Newbery award winner and New York Times bestselling author

Posts tagged ‘Meg Medina’

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

CqJemGWWIAAg-ppI’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.

Peace, Quiet & Writing: An invitation to the woods

img_campus1For 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.

Spanish language cover of Highlights

Check out High Five Spanish edition!

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 and then helping other authors wrestle with their manuscripts every evening. What we’ll put on the table has to do with who has signed up to come. We can talk about authentic characters, about false starts and what to do with all that stuff we cut, about biases, about plots that won’t move, characters that fall flat, fear of failure, self-loathing – really the whole enchilada of what it takes to make a book in this world.  And, as if that isn’t enough, I hear that Don Tate is leading a workshop on picture books at the same time, so we can look forward to running into his crew, too.

Meg's puppy

Don’t let that cute face fool you.

Sure, I could close my office door right here in Richmond, let our new puppy eat the sofa, and work on my middle grade novel, which is due to my editor in December. (Yes. In fact I AM sweating that deadline.)

But I’ll tell you straight. I am so happy to have this to look forward to in September. It has been a horrendous summer, starting with the Pulse shootings, unspeakable violence by and against police, painful book controversies, and the election from hell. (The only break has been the Olympics. Thank you, gymnastics and swim teams!))

So I plan to make my time at Highlights the perfect way to bid this season goodbye and good riddance. While everyone marches back to school, I will instead march back into my happiness. I want to refocus on what matters to me deeply and what has always healed me when I’m most in need: writing.

So, friends, consider this an invitation for the last two spots available. ¡Vengan! Let’s go into the woods together.

Dates: Tuesday, September 6 – 10, 2016

Cost: $129 per night (no minimum stay etc.)

Register here or contact Jo Lloyd for info: jo.lloyd@highlightsfoundation.org

Cariños de,

Meg

A conference from your living room couch: SLJ Teen Live

SLJTeenLIVE_2016_HeaderLibrarians, 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

 

Books as Ballet: Milagros at Latin Ballet of Virginia

124Youth 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.)

Milagros_jacket_finish5 copyThe 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

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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.image001

 

 

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

exxon-mobilWhen 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
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As for the gas station…Crazy, you say?  Not really.

hope-photoHope 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 of everyday people’s lives. So, I’m attaching the flyer here [MAYBOOKCLUB] because they’re offering an open invitation to anyone who would like to sit in on the book talk. You can fill up on gas or on refreshments; it’s your call. Added bonus: You can meet their head of security, Princess, too.

Princess

Princess

 

 

See you in Virginia!

Cariños de,

Meg

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

Censorship-Flyer-(final)

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.

banned-buttonI’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.

BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2And 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 common reasons books get in trouble with censors; and finally, the more recent controversies, including those that have put usual allies in conflict with one another.

I hope you can join us. Here’s a little visual and a guest list so you know what to expect.

Books we’ll talk about with their authors and/or editors:

and tango enhanced-buzz-wide-22567-1391614085-7 the-miseducation-of-cameron-post Tyrell+cover+hi+res-1 512R2aJ0iLL._SX341_BO1,204,203,200_ 61eSz7BpJlL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2Yaqui with medal

Other uber librarians and publishing experts on hand:

Allie Jane Bruce, Children’s Librarian, Bank Street College of Education; Fatima Shaik, Children’s/Young Adult Books Committee, PEN American Center; Andy Laties, Manager, Bank Street Book Store;
Kiera Parrott, Reviews Director, School Library Journal; Cheryl Willis Hudson, Editorial Director, Just Us Books, Inc.; Elizabeth Levy, author; Joan Bertin, Director, National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC); Hilary Van Dusen, editor Candlewick Press; David Gale, editor, Simon & Schuster; Shelly Diaz, YA reviewer, School Library Journal

 

Not anywhere near New York?

You can follow the conversation from afar on #CensorshipConversation, Saturday, April 16, 9 am – 1 pm.

Burning at the LA Times Book Festival

 

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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.”

BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2Anyway, 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. 

 

 

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

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.

IMG_3147So, 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 there on my desktop was a file that contained the draft of how I had originally planned to start Burn Baby Burn.  Back then, I decided I would open in the winter of 1977, on the day that news outlets were reporting about the suicide of Freddie Printze. Here it is as a pdf, if you’re interested. ORIGINAL BEGINNING OF BURN BABY BURN

51XeXLoY3VL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I remember how cold it was that year in New York – almost as extreme as the summer heat that would follow. But what I was really after was the emotional window of Freddie Printze’s death. Who didn’t watch Chico and the Man? I loved that Latin God and all the ways his show spoke to me, wrapping its comments about racism in humor. Here was this good looking Puerto Rican-playing-a-Mexican, in tight jeans and puppy dog eyes. I was in love. News of his suicide left me stunned – and his death somehow became entwined in my mind with the long unraveling of the city that year. Something in the loss of a cultural hero brought me to the story of New York City in 1977. It reminded me that every piece of innocence and hope we had was at risk that year.

With Kate

With Kate

So what made me change my mind and abandon that opening? I’d love to claim that it was my own fantastic sense of storytelling, but really it was my editor, Kate Fletcher. To her credit, she politely stepped over my original beginning for months until we were very late into our editorial process. Finally, she pointed out the obvious. So much was going on in the novel that maybe I needed to narrow the timeframe a bit to keep the focus. Spring to summer seemed about right.

Kate. This is her gift. She knows just when to offer a suggestion so that I can hear it.

Had she insisted on this change earlier, who knows what I would have said? Likely, I would have fought her because Freddie Printze’s death was my way inside my own memories, and those memories are what gave me the courage to sink into research and the unfamiliar hard work of writing historical fiction.

I was reminded yet again that beginnings almost always change substantially once you’re “finished” writing. They are not sacred – except for those fragile, early days when they are what give us permission to reach inside ourselves.

So, where am I on my next novel? At the beginning. Or, so I think.

Just for you: You might like this master class CD about writing beginnings with Richard Peck.

 

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Coming your way San Antonio!

squash2I’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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