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Tia Isa Wants a Car

Celebrate with Your Favorite Authors on World Read Aloud Day

By Appearances, What I'm Reading
It’s World Read Aloud Day this Wednesday, February 3. I hope you’re planning to take some time to read aloud to your favorite kid this week – in person, by Zoom, or in whatever way you can manage. And do the voices – no skimping! I’d be very honored if you chose one of my picture books, in English or Spanish, but any good book will do.   And just in case you're rusty, here are some tips on how to up your reading game from Reading Rockets. The celebration isn't just for the picture book set. To honor World Read Aloud Day – and give you some ideas for your bookshelves ­­‑ a few book friends and I will be on Kate Messner’s site this week doing five-minute readings of titles due out in 2021. I'll be previewing Merci Suárez Can't Dance, coming soon on April 6. The whole thing runs just under an hour, I think. So, follow #WorldReadAloudDay on twitter and bookmark this link to Kate's site on Wednesday when the video posts. Thanks, Kate, for the gracious invitation! Also keeping me busy this week is a school visit with students through Brooklyn Public Library  – virtually – of course. (In person visits? Fuggedaboudit for a while.) I'll also be marking the start of Black History month. I'm always on the fence about these designated months, like Hispanic Heritage Month and Women's History month. We should be reading inclusively all year long and encouraging those habits in young...
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An author’s guide to DIY teacher materials for your books

By Discussion materials, Teachers' Guide, Trailers
Having a beautiful new book in the world is only part of the job of connecting with readers. Another important way to connect is by making it easy for teachers and librarians to use your work as part of their classroom or independent reading programs. But what does that look like if you’re making these materials yourself? And what are the most popular types of materials that teachers are looking for? Car template for Tia Isa Wants a Car To find out, I spoke to Kathleen O’Rourke, Executive Director of Educational Sales and Marketing at Candlewick Press. She confirmed what I’ve learned over the last ten years. “Teachers have limited time to teach all that is required... so providing them with materials that are simple, accessible, and effective are your best bet." Top three picks Discussion Guide for Yaqui Delgado  1. A discussion guide:  Not every title on a publisher’s list will get a discussion guide designed in-house, but that doesn’t mean you can’t design one yourself using the principles your publisher uses. “A good discussion guide can be used to start a class discussion, assign written responses, or encourage a librarian to use your title with a book group,” says O’Rourke.  “[You want] thoughtful discussion questions that a teacher can either provide the students before they read the book to help guide their reading or that can be used after the book has been read to help the students think critically about the story." When I’ve designed my own...
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La Maleta: Grief meets a 50-year-old suitcase

By Latino Life, Random howls into the world
It’s been a minute since I’ve checked in.  Many of you know that my Tía Isa passed away a couple of weeks ago. I want to thank all of you who were so kind in sending our family condolences, comfy socks, chicken soup, wine, meal delivery vouchers, and flowers. I so appreciate the love and support. La maleta I’ve been climbing out of the haze by doing all the grown-up things you have to do to settle people’s affairs. Death certificate applications, closing bank accounts – all that official stuff. The real work, though, has been going through the things that my mother and aunt thought were vital. And for that, I had to face la maleta. For as long as I can remember, my mother and Tía Isa told me about the suitcase in the back of their closet. It is a battered hardshell piece of luggage in that Pan Am airlines blue. It has a key on a string and an old belt from the 1970s holding it together. Inside, Ma and Tía kept documents they knew I’d need some day, but also the ones I suspect they couldn’t part with because they told the story of their lives. La maleta had their Cuban passports wrapped in plastic, my grandmother’s welfare id card, Tía’s high school diploma and license as a telegraph operator, my grandparents’ birth certificates from the late 1800s, a prayer and medallion for Santa Barbara. I found my parents’ divorce papers and  prayer cards for...
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Virtually Mad: how author life has morphed

By Random howls into the world, Self-care, The Writing Life
Is it Monday? Of what month? Did I wear this shirt yesterday? Is my hair clean? Why am I sleeping until 10 am? It must be because I’m binge-watching all six seasons of Downton Abbey like a crack addict. Welcome to Authors in Pandemics, where book nerds like me are being stretched harder than any at-home yoga app can do. Here we are at the start of another week of my new, virtual author life, where everything, right down to my office, has become part of a video. That means it’s you, me and my phone camera, my friends. Let's just hope I remember to point it in the right direction. Here's the schedule this week: Tuesday, April 28: a takeover of the Texas Book Festival Instagram feed during which I plan to make a café con leche in my kitchen and ponder 'what would the Suárez family do in a pandemic'? Thursday, April 30: video panel for the Virginia State Reading Association’s virtual seminar series, featuring me and fellow Virginia authors A.B. Westrick and Steven K. Smith, along with teacher extraordinaire, Pernille Ripp following us. Friday, May 1: keynote as part of the much-anticipated Everywhere Book Festival, launched largely to help authors with books pubbing during the pandemic shut-downs. Texas Book FestivalEverywhere Book Festival Prev 1of3 Next   In the past few weeks, children’s and YA authors have been scrambling to stay calm while we help teachers, librarians, and kids survive the pandemic as best we can. Some folks...
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I’ve Been Quiet Lately. Thinking.

By Random howls into the world

Straight up. It has been a tough summer. Three weeks ago, while I was on my annual beach vacation, my aunt, Tia Isa, collapsed.  Her legs had been weakening for a while, and now , at last, they stopped working just as she was being helped from the bathroom to her wheelchair. By the time I returned, she was also struggling with a deep cough I didn’t like. It rattled in her chest and made her wheeze. So, before I had unpacked a single thing, we drove to the hospital where we spent the next six days trying to stabilize her.

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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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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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“Hola, ¿Qué Tal?” at The Nat’l Book Fest

By Appearances

It’s here!  The mega weekend  for all of us book freaks in the US.  If you’re at the Nat’l Book Festival, please stop by the Pavilion of the States at noon on Saturday so you can say “hola, ¿qúe tal? – and pick up free stuff like lapel pins and some ideas for the classroom to go along with Tía Isa Wants a Car. After that, I’ll be enjoying the beautiful weather and stalking authors like the rest of you. Look out Kevin Henkes, Patrick Ness, Kathy Erskine, Monica Brown, Matt de la Peña and more!

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See you at the Nat’l Book Festival!

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life

A quick post to say muchisimas gracias to the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, which will be part of the 2013 National Book Festival September 21 – 22. This year, the Foundation has selected Tía Isa Wants a Car to represent Virginia at the Pavilion of the States.  How’s THAT for a surprise? Here’s the press release. [VFH Invited to National Book Festival.] The National Book Festival will be held on the mall in Washington DC.  Free and open to the public…just a gigantic gathering of book lovers. I’ll be at the tent for a little while on Saturday enjoying the joyous mayhem. Otherwise, you’ll find me strolling around and catching some of my favorite authors. (That, and buying too many books, as usual!)  Amazing lineup, to be sure. See you there!

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A Gift from Tía Isa

By Latino Life, Random howls into the world

Three days ago, I stood in the aisle of my neighborhood Kroger buying baby food for my mother. It was a sobering moment to say the least. Her nausea had worsened, and in desperation, I turned to what I assumed was the easiest food to digest. The good news:  Goya now makes its own line of infant food. I scooped up as many jars of Apples With Guava as I could hold and headed to the register. The bad news: We are running out of time. We’ve been working with the wonderful souls at Heartland Hospice for a couple of months now, so all of us are learning to make room for Death at our elbow. It’s a long exercise in acceptance and forgiveness, as it turns out. That, and endurance. But of all the difficult things, one of the worst is this: When I look at my mother and my tía Isa, who is ailing, too, I can’t imagine the silence of my world without them. All those stories that have shaped me, annoyed me, hurt me, defined me, made me wonder, turned me into a writer…they will stop, and it will be up to me to remember and share. Which is why, perhaps, my aunt –  tía Isa – called me to her bed a week or so ago. She has always been one to surprise me. For example, she bought our first family car – a shocking event immortalized in Tía Isa Wants a Car.  And, if…

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En Español Por Favor: My Day at Partners in Print

By Appearances, Community work, Latino Life

I spent Saturday at the University Maryland (College Park) with Partners in Print (PNP), an organization under the umbrella of America Reads. PNP supports literacy  at 18 schools, mostly in Prince George County, Maryland, by helping parents – many of whom don’t speak English as their first language – learn how to support their children’s emerging reading skills.  Saturday was the culminating event for the mentors and their students. More than 140 students and 100 parents came for the day-long gathering. My role for the day was to read Tia Isa Quiere Un Carro and to speak to volunteers and family attendees in a bilingual presentation. Confession. It’s always a little strange for me to work bilingually because my English is simply better. I was born here. I studied here. Although we speak Spanish as home, I live about 75 percent of my life in English. That means that sometimes I’m stuck pecking for words or phrases in Spanish, frustrated between what I’m thinking and what I can say. Turns out this gives me the same problem as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was recently interviewed by Jorge Ramos of Univision. He noticed her occasional lapses into English, and it was the subject of a lot of Twitter chat. Like the justice, I grew up speaking Spanish at home, and I have no accent when I speak it. Yes, I can read a newspaper and magazine no problem.  I understand everything on Spanish language TV. I consider myself fully bicultural….

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A True Bienvenidos

By Appearances, The Writing Life, Uncategorized

I spent a wonderful morning at Good Shepherd Episcopal School visiting with students from Pre-K through the eighth grade. It is so exciting to find schools like this where  the students are so obviously honored and loved. Favorite comment: On hearing that my tía Isa was actually a terrible driver:  “Your next book should be Tía Isa Goes to the Emergency Room.” Three best questions: Do you ever find that you accidentally put pieces of one story in another story? How do you know if your idea should be a book? (With a worried look.) Is your tía Isa still driving on the streets? Most touching event: Chef Sue (who cooks homemade from organic produce every day for these sweet kids) made me “lechon” (pulled Cuban pork), white rice and black beans, so that I could enjoy un buen almuerzo. We even had merengues for dessert.  (A big hit. “Yum! You got this cookie right,” said one of the third graders.) Best slang I taught them: ¡Pin Pan Pun! (rollaway bed) Happiest coincidence: Señora Cardounel, the  Spanish teacher, is from Cuba, too. We chatted in Spanish and swapped lots of stories. I hope she’ll visit me soon. Thank you, Ms. Dysart and all the lovely faculty and students at Good Shepherd! If I had to go to school again, I would want to go to a place just like Good Shepherd.

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Red Clover Award!

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

Exciting news came across my twitter feed last night. It seems that Tía Isa Wants a Car has taken a little road trip up I-95 – and ended up in Vermont! It’s been named a Red Clover title for 2012-2013. The Red Clover Program “promotes the reading and discussion of the best of contemporary picture books in nearly all of Vermont’s elementary schools. Each year over 20,000 K-4 students read, or have read to them, the ten nominated books. The Award is co-sponsored by the Vermont Center for the Book / Mother Goose Programs and the Vermont Departments of Education and Libraries.” I’ll be saying hello to the librarians via twitter on Wednesday (#vsla) beginning at about 10:15 am EST. I am so excited and honored to be included on this list. ¡Gracias bibliotecárias!

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Party Hats, Everyone!

By Appearances

There’s a celebration everywhere you look this coming week! Monday is World Book Night, that biblio-glorious event started in the UK to spread the love of reading. Right now, the event is targeted to adults and doesn’t include  children’s books. (I know. Sad.) I’ll be celebrating anyway by signing copies of my YA novel, The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind at Barnes & Noble (Chesterfield Towne Center Mall) from 5 – 7 pm. Giveaways will include signed copies of my books for your favorite school library and a free school visit to one lucky raffle winner. But that’s not the only celebration on the horizon. It’s also El Dia de los Niños on Saturday, April 28– a national celebration of reading and children across many cultures. In honor of the fun, I’ll be at the Chesterfield County Public Library (Meadowdale Branch) for the morning, where I’ll read Tia Isa Wants a Car and do a craft with the little ones at 10:30. (Who doesn’t love a glue stick?) At 11:30, my favorite thing: a free writing workshop for teen writers. Here’s the address: 4301 Meadowdale Blvd., Richmond, VA 23234. Branch phone number is 804-318-8778. ¡Vengan, por favor! And of course, you know the Hope Tree Project is just around the corner at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Tune into  Radio Poder, 1380 AM, on Monday, April 23 at 11 am and I’ll tell you all about it. I’ll be talking with my favorite Richmond Latina, Tanya Gonzalez. The milagros are absolutely beautiful. Wait til you see… More soon!…

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Tía Isa Wants a Car wins the Ezra Jack Keats New Writers Award

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

I just saw the official press release announcing that I’ve won the Ezra Jack Keats New Writers Award for 2012 for my picture book. I’m still a little stunned, but very happy. This is an enormous honor, and I am so especially proud that it comes for a story that pays tribute to the valiant women in my family. Thank you to everyone who was involved in finding and sharing this story, those I know, like Gigi Amateau, Kate Fletcher, Jen Rofé, and Laura Rivas, and those who have been secret cheerleaders in far flung places. I’m sending you all muchos abrazos fuertes! Here is a little snippet from the release to tell you about the award: “Fifty years ago, Ezra’s book The Snowy Day, which featured an African American child, broke the color barrier in mainstream children’s book publishing when it was embraced by families across racial, economic and ethnic lines,” said Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. “Like Ezra, this year’s Book Award winners have, in their own way, celebrated the similarities—and differences—of people whose life experiences are dramatically varied.” Since 1985, the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award has been awarded annually to an outstanding new writer and new illustrator of picture books for children (age 9 and under) by the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by the late Keats and dedicated to enhancing the love of reading and learning in all children. The Book Awards come to the de Grummond for the first time this year from…

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A Spot on the Amelia Bloomer Prize List

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

Today my whole day was brightened by finding out that Tía Isa Wants a Car won a spot on the 2012 Amelia Bloomer Prize list.  This is a list of best feminist books — which I am so thrilled to say includes picture books for our youngest readers. Thank you to the committee for such an honor. Of all the happy things that have come my way as a result of this book, this is one that I am so proud of. Mil gracias, chicas…

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Charlotte Zolotow Award

By Awards and news, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life

A big thank you to the Charlotte Zolotow Prize committee for selecting Tía Isa Wants a Car as a highly commended book for 2011. I’m also happy to join in a standing ovation for this year’s big winner, Patrick McDonnell, whose nifty picture book, Me … Jane is the 15th annual winner of the prize. The Charlotte Zolotow Award recognizes outstanding writing in a picture book. Thanks to Patrick’s book, kids from birth to age seven can learn about the incredible life of Jane Goodall.

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A Day at Marie Reed Elementary School

By The Writing Life

Last Thursday, I trekked up to DC to spend a day at Marie Reed Elementary School in Adams Morgan. Four years into my life as a published author and I’ve realized that I’d rather do a thousand school visits than a book signing, which for me are often skimpy on attendance. There’s something about being around little people with no teeth that is much more satisfying. Marie Reed is a lovely school, if a little oddly appointed. (Partitions offer a reminder of the open education experiment of the 1960s.) Truly, if Christine Reuss, my host, hadn’t been with me, I would never have found my way around. There’s a surprise around every corner. They have a garden that Michelle Obama planted to help them attract butterflies, and they have murals of the late salsa goddess Celia Cruz (¡azucar!) and Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor. The auditorium is an amphitheater. What I loved most about this little gem of a school, though, is that it offers both an English only and a dual language curriculum. This seems so much more sensible to me than trying to teach a language in middle school, when we all know that their tongues go thick and their courage, thin. To see an Asian kindergarten student rattling off “Asi Baila Juanito” like a native is about the loveliest thing I can imagine. I read to the students, told them about how I wrote Tia Isa Wants a Car and Milagros.Then I listened to their songs and dances,…

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Indi Love

By Latino Life, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life

The Southern Independent Booksellers Association conference was this weekend in Charleston, SC — four days of food, free books, and figuring out how on to help independent bookstores duel with Amazon, electronic books, and big box sellers. Un-Chain America is the basic battle cry — and they mean it. Some highlights from #SIBA11: ~First 180 Days Celebration, a sort of meet-and-greet for the booksellers and authors whose books came out in the first half of 2011. As someone who has had her share of quiet book signings, it was nice to have a line of rabid book lovers waiting for a copy of my book. ~The Exhibition Hall: Booksellers who dress in costume! Charms from The Hunger Games. And my favorite find: “A Little Can of Whoop Ass,” which I plan to purchase and put into use right away. (You have been warned.) ~I met fellow Candlewick author Allan Wolf, whose book The Watch That Ends the Night, follows the story (in verse) of an undertaker who came to attend to the dead on the Titanic. Look for it next month. ~I got a present: my very own necklace made from the cover image of Tía Isa Wants a Car. It’s made by All Things Small Pendants, and I plan to wear it proudly. ¡Muchisimas gracias! ~I slipped into the panel discussion called Not Your Mama’s Teen Reads, a fantastic YA panel of Simon & Schuster authors, moderated by Richmond’s own Kelly Justice, owner of Fountain Bookstore. The panelists included Ellen…

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It’s Hispanic Heritage Month. Let’s eat!

By Latino Life, The Writing Life

September ushers in the strangely straddled Hispanic Heritage month (Sept 15 – Oct. 15). I’ll be doing lots of appearances around town to celebrate, but this month I thought I’d share some Latin magic through my kitchen. Here’s Arroz con Pollo – chicken and yellow rice. It’s one of those dishes that every Latin cook aspires to make well, the kind women fight about and secretly criticize behind each other’s backs. There are a million recipes, but here’s mine. Ingredientes Olive oil (about 5 T) 1 whole chicken cut up or (better) a collection of thighs and legs 2 T red wine vinegar 1 T dried oregano ½ pound medium grain white rice 1 small red pepper, finely chopped 1 small onion, finely chopped 3 cloves of garlic mashed 1 small tomato, seeded and chopped ¼ cup pimento-stuffed olives (I cut these in half) 1 T tomato paste 1 beer 2 ½ c water 1 c white cooking wine salt to taste Also, the following spices you’ll have to borrow from me or pick up at the International Food aisle: Bijol Sazón Accent con azafrán (comes in a box) Instrucciones: You’ll need a pot that’s not too deep. I have a nifty pan for this, see? It’s large, but a little shallow. A dutch oven works fine, too. Put your chicken pieces, vinegar, salt and oregano in a gallon-size ziplock bag. Squish around to coat. Let marinate for at least an hour. Pat each piece dry. Using half your olive oil,…

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Dream author interviews and other news

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

Happy Friday! Red-letter day for the  Girls of Summer site.  As you know, GOS is a curated reading list that I compiled with the ever-fabulous Gigi Amateau. It is 18 of our favorite books for strong girls. We launched a week ago, and the response has been terrific. Thanks to all of you who have visited and sent sweet emails. But what makes today great is that we add our new Q & A feature. Our fist interview is with Jacqueline Woodson, winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, the Newbery Honor, the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement, the National Book Award — do I have to go on? Jacqueline was a headliner at last year’s James River Writer’s conference here in Richmond, where I had the pleasure of getting to hear her insights on writing.   I hope you’ll check in today — and every Friday for a new author interview. Together these authors offer the most empowering images of young women today.  Please continue to spread the word, visit each week, and leave comments. In other news, I’ve been spending a few mornings a week working with my LEAP students at the Steward School. There never seems to be enough time with them, but maybe every teacher feels that way. We’ll be wrapping up our writing and photography work next week. ¡Ay, Chihuahua! There is a lot to do! I’ll be sure to post some of the final projects when I get their permission. Let’s see…stuff I’m reading: …

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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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Win my book on Latin Baby Book Club

By The Writing Life

I took my son, the baby of our family, to see colleges this weekend — a road trip that featured a lot of sweet memories, perhaps fueled by eating too much ice cream made on an on-campus creamery.  Yum. But that wasn’t the only delicious thing that happened. I was also featured on Latin Baby Book Club.(Check it out;  you can win a free copy of TIA ISA WANTS A CAR). How I wish I’d had a blog like that 15 years ago when I was raising my own “latin babies” and teaching them to love books – and their roots.  We live in Richmond, Virginia, a southern city with a growing Latino population, but it’s not like other places we’ve lived, like South Florida, where Latino culture has so significantly shaped communities. Nobody here was whipping out an empanada from their lunch sack. Cinco de Mayo  and Three Kings Day was about all anybody knew. My three kids are all American in so many ways. In fact, they speak Spanish so poorly that their abuelas can barely forgive me. Back then, they read Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse and the Magic Treehouse series and Harry Potter. Still, something like Latin Baby Book Club might have helped me do the important work of making my kids proud of where they come from. Sure, you can’t  keep Latino kids from being as American as anybody else in their class. (Ask my mother; she’ll tell you.) It’s inevitable; you belong to the place you…

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Tía Isa: the book and the woman

By Random howls into the world, The Writing Life, Uncategorized

I never thought of myself as a picture book writer, but this June all that changes. TÍA ISA WANTS A CAR (Candlewick Press) will be in bookstores. It’s the story of a girl and her favorite aunt working together to buy the first family car. I wrote the text when I was in between novels and needed to play with words for a while to clear my mind. I’d been thinking about my aunt and our first family car – an old Buick Wildcat. It was a dented heap that never wanted to start, and it stalled at the most inconvenient times – like in the middle of a u-turn with on-coming traffic. Truth is, though, that the car was only half the trouble. My aunt – the real tía Isa – was a lousy driver. She’d arrived in this country in 1968, having completed a year of required labor in Cuba’s sugar cane fields to earn her way off that island. Maybe as the result of all she’d been through during the revolution (or maybe just because she was cursed with “anxious genes” as is common in my clan), tía Isa was a ball of nerves, filled with ticks and odd habits that sometimes frightened me as a kid. Her jumpy lip always reminded me of a bunny’s. In any case, when she came home one day with her driver’s license, the family was shocked but grateful for the milagro. A car – even an   old jalopy like the…

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A SURPRISE IN MY MAILBOX: TIA ISA

By The Writing Life

After a long day of sitting at the library, where I wrestled endlessly with a chapter, I came home to a great surprise. My editor, Kate, sent me a finished copy of Tía Isa Wants a Car — my picture book that pubs in June. Thank you Claudio Muñoz for the beautiful, retro art and all of your insights.  Thank you Kate for loving this little story. And muchisimas gracias to the real tía Isa who taught me that everyone has the power to get behind her own wheel.

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