Skip to main content
Tag

Candlewick Press

Take 2: Revisions

By Random howls into the world, The Writing Life
I still have sand stuck in the hinges of my sunglasses, and I'm feeling a little blue. Last week, my family and I escaped to the beach for a much-anticipated vacation on Emerald Isle. As everyone headed back to school, we made the trek to North Carolina where I spent my time shelling, reading, and biking. But now I'm back, and it's time to face copyeditor revisions on what will be the final Merci Suárez book. Sunset over the marshThe view from my back deckMy daughter, Cristina, and me at the Bogue Pier Prev 1of6 Next I find myself coming to the task with the same mix of emotions I had about coming back home. I think it has to do with grieving a magical time - as that is what the "Merciverse" has been for me. By the time Merci Suárez Plays It Cool publishes next fall, I will have been writing the Suárez family and the world of Seaward Pines Academy, in one form or another, for six years. The characters and their journeys have become so real to me. It's no wonder that I'm sad about ending their story. It's hard to let go of old friends, even imaginary ones. It's always exciting to get to this stage, of course. It's when the book starts to feel real somehow. I wrote for a little under a year. Then, Kate (my editor) and I worked on the manuscript all of May and June, trading ideas for Merci's new...
Read More

Free Books: Flash Pre-Order Promotion for Merci Suárez Can’t Dance

By Giveaways, middle grade
Soooooo, the cat is out of the bag thanks to my friend Colby Sharp who made the announcement last night during our conversation on his YouTube channel. My wonderful publisher, Candlewick Press, is doing an exciting preorder incentive for Merci Suárez Can't Dance!" If you pre-order your copy at any retailer, Candlewick will send you a FREE hardback copy of the first Merci adventure, Merci Suárez Changes Gears. Wow! I'm so delighted. So, now - if you haven't gotten around to reading the first book yet, you have the perfect chance to do it. And if you loved the first book, here's a chance to get a copy to share as you continue on the Suárez journey. It's fast and easy. All you have to do is pre-order Merci Suárez Can't Dance at any retailer and then fill in this form. Candlewick will take care of the rest while supplies last. Happy reading!
Read More

Submit a Question for the Merci Suárez Can’t Dance Book Tour

By #LetsStayConnected, Appearances
My assistant Kerri told me today:  "It smells of hope outside, and I want every bit of it." Oh, spring, how we’ve missed you! The weather is finally warming up, and in the weeks leading up to the publication of my latest book, so is my schedule! As promised, here are the details for my virtual book tour to launch Merci Suárez Can’t Dance (on sale April 6,) which comes to you with the help of some beloved indies and conferences from coast to coast.   Virtual visits are tricky in the age of Zoom. First, there's the issue of screen fatigue. Trickier still is that anyone can sign in from anywhere, so while the audience reach is exponentially bigger, the pressure is on presenters to make sure each visit is dynamically different for the fan base at each store. As you’ll see, with the exception of a solo, school-focused visit at Politics & Prose in DC, I’ve decided on the “in-conversation" model with some of the most exciting veteran authors working today. I'm so thrilled to have a chance to think aloud with them and to bring our work – and our relationship – to you. You can scroll through the gallery below to see some of the exciting books we'll talk about. Prev 1of5 Next But here’s where you come in. I’m wondering if you’d like to help me tailor our talks at each stop on the tour by shaping the topics we broach. What would you like...
Read More

Read for the Record: Join the whole wide world as we read Evelyn del Rey is Moving Away

By #LetsStayConnected, Appearances, Awards and news
Art by Sonia Sanchez, Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away It's here! Read for the Record Day, when millions of readers will read EVELYN DEL REY IS MOVING AWAY and spend a day enjoying activities with little ones. Here is the official virtual schedule from Jumpstart, which has events throughout the day - including readings, arts and crafts and even yoga! This page will be updated in real-time as each event takes place on social media. If you want to follow along on Facebook, you can have the Jumpstart page open. And check out my Jumpstart landing page for more resources. But another truly exciting aspect are all the other events going on worldwide. Your best bet is to follow the #readfortherecord hashtag on twitter where you'll get the exact times and virtual locations of other readings, such as Sonia Manzano, as well as Hugh Jackman, and Alejandra Espinosa from Univisión and many more. I'll be closing out the evening at the Orange County Public Library in California at 7 pm ET/4 pm PT I'm a bag of nerves, but thrilled. Happy reading and thank you for joining in the fun with your little ones! Everyone at my house is ready for Read for the Record
Read More

An author’s guide to DIY teacher materials for your books

By Discussion materials, Teachers' Guide, Trailers
Having a beautiful new book in the world is only part of the job of connecting with readers. Another important way to connect is by making it easy for teachers and librarians to use your work as part of their classroom or independent reading programs. But what does that look like if you’re making these materials yourself? And what are the most popular types of materials that teachers are looking for? Car template for Tia Isa Wants a Car To find out, I spoke to Kathleen O’Rourke, Executive Director of Educational Sales and Marketing at Candlewick Press. She confirmed what I’ve learned over the last ten years. “Teachers have limited time to teach all that is required... so providing them with materials that are simple, accessible, and effective are your best bet." Top three picks Discussion Guide for Yaqui Delgado  1. A discussion guide:  Not every title on a publisher’s list will get a discussion guide designed in-house, but that doesn’t mean you can’t design one yourself using the principles your publisher uses. “A good discussion guide can be used to start a class discussion, assign written responses, or encourage a librarian to use your title with a book group,” says O’Rourke.  “[You want] thoughtful discussion questions that a teacher can either provide the students before they read the book to help guide their reading or that can be used after the book has been read to help the students think critically about the story." When I’ve designed my own...
Read More

#LetsStayConnected

By Appearances, Giveaways
The woods across the street from my house backs up to the high school field where the marching band rehearses. Every August for almost 20 years, I’ve watched kids trudge in the heat to practice that strange footwork and music skills. And every year, about this time, I get to hear them improve every week. I get to hear the crowds cheer for the home team.  It’s quiet now without those squeaky saxophones and thundering bass drums. My dear friend Alice and my daughters. And last week, I watched the nightly news reports about the pandemic with that familiar ache that’s come to define 2020 for me. I tried not to focus on the trick-or-treaters that I’ll miss seeing on Halloween, or on the Thanksgiving Day meal for just the immediate family, not to mention the winter holidays, when I won’t be able to gather the same way with the people I love.    In the midst of all of this, too, my picture book Evelyn del Rey is Moving Away (illustrated by Sonia Sánchez) hit shelves. This year is clearly a hard year to connect with readers, but I believe that, in some ways, this book might just be the right story for us all now. Daniela and Evelyn, after all, are two mejor amigas who have to accept a separation and figure out how to make what truly matters endure.  So, here’s how I’d like to launch this picture book and help us cope with missing our friends and...
Read More

Living, learning and working from home

By Appearances, Discussion materials, The Writing Life
Hi everyone – You’ll find me online in the coming weeks as we all settle in to living, learning, and working from home. If you’re using my books with your kids, feel free to download and use any of the resource materials for my books, which you can access here. Here’s where you can find me this week: A (friendly) twitter takeover of Candlewick Press on Twitter on Tuesday, March 24. It starts at 2 pm EST. I’ll be posting pictures, giving updates, taking a tour of my office and answering questions you might have. Talk to you then! A Spanish-language story time on Instagram live Thursday, March 26, noon – 12:20 EST. I’ll be reading Mango, Abuela y Yo, and giving you a sneak peek into my new picture book, Evelyn Del Rey Se Muda (Candlewick, September 2020). Kate Messner put out a call for author materials. She’s collecting them on her website under Read, Wonder, and Learn at home learning library. You’ll find lots of great authors there. I made a 10-minute tutorial for student writers on how to increase tension in your writing. It will also be part of her online writing program, soon to be unveiled. Abrazos, Meg
Read More

Lolo meets Grandpa Ray: A Rick and Merci Suárez Changes Gears Mash-up – plus swag!

By Guests, middle grade, picture book, middle grade, YA, Pre-order giveaway
I’ve always loved birthdays, especially book birthdays. They’re even better when you share them with a friend. That’s what’s happening next month. Merci Suárez Changes Gears appears en rústica (paperback) with its beautiful new art on April 7. (Thanks again, Joe Cepeda!)    Rick, the follow-up to George by Stonewall award-winner (and my book pal) Alex Gino, pubs on April 21. It has been starred in Kirkus, SLJ, PW, and Booklist! Both our books take a close look at friendships, bullies, and beloved grandpas. Which got Alex and me thinking:  What would happen if two of our characters – Lolo and Grandpa Ray – met in person? We were sure they’d have a lot to say about their grandkids, memories and secrets, so we decided to… um… listen in. Check it out, and read about our pre-order swag below!  The Scene: Lake Worth Beach pier, in Lake Worth Beach, Florida.  It is February and the sand is crowded with tourists, young families and their children, who are making sand castles or skim-boarding at the shore. Overlooking the sand is the paved walkway with benches. Two older gentlemen, LOLO (aka Leopoldo Suárez) and GRANDPA RAY (aka Raymond Ramsey) sit on either end of a bench along the walkway, facing the ocean. They are watching the waves and enjoying the roller bladers, the dogs racing for frisbees, the woot of the people fishing far out at the end of the pier. LOLO, white haired and wearing a Sol Painting, Inc. baseball cap, is digging...
Read More

When an Epidemic Calls

By Discussion materials, The Writing Life
You’re never sure how a book is going to connect with readers. Sometimes it’s a character that hooks readers. Other times, it's a plot point. Sometimes just your voice or style is enough. Turns out, though, sometimes it’s about loss and pain, too. Merci Suárez Changes Gears has drawn readers in lots of ways, but one of the most important ways has been in its unvarnished view of Alzheimer’s Disease, one of the most rapidly growing epidemics in the US. When I included that storyline in Merci, I was unaware exactly how many people face this situation every day with no caregiving safety net in place. All I really knew was that my uncle, Diego, was taken from us that way – a little bit at a time, until the once sweet and charming man was left virtually erased in a world of strangers. It was grueling to watch my cousin and his family face the many hard days and difficult decisions about his care. This past June, when I traveled to DC to accept the Newbery award, Candlewick scheduled a signing for the librarians at the ALA conference.  The first woman in that line placed several copies on my table and just asked for my signature. When I was about halfway through, she leaned in and whispered tearfully, “I just lost my mother to Alzheimer’s a few months ago.” I put my pen down. My heart broke for her instantly because I knew what that journey must have looked like....
Read More

Check out my new site – plus the Newbery speech and other goodies

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life

Welcome to my  new website!  After cobbling together a blog for a while now, I’ve given myself a fresh look that’s bright, clean, and easy. For my first news post, I’m offering the link to my Newbery speech (the official version), as well as photos from the entire  celebration, which can only be described as a huge, life-affirming love fest.

Read More

Wimps and Winners: Getting Ready for This Week’s Award’s Ceremony

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life
This is the one week I've been thinking about for a while. First, I had a terrific weekend in Massachusetts. The first stop was with illustrator Angela Dominguez at Adventures in Storytelling, an event with the Girls Scouts Eastern Massachusetts Division. We joined forces with staff from Candlewick Press to give an inside look at how a book goes from an idea to the book you buy at your favorite indie. I also celebrated Father’s Day morning with readers at An Unlikely Story, the epic indie bookstore owned by Julie and Jeff Kinney, creator of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid empire. What a store!  Jeff was on his way to write in a cemetery for the day (as fathers do on special holidays?) but he stopped by to wish me luck before my event. His bookstore is easily the most beautiful indie I have seen so far in my travels. Every detail is lush and playful. See for yourself,  and put this on your to-be-visited list. Yes. A drum kit in the ceiling.Even the staircase is gorgeousA sound proof booth for phone meetings!a model of the wimpy kid Macy's parade floatJeff's desk on the second floorA super cafe insideView from across the street of An Unlikely StoryThe stage has great lighting, acoustics, and morewith owner Jeff Kinney Prev 1of12 Next Looking forward, though, the big news now is that we’ve arrived at the American Library Association’s Annual Meeting, where I’ll officially receive the Newbery medal. AGH! I'm in a...
Read More

A Teachers’ Guide on steroids, in the best way possible.

By Discussion materials, middle grade, Schuyler VanValkenburg, Teachers' Guide, The Writing Life

Candlewick Press sent along their hot-off-the-press Teachers’ Guide for Merci Suárez Changes Gears. The former teacher inside me is going to gush here. It’s fabulous, and that’s because it’s written by a super-charged educator and reading coach. The questions and activities across the curriculum are smart and get the kids talking, thinking, and working on everything from Ancient Egypt to the social dynamics of their school. So I’m sending a big applause to Kellee Moye, a middle-school reading coach and teacher from Orlando, Florida. Kellee is the coauthor of the blog Unleashing Readers, a member of the 2016–2018 ALAN Board of Directors, a member of NCTE, ALAN, and ALA, the chair of the 2014 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award committee, and her school’s 2017–18 Teacher of the Year. Here it is as a pdf [ MerciSuárez_TG ]for you to download. Or you can follow the link at the top of the article. Either way, I think folks who’ll be using the book in their classrooms next fall will find something useful. OK, next stop… Massachusetts!

Read More

Coming Up: Sunny California for the L.A. Times Festival of Books

By Appearances, middle grade, The Writing Life, young adult

Sunny California, here I come. I’m in town for this weekend’s LA Times Festival of Books and I couldn’t be more excited. Come say hello! Here’s where you can find me: On Sunday at 11am I’ll be on a YA panel with friends and fabulous authors Ibi Zoboi and Elizabeth Acevedo:  “Young Adult Fiction: Writing the Real World, Conversation 2101.” We’ll be in the very good hands of Claudette S. McLinn, as moderator, who is the executive director of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature. Later that day, I’ll “change gears” (ha!) and chat with three wonderful authors Marie Cruz, Karyn Parsons, and Lisa Ramee for the “Middle Grade Fiction: Grown Up Challenges” panel at 1:30pm. My friend and Hamline MFA colleague Brandi Colbert will be our moderator. Besides these panels, I can’t wait to meet up with fellow authors, librarians and, most of all, READERS! And, of course, enjoy some delicious California cuisine… See you there!

Read More

Want an early copy of Merci Suárez Changes Gears? Get to the National Book Festival

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Cooler weather, pansies, and pumpkin-everything are on my mind as we head into Labor Day weekend, but this year, I also have a new book. And while it has felt like a long year of nail biting, here we are. How do I handle all that pre-publication angst? Here’s a little clip. Say what you will, though, bookmarks are useful. And I didn’t lose my mind, just the pads on my fingertips! [wpvideo vy0XcJgf]

Read More

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…

Read More

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

Read More

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.  

Read More

ALA Orlando: A Bittersweet Affair

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I head to ALA this week, but it’s with a mix of emotions. Traditionally, the ALA June conference is a joyous time to celebrate the books that were awarded medals, touch base with our far-flung colleagues, and gather new advanced galleys for our to-be-read piles. I can’t go every year, so when I do get the opportunity, it feels like a truly special occasion. But it’s hard to feel lighthearted this year. After the terrorist attack we saw unfold against the LGBTQ community – and the maddening debates over terrorism, hate, and gun safety that (once again) ensued, I’m feeling numb. I watched the names and faces scroll – overwhelmingly Latino in this case – and my mind went to the families and friends who have been left broken and wondering about how we’ve been dislodged from our shared humanity. I’m grateful to see that the ALA conference organizers have several activities planned in support of the Orlando community, including a memorial service for the victims being held at the Orange County Convention Auditorium from 8 – 8:30 AM on Saturday, June 25. I’ll be there with my husband and oldest daughter, who will be traveling with me this time. Maybe as we reach for joy this year, we can do so with a mind to continuing to build unity and understanding. I’ve put my signing and speaking schedule down below, but I would especially like to invite you to join me at the Pura Belpré celebration. Mango Abuela and Me will be awarded the honor medal for narrative and…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

Huge Win for Latino Authors at ALA: Mango, Abuela and Me Among medalists

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

It’s been a huge and unexpected day for me, to say the least. But it has been a HUGE day for Latino authors and illustrators all the way around.  A ceiling-shattering day.  A day that represents such an astounding shift in respect and perception that it brings tears to my eyes as I am typing this. For the first time, we have Latino winners and honor books in so many of the major awards – the Feldman, the Seilbert, the Printz, the Caldecott, the Odyssey, non fiction awards and the very highest one, the Newbery. I am so very proud of my friend, Matt de la Peña, for his gorgeous book, Last Stop on Market Street. (The full list of ALA winners is here.)  If you were watching the ALA awards this morning, you know that Mango, Abuela, and Me was given the 2016 Pura Belpré honor book award for literature, as well as receiving an honor for the illustrations. Congratulations, Angela! (Full list of Pura Belpré winners here.) This award celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.  Since its inception, the Pura Belpré award has sought to shine a light on the Latino experience in children’s literature. In so many ways, this has become my life’s work. To have this medal on my book – this year in particular – is such an affirmation. A huge congratulations to Margarita Engle and Rafael Lopez winners of the Pura Belpré medal for literature and illustration, respectively. I feel so humbled to have my work included alongside yours. Congratulations to all…

Read More

On conga lines, a seaside library, and the surprise of a girl’s rehab center: REFORMA Nat’l Convention V

By Appearances, The Writing Life

You haven’t lived until you’ve done a conga line to the strains of Miami Sound Machine with a bunch of happy librarians. That’s precisely what I did during the dance party/dessert reception at the fifth annual REFORMA national conference in San Diego last week. I’ve mentioned REFORMA here before. That’s the arm of ALA dedicated to library services to Latinos – and a partner in the Pura Belpré award, along with ALSC. This year about 300 librarians, authors, teachers, and community leaders – many sporting pins with slogans like Sí – hablo español – gathered to share ideas and best practices. It had a lot of the usual conference fare: panels, keynotes (mine at the pool on a broiler of a day). But the event had the unmistakable feeling of friends coming together for support and fun, too. Maybe that’s what Ana Elba Pavon meant when she called it “time with my REFORMA family.” Look, you can’t blame me for being a little giddy about going to San Diego, land of the eternal sunny-and-low-70s weather, especially after this winter. But I got a lot more than a few days in the sunshine. I was surprised to run into Teresa Mlawer, who has been duking it out with the translation for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, which she says is the hardest book she’s ever had to translate. (She’s done quite a few, like classics, Where the Wild Things Are and Caps for Sale.) She’s trying her best to keep the…

Read More

My new book trailer: Mango, Abuela, and Me

By picture books

Do 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. [wpvideo jpcNNVhC]

Read More

What are you doing in Arkansas? Thinking about Pura Belpré, of course!

By Appearances, Awards and news, Community work, Latino Life, The Writing Life

That’s pretty much what everybody asked me this week.  Maybe it’s because it’s hard to imagine a Cuban from Queens hanging out near Oklahoma where the wind does, in fact, come sweeping down the plain. But there I was: Ft. Smith, Arkansas. Fort Smith is a quiet place with one of everything, as Ines, one of the district’s English Language Learners coordinators, told me. One Staples. One bridal shop. One mall. Church life is central to life here, which made me laugh when I toured their visitor center –  a restored brothel called Miss Laura’s Social Club. You can walk along the beautiful Arkansas river here, eat something called a Frito Chili pie, or find excellent Vietnamese food. You can experience a tornado drill on a moment’s notice or tour gallows and other bone-chilling artifacts of the “wild west.” Such a mix of unexpected things. Including people. Like a lot of small towns in the US, Fort Smith is warm and close-knit – and it now finds its demographics shifting. Schools that were once 90 percent white, now have Latino populations of over sixty percent, compounded in some cases by significant financial need. The challenge, of course, is to embrace change as normal and to pull from it the rich experiences that a truly multicultural community can provide. As I’ve had the chance to do  elsewhere, I spoke to kids about my books, culture, and where those two meet inside a writer. I had to tread lightly on Yaqui Delgado Wants to…

Read More

The Candlewick Holiday Video

By Random howls into the world

It’s not every day your publisher sings their holiday greetings. But here you go – another small example of why I love Candlewick.  (The bloopers especially give you a sense of their personality.) Enjoy! And if you are on Pinterest and want a list of the books they used, go here. Remember to tuck in a book or two as holiday gifts for the little ones! [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GY6MccBoIwg&w=560&h=315]

Read More

Notes from the road: writing with depth, finding the joy & honoring your roots

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’m finally home after a long stretch in Northern Virginia. This weekend was the SCBWI Midatlantic annual writers conference, where I taught an intensive for the first time on how to write characters with depth, and how to develop a compelling voice in writing. Yikes. I had forgotten how hard it is to teach writing – and how much you learn from doing so. What I came to was this: Layers, depth and voice in writing really come from how deeply you want to go inside yourself and how honestly you can lay bare what you find.  I hope my SCBWI colleagues who attended were able to find something useful during our session. I’m wishing them lots of time to remember, to record, and to write. Then it was on to the Arlington Central Library. You could fit all of my hometown, Richmond, inside the hip pocket of Arlington. What a busy and vibrant place – especially its library. (Favorite feature: a vegetable garden planted in the beds that border the entrance.) Lisa Cosgrove-Davies, Youth Services Librarian, worked with the Arlington Teen Advisory Board to coordinate two school visits at Jefferson Middle School and Washington Lee High School, followed by an evening talk at the library. Now, was I feeling confident? No, I was not. It’s always a crap shoot on whether people come to an evening library event, and Dallas was playing Washington to boot. But I kept channeling the words of Pat Cummings, who reminded me at the conference that the real joy in…

Read More

Writing as the Biggest Gamble of All: ALA Las Vegas is Here!

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life

Kids don’t picture their librarians hanging out at a slot machine. But, I’m telling you, it could happen this week. That’s because ten thousand librarians will descend on Las Vegas for their annual meeting. I’m heading over to join the party at the Association for Library Services to Children where I’ll be among the authors receiving our medals.Yep, it’s time for the Pura Belpré ceremony among others. Truthfully, I don’t know what to expect. But in between panic and packing, I’m giving lots of thought to this year’s theme: Transforming Our Libraries, Transforming Ourselves. For the first time, my editor and marketing team at Candlewick, my agent, my husband, and the librarians who’ve championed my work will be in one place. These are the some of the people who took the gamble on me (sorry for that pun) and who have played the biggest role in my transformation. One heart isn’t big enough to hold all the gratitude I have for what these people have helped make happen in my life. One speech isn’t nearly enough to thank them  – or to thank all the bloggers, teachers, conference planners, librarians, college professors, fellow authors, family, and readers at home who have also offered me their hand and encouragement along the way. Thank you seems so meager right now. Not even mil gracias would be enough. But that’s what I’m sending to you this week. A thousand thank you’s for letting me tell stories. May our paths continue to cross in the years ahead. Meg If…

Read More

A Kid Lit Conference Con Sabor

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Snow outside – AGAIN. Thank goodness for the leftover cozy feelings from the  National Latino Children’s Literature Conference this past weekend. On a scale of 1 – 10 in warmth and  camaraderie, it ranks about a 50. One reason was the  faculty, a solid collection of Latinas in publishing. It included the fabulous former editor and literary agent Adriana Dominguez; color goddess illustrator Laura Lacámara; multiple-award winning poet and prose author Margarita Engle; Lila Quintero Weaver (who we’ve talked about here); bilingual library pro and storyteller Irania Patterson (how can anyone imitate every accent in the Spanish-speaking world?); longtime publishing icon Teresa Mlawer (“sounds like flour, with an m”); and me. For three days we worked side by side with teachers and librarians from all over the country who wanted to know how to use multicultural books to serve all kids. Inevitably, we all drew close as we asked ourselves hard questions and generated new ideas. “I’m so glad you guys aren’t divas,” one of them told me as we all sat together. Some of my personal highlights and favorite ideas: Margarita Engle. Poet, feminist, botanist, historian. If you want your students to experience history’s most unknown and shocking corners, seek out her books. Who else can tell you about pirates in the 1400s, search-and-rescue mountain dogs, Cuba’s first feminist, and how the Panama Canal was dug by hand… in a single presentation? It was astounding. Make a simple move with a big implication. Print out the list of Pura Belpré winners and have…

Read More

Yaqui, Pura Belpré and Me

By Awards and news

Here is what it looks like when a dream comes true.  This blurry “selfie” was taken on a Richmond-bound Amtrak train, two minutes after getting the news that I had won the 2014 Pura Belpré Award. I was on my way home from the ALA Midwinter Conference on Sunday night when my cellphone rang and Ruth Tobar, chair of the selection committee, gave me the good news. I was  promptly sworn to secrecy until the next day. Obviously, Gigi guessed what all my Spanish and crying was about; thank goodness she’s a steel trap. Thank you so much, everyone, for the tsunami of good wishes. (And thank you, Ms. Espinal, President of REFORMA (the ALA’s affiliate group that focuses on library services for Latino youth and families) for saying “ass” with such courage and gusto from the podium!) It’s an honor beyond belief to receive this award alongside some of the most talented people working in children’s publishing today. (Full list of ALA Youth Media winners here.) Un abrazo fuerte for: Yuyi Morales, Margarita Engle, Matt De la Peña, Duncan Tonatiuh, Angela Dominguez, and Rafael Lopez. Other pieces of good news continue to come in for YAQUI,  but for now I’m off to a Banned Books and Brews event at Longwood University this weekend to help raise funds for the Virginia Children’s Book Festival which will bring some pretty big names to Virginia in the fall. A drink doesn’t sound like such a bad idea right about now. ¡Salud! (Check out the awards. FYI, the Pura Belpré starts just…

Read More

A happy week, except when Congress socks it to the little guys

By Appearances, Latino Life

A bitter-sweet week. The sweet: Spent yesterday in the company of EE Charlton Trujillo (FAT ANGIE, Candlewick Press), and Kathy Erskine (MOCKINGBIRD; SEEING RED). EE is filming a documentary of her book tour,  which has featured  rental cars, buzzards, near tornadoes, and a chance to meet with authors and kids across the country. A blast, but I don’t want to say more because she’ll  be chatting with me on this blog next week. More soon. All I can say, is buckle in. I’ll be at the Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Library this Thursday night as part of their anti-bullying event and also as a tie in to their celebration of Hispanic Heritage month. Teens and social workers in the know will be on hand, and then we’ll talk about how an abusóna became the inspiration for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. (And, yes, I will be allowed to say “ass,” amigos.) Really looking forward to visiting this cool library and also checking out their exhibit called Héroes of the LGBTQ Community. But here is the bitter:  It boils down to two words: government shutdown.  I was so excited to visit with K – 2nd grade students from four DC area public schools at the beautiful  Young Readers Center. Unfortunately,  the shutdown closed the Library of Congress.  It’s definitely not as important as the many families who are now struggling financially or the Head Start programs now scrambling or the WIC programs being zapped or any number of other vital services.  Still, it makes…

Read More

Author Uninvited: A School Decides I’m Trouble

By Appearances

Let me start by saying that I am not making this up. This week I was officially uninvited to speak on bullying at a middle school due to the title of my latest YA novel, YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS. The timing could not have been more ironic. September is the month when the American Library Association celebrates Banned Book Week, our annual reminder about the importance of intellectual freedom. Sure, the title has raised eyebrows – as I knew it would. But the title of my book wasn’t an issue several months ago when I was contracted  to be part of the school’s anti-bullying event. YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS  is the story of girl’s unraveling as she navigates being in the crosshairs of a physical and emotional abuser. I had planned to talk about my own experience at the hands of a bully long ago – and all that the experience robbed from me.  Then, as now, there were no easy answers, no clear path out of the torment that I couldn’t trust the adults around me to stop. I had also planned to talk about how that ugly sliver of life became fiction and about how writing and books help us make sense of our life experiences, good and bad. But last Friday, I received a painful email from the teacher who had reached out to me in the first place. She was apologetic as she explained that her principal needed reassurances. He needed to be sure…

Read More

See you at the Nat’l Book Festival!

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life

A quick post to say muchisimas gracias to the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, which will be part of the 2013 National Book Festival September 21 – 22. This year, the Foundation has selected Tía Isa Wants a Car to represent Virginia at the Pavilion of the States.  How’s THAT for a surprise? Here’s the press release. [VFH Invited to National Book Festival.] The National Book Festival will be held on the mall in Washington DC.  Free and open to the public…just a gigantic gathering of book lovers. I’ll be at the tent for a little while on Saturday enjoying the joyous mayhem. Otherwise, you’ll find me strolling around and catching some of my favorite authors. (That, and buying too many books, as usual!)  Amazing lineup, to be sure. See you there!

Read More

¡Verano! (Summer – the best time for book lovers)

By Appearances, Awards and news, Latino Life, The Writing Life

A quick post today as I settle back from my amazing day celebrating multicultural lit at the LUCY conference at Old Dominion University. Looking forward to a busy first week of summer talking books, culture, and connection. 1.  Gigi Amateau and I continue to celebrate our Girls of Summer list. Our launch last week was a huge success with about 180 mothers, daughters, librarians, teachers, and all-around book lovers enjoying free ice cream, book talk, and a celebration of strong girls. Hope you are enjoying Tanita Davis’s Q & A this week. Looking ahead to Friday, 6/28 you’ll meet the fabulous Latina author Guadalupe Garcia McCall on our site. She’ll talk about winning the Pura Belpré prize for Under the Mesquite,  and how she found a way to tell a story based on one of her most painful challenges. 2.  For my Latino friends with kids, please check this out! A summer reading list for Latino readers from the blogging community. Latinas for Latino Literature provide book lists by age group, activities, and ideas for encouraging reading. Please follow them on Facebook, too, where you’ll see the growing community around Latinos, youth, and empowerment through reading. 3. I’ll be at the Shenandoah Children’s Literature Conference this Tuesday and Wednesday as part of “Heavy Medal,” celebrating children’s book authors who have won medals and prizes for their work. (Thank you Ezra Jack Keats committee! Your gift keeps on giving and opening doors.) So excited to travel to this beautiful part of the…

Read More

You’re Never Far From Your Story

By Random howls into the world, The Writing Life

Big milestone: At the end of the month, I will have been married to my husband, Javier, for 30 years. To celebrate, we planned what we both consider a once-in-a-lifetime family trip to Croatia, Italy, and Greece. My eyes and my heart and still full of the beautiful sites I took in, particularly Santorini, with its wide marble streets, the domed churches, and Bougainvillea vines along the windows. And, of course, I’m still full in other ways, too — mostly from my nearly constant visits to the pasticcerias and gelato stands. (I had NO IDEA that food could be this good.) Here are three fun literary tidbits that happened along the way. When my kids were in elementary school, we read aloud The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. (She is one of my favorite children’s authors. Check out her website; it’s amazing.) Every night, we’d let our imaginations take us to Venice where a band of masked orphans lived hidden in boarded-up opera houses along the Grand Canal. “I want to go to Venice one day,” my son told me. I never forgot that moment when a book connected him to the larger world than he knew. So, here is a photo from Venice that I took last week. It’s a perfect reminder of a place where I think those orphans might have lived. Surprise number two came when I rounded one of those serpentine streets in Venice to find a lovely bookstore. Look who’s in the window!  RJ Palacio’s WONDER!…

Read More

Angela Dominguez: A sneak peek at a new partnership

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

Know what this is? “Easter in San Francisco” by children’s book author and illustrator Angela Dominguez. This one is “Death of a Pet.” Why am I dancing in my living room about this? I got word that she has signed on to be the illustrator for my next picture book project with Candlewick Press. SUNSET COLORÁ is due out in 2015. Can’t wait to see the book that emerges!  Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy Angela’s new picture book Let’s Go Hugo. To learn more about Angela click here. Follow her on twitter @andominguez So excited!

Read More

And we have lift-off!

By Appearances, Community work

It was amazing to look out and see the huge variety of people in the audience who came to talk about books and bullying at yesterday’s book launch for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Great questions, honest conversation, and a lot of love in the room. Thank you so much for coming to the celebration! Click on the  word cloud title below for a tiny slide show that emerged from our I feel strongest when prompt. (Thanks AB Westrick for being the input goddess!) [wpvideo mrnABhVw] I promised to give you the Resources for anti-bulllying, so here they are.  The document is full of unusual arts and community activities that give  young people a voice about their experiences. Film, art events and competitions, on-line communities, books…it’s a great peek at  new ways to look at an old problem. Maybe you will add you own innovations? Finally, my heroes for the day: Trey Hartt and Lauren Davis of The Conciliation Project; the ART 180 teen leaders; Marlene, Betsy, “the Mikes”at ART 180;  panelists Allison Conyers of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities and Paul Fleisher and Santa Sorenson of the Richmond Peace Education Center; Penelope Carrington for the photography; Gigi Amateau and Virginia Pye for the unglamorous job of food schlepping; bbgb tales for kids for the book sales; Candlewick Press for the gifts to the teens; and the amazing literary community here in Richmond. Meg’s next appearances:  The Virginia Festival of the Book, March 20 – 24, 2013, Charlottesville,…

Read More

Some music for Yaqui Delgado

By Appearances, The Writing Life

So I’m putting the finishing touches on the launch events for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass which comes out next month. And because it takes hours to work out all the details, I’m listening to music that puts me in the mood. Yaqui Delgado takes a shard of truth from my personal life. I wrote this novel white-knuckled some days, thinking back to when I was an early teen facing down a schoolyard bully. I was learning everything about everything back then: learning about lousy adults, learning what it meant to be a Latina, learning how to really take care of myself when others couldn’t. It was a scary time, but all these years later, I find myself thinking a lot about all I took away from that experience. It was a Puerto Rican girl, Aida, I remember most. She lived upstairs, cut school, and had bad acne but a hot boyfriend nonetheless. More importantly, she taught me to salsa. Sometimes she gave parties in her hot apartment with Celia Cruz and the Fania All Stars (Johnny Pacheco, Hector LaVoe, etc) blasting out of her mother’s stereo until the walls shook. When I think back to that time in my life, the soundtrack belongs to those old masters. So, here’s a little YouTube gem of the late Celia Cruz fronting the band in Africa. And then, a more recent piece by Celia – Sin Clave– to get you in the spirit via Cuban music that (like a tough…

Read More

An early present in the mail!

By Awards and news

I love the mail this time of year — and it’s not just the holiday packages and cards. The spring/summer Candlewick catalog arrived in cheery red yesterday, and it brightened my whole day.  My next YA novel is in there (Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, page 48), but also so many new works by familiar names and newcomers. Browse and you’ll see what I mean.  Here’s the pdf. So now I turn to an oversized cup of coffee, a comfy reading chair, and a notebook to add to my list of tales I want to read. (Did I mention I may need bookcases for Christmas?)

Read More

Claremont Elementary Spanish Immersion School: The Hope Tree Grows

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

What a week! A nail-biter election that took me late into the night, and then up at 5 am (when it was still tan oscuro!) to get to Claremont Elementary School in Arlington, VA. (Thank you to Sherry Lord for inviting me!) Claremont is a funky Spanish Immersion school that’s going to do a version of the Hope Tree project as their fifth graders move on to middle school. Again, we’re asking, What is a hope you have for yourself? Such a pretty school, and the art is everywhere you look. I love these giant looming heads over the stage (inside one of those strange rooms called a cafetorium). They are César Chávez, Pocahontas, and Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. Oh! And look at these urns in their lovely garden. I spotted them when I arrived. Hmmm…they are sitting near benches and empty trees. You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?

Read More

Trailer for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

By The Writing Life, Trailers

It’s Unity Day at pacer.org’s National Bullying Prevention Center.  I didn’t buy my orange t-shirt, but I did finish the trailer for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, my upcoming YA novel that’s about this very topic. I shot the footage in Queens a couple of months ago when I was home for a visit. Brought back a lot of memories. (Some that made me shudder.) [wpvideo jfB70Xin]

Read More

Red Clover Award!

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

Exciting news came across my twitter feed last night. It seems that Tía Isa Wants a Car has taken a little road trip up I-95 – and ended up in Vermont! It’s been named a Red Clover title for 2012-2013. The Red Clover Program “promotes the reading and discussion of the best of contemporary picture books in nearly all of Vermont’s elementary schools. Each year over 20,000 K-4 students read, or have read to them, the ten nominated books. The Award is co-sponsored by the Vermont Center for the Book / Mother Goose Programs and the Vermont Departments of Education and Libraries.” I’ll be saying hello to the librarians via twitter on Wednesday (#vsla) beginning at about 10:15 am EST. I am so excited and honored to be included on this list. ¡Gracias bibliotecárias!

Read More

A Little Bit of Fiesta at City Hall

By Appearances, Community work

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! This is a month for everybody to channel their inner Latino, but don’t worry if you don’t know an empanada from a salsa. I can help you, especially if you’re in the downtown Richmond, Virginia area next week. That’s because on Monday, September 17, 2012 The Hope Tree Project comes to the lobby of City Hall at Broad Street and 9th Street! (Map here.) We’re having a little lunchtime party as the kickoff, and I hope you’ll come. You’ll remember that this exhibit of the hopes and dreams of Richmond’s young people started out as a collaboration between me, eight area high schools, and the folks at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden last spring, when The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind first pubbed. Well, we’ve moved the exhibit to its final phase —  the concrete jungle — where the public can see what our kids are thinking about themselves and our community. The exhibit is, of course, free and open to the public. The lobby doesn’t have trees (bummer) but I have a plan. Or I should say… my friends at Pine Camp Art Center (Shaun Casselle) and the Office of Multicultural Affairs (Tanya Gonzalez) have a plan. All those twigs that fell out of trees during last month’s gusty days?  Yep, they’re being recycled into the show. (How’s that for clever use of resources?) We’ll be spending our Saturday putting them in place. If you work downtown, please come down and join us for the  reception…

Read More

Wordles: samples from The Hope Tree Project

By Appearances, Community work

Me again. Two posts in one week Geez. First, the spiffy StyleWeekly article is here!  Thanks Julie Geen for spreading the word about The Hope Tree Project! Also, do you know about wordles?  They’re handy as a wrap-up for a school activity or, in this case, as a display for a community project. You plug in words or phrases that emerged from an experience, and – POOF! — out comes a graphic. For phrases, separate each word with a ~. Give it a try here. Here are the Wordles of phrases describing the dreams represented in each milagros for The Hope Tree Project. I took the phrases from the artist statements the school provided. Click to enlarge each.  

Read More

The Hope Tree Exhibit Opens

By Awards and news, Community work

Last night was a nearly perfect launch for the Hope Tree Project at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  I say nearly because the school bus carrying 27 artists from Meadowbrook High School got a flat tire on I-95. They missed the opening, but not to worry. The folks at the garden are going to send them free passes so the students can come see their creations. I do wish they could have seen the outpouring of support from the community, though, especially the Latin Ballet dancing in their honor. Here are some shots of the private unveiling. I’m including the program and the text of my comments, in case you love long-winded speeches. Here’s a link, too, to Latin Ballet of Virginia and to Kevin’s contagious music with Ban Caribe. Some photos of the milagros appear page 2 of today’s Richmond Times Dispatch (metro sec.), and there will be an article in StyleWeekly tomorrow. The exhibit runs through July 4. I hope you’ll take the time to visit the Garden soon. It really is a stunning place where you can gather your thoughts and refuel, whatever age or interest.  Be sure to stop by the exhibit. It’s an amazing thing to be surrounded by aspirations. Many, many thanks again to L.C. Bird, Meadowbrook High School, Huguenot High School, The Steward School, J.R. Tucker High School, Lee Davis High School, Hermitage High School, and Henrico High School. And a huge shout out to my publisher, Candlewick Press for the facebook ads and…

Read More

The Hope Tree is Growing

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Just a little update about The Hope Tree Project. (Details en español here.) Student artists are working out their answer to What is a dream you have for yourself or for our community? I got a sneak preview of their milagros thanks to Megan McConnell, art teacher at Meadowbrook High School, who brought a few to share at my book launch party for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind this past weekend. (Thanks, Megan!) I’m also happy to announce that the fabulous Latin Ballet of Virginia will be joining us for the launch on April 30 and will perform selections of Verde. This work celebrates nature, hopes and dreams. What could be more perfect? (And check out these costumes!) Let me know if you are interested in an invitation to the opening. Latin Ballet of Virginia, scenes from Verde Where I’ll be next:    March 21, 2012: University of Richmond, Gotwald Science Center, 5:30 pm. Lecture, reception and  book signing. March 23, 2012: The Steward School 11600 Gayton Road, Henrico, VA, 9 am. International Day presentation March 28 – 30, 2012: National Latino Children’s Literature Conference: University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. Presentation on YA and community building — The Hope Tree Project!

Read More

The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind blog tour starts today

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Just wanted to give you the heads up this morning. I’m on tour. Yep — and I’m still in my pajamas as I’m telling you this. That’s because it’s a blog tour — the single most author-friendly invention since the pencil. Eight YA bloggers have invited me to answer questions — some serious, some funny — about my novel, The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind. For me, it’s a chance to channel my inner Where’s Waldo without ever leaving my kitchen computer. I meet their readers, talk about my project, and get the word out in anticipation of the March 12 pub date. For the bloggers, it’s a chance for fresh content and connections. For you, it’s a chance to win stuff (sometimes) and get the scoop on what is behind the book you’re reading. Today, you can catch me on Waste Paper Prose, where I did  a  v-log (video version) at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens here in Richmond, VA. Don’t make fun of my hair in the last section. It was windy, okay? Visit at  www.wastepaperprose.com. I hope you’ll make time this week to stop in on these blogs and get to know some rabid book lovers. You can see the dates and stops on the skyscraper that I’ve posted in the sidebar to the right. A big thanks to:  Waste Paper Prose, Book Briefs, Muggle-Born.net, The Book Cellar, Teen Reads, A Cupcake and a Latte, Joyousreads, and The Hispanic Reader. You’re invited to Meg’s book launch party for The…

Read More

Tía Isa Wants a Car wins the Ezra Jack Keats New Writers Award

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

I just saw the official press release announcing that I’ve won the Ezra Jack Keats New Writers Award for 2012 for my picture book. I’m still a little stunned, but very happy. This is an enormous honor, and I am so especially proud that it comes for a story that pays tribute to the valiant women in my family. Thank you to everyone who was involved in finding and sharing this story, those I know, like Gigi Amateau, Kate Fletcher, Jen Rofé, and Laura Rivas, and those who have been secret cheerleaders in far flung places. I’m sending you all muchos abrazos fuertes! Here is a little snippet from the release to tell you about the award: “Fifty years ago, Ezra’s book The Snowy Day, which featured an African American child, broke the color barrier in mainstream children’s book publishing when it was embraced by families across racial, economic and ethnic lines,” said Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. “Like Ezra, this year’s Book Award winners have, in their own way, celebrated the similarities—and differences—of people whose life experiences are dramatically varied.” Since 1985, the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award has been awarded annually to an outstanding new writer and new illustrator of picture books for children (age 9 and under) by the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by the late Keats and dedicated to enhancing the love of reading and learning in all children. The Book Awards come to the de Grummond for the first time this year from…

Read More

The Hope Tree Project

By Appearances, Awards and news, Latino Life, The Writing Life

There are all sorts of ways of launching a new book into the world. This time around I’ve decided to go big. I’ll have my regular launch at the ever-fabulous bbgb tales for kids on March 17. But when The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind pubs next month, I’ll have about 500 high school students to help me celebrate, too. That’s because they’re part of a project I’m working on in partnership with The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and eight area high schools here in Richmond. The Hope Tree Project is a connection of art, reading, and community building for young people – a good addition to the Virginia Commission of the Art’s Minds Wide Open 2012 celebration of children and the arts. The students and their art or ESOL teachers have agreed to create Latin American ex votives — or milagros — that symbolize a hope or dream that they have for themselves or for the community. When they’re done, we’ll decorate five crape myrtle trees in the beautiful children’s garden with their collective wishes. Milagros are part folk art and part religious votives in Latin America. The tiny charms are attached to statues of saints, to the walls of churches, or even to women’s jewelry. Why? To ask for a favor or to thank a saint for help, of course. It’s a connection of the sacred or mystical to every day needs. Not that this is new, of course. The ancient Romans made them, too, as did many…

Read More

A Spot on the Amelia Bloomer Prize List

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

Today my whole day was brightened by finding out that Tía Isa Wants a Car won a spot on the 2012 Amelia Bloomer Prize list.  This is a list of best feminist books — which I am so thrilled to say includes picture books for our youngest readers. Thank you to the committee for such an honor. Of all the happy things that have come my way as a result of this book, this is one that I am so proud of. Mil gracias, chicas…

Read More

Charlotte Zolotow Award

By Awards and news, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life

A big thank you to the Charlotte Zolotow Prize committee for selecting Tía Isa Wants a Car as a highly commended book for 2011. I’m also happy to join in a standing ovation for this year’s big winner, Patrick McDonnell, whose nifty picture book, Me … Jane is the 15th annual winner of the prize. The Charlotte Zolotow Award recognizes outstanding writing in a picture book. Thanks to Patrick’s book, kids from birth to age seven can learn about the incredible life of Jane Goodall.

Read More

Trailer for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind

By The Writing Life

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHhOiwsxpEs] Okay, friends. Steven Spielberg has been in town shooting for his Abe Lincoln film. Unfortunately, that means he’s been too busy to make my book trailer. Ha! So, instead, I offer you my humble, homemade effort. The Girl who Could Silence the Wind, is my young adult novel due from Candlewick in March 2012. I’m so excited to see this project finally come together. Of all my  novels, this is the one that I wrote and re-wrote to the point that I almost lost hope. But here it is — at last! If you’re curious about how to make one of these mini-movie ads for your own book projects, here’s how to get started on a Mac, using i-Movie or Garage Band. I recommend contacting Chris Cheng at SCBWI Australia for the specific, step-by-step directions on how to turn your laptop MAC into your own movie studio. (He gave a very worthwhile session at SCBWI a couple of years ago.) In a nutshell, I did this one by creating a Keynote slide presentation (just like Powerpoint, really.) I exported  the slide show to QuickTime and then used the movie as the movie track in a Garage Band podcast. For sound effects and music, I browsed the library available on Garage Band. All in all, not fancy, pero bueno, it was pretty fun. Thanks for watching, and please share this trailer with all your reading friends. Con muchos cariños Meg

Read More

My Favorite Book This Year: A Monster Calls

By picture book, middle grade, YA, What I'm reading

I love so many books, it’s usually impossible for me to say that I love one more than another. It’s the mother spirit in me, wanting to love them all in some special way. But all that changed this morning when I finished reading A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (Candlewick Press, 2011). The chilling illustrations by Jim Kay, the balance of tenderness and rage, the magical realism  — I can’t heap enough praise on this work about a boy visited by a monster during the final days of his mother’s illness. Even more awe-inspiring is the fact that Patrick Ness was asked to complete a story idea first proposed by Siobhan Dowd, the human rights activist who lost her own battle to cancer in 2007, shortly after her spectacular debut novel, A Swift Pure Joy, was published. Let me just say this: I started reading this gem Saturday, while I was manning a volunteer table at a school function, and it took no time to go deaf to the world around me. Sunday morning before the sun had even come up, I ignored the chance for an extra hour of sleep and reached in the darkness for the book. A parent and child having to let each other go too early is, in fact, a monstrous event. To me, Patrick got it exactly right in this magical book, and as frightening as it is to follow a tale of a boy’s grief, it is a beautiful and resonant story. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8-psqOON-Y]

Read More

For my Holladay ES Peeps

By picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life

So fun to visit Holladay ES this morning. They’ve been reading MILAGROS in the fourth grade and also TIA ISA in the second grade.  We ran out of time for questions, so as promised, I’m answering here. From grade 2: How did you get to be so good at writing? Practice, practice, and more practice. I took lots of writing classes in high school and in college. Even today, I will take a writing class to learn how to tell a story better. Best of all, I have a writing group where I share my work with author friends and get their advice.   How do you go about writing a book? I usually start with a good character who has one big problem to solve — but that’s all I know. I write for a few hours every day, and I always start my day by fixing what I wrote the day before. (Sometimes that means I throw it all out and start that work again!) Slowly, slowly — chapter by chapter — the story starts to take shape. One secret is that I usually rewrite the first chapter after I’ve finished writing the whole book. Why? I like the first chapter to give a good hint about everything that is going to happen in the rest of the book.  Since I don’t know what’s going to happen until the book is done, I have to go back and redo it.  What was your favorite book when you were…

Read More

A Day at Marie Reed Elementary School

By The Writing Life

Last Thursday, I trekked up to DC to spend a day at Marie Reed Elementary School in Adams Morgan. Four years into my life as a published author and I’ve realized that I’d rather do a thousand school visits than a book signing, which for me are often skimpy on attendance. There’s something about being around little people with no teeth that is much more satisfying. Marie Reed is a lovely school, if a little oddly appointed. (Partitions offer a reminder of the open education experiment of the 1960s.) Truly, if Christine Reuss, my host, hadn’t been with me, I would never have found my way around. There’s a surprise around every corner. They have a garden that Michelle Obama planted to help them attract butterflies, and they have murals of the late salsa goddess Celia Cruz (¡azucar!) and Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor. The auditorium is an amphitheater. What I loved most about this little gem of a school, though, is that it offers both an English only and a dual language curriculum. This seems so much more sensible to me than trying to teach a language in middle school, when we all know that their tongues go thick and their courage, thin. To see an Asian kindergarten student rattling off “Asi Baila Juanito” like a native is about the loveliest thing I can imagine. I read to the students, told them about how I wrote Tia Isa Wants a Car and Milagros.Then I listened to their songs and dances,…

Read More

Indi Love

By Latino Life, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life

The Southern Independent Booksellers Association conference was this weekend in Charleston, SC — four days of food, free books, and figuring out how on to help independent bookstores duel with Amazon, electronic books, and big box sellers. Un-Chain America is the basic battle cry — and they mean it. Some highlights from #SIBA11: ~First 180 Days Celebration, a sort of meet-and-greet for the booksellers and authors whose books came out in the first half of 2011. As someone who has had her share of quiet book signings, it was nice to have a line of rabid book lovers waiting for a copy of my book. ~The Exhibition Hall: Booksellers who dress in costume! Charms from The Hunger Games. And my favorite find: “A Little Can of Whoop Ass,” which I plan to purchase and put into use right away. (You have been warned.) ~I met fellow Candlewick author Allan Wolf, whose book The Watch That Ends the Night, follows the story (in verse) of an undertaker who came to attend to the dead on the Titanic. Look for it next month. ~I got a present: my very own necklace made from the cover image of Tía Isa Wants a Car. It’s made by All Things Small Pendants, and I plan to wear it proudly. ¡Muchisimas gracias! ~I slipped into the panel discussion called Not Your Mama’s Teen Reads, a fantastic YA panel of Simon & Schuster authors, moderated by Richmond’s own Kelly Justice, owner of Fountain Bookstore. The panelists included Ellen…

Read More

What a tough book can teach you

By The Writing Life

Well, we’re back from the beach and feeling rested in a way that only a seaside vacation can provide. But this year, instead of coming home and feeling gloomy, I had a present waiting for me from my fabulous editor, Kate Fletcher. Ta-da! The galleys for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind due out in March. I started writing this novel a few years ago, thinking it would be the story of  a girl named Sonia, a seasonal crab worker on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Originally, the title was Jaibera – which means “crab girl” in Spanish. If you know anything about crab picking, you know it’s hard and dangerous work. The young women who pick crab these days are increasingly from other countries. They come to feed their families, but they miss home —  and they’re vulnerable. My early manuscripts were met with very mixed results, and the truth is that I almost gave up on this book many times. Was it an adult book or YA? What was most exciting — her life at home in her own country or her life here? And what about that little taxi-boy, Pancho, who kept snagging my attention? Was romance going to be part of this story? I think every book teaches the author something new. My first novel taught me to dare to be a writer. My picture book taught me to try new forms. This novel taught me to be fearless in revision and to have faith that a solution…

Read More

A Back Porch Chat with Writers

By picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life

What are you doing Thursday night? If you’re anywhere near Central Virginia, I’m inviting you to a back porch chat with five authors – all of whom care passionately for strong girls who read.  This is a relaxed night for girls, parents, librarians, and teachers to talk about how books help girls make sense of the world. We’ll look at strong girls and the lessons we’ve learned along the way about raising them, loving them, and writing for them. If you’ve had a chance to visit Girls of Summer, you know we’ve been posting new Q & A’s with the fantastic authors who grace our list. Now, it’s time to meet some of them in person. Please help us welcome: Steve Watkins, What Comes After Valerie O Patterson, The Other Side of Blue Rebecca Lauren, poet, women’s studies professor, and author of In the Fifth Grade Locker Room (special guest) Kaylan Adair, editor at Candlewick Press And  of course, your hosts Gigi Amateau and me. To sweeten the pot, we’re raffling off a complete set of the 18 titles on the Girls of Summer reading list. Feeling lucky? See you then! JRW Writing Show July 28, 6:30 pm, Children’s Museum of Richmond Tickets $10 in advance at www.jamesriverwriters.org

Read More

Tips on book launches

By The Writing Life

This past weekend I celebrated two important milestones: my birthday and the launch of my new picture book. I love birthdays, even though the numbers are getting uncomfortably high. Books signings and launches? Hmmmm. I’m still new enough on the block that I get really excited — and then paralyzed by fear — at the thought of these events. The thought of an empty bookstore is my most gruesome professional fear beyond (1) developing a terminal case writer’s block, and (2) earning bad reviews from places I respect. Luckily, I was spared this time. In fact, I had a great launch that left me feeling grateful for the many blessings I’ve received as a writer. So, by way of sharing helping writers who are getting started, here’s what I learned. Pick a sensible launch spot: Richmond has many big box and fantastic independent bookstores. I chose the magical bbgb tales for kids. It’s  a tiny bookstore with a huge heart, loyal customers, and the kind of personal attention that I need to feel comfortable. Jill, Janessa, Diane, and Juliana love kids, love good books for kids, and they have a creative spirit that I admire. The shop was just the right size for me since I’m a mid-list author right now who needs a cozy spot to fill. You can see  the detail they put into my welcome signs,  the window display, and the refreshments. Plan early: I started my conversation with bbgb about three months out. We decided that 2…

Read More

Girls of Summer

By The Writing Life

It’s nearly 100 degrees in Richmond, and my air conditioner is broken. It’s going to take a lot to make me happy this week, folks. So, thank God for a project I’ve been working on with my friend and fellow Candlewick author, Gigi Amateau.  It’s called Girls of Summer, and it’s our own answer to those official summer reading lists that used to suck the joy out of reading for both of us. How we kept reading, we’ll never know. If you’re not familiar with our stuff, you should know that Gigi and I both write about strong girls. Hers are southern, mine Latina – but we write about tough cookies, and it turns out, those are the same the world over. This summer, as our own beautiful daughters are graduating from high school, we’ve decided to celebrate girl power through the thing we love most: writing. Here’s a little taste of what we have in mind via a Mac-made trailer. (Thank you Chris Cheng at SCBWI for teaching me how!) But you’ll have to be patient. We’re still putting the finishing touches on things. In the next few weeks, we’ll roll out the blog with our selections and why we like them. We hope you’ll comment, read interviews with the authors and enjoy hearing snippets of work. Then on July 28, 2011 we’ll feature the list as part of James River Writers’ July Writing Show in Richmond, VA.  You’ll be able to hang out with librarians, teachers, kids, and writers — and…

Read More

A SURPRISE IN MY MAILBOX: TIA ISA

By The Writing Life

After a long day of sitting at the library, where I wrestled endlessly with a chapter, I came home to a great surprise. My editor, Kate, sent me a finished copy of Tía Isa Wants a Car — my picture book that pubs in June. Thank you Claudio Muñoz for the beautiful, retro art and all of your insights.  Thank you Kate for loving this little story. And muchisimas gracias to the real tía Isa who taught me that everyone has the power to get behind her own wheel.

Read More

BUTTERFLY

By picture book, middle grade, YA

I’ve been reading Sonya Hartnett lately. She’s from Australia — a Candlewick author — and her  prose is just gorgeous.  True, her YA is dark and also borders on adult, but that’s a line that I love to flirt with myself. Besides, isn’t “dark and bordering on adult” an exact definition of adolescence? Just finished BUTTERFLY – which came out last  August.  Several sections veer straight into the adult perspective, but she captures these characters so well that I don’t mind at all. (Cydar is especially fantastic.) Other Hartnett titles I’ve admired:  SURRENDER and THE GHOST’S CHILD.

Read More

¡Mucho gusto!

By Intros, Uncategorized

Introductions are always a little awkward, except when you’re an author meeting kids of any age. Thankfully, they go right for what matters, no small talk. So here, by way of introduction, are my vitals in kid format. I live in Virginia with my family (husband, mother-in-law, three teens), a black, shaggy dog (Noche) and a fierce hunting machine cat named Wolfe. My house is, in fact, messy, especially around deadlines, when I forget to bathe and I wander around mumbling dialogue. My favorite candy is MilkDuds, no matter what my dentist says. I buy the extra big box at the movies every time. I write for about four hours a day at a little desk tucked in my livingroom. When I can’t think of what to write I walk Noche or throw in some laundry. Yes, I speak Spanish and English. My family is from Cuba. No. I’m not especially rich or famous. I don’t need extra big sunglasses or anything. You can ask me other burning questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Read More