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Richmond Public Library

Happy New Year! 

By Appearances, The Writing Life, What I'm reading, Writing Workshops
I’ll be honest. It was tough for me to say goodbye to 2019, a year that began and ended with beautiful career highs. So it’s a good thing that January is looking is so fly. To start, I pressed send on my next novel featuring Merci Suárez, and I got to see the gorgeous final art for my upcoming picture book, EVELYN DEL REY IS MOVING AWAY.  You can read all about that and other upcoming book news right here in Publishers Weekly. Ta Da! Check out this gorgeous cover by Sonia Sánchez. But, I’m also doing a few sweet events at the end of the month, including two in my hometown of Richmond, VA, that I’ve been looking forward to for months. First stop: I’ll be in New York City on January 23 for a presentation to teachers. Carl Anderson, author of A Teacher’s Guide to Writing Conferences*, will be presenting, and then I’ll speak on my own days as a writing teacher and my life as an author. Did what I teach about writing reflect what I actually do as an author today? Sometimes – but there’s plenty I’d do differently. Pre-order it now!* I head home on January 25th for an "In Conversation With" appearance with one of my favorite authors, Lamar Giles, at the main branch of the Richmond Public Library. He’s on tour for his new contemporary young adult novel, NOT SO PURE AND SIMPLE (HarperCollins.) It's new this month, and it's been crushing it...
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Girls of Summer 2017 in pictures

By Community work, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

What a night! Girls of Summer 2017 launched into the world on Wednesday, June 21. Dancing with Rita Williams Garcia! Book talking with Stacy Hawkins Adams, Beth Morris, Amanda Nelson, and Gigi Amateau. Eating ice pops with girls from all over Richmond. Here’s a peek at how it went down!   To see our entire Girls of Summer list and to start following the weekly author Q & As, visit www.girlsofsummerlist.com.

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A letter to RVA about Girls of Summer 2017

By Community work, The Writing Life

January 16, 2017 It’s MLK Day in our nation, during a time when our country is heartbreakingly fractured. On Saturday, January 14, 2017, the two of us took a stand and walked in the March on Monument, a peaceful coming together of the various social justice groups that serve the Richmond community.  Two thousand or so of our neighbors stood shoulder to shoulder chanting a call and response: Show Me What Democracy Looks Like! THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE! What do we need? LOVE. When do we need it? NOW. What do we need? Unity. When do we need it? NOW. There were older women and men. Parents pushing strollers and carrying signs. Old Basset hounds. Seasoned activists and college students. Wheelchair users. Artists, writers, musicians. And, members of the faith community. Looking around, we saw our community celebrating diversity and inclusion at the statue of Robert E. Lee asking, How do we knit ourselves together in strength? How can we make our community a place where all people are respected and cared for? What can each of us offer? We had been thinking long and hard about Girls of Summer, our curated reading list for strong girls, now approaching its seventh year. To be frank, last year, we wondered if it might be time to let the list go. Exhausted and overscheduled, we could point to dozens of other reading lists for girls to choose from. But then the world got upended in deep and disturbing ways, most…

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Are you a YA author from VA? Win $2K here!

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

Richmond Public Library has stepped forward to promote young adult books in Virginia – and I mean in a big way. Actually, in two thousand big ways. If you’re a writer for teens in the Commonwealth, you may be eligible to win the $2,000 literature prize. (WOWZA!) YAVA (Young Adult Virginia) is an annual teen book event, now in its fourth year. It features the works of Virginia authors who have had an upper middle grade or  young adult novel published that year. It’s free and open to the public for teachers, librarians, and book fans who want to meet and hear from our state’s fine stable of authors, whether new to publishing or seasoned.  The event is scheduled for October 12, 2017, 6- 8:30 PM at the Main branch of the Richmond Public Library. Here’s the Facebook page. The award is selected in a combination of public voting and judges, who pick the winner from among the finalists. Last year, Anne Holton was the honorary judge. (Yep, Tim Kaine’s spouse and our Secretary of Education.) She selected Gigi Amateau’s Come August, Come Freedom as the winner. Important rules to note: Winners are selected from the previous year’s publications. Plus the author has to have been present at the live YAVA event at the library to be eligible. PLEASE take the time to vote on the 2015 title you think is most deserving. Then, do your YA authors a favor and circulate the survey widely. (Nobody’s allowed to launch vote-for-me campaigns, though….

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In Service to Richmond: How I choose where to go for free

By Appearances, Community work, Latino Life, picture books

Here’s what I know about children’s book writers in my community. We believe that kids matter, and we believe that books and stories help strengthen them and their families. With that in mind every year, I help lead literary events, such as Girls of Summer and YAVA (as in, Young Adult Virginia) at the Richmond Public Library. But I also donate visits to a few schools and community organizations that might not otherwise be able to afford an author visit.  I’ll be doing two of those visits this month. I can’t usually do school visits for free. Like most writers, I keep a roof over my head by cobbling together both advances (which can be years in between) and appearances. Most organizations understand that reality, and they find ways to pay, either through generous PTA groups, grants, partnerships with other organizations, or school improvement funds. Still there are always some that just can’t find the funds. Ay! What do we do then? The task of picking where to go for free is awful, mostly because there are just so many places where economics stand in the way of good things for kids. Also, for me, I always feel the urgent weight of exposing kids to authors from diverse backgrounds. It matters not only because they’d benefit from sharing stories that represent all experiences, but also because meeting an author might inspire kids of color to consider careers in the literary arts, which they may not have considered viable for them, too. (Certainly, we’re not there yet as you can see in Lee…

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Ah, those Dixie Latinos: U of R celebrates with an NEH grant

By Appearances, Latino Life

OK, February is going to be one big, long Valentine to Latinos. That’s because the University of Richmond was one of 203 recipients nationwide (and one of only three in Virginia) to get a piece of $1.48 million earmarked by the NEH and the American Library Association for “Latino Americans: 500 Years of History.” As part of the grant, the university will host host public screenings of a six-part documentary about the rich and varied contributions of Latinos to our country – plus they’ll add other public programming, including discussion groups, oral histories, local history exhibitions, multi-media projects, performances, and other programs on Latino history and culture. (Here is the link to what will be going on at the University of Richmond all month long.) I especially love that Dr Laura Browder and Dr. Patricia Herrera, who secured the grant, have created events specifically around the Latino experience in Virginia. The south has seen an enormous growth in the Latino population, and certainly that is true of Richmond. Who are the Latinos who call the commonwealth home? What are the perceptions and misperceptions of us as a group?  What impact have we made on our city and counties? And, the ever-elusive question:  Will any of us ever learn how to make a proper ham biscuit? It’s such an honor to be part of this, both as an author and as a Virginian. Not many people know that I was born in Alexandria, Virginia, where my parents first settled when they arrived from Cuba….

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Girls of Summer’s Big, Bad, Birthday Bash

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

It’s here! The Girls of Summer Reading list goes live on our blog today. (Click over and check out the titles and our reviews.) But what this really means is that we’re at the start of a big week for us, since our live events happen this week, too. Last minute plans, airport pickups, raffle items – agh! Gigi and I are so proud of the collection this year – especially since it marks our fifth anniversary of celebrating strong girls and reading. Where did five years go? We launched the list as our daughters were making their way out of high school. Today, Judith is living her dream of running a barn in California, training horses with a sure and skilled hand. Sandra has just moved into her own apartment in Washington, DC and will take the helm of a second grade class in the fall. And Cristina has recently landed her first official office job with Midas Auto Parts – an employer whose embrace of community extends to helping individuals with disabilities make meaningful contributions. Gigi and I have changed, too. We continue to write and publish books about strong girls and to see our respective careers unfold in ways that we could never have imagined five years ago. Earning the Pura Belpré award for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass has provided me an incredible platform that I hope I’ve used wisely. I’ve crisscrossed the country encouraging more books that represent all kinds of young people. To Richmond’s great fortune, Gigi recently became the…

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The Literary Activist: When writing moves beyond your computer

By Community work, picture book, middle grade, YA, What I'm reading

Picture the fervor of a rock concert smashed into book geekdom and strong girls. That’s the Girls of Summer live launch party, being held tonight, June18, 7 pm at the Richmond Public Library (Main branch). Gigi and I started the project four years ago, and it has grown into a vibrant partnership that has galvanized our local library, improving their children’s and teens circulation numbers– not to mention their good mood. More importantly, it has connected girls in Richmond not only to good books but also to their own sense of what it means to be a strong girl in 2014. When we started this, Gigi and I couldn’t have guessed how it would grow.  The idea was so simple. We had both used books so heavily in helping us raise our own daughters. What were the books we’d recommend to girls and their moms now? Each year, we answer that question with the help of 20 or so exceptionally talented and generous authors who think girls are amazing, too.  We’ve had the titans in children’s literature, like Jacqueline Woodson, and we’ve had debut authors, like this year’s Hannah Barnaby. What matters to us is the story and the celebration of as diverse a group of girls as possible. Our librarians and local friends help, too, as photographers, as copyeditors, as designers, as event planners. The sum total is a notable blog and a live launch event that has moved us from little mentions in local events calendars to articles…

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Virginia Book Lovers: This is the week for you!

By Appearances, Community work

This is the week to be proud to be a Virginian, especially if you’re a book geek like me. The Literary Festival of Virginia is back. It has been  gaining national attention over the years, thanks to the impressive list of  bookish events you can find in this state. One event that I hope is on your radar is right here in Richmond. If you’re a fan of books for young readers,  we want to see you at Teen ’13  at the Richmond Public Library on October 17, 6 – 8:30 PM. Food, music, authors, books, free stuff, all in one place. The fifteen Virginia authors who are coming offer a mind-blowing range of styles and topics. The books – all 2013 releases — are about psychic powers, romance, religious zealots, racism, canaries in coal mines, circus freaks, the KKK, bullies, military families, Darfur, dementia, horses, angels, courtiers, girls in juvie hall – you name it. See for yourself on the final schedule and the author list here. Teen ’13 program_proof2 (2) Oh, and to sweeten the deal even more, there’s free stuff: six $25 gift cards to Fountain Bookstore (which will be on hand that night); three winners of 30-minute video chats with an author of their choice; and an autographed collection of the entire list of books. Huge smooches to the Hanover High School Jazz band for their talents and to the Friends of the Library who funded the food, the space and all the prizes. (And buttons. Did I…

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Read Local: You’re invited to Teen ’13

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

Mark your fall calendars, teen book lovers. You’re invited to Teen ’13, a literary party that will celebrate Virginia’s homegrown talents.  If you’ve had the chance to sink your teeth into a local Virginia peach this summer, you already know why it makes sense to buy local.  But you shouldn’t limit yourself to buying local food. You can feel  good about “reading local,” too – especially if you’re a fan of teen fiction. That’s because Virginia has an impressive bench when it comes to authors. We’re home to New York Times bestsellers and to authors who have won the Newbery Award, the Hans Christian Anderson Award, the National Book Award, and other top literary prizes. And that’s to say nothing of the hefty number of Virginia authors whose works regularly grace the annual “Best of” lists  that recognize the top books for kids each year. Free and open to the public, Teen ’13 will give book fans of all ages a chance to gather at the Richmond Public library to enjoy food and drinks, buy books, meet their favorite authors in person and win everything from indi bookstore gift certificates and free Skype visits to autographed copies of books and more. Fourteen Virginia authors will attend – all of whom have new releases in 2013. (Teen 13 authors and book blurbs.) It’s exciting enough to have all those creative types in one place. But what’s most satisfying to me is that teen fiction – or YA, if you prefer –  will be part of…

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¡Verano! (Summer – the best time for book lovers)

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

A quick post today as I settle back from my amazing day celebrating multicultural lit at the LUCY conference at Old Dominion University. Looking forward to a busy first week of summer talking books, culture, and connection. 1.  Gigi Amateau and I continue to celebrate our Girls of Summer list. Our launch last week was a huge success with about 180 mothers, daughters, librarians, teachers, and all-around book lovers enjoying free ice cream, book talk, and a celebration of strong girls. Hope you are enjoying Tanita Davis’s Q & A this week. Looking ahead to Friday, 6/28 you’ll meet the fabulous Latina author Guadalupe Garcia McCall on our site. She’ll talk about winning the Pura Belpré prize for Under the Mesquite,  and how she found a way to tell a story based on one of her most painful challenges. 2.  For my Latino friends with kids, please check this out! A summer reading list for Latino readers from the blogging community. Latinas for Latino Literature provide book lists by age group, activities, and ideas for encouraging reading. Please follow them on Facebook, too, where you’ll see the growing community around Latinos, youth, and empowerment through reading. 3. I’ll be at the Shenandoah Children’s Literature Conference this Tuesday and Wednesday as part of “Heavy Medal,” celebrating children’s book authors who have won medals and prizes for their work. (Thank you Ezra Jack Keats committee! Your gift keeps on giving and opening doors.) So excited to travel to this beautiful part of the…

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Thanks for coming!

By Community work

Was great to launch Paint Me a Story this afternoon.  I really enjoyed this collaboration with the library and am so happy that the exhibit will be on display next Friday at the Main Branch for First Fridays. Don’t miss it — or the free workshops that the Visual Arts Center will provide as an offshoot of the exhibit. Here are a few shots from our party. Lila, Joe, John: your work was so impressive.It was an honor and a pleasure to share it with new audiences.

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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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Scenes for the Girls of Summer Live Launch

By Appearances, Community work, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life, Uncategorized

The Girls of Summer 2012 site is live — 18 great summer reads for girls! But here are some shots from a truly magical night under the shady trees of Library Park in Richmond, VA. More than 100 girls, moms, librarians, teachers, and friends gathered for ice cream, book talks, and a chance to meet the fabulous Wendy Shang, author of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu. Thank you to everyone at the Richmond Public Library, to bbgb tales for kids (our bookseller), to Penelope Carrington for filming, and to the Ice Cream Connection for the fantastic refreshments and music! Winners of our picture book, chapter book, and early middle grade bag of books! Cute or what?

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Back again! Girls of Summer 2012

By Appearances, Community work, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_Dy8cZJlhI] Ah, it’s almost time to kick back and read the way you’re supposed to read in the summer: curled in a hammock or beach chair. Here comes Girls of Summer 2012.  Gigi Amateau and I are updating our curated reading list  with 18 new titles for this summer. It’s an absolute joy to work on this project for a second year. I get to read (or re-read) books that I think celebrate girls, share time with a close friend, and talk to authors I’ve long admired all summer long. It doesn’t get better. You’ll find the spiffy new list and our comments on the website starting June 20. (We’re under construction now with updates, so please be patient.) But what I really want you to do is save the night of June 19, 2012, 7 – 9 pm and join us at the Richmond Public Library for the live launch. It’s free. It’s fun. It’s the best thing you can do on a Tuesday night. Were you there for our inaugural event last year? We promise another crazy, fun-filled evening, complete with book giveaways, summer refreshments (think popsicles) and authors on hand. Mark the date! Oh — and don’t forget Anita Silvey will be speaking on children’s books at the library this Saturday, May 19. Not to be missed if you are even remotely interested in books for young people. She’s amazing.

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