Newbery award winner and New York Times bestselling author

Posts tagged ‘writers’

Check Your Drawers: My hopes for you in 2014

I was overpowered by New Year Mania and spent last week having my oldest daughter’s room painted, which somehow led  to an entire overhaul of my living room/writing lair.

In the process of digging out my old desk, I came across a few things that made the whole back-breaking process worthwhile.

Image 1Image 2The first was my mother’s plane ticket from Cuba, dated May 19, 1960 and her subsequent application for citizenship to the US.  I had stored them after discovering them in a box last fall when I was closing her condo in Florida. The documents made me wonder what she was thinking all those years ago on the verge of losing her country, and though it wasn’t known to her yet, on the verge of losing her husband, too. I’ve decided to have the pieces framed and put over my desk. My family’s story in this country began with what felt like a disaster to her, and my story as a writer and as a woman begins with her long journey to survive.Image

The second treasure has to do with dreams – and grit. Several years ago, when I wanted desperately to be a full-time writer but lacked the courage to do it, I found an exercise in one of those awful self-help books. I was asked to write a paragraph that described what I wanted my future “author’s life” to look like. I remember feeling embarrassed to jot down such dreams. I braced myself for the fact that I would probably never have the chance to “write from my desk at home” and “produce books that made me feel proud.” Who was I to want such grand things, and how on earth was I going to cobble together a career as a writer? When I came upon the exercise buried in one of my old desk drawers, I was shocked to see that a lot of what I once thought impossible has slowly come to be.

Meg's work space 2013.jpg-largeSo, here I am, writing from a newly moved and polished table in my living room, where I work on books that name the experience of growing up. I’m part of my city’s writing community, and my books are earning lovely honors. I don’t know if it matters that I wrote my heart’s true wish down. But somewhere along the line, I must have decided to get past my fears – just as my mother did all those years ago.

In 2014, I’m wishing you the same courage, maybe even the same cheesy exercise. I’m wishing you people who leave lasting, if imperfect, imprints. I’m wishing you the power of dreams.

Cariños de,


Fighting for the Story

This is a new shirt I bought at La Casa Azul last week, a sweet Latino-themed bookstore on 103rd Street in Harlem. How could I resist? It reminded me of the hours I spent as a kid watching Lucha Libre wrestling — that masked Mexican drama. My uncle was a big fan, and my grandmother and I soon joined him. “Do you think it’s real?” Abuela would ask as someone got slammed with a chair. How stupid,  I thought. Of COURSE it’s real.

My shirt says Lucha Libros, of course. Much more civilized — but maybe not. I’m a writer, after all, and as any of us in this business will tell you, you can get sucker punched and slammed with a folding chair at every turn. A lousy review, an unimpressed agent, an editor who says something just isn’t ready. Dios de mi alma, it’s tough.

I’m thinking about all this because in two weeks I’ll be taking you inside the horror with debut author Aimee Agresti whose debut YA novel, Illuminate, has received great reviews. (It’s the first book in a planned Harcourt trilogy.) We’re doing a panel for one of my favorite writing organizations, James River Writers, as part of The Writing Show. Ours is the last Writing Show of 2012, and I’m excited that it’s about writers wrestling. Aimee has agreed to show her manuscript from the early, on-the-napkin stage, all the way to the picky line edits, all in the hope of helping other writers see with their own eyes what to expect.  Along the way, we’ll talk about creating vs. editing, about who gets to weigh in on your work, and how to tell when you’re getting good advice.

If you’re around, please join us for The Writing Show on Thursday, August 30, 2012, 6:30 pm at the Children’s Museum of Richmond. (Come at 6 pm if you’re a member — and you should be — so we can have some wine and cheese before the show!) See you then! (Costumes and masks optional! Ha!)

Want your chance to win a whole year of free admission to The Writing Show?  

Register for the James River Writers Conference before September 1, 2012 and your name will be entered in the giveaway. Great opportunity for some free craft development!

Go to

Why Writers Should Run Away

I never outgrew my fantasies of running away from home. When I was little, I wanted to leave Queens and live on a tropical island instead. Later as a teen, I imagined the pleasure of ditching my mother and renting an apartment of my very own in Manhattan. These days, I fantasize about living in Italy for a year. You know, eating, writing, drinking, writing, pedaling my bike through the hillside with a loaf of bread in the wire basket.

Sweet fantasies one and all.

In all these years, though, I’ve never managed to escape the way I hoped. One thing or another (life? money? my lack of nerve?) always seemed to get in the way.

A haven for writers

But things are finally looking up, if on a modest scale.  On the spur of the moment, four friends and I — all writers — are heading to the gorgeous mountains of Virginia. The Porches is a rambling 1854 farmhouse on the James River run by authors Bill and Trudy Hale. It offers gorgeous grounds,  a private room, walking trails, WiFi, and a communal kitchen. That, and utter respect for a writer’s work. Our group’s mission:  three full days of writing, interrupted only by evening meals and (if one of us has her way) cocktails by the fire.

“Pack warm socks,” a friend told me. “And be prepared. You won’t want to leave. Ever.”

I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to do something so simple and healthy as going on a writer’s retreat. I suppose I thought it would be too expensive (which I have discovered is untrue) or, more likely, that it was too indulgent to cut myself away from my life for a few days. There were all these other needs in our house, after all. Wasn’t I supposed to attend to them?

But now I’m asking a new question. If I don’t take good care of my writing life, who will? It’s a question every writer, whether published or aspiring, should tape to their bathroom mirror.

I have a January 1 deadline looming for edits of my 2013 YA release, Finding Yaqui Delgado. This is the exciting and exhausting roll-up-your sleeves stage. I’ll have to cut characters with the precision of a surgeon, or add new ones seamlessly.  I’ll need to read my words aloud to see how they sound. I’ll have to fix the ending. To get it done, I need quiet and I need time to think. And by think I don’t mean about what’s for dinner.

I’ve reached that stage where I’ve learned to stop apologizing for my creative side. It’s okay to feed the part of me that is no one’s wife or mother or friend or employee or volunteer. I need to be absolutely nothing except a writer in stretchy pants for a few days.

Is this indulgent? Maybe, but I don’t care. At long last, with my sweet family’s blessing, I’m not shy about  making a break for it. I’m running, folks —  hair flapping, arms in the air — to do what I love most. Write.

Meg’s next appearance:  Virginia Educational Media Association Conference, Thursday, Nov. 17, 6:30 pm, Library of Virginia

Support writers in the next 36 hours

Hi friends!

If you are a writer, if you love one, or if you ever wanted to be a writer, please listen up. You have 36 hours to show some serious love for the readers and writers who live in Virginia.

I’m a children’s book author, I live in Richmond, and I’m a proud  member (and employee) of James River Writers, a non profit dedicated to the literary arts. For almost ten years, we’ve been building a community that values books, ideas and expression because we believe that an interesting city has writers – lots of them.

This year JRW is part of The Amazing Raise,  a 36-hour on line giving event run through the Community Foundation. We’re one of 350 area non profits  “racing” for donations — and for the insane cash prizes that the foundation has dreamed up for us.  Take the Night Owl prize, for instance. $1,000 goes to the organization that gets the most donations between 2 am and 5 am. See?

There are all sorts of perks, but this year’s grand prize is $10K from the Foundation. For the record: If JRW wins, we plan to fund all our youth writing programs the way we have always dreamed of doing.

I’ve made my donation, but I’m only one person. I need lots of partners on this one. If you’ve enjoyed my books, please consider helping me out by donating to JRW Oct 5 and 6. Click here to help.