Newbery award winner and New York Times bestselling author

Posts tagged ‘Latino youth’

¡Verano! (Summer – the best time for book lovers)

With author Monika Shroder at LUCY conference

With author Monika Shröder at the LUCY conference on multicultural lit

A quick post today as I settle back from my amazing day celebrating multicultural lit at the LUCY conference at Old Dominion University. Looking forward to a busy first week of summer talking books, culture, and connection.

At the Girls of Summer launch with some of our favorite librarians and authors KP Madonia and Jeri Watts.

At the Girls of Summer launch with some of our favorite librarians and authors KP Madonia and Jeri Watts.

1.  Gigi Amateau and I continue to celebrate our Girls of Summer list. Our launch last week was a huge success with about 180 mothers, daughters, librarians, teachers, and all-around book lovers enjoying free ice cream, book talk, and a celebration of strong girls. Hope you are enjoying Tanita Davis’s Q & A this week. Looking ahead to Friday, 6/28 you’ll meet the fabulous Latina author Guadalupe Garcia McCall on our site. She’ll talk about winning the Pura Belpré prize for Under the Mesquite,  and how she found a way to tell a story based on one of her most painful challenges.

Latino Children's Summer Reading Program2.  For my Latino friends with kids, please check this out! A summer reading list for Latino readers from the blogging community. Latinas for Latino Literature provide book lists by age group, activities, and ideas for encouraging reading. Please follow them on Facebook, too, where you’ll see the growing community around Latinos, youth, and empowerment through reading.

shenandoah university badge3. I’ll be at the Shenandoah Children’s Literature Conference this Tuesday and Wednesday as part of “Heavy Medal,” celebrating children’s book authors who have won medals and prizes for their work. (Thank you Ezra Jack Keats committee! Your gift keeps on giving and opening doors.) So excited to travel to this beautiful part of the state and to see (and learn from) some old friends and new. I am bringing an empty suitcase so I can bring home more books from some of my heroes in the business. (Shhh. Don’t tell Javier.)  Here’s the head banger lineup.

4-300x904. Finally, on Thursday, July 27, I hope you’ll join me and my friends at James River Writers for  The Writing Show at its new location at The Camel Club, 1621 W. Broad (just after Allen). We’ll be talking marketing at all stages of your career, from you at the manuscript stage all the way to seasoned authors who tour. (Register here.) I hope what I can offer is another way to think about marketing besides “how can I sell my books.” (Lord, that could kill anybody’s spirit.) There’s a healthier way to grow into your role as author, and one that gives you more purpose in your community.

More soon!

Cariños de,

Meg

Claremont Elementary Spanish Immersion School: The Hope Tree Grows

Part of Claremont’s display for El Dia De Los Muertos

What a week! A nail-biter election that took me late into the night, and then up at 5 am (when it was still tan oscuro!) to get to Claremont Elementary School in Arlington, VA. (Thank you to Sherry Lord for inviting me!) Claremont is a funky Spanish Immersion school that’s going to do a version of the Hope Tree project as their fifth graders move on to middle school. Again, we’re asking, What is a hope you have for yourself?

Coolest trio ever

Such a pretty school, and the art is everywhere you look. I love these giant looming heads over the stage (inside one of those strange rooms called a cafetorium). They are César Chávez, Pocahontas, and Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr.

Oh! And look at these urns in their lovely garden. I spotted them when I arrived. Hmmm…they are sitting near benches and empty trees. You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?

These two want some milagros hanging in the trees nearby…

A Little Bit of Fiesta at City Hall

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! This is a month for everybody to channel their inner Latino, but don’t worry if you don’t know an empanada from a salsa. I can help you, especially if you’re in the downtown Richmond, Virginia area next week. That’s because on Monday, September 17, 2012 The Hope Tree Project comes to the lobby of City Hall at Broad Street and 9th Street! (Map here.) We’re having a little lunchtime party as the kickoff, and I hope you’ll come.

You’ll remember that this exhibit of the hopes and dreams of Richmond’s young people started out as a collaboration between me, eight area high schools, and the folks at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden last spring, when The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind first pubbed. Well, we’ve moved the exhibit to its final phase —  the concrete jungle — where the public can see what our kids are thinking about themselves and our community. The exhibit is, of course, free and open to the public.

The lobby doesn’t have trees (bummer) but I have a plan. Or I should say… my friends at Pine Camp Art Center (Shaun Casselle) and the Office of Multicultural Affairs (Tanya Gonzalez) have a plan. All those twigs that fell out of trees during last month’s gusty days?  Yep, they’re being recycled into the show. (How’s that for clever use of resources?) We’ll be spending our Saturday putting them in place.

If you work downtown, please come down and join us for the  reception on Monday, September 17, noon. I’ll have some nice treats from Spanish Soul, a new Puerto Rican restaurant near my home. The exhibit will run through October 12.

Cariños de,

Meg

Where to buy Meg’s books and audiobooks.

Wordles: samples from The Hope Tree Project

Me again. Two posts in one week Geez.

First, the spiffy StyleWeekly article is here!  Thanks Julie Geen for spreading the word about The Hope Tree Project!

Also, do you know about wordles?  They’re handy as a wrap-up for a school activity or, in this case, as a display for a community project. You plug in words or phrases that emerged from an experience, and – POOF! — out comes a graphic. For phrases, separate each word with a ~.

Give it a try here.

Here are the Wordles of phrases describing the dreams represented in each milagros for The Hope Tree Project. I took the phrases from the artist statements the school provided. Click to enlarge each.

Meadowbrook High School's wordle

 

Lee Davis High School Wordle

Huguenot High School's wordle

Hermitage High School's wordle

Henrico High School's wordle

The Steward School's wordle

The exhibit continues through July 4, 2012.

El Dia de los Niños in RVA

Just a few shots of the fun at Meadowdale Library for el Dia de los Niños celebration. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate. Still, very nice to see so many kids walking around in their Home Depot aprons, making cardboard guitars, and hearing stories in Spanish and English. A big gracias to Blanche Deponte for organizing!

Three new buddies: Michelle, Emily, and Gabrielle

Working on our license plates after reading Tía Isa Wants a Car

My wonderful volunteer who kept kids from gluing their eyelids together. Thanks, Grace!

Making paper "flores" at one of the craft stations

A sweet little selection of titles

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!

The Hope Tree is Growing

Just a little update about The Hope Tree Project. (Details en español here.) Student artists are working out their answer to What is a dream you have for yourself or for our community? I got a sneak preview of their milagros thanks to Megan McConnell, art teacher at Meadowbrook High School, who brought a few to share at my book launch party for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind this past weekend. (Thanks, Megan!)

I’m also happy to announce that the fabulous Latin Ballet of Virginia will be joining us for the launch on April 30 and will perform selections of Verde. This work celebrates nature, hopes and dreams. What could be more perfect? (And check out these costumes!) Let me know if you are interested in an invitation to the opening.

Can you guess what she represents in Nature?

Latin Ballet of Virginia, scenes from Verde

Where I’ll be next:   

March 21, 2012: University of Richmond, Gotwald Science Center, 5:30 pm. Lecture, reception and  book signing.

March 23, 2012: The Steward School 11600 Gayton Road, Henrico, VA, 9 am. International Day presentation

March 28 – 30, 2012: National Latino Children’s Literature Conference: University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. Presentation on YA and community building — The Hope Tree Project!

The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind blog tour starts today

Just wanted to give you the heads up this morning. I’m on tour. Yep — and I’m still in my pajamas as I’m telling you this. That’s because it’s a blog tour — the single most author-friendly invention since the pencil. Eight YA bloggers have invited me to answer questions — some serious, some funny — about my novel, The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind. For me, it’s a chance to channel my inner Where’s Waldo without ever leaving my kitchen computer. I meet their readers, talk about my project, and get the word out in anticipation of the March 12 pub date. For the bloggers, it’s a chance for fresh content and connections. For you, it’s a chance to win stuff (sometimes) and get the scoop on what is behind the book you’re reading.

Today, you can catch me on Waste Paper Prose, where I did  a  v-log (video version) at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens here in Richmond, VA. Don’t make fun of my hair in the last section. It was windy, okay? Visit at  www.wastepaperprose.com.

I hope you’ll make time this week to stop in on these blogs and get to know some rabid book lovers. You can see the dates and stops on the skyscraper that I’ve posted in the sidebar to the right. A big thanks to:  Waste Paper Prose, Book Briefs, Muggle-Born.net, The Book Cellar, Teen Reads, A Cupcake and a Latte, Joyousreads, and The Hispanic Reader.

You’re invited to Meg’s book launch party for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind. Saturday, March 17, 2012, 1 – 3 pm, bbgb tales for kids, 3100 Kensington Avenue, Richmond, VA

A Day at Marie Reed Elementary School

Last Thursday, I trekked up to DC to spend a day at Marie Reed Elementary School in Adams Morgan.

View from my seat on Amtrak

Four years into my life as a published author and I’ve realized that I’d rather do a thousand school visits than a book signing, which for me are often skimpy on attendance. There’s something about being around little people with no teeth that is much more satisfying.

Marie Reed is a lovely school, if a little oddly appointed. (Partitions offer a reminder of the open education experiment of the 1960s.) Truly, if Christine Reuss, my host, hadn’t been with me, I would never have found my way around. There’s a surprise around every corner. They have a garden that Michelle Obama planted to help them attract butterflies, and they have murals of the late salsa goddess Celia Cruz (¡azucar!) and Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor. The auditorium is an amphitheater.

What I loved most about this little gem of a school, though, is that it offers both an English only and a dual language curriculum. This seems so much more sensible to me than trying to teach a language in middle school, when we all know that their tongues go thick and their courage, thin. To see an Asian kindergarten student rattling off “Asi Baila Juanito” like a native is about the loveliest thing I can imagine.

I read to the students, told them about how I wrote Tia Isa Wants a Car and Milagros.Then I listened to their songs and dances, and got treated to a writing project where students wrote – in Spanish or English – something they wanted to work hard to achieve – just the way Tia Isa had worked hard to get her car. Counting to big numbers. Reading for a long time. The list was impressive.

But maybe what I will remember most is the part of our day when I asked the kindergarten and first graders where they would go if they could have a car. Chuckie Cheese was a popular choice. Also, the beach. But one little girl came down the steps to where I was standing with my microphone.

“¿Donde quizieras ir en tu carro? Where would you want to go in your car?

“I would go to El Salvador to see my family,” she said. “I miss them.”

I thought of her the whole train ride home.

Meg’s next appearances:  SCBWI Midatlantic Conference, Arlington, VA, Oct.22 

Holladay Elementary School, Henrico, VA, Monday, Oct. 24

Where do YOU come from?

Today I started my annual volunteer work at a place that I will never stop helping.

The Latino Education Advancement Program (LEAP) is housed at the Steward School, one of those blindingly beautiful independent schools here in Virigina. The program serves about fifty Latino middle and high school youth from all over the Richmond area. It’s free thanks to the dogged efforts of Program Director Melanie Rodriguez and Head Master Ken Seward, who cobble together deals with a whole range of small and large funders.  (I’m grateful to James River Writers for being among them.) The result is four weeks of classes that prepare Latino kids to take more challenging classes in their own high schools, which in turn, opens doors for them when it’s time to pick colleges and beyond.

None of that is why I show up every summer.

I go because I think that Latino kids need the tools to find and tell our story. For all the ways this country has embraced  JLo, Pitbull,

Sophia

Vergara, and even zumba, you can’t get away from all the negative messages about Latinos in the media, images our youth soak up before they can even name their shame. Scan the newspaper and see what you find. “Illegal aliens” blamed for starting fires in Arizona. Graphic stories of drug wars in Mexico s[illing across our borders. Gang violence in DC. Drop out rates. Job stealing (whatever that means). The list goes on, ignoring, of course, the story of most Latinos in this country, which is, frankly, one of hard work and success.

So today, as I looked out at these juniors and seniors in high school, we started talking about reflection, the flat kind that anyone can see in the mirror, and the deep kind that happens behind your eyeballs. They’re about to write college essays, after all, and the stakes are high. They’ll need to grab their story now and reflect on themselves in a new way. They’ll need to have the words to say who they really are and what they dream for themselves. Owning their story and telling it in their own words will be their most powerful act so far.

“So, where do you come from?” I asked, pulling a prompt that one of my own daughters faced when applying for college. “Where do you originate?

What they had to say left me proud. Here is a list of first lines. To me, it’s a poem waiting to be written by and about them.

Where Do I Come From?

I come from a family of travelers.

I come from a speck of hope.

I come from a million places, some more obvious than others.

I come from healthy sibling rivalry.

I come from a family of courage.

I come from a home of respect, love, and culture.

I come from dreams and goals that my parents had for me from the moment I opened my eyes.

I come from Canada, the land of ice and hockey.

I come from Richmond —but not for long.