Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

Archive for the ‘Community work’ Category

Girls of Summer 2017 in pictures

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!

How’s this for a good idea on vinyl? Look closely: the book jackets are the record labels

More vinyl

Part of the dream team. Stacy Hawkins Adams and Amanda Nelson. Check the gift bags this year, compliments of Georgi Green

Gigi arrives with the hand-made bags for the girls of summer winners, courtesy of Betty Sanderson

The annual basket of book cover buttons

With the ever fabulous Patty Parks, visionary branch manager of the Richmond Public Library

Some of our guests…

Our audience continues to grow

Our third attempt at a selfie with Beth Morris, part of the GOS 2017 selection committee

Rita Williams Garcia interviewed by Maeve and Alex from Richmond Young Writers. Stacy Adams facilitating.

This is what it’s about. With my friend and co-founder, Gigi Amateau.

 

To see our entire Girls of Summer list and to start following the weekly author Q & As, visit www.girlsofsummerlist.com.

#CelebrateYoungReaders grand opening at the Library of Congress

yrc-grand-opening

 

 

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.

697_234I’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

 

A letter to RVA about Girls of Summer 2017

January 16, 2017

img_0609It’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 notably in an infamous video and talk of grabbing women by their genitals. And we realized that now was not the time to stop. There is still so much work to do together to make this world safe, secure, and nurturing of girls.

So plans have changed.

For the next four years, not only are we not letting go of Girls of Summer, but we are going to grow it big. We’ll use every ounce of our strength as authors, mothers, and literary citizens to build it up as a resource to empower young women of all ages to become lifelong readers and learners, with the tools to find their voices, to stand up, and to protect themselves.

So, here is the first of what will be many exciting changes this year:

Our Girls of Summer team is growing. We are joined by new and dynamic friends with loving ties to our city. These are book women, strong women, and advocates who will be helping to choose our list, plan our event, and spread the word to girls here at home and around the country. They are:

stacyhawkinsadamsheadshotStacy Hawkins Adams

amanda_headshot-cropped-300x294Amanda Nelson

aisha-saeed-headshotAisha Saeed

maya-smart-headshot-2016Maya Smart

 

 

 

In the coming months, you can expect to hear about new a partnership with Richmond Young Writers, too, as we develop new ways for young people to have access to our visiting authors. You’ll hear about a literary breakfast event organized by our longtime champions at the Richmond Public Library and about new schools and organizations who have asked to join us in this effort. And it’s our hope that you will, in fact, engage with us through attendance, earmarked donations to the Richmond Public Library foundation, and support with new and urgent energy.

We linked arms as we marched on Saturday, in effort to stay warm and in thanksgiving for this friendship of ours. Encircled by thousands of new friends, we got caught up in the spirit of loving kindness and the spirit of justice that rolled down Monument Avenue. How did this happen, we wondered? Just two girls: one with roots in Cuba and one from Mississippi, two friends who have found that it’s our differences that make us strong and our shared values that keep us brave.

Our friendship is what sparked Girls of Summer, but we know that friendship alone isn’t what sustains this important project. For that kind of sustenance, we need a community filled with smart people who care about books and reading in the lives of every day folks. (Here’s looking at you bbgb books and Kris Spisak – champions from the start.) We need a community that is invested in respecting and empowering females, from ages eight to eighty-eight. We need neighbors who insist on equality and inclusion where we live, work, and play.

And in Richmond, Virginia, as it turns out,  we have found exactly that.

Stayed tuned.

Meg Medina and Gigi Amateau are authors of works for young readers. Among their many projects, they are the cofounders of Girls of Summer List, a curated summer reading list for strong girls. They live (proudly) in Richmond, Virginia.

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

LibCong

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.image001

 

 

When Reading Across Generations Works

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.

The students worked on parrot projects before I came to visit them.

The students worked on parrot projects before I came to visit them.

Adorable beyond belief.

Adorable beyond belief.

Kids run the range from readers, like this young lady, to children who are learning to hear the sound of their voice and the names of letters

Kids run the range from readers, like this young lady, to children who are learning to hear the sound of their voice and the names of letters

Telling us about the picture they drew of themselves and their families

Telling us about the picture they drew of themselves and their families

Just back from El Salvador, where he visited his abuela and ate pupusas!

Just back from El Salvador, where he visited his abuela and ate pupusas!

The senior volunteers who work with the children in ALL AGEES READ TOGETHER. (Lead teacher Julie Brunson second from the right, top)

The senior volunteers who work with the children in ALL AGES READ TOGETHER. (Lead teacher Julie Brunson second from the right, top)

Mango slices anyone?

Mango slices anyone?

Miss Olivia made us empanadas., just like Abuela did in the book

Miss Olivia made us empanadas. (Abuela would approve!)

And Carmine helped us label things in Spanish and English, just like in the book

And Carine helped us label things in Spanish and English, just like in the book

The beautiful students at Herndon High School, about to finish their years as ESL students. These students were funny, charming, and so sweet. Great questions about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, which they all read in English.

The beautiful students at Herndon High School, about to finish their years as ESL students. These students had great questions about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, which they all read in English. Such a charming and loving bunch…

It's always a party when you get to talk with Kwame Alexander, who is basically a treasure to Virginia.

It’s always a party when you get to talk with Kwame Alexander, who is basically a treasure to Virginia. (Photo by Kim Dare)

 

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

Censorship-Flyer-(final)

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.

banned-buttonI’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.

BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2And 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 common reasons books get in trouble with censors; and finally, the more recent controversies, including those that have put usual allies in conflict with one another.

I hope you can join us. Here’s a little visual and a guest list so you know what to expect.

Books we’ll talk about with their authors and/or editors:

and tango enhanced-buzz-wide-22567-1391614085-7 the-miseducation-of-cameron-post Tyrell+cover+hi+res-1 512R2aJ0iLL._SX341_BO1,204,203,200_ 61eSz7BpJlL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2Yaqui with medal

Other uber librarians and publishing experts on hand:

Allie Jane Bruce, Children’s Librarian, Bank Street College of Education; Fatima Shaik, Children’s/Young Adult Books Committee, PEN American Center; Andy Laties, Manager, Bank Street Book Store;
Kiera Parrott, Reviews Director, School Library Journal; Cheryl Willis Hudson, Editorial Director, Just Us Books, Inc.; Elizabeth Levy, author; Joan Bertin, Director, National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC); Hilary Van Dusen, editor Candlewick Press; David Gale, editor, Simon & Schuster; Shelly Diaz, YA reviewer, School Library Journal

 

Not anywhere near New York?

You can follow the conversation from afar on #CensorshipConversation, Saturday, April 16, 9 am – 1 pm.

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

IMG_3687Here’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 & Low’s recent survey.)

So, over the years, I’ve learned to think beyond financial need. There are plenty of places that are deserving based on finances, but that doesn’t make them a good fit for me. I’m looking for places that are invested in how to empower kids around their own story, their voice, and that of others.

The decision of where to go comes down to this: In addition to enormous financial need, I look for places that will use my author visit as more than just another assembly. I try to get a feel for whether they (1) truly respect the kids and families they serve and (2) show innovation in how they encourage the use of books and story in kids’ lives. Finally – and this is the most unfair, I know – it usually takes someone’s personal recommendation.

All of this to say that for the first half of 2016, I’ve picked St. Andrews School and the Sacred Heart Center, both in Richmond. 

220px-StAndrewsSchoolEarly1900sI’ll visit St. Andrew’s for the first time this afternoon. It has been a quiet jewel in our community for over a century, though. Established by Grace Arents, the niece of philanthropist Lewis Ginter to serve the Oregon Hill community, the school offers intimate, high quality education to students whose parents face financial hardships. I love that it was established by a woman who had the vision invest in children, regardless of their economic status.

sa-logo-R1All these years later, accepted students receive a scholarship to attend. I’m so excited to visit their newly renovated building and to see first-hand why this school consistently graduates young people who go on to further their education here in Richmond and beyond. You can check out their fine work here on their website.

Logo_COLOR_blackletteringOn Feb 18, I’ll also be packing up my Mango puppet, computer, and games and heading across town to visit the Sacred Heart Center, whose mission is to help Latino families in Richmond succeed. I’ll work with parents who are learning English as a second language (the way my whole family did.)  Our work together will focus on how to use pictures books – both in Spanish and English – to strengthen their relationship with their little ones and to inspire a love for stories and writing. I’m told that we’ll have paletas (ice cream pops) too, so now I’m really excited. (We have several excellent shops in Richmond.) Obviously, I’ll chose mango flavor if it’s available.Column_IceBox_rp0715

Please check out both organizations and consider making a donation of your time, talent, or money.

MANGO_jacket_for_Meg copytia_isa