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!
June 13, 2014
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…
February 26, 2013
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: 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.) A Cuban feast for school lunch! 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 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.
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.
May 1, 2012
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…
March 20, 2012
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!
February 24, 2012
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…
October 24, 2011
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…