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SCBWI

Take My Master Class in Writing Characters

By Appearances, Writing Workshops
Blackwings: My very favorite writing and editing pencils I'll be teaching a master class this week for SCBWI on managing a big cast in your work-in-progress. If you're an SCBWI member, I'd love to see you there. (Become a member, if you're not! It's well worth the investment!) Registration is open today for the event that happens on Thursday, June 3rd, 4 - 5pm EST. It's all part of seven weeks of digital workshops which SCBWI has been hosting for its members this year. We've all been trying to find ways to keep our skills sharp during the pandemic, and I so appreciate the array of topics and approaches that have been offered up, everything from tackling the visual realm in picture books, to social media, and creating atmosphere in your novel. It's a little daunting to think of running a master class for writers, to be frank. I don't think anyone is a master of writing. I think we all continually learn and grow our tool box to varying degrees of success. My own approach will be to unpack for you how I found my characters for both picture books and the Merci Suárez novels. I'll provide rough sketches, my thinking boards, and an analysis of who made the cut into my work and who didn't. I'll have some exercises for you to try with your own work-in-progress, too. An hour goes fast, but we'll cover some good ground. Hope to see you there, fellow members.
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Volemos: A New SCBWI Grant for Upcoming Latinx Authors

By Awards and news, Latino Life
If you're an aspiring or early career Latinx author,  there's some new support for you. In partnership with the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), I've created a small grant called Volemos: The Meg Medina Grant. We'll be accepting submissions this month for the first time, so if you've got a picture book manuscript or a strong sample of your next novel, hurry and submit. Full submission guidelines are here.  I've been a member of SCBWI for most of my writing career. I entered the field before social media was a force (if you can even conceptualize that). Back then, I couldn't have told you what an agent did or what on earth a query letter was. More important, I didn't know any other children's book creators who could guide me or offer me an example of how to do this work. To pursue my passions felt as unlikely as pursuing a trip to Mars. A lot has changed for me over the years. I've found out that publishing is a combination of art, hardcore business skills, and community, all of which I honed with SCBWI's help. It's also a business where Latinx voices continue to be woefully underrepresented despite the growing number of new organizations and platforms now available to us. I'm proud to serve on the Board of Advisors for SCBWI and to partner with them in supporting my literary community. The organization is looking forward as it starts its 50th year in existence, and so...
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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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#LetsStayConnected

By Appearances, Giveaways
The woods across the street from my house backs up to the high school field where the marching band rehearses. Every August for almost 20 years, I’ve watched kids trudge in the heat to practice that strange footwork and music skills. And every year, about this time, I get to hear them improve every week. I get to hear the crowds cheer for the home team.  It’s quiet now without those squeaky saxophones and thundering bass drums. My dear friend Alice and my daughters. And last week, I watched the nightly news reports about the pandemic with that familiar ache that’s come to define 2020 for me. I tried not to focus on the trick-or-treaters that I’ll miss seeing on Halloween, or on the Thanksgiving Day meal for just the immediate family, not to mention the winter holidays, when I won’t be able to gather the same way with the people I love.    In the midst of all of this, too, my picture book Evelyn del Rey is Moving Away (illustrated by Sonia Sánchez) hit shelves. This year is clearly a hard year to connect with readers, but I believe that, in some ways, this book might just be the right story for us all now. Daniela and Evelyn, after all, are two mejor amigas who have to accept a separation and figure out how to make what truly matters endure.  So, here’s how I’d like to launch this picture book and help us cope with missing our friends and...
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September: A Celebration of Friends and a New Picture Book

By Appearances, Random howls into the world
Hi everyone! September, how I’ve longed for you.  My new picture book, Evelyn del Rey is Moving Away, is finally out in the world on September 8th – in both English and Spanish. So far, so good. It’s garnered five starred reviews and the honor of being selected as the Jumpstart 2020 Read for the Record title. Have you pre-ordered and signed up for the pledge? Until then, enjoy the most delightful book trailer...  __________________________________________________________ Are you missing your friends? Evelyn’s publication has had me thinking a lot about friends, those from childhood as well as the ones in both my personal and professional life now. I found this old shot from one of my birthdays back in Queens. (I can still feel the plastic slipcovers on that couch.) My elementary school friends. Anybody see R.J Palacio in there? Anyway, I really find myself longing for my friends now, and I’m guessing I’m not alone in this. It’s just the little things that I miss. Meeting someone for coffee. Hugging a hello. Taking in a movie or a drink somewhere. These days, even photos of myself with maskless friends, readers, and librarians can make me a little a little teary. But you know what? The universe has a way of helping sometimes. This month it turns out that I am doing a lot of video events in support of author friends, from debut to superstars.  Four conversations in eight days – and I’m asking all the questions. Here’s the lineup:...
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Sleepy summer?

By Appearances, The Writing Life
Hi all.  August. This should be a slow and sleepy time in publishing, right?  But no. An awful lot is happening during what should be my sleepy summer. Maybe that's a good thing, though. It will keep me from missing pool days or fun beach trips.  OK, the huge NEWSFLASH:  the SCBWI Summer Spectacular is living up to its name. Full disclosure, I sit on the board of advisors for SCBWI, but that doesn’t influence the fact that I think the digital conference has offered us an incredible silver lining of access. A lot of folks who can’t plunk down the big bucks for airfare and hotel of a live conference, can pay $100 and click a zoom link to learn from people like the legendary Phillip Pullman. That’s a huge bonus for people early in their careers when the cash flow from writing is a trickle. Check out the lineup yourself. And please, if you are registered or plan to register, join my conversation with the fabulous Laurie Halse Anderson on Tuesday morning. We’ve decided to ask each other all the stuff nobody else does. We’ll talk a little bit of craft, but also what career blips we’ve had, what we wish we could do over, things that scare us now, and new voices we’re excited about.  There’s a lot of bookstore and educator love happening in my world this month, too. I’ll be at Belmont Books, virtually of course, in support of a program called Read it Forward,...
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Scenes from L.A.

By Appearances, The Writing Life, Young Adult
I spent the last five days in glorious Southern California, and I came home to the exciting news that Merci Suarez Changes Gears is # 7 on the New York Times bestseller list. It's thrilling to see some renewed book love. Thank you to everyone who's been reading and sharing the novel. Anyway, I'm too jetlagged to write much, but here are some photos from the road. I love book people, plain and simple... With the fab librarian team at L.A. Public libraryThe LA Public Library is beautiful.You can't tell you're underground...The ceiling at LA Public Library main branch'memba these?Sample of a mural by Jose Ramirez at LA Public LibraryA love note from a LA library patronSigning on the patio at LA PublicJen Rofe's agenting family!Discovering new books!An adorable chapter book seriesI went to the Woodstock party. Here I am with Paul ZelinskiWith Raul III at the SCBWI Woodstock partySome of my dearest book friends: Lilliam Rivera, Renée Watson, Brandy ColbertWith Jenn Laughran, Linda Sue Park, Ruta Sepetys, and Cynthia Leitich SmithThis reader was excited to find her two favorite books in the same place.
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Stars & Thoughts: On the New Trailer for Burn Baby Burn

By The Writing Life, Trailers

After months of some serious anxiety over my upcoming novel, I’ve been getting some good news about Burn Baby Burn, which is due in bookstores on March 8.  Book Riot gave it a nice shout out last month, and it was listed as an anticipated 2016 title on the Barnes & Noble Teen blog by my pals at We Need Diverse Books. It’s also been named a Junior Library Guild selection and has earned a starred review on Kirkus. Today, Shelf Awareness premiered the trailer. In case you aren’t subscribed to the industry newsletter, here it is below. Please feel free to share the trailer if you like what you see. I finally hired a professional to handle the production this time around. Why? You’ve seen my past trailers:  super basic via i-movie or keynote and Quicktime.  I started making trailers a few years ago thanks to SCBWI’s Chris Cheng who gave a terrific workshop on how to make DIY ads for your books. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed doing them, but the truth is that they’re a stretch for a novice like me. When you’re a rookie, it shows. (No need to spare my feelings. I know.) Rich Bailey of Shooting Richard produced the Burn Baby Burn trailer – which is to say he had to deal with a very persnickety author offering ideas and opinions. (Poor guy.) To keep costs down, I came to him with the basic storyboard concept and text. He made the magic. Here below is a Q & A…

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So You Know I’m Not Lying: SCBWI in pictures!

By Appearances

Why do I write for young people?  Well, sure, I love kids, but I also adore the people who write FOR them. I’m spending five glorious days at the Society for Children’s Writers and Illustrators right now. If you write for young people, make yourself a promise. Put an SCBWI National Conference on your calendar for next summer.  Save up. The inspiration, good will, and straight out fun are worth the headache of travel and budget busting. You’ll  play, study, and (most important) find the friends and colleagues who will keep you dreaming and working when the creative times are lean. I’m putting some pictures below, including some shots of the pool party in honor of Tomie DePaola’s 80th birthday.    

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Girls of Summer

By The Writing Life

It’s nearly 100 degrees in Richmond, and my air conditioner is broken. It’s going to take a lot to make me happy this week, folks. So, thank God for a project I’ve been working on with my friend and fellow Candlewick author, Gigi Amateau.  It’s called Girls of Summer, and it’s our own answer to those official summer reading lists that used to suck the joy out of reading for both of us. How we kept reading, we’ll never know. If you’re not familiar with our stuff, you should know that Gigi and I both write about strong girls. Hers are southern, mine Latina – but we write about tough cookies, and it turns out, those are the same the world over. This summer, as our own beautiful daughters are graduating from high school, we’ve decided to celebrate girl power through the thing we love most: writing. Here’s a little taste of what we have in mind via a Mac-made trailer. (Thank you Chris Cheng at SCBWI for teaching me how!) But you’ll have to be patient. We’re still putting the finishing touches on things. In the next few weeks, we’ll roll out the blog with our selections and why we like them. We hope you’ll comment, read interviews with the authors and enjoy hearing snippets of work. Then on July 28, 2011 we’ll feature the list as part of James River Writers’ July Writing Show in Richmond, VA.  You’ll be able to hang out with librarians, teachers, kids, and writers — and…

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