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We Need Diverse Books

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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ALA Orlando: A Bittersweet Affair

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I head to ALA this week, but it’s with a mix of emotions. Traditionally, the ALA June conference is a joyous time to celebrate the books that were awarded medals, touch base with our far-flung colleagues, and gather new advanced galleys for our to-be-read piles. I can’t go every year, so when I do get the opportunity, it feels like a truly special occasion. But it’s hard to feel lighthearted this year. After the terrorist attack we saw unfold against the LGBTQ community – and the maddening debates over terrorism, hate, and gun safety that (once again) ensued, I’m feeling numb. I watched the names and faces scroll – overwhelmingly Latino in this case – and my mind went to the families and friends who have been left broken and wondering about how we’ve been dislodged from our shared humanity. I’m grateful to see that the ALA conference organizers have several activities planned in support of the Orlando community, including a memorial service for the victims being held at the Orange County Convention Auditorium from 8 – 8:30 AM on Saturday, June 25. I’ll be there with my husband and oldest daughter, who will be traveling with me this time. Maybe as we reach for joy this year, we can do so with a mind to continuing to build unity and understanding. I’ve put my signing and speaking schedule down below, but I would especially like to invite you to join me at the Pura Belpré celebration. Mango Abuela and Me will be awarded the honor medal for narrative and…

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Why I Wish I Could Be Split in Two

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

It’s too early to be in this airport, but I’m on the way to the Southwest Florida Reading Festival. I’ll step off the plane and head to right to a school to read Mango, Abuela and Me. Then, it’s all preparation for my time outside tomorrow. The downside to being in the Florida sunshine, though, is that I’ll miss the presentation of the inaugural Walter Award at the Library of Congress. We Need Diverse Books‘s judges picked three of my favorite reads of 2015. I want to send a huge congratulations to winners Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (All-American Boys), and honor winners Margarita Engle (Enchanted Air); Kekla Magoon and Ilyasa Shabazz (X). I am in DC in spirit!

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NY, NY: A Helluva Town

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Before I post the photos from BEA and BookCon in New York, I have to show you what I got in my inbox. It’s a project based on Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. My librarian friend, Shelley Armstrong, sent me the work of Jordan, Kasey, Myles, and Nick from Dr. Lee Bloxom’s 9th grade English class at the Thomas Dale High School West Campus in Richmond, VA. What better way to teach the impact of audience on writing, than to have a group of kids adapt a story for another age group?  Here’s my bad-ass YA novel as a picture book.  TDHS Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Butt. (Thanks for sending this Shelley!) Okay, the photos I managed to get my hands on. Next time you’re in the city, I recommend staying at the Library Hotel, at 41 and Madison Ave., just up the block from NYPL’s famous stone lions. The entire decor in the hotel is based on the Dewey decimal system, complete with an old card catalog at the reception desk. Each floor houses different categories. You can stay in the paranormal section, romance languages, botany. Even the street outside is decorated with brass plaques featuring quotes by famous literary figures. So strange and fun!   I fell in love with a little gem of a school in the East Village called the Cornelia Connelly Center. Sweet, smart students – with great questions. Looking for a place to make a meaningful donation? This is it. Thank you…

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The Big Apple: BEA and Book Con 2015

By Appearances, The Writing Life

I’ll be spending almost the whole week in the Big Apple! This year I’ll be part of Book Expo America and BookCon for the first time, which feels exciting. Here are the highlights, including some off-site places where I’ll pop up, too. Back to the scene of the crime in Queens on May 27!  I’ll be talking about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and my other books back at the Flushing branch of the Queens Public Library, mere blocks from where I went to junior high school – and tangled with my own real-life bully so many years ago. Flashbacks here I come. Cornelia Connelly Center in the Village, May 28:  Interestingly, this gig came as the result of a Jesuit priest who heard me speak at a Hispanic Heritage talk I gave at the Federal Reserve Bank last year. So excited to speak to the young women at this Catholic School. Speed dating at the ABC/CBC Tea, Friday, May 29, 3:30 PM, Javits Center Room 1E12/13:  Booksellers will be getting lithos of my upcoming picture book Mango, Abuela, and Me, which hits bookstores in August. Public We Need Diverse Books reception at my favorite bookstore in Spanish Harlem, Friday, May 29, 7 PM:  Join We Need Diverse Books authors at La Casa Azul, which is – hands down – one of my very favorite bookstores. Such a beautiful spot and a thoughtfully curated collection of works by Latino authors writing in Spanish and English. (143 E 103 Street, near…

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