Newbery award winner and New York Times bestselling author

Posts tagged ‘Candlewick Press authors’

My new book trailer: Mango, Abuela, and Me

film-clipart-dT8eGr6TeDo you need a book trailer? Plenty of authors will say no, but trailers are fun to make, even if you don’t have any visual art skills. The one below was made on i-movie, plain and simple. Personally, I like the exercise of distilling an entire book idea down to a minute or less.  It’s a visual “elevator pitch” and another way to get readers engaged in what’s coming.

Anyway, here’s the trailer for my next picture book, Mango, Abuela, and Me, due from Candlewick Press on August 25, 2015. Illustrated by the lovely Angela Dominguez.

EE Charlton Trujillo and the FAT ANGIE tour

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It’s National Anti-bullying month, so I have a treat for you. E.E. Charlton Trujillo, author of FAT ANGIE is stopping in Richmond this coming week as she continues her cross country book tour.  Here we talk about her  writing and  film-making –  and how,  in the darkest times,  a book can be a kid’s lifeline.

How did you find the seed of the story for FAT ANGIE?

Imagine. Winter. Four foot snow stacks. Below zero temp and the smell of recycled heat in a mom and pop diner in Madison, Wisconsin. I polished off a scrambled egg something kinda breakfast. Rolled the wheel to my iPod Classic right and landed on Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way.”

Something in the shredding of that guitar riff sent me into the what would become FAT ANGIE. I snapped up a pen from a waitress named Grace, grabbed a napkin and connected thought to world.

UnknownNow, this is what you gotta understand. That song never appears in the book but the energy of note to lyric to note ignited the hostile confrontation, humiliation and revelations of the book. I could see the beginning and the end and it was such a fantastic high. If I ever bump into Lenny on the street/event, I’m gonna say, “You inspired a book that changes lives. Thanks for ripping that sound beast-pretty.”

You are also a filmmaker, and I could see its influence on this novel. By that I mean references to “beats,” cutaways, vintage TV and film series.  To what extent was that intentional? How would you say that your two art forms intersect in this novel…and just generally as a writer?

Remember this little baby?

Remember this little baby?

I’ve been a filmmaker since I was four years-old. I’d snap off images on a Kodak 110 camera, get them developed and then flip them between my fingers to imagine motion.  But I was also a writer at that age. No scrap of paper was safe. Toilet paper beware!

While it wasn’t intentional, the mesh of pop culture and cinema somehow continued to flow in FAT ANGIE. From the inception of the story, I knew how under the microscope Angie felt by the media because of her missing sister. The fact that an event so tragic had been sensationalized almost as if to garner higher ratings felt sickening and yet true to life. Also, everything about Angie is dated which adds to the sort of out of sync character that she is.

Writing novels and making films feed one another. The novels make me a more concise screenwriter and director. Also, being cinematically inclined allows me to move 360 degrees in the space of my novels. I look for essential details that are the truth of that world. So I guess the answer is a little chicken and egg. For me, the two art forms exist simultaneously in a creative chaotic harmony. #LOL. I think you might have wanted a simpler answer.

FAT ANGIE is so layered. One of the pervasive themes, of course, is about the role of rage and grief in both being the victim and the victimizer. What are your thoughts of why young people savage each other – and on why they fall prey?

Let’s lay it out plain: kids can be ruthless. We can speculate if it’s what they see at home, in movies, video games or just how they sprouted into the world. As someone who came from a hard upbringing, played video games and watched all kinds of movies not Disney approved, I still chose not to be a bully. But that was me.

After meeting with some of the “toughest” kids in America on the FAT ANGIE book tour, I’ve seen from the trenches how cruel young people can be to each other. The need to humiliate, taunt/tease those they perceive as weak/spaz/dork/nerd/right/wrong/too poor/too rich … whatever. There is no definition of what doesn’t fit anymore. I remember it being like Anthony Michael Hall’s character in The Breakfast Club.

Now it’s open season on what the Mean Girls or the Jerk Heads think doesn’t fit their definition of belonging.

Life is hard. We know that. When you’re a kid, it feels like the hard parts will never end. Never can be a few weeks, months or as in the case of the recent suicide by Rebecca Ann Sedwick in Florida, a year plus. What gets amplified in these bullied/savaged kids heads has a level of intensity and immediacy that the off switch seems so much more appealing.

But it isn’t. And that’s what I say to kids. They matter. And while I can’t fix their lives, together we can make it better right then in that moment. And that’s life. Moment to moment.

I love the tag line in your trailer “Live Large.”  So I will ask you about going large on the bullying in the novel. The mean girls, the mother, Wang’s comments – all are exceptionally ugly, particularly in reaction to Angie’s weight and to her romantic relationship with KC. What were considerations in choosing to go really large on the bullying vs. focusing on more subtle “knifings” that go on among young people?

This is an excellent question. Simple answer. I didn’t want to pull punches.

Not so simple answer. Sometimes people are cruel. Sometimes we have to confront cruelness without sugar coating.

My first two books were more subtle and that fit the trajectory of those worlds. FAT ANGIE is a “Live Large” existence and the elements of that world have to add up or the truth of the story doesn’t hold. And that’s what it all comes down to. The character’s truth. What exists in their world.

I knew this was an everything and the kitchen plus sink story. Generally, I am overwhelmed by such stories, and find they are poorly written. But here I am saying FAT ANGIE is the exception. I knew it was a risk but this is the complicated, beautiful-ugly world of FAT ANGIE. I don’t get to simplify it to make myself or anyone else comfortable if it’s what kids need to hear.

One of my favorite things about Angie is the letter she is writing to her sister who is presumed dead in Iraq. What are your thoughts on using writing to help us with grief or worry?

BWJNhgACUAASpys.jpg-largeA month from earning my MFA in film and jetting off to Los Angles for my Hollywood dream job, my best friend Amanda Cunningham died in head on collision at the age of 23. A teenager failed to yield at a stop sign. When I talk about Amanda, I say, “Imagine cradling the sun for a moment. That’s what it was like to know Amanda.”

And when she died, a part of me got lost. I ditched said dream job. Became homeless and watched the guys I crashed with snort cocaine and play Grand Theft Auto for twelve hours straight.

During this time, author Pat Schmatz read the first few pages of a story called Prizefighter. She said it wasn’t the best of the samples I sent her, and a fire ignited in me. Just as I was getting ready to work on it, my brother invited me to stay with him. There I could begin to delve into my grief. Most importantly, I could write for ten or twelve hour days. I finished the novel in two months. Less than a year later, it broke a five-year no- win streak to win the Delacorte Dell Yearling Award through Random House.

Unknown-1Writing what is now PRIZEFIGHTER EN MI CASA saved my life.

The book brought me hope. Because in the darkest moment of my entire life, I embraced writing instead of a host of destructive distractions. Writing is freedom. Writing can save!

So, you’ve been on book tour around the country. Can you tell us a little bit about why you took this summer-and-then-some trip to reach kids all over this country? What’s been the biggest surprise on your tour?  The biggest challenge?

The kids that don’t come to book signings are the one’s that really need to have access to my book and to creative mentors. After a connection with a troubled, small-town Texas teen in May, I wondered what would happen if I could empower other kids. Enable them to begin to see their potential. FAT ANGIE has released a few months earlier, and was the perfect conduit for activism.

I gave up my loft, put all my stuff in storage and set out in a rented Ford Focus to literally drive across America to empower young people on the fringe.

Important Fact #829.32

I have a phobia of: cars, traffic, severe weather, heights and flying.

Welcome to the FAT ANGIE book tour and the making of the feature documentary At-Risk Summer. Where “just let it go” quickly became our motto.

images-1As I travel America, I continue to meet with at-risk youth (defined broadly) and workshop with them at no cost to the programs. Yes, zero cost to any at-risk program I meet with. I’m not independently wealthy. I don’t have a corporate sponsor. People have shown me such kindness.

The writing these young people have shared is raw, real and brilliant with voice. Their truth echoes hopes and dreams, pain and loss. They are definitely not the throw away kids many communities see them as. They have infinite potential so long as it is matched with inspiration.

Biggest surprise has been how many people have extended a spare bedroom, a plate of food and shared their stories with me. Not to mention the authors across America (this includes you, Meg) who have allowed me to interview them for the documentary. Nothing feels out of reach.

Biggest challenge is money. It’s really that simple. Getting from points A to B comes with a price tag. Even the cheapest rental car (holler! $9 dollars a day Los Angeles Enterprise), still need gas. I’m nervous about getting though October and the first week of November, but I’m gonna hope for good things!

Where to next? And what are your next projects?

I have stops in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Texas. I’m currently writing three other novels, a screenplay and in post-production on a television pilot. The book tour has inspired me to establish a national organization called Never Counted Out that will connect professional artist with at-risk programs in their own community. The premise is to get artists to donate a minimum of one hour a year to an at-risk program. Fingers crossed I can make all of these things come into fruition!

UnknownEast coast/midAtlantic fans: You can meet EE. Charlton Trujillo in person at Teen ’13 in Richmond, Virginia, on October 17, where she will be a special guest during her book tour. Details here. 

Follow the Fat Angie Tour on Facebook.

“…in the darkest moment of my entire life, I embraced writing instead of a host of destructive distractions.”

En Español Por Favor: My Day at Partners in Print

With the fabulous organizer Patricia Garcia

With the fabulous organizer Patricia Garcia

I spent Saturday at the University Maryland (College Park) with Partners in Print (PNP), an organization under the umbrella of America Reads. PNP supports literacy  at 18 schools, mostly in Prince George County, Maryland, by helping parents – many of whom don’t speak English as their first language – learn how to support their children’s emerging reading skills.  Saturday was the culminating event for the mentors and their students. More than 140 students and 100 parents came for the day-long gathering.

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Tia Isa Wants a Car in Spanish

My role for the day was to read Tia Isa Quiere Un Carro and to speak to volunteers and family attendees in a bilingual presentation.

Confession. It’s always a little strange for me to work bilingually because my English is simply better. I was born here. I studied here. Although we speak Spanish as home, I live about 75 percent of my life in English. That means that sometimes I’m stuck pecking for words or phrases in Spanish, frustrated between what I’m thinking and what I can say.

Turns out this gives me the same problem as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was recently interviewed by Jorge Ramos of Univision. He noticed her occasional lapses into English, and it was the subject of a lot of Twitter chat. Like the justice, I grew up speaking Spanish at home, and I have no accent when I speak it. Yes, I can read a newspaper and magazine no problem.  I understand everything on Spanish language TV. I consider myself fully bicultural.

Practicing the tongue twisters

Practicing the tongue twisters

But could I read One Hundred Years of Solitude in Spanish and really grasp all the nuances?  Doubtful.  Can I say what I mean with the same skill and confidence that I do in English? Absolutely not.

This will be the same story for the children who attended Partners in Print, most likely.  I remember an NPR story about how young Latinos are shaping the American landscape.  According to the University of California researcher, in most immigrant families, the original language is lost by the third generation. It pains me to admit that’s pretty much how it has happened in my family. My mother, generation one in this country, speaks mostly Spanish. I (generation two) speak Spanish, but I’m better at English. My kids, generation three, speak a sort of hybrid of high school Spanish and the phrases they use with their grandmothers.  I find that loss so painful for a family.  When you can’t speak to your own grandparents, you lose something precious.

All of this was on my mind Saturday.  I felt connected to the parents because they want to do the very best for their kids and give them a good shot at doing well in school, same as good parents everywhere. As I tripped over the phrase in Spanish for pointy tailfins (It’s alerones traseros puntiagudos: a mouthful, people), I thought of them sitting quietly at school meetings, for example.  How frustrating to have more to say than what you can safely say correctly.  It makes you shy, unsure.

As for the kids, these little Generation Two’s, like me, they came from West Africa, India, El Salvador, Guatemala and lots of other places. Already these first and second graders were chatting with me in snappy English skills that are developing nicely.  I’m happy for them. It will make school and success easier.

The cutie pies

The cutie pies

But the question is, how can we keep them literate in two languages, proud in two cultures, and most important, connected to their families through language and story?

It takes a lot of people to pull of the annual event!

It takes a lot of people to pull of the annual event!

That Tía Isa Quiere Un Carro can play a small part is a happy thing for me.

How's this for a gracias card?  Look out Claudio!

How’s this for a gracias card? Look out Claudio!

Notes from the road

by Dave at Takoma Park Library

by Dave at Takoma Park Library

I’ve been in the MidAtlantic states these days – a beautiful time to talk books and  take in the azaleas and dogwoods almost everywhere you go. I’m not sure I love driving in DC during the morning rush, but other than that, a great trip. A quick round up…

A lovely children's and teens bookshop in Old Town Alexandria, VA

A lovely children’s and teens bookshop in Old Town Alexandria, VA

Thanks to:

  • Erika Denn at Candlewick Press for all her planning and last minute reshuffling
  • Trish Brown and Ellen Klein (Hooray for Books) for a terrific YA panel with Adina Gewirtz and KP Madonia on girls, messy lives, and books. If you don’t have The Zebra Forest and Fingerprints of You on your reading list, please add these terrific titles.
  • Karen MacPherson (Takoma Park Library) and Kerri Poore (Politics & Prose) for a lovely evening talking about books and compassion
  • Dara LaPorte (The Open Book Foundation) for providing my author visit and copies of YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS to about 150 8th graders at (Hardy MS).
  • Shout outs to Perinne Punwami (a really exciting teacher at Hardy); my sister-in-law Laura Quigley; and author-pal Wendy Shang for being part of all the fun, too.
L-R: Trish Brown(co-owner), me, Adina Gewirtz, KP Madonia, Ellen Klein (co-owner)

L-R: Trish Brown(co-owner Hooray for Books), me, Adina Gewirtz, KP Madonia, Ellen Klein (co-owner)

Rose Hardy Middle School in DC

Rose Hardy Middle School in DC

Meg by Hardy Middle School student

a present from one of the 8th graders! Very cool!

the restored interior of Hardy MS. Gorgeous!

The restored interior of Hardy MS. Gorgeous!