislodged from our shared humanity. I’m grateful to see that the ALA conference organizers have several activities planned in support of the Orlando community, including a memorial service for the victims being held at the Orange County Convention Auditorium from 8 – 8:30 AM on Saturday, June 25. I’ll be there with my husband and oldest daughter, who will be traveling with me this time. Maybe as we reach for joy this year, we can do so with a mind to continuing to build unity and understanding. I’ve put my signing and speaking schedule down below, but I would especially like to invite you to join me at the Pura Belpré celebration. Mango Abuela and Me will be awarded the honor medal for narrative and…

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I’ll Be Asking the Questions Around Here, Bud: Moderating at the Library of Congress

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

Will you be near Washington, DC on May 25?  If so, I invite you to join me for an hour at the Library of Congress where we’ll talk about the role of heritage in storytelling. Last year, Karen Jaffe, Executive Director at the Young Readers Center, convened a successful symposium on strengthening families through diversity in children’s literature. It featured Kwame Alexander, Tim Tingle, Ellen Oh, Gigi Amateau and me. (Here’s the video). We had such a good time that we’ve decided to do it again this year, adding to the menu of interesting initiatives the YRC is up to. (Hosting the recent Walter Awards, adding a new teen board, to name just two.) So this year, I’m back to help as moderator, asking questions and learning along with everyone else in the room. Some of my favorite up- and-coming voices in children’s lit are on this panel: Wendy Shang, Aisha Saeed, Rene Colato Lainez, and Elizabeth Zunon. All are authors and/or illustrators whose personal stories and experiences have shaped their nuanced and honest books about how we come to see ourselves as part of the American family. How do we face unflattering characterizations?  What is the balance of writing culturally specific stories and writing the universal?  How does the outsider come to feel like the insider, if ever? What are the challenges of naming and embracing home cultures in works for mainstream classrooms in the US? All that and more on the 25th. Hope you’ll join us.    

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Filler Up: Two book talks, including one at… a gas station?

By Appearances, The Writing Life

When I tell people that it’s important for authors to love their own community, I mean it. So with this mind, I have the pleasure to invite you to my next two appearances in Virginia – one at WriterHouse in Charlottesville, and the other at my local Exxon station in Richmond. First up: WriterHouse in Charlottesville is hosting Kristen Paige Madonia (Invisible Fault Lines) and Hannah Barnaby (Some of the Parts) and me (Burn Baby Burn) on Saturday, May 14. I’ve loved Hannah and KP’s work for a while now. (You might remember that they were each selected for past lists of Girls of Summer. Here’s the flyer with all the details: WriterHouse Flyer May2016 As for the gas station…Crazy, you say?  Not really. Hope Whitby is a member of the Poetry Society of Virginia, a member of James River Writers – and also the service manager at Village Exxon in Richmond. (It’s the one at the corner of Three Chopt and Patterson, for those of you who live in RVA.) Sure, they’ll fill up your tank and sell you junk food for the road. But Village Exxon also hangs art by local artists in their lobby, and – with Hope’s help – they run Books in the Bay Book Club to celebrate the work of local authors. That’s where I come in. Their next read is Burn Baby Burn, which they’ll discuss on Sunday, May 15, at 3:30. I’m a sucker for innovation. I love Hope’s idea and the fact that she’s figuring out how to make the arts part…

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When Reading Across Generations Works

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

A few photos for you from my wonderful time in Herndon Virginia as part of their Big Read event.  Thank you Signe Fredrich’s and all of Arts Herndon for the kind invitation! The highlight, by far, was my time with the students – of every age. I visited Herndon High School and Herndon Elementary, plus a special off-site program that stole my heart. It’s called All Ages Read Together, which is housed at the Herndon Senior Center. It pairs senior volunteers with a group of off-the-chart adorable preschoolers. (See for yourself.) It seems like such a smart way to help little ones get ready for kindergarten, while also engaging our seniors meaningfully so that isolation doesn’t creep up on them. I am so grateful for the welcome I received everywhere. (I’m looking at you, too, library staff at Fortnightly!) Special thanks to Julie Brunson for all the preparation she did to help bring Mango, Abuela and Me to life for both the students and the volunteers.  

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Playing Dress Up and other important author duties

By Appearances, Latino Life, The Writing Life

I’m part of the kick-off event for Herndon’s All County Reads this week. Their selected book is Rudolfo Anaya’s, Bless Me Ultima. So, I’ll be talking about Latino lit in general and how my work deals with some of the themes in that classic novel. Disco meets Anaya. (Don’t underestimate me.) Anyway, I hope you can join Kwame Alexander and me on Wednesday night at the Fortnightly Library in Herndon. (Flyer below.) After, I’ll be heading into the middle of the woods, aka Hinsdale Pennsylvania/Highlights Foundation, to work on the faculty of the Eastern PA SCBWI conference. (Register.)  I’m almost done with preparations. Speeches, workshops – all drafted and packed up. My lingering homework is the character costume for Friday night, clearly the most important thing. The finalists: The Paper Bag Princess:  Love the retro, strong girl idea, but the downside…it’s still so cold in PA. I’ll freeze wearing a paper bag (or, ok, a few paper bags.) Still, I love this book.  Here’s the audio of the story so you can see why. My kids and I read this so many times…and even then the story was already a classic. 2. Nora Lopez (from my very own Burn Baby Burn):  OK, it should be the frontrunner, but me in lycra and platforms? Once was probably enough. 3. Harriet the Spy:  My favorite so far. We’re about the same age, this book and I.… We have a similar fashion sense. A certain odd need to observe others… 4. Amelia Bedelia:  Don’t own a frilly apron, but…

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Who Are You to Say? Why I’m part of a censorship panel at Bank Street College

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

If you care about kids and the books they read, maybe you can make room in your schedule for a half-day conference on censorship this Saturday at Bank Street College in NYC. I’m no stranger to dust ups about what’s inside my books, sadly – mostly in the form of soft censorship. Just shy of an out-and-out challenge, it means that barriers are thrown between the reader and the book. Barriers like being disinvited to schools. Or having the title of my book changed to dollar signs for the s’s in ass. Or requiring parental notes to read the novel. Or simply not carrying the novel in the library, despite its recognitions by the ALA and other reputable sources. And I’m guessing that someone will find plenty of reasons to oppose my latest historical fiction novel, Burn Baby Burn, too, for its mention of contraception, Planned Parenthood and maybe even foul language. I’ll need my brain and my crocodile skin, so this conference actually comes at a good time for me. What’s especially appealing to me about this particular conference is also this:  As the conversation about diverse representation deepens, new and compelling controversies have erupted. The only solution that makes sense? Think, learn, and talk. Here’s the set up for the day: We’ll be given a brief look at the history of censorship in books for young readers by the eminent children’s book scholar, Leonard Marcus. The panels that follow will consider how authors come to these stories to begin with; the…

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Burning at the LA Times Book Festival

By Appearances, The Writing Life

  I’m heading to the King Kong of book festivals this weekend: the Los Angeles Times Book Festival 2016. Weighing in at 500 authors, it’s big enough that I’ll have to pack sneakers along with an umbrella for the predicted drizzle. I did get some practical advice from my friend and fellow author Lilliam Rivera of Radio Sombra, where she deejays Literary Soundtrack. “It’s huge, and it’s always hot. I have no idea why. Wear light clothes.” Anyway, my schedule is this: Saturday: 1:30 PM, YA Stage: Perspectives on the Past: Writing Young Adult History MODERATOR: Aaron Hartzler PANELISTS: Monica Hesse (Girl in the Blue Coat), Meg Medina (Burn Baby Burn), Cat Winters (The Steep and Thorny Way) (Signing follows at 2:30)   Saturday, 4:30-4:55 PM, Children’s stage                       Reading/presentation of Mango, Abuela, and Me  (Book signing to follow at 5 PM) So, in preparation, dig out some platform shoes tomorrow – Thursday, April 7, 9:30 EST (6:30 PM PST), and tune in to my newest interview with Lilliam on Literary Soundtrack. We’ll be talking about New York’s scariest year – and listening to some of the songs that brought me into the world of Burn Baby Burn.     

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What I Was Up To: Advocacy, San Antonio, and Frito Pie

By Appearances, The Writing Life

If you follow kid lit, you probably know by now that a group of almost 300 authors took a stand on behalf of readers in North Carolina. This direct letter of support kids in NC was spearheaded by R.J. Palacio, and both Phil Bildner and Alex London did some seriously heavy lifting in terms of drafting the letter and gathering names. Thanks to SLJ for picking up the story; to the authors who we contacted on such short notice for their support; and to everyone who retweeted and showed support by sharing the message on social media. As all this was unfolding at lightning speed, I was also on my way to San Antonio – land of the River Walk and Frito Pie. It was a wonderful weekend of meeting old writing friends and new. I also got to read Mango Abuela and Me together with my illustrator, Angela Dominguez. Such a sweet moment. Authors sometimes don’t meet their illustrators, so this was a rare blessing. Anyway, here are a few other highlights.

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Thinking Outside the (Big) Box? Burn Baby Burn at Costco

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’ll be signing Burn Baby Burn at the most unexpected place this Saturday:  Costco in Chesterfield, Virginia. Nope, not my usual stomping grounds for books. But here’s what has me curious. Costco IS the country’s largest membership big box retailer, and one that has its own bookclub as well as a magazine (Costco Connection) with a distribution of 8.3 million copies. And last summer, former president Jimmy Carter wowed people by signing at the Glen Allen store. So while most of us associate Costco with the 60 million rotisserie chickens the retailer sells each year, when it comes to books, it’s probably smarter to think about their members. They’re typically college-educated, earn nearly $100K and own a home. Does that translate into readers? I’m about to find out. I honestly have no idea what to expect, other than reaching out and talking to people I don’t know. Book signings can be scary – as every author knows – even at our favorite indie store. (Pick your drama: The kid cries because you wrote in her book. Or nobody comes. Or you forget/misspell somebody’s name. Or your stomach hurts. Or there’s a better event across town.) But maybe ours isn’t the only discomfort we should think about. Not everyone feels comfortable buying their reading material at bookstores. You (and I) may love the smell of books, the crack of a new spine, the help of a knowledgable bookseller. But there are also those who like to browse on their own and who’ll take a risk on a book that they…

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Lord I Was Born A Ramblin (Wo)maaaan

By Appearances

By far the busiest week I’ve had in a while: 6,412.8 miles in ten days. Whew! Some photos from the road…as many as I remembered to take, starting at the Tucson Festival of the Book.   On to the Virginia Festival of the Book… And wrapping up in Fort Myers Florida for the Southwest Florida Reading Festival.

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Why I Wish I Could Be Split in Two

By Appearances, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

It’s too early to be in this airport, but I’m on the way to the Southwest Florida Reading Festival. I’ll step off the plane and head to right to a school to read Mango, Abuela and Me. Then, it’s all preparation for my time outside tomorrow. The downside to being in the Florida sunshine, though, is that I’ll miss the presentation of the inaugural Walter Award at the Library of Congress. We Need Diverse Books‘s judges picked three of my favorite reads of 2015. I want to send a huge congratulations to winners Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (All-American Boys), and honor winners Margarita Engle (Enchanted Air); Kekla Magoon and Ilyasa Shabazz (X). I am in DC in spirit!

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Diverse Book Love in Virginia This Week

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’m on a plane back home this morning, but I’ll have just enough time to toss the dirty clothes in the washer and head west on I-64 to Charlottesville for the Virginia Festival of the Book being held this week. Here’s the schedule; as usual, something for all tastes – from chefs and cookbooks, to cultural icons and children’s book authors. No need to worry that you’ll feel out of your comfort zone. Just get out there and support the literary life of you home state, friends. My own visit is quick this year. Two school stops (Southwood Boys & Girls Club and Jack Jouette Middle School) but also an important Thursday evening panel that comes against the backdrop of the alarming national conversation (if we can we still call it that) about immigrants in this country. I hope you’ll attend Beyond Background Characters: Life in Hyphen-American. Check out the author bios, and join us! When: Thursday, March 17, 2016, 8:00 PM Where: UVa Culbreth Theater (109 Culbreth Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22903) Who:  Sara Farizan Sara Farizan, author of Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel, is the daughter of Iranian immigrants, and was born in Massachusetts. She is an MFA graduate of Lesley University and holds a BA in film and media studies from American University. She is also the author of If You Could Be Mine.   Lamar Giles Lamar Giles, author of the YA thrillers Endangered and Fake ID, which was a 2015 Edgar Award nominee, is a…

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Off to the Desert: Tucson Festival of Books

By Appearances, Latino Life, The Writing Life

I had twins today – sort of. That’s because it’s my book birthday for Burn Baby Burn and also for the Spanish edition of Yaqui Delgado Quiere Darte Una Paliza (translated by Teresa Mlawer). Thanks to everyone who is sending and tweeting good wishes! So how am I celebrating the releases? By dreaming of 80 degree sunny weather and packing for the first leg of a mini book tour. First stop: Arizona – for the wonderful Tucson Book Festival this weekend.(Hopefully, it’s the book and not my winter-pale skin that’s going to burn, baby, burn.) Here’s my schedule… everything from crafting historical fiction (with the likes of Ruta Sepetys) to breaking the culture and color barrier in publishing.   Hot Off the Press Sat, Mar 12, 8:30 am – 9:30 am By invitation only: Meet ten marvelous authors releasing new books the week of the Festival. Student Union South Ballroom (Wheelchair accessible) Panelists: C. J. Box, Douglas Brinkley, Jeffery Deaver, Amy Hatvany, J. A. Jance, Lisa Lutz, Meg Medina, John Nichols, T. Jefferson Parker, Chris Pavone; Moderator: Jennifer Lee Carrell Fight or Flight: Surviving School Sat, Mar 12, 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm High school and middle school can be extremely difficult for teens who daily face bullying by peers and cliques that exclude anyone seen as “different” or “weird”. These YA authors will talk about how the characters in their books respond to rejection, exclusion, and bullying and why these books matter to teens. Education Room 351 (Seats 48, Wheelchair accessible) Signing…

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Poets, Hope, and the Writers at the Furious Flower

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’m back from the Furious Flower where I had the honor of sitting in on a poetry slam as part of the Mirrors and Windows Conference.  It was a collegiate summit, so the attendees were all college undergrads and grads – MFA’ers and prospects, alongside other writers who haven’t yet identified as poets. They came from Howard University, JMU, Lincoln, Salisbury, Blue Ridge Community – all hungry for time with other young artists who have discovered the power and healing that is found inside the hard shell of poetry. It was, of course, an honor to be part of the faculty with Mahogany Brown, Tony Medina, and Kwame Alexander. But to me, the true stars of this weekend were the young poets. The poetry slam was our culminating gathering, and it was, for me, one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had as an author. These young scholars brought it all, and as I watched each one take a turn at the mic, I found myself hanging on words that named their experience, their fears, their strengths, their reality. Whether the poem was about turning to Payless sneakers, life with a brother suffering from mental illness or about shaming a girl who has been raped, they rang true. I’ll tell you straight: It has been a season of despair for me as we inch toward November. The ugly, racist and bullying pitch of our presidential election has left me disgusted about what’s ahead unless we collectively step forward to change the path. But Saturday night and again…

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We’re Making (Badass)History: A Google Hangout with YA authors

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’ll be joining three amazing authors for a Google Hangout on Sunday, March 6. Check out the details and mark your calendar.     Who will be there?     Sharon Biggs Waller The Forbidden Orchid Synopsis: 1861, Kent, England. 17-year-old Elodie Buchanan is the eldest of ten girls, all named for flowers, and daughter of a world-famous Victorian plant hunter and Darwinist. When an accident leaves her father immobile and badly in debt, Elodie herself must journey to China in search of a rare orchid to save her family from debtors prison. Along the way she finds danger, deception, and first love. Published by Viking, February 2nd, 2016. Starred in PW and School Library Journal “VERDICT A historical romance with a strong female protagonist, sure to find fans.–School Library Journal Jessica Spotswood A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bankrollers, and Other Badass Girls Synopsis: Join fifteen of today’s most talented writers of young adult literature on a thrill ride through history with American girls charting their own course. They are monsters and mediums, bodyguards and barkeeps, screenwriters and schoolteachers, heiresses and hobos. They’re making their own way in often-hostile lands, using every weapon in their arsenals, facing down murderers and marriage proposals. And they all have a story to tell. Starred review in Booklist “Readers of historical fiction and adventure need look no further.” ~ Kirkus Cat Winter The Steep and Thorny Way Hanalee Denney’s hometown is not a welcoming place in the 1920s. Hanalee is the daughter of…

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Spend a Weekend in VA with Poets – and, um, me

By Appearances, The Writing Life

After a long rest at home this winter, which featured DIY painting several rooms of my neglected house, I’m getting ready to hit the road with Burn Baby Burn.  I won’t be in town for the official publication date, so I guess I’ll celebrate on the move this time. On Wednesday, March 2, I’ll drive up to Bridgewater College to visit YA literature classes that have been reading Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, and then I’ll lecture that evening at their March convocation. (Details here.) My visit is made possible by the Alison Yowell Pazmino Memorial Fund, named for a young woman who had planned to dedicate her life to teaching children with challenges. On Thursday night, March 3, I’ll drive up the road to James Madison University for the Mirrors and Windows Conference at the Furious Flower Center, which, if you don’t know, is our country’s first academic center devoted to African American poetry. It provides education, research, and publishing to JMU and the surrounding area of Harrisonburg. As a kid lit advocate, I like that it also offers summer poetry camp for kids and opportunities for slams – among much more. When Dr. Joanne Gabbin, the FF’s executive director, invited me last year, I was sure she’d made a mistake. Me? I write novels and picture books, with only a few poems here and there. “You’re poetic,” she said to reassure me. “I hope you’ll come.” So, here I go – honored to be included in this powerhouse faculty.  Anyway, if…

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In Service to Richmond: How I choose where to go for free

By Appearances, Community work, Latino Life, picture books

Here’s what I know about children’s book writers in my community. We believe that kids matter, and we believe that books and stories help strengthen them and their families. With that in mind every year, I help lead literary events, such as Girls of Summer and YAVA (as in, Young Adult Virginia) at the Richmond Public Library. But I also donate visits to a few schools and community organizations that might not otherwise be able to afford an author visit.  I’ll be doing two of those visits this month. I can’t usually do school visits for free. Like most writers, I keep a roof over my head by cobbling together both advances (which can be years in between) and appearances. Most organizations understand that reality, and they find ways to pay, either through generous PTA groups, grants, partnerships with other organizations, or school improvement funds. Still there are always some that just can’t find the funds. Ay! What do we do then? The task of picking where to go for free is awful, mostly because there are just so many places where economics stand in the way of good things for kids. Also, for me, I always feel the urgent weight of exposing kids to authors from diverse backgrounds. It matters not only because they’d benefit from sharing stories that represent all experiences, but also because meeting an author might inspire kids of color to consider careers in the literary arts, which they may not have considered viable for them, too. (Certainly, we’re not there yet as you can see in Lee…

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Ah, those Dixie Latinos: U of R celebrates with an NEH grant

By Appearances, Latino Life

OK, February is going to be one big, long Valentine to Latinos. That’s because the University of Richmond was one of 203 recipients nationwide (and one of only three in Virginia) to get a piece of $1.48 million earmarked by the NEH and the American Library Association for “Latino Americans: 500 Years of History.” As part of the grant, the university will host host public screenings of a six-part documentary about the rich and varied contributions of Latinos to our country – plus they’ll add other public programming, including discussion groups, oral histories, local history exhibitions, multi-media projects, performances, and other programs on Latino history and culture. (Here is the link to what will be going on at the University of Richmond all month long.) I especially love that Dr Laura Browder and Dr. Patricia Herrera, who secured the grant, have created events specifically around the Latino experience in Virginia. The south has seen an enormous growth in the Latino population, and certainly that is true of Richmond. Who are the Latinos who call the commonwealth home? What are the perceptions and misperceptions of us as a group?  What impact have we made on our city and counties? And, the ever-elusive question:  Will any of us ever learn how to make a proper ham biscuit? It’s such an honor to be part of this, both as an author and as a Virginian. Not many people know that I was born in Alexandria, Virginia, where my parents first settled when they arrived from Cuba….

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¡Feliz Navidad! Now, which social media platform gets axed?

By Appearances, The Writing Life

We have a holiday tradition at our place. Our Noche Buena table is set with a holiday ornament at each place setting. Each of us has to find the ornament that represents us that year. It’s a fun hunt for the perfect symbol and an interesting way to find your seat. But what I like most is that the ornaments eventually become part of our tree. When we pull out the dusty boxes, the memories are all there. Well, maybe not all. Needless to say, I don’t seek out ornaments to commemorate the uglier side of family life: angry disagreements, deaths, budget headaches, overbearing relatives. (It IS tempting to imagine what symbols I’d put up, though.) It’s not that we don’t acknowledge the sadder days of life. It’s just that there are plenty of reminders of that mess all the time. Instead, I choose to end the year with expressions of how each of us found a way to shine despite it all. The same is true, I suppose, for the author life. Authors use social media to make relationship with readers and to create an identity that’s recognizable to the people who follow our work. It’s not the whole story of us. What we toss-up is a curated version of what it takes to make a living through words. How we curate and where we do so is always a dicey decision. What do we say? What tone do we use? Where do we say it? Are we saying anything useful or just babbling? Some…

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Author Rock Bands and Other Y’All Fest 2015 Craziness

By Appearances, The Writing Life

  Imagine downtown Charleston, SC – easily one of the most walkable and picturesque US cities – filled with book crazed teens and the authors who write for them. Authors dressed like Harry Potter or singing in rock bands or competing in ridiculous game shows. Add in southern comfort food and hilarious panels and that’s Y’All Fest. Okay, so I’ll confess that I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I accepted the invitation. For those of you who might be unfamiliar, Y’All Fest is just five years old and is the brainchild of mega authors Margie Stohl and Kami Garcia (Beautiful Creatures series and more), along with indi bookstore owner Jonathan Sanchez (Blue Bicycle Books). Today, it’s big. It’s wacky. It oozes cool. But underneath, it’s mostly an amazing festival that uses books to transform a community and serve kids. If you’re a YA fan, this is an event to put on your calendar every year. There was too much going on to capture everything, but here are a few shots to give you an idea…

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Kaywell Award and Texas Book Festival Photos

By Appearances, Awards and news

Running like a mad woman today, so I’m putting up some photos of last week’s travels. Met so many wonderful people – educators, literary philanthropists, fellow authors. This was also the first time that Ahora Si! magazine sponsored a tent at the Texas Book Festival where Latino authors and programming were available all day. Very cool! Here are just a few shots.

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You Love Me; You Hate Me: Whiplash as an Author of Realistic YA

By Appearances, The Writing Life

So, I’m getting ready to leave for the Texas Book Festival where I will hang with some of my favorite “reading rock star” authors – and with my friend Maya Smart, whose family transplanted there earlier this year to become part of the University of Texas family. But before I head to Austin, I’ll be  making an important pitstop in Tampa, FL to receive the 2015 Joan Kaywell Books Save Lives Award at the University of South Florida. This year, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass is the winner, along with honorable mention of Openly Straight by the fabulous Bill Konigsberg. The timing of the award couldn’t be better for my spirits. It’s Hispanic Heritage month AND it was recently Banned Books Week. That means I’ve had my usual emotional whiplash of being received with open arms or with a full dose of ugly. If you read this blog regularly, you might know that I spent last week on the road, first to New York City and then down to Arkansas. Coming off of a few days in New York is always a little strange. This is a city where the word “ass” isn’t really a problem. It’s a place with Kinky Boots on Broadway (fantastic,) a painted naked lady on Times Square (not so fantastic,) and books and lecture series absolutely everywhere. Since Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass is set in Queens, there is always a sense of the safe and familiar when I talk about the book there. That’s not to…

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Heading Your Way, NYC: Banned Books, Latino Lit, and Mentorship

By Appearances, Latino Life, The Writing Life

Fall in New York City. I smile just thinking about it, especially when I add banned books and Latino lit to the reasons I’ll be there this week. I hope you can join me for any one of these stops: Tuesday, Sept 29, 7:30 PM, HousingWorks Bookstore Cafe in Greenwich Village, where all proceeds go directly to fighting AIDS and homelessness. I’ll be talking banned books with David Levithan and Coe Booth, both of whom have been caught in the iron jaws of censorship, too. I’ll share experiences about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass as it applies to soft censorship. (How many polite ways are there to get between a kid and a controversial book?  Turns out, a whole lot.) Looking forward,  I’m already bracing for the reaction to my upcoming novel, Burn, Baby, Burn (March 2016.) If the disco music and violence don’t incite my critics, then girls and birth control surely will. Uh-oh. Thursday, Oct 1, 3:30 PM the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University, 239 Greene Street, room 302. As part of their 125 year anniversary celebration, the Steinhardt School is hosting a year-long children’s literature lecture series. My talk is called: What’s Our Story: The role of culturally sensitive books in the lives of multilingual families. Seating is limited, but if you’re a professor, teacher, librarian, or future educator with an interest in multilingual education, contact Kendra Tyson at kendra.tyson@nyu.edu for information. Saturday, October 3, 9 AM – 5 PM, Las Comadres Writer’s Conference, The New…

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A book birthday – and time to remember las abuelas who inspired the story

By Appearances, picture books, Trailers

Today is the book birthday for Mango, Abuela and Me – my second picture book, so sweetly illustrated by the talented Angela Dominguez.  So far, so good. It has earned very nice reviews and mentions, including stars in Booklist and PW. Plus, I got word last week that it has gone into its first reprinting, so I’m thrilled, to say the least. This time around, I’m delaying the launch a couple of weeks until Sunday, September 13, 2015, 1 PM – 3 PM. That’s when my pal, Gigi Amateau (Two for Joy) and I will do a joint book event at bbgb in Carytown to celebrate our new books and, even more important, National Grandparents Day. According to USA Today, more than 4.9 million kids in America are being raised by their grandparents, a number that basically doubled since 2000. That wasn’t exactly the case for Gigi and me, but our grandmothers helped raise us just the same, and we love them for it. Our own grandmothers are gone, but Grammy, Abuela Bena and Abuela Fefa continue to make impact on us as women, mothers, and authors. Benita Metauten was my mother’s mother. She had an eighth grade education and rolled cigars for a living in her family’s small enterprise. She would eventually marry a bicycle salesman, have four children, and find herself in the US. When she arrived from Cuba in 1968 –her nerves in tatters – I wasn’t sure I’d like her. The worried look on her face and the…

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Check out SCBWI from the art director’s view

By Appearances, Guests

A while back, I had the pleasure of being on the SCBWI faculty in Atlanta where I met Guiseppe Castellano, Art Director for Penguin Random House. I’ve been making a habit of hanging out at illustrator sessions these days even though I have absolutely zero skill in the visual arts. (Why God, why?) I go for the same reason I like to see dance performances: to be amazed by the talents of other people and to broaden my own toolbox for storytelling. There’s a lot to be learned about narrative if you strip out words. You learn to see, I think, how to use negative space – what is NOT said – to your advantage. Anyway, Guiseppe is offering some good advice on his blog about how to make the most of your SCBWI experience, and he includes thoughts from a range of spiffy speakers, like Arthur Levine, Pat Cummings, and others. I’m in there, too, speaking on how to make the most of both serving as faculty and as an attendee. Check him out and follow him on Twitter @pinocastellano. Happy reading!  

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Wrapping up Shenandoah Conference

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Just got back from the fabulous Shenandoah Children’s Literature Conference, and I am wrapping up loose ends for some of the participants. As promised, here are the websites of Latino children’s lit that I mentioned in my talk. The summer reading list here via Latinas for Kid Lit. Here is an excellent blog, complete with a hefty list of resources to help you find the latest work by Latino authors. Latin@s in Kid Lit This general tween boy list appeared on the lovely blog, Read Brightly. Saw it on Facebook today, so I’m sharing. Don’t forget to look through the Pura Belpré winners, the Tomás Rivera winners, and the Las Américas list for titles and resources. I will get back to those of you who didn’t get the book talking kits that We Need Diverse Books provided. (They went like hot cakes with the librarians!) And finally, just to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt why I love pastelitos de guayaba, here is a photo of these heavenly treats. My son is dating a young woman who has a Cuban dad.  (Hay que darle gracias al señor…) They sent this yummy box of treats today from New Jersey. Thank you Louis, Mary, and Lauren! 

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Girls of Summer’s Big, Bad, Birthday Bash

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

It’s here! The Girls of Summer Reading list goes live on our blog today. (Click over and check out the titles and our reviews.) But what this really means is that we’re at the start of a big week for us, since our live events happen this week, too. Last minute plans, airport pickups, raffle items – agh! Gigi and I are so proud of the collection this year – especially since it marks our fifth anniversary of celebrating strong girls and reading. Where did five years go? We launched the list as our daughters were making their way out of high school. Today, Judith is living her dream of running a barn in California, training horses with a sure and skilled hand. Sandra has just moved into her own apartment in Washington, DC and will take the helm of a second grade class in the fall. And Cristina has recently landed her first official office job with Midas Auto Parts – an employer whose embrace of community extends to helping individuals with disabilities make meaningful contributions. Gigi and I have changed, too. We continue to write and publish books about strong girls and to see our respective careers unfold in ways that we could never have imagined five years ago. Earning the Pura Belpré award for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass has provided me an incredible platform that I hope I’ve used wisely. I’ve crisscrossed the country encouraging more books that represent all kinds of young people. To Richmond’s great fortune, Gigi recently became the…

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NY, NY: A Helluva Town

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Before I post the photos from BEA and BookCon in New York, I have to show you what I got in my inbox. It’s a project based on Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. My librarian friend, Shelley Armstrong, sent me the work of Jordan, Kasey, Myles, and Nick from Dr. Lee Bloxom’s 9th grade English class at the Thomas Dale High School West Campus in Richmond, VA. What better way to teach the impact of audience on writing, than to have a group of kids adapt a story for another age group?  Here’s my bad-ass YA novel as a picture book.  TDHS Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Butt. (Thanks for sending this Shelley!) Okay, the photos I managed to get my hands on. Next time you’re in the city, I recommend staying at the Library Hotel, at 41 and Madison Ave., just up the block from NYPL’s famous stone lions. The entire decor in the hotel is based on the Dewey decimal system, complete with an old card catalog at the reception desk. Each floor houses different categories. You can stay in the paranormal section, romance languages, botany. Even the street outside is decorated with brass plaques featuring quotes by famous literary figures. So strange and fun!   I fell in love with a little gem of a school in the East Village called the Cornelia Connelly Center. Sweet, smart students – with great questions. Looking for a place to make a meaningful donation? This is it. Thank you…

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The Big Apple: BEA and Book Con 2015

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’ll be spending almost the whole week in the Big Apple! This year I’ll be part of Book Expo America and BookCon for the first time, which feels exciting. Here are the highlights, including some off-site places where I’ll pop up, too. Back to the scene of the crime in Queens on May 27!  I’ll be talking about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and my other books back at the Flushing branch of the Queens Public Library, mere blocks from where I went to junior high school – and tangled with my own real-life bully so many years ago. Flashbacks here I come. Cornelia Connelly Center in the Village, May 28:  Interestingly, this gig came as the result of a Jesuit priest who heard me speak at a Hispanic Heritage talk I gave at the Federal Reserve Bank last year. So excited to speak to the young women at this Catholic School. Speed dating at the ABC/CBC Tea, Friday, May 29, 3:30 PM, Javits Center Room 1E12/13:  Booksellers will be getting lithos of my upcoming picture book Mango, Abuela, and Me, which hits bookstores in August. Public We Need Diverse Books reception at my favorite bookstore in Spanish Harlem, Friday, May 29, 7 PM:  Join We Need Diverse Books authors at La Casa Azul, which is – hands down – one of my very favorite bookstores. Such a beautiful spot and a thoughtfully curated collection of works by Latino authors writing in Spanish and English. (143 E 103 Street, near…

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DIA events rule my world this week

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

Ah, breakfast at home. I’m just back from Loudoun County Public Library in Northern Virginia, where I spoke at It’s All Write, their annual short story writing contest for teens. It’s always amazing to me how many unexpected gifts are part of these visits. I got to see the work of young people coming up the ranks – always fun. This time around, too, I learned about how Loudoun has a book club for adults with developmental disabilities. (Guess what I’m interested in starting here in Richmond?) I met librarians who are secret playwrights and novelists. I met young people who want to study children’s book illustration. And, of course, I had the honor of meeting Bev and Wright Horton, a former teacher and a geologist, who are the long time benefactors of the program that touches hundreds and hundreds of kids in their area. They do so in honor of their late son, James, who loved writing. “James would have loved this contest,” Bev told me. Personal loss redirected into something positive for a community confirmed for me AGAIN that the literary arts – the stories of all of us – are a powerful force for connection and healing. So for all of that, thank you (camera-shy)Linda Holtslander for the invitation to Loudoun County and for the chance to spend time with the amazing people at Park View HS, Tuscarora HS, and the Rust Library. I don’t have too much time to savor the downtime, but it’s for a…

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The art of the book display: librarians in GA raise the bar

By Appearances

Remember those book dioramas you used to make in a shoebox when you were little?  They were 3-D book reports, really, and I loved them. Well, come to find out, they still live! And they’re bigger and more interesting than ever. Check out details from an amazing display case created by Vicki Barbre and Jane Anderegg, librarians at Cherokee High School in Canton, Georgia, where I was a guest speaker last month. The school bought copies of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass for their English classes.  The librarians collected stuff for weeks, plucking out themes and details from the story. I’m told they make one for each of their guest authors during the year – an amazing program run and managed by teacher Dennis Jolley. This takes a ton of planning and digging around, so wow.! Thank you, Cherokee HS!    

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On conga lines, a seaside library, and the surprise of a girl’s rehab center: REFORMA Nat’l Convention V

By Appearances, The Writing Life

You haven’t lived until you’ve done a conga line to the strains of Miami Sound Machine with a bunch of happy librarians. That’s precisely what I did during the dance party/dessert reception at the fifth annual REFORMA national conference in San Diego last week. I’ve mentioned REFORMA here before. That’s the arm of ALA dedicated to library services to Latinos – and a partner in the Pura Belpré award, along with ALSC. This year about 300 librarians, authors, teachers, and community leaders – many sporting pins with slogans like Sí – hablo español – gathered to share ideas and best practices. It had a lot of the usual conference fare: panels, keynotes (mine at the pool on a broiler of a day). But the event had the unmistakable feeling of friends coming together for support and fun, too. Maybe that’s what Ana Elba Pavon meant when she called it “time with my REFORMA family.” Look, you can’t blame me for being a little giddy about going to San Diego, land of the eternal sunny-and-low-70s weather, especially after this winter. But I got a lot more than a few days in the sunshine. I was surprised to run into Teresa Mlawer, who has been duking it out with the translation for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, which she says is the hardest book she’s ever had to translate. (She’s done quite a few, like classics, Where the Wild Things Are and Caps for Sale.) She’s trying her best to keep the…

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What are you doing in Arkansas? Thinking about Pura Belpré, of course!

By Appearances, Awards and news, Community work, Latino Life, The Writing Life

That’s pretty much what everybody asked me this week.  Maybe it’s because it’s hard to imagine a Cuban from Queens hanging out near Oklahoma where the wind does, in fact, come sweeping down the plain. But there I was: Ft. Smith, Arkansas. Fort Smith is a quiet place with one of everything, as Ines, one of the district’s English Language Learners coordinators, told me. One Staples. One bridal shop. One mall. Church life is central to life here, which made me laugh when I toured their visitor center –  a restored brothel called Miss Laura’s Social Club. You can walk along the beautiful Arkansas river here, eat something called a Frito Chili pie, or find excellent Vietnamese food. You can experience a tornado drill on a moment’s notice or tour gallows and other bone-chilling artifacts of the “wild west.” Such a mix of unexpected things. Including people. Like a lot of small towns in the US, Fort Smith is warm and close-knit – and it now finds its demographics shifting. Schools that were once 90 percent white, now have Latino populations of over sixty percent, compounded in some cases by significant financial need. The challenge, of course, is to embrace change as normal and to pull from it the rich experiences that a truly multicultural community can provide. As I’ve had the chance to do  elsewhere, I spoke to kids about my books, culture, and where those two meet inside a writer. I had to tread lightly on Yaqui Delgado Wants to…

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A Book Club from the Comfort of Your Phone

By Appearances

You’re invited to join me at a book club tonight and the best part is that you never have to leave the comfort of your stretchy pants and living room. That’s because I’m going to be part of the Las Comadres Young Adult Teleconference Book Club at 8 PM. Here’s the number and code: Dial in #: 1-877-383-4771 Code: 120120143 If you’re not familiar, Las Comadres is a nationally known Latina organization whose mission is to “empower women to be actively engaged in the growing Latino/Hispanic communities through online and face to face networks.” What I like about Las Comadres is that its spine is mentoring. The idea is to share information, to help each other succeed, and to celebrate our cultural heritage along the way. Last fall, I had the pleasure of being part of the Las Comadres Writers Conference at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, a gathering of established and up-and-coming Latino authors, editors, and agents. It was such a great time for me to work with writers who are coming up behind me and also to connect with people, like Esmeralda Santiago, whose work I’ve long admired. (José Vilson, was another highlight. Check out his bad ass teacher blog, particularly valuable in the wake of the events in Ferguson.) Anyway, for tonight, founder Nora Comstock is going to lead the conversation about Pura Belpré – the woman and the award that so many people just can’t pronounce – and how I’ve used my year to honor her memory. We’ll also talk…

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