Skip to main content
Category

writing advice

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,...
Read More

A Free Gift for Your Writing Students: Latinx Kidlit Book Festival This Week

By Appearances, Giveaways, Writing Workshops
Well, we're winding down 2021, and I'll be doing my last two events that center on kids and their voices - including one that is totally free for teachers and kids. First, as I told you in my last post, the star-studded James River Writer's panel on censorship will take place tonight, Monday, Dec 6th. I'm grateful to the many of you who registered by the deadline, especially since the proceeds will go to the National Coalition Against Censorship. Also on tap this week is the online Latinx in Kidlit Book Festival, which I highly recommend. Sessions can be streamed for free into your classroom, and you can even submit a question for presenters in advance. See for yourself what you can choose from by checking here for the amazing lineup. I'll be doing a session on Thursday, Dec  9 at noon, ET, moderated by debut YA author Crystal Maldonado (Fat Chance, Charlie Vega.) It will be a combination of interviews and hands-on workshops for kids in grades 4 - 8.  You can look forward to getting some practical tips and exercises to try on your own. Please share the link and join us! Speaking of writing tips, I'll be posting my final 1-minute writing tip for 2021 on Instagram this Tuesday. It's been so fun to get your comments and notes about the little series and to track which topics are more popular than others. Thanks for being such wonderful supporters and for spreading the word. I'll be back in January with more topics....
Read More

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...
Read More

A one-minute video series for writers on Instagram

By #LetsStayConnected, writing advice
I just finished a ten-day virtual residency at Hamline University, where our craft focus was on all aspects of plot. It’s always an exhausting but rewarding time to do deep dives with faculty and aspiring writers. My notebook is now littered with sentences and fragments of wisdom that I’ll add to my toolbox going forward. Which brings me to telling you about an experiment I’m trying on Instagram starting this week. It’s a mini-video series on IGTV called Meg's One-Minute Writing Tips. No, it’s not an MFA, but this might be just what you need when you’re in a pinch. I’ll unpack different aspects of craft and/or writing practice in sixty-seconds – short and sweet. I hope you’ll find the nuggets useful for your own writing or for sharing with students when school starts in a few weeks. I’ll try to post one up there every couple of weeks. Anyway, here’s where you can find the first one on characters. Let me know what you think! And if you have burning topics you’d like me to cover in one minute or less, send those suggestions, too. See you on Insta! Odds and Ends Where can you find Meg next: Book Love Foundation's Summer Book Club, July 27th at 10am ET PBS Books Live, July 29th at 5pm ET **Don’t forget to write your questions for me on my Goodreads author page. I will answer them every first Monday of the month. **Love Merci Suárez Can’t Dance? Leave me an honest review on Amazon...
Read More

Take My Master Class in Writing Characters

By Appearances, Writing Workshops
Blackwings: My very favorite writing and editing pencils I'll be teaching a master class this week for SCBWI on managing a big cast in your work-in-progress. If you're an SCBWI member, I'd love to see you there. (Become a member, if you're not! It's well worth the investment!) Registration is open today for the event that happens on Thursday, June 3rd, 4 - 5pm EST. It's all part of seven weeks of digital workshops which SCBWI has been hosting for its members this year. We've all been trying to find ways to keep our skills sharp during the pandemic, and I so appreciate the array of topics and approaches that have been offered up, everything from tackling the visual realm in picture books, to social media, and creating atmosphere in your novel. It's a little daunting to think of running a master class for writers, to be frank. I don't think anyone is a master of writing. I think we all continually learn and grow our tool box to varying degrees of success. My own approach will be to unpack for you how I found my characters for both picture books and the Merci Suárez novels. I'll provide rough sketches, my thinking boards, and an analysis of who made the cut into my work and who didn't. I'll have some exercises for you to try with your own work-in-progress, too. An hour goes fast, but we'll cover some good ground. Hope to see you there, fellow members.
Read More

Two Conversations with Master Storytellers

By Appearances, writing advice, young adult
I learn a lot about the writing process from friends and colleagues. Something about the safety of our relationship allows me to share and listen deeply. There’s not a novel that I’ve written that hasn't included sage input from trusted friends. The scene in Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass between Piddy and Joey, when they’re in her room and he discovers her bruises? Thank Gigi Amateau for that. Merci deciding to sell her one, most meaningful belonging to fix a terrible mistake she made in Merci Suárez Can’t Dance? It’s got Lamar Giles' fingerprints all over it. The details about Son of Sam in Burn Baby Burn? My personal friends, Alice and John, connected me to their neighbor, who was one of the cops on the investigative team back in the day. I could go on. I tell you this as a way to explain why I’m so excited for two events this week, where I’ll be in deep conversation about writing with two of my writing heroes, Lilliam Rivera and Francisco Stork. Both are well-known talents in our circle of Latinx authors, and guess what - we're not going to be talking about diversity as the main subject. What a welcome relief! We get to talk about writing. When I first met Francisco Stork at an ALAN conference a few years ago, I was starstruck, mostly on the merits of his exquisite novel, Marcelo in the Real World. The picture here is taken on that date. Since then, I’ve been...
Read More

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...
Read More

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...
Read More

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...
Read More

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!
Read More

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...
Read More

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 –...
Read More

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.

Read More

#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….

Read More

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….

Read More

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…

Read More