Newbery award winner and New York Times bestselling author

Posts tagged ‘Burn Baby Burn’

The High Holy Week for Book Geeks (Like Me)

nbf-home-animated-banner-2016So 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.

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 7.21.04 AMChildren’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.

BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2Then, 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 – that I’m not allowed to name (and it’s killing me.)

I hope you’ll put the festival on your calendar, especially if you’ve never attended.  You can visit the capital, and regardless of your reading preferences, you’ll find plenty to suit your taste. Me? I plan to be in the audience for as many panels as I can. The scheduling gods have been good to me, so I’ll be free to catch Stephen King on the main stage.  It’s true that I’m squeamish about being terrified by what I’m reading, but his memoir about the writing process, On Writingremains one of the books I return to for comfort. Anything he has to say about writing and maintaining a career in writing is gold as far as I’m concerned.

IMG_2074Meanwhile, here’s the podcast to whet your appetite. I spoke with  Karen Jaffe, Executive Director at the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress, about research, feminism, and why anyone who’s 16 today would care about 1977. Enjoy.

Cariños de,

Meg

 

 

 

 

YA Lit Virginia style in RVA and DC

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Nice press in Richmond Family Magazine

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.

Lovely KP

Lovely KP

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.

Hannah signing books at Girls of Summer 2015

Hannah signing books at Girls of Summer 2015

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

CqJemGWWIAAg-ppI’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.

Burn Baby Burn voted YA book of the year by NAIBA

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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.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 6.45.15 PMI’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.

 

Filler Up: Two book talks, including one at… a gas station?

exxon-mobilWhen 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
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As for the gas station…Crazy, you say?  Not really.

hope-photoHope 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 of everyday people’s lives. So, I’m attaching the flyer here [MAYBOOKCLUB] because they’re offering an open invitation to anyone who would like to sit in on the book talk. You can fill up on gas or on refreshments; it’s your call. Added bonus: You can meet their head of security, Princess, too.

Princess

Princess

 

 

See you in Virginia!

Cariños de,

Meg

Playing Dress Up and other important author duties

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:

  1. 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.princess2

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.

From Party City's costume stash!

From Party City’s costume stash!

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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…harriet_the_spy

4. Amelia Bedelia:  Don’t own a frilly apron, but I think I have the rest of the stuff. Could be fun… y648

 

Any suggestions out there?

 

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Who Are You to Say? Why I’m part of a censorship panel at Bank Street College

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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.

banned-buttonI’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.

BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2And 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 common reasons books get in trouble with censors; and finally, the more recent controversies, including those that have put usual allies in conflict with one another.

I hope you can join us. Here’s a little visual and a guest list so you know what to expect.

Books we’ll talk about with their authors and/or editors:

and tango enhanced-buzz-wide-22567-1391614085-7 the-miseducation-of-cameron-post Tyrell+cover+hi+res-1 512R2aJ0iLL._SX341_BO1,204,203,200_ 61eSz7BpJlL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2Yaqui with medal

Other uber librarians and publishing experts on hand:

Allie Jane Bruce, Children’s Librarian, Bank Street College of Education; Fatima Shaik, Children’s/Young Adult Books Committee, PEN American Center; Andy Laties, Manager, Bank Street Book Store;
Kiera Parrott, Reviews Director, School Library Journal; Cheryl Willis Hudson, Editorial Director, Just Us Books, Inc.; Elizabeth Levy, author; Joan Bertin, Director, National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC); Hilary Van Dusen, editor Candlewick Press; David Gale, editor, Simon & Schuster; Shelly Diaz, YA reviewer, School Library Journal

 

Not anywhere near New York?

You can follow the conversation from afar on #CensorshipConversation, Saturday, April 16, 9 am – 1 pm.

Burning at the LA Times Book Festival

 

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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.”

BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2Anyway, 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. 

 

 

How do I get in? Why a lousy beginning can still help you write a good novel

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.

IMG_3147So, 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 there on my desktop was a file that contained the draft of how I had originally planned to start Burn Baby Burn.  Back then, I decided I would open in the winter of 1977, on the day that news outlets were reporting about the suicide of Freddie Printze. Here it is as a pdf, if you’re interested. ORIGINAL BEGINNING OF BURN BABY BURN

51XeXLoY3VL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I remember how cold it was that year in New York – almost as extreme as the summer heat that would follow. But what I was really after was the emotional window of Freddie Printze’s death. Who didn’t watch Chico and the Man? I loved that Latin God and all the ways his show spoke to me, wrapping its comments about racism in humor. Here was this good looking Puerto Rican-playing-a-Mexican, in tight jeans and puppy dog eyes. I was in love. News of his suicide left me stunned – and his death somehow became entwined in my mind with the long unraveling of the city that year. Something in the loss of a cultural hero brought me to the story of New York City in 1977. It reminded me that every piece of innocence and hope we had was at risk that year.

With Kate

With Kate

So what made me change my mind and abandon that opening? I’d love to claim that it was my own fantastic sense of storytelling, but really it was my editor, Kate Fletcher. To her credit, she politely stepped over my original beginning for months until we were very late into our editorial process. Finally, she pointed out the obvious. So much was going on in the novel that maybe I needed to narrow the timeframe a bit to keep the focus. Spring to summer seemed about right.

Kate. This is her gift. She knows just when to offer a suggestion so that I can hear it.

Had she insisted on this change earlier, who knows what I would have said? Likely, I would have fought her because Freddie Printze’s death was my way inside my own memories, and those memories are what gave me the courage to sink into research and the unfamiliar hard work of writing historical fiction.

I was reminded yet again that beginnings almost always change substantially once you’re “finished” writing. They are not sacred – except for those fragile, early days when they are what give us permission to reach inside ourselves.

So, where am I on my next novel? At the beginning. Or, so I think.

Just for you: You might like this master class CD about writing beginnings with Richard Peck.

 

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Thinking Outside the (Big) Box? Burn Baby Burn at Costco

costco_wholesale_214_64I’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 Connectionwith 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.

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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 stumble on while they’re trying to shop for and organize all the other aspects of their busy lives.

So, Richmond friends, please spread the word, and if you haven’t gotten a copy of Burn Baby Burn, I hope you can come out to support the event on Saturday. Drive over the bridge to Chesterfield and do some shopping, too. (Seriously, I’m going to buy my Easter dinner stuff there when I’m done. I haven’t had time to do it.) I promise to have some swag to give away, although not salami samples. (Sadly.)

See you then-

Meg

When: Saturday, March 26

Noon – 2 PM

Where: Costco in CHESTERFIELD

1401 Mall Dr
Richmond, VA 23235-4887

Info: (804) 464-9110