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University of Richmond

March Madness – Bookish-style

By Appearances, Latino Life, picture books, The Writing Life

I’ve been writing like a crazy woman against an upcoming deadline for a new middle grade novel. Right now, I’m at the point when I’m turning to algebra for some sort of comfort –which is a stretch, considering that math was always my worst subject. Still, in my head, I keep looping a word problem that goes like this: “Meg has 140 pages written. If she writes 2 pages a day for 3 days per week and then tosses one page a week, when will she reach an arbitrary  (but kind of respectable) number like 250 pages? And, more important, will they be good?” Anyway, I’ve been working fairly close to home since December, which has felt like a blessing. It’s quiet. I have the comfort of my coffee pot, my dog, stretchy pants and fuzzy slippers. I can slip into someone else’s wonderful book when I’m lost. (Thank you Kelly Barnhill for The Girl Who Drank the Moon.) My spring calendar is almost all within the mid Atlantic, too. But there are a few presentations to mention. As I look ahead to March, I have a day trip to Orlando for a Girl Bullying and Empowerment Conference and  a few school visits. (Schedule here). In the spirit of staying close to home, though, I especially wanted to highlight two events that are happening in my area, in case you want to join in. The first is a shared book talk at the University of Richmond with my good friend, Lila…

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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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Contra Tiempo in RVA: Where Salsa and Hip Hop Meet Activism

By Community work, Latino Life

It’s a great week for fans of Latin music and dance. Buy your tickets right now for ContraTiempo who will be performing Tuesday, Nov. 19, 7:30 PM at CenterStage. Their name literally translates to a “rough patch” in a situation, but this Los Angeles-based Urban Latin dance theater company offers nothing but joy. The music is irresistible and the dancing is first-rate. On Tuesday, they’ll perform Full, Still Hungry, a contemporary piece that examines food and consumption. It’s art, it’s activism, and it’s fun. I got a taste of their work this past Saturday at ART 180, where they did a free community workshop. Sponsored by the Modlin Center at  the University of Richmond, the company has been in town for about a week, working – as is their mission – in schools and communities to use dance as a tool in transformation.  Within an hour, we were stepping, dancing salsa, and moving in a “rueda” (wheel) that featured cues like “talk on the telephone” and “catchers mitt”  to make us pose and move as if we knew what we were doing. I danced with men, with women, with kids in third grade, with teens, most of whom I’d never met. The crowd was wonderful, and the dancers broke down their step routines so that we were all in synch and making music and movement together. To me, dance is another way of telling story, and story is a way of coming together. Check them out. See you there! Tickets $22; U of R students, free.

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Strap on some literary walking shoes for a new class at University of Richmond

By Guests, The Writing Life

Meet Angela Leeper, the Director of Curriculum Material Center at the University of Richmond, a native Virginian who relocated to Richmond four years ago. Turns out, that’s great news for our city’s literary scene. Angela has served on YALSA‘s prestigious Printz Award and Morris Award Committees; reviews children’s and YA lit for Booklist, Kirkus, and BookPage; and is currently collaborating with educators across the state to create the Virginia Readers’ Choice for high school. Since moving here, she’s not only been absorbing Richmond’s  history, but as a children’s and young adult literature specialist, she’s reached out to local authors, too. This January, she’ll combine both those interests in a course for educators who love kids books, local history – and walking. Children and YA in RVA, a reading and walking tour of children’s literature in our city, will be offered at the University of Richmond from January 22 – April 30. Registration is open NOW, so hurry. (See below) It’s not everyone who sees a clear path between kids books and a good pair of walking shoes, but exploring her new city sparked the idea. “After many afternoons walking in and around RVA, I imagined how exciting it would be to offer a class like this to educators,” she says.  After discovering that no class like it existed, she created  Children and YA in RVA, a professional development course for teachers, librarians, and other educators interested in learning about Richmond’s literature and history – and  bringing that information back to their classrooms. The course will include visits from local historians and authors,…

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Everybody Mambo!

By Latino Life

I’m giving myself an early Christmas present:  Mambo! I’m talking about the free concert at the University of Richmond , Thursday, Dec 6, 2012, 7:30 pm, Alice Jepson Theatre. The U of R music department takes on the mixed sounds of American Jazz and Cuban rhythms. Lecture by Dr. Mike Davison, followed by guest artists and some of my very favorite music. Pack up your dancing shoes and join me!

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The Hope Tree is Growing

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Just a little update about The Hope Tree Project. (Details en español here.) Student artists are working out their answer to What is a dream you have for yourself or for our community? I got a sneak preview of their milagros thanks to Megan McConnell, art teacher at Meadowbrook High School, who brought a few to share at my book launch party for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind this past weekend. (Thanks, Megan!) I’m also happy to announce that the fabulous Latin Ballet of Virginia will be joining us for the launch on April 30 and will perform selections of Verde. This work celebrates nature, hopes and dreams. What could be more perfect? (And check out these costumes!) Let me know if you are interested in an invitation to the opening. Latin Ballet of Virginia, scenes from Verde Where I’ll be next:    March 21, 2012: University of Richmond, Gotwald Science Center, 5:30 pm. Lecture, reception and  book signing. March 23, 2012: The Steward School 11600 Gayton Road, Henrico, VA, 9 am. International Day presentation March 28 – 30, 2012: National Latino Children’s Literature Conference: University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. Presentation on YA and community building — The Hope Tree Project!

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