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latino authors

March Madness – Bookish-style

By Appearances, Latino Life, picture books, The Writing Life

I’ve been writing like a crazy woman against an upcoming deadline for a new middle grade novel. Right now, I’m at the point when I’m turning to algebra for some sort of comfort –which is a stretch, considering that math was always my worst subject. Still, in my head, I keep looping a word problem that goes like this: “Meg has 140 pages written. If she writes 2 pages a day for 3 days per week and then tosses one page a week, when will she reach an arbitrary  (but kind of respectable) number like 250 pages? And, more important, will they be good?” Anyway, I’ve been working fairly close to home since December, which has felt like a blessing. It’s quiet. I have the comfort of my coffee pot, my dog, stretchy pants and fuzzy slippers. I can slip into someone else’s wonderful book when I’m lost. (Thank you Kelly Barnhill for The Girl Who Drank the Moon.) My spring calendar is almost all within the mid Atlantic, too. But there are a few presentations to mention. As I look ahead to March, I have a day trip to Orlando for a Girl Bullying and Empowerment Conference and  a few school visits. (Schedule here). In the spirit of staying close to home, though, I especially wanted to highlight two events that are happening in my area, in case you want to join in. The first is a shared book talk at the University of Richmond with my good friend, Lila…

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

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

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.)  If 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…

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My Piece in The Horn Book

By Latino Life, The Writing Life

I have been circling my mailbox like a vulture for weeks now, waiting for my hard copy of the January/February issue of The Horn Book, where I’ve written my first piece. Today, they posted the link on twitter. I feel so fortunate to close 2015 and look to a new year with this essay. I was given the space to talk about my books and the work of others – the elders as well as the up-and-coming. There was no way to name all my fellow Latino authors in this single piece, and I hope they will forgive the omission, knowing that I did my best to shine a light on as many as I could. Mostly, though, I wrote from the personal as I explored what it has really been like to write the literature of the new American family. Here is the link, friends. Please read and share. ¡Feliz navidad!  

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So Now That I’m Done Eating Snickers…

By Appearances, Latino Life, The Writing Life

All right, then. I have finally eaten the last Snickers mini, so it’s time to focus again. One happy effect of daylight savings time has been the perfect excuse to get up early and have a solid couple of “alone hours” with my new manuscript. It doesn’t necessarily make the writing easier. It just means  I have shown up for work – half the battle. Today, I’m happy to be on Latinos In Kid Lit, a lovely new blog chock full of book lists, guest blogs Q & As, teaching ideas, and all around cool stuff for people interested in the Latino corner of multicultural lit for kids of all ages. (You can follow them on twitter, too @LatinosInKidLit.) Read through the bios behind this new venture. Very cool. Por favor, visit the site and leave a comment to cheer them on. This week, I’ll also head out to the Virginia Association of School Librarians in Williamsburg, VA, where YA superstar Sarah Dessen will be the keynote on Friday. My concurrent session will be on Thursday and again on Saturday. We’ll be taking a look at YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS –  (a School Library Journal Audio Pick of the Day last week) – and  at what happens when a book offends. (Ahem…) I plan to hang out and catch some other breakouts, too. There is always a good selection of sessions, and I like getting to know my state’s school librarians. Here’s a look at the description of sessions.  Finally, I’ve…

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James River Writers Conference Spotlight: Elizabeth Huergo

By Adult books, Guests, Latino Life

About this time of year, I start to perk up with bookish anticipation. The autumn brings us the Virginia Literary Festival (Oct 16 – 20, 2013), anchored in part by the James River Writers Conference. Now in its eleventh year, the JRW Conference is a special treat for the writing community since it gathers nationally-recognized and bestselling authors in our city for three days of fun and learning. This year, I’m especially happy to find debut novelist (and fellow Latina author) Elizabeth Huergo on the impressive roster. Elizabeth is a scholar of literature (receiving her M.A. in 19th-century American Literature and her Ph.D. in British Romanticism from Brown University), and she has taught at a number of colleges and universities, including Rhode Island College, American University, and George Mason University. Her novel, The Death of Fidel Perez (Unbridled Books, 2013), is set in modern day Cuba against the eternal question, What if Fidel fell? Here Elizabeth and I talk about our shared cultural roots and the challenges of conveying the pain and complexities of political history in writing. You left Cuba as a girl during the years immediately following the Cuban revolution. What had your life been like until then? Where did your family settle in the United States? I was born in May of 1959. My mother and I left Cuba when I was about three years old. My father had to leave about a year before us for political reasons. He lived alone in New York for a year, working, saving,…

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A Familia of Latino Children’s Writers and Illustrators

By Appearances, Latino Life, The Writing Life

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. 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 laws? The 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?” 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,…

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