Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

Posts tagged ‘Kate Fletcher’

Take that winter! Burn Baby Burn a 2016 LA Times Book Prize Finalist

image001A wonderful surprise to beat back my February blues, which have really been a challenge this year.

Burn Baby Burn was named a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize today.

It’s quite a list, including the award-sweeping MARCH by John Lewis, so I’m especially honored – and also not envious of the judges. The fun/harrowing thing is that you don’t know who actually wins until the day of the event. So stay tuned for April 21 at the kick off for the LA Times Book Festival this year.

Thank you, LA Times, for inclusion on this lovely and thought-provoking list. And thank you, Candlewick, for my brand NEW pair of disco ball earring to wear for the occasion. I’ll be traveling west with my editor, Kate Fletcher, to attend the ceremony. Fingers crossed ( and TUMS in my purse.)

BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2Press release here.

Young Adult Literature
Socorro Acioli/ Daniel Hahn (Translator), The Head of the Saint, Delacorte
Julie Berry, The Passion of Dolssa, Viking Books for Young Readers
Frances Hardinge, The Lie Tree, Harry N. Abrams
John Lewis. Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell, March: Book Three, Top Shelf Productions
Meg Medina, Burn, Baby, Burn, Candlewick

How do I get in? Why a lousy beginning can still help you write a good novel

In between promotion travel for Burn Baby Burn, I’m turning my attention to writing my next projects with Candlewick. I have an anthology story due soon, and a middle grade manuscript due in December.

I have friends who have mastered the art of airplane and hotel room writing. Some even write for as little as six minutes before going off to jobs in offices every day. But writing on the run has always been a struggle for me. I need a lot of quiet to sink deeply enough inside my imagination to connect with my characters, especially at the beginning.

IMG_3147So, I was cleaning up my computer desktop – which is what I do when when I’m trying to avoid something unpleasant, like battling my writing insecurities. The process of beginning never seems to get easier, even after all this time. (The only thing worse is writing endings, but more on THAT another day.) I still spend weeks circling like a vulture above the story. I can see the characters vaguely. I can see their neighborhood, their school, the general shape of their lives, but I can’t quite zero in on where to start. I can be caught like this for a long while, writing and rewriting the first 30 pages as I flesh out the book’s world, looking under every rock for the heart of my main character.

I bring this up because I stumbled upon hard evidence of why I should just embrace this wandering and stop worrying. Right there on my desktop was a file that contained the draft of how I had originally planned to start Burn Baby Burn.  Back then, I decided I would open in the winter of 1977, on the day that news outlets were reporting about the suicide of Freddie Printze. Here it is as a pdf, if you’re interested. ORIGINAL BEGINNING OF BURN BABY BURN

51XeXLoY3VL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I remember how cold it was that year in New York – almost as extreme as the summer heat that would follow. But what I was really after was the emotional window of Freddie Printze’s death. Who didn’t watch Chico and the Man? I loved that Latin God and all the ways his show spoke to me, wrapping its comments about racism in humor. Here was this good looking Puerto Rican-playing-a-Mexican, in tight jeans and puppy dog eyes. I was in love. News of his suicide left me stunned – and his death somehow became entwined in my mind with the long unraveling of the city that year. Something in the loss of a cultural hero brought me to the story of New York City in 1977. It reminded me that every piece of innocence and hope we had was at risk that year.

With Kate

With Kate

So what made me change my mind and abandon that opening? I’d love to claim that it was my own fantastic sense of storytelling, but really it was my editor, Kate Fletcher. To her credit, she politely stepped over my original beginning for months until we were very late into our editorial process. Finally, she pointed out the obvious. So much was going on in the novel that maybe I needed to narrow the timeframe a bit to keep the focus. Spring to summer seemed about right.

Kate. This is her gift. She knows just when to offer a suggestion so that I can hear it.

Had she insisted on this change earlier, who knows what I would have said? Likely, I would have fought her because Freddie Printze’s death was my way inside my own memories, and those memories are what gave me the courage to sink into research and the unfamiliar hard work of writing historical fiction.

I was reminded yet again that beginnings almost always change substantially once you’re “finished” writing. They are not sacred – except for those fragile, early days when they are what give us permission to reach inside ourselves.

So, where am I on my next novel? At the beginning. Or, so I think.

Just for you: You might like this master class CD about writing beginnings with Richard Peck.

 

BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2

 

 

Huge Win for Latino Authors at ALA: Mango, Abuela and Me Among medalists

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It’s been a huge and unexpected day for me, to say the least.

But it has been a HUGE day for Latino authors and illustrators all the way around.  A ceiling-shattering day.  A day that represents such an astounding shift in respect and perception that it brings tears to my eyes as I am typing this.

For the first time, we have Latino winners and honor books in so many of the major awards – the Feldman, the Seilbert, the Printz, the Caldecott, the Odyssey, non fiction awards and the very highest one, the Newbery. I am so very proud of my friend, Matt de la Peña, for his gorgeous book, Last Stop on Market Street. (The full list of ALA winners is here.) 

MANGO_jacket_for_Meg copyIf you were watching the ALA awards this morning, you know that Mango, Abuela, and Me was given the 2016 Pura Belpré honor book award for literature, as well as receiving an honor for the illustrations. Congratulations, Angela! (Full list of Pura Belpré winners here.)

This award celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.  Since its inception, the Pura Belpré award has sought to shine a light on the Latino experience in children’s literature. In so many ways, this has become my life’s work. To have this medal on my book – this year in particular – is such an affirmation.

A huge congratulations to Margarita Engle and Rafael Lopez winners of the Pura Belpré medal for literature and illustration, respectively. I feel so humbled to have my work included alongside yours. Congratulations to all the winners. Wow.

I can’t thank the committee members enough for believing in my work.  (They are Ana-Elba Pavon, Chair; Sylvia Cecilia M. Aguinaga; Patricia Rua-Bashir; Maria F. Estrella; Maria C. Mena; Teresa Mlawer; Abigail Yvonne Morales; and Oralia Garza de Cortes, REFORMA, Cultural Competency.) I know it couldn’t have been easy to volunteer your time so generously, especially in a year when so many wonderful books were up for consideration.

A big hug to Kate Fletcher, my editor, and to all my friends at Candlewick who make me feel like a winner every single day. (Special kudos to designer Heather McGee and Ann Stott who art directed along with Chris Paul.) Much appreciation, too, goes to my agent, Jen Rofé, for her friendship and tireless advocacy on my behalf.

But mostly, I’m grateful to everyone who has read and shared Mango, Abuela and Me. Thank you for using this book to help children feel proud of who they are and to help us all celebrate the many ways to speak the language of love and respect.

Cariños,

Meg

Tía Isa Wants a Car wins the Ezra Jack Keats New Writers Award

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 the New York Public Library.

Looking forward to the ceremony on April 12…

What a tough book can teach you

A cruise on the Cape Fear River

Well, we’re back from the beach and feeling rested in a way that only a seaside vacation can provide.

But this year, instead of coming home and feeling gloomy, I had a present waiting for me from my fabulous editor, Kate Fletcher. Ta-da! The galleys for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind due out in March.

I started writing this novel a few years ago, thinking it would be the story of  a girl named Sonia, a seasonal crab worker on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Originally, the title was Jaibera – which means “crab girl” in Spanish. If you know anything about crab picking, you know it’s hard and dangerous work. The young women who pick crab these days are increasingly from other countries. They come to feed their families, but they miss home —  and they’re vulnerable.

My early manuscripts were met with very mixed results, and the truth is that I almost gave up on this book many times. Was it an adult book or YA? What was most exciting — her life at home in her own country or her life here? And what about that little taxi-boy, Pancho, who kept snagging my attention? Was romance going to be part of this story?

I think every book teaches the author something new. My first novel taught me to dare to be a writer. My picture book taught me to try new forms. This novel taught me to be fearless in revision and to have faith that a solution will always appear. Today, there’s not so much as a buttered crab leg in this book — and I’m not sorry. It is still the story of what a girl is willing to risk for the future she wants, but an entirely different set of events took form for Sonia.

I had many angels in my path, but chief among them was Kate. She had faith in the bones of the story, and her questions and patience were just what I needed to “re-vision” Sonia’s path. To say I’m grateful to her is ridiculously inadequate. When this title pubs in March, I will honestly be able to say that this is our book, a project we wrestled with and saw through together. Gracias, Kate….XO

Win my book on Latin Baby Book Club

I took my son, the baby of our family, to see colleges this weekend — a road trip that featured a lot of sweet memories, perhaps fueled by eating too much ice cream made on an on-campus creamery.  Yum.

But that wasn’t the only delicious thing that happened. I was also featured on Latin Baby Book Club.(Check it out;  you can win a free copy of TIA ISA WANTS A CAR). How I wish I’d had a blog like that 15 years ago when I was raising my own “latin babies” and teaching them to love books – and their roots. 

We live in Richmond, Virginia, a southern city with a growing Latino population, but it’s not like other places we’ve lived, like South Florida, where Latino culture has so significantly shaped communities. Nobody here was whipping out an empanada from their lunch sack. Cinco de Mayo  and Three Kings Day was about all anybody knew.

My three kids are all American in so many ways. In fact, they speak Spanish so poorly that their abuelas can barely forgive me. Back then, they read Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse and the Magic Treehouse series and Harry Potter. Still, something like Latin Baby Book Club might have helped me do the important work of making my kids proud of where they come from.

Sure, you can’t  keep Latino kids from being as American as anybody else in their class. (Ask my mother; she’ll tell you.) It’s inevitable; you belong to the place you grow up.  It’s just that we all search for the reflection of our experience in the pages of a book. Kids need to see people who look and sound like them going on daring and unforgettable adventures. That’s part of the reason I write: to give all Latino kids (including my own) a sense of the value of our story. Muchisimas gracias a Latin Baby Book Club for sharing my work. ¡Cariños a todos!


A SURPRISE IN MY MAILBOX: TIA ISA

After a long day of sitting at the library, where I wrestled endlessly with a chapter, I came home to a great surprise. My editor, Kate, sent me a finished copy of Tía Isa Wants a Car — my picture book that pubs in June. Thank you Claudio Muñoz for the beautiful, retro art and all of your insights.  Thank you Kate for loving this little story. And muchisimas gracias to the real tía Isa who taught me that everyone has the power to get behind her own wheel.