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REFORMA

Breaking into Writing Children’s Books:  A Beginner’s Guide Targeted to Latinx authors

By Latino Life, The Writing Life
** UPDATED: NOV 4:  This post was pre-scheduled for today. I apologize for its publication today, when there is so much post-election uncertainty. It went out before I could stop it.**   The question I get asked most often as a children’s book author is how to break in. This is especially true when the question comes from aspiring Latinx authors. Here is a quick checklist of to-dos if your heart is set on writing stories that celebrate Latinx children and families. Nail down your craft Nothing replaces the craft. A big part of this simply boils down to your talent with words and with how well you can sense how to tell a story.  But you can do things to improve your work, mainly in two ways: reading and writing. Here’s starter book set for reading. Writing Picture Books* by Ann Whitford Paul The Writers Guide to Crafting Stories for Children* by Nancy Lamb Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults* by Cheryl Klein Latino/a Childrens and Young Adult Writers on the Art of Storytelling* by Frederick Luis Aldama, University of Pittsburgh Press As for writing, I recommend a daily or weekly habit of coming to the page, whether you do that on your own or whether you sign up for writing class in your community. If you’re very serious, you can choose to invest in a low residency Master of Fine Arts program. I’ve been teaching at Hamline in St. Paul, Minnesota but there are others programs,...
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¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Pura Belpré!

By Awards and news, Guests, Latino Life, The Writing Life

This week marks the birthday (as far as historians can tell) of Pura Belpré, New York City’s first Latina librarian after whom the esteemed award is named. The Pura Belpré award was established in 1996 and celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. So you see, it’s time to kick off this year-long party! To honor this special day, I’ve invited guest blogger Dr. Marilisa Jimenez Garcia of Hunter College. She is a passionate advocate of Pura Belpré’s legacy and studies issues pertaining to Latino children’s lit. Here Dr. Jimenez Garcia examines the lasting impact of an author visit – and how it led to her own interest in this fascinating librarian. As a child, one of my favorite book series was Kids of the Polk Street School by Patricia Reilly Giff. I am almost certain I found the series by looking through my sister’s books. She was three years older, cooler, and always had the best books. She was beyond the little frogs and cats learning to dress themselves and brush their teeth in the books I read. Her books had full-blown characters that went to school, got into trouble, and made plans for the future—things I found much more intriguing. I know now that my love for these books was greatly due to Giff’s ability to engage me as a young reader. One day my mother found out that Giff was going to be at a local library in Long Island. My mother usually took us to local libraries to rent videos and take…

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On conga lines, a seaside library, and the surprise of a girl’s rehab center: REFORMA Nat’l Convention V

By Appearances, The Writing Life

You haven’t lived until you’ve done a conga line to the strains of Miami Sound Machine with a bunch of happy librarians. That’s precisely what I did during the dance party/dessert reception at the fifth annual REFORMA national conference in San Diego last week. I’ve mentioned REFORMA here before. That’s the arm of ALA dedicated to library services to Latinos – and a partner in the Pura Belpré award, along with ALSC. This year about 300 librarians, authors, teachers, and community leaders – many sporting pins with slogans like Sí – hablo español – gathered to share ideas and best practices. It had a lot of the usual conference fare: panels, keynotes (mine at the pool on a broiler of a day). But the event had the unmistakable feeling of friends coming together for support and fun, too. Maybe that’s what Ana Elba Pavon meant when she called it “time with my REFORMA family.” Look, you can’t blame me for being a little giddy about going to San Diego, land of the eternal sunny-and-low-70s weather, especially after this winter. But I got a lot more than a few days in the sunshine. I was surprised to run into Teresa Mlawer, who has been duking it out with the translation for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, which she says is the hardest book she’s ever had to translate. (She’s done quite a few, like classics, Where the Wild Things Are and Caps for Sale.) She’s trying her best to keep the…

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Banned On the Run…

By Appearances, Latino Life, The Writing Life

It’s a double whammy! Banned Books week and Hispanic Heritage month, so I’ve been on the road with no sign of rest in the near future. Fellow REFORMISTA Loida Garcia Febo just shared this link to Latino books that have been challenged and banned, including the book that turned me to writing in the first place: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.  Que cosa mas grande… Gracias, Loida. Lists like this inspire me to write more books that might cause alarm and discomfort – and hey, even thought. And they make me feel especially fired up about my first teaching gig at Las Comadres Writers Conference in Brooklyn this weekend. Las Comadres is more than a conference. It’s a movement based on the core principle of mentorship and culture. On Saturday, established Latina authors and publishing pros will come together at Medgar Evers College to help yet-to-be published authors learn the ropes. What’s in it for me?  Mostly getting more Latino voices at the literary table, especially those writing for kids since this year, for the first time,  our public schools will be a majority minority. Besides, I’ll be helping to create more amazing books that will end up on banned book lists. So, hermanas, if you have a story, if you’ve been too shy to admit that you want to be a writer, if you just don’t know where to begin, register for Las Comadres. Finally, here are a few pictures from my recent travels to the DC area.  I’m exhausted, but so grateful to Candlewick…

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Underwater Dreams airing on MSNBC

By Latino Life, Random howls into the world

I’m passing this on because I love an underdog story – especially one that shows off Latino kids with super-sized brains and grit. The documentary Underwater Dreams will be airing on MSNBC and Telemundo this Sunday, July 20, 2014 1 PM, EST. Here’s the blurb:  “Underwater Dreams, written and directed by Mary Mazzio, and narrated by Michael Peña, is an epic story of how the sons of undocumented Mexican immigrants learned how to build an underwater robot from Home Depot parts. And defeat engineering powerhouse MIT in the process.” Get the rest of the scoop here:  [vimeo 97377301 w=500 h=281]   I might not have heard about this if I hadn’t joined REFORMA as a community supporter this year. It’s a librarian association dedicated to providing services for Latino families, but you can join as a supporter or a corporate sponsor. You can flat-out just donate, too. Anyway, I’m so glad this crossed my screen. Thanks, Reformistas for being such a great clearinghouse of information!  

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Women’s Media Center Live

By Appearances

My third grade art teacher was the first woman I ever knew to put “Ms.” before her name. I remember almost nothing about her except that astounding decision – and the fact that she let us dance to Helen Reddy’s  I Am Woman for our after school club performance. She was probably the first feminist I ever met, and thankfully she left an imprint on her little charges. A few years later, I was already reading my sister’s Ms. Magazines, and eventually I went on to a life that’s been about writing stories that in one way or another advocate for girls. So this weekend, when I was featured on the Women’s Media Center Live podcast, I was thrilled. WMCL is a weekly broadcast out of DC. It’s a project of a larger initiative called the Women’s Media Center which was founded in 2005 by feminist icons Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan. What I like about the podcast is that the guests are widely varied, (Anita Hill, Jimmy Carter, just two quick examples). I also like that Robin Morgan tackles any thorny topic with grace and brains. You can catch it every Saturday morning, but you can download episodes via i-tunes if you miss the 11 am EST stream. This week, Robin and I talked about lots of things: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, how librarians are truly the butt-kicking heroes,  Girls of Summer, REFORMA, and my favorite lists for finding pro-girl multicultural books. Check out Women’s Center Live on Facebook or twitter (@wmclive). Subscribe…

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Yaqui, Pura Belpré and Me

By Awards and news

Here is what it looks like when a dream comes true.  This blurry “selfie” was taken on a Richmond-bound Amtrak train, two minutes after getting the news that I had won the 2014 Pura Belpré Award. I was on my way home from the ALA Midwinter Conference on Sunday night when my cellphone rang and Ruth Tobar, chair of the selection committee, gave me the good news. I was  promptly sworn to secrecy until the next day. Obviously, Gigi guessed what all my Spanish and crying was about; thank goodness she’s a steel trap. Thank you so much, everyone, for the tsunami of good wishes. (And thank you, Ms. Espinal, President of REFORMA (the ALA’s affiliate group that focuses on library services for Latino youth and families) for saying “ass” with such courage and gusto from the podium!) It’s an honor beyond belief to receive this award alongside some of the most talented people working in children’s publishing today. (Full list of ALA Youth Media winners here.) Un abrazo fuerte for: Yuyi Morales, Margarita Engle, Matt De la Peña, Duncan Tonatiuh, Angela Dominguez, and Rafael Lopez. Other pieces of good news continue to come in for YAQUI,  but for now I’m off to a Banned Books and Brews event at Longwood University this weekend to help raise funds for the Virginia Children’s Book Festival which will bring some pretty big names to Virginia in the fall. A drink doesn’t sound like such a bad idea right about now. ¡Salud! (Check out the awards. FYI, the Pura Belpré starts just…

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Meet Cristina Dominguez Ramirez: RPL’s newest non-shushing Latino librarian

By Guests, Latino Life

“I don’t do much shushing. In fact, patrons ask me to turn down the volume; I have a strong voice.” So says Cristina Dominguez Ramirez, an exciting new face at Richmond Public Libraries. She’ll be managing the renovated Broad Rock branch, which reopens next Tuesday. Ramirez, recently of VCU Library systems, also has a strong vision. The daughter of two retired academics, she brings to her new job hopeless curiosity and a rich cultural background that includes Jewish, Moorish, Basque, and Visigoth blood on one side, and Spanish and American Indian ancestors on the other. More important, she also brings her dream to make our whole community a living library. I chatted with Cristina via email about books, Richmond, and the role of libraries in the lives of Latino families.  What appealed to you about the position at Richmond Public Library?  It was a perfect match for me. I will manage one of the busiest branches in the Richmond Public Library, and I will get to work directly with community partners and leaders to create programming and events for a large number of underrepresented groups in Richmond. My passion ever since entering the profession has been to reach out to and encourage Latino and African American youth to stay in school and pursue their dreams. I feel very fortunate that I had parents that encouraged my learning so I want to pay it forward for other children and youth. Finally, I love the mission of Richmond Public Library-Inform, Enrich, Empower….

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