Skip to main content
Category

Community work

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...
Read More

Stop the Madness: Banning Books Is Not the Answer

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

Beyond Books: Creative ways an author can support you

By Community work, The Writing Life
As authors, we're often asked to support a variety of causes, usually related to reading and literacy. I'm always happy to do it, if I can. Frequently, this means providing signed copies of my books. But it's fun when you can bust out of the model. Here are two examples of unique ways to support your favorite book organization. Recently, I supported the Richmond Young Writers whose mission is to spark youth voices through creative writing. For their annual auction, I donated naming a character in the final installment of my Merci Suárez series. That's why, book three will have a sixth grade soccer dynamo named Robin Farmer in the pages. In real life, Robin, who had the winning bid, is a Richmond author, who has been a huge supporter of the literary arts in Richmond, where we both live. I'm thrilled to be able to do this. Talking about Merci Suárez Changes Gears at Takoma Education Campus in Washington, DC On Wednesday night, I will host a zoom story time with a family all the way across the country, in California. This creative idea came from a children's literacy organization with which I often partner - An Open Book Foundation. This team works hard to connect "authors, illustrators, and their books with Washington, DC-area students to build equitable access and nurture a lifelong love of reading." Check out this short video celebration of their 10 years with a sample of their work and a few words from me. Mia...
Read More

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...
Read More

What an honor!

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

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.

Read More

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.
Read More

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.

Read More

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

By Community work, Latino Life

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

Read More

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…

Read More

So, we’re helping Puerto Rico

By Community work, Latino Life

Hola gente – I’ll spare you my thoughts on what’s going down in Puerto Rico with the disaster relief effort. There’s no need to start the week with bile. Instead, I’ll concentrate on the better news. Latinos across all areas of publishing have banded together to create an auction that will benefit the relief effort.  (You can follow the news at #PubforPR.) Bidding starts Monday, October 2, 2017 at 9 am. So, if you’re looking for signed books, author visits, manuscript critiques, advice on your publicity efforts, etc, please consider bidding on an item.  You could get a bargain, for sure, but more importantly,  you’ll definitely be helping fellow citizens in need. The link to the auction is here: Thanks.  

Read More

When We Turn Our Backs on Dreamers

By Community work, Latino Life

I usually blog the day after Labor Day with a wish for everyone to have a good start to the new school year. But with yesterday’s news about the six-month expiration on DACA, I’m here to say a few things because I’m too disgusted by our myopic leaders to mince words. I travel this country pretty much from end-to-end meeting all kinds of students – including those whose lives are going to be upended by President Trump’s assault on undocumented immigrants. These students will start their school year carrying an enormous amount of stress and fear even before they open the first notebook or study for any quiz. I ask that you consider what it might be like to be a young person who is threatened with losing everything he or she has ever known as home. From that place of compassion, I am urging you to contact your representatives on their behalf. It just isn’t enough to treat your students with kindness or to feel satisfied that you, personally, treat them well. They need all of us to advocate for them because right now – gutted and powerless as they are feeling – they can’t. Here is a place to start.  For those of us who know the power of reading and writing to get us through even the ugliest experiences, here are a couple of things for you.  The first is a reading list that may help students understand the dilemma of young people who are undocumented. It’s…

Read More

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  

Read More

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  

Read More

Girls of Summer 2017 in pictures

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

What a night! Girls of Summer 2017 launched into the world on Wednesday, June 21. Dancing with Rita Williams Garcia! Book talking with Stacy Hawkins Adams, Beth Morris, Amanda Nelson, and Gigi Amateau. Eating ice pops with girls from all over Richmond. Here’s a peek at how it went down!   To see our entire Girls of Summer list and to start following the weekly author Q & As, visit www.girlsofsummerlist.com.

Read More

#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  

Read More

A letter to RVA about Girls of Summer 2017

By Community work, The Writing Life

January 16, 2017 It’s MLK Day in our nation, during a time when our country is heartbreakingly fractured. On Saturday, January 14, 2017, the two of us took a stand and walked in the March on Monument, a peaceful coming together of the various social justice groups that serve the Richmond community.  Two thousand or so of our neighbors stood shoulder to shoulder chanting a call and response: Show Me What Democracy Looks Like! THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE! What do we need? LOVE. When do we need it? NOW. What do we need? Unity. When do we need it? NOW. There were older women and men. Parents pushing strollers and carrying signs. Old Basset hounds. Seasoned activists and college students. Wheelchair users. Artists, writers, musicians. And, members of the faith community. Looking around, we saw our community celebrating diversity and inclusion at the statue of Robert E. Lee asking, How do we knit ourselves together in strength? How can we make our community a place where all people are respected and cared for? What can each of us offer? We had been thinking long and hard about Girls of Summer, our curated reading list for strong girls, now approaching its seventh year. To be frank, last year, we wondered if it might be time to let the list go. Exhausted and overscheduled, we could point to dozens of other reading lists for girls to choose from. But then the world got upended in deep and disturbing ways, most…

Read More

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.    

Read More

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.  

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

I Love a (Bookish) Christmas Parade

By Community work

I’ll admit that I haven’t gone to Dominion’s Christmas Parade since my kids were very little. But this year, my friend Maya – part of the beloved Maya and Shaka Smart duo – was named the Richmond Christmas Mother, the youngest one in the program’s 80-year history. In one fell swoop, the annual donation drive that once felt like a throwback to another generation suddenly felt contemporary, electric and fun. (To donate click here.) One part of Maya’s motherly duties is to march in the annual Christmas parade to be held tomorrow, Dec 6. And guess who’s coming along? True to her passions, she has chosen a theme built on Ezra Jack Keats’  The Snowy Day, the ground-breaking 1962 classic. It’s a universal story about the joy of being little and walking through a city winter wonderland. But in a year when there has been so much conversation about books that speak to all children’s experiences (and why all kids need all stories,) the choice is perfect. I’m proud to say that Maya asked me to join in the parade as a past winner of the Ezra Jack Keats Award, which celebrates new authors and illustrators whose books feature diverse children as the main character. You can take a look at the list of all EJK award winners if you’re looking for meaningful stocking stuffers this year. So look for us tomorrow – rain or shine. We’ll be the super-enthusiastic book lovers dressed in our own version of red snowsuits. We’ll be waving at you from…

Read More

Philly, Vicks VapoRub, Kids & Me

By Appearances, Community work

I’m back from Philly where I stayed at the lovely Four Seasons Hotel, a guest of the Free LIbrary of Philadelphia. The hotel is every bit as cushy as you’d expect. Chandeliers, thick rugs, polite people at every, single turn.  The staff even made me a beautiful candy version of the book cover for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind – which was both astoundingly lovely and funny. I was there to speak about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, after all. Hmmm. I would have LOVED to have been a fly on the wall when the dessert guru had to decide what to do.   Anyway, I spent the day as part of library’s well-regarded Field Family Teen Author Series, an endowed program that brings authors and books to students at no cost to their school. (Attention People of Means and Nice Shoes!  Consider doing this in your community, too!) The high school students in my groups were amazing. A sampling: Students with visual impairments who heard the audio version of Yaqui. Young people who were in a GED program and trying to get themselves back on track. A charter school that is over 90% Latino – and their teacher who is an aspiring author, too. We met at a branch in the Kensington area – decidedly NOT the Four Seasons ambiance. But it’s a dead ringer for the Queens that I knew growing up, right down to the trains running overhead the way they do in Corona, Jackson Heights, Jamaica and…

Read More

Teen Read Week & More in #RVA

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

It’s a great week to love books in Richmond, Virginia – especially middle grade and YA fiction. That’s because it’s not only the Library of Virginia’s Literary Festival, but it’s also the American Library Association’s TeenRead Week. Wao! So much going on, so what can I say except, Tengo los patines puestos! (I’ve got my roller-skates on!) Here are a few highlights of where I’ll be during the week: Meadowdale Library/Tomahawk Creek MS:  I’ll head down to Chesterfield County for a library book talk that is off-site on Wednesday, Oct 15, 7 PM.  We’ll talk The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Here’s the info and where you register.  Especially nice to see a partnership between the school and public libraries in a community.   Teen 14: Locals already know that the main branch of the Richmond Public Library on Franklin Street is always figuring out ways to make reading come alive, especially for kids. So, they’re going to play host once again for a teen author event. Join Virginia authors who have works for teens published in 2014. It’s a ready-made night for librarians, teachers, and readers who want to meet and make friends with the truly kick-ass authors we have in the Commonwealth. PLUS, food, music, giveaways.  If last year’s event was any sign, it’s going to be a really fun night. Details on their Facebook page or click on the jpg poster here. Hermitage High School Anti-bullying Book Event with Erin Jade Lange. You know her novel?  It’s…

Read More

Happily Disobedient

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

That silly school board in Colorado got me feeling especially proud of young people – and also appreciative about my great day this Friday. While their school board continued to pit patriotism against informed thought in its AP History classes, I was surrounded by people who dedicate their lives to doing the opposite. I got to teach a workshop with the fabulous Duncan Tonatiuh, where we both discussed our writing/creation process and how we bring difficult topics to young people. Here’s a video that fourth graders did in honor of his award-winning picture book, Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aM6oQEVRyDc&w=560&h=315]   Just after the workshop, I got to peruse the children’s and YA collection at Busboys and Poets in DC, hands-down the most diverse offerings I have come across in our area. If you’re serious about including all points of view, this is the place to be. I was especially fond of the free downloadable lessons and books lists available through Teaching for Change. Met the wise women who wrote Parrots Over Puerto Rico (Lee and Low), this year’s winner of the Las Américas Award.  They had the nerve to write a nonfiction book without a single photograph and without even putting the title on the book cover. That, plus a look at the ga-billion scissors and scraps of paper that it took to make all those collage parrots makes me bow low in respect. ¡Felicidades, Susan and Cindy! Toured the Children’s Literature Center at the Library of Congress for the…

Read More

The Literary Activist: When writing moves beyond your computer

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

Picture the fervor of a rock concert smashed into book geekdom and strong girls. That’s the Girls of Summer live launch party, being held tonight, June18, 7 pm at the Richmond Public Library (Main branch). Gigi and I started the project four years ago, and it has grown into a vibrant partnership that has galvanized our local library, improving their children’s and teens circulation numbers– not to mention their good mood. More importantly, it has connected girls in Richmond not only to good books but also to their own sense of what it means to be a strong girl in 2014. When we started this, Gigi and I couldn’t have guessed how it would grow.  The idea was so simple. We had both used books so heavily in helping us raise our own daughters. What were the books we’d recommend to girls and their moms now? Each year, we answer that question with the help of 20 or so exceptionally talented and generous authors who think girls are amazing, too.  We’ve had the titans in children’s literature, like Jacqueline Woodson, and we’ve had debut authors, like this year’s Hannah Barnaby. What matters to us is the story and the celebration of as diverse a group of girls as possible. Our librarians and local friends help, too, as photographers, as copyeditors, as designers, as event planners. The sum total is a notable blog and a live launch event that has moved us from little mentions in local events calendars to articles…

Read More

Wanted: Your Best Pix in Support of Diverse Books

By Appearances, Community work

It’s a great week for thinking about books for all kids. On Tuesday, I’ll finally be at the Library of Congress to celebrate DIA, the American Library Association’s celebration of multicultural books for young readers. (If you’re unfamiliar with that event, go here and get on board: Dia fact sheet_0) But it’s also a week where I’ll get to hear from you – I hope. A few weeks ago, I pointed you to CBC Diversity as a place to stay informed about advocating for representative children’s books. Today, I offer you another way to help make diverse books more available in classroom and community libraries – and to help get more authors of color at literary conferences. All you need is a smart phone and a magic marker. Why do you think we need diverse books for kids? Please answer the question, take a quick photo of your written response, and send it to weneeddiversebooks@yahoo.com before Thursday, May 1. All the images will be hosted on the event’s Tumblr page. Check out the details of the campaign on Facebook, if you prefer, and if you’re a twitter person, please join the chat. Here’s mine, with just a few of the titles I grabbed off my bookshelf in a hurry. Nothing fancy. See some of your favorites?   Meg’s next appearance:  Young Readers Center at The Library of Congress, April 30 for Dia celebration, 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. 

Read More

Teachers As Acquisition Editors: A Better Approach to Teaching Writing

By Community work, The Writing Life

For the next few weeks after Spring Break, I’ll be doing a writing residency at Chickahominy Middle School in Hanover, VA, where I’ll spend five or six sessions working closely with kids on their writing. I love visiting schools because it reminds me of my teaching days. Years ago, I was on the faculty of what was then the Palm Beach School of the Arts. It was a dream gig in most ways because I got to work with young people who were admitted to the school based on their interest and talent, both of which they had in abundance. Some of those kids went on to become writers and editors in print and media, more or less the way I did. Others chose different paths. It doesn’t matter to me, to be honest. What’s important is that they had a few years to experiment with their voice and their creativity. I like to think that my classroom was a safe, if imperfect, writing bubble where we could laugh and experiment with styles and stories. I hope they left with a taste of the power and joy that comes from being able to conjure a reality from thin air or, more importantly, from being able to name your life experience in a way that connects you to others. These days, when I go to classrooms, I turn to an approach that resonates with me. My friends, Isabel Campoy and Alma Flor Ada –prize-winning and respected authors and researchers – have a terrific book called Authors in the Classroom:…

Read More

So you want more diverse lit in your schools and libraries? Step 1

By Community work, Latino Life

See this badge?  You  need it. BAD. It’s one way you can continue press for books that reflect the diverse students who fill our schools. If you teach kids of color… If any of your patrons have disabilities… If any of your students are LGBTQ… If you teach any students who are more or less clueless about the world outside of their own bubble… then, this is the badge for you. I’ve added it here to the widgets on my site and plan to be a CBC diversity partner. Find out more and link to CBC Diversity here.

Read More

Contra Tiempo in RVA: Where Salsa and Hip Hop Meet Activism

By Community work, Latino Life

It’s a great week for fans of Latin music and dance. Buy your tickets right now for ContraTiempo who will be performing Tuesday, Nov. 19, 7:30 PM at CenterStage. Their name literally translates to a “rough patch” in a situation, but this Los Angeles-based Urban Latin dance theater company offers nothing but joy. The music is irresistible and the dancing is first-rate. On Tuesday, they’ll perform Full, Still Hungry, a contemporary piece that examines food and consumption. It’s art, it’s activism, and it’s fun. I got a taste of their work this past Saturday at ART 180, where they did a free community workshop. Sponsored by the Modlin Center at  the University of Richmond, the company has been in town for about a week, working – as is their mission – in schools and communities to use dance as a tool in transformation.  Within an hour, we were stepping, dancing salsa, and moving in a “rueda” (wheel) that featured cues like “talk on the telephone” and “catchers mitt”  to make us pose and move as if we knew what we were doing. I danced with men, with women, with kids in third grade, with teens, most of whom I’d never met. The crowd was wonderful, and the dancers broke down their step routines so that we were all in synch and making music and movement together. To me, dance is another way of telling story, and story is a way of coming together. Check them out. See you there! Tickets $22; U of R students, free.

Read More

Lights, Camera, Censorship! NCAC’s teen film contest

By Community work, Random howls into the world

This one is for teens who have a camera and wouldn’t mind winning $1,000 and a trip to New York. I got a note from the National Coalition Against Censorship about their annual Youth Free Expression Film Contest. If you’re 19 years old or younger, you have until December 13 to enter a short film about censorship on video games. This year’s theme: “Video Games in the Crosshairs.” Here’s the pdf of info: NCAC Film Contest 2013 The winners get a cash prize ($1000, $500, $250), a scholarship to take classes at the New York Film Academy and an all-expenses paid trip to New York City for the awards ceremony. All they ask is that you bother to make something with more pizzazz than just a headshot of you talking into your phone. Spread the word and good luck!

Read More

Virginia Book Lovers: This is the week for you!

By Appearances, Community work

This is the week to be proud to be a Virginian, especially if you’re a book geek like me. The Literary Festival of Virginia is back. It has been  gaining national attention over the years, thanks to the impressive list of  bookish events you can find in this state. One event that I hope is on your radar is right here in Richmond. If you’re a fan of books for young readers,  we want to see you at Teen ’13  at the Richmond Public Library on October 17, 6 – 8:30 PM. Food, music, authors, books, free stuff, all in one place. The fifteen Virginia authors who are coming offer a mind-blowing range of styles and topics. The books – all 2013 releases — are about psychic powers, romance, religious zealots, racism, canaries in coal mines, circus freaks, the KKK, bullies, military families, Darfur, dementia, horses, angels, courtiers, girls in juvie hall – you name it. See for yourself on the final schedule and the author list here. Teen ’13 program_proof2 (2) Oh, and to sweeten the deal even more, there’s free stuff: six $25 gift cards to Fountain Bookstore (which will be on hand that night); three winners of 30-minute video chats with an author of their choice; and an autographed collection of the entire list of books. Huge smooches to the Hanover High School Jazz band for their talents and to the Friends of the Library who funded the food, the space and all the prizes. (And buttons. Did I…

Read More

Read Local: You’re invited to Teen ’13

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

Mark your fall calendars, teen book lovers. You’re invited to Teen ’13, a literary party that will celebrate Virginia’s homegrown talents.  If you’ve had the chance to sink your teeth into a local Virginia peach this summer, you already know why it makes sense to buy local.  But you shouldn’t limit yourself to buying local food. You can feel  good about “reading local,” too – especially if you’re a fan of teen fiction. That’s because Virginia has an impressive bench when it comes to authors. We’re home to New York Times bestsellers and to authors who have won the Newbery Award, the Hans Christian Anderson Award, the National Book Award, and other top literary prizes. And that’s to say nothing of the hefty number of Virginia authors whose works regularly grace the annual “Best of” lists  that recognize the top books for kids each year. Free and open to the public, Teen ’13 will give book fans of all ages a chance to gather at the Richmond Public library to enjoy food and drinks, buy books, meet their favorite authors in person and win everything from indi bookstore gift certificates and free Skype visits to autographed copies of books and more. Fourteen Virginia authors will attend – all of whom have new releases in 2013. (Teen 13 authors and book blurbs.) It’s exciting enough to have all those creative types in one place. But what’s most satisfying to me is that teen fiction – or YA, if you prefer –  will be part of…

Read More

Hope Sprouts in Arlington

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

I drove up to Arlington last week for a terrific ceremony for the graduating fifth graders at Claremont Elementary. Last fall, teacher Sherry Lord and art teacher Vicki Walchak decided to make a school hope tree with their students in honor of moving on to middle school. You might remember that the Hope Tree project began here in Richmond, VA when my YA novel The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind was published.  At the heart of that novel – and at the heart of the Hope Tree Project — is the question: What is a hope or dream that you have for yourself? Students create metal “milagros” to represent that hope and offer them to the world.  Here’s a poem that the students created together and read as part of the installation ceremony. I am so honored that they took on this project, and I wish all the graduates the best in middle school! Hope Poem If hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, then these are the things that keep it feeling safe and feeling whole. We hope that we’ll stay friends after shutting school’s door, we hope for family’s health and being sick no more. We hope for a healthy sibling to be born this coming summer. We hope for safe travels to this country from another. We hope Raul comes back, we hope our friend won’t go away, we hope when we grow up we’re as wonderful as we are today. We…

Read More

I Can Almost Smell the Sunscreen: Girls of Summer 2013

By Community work, picture book, middle grade, YA

[wpvideo KSVNExkw] It’s almost that time again!  Gigi and I are putting the very last touches on Girls of Summer 2013, our annual curated reading list of summer reads for strong girls. Two dates for you: June 10, 2013:  the new list and our reviews will go live on the blog (www.girlsofsummerlist.wordpress.com) June 18, 2013:  Our live launch party 7 pm at Library Park, behind the main branch of the Richmond Public Library. 101 East Franklin Street, Richmond, VA. Free and open to the public. Refreshments, book giveaways, and an author panel with Jeri Watts and Kristen Paige Madonia. Hope you enjoy our new trailer!

Read More

En Español Por Favor: My Day at Partners in Print

By Appearances, Community work, Latino Life

I spent Saturday at the University Maryland (College Park) with Partners in Print (PNP), an organization under the umbrella of America Reads. PNP supports literacy  at 18 schools, mostly in Prince George County, Maryland, by helping parents – many of whom don’t speak English as their first language – learn how to support their children’s emerging reading skills.  Saturday was the culminating event for the mentors and their students. More than 140 students and 100 parents came for the day-long gathering. My role for the day was to read Tia Isa Quiere Un Carro and to speak to volunteers and family attendees in a bilingual presentation. Confession. It’s always a little strange for me to work bilingually because my English is simply better. I was born here. I studied here. Although we speak Spanish as home, I live about 75 percent of my life in English. That means that sometimes I’m stuck pecking for words or phrases in Spanish, frustrated between what I’m thinking and what I can say. Turns out this gives me the same problem as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was recently interviewed by Jorge Ramos of Univision. He noticed her occasional lapses into English, and it was the subject of a lot of Twitter chat. Like the justice, I grew up speaking Spanish at home, and I have no accent when I speak it. Yes, I can read a newspaper and magazine no problem.  I understand everything on Spanish language TV. I consider myself fully bicultural….

Read More

Thanks for coming!

By Community work

Was great to launch Paint Me a Story this afternoon.  I really enjoyed this collaboration with the library and am so happy that the exhibit will be on display next Friday at the Main Branch for First Fridays. Don’t miss it — or the free workshops that the Visual Arts Center will provide as an offshoot of the exhibit. Here are a few shots from our party. Lila, Joe, John: your work was so impressive.It was an honor and a pleasure to share it with new audiences.

Read More

Paint Me a Story: Latino Children’s Book Illustration in RVA

By Appearances, Community work, Latino Life

Find your calendar. Here’s something for everyone in Richmond who loves kids, books, and art. Paint Me A Story is a free, month-long celebration of El Dia De Los Libros, the American Library Association’s annual celebration of multicultural children’s lit. Beginning on Friday, April 26, 2013, two of our favorite community resources – the Richmond Public Library and the Visual Arts Center of Richmond – have cooked up a great way to celebrate. Librarians Cristina Dominguez Ramirez and Patty Parks have worked with me to create a gorgeous exhibit of Latino children’s book illustration featuring the work of nationally-recognized illustrators Joe Cepeda, John Parra, and Lila Quintero Weaver.  The opening reception is at the Broad Rock branch on Friday, April 26, 4 – 6 pm. (Free food, great art. Thank you Friends of the Library for your generous support!) I’ll be on hand to say hello and give you some information about books you might enjoy with your kids. For art fans, several pieces are available for purchase. The exhibit will move to the main branch of the library on May 3 in time for First Fridays Art Walk and  will remain for the month of May. Best yet, the Visual Arts Center of Richmond will offer two, free youth art classes on bookmaking on May 4 and May 16 at the Main branch. Sarah Hand will be at the helm. (Check out her beautiful work below.) Please spread the word, join us for the reception, and enjoy the talents of three distinguished illustrators…

Read More

And we have lift-off!

By Appearances, Community work

It was amazing to look out and see the huge variety of people in the audience who came to talk about books and bullying at yesterday’s book launch for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Great questions, honest conversation, and a lot of love in the room. Thank you so much for coming to the celebration! Click on the  word cloud title below for a tiny slide show that emerged from our I feel strongest when prompt. (Thanks AB Westrick for being the input goddess!) [wpvideo mrnABhVw] I promised to give you the Resources for anti-bulllying, so here they are.  The document is full of unusual arts and community activities that give  young people a voice about their experiences. Film, art events and competitions, on-line communities, books…it’s a great peek at  new ways to look at an old problem. Maybe you will add you own innovations? Finally, my heroes for the day: Trey Hartt and Lauren Davis of The Conciliation Project; the ART 180 teen leaders; Marlene, Betsy, “the Mikes”at ART 180;  panelists Allison Conyers of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities and Paul Fleisher and Santa Sorenson of the Richmond Peace Education Center; Penelope Carrington for the photography; Gigi Amateau and Virginia Pye for the unglamorous job of food schlepping; bbgb tales for kids for the book sales; Candlewick Press for the gifts to the teens; and the amazing literary community here in Richmond. Meg’s next appearances:  The Virginia Festival of the Book, March 20 – 24, 2013, Charlottesville,…

Read More

Books, Bullying, and Building Compassion: A Book Event in RVA

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

Mark your calendars: Saturday, March 16, 2013, 2 PM – 4:30 pm. Book launch party for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, ART 180, 114 West Marshall Street, Richmond, VA 23220 One day back in middle school, a girl I didn’t know came up to me and said, “Jackie Delgado is going to kick your ass.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s more or less the title of my new YA novel. I didn’t know it then, but that moment was an awful turning point for me. If you’ve ever been targeted, you know that a low grade dread sets in and crowds out everything else, like your grades, your family, your self esteem. What followed for me were two long years of dodging a school bully and her obnoxious friends who would push me and threaten me, scream out my name and cackle in the halls. I suddenly felt scared to exist at my school, and no adult seemed capable of helping. I learned to avoid classes, to lie to my mother, to hang out with downright dangerous people so that I might become so tough that no one could ever hurt me. I wasn’t alone, of course, but you couldn’t have told me that. The good news is that, like most of us, I survived. The bad news is that girls like Jackie still exist today, and they’re made all the fiercer with their cameras and YouTube sites and Facebook pages. I saw it as a teacher….

Read More

Illustrators I Love: Ana Juan

By Community work, Random howls into the world

I couldn’t resist sharing Ana Juan’s work. She has several very successful works all over the globe, but in case you don’t know this wonderful Spanish illustrator,  here’s the link to her site.  Also, I wanted to mention that this spring, Cristina Dominguez Ramirez of the Richmond Public Libraries and I will be collaborating to bring a children’s book illustration exhibit to Richmond in celebration of El Dia De Los Libros (the Day of Books)/ El Dia de los Niños in late April. Stay tuned for details of some of the incredible artists and activities we’re cooking up for you — and for how you can help.

Read More

School visits: An Open Book Literacy Foundation

By Appearances, Community work

Back to DC, one of my favorite cities, this time thanks to An Open Book Children’s Literacy Foundation which gives Title 1 schools in the District access to books and authors. (Feeling charitable this season?  They make an excellent choice for your philanthropy.) So, it’s second graders and eighth graders for me today. I think we’ll make our own “Tía Isa” cars out of foam with the younger ones, since this gives me a chance to channel my inner craft geek. (I can’t help it. I love office supplies and the smell of Elmers Glue). Thrilled also to start a new Hope Tree in the DC area with the older guys. Raymond Education Center, here I come!

Read More

Claremont Elementary Spanish Immersion School: The Hope Tree Grows

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

What a week! A nail-biter election that took me late into the night, and then up at 5 am (when it was still tan oscuro!) to get to Claremont Elementary School in Arlington, VA. (Thank you to Sherry Lord for inviting me!) Claremont is a funky Spanish Immersion school that’s going to do a version of the Hope Tree project as their fifth graders move on to middle school. Again, we’re asking, What is a hope you have for yourself? Such a pretty school, and the art is everywhere you look. I love these giant looming heads over the stage (inside one of those strange rooms called a cafetorium). They are César Chávez, Pocahontas, and Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. Oh! And look at these urns in their lovely garden. I spotted them when I arrived. Hmmm…they are sitting near benches and empty trees. You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?

Read More

Dame Tu Voz: An Arts Celebration with Duende in RVA

By Appearances, Community work, Latino Life

What happens when you have a dream that you’re watching a Henley Street Theatre play and all the actors are speaking in Spanish? If you’re Rafael Seligmann, Board Chair of the Henley Street Theatre, you wake up, call Ana Ines King of The Latin Ballet of Virginia and plan a day-long celebration of Latin American music, theatre, literature and dance. On November 3, I’ll be part of Dame Tu Voz(Give Me Your Voice), a free, one-day festival to be held at Centenary United Methodist Church (411 E Grace St.) from 1 – 9 pm. Here’s why you should go. First, it’s a bargain if you’ve got kids. Free family-friendly things happen all afternoon: food, music, art, flamenco demonstrations, puppet making and salsa lessons, to name just a few highlights. But don’t worry; nobody is left out of the fun. At 4 pm the event starts to take a more adult tone. It begins with readings of favorite Spanish-language poetry.(Want to share one? Call (804) 307-5343 to sign up.) My performance is at 5 pm. I’ll be reading a short selection from my YA novel, The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind) and talking about magical realism and transformation. Afterward, we can enjoy some food and downtime together before the evening offers up truly refreshing fare for theatre fans. (This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Henley Street is already known for its free and innovative Bootleg Shakespeare series.) For  $10, you get to see two fantastic one-act plays. The Marvelous Pageant  is a comedy by…

Read More

Hispanidad Meets First Fridays: Helene Ruiz at Art6

By Community work, Guests, Latino Life

This month you’ll find celebrations of Hispanic heritage in all sorts of corners of the city – and that’s thanks in part to the efforts of Helene Ruiz. The Bronx native lives in Mechanicsville VA these days, but nothing has slowed her commitment to artists, culture and the community. Before we launch into the quick Q & A, here are two events to keep track of: Sabor Feminina (Female Flavor) at Pine Camp Cultural Arts Center through November 2. The free show features Ruiz’s Goddesses series, with nods to Cuban Yoruba spiritualism.   Mon – Fri 10 – 7 pm. Saturday 10 am – 2 pm. ¡Azucar! at Art6 Gallery, Oct 5, 5 – 10 pm. Ruiz ushers in First Fridays doing what she does best: gathering artists together to celebrate in one voice. This multimedia event will feature the work of several Latin visual artists as well as the Latin Ballet of Virginia and Cuban percussionist (click to listen) Melena la Rumbera. Five questions with Helene Ruiz What’s a nice Bronx girl like you doing in Mechanicsville? My parents moved to Virginia almost 30 yrs ago. My father passed back in 2001, my mom is getting old and my sister suffers from MS, so I figured, why not move there, help out with the house and help them? After all, art is everywhere anyway! I can always get back and forth to NYC whenever I need, it’s not that far away. Why did you think it was important to pull together ¡Azucar! in…

Read More

A Little Bit of Fiesta at City Hall

By Appearances, Community work

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! This is a month for everybody to channel their inner Latino, but don’t worry if you don’t know an empanada from a salsa. I can help you, especially if you’re in the downtown Richmond, Virginia area next week. That’s because on Monday, September 17, 2012 The Hope Tree Project comes to the lobby of City Hall at Broad Street and 9th Street! (Map here.) We’re having a little lunchtime party as the kickoff, and I hope you’ll come. You’ll remember that this exhibit of the hopes and dreams of Richmond’s young people started out as a collaboration between me, eight area high schools, and the folks at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden last spring, when The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind first pubbed. Well, we’ve moved the exhibit to its final phase —  the concrete jungle — where the public can see what our kids are thinking about themselves and our community. The exhibit is, of course, free and open to the public. The lobby doesn’t have trees (bummer) but I have a plan. Or I should say… my friends at Pine Camp Art Center (Shaun Casselle) and the Office of Multicultural Affairs (Tanya Gonzalez) have a plan. All those twigs that fell out of trees during last month’s gusty days?  Yep, they’re being recycled into the show. (How’s that for clever use of resources?) We’ll be spending our Saturday putting them in place. If you work downtown, please come down and join us for the  reception…

Read More

The Hope Tree spreads a seedling to downtown Richmond

By Community work

I’ll be heading to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden this week to take down the Hope Tree exhibit. (Tomorrow, when it’s not 100 degrees in Richmond, VA.) The happy news? Pieces of the exhibit will be traveling to City Hall for Hispanic Heritage month this September/October. Details to follow. Meantime, if you have any ideas on how to create a sturdy fake tree in a lobby, send them my way. Pronto.

Read More

Scenes for the Girls of Summer Live Launch

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

The Girls of Summer 2012 site is live — 18 great summer reads for girls! But here are some shots from a truly magical night under the shady trees of Library Park in Richmond, VA. More than 100 girls, moms, librarians, teachers, and friends gathered for ice cream, book talks, and a chance to meet the fabulous Wendy Shang, author of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu. Thank you to everyone at the Richmond Public Library, to bbgb tales for kids (our bookseller), to Penelope Carrington for filming, and to the Ice Cream Connection for the fantastic refreshments and music! Winners of our picture book, chapter book, and early middle grade bag of books! Cute or what?

Read More

Back again! Girls of Summer 2012

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

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_Dy8cZJlhI] Ah, it’s almost time to kick back and read the way you’re supposed to read in the summer: curled in a hammock or beach chair. Here comes Girls of Summer 2012.  Gigi Amateau and I are updating our curated reading list  with 18 new titles for this summer. It’s an absolute joy to work on this project for a second year. I get to read (or re-read) books that I think celebrate girls, share time with a close friend, and talk to authors I’ve long admired all summer long. It doesn’t get better. You’ll find the spiffy new list and our comments on the website starting June 20. (We’re under construction now with updates, so please be patient.) But what I really want you to do is save the night of June 19, 2012, 7 – 9 pm and join us at the Richmond Public Library for the live launch. It’s free. It’s fun. It’s the best thing you can do on a Tuesday night. Were you there for our inaugural event last year? We promise another crazy, fun-filled evening, complete with book giveaways, summer refreshments (think popsicles) and authors on hand. Mark the date! Oh — and don’t forget Anita Silvey will be speaking on children’s books at the library this Saturday, May 19. Not to be missed if you are even remotely interested in books for young people. She’s amazing.

Read More

Wordles: samples from The Hope Tree Project

By Appearances, Community work

Me again. Two posts in one week Geez. First, the spiffy StyleWeekly article is here!  Thanks Julie Geen for spreading the word about The Hope Tree Project! Also, do you know about wordles?  They’re handy as a wrap-up for a school activity or, in this case, as a display for a community project. You plug in words or phrases that emerged from an experience, and – POOF! — out comes a graphic. For phrases, separate each word with a ~. Give it a try here. Here are the Wordles of phrases describing the dreams represented in each milagros for The Hope Tree Project. I took the phrases from the artist statements the school provided. Click to enlarge each.  

Read More

The Hope Tree Exhibit Opens

By Awards and news, Community work

Last night was a nearly perfect launch for the Hope Tree Project at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  I say nearly because the school bus carrying 27 artists from Meadowbrook High School got a flat tire on I-95. They missed the opening, but not to worry. The folks at the garden are going to send them free passes so the students can come see their creations. I do wish they could have seen the outpouring of support from the community, though, especially the Latin Ballet dancing in their honor. Here are some shots of the private unveiling. I’m including the program and the text of my comments, in case you love long-winded speeches. Here’s a link, too, to Latin Ballet of Virginia and to Kevin’s contagious music with Ban Caribe. Some photos of the milagros appear page 2 of today’s Richmond Times Dispatch (metro sec.), and there will be an article in StyleWeekly tomorrow. The exhibit runs through July 4. I hope you’ll take the time to visit the Garden soon. It really is a stunning place where you can gather your thoughts and refuel, whatever age or interest.  Be sure to stop by the exhibit. It’s an amazing thing to be surrounded by aspirations. Many, many thanks again to L.C. Bird, Meadowbrook High School, Huguenot High School, The Steward School, J.R. Tucker High School, Lee Davis High School, Hermitage High School, and Henrico High School. And a huge shout out to my publisher, Candlewick Press for the facebook ads and…

Read More