Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

Posts tagged ‘Ellen Oh’

March Madness – Bookish-style

I’ve been writing like a crazy woman against an upcoming deadline for a new middle grade novel. Right now, I’m at the point when I’m turning to algebra for some sort of comfort –which is a stretch, considering that math was always my worst subject. Still, in my head, I keep looping a word problem that goes like this: “Meg has 140 pages written. If she writes 2 pages a day for 3 days per week and then tosses one page a week, when will she reach an arbitrary  (but kind of respectable) number like 250 pages? And, more important, will they be good?”

Anyway, I’ve been working fairly close to home since December, which has felt like a blessing. It’s quiet. I have the comfort of my coffee pot, my dog, stretchy pants and fuzzy slippers. I can slip into someone else’s wonderful book when I’m lost. (Thank you Kelly Barnhill for The Girl Who Drank the Moon.) My spring calendar is almost all within the mid Atlantic, too.

But there are a few presentations to mention. As I look ahead to March, I have a day trip to Orlando for a Girl Bullying and Empowerment Conference and  a few school visits. (Schedule here). In the spirit of staying close to home, though, I especially wanted to highlight two events that are happening in my area, in case you want to join in.

The first is a shared book talk at the University of Richmond with my good friend, Lila Quintero Weaver.  Several literature and Spanish classes have read Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass as well as Lila’s painstakingly researched graphic memoir, Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White (2012), which chronicles her family’s experience as Argentine immigrants in Alabama during the height of the civil rights struggle. (See what I loved about it in my post on Girls of Summer.)  Darkroom is soon to release in a Spanish edition (Cuarto Oscuro), translated by Dr. Karina Vázquez.

lila-and-meg-talk-march-2017-poster-image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I instantly adored that book, and upon meeting Lila, felt the same about her. Anyone who knows her will tell you that she’s talented and gracious, but you might also like to know that she’s one of the forces behind Latinxs in Kid Lit, one of my reliable go-to places for finding new authors and titles. And, best of all, I hear there’s a new book, The Year in the Middle Row, coming from her in 2018 through Candlewick.

9781101934593On the other end of March, is my state’s joyous VA Festival of the Book. There is so much good stuff in there this year – including Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston on Sunday. (His new book is A Life in Parts.) I hope you’ll take the time to go through the schedule and spend some time in Charlottesville. As always, there is something for everyone.

I am in moderator mode this time around, but I’ve got quite a seat. On Saturday morning, March 25 (10 am, Village School), kids and teachers will have the pleasure of welcoming Soman Chainani (The School of Good and Evil), Ellen Oh (The Prophecy series) and me as we talk about our work in Flying Lessons & Other Stories. The anthology has earned five starred reviews and has been mentioned in Time Magazine and Entertainment Weekly, too. Grab a kid, and come join us!

The day couldn’t end on a brighter note than my afternoon panel (4 PM, Omni Monroe Room.) Drawing and Writing Libros will be a conversation among Pure Belpré-winning picture book authors and illustrators on books, culture, access, and publishing. The authors are this year’s Pura Belpré winner, Juana Medina (no relation, sadly), veteran Lulu Delacre, and the lovely Angela Dominguez. Please spread the word! Meanwhile, here’s a little taste of an art talk Juana did on how she created her award-winning artwork for Juana and Lucas.

 

 

 

To read your own or hire actors? My first audio book experience.

A happy day and a slightly disappointing day.

First, a huge congratulations to all the authors who made the short list for the National Book Award this morning. Kate DiCamillo, Jason Reynolds, John Lewis/Andrew Ayden/Nate Powell, Grace Lin and Nicola Yoon have written beautiful books. I wish I had made the cut, too, but the truth is that every one of those authors is deserving. Standing ovation from over here in Richmond.

Richmond 2016

Richmond 2016

So, this is how I spent my morning instead. I did my first audiobook recording at Red Amp 9WG Studios. I was reading the short story “Sol Painting Inc,” from Flying Lessons & Other Stories.

The middle grade fiction collection, edited by Ellen Oh, is due on shelves in Jan 2017. So far, it’s gotten two starred reviews, so I’m hoping it makes its way into classrooms far and wide. I love the stories inside – so many styles and perspectives, which we sorely need.

I wasn’t sure I could do an audio interpretation, but the draw for me was that it has always been strange to hear the characters inside my head in someone else’s voice. Still, there was the issue of whether I could stomach the sound of my own voice on an audio track.

In the end, it was pretty painless, and the engineers and audio directors were great. This may turn me on to reading my own novels as audiobooks. Who knows? 9781101934593

DIA events rule my world this week

image001-4Ah, breakfast at home.

I’m just back from Loudoun County Public Library in Northern Virginia, where I spoke at It’s All Write, their annual short story writing contest for teens.

With Bev and Wright Horton

With Bev and Wright Horton

It’s always amazing to me how many unexpected gifts are part of these visits. I got to see the work of young people coming up the ranks – always fun. This time around, too, I learned about how Loudoun has a book club for adults with developmental disabilities. (Guess what I’m interested in starting here in Richmond?) I met librarians who are secret playwrights and novelists. I met young people who want to study children’s book illustration. And, of course, I had the honor of meeting Bev and Wright Horton, a former teacher and a geologist, who are the long time benefactors of the program that touches hundreds and hundreds of kids in their area. They do so in honor of their late son, James, who loved writing. “James would have loved this contest,” Bev told me. Personal loss redirected into something positive for a community confirmed for me AGAIN that the literary arts – the stories of all of us – are a powerful force for connection and healing.

So for all of that, thank you (camera-shy)Linda Holtslander for the invitation to Loudoun County and for the chance to spend time with the amazing people at Park View HS, Tuscarora HS, and the Rust Library.

Writing at Palm View HS!

Writing at Park View HS!

My Cuban friend - Ms. Maria Clemens.

My Cuban friend – Ms. Maria Clemens.

I don’t have too much time to savor the downtime, but it’s for a good cause. This week marks DIA (April 30) – now known as Diversity in Action, so the next few days are all about inclusive literature for me. Check out my guest post as part of the DIA blog hop, organized by Latinas for Latino Lit. All week, Latino children’s book writers will explore the theme of immersion. I got matched with atypical familia, a blog about family, culture, and disabilities. I’m a guest there today talking about language, family connection, and how that looked in my own family.

DIA UPDATED INVITE copyAt the risk of driving you crazy, here’s a reminder:  If you’re in the DC area, don’t forget that you can join me at a free symposium at the Library of Congress Young Reader’s Center. Kwame Alexander, Ellen Oh, Tim Tingle, Gigi Amateau and moderator Deb Taylor. (That’s a lot of good thinking in one room, if you ask me.) We’ll be looking at teen books and representations of family through various cultural lenses.  I like that Karen Jaffe, the head of the YRC, targeted teens in this DIA event. Typically teens get the short straw for these celebrations. They’re asked to help with the crafts for younger kids, for example. This program addresses their literature and lives directly. I’m also grateful that the panel includes authors from many vantage points talking on a universal topic, rather than strictly about diversity. In coming years, I hope we’ll see events like this repeated with more and more underrepresented voices at the table talking about all sorts of topics within the world of books and young people. Diversity means everybody and six people can’t represent every voice.

ci_logowtagFinally, I’ll wrap up  the week by driving up the road to Frederick, Maryland where  The Curious Iguana has organized a teen and diverse lit event on May 1. Look for me with my pals from We Need Diverse Books.

Ok – time to unpack, do laundry, and head out again.

Cariños de,

Meg

The Old English Teacher in Me goes to NCTE

I’m heading for my last appearance of 2014 this weekend, and it’s a celebration of a few things and, in a way, a full circle.

Meg and Javier just married_NEW

Our big day at St. Andrew’s in Flushing, Queens

First, it’s my husband’s birthday.  Here we are over 30 years ago when we got married – much against everyone’s advice due to our age, the fact that we hadn’t finished college yet, that we were broke, and that, frankly, we were somewhat incompatible in terms of our interests. Well, we finished college; the rest is kind of the same. I honestly can’t remember not knowing Javier. We met at the factory where both our mothers worked when they first arrived in the US. It would later be the same factory where we got our first summer jobs being bored to death testing transistors alongside our mothers. Those of you who have already met him know that this hot-headed mess is a truly lovely man, a solid dad, and for me, the whole world.

Unfortunately, he’s stuck with a birthday that falls on the same day that President Kennedy was shot, and also so near Thanksgiving that he often has to share the fun with the dead bird and its dressings. This year, it also falls during the NCTE Annual Convention, too. Miss his birthday? Yikes! So, since the conference is being held at the fancy schmantzy Gaylord Resort in Alexandria, he’s coming along. Javier isn’t a book man. He works in health care. So, the guy who struggles with commas but deciphers the hardest math or science problems is going to go party with the nation’s English teachers, authors, and librarians. (Happy Birthday, I think….)

At the Palm Beach County School of the Arts, 1992

At the Palm Beach County School of the Arts, 1992

For me, it’s different. Being at NCTE is like a gigantic homecoming. I was a creative writing teacher at an arts magnet school for a few years in the 1990’s, a job I truly loved. Maybe it’s in my blood. I come from a long line of teachers, all the way back to my grandfather, Cleto Antonio Metauten, who taught in rural Cuba. My mom and aunts were all teachers in Cuba, too.

My grandfather with his students in Cuba

My grandfather with his students in Cuba

I remember distinctly my life in the world of middle and high school education. Here’s the stuff I hated: hall passes, bus duty, meetings, occasionally mean kids, never having enough time to grade papers. But I loved laughing with students and watching them experiment and create strong work.

NCTE helped shape me back then. I’d always wait for my copy of The English Journal, an NCTE publication, so I could get edgy ideas about how to make English come alive for the kids who spent their day with me. That’s what these organizations do for the educators who do the heavy lifting of inspiring kids and educating them. It keeps them thinking and connected outside of their own classroom. That’s why administrators shouldn’t skimp on sending teachers to conferences. An investment in a teacher yields growth and optimism in the classroom so far beyond just one teacher. It touches every kid who comes through his or her class.

But what I also remember of my time as a teacher is that I knew I might be in the wrong place, despite how much I loved my students. I was always secretly hoping to find the courage to write something myself. Sadly, in my twenties, I just didn’t have the courage to step out into a life in the arts. I worried about health insurance and stability. I worried that I would miss my students. I worried that I would fail; then, what?

In time, teaching helped lead me to writing anyway. I approached slowly, studying craft and teaching at an arts magnet school in Florida. Eventually, I published tiny pieces in local papers, a few poems, an essay here and there, working slowly, slowly on having the nerve to say, I’m an author. I was trying to do exactly what I was trying to teach my students to do:  Dare to make a living doing what I loved.  I wonder how many of the teachers I will meet this weekend are looking for the same courage?

It has been a busy year of travel since last January, and I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving with Javier and our children – and to several uninterrupted weeks to finish edits on my next novel.  It will be so nice to pack away the suitcases for a while and get back to the place where the joy is really found: in making the work.

But this weekend, if you’re at #ncte14, please stop by to say hello (and happy birthday to Javier.) Otherwise, Happy Turkey Day, everyone, and thank you for all the reading and support and friendship that you sent my way this year.

 

Cariños de,

Meg

FULL NCTE CONFERENCE SCHEDULE HERE:

Meg’s schedule

Saturday: Nov 22, 2014

2: 45 PM We Need Diverse Books panel (with Ellen Oh, I.W. Gregorio and leaders of the NEA and NCTE) on what’s happening with the movement and how you can diversify your class readings.

4:15 PM, Signing at Candlewick Booth #319 – 321

Sunday: Nov 23, 2014

Signing at ABC Fair booth #153

1:30 – 2:45 Are We Creating a Nation of Impatient Readers: YA authors on writing compelling realism. (With Bill Konigsburg, Sandra Neil Wallace, Rich Wallace, Chris Crutcher)

 

Philly, Vicks VapoRub, Kids & Me

The view from my hotel room. Across from Shakespeare Park is the Free Library

The view from my hotel room …across from the Free Library

Pretty enough to eat…so I did…

I’m back from Philly where I stayed at the lovely Four Seasons Hotel, a guest of the Free LIbrary of Philadelphia. The hotel is every bit as cushy as you’d expect. Chandeliers, thick rugs, polite people at every, single turn.  The staff even made me a beautiful candy version of the book cover for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind – which was both astoundingly lovely and funny. I was there to speak about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, after all. Hmmm. I would have LOVED to have been a fly on the wall when the dessert guru had to decide what to do.

 

Anyway, I spent the day as part of library’s well-regarded Field Family Teen Author Series, an endowed program that brings authors and books to students at no cost to their school. (Attention People of Means and Nice Shoes!  Consider doing this in your community, too!)

The high school students in my groups were amazing. A sampling: Students with visual impairments who heard the audio version of Yaqui. Young people who were in a GED program and trying to get themselves back on track. A charter school that is over 90% Latino – and their teacher who is an aspiring author, too.

MPSWe met at a branch in the Kensington area – decidedly NOT the Four Seasons ambiance. But it’s a dead ringer for the Queens that I knew growing up, right down to the trains running overhead the way they do in Corona, Jackson Heights, Jamaica and lots of other Queens neighborhoods. Kensington is fighting crime and serious decay with the help of organizations like Impact Services Corporation which helped make a playground, organized more police protection, and hosted a Halloween celebration for the families just last week. (The fake cobwebs were still clinging to the ceiling.) It’s always an inspiration to see people reclaim their own neighborhoods, especially when they keep young people at the front of their thinking. It’s all the better when those efforts use the literary arts in their arsenal, too.

Any author will tell you that traveling can be exciting, but it can be hard, too (fancy hotel rooms notwithstanding). We’re away from our own families, and sometimes we get weary of presenting the same material. But for me it’s also true that all of that disappears when you are in the room with kids who are reading your book. Teens ask you hard questions: Was it weird to write the sex scenes?  Do you think of this as a confessional book? Did the real Yaqui ever kick your ass? What advice can you give us?

I’m never sure what’s coming my way except that we usually get to talk about hard decisions and boundaries of all kinds. Most gratifying of all, though, I get to hear kids say powerful things about books and identity, things that leave me breathless and humbled.

“It was so cool to see a Dominican like me as a main character. Thank you for that.”

“Thank God you mentioned Vicks VapoRub. My mother rubs that all over me when I’m sick. Nobody else understands.”

“I could picture everything you said. It’s just like this in my house.”

And there you have it: the thing that’s most important about writing in celebration of all kinds of kids and families. It provides young people with their own story. It gives them relief from stereotype. It offers them the message that they matter and that their tale should be captured.

WDNB_withtag copySo, I’ll close with this: A lot of you know that the We Need Diverse Campaign is in the last leg of raising money on IndiGogo. (This morning we were a little over 80K on our way to $100K.) I donated early, and I have volunteered to be their mouthpiece wherever I go. The executive team, lead by Ellen Oh, is an amazing group of people who feel this mission in their bones. They are working hard to make our school and public libraries places where all kids can see themselves in a book.

You can donate a buck if that’s what you’ve got, or you can reach deep and donate in return for amazing perks that have been provided by some of the country’s most talented writers, illustrators, editors, and agents. Please consider helping.

Thanks. Until next week…when I’m in Austin Texas…

Cariños de,

Meg

 

Meg’s next appearance:  YA Lit Symposium, Austin, Texas.Nov 14 – 16, 2015d9ae9396-4c54-4caf-973e-2847c176036d

 

You Want More Diverse Lit: Step 2

You’re on a quest for more diverse literature for the young people in your life? Last week, I pointed you to CBC Diversity. Here’s the next thing you can do: Make a point to meet the authors, editors, bloggers, and librarians with a passion for that area. Seek them out. Make relationship. We’re friendly.

Sarah Guillory, Ellen Oh and me. NOVA Teen Book Fest

Sarah Guillory, Ellen Oh and me. NOVA Teen Book Fest

Example: This past week I met Ellen Oh (among other amazing YA authors) at the Northern Virginia Teen Book Festival – and it didn’t take long for us two former New Yorkers to start putting our heads together on what we can do in the Mid Atlantic region to promote multicultural lit to all kids. She pubs with HarperTeen, and her latest is Warrior, which features Kira, a dragon-slaying ancient Korean girl on a quest. Ellen is kind of a dragon slayer, too. She’s from Brooklyn, by her own admission speaks lousy Korean, and is determined to break stereotypes. Stay tuned.

4104444I’m on the road this week to the National Latino Children’s Literature Conference held at the University of Alabama. That would be Tuscaloosa…which means cars, planes, vans to get there. It’s absolutely worth it, as far as I’m concerned. (Look at the lineup.) It’s the brainchild of Dr. Jamie Campbell Naidoo who has published widely on Latino lit, but also on the power of diverse books in general. I’ll be talking about YAQUI, the Pura Belpré prize, and what my own plans are to help authors and librarians reach wider audiences. I’ll also be meeting library science students, bloggers, and fellow authors who love what I love and who work hard at it, too. In the end, we all make the tapestry together. 

Dr. Jamie Naidoo's 2013 release

Dr. Jamie Naidoo’s 2013 release

So, something for you to ponder: When you choose conferences to attend, are you looking for those that feature multicultural authors in the lineup?

If you plan conferences, are you making significant efforts to include diverse authors beyond discussions about culturally specific literature?

Hmmmm….more soon! Off to the airport!

Cariños de,

Meg