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The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind

Events! Events! Events! Join me in Las Vegas, New York City or Washington DC

By Appearances, Awards and news, middle grade, The Writing Life, young adult

I’ve recently had several glorious weeks filled with family, local friends, beautiful spring weather and time to write. It’s been wonderful. BUT, I will be hitting the road again soon and I so hope to see you in one of my upcoming events. If you’re near Las Vegas on May 29th and 30th, join Padma Venkatraman, Phil Bildner and me at the 2019 Summit on Teaching YA Literature at the University of Nevada. Next up, I’ll be jetting to New York City for this year’s ever-popular BookCon on June 1st! Join Tracey Baptiste, Soman Chainani, Raina Telgemeier and me for a conversation about the very best in middle grade. Soon after, I will be in the best company with my friends and well-respected authors Elizabeth Acevedo and Robin Benway for an evening conversation at Politics & Prose Bookstore at the Wharf. We’ll chat about our writing and how our personal experiences and recent awards have influenced our work. See you there? Check out my calendar of events for more details and other upcoming dates. Until then, I’ll have my head down working and enjoying my family and, of course, taking long walks with Hugo.    

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January Bargain at E-Volt: The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind

By Awards and news, Latino Life

This month E-volt – where you can get books for $2.99 or less – is offering  The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind on sale for $1.99. You might not remember the novel – quiet as it was – but it’s the book that has made the biggest impact on me as an author. The synopsis is here, but I describe the novel as a mix of magical realism and telenovela mostly because it’s one of those sweeping stories with large casts and a few spirits. It’s about secrets, traitors, and love stricken heroes, all hopefully drawn with some depth. But at its core, The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind is actually realistic fiction, too. That’s because it’s a tale of migration and why young people take unimaginable risks to move toward better circumstances. It names that terrible brew of longing and violence the powerless often see in this life. I’ve heard said that each novel you write teaches you how to be a better writer. If that’s true, this one was a strict SOB of a teacher. I rewrote The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind more times than I care to count, trying to preserve a stylized storytelling while getting at a contemporary issue with honesty. What a struggle! I reworked the manuscript top to bottom, axing plot lines and characters. Several times I thought I would abandon the project altogether. I couldn’t find my way somehow. I couldn’t settle on what I really wanted to say about Sonia and the people in…

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What are you doing in Arkansas? Thinking about Pura Belpré, of course!

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

That’s pretty much what everybody asked me this week.  Maybe it’s because it’s hard to imagine a Cuban from Queens hanging out near Oklahoma where the wind does, in fact, come sweeping down the plain. But there I was: Ft. Smith, Arkansas. Fort Smith is a quiet place with one of everything, as Ines, one of the district’s English Language Learners coordinators, told me. One Staples. One bridal shop. One mall. Church life is central to life here, which made me laugh when I toured their visitor center –  a restored brothel called Miss Laura’s Social Club. You can walk along the beautiful Arkansas river here, eat something called a Frito Chili pie, or find excellent Vietnamese food. You can experience a tornado drill on a moment’s notice or tour gallows and other bone-chilling artifacts of the “wild west.” Such a mix of unexpected things. Including people. Like a lot of small towns in the US, Fort Smith is warm and close-knit – and it now finds its demographics shifting. Schools that were once 90 percent white, now have Latino populations of over sixty percent, compounded in some cases by significant financial need. The challenge, of course, is to embrace change as normal and to pull from it the rich experiences that a truly multicultural community can provide. As I’ve had the chance to do  elsewhere, I spoke to kids about my books, culture, and where those two meet inside a writer. I had to tread lightly on Yaqui Delgado Wants to…

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An audio documentary on migrant deaths on our border

By Guests

Catherine Komp, radio producer at Virginia Currents on NPR (locally WCVE 88.9 FM,) recently sent me the audio documentary below. Created by her colleagues for a show called Making Contact, it examines migrant deaths on our borders. When I was writing The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind, I struggled many times as I wrote scenes of unspeakable violence.   Should I write such gruesome things for young people?  Was it necessary or gratuitous? In the end, I chose to include the awful details, leaning toward telling fiction as honestly as I could. I hope you’ll carve out a little time to listen to the audio. January ushers in a new Congress and a fresh immigration battle. The debate will be heated on both sides, a healthy – if painful – exercise. What I continue to ask is that we remember that, in the end, we are talking about people, about human beings, and about the ethics of addressing suffering.

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Philly, Vicks VapoRub, Kids & Me

By Appearances, Community work

I’m back from Philly where I stayed at the lovely Four Seasons Hotel, a guest of the Free LIbrary of Philadelphia. The hotel is every bit as cushy as you’d expect. Chandeliers, thick rugs, polite people at every, single turn.  The staff even made me a beautiful candy version of the book cover for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind – which was both astoundingly lovely and funny. I was there to speak about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, after all. Hmmm. I would have LOVED to have been a fly on the wall when the dessert guru had to decide what to do.   Anyway, I spent the day as part of library’s well-regarded Field Family Teen Author Series, an endowed program that brings authors and books to students at no cost to their school. (Attention People of Means and Nice Shoes!  Consider doing this in your community, too!) The high school students in my groups were amazing. A sampling: Students with visual impairments who heard the audio version of Yaqui. Young people who were in a GED program and trying to get themselves back on track. A charter school that is over 90% Latino – and their teacher who is an aspiring author, too. We met at a branch in the Kensington area – decidedly NOT the Four Seasons ambiance. But it’s a dead ringer for the Queens that I knew growing up, right down to the trains running overhead the way they do in Corona, Jackson Heights, Jamaica and…

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Teen Read Week & More in #RVA

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

It’s a great week to love books in Richmond, Virginia – especially middle grade and YA fiction. That’s because it’s not only the Library of Virginia’s Literary Festival, but it’s also the American Library Association’s TeenRead Week. Wao! So much going on, so what can I say except, Tengo los patines puestos! (I’ve got my roller-skates on!) Here are a few highlights of where I’ll be during the week: Meadowdale Library/Tomahawk Creek MS:  I’ll head down to Chesterfield County for a library book talk that is off-site on Wednesday, Oct 15, 7 PM.  We’ll talk The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Here’s the info and where you register.  Especially nice to see a partnership between the school and public libraries in a community.   Teen 14: Locals already know that the main branch of the Richmond Public Library on Franklin Street is always figuring out ways to make reading come alive, especially for kids. So, they’re going to play host once again for a teen author event. Join Virginia authors who have works for teens published in 2014. It’s a ready-made night for librarians, teachers, and readers who want to meet and make friends with the truly kick-ass authors we have in the Commonwealth. PLUS, food, music, giveaways.  If last year’s event was any sign, it’s going to be a really fun night. Details on their Facebook page or click on the jpg poster here. Hermitage High School Anti-bullying Book Event with Erin Jade Lange. You know her novel?  It’s…

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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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Where books meet disaster: A brief reading list about kids and migration

By Adult books, Awards and news, Latino Life, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

I got home last week from the ALA conference, an experience that still makes me daydream, especially when I think of the energy and passion in the room at the Pura Belpré awards. You can find my speech and Yuyi Morales’s speech here, but the truth is that the text doesn’t replicate the emotion that was in the room. All of us receiving recognition were teary and humbled –and not just by the honor being extended to our books. A good part of our emotion stemmed from the unspoken presence of people who were not actually in the room with us. This summer, our news outlets have exploded with accounts of the nearly 40,000 unaccompanied childrenwho have arrived on our border to find themselves not only exhausted, afraid and alone, but also the target of explosive rage. Whatever your view on immigration policy, I hope you can agree that what we’re seeing is a human tragedy on the backs of the weakest and smallest among us. All of us writers on that stage work for young people because we respect them and treasure what should be a sacred time for all children. All of us on that stage have been touched by migration, either directly or indirectly, in our own families. All of us have been the recipients of our parents’ most ardent hopes for our futures, sometimes at the expense of their own. It is heartbreaking, then, for us to see children so completely lost and in need of help. As Javier and I traveled…

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Author Visit or School Book Experience?

By Appearances

On Wednesday, I did my last school visit of the 2013-14 school year at Stonewall Middle School in Manassas, Virginia. They’re author visit gurus over there, rolling out the red carpet with so much attention to detail that I didn’t really want to come home. (Sorry, Javier.) On the drive back to Richmond, I got to thinking about the many great times I’ve had meeting teachers, kids and librarians this year – and how much I’ve learned about how they build collections, how they connect with their staff, and how they have to navigate budget cut threats all the time. I feel really lucky to have met so many inventive, non-shushing, hilarious Bookish Ones this year. What I especially loved about Wednesday at Stonewall, though, is that it was a “best practices” event for me. All the best parts of school visits were rolled into one. They pulled together an author visit so that it wasn’t just a giant assembly. Instead, they created a book experience for the kids and teachers that stretched beyond the single day that I was there. So, in honor of the amazing job Stonewall did yesterday, here’s a little cheat sheet on School Visit Greatness, with a special thanks to Linda Mitchell, Hope Dublin,Laurie Corcoran, and Diane Hilland  who hosted me so expertly. Good planning: I despise paperwork, but I have to admit that it helps keep things straight. Linda Mitchell contacted me early (an October email about a visit in June.) We were clear on what…

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Show Some Love to the Readers and Writers on Your List

By Appearances

My last two appearances of 2013 are also two of my favorites. Friday, Dec, 6: Forget buying ugly sweaters. Instead, dazzle your book loving friends with a Jane Austen umbrella, a chic recycled bag, or a onesie honoring The Little Prince. It’s all at The Virginia Shop, inside the Library of Virginia this Friday. This gift store is where whimsy meets history and literature, and their Open House won’t disappoint. The event starts at 2 PM, but my slot is 4 PM – 6 PM. All afternoon, authors and historians will be on hand to meet you and sign books. The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (yes, for the holidays!) will  be on sale – and my titles come with a free, beaded milagro bookmark. If you’re inclined, please RSVP on the Facebook invite here. The PDF flyer is here:  OpenHouseVAShop Saturday, Dec. 7: I’ll head back down to Petersburg to the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for WriterFest. It’s an all-day youth writing conference. I’m looking forward to a book talk lunch about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and then a look at student first pages with Dean King and Virginia Pye. And then, friends, it’s time to rest and write…

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