Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

Posts tagged ‘Burn Baby Burn’

Helping new voices get heard: VAASL Conference 2017

IMG_0908Back 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 supervisor of professional development and library services for Prince William County. But as I drive to Northern Virginia this Friday to take part in the VAASL conference,  I’ll be taking with me what I learned from her and all the librarians I’ve worked with since then.

With Lamar Giles at the Highlights Foundation where we served as mentors last summer

Here’s what I mean. If we’re serious about changing the landscape of children’s lit by building collections that represent a wide range of experiences, then encouraging new authors – especially diverse ones – is vital.  These are largely new voices, just entering now, who might be sitting at tables by themselves somewhere. There’s no time to waste in getting these authors up and connected. Kids need and deserve to hear from them. The best way to do it is through librarians.

I’m using my workshop time on Friday afternoon to book talk 20 titles by a few favorites but also many up-and-coming Latino authors who had work published in 2017. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s as much as I could read in a couple of months. Book talking isn’t necessarily my best skill, but I’m going to give it a shot. And if I’m lousy at it, as least there’s a giveaway of much of the list. (Many thanks to the publishers who sent me freebies for this purpose.) Librarians are crazy busy, and it’s hard for them to keep up with the huge number of titles competing for shelf space. If I can introduce them to fresh names and faces, I’ll be satisfied. Don’t get me wrong; I definitely want librarians to stock my stuff on their shelves, too. But the truth is that the body of my work represents one voice – and only one. There are parts of the so-called Latino experience that I can’t tell, parts that someone else should.

Mutual fans – with Ruta in Tucson

On Saturday, I’ll be moderating and participating in How Books Connect: Views and Ideas from Five Favorite Multicultural Authors. Joining me will be people who need no introduction: Ruta Sepetys, fresh from adding the Carnegie medal to the list of accolades for her exceptional historical fiction, Salt to the Sea; Wendy Wan-Long Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg, long time buds and now co-authors of the well-received, This is Just a Test, and one of my dearest friends in this business, Edgar Award nominee Lamar Giles (Overturned.) Our plan is to talk the way five friends would over breakfast (except not criticizing runny eggs.) Our focus will be the way we use our books to tell stories of varied people in a way that combats erasure or stereotype.

Wendy and Madelyn about to take the stage at this year’s National Book Festival in Washington, DC

So, if you’re a school librarian heading to Chantilly, I hope to see you this coming weekend. You can check out the full roster of events here.  Some amazing speakers are coming, and I’ll be sitting in on as much as I can!

 

NBA Longlists & other happier sides of life during a bleak week

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 be at Vroman’s for the first time, too. I had to re-read that this bookstore has been in existence since 1894, but it’s true. Even better, I’ll be appearing there with LA’s fabulous Lilliam Rivera, author of The Education of Margot Sanchez, new this year. We’ll be reading a snippet of our novels and interviewing each other. I like that we’ll both be able to talk about our love letters to New York, especially so close to the 9-11 anniversary.

While I’m in California, I’ll also be meeting the team at 3Pas studio that’s developing YAQUI into a HULU series, visiting in person with my agent, Jen Rofé, and seeing writer friends Denise Doyen, Michael Portis, and Antoinette Portis –  among the funniest and most talented people I’ve been lucky enough to meet in this business.

 


 

Looking ahead to next weekend, I cross the country  again to be part of the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday, September 17. It has a lineup that’s too long and amazing to believe, as usual.  See for yourself. It’s my first time as part of the festival, and I owe the invitation to Reneé Watson (Piecing Me Together) who pulled together a YA panel that I’m really looking forward to. Check us out:  Telling Her Own Story, 12 – 1 PM, Sunday, Sept 17, Brooklyn Law Student Lounge, 250 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Reneé Watson, Dhonielle Clayton (Tiny Pretty Things), Tracey Baptiste (The Jumbies) and me.

East or west, I hope you can come and say hi.

 

Hey book lovers: A LitCrawl Comes to RVA

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 more than ever, we want to come out strong for books as a nation. An event like this is free, fun and brings all kinds of people together. It adds to the many artful things that are defining Richmond these days and, more important, part of how we can make books part of people’s lives.

So  I grabbed a couple of friends and got busy.  I’ll be reading with my friends, Lamar Giles and Anne Blankman for our event, Criminal Minds YA. All three books (Overturned, Burn Baby Burn, and Traitor Angels) deal with murder and young people. (Why not?) We settled on reading in a former jail, in keeping with our grisly inclinations as writers. Have you been to RVA’s hostel? The HI used to be a women’s detention center, among other things. Now it is, hands down, one of the coolest places to stay, and brings young travelers from all over the world to our city.

 

rva-lit-crawl-2017-copy

So, if you like young adult and crime lit – if you love books and RVA and want to see more interesting bookish stuff continue – please join us.

Criminal Minds YA is free and open to the public

Where: HI Richmond Hostel, 7 N. Second Street (2nd Street, bet Franklin and Main).

Date:  Saturday, April 22.

Time: 6:30 PM (Don’t worry. We have snacks for you…)

 

 

Take that winter! Burn Baby Burn a 2016 LA Times Book Prize Finalist

image001A 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.)

BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2Press 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

For All the Nasty Women and Girls: The 2017 Amelia Bloomer Top Ten

2017ameliabloomertopten

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!

 

Photo round-up of my post election travels

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

Scenes from the Union Station subway station where citizens voiced their opposition to the election results

The wall of sticky notes extended so long...

The wall of sticky notes extended so long…

Yes.

With RJ Palacio and Jennifer Brown, talking about childhood friendships and how they can lead to a literary life

With RJ Palacio and Jennifer Brown, talking about childhood friendships and how they can lead to a literary life

With Jennifer Brown and Dr. Cynthia Weill at Bank Street. Photo credit Cheryl Simon

With Jennifer Brown and Dr. Cynthia Weill at Bank Street. Photo credit Cheryl Simon

There are no friends like the ones we know and love from childhood. Photo credit: Cheryl Simon

There are no friends like the ones we know and love from childhood. Photo credit: Cheryl Simon

She found an old picture of us at Niagra Falls when we were 11. Photo credit: Cheryl Simon

She found an old picture of us at Niagra Falls when we were 11. Photo credit: Cheryl Simon

Where Raquel and I did our photo shoot for the New York Times

Where Raquel and I did our photo shoot for the New York Times on what has to have been the windiest day on record. Whew. I’ll let you know when the story runs.

My favorite guy at Book Riot

My favorite guy at Book Riot.

courtesy of Raquel Matos Stecher from Candlewick

courtesy of Raquel Matos Stecher from Candlewick

The Book Riot panel of librarians reminded me of the essential role the public library plays in our lives, now more than ever

The Book Riot panel of librarians reminded me of the essential role the public library plays in our lives, now more than ever

Kirkus, Book Riot, Bank Street and more: Keeping my sanity despite this election

kirkus-prize-2016-170x170I’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.BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2

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 with donors who gave to the I, Too, Collective campaign which established Langston Hughes’ home in Harlem as a poetry and arts center for young people. (Renee Watson, you are a hero!)

raquel-and-meg-class-photos-1But also….I’ll be at Bank Street Street on Thursday, Nov 10 and Friday, Nov 11. On Thursday, my friend Raquel (R.J. Palacio) and I take the stage to talk about our friendship when we were little girls in Queens and how those experiences helped shape us into writers. We’ll be in the able hands of Jennifer Brown. On Friday, I lecture on my own work en español, a process that always makes me a little nervous. Public speaking is tricky enough, but in Spanish, I sometimes have to play hunt-and-peck for just the right words and phrases. In the big picture, though, it’s great to be able to talk about the books that are available in Spanish and to be introduced to the wonderful community at Bank Street.

headerstatictextThe week wraps up with an event I’ve been looking forward to for a solid year:  Book Riot Live!  Check out the lineup and the panelists. I hope you are already signed up for their wonderful newsletters and podcasts. The folks at BR are funny, smart, and edgy in the best sense of the word. You can count on meaty conversation, no matter what session you sit in on.

 

 

Ok, time to board. (And no, I will NOT give you my suitcase with the fancy dress and perfect shoes, madam…)