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Self-care

Holiday wishes – and DIY ideas – from my family to yours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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