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Library of Congress

The National Book Festival

By National Book Festival, The Writing Life
Where will you be on Saturday, August 31st? If you're free and near Washington, DC, you should definitely head to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for the Library of Congress' 19th annual National Book Festival. And if you are so inclined and would like to help out, you can sign up to volunteer with the Library of Congress and support the event. While you are there, stop by the Politics & Prose sales booth where you'll see Merci Suárez Changes Gears representing Virginia on the Great Reads list. For more info, check out: Virginia Center for the Book.
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I’ll Be Asking the Questions Around Here, Bud: Moderating at the Library of Congress

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

Will you be near Washington, DC on May 25?  If so, I invite you to join me for an hour at the Library of Congress where we’ll talk about the role of heritage in storytelling. Last year, Karen Jaffe, Executive Director at the Young Readers Center, convened a successful symposium on strengthening families through diversity in children’s literature. It featured Kwame Alexander, Tim Tingle, Ellen Oh, Gigi Amateau and me. (Here’s the video). We had such a good time that we’ve decided to do it again this year, adding to the menu of interesting initiatives the YRC is up to. (Hosting the recent Walter Awards, adding a new teen board, to name just two.) So this year, I’m back to help as moderator, asking questions and learning along with everyone else in the room. Some of my favorite up- and-coming voices in children’s lit are on this panel: Wendy Shang, Aisha Saeed, Rene Colato Lainez, and Elizabeth Zunon. All are authors and/or illustrators whose personal stories and experiences have shaped their nuanced and honest books about how we come to see ourselves as part of the American family. How do we face unflattering characterizations?  What is the balance of writing culturally specific stories and writing the universal?  How does the outsider come to feel like the insider, if ever? What are the challenges of naming and embracing home cultures in works for mainstream classrooms in the US? All that and more on the 25th. Hope you’ll join us.    

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DIA events rule my world this week

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

Ah, breakfast at home. I’m just back from Loudoun County Public Library in Northern Virginia, where I spoke at It’s All Write, their annual short story writing contest for teens. It’s always amazing to me how many unexpected gifts are part of these visits. I got to see the work of young people coming up the ranks – always fun. This time around, too, I learned about how Loudoun has a book club for adults with developmental disabilities. (Guess what I’m interested in starting here in Richmond?) I met librarians who are secret playwrights and novelists. I met young people who want to study children’s book illustration. And, of course, I had the honor of meeting Bev and Wright Horton, a former teacher and a geologist, who are the long time benefactors of the program that touches hundreds and hundreds of kids in their area. They do so in honor of their late son, James, who loved writing. “James would have loved this contest,” Bev told me. Personal loss redirected into something positive for a community confirmed for me AGAIN that the literary arts – the stories of all of us – are a powerful force for connection and healing. So for all of that, thank you (camera-shy)Linda Holtslander for the invitation to Loudoun County and for the chance to spend time with the amazing people at Park View HS, Tuscarora HS, and the Rust Library. I don’t have too much time to savor the downtime, but it’s for a…

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Banned On the Run…

By Appearances, Latino Life, The Writing Life

It’s a double whammy! Banned Books week and Hispanic Heritage month, so I’ve been on the road with no sign of rest in the near future. Fellow REFORMISTA Loida Garcia Febo just shared this link to Latino books that have been challenged and banned, including the book that turned me to writing in the first place: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.  Que cosa mas grande… Gracias, Loida. Lists like this inspire me to write more books that might cause alarm and discomfort – and hey, even thought. And they make me feel especially fired up about my first teaching gig at Las Comadres Writers Conference in Brooklyn this weekend. Las Comadres is more than a conference. It’s a movement based on the core principle of mentorship and culture. On Saturday, established Latina authors and publishing pros will come together at Medgar Evers College to help yet-to-be published authors learn the ropes. What’s in it for me?  Mostly getting more Latino voices at the literary table, especially those writing for kids since this year, for the first time,  our public schools will be a majority minority. Besides, I’ll be helping to create more amazing books that will end up on banned book lists. So, hermanas, if you have a story, if you’ve been too shy to admit that you want to be a writer, if you just don’t know where to begin, register for Las Comadres. Finally, here are a few pictures from my recent travels to the DC area.  I’m exhausted, but so grateful to Candlewick…

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Wanted: Your Best Pix in Support of Diverse Books

By Appearances, Community work

It’s a great week for thinking about books for all kids. On Tuesday, I’ll finally be at the Library of Congress to celebrate DIA, the American Library Association’s celebration of multicultural books for young readers. (If you’re unfamiliar with that event, go here and get on board: Dia fact sheet_0) But it’s also a week where I’ll get to hear from you – I hope. A few weeks ago, I pointed you to CBC Diversity as a place to stay informed about advocating for representative children’s books. Today, I offer you another way to help make diverse books more available in classroom and community libraries – and to help get more authors of color at literary conferences. All you need is a smart phone and a magic marker. Why do you think we need diverse books for kids? Please answer the question, take a quick photo of your written response, and send it to weneeddiversebooks@yahoo.com before Thursday, May 1. All the images will be hosted on the event’s Tumblr page. Check out the details of the campaign on Facebook, if you prefer, and if you’re a twitter person, please join the chat. Here’s mine, with just a few of the titles I grabbed off my bookshelf in a hurry. Nothing fancy. See some of your favorites?   Meg’s next appearance:  Young Readers Center at The Library of Congress, April 30 for Dia celebration, 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. 

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

By Guests

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. 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…

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