Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

Posts tagged ‘Maya Smart’

A letter to RVA about Girls of Summer 2017

January 16, 2017

img_0609It’s MLK Day in our nation, during a time when our country is heartbreakingly fractured. On Saturday, January 14, 2017, the two of us took a stand and walked in the March on Monument, a peaceful coming together of the various social justice groups that serve the Richmond community.  Two thousand or so of our neighbors stood shoulder to shoulder chanting a call and response:

Show Me What Democracy Looks Like! THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!

What do we need? LOVE. When do we need it? NOW. What do we need? Unity. When do we need it? NOW.

There were older women and men. Parents pushing strollers and carrying signs. Old Basset hounds. Seasoned activists and college students. Wheelchair users. Artists, writers, musicians. And, members of the faith community.

Looking around, we saw our community celebrating diversity and inclusion at the statue of Robert E. Lee asking, How do we knit ourselves together in strength? How can we make our community a place where all people are respected and cared for? What can each of us offer?

We had been thinking long and hard about Girls of Summer, our curated reading list for strong girls, now approaching its seventh year. To be frank, last year, we wondered if it might be time to let the list go. Exhausted and overscheduled, we could point to dozens of other reading lists for girls to choose from.

But then the world got upended in deep and disturbing ways, most notably in an infamous video and talk of grabbing women by their genitals. And we realized that now was not the time to stop. There is still so much work to do together to make this world safe, secure, and nurturing of girls.

So plans have changed.

For the next four years, not only are we not letting go of Girls of Summer, but we are going to grow it big. We’ll use every ounce of our strength as authors, mothers, and literary citizens to build it up as a resource to empower young women of all ages to become lifelong readers and learners, with the tools to find their voices, to stand up, and to protect themselves.

So, here is the first of what will be many exciting changes this year:

Our Girls of Summer team is growing. We are joined by new and dynamic friends with loving ties to our city. These are book women, strong women, and advocates who will be helping to choose our list, plan our event, and spread the word to girls here at home and around the country. They are:

stacyhawkinsadamsheadshotStacy Hawkins Adams

amanda_headshot-cropped-300x294Amanda Nelson

aisha-saeed-headshotAisha Saeed

maya-smart-headshot-2016Maya Smart

 

 

 

In the coming months, you can expect to hear about new a partnership with Richmond Young Writers, too, as we develop new ways for young people to have access to our visiting authors. You’ll hear about a literary breakfast event organized by our longtime champions at the Richmond Public Library and about new schools and organizations who have asked to join us in this effort. And it’s our hope that you will, in fact, engage with us through attendance, earmarked donations to the Richmond Public Library foundation, and support with new and urgent energy.

We linked arms as we marched on Saturday, in effort to stay warm and in thanksgiving for this friendship of ours. Encircled by thousands of new friends, we got caught up in the spirit of loving kindness and the spirit of justice that rolled down Monument Avenue. How did this happen, we wondered? Just two girls: one with roots in Cuba and one from Mississippi, two friends who have found that it’s our differences that make us strong and our shared values that keep us brave.

Our friendship is what sparked Girls of Summer, but we know that friendship alone isn’t what sustains this important project. For that kind of sustenance, we need a community filled with smart people who care about books and reading in the lives of every day folks. (Here’s looking at you bbgb books and Kris Spisak – champions from the start.) We need a community that is invested in respecting and empowering females, from ages eight to eighty-eight. We need neighbors who insist on equality and inclusion where we live, work, and play.

And in Richmond, Virginia, as it turns out,  we have found exactly that.

Stayed tuned.

Meg Medina and Gigi Amateau are authors of works for young readers. Among their many projects, they are the cofounders of Girls of Summer List, a curated summer reading list for strong girls. They live (proudly) in Richmond, Virginia.

Kirkus, Book Riot, Bank Street and more: Keeping my sanity despite this election

kirkus-prize-2016-170x170I’m at the airport in Richmond right now, getting ready to head out to Austin for the Texas Book Festival, which is huge and wonderful as always.  I hadn’t been on the roster, but this year Burn Baby Burn is a finalist for the Kirkus Prize for Young People’s Literature. The ceremony where the winners are announced is tonight, so Kate Fletcher (my editor) and I are getting “gussied up” and heading over. Ay…I don’t know what to think about what’s going to happen; the whole idea makes me queasy. Whatever the result, though, I just want to say this: Thank you to everyone who has read my work and told others about it. You have so many good books to choose from on any given day, and I’m so grateful that you’ve given my work some space in your life and on your bookshelf.BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2

If you’re at the festival, I hope I’ll see you at the literary gala where we’ll be guests of my friend Maya Smart, a woman who is still sorely missed here in Richmond. I can only imagine a fun night because not only is there Maya, but the whole thing is being emceed by Jon Scieszka! If not at the gala, then maybe we can see each other on Saturday during the Kirkus finalist panel, where each author will talk about their book.

After Election Day, I’ll head to NYC for so many wonderful things. (Hopefully, I’ll be in good spirits.) I’ll be visiting Mamaroneck Public Schools, having dinner with donors who gave to the I, Too, Collective campaign which established Langston Hughes’ home in Harlem as a poetry and arts center for young people. (Renee Watson, you are a hero!)

raquel-and-meg-class-photos-1But also….I’ll be at Bank Street Street on Thursday, Nov 10 and Friday, Nov 11. On Thursday, my friend Raquel (R.J. Palacio) and I take the stage to talk about our friendship when we were little girls in Queens and how those experiences helped shape us into writers. We’ll be in the able hands of Jennifer Brown. On Friday, I lecture on my own work en español, a process that always makes me a little nervous. Public speaking is tricky enough, but in Spanish, I sometimes have to play hunt-and-peck for just the right words and phrases. In the big picture, though, it’s great to be able to talk about the books that are available in Spanish and to be introduced to the wonderful community at Bank Street.

headerstatictextThe week wraps up with an event I’ve been looking forward to for a solid year:  Book Riot Live!  Check out the lineup and the panelists. I hope you are already signed up for their wonderful newsletters and podcasts. The folks at BR are funny, smart, and edgy in the best sense of the word. You can count on meaty conversation, no matter what session you sit in on.

 

 

Ok, time to board. (And no, I will NOT give you my suitcase with the fancy dress and perfect shoes, madam…)

 

 

 

I Love a (Bookish) Christmas Parade

I’ll admit that I haven’t gone to Dominion’s Christmas Parade since my kids were very little.

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Photo courtesy of The Richmond Times Dispatch

But this year, my friend Maya – part of the beloved Maya and Shaka Smart duo – was named the Richmond Christmas Mother, the youngest one in the program’s 80-year history. In one fell swoop, the annual donation drive that once felt like a throwback to another generation suddenly felt contemporary, electric and fun. (To donate click here.)

One part of Maya’s motherly duties is to march in the annual Christmas parade to be held tomorrow, Dec 6. And guess who’s coming along?

2011_keats_snow_heroTrue to her passions, she has chosen a theme built on Ezra Jack Keats’  The Snowy Day, the ground-breaking 1962 classic. It’s a universal story about the joy of being little and walking through a city winter wonderland. But in a year when there has been so much conversation about books that speak to all children’s experiences (and why all kids need all stories,) the choice is perfect. I’m proud to say that Maya asked me to join in the parade as a past winner of the Ezra Jack Keats Award, which celebrates new authors and illustrators whose books feature diverse children as the main character. You can take a look at the list of all EJK award winners if you’re looking for meaningful stocking stuffers this year.

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 8.50.02 AMSo look for us tomorrow – rain or shine. We’ll be the super-enthusiastic book lovers dressed in our own version of red snowsuits. We’ll be waving at you from in front of the trolley which Maya has decked out in coffee filter snowflakes and filled with all her hopes for kids who can find their curiosity, their path, and their story in the pages of a book. (Full parade info/route here.)

Happy holidays, all!

Check out Maya on Virginia This Morning: 

 

My writing process is a mess and other confessions

Blog tour is the phrase of the day. I’m also on Latinaish today (April 21) talking about diversity and how all kids connect with stories.

But my own little blog is also a stop on the My Writing Process Blog tour.My friend, Maya Payne Smart, asked me to join.

maya-head-shotBy way of introductions, I should tell you that Maya is the first lady of VCU basketball. But I’ve known Maya as a compassionate friend, a fellow writer and as a thoughtful community supporter. Her blog specializes in business, travel and lifestyle journalism. Some highlights from her bio. “Her articles have appeared in Black Enterprise, CNNMoney.com, ESSENCE, Fortune Small Business and numerous other business and consumer publications. She earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in social studies from Harvard University and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.” She writes about dynamic women and the pursuit of happiness, meaning and productivity at MayaSmart.com.

So, on to notes on my process:

What am I working on? 

BellaAbzugLine2011-1x1 copyRight now, I’m working on a YA novel set in 1977 in NYC. It explores the insanity of the city at that time and secret violence in families. The main character is 18-year-old Nora López. Feminism, mental health, serial killers, drugs, looting. Everything you could ask for in a work for young readers. (Yikes.) It’s due to my editor on May 1. Keep me in your thoughts because this is going to require some divine intervention.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?  

The most defining characteristic of my books is that I always center my novels on the journey of strong Latino characters. The other characteristic is that I like to write fiction that dignifies young women by naming their experience as it is and celebrating all it takes to grow up strong.

Why do I write what I do?

I write Latino characters because there are so few being published and because it pains me to see Latinos reduced to stereotypes in books and film. I write YA because writing for young people is hopeful and because it forces you to be painfully honest. I write about girls because the real girls I know are powerful and kick-ass, and they deserve books about something more than falling in love with boys.

How does my writing process work?

It’s a mess. No outline. Nothing but gut instinct about the characters and their problem. This is the most inefficient way you can possibly write, but it is also very genuine in that you meet the characters and their problems as they naturally arise. I can’t say I recommend it as a strategy, but it really is how I compose.