Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

Archive for the ‘The Writing Life’ Category

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

Here are a few bright spots that I wanted to share for this week, despite the natural (and manmade) disasters we’ve all been following for the last two weeks.

First, the longlist for the National Book Award is being released this week. The titles for Young People’s literature go live on Tuesday morning, so please check in to see the fabulous works we fell in love with. What a process (that I can’t talk about!) Anyway, I’m donating the 300 or so books that we read to Henrico County Public Schools, where I’ve asked that they be given to the elementary, middle, and high school with the fewest resources and smallest school library. Anita Tarbox, the head of library services, is bringing a van next week to haul off the six large boxes of treasure. I’ve been living in a labyrinth since last May, so this is coming as a relief, despite the fact that it’s usually easier to pull a molar out of my head than to get me to give away books.


I’m in Los Angeles this week, which happens only every couple of years or so.

The Brentwood School invited me to speak on Monday, Sept 11 about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. So, I packed a bigger bag (in case the hurricane strands me on my flight back,) splashed myself with Jean Naté in honor of Lila, and am ready to meet their seventh and eighth graders.

 

Tuesday, Sept 12, 7 PM, I’ll be at Vroman’s for the first time, too. I had to re-read that this bookstore has been in existence since 1894, but it’s true. Even better, I’ll be appearing there with LA’s fabulous Lilliam Rivera, author of The Education of Margot Sanchez, new this year. We’ll be reading a snippet of our novels and interviewing each other. I like that we’ll both be able to talk about our love letters to New York, especially so close to the 9-11 anniversary.

While I’m in California, I’ll also be meeting the team at 3Pas studio that’s developing YAQUI into a HULU series, visiting in person with my agent, Jen Rofé, and seeing writer friends Denise Doyen, Michael Portis, and Antoinette Portis –  among the funniest and most talented people I’ve been lucky enough to meet in this business.

 


 

Looking ahead to next weekend, I cross the country  again to be part of the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday, September 17. It has a lineup that’s too long and amazing to believe, as usual.  See for yourself. It’s my first time as part of the festival, and I owe the invitation to Reneé Watson (Piecing Me Together) who pulled together a YA panel that I’m really looking forward to. Check us out:  Telling Her Own Story, 12 – 1 PM, Sunday, Sept 17, Brooklyn Law Student Lounge, 250 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Reneé Watson, Dhonielle Clayton (Tiny Pretty Things), Tracey Baptiste (The Jumbies) and me.

East or west, I hope you can come and say hi.

 

Want a Good School Visit? Introducing The Author Village

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

 

Latinos in Richmond Exhibit at the Valentine

Angela and I got to celebrate with the other Pura Belpré winners in 2016. She’s the fifth from the left.

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.

My grandmother’s Virgen de la Caridad is on loan to the exhibit.

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.

YAQUI DELGADO ‘s marked manuscript is on display

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  

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.

On Latinx rep, NYC, and Yaqui Delgado

Much of the book world is descending on NYC this week for Book Expo and Book Con. I’ll be in NYC, too, but not for the fun (and the incredible line up) this time. I’m traveling north to help run focus groups with the producers who are developing YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS into a HULU series

It’s easy to get excited when a film deal is announced as an option…but it doesn’t take long to find out that there is a vast journey between an option and a show you’ll find in your “Favorites.”  That said, things are looking promising for YAQUI.  The show is being developed with mega-stars  Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) and Eugenio Derbez (How to Be a Latin Lover) as executives. But for me, an equally exciting thing is that, for the most part, this show is being conceived, written and led by a group of Latina women. And, as the cherry on top, Writer Dailyn Rodriguez (Queen of the South; Ugly Betty) is a former kid from the boroughs, too (Dailyn on Twitter).

Here’s the truth: When I was approached about my interest in having YAQUI DELGADO developed as a series, I felt cautious. First, there was the idea of letting go the characters and storylines in the exact way that I had conceived them. Surprisingly, I felt okay with that fairly quickly. In my view, I wrote the book that I wanted to write. Now, the film makers ought to be able to make the series they felt worked in their medium.

But my guard stayed on high for another, more important reason. There are precious few, accurate and nuanced representations of Latinos in the media, especially reps of young Latinas. I didn’t want my novel to be used to add to the stereotypes that hurt us. You know them: the overly sexy, gang-related girl, the one who knows how to use a knife, the air head with curves, the one who’s trouble.

“What are you most afraid that we’ll do to your novel?” the executives at 3Pas studios asked in one of our early telephone calls. “Also, what do you most want us to think about?”

That’s the question that spoke to me more urgently.

Latino Student Club at Sweet Briar College

“I don’t want you to make these girls into reductive stereotypes,” I told the team. “I want you to tell the story of all of us, in all our variations and with respect.”

And then, I thought of my readers and the question they always ask about the novel.

“I think my readers really want to know why Yaqui is so angry. They want to know what makes her tick and what makes that explosive rage in some of the kids they know in their own lives. Maybe the series is where we do that.”

And so, this week, as the pilot is being written (I saw the outline; prepare to be amazed), the writers, producers and I are meeting in NYC to visit with Latino teens in both middle and high school. We’ll be at the Cornelia Connelly Center and at the Brooklyn Public Library, Sunset Park Branch, on June 1, where we’ll ask the teens for input and insights that might help us get this pilot to look and sound as authentic as possible.

I’m so proud that their voices will be folded into this project.

Being asked matters. Being included in your own representation matters. Being taken seriously as a young person matters.

And I hope, too, that the teens will take this time with with authors, screenwriters, and producers to ask about careers that they may never have considered for themselves. The truth is that we need each other to get the story right, but we also need to build the next generation of creatives who’ll represent all people in this country.

In case you didn’t see it a couple of years ago, here’s Gina Rodriguez honoring Rita Moreno at the Kennedy Center honors. You can hear in her words how representation mattered to Gina at age 15.

 

Finally, here’s a huge shout out to everyone who stepped up at a moment’s notice to make this happen. Jessica Ng, librarian at Brooklyn Public Library’s Sunset Park Branch; Shanie Ballentine at the Cornelia Connelly Center; Erika Denn, my publicist at Candlewick Press, who donated books for the teens; Kristin Travino at the Irving Public Library in Texas who designed and sent me some nail art swag for the participants; my whole twitter family for spreading the word like wild fire. And, of course, Dailyn Rodriguez, Jessica Pavao, and Emily Gipson (I Can and I Will Productions) who are making the cross-country trek to make this project happen.

I’ll keep you posted! Pa’lante –

Cariños,

Meg

 

There are still a couple of slots open for the Brooklyn focus-group. Contact Jessica Ng if you’d like to register. 

 

 

Hey book lovers: A LitCrawl Comes to RVA

Sometimes, it pays off when somebody loses their mind.

That’s certainly true for Richmond, which is going to host its first LitCrawl on April 21 and 22, 2017 thanks to what founder Cheryl Pallant calls “writerly insanity.”

A LitCrawl is a city-wide event where readings and performances are led by area authors in a variety of venues, from prisons and bars to bookstores and record shops. It’s a movement that grew legs in San Francisco and is spreading far and wide (Here’s how other cities have done it.)

But how it reached us here in Richmond, VA, boils down to Cheryl, who was busy planning her wedding, writing a non fiction book and getting ready to publish both a book of poetry and a memoir about her time living in South Korea.

“I reached a point in my writing day when I needed a distraction. I too readily checked out Facebook and saw that a friend of mine was involved in a LitCrawl in Denver. I immediately recognized it as a great event and queried if anyone in Richmond was interested. Within an hour, I heard from about 50 folks saying yes.”

“Did I really need another sizeable commitment?”

Well, no, but she grabbed a few friends anyway and here we are….LitCrawl RVA

Now that authors are signing up and making plans for their contributions (website here), she’s sharpening her vision and looking forward to this becoming an annual event with sponsorship behind it.

For me, it’s exactly the right idea. Now more than ever, we want to come out strong for books as a nation. An event like this is free, fun and brings all kinds of people together. It adds to the many artful things that are defining Richmond these days and, more important, part of how we can make books part of people’s lives.

So  I grabbed a couple of friends and got busy.  I’ll be reading with my friends, Lamar Giles and Anne Blankman for our event, Criminal Minds YA. All three books (Overturned, Burn Baby Burn, and Traitor Angels) deal with murder and young people. (Why not?) We settled on reading in a former jail, in keeping with our grisly inclinations as writers. Have you been to RVA’s hostel? The HI used to be a women’s detention center, among other things. Now it is, hands down, one of the coolest places to stay, and brings young travelers from all over the world to our city.

 

rva-lit-crawl-2017-copy

So, if you like young adult and crime lit – if you love books and RVA and want to see more interesting bookish stuff continue – please join us.

Criminal Minds YA is free and open to the public

Where: HI Richmond Hostel, 7 N. Second Street (2nd Street, bet Franklin and Main).

Date:  Saturday, April 22.

Time: 6:30 PM (Don’t worry. We have snacks for you…)

 

 

Milagros and Middle Grade: Bookends on my career so far

Meg’s first book signing 2008, Narnia Bookstore, RVA

I found a picture of myself at my first-ever book launch. Back in 2008, my first middle grade novel, Milagros: Girl from Away, was published by Henry Holt. To celebrate, Narnia Bookstore (which would later become bbgb books in Carytown) hosted my friends and family in the shop. “If I die tomorrow,” I told my husband, “know that I was happy, and that I did what I always dreamed I would.”

Well, I’m not dead and I’m glad  because there are still things left to do and books left to write. And while that sentiment still holds true, I look back and realize it was euphoria talking. But that’s the beauty of a first book, I suppose. I wrote Milagros in the beautiful bubble called The First Novel – that wonderful space where no one was waiting for a manuscript, where there were no expectations, no real notion of what reviews meant, and where the process of writing a manuscript all the way to the end was my crowning accomplishment. It was all wonder and hope.

The other thing I know is that I mostly wrote with no idea of what I was doing, which is maybe exactly the wild abandon we need, especially early in our careers. If we get bound up in our heads and in the business landscape of publishing, I think we risk losing the book that is coming from our heart. In my case, I had taught creative writing, but I hadn’t ever written a children’s book. I drew from the first stories I ever heard at my grandmother’s knee, and from the style of stories I loved to read as a girl – magical adventures. To my surprise, what emerged was a story about stingrays, pirates, healers and mothers  –and the sad truth of what it means to endure a migration.

cover illustration by Joe Cepeda

I’ve been thinking a lot about Milagros these days. For one thing, I’m at work once again on a middle grade novel, this time for Candlewick. And nine years later, I know a lot more about what to worry about in birthing a book. Not that it makes things easier. Actually it’s the opposite. On the plus side, I’m probably better at craft. I can ask myself harder questions than I once did about the characters and how relatable they are to a young reader in 2017. I know enough to give long and compassionate thought to presenting a thorny and sad issue to someone who is ten years old. I worry the details about whether I’ve written with sensitivity to all the people represented. I think about vocabulary and spaces for humor and what role to give adults in this novel so that they are not saviors but not absentees, either. I read and reread with an eye to the page turn and tension.

But it’s what I’ve learned on the publishing side that can give me the real angst, mostly because I can’t really control any of it and because it’s rooted in vanity. My late night questions swirl. How will this compare to my other books? Will anyone review it? Will they give it a star or simply a polite nod? Will copies even sell? Will this win an award, get on such-and-such list? Or will it die a quiet death?  None of those worries ever occurred to me when I wrote Milagros. I tell you, it was bliss.

With all that said, though, it’s also true that I’m not only thinking about Milagros with nostalgia. What’s also drawing me is that so much of our news has been truly disturbing lately, particularly as it relates to the idea of who “belongs,” which is, of course, one of the big threads of that story.  Travel bans, threats of deportations, desecration of cemeteries, attacks and murders on people who are told to “go back to where they belong.”  I can’t keep it at arm’s length or read about it coolly in the newspaper as if it doesn’t affect me. Because it does. In my daily life, dear friends and acquaintances confess their fears, their contingency plans, their sense of not knowing where to turn or whom to trust, and worst of all, their worries about their children.

Writing a book sometimes feels like the biggest thing you can achieve. But it can also feel like a small thing in the face of so much misunderstanding and hate. That’s especially true of a first book where, unsure, you once cut your teeth.  That’s how it has been for me with Milagros, anyway.

All these years later, and at a time of so much division and suspicion, I find myself struggling to hold on to the wonder that marked the book’s first steps into the world. Stubbornly, I’m still hoping that stories – the act of remembering, the act of sharing, the act of connecting – help us find a way to love each other despite it all.

Milagros: Girl from Away .99 on Kindle, March 2017

Also about migration, The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind. (Young Adult)