Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

Posts tagged ‘Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass’

Thank you, Nevada Readers!

nevadaI just received the fun news that Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass has won the Nevada Library Association’s Young Reader’s Choice Award.

I’m so grateful to know that readers continue to connect with the story. Thank you everyone for reading and voting. Very cool!

Congratulations to Bridget Heos, Carol Weston, and Jonathan Stroud on their wins, too! Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 2.24.52 PM

Who Are You to Say? Why I’m part of a censorship panel at Bank Street College

Censorship-Flyer-(final)

If you care about kids and the books they read, maybe you can make room in your schedule for a half-day conference on censorship this Saturday at Bank Street College in NYC.

banned-buttonI’m no stranger to dust ups about what’s inside my books, sadly – mostly in the form of soft censorship. Just shy of an out-and-out challenge, it means that barriers are thrown between the reader and the book. Barriers like being disinvited to schools. Or having the title of my book changed to dollar signs for the s’s in ass. Or requiring parental notes to read the novel. Or simply not carrying the novel in the library, despite its recognitions by the ALA and other reputable sources.

BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2And I’m guessing that someone will find plenty of reasons to oppose my latest historical fiction novel, Burn Baby Burn, too, for its mention of contraception, Planned Parenthood and maybe even foul language.

I’ll need my brain and my crocodile skin, so this conference actually comes at a good time for me.

What’s especially appealing to me about this particular conference is also this:  As the conversation about diverse representation deepens, new and compelling controversies have erupted. The only solution that makes sense? Think, learn, and talk.

Here’s the set up for the day: We’ll be given a brief look at the history of censorship in books for young readers by the eminent children’s book scholar, Leonard Marcus. The panels that follow will consider how authors come to these stories to begin with; the common reasons books get in trouble with censors; and finally, the more recent controversies, including those that have put usual allies in conflict with one another.

I hope you can join us. Here’s a little visual and a guest list so you know what to expect.

Books we’ll talk about with their authors and/or editors:

and tango enhanced-buzz-wide-22567-1391614085-7 the-miseducation-of-cameron-post Tyrell+cover+hi+res-1 512R2aJ0iLL._SX341_BO1,204,203,200_ 61eSz7BpJlL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2Yaqui with medal

Other uber librarians and publishing experts on hand:

Allie Jane Bruce, Children’s Librarian, Bank Street College of Education; Fatima Shaik, Children’s/Young Adult Books Committee, PEN American Center; Andy Laties, Manager, Bank Street Book Store;
Kiera Parrott, Reviews Director, School Library Journal; Cheryl Willis Hudson, Editorial Director, Just Us Books, Inc.; Elizabeth Levy, author; Joan Bertin, Director, National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC); Hilary Van Dusen, editor Candlewick Press; David Gale, editor, Simon & Schuster; Shelly Diaz, YA reviewer, School Library Journal

 

Not anywhere near New York?

You can follow the conversation from afar on #CensorshipConversation, Saturday, April 16, 9 am – 1 pm.

Spend a Weekend in VA with Poets – and, um, me

A blue 1973 Camaro - like the one Pablo drives in Burn Baby Burn. Wish I had these wheels for my travels!

A blue 1973 Camaro – like the one Pablo drives in Burn Baby Burn. Wish I had these wheels for my travels!

After a long rest at home this winter, which featured DIY painting several rooms of my neglected house, I’m getting ready to hit the road with Burn Baby Burn.  I won’t be in town for the official publication date, so I guess I’ll celebrate on the move this time.

On Wednesday, March 2, I’ll drive up to Bridgewater College to visit YA literature classes that have been reading Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, and then I’ll lecture that evening at their March convocation. (Details here.) My visit is made possible by the Alison Yowell Pazmino Memorial Fund, named for a young woman who had planned to dedicate her life to teaching children with challenges.

furious-flower-logo-172x215On Thursday night, March 3, I’ll drive up the road to James Madison University for the Mirrors and Windows Conference at the Furious Flower Center, which, if you don’t know, is our country’s first academic center devoted to African American poetry. It provides education, research, and publishing to JMU and the surrounding area of Harrisonburg. As a kid lit advocate, I like that it also offers summer poetry camp for kids and opportunities for slams – among much more.

When Dr. Joanne Gabbin, the FF’s executive director, invited me last year, I was sure she’d made a mistake. Me? I write novels and picture books, with only a few poems here and there. “You’re poetic,” she said to reassure me. “I hope you’ll come.” So, here I go – honored to be included in this powerhouse faculty. 2016-featured-writers

Anyway, if you write for young people – and if you’re truly interested in developing your ear and mind around writing about diverse people, this is the conference for you. It’s inexpensive ($75 includes two poetry readings, hands-on writing workshops, and a banquet.) And more important, you’ll work closely with Newbery-award winner Kwame Alexander, Mahogany Browne, Tony Medina (no relation) and me.

Check out the site here to read about us, see what we’re teaching, and to REGISTER.  

Now I just have to figure out how to split myself so I can sit in on other people’s sessions. Hmmm…

See you on campus!

Cariños de,

Meg

Kaywell Award and Texas Book Festival Photos

Running like a mad woman today, so I’m putting up some photos of last week’s travels. Met so many wonderful people – educators, literary philanthropists, fellow authors. This was also the first time that Ahora Si! magazine sponsored a tent at the Texas Book Festival where Latino authors and programming were available all day. Very cool!

Here are just a few shots.

With Melanie Griffin, archivist at USF, Dr. Joan Kaywell, and Kaywell committee chair James Leggett

With Melanie Griffin, archivist at USF, Dr. Joan Kaywell, and Kaywell committee chair James Leggett

How's THIS for a set of wheels? My ride after the awards ceremony in Tampa. Thanks, Donna Heath!

How’s THIS for a set of wheels? My ride after the awards ceremony in Tampa. Thanks, Donna Heath!

Visiting cousin Carlos

Visiting cousin Carlos

A walk along the path. I love Spanish moss in the trees.

A walk along the path. I love Spanish moss in the trees.

Yep. We're in Austin.

Yep. We’re in Austin.

The day begins in the best way: Maya Smart is my Texas Book Festival contact for the day

The day begins in the best way: Maya Smart is my Texas Book Festival contact for the day

Thank you Texas Book Festival and Candlewick Press!

Thank you Texas Book Festival and Candlewick Press!

Maya and I handing out books after my talk with Reading Rockstars

Maya and I handing out books after my talk with Reading Rockstars

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Clay tiles in Zavala ES's garden, which has chickens, goldfish, a bridge. Such a great space!

Clay tiles in Zavala ES’s garden, which has chickens, goldfish, a bridge. Such a great space!

rooftop with the fab Nikki Loftin and Lydia Gil

rooftop with the fab Nikki Loftin and Lydia Gil

The view from the amazing penthouse home of arts patrons Sandra and Walter Wilkie

The view from the amazing penthouse home of arts patrons Sandra and Walter Wilkie

Jamie and the lovely Maya Smart

Jamie and the lovely Maya Smart

The view from the author green room. Every party in Austin seemed to have a rooftop angle.

The view from the author green room. Every party in Austin seemed to have a rooftop angle.

Day 1: Renee Watson! We were both in polka dots and offered to be bestseller Eric Litwin's back up singers for Sing and Dance in Your PolkaDot Pants. We await your call, Eric.

Day 1: Renee Watson! We were both in polka dots and offered to be bestseller Eric Litwin’s back up singers for Sing and Dance in Your PolkaDot Pants. We await your call, Eric.

Catching up with Monica Brown and Katheryn Russell Brown (Little Melba and her Big Trombone)

Catching up with Monica Brown and Katheryn Russell Brown (Little Melba and her Big Trombone)

Book women trying to be divas in the restroom of the Four Seasons. With Jamie Tan from Candlewick, and authors Monica Brown (Lola Levine is Not Mean...and countless other award-winning titles) and Maggie Thrasher (Honor Girl)

Book women trying to be divas in the restroom of the Four Seasons. With Jamie Tan from Candlewick, and authors Monica Brown (Lola Levine is Not Mean…and countless other award-winning titles) and Maggie Thrasher (Honor Girl)

Our Throwing Shade panel: moderated by Holly Green (left). Authors are Jessie Ann Foley, I. W. Gregorio and me

Our Throwing Shade panel: moderated by Holly Green (left). Authors are Jessie Ann Foley, I. W. Gregorio and me

You Love Me; You Hate Me: Whiplash as an Author of Realistic YA

event-poster-4029445So, I’m getting ready to leave for the Texas Book Festival where I will hang with some of my favorite “reading rock star” authors – and with my friend Maya Smart, whose family transplanted there earlier this year to become part of the University of Texas family.

largescatterlogoBut before I head to Austin, I’ll be  making an important pitstop in Tampa, FL to receive the 2015 Joan Kaywell Books Save Lives Award at the University of South Florida. This year, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass is the winner, along with honorable mention of Openly Straight by the fabulous Bill Konigsberg.

The timing of the award couldn’t be better for my spirits. It’s Hispanic Heritage month AND it was recently Banned Books Week. That means I’ve had my usual emotional whiplash of being received with open arms or with a full dose of ugly.

L t R: David Shipler, David Levithan, Coe Booth, and me at HousingWorks

L t R: David Shipler, David Levithan, Coe Booth, and me at HousingWorks

If you read this blog regularly, you might know that I spent last week on the road, first to New York City and then down to Arkansas. Coming off of a few days in New York is always a little strange. This is a city where the word “ass” isn’t really a problem. It’s a place with Kinky Boots on Broadway (fantastic,) a painted naked lady on Times Square (not so fantastic,) and books and lecture series absolutely everywhere. Since Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass is set in Queens, there is always a sense of the safe and familiar when I talk about the book there. That’s not to say that there aren’t people in New York who oppose the title of my book or its content. But the truth is, I’ve never met them there.

Adored this play

Adored this play

Anyway, after I wrapped up in the city, I headed down to Hot Springs as the guest of the Garland County Public Library. It’s a popular place, thanks to a welcoming staff and some good ideas. Kids can borrow a Halloween costume or fishing rods, along with checking out their favorite books, for example. As it happens, I was their first YA author to visit, and I got driven around in the official library transport vehicle, which the librarians and I nicknamed the Sexy Toaster.

The Sexy Toaster

The Sexy Toaster

Mango fans!

Mango fans!

All was going fine on my school visits. The elementary school children were adorable, as usual, all of them helping me say words in Spanish and English as we talked about Mango, Abuela, and Me. What can I say?  I love little kids with missing teeth, big smiles, and stories they’re dying to tell me. It reminds me of when my own kids were little and we’d crowd around a book on the couch.

But here comes the whiplash. I don’t only write sweet picture books, of course. I write realistic YA fiction, too.  Trouble, trouble, trouble.

My first high school experience was at a small school where they kids hadn’t read the novel. My presentation consisted of a reading of the first two pages of my novel, followed by a 40 minute talk about books and bullying and the events that shaped the book.

When I finished, a teacher and (I later found out) coach approached the stage.

“I appreciate what you’re trying to do,” he said, “but there are children in this room who have heard more filth and vulgar words in the last 30 minutes than they have in their whole lives, and my child was one of them. This was inappropriate.”

My stomach clenched.  My brain went blank. I had no pithy Queens-flavored reply. I honestly felt like he’d spit on me, even though his tone was completely professional.

Luckily, there was a girl from the audience standing nearby, waiting to speak to me, so I kept my cool. I muttered something about how I was sorry he felt that way, that perhaps this would give him a chance to talk to his son about what he had heard and about what bullying looks like here in his school.

This would be a lousy story if not for what happened right after he walked away. The young girl who had been waiting approached me and said. “People make fun of me here. How I look. How I sound. How I keep to myself.”  She showed me a journal where she draws pictures to vent what she’s thinking.

I thought about her all evening, reminding myself that my 45 minutes with her was worth the two minutes of pain at the hands of the disappointed teacher.

IMG_3242The next morning, I’m happy to say, I visited Hot Springs High School, Bill Clinton’s alma mater. I was really feeling gun shy, but almost immediately, I could see a huge difference in how this school operated. Nikki Aitken, their librarian, had organized for the ninth graders to read the novel as a whole. She confessed being concerned when she first considered using the novel, but after reading it to the end, she decided that it had something important to offer kids who are trying to dig for their sense of self and for compassion. Everything about this visit was different. The ninth grade principal was on hand and couldn’t have been more welcoming and encouraging. (Thank you, Mr. Hatley.) And most important of all were the girls who crowded around for pictures afterward, asking if they could contact me on my website. “I am going through some stuff,” one whispered to me. “I have to talk to you.”

So am I vulgar or honest?  Is the book trashy or valuable? Should educators trust their kids to read and discuss uncomfortable books or should they stick to the classics and call it a day?

Getting the news that I'd won the Kaywell Award!

Getting the news that I’d won the Kaywell Award!

When Dr. Joan Kaywell first told me last year that I’d won this award, I was honored but also a little scared. It’s a big banner to put on a book and an author:  This book can save a life?  That’s a big responsibility, and I was shy about thinking of Yaqui in this way because I know that sometimes books alone won’t be enough. We need courageous adults and compassionate, informed teens to help save lives, too.

Cori Williams and Brittany Chavez of the Garland Public Library

Cori Williams and Brittany Chavez of the Garland Public Library

So as I head to Tampa and Austin, all of these experiences are still swirling inside me. Sure, I got a dose of momentary shame, but I also got confirmation about the urgent need to stand with the beautiful young people I meet all the time. They’re living complicated lives, and they need us to have faith in them.

When I walk across the stage on Tuesday, I’ll be thinking of the kids in Arkansas and the teachers and librarians who care about them. I’m going to carry with me the girl who has “stuff going on,” the one who draws in a notebook to cope, the kids who hide in the library to avoid the lunchroom at all costs. I’m going to carry all of that – with my held held high. Thank you, University of South Florida and the Florida Council of Teachers of English for what is going to be a beautiful day.

Meg’s schedule at the Texas Book Festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NY, NY: A Helluva Town

Who says you can't tell this story to a six-year-old?

Who says you can’t tell this story to a six-year-old?

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!

A hotel based on the Dewey decimal system. I was shelved in the Slavic Languages section.

I was shelved in the Slavic Languages section.

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I don’t think New Yorkers appreciated me stopping to read all the brass plaques…

 

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 CCC!

The fabulous students at Cornelia Connelley Center

The fabulous students at Cornelia Connelley Center

Thanks go to Candlewick for offering F&Gs of my new picture book and free copies of the paperback of YAQUI. I’m also psyched to read titles by my C’wick siblings. (So far, I peeked at the graphic memoir Honor Girl by Maggie Thasher. Amazing.) Look for them this fall.

After the signing of the F&Gs for MANGO.

After the signing of the F&Gs for MANGO.

New work by Todd Strasser, Laura Amy Schlitz, Maggie thrasher, M.T. Anderson, and Pat Schmatz

New work by Todd Strasser, Laura Amy Schlitz, Maggie Thrasher, M.T. Anderson, and Pat Schmatz

And finally, here is a shot of the Book Con panel on diversity. What can I say? This is what happens when you leave tired authors unattended backstage.

Aisha Saeed, me, IW Gregorio, Soman Chainani, Libba Bray, and Jaqueline Woodson. Why not pose with a forklift?  (Backstage at BookCon)

Aisha Saeed, me, IW Gregorio, Soman Chainani, Libba Bray, and Jaqueline Woodson. Why not pose with a forklift? (Backstage at BookCon)

The Big Apple: BEA and Book Con 2015

city-new-york-nyc-united-states-panoramic-heightI’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.

IMG_2890Speed 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.

Screen Shot 2013-05-11 at 9.03.50 PMPublic 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 Lexington.) The store recently won a Chase Mission Main Street grant to further its important work in the community. Check it out.

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Get free copies of my books while supplies last:  Candlewick is generously offering free F&Gs for Mango, Abuela and Me on Friday, May 29, 1:30 PM and the paperback of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass – a summer reading list title (Tri-Li ) in New York – on Saturday, March 30, 1- 2pm. Stop by Candlewick booth number #2857, and I will be happy to sign for you.

WDNB_withtag copyDiversity talks, room 1A Javits Convention Center, Sunday May 31:  Come out on Sunday 11:15 where I’ll be with Aisha Saeed, Libba Bray, Jacqueline Woodson, David Levithan, Soman Chainani, and IW Gregorio talking books, diversity, how far we’ve come – and what’s yet to be done. Signing immediately following at 12:30, autograph area, table 5.