Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

Archive for the ‘The Writing Life’ Category

Juune is Bustin’ Out All O-O-ver…

I woke up this morning with that song in my head, which is horrible, but June is, in fact, looking exciting on my end. Here’s the news.  

BEA AND BOOK CON

I’ll be at Book Expo America and BookCon to introduce MERCI SUÁREZ CHANGES GEARS. Here are the highlights so we can cross paths:

Children’s Breakfast, Friday, June 1, 2018 8 am, Javitz Special Events Hall

I’ll share some of what went into crafting that novel at the fancy children’s breakfast with fellow panelists Jacqueline Woodson, Dave Eggers, Yuyi Morales, and Viola Davis. (Gulp.)

Latinx BookExpo Party, Friday June 1, 6 – 8 PM, at La Biblioteca (622 3rd Avenue, between 40 and 41 St)

If you want to decompress and surround yourself with friends and love, please join us for drinks, micro-readings, a raffle, and fun. It’s an event sponsored by Latinx in Publishing and Duende District books. Free, but you should register. ¡Vengan!

Wonder Women panel (Saturday, June 2, Javits, Room 1E16; 3:45 PM.) Woot! Where are my tights? With Kate DiCamillo, Shannon Hale, T.R. Simon, and Jessica Spotswood

The scoop on signings:

Friday, June 1, 2018

Signing galleys of Merci Suárez Changes Gears  

  • 10 am – 11 am, Immediately following the breakfast (ABA member lounge)
  • 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm, Candlewick booth # 2021

Saturday, June 2, 2018

  • 10:15 am – 11:15 am (Autograph Area tables 7 & 8) with Shannon Hale, Kate DiCamillo, T.R. Simon and Jessica Spotswood. This is where you can get paperbacks of Burn Baby Burn (new this year) and more important, where you can pre-order Merci Suárez Changes Gears and get a signed bookplate.
  • 12:30 pm  – 1:30 pm (Candlewick booth 2021) The first 50 people get a free copy of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. All my paperback titles will be on hand, too.
Social media:

There’s an app to download, fyi.

Please use @TheBookCon/#BookCon @BookExpoAmerica/#BookExpo/@Meg_Medina/MegMedinaBooks on instagram


On the horizon:

Meg’s next appearances:

Girls of Summer:  The book party of the year for book lovin’ girls!  Wednesday, June 20, 2018, Richmond Public Library. Special guest, Selina Alko!

 

American Library Association Conference, New Orleans, June 22 – 24, 2018. Beignets, coffee and Michelle Obama, here I come! So excited to be in the audience for the Newbery and the Pura Belpré ceremonies! I’ll post the schedule soon.

Shenandoah University Children’s Literature Conference:  Thursday, June 27, 2018. So many incredible authors coming that week! Check it.

Register for the Live Dia Webcast at the Library of Congress

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.

Pura Belpré storytelling at La Casita Maria community center in East Harlem

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 Press 2017;)

Representatives from the (stunning) Hispanic Reading Room at the Library of Congress, who will share some of the holdings in the LOC’s collection;

and me, speaking on giving kids access to their heroes and to their libraries.

If you want your organization to be part of the live interactive videoconference (so you can ask questions, etc.) questions, etc.) go here.

Only four slots are left, so don’t wait.

 

 

Event: Dia de los Niños Videoconference at the Library of Congress

Date:  Monday, April 30, 2018

Time:  3:00 PM – 4:10 PM EST

From Harlem to Brooklyn: How I’m Celebrating Burn Baby Burn’s release in paperback

Ok, Burn Baby Burn is out in paperback next week, and to celebrate I’m heading back to the scene of the crime, so to speak, for some fun.

First stop is Harlem on March 27, 7 pm, as part of the Authors in Conversation series at the hallowed grounds of the Langston Hughes House. I’m so grateful to Renée Watson for the invitation to appear at the i too arts collective, an organization that preserves this space as a place to connect young writers with their voice, with their history and with their heroes.

It’s a ticketed event, with proceeds going to support the center. You can get tickets here  Don’t wait.  That’s because I’ll be  appearing with Elizabeth Acevedo, whose spoken word shows sell out in minutes. Her debut novel, The Poet X, hit shelves this month, too. It’s a powerful novel-in-verse, set in the Bronx, about all we Latinx girls know about: family, men, and the million ways we’re boxed in by how the world defines Latina. Elizabeth is a powerhouse on stage, and I can’t wait to hear her share from her book. But, I’m also really wanting to drill down into what our characters, Nora and Xiomara, are both coping with, what we’re saying to readers about being women, and just generally what’s next as we move through publishing.

From there, it’s off to Brooklyn, where I’ll be doing a writing workshop with the middle school sweeties at P.S. 89 and then heading to the gorgeous main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library (Grand Army Plaza) to meet with 180 third graders.

The final present to myself?  A big slice of cheesy, can’t-be-found-elsewhere, Brooklyn pizza.

 

 

#KidLitWomen: Money

By ArnoldReinhold (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

My mother and my aunts all worked at the same place when I was little. It was an electronics factory in Queens. My mother worked in shipping, where she packed Styrofoam bricks with transistors. Tía Isa branded the little numbers on the smallest ones, checking her work with a powerful magnifying glass. Tía Gera tested the voltage all day long.

In the end, they worked until retirement, and in all that time – 30 years, all told – none of them ever asked for a raise. Instead, they pooled their money, covered one another in a pinch, and worked financial magic so that I don’t remember a single day of being hungry.

All to say that, early on, I lived a life where money couldn’t possibly be used as the measure of our value or we would have surely lost our minds, or at very least our dignity. Instead, our family measured our worth by how well we made do with the resources we had available.

It’s all admirable, and I’m grateful for all my family did for me.

But the truth is that some of those attitudes about money and self worth have followed me into publishing – and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

graphic by Grace Lin

Fast forward. Unlike my mother, I do not test, brand or pack transistors. In fact, I have a job that many people would kill for. But here is the ingrained script that runs through my head whenever the question of money enters the picture.

Don’t complain. You’re not starving, after all. Be grateful for what people offer because you are lucky to do this work. Be glad you have readers at all.  It’s tacky to talk about money – hush. Don’t you dare focus on money, which is meaningless; focus on “what’s really important” – the kids.

And that, my friends, is how women – especially those from marginalized backgrounds – can really get shafted in the publishing business.

For the record, I am intensely grateful that I have the privilege of writing books for young people, and that my books name the experience of immigrants and bicultural kids at a time when Latinx families are essentially under siege in the media. It’s important work, noble work, and fulfilling. I’m grateful that my life is filled with other creative authors and illustrators whose books are groundbreaking. I am grateful for every last beautiful moment this career has offered me.

But here is what is harder to say.  I have worked like a mule to make a space for myself in this field. I’m good at what I do.  I should be paid fairly and professionally in both my advances and in my fees for conferences and school visits.

Even as I type this, I feel sick. I worry immediately that this will make me sound greedy.

Interestingly, in talking recently with many of my female friends in publishing, I find that they struggle with a similar unease, even those who started out in middle class or more advantaged families.  (See earlier posts on the #kidlitwomen site.) But for many of my friends who are women of color, the unease is a more pointed, especially early on in our careers. Of course there will be the superstars who are offered top dollar right out of the gate (and more power to them.) But for the rest, whose careers unfold more traditionally, the worry is real as time goes on.  Will we make a professional, living wage? Should we close our eyes and be happy that we get to do this at all?

I can’t help but wonder if our male counterparts who have reached the same career level ever feel guilty for advocating for their finances in this way. My guess is no, not really.

Let’s pivot for a second and take on the recent movie  flap about Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg.  You may remember the jaw-dropping revelations that she was paid $80 a day to reshoot scenes for All the Money in the World while he got paid over $ 1 million to do the same. The real kick in the face?  They were represented by the same firm.

Why do I bring this up? Because money in publishing is a very opaque thing, and opacity doesn’t work to our advantage. In all the secrecy and conditional factors of our business, it’s easy for you to get low-balled and underpaid, just like Michelle Williams- and you’d never know it.  It might be as an advance for a male colleague that’s much higher than yours or it might be that someone has been paid more to speak on the very same panel. Maybe the school has paid far more for a school visit or granted first-class travel accommodations to someone else – while you’re happily still booking coach.

I wish these scenarios were just in my head, but they’re not. Every one of these things has happened to me, and I’ve been served up lots of rationalizations in response – none of which took away the sting of feeling that I’d been had.

Recently a dear friend accidentally confessed that he and his writing partner had each  made a substantially bigger advance on their novel than I had on mine. Was it sexist? After all, I have male friends who earn smaller advances than I do. Enter the murkiness.

We know advances have to do with your name recognition and with how badly your editor loves your project and what power they have at their publishing house to acquire it. Your advance has to do with your former sales figures and awards, with the “hotness” of the book’s topic – and of course, if you’re an author of color, if the marketing department believes they can sell your work in the mainstream. Don’t forget the negotiation skills of your agent and the ability of the publisher to shell over big bucks, too.

See the trouble? Negotiations are tricky. Any of those things could have been the reason I was paid less. Still, you can’t ignore the fact that bias can be folded into each and every one of those factors. And so, suspicion enters the game.

What’s the answer? I think we have to start truly assessing where we are in our careers and then putting a fair price on it. This means frank conversations with your agents, of course. But it also means that we stop worrying about asking for too much money.  In the end, maybe your agent won’t get the advance you’re hoping for, but you absolutely don’t stand a chance if you don’t ask with conviction.

Conferences and school visits are other revenue sources and there’s a lot of hand-wringing that goes on about those two subjects, too. Early in my career, I had no idea what to charge, aka, I had no idea how to value myself as a professional author. I mean, what did I have to offer? Here I owe a huge debt to my friends Monica Brown and Guadalupe Garcia McCall, comadres with some chops. They had to remind me repeatedly to price myself fairly, especially as I started to publish more. They very generously shared their own fees so that I could gauge where I wanted to set mine. I am ashamed to tell you, even now, how long I resisted their advice and how many times I second-guessed my fees, especially when it was for schools. But eventually, I learned the hard way. On more than one occasion, I did school visits for a price determined by me, only to find out months or years later, that another author had been paid much more. Who was to blame? Me.

So here are a couple of strategies – simple ways to protect ourselves from our own internalized thinking (“I’m not worth that amount.  I have nothing important to say.) and from those who may operate under their own faulty assumptions that we are not the main “breadwinners” and therefore do not need as much money as one of our male colleagues.

One: ask about money without shame. The fact is that panels can operate on the airline model. Every seat had a different price, just depending.  The person to the right of you got paid half what you did.  The person to the left of you got paid three times as much.  You’re all experts and all equal on the stage, but your wallets tell another story.

I turned to Phil Bildner, for some advice since he manages my bookings at the Author Village.  Phil’s number one question on behalf of his clients, male and female, is whether all panelists are being paid the same. “Why not ask? It’s a fair question,” he says.

Do that. Whether you’re represented by someone or whether you’re fielding your own requests. Tape the script to your computer and to your forehead. “Thank you for the invitation. Is everyone on the panel being paid the same?”  It should be the question you ask right after, “Just to verify, this is not an all-male panel? There will be people of color on this panel, too?”

And I say, why stop there?  Before you offer up what your fee is to visit a school, ask plainly what the school or panel organizers have paid presenters in the past.  It is a fair question, no matter how squeamish it makes you.

Does this mean you will never do anything for free? Is everything about the buck? Do you have to turn your back on your sense of community and generosity?

Not at all. First of all, the visits sponsored by your publisher for publicity and marketing will not earn you a dime, at least not directly. Beyond that, you can satisfy any need you have for service as you see fit.

For now, here’s what I’m trying out because volunteerism is an important part of how I want to empower Latinx communities. I’ve opted to pick two organizations a year for a free author visit. These are typically in my own state and are organizations that are very closely aligned with my interest in girls, culture, and family. They have to ask me in writing, and they have to tell me about their organization and their finances.  I look at their mission and if they truly have no other means to bring me.  If it’s a match and if my schedule is open, I’m in.

The solution for you might be different. Maybe you don’t do anything for free, period. Fine. You’ll find the right balance.

What matters here is that you decide what your time is worth and what you’re worth.  You decide what to give away, if anything at all.  It is okay to love what you do and to be paid well to do it.  It’s time for clarity, sisters, and a time for all of us to learn a new language:  Self love and money.

 

It’s International Women’s Day this Thursday, March 8, 2018.

graphic by Grace Lin

We’re celebrating Women’s History month with 31 days of posts focused on improving the climate for social and gender equality in children’s and teens industry.  Join in the conversation on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/kidlitwomen or Twitter #kidlitwomen

Please note the comment policy for #kidlitwomen: 

The #KidLitWomen project is a solutions-oriented forum, focused on improving the climate for gender equality in the children’s and teen literature industry.  While high emotions are a natural part of this ongoing dialogue, the hope is that we can always return to a spirit of problem-solving and remain a celebration of the many women who make up such a large portion of this community. Discussion should be respectful, constructive, and tightly related to our goal. We reserve the right to delete comments that are abusive, inappropriate and/or fall outside the scope of this initiative.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s coming new for 2018?

This week on twitter, I’ve been tagged with lots of chain-letter questions, which included things like: Who do you write for?  What was your best writer moment? I usually don’t mind being tagged, although the group replies can get crazy.

But it was one fill-in-the-blank question that got me thinking. 2018 will be…

My response?  A year of change.

So, with that, a couple of small announcements.

source: hamline.edu

I made a huge decision to join the faculty at Hamline’s low-residency MFA program for children’s literature. I’m not sure if I start this summer or in January 2019 (in sub-freezing Minnesota!), but I am really looking forward to working with colleagues like Matt de la Peña, Anne Ursu, Laura Ruby, Swati Avasti, Kelly Barnhill, Gene Yang, and the rest of the stellar faculty I plan to take my interest in diverse literature to Minneapolis, so please spread the word among emerging authors who might want to study writing in a safe (if chilly) space. Children’s publishing continues to lag in its base of writers, editors, and other book professionals from traditionally marginalized communities. We especially need authentic stories by authors who have the skills to hold their own. Some of that will happen as a result of programs like the one at Hamline. This is one part of the pipeline that I’d like to help. Note: Scholarships are available. I’ll throw in the hot chocolate.

Candlewick’s little promo card for NCTE

I also want to formally announce that I’ll be introducing myself to middle grade readers next September. For months, I’ve been enjoying writing to my inner 11-year-old. Now, it’s time for book sellers and readers to see if she will connect. It’s so far away, I know, but pre-pub materials are starting to make the rounds. I’ve been writing picture books and YA for a while, so Merci Suarez Changes Gears (Candlewick Press, September 11, 2018) feels like a big adventure for me.  The change in age range means that I’ll need to make acquaintances at places like the now-famous Nerd Camp in Parma Michigan and other venues that are new to me. Merci Suarez first came into my imagination as part of “Sol Painting,” a short story I wrote for Flying Lessons and Other Stories, which was just listed as an SLJ Best Book of 2017. It’s so exciting to see how it bloomed into a big book, and it’s fun to think about what’s going to happen to Merci out in the world.

There are other smaller news items here and there, but you can keep up with my calendar of events for 2018 here.

For now, though, I’ll leave you with some photos of my travels in November that took me from Virginia to New York and then to St. Louis.

 

With Lamar Giles and Ruta Sepetys at VAASL

Lamar Giles, Ruta Sepetys, me, Wendy Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg – and our room full of librarians at VAASL

 

The judging committee for the National Book Award’s prize for Young People’s Literature. Brendan Kiely, Kekla Magoon, Alex Sanchez, Suzanna Hermans, and me. Our deliberations on the morning of the awards ceremony. Would we agree?

We clean up pretty nicely. Here is the judging committee with our significant others and friends.

I adore Erika Sanchez’s book, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. Such a pleasure to find her at the ALAN conference in St. Louis after the awards

Yes, I gushed. This is me with Francisco Stork. (Have you read Disappeared? Such a page-turner!)  He was lovely in every way. Thank you Mitali Perkins for introducing us.

The is just one example of the beautiful interior of the St. Louis Public Library, commissioned by Andrew Carnegie. It rivals the Library of Congress and NYPL.

Every once in a while, you get a panel that is silly and wonderful. With Julie Murphy, Neal Shusterman, Angie Thomas, and Brendan Kiely in St. Louis.

XO

Meg

Helping new voices get heard: VAASL Conference 2017

IMG_0908Back in 2011,  I was invited to attend the VEMA conference, an annual gathering of school librarians in my state. The event was held in Richmond that year. I had one book out, Milagros, Girl from Away, and so, like a lot of new authors, I sat at a table by myself for most of the evening while other more seasoned authors signed copies and chatted up fans.

Here’s what I most remember of that night: one school librarian came to talk to me. Her name was Schenell Agee, and she listened patiently as I stumbled through my conversation about my work and diverse voices and Latino themes. She told me that she organized an end-of-year author event at her middle school. An author visit on the last day of school? I thought. Nuts. Still, we exchanged cards, and she told me that she’d keep me in mind for the future.

I expected exactly nothing. I was just grateful that someone had stopped by to ask me anything at all. Eventually, I did go to her school (Metz Middle) – alongside the amazing Floyd Cooper, as I recall. It was a fabulous school visit – not only for how well-organized it was, but also for all it taught me about why it matters to take risks on new writers.

A lot has happened since then. VEMA has changed its name to VAASL (Virginia Association of School Librarians). I’ve got a few more titles under my belt. And Schenell Agee is now the supervisor of professional development and library services for Prince William County. But as I drive to Northern Virginia this Friday to take part in the VAASL conference,  I’ll be taking with me what I learned from her and all the librarians I’ve worked with since then.

With Lamar Giles at the Highlights Foundation where we served as mentors last summer

Here’s what I mean. If we’re serious about changing the landscape of children’s lit by building collections that represent a wide range of experiences, then encouraging new authors – especially diverse ones – is vital.  These are largely new voices, just entering now, who might be sitting at tables by themselves somewhere. There’s no time to waste in getting these authors up and connected. Kids need and deserve to hear from them. The best way to do it is through librarians.

I’m using my workshop time on Friday afternoon to book talk 20 titles by a few favorites but also many up-and-coming Latino authors who had work published in 2017. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s as much as I could read in a couple of months. Book talking isn’t necessarily my best skill, but I’m going to give it a shot. And if I’m lousy at it, as least there’s a giveaway of much of the list. (Many thanks to the publishers who sent me freebies for this purpose.) Librarians are crazy busy, and it’s hard for them to keep up with the huge number of titles competing for shelf space. If I can introduce them to fresh names and faces, I’ll be satisfied. Don’t get me wrong; I definitely want librarians to stock my stuff on their shelves, too. But the truth is that the body of my work represents one voice – and only one. There are parts of the so-called Latino experience that I can’t tell, parts that someone else should.

Mutual fans – with Ruta in Tucson

On Saturday, I’ll be moderating and participating in How Books Connect: Views and Ideas from Five Favorite Multicultural Authors. Joining me will be people who need no introduction: Ruta Sepetys, fresh from adding the Carnegie medal to the list of accolades for her exceptional historical fiction, Salt to the Sea; Wendy Wan-Long Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg, long time buds and now co-authors of the well-received, This is Just a Test, and one of my dearest friends in this business, Edgar Award nominee Lamar Giles (Overturned.) Our plan is to talk the way five friends would over breakfast (except not criticizing runny eggs.) Our focus will be the way we use our books to tell stories of varied people in a way that combats erasure or stereotype.

Wendy and Madelyn about to take the stage at this year’s National Book Festival in Washington, DC

So, if you’re a school librarian heading to Chantilly, I hope to see you this coming weekend. You can check out the full roster of events here.  Some amazing speakers are coming, and I’ll be sitting in on as much as I can!

 

It’s All About Bookish Virginia This Month

I’m back home after a month of coast-to-coast book travel which ended this past weekend in the best way possible. I hung out with English teachers at the Arizona Teachers of English conference and then drove up I-17 for my first-ever trip to The Grand Canyon.

Now I get to do bookish things for a month right here in my home state of Virginia. (It’s not the wide open west, but it’s gorgeous here, especially in the fall.) Whether you’re a young reader or adult, a reader or a writer, there’s something for you.

September 27, 2017, 6 pm, Chop Suey Books, Carytown, Richmond, VA. Join me and members of our local ACLU as we talk about censorship during Banned Books Week. Are you remembering to celebrate it?  Now more than ever, we need to stand up for critical reading.

October 6, 2017, Visiting Riverside High School in Leesburg, VA, where Lauren McBride and her fellow librarians and teachers are doing an incredible job of preparing the Rams for my visit. Looking forward to talking all things Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and Burn Baby Burn.

October 7, 2017, The YAVA Book and Author Party. Richmond Public Library, 101 East Franklin,  offers you a chance to party for an afternoon with Virginia’s YA authors. Food, prizes, and a lot of silliness.

October 13 – 15, James River Writers Conference at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. Have you registered?  I’m doing a master class on writing characters on Friday (held at the Richmond Public Library) and would love to see you.  Then I’ll be part of panels and basically learning alongside everyone else at our annual literary hoe down. Not to be missed – especially if you can slip off to see the Richmond Folk Festival on Sunday, too!

October 19 -21, 2017 Virginia Children’s Book Festival. It’s a star-studded lineup (see for yourself) in one of the most scenic parts of our state. Held at Longwood University, the VA Children’s Book Fest is the perfect serene spot to meet some of our country’s top authors while you roam around Longwood’s beautiful campus. Check out their graphic below. Can you guess some of the writers who are coming?