Newbery award winner and New York Times bestselling author

Archive for the ‘Trailers’ Category

A Playlist for Burn Baby Burn!

511X7P42KYLIt’s snowing outside and freezing here in Virginia. So here’s something that can get you up and moving inside.

Every decade has music that defines it. The 1970s was disco, punk, and the early work rock legends. I loved it all, to be honest.

Copyright laws keep me from posting clips of all the songs mentioned in the novel, but here’s a slideshow of the albums and artists that made their way into Burn Baby Burn.

Whether you loved the dancing queens or said that “disco sucks,”  there’s something to dance to here.


Stars & Thoughts: On the New Trailer for Burn Baby Burn

BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2After months of some serious anxiety over my upcoming novel, I’ve been getting some good news about Burn Baby Burn, which is due in bookstores on March 8.  Book Riot gave it a nice shout out last month, and it was listed as an anticipated 2016 title on the Barnes & Noble Teen blog by my pals at We Need Diverse Books. It’s also been named a Junior Library Guild selection and has earned a starred review on Kirkus.

Today, Shelf Awareness premiered the trailer. In case you aren’t subscribed to the industry newsletter, here it is below. Please feel free to share the trailer if you like what you see.

I finally hired a professional to handle the production this time around. Why? You’ve seen my past trailers:  super basic via i-movie or keynote and Quicktime.  I started making trailers a few years ago thanks to SCBWI’s Chris Cheng who gave a terrific workshop on how to make DIY ads for your books. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed doing them, but the truth is that they’re a stretch for a novice like me. When you’re a rookie, it shows. (No need to spare my feelings. I know.)

Rich Bailey of Shooting Richard produced the Burn Baby Burn trailer – which is to say he had to deal with a very persnickety author offering ideas and opinions. (Poor guy.) To keep costs down, I came to him with the basic storyboard concept and text. He made the magic. Here below is a Q & A with Rich.


ASK THE EXPERT:  Five minutes with Rich Bailey

dTrokngbcWhat is your best argument for why authors should invest in a book trailer?

It is important to understand a book trailer as a marketing tool, and your book as your product. The end goal is to sell that product, and you do that by promoting it, advertising it, raising awareness for it. By now everyone should be well aware that all Internet users prefer video over written content. Overwhelmingly. If you hope to promote a product (yes, even a written product), video is going to play an extremely important role in that promotion. Especially online.

Whether marketing books or bubblegum, the goal is the same; it’s all about connecting with the audience. You’re not just selling the features of a product. You’re selling ideas, you’re selling emotions. Try to capture the emotions that your audience will feel, try to show them, rather than tell them, what they will gain from the book. The connection translates into reading your book. And that’s worth investing in.

You want something engaging that will grab audiences and make them think I have got to get this book right now. In order to do that, having a good, exciting book trailer is going to help snag readers who may otherwise have not wanted to read your blurb and would pass on your book.

Besides, how addicting is it to watch movie trailers? What makes you think watching (good) book trailers would be any less addicting?

What’s a reasonable budget for an author to expect for a trailer? (What are the factors that impact cost) 

There are thousands of factors that impact cost, including concept, script, crew, actors (and actors’ unions!), editors, graphics, cameras, lights, and on and on, and as soon as you figure out what to “expect” there’s some new game-changer. Here are a few basics:

There is a huge difference between a professional videographer, producer, or filmmaker and your nephew who can “make some pretty slick movies on his iPhone”. So, the first cost-impacting factor is going to be the skill of the artist/team you’re using for your trailer. Do they actually know how to make exceptional content? Did they go to school for this? Do you like their work? If you find someone you really click with, they will most likely guide you through the budgeting process.

Secondly, the scope or concept of your trailer is going to influence the budget. A slide show with photos of your cat (eck!) is going to be a lot cheaper to produce than computer-generated robot velociraptors attacking a thousand-man Viking army. Just think of how much 1,000 Viking helmets cost!

As with anything, check the credentials of that service provider. Always ask for a demo reel or past work if you don’t know the person. Also, be suspicious of budgets that seem too low – like, below $300. (Again, there are always exceptions.) Remember that filmmaking and producing commercials is expensive, so try not to get sticker-shock.

 What’s the author’s role when working with a professional on a book trailer? 

It’s different in every situation. Some authors just want to provide a very loose guideline (say, the book’s blurb) and walk away, while others will write the script and drive the visuals as well. Ideally it’ll be a collaboration between author and filmmaker.

Ultimately, if you’re paying for the trailer, you have the final say. However, I strongly encourage you to let a professional do his/her own thing. Trailers are just as artistic and subjective as books, and a professional is most likely going to know more tricks to making a compelling trailer than you will. Otherwise, why did you hire them? While the author should have a clear vision of what they’d like to see, remember that the video professional probably has just as clear and concise a vision. Work together and communicate with each other, and trust the pro, even when you’re not sure what the trailer should look like. That’s why they’re there.

Are there any trends/changes you see for book trailers?  

Book trailers are still in their infancy. Old school thinking still exists, but it is going by the way of the dodo bird. (“No one wants to see a video about a book!”) Consider this: You can argue that no one wants to see a TV commercial about the taste of gum. Still, we see gum commercials all the time, and no one is morally offended except, like, gum-free advocates…anyway.

I believe that book trailers are going to grow in popularity and production value. I predict that within 10 years or less, well-made book trailers will be as useful as film trailers when it comes to promoting entertainment. You’ll still have your homemade slideshow fan-made-style trailers, but I think we’ll start seeing a lot more money, art, and attention going into video content about books. We’ve already started to see that in the last year, and there are no reasons to believe it will slow down.

Also look for other video content beyond book trailers, such as author interviews, how-to videos, Youtube channels, and social media video clips that help promote books. This trend will go hand-in-hand with demand for quality video content. People will opt out of reading several book synopses before picking a title. It will become more common to watch the trailer when deciding which book to purchase.

SR_Logo_Text2See some of Rich’s work at

A book birthday – and time to remember las abuelas who inspired the story

MANGO_jacket_for_Meg copyToday is the book birthday for Mango, Abuela and Me – my second picture book, so sweetly illustrated by the talented Angela Dominguez.  So far, so good. It has earned very nice reviews and mentions, including stars in Booklist and PW. Plus, I got word last week that it has gone into its first reprinting, so I’m thrilled, to say the least.

This time around, I’m delaying the launch a couple of weeks until Sunday, September 13, 2015, 1 PM – 3 PM. That’s when my pal, Gigi Amateau (Two for Joy) and I will do a joint book event at bbgb in Carytown to celebrate our new books and, even more important, National Grandparents Day.

According to USA Today, more than 4.9 million kids in America are being raised by their grandparents, a number that basically doubled since 2000. That wasn’t exactly the case for Gigi and me, but our grandmothers helped raise us just the same, and we love them for it. Our own grandmothers are gone, but Grammy, Abuela Bena and Abuela Fefa continue to make impact on us as women, mothers, and authors.

Bena on her wedding day in 1925

Bena on her wedding day in 1925

Benita Metauten was my mother’s mother. She had an eighth grade education and rolled cigars for a living in her family’s small enterprise. She would eventually marry a bicycle salesman, have four children, and find herself in the US. When she arrived from Cuba in 1968 –her nerves in tatters – I wasn’t sure I’d like her. The worried look on her face and the nervous hives that covered her feet frightened me. She became my babysitter after school, though, and our relationship grew. I began to enjoy her strange obsession with Lucha Libre wrestling on  TV, as well as the countless stories of her life in Cuba, stories most people wouldn’t tell a five-year-old:  grisly hurricane deaths, infidelity scandals in her old town, a man who tied up his daughter when she misbehaved, the day my uncle was sent to prison for trying to leave Cuba illegally.  She had no filter, but maybe that’s why I loved her. And more, it was Bena who knew how to cook a proper lechón in our family, and Bena who showed me how to look carefully for rocks in the dry beans and how to use a wine bottle instead of a rolling pin on empanada dough.

Unfortunately, it was also Bena whose anxieties about life in this new country eventually kept my aunts and mother from taking risks on new jobs and better opportunities. If Bena wanted anything in this life at all, it was security and safety, and she would get them at anyone’s expense. She was gentle but she ruled others through her worry and doubt – never a good combination. Over time, her anxieties worsened, so that by the time she was 98 and bedridden, we were all swallowed up in her care. No one could stray far from her bedside without her panicking.

Bena with cotorraStill, in better times, I enjoyed her. It was this grandmother for whom I bought a small parrot one day  at Woolworths. I loved animals, of course, but it was also a little offering to help her feel better about missing Cuba and the beautiful pet parrot she had left behind. That act would be the tiny seed that grew into the manuscript for Mango, Abuela and Me.

Not that the book is all Bena. I had another grandmother, too, whom I fondly recall as the General. Shades of her are in Mango, Abuela and Me, as well. Josefa Medina, known as Fefa, was my father’s mother, and she was another sort of abuela altogether. Sometimes we have grandmothers that we don’t know as well or even ones that make us feel uncomfortable. For a long time, that was Fefa for me.


Fefa and me in Queens. She made me that stylish maxi dress

Fefa and me in Queens. She made me that stylish maxi dress

Fefa was clear-eyed, tough, and unsentimental. But she was undoubtably one of the smartest and most moral women I ever knew. It was fascinating to watch her move through the world. She had only a sixth grade education, but what she lacked in formal schooling, she more than made up for in practical sense, dignity, perseverance, and a sense of duty. Her own life had started out with poverty and family troubles. (She and her siblings were dispersed among far-flung relatives when her father realized he couldn’t feed them. She was married at 14 and a mother of two by age 16, a fact that still pains me when I think about it.) But these hard experiences made her determined to build a stable family. She raised my father, who became a doctor, and my aunt, who went on to become a pharmacist.

Fefa disapproved of my parents’ marriage – sure that it would never work. She even stubbornly boycotted their wedding. But a few years later, she was utterly mortified by their divorce and was heartsick over what it might mean for my sister and me. She responded by insisting on staying involved in our lives. A seamstress in New York’s garment district, she would sew my annual wardrobe and deliver it every June for my birthday – a huge economic relief for my mother. Shorts, dresses, pants suits – each piece was laid out on my bed with pride so that it could be photographed and admired. It was even Fefa who bought me my first bikini at Ohrbachs in New York when I was thirteen. It was a day-glo orange and yellow number – certainly skimpy by her standards. I still remember how her eye twitched in disapproval when I stepped out of the dressing room. She had promised me a bathing suit, though, and Fefa was always good on her word.

My birthday wardrobe stash from Fefa

My birthday wardrobe stash from Fefa

Still, in daily interactions, there was nothing soft about my grandmother, and she scared me. She was an iron-fisted woman who demanded things her way. This was not an adult to whom you could confess your hate of tomatoes in your salad, for example. You ate them and shut up. And worse, she didn’t really appreciate my brand of girl. Fefa had antiquated and unshakable ideas about femininity, – a fact that was so suffocating as a kid. I was never allowed to play outside with my cousin Diego and his band of rough boys when I visited, for instance. I’d have to sit on the stoop miserably while they played tag all around me.

But maybe life wears down everyone’s rough edges eventually. This was certainly true for Fefa. Years into my adulthood – after I had become a mother and lived nearby with her great-grandchildren in Florida – Fefa and I finally seemed to soften toward each other. Maybe I had finally started to realize how the harsh events of her life had shaped her. Or maybe she took pity seeing me juggle three little kids and a career. I don’t know the exact catalyst, but there was definitely a change. And while I can’t say I was ever her favorite grandchild, I think in the end she saw that the wild child with knots in her hair and scabby knees had managed to turn out all right after all. When I hold this book, I wonder if maybe she’d even be proud to know that I thought of her and Bena on every page.

Holy communion with las abuelas_NEW

My holy communion day with Fefa and Bena

All of my books explore family in one way or another. Maybe that’s my life’s work, who knows? The dynamics of people who love each other deeply and sometimes hurt each other anyway is endlessly interesting to me. With Mango, Abuela and Me, I think even the youngest reader can relate to feeling tentative about a grandparent or feeling a divide, whether it’s language that is the obstacle or something else. But I hope families who come to this story also discover the strength to be found when we connect across the generations of our families. That’s what I found out, anyway. We learn our own story by learning the story of all those imperfect people who came before us. We take our place inside the long, unfolding tale of our own people.


Can’t make the official launch event? Signed copies of Mango, Abuela and Me are available starting today at Chop Suey Books at 2913 W Cary Street, RVA.  Call Ward and let him know you’d like to have one! 804 422 8066 or e-mail

CLICK to see trailer:


Happy Book Birthday: The Movie!

Well, it’s finally here. Pub day for YAQUI. Here’s a little movie to say thank you to all who helped make this book and send it out into the world. Thanks, Penelope Carrington for the amazing photography. (Click full screen to see all slide captions.)

Cariños de,

Trailer for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

It’s Unity Day at’s National Bullying Prevention Center.  I didn’t buy my orange t-shirt, but I did finish the trailer for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, my upcoming YA novel that’s about this very topic. I shot the footage in Queens a couple of months ago when I was home for a visit. Brought back a lot of memories. (Some that made me shudder.)