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Meg Medina

A Two-for-One ARC Giveaway

By Appearances, Giveaways, middle grade
It feels good when someone says they’re happy to see you, doesn't it? That’s true in my social life, and it’s true in my book life, too. That’s why I’m so happy to have my upcoming novel, Merci Suárez Can’t Dance on Kirkus’s list of Most Anticipated Books of 2021. It officially pubs on April 6. Here’s the thing. The days leading up to bringing a new book into the world are always nerve-wracking, no matter how long you’ve been writing. Will your readers like it? Is it on par with your other books? Is a critic out there going to grind it into dust? Those questions have been on my mind even more than usual for Merci Suárez Can’t Dance, mostly because it’s a sequel to Newbery-winning Merci Suárez Changes Gears. A while back, Travis Jonker did a 20-year survey of Newbery titles for School Library Journal to see how many had sequels or prequels. It turns out, plenty of authors have written sequels to their Newbery winners, but I wonder if any of them worried like I did as they were drafting. The first problem I ran into was my writing process, which has always been largely intuitive. Typically, I start with a character and a rough idea for a conflict, and then I draft my way into the story until a plot starts to take shape. This time, though, I saw that I would finally need some sort of outline to help keep track of what happened in...
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What this writing life teaches me: Steinfirst Writer’s Residency at UNC

By Community work, Latino Life

June has been a busy month with Girls of Summer, followed by travel to Book Expo and the ALA annual conference, where I started introducing readers to my new middle grade novel, MERCI SUÁREZ CHANGES GEARS. The early reviews are strong (more on that when I can share), and so I’m hopeful that all is going to go well. But I had a chance to sit back and reflect on something else today that reminded me again why so many of us write for children and, why in the end, it’s a privilege to do this work. Last spring, I packed up my art supplies and laptop and had the pleasure of spending a whole week working with students at Carrboro Elementary School as a writer-in-residence through the University of North Carolina. I’m almost never gone from home for a full week, but this time, that was the deal. The truth is that it’s hard to be on the road sometimes and away from my own family. But librarian Elizabeth Porter, graduate assistant Melissa Ferens and these sweet, hand-picked kids made the trip one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had. I dream about these little ones and wonder what is ahead for them. I still miss them. The official video is below. Here, too, is the text of a draft of a poem written by “A,”one of my fourth grade girls. I’ve withheld the name to shield her privacy, but all of us who were there remember this powerful piece…

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Juune is Bustin’ Out All O-O-ver…

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I woke up this morning with that song in my head, which is horrible, but June is, in fact, looking exciting on my end. Here’s the news.   BEA AND BOOK CON I’ll be at Book Expo America and BookCon to introduce MERCI SUÁREZ CHANGES GEARS. Here are the highlights so we can cross paths: Children’s Breakfast, Friday, June 1, 2018 8 am, Javitz Special Events Hall I’ll share some of what went into crafting that novel at the fancy children’s breakfast with fellow panelists Jacqueline Woodson, Dave Eggers, Yuyi Morales, and Viola Davis. (Gulp.) Latinx BookExpo Party, Friday June 1, 6 – 8 PM, at La Biblioteca (622 3rd Avenue, between 40 and 41 St) If you want to decompress and surround yourself with friends and love, please join us for drinks, micro-readings, a raffle, and fun. It’s an event sponsored by Latinx in Publishing and Duende District books. Free, but you should register. ¡Vengan! Wonder Women panel (Saturday, June 2, Javits, Room 1E16; 3:45 PM.) Woot! Where are my tights? With Kate DiCamillo, Shannon Hale, T.R. Simon, and Jessica Spotswood The scoop on signings: Friday, June 1, 2018 Signing galleys of Merci Suárez Changes Gears   10 am – 11 am, Immediately following the breakfast (ABA member lounge) 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm, Candlewick booth # 2021 Saturday, June 2, 2018 10:15 am – 11:15 am (Autograph Area tables 7 & 8) with Shannon Hale, Kate DiCamillo, T.R. Simon and Jessica Spotswood. This is where you can get paperbacks of Burn Baby Burn…

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Register for the Live Dia Webcast at the Library of Congress

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

It’s April. How are you celebrating kids and books, or should I say niños y libros? You’ve heard me speak on this blog before about the importance of supporting the annual Día de los Niños Dia de los Libros events every April. Libraries all over the country will have special programming to support multicultural books and kids, which you can check out by typing in your zip code on the official Día site. But this year, the Library of Congress – the grand dame of libraries –  is doing a live, national webcast in honor of Día, too. It will feature scholars and authors, with a special focus on the spectacular lives and contributions of powerhouse Latinx librarians Arturo Schomburg and Pura Belpré. The pdf is here. (DiaProgramDescription short_sdw .)If you hurry, you can be part of it. Just in case you’re not familiar, Schomburg and Belpré were AfroLatino librarians who advocated for justice and diverse children’s literature during the Harlem Renaissance. They were contemporaries and friends – and they saw the same problems in terms of lack of material that truly represented their communities. Their legacy endures in the formidable collections they left behind and in the medal named in their honor. Here’s the lineup. Dr. Marilisa Jimenez of Lehigh University who specializes in Latinx literature and in the contributions of Schomburg and Belpré; Carole Boston Weatherford and Eric Velasquez, the decorated author and illustrator team who brought us the award-winning picture book, Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library (Candlewick…

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Helping new voices get heard: VAASL Conference 2017

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Back in 2011,  I was invited to attend the VEMA conference, an annual gathering of school librarians in my state. The event was held in Richmond that year. I had one book out, Milagros, Girl from Away, and so, like a lot of new authors, I sat at a table by myself for most of the evening while other more seasoned authors signed copies and chatted up fans. Here’s what I most remember of that night: one school librarian came to talk to me. Her name was Schenell Agee, and she listened patiently as I stumbled through my conversation about my work and diverse voices and Latino themes. She told me that she organized an end-of-year author event at her middle school. An author visit on the last day of school? I thought. Nuts. Still, we exchanged cards, and she told me that she’d keep me in mind for the future. I expected exactly nothing. I was just grateful that someone had stopped by to ask me anything at all. Eventually, I did go to her school (Metz Middle) – alongside the amazing Floyd Cooper, as I recall. It was a fabulous school visit – not only for how well-organized it was, but also for all it taught me about why it matters to take risks on new writers. A lot has happened since then. VEMA has changed its name to VAASL (Virginia Association of School Librarians). I’ve got a few more titles under my belt. And Schenell Agee is now the…

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On Latinx rep, NYC, and Yaqui Delgado

By Appearances, Film work, Latino Life, The Writing Life

Much of the book world is descending on NYC this week for Book Expo and Book Con. I’ll be in NYC, too, but not for the fun (and the incredible line up) this time. I’m traveling north to help run focus groups with the producers who are developing YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS into a HULU series It’s easy to get excited when a film deal is announced as an option…but it doesn’t take long to find out that there is a vast journey between an option and a show you’ll find in your “Favorites.”  That said, things are looking promising for YAQUI.  The show is being developed with mega-stars  Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) and Eugenio Derbez (How to Be a Latin Lover) as executives. But for me, an equally exciting thing is that, for the most part, this show is being conceived, written and led by a group of Latina women. And, as the cherry on top, Writer Dailyn Rodriguez (Queen of the South; Ugly Betty) is a former kid from the boroughs, too (Dailyn on Twitter). Here’s the truth: When I was approached about my interest in having YAQUI DELGADO developed as a series, I felt cautious. First, there was the idea of letting go the characters and storylines in the exact way that I had conceived them. Surprisingly, I felt okay with that fairly quickly. In my view, I wrote the book that I wanted to write. Now, the film makers ought to be able to make the…

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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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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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Photo round-up of my post election travels

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life

Hi all – I’m heading to NCTE in Atlanta tomorrow, but my head is still buzzing from the election and all that it means for many of the vulnerable children and families that I meet in my life as an author. In the days to come, I’ll especially need to remind myself to balance aggravation with joy.  So here is a bit from the joyful side. Yesterday,  Burn Baby Burn was named a Best Book of 2016 by School Library Journal and also by Amazon. As you know, I was in NYC last week. My trip offered me really beautiful experiences at Bank Street College and also at the ever-fabulous Book Riot Live Conference, where people came from as far away as Australia and Sweden. I’ve pasted some of my favorite shots below – everything from political protest to utter joy and silliness. Other than that, my friends, I’ll touch base with you again in a few weeks. Hide the knives if you have to and enjoy a peaceful Thanksgiving with your families. Scenes from the Union Station subway station where citizens voiced their opposition to the election results

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YA Lit Virginia style in RVA and DC

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’m taking to the road with Hannah Barnaby and Kristen Paige Madonia, two fellow Virginia YA authors next week. If you’re close to Richmond, stop in at Fountain Bookstore on Tuesday, Sept 13, 6:30 PM. We’ll be talking about what’s happening in YA lit these days, from our own perspectives. [FountainBooks Flyer Sept2016] After, we’ll be driving up the I-95 corridor to Politics & Prose on Thursday, September 15, 7 pm for our Washington friends. I love both these authors for the top-notch work they’re producing. (Both are previous Girls of Summer guest authors, with Wonder Show and Fingerprints of You, respectively.) Their newer works:  Some of the Parts and Invisible Fault Lines are fantastic follow-ups. But these women also bring a sensitivity that I like when we talk about YA. Hannah is a former editor, and KP teaches Creative Writing at JMU and UVA.  So, I always feel like the conversation they bring about Young Adult lit is deeper than just a review of storyline or  process, etc. In fact, I feel like I learn something new from them every time we’re together. Anyway, I know the fall is a busy time, but if you can squeeze in some book and author love, come on out!

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Get Down 2night: Burn Baby Burn on #2Jennsbookclub twitter chat

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’ll be in the woods of Pennsylvania tonight, but not even tall trees, ticks, and lousy internet can stop me from slipping  on my disco ball earrings and sitting in on a twitter chat at 2jennsbookclub. It’s all about Burn Baby Burn there. Do you know these librarian superheroes? Here’s a link on their website as an intro. Basically, they’re two fierce YA librarians on a mission to, well,  quench their envy of Mr.Schu while there showing teen fiction some love. I actually met one of the Jennifers ( Jennifer LaGarde) a few years ago, when I heard her speak at the Virginia School Libraries conference in Williamsburg. She was so wise and funny as she described her role as “librarian at large” for North Carolina. I especially remember her urgency around the idea of making the library the heart of a school. That idea has stayed with me in the years since, and I’m always impressed when I find librarians doing exactly that. Here’s  Jennifer Northrup‘s site for you, too. I love that they collaborate and that they have harnessed social media as a way to connect bookish ones and keep their spaces relevant. OK,  the hashtag is #2jennsbookclub. Tonight, Sept 8, 2017, at 8 PM. Spread the word and let’s boogie.

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Peace, Quiet & Writing: An invitation to the woods

By Appearances, The Writing Life

For a few days after Labor Day, I’ll make the trek back up to rural Pennsylvania to the campus of the Highlights Foundation, where they’ve begun an artist-in-residence program. The inaugural writers are Jerry and Eileen Spinnelli, Suzanne Bloom, and me. You know Highlights, of course, from their magazine and the years you probably spent doing the hidden picture search at the dentist office. (It has been the favorite magazine feature since 1946.) But, what I learned a few years ago is that they have a beautiful campus where writers come to workshop and compose away from all the distractions of their daily lives. I’ve been there twice:  once as a guest author with Kathy Erskine and Rich Wallace. The second time (sort of) last spring as part of the faculty for SCBWI Pennsylvania, which rented the space for its annual meeting. When I was approached in June, it took all of five seconds to say sí, como no, even though I’d already closed my calendar to anything new until 2017. Who could resist? The idea is that I hide away in the beautiful mountains, where my biggest personal worries will be reduced to ticks and which ice cream to choose as a snack. Other people will cook to feed me. I will not walk a dog, throw in laundry or respond to email. At night, I will look at the stars through a telescope in the Lodge and listen to bullfrogs. The rest is a blissful four days of writing…

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A conference from your living room couch: SLJ Teen Live

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Librarians, Teachers, Book Lovers: Are you registered yet for SLJTeenLive? Hurry. It’s this Wednesday, August 10, all day, and it features the likes of Leonard Marcus, Reyna Grande, Maggie Stiefvater, me – and countless other authors and book heroes that you shouldn’t miss if you’re serving teens. I’ll be honest, I love that I don’t have to travel for this conference. In fact, what I like best of all, is that it’s a completely free online webinar – which means you can enjoy it with your earbuds and your air-conditioning – and not go broke. Maggie Stiefvater kicks us off at 10:15 am, and I’ll close us out at 4:15. In between, there are all kinds of sessions. (I’m really interested in the one about portrayals of mental illness in YA lit, moderated by Hannah Gomez.) As for me, SLJ asked me to talk about how we make all kinds of people feel like they belong in books and in the library. How is it that somebody comes to feel welcome inside a building, a book, or really, a literary establishment? I’ve never done a webinar, so it should be interesting to talk for 30 minutes to the green camera light on my computer. Please God, don’t let my face freeze in one of those horrendous Skype-type grimaces. Okay – go register. Hope you can make it on Wednesday – Meg  

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Books as Ballet: Milagros at Latin Ballet of Virginia

By The Writing Life

Youth arts fans:  This weekend, the Latin Ballet of Virginia  presents their interpretation of my first novel Milagros: Girl from Away. It runs Friday through Sunday at the Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center, and tickets are free for kids under six. (You can get more info on their website or on Facebook.) The student company performed this colorful ballet several years ago. (By now some of these kids are college graduates. Yikes!) Then as now, it’s such an honor to see a work that I wrote for children being performed by children in another art form. And I’m so grateful to the LBV for always supporting me and other Latino artists in the community. They were kind enough to perform at my Hope Tree project at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in 2012, which lent a beautiful touch to the launch party for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind. You can catch LBV this summer at the Dogwood Dell Festival of the Arts, too. Here’s the schedule. A walk down memory lane from the original is below, but I can’t wait to meet the new dancers during their rehearsal today!  

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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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Filler Up: Two book talks, including one at… a gas station?

By Appearances, The Writing Life

When I tell people that it’s important for authors to love their own community, I mean it. So with this mind, I have the pleasure to invite you to my next two appearances in Virginia – one at WriterHouse in Charlottesville, and the other at my local Exxon station in Richmond. First up: WriterHouse in Charlottesville is hosting Kristen Paige Madonia (Invisible Fault Lines) and Hannah Barnaby (Some of the Parts) and me (Burn Baby Burn) on Saturday, May 14. I’ve loved Hannah and KP’s work for a while now. (You might remember that they were each selected for past lists of Girls of Summer. Here’s the flyer with all the details: WriterHouse Flyer May2016 As for the gas station…Crazy, you say?  Not really. Hope Whitby is a member of the Poetry Society of Virginia, a member of James River Writers – and also the service manager at Village Exxon in Richmond. (It’s the one at the corner of Three Chopt and Patterson, for those of you who live in RVA.) Sure, they’ll fill up your tank and sell you junk food for the road. But Village Exxon also hangs art by local artists in their lobby, and – with Hope’s help – they run Books in the Bay Book Club to celebrate the work of local authors. That’s where I come in. Their next read is Burn Baby Burn, which they’ll discuss on Sunday, May 15, at 3:30. I’m a sucker for innovation. I love Hope’s idea and the fact that she’s figuring out how to make the arts part…

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Who Are You to Say? Why I’m part of a censorship panel at Bank Street College

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

If you care about kids and the books they read, maybe you can make room in your schedule for a half-day conference on censorship this Saturday at Bank Street College in NYC. I’m no stranger to dust ups about what’s inside my books, sadly – mostly in the form of soft censorship. Just shy of an out-and-out challenge, it means that barriers are thrown between the reader and the book. Barriers like being disinvited to schools. Or having the title of my book changed to dollar signs for the s’s in ass. Or requiring parental notes to read the novel. Or simply not carrying the novel in the library, despite its recognitions by the ALA and other reputable sources. And I’m guessing that someone will find plenty of reasons to oppose my latest historical fiction novel, Burn Baby Burn, too, for its mention of contraception, Planned Parenthood and maybe even foul language. I’ll need my brain and my crocodile skin, so this conference actually comes at a good time for me. What’s especially appealing to me about this particular conference is also this:  As the conversation about diverse representation deepens, new and compelling controversies have erupted. The only solution that makes sense? Think, learn, and talk. Here’s the set up for the day: We’ll be given a brief look at the history of censorship in books for young readers by the eminent children’s book scholar, Leonard Marcus. The panels that follow will consider how authors come to these stories to begin with; the…

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Burning at the LA Times Book Festival

By Appearances, The Writing Life

  I’m heading to the King Kong of book festivals this weekend: the Los Angeles Times Book Festival 2016. Weighing in at 500 authors, it’s big enough that I’ll have to pack sneakers along with an umbrella for the predicted drizzle. I did get some practical advice from my friend and fellow author Lilliam Rivera of Radio Sombra, where she deejays Literary Soundtrack. “It’s huge, and it’s always hot. I have no idea why. Wear light clothes.” Anyway, my schedule is this: Saturday: 1:30 PM, YA Stage: Perspectives on the Past: Writing Young Adult History MODERATOR: Aaron Hartzler PANELISTS: Monica Hesse (Girl in the Blue Coat), Meg Medina (Burn Baby Burn), Cat Winters (The Steep and Thorny Way) (Signing follows at 2:30)   Saturday, 4:30-4:55 PM, Children’s stage                       Reading/presentation of Mango, Abuela, and Me  (Book signing to follow at 5 PM) So, in preparation, dig out some platform shoes tomorrow – Thursday, April 7, 9:30 EST (6:30 PM PST), and tune in to my newest interview with Lilliam on Literary Soundtrack. We’ll be talking about New York’s scariest year – and listening to some of the songs that brought me into the world of Burn Baby Burn.     

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How do I get in? Why a lousy beginning can still help you write a good novel

By The Writing Life, writing advice

In between promotion travel for Burn Baby Burn, I’m turning my attention to writing my next projects with Candlewick. I have an anthology story due soon, and a middle grade manuscript due in December. I have friends who have mastered the art of airplane and hotel room writing. Some even write for as little as six minutes before going off to jobs in offices every day. But writing on the run has always been a struggle for me. I need a lot of quiet to sink deeply enough inside my imagination to connect with my characters, especially at the beginning. So, I was cleaning up my computer desktop – which is what I do when when I’m trying to avoid something unpleasant, like battling my writing insecurities. The process of beginning never seems to get easier, even after all this time. (The only thing worse is writing endings, but more on THAT another day.) I still spend weeks circling like a vulture above the story. I can see the characters vaguely. I can see their neighborhood, their school, the general shape of their lives, but I can’t quite zero in on where to start. I can be caught like this for a long while, writing and rewriting the first 30 pages as I flesh out the book’s world, looking under every rock for the heart of my main character. I bring this up because I stumbled upon hard evidence of why I should just embrace this wandering and stop worrying. Right…

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Coming your way San Antonio!

By Latino Life, picture books

I’m packing my bags and getting in the mood for my trip to San Antonio this weekend where I’ll meet up with 90 authors for the city’s fabulous one-day, free-and-open-to-the-public book orgy: the San Antonio Book Festival  on Saturday, April 2, 2016. There’s a bunch of kid lit authors scheduled– including some of my very favorite Latino picture book authors and assorted book people. I haven’t crossed paths with a few of these guys in a long while. (I’m looking at you, John Parra and Aurora Anaya Cerda.) So, we’re all a looking forward to our Latino kid lit family reunion. If you’re in San Antonio this weekend, please come by the children’s tent and say hola, que tal. Angela and I will be talking about how we worked together on Mango, Abuela and Me – and we’ll read your little one the story ourselves. (In the meantime, here are some fun facts I found for you about the “most romantic city.” I say that it pays to know what you’re getting into…)          

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Thinking Outside the (Big) Box? Burn Baby Burn at Costco

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’ll be signing Burn Baby Burn at the most unexpected place this Saturday:  Costco in Chesterfield, Virginia. Nope, not my usual stomping grounds for books. But here’s what has me curious. Costco IS the country’s largest membership big box retailer, and one that has its own bookclub as well as a magazine (Costco Connection) with a distribution of 8.3 million copies. And last summer, former president Jimmy Carter wowed people by signing at the Glen Allen store. So while most of us associate Costco with the 60 million rotisserie chickens the retailer sells each year, when it comes to books, it’s probably smarter to think about their members. They’re typically college-educated, earn nearly $100K and own a home. Does that translate into readers? I’m about to find out. I honestly have no idea what to expect, other than reaching out and talking to people I don’t know. Book signings can be scary – as every author knows – even at our favorite indie store. (Pick your drama: The kid cries because you wrote in her book. Or nobody comes. Or you forget/misspell somebody’s name. Or your stomach hurts. Or there’s a better event across town.) But maybe ours isn’t the only discomfort we should think about. Not everyone feels comfortable buying their reading material at bookstores. You (and I) may love the smell of books, the crack of a new spine, the help of a knowledgable bookseller. But there are also those who like to browse on their own and who’ll take a risk on a book that they…

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Lord I Was Born A Ramblin (Wo)maaaan

By Appearances

By far the busiest week I’ve had in a while: 6,412.8 miles in ten days. Whew! Some photos from the road…as many as I remembered to take, starting at the Tucson Festival of the Book.   On to the Virginia Festival of the Book… And wrapping up in Fort Myers Florida for the Southwest Florida Reading Festival.

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Diverse Book Love in Virginia This Week

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’m on a plane back home this morning, but I’ll have just enough time to toss the dirty clothes in the washer and head west on I-64 to Charlottesville for the Virginia Festival of the Book being held this week. Here’s the schedule; as usual, something for all tastes – from chefs and cookbooks, to cultural icons and children’s book authors. No need to worry that you’ll feel out of your comfort zone. Just get out there and support the literary life of you home state, friends. My own visit is quick this year. Two school stops (Southwood Boys & Girls Club and Jack Jouette Middle School) but also an important Thursday evening panel that comes against the backdrop of the alarming national conversation (if we can we still call it that) about immigrants in this country. I hope you’ll attend Beyond Background Characters: Life in Hyphen-American. Check out the author bios, and join us! When: Thursday, March 17, 2016, 8:00 PM Where: UVa Culbreth Theater (109 Culbreth Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22903) Who:  Sara Farizan Sara Farizan, author of Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel, is the daughter of Iranian immigrants, and was born in Massachusetts. She is an MFA graduate of Lesley University and holds a BA in film and media studies from American University. She is also the author of If You Could Be Mine.   Lamar Giles Lamar Giles, author of the YA thrillers Endangered and Fake ID, which was a 2015 Edgar Award nominee, is a…

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Off to the Desert: Tucson Festival of Books

By Appearances, Latino Life, The Writing Life

I had twins today – sort of. That’s because it’s my book birthday for Burn Baby Burn and also for the Spanish edition of Yaqui Delgado Quiere Darte Una Paliza (translated by Teresa Mlawer). Thanks to everyone who is sending and tweeting good wishes! So how am I celebrating the releases? By dreaming of 80 degree sunny weather and packing for the first leg of a mini book tour. First stop: Arizona – for the wonderful Tucson Book Festival this weekend.(Hopefully, it’s the book and not my winter-pale skin that’s going to burn, baby, burn.) Here’s my schedule… everything from crafting historical fiction (with the likes of Ruta Sepetys) to breaking the culture and color barrier in publishing.   Hot Off the Press Sat, Mar 12, 8:30 am – 9:30 am By invitation only: Meet ten marvelous authors releasing new books the week of the Festival. Student Union South Ballroom (Wheelchair accessible) Panelists: C. J. Box, Douglas Brinkley, Jeffery Deaver, Amy Hatvany, J. A. Jance, Lisa Lutz, Meg Medina, John Nichols, T. Jefferson Parker, Chris Pavone; Moderator: Jennifer Lee Carrell Fight or Flight: Surviving School Sat, Mar 12, 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm High school and middle school can be extremely difficult for teens who daily face bullying by peers and cliques that exclude anyone seen as “different” or “weird”. These YA authors will talk about how the characters in their books respond to rejection, exclusion, and bullying and why these books matter to teens. Education Room 351 (Seats 48, Wheelchair accessible) Signing…

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We’re Making (Badass)History: A Google Hangout with YA authors

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’ll be joining three amazing authors for a Google Hangout on Sunday, March 6. Check out the details and mark your calendar.     Who will be there?     Sharon Biggs Waller The Forbidden Orchid Synopsis: 1861, Kent, England. 17-year-old Elodie Buchanan is the eldest of ten girls, all named for flowers, and daughter of a world-famous Victorian plant hunter and Darwinist. When an accident leaves her father immobile and badly in debt, Elodie herself must journey to China in search of a rare orchid to save her family from debtors prison. Along the way she finds danger, deception, and first love. Published by Viking, February 2nd, 2016. Starred in PW and School Library Journal “VERDICT A historical romance with a strong female protagonist, sure to find fans.–School Library Journal Jessica Spotswood A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bankrollers, and Other Badass Girls Synopsis: Join fifteen of today’s most talented writers of young adult literature on a thrill ride through history with American girls charting their own course. They are monsters and mediums, bodyguards and barkeeps, screenwriters and schoolteachers, heiresses and hobos. They’re making their own way in often-hostile lands, using every weapon in their arsenals, facing down murderers and marriage proposals. And they all have a story to tell. Starred review in Booklist “Readers of historical fiction and adventure need look no further.” ~ Kirkus Cat Winter The Steep and Thorny Way Hanalee Denney’s hometown is not a welcoming place in the 1920s. Hanalee is the daughter of…

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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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NY, NY: A Helluva Town

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Before I post the photos from BEA and BookCon in New York, I have to show you what I got in my inbox. It’s a project based on Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. My librarian friend, Shelley Armstrong, sent me the work of Jordan, Kasey, Myles, and Nick from Dr. Lee Bloxom’s 9th grade English class at the Thomas Dale High School West Campus in Richmond, VA. What better way to teach the impact of audience on writing, than to have a group of kids adapt a story for another age group?  Here’s my bad-ass YA novel as a picture book.  TDHS Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Butt. (Thanks for sending this Shelley!) Okay, the photos I managed to get my hands on. Next time you’re in the city, I recommend staying at the Library Hotel, at 41 and Madison Ave., just up the block from NYPL’s famous stone lions. The entire decor in the hotel is based on the Dewey decimal system, complete with an old card catalog at the reception desk. Each floor houses different categories. You can stay in the paranormal section, romance languages, botany. Even the street outside is decorated with brass plaques featuring quotes by famous literary figures. So strange and fun!   I fell in love with a little gem of a school in the East Village called the Cornelia Connelly Center. Sweet, smart students – with great questions. Looking for a place to make a meaningful donation? This is it. Thank you…

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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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My new book trailer: Mango, Abuela, and Me

By picture books

Do you need a book trailer? Plenty of authors will say no, but trailers are fun to make, even if you don’t have any visual art skills. The one below was made on i-movie, plain and simple. Personally, I like the exercise of distilling an entire book idea down to a minute or less.  It’s a visual “elevator pitch” and another way to get readers engaged in what’s coming. Anyway, here’s the trailer for my next picture book, Mango, Abuela, and Me, due from Candlewick Press on August 25, 2015. Illustrated by the lovely Angela Dominguez. [wpvideo jpcNNVhC]

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What are you doing in Arkansas? Thinking about Pura Belpré, of course!

By Appearances, Awards and news, Community work, Latino Life, The Writing Life

That’s pretty much what everybody asked me this week.  Maybe it’s because it’s hard to imagine a Cuban from Queens hanging out near Oklahoma where the wind does, in fact, come sweeping down the plain. But there I was: Ft. Smith, Arkansas. Fort Smith is a quiet place with one of everything, as Ines, one of the district’s English Language Learners coordinators, told me. One Staples. One bridal shop. One mall. Church life is central to life here, which made me laugh when I toured their visitor center –  a restored brothel called Miss Laura’s Social Club. You can walk along the beautiful Arkansas river here, eat something called a Frito Chili pie, or find excellent Vietnamese food. You can experience a tornado drill on a moment’s notice or tour gallows and other bone-chilling artifacts of the “wild west.” Such a mix of unexpected things. Including people. Like a lot of small towns in the US, Fort Smith is warm and close-knit – and it now finds its demographics shifting. Schools that were once 90 percent white, now have Latino populations of over sixty percent, compounded in some cases by significant financial need. The challenge, of course, is to embrace change as normal and to pull from it the rich experiences that a truly multicultural community can provide. As I’ve had the chance to do  elsewhere, I spoke to kids about my books, culture, and where those two meet inside a writer. I had to tread lightly on Yaqui Delgado Wants to…

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A Book Club from the Comfort of Your Phone

By Appearances

You’re invited to join me at a book club tonight and the best part is that you never have to leave the comfort of your stretchy pants and living room. That’s because I’m going to be part of the Las Comadres Young Adult Teleconference Book Club at 8 PM. Here’s the number and code: Dial in #: 1-877-383-4771 Code: 120120143 If you’re not familiar, Las Comadres is a nationally known Latina organization whose mission is to “empower women to be actively engaged in the growing Latino/Hispanic communities through online and face to face networks.” What I like about Las Comadres is that its spine is mentoring. The idea is to share information, to help each other succeed, and to celebrate our cultural heritage along the way. Last fall, I had the pleasure of being part of the Las Comadres Writers Conference at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, a gathering of established and up-and-coming Latino authors, editors, and agents. It was such a great time for me to work with writers who are coming up behind me and also to connect with people, like Esmeralda Santiago, whose work I’ve long admired. (José Vilson, was another highlight. Check out his bad ass teacher blog, particularly valuable in the wake of the events in Ferguson.) Anyway, for tonight, founder Nora Comstock is going to lead the conversation about Pura Belpré – the woman and the award that so many people just can’t pronounce – and how I’ve used my year to honor her memory. We’ll also talk…

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The Old English Teacher in Me goes to NCTE

By Appearances

I’m heading for my last appearance of 2014 this weekend, and it’s a celebration of a few things and, in a way, a full circle. First, it’s my husband’s birthday.  Here we are over 30 years ago when we got married – much against everyone’s advice due to our age, the fact that we hadn’t finished college yet, that we were broke, and that, frankly, we were somewhat incompatible in terms of our interests. Well, we finished college; the rest is kind of the same. I honestly can’t remember not knowing Javier. We met at the factory where both our mothers worked when they first arrived in the US. It would later be the same factory where we got our first summer jobs being bored to death testing transistors alongside our mothers. Those of you who have already met him know that this hot-headed mess is a truly lovely man, a solid dad, and for me, the whole world. Unfortunately, he’s stuck with a birthday that falls on the same day that President Kennedy was shot, and also so near Thanksgiving that he often has to share the fun with the dead bird and its dressings. This year, it also falls during the NCTE Annual Convention, too. Miss his birthday? Yikes! So, since the conference is being held at the fancy schmantzy Gaylord Resort in Alexandria, he’s coming along. Javier isn’t a book man. He works in health care. So, the guy who struggles with commas but deciphers the hardest math or…

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Philly, Vicks VapoRub, Kids & Me

By Appearances, Community work

I’m back from Philly where I stayed at the lovely Four Seasons Hotel, a guest of the Free LIbrary of Philadelphia. The hotel is every bit as cushy as you’d expect. Chandeliers, thick rugs, polite people at every, single turn.  The staff even made me a beautiful candy version of the book cover for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind – which was both astoundingly lovely and funny. I was there to speak about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, after all. Hmmm. I would have LOVED to have been a fly on the wall when the dessert guru had to decide what to do.   Anyway, I spent the day as part of library’s well-regarded Field Family Teen Author Series, an endowed program that brings authors and books to students at no cost to their school. (Attention People of Means and Nice Shoes!  Consider doing this in your community, too!) The high school students in my groups were amazing. A sampling: Students with visual impairments who heard the audio version of Yaqui. Young people who were in a GED program and trying to get themselves back on track. A charter school that is over 90% Latino – and their teacher who is an aspiring author, too. We met at a branch in the Kensington area – decidedly NOT the Four Seasons ambiance. But it’s a dead ringer for the Queens that I knew growing up, right down to the trains running overhead the way they do in Corona, Jackson Heights, Jamaica and…

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Happy Halloween: Cool stuff I saw this week

By Appearances, The Writing Life

It’s odd that I like high school visits as much as I do – especially since I loathed my own experience. But what can I say? I run into hilarious librarians, teachers who dream up good projects, and (most importantly) amazing young people all over the place. Here’s some proof.  These are some shots I took today of my shared day at Thomas Dale High School and Meadowbrook High School, both in the Richmond area.        

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Teen Read Week & More in #RVA

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

It’s a great week to love books in Richmond, Virginia – especially middle grade and YA fiction. That’s because it’s not only the Library of Virginia’s Literary Festival, but it’s also the American Library Association’s TeenRead Week. Wao! So much going on, so what can I say except, Tengo los patines puestos! (I’ve got my roller-skates on!) Here are a few highlights of where I’ll be during the week: Meadowdale Library/Tomahawk Creek MS:  I’ll head down to Chesterfield County for a library book talk that is off-site on Wednesday, Oct 15, 7 PM.  We’ll talk The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Here’s the info and where you register.  Especially nice to see a partnership between the school and public libraries in a community.   Teen 14: Locals already know that the main branch of the Richmond Public Library on Franklin Street is always figuring out ways to make reading come alive, especially for kids. So, they’re going to play host once again for a teen author event. Join Virginia authors who have works for teens published in 2014. It’s a ready-made night for librarians, teachers, and readers who want to meet and make friends with the truly kick-ass authors we have in the Commonwealth. PLUS, food, music, giveaways.  If last year’s event was any sign, it’s going to be a really fun night. Details on their Facebook page or click on the jpg poster here. Hermitage High School Anti-bullying Book Event with Erin Jade Lange. You know her novel?  It’s…

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Happily Disobedient

By Appearances, Community work, Latino Life, The Writing Life

That silly school board in Colorado got me feeling especially proud of young people – and also appreciative about my great day this Friday. While their school board continued to pit patriotism against informed thought in its AP History classes, I was surrounded by people who dedicate their lives to doing the opposite. I got to teach a workshop with the fabulous Duncan Tonatiuh, where we both discussed our writing/creation process and how we bring difficult topics to young people. Here’s a video that fourth graders did in honor of his award-winning picture book, Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aM6oQEVRyDc&w=560&h=315]   Just after the workshop, I got to peruse the children’s and YA collection at Busboys and Poets in DC, hands-down the most diverse offerings I have come across in our area. If you’re serious about including all points of view, this is the place to be. I was especially fond of the free downloadable lessons and books lists available through Teaching for Change. Met the wise women who wrote Parrots Over Puerto Rico (Lee and Low), this year’s winner of the Las Américas Award.  They had the nerve to write a nonfiction book without a single photograph and without even putting the title on the book cover. That, plus a look at the ga-billion scissors and scraps of paper that it took to make all those collage parrots makes me bow low in respect. ¡Felicidades, Susan and Cindy! Toured the Children’s Literature Center at the Library of Congress for the…

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Birds of a Feather…

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

I’m checking out another great indi bookstore. It’s Busboys and Poets  in Washington, DC, and I’m going to their 14th and V location for the first time this Friday. That’s because it’s time for the awards ceremony for the Las Américas prize. This year, top prize went to the lovely picture book Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan Roth and Cindy Trumbore, an especially delightful pick from Lee and Low, a smaller publisher that has long been advocating and promoting diverse children’s literature. It’s the story of the near extinction of wild parrots in Puerto  Rico and how that sad situation was turned around. I hope you’ll stop in to the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress to see an exhibit of the book and its art, which runs through the end of October. As part of the festivities, Las Américas also sponsors an annual educator workshop – hosted by Busboys and Poets – where teachers and librarians can get hands-on ideas and materials for bringing high quality Latino literature into their classroom or library. I’m so happy to be able to present alongside Duncan Tonatiuh this year. (9:30 – noon). Duncan won honorable mention, as well as a Pura Belpré Honor medal, for his exquisite book Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale. My own novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, was selected as a commended title this year (along with all of these). If you’re a teacher or librarian, it’s not too late to register. The reasonable $25 registration fee…

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Book Hoarding and other things I admitted to on Book Riot

By Adult books, Appearances, Latino Life, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

My heroes at Book Riot have a new podcast series called Reading Lives, where authors talk about pretty much anything except their own books. I’m on there today, episode #2, where Jeff O’Neal and I talk about my book collection fetish, as well as all the titles and authors (some surprising) that have shaped everything from my sense of culture to how I parented. These days I do a lot of interviews, but I can’t remember a time when doing one was this much fun. Maybe it’s because Jeff (aka @readingape on Twitter) is so charming, but maybe too because the hook is so simple. Two people talking about the books we love, old and new. What can I say?  It’s a literary geek’s dream. If you’ve got some time, check it out. You can subscribe on i-tunes, too.  

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Writing as the Biggest Gamble of All: ALA Las Vegas is Here!

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life

Kids don’t picture their librarians hanging out at a slot machine. But, I’m telling you, it could happen this week. That’s because ten thousand librarians will descend on Las Vegas for their annual meeting. I’m heading over to join the party at the Association for Library Services to Children where I’ll be among the authors receiving our medals.Yep, it’s time for the Pura Belpré ceremony among others. Truthfully, I don’t know what to expect. But in between panic and packing, I’m giving lots of thought to this year’s theme: Transforming Our Libraries, Transforming Ourselves. For the first time, my editor and marketing team at Candlewick, my agent, my husband, and the librarians who’ve championed my work will be in one place. These are the some of the people who took the gamble on me (sorry for that pun) and who have played the biggest role in my transformation. One heart isn’t big enough to hold all the gratitude I have for what these people have helped make happen in my life. One speech isn’t nearly enough to thank them  – or to thank all the bloggers, teachers, conference planners, librarians, college professors, fellow authors, family, and readers at home who have also offered me their hand and encouragement along the way. Thank you seems so meager right now. Not even mil gracias would be enough. But that’s what I’m sending to you this week. A thousand thank you’s for letting me tell stories. May our paths continue to cross in the years ahead. Meg If…

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The Literary Activist: When writing moves beyond your computer

By Community work, picture book, middle grade, YA, What I'm reading

Picture the fervor of a rock concert smashed into book geekdom and strong girls. That’s the Girls of Summer live launch party, being held tonight, June18, 7 pm at the Richmond Public Library (Main branch). Gigi and I started the project four years ago, and it has grown into a vibrant partnership that has galvanized our local library, improving their children’s and teens circulation numbers– not to mention their good mood. More importantly, it has connected girls in Richmond not only to good books but also to their own sense of what it means to be a strong girl in 2014. When we started this, Gigi and I couldn’t have guessed how it would grow.  The idea was so simple. We had both used books so heavily in helping us raise our own daughters. What were the books we’d recommend to girls and their moms now? Each year, we answer that question with the help of 20 or so exceptionally talented and generous authors who think girls are amazing, too.  We’ve had the titans in children’s literature, like Jacqueline Woodson, and we’ve had debut authors, like this year’s Hannah Barnaby. What matters to us is the story and the celebration of as diverse a group of girls as possible. Our librarians and local friends help, too, as photographers, as copyeditors, as designers, as event planners. The sum total is a notable blog and a live launch event that has moved us from little mentions in local events calendars to articles…

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Women’s Media Center Live

By Appearances

My third grade art teacher was the first woman I ever knew to put “Ms.” before her name. I remember almost nothing about her except that astounding decision – and the fact that she let us dance to Helen Reddy’s  I Am Woman for our after school club performance. She was probably the first feminist I ever met, and thankfully she left an imprint on her little charges. A few years later, I was already reading my sister’s Ms. Magazines, and eventually I went on to a life that’s been about writing stories that in one way or another advocate for girls. So this weekend, when I was featured on the Women’s Media Center Live podcast, I was thrilled. WMCL is a weekly broadcast out of DC. It’s a project of a larger initiative called the Women’s Media Center which was founded in 2005 by feminist icons Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan. What I like about the podcast is that the guests are widely varied, (Anita Hill, Jimmy Carter, just two quick examples). I also like that Robin Morgan tackles any thorny topic with grace and brains. You can catch it every Saturday morning, but you can download episodes via i-tunes if you miss the 11 am EST stream. This week, Robin and I talked about lots of things: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, how librarians are truly the butt-kicking heroes,  Girls of Summer, REFORMA, and my favorite lists for finding pro-girl multicultural books. Check out Women’s Center Live on Facebook or twitter (@wmclive). Subscribe…

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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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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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When Old Becomes e-New: MILAGROS as e-book

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

When one of your books goes out of print, it’s a little bit like a death. I know that sounds dramatic, but that’s how it felt for me when my first middle grade novel, MILAGROS: THE GIRL FROM AWAY went out of print a couple of years ago. MILAGROS was my first book, and as any author will tell you, a first book has a special place in  your heart. It is your dream come true in so many ways. It represents every hope and every ounce of courage you ever had as a writer. To see it end, is a sad, sad thing. MILAGROS came out to strong reviews in 2008, but thanks in part to my total lack of chops in promotion back then (“Facebook? What’s that? A Blog? You’re kidding!”), it faded quietly into the background.   But today, thanks to my agent, Jen Rofé, at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, MILAGROS: THE GIRL FROM AWAY gets a second chance in the Kindle edition. The jury is still out, of course, on whether middle grade readers will flock to e-books. And I am well aware of the teeth gnashing we do about Amazon. Still, I feel at peace that there is a version available of all of my work. Best of all, though, I want to let you know that the beautiful new cover was designed by my friend and colleague Joe Cepeda. You know Joe’s work, such as Nappy Hair, Esperanza Rising and many other iconic books. …

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Legends, Hashtags &Wisdom: VA Festival of the Book

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Okay, a very quick post because I am on deadline! I spent three glorious days with my friends Kristen Swenson and A. B. Westrick in the mountains of Virginia at the 20th anniversary of the Festival of the Book. Some highlights in pictures: My school visit at Jackson-Via Elementary. Best question from a second grader: Do you make more than $30 a day? Great panel about author platforms with Jane Friedman, author Gigi Amateau, and “The Book Maven” Bethanne Patrick who is behind #Friday Reads. They gave lots of definitions and practical advice on creating your overall reputation. Favorite take-away from Jane:  Building your platform takes patience and consistency. It should outlast any single book or project that you do. Talking YA books for adults with old friend K.P. Madonia (Fingerprints of You) and new friend Andrew Auseon (Freak Magnet and others) at the Village School. Great reads. Put them on your list. Spending time with Sonia Manzano, the 2013 Pura Belpré Honor winner for The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano. (You probably know her as Maria from Sesame Street.)  What an honor to meet her and to be able to talk, even for a little while, about our books and next projects. Practicing the use of hashtags with children’s lit legend Louis Lowry, Kathy Erskine and Jennifer Elvgren. I didn’t see that one coming, but you know, we’re all racing to understand this stuff! #YA, #kidlit, #canyoubelievethis? Top pick of all: The joyous “homecoming panel” at the Paramount Theater on Saturday night. We were treated to an evening…

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What’s Going On in Multi Culti Lit: The librarians speak

By Latino Life

What’s going on in multicultural lit?  This month, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin is opening a discussion by posting its latest data on diverse literature – and by reading two novels involving Native American culture:  How I Became a Ghost (Tingle) and If I Ever Get Out of Here (Gansworth). To whet your appetite, here are their latest statistics: “We received approximately 3,200 books at the CCBC in 2013. Of those, .*93*books had significant African or African American content .*67*books were by Black authors and/or illustrators .*33 *books had American Indian themes, topics, or characters .*18*books were by American Indian authors and/or illustrators .*58 *books had significant Asian/Pacific or Asian/Pacific American content .*85*books were by authors and/or illustrators of Asian/Pacific heritage .*57 *books had significant Latino content .*48 *books were by Latino authors and/or illustrators” It’s always fascinating to hear librarians talk about the challenges of building a collection that reflects our country. Are we doing enough to find and develop new voices? Are the indie publishers doing a better job than the big houses in this area? Are we still stuck – whether consciously or not – in the mindset that certain cultural groups don’t read? One comment in the thread gave me long pause. Is the Pura Belpré a “marginalized” prize? To me, it’s the biggest honor in the world, but just take a look at how Amazon listed the children’s book winners the day after the Youth Media Awards were announced.  Hmmm…what’s missing…

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Yaqui, Pura Belpré and Me

By Awards and news

Here is what it looks like when a dream comes true.  This blurry “selfie” was taken on a Richmond-bound Amtrak train, two minutes after getting the news that I had won the 2014 Pura Belpré Award. I was on my way home from the ALA Midwinter Conference on Sunday night when my cellphone rang and Ruth Tobar, chair of the selection committee, gave me the good news. I was  promptly sworn to secrecy until the next day. Obviously, Gigi guessed what all my Spanish and crying was about; thank goodness she’s a steel trap. Thank you so much, everyone, for the tsunami of good wishes. (And thank you, Ms. Espinal, President of REFORMA (the ALA’s affiliate group that focuses on library services for Latino youth and families) for saying “ass” with such courage and gusto from the podium!) It’s an honor beyond belief to receive this award alongside some of the most talented people working in children’s publishing today. (Full list of ALA Youth Media winners here.) Un abrazo fuerte for: Yuyi Morales, Margarita Engle, Matt De la Peña, Duncan Tonatiuh, Angela Dominguez, and Rafael Lopez. Other pieces of good news continue to come in for YAQUI,  but for now I’m off to a Banned Books and Brews event at Longwood University this weekend to help raise funds for the Virginia Children’s Book Festival which will bring some pretty big names to Virginia in the fall. A drink doesn’t sound like such a bad idea right about now. ¡Salud! (Check out the awards. FYI, the Pura Belpré starts just…

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Check Your Drawers: My hopes for you in 2014

By Random howls into the world, The Writing Life

I was overpowered by New Year Mania and spent last week having my oldest daughter’s room painted, which somehow led  to an entire overhaul of my living room/writing lair. In the process of digging out my old desk, I came across a few things that made the whole back-breaking process worthwhile. The first was my mother’s plane ticket from Cuba, dated May 19, 1960 and her subsequent application for citizenship to the US.  I had stored them after discovering them in a box last fall when I was closing her condo in Florida. The documents made me wonder what she was thinking all those years ago on the verge of losing her country, and though it wasn’t known to her yet, on the verge of losing her husband, too. I’ve decided to have the pieces framed and put over my desk. My family’s story in this country began with what felt like a disaster to her, and my story as a writer and as a woman begins with her long journey to survive. The second treasure has to do with dreams – and grit. Several years ago, when I wanted desperately to be a full-time writer but lacked the courage to do it, I found an exercise in one of those awful self-help books. I was asked to write a paragraph that described what I wanted my future “author’s life” to look like. I remember feeling embarrassed to jot down such dreams. I braced myself for the fact that I…

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Do Our Stories Create Activists? My takeaway from the VAASL conference

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’m not a librarian, and I haven’t been a teacher in almost twenty years. But I’m still intrigued about how great schools happen and the role that books play in that drama. Two weeks ago, I got to spend time with Virginia school librarians at their annual conference in Williamsburg. Here are a few of my favorite takeaways. If you’re not already doing so, follow Jenifer LaGarde’s blog or her twitter handle. Jennifer is an Educator on Loan for the NC Dept of Instruction. That means she travels the country as a mentor and lecturer, helping librarians develop the subversive skills they need to become the beating heart of their schools. She fights stereotypes, the Dewey decimal system and use of late fines with the same fervor Batman takes to the Joker – and she’s figured out how to turn her innovative library programs into hard data that principals can’t ignore when it’s time for the budget ax. All that, plus a killer sense of humor. She’s definitely worth following. My fellow Virginia author Natalie Dias Lorenzi introduced us to Padlet as a way to engage students with multicultural lit in the classroom. Natalie is the author of Flying the Dragon, but she is also a teacher with 19 years of experience. She uses the Padlet site to help middle school students connect with the  characters and stories they’re reading. She walked us through building a custom-made Padlet comment wall, where students can post reader responses, ask questions about the characters and events –…

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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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Virginia Book Lovers: This is the week for you!

By Appearances, Community work

This is the week to be proud to be a Virginian, especially if you’re a book geek like me. The Literary Festival of Virginia is back. It has been  gaining national attention over the years, thanks to the impressive list of  bookish events you can find in this state. One event that I hope is on your radar is right here in Richmond. If you’re a fan of books for young readers,  we want to see you at Teen ’13  at the Richmond Public Library on October 17, 6 – 8:30 PM. Food, music, authors, books, free stuff, all in one place. The fifteen Virginia authors who are coming offer a mind-blowing range of styles and topics. The books – all 2013 releases — are about psychic powers, romance, religious zealots, racism, canaries in coal mines, circus freaks, the KKK, bullies, military families, Darfur, dementia, horses, angels, courtiers, girls in juvie hall – you name it. See for yourself on the final schedule and the author list here. Teen ’13 program_proof2 (2) Oh, and to sweeten the deal even more, there’s free stuff: six $25 gift cards to Fountain Bookstore (which will be on hand that night); three winners of 30-minute video chats with an author of their choice; and an autographed collection of the entire list of books. Huge smooches to the Hanover High School Jazz band for their talents and to the Friends of the Library who funded the food, the space and all the prizes. (And buttons. Did I…

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Happy Paperback Birthday!

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Feliz Cumpleaños, The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind! It’s the first time one of my hardcover books is becoming a paperback – and the first time a school is using one of my works as a school wide reading project. Thank you Sterling Middle School in Northern Virginia for this lovely way to celebrate a very special occasion! “Fluent and lovely…” School Library Journal

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“Hola, ¿Qué Tal?” at The Nat’l Book Fest

By Appearances

It’s here!  The mega weekend  for all of us book freaks in the US.  If you’re at the Nat’l Book Festival, please stop by the Pavilion of the States at noon on Saturday so you can say “hola, ¿qúe tal? – and pick up free stuff like lapel pins and some ideas for the classroom to go along with Tía Isa Wants a Car. After that, I’ll be enjoying the beautiful weather and stalking authors like the rest of you. Look out Kevin Henkes, Patrick Ness, Kathy Erskine, Monica Brown, Matt de la Peña and more!

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Literary Mischief: A New Answer to Book Signings in RVA

By Appearances

This Friday night, I’m getting in the ring with one of Richmond’s favorite (and best named) storytellers, Slash Coleman for Literary Mischief, his refreshing and oddball take on book events. We’ll be at The Crossroads Art Center and here’s the basic set up. Four authors get a few minutes to talk about anything they choose. Then they face Slash for offbeat interview questions and plenty of audience participation. Yes, you can buy a book and we’ll sign it, but the night is about relaxing and connecting with the authors who live and work in this city. I’ll likely talk about what it’s like to write for kids when your book pushes all the wrong buttons for school administrators. If that doesn’t suit you, don’t worry. I’ll be joined by some of Richmond, Virginia’s favorite faces in the arts, too. The lineup: Harry Kollatz, Jr – Senior writer and Arts and Entertainment Editor at Richmond Magazine  (Yep, you know him. The dashing guy in the fabulous hat.) He’s the author of Richmond in Ragtime. Virginia Pye – former chair of James River Writers, whose debut novel River of Dust, was called “mysterious, exotic and creepy… A fine journey, well worth the effort” by The Washington Post Susann Cokal – critic, college professor essayist, and cat-obsessed friend, whose new novel The Kingdom of Little Wounds has earned a starred review from Kirkus. I admire everybody on the list, but we are a far-flung bunch, so who knows how Slash will knit us all together.  That’s the fun. Our work spans the Renaissance,…

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Author Uninvited: A School Decides I’m Trouble

By Appearances

Let me start by saying that I am not making this up. This week I was officially uninvited to speak on bullying at a middle school due to the title of my latest YA novel, YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS. The timing could not have been more ironic. September is the month when the American Library Association celebrates Banned Book Week, our annual reminder about the importance of intellectual freedom. Sure, the title has raised eyebrows – as I knew it would. But the title of my book wasn’t an issue several months ago when I was contracted  to be part of the school’s anti-bullying event. YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS  is the story of girl’s unraveling as she navigates being in the crosshairs of a physical and emotional abuser. I had planned to talk about my own experience at the hands of a bully long ago – and all that the experience robbed from me.  Then, as now, there were no easy answers, no clear path out of the torment that I couldn’t trust the adults around me to stop. I had also planned to talk about how that ugly sliver of life became fiction and about how writing and books help us make sense of our life experiences, good and bad. But last Friday, I received a painful email from the teacher who had reached out to me in the first place. She was apologetic as she explained that her principal needed reassurances. He needed to be sure…

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See you at the Nat’l Book Festival!

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life

A quick post to say muchisimas gracias to the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, which will be part of the 2013 National Book Festival September 21 – 22. This year, the Foundation has selected Tía Isa Wants a Car to represent Virginia at the Pavilion of the States.  How’s THAT for a surprise? Here’s the press release. [VFH Invited to National Book Festival.] The National Book Festival will be held on the mall in Washington DC.  Free and open to the public…just a gigantic gathering of book lovers. I’ll be at the tent for a little while on Saturday enjoying the joyous mayhem. Otherwise, you’ll find me strolling around and catching some of my favorite authors. (That, and buying too many books, as usual!)  Amazing lineup, to be sure. See you there!

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Read Local: You’re invited to Teen ’13

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

Mark your fall calendars, teen book lovers. You’re invited to Teen ’13, a literary party that will celebrate Virginia’s homegrown talents.  If you’ve had the chance to sink your teeth into a local Virginia peach this summer, you already know why it makes sense to buy local.  But you shouldn’t limit yourself to buying local food. You can feel  good about “reading local,” too – especially if you’re a fan of teen fiction. That’s because Virginia has an impressive bench when it comes to authors. We’re home to New York Times bestsellers and to authors who have won the Newbery Award, the Hans Christian Anderson Award, the National Book Award, and other top literary prizes. And that’s to say nothing of the hefty number of Virginia authors whose works regularly grace the annual “Best of” lists  that recognize the top books for kids each year. Free and open to the public, Teen ’13 will give book fans of all ages a chance to gather at the Richmond Public library to enjoy food and drinks, buy books, meet their favorite authors in person and win everything from indi bookstore gift certificates and free Skype visits to autographed copies of books and more. Fourteen Virginia authors will attend – all of whom have new releases in 2013. (Teen 13 authors and book blurbs.) It’s exciting enough to have all those creative types in one place. But what’s most satisfying to me is that teen fiction – or YA, if you prefer –  will be part of…

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A Gift from Tía Isa

By Latino Life, Random howls into the world

Three days ago, I stood in the aisle of my neighborhood Kroger buying baby food for my mother. It was a sobering moment to say the least. Her nausea had worsened, and in desperation, I turned to what I assumed was the easiest food to digest. The good news:  Goya now makes its own line of infant food. I scooped up as many jars of Apples With Guava as I could hold and headed to the register. The bad news: We are running out of time. We’ve been working with the wonderful souls at Heartland Hospice for a couple of months now, so all of us are learning to make room for Death at our elbow. It’s a long exercise in acceptance and forgiveness, as it turns out. That, and endurance. But of all the difficult things, one of the worst is this: When I look at my mother and my tía Isa, who is ailing, too, I can’t imagine the silence of my world without them. All those stories that have shaped me, annoyed me, hurt me, defined me, made me wonder, turned me into a writer…they will stop, and it will be up to me to remember and share. Which is why, perhaps, my aunt –  tía Isa – called me to her bed a week or so ago. She has always been one to surprise me. For example, she bought our first family car – a shocking event immortalized in Tía Isa Wants a Car.  And, if…

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

By Appearances, Awards and news, Latino Life, The Writing Life

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. 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. 2.  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. 3. 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…

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You’re Never Far From Your Story

By Random howls into the world, The Writing Life

Big milestone: At the end of the month, I will have been married to my husband, Javier, for 30 years. To celebrate, we planned what we both consider a once-in-a-lifetime family trip to Croatia, Italy, and Greece. My eyes and my heart and still full of the beautiful sites I took in, particularly Santorini, with its wide marble streets, the domed churches, and Bougainvillea vines along the windows. And, of course, I’m still full in other ways, too — mostly from my nearly constant visits to the pasticcerias and gelato stands. (I had NO IDEA that food could be this good.) Here are three fun literary tidbits that happened along the way. When my kids were in elementary school, we read aloud The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. (She is one of my favorite children’s authors. Check out her website; it’s amazing.) Every night, we’d let our imaginations take us to Venice where a band of masked orphans lived hidden in boarded-up opera houses along the Grand Canal. “I want to go to Venice one day,” my son told me. I never forgot that moment when a book connected him to the larger world than he knew. So, here is a photo from Venice that I took last week. It’s a perfect reminder of a place where I think those orphans might have lived. Surprise number two came when I rounded one of those serpentine streets in Venice to find a lovely bookstore. Look who’s in the window!  RJ Palacio’s WONDER!…

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Angela Dominguez: A sneak peek at a new partnership

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

Know what this is? “Easter in San Francisco” by children’s book author and illustrator Angela Dominguez. This one is “Death of a Pet.” Why am I dancing in my living room about this? I got word that she has signed on to be the illustrator for my next picture book project with Candlewick Press. SUNSET COLORÁ is due out in 2015. Can’t wait to see the book that emerges!  Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy Angela’s new picture book Let’s Go Hugo. To learn more about Angela click here. Follow her on twitter @andominguez So excited!

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Hope Sprouts in Arlington

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

I drove up to Arlington last week for a terrific ceremony for the graduating fifth graders at Claremont Elementary. Last fall, teacher Sherry Lord and art teacher Vicki Walchak decided to make a school hope tree with their students in honor of moving on to middle school. You might remember that the Hope Tree project began here in Richmond, VA when my YA novel The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind was published.  At the heart of that novel – and at the heart of the Hope Tree Project — is the question: What is a hope or dream that you have for yourself? Students create metal “milagros” to represent that hope and offer them to the world.  Here’s a poem that the students created together and read as part of the installation ceremony. I am so honored that they took on this project, and I wish all the graduates the best in middle school! Hope Poem If hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, then these are the things that keep it feeling safe and feeling whole. We hope that we’ll stay friends after shutting school’s door, we hope for family’s health and being sick no more. We hope for a healthy sibling to be born this coming summer. We hope for safe travels to this country from another. We hope Raul comes back, we hope our friend won’t go away, we hope when we grow up we’re as wonderful as we are today. We…

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RJ Palacio and Me: Compassion Fans and old BFFs

By Appearances, The Writing Life

You never forget your childhood best friends. There’s something sacred about that special someone who shared sleepovers and ran races in the school yard  just to see who was fastest. Or, as in my case, acted out Greek myths and enjoyed the mysteries of the Jew’s harp. This Saturday, I have the extreme pleasure of reuniting with my grade school best friend,  RJ Palacio, whose lovely book WONDER, is a # 1 New York Times Bestseller and is on just about everyone’s favorite list.We’ll be at La Casa Azul, noon – 2 pm, to talk books, compassion, and friendship. Raquel and I grew up in Flushing, Queens, about a block from each other. We were in the same class and were generally inseparable, until middle school dispersed us and we lost touch for nearly 30 years. But Raquel and her family left an imprint on me that has lasted to this day. Her parents, Neli and Marco, extended affection and time my way like surrogate parents. When I think of my happiest days as a kid, I invariably think of our times together. Watching Neli comb out Raquel’s hair with the help of a dab of Breck cream conditioner; weekends feeding goats at the Catskills Game Farm; my first ride on roller coasters at Six Flags Great Adventure; and visiting Niagra Falls. All of those good times – and countless others – were with Raquel. If anyone had told us all those years ago when we were  playing kickball that…

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I Can Almost Smell the Sunscreen: Girls of Summer 2013

By Community work, picture book, middle grade, YA

[wpvideo KSVNExkw] It’s almost that time again!  Gigi and I are putting the very last touches on Girls of Summer 2013, our annual curated reading list of summer reads for strong girls. Two dates for you: June 10, 2013:  the new list and our reviews will go live on the blog (www.girlsofsummerlist.wordpress.com) June 18, 2013:  Our live launch party 7 pm at Library Park, behind the main branch of the Richmond Public Library. 101 East Franklin Street, Richmond, VA. Free and open to the public. Refreshments, book giveaways, and an author panel with Jeri Watts and Kristen Paige Madonia. Hope you enjoy our new trailer!

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En Español Por Favor: My Day at Partners in Print

By Appearances, Community work, Latino Life

I spent Saturday at the University Maryland (College Park) with Partners in Print (PNP), an organization under the umbrella of America Reads. PNP supports literacy  at 18 schools, mostly in Prince George County, Maryland, by helping parents – many of whom don’t speak English as their first language – learn how to support their children’s emerging reading skills.  Saturday was the culminating event for the mentors and their students. More than 140 students and 100 parents came for the day-long gathering. My role for the day was to read Tia Isa Quiere Un Carro and to speak to volunteers and family attendees in a bilingual presentation. Confession. It’s always a little strange for me to work bilingually because my English is simply better. I was born here. I studied here. Although we speak Spanish as home, I live about 75 percent of my life in English. That means that sometimes I’m stuck pecking for words or phrases in Spanish, frustrated between what I’m thinking and what I can say. Turns out this gives me the same problem as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was recently interviewed by Jorge Ramos of Univision. He noticed her occasional lapses into English, and it was the subject of a lot of Twitter chat. Like the justice, I grew up speaking Spanish at home, and I have no accent when I speak it. Yes, I can read a newspaper and magazine no problem.  I understand everything on Spanish language TV. I consider myself fully bicultural….

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Notes from the road

By Appearances

I’ve been in the MidAtlantic states these days – a beautiful time to talk books and  take in the azaleas and dogwoods almost everywhere you go. I’m not sure I love driving in DC during the morning rush, but other than that, a great trip. A quick round up… Thanks to: Erika Denn at Candlewick Press for all her planning and last minute reshuffling Trish Brown and Ellen Klein (Hooray for Books) for a terrific YA panel with Adina Gewirtz and KP Madonia on girls, messy lives, and books. If you don’t have The Zebra Forest and Fingerprints of You on your reading list, please add these terrific titles. Karen MacPherson (Takoma Park Library) and Kerri Poore (Politics & Prose) for a lovely evening talking about books and compassion Dara LaPorte (The Open Book Foundation) for providing my author visit and copies of YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS to about 150 8th graders at (Hardy MS). Shout outs to Perinne Punwami (a really exciting teacher at Hardy); my sister-in-law Laura Quigley; and author-pal Wendy Shang for being part of all the fun, too.

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Paint Me a Story: Latino Children’s Book Illustration in RVA

By Appearances, Community work, Latino Life

Find your calendar. Here’s something for everyone in Richmond who loves kids, books, and art. Paint Me A Story is a free, month-long celebration of El Dia De Los Libros, the American Library Association’s annual celebration of multicultural children’s lit. Beginning on Friday, April 26, 2013, two of our favorite community resources – the Richmond Public Library and the Visual Arts Center of Richmond – have cooked up a great way to celebrate. Librarians Cristina Dominguez Ramirez and Patty Parks have worked with me to create a gorgeous exhibit of Latino children’s book illustration featuring the work of nationally-recognized illustrators Joe Cepeda, John Parra, and Lila Quintero Weaver.  The opening reception is at the Broad Rock branch on Friday, April 26, 4 – 6 pm. (Free food, great art. Thank you Friends of the Library for your generous support!) I’ll be on hand to say hello and give you some information about books you might enjoy with your kids. For art fans, several pieces are available for purchase. The exhibit will move to the main branch of the library on May 3 in time for First Fridays Art Walk and  will remain for the month of May. Best yet, the Visual Arts Center of Richmond will offer two, free youth art classes on bookmaking on May 4 and May 16 at the Main branch. Sarah Hand will be at the helm. (Check out her beautiful work below.) Please spread the word, join us for the reception, and enjoy the talents of three distinguished illustrators…

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And we have lift-off!

By Appearances, Community work

It was amazing to look out and see the huge variety of people in the audience who came to talk about books and bullying at yesterday’s book launch for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Great questions, honest conversation, and a lot of love in the room. Thank you so much for coming to the celebration! Click on the  word cloud title below for a tiny slide show that emerged from our I feel strongest when prompt. (Thanks AB Westrick for being the input goddess!) [wpvideo mrnABhVw] I promised to give you the Resources for anti-bulllying, so here they are.  The document is full of unusual arts and community activities that give  young people a voice about their experiences. Film, art events and competitions, on-line communities, books…it’s a great peek at  new ways to look at an old problem. Maybe you will add you own innovations? Finally, my heroes for the day: Trey Hartt and Lauren Davis of The Conciliation Project; the ART 180 teen leaders; Marlene, Betsy, “the Mikes”at ART 180;  panelists Allison Conyers of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities and Paul Fleisher and Santa Sorenson of the Richmond Peace Education Center; Penelope Carrington for the photography; Gigi Amateau and Virginia Pye for the unglamorous job of food schlepping; bbgb tales for kids for the book sales; Candlewick Press for the gifts to the teens; and the amazing literary community here in Richmond. Meg’s next appearances:  The Virginia Festival of the Book, March 20 – 24, 2013, Charlottesville,…

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GoodReads Giveaway and Virtual Tour

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life

A quick post for Young Adult lit fans or authors: Check out YA Reads for Teachers (And Any Other Adults) on GoodReads. It’s an online community of over 1,300 adult readers who want to read and discuss young adult novels for their classrooms and libraries. If you hurry, you can join the group and enter their book giveaway for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass this month. (You have to sign up before March 13, midnight).  In April, I’ll be the featured author, which means I’ll check in daily to answer questions about my book, ass kickings and other joys of growing up. Should be fun.  YA Reads for Teachers (And Any Other Adults) on Facebook, too.

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A True Bienvenidos

By Appearances, The Writing Life, Uncategorized

I spent a wonderful morning at Good Shepherd Episcopal School visiting with students from Pre-K through the eighth grade. It is so exciting to find schools like this where  the students are so obviously honored and loved. Favorite comment: On hearing that my tía Isa was actually a terrible driver:  “Your next book should be Tía Isa Goes to the Emergency Room.” Three best questions: Do you ever find that you accidentally put pieces of one story in another story? How do you know if your idea should be a book? (With a worried look.) Is your tía Isa still driving on the streets? Most touching event: Chef Sue (who cooks homemade from organic produce every day for these sweet kids) made me “lechon” (pulled Cuban pork), white rice and black beans, so that I could enjoy un buen almuerzo. We even had merengues for dessert.  (A big hit. “Yum! You got this cookie right,” said one of the third graders.) Best slang I taught them: ¡Pin Pan Pun! (rollaway bed) Happiest coincidence: Señora Cardounel, the  Spanish teacher, is from Cuba, too. We chatted in Spanish and swapped lots of stories. I hope she’ll visit me soon. Thank you, Ms. Dysart and all the lovely faculty and students at Good Shepherd! If I had to go to school again, I would want to go to a place just like Good Shepherd.

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Books, Bullying, and Building Compassion: A Book Event in RVA

By Appearances, Awards and news, Community work, The Writing Life

Mark your calendars: Saturday, March 16, 2013, 2 PM – 4:30 pm. Book launch party for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, ART 180, 114 West Marshall Street, Richmond, VA 23220 One day back in middle school, a girl I didn’t know came up to me and said, “Jackie Delgado is going to kick your ass.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s more or less the title of my new YA novel. I didn’t know it then, but that moment was an awful turning point for me. If you’ve ever been targeted, you know that a low grade dread sets in and crowds out everything else, like your grades, your family, your self esteem. What followed for me were two long years of dodging a school bully and her obnoxious friends who would push me and threaten me, scream out my name and cackle in the halls. I suddenly felt scared to exist at my school, and no adult seemed capable of helping. I learned to avoid classes, to lie to my mother, to hang out with downright dangerous people so that I might become so tough that no one could ever hurt me. I wasn’t alone, of course, but you couldn’t have told me that. The good news is that, like most of us, I survived. The bad news is that girls like Jackie still exist today, and they’re made all the fiercer with their cameras and YouTube sites and Facebook pages. I saw it as a teacher….

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Some music for Yaqui Delgado

By Appearances, The Writing Life

So I’m putting the finishing touches on the launch events for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass which comes out next month. And because it takes hours to work out all the details, I’m listening to music that puts me in the mood. Yaqui Delgado takes a shard of truth from my personal life. I wrote this novel white-knuckled some days, thinking back to when I was an early teen facing down a schoolyard bully. I was learning everything about everything back then: learning about lousy adults, learning what it meant to be a Latina, learning how to really take care of myself when others couldn’t. It was a scary time, but all these years later, I find myself thinking a lot about all I took away from that experience. It was a Puerto Rican girl, Aida, I remember most. She lived upstairs, cut school, and had bad acne but a hot boyfriend nonetheless. More importantly, she taught me to salsa. Sometimes she gave parties in her hot apartment with Celia Cruz and the Fania All Stars (Johnny Pacheco, Hector LaVoe, etc) blasting out of her mother’s stereo until the walls shook. When I think back to that time in my life, the soundtrack belongs to those old masters. So, here’s a little YouTube gem of the late Celia Cruz fronting the band in Africa. And then, a more recent piece by Celia – Sin Clave– to get you in the spirit via Cuban music that (like a tough…

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Going All Ninja

By Random howls into the world, The Writing Life

It’s the start of a new year, so it’s time for a writing exercise plan to shake off the winter flab. I’m pushing out of my comfort zone by experimenting with new forms and voice. I’ve been reading a lot of early readers, for example, studying their length and style. (If you’re on GoodReads, you can catch up with what I’m reading.) My favorite so far has been Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke, a little gem of a series that has all the seeds of a great literary piece for kids who are seven and eight. Nice trick, right? It won’t be long before I start trying my hand  there. I’m also venturing into adult writing for a few precious weeks – which feels like sacrilege for someone who adores writing for kids as much as I do. But it’s true. Starting this Monday night, I’ll be joining my friend Valley Haggard as a student in her Creative Non Fiction class at the Black Swan bookstore. This is a stretch for me. For starters, I have a really erratic memory. I can remember the exact pattern of the sofa in my mother’s living room when I was eight, but I can’t remember a name I’ve just learned. My husband claims that I’ve forgotten entire chapters of my life, like the Genesis in concert at Madison Square Garden, which I flatly deny attending, despite his very damning details about people, clothing, where we sat. But the bigger problem is about courage. Unlike Valley…

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An early present in the mail!

By Awards and news

I love the mail this time of year — and it’s not just the holiday packages and cards. The spring/summer Candlewick catalog arrived in cheery red yesterday, and it brightened my whole day.  My next YA novel is in there (Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, page 48), but also so many new works by familiar names and newcomers. Browse and you’ll see what I mean.  Here’s the pdf. So now I turn to an oversized cup of coffee, a comfy reading chair, and a notebook to add to my list of tales I want to read. (Did I mention I may need bookcases for Christmas?)

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Claremont Elementary Spanish Immersion School: The Hope Tree Grows

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

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? 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’?

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Dame Tu Voz: An Arts Celebration with Duende in RVA

By Appearances, Community work, Latino Life

What happens when you have a dream that you’re watching a Henley Street Theatre play and all the actors are speaking in Spanish? If you’re Rafael Seligmann, Board Chair of the Henley Street Theatre, you wake up, call Ana Ines King of The Latin Ballet of Virginia and plan a day-long celebration of Latin American music, theatre, literature and dance. On November 3, I’ll be part of Dame Tu Voz(Give Me Your Voice), a free, one-day festival to be held at Centenary United Methodist Church (411 E Grace St.) from 1 – 9 pm. Here’s why you should go. First, it’s a bargain if you’ve got kids. Free family-friendly things happen all afternoon: food, music, art, flamenco demonstrations, puppet making and salsa lessons, to name just a few highlights. But don’t worry; nobody is left out of the fun. At 4 pm the event starts to take a more adult tone. It begins with readings of favorite Spanish-language poetry.(Want to share one? Call (804) 307-5343 to sign up.) My performance is at 5 pm. I’ll be reading a short selection from my YA novel, The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind) and talking about magical realism and transformation. Afterward, we can enjoy some food and downtime together before the evening offers up truly refreshing fare for theatre fans. (This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Henley Street is already known for its free and innovative Bootleg Shakespeare series.) For  $10, you get to see two fantastic one-act plays. The Marvelous Pageant  is a comedy by…

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Trailer for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

By The Writing Life, Trailers

It’s Unity Day at pacer.org’s National Bullying Prevention Center.  I didn’t buy my orange t-shirt, but I did finish the trailer for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, my upcoming YA novel that’s about this very topic. I shot the footage in Queens a couple of months ago when I was home for a visit. Brought back a lot of memories. (Some that made me shudder.) [wpvideo jfB70Xin]

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Red Clover Award!

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

Exciting news came across my twitter feed last night. It seems that Tía Isa Wants a Car has taken a little road trip up I-95 – and ended up in Vermont! It’s been named a Red Clover title for 2012-2013. The Red Clover Program “promotes the reading and discussion of the best of contemporary picture books in nearly all of Vermont’s elementary schools. Each year over 20,000 K-4 students read, or have read to them, the ten nominated books. The Award is co-sponsored by the Vermont Center for the Book / Mother Goose Programs and the Vermont Departments of Education and Libraries.” I’ll be saying hello to the librarians via twitter on Wednesday (#vsla) beginning at about 10:15 am EST. I am so excited and honored to be included on this list. ¡Gracias bibliotecárias!

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A Little Bit of Fiesta at City Hall

By Appearances, Community work

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…

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Fighting for the Story

By Appearances, Guests, The Writing Life

This is a new shirt I bought at La Casa Azul last week, a sweet Latino-themed bookstore on 103rd Street in Harlem. How could I resist? It reminded me of the hours I spent as a kid watching Lucha Libre wrestling — that masked Mexican drama. My uncle was a big fan, and my grandmother and I soon joined him. “Do you think it’s real?” Abuela would ask as someone got slammed with a chair. How stupid,  I thought. Of COURSE it’s real. My shirt says Lucha Libros, of course. Much more civilized — but maybe not. I’m a writer, after all, and as any of us in this business will tell you, you can get sucker punched and slammed with a folding chair at every turn. A lousy review, an unimpressed agent, an editor who says something just isn’t ready. Dios de mi alma, it’s tough. I’m thinking about all this because in two weeks I’ll be taking you inside the horror with debut author Aimee Agresti whose debut YA novel, Illuminate, has received great reviews. (It’s the first book in a planned Harcourt trilogy.) We’re doing a panel for one of my favorite writing organizations, James River Writers, as part of The Writing Show. Ours is the last Writing Show of 2012, and I’m excited that it’s about writers wrestling. Aimee has agreed to show her manuscript from the early, on-the-napkin stage, all the way to the picky line edits, all in the hope of helping other writers see with…

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Joys and Horrors of the Bookcase Purge

By Random howls into the world, The Writing Life

I got back from a much-needed family vacation this week. I should know by now that sunshine and sea breezes make me ridiculously optimistic. Maybe that’s why I decided to face the horror of my bookcases at last.  The truth is that I form unnatural attachments to books. I like to think it’s a job hazard and not simply a mania. I still have my Pelican Shakespeare from college – covered in dust bunnies, but still.  I keep paperbacks until acid has yellowed their pages and the mold makes me sneeze. I pile books in every room of my house, thinking of them as comforting friends waiting for a chat. How could it be otherwise? My whole journey as a reader and a writer are in those pages. The high brow books and beach reads, the books I once read to my kids in the hopes they’d love stories as much as I do, the books that marked my own childhood (which I later bought for old time’s sake), the books written by dear and talented friends. For years I haven’t had the heart to toss a single one. Each volume celebrates so many wonderful moments for me that it seems an unthinkable crime to let them go. But the world is a mysterious place, my friends, and sometimes it gives us exactly what we need. Just this week, WriterHouse  announced that it would begin accepting donations for its annual book sale. The idea of my books helping to raise money for…

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When Characters Muscle In

By Awards and news

The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind releases through Walker Books in the UK as a gorgeous paperback next month — and review copies are going out with their own milagro. Nice!  Here’s a post I did for Under Cover Books about the unexpected pleasures of surrendering to your characters. In life and in fiction, I’ve found that it’s always the quiet ones that surprise you. At least, that’s how it happened in this book. P.S. Love the cover? Me gusta tambien. Check out Olaf Hajek’s other beautiful work.  Here’s a teaser.

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Do children get cuter than this?

By Appearances

I visited Colonial Trail Elementary School last week. It’s nestled behind a behemoth mall, but don’t be fooled. This school is a gold nugget in western Henrico County, and fourth grade teacher Tiffany Graves goes out of her way to bring literature alive in her room. Looking forward to thinking of ways of working together next year! Look at this good looking bunch.

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Back again! Girls of Summer 2012

By Appearances, Community work, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_Dy8cZJlhI] Ah, it’s almost time to kick back and read the way you’re supposed to read in the summer: curled in a hammock or beach chair. Here comes Girls of Summer 2012.  Gigi Amateau and I are updating our curated reading list  with 18 new titles for this summer. It’s an absolute joy to work on this project for a second year. I get to read (or re-read) books that I think celebrate girls, share time with a close friend, and talk to authors I’ve long admired all summer long. It doesn’t get better. You’ll find the spiffy new list and our comments on the website starting June 20. (We’re under construction now with updates, so please be patient.) But what I really want you to do is save the night of June 19, 2012, 7 – 9 pm and join us at the Richmond Public Library for the live launch. It’s free. It’s fun. It’s the best thing you can do on a Tuesday night. Were you there for our inaugural event last year? We promise another crazy, fun-filled evening, complete with book giveaways, summer refreshments (think popsicles) and authors on hand. Mark the date! Oh — and don’t forget Anita Silvey will be speaking on children’s books at the library this Saturday, May 19. Not to be missed if you are even remotely interested in books for young people. She’s amazing.

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The Hope Tree Exhibit Opens

By Awards and news, Community work

Last night was a nearly perfect launch for the Hope Tree Project at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  I say nearly because the school bus carrying 27 artists from Meadowbrook High School got a flat tire on I-95. They missed the opening, but not to worry. The folks at the garden are going to send them free passes so the students can come see their creations. I do wish they could have seen the outpouring of support from the community, though, especially the Latin Ballet dancing in their honor. Here are some shots of the private unveiling. I’m including the program and the text of my comments, in case you love long-winded speeches. Here’s a link, too, to Latin Ballet of Virginia and to Kevin’s contagious music with Ban Caribe. Some photos of the milagros appear page 2 of today’s Richmond Times Dispatch (metro sec.), and there will be an article in StyleWeekly tomorrow. The exhibit runs through July 4. I hope you’ll take the time to visit the Garden soon. It really is a stunning place where you can gather your thoughts and refuel, whatever age or interest.  Be sure to stop by the exhibit. It’s an amazing thing to be surrounded by aspirations. Many, many thanks again to L.C. Bird, Meadowbrook High School, Huguenot High School, The Steward School, J.R. Tucker High School, Lee Davis High School, Hermitage High School, and Henrico High School. And a huge shout out to my publisher, Candlewick Press for the facebook ads and…

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Party Hats, Everyone!

By Appearances

There’s a celebration everywhere you look this coming week! Monday is World Book Night, that biblio-glorious event started in the UK to spread the love of reading. Right now, the event is targeted to adults and doesn’t include  children’s books. (I know. Sad.) I’ll be celebrating anyway by signing copies of my YA novel, The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind at Barnes & Noble (Chesterfield Towne Center Mall) from 5 – 7 pm. Giveaways will include signed copies of my books for your favorite school library and a free school visit to one lucky raffle winner. But that’s not the only celebration on the horizon. It’s also El Dia de los Niños on Saturday, April 28– a national celebration of reading and children across many cultures. In honor of the fun, I’ll be at the Chesterfield County Public Library (Meadowdale Branch) for the morning, where I’ll read Tia Isa Wants a Car and do a craft with the little ones at 10:30. (Who doesn’t love a glue stick?) At 11:30, my favorite thing: a free writing workshop for teen writers. Here’s the address: 4301 Meadowdale Blvd., Richmond, VA 23234. Branch phone number is 804-318-8778. ¡Vengan, por favor! And of course, you know the Hope Tree Project is just around the corner at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Tune into  Radio Poder, 1380 AM, on Monday, April 23 at 11 am and I’ll tell you all about it. I’ll be talking with my favorite Richmond Latina, Tanya Gonzalez. The milagros are absolutely beautiful. Wait til you see… More soon!…

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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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The Hope Tree is Growing

By Appearances, The Writing Life

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. 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!

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Tía Isa Wants a Car wins the Ezra Jack Keats New Writers Award

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

I just saw the official press release announcing that I’ve won the Ezra Jack Keats New Writers Award for 2012 for my picture book. I’m still a little stunned, but very happy. This is an enormous honor, and I am so especially proud that it comes for a story that pays tribute to the valiant women in my family. Thank you to everyone who was involved in finding and sharing this story, those I know, like Gigi Amateau, Kate Fletcher, Jen Rofé, and Laura Rivas, and those who have been secret cheerleaders in far flung places. I’m sending you all muchos abrazos fuertes! Here is a little snippet from the release to tell you about the award: “Fifty years ago, Ezra’s book The Snowy Day, which featured an African American child, broke the color barrier in mainstream children’s book publishing when it was embraced by families across racial, economic and ethnic lines,” said Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. “Like Ezra, this year’s Book Award winners have, in their own way, celebrated the similarities—and differences—of people whose life experiences are dramatically varied.” Since 1985, the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award has been awarded annually to an outstanding new writer and new illustrator of picture books for children (age 9 and under) by the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by the late Keats and dedicated to enhancing the love of reading and learning in all children. The Book Awards come to the de Grummond for the first time this year from…

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Shameless mining: A free workshop for VA writers

By Appearances, The Writing Life

“Do you have my teeth?” That’s what my mother asked me, her mouth caved-in like a dried apple, just as she was being wheeled into surgery last January. I shook her dentures in a plastic cup and chomped my own teeth clownishly, too terrified to say anything as her gurney disappeared into the operating room. Thankfully, those weren’t the last words my mother would ever say to me. And as an added bonus, I get to keep that weird exchange in my brain for some future use in a novel or short story. Don’t give me that look. Writers are opportunists when it comes to pearls of dialogue like that, and I’m no different. This one is already flagged under the label, “Dialogue, sub-heading Crazy shit people say.  What will I do with it? Who knows? It might find its way into a soul-searching look at helping my mother through illness, but it might take years for me to figure out how to tell that story. Besides, it would work just as well as a line for a hockey player to his girlfriend. Or an actor playing Dracula. Or…oh, I don’t know. One thing is for sure, those. Those dentures are going to get immortalized one way or another. I bring this all up because this Saturday, March 10, I’ll be leading a free writing workshop at WriterHouse in Charlottesville on how to take these million scraps of personal events and turn them into fiction — especially fiction that captures culture and…

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The Hope Tree Project

By Appearances, Awards and news, Latino Life, The Writing Life

There are all sorts of ways of launching a new book into the world. This time around I’ve decided to go big. I’ll have my regular launch at the ever-fabulous bbgb tales for kids on March 17. But when The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind pubs next month, I’ll have about 500 high school students to help me celebrate, too. That’s because they’re part of a project I’m working on in partnership with The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and eight area high schools here in Richmond. The Hope Tree Project is a connection of art, reading, and community building for young people – a good addition to the Virginia Commission of the Art’s Minds Wide Open 2012 celebration of children and the arts. The students and their art or ESOL teachers have agreed to create Latin American ex votives — or milagros — that symbolize a hope or dream that they have for themselves or for the community. When they’re done, we’ll decorate five crape myrtle trees in the beautiful children’s garden with their collective wishes. Milagros are part folk art and part religious votives in Latin America. The tiny charms are attached to statues of saints, to the walls of churches, or even to women’s jewelry. Why? To ask for a favor or to thank a saint for help, of course. It’s a connection of the sacred or mystical to every day needs. Not that this is new, of course. The ancient Romans made them, too, as did many…

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