Newbery award winner and New York Times bestselling author

Posts tagged ‘National Book Festival’

Long Lists, Scholarships, Rock Star Librarians, and Meat: What my last three weeks looked like

Like everyone else, I’m glued to CNN and hoping for people’s safety this morning.

I’ve been on the move and squeezed with family health things, too, so I’ve had very little time left to write many blog posts. Here’s a wrap up of favorite moments of the last few weeks.

imagesAward news: First, here’s an article on Tumblr regarding all the long list titles on this year’s National Book Award. The question was, Who did you write this book for? Burn Baby Burn didn’t advance to the short list. (Yes, that’s me sniffling…) But here’s what all the authors on the long list had to say about their books last week.

Scholarships: If you’re an aspiring author or an author early in your career, a reminder to consider applying for the Meg Medina Scholarship at Highlights Foundation. Applications are due by Dec 15. Here’s the link with information and background on the award. (The how-to is at the end.)

With Marilisa at NCTE 2015

With Marilisa at NCTE 2015

Related to Highlights, I also want to share a sweet blog post by Dr. Marilisa Jimenez, a Pura Belpré scholar who joined me at Highlights last month. She started work on a pretty compelling article and used the time to talk through some of her ideas. Check out the research she’s doing on YA literature in the US and trauma/displacement in immigrant Latino communities. I love to follow Marilisa’s work because (1) she’s usually laying the groundwork for research about Latino literature that hasn’t been done before, and (2) she’s passionate about the topic from a deeply personal point of view.

The real rock stars in publishing: Here’s some serious librarian love. First, this photo from the National Book Festival in Washington, DC. The whole event was just beautiful, but the high point for me was being a slam poetry judge with the esteemed Mvskoke poet Joy Harjo and our 14th Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden. The young poets were fantastic. Every one of them. I can honestly tell you, though, that Dr. Hayden was the true rock star of the festival this year. Everywhere she went, giddy authors shook hands nervously and just gushed. She brings so much excitement and hope to this position. What an honor to meet her and Joy in one place!

Dr. Carla Hayden, me, Joy Harjo

Dr. Carla Hayden, me, Joy Harjo

Cleverness and, well, meat: My time in Texas was larger than life (in true state tradition.) Take a gander at the swag made by the librarians and teens at Irving Public Library (South.) First, a six-foot book cover of Burn Baby Burn and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass.  They also made t-shirts honoring Salon Corazón, the beauty parlor in Yaqui and even had nail decals made, too.  I wish I had those ideas myself. Thank you, Irving, for all the extra effort and attention.img_4322

As for meat… I went to what my friend Dawn McMullan calls the “best BBQ in Texas.” It’s a joint called Lockharts in Dallas. It serves meat. Lots and lots of smoked meat. Meat on everything and no plates. Here’s the photo of a Bloody Mary, just so you know…Yes, that is sausage…)

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And finally, my last stop was the Morristown Book Festival, which celebrated its fourth year.  You should check this one out. An hour from NYC, Morristown has a pretty downtown and a huge core of book lovers. As usual, I forgot to use my camera, but I did manage to get one shot of some of my co-panelists before I left for the airport: Carolyn Mackler and Courtney Shienmel. (Camera shy, author David Lubar.)img_4353

More very soon! Stay safe everyone.

The High Holy Week for Book Geeks (Like Me)

nbf-home-animated-banner-2016So much is going on in DC for book lovers next week that my head is spinning in that good way of little kids doing the helicopter for no reason.

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 7.21.04 AMChildren’s book icon Katherine Patterson is speaking at the Washington Children’s Book guild on Thursday, September 22, after which I will zoom over to the Library of Congress to be in the audience for the the Americas Awards at the Library of Congress that will honor Pam Muñoz Ryan (Echo) and Ashely Hope Perez (Out of Darkness) – two authors who published exceptional books last year. If you’re a teacher, you might want to register for the workshops with the fantastic Alma Flor Ada to be held that night. Co-sponsored by Teaching for Change, it’s inexpensive, and you’ll be in excellent hands.

BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2Then, of course, comes the big one: The National Book Festival  on Sat., Sept 24. I’m honored to be on the roster of authors this year, where I’ll bring a little disco inferno to the capital with a talk about Burn Baby Burn. 

That ought to be enough, but this year, I’m staying into the night because (DRUMROLL) I’m a judge for the teen poetry slam, a standing room only event. (Here’s info and video from last year.) Aaahhh! I can’t tell you how much I love spoken performance (and how much I secretly long to do this myself.) In this case, teens from around the country will come to compete in this event. There’s a special guest judge, too – that I’m not allowed to name (and it’s killing me.)

I hope you’ll put the festival on your calendar, especially if you’ve never attended.  You can visit the capital, and regardless of your reading preferences, you’ll find plenty to suit your taste. Me? I plan to be in the audience for as many panels as I can. The scheduling gods have been good to me, so I’ll be free to catch Stephen King on the main stage.  It’s true that I’m squeamish about being terrified by what I’m reading, but his memoir about the writing process, On Writingremains one of the books I return to for comfort. Anything he has to say about writing and maintaining a career in writing is gold as far as I’m concerned.

IMG_2074Meanwhile, here’s the podcast to whet your appetite. I spoke with  Karen Jaffe, Executive Director at the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress, about research, feminism, and why anyone who’s 16 today would care about 1977. Enjoy.

Cariños de,

Meg

 

 

 

 

No such thing as discarded writing

IMG_2273See this pretty little pot? It has been sitting in a dark corner of my yard and growing without any help from me whatsoever.

This past spring, when I was planting herbs and Impatiens, I had a few puny plants left in the flats. They looked wilted and leggy. They had no blooms. Worthless, I thought, but I hated wasting them. Javier had once carved out a nice Asian inspired nook in our yard, but grad school, mosquitoes, and the intricacies of Bonsai did him in at last. So, I grabbed one of his abandoned planters and stuck the coleus and Impatiens inside.  Turns out shade and a quiet spot were just what they needed.

It’s too hot to garden in the late summer, but it’s the perfect time to return to edits on my next YA novel. I’m at the stage where a full manuscript exists. Not the finished manuscript –just the starting one where Kate and I start digging deep. The job now is to flesh out what’s working and to axe without mercy what’s not.

It’s a funny thing how the mind works when it’s trying to tell the truth via fiction. It’s never simple to let characters reveal what’s really bothering them. What always amazes me is how small things, tiny seedlings bloom in a manuscript, sometimes without my notice or help. Obvious parts of a character that eluded me earlier suddenly come into focus. And old scenes that I deleted in earlier drafts find a new life and purpose in another section of the book. These are precious moments to me when I realize that a writer can have faith even in failed efforts. With time and a little space, the most unexpected things might bloom.

I’m off to the Amtrak station so I can get to DC. This means two hours of quiet and solitude to work on things! Who knows what will peek through the ground? Hope to see you at the Festival!

Cariños de,
Meg

 

Meg’s next appearances:  

National Book Festival, Washington DC, Saturday, August 30, 2014

Bookmarks Festival, Winston-Salem, NC, Sept 5 -6, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gracias Sandra Cisneros

So, I got home from the Nat’l Book Festival on Saturday. I had dusty toes and a tired back, but my head was swirling with gratitude for the way of the world.

True, the lines inside the Barnes & Noble tent were obnoxiously long, but it was a great event in every other way. My friend Katharine and I set out by train – a pleasant two-hour ride – and spent our day strolling the  grounds, eating Snicker bars in the sunshine, and generally marveling at the mass of people who came from all over the country to celebrate the best our country has to offer in terms of books and authors.  I got to meet illustrator Rafael López and his lovely wife, Candice, who chatted with us about their mural projects, their new Obama poster, and our shared friends, whose talents we both admire.

But in the afternoon, I received a gift I never expected from this festival. I’d managed to snag a chair inside the tent where Sandra Cisneros was speaking.  I read The House on Mango Street in the 1980s, of course, and I’ve been a fan ever since, devouring her short stories, picture books and novels as soon as they’re published. Her voice always rings fierce and true, and like so many other Latina authors, I can point to her work as an influence on why I like to capture Latino culture in fiction. She is, in my view, a literary madrina to our whole country. As soon as she took the stage, I was starstruck.

Her newest book is Have You Seen Marie?, an illustrated short story.”I wrote this when my mother died, and I was feeling like an orphan,” she told us.  She’d had a difficult relationship with her mother, and yet, when her mother died, Sandra felt completely lost.

I sat perfectly still.

Some of you already know that my mother was diagnosed with advanced cancer last Christmas and that she decided against radiation or chemo. (“I’m too old to put myself through that,” she said.) Instead, we packed her things in Florida, and by February, she and my aunt (the famous tía Isa) moved in with us in Richmond. Suddenly I was in charge of caring for eccentric elderly women whose bodies were failing and whose habits were slipping into manias.

We go through our days peacefully enough, filling pill boxes, going to doctor appointments, dragging me (there is no other way to say it) through Walmart. There are occasional eye rolls and snappish answers when one of us is careless. Twice I have had full shouting melt-downs. I get endless advice (about cooking, folding laundry, parenting, yes, even writing) whether I want it or not. I get full daily reports on people’s body functions. And I get a lot of new responsibilities – scary ones – for the things that she is appalled to discover that she can no longer manage or remember how to do. Fighting with insurance companies, online banking, official letters in English that she wants carefully translated. Behind everything, though, I know that we are readying ourselves to say  goodbye with clear hearts, even if neither one of us dares to say so.

Our relationship was sometimes volatile, often distant, sprinkled with finger-pointing and criticisms. Maybe every mother-daughter relationship is this way. (This is what Sandra Cisneros thinks.) Maybe it’s especially acute when cultural divides come into play. There are times we lived through that I don’t like to remember, if only because I am ashamed of how one of us — or both — behaved. And yet, here we are, our days counting down, and the only thing we can grab on to is that we each did our best. When it’s all said and done, the thought of not having my imperfect and maddening mother  makes me feel like an orphan, too.

Sandra finished her reading, an ending filled with acceptance and hope. I was scarcely breathing. In taking questions, she offered this advice to the writers in the audience.

“Don’t write the stories about things you remember.  Write the ones about the things you wish you could forget.”

So, here is my first baby step.