Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

Posts tagged ‘Chop Suey Books’

It’s All About Bookish Virginia This Month

I’m back home after a month of coast-to-coast book travel which ended this past weekend in the best way possible. I hung out with English teachers at the Arizona Teachers of English conference and then drove up I-17 for my first-ever trip to The Grand Canyon.

Now I get to do bookish things for a month right here in my home state of Virginia. (It’s not the wide open west, but it’s gorgeous here, especially in the fall.) Whether you’re a young reader or adult, a reader or a writer, there’s something for you.

September 27, 2017, 6 pm, Chop Suey Books, Carytown, Richmond, VA. Join me and members of our local ACLU as we talk about censorship during Banned Books Week. Are you remembering to celebrate it?  Now more than ever, we need to stand up for critical reading.

October 6, 2017, Visiting Riverside High School in Leesburg, VA, where Lauren McBride and her fellow librarians and teachers are doing an incredible job of preparing the Rams for my visit. Looking forward to talking all things Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and Burn Baby Burn.

October 7, 2017, The YAVA Book and Author Party. Richmond Public Library, 101 East Franklin,  offers you a chance to party for an afternoon with Virginia’s YA authors. Food, prizes, and a lot of silliness.

October 13 – 15, James River Writers Conference at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. Have you registered?  I’m doing a master class on writing characters on Friday (held at the Richmond Public Library) and would love to see you.  Then I’ll be part of panels and basically learning alongside everyone else at our annual literary hoe down. Not to be missed – especially if you can slip off to see the Richmond Folk Festival on Sunday, too!

October 19 -21, 2017 Virginia Children’s Book Festival. It’s a star-studded lineup (see for yourself) in one of the most scenic parts of our state. Held at Longwood University, the VA Children’s Book Fest is the perfect serene spot to meet some of our country’s top authors while you roam around Longwood’s beautiful campus. Check out their graphic below. Can you guess some of the writers who are coming?  

¡Feliz Navidad! Now, which social media platform gets axed?

Wordy mom

Wordy mom

We have a holiday tradition at our place. Our Noche Buena table is set with a holiday ornament at each place setting. Each of us has to find the ornament that represents us that year. It’s a fun hunt for the perfect symbol and an interesting way to find your seat. But what I like most is that the ornaments eventually become part of our tree. When we pull out the dusty boxes, the memories are all there.

The year Javier dared to build a new bathroom

The year Javier dared to build a new bathroom

Well, maybe not all. Needless to say, I don’t seek out ornaments to commemorate the uglier side of family life: angry disagreements, deaths, budget headaches, overbearing relatives. (It IS tempting to imagine what symbols I’d put up, though.)

When Tia Isa Wants a Car was published

When Tia Isa Wants a Car was published

It’s not that we don’t acknowledge the sadder days of life. It’s just that there are plenty of reminders of that mess all the time. Instead, I choose to end the year with expressions of how each of us found a way to shine despite it all.

The year Sandra fell in love with running

The year Sandra fell in love with running

The same is true, I suppose, for the author life. Authors use social media to make relationship with readers and to create an identity that’s recognizable to the people who follow our work. It’s not the whole story of us. What we toss-up is a curated version of what it takes to make a living through words. How we curate and where we do so is always a dicey decision. What do we say? What tone do we use? Where do we say it? Are we saying anything useful or just babbling?

God. When Miley Cyrus was Hannah Montana - and Cristina loved her

God. When Miley Cyrus was Hannah Montana – and Cristina loved her

Some of us are more honest about the uglier moments than others.  For me, the photos and events I report are the things that center on my passions: Latino identity, kid lit, feminism, and community. That’s the piece I feel comfortable sharing. The events I catalog have taught me something – good or bad about those things. Sometimes they’re invitations for you to come to an event or simply an invitation to consider an idea that’s rattling around inside my head.

Alex's snare drum days

Alex’s snare drum days

But undeniably most of what I offer up are the happier moments of writing life. Why? Because (1) being able to do this for a living is a rare privilege and (2) I’ll need these memories to sustain me during the weeks when my manuscript isn’t working at all, when I’ve gotten a crappy review, when nobody comes to a signing, when sales are stagnant or when I can’t think of a single clever thing to write about next. Days like that are so predictable in most writers’ lives, but they always feel like a sucker punch to me. That was true very early in my career, and it’s true now.

Anyway, it’s the end of the year, so I’m taking stock this week of all of my social media platforms and will soon make decisions about which to keep and which to ax. It helps to take a pulse once in a while, and this time around my friend Steve Peterson is helping me take inventory and apply some analytics. The decision will boil down to time and benefit. This means finding the sweet spot where personal comfort meets analytics. Going in, I can tell you that at risk right now are my Facebook author page (as opposed to my profile) and my GoodReads account, the latter of which lays so dormant that I am positively ashamed. Steve and I have started talks about how to reach Latino readers while still pushing to remove the sense of “other” from Latino-inspired work. Which formats can I engage with reliably? Which ones duplicate effort? (Oh Lord, all the calendars everywhere!) Which offer no real  gain for me or my readers?

When we adopted Noche

When we adopted Noche

Thinking, thinking, thinking, but I will update you as things unfold.

Meanwhile, I’ll be finishing up the year with three events this week that not only offer me a chance to reflect on old work and new, but also provide me with the joy of throwing back a beer with friends. So here is my curated update (minus my trips to the grocery, doctor’s appointment, argument with Tia Isa over her appetite…)

Our shared addiction to cafe

Our shared addiction to cafe

Thursday, Dec 10: I’m off to Busboys & Poets on NW 5th and K Street in DC, where I’ll be the December luncheon speaker for the Children’s Book Guild of Washington DC, an organization that has been around since 1945. My talk is going to focus on what I’ve learned about the slippery slope of writing culture, dodging soft censorship, and what it’s really going to take to pull Latino kid lit into the mainstream.

Friday, Dec 11: I’ll be at an all-day school visit to Mullen Elementary School in Manassas, VA. It’s always a treat to touch base with my younger readers. My very first job out of college was as a third grade teacher in New York, so I always have a soft spot for elementary school. It’s fun to hang out with kids who’ve lost their front teeth and are prone to random questions. Besides, I’ll get to talk with the fourth and fifth graders about my first (and only ) middle grade novel, Milagros Girl from Away.  

Sunday, Dec 13:  Dozens of Richmond-based authors will be at the free and fabulous Brew Ho-Ho, sponsored by Chop Suey Books and the folks at the Hardywood micro brewery. Come enjoy some jazz and sample concoctions like gingerbread stout. Hope to see you there!

Cariños de,

Meg

 

 

A book birthday – and time to remember las abuelas who inspired the story

MANGO_jacket_for_Meg copyToday is the book birthday for Mango, Abuela and Me – my second picture book, so sweetly illustrated by the talented Angela Dominguez.  So far, so good. It has earned very nice reviews and mentions, including stars in Booklist and PW. Plus, I got word last week that it has gone into its first reprinting, so I’m thrilled, to say the least.

This time around, I’m delaying the launch a couple of weeks until Sunday, September 13, 2015, 1 PM – 3 PM. That’s when my pal, Gigi Amateau (Two for Joy) and I will do a joint book event at bbgb in Carytown to celebrate our new books and, even more important, National Grandparents Day.

According to USA Today, more than 4.9 million kids in America are being raised by their grandparents, a number that basically doubled since 2000. That wasn’t exactly the case for Gigi and me, but our grandmothers helped raise us just the same, and we love them for it. Our own grandmothers are gone, but Grammy, Abuela Bena and Abuela Fefa continue to make impact on us as women, mothers, and authors.

Bena on her wedding day in 1925

Bena on her wedding day in 1925

Benita Metauten was my mother’s mother. She had an eighth grade education and rolled cigars for a living in her family’s small enterprise. She would eventually marry a bicycle salesman, have four children, and find herself in the US. When she arrived from Cuba in 1968 –her nerves in tatters – I wasn’t sure I’d like her. The worried look on her face and the nervous hives that covered her feet frightened me. She became my babysitter after school, though, and our relationship grew. I began to enjoy her strange obsession with Lucha Libre wrestling on  TV, as well as the countless stories of her life in Cuba, stories most people wouldn’t tell a five-year-old:  grisly hurricane deaths, infidelity scandals in her old town, a man who tied up his daughter when she misbehaved, the day my uncle was sent to prison for trying to leave Cuba illegally.  She had no filter, but maybe that’s why I loved her. And more, it was Bena who knew how to cook a proper lechón in our family, and Bena who showed me how to look carefully for rocks in the dry beans and how to use a wine bottle instead of a rolling pin on empanada dough.

Unfortunately, it was also Bena whose anxieties about life in this new country eventually kept my aunts and mother from taking risks on new jobs and better opportunities. If Bena wanted anything in this life at all, it was security and safety, and she would get them at anyone’s expense. She was gentle but she ruled others through her worry and doubt – never a good combination. Over time, her anxieties worsened, so that by the time she was 98 and bedridden, we were all swallowed up in her care. No one could stray far from her bedside without her panicking.

Bena with cotorraStill, in better times, I enjoyed her. It was this grandmother for whom I bought a small parrot one day  at Woolworths. I loved animals, of course, but it was also a little offering to help her feel better about missing Cuba and the beautiful pet parrot she had left behind. That act would be the tiny seed that grew into the manuscript for Mango, Abuela and Me.

Not that the book is all Bena. I had another grandmother, too, whom I fondly recall as the General. Shades of her are in Mango, Abuela and Me, as well. Josefa Medina, known as Fefa, was my father’s mother, and she was another sort of abuela altogether. Sometimes we have grandmothers that we don’t know as well or even ones that make us feel uncomfortable. For a long time, that was Fefa for me.

 

Fefa and me in Queens. She made me that stylish maxi dress

Fefa and me in Queens. She made me that stylish maxi dress

Fefa was clear-eyed, tough, and unsentimental. But she was undoubtably one of the smartest and most moral women I ever knew. It was fascinating to watch her move through the world. She had only a sixth grade education, but what she lacked in formal schooling, she more than made up for in practical sense, dignity, perseverance, and a sense of duty. Her own life had started out with poverty and family troubles. (She and her siblings were dispersed among far-flung relatives when her father realized he couldn’t feed them. She was married at 14 and a mother of two by age 16, a fact that still pains me when I think about it.) But these hard experiences made her determined to build a stable family. She raised my father, who became a doctor, and my aunt, who went on to become a pharmacist.

Fefa disapproved of my parents’ marriage – sure that it would never work. She even stubbornly boycotted their wedding. But a few years later, she was utterly mortified by their divorce and was heartsick over what it might mean for my sister and me. She responded by insisting on staying involved in our lives. A seamstress in New York’s garment district, she would sew my annual wardrobe and deliver it every June for my birthday – a huge economic relief for my mother. Shorts, dresses, pants suits – each piece was laid out on my bed with pride so that it could be photographed and admired. It was even Fefa who bought me my first bikini at Ohrbachs in New York when I was thirteen. It was a day-glo orange and yellow number – certainly skimpy by her standards. I still remember how her eye twitched in disapproval when I stepped out of the dressing room. She had promised me a bathing suit, though, and Fefa was always good on her word.

My birthday wardrobe stash from Fefa

My birthday wardrobe stash from Fefa

Still, in daily interactions, there was nothing soft about my grandmother, and she scared me. She was an iron-fisted woman who demanded things her way. This was not an adult to whom you could confess your hate of tomatoes in your salad, for example. You ate them and shut up. And worse, she didn’t really appreciate my brand of girl. Fefa had antiquated and unshakable ideas about femininity, – a fact that was so suffocating as a kid. I was never allowed to play outside with my cousin Diego and his band of rough boys when I visited, for instance. I’d have to sit on the stoop miserably while they played tag all around me.

But maybe life wears down everyone’s rough edges eventually. This was certainly true for Fefa. Years into my adulthood – after I had become a mother and lived nearby with her great-grandchildren in Florida – Fefa and I finally seemed to soften toward each other. Maybe I had finally started to realize how the harsh events of her life had shaped her. Or maybe she took pity seeing me juggle three little kids and a career. I don’t know the exact catalyst, but there was definitely a change. And while I can’t say I was ever her favorite grandchild, I think in the end she saw that the wild child with knots in her hair and scabby knees had managed to turn out all right after all. When I hold this book, I wonder if maybe she’d even be proud to know that I thought of her and Bena on every page.

Holy communion with las abuelas_NEW

My holy communion day with Fefa and Bena

All of my books explore family in one way or another. Maybe that’s my life’s work, who knows? The dynamics of people who love each other deeply and sometimes hurt each other anyway is endlessly interesting to me. With Mango, Abuela and Me, I think even the youngest reader can relate to feeling tentative about a grandparent or feeling a divide, whether it’s language that is the obstacle or something else. But I hope families who come to this story also discover the strength to be found when we connect across the generations of our families. That’s what I found out, anyway. We learn our own story by learning the story of all those imperfect people who came before us. We take our place inside the long, unfolding tale of our own people.

 

Can’t make the official launch event? Signed copies of Mango, Abuela and Me are available starting today at Chop Suey Books at 2913 W Cary Street, RVA.  Call Ward and let him know you’d like to have one! 804 422 8066 or e-mail info@chopsueybooks.com

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