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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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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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Mark Your Calendars: Talking Book Bans with Elizabeth Acevedo, Ashley Hope Pérez, and More

By Appearances, Community work
OK, book lovers. Mark your calendar for Monday, Dec 6, 7 pm Eastern. That's when Elizabeth Acevedo (The Poet X, Clap When You Land), Ashley Hope Pérez (Out of Darkness), librarian and author Angie Manfredi (The Other F Word), and Gordon Danning from the National Coalition Against Censorship will chat with me about their experiences with the growing number of book challenges and bans. You can access the full press release here. Virginia has been a hotbed of challenges in recent months as Michael Paul Williams wrote about this past week in the Richmond Times Dispatch. Challenges are nothing new. (For a great historical perspective, you can check out historian Leonard Marcus's new book, You Can’t Say That.) Chances are that, before long, a challenge will come to a school near you. How will you respond? I'm grateful that James River Writers, one of our state's best-known writers' organizations, has stepped up to host this conversation. You probably know JRW from their annual writer's conference, but they do lots of programs to support writers, in both craft and in community-building. As part of their mission, together we've planned a free-flowing chat that will touch on some key topics, including basic definitions of bans, challenges, and censorship. Why are we seeing so many challenges, even for books that have been in circulation for a while? What are the underlying issues for parents, authors, teachers, librarians, and readers? How can school and library communities best prepare for these difficult conversations? What are fair boundaries...
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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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Writing the Bitter Truth: A Convo this Week with Rex Ogle

By Appearances, What I'm reading
This Wednesday night, Oct 6 at 8pm, EST, I’ll be in conversation with Rex Ogle. He’s the author of the much-lauded YA memoir, Free Lunch, which was the YALSA 2019 Non-fiction winner. His newest memoir, Punching Bag, which explores abuse, mental illness, and family. Anderson’s Bookstore will be our host. I don’t know Rex, so this is the first time we’ll be speaking together. I’m grateful to meet him during Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month (his mother was of Mexican descent) since mental health is so often a taboo subject in Latinx families. Seeking professional help is not the norm, or even financially feasible, typically. As a result, families under pressure continue their slow simmer with lasting, hurtful effects. As his fans know, Rex’s work cuts close to the bone as he dives into the world of a family that is imploding. My own YA work - Burn Baby Burn and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, has explored similar terrain, except through fiction. It’s fair to say, though, that both of us have chosen writing as a way to make sense of what we actually saw as children and teens. The difference has been the vehicle. Here’s what’s the same, though. When you write a book about painful family life through the eyes of teens, you’re virtually guaranteed some pushback. Adults have a strong distaste for these tales, although we all know that adults often fail young people in big ways and small. What follows is an urge to shame...
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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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