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Burn Baby Burn

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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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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Heat waves, blackouts, and the beauty of a backlist as I hit the road to California

By Appearances, Middle Grade, Young Adult
I’m having déjà vu as I head to Los Angeles this week. The trip includes a library visit, the SCBWI conference, and a bookstore event to discuss one of my backlist titles that's eerily relevant this summer. Hugo on a reluctant summer walk July 2019 has been a roaster for most of us, no matter where we live. Almost 200 million people have been affected by record high temperatures in July and several deaths were blamed on the heat. Here in Richmond, Hugo – who is stuck in his black fur coat – has flat out refused to go farther than a block for his walk. This, from a dog who lives for them. But as I read about the 50,000 people who lost power in New York City last month, my mind wandered to how eerily similar it was to the summer of 1977, when 9 million people lost power in New York City for 25 hours. It happened during one of the worst heat waves on record, just like now, when even the night temperatures wouldn’t drop below the nineties. What followed in that overheated desperation was looting and arsons, a communal scream about all the ways the city was failing its residents back then. What I remember most of that year is that the heat was a mere backdrop for Son of Sam, a serial murderer who was still on the loose in the boroughs killing young women and their dates. The task force assigned to his capture was located in...
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Spend a Weekend in VA with Poets – and, um, me

By Appearances, The Writing Life

After a long rest at home this winter, which featured DIY painting several rooms of my neglected house, I’m getting ready to hit the road with Burn Baby Burn.  I won’t be in town for the official publication date, so I guess I’ll celebrate on the move this time. On Wednesday, March 2, I’ll drive up to Bridgewater College to visit YA literature classes that have been reading Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, and then I’ll lecture that evening at their March convocation. (Details here.) My visit is made possible by the Alison Yowell Pazmino Memorial Fund, named for a young woman who had planned to dedicate her life to teaching children with challenges. On Thursday night, March 3, I’ll drive up the road to James Madison University for the Mirrors and Windows Conference at the Furious Flower Center, which, if you don’t know, is our country’s first academic center devoted to African American poetry. It provides education, research, and publishing to JMU and the surrounding area of Harrisonburg. As a kid lit advocate, I like that it also offers summer poetry camp for kids and opportunities for slams – among much more. When Dr. Joanne Gabbin, the FF’s executive director, invited me last year, I was sure she’d made a mistake. Me? I write novels and picture books, with only a few poems here and there. “You’re poetic,” she said to reassure me. “I hope you’ll come.” So, here I go – honored to be included in this powerhouse faculty.  Anyway, if…

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