Newbery award winner and New York Times bestselling author

Posts tagged ‘Joe Cepeda’

When Old Becomes e-New: MILAGROS as e-book

MilagrosREV2ghosted_(3)When one of your books goes out of print, it’s a little bit like a death. I know that sounds dramatic, but that’s how it felt for me when my first middle grade novel, MILAGROS: THE GIRL FROM AWAY went out of print a couple of years ago.

MILAGROS was my first book, and as any author will tell you, a first book has a special place in  your heart. It is your dream come true in so many ways. It represents every hope and every ounce of courage you ever had as a writer. To see it end, is a sad, sad thing.

MILAGROS came out to strong reviews in 2008, but thanks in part to my total lack of chops in promotion back then (“Facebook? What’s that? A Blog? You’re kidding!”), it faded quietly into the background.

 

Milagros_jacket_finish5 copyBut today, thanks to my agent, Jen Rofé, at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, MILAGROS: THE GIRL FROM AWAY gets a second chance in the Kindle edition.

The jury is still out, of course, on whether middle grade readers will flock to e-books. And I am well aware of the teeth gnashing we do about Amazon. Still, I feel at peace that there is a version available of all of my work.

Joe Cepeda

Joe Cepeda

Best of all, though, I want to let you know that the beautiful new cover was designed by my friend and colleague Joe Cepeda. You know Joe’s work, such as Nappy Hair, Esperanza Rising and many other iconic books. esperanza_rising images-5

To have his work paired with mine is a huge honor and I feel so grateful for the experience of learning how he created a visual concept for Milagros’s lonely journey. When he showed me his initial sketches, I actually felt a little teary. He understood completely what MILAGROS was facing as she struck out into the world alone.

So thank you, Joe, mi buen amigo, for this beautiful cover. And thank you, Jen, for all the hard work you put into trying this new venture.

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Catch an interview with Joe on April 27, 2014 as part of El Dia Blog Hop for Latino authors this month. He’ll be on Justice Jonesie.

Download MILAGROS today for $.2.99  

 

Thanks for coming!

Was great to launch Paint Me a Story this afternoon.  I really enjoyed this collaboration with the library and am so happy that the exhibit will be on display next Friday at the Main Branch for First Fridays. Don’t miss it — or the free workshops that the Visual Arts Center will provide as an offshoot of the exhibit. Here are a few shots from our party. Lila, Joe, John: your work was so impressive.It was an honor and a pleasure to share it with new audiences.

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Librarian rockstars: Lucinda Whitehurst, me, Cristina Dominguez Ramirez, and Patty Parks

Librarian rockstars: Lucinda Whitehurst, me, Cristina Dominguez Ramirez, and Patty Parks

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Pondering Lila Quintero Weaver's work

Pondering Lila Quintero Weaver’s work

My books along with Joe, Lila, and Joe's wonderful works!  Wish it were the people here and not just our books!

My books along with Joe, Lila, and Joe’s wonderful works! Wish it were the people here and not just our books!

The lovely Gigi Amateau and library patrons enjoying the show

The lovely Gigi Amateau and library patrons enjoying the show

Barbara Ingber and Patty Parks talking libros

Barbara Ingber and Patty Parks talking libros

It's not a party without a pastelito...Thank you La Sabrosita!

It’s not a party without a pastelito…Thank you La Sabrosita!

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My new favorite bracelet, a gift from Cristina. From AlterNatives in RVA. Gracias Cristina!

My new favorite bracelet, a gift from Cristina. From AlterNatives in RVA. Gracias Cristina!301962_10200405611960030_1827606065_n

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Paint Me a Story: Latino Children’s Book Illustration in RVA

Dia_Hi_ColorFind your calendar. Here’s something for everyone in Richmond who loves kids, books, and art.

Paint Me A Story is a free, month-long celebration of El Dia De Los Libros, the American Library Association’s annual celebration of multicultural children’s lit. Beginning on Friday, April 26, 2013, two of our favorite community resources – the Richmond Public Library and the Visual Arts Center of Richmond – have cooked up a great way to celebrate.

Librarians Cristina Dominguez Ramirez and Patty Parks have worked with me to create a gorgeous exhibit of Latino children’s book illustration featuring the work of nationally-recognized illustrators Joe Cepeda, John Parra, and Lila Quintero Weaver.  The opening reception is at the Broad Rock branch on Friday, April 26, 4 – 6 pm. (Free food, great art. Thank you Friends of the Library for your generous support!) I’ll be on hand to say hello and give you some information about books you might enjoy with your kids. For art fans, several pieces are available for purchase.

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Postcard designed by John Parra

The exhibit will move to the main branch of the library on May 3 in time for First Fridays Art Walk and  will remain for the month of May. Best yet, the Visual Arts Center of Richmond will offer two, free youth art classes on bookmaking on May 4 and May 16 at the Main branch. Sarah Hand will be at the helm. (Check out her beautiful work below.)

Please spread the word, join us for the reception, and enjoy the talents of three distinguished illustrators who keep our niños laughing, thinking, and turning the page.

collage by Sarah Hand. Visit her at www.heartsandneedles.typepad.com

collage by Sarah Hand.
Visit her at www.heartsandneedles.typepad.com

Here’s the RPL Press Release- Paint Me A Story with the full details.

Cariños de,

Meg

Here Come the Américas Awards! Q & A with author Monica Brown

This Friday, I’ll be trekking back to DC for another happy occasion. For starters, I will be visiting the Library of Congress for the first time, one of country’s most beautiful buildings. But even better is the fact that I’ll be there  for the Américas Awards. Established in 1993 by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs, the Américas Award honors outstanding fiction for children that offers realistic portrayals of Latin American culture.This year’s winners are Monica Brown and illustrator Julie Paschkis, for their lovely picture book Pablo Neruda, Poet of the People (Henry Holt, 2011); and Margarita Engle for her novel in verse, The Hurricane Dancers (Henry Holt, 2011). I have been an admirer of their work for a long time, and it’s exciting to be able to join in honoring them.

Monica Brown

I got a chance to ask Monica some questions in preparation for the big day – pretty amazing considering what she’s up to. She’s just back from a trip to Peru, on the cusp of  pubbing a new picture book, and (of course) frantically packing.

How did you turn to writing and literature? Were you always passionate about books and story? What were the books and stories that inspired you as a child?

I’ve always loved books, of all sorts.  As a young child I like everything—Dr. Suess, ghost stories, and National Geographic books.  As a teenager, I can honestly say books helped me survive adolescence.  I entered college a declared English major at 17, and have built my career around words—first as a journalist for an American-owned newspaper in Guadalajara, then as a graduate student and then professor and scholar of Latino/a and Latin American literature, and finally, as a children’s book author.

Your nonfiction picture books have covered a wide range of personalities, from the very famous (such as Salsa Queen Celia Cruz) to Luis Soriano, a man delivering library books by mule in Colombia. How do you decide who or what will make a good subject for a picture book? Are there criteria to help you make a strong selection?  What, for example made Pablo Neruda a good choice for young readers?

I write about those that inspire me in different ways.  In addition to the folks mentioned above, for example, Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez are my civil rights heroes, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez my favorite novelist.  Choosing to write about Pablo Neruda was lovely, because his poems are so moving and his subjects so appealing to children.  I also appreciated how he spoke out about worker’s conditions in his country, at his own personal risk.  Waiting for the Biblioburro (Random House, 2011) was inspired by Luis Soriano, but it is actually  work of fiction.  I wanted to explore the life of Ana, a fictional character who is inspired to write because of the “biblioburro” and all the stories it brings.

Julie’s illustrations for Pablo Neruda: The Poet of the People(Henry Holt 2012) are stunning. Do you have a favorite image or spread?

Every single one!  Seriously, I love Julie’s work and the ways she incorporated Spanish words into the art.  When she found out she was going to illustrate this book, she actually traveled to Chile to see the very places that inspired Pablo Neruda.  

She’s not the only fabulous illustrator you’ve worked with, of course. Rafael Lopez has partnered with you (My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz), as well as Joe Cepeda and John Parra, among others.  What is your favorite part of seeing your work interpreted visually?

Illustrated by Rafael López

My favorite moment of the entire picture-book process is the day I first receive/see the final, painted art.  It is always such a joy to see the way my words have been interpreted and brought to life. I consider Rafael, John, and Joe brilliant artists, as well as very dear friends, so it makes working with them all the more special.  John Parra and I have two books together, and Rafael and I have a 2013 book forthcoming!  We published our first book together, and we are excited about Tito Puente, King of Mambo (HarperCollins 2013)!

How would you compare the challenges and joys of nonfiction picture book vs fiction, such as Marisol MacDonald Doesn’t Match?  Does one feel easier or more enjoyable to you than the other?

I would say that neither are easy and both are joyful. At this particular moment I’m enjoying writing fiction very much—in particular the character of Marisol McDonald.  She will have a new book in 2013—Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash.  For the Marisol books, I’ve drawn from my own childhood, so I suppose the lines between fiction and nonfiction are not so clear after all!

You are, of course, at the forefront of an exciting group of Latino authors producing work in English and in bilingual formats for young readers. What are your thoughts on the responsibilities of multicultural authors as a group, particularly as it applies to social justice?

I hope to contribute to a more socially just society both in my personal and professional writing life.  I have been given a wonderful education and many opportunities to share my vision and voice and participate fully in our democracy.  As a teacher, writer, and citizen I hope my work supports others doing the same.  I also believe those of us who have a public forum have even more responsibility to those whose voices are often overlooked or silenced.

You are just back from Peru. Tell us about your trip!

I’ve just returned from Peru, the country of my mother’s birth, where I was a guest of the U.S. Embassy there.  It was a truly amazing, humbling trip.  I did numerous events over five days—in Lima, Arequipa, and Puno.  I counted seven flights in seven days in fact!

Teachers at the Centro Cultural Peruano NorteAmericano

I was a featured author at the Arequipa International Book Fair. I visited impoverished elementary schools in each city; I gave public talks; and I offered several teaching workshops while I was there.  It was awesome to meet so many beautiful children and teachers and each and everyone was excited about literature!  Only a week before I left, I put a call out to my friends and fellow Latino children’s authors, and they came through.  Together, we donated many books to schools that wouldn’t otherwise have them.  The students loved them!

Students holding their new prized books in Pachacamac Peru

I ended a wonderful week by spending a few days with my family in Peru—many of whom I hadn’t seen in years and years.  The other thing that made the trip special was that I was able to bring my teenage daughter Isabella, who celebrated turning 15 in the Lima airport. Quinceañera!

 

To learn more about Monica Brown, visit www.monicabrown.net or like Monica Brown, Children’s Author on Facebook.

Meet Cristina Dominguez Ramirez: RPL’s newest non-shushing Latino librarian

“I don’t do much shushing. In fact, patrons ask me to turn down the volume; I have a strong voice.”

So says Cristina Dominguez Ramirez, an exciting new face at Richmond Public Libraries. She’ll be managing the renovated Broad Rock branch, which reopens next Tuesday.

Ramirez, recently of VCU Library systems, also has a strong vision. The daughter of two retired academics, she brings to her new job hopeless curiosity and a rich cultural background that includes Jewish, Moorish, Basque, and Visigoth blood on one side, and Spanish and American Indian ancestors on the other. More important, she also brings her dream to make our whole community a living library.

I chatted with Cristina via email about books, Richmond, and the role of libraries in the lives of Latino families.

 What appealed to you about the position at Richmond Public Library? 

It was a perfect match for me. I will manage one of the busiest branches in the Richmond Public Library, and I will get to work directly with community partners and leaders to create programming and events for a large number of underrepresented groups in Richmond. My passion ever since entering the profession has been to reach out to and encourage Latino and African American youth to stay in school and pursue their dreams. I feel very fortunate that I had parents that encouraged my learning so I want to pay it forward for other children and youth. Finally, I love the mission of Richmond Public Library-Inform, Enrich, Empower. This position allows me to work with the other branch managers, library administrators, and community partners to carry out the mission.

The heroine of Latina librarians: Pura Bulpré

It could be said that you’re a minority. As a Latina (although, as we all know, census predictions tell us it’s not going to be long before minorities are actually the majority.) But you’re part of only about 3% of librarians that identify as Latina. First, why aren’t there more Latina librarians? And second, why does it matter in your view?

I think that there are very few here regionally, but this is more a function of history and demographics. If you were to visit public libraries in California, Texas, New York or other states with a long history of Latino residents you would find many more Latino librarians. Virginia has a very young and emergent Latino population. I hope we will see more in the coming years but it is a pipeline issue. You have to convince them to go to library school to get their MLS degree to become professional librarians. Currently, Virginia does not have a library school so many have to go out of state or enroll in an online program.

I also think that it is not a profession that immediately comes to mind to many Latino youth. When they think about possible jobs, careers or professions, librarian does not seem to be on the top of the list. I hope that as the nature of libraries changes and the profession evolves, library schools and professionals can reshape how they conduct outreach. Planting the seed early that this is a noble and worthwhile profession can help encourage more Latinos to enter the profession.

[Having Latina librarians] does matter! When you have faces and names that you identity with when you come to a reference or circulation desk you feel more comfortable asking for services. And when you see a Latino surname and hear Spanish, you feel an immediate connection with the library and the staff.

You have such a varied background, which is really exciting to find in a librarian. Before joining the Broad Rock Branch of the Richmond Public Library as the manager, you were formerly at VCU, where you were the Collection Librarian for Social & Behavioral Sciences. You also have degrees in Philosophy and Religious studies, Middle Eastern Studies and Public Administration. Have you always been hopelessly curious? 

I collect books and I collect degrees as well. Once I get interested in a subject I have to keep learning and exploring it, it ends up in a degree. I wanted to learn about different world religions and philosophies so I did a degree in it while I pursued my B.S. in Psychology. Then, fascinated by Hebrew and Israel, I took a number of years of Biblical and Modern Hebrew and studies Israeli politics and culture. I even went to live in Jerusalem for a few months while enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin. I am currently earning a Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in Research & Evaluation. My latest interests are statistics, program evaluation, and research design. I have been buying textbooks on designing quantitative and qualitative studies. I know, light reading. I am hopelessly curious; I am a big believer in lifelong learning.

The beautiful work of illustrator, Joe Cepeda
View his work at http://www.joecedepda.com

What’s exciting to you about the Latino children’s literature scene today? 

What I find most exciting is the celebration of the stories and storytellers as well as the artists. Latino children’s literature tells the rich and varied stories that Latino children want to hear and need to hear. We all want to be connected to our culture, language, and history. Latino children’s literature makes these stories come alive with the beautiful artwork that accompanies these tales. I am always amazed at the fact that Latino children’s literature has both amazing storytellers and artists. Children are learning history and culture along with an appreciation for fine art.

You’re active with Reforma and other agencies with a mission to engage Latinos in innovative ways. What do you think are some of the mistakes libraries typically make as they try to connect with Latinos in their community?

Some libraries know that there is a Latino population but do not have the staff or resources to effectively reach out to them. At conferences I have met many librarians and library staff that are aware of their communities but are hesitant to engage due to a lack of cultural competence, linguistic ability, or not knowing how to relate to the community.

The issue probably lies more in the library school graduate programs that should include coursework and field experiences in working with diverse and underserved populations. Creating these experiences for librarians in training is very important. The creation of library Spanish course (like the medical Spanish courses you see in hospitals) would be useful to those who need to learn common expressions and terms to better relate to their patrons.

I also think that having programs and events that showcase elements of Latino culture and history are very important when connecting with a community. When your culture and history is recognized you feel that you have a stake in that library. Bringing in speakers that can connect with the parents and children will also form strong bonds with the community.

What are some of your favorite ways to make the library a cool place to be as well as an inviting place for Latinos?

To be a cool place you need to offer a clean, inviting environment with the resources that benefit the community the most. Today that is a mix of current technology and applications as well as popular fiction, nonfiction, and pleasure reading for youth. We need to offer current titles that cover a range of topics and genres. Series, for example, are very popular among teens. Given the economic climate, we also need to offer a number of resources to help people find and apply for jobs, create resumes and cover letters and to better their technology skills.

Having a library that has a welcoming and caring staff is one of the most important aspects of creating a cool place. Richmond Public Library has a very caring and dedicated staff. They will go out of their way to help patrons.

Finally, creating displays of titles and collections that will appeal to Latinos is crucial in making the library space itself feel welcoming to families. A display during Hispanic Heritage Month, bilingual posters and flyers to promote a cultural or programming event, and adding items or objects from the Latino culture during the holidays help to engage Latino families.

I know you’ve done presentations about the role of libraries in communities, specifically “libraries without walls.” What does that mean, exactly, and how will you make that idea grow legs in Richmond, VA? 

Libraries are not just the physical buildings that house the collections and resources; they are also the staff and community. We all are ‘libraries’ of information, experiences, history, and culture. Having librarians take the library outside of the walls into the community is to network and engage with the community. By tapping into the collective knowledge of the community, we strengthen the library as an institution and make it stronger for others.

For me that means identifying key community members that I consider ‘gatekeepers’ of knowledge.’ They may have key contacts, serve in important positions and understand the community at the ground level. By taking the library outside the walls you tap into all of these mini libraries in the community. They can help you develop a deep knowledge of the needs and wants of emergent communities.

I hope to make this idea grow legs here in Richmond by reaching out to many key community players, agencies, nonprofits, organizations, boards, and religious groups. They all form part of the fabric of the community and hold pieces to the puzzle. I want to create programming in Spanish that taps into the expertise of our business community for money management among Latinos. I want to develop basic computing courses in Spanish and bring in speakers and authors that will inspire and educate our Latino youth.

Your branch is just about to reopen on July 24th after a six-month renovation project. Your days must be packed with getting ready. Any secrets you care to let slip about the grand opening events?

The library under construction last March.

I am so excited about the renovation. We have both a children’s and teen area. The teen area has a nice reading space and is surrounded by graphic novels, comics, teen series and novels. The computing area has increased and we have many more workstations. There are also tables with power for laptops. The lighting and furniture is very colorful and the carpet is bright. The meeting room has and audio-visual and sound system. When you come in, the space is open and inviting. It is so comfortable that you won’t want to leave.

 

Any plans for maximizing on the fact that the new Latin Farmers market, La Plaza, is right next door?   

Absolutely. I want to get a table at the Latin Farmers market and promote Richmond Public Library and Broad Rock branch in particular. I also envision creating a number of tie-in events that will bring the customers of the market into the library for literary events. By creating programs and events with an emphasis on healthy foods and ethnic cuisine, cooking, and arts and crafts, I think that the Broad Rock branch is an ideal location for community engagement. I hope to reach more children and community members that have not previously used the library or resources.

 

Finish this sentence for me. Really great bibliotecas

son como un paraíso para la mente y para la gente.

(translation: “are like a paradise for the mind and for the people”)

Thanks, Cristina!

Looking for a good read? Some recommendations from Cristina:

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
  • Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear.
  • Pattern Recognition by William Gibson.

A Familia of Latino Children’s Writers and Illustrators

René Colato Laínez's newest title; Joe Cepeda illustrator

We talk a lot about the dry spells in a writer’s life – those awful times when your lack of ideas makes you crave a straightforward job as a cashier at Target or shoveling manure.

illustration by John Parra

But every so often – as happened to me this weekend at the National Latino Children’s Literature Conference – a writer receives a precious gift, an experience that lights something inside and changes everything for the good.

The NLCLC is the brainchild of Dr. Jamie Naidoo at the University of Alabama, a herculean task he takes on every other year with his tireless team of current and former library science students.

I know what you’re thinking. Alabama? Why a conference to celebrate Latinos in a state with some of the nation’s most disturbing anti immigration lawsThe answer is, Sí, Alabama. What better place to send a group of passionate Latino authors, researchers, illustrators, and bad-ass librarians to fan passions, make connections, and work in the community?

“I have thick glasses and white hair,” one of the attendees confessed in our small group. “Who would suspect me?”

Some of the dangerous radicals!

It was especially exciting to tell the attendees about The Hope Tree Project (the topic of my talk). Several were interested in taking the idea for the project to their own schools and communities. Imagine all those hope trees taking root! Cindy Frellick of the Greenville Library in South Carolina even lent me a necklace of milagros she purchased in Mexico to wear for the unveiling on April 30. (Gracias, Cindy! I will wear it proudly and return it to you.)

Isabel Campoy and Alma Flor Ada - the poinoeers

The sessions were fantastic – everything from hands-on writing experiences to discussions of community projects, craft and career paths. I was in the prestigious company of Dr. Alma Flor Ada and Isabel Campoy– pioneers, intellectuals, scholars — and two of the most joyous women I have met. They glow when they have a chance to talk about books, youth, and the growing body of work by Latino writers and illustrators. There’s plenty to celebrate, they say. When they started in this field in the early 1960s, you could hardly find a book with an authentic representation of Latino families. But today, we have the beautiful and prize-winning work of  John Parra, Joe Cepeda, René Colato Laínez, Monica Brown, and Lila Quintero Weaver  – a rising talent – to name just a few.

Joe Cepeda's cover for Esperanza Rising

But by far the best magic happened in the quiet moments when we had a chance to meet one another as friends and fellow artists — each of us trying to name and make sense of Latino identity for kids – and, maybe in some way, for ourselves. Remarkably, we were strangers for about five minutes. After that, we found our way to each other’s hearts. My mother always says that Latinos have a special calorcito, a warmth that makes you feel as though you’re with family. I love all my writing friends, but I thought of my mother’s words more than once this weekend. My colleagues and I enjoyed professional talk, but also food, wine, laughs — even a crazy sprint across six lanes of traffic as we yelled our tongue-in-cheek, defiant battlecry. Run! It’s la migra!  

front: Jamie Naidoo, Lila Quintero Weaver, Monica Brown, me
top row: Rene Colato Lainez, Alma Flor Ada, John Parra, Isabel Campoy, Joe Cepeda

Monica Brown's beautiful tribute to the late Celia Cruz

Over our two days, we taught and we learned. We started figuring out ways to help each other along, shiny-eyed as we confessed new projects we were feeling braver to try. And, of course, we made plenty of room for silliness and laughter. (What did you expect? We’re children’s book people!) Ask John Parra to tell you about his bear camping story some time. Or Monica Brown to explain the birds and the bees of the author/illustrator relationship. Joe Cepeda will tell you why you must only send him two-line emails if you have something important to say to him. And if you ever meet René Colata Laínez, make sure he croons elevator songs for you or recites the ga-gillion words for “drinking straw” he knows from across Latin America.

It was hard to get back on a plane and say adios. Our lives will get busy, and we are a far-flung tribe. But here’s what I know. Somos de una casa. We are of one house. And for that reason I won’t ever keep them too far from my sights.

Cariños de,

Meg

If you’d like to support multicultural literature, including Latino lit, please consider making a donation to the National Latino Children’s Literature Conference 2014.  Contact Dr. Jamie Naidoo at the University of Alabama.

Meg’s next appearances:  

A writing workshop at Pamunkey Regional Library April 4;  School visit to Riverside School, Richmond, VA, April 5. See calendar tab for details!