Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

Posts tagged ‘Gigi Amateau’

A letter to RVA about Girls of Summer 2017

January 16, 2017

img_0609It’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 notably in an infamous video and talk of grabbing women by their genitals. And we realized that now was not the time to stop. There is still so much work to do together to make this world safe, secure, and nurturing of girls.

So plans have changed.

For the next four years, not only are we not letting go of Girls of Summer, but we are going to grow it big. We’ll use every ounce of our strength as authors, mothers, and literary citizens to build it up as a resource to empower young women of all ages to become lifelong readers and learners, with the tools to find their voices, to stand up, and to protect themselves.

So, here is the first of what will be many exciting changes this year:

Our Girls of Summer team is growing. We are joined by new and dynamic friends with loving ties to our city. These are book women, strong women, and advocates who will be helping to choose our list, plan our event, and spread the word to girls here at home and around the country. They are:

stacyhawkinsadamsheadshotStacy Hawkins Adams

amanda_headshot-cropped-300x294Amanda Nelson

aisha-saeed-headshotAisha Saeed

maya-smart-headshot-2016Maya Smart

 

 

 

In the coming months, you can expect to hear about new a partnership with Richmond Young Writers, too, as we develop new ways for young people to have access to our visiting authors. You’ll hear about a literary breakfast event organized by our longtime champions at the Richmond Public Library and about new schools and organizations who have asked to join us in this effort. And it’s our hope that you will, in fact, engage with us through attendance, earmarked donations to the Richmond Public Library foundation, and support with new and urgent energy.

We linked arms as we marched on Saturday, in effort to stay warm and in thanksgiving for this friendship of ours. Encircled by thousands of new friends, we got caught up in the spirit of loving kindness and the spirit of justice that rolled down Monument Avenue. How did this happen, we wondered? Just two girls: one with roots in Cuba and one from Mississippi, two friends who have found that it’s our differences that make us strong and our shared values that keep us brave.

Our friendship is what sparked Girls of Summer, but we know that friendship alone isn’t what sustains this important project. For that kind of sustenance, we need a community filled with smart people who care about books and reading in the lives of every day folks. (Here’s looking at you bbgb books and Kris Spisak – champions from the start.) We need a community that is invested in respecting and empowering females, from ages eight to eighty-eight. We need neighbors who insist on equality and inclusion where we live, work, and play.

And in Richmond, Virginia, as it turns out,  we have found exactly that.

Stayed tuned.

Meg Medina and Gigi Amateau are authors of works for young readers. Among their many projects, they are the cofounders of Girls of Summer List, a curated summer reading list for strong girls. They live (proudly) in Richmond, Virginia.

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

Layout 1Richmond 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. You know, we like to be dignified around here.)  The survey is here. The deadline for public voting is September 15, 2017. 

Good luck to the 2015 candidates – and see you all at the library on October 12!

 

 

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 Literary Activist: When writing moves beyond your computer

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).

Patty Parks, librarian, Gigi and me at Girls of Summer 2012

Patty Parks, librarian, Gigi and me at Girls of Summer 2012

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.

shutterstock_1216096kissing girlWhen 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 and segments in big places like NPR and CNN.

What I’m most proud of, though, isn’t the press. What’s cool here is that we’ve made a reading event a big deal. Think of all the ways a kid can spend their time. How cool that they choose to spend some of it with us.

So this is what I can tell you: When you first start your life as an author, you’re not thinking about how you can impact your community. You’re thinking about writing your story and about how you can get published. It seems as though being published will be a joy in and of itself.

And it is.

But it’s what you do with your role as an author that can really bump up your joy index. Being a literary citizen means using your love and knowledge of books to make something better for your community. For Gigi and me, it means joy.

Today, I opened my eyes and thought, Its’ here! The energy is everywhere. People are jazzed about the book list. It’s tweeted and shared. The ice cream man double checked on what flavors to bring. The librarians and their readers have polished their excerpts. We’re tying ribbons around the giveaways. Somehow all the exhaustion of planning Girls of Summer has evaporated.

IMG_1560 copy

My favorite picture of my pal and me. This was when she won the 2013 Library of Virginia’s People’s Choice Award

What’s left is this: Two authors and friends spending time together. A library throwing open its doors to a city full of children. And girls of every age, hungry to find their favorite summer story. It doesn’t get better than that.

 

Women’s Media Center Live

womens-media-center-wmc-live-with-robin-morgan-300webMy 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. Law

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 and enjoy!

Here’s the link to their archives.

ALA Midwinter in Philly

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:

Gigi, Meg, and ABSetting 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.View from Casa Buona on 10th St in Philly

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!)Laura, Dana, and Kat The Virginia Shop

Jen Delgado of DelawareNo kidding: I met Jen Delgado from Delaware. (No relation, THANK GOD to Yaqui!)

Babe Conquers the WorldAlways 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 chance to meet with so many young people, bloggers, and librarians who had stories to tell me about YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS. A big thanks to the hong people reading and to the librarians who are courageously dealing with “adults with raised eyebrows.”  Here I am with Kim McCallister, Liberty Middle School in Mechanicsville, VA.Kim McCallister Liberty MS

Italian cookies as IsgroAnd what would a trip to Philly be without Italian cookies?  Isgro on Christian Street and 10th, was just a jewel.photo 7

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

angela_leeperMeet 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 BooklistKirkus, 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.RVA2

The course will include visits from local historians and authors,  including Gigi Amateau, A.B. Westrick and me. When it’s time to hit the streets, award-winning journalist, historian, and certified U of R instructor Alyson Lindsey Taylor-White will lead three walking tours that relate to the class readings. (Walking fans may recognize Alyson as the force behind the popular “Hello Richmond!” course series.)

“While designed as professional development for educators, anyone is welcome to enroll,” Angela tells me. Children and YA in RVA will meet on Wednesday evenings, 5:00-8:00, from January 22 to April 30. (Don’t worry, the class won’t meet over local school systems’ Spring Break!)

walking-shoes-clipartshoe-prints-clip-art---vector-clip-art-online-royalty-free-l3klhkmtInformation here: (Select Language Arts and Literacy at the link)

To register for Children and YA in RVA, click here.  richmond2