Newbery award winner and New York Times bestselling author

Posts tagged ‘Kathy Erskine’

My favorite MLK celebration: the Virginia way

MLK_Memorial_NPS_photoThis weekend I traveled from one corner of Virginia to the other – from the rural mountains of Farmville all the way to Arlington/Washington DC area. I can’t think of a better way to have celebrated the spirit of Martin Luther King Day.

logoMy first stop on Saturday was in Farmville. I was invited by the folks behind the Virginia Children’s Book Festival to tour  the Moton Museum and other sites for the upcoming VCBF (Oct 16 – 17, 2015). The Museum, as part of its commitment to children in the Farmville area, is a founding partner in the festival.

The Moton is also an absolute gem. It’s the former Moton High School – and the historic site of a student walkout led by 16-year-old Barbara Johns and fellow students who demanded better conditions. Their case eventually got picked up by civil rights attorney Oliver Hill and became part of the five cases that made up Brown v. Board of Education. 

Justin Reid, the museum’s associate director for operations, led us through the exhibits, which are a visual chronology of Virginia’s role in the early civil rights movement. Many of the families who were part of movement – as well as those who wished to keep schools segregated – still live in Farmville.  Prince Edward County participated in Massive Resistance, of course, shuttering schools rather than integrating, so there is an especially poignant personal element to all the photos and artifacts. But there’s also a spirit of forward movement and strength. Places like the Moton are our best hope to forge reconciliation and understanding. They tell our most difficult stories as a country through the personal stories of the people who lived them.  If you haven’t been to the Moton, put it on your list.

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A.B. Westrick, Gigi Amateau, and me getting ready to take our seats in the theater. We were in the second row!

When we think of people whose rights have historically been ignored, we can certainly include young people with disabilities, too. On Sunday, I had the pleasure of traveling  to DC with my pals Gigi Amateau and A.B. Westrick. We went to see Mockingbird, a family theater performance at The Kennedy Center. I’d never been to the Kennedy Center, so that felt like a thrill in  and of itself. But even better, we were there to see our friend’s book performed as theater. The play, adapted by Julie Jensen and directed by Tracy Callahan, is based on Mockingbird, winner of the 2010 National Book Award, and written by our friend (and fellow Virginia author) Kathy Erskine.  We were crazy proud. Really, all we were missing were pom-poms.

The play captured the delicate balance of grief, hope, and healing that Kathy laid out in her novel. Told through the eyes of Caitlin, a girl with autism, the play allows the audience inside the  heart and mind of a young woman whose challenges can easily keep her isolated. It is by turns hilarious and touching – but also unerringly true about grief, families, and love. Everything from the use of technology in the set design to the nuanced performance by Dylan Silver in the lead role was absolutely perfect. I’ll tell you right here, bring tissues.  The play runs through Feb.1. Tickets are $20.  Highly recommended.

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Legends, Hashtags &Wisdom: VA Festival of the Book

Okay, a very quick post because I am on deadline!

I spent three glorious days with my friends Kristen Swenson and A. B. Westrick in the mountains of Virginia at the 20th anniversary of the Festival of the Book.

Some highlights in pictures:

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  • My school visit at Jackson-Via Elementary. Best question from a second grader: Do you make more than $30 a day?
  • Great panel about author platforms with Jane Friedman, author Gigi Amateau, and “The Book Maven” Bethanne Patrick who is behind #Friday Reads. They gave lots of definitions and practical advice on creating your overall reputation. Favorite take-away from Jane:  Building your platform takes patience and consistency. It should outlast any single book or project that you do.
  • Talking YA books for adults with old friend K.P. Madonia (Fingerprints of You) and new friend Andrew Auseon (Freak Magnet and others) at the Village School. Great reads. Put them on your list.

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  • Practicing the use of hashtags with children’s lit legend Louis Lowry, Kathy Erskine and Jennifer Elvgren. I didn’t see that one coming, but you know, we’re all racing to understand this stuff! #YA, #kidlit, #canyoubelievethis?
Jennifer, Ms. Lowry, and me

Jennifer, Ms. Lowry, and me

  • Top pick of all: The joyous “homecoming panel” at the Paramount Theater on Saturday night. We were treated to an evening of conversation with (thank you God) a culturally diverse panel of writing giants – who talked about their lives as writers: Rita Mae Brown, Lee Smith, Kwame Alexander, Sonia Manzano, E. Ethelbert  Miller and  moderator Dr. Joanne Gabbin.  They were at turns hilarious, thoughtful, and tender. Overall wisdom: Say yes to your wildest literary ideas and offers.
The Homecoming Author Event

The Homecoming Author Event

Virginia Book Lovers: This is the week for you!

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.

IMG_1546One 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 mention the nifty buttons?) #TRW and #teen13valit

Librarian Patty Parks sporting just a few of the book buttons

Librarian Patty Parks sporting just a few of the book buttons

Other highlights:  On Wednesday, I’ll be at St. Margaret’s in Tappahannock VA to talk about YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS. (A whole school dedicated to amazing girls, located in as beautiful a place as there can be in the world!)54001952

The James River Writer’s Conference, an annual family reunion of sorts for writers all over the mid-Atlantic. Here’s the conference schedule. You can get your feet wet with a one-day pass or come both days. Maybe it’s all that creativity in one place, but I always leave the event feeling excited to get back to the page.

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A happy week, except when Congress socks it to the little guys

A bitter-sweet week.

EE. Charlton Trujillo, me, and Kathy ErskineThe sweet: Spent yesterday in the company of EE Charlton Trujillo (FAT ANGIE, Candlewick Press), and Kathy Erskine (MOCKINGBIRD; SEEING RED). EE is filming a documentary of her book tour,  which has featured  rental cars, buzzards, near tornadoes, and a chance to meet with authors and kids across the country. A blast, but I don’t want to say more because she’ll  be chatting with me on this blog next week. More soon. All I can say, is buckle in.

I love beautiful libraries...

I love beautiful libraries…

I’ll be at the Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Library this Thursday night as part of their anti-bullying event and also as a tie in to their celebration of Hispanic Heritage month. Teens and social workers in the know will be on hand, and then we’ll talk about how an abusóna became the inspiration for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. (And, yes, I will be allowed to say “ass,” amigos.) Really looking forward to visiting this cool library and also checking out their exhibit called Héroes of the LGBTQ Community.

Why, Congress, why?

Why, Congress, why?

But here is the bitter:  It boils down to two words: government shutdown.  I was so excited to visit with K – 2nd grade students from four DC area public schools at the beautiful  Young Readers Center. Unfortunately,  the shutdown closed the Library of Congress.  It’s definitely not as important as the many families who are now struggling financially or the Head Start programs now scrambling or the WIC programs being zapped or any number of other vital services.  Still, it makes me sad. The little guys – in this case literally – are being zapped.