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Gigi Amateau

A letter to RVA about Girls of Summer 2017

By Community work, The Writing Life

January 16, 2017 It’s MLK Day in our nation, during a time when our country is heartbreakingly fractured. On Saturday, January 14, 2017, the two of us took a stand and walked in the March on Monument, a peaceful coming together of the various social justice groups that serve the Richmond community.  Two thousand or so of our neighbors stood shoulder to shoulder chanting a call and response: Show Me What Democracy Looks Like! THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE! What do we need? LOVE. When do we need it? NOW. What do we need? Unity. When do we need it? NOW. There were older women and men. Parents pushing strollers and carrying signs. Old Basset hounds. Seasoned activists and college students. Wheelchair users. Artists, writers, musicians. And, members of the faith community. Looking around, we saw our community celebrating diversity and inclusion at the statue of Robert E. Lee asking, How do we knit ourselves together in strength? How can we make our community a place where all people are respected and cared for? What can each of us offer? We had been thinking long and hard about Girls of Summer, our curated reading list for strong girls, now approaching its seventh year. To be frank, last year, we wondered if it might be time to let the list go. Exhausted and overscheduled, we could point to dozens of other reading lists for girls to choose from. But then the world got upended in deep and disturbing ways, most…

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Are you a YA author from VA? Win $2K here!

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

Richmond Public Library has stepped forward to promote young adult books in Virginia – and I mean in a big way. Actually, in two thousand big ways. If you’re a writer for teens in the Commonwealth, you may be eligible to win the $2,000 literature prize. (WOWZA!) YAVA (Young Adult Virginia) is an annual teen book event, now in its fourth year. It features the works of Virginia authors who have had an upper middle grade or  young adult novel published that year. It’s free and open to the public for teachers, librarians, and book fans who want to meet and hear from our state’s fine stable of authors, whether new to publishing or seasoned.  The event is scheduled for October 12, 2017, 6- 8:30 PM at the Main branch of the Richmond Public Library. Here’s the Facebook page. The award is selected in a combination of public voting and judges, who pick the winner from among the finalists. Last year, Anne Holton was the honorary judge. (Yep, Tim Kaine’s spouse and our Secretary of Education.) She selected Gigi Amateau’s Come August, Come Freedom as the winner. Important rules to note: Winners are selected from the previous year’s publications. Plus the author has to have been present at the live YAVA event at the library to be eligible. PLEASE take the time to vote on the 2015 title you think is most deserving. Then, do your YA authors a favor and circulate the survey widely. (Nobody’s allowed to launch vote-for-me campaigns, though….

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DIA events rule my world this week

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

Ah, 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. 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. I don’t have too much time to savor the downtime, but it’s for a…

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The Literary Activist: When writing moves beyond your computer

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

Picture the fervor of a rock concert smashed into book geekdom and strong girls. That’s the Girls of Summer live launch party, being held tonight, June18, 7 pm at the Richmond Public Library (Main branch). Gigi and I started the project four years ago, and it has grown into a vibrant partnership that has galvanized our local library, improving their children’s and teens circulation numbers– not to mention their good mood. More importantly, it has connected girls in Richmond not only to good books but also to their own sense of what it means to be a strong girl in 2014. When we started this, Gigi and I couldn’t have guessed how it would grow.  The idea was so simple. We had both used books so heavily in helping us raise our own daughters. What were the books we’d recommend to girls and their moms now? Each year, we answer that question with the help of 20 or so exceptionally talented and generous authors who think girls are amazing, too.  We’ve had the titans in children’s literature, like Jacqueline Woodson, and we’ve had debut authors, like this year’s Hannah Barnaby. What matters to us is the story and the celebration of as diverse a group of girls as possible. Our librarians and local friends help, too, as photographers, as copyeditors, as designers, as event planners. The sum total is a notable blog and a live launch event that has moved us from little mentions in local events calendars to articles…

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Women’s Media Center Live

By Appearances

My third grade art teacher was the first woman I ever knew to put “Ms.” before her name. I remember almost nothing about her except that astounding decision – and the fact that she let us dance to Helen Reddy’s  I Am Woman for our after school club performance. She was probably the first feminist I ever met, and thankfully she left an imprint on her little charges. A few years later, I was already reading my sister’s Ms. Magazines, and eventually I went on to a life that’s been about writing stories that in one way or another advocate for girls. So this weekend, when I was featured on the Women’s Media Center Live podcast, I was thrilled. WMCL is a weekly broadcast out of DC. It’s a project of a larger initiative called the Women’s Media Center which was founded in 2005 by feminist icons Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan. What I like about the podcast is that the guests are widely varied, (Anita Hill, Jimmy Carter, just two quick examples). I also like that Robin Morgan tackles any thorny topic with grace and brains. You can catch it every Saturday morning, but you can download episodes via i-tunes if you miss the 11 am EST stream. This week, Robin and I talked about lots of things: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, how librarians are truly the butt-kicking heroes,  Girls of Summer, REFORMA, and my favorite lists for finding pro-girl multicultural books. Check out Women’s Center Live on Facebook or twitter (@wmclive). Subscribe…

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ALA Midwinter in Philly

By Appearances, Awards and news

Just a quick hello from ALA Midwinter in Philly, where I have re-learned how to walk for miles in six-degree weather. Ice, slush, cold toes, runny nose…I’d almost forgotten what it feels like to live in a place that keeps moving regardless of the weather. As I ride home on the Amtrak, I’m feeling so grateful for some of these favorite moments: Setting out on the train with two of my dearest writing friends, A.B. Westrick and Gigi Amateau. The whole train was filled with librarians. (I’m looking at you Lucinda Whitehurst, among others!) It had a Hogwarts sort of feel to it. We decided to stay in a Bed and Breakfast instead of a standard hotel. Cheaper and cooler, in my book. We were at Casa Buono in the Italian section of Philly.  The view from my window. Kat, Dana, and Laura- the goddesses of The Virginia Shop hauled all their quirky literary wares to the Convention Center, fought for parking spots, and kept us all laughing. Here they are during our wonderful Asian dinner at Sampan on S. 13th Street. I also enjoyed a great meal at the Candlewick Press Family Ho-down at Supper (South Street) on Friday night. (Thanks again, Andie!) No kidding: I met Jen Delgado from Delaware. (No relation, THANK GOD to Yaqui!) Always cool to see books by friends. Here are the galleys for Sandra and Rich Wallace’s new novel, BABE CONQUERS THE WORLD (Cawkins Creek/Highlights). Fans of strong girls and sports should look for it in March 2014. Had a…

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Strap on some literary walking shoes for a new class at University of Richmond

By Guests, The Writing Life

Meet Angela Leeper, the Director of Curriculum Material Center at the University of Richmond, a native Virginian who relocated to Richmond four years ago. Turns out, that’s great news for our city’s literary scene. Angela has served on YALSA‘s prestigious Printz Award and Morris Award Committees; reviews children’s and YA lit for Booklist, Kirkus, and BookPage; and is currently collaborating with educators across the state to create the Virginia Readers’ Choice for high school. Since moving here, she’s not only been absorbing Richmond’s  history, but as a children’s and young adult literature specialist, she’s reached out to local authors, too. This January, she’ll combine both those interests in a course for educators who love kids books, local history – and walking. Children and YA in RVA, a reading and walking tour of children’s literature in our city, will be offered at the University of Richmond from January 22 – April 30. Registration is open NOW, so hurry. (See below) It’s not everyone who sees a clear path between kids books and a good pair of walking shoes, but exploring her new city sparked the idea. “After many afternoons walking in and around RVA, I imagined how exciting it would be to offer a class like this to educators,” she says.  After discovering that no class like it existed, she created  Children and YA in RVA, a professional development course for teachers, librarians, and other educators interested in learning about Richmond’s literature and history – and  bringing that information back to their classrooms. The course will include visits from local historians and authors,…

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Virginia Book Lovers: This is the week for you!

By Appearances, Community work

This is the week to be proud to be a Virginian, especially if you’re a book geek like me. The Literary Festival of Virginia is back. It has been  gaining national attention over the years, thanks to the impressive list of  bookish events you can find in this state. One event that I hope is on your radar is right here in Richmond. If you’re a fan of books for young readers,  we want to see you at Teen ’13  at the Richmond Public Library on October 17, 6 – 8:30 PM. Food, music, authors, books, free stuff, all in one place. The fifteen Virginia authors who are coming offer a mind-blowing range of styles and topics. The books – all 2013 releases — are about psychic powers, romance, religious zealots, racism, canaries in coal mines, circus freaks, the KKK, bullies, military families, Darfur, dementia, horses, angels, courtiers, girls in juvie hall – you name it. See for yourself on the final schedule and the author list here. Teen ’13 program_proof2 (2) Oh, and to sweeten the deal even more, there’s free stuff: six $25 gift cards to Fountain Bookstore (which will be on hand that night); three winners of 30-minute video chats with an author of their choice; and an autographed collection of the entire list of books. Huge smooches to the Hanover High School Jazz band for their talents and to the Friends of the Library who funded the food, the space and all the prizes. (And buttons. Did I…

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Read Local: You’re invited to Teen ’13

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

Mark your fall calendars, teen book lovers. You’re invited to Teen ’13, a literary party that will celebrate Virginia’s homegrown talents.  If you’ve had the chance to sink your teeth into a local Virginia peach this summer, you already know why it makes sense to buy local.  But you shouldn’t limit yourself to buying local food. You can feel  good about “reading local,” too – especially if you’re a fan of teen fiction. That’s because Virginia has an impressive bench when it comes to authors. We’re home to New York Times bestsellers and to authors who have won the Newbery Award, the Hans Christian Anderson Award, the National Book Award, and other top literary prizes. And that’s to say nothing of the hefty number of Virginia authors whose works regularly grace the annual “Best of” lists  that recognize the top books for kids each year. Free and open to the public, Teen ’13 will give book fans of all ages a chance to gather at the Richmond Public library to enjoy food and drinks, buy books, meet their favorite authors in person and win everything from indi bookstore gift certificates and free Skype visits to autographed copies of books and more. Fourteen Virginia authors will attend – all of whom have new releases in 2013. (Teen 13 authors and book blurbs.) It’s exciting enough to have all those creative types in one place. But what’s most satisfying to me is that teen fiction – or YA, if you prefer –  will be part of…

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I Can Almost Smell the Sunscreen: Girls of Summer 2013

By Community work, picture book, middle grade, YA

[wpvideo KSVNExkw] It’s almost that time again!  Gigi and I are putting the very last touches on Girls of Summer 2013, our annual curated reading list of summer reads for strong girls. Two dates for you: June 10, 2013:  the new list and our reviews will go live on the blog (www.girlsofsummerlist.wordpress.com) June 18, 2013:  Our live launch party 7 pm at Library Park, behind the main branch of the Richmond Public Library. 101 East Franklin Street, Richmond, VA. Free and open to the public. Refreshments, book giveaways, and an author panel with Jeri Watts and Kristen Paige Madonia. Hope you enjoy our new trailer!

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Scenes for the Girls of Summer Live Launch

By Appearances, Community work, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life, Uncategorized

The Girls of Summer 2012 site is live — 18 great summer reads for girls! But here are some shots from a truly magical night under the shady trees of Library Park in Richmond, VA. More than 100 girls, moms, librarians, teachers, and friends gathered for ice cream, book talks, and a chance to meet the fabulous Wendy Shang, author of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu. Thank you to everyone at the Richmond Public Library, to bbgb tales for kids (our bookseller), to Penelope Carrington for filming, and to the Ice Cream Connection for the fantastic refreshments and music! Winners of our picture book, chapter book, and early middle grade bag of books! Cute or what?

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Back again! Girls of Summer 2012

By Appearances, Community work, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_Dy8cZJlhI] Ah, it’s almost time to kick back and read the way you’re supposed to read in the summer: curled in a hammock or beach chair. Here comes Girls of Summer 2012.  Gigi Amateau and I are updating our curated reading list  with 18 new titles for this summer. It’s an absolute joy to work on this project for a second year. I get to read (or re-read) books that I think celebrate girls, share time with a close friend, and talk to authors I’ve long admired all summer long. It doesn’t get better. You’ll find the spiffy new list and our comments on the website starting June 20. (We’re under construction now with updates, so please be patient.) But what I really want you to do is save the night of June 19, 2012, 7 – 9 pm and join us at the Richmond Public Library for the live launch. It’s free. It’s fun. It’s the best thing you can do on a Tuesday night. Were you there for our inaugural event last year? We promise another crazy, fun-filled evening, complete with book giveaways, summer refreshments (think popsicles) and authors on hand. Mark the date! Oh — and don’t forget Anita Silvey will be speaking on children’s books at the library this Saturday, May 19. Not to be missed if you are even remotely interested in books for young people. She’s amazing.

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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…

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Beloved Little Blogs

By The Writing Life

I had stopped by his roadside stand in Florida to admire the potted bougainvilleas. Their color caught my eye. Mine at home were skimpy on blooms despite fertilizers.“What’s the secret?” I asked the guy, dazzled. “Plants are like beautiful women,” he explained in Spanish. “You have to neglect them a little to make them want to show themselves to you.” Don’t worry. I didn’t buy a single plant from that imbecile. Still, all these years later, I realize his silly theory might work just fine for blogs. That’s because Marci Rich, blogger at Midlife Second Wife, selected my very often-neglected blog as one of her nominees for the Liebster Award. As far as I can tell, the Liebster is a love note-meets-chain-letter  for blogs. In getting this award, my blog was cheered on by Marci as one of her small time favorites (fewer than 200 followers) – and (best part) I get to pay it forward and pick 3 – 5 of my own favorite small blogs to announce. Like a lot of us, I read the larger blogs. A friend recently pointed me to Jane Friedman’s Being Human at Electric Speed, which is wonderful for writers. I also love Being Latino and Bicultural Mom, mostly for all the inside jokes and experiences that are shared. But this award is for the bitty blogs. So, first and foremost, a big thanks to Marci Rich, for reading my blog and nominating it. And now….¡Atención señores! My favorites: Gail Shepherd; Paradoxy  Gail Shepherd and…

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My December reading list

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

I did some holiday shopping today, but to treat myself kindly (and to avoid becoming a lunatic by Noche Buena), I made a pit stop at my favorite public library. That’s the Tuckahoe Area library in Henrico, VA, where the librarians make me feel like family and don’t mind walking me around to the different shelves like a lost puppy. These days I’m on the hunt for books at every age group that really dazzle me for their appeal for girls. (All suggestions welcome.) You might remember that I’m half the brains behind Girls of Summer with my friend, Gigi Amateau. We are spending this winter and spring discovering new writers and dreaming of what will make our Must Reads for 2012. Vicky Smith at Kirkus recently posted a nifty list of best books for 2011, so naturally I got curious. Very helpful, as it’s divided by categories. I picked up Inside and Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai and The Fires Beneath the Sea by Lydia Millet on her recommendation. Then, because I’m a browser, I grabbed How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr (Nat’l Book Award finalist for Story of a Girl) and Mary Hooper’s Fallen Grace, which the Times of London compared to Philip Pullman’s work on Victorian life. Finally, I took a drive to my closest indie bookstore, bbgb, where a team of design “elves” were making snowflakes and other store decorations. I picked up Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. If you follow Shelf Awareness, you know…

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Why Writers Should Run Away

By The Writing Life

I never outgrew my fantasies of running away from home. When I was little, I wanted to leave Queens and live on a tropical island instead. Later as a teen, I imagined the pleasure of ditching my mother and renting an apartment of my very own in Manhattan. These days, I fantasize about living in Italy for a year. You know, eating, writing, drinking, writing, pedaling my bike through the hillside with a loaf of bread in the wire basket. Sweet fantasies one and all. In all these years, though, I’ve never managed to escape the way I hoped. One thing or another (life? money? my lack of nerve?) always seemed to get in the way. But things are finally looking up, if on a modest scale.  On the spur of the moment, four friends and I — all writers — are heading to the gorgeous mountains of Virginia. The Porches is a rambling 1854 farmhouse on the James River run by authors Bill and Trudy Hale. It offers gorgeous grounds,  a private room, walking trails, WiFi, and a communal kitchen. That, and utter respect for a writer’s work. Our group’s mission:  three full days of writing, interrupted only by evening meals and (if one of us has her way) cocktails by the fire. “Pack warm socks,” a friend told me. “And be prepared. You won’t want to leave. Ever.” I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to do something so simple and healthy as going on a writer’s retreat. I…

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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

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Dream author interviews and other news

By Adult books, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

Happy Friday! Red-letter day for the  Girls of Summer site.  As you know, GOS is a curated reading list that I compiled with the ever-fabulous Gigi Amateau. It is 18 of our favorite books for strong girls. We launched a week ago, and the response has been terrific. Thanks to all of you who have visited and sent sweet emails. But what makes today great is that we add our new Q & A feature. Our fist interview is with Jacqueline Woodson, winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, the Newbery Honor, the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement, the National Book Award — do I have to go on? Jacqueline was a headliner at last year’s James River Writer’s conference here in Richmond, where I had the pleasure of getting to hear her insights on writing.   I hope you’ll check in today — and every Friday for a new author interview. Together these authors offer the most empowering images of young women today.  Please continue to spread the word, visit each week, and leave comments. In other news, I’ve been spending a few mornings a week working with my LEAP students at the Steward School. There never seems to be enough time with them, but maybe every teacher feels that way. We’ll be wrapping up our writing and photography work next week. ¡Ay, Chihuahua! There is a lot to do! I’ll be sure to post some of the final projects when I get their permission. Let’s see…stuff I’m reading: …

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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…

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