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National Book Festival

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

By Appearances, The Writing Life

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. Award 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.) 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….

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The High Holy Week for Book Geeks (Like Me)

By Appearances, The Writing Life

So 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. Children’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. Then, 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 –…

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No such thing as discarded writing

By The Writing Life

See 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…

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Gracias Sandra Cisneros

By Adult books, Random howls into the world, What I'm reading

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….

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