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Writing Workshops

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....
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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.
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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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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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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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