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Maya Smart

A letter to RVA about Girls of Summer 2017

By Community work, The Writing Life

January 16, 2017 It’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…

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

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’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. 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…

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I Love a (Bookish) Christmas Parade

By Community work

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

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My writing process is a mess and other confessions

By Guests, The Writing Life
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. By 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?  Right 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...
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