Newbery award winner and New York Times bestselling author

Posts tagged ‘Milagros’

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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Author Visit or School Book Experience?

On Wednesday, I did my last school visit of the 2013-14 school year at Stonewall Middle School in Manassas, Virginia. They’re author visit gurus over there, rolling out the red carpet with so much attention to detail that I didn’t really want to come home. (Sorry, Javier.)

On the drive back to Richmond, I got to thinking about the many great times I’ve had meeting teachers, kids and librarians this year – and how much I’ve learned about how they build collections, how they connect with their staff, and how they have to navigate budget cut threats all the time. I feel really lucky to have met so many inventive, non-shushing, hilarious Bookish Ones this year.

What I especially loved about Wednesday at Stonewall, though, is that it was a “best practices” event for me. All the best parts of school visits were rolled into one. They pulled together an author visit so that it wasn’t just a giant assembly. Instead, they created a book experience for the kids and teachers that stretched beyond the single day that I was there.

So, in honor of the amazing job Stonewall did yesterday, here’s a little cheat sheet on School Visit Greatness, with a special thanks to Linda Mitchell, Hope Dublin,Laurie Corcoran, and Diane Hilland  who hosted me so expertly.

Good planning: I despise paperwork, but I have to admit that it helps keep things straight. Linda Mitchell contacted me early (an October email about a visit in June.) We were clear on what books I’d be talking about and what grades. She stayed on top of all the contracts, W-9s, and travel and lodging arrangements. We each had everything in writing. I’m told she also stalked me on Facebook to keep up with book news as it came up, which was especially fun.

photoWelcome your author and give her time to know your school:  Since I’d be speaking early in the morning, and DC traffic is the abomination that it is, I got to Northern Virginia the night before. Nothing makes a hotel feel friendlier than a little bucket waiting for you at the  hotel desk. Mine had the essentials, not the least of which were cookies. It also had driving directions to the school from the hotel and my schedule for the next day. (It was labeled PLOT TWIST because the lineup had been tweaked a tiny bit.  Librarian humor, people.)
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Ms. Mitchell also arranged for reading specialists and fellow librarians from her district to join us for dinner at a quiet restaurant downtown. This was a time to kick back and ask them about their school and students, to find out the books they were reading, and to share ideas for new titles for their shelves. They also showered birthday love on me with chocolate and other treats, at which point I  knew we’d be friends for life.

The next morning, they had coffee, fruit, and coffee cake waiting at school. The  principal and several teachers dropped by to say hello. I should add that all of this was happening on a day of SOL testing, which ranks up there with Wisdom Teeth Removal Day. You would never have guessed it from the calm feeling in the building.

IMG_1945Think perks:  As we all know, parking lot real estate is a hot commodity on a campus. You have to rate to get one of those spiffy up-near-the-door spots. Ha! When I got there, they’d staked out a spot and labeled it “For Award Winning Authors Only.” It was funny – and I really appreciated not having to lug books and a computer a long way in heels.

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an activity for Milagros: Girl from Away

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Activity based on a quote from Tía Isa Wants a Car

Prepare your students: To be honest, I’ve been to schools where no one has read my book. This really changes the impact of the visit. It’s still fun, but not nearly as meaningful. Stonewall students, on the other hand, read several of my books and did activities around the literature ahead of time, including readers theatre of Milagros and The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind.  They even used my picture book, Tia Isa Wants a Car for a writing and brainstorming activity – very cool for a middle school.

Plan something unusual and meaningful for your particular student population. Mrs. Mitchell asked me to read Tia Isa Quiere Un Carro in Spanish, since so many students at Stonewall are Latino, a significant number recently arrived. For the non Latino students, the English text and pictures were scanned and projected on the large screen.

Have the tech worked out: They had the screen, monitor, microphones, etc. all worked out for me. All I had to do was hand off the junk drive.

BdayCard

A birthday card from a student with my same last name! (She wrote a great poem, too.

Be organized about books sales/signings:  Books were pre-ordered by teachers and students, and each had a sticky with the person’s name. I was able to sign them all in my down time.

Author care 101:  My podium was fully stocked with little bottled water, mints, cough drops, and copy of all the books I would be talking about. At lunch time, they whisked me away to lunch and we had a good hour or so to sit down and regroup before heading back for the afternoon sessions.

From the author’s perspective, this experience was heaven. Linda Mitchell and her team tell me they’re considering putting together a teaching session on how to plan visits, including the nuts and bolts of funding and scheduling – traditionally the big stumbling blocks. I hope they do it. Keep your eyes peeled.

Looking forward to meeting more of you in 2014-15! Until then, happy summer and happy reading!

Cariños de, 

Meg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A True Bienvenidos

A warm welcome!

A warm welcome!

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:

My fellow dinersDo 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.)

A Cuban feast for school lunch!

A Cuban feast for school lunch!

Chef Sue!

Chef Sue!

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.

The fabulous Mrs. Dysart

The fabulous Mrs. Dysart

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.

The Hope Tree spreads a seedling to downtown Richmond

I’ll be heading to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden this week to take down the Hope Tree exhibit. (Tomorrow, when it’s not 100 degrees in Richmond, VA.)

The happy news? Pieces of the exhibit will be traveling to City Hall for Hispanic Heritage month this September/October. Details to follow. Meantime, if you have any ideas on how to create a sturdy fake tree in a lobby, send them my way. Pronto.

The Hope Tree Exhibit Opens

The milagros make a beautiful sound in the breeze.

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 for help in funding the refreshments.

The wild animals from the ballet "Verde" by Latin Ballet

Little dancers!

Kevin Davis of Ban Caribe and two young drummers from LBV. I've watched these boys grow up!

Some people make life easier. Kelly Riley at Lewis Ginter is one of them.

Some of the Nat'l Art Honor Society students from L.C. Bird. As sweet as they come.

The Hope Tree is Growing

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.

Can you guess what she represents in Nature?

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!

The Hope Tree Project

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 cultures across the world.

The hard part of the project won’t be making the milagros. Over the years I’ve spent working in schools, I know that high schoolers have the technical skill to produce some drop-dead gorgeous work. What will tax them, I think, is the question I’ve asked. It’s hard to be 17 and at the beginning of everything. Exciting, sure, but there are so many unknowns. But what I told students at the Steward School yesterday is that putting your wishes out in the world is the first step in making them become a reality. If you don’t make a dream for yourself, others are only too happy to rush in and fill in the vacuum. It’s what my main character, Sonia Ocampo found out.  And really, we should all be asking ourselves this question as we chart a path in life.

So folks, I’m giving you a lot of advance notice. Please mark your calendars for Monday, April 30, 2012 at 6 pm for the unveiling at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens where you’ll meet me and some of the artists from the following high schools: Steward School, Huguenot, Meadowbrook, L.C. Bird, Tucker, Hermitage,  Henrico, and Lee Davis. (You’ll even be able to add your own milagros to the collection.) The display will continue through July 4, and then selected pieces will move to City Hall for a display during Hispanic Heritage month in September.

For my Holladay ES Peeps

So fun to visit Holladay ES this morning. They’ve been reading MILAGROS in the fourth grade and also TIA ISA in the second grade.  We ran out of time for questions, so as promised, I’m answering here. From grade 2:

How did you get to be so good at writing?
Practice, practice, and more practice. I took lots of writing classes in high school and in college. Even today, I will take a writing class to learn how to tell a story better. Best of all, I have a writing group where I share my work with author friends and get their advice.  
How do you go about writing a book?
I usually start with a good character who has one big problem to solve — but that’s all I know. I write for a few hours every day, and I always start my day by fixing what I wrote the day before. (Sometimes that means I throw it all out and start that work again!) Slowly, slowly — chapter by chapter — the story starts to take shape. One secret is that I usually rewrite the first chapter after I’ve finished writing the whole book. Why? I like the first chapter to give a good hint about everything that is going to happen in the rest of the book.  Since I don’t know what’s going to happen until the book is done, I have to go back and redo it. 
What was your favorite book when you were in 2nd grade?

I can’t remember exactly from second grade, but I can tell you some of the books I loved in elementary school. My all-time favorite book was Charlotte’s Web. Such a sweet story of friendship. I also liked that it was set in the country. I grew up in the city, and the idea of cows and pigs and country fairs seemed so wonderful.

But there were so many books I loved. Here are some of the old book jackets of the stories I loved most. Some of them are still in print today, but they may look very different. Do you love any of these? 


City Mouse Visits Country Mouse, pictures by Richard Scarry