Newbery award winner and New York Times bestselling author

Posts tagged ‘Rich Wallace’

The Old English Teacher in Me goes to NCTE

I’m heading for my last appearance of 2014 this weekend, and it’s a celebration of a few things and, in a way, a full circle.

Meg and Javier just married_NEW

Our big day at St. Andrew’s in Flushing, Queens

First, it’s my husband’s birthday.  Here we are over 30 years ago when we got married – much against everyone’s advice due to our age, the fact that we hadn’t finished college yet, that we were broke, and that, frankly, we were somewhat incompatible in terms of our interests. Well, we finished college; the rest is kind of the same. I honestly can’t remember not knowing Javier. We met at the factory where both our mothers worked when they first arrived in the US. It would later be the same factory where we got our first summer jobs being bored to death testing transistors alongside our mothers. Those of you who have already met him know that this hot-headed mess is a truly lovely man, a solid dad, and for me, the whole world.

Unfortunately, he’s stuck with a birthday that falls on the same day that President Kennedy was shot, and also so near Thanksgiving that he often has to share the fun with the dead bird and its dressings. This year, it also falls during the NCTE Annual Convention, too. Miss his birthday? Yikes! So, since the conference is being held at the fancy schmantzy Gaylord Resort in Alexandria, he’s coming along. Javier isn’t a book man. He works in health care. So, the guy who struggles with commas but deciphers the hardest math or science problems is going to go party with the nation’s English teachers, authors, and librarians. (Happy Birthday, I think….)

At the Palm Beach County School of the Arts, 1992

At the Palm Beach County School of the Arts, 1992

For me, it’s different. Being at NCTE is like a gigantic homecoming. I was a creative writing teacher at an arts magnet school for a few years in the 1990’s, a job I truly loved. Maybe it’s in my blood. I come from a long line of teachers, all the way back to my grandfather, Cleto Antonio Metauten, who taught in rural Cuba. My mom and aunts were all teachers in Cuba, too.

My grandfather with his students in Cuba

My grandfather with his students in Cuba

I remember distinctly my life in the world of middle and high school education. Here’s the stuff I hated: hall passes, bus duty, meetings, occasionally mean kids, never having enough time to grade papers. But I loved laughing with students and watching them experiment and create strong work.

NCTE helped shape me back then. I’d always wait for my copy of The English Journal, an NCTE publication, so I could get edgy ideas about how to make English come alive for the kids who spent their day with me. That’s what these organizations do for the educators who do the heavy lifting of inspiring kids and educating them. It keeps them thinking and connected outside of their own classroom. That’s why administrators shouldn’t skimp on sending teachers to conferences. An investment in a teacher yields growth and optimism in the classroom so far beyond just one teacher. It touches every kid who comes through his or her class.

But what I also remember of my time as a teacher is that I knew I might be in the wrong place, despite how much I loved my students. I was always secretly hoping to find the courage to write something myself. Sadly, in my twenties, I just didn’t have the courage to step out into a life in the arts. I worried about health insurance and stability. I worried that I would miss my students. I worried that I would fail; then, what?

In time, teaching helped lead me to writing anyway. I approached slowly, studying craft and teaching at an arts magnet school in Florida. Eventually, I published tiny pieces in local papers, a few poems, an essay here and there, working slowly, slowly on having the nerve to say, I’m an author. I was trying to do exactly what I was trying to teach my students to do:  Dare to make a living doing what I loved.  I wonder how many of the teachers I will meet this weekend are looking for the same courage?

It has been a busy year of travel since last January, and I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving with Javier and our children – and to several uninterrupted weeks to finish edits on my next novel.  It will be so nice to pack away the suitcases for a while and get back to the place where the joy is really found: in making the work.

But this weekend, if you’re at #ncte14, please stop by to say hello (and happy birthday to Javier.) Otherwise, Happy Turkey Day, everyone, and thank you for all the reading and support and friendship that you sent my way this year.


Cariños de,



Meg’s schedule

Saturday: Nov 22, 2014

2: 45 PM We Need Diverse Books panel (with Ellen Oh, I.W. Gregorio and leaders of the NEA and NCTE) on what’s happening with the movement and how you can diversify your class readings.

4:15 PM, Signing at Candlewick Booth #319 – 321

Sunday: Nov 23, 2014

Signing at ABC Fair booth #153

1:30 – 2:45 Are We Creating a Nation of Impatient Readers: YA authors on writing compelling realism. (With Bill Konigsburg, Sandra Neil Wallace, Rich Wallace, Chris Crutcher)


ALA Midwinter in Philly

Just a quick hello from ALA Midwinter in Philly, where I have re-learned how to walk for miles in six-degree weather. Ice, slush, cold toes, runny nose…I’d almost forgotten what it feels like to live in a place that keeps moving regardless of the weather.

As I ride home on the Amtrak, I’m feeling so grateful for some of these favorite moments:

Gigi, Meg, and ABSetting out on the train with two of my dearest writing friends, A.B. Westrick and Gigi Amateau. The whole train was filled with librarians. (I’m looking at you Lucinda Whitehurst, among others!) It had a Hogwarts sort of feel to it.

We decided to stay in a Bed and Breakfast instead of a standard hotel. Cheaper and cooler, in my book. We were at Casa Buono in the Italian section of Philly.  The view from my window.View from Casa Buona on 10th St in Philly

Kat, Dana, and Laura- the goddesses of The Virginia Shop hauled all their quirky literary wares to the Convention Center, fought for parking spots, and kept us all laughing. Here they are during our wonderful Asian dinner at Sampan on S. 13th Street. I also enjoyed a great meal at the Candlewick Press Family Ho-down at Supper (South Street) on Friday night. (Thanks again, Andie!)Laura, Dana, and Kat The Virginia Shop

Jen Delgado of DelawareNo kidding: I met Jen Delgado from Delaware. (No relation, THANK GOD to Yaqui!)

Babe Conquers the WorldAlways cool to see books by friends. Here are the galleys for Sandra and Rich Wallace’s new novel, BABE CONQUERS THE WORLD (Cawkins Creek/Highlights). Fans of strong girls and sports should look for it in March 2014.

Had a chance to meet with so many young people, bloggers, and librarians who had stories to tell me about YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS. A big thanks to the hong people reading and to the librarians who are courageously dealing with “adults with raised eyebrows.”  Here I am with Kim McCallister, Liberty Middle School in Mechanicsville, VA.Kim McCallister Liberty MS

Italian cookies as IsgroAnd what would a trip to Philly be without Italian cookies?  Isgro on Christian Street and 10th, was just a 7