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The Writing Life

How to Author in 2022:  A Free Business Refresher Course

By The Writing Life, writing advice No Comments
There’s nothing static about a career in writing for young people. Publishing trends come and go. The landscape of the industry changes. Your own strengths and interests develop. All that has been true in my experience since I began publishing in 2008. But now, I’ve decided on a reassessment of how I connect with readers. Enter Jane Friedman, a well-known publishing guru, whose advice I’ve been following for over a decade. On August 9, 12pm ET, I will be a guest on her free business clinic for writers, where we will unpack all the questions that have been plaguing me recently. Here are just a few: Does it pay to still blog these days? What is the new role of an author website in 2022 that is different from when I started? And most important, what is the most efficient and authentic way for me to reach my readers when faced with extremely limited time? I won’t lie: I feel a little vulnerable sharing my struggles. People assume that after a certain point in your writing life, you simply coast. But no, friends. I haven’t found that to be true at all. In fact, if anything, things have gotten more complicated as the ways of connecting with readers have multiplied. So, what I’m after is a way to do things smarter rather than simply doing more. If you’re wondering some of this, too, please join us and share in the info gathering. See you there! You can register here.
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3 New Ways to Find Me

By The Writing Life, writing advice
Just a quick post to give you a couple of updates on three new ways to find me. I had the pleasure of chatting with Alicia Menendez on her podcast, Latina to Latina. You know Alicia from MSNBC and her long career in journalism. I am hooked on this podcast because she sits in conversation with a wide range of Latina entertainers and talks to them about what it truly takes to rise in the field. It was such an honor to talk with Alicia – a fellow Cuban American!– about both personal topics and writing for kids. I hope you'll tune in. I'm also making some changes to my social media life. Last Friday, I quietly launched Fan Mail Fridays on TikTok (@MegMedinaBooks) and Instagram REELS (@MegMedinaBooks). I'll read a snippet of a favorite letter I've received from a student or adult reader and tell you why I love it. (You can imagine what kids have to say!) It's quick, simple, and fun (especially if you're the kid whose letter got picked.) None of the clips is longer than a minute. Why the change? There's always the search for engagement with readers. But it's also because there is no way for me to answer the letters that I get from students, and it feels horrible to leave them hanging. Typically, these sweet notes are sent by classroom teachers who have assigned their students to read one of my books and write to me. Sometimes the questions are predictable – my pets,...
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Beyond Bilingual: Thoughts on How We Celebrate Language in Children’s Literature

By Appearances, Latino Life, The Writing Life
People are sometimes surprised to learn that I began my school years as a mostly monolingual, Spanish-speaking kid. I'm US-born, but my Cuban mother - and later our whole family as they arrived – spoke to me almost exclusively in Spanish in the hope that I would be bilingual. This was the 1960s, in the days before language support programs were common. So, when it was time for school, I traipsed off to kindergarten armed with only the anglo name she’d given me (Margaret) and the vocabulary skills I’d picked up from a show called Romper Room. Kindergarten school picture Who was seen in Miss Nancy’s magic mirror? A letter I wrote to my family in Cuba shortly after my uncle taught me how to write in Spanish. I was thinking about all that because I was the closing speaker last week for the Las Américas Academy's annual Biliterate Conference, where I presented on what language literacy looked like in my own family. Preparing for that talk got me thinking a lot about my whole relationship to language, as a Latina and now as an author. And, I was thrilled and honored to hear, in the Q & A that followed, that so many of the attendees shared deeply personal and sometimes painful experiences about their own journey with their identities and language. Whether or not someone is bilingual is historically tricky terrain for people who identify as Latino or Hispanic in this country, mostly because so many of us...
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Meg’s 3rd Annual Bookish Gift Guide: 2021

By The Writing Life
The holidays are here! If you’re one of my blog readers, chances are you have lots of bookish friends on your gift giving list. Here are some of my favorite finds for 2021 that could help Bookish fun for kids This Lego Bookshop is the best thing ever for your book nerd / Lego fanatics. It's 2,500 pieces of book joy. The box says for people 16 and older, but it looks like a perfect parent/kid project, too. Rechargeable reading light For the late night reader in your life, you just can’t have enough of these* in the house. I try to keep one in everyone’s nightstand, even for guests. For another option, try the lights from Mighty Bright, which are rechargeable, too. Bookish t-shirts I have a whole collection of bookish clothes, but t-shirts have become my pandemic wardrobe go-to. Etsy has great options, like the one pictured below, but  you can also look to Out of Print for t-shirts and so many other book-ish delights.  Bookish t-shirts Goldbelly gift certificate:  My friend, Lamar, turned me on to Goldbelly. It’s how I ate a lobster roll last summer and how I got through hard times, when cooking to feed myself seemed overwhelming. A gift certificate here gives both help or, in happy times, a reason for a culinary splurge!  Moveable table for working/snacking* Every place in my house is now an office, so why not make moving this around a little easier? I bought this for Javier, and he...
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Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and Kids: A Few Ideas to Get Moving on Solutions

By #LetsStayConnected, The Writing Life
It’s November – time to plan turkey day with our families. But it’s also Alzheimer’s Awareness month, and I want to give some space here to kids and families who are in the midst of it. First, here’s a pretty comprehensive article from the National Institute on Health on the topic if you're working with kids in this situation. It's available in Spanish, too, important since 15% of Hispanics ages 65 and older are diagnosed with the disease. The Merci Suárez trilogy is, of course, set in the world of a girl coping with middle school life as well as with her grandfather’s accelerating illness. I’ve done my best to capture all of it as honestly as possible in the pages. Still, when I book-talk the story with readers, I almost always lean heavily into Merci’s hijinks with friends and foes, in other words, the funny parts. But lurking in the background is Lolo’s illness. It's palpable, page to page, and I know that in the book, as in life, the reality of a person's decline is at times overwhelming.   I hope you’ll take a little time this month to reflect on the people in our communities who are facing this as-yet incurable illness as well as the 11 million people – including kids - who love and support them. They're in your class, at your church, on your soccer team, living on your block. The kids in these families need relief. They need moments of levity. And they...
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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...
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Take 2: Revisions

By Random howls into the world, The Writing Life
I still have sand stuck in the hinges of my sunglasses, and I'm feeling a little blue. Last week, my family and I escaped to the beach for a much-anticipated vacation on Emerald Isle. As everyone headed back to school, we made the trek to North Carolina where I spent my time shelling, reading, and biking. But now I'm back, and it's time to face copyeditor revisions on what will be the final Merci Suárez book. Sunset over the marshThe view from my back deckMy daughter, Cristina, and me at the Bogue Pier Prev 1of6 Next I find myself coming to the task with the same mix of emotions I had about coming back home. I think it has to do with grieving a magical time - as that is what the "Merciverse" has been for me. By the time Merci Suárez Plays It Cool publishes next fall, I will have been writing the Suárez family and the world of Seaward Pines Academy, in one form or another, for six years. The characters and their journeys have become so real to me. It's no wonder that I'm sad about ending their story. It's hard to let go of old friends, even imaginary ones. It's always exciting to get to this stage, of course. It's when the book starts to feel real somehow. I wrote for a little under a year. Then, Kate (my editor) and I worked on the manuscript all of May and June, trading ideas for Merci's new...
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5 things I’ve Learned About DIY Book Marketing

By The Writing Life, Trailers, writing advice
One of the biggest misconceptions I once had as an author was that most of my book promotion would be handled by someone else. What I’ve learned over the years is that some part of the task of marketing my work will fall on me, regardless of where I am in my career. This has been especially true during the Covid pandemic when we’ve all had to pivot to the virtual space. How do we promote interest in our books now? How do we continue to create community with our readers long distance? And how can we do it without feeling like we've become sales people? My assistant, Kerri Poore, and I have been giving this a lot of thought. We’ve been working together since 2019, when she helped oversee the redesign of this website. And this summer, we decided together to take a closer look at social media connections, specifically at Instagram. Working in the do-it-yourself design site Canva, Kerri has designed a few fun items that support my new IGTV series, One-Minute Writing Tips, that many of you have been enjoying. (Check it out for your own practice or your students’ work.) She also created little homemade micro ads for Merci Suárez Can’t Dance. None of this is Madison-Avenue ready, but I think that’s the point. We wanted to create good looking materials that really do come from us and that don't feel overly processed. So what have we learned? Here are five things we thought we should...
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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...
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Hot Fun in the Summertime

By Appearances, The Writing Life
Hot fun in the summertime* means I will dig into manuscript edits for the third, and final, book in the Merci Suárez series this week. I can’t even believe I am typing that sentence. What an incredible journey. Wish me luck – and please, if you haven’t done so, please leave a review of Merci Suárez Can’t Dance on Amazon, Goodreads, or any other places you review books. I also have two exciting events this Thursday, June 17, both public, that will honor amazing women. First, at 2 p.m. EST, I will record a conversation about the Pura Belpré award as part of the lead-up to the American Library Association’s 2021 virtual conference, where this year's closing speaker is former President Barack Obama. I'll let you know when it goes live. The Pura Belpré award is 25 years old this year, and celebrations of both the librarian and the award abound. You can check out a fantastic collection of essays written by current and former medal and honor winners in the May issue of The Horn Book Magazine. My own essay, "What the Pura Belpré Award Means to Me" is a call to arms about what I'd like to see come next for this award, and for Latinx children’s and YA lit, in general. The fun keeps going at 6 p.m. EST on June 17 as the She Persisted series continues its tour. Through the virtual magic of Loyalty Bookstores in DC, I will join Chelsea Clinton and the ever-fabulous Rita...
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Reinventing the Publishing Space: A Q & A with Las Musas

By The Writing Life, writing advice
On April 28, I’ll be hosting a twitter chat for Las Musas, the fantastic people who brought us the first Latinx Children’s Book Festival in 2020. I’m so impressed with this group that I thought we should take a little dive into their backstory and see what they have planned to make the publishing landscape more equitable – including a mentorship program that is accepting applications this month. Established in 2018 as a Latinx collective of women and non-binary (identifying on the female spectrum) authors, their mission is to “spotlight the contribution of their work in the evolving canon of children's literature and to celebrate the diversity of voice, experience, and power in our communities.” Sounds immense, right? But I think they’re moving the needle – and in a way that taps the talents we have in the community. So, I present, Las Musas… Hello! Thank you so much for having us here. We are Musas founding members Mia García (The Resolutions) and Aida Salazar (Land of the Cranes). Las Musas kicked off on August 28, 2018 with 12 members (J.C. Cervantes, Tami Charles, Mia García, Isabel Ibañez, Michelle Ruiz Keil, Tehloy Kay Mejia, Yamile Saied Méndez, Nina Moreno, Claribel Ortega, Emma Otheguy, Laura Pohl, and Aida Salazar) and have now grown to over 70 members encompassing Musas Debuts, Madrinas, and Hermanas. Back in 2018, Aida Salazar was approached by a couple of debut marketing groups in kidlit when her debut book (The Moon Within) was announced. However, what she noticed is...
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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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Breaking into Writing Children’s Books:  A Beginner’s Guide Targeted to Latinx authors

By Latino Life, The Writing Life
** UPDATED: NOV 4:  This post was pre-scheduled for today. I apologize for its publication today, when there is so much post-election uncertainty. It went out before I could stop it.**   The question I get asked most often as a children’s book author is how to break in. This is especially true when the question comes from aspiring Latinx authors. Here is a quick checklist of to-dos if your heart is set on writing stories that celebrate Latinx children and families. Nail down your craft Nothing replaces the craft. A big part of this simply boils down to your talent with words and with how well you can sense how to tell a story.  But you can do things to improve your work, mainly in two ways: reading and writing. Here’s starter book set for reading. Writing Picture Books* by Ann Whitford Paul The Writers Guide to Crafting Stories for Children* by Nancy Lamb Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults* by Cheryl Klein Latino/a Childrens and Young Adult Writers on the Art of Storytelling* by Frederick Luis Aldama, University of Pittsburgh Press As for writing, I recommend a daily or weekly habit of coming to the page, whether you do that on your own or whether you sign up for writing class in your community. If you’re very serious, you can choose to invest in a low residency Master of Fine Arts program. I’ve been teaching at Hamline in St. Paul, Minnesota but there are others programs,...
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Merci Suárez se pone las pilas:  A Newbery Winner Gets Translated into Spanish

By Guests, The Writing Life
I’ve had the good fortune of having most of my work made available in Spanish translation. Tomorrow Merci Suárez se pone las pilas comes into the world to join the others. The title literally means, “Merci Suárez puts in her batteries.” Funny, right? But that is the magic of translation, the ability to capture the spirit and heart of a work. Photo credit: Valerie Block It’s the first time I’ve worked with the fabulous Alexis Romay, who was hand-picked for the project by my former translator, the late Teresa Mlawer, whose long and storied career included translations of Where the Wild Things Are and Harold and the Purple Crayon. An author, translator, and teacher, Alexis brings to this work our shared Cuban roots. He also brings his quick sense of humor, warmth, and respect for young people. In so many ways, this translation is a physical representation of our bicultural lives. On every page, I could feel him channeling Merci and bringing her to life for me in the language I spoke with my mother. It was as if two parts of myself were being knit together with his guidance. Here below is a video post by Alexis where he gives thanks to the many people who helped bring our book into the world. I especially love his explanation – about midway through - of why books in translations matter for children. As part of our celebration, please leave a comment in the comments section, and I’ll enter you to...
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Sleepy summer?

By Appearances, The Writing Life
Hi all.  August. This should be a slow and sleepy time in publishing, right?  But no. An awful lot is happening during what should be my sleepy summer. Maybe that's a good thing, though. It will keep me from missing pool days or fun beach trips.  OK, the huge NEWSFLASH:  the SCBWI Summer Spectacular is living up to its name. Full disclosure, I sit on the board of advisors for SCBWI, but that doesn’t influence the fact that I think the digital conference has offered us an incredible silver lining of access. A lot of folks who can’t plunk down the big bucks for airfare and hotel of a live conference, can pay $100 and click a zoom link to learn from people like the legendary Phillip Pullman. That’s a huge bonus for people early in their careers when the cash flow from writing is a trickle. Check out the lineup yourself. And please, if you are registered or plan to register, join my conversation with the fabulous Laurie Halse Anderson on Tuesday morning. We’ve decided to ask each other all the stuff nobody else does. We’ll talk a little bit of craft, but also what career blips we’ve had, what we wish we could do over, things that scare us now, and new voices we’re excited about.  There’s a lot of bookstore and educator love happening in my world this month, too. I’ll be at Belmont Books, virtually of course, in support of a program called Read it Forward,...
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Summer Book Life: What’s up this week

By The Writing Life, Writing Workshops
This week I’ve been in a virtual residency at Hamline University, where I’m part of the MFA faculty for their low-residency program in writing children’s and teens literature. The days are long and exhausting, but also so very creatively nourishing right now. It’s a blessing to be immersed in imagination, whether by helping students work on their skills in workshop or by listening to lectures and follow-up conversations with our faculty and visiting authors, like Tracey Baptiste.  Anyway, we’re unpacking theme this summer, doing deep dives into all the ways that theme takes shape across genres, age groups, and individual styles. It's been wonderful so far. Tomorrow – Thursday July 16 – I’ll also be part of a virtual gathering with SCBWI called Sticks and Stones and the Stories We Tell.  Ten authors and illustrators – all well-known to you – will be sharing our personal encounters with racism in the publishing industry and how we responded in both our work and in our lives.  Should be good. It’s open for everyone, so I hope you’ll tune in. In book news – Merci Suárez Changes Gears is part of B&N’s summer reading program. If there’s a young reader in your life who’s looking for something to read, please point them to this list and maybe earn a free book! Meanwhile, Merci Suárez Can’t Dance, the sequel, has moved into production. I finished responding to the copyeditor comments last week and just got a sneak peek at the cover by Joe...
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Nothing is ever really lost: a picture book resurrected in a time of pain

By Random howls into the world, The Writing Life
Summer 2020. What will we say about all this one day? When the pandemic first hit, I was asked by School Library Journal to join other writers in explaining how I was dealing with the sudden changes to writing life. You can read the piece here. Photo credit: Mark Gormus, Richmond Times Dispatch When I reread it this morning, I was struck by how quiet and contemplative all of us seemed compared to how things went after we all witnessed George Floyd’s murder – and Breonna Taylor’s and Ahmaud Arbery’s and Rayshard Brooks', all in the span of a few weeks. I would love to feel calm, but the truth is, that everything is boiling over. Here in Richmond, where I live, we’re dealing with the long-standing disconnect between the police and black communities, and, of course, with the overdue push to remove our city’s racist iconography, the most of any other city in the US. And, of course, at the heart of it all, are the searing conversations that have to be had right now about dismantling all the systems that have been allowed to erase, injure and oppress generations of black people in this city and throughout the country. Lots of reading lists are being shared for classrooms and libraries. I’d like to add one suggestion. Try The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love, and Truth, edited by Wade and Cheryl Hudson and due out next month. It features a long list of some of your favorite names in...
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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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Living, learning and working from home

By Appearances, Discussion materials, The Writing Life
Hi everyone – You’ll find me online in the coming weeks as we all settle in to living, learning, and working from home. If you’re using my books with your kids, feel free to download and use any of the resource materials for my books, which you can access here. Here’s where you can find me this week: A (friendly) twitter takeover of Candlewick Press on Twitter on Tuesday, March 24. It starts at 2 pm EST. I’ll be posting pictures, giving updates, taking a tour of my office and answering questions you might have. Talk to you then! A Spanish-language story time on Instagram live Thursday, March 26, noon – 12:20 EST. I’ll be reading Mango, Abuela y Yo, and giving you a sneak peek into my new picture book, Evelyn Del Rey Se Muda (Candlewick, September 2020). Kate Messner put out a call for author materials. She’s collecting them on her website under Read, Wonder, and Learn at home learning library. You’ll find lots of great authors there. I made a 10-minute tutorial for student writers on how to increase tension in your writing. It will also be part of her online writing program, soon to be unveiled. Abrazos, Meg
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Digital resources

By Discussion materials, The Writing Life
Dear Educators and Parents, I will have some online activities coming up in the next few weeks and I will send that schedule soon. But until then, please find a collection of digital resources for my books below. I hope that you find them useful during these trying times. Please enjoy and share! Also, be sure to find more information with my publisher, Candlewick Press. Discussion Guides The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind Burn Baby Burn Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass Yaqui Delgado quiere darte una paliza Merci Suárez Changes Gears Teachers' Guides Merci Suárez Changes Gears Tia Isa Wants a Car Picture Book Resources Mango Abuela and Me: Color in Mango Tia Isa Wants a Car: Car template   See Teacher's guide for writing project Arts and crafts for my books on Pinterest And, for a extra special challenge, check out this paper bag Mango puppet!
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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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Happy New Year! 

By Appearances, The Writing Life, What I'm reading, Writing Workshops
I’ll be honest. It was tough for me to say goodbye to 2019, a year that began and ended with beautiful career highs. So it’s a good thing that January is looking is so fly. To start, I pressed send on my next novel featuring Merci Suárez, and I got to see the gorgeous final art for my upcoming picture book, EVELYN DEL REY IS MOVING AWAY.  You can read all about that and other upcoming book news right here in Publishers Weekly. Ta Da! Check out this gorgeous cover by Sonia Sánchez. But, I’m also doing a few sweet events at the end of the month, including two in my hometown of Richmond, VA, that I’ve been looking forward to for months. First stop: I’ll be in New York City on January 23 for a presentation to teachers. Carl Anderson, author of A Teacher’s Guide to Writing Conferences*, will be presenting, and then I’ll speak on my own days as a writing teacher and my life as an author. Did what I teach about writing reflect what I actually do as an author today? Sometimes – but there’s plenty I’d do differently. Pre-order it now!* I head home on January 25th for an "In Conversation With" appearance with one of my favorite authors, Lamar Giles, at the main branch of the Richmond Public Library. He’s on tour for his new contemporary young adult novel, NOT SO PURE AND SIMPLE (HarperCollins.) It's new this month, and it's been crushing it...
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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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When an Epidemic Calls

By Discussion materials, The Writing Life
You’re never sure how a book is going to connect with readers. Sometimes it’s a character that hooks readers. Other times, it's a plot point. Sometimes just your voice or style is enough. Turns out, though, sometimes it’s about loss and pain, too. Merci Suárez Changes Gears has drawn readers in lots of ways, but one of the most important ways has been in its unvarnished view of Alzheimer’s Disease, one of the most rapidly growing epidemics in the US. When I included that storyline in Merci, I was unaware exactly how many people face this situation every day with no caregiving safety net in place. All I really knew was that my uncle, Diego, was taken from us that way – a little bit at a time, until the once sweet and charming man was left virtually erased in a world of strangers. It was grueling to watch my cousin and his family face the many hard days and difficult decisions about his care. This past June, when I traveled to DC to accept the Newbery award, Candlewick scheduled a signing for the librarians at the ALA conference.  The first woman in that line placed several copies on my table and just asked for my signature. When I was about halfway through, she leaned in and whispered tearfully, “I just lost my mother to Alzheimer’s a few months ago.” I put my pen down. My heart broke for her instantly because I knew what that journey must have looked like....
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NaNoWriMo Thoughts

By The Writing Life, writing advice
Happy NaNoWriMo everybody! We're five days into the month. Have you already started the draft for this month's project? How is it going? Did you start a new project or are you picking up an old one? Normally, I write up my thoughts, but this time I wanted to share a few of ideas about writing through the magic of video. I hope it inspires you just a bit... Enjoy!
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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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Let’s Go Write in the Woods

By Appearances, The Writing Life, Writing Workshops
How do we survive as people, as artists and as publishing professionals?  If you have three days in September, I’m extending an invitation to join me in the woods to figure it out. With the lovely Alison Green Myers who makes every Highlights Workshop amazing I will lead a workshop at the Highlights Foundation with illustrator Carolyn Dee Flores and art director Ellice Lee. If you’ve never been to this beautiful place, picture rolling hills and cabins, all the ice cream you can eat and a chance to think and write for three days with people who, like you, are working to become professional, self-sustaining writers. I’ve been to Highlights before, sometimes as a special guest, once as a writing fellow, other times leading workshops. Over the years, I’ve worked with all kinds of folks, from scholars trying to write academic papers on subjects no one was covering, to teachers, like Ernesto Cisneros, whose upcoming debut novel, Efrén Divided, we worked on together in two rocking chairs in front of his cabin. What we both remember most is his reaction to hearing his words read aloud for the first time, that moment when he thought he might actually see this through to publication. An evening reading from one of my past times at Highlights There are selfish motives for me, too. The truth is that while I’ve given advice, I’ve also received beautiful gifts of inspiration and practical help in return. For example, a few years ago Andi Michelson created a reusable Velcro...
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The National Book Festival

By National Book Festival, The Writing Life
Where will you be on Saturday, August 31st? If you're free and near Washington, DC, you should definitely head to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for the Library of Congress' 19th annual National Book Festival. And if you are so inclined and would like to help out, you can sign up to volunteer with the Library of Congress and support the event. While you are there, stop by the Politics & Prose sales booth where you'll see Merci Suárez Changes Gears representing Virginia on the Great Reads list. For more info, check out: Virginia Center for the Book.
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Scenes from L.A.

By Appearances, The Writing Life, Young Adult
I spent the last five days in glorious Southern California, and I came home to the exciting news that Merci Suarez Changes Gears is # 7 on the New York Times bestseller list. It's thrilling to see some renewed book love. Thank you to everyone who's been reading and sharing the novel. Anyway, I'm too jetlagged to write much, but here are some photos from the road. I love book people, plain and simple... With the fab librarian team at L.A. Public libraryThe LA Public Library is beautiful.You can't tell you're underground...The ceiling at LA Public Library main branch'memba these?Sample of a mural by Jose Ramirez at LA Public LibraryA love note from a LA library patronSigning on the patio at LA PublicJen Rofe's agenting family!Discovering new books!An adorable chapter book seriesI went to the Woodstock party. Here I am with Paul ZelinskiWith Raul III at the SCBWI Woodstock partySome of my dearest book friends: Lilliam Rivera, Renée Watson, Brandy ColbertWith Jenn Laughran, Linda Sue Park, Ruta Sepetys, and Cynthia Leitich SmithThis reader was excited to find her two favorite books in the same place.
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Gardening with plants and words

By The Writing Life, writing advice
I don’t know exactly how I began to garden. It definitely wasn’t part of my childhood. I grew up in Flushing, Queens; the largest plot of green was city-owned Kissena Park. Besides, gardening always seemed like a rich, older lady pursuit, a pastime for people who ooh and ah over blue hydrangeas or roses. Definitely not me. But I’ve lived in Virginia for 20 years now, a state that brims with trees and flowers of every kind. Every season in Virginia is a feast for the eyes. It’s one of the things I have loved most about it here. Whenever I fly home after book travel, I feel so comforted when we circle all those acres of trees beneath me. It lets me know I’m home. Ready to get filthy I’ve come to understand that Richmond is a city that prides itself on its gardening chops. It boasts an award-winning botanical garden, for one thing. And every spring, like a lot of other places, fancy homes open their doors so that the rest of us can ooh and ah at their beautiful plantings. That’s to say nothing of the everyday beautiful yards you can see on a daily walk with your dog. My house isn’t one of those fancy spots, I’m sad to say. I don’t have a grand house, for starters. But that hasn’t kept me from getting out there and trying my hand at nature. Over the years, I have somehow warmed to digging in the dirt –...
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Check out my new site – plus the Newbery speech and other goodies

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life

Welcome to my  new website!  After cobbling together a blog for a while now, I’ve given myself a fresh look that’s bright, clean, and easy. For my first news post, I’m offering the link to my Newbery speech (the official version), as well as photos from the entire  celebration, which can only be described as a huge, life-affirming love fest.

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Wimps and Winners: Getting Ready for This Week’s Award’s Ceremony

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life
This is the one week I've been thinking about for a while. First, I had a terrific weekend in Massachusetts. The first stop was with illustrator Angela Dominguez at Adventures in Storytelling, an event with the Girls Scouts Eastern Massachusetts Division. We joined forces with staff from Candlewick Press to give an inside look at how a book goes from an idea to the book you buy at your favorite indie. I also celebrated Father’s Day morning with readers at An Unlikely Story, the epic indie bookstore owned by Julie and Jeff Kinney, creator of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid empire. What a store!  Jeff was on his way to write in a cemetery for the day (as fathers do on special holidays?) but he stopped by to wish me luck before my event. His bookstore is easily the most beautiful indie I have seen so far in my travels. Every detail is lush and playful. See for yourself,  and put this on your to-be-visited list. Yes. A drum kit in the ceiling.Even the staircase is gorgeousA sound proof booth for phone meetings!a model of the wimpy kid Macy's parade floatJeff's desk on the second floorA super cafe insideView from across the street of An Unlikely StoryThe stage has great lighting, acoustics, and morewith owner Jeff Kinney Prev 1of12 Next Looking forward, though, the big news now is that we’ve arrived at the American Library Association’s Annual Meeting, where I’ll officially receive the Newbery medal. AGH! I'm in a...
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A Teachers’ Guide on steroids, in the best way possible.

By Discussion materials, middle grade, Schuyler VanValkenburg, Teachers' Guide, The Writing Life

Candlewick Press sent along their hot-off-the-press Teachers’ Guide for Merci Suárez Changes Gears. The former teacher inside me is going to gush here. It’s fabulous, and that’s because it’s written by a super-charged educator and reading coach. The questions and activities across the curriculum are smart and get the kids talking, thinking, and working on everything from Ancient Egypt to the social dynamics of their school. So I’m sending a big applause to Kellee Moye, a middle-school reading coach and teacher from Orlando, Florida. Kellee is the coauthor of the blog Unleashing Readers, a member of the 2016–2018 ALAN Board of Directors, a member of NCTE, ALAN, and ALA, the chair of the 2014 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award committee, and her school’s 2017–18 Teacher of the Year. Here it is as a pdf [ MerciSuárez_TG ]for you to download. Or you can follow the link at the top of the article. Either way, I think folks who’ll be using the book in their classrooms next fall will find something useful. OK, next stop… Massachusetts!

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Events! Events! Events! Join me in Las Vegas, New York City or Washington DC

By Appearances, Awards and news, middle grade, The Writing Life, young adult

I’ve recently had several glorious weeks filled with family, local friends, beautiful spring weather and time to write. It’s been wonderful. BUT, I will be hitting the road again soon and I so hope to see you in one of my upcoming events. If you’re near Las Vegas on May 29th and 30th, join Padma Venkatraman, Phil Bildner and me at the 2019 Summit on Teaching YA Literature at the University of Nevada. Next up, I’ll be jetting to New York City for this year’s ever-popular BookCon on June 1st! Join Tracey Baptiste, Soman Chainani, Raina Telgemeier and me for a conversation about the very best in middle grade. Soon after, I will be in the best company with my friends and well-respected authors Elizabeth Acevedo and Robin Benway for an evening conversation at Politics & Prose Bookstore at the Wharf. We’ll chat about our writing and how our personal experiences and recent awards have influenced our work. See you there? Check out my calendar of events for more details and other upcoming dates. Until then, I’ll have my head down working and enjoying my family and, of course, taking long walks with Hugo.    

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Celebrating my Newbery with Richmond peeps and Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

For several months now (and on into the rest of this year), I’ve had the pleasure of traveling all over the country to talk to teachers, librarians and students about my books, especially Merci Suárez Changes Gears. What I haven’t been able to do enough is celebrate the Newbery with my local friends and family in Richmond.  So, if you’re here in RVA or nearby, won’t you please join me and Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg on Saturday, May 25th at 11am at the lovely Libbie Mill Library?  I know it’s Memorial Day weekend, but I’d love to see you there before you head off to your barbeques so that we can have a chance to say hello. Bring along your copy of Merci and I’ll be happy to sign it for you! And my thanks to Delegate VanValkenburg for House Joint Resolution No. 934 and the honor of his commending resolution in the Virginia Legislature. It means so much to me for my work to be honored in such a way.  Location: Libbie Mill Library, 2100 Libbie Lake East St, Richmond, VA 23230 When:  Saturday, May 25, 2019 Time:  11 am Free and open to the public More info:  804 501-1940 Directions here

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Recording Gratitude

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

I took a ride downtown yesterday to In Your Ear Studios here in Richmond, VA, where I recorded my acceptance speech for the 2019 Newbery Award.  Hands down, this speech was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to shape into words.  How do you properly thank everyone who has helped you along the way and still make it bearable for the audience?   I’ll share the text when I’m allowed to. For now, though, know that I talked about… bikes and life and books.         

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Coming Up: Sunny California for the L.A. Times Festival of Books

By Appearances, middle grade, The Writing Life, young adult

Sunny California, here I come. I’m in town for this weekend’s LA Times Festival of Books and I couldn’t be more excited. Come say hello! Here’s where you can find me: On Sunday at 11am I’ll be on a YA panel with friends and fabulous authors Ibi Zoboi and Elizabeth Acevedo:  “Young Adult Fiction: Writing the Real World, Conversation 2101.” We’ll be in the very good hands of Claudette S. McLinn, as moderator, who is the executive director of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature. Later that day, I’ll “change gears” (ha!) and chat with three wonderful authors Marie Cruz, Karyn Parsons, and Lisa Ramee for the “Middle Grade Fiction: Grown Up Challenges” panel at 1:30pm. My friend and Hamline MFA colleague Brandi Colbert will be our moderator. Besides these panels, I can’t wait to meet up with fellow authors, librarians and, most of all, READERS! And, of course, enjoy some delicious California cuisine… See you there!

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San Antonio, Dr. Monica Muñoz Martinez, & historical erasure

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

I just spent a few days in Texas where I spoke at the San Antonio Book Festival, which is now in its seventh year. Bright  and early on the first session, I spoke with librarian Viki Ash about Merci Suárez Changes Gears. This time around, my husband came along, and we had a chance to do some sightseeing – a luxury that almost never occurs when I do author travel on a tight schedule. We visited the Riverwalk and the Tower of the Americas, which was just too tall for me, I’m sorry to say. We did catch an amazing storytelling event at The Moth as well as a cool laser light show that’s shown nightly for free at San Fernando Cathedral, a sort of 20-minute mini-history of the city. All in all, we ate too much good food and got well-earned blisters. But the thing that I wasn’t prepared for was a chance to wrestle with in-your-face historical erasure.  Javier and I visited the San Alamo Mission because, well it was down the block, and “Remember the Alamo”, and all that. But in walking the beautiful grounds and reading the placards describing the “heroic last stand” against 1,800 Mexican troops during the Texas Revolution in 1836, I wondered about all of the history that seemed missing, a bloody history that eventually led to the lynching of people of Mexican descent at the hands of the Texas Rangers and other authorities.

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A chat with Jennifer Laughran at a.k.a. Literaticast. Take a listen!

By Appearances, Awards and news, Latino Life, picture books, The Writing Life

Last week, I had the pleasure of chatting with literary agent Jennifer Laughran over on her podcast where she chats about all things kidlit with those of us in the industry. If you don’t subscribe, do so fast. Jennifer gathers publishing people from across the spectrum, so you get the benefit of understanding this business from multiple perspectives. For our segment, we talked about Merci Suárez and her family. We chatted about creativity and writing for kids of all ages. We touched on world-building in realistic fiction. I explained the importance of community for me especially in the world of social media. I made a few book recommendations, too, and of course, my dog and writing partner briefly joined the conversation. Happy Monday everyone!

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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.

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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.
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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.

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SCBWI winter conference time

By Appearances, The Writing Life, writing advice

I’m rushing to type this and then head to the airport for the SCBWI winter conference, where I’ll have the privilege of introducing some winners of this year’s Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Awards.   I’m thinking back on my own career as I get ready to take this trip. I’m considering all the ways that I learned the ropes of the publishing business and how this organization was part of that journey. No organization can provide you with everything, but my membership with SCBWI was a first important step for me. It was my declaration, I think, that I was a writer.

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Want an early copy of Merci Suárez Changes Gears? Get to the National Book Festival

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Cooler weather, pansies, and pumpkin-everything are on my mind as we head into Labor Day weekend, but this year, I also have a new book. And while it has felt like a long year of nail biting, here we are. How do I handle all that pre-publication angst? Here’s a little clip. Say what you will, though, bookmarks are useful. And I didn’t lose my mind, just the pads on my fingertips! [wpvideo vy0XcJgf]

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Juune is Bustin’ Out All O-O-ver…

By Appearances, The Writing Life

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…

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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…

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

By Appearances, The Writing Life

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…

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#KidLitWomen: Money

By The Writing Life, writing advice

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. 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….

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Helping new voices get heard: VAASL Conference 2017

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Back 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…

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It’s All About Bookish Virginia This Month

By Appearances, The Writing Life

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…

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

By Appearances, The Writing Life

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…

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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  

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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  

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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.

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On Latinx rep, NYC, and Yaqui Delgado

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

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…

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Hey book lovers: A LitCrawl Comes to RVA

By Appearances, The Writing Life

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…

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Milagros and Middle Grade: Bookends on my career so far

By The Writing Life, writing advice

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….

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March Madness – Bookish-style

By Appearances, Latino Life, picture books, The Writing Life

I’ve been writing like a crazy woman against an upcoming deadline for a new middle grade novel. Right now, I’m at the point when I’m turning to algebra for some sort of comfort –which is a stretch, considering that math was always my worst subject. Still, in my head, I keep looping a word problem that goes like this: “Meg has 140 pages written. If she writes 2 pages a day for 3 days per week and then tosses one page a week, when will she reach an arbitrary  (but kind of respectable) number like 250 pages? And, more important, will they be good?” Anyway, I’ve been working fairly close to home since December, which has felt like a blessing. It’s quiet. I have the comfort of my coffee pot, my dog, stretchy pants and fuzzy slippers. I can slip into someone else’s wonderful book when I’m lost. (Thank you Kelly Barnhill for The Girl Who Drank the Moon.) My spring calendar is almost all within the mid Atlantic, too. But there are a few presentations to mention. As I look ahead to March, I have a day trip to Orlando for a Girl Bullying and Empowerment Conference and  a few school visits. (Schedule here). In the spirit of staying close to home, though, I especially wanted to highlight two events that are happening in my area, in case you want to join in. The first is a shared book talk at the University of Richmond with my good friend, Lila…

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Take that winter! Burn Baby Burn a 2016 LA Times Book Prize Finalist

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life

A wonderful surprise to beat back my February blues, which have really been a challenge this year. Burn Baby Burn was named a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize today. It’s quite a list, including the award-sweeping MARCH by John Lewis, so I’m especially honored – and also not envious of the judges. The fun/harrowing thing is that you don’t know who actually wins until the day of the event. So stay tuned for April 21 at the kick off for the LA Times Book Festival this year. Thank you, LA Times, for inclusion on this lovely and thought-provoking list. And thank you, Candlewick, for my brand NEW pair of disco ball earring to wear for the occasion. I’ll be traveling west with my editor, Kate Fletcher, to attend the ceremony. Fingers crossed ( and TUMS in my purse.) Press release here. Young Adult Literature Socorro Acioli/ Daniel Hahn (Translator), The Head of the Saint, Delacorte Julie Berry, The Passion of Dolssa, Viking Books for Young Readers Frances Hardinge, The Lie Tree, Harry N. Abrams John Lewis. Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell, March: Book Three, Top Shelf Productions Meg Medina, Burn, Baby, Burn, Candlewick

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#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  

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For All the Nasty Women and Girls: The 2017 Amelia Bloomer Top Ten

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

I can’t tell you how exciting it feels to have Burn, Baby, Burn included in the Amelia Bloomer Top Ten list of 2017, especially on the heels of such an awe-inspiring weekend when we witnessed the mobilization of thousands upon thousands of women across the globe.  We have work to do – and we’re willing to do it. And for those of you who foolishly slept in this morning, here’s the link to the results of the ALA Youth Media Awards. I didn’t win any shiny stickers from ALA this year, but there are so many amazing titles here that did. Time to order up, folks. Congratulations to all the winners and their publishing teams!  

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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…

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Photo round-up of my post election travels

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life

Hi all – I’m heading to NCTE in Atlanta tomorrow, but my head is still buzzing from the election and all that it means for many of the vulnerable children and families that I meet in my life as an author. In the days to come, I’ll especially need to remind myself to balance aggravation with joy.  So here is a bit from the joyful side. Yesterday,  Burn Baby Burn was named a Best Book of 2016 by School Library Journal and also by Amazon. As you know, I was in NYC last week. My trip offered me really beautiful experiences at Bank Street College and also at the ever-fabulous Book Riot Live Conference, where people came from as far away as Australia and Sweden. I’ve pasted some of my favorite shots below – everything from political protest to utter joy and silliness. Other than that, my friends, I’ll touch base with you again in a few weeks. Hide the knives if you have to and enjoy a peaceful Thanksgiving with your families. Scenes from the Union Station subway station where citizens voiced their opposition to the election results

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Kirkus, Book Riot, Bank Street and more: Keeping my sanity despite this election

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’m at the airport in Richmond right now, getting ready to head out to Austin for the Texas Book Festival, which is huge and wonderful as always.  I hadn’t been on the roster, but this year Burn Baby Burn is a finalist for the Kirkus Prize for Young People’s Literature. The ceremony where the winners are announced is tonight, so Kate Fletcher (my editor) and I are getting “gussied up” and heading over. Ay…I don’t know what to think about what’s going to happen; the whole idea makes me queasy. Whatever the result, though, I just want to say this: Thank you to everyone who has read my work and told others about it. You have so many good books to choose from on any given day, and I’m so grateful that you’ve given my work some space in your life and on your bookshelf. If you’re at the festival, I hope I’ll see you at the literary gala where we’ll be guests of my friend Maya Smart, a woman who is still sorely missed here in Richmond. I can only imagine a fun night because not only is there Maya, but the whole thing is being emceed by Jon Scieszka! If not at the gala, then maybe we can see each other on Saturday during the Kirkus finalist panel, where each author will talk about their book. After Election Day, I’ll head to NYC for so many wonderful things. (Hopefully, I’ll be in good spirits.) I’ll be visiting Mamaroneck Public Schools, having dinner…

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Long Lists, Scholarships, Rock Star Librarians, and Meat: What my last three weeks looked like

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Like everyone else, I’m glued to CNN and hoping for people’s safety this morning. I’ve been on the move and squeezed with family health things, too, so I’ve had very little time left to write many blog posts. Here’s a wrap up of favorite moments of the last few weeks. Award news: First, here’s an article on Tumblr regarding all the long list titles on this year’s National Book Award. The question was, Who did you write this book for? Burn Baby Burn didn’t advance to the short list. (Yes, that’s me sniffling…) But here’s what all the authors on the long list had to say about their books last week. Scholarships: If you’re an aspiring author or an author early in your career, a reminder to consider applying for the Meg Medina Scholarship at Highlights Foundation. Applications are due by Dec 15. Here’s the link with information and background on the award. (The how-to is at the end.) Related to Highlights, I also want to share a sweet blog post by Dr. Marilisa Jimenez, a Pura Belpré scholar who joined me at Highlights last month. She started work on a pretty compelling article and used the time to talk through some of her ideas. Check out the research she’s doing on YA literature in the US and trauma/displacement in immigrant Latino communities. I love to follow Marilisa’s work because (1) she’s usually laying the groundwork for research about Latino literature that hasn’t been done before, and (2) she’s passionate about the topic from a deeply personal point of view….

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To read your own or hire actors? My first audio book experience.

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

A happy day and a slightly disappointing day. First, a huge congratulations to all the authors who made the short list for the National Book Award this morning. Kate DiCamillo, Jason Reynolds, John Lewis/Andrew Ayden/Nate Powell, Grace Lin and Nicola Yoon have written beautiful books. I wish I had made the cut, too, but the truth is that every one of those authors is deserving. Standing ovation from over here in Richmond. So, this is how I spent my morning instead. I did my first audiobook recording at Red Amp 9WG Studios. I was reading the short story “Sol Painting Inc,” from Flying Lessons & Other Stories. The middle grade fiction collection, edited by Ellen Oh, is due on shelves in Jan 2017. So far, it’s gotten two starred reviews, so I’m hoping it makes its way into classrooms far and wide. I love the stories inside – so many styles and perspectives, which we sorely need. I wasn’t sure I could do an audio interpretation, but the draw for me was that it has always been strange to hear the characters inside my head in someone else’s voice. Still, there was the issue of whether I could stomach the sound of my own voice on an audio track. In the end, it was pretty painless, and the engineers and audio directors were great. This may turn me on to reading my own novels as audiobooks. Who knows? 

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The High Holy Week for Book Geeks (Like Me)

By Appearances, The Writing Life

So much is going on in DC for book lovers next week that my head is spinning in that good way of little kids doing the helicopter for no reason. Children’s book icon Katherine Patterson is speaking at the Washington Children’s Book guild on Thursday, September 22, after which I will zoom over to the Library of Congress to be in the audience for the the Americas Awards at the Library of Congress that will honor Pam Muñoz Ryan (Echo) and Ashely Hope Perez (Out of Darkness) – two authors who published exceptional books last year. If you’re a teacher, you might want to register for the workshops with the fantastic Alma Flor Ada to be held that night. Co-sponsored by Teaching for Change, it’s inexpensive, and you’ll be in excellent hands. Then, of course, comes the big one: The National Book Festival  on Sat., Sept 24. I’m honored to be on the roster of authors this year, where I’ll bring a little disco inferno to the capital with a talk about Burn Baby Burn.  That ought to be enough, but this year, I’m staying into the night because (DRUMROLL) I’m a judge for the teen poetry slam, a standing room only event. (Here’s info and video from last year.) Aaahhh! I can’t tell you how much I love spoken performance (and how much I secretly long to do this myself.) In this case, teens from around the country will come to compete in this event. There’s a special guest judge, too –…

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YA Lit Virginia style in RVA and DC

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’m taking to the road with Hannah Barnaby and Kristen Paige Madonia, two fellow Virginia YA authors next week. If you’re close to Richmond, stop in at Fountain Bookstore on Tuesday, Sept 13, 6:30 PM. We’ll be talking about what’s happening in YA lit these days, from our own perspectives. [FountainBooks Flyer Sept2016] After, we’ll be driving up the I-95 corridor to Politics & Prose on Thursday, September 15, 7 pm for our Washington friends. I love both these authors for the top-notch work they’re producing. (Both are previous Girls of Summer guest authors, with Wonder Show and Fingerprints of You, respectively.) Their newer works:  Some of the Parts and Invisible Fault Lines are fantastic follow-ups. But these women also bring a sensitivity that I like when we talk about YA. Hannah is a former editor, and KP teaches Creative Writing at JMU and UVA.  So, I always feel like the conversation they bring about Young Adult lit is deeper than just a review of storyline or  process, etc. In fact, I feel like I learn something new from them every time we’re together. Anyway, I know the fall is a busy time, but if you can squeeze in some book and author love, come on out!

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Get Down 2night: Burn Baby Burn on #2Jennsbookclub twitter chat

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’ll be in the woods of Pennsylvania tonight, but not even tall trees, ticks, and lousy internet can stop me from slipping  on my disco ball earrings and sitting in on a twitter chat at 2jennsbookclub. It’s all about Burn Baby Burn there. Do you know these librarian superheroes? Here’s a link on their website as an intro. Basically, they’re two fierce YA librarians on a mission to, well,  quench their envy of Mr.Schu while there showing teen fiction some love. I actually met one of the Jennifers ( Jennifer LaGarde) a few years ago, when I heard her speak at the Virginia School Libraries conference in Williamsburg. She was so wise and funny as she described her role as “librarian at large” for North Carolina. I especially remember her urgency around the idea of making the library the heart of a school. That idea has stayed with me in the years since, and I’m always impressed when I find librarians doing exactly that. Here’s  Jennifer Northrup‘s site for you, too. I love that they collaborate and that they have harnessed social media as a way to connect bookish ones and keep their spaces relevant. OK,  the hashtag is #2jennsbookclub. Tonight, Sept 8, 2017, at 8 PM. Spread the word and let’s boogie.

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Burn Baby Burn voted YA book of the year by NAIBA

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

  Big news for me today: Burn Baby Burn has been chosen by the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association as their book of the year in the Young Adult category. I’m in some good company here. But the fact that this honor comes from independent bookstores is what’s cool.  These are the people who truly know and love books and authors. And they’re the people who have refused to lie down in the face of Amazon and (before that) other large chains. How are they doing? Take a look. I wish I could be in Baltimore for their conference in October to accept the award in person. But I’ll be traveling back from the Oregon School Library Association conference and won’t make it back in time. So, all I can say is thank you so much NAIBA for choosing Burn Baby Burn. Party on in my absence and please know how much I appreciate every one of you for loving books and authors as you do.  

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Are you a YA author from VA? Win $2K here!

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

Richmond Public Library has stepped forward to promote young adult books in Virginia – and I mean in a big way. Actually, in two thousand big ways. If you’re a writer for teens in the Commonwealth, you may be eligible to win the $2,000 literature prize. (WOWZA!) YAVA (Young Adult Virginia) is an annual teen book event, now in its fourth year. It features the works of Virginia authors who have had an upper middle grade or  young adult novel published that year. It’s free and open to the public for teachers, librarians, and book fans who want to meet and hear from our state’s fine stable of authors, whether new to publishing or seasoned.  The event is scheduled for October 12, 2017, 6- 8:30 PM at the Main branch of the Richmond Public Library. Here’s the Facebook page. The award is selected in a combination of public voting and judges, who pick the winner from among the finalists. Last year, Anne Holton was the honorary judge. (Yep, Tim Kaine’s spouse and our Secretary of Education.) She selected Gigi Amateau’s Come August, Come Freedom as the winner. Important rules to note: Winners are selected from the previous year’s publications. Plus the author has to have been present at the live YAVA event at the library to be eligible. PLEASE take the time to vote on the 2015 title you think is most deserving. Then, do your YA authors a favor and circulate the survey widely. (Nobody’s allowed to launch vote-for-me campaigns, though….

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Peace, Quiet & Writing: An invitation to the woods

By Appearances, The Writing Life

For a few days after Labor Day, I’ll make the trek back up to rural Pennsylvania to the campus of the Highlights Foundation, where they’ve begun an artist-in-residence program. The inaugural writers are Jerry and Eileen Spinnelli, Suzanne Bloom, and me. You know Highlights, of course, from their magazine and the years you probably spent doing the hidden picture search at the dentist office. (It has been the favorite magazine feature since 1946.) But, what I learned a few years ago is that they have a beautiful campus where writers come to workshop and compose away from all the distractions of their daily lives. I’ve been there twice:  once as a guest author with Kathy Erskine and Rich Wallace. The second time (sort of) last spring as part of the faculty for SCBWI Pennsylvania, which rented the space for its annual meeting. When I was approached in June, it took all of five seconds to say sí, como no, even though I’d already closed my calendar to anything new until 2017. Who could resist? The idea is that I hide away in the beautiful mountains, where my biggest personal worries will be reduced to ticks and which ice cream to choose as a snack. Other people will cook to feed me. I will not walk a dog, throw in laundry or respond to email. At night, I will look at the stars through a telescope in the Lodge and listen to bullfrogs. The rest is a blissful four days of writing…

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A conference from your living room couch: SLJ Teen Live

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Librarians, Teachers, Book Lovers: Are you registered yet for SLJTeenLive? Hurry. It’s this Wednesday, August 10, all day, and it features the likes of Leonard Marcus, Reyna Grande, Maggie Stiefvater, me – and countless other authors and book heroes that you shouldn’t miss if you’re serving teens. I’ll be honest, I love that I don’t have to travel for this conference. In fact, what I like best of all, is that it’s a completely free online webinar – which means you can enjoy it with your earbuds and your air-conditioning – and not go broke. Maggie Stiefvater kicks us off at 10:15 am, and I’ll close us out at 4:15. In between, there are all kinds of sessions. (I’m really interested in the one about portrayals of mental illness in YA lit, moderated by Hannah Gomez.) As for me, SLJ asked me to talk about how we make all kinds of people feel like they belong in books and in the library. How is it that somebody comes to feel welcome inside a building, a book, or really, a literary establishment? I’ve never done a webinar, so it should be interesting to talk for 30 minutes to the green camera light on my computer. Please God, don’t let my face freeze in one of those horrendous Skype-type grimaces. Okay – go register. Hope you can make it on Wednesday – Meg  

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ALA Orlando: A Bittersweet Affair

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I head to ALA this week, but it’s with a mix of emotions. Traditionally, the ALA June conference is a joyous time to celebrate the books that were awarded medals, touch base with our far-flung colleagues, and gather new advanced galleys for our to-be-read piles. I can’t go every year, so when I do get the opportunity, it feels like a truly special occasion. But it’s hard to feel lighthearted this year. After the terrorist attack we saw unfold against the LGBTQ community – and the maddening debates over terrorism, hate, and gun safety that (once again) ensued, I’m feeling numb. I watched the names and faces scroll – overwhelmingly Latino in this case – and my mind went to the families and friends who have been left broken and wondering about how we’ve been dislodged from our shared humanity. I’m grateful to see that the ALA conference organizers have several activities planned in support of the Orlando community, including a memorial service for the victims being held at the Orange County Convention Auditorium from 8 – 8:30 AM on Saturday, June 25. I’ll be there with my husband and oldest daughter, who will be traveling with me this time. Maybe as we reach for joy this year, we can do so with a mind to continuing to build unity and understanding. I’ve put my signing and speaking schedule down below, but I would especially like to invite you to join me at the Pura Belpré celebration. Mango Abuela and Me will be awarded the honor medal for narrative and…

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Books as Ballet: Milagros at Latin Ballet of Virginia

By The Writing Life

Youth arts fans:  This weekend, the Latin Ballet of Virginia  presents their interpretation of my first novel Milagros: Girl from Away. It runs Friday through Sunday at the Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center, and tickets are free for kids under six. (You can get more info on their website or on Facebook.) The student company performed this colorful ballet several years ago. (By now some of these kids are college graduates. Yikes!) Then as now, it’s such an honor to see a work that I wrote for children being performed by children in another art form. And I’m so grateful to the LBV for always supporting me and other Latino artists in the community. They were kind enough to perform at my Hope Tree project at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in 2012, which lent a beautiful touch to the launch party for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind. You can catch LBV this summer at the Dogwood Dell Festival of the Arts, too. Here’s the schedule. A walk down memory lane from the original is below, but I can’t wait to meet the new dancers during their rehearsal today!  

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Thank you, Nevada Readers!

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

I just received the fun news that Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass has won the Nevada Library Association’s Young Reader’s Choice Award. I’m so grateful to know that readers continue to connect with the story. Thank you everyone for reading and voting. Very cool! Congratulations to Bridget Heos, Carol Weston, and Jonathan Stroud on their wins, too!

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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.    

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Filler Up: Two book talks, including one at… a gas station?

By Appearances, The Writing Life

When I tell people that it’s important for authors to love their own community, I mean it. So with this mind, I have the pleasure to invite you to my next two appearances in Virginia – one at WriterHouse in Charlottesville, and the other at my local Exxon station in Richmond. First up: WriterHouse in Charlottesville is hosting Kristen Paige Madonia (Invisible Fault Lines) and Hannah Barnaby (Some of the Parts) and me (Burn Baby Burn) on Saturday, May 14. I’ve loved Hannah and KP’s work for a while now. (You might remember that they were each selected for past lists of Girls of Summer. Here’s the flyer with all the details: WriterHouse Flyer May2016 As for the gas station…Crazy, you say?  Not really. Hope Whitby is a member of the Poetry Society of Virginia, a member of James River Writers – and also the service manager at Village Exxon in Richmond. (It’s the one at the corner of Three Chopt and Patterson, for those of you who live in RVA.) Sure, they’ll fill up your tank and sell you junk food for the road. But Village Exxon also hangs art by local artists in their lobby, and – with Hope’s help – they run Books in the Bay Book Club to celebrate the work of local authors. That’s where I come in. Their next read is Burn Baby Burn, which they’ll discuss on Sunday, May 15, at 3:30. I’m a sucker for innovation. I love Hope’s idea and the fact that she’s figuring out how to make the arts part…

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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.  

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Playing Dress Up and other important author duties

By Appearances, Latino Life, The Writing Life

I’m part of the kick-off event for Herndon’s All County Reads this week. Their selected book is Rudolfo Anaya’s, Bless Me Ultima. So, I’ll be talking about Latino lit in general and how my work deals with some of the themes in that classic novel. Disco meets Anaya. (Don’t underestimate me.) Anyway, I hope you can join Kwame Alexander and me on Wednesday night at the Fortnightly Library in Herndon. (Flyer below.) After, I’ll be heading into the middle of the woods, aka Hinsdale Pennsylvania/Highlights Foundation, to work on the faculty of the Eastern PA SCBWI conference. (Register.)  I’m almost done with preparations. Speeches, workshops – all drafted and packed up. My lingering homework is the character costume for Friday night, clearly the most important thing. The finalists: The Paper Bag Princess:  Love the retro, strong girl idea, but the downside…it’s still so cold in PA. I’ll freeze wearing a paper bag (or, ok, a few paper bags.) Still, I love this book.  Here’s the audio of the story so you can see why. My kids and I read this so many times…and even then the story was already a classic. 2. Nora Lopez (from my very own Burn Baby Burn):  OK, it should be the frontrunner, but me in lycra and platforms? Once was probably enough. 3. Harriet the Spy:  My favorite so far. We’re about the same age, this book and I.… We have a similar fashion sense. A certain odd need to observe others… 4. Amelia Bedelia:  Don’t own a frilly apron, but…

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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…

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Burning at the LA Times Book Festival

By Appearances, The Writing Life

  I’m heading to the King Kong of book festivals this weekend: the Los Angeles Times Book Festival 2016. Weighing in at 500 authors, it’s big enough that I’ll have to pack sneakers along with an umbrella for the predicted drizzle. I did get some practical advice from my friend and fellow author Lilliam Rivera of Radio Sombra, where she deejays Literary Soundtrack. “It’s huge, and it’s always hot. I have no idea why. Wear light clothes.” Anyway, my schedule is this: Saturday: 1:30 PM, YA Stage: Perspectives on the Past: Writing Young Adult History MODERATOR: Aaron Hartzler PANELISTS: Monica Hesse (Girl in the Blue Coat), Meg Medina (Burn Baby Burn), Cat Winters (The Steep and Thorny Way) (Signing follows at 2:30)   Saturday, 4:30-4:55 PM, Children’s stage                       Reading/presentation of Mango, Abuela, and Me  (Book signing to follow at 5 PM) So, in preparation, dig out some platform shoes tomorrow – Thursday, April 7, 9:30 EST (6:30 PM PST), and tune in to my newest interview with Lilliam on Literary Soundtrack. We’ll be talking about New York’s scariest year – and listening to some of the songs that brought me into the world of Burn Baby Burn.     

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What I Was Up To: Advocacy, San Antonio, and Frito Pie

By Appearances, The Writing Life

If you follow kid lit, you probably know by now that a group of almost 300 authors took a stand on behalf of readers in North Carolina. This direct letter of support kids in NC was spearheaded by R.J. Palacio, and both Phil Bildner and Alex London did some seriously heavy lifting in terms of drafting the letter and gathering names. Thanks to SLJ for picking up the story; to the authors who we contacted on such short notice for their support; and to everyone who retweeted and showed support by sharing the message on social media. As all this was unfolding at lightning speed, I was also on my way to San Antonio – land of the River Walk and Frito Pie. It was a wonderful weekend of meeting old writing friends and new. I also got to read Mango Abuela and Me together with my illustrator, Angela Dominguez. Such a sweet moment. Authors sometimes don’t meet their illustrators, so this was a rare blessing. Anyway, here are a few other highlights.

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How do I get in? Why a lousy beginning can still help you write a good novel

By The Writing Life, writing advice

In between promotion travel for Burn Baby Burn, I’m turning my attention to writing my next projects with Candlewick. I have an anthology story due soon, and a middle grade manuscript due in December. I have friends who have mastered the art of airplane and hotel room writing. Some even write for as little as six minutes before going off to jobs in offices every day. But writing on the run has always been a struggle for me. I need a lot of quiet to sink deeply enough inside my imagination to connect with my characters, especially at the beginning. So, I was cleaning up my computer desktop – which is what I do when when I’m trying to avoid something unpleasant, like battling my writing insecurities. The process of beginning never seems to get easier, even after all this time. (The only thing worse is writing endings, but more on THAT another day.) I still spend weeks circling like a vulture above the story. I can see the characters vaguely. I can see their neighborhood, their school, the general shape of their lives, but I can’t quite zero in on where to start. I can be caught like this for a long while, writing and rewriting the first 30 pages as I flesh out the book’s world, looking under every rock for the heart of my main character. I bring this up because I stumbled upon hard evidence of why I should just embrace this wandering and stop worrying. Right…

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Thinking Outside the (Big) Box? Burn Baby Burn at Costco

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’ll be signing Burn Baby Burn at the most unexpected place this Saturday:  Costco in Chesterfield, Virginia. Nope, not my usual stomping grounds for books. But here’s what has me curious. Costco IS the country’s largest membership big box retailer, and one that has its own bookclub as well as a magazine (Costco Connection) with a distribution of 8.3 million copies. And last summer, former president Jimmy Carter wowed people by signing at the Glen Allen store. So while most of us associate Costco with the 60 million rotisserie chickens the retailer sells each year, when it comes to books, it’s probably smarter to think about their members. They’re typically college-educated, earn nearly $100K and own a home. Does that translate into readers? I’m about to find out. I honestly have no idea what to expect, other than reaching out and talking to people I don’t know. Book signings can be scary – as every author knows – even at our favorite indie store. (Pick your drama: The kid cries because you wrote in her book. Or nobody comes. Or you forget/misspell somebody’s name. Or your stomach hurts. Or there’s a better event across town.) But maybe ours isn’t the only discomfort we should think about. Not everyone feels comfortable buying their reading material at bookstores. You (and I) may love the smell of books, the crack of a new spine, the help of a knowledgable bookseller. But there are also those who like to browse on their own and who’ll take a risk on a book that they…

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Why I Wish I Could Be Split in Two

By Appearances, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

It’s too early to be in this airport, but I’m on the way to the Southwest Florida Reading Festival. I’ll step off the plane and head to right to a school to read Mango, Abuela and Me. Then, it’s all preparation for my time outside tomorrow. The downside to being in the Florida sunshine, though, is that I’ll miss the presentation of the inaugural Walter Award at the Library of Congress. We Need Diverse Books‘s judges picked three of my favorite reads of 2015. I want to send a huge congratulations to winners Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (All-American Boys), and honor winners Margarita Engle (Enchanted Air); Kekla Magoon and Ilyasa Shabazz (X). I am in DC in spirit!

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Diverse Book Love in Virginia This Week

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’m on a plane back home this morning, but I’ll have just enough time to toss the dirty clothes in the washer and head west on I-64 to Charlottesville for the Virginia Festival of the Book being held this week. Here’s the schedule; as usual, something for all tastes – from chefs and cookbooks, to cultural icons and children’s book authors. No need to worry that you’ll feel out of your comfort zone. Just get out there and support the literary life of you home state, friends. My own visit is quick this year. Two school stops (Southwood Boys & Girls Club and Jack Jouette Middle School) but also an important Thursday evening panel that comes against the backdrop of the alarming national conversation (if we can we still call it that) about immigrants in this country. I hope you’ll attend Beyond Background Characters: Life in Hyphen-American. Check out the author bios, and join us! When: Thursday, March 17, 2016, 8:00 PM Where: UVa Culbreth Theater (109 Culbreth Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22903) Who:  Sara Farizan Sara Farizan, author of Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel, is the daughter of Iranian immigrants, and was born in Massachusetts. She is an MFA graduate of Lesley University and holds a BA in film and media studies from American University. She is also the author of If You Could Be Mine.   Lamar Giles Lamar Giles, author of the YA thrillers Endangered and Fake ID, which was a 2015 Edgar Award nominee, is a…

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Where 2 Get Signed Copies of Burn Baby Burn in #RVA

By The Writing Life

Before I hit the road, I am leaving behind some signed copies of Burn Baby Burn in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. Please don’t forget to support your bricks-and-mortar bookshops. They’re the most knowledgable and can turn you on to lots of other authors you might love. Here’s where you can get your signed, first editions:   West End: Barnes & Noble (Short Pump) 11640 West Broad Street, Henrico, VA, Phone: 360-0103 Carytown:  bbgb books 3003 West Cary St, Richmond, VA, 23221, Phone: 804 353-5675 Chopsuey Books, 2913 West Cary Street, Richmond, VA, 23221, Phone: 804 422-8066

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Off to the Desert: Tucson Festival of Books

By Appearances, Latino Life, The Writing Life

I had twins today – sort of. That’s because it’s my book birthday for Burn Baby Burn and also for the Spanish edition of Yaqui Delgado Quiere Darte Una Paliza (translated by Teresa Mlawer). Thanks to everyone who is sending and tweeting good wishes! So how am I celebrating the releases? By dreaming of 80 degree sunny weather and packing for the first leg of a mini book tour. First stop: Arizona – for the wonderful Tucson Book Festival this weekend.(Hopefully, it’s the book and not my winter-pale skin that’s going to burn, baby, burn.) Here’s my schedule… everything from crafting historical fiction (with the likes of Ruta Sepetys) to breaking the culture and color barrier in publishing.   Hot Off the Press Sat, Mar 12, 8:30 am – 9:30 am By invitation only: Meet ten marvelous authors releasing new books the week of the Festival. Student Union South Ballroom (Wheelchair accessible) Panelists: C. J. Box, Douglas Brinkley, Jeffery Deaver, Amy Hatvany, J. A. Jance, Lisa Lutz, Meg Medina, John Nichols, T. Jefferson Parker, Chris Pavone; Moderator: Jennifer Lee Carrell Fight or Flight: Surviving School Sat, Mar 12, 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm High school and middle school can be extremely difficult for teens who daily face bullying by peers and cliques that exclude anyone seen as “different” or “weird”. These YA authors will talk about how the characters in their books respond to rejection, exclusion, and bullying and why these books matter to teens. Education Room 351 (Seats 48, Wheelchair accessible) Signing…

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Poets, Hope, and the Writers at the Furious Flower

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’m back from the Furious Flower where I had the honor of sitting in on a poetry slam as part of the Mirrors and Windows Conference.  It was a collegiate summit, so the attendees were all college undergrads and grads – MFA’ers and prospects, alongside other writers who haven’t yet identified as poets. They came from Howard University, JMU, Lincoln, Salisbury, Blue Ridge Community – all hungry for time with other young artists who have discovered the power and healing that is found inside the hard shell of poetry. It was, of course, an honor to be part of the faculty with Mahogany Brown, Tony Medina, and Kwame Alexander. But to me, the true stars of this weekend were the young poets. The poetry slam was our culminating gathering, and it was, for me, one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had as an author. These young scholars brought it all, and as I watched each one take a turn at the mic, I found myself hanging on words that named their experience, their fears, their strengths, their reality. Whether the poem was about turning to Payless sneakers, life with a brother suffering from mental illness or about shaming a girl who has been raped, they rang true. I’ll tell you straight: It has been a season of despair for me as we inch toward November. The ugly, racist and bullying pitch of our presidential election has left me disgusted about what’s ahead unless we collectively step forward to change the path. But Saturday night and again…

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We’re Making (Badass)History: A Google Hangout with YA authors

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’ll be joining three amazing authors for a Google Hangout on Sunday, March 6. Check out the details and mark your calendar.     Who will be there?     Sharon Biggs Waller The Forbidden Orchid Synopsis: 1861, Kent, England. 17-year-old Elodie Buchanan is the eldest of ten girls, all named for flowers, and daughter of a world-famous Victorian plant hunter and Darwinist. When an accident leaves her father immobile and badly in debt, Elodie herself must journey to China in search of a rare orchid to save her family from debtors prison. Along the way she finds danger, deception, and first love. Published by Viking, February 2nd, 2016. Starred in PW and School Library Journal “VERDICT A historical romance with a strong female protagonist, sure to find fans.–School Library Journal Jessica Spotswood A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bankrollers, and Other Badass Girls Synopsis: Join fifteen of today’s most talented writers of young adult literature on a thrill ride through history with American girls charting their own course. They are monsters and mediums, bodyguards and barkeeps, screenwriters and schoolteachers, heiresses and hobos. They’re making their own way in often-hostile lands, using every weapon in their arsenals, facing down murderers and marriage proposals. And they all have a story to tell. Starred review in Booklist “Readers of historical fiction and adventure need look no further.” ~ Kirkus Cat Winter The Steep and Thorny Way Hanalee Denney’s hometown is not a welcoming place in the 1920s. Hanalee is the daughter of…

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