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Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

Stop the Madness: Banning Books Is Not the Answer

By Community work, Latino Life, The Writing Life
While Banned Books Week was last month, I've recently had a front row seat to the parent pressure being exerted on school boards across the country regarding library books and teaching materials. New Kent County pulled The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo from its shelves, and Henrico County, where I live, pulled Ashely Hope Perez’s novel, Out of Darkness, from high school libraries, pending a Superintendent review. Both novels are highly decorated young adult works, and both center narratives by Latinx and Black characters. Out of Darkness is a historical novel about the 1937 New London, Texas school explosion that killed 295 children and teachers. It won the 2016 Tomás Rivera Award and American Library Association’s 2016 Printz Honor Award, which recognizes an outstanding work of fiction for teens. The Poet X chronicles Xiomara's life as she discovers the power of poetry to understand and name her experiences. In its stratospheric debut, it won the 2019 Pura Belpré Award, the 2018 National Book Award, and the 2019 Printz Medal. I am a Latinx Virginian. I’m also a colleague of both authors, one who has chronically run into the buzzsaw of censorship myself for my novel Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. I’m also a former English teacher, a parent who raised three kids into adulthood here in Henrico County Public Schools, and a former – and active – school volunteer. In other words, I am all about books, kids, and community. To my fellow Virginians (although the sentiment applies everywhere) I...
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Writing the Bitter Truth: A Convo this Week with Rex Ogle

By Appearances, What I'm reading
This Wednesday night, Oct 6 at 8pm, EST, I’ll be in conversation with Rex Ogle. He’s the author of the much-lauded YA memoir, Free Lunch, which was the YALSA 2019 Non-fiction winner. His newest memoir, Punching Bag, which explores abuse, mental illness, and family. Anderson’s Bookstore will be our host. I don’t know Rex, so this is the first time we’ll be speaking together. I’m grateful to meet him during Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month (his mother was of Mexican descent) since mental health is so often a taboo subject in Latinx families. Seeking professional help is not the norm, or even financially feasible, typically. As a result, families under pressure continue their slow simmer with lasting, hurtful effects. As his fans know, Rex’s work cuts close to the bone as he dives into the world of a family that is imploding. My own YA work - Burn Baby Burn and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, has explored similar terrain, except through fiction. It’s fair to say, though, that both of us have chosen writing as a way to make sense of what we actually saw as children and teens. The difference has been the vehicle. Here’s what’s the same, though. When you write a book about painful family life through the eyes of teens, you’re virtually guaranteed some pushback. Adults have a strong distaste for these tales, although we all know that adults often fail young people in big ways and small. What follows is an urge to shame...
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Nothing is ever really lost: a picture book resurrected in a time of pain

By Random howls into the world, The Writing Life
Summer 2020. What will we say about all this one day? When the pandemic first hit, I was asked by School Library Journal to join other writers in explaining how I was dealing with the sudden changes to writing life. You can read the piece here. Photo credit: Mark Gormus, Richmond Times Dispatch When I reread it this morning, I was struck by how quiet and contemplative all of us seemed compared to how things went after we all witnessed George Floyd’s murder – and Breonna Taylor’s and Ahmaud Arbery’s and Rayshard Brooks', all in the span of a few weeks. I would love to feel calm, but the truth is, that everything is boiling over. Here in Richmond, where I live, we’re dealing with the long-standing disconnect between the police and black communities, and, of course, with the overdue push to remove our city’s racist iconography, the most of any other city in the US. And, of course, at the heart of it all, are the searing conversations that have to be had right now about dismantling all the systems that have been allowed to erase, injure and oppress generations of black people in this city and throughout the country. Lots of reading lists are being shared for classrooms and libraries. I’d like to add one suggestion. Try The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love, and Truth, edited by Wade and Cheryl Hudson and due out next month. It features a long list of some of your favorite names in...
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NBA Longlists & other happier sides of life during a bleak week

By Appearances, The Writing Life

Here are a few bright spots that I wanted to share for this week, despite the natural (and manmade) disasters we’ve all been following for the last two weeks. First, the longlist for the National Book Award is being released this week. The titles for Young People’s literature go live on Tuesday morning, so please check in to see the fabulous works we fell in love with. What a process (that I can’t talk about!) Anyway, I’m donating the 300 or so books that we read to Henrico County Public Schools, where I’ve asked that they be given to the elementary, middle, and high school with the fewest resources and smallest school library. Anita Tarbox, the head of library services, is bringing a van next week to haul off the six large boxes of treasure. I’ve been living in a labyrinth since last May, so this is coming as a relief, despite the fact that it’s usually easier to pull a molar out of my head than to get me to give away books. I’m in Los Angeles this week, which happens only every couple of years or so. The Brentwood School invited me to speak on Monday, Sept 11 about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. So, I packed a bigger bag (in case the hurricane strands me on my flight back,) splashed myself with Jean Naté in honor of Lila, and am ready to meet their seventh and eighth graders.   Tuesday, Sept 12, 7 PM, I’ll…

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Thank you, Nevada Readers!

By Awards and news, The Writing Life

I 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!

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

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

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. I’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. And 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…

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

By Appearances, The Writing Life

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. On 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.  Anyway, if…

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Kaywell Award and Texas Book Festival Photos

By Appearances, Awards and news

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.

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

By Appearances, The Writing Life

So, 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. But 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. 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…

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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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The art of the book display: librarians in GA raise the bar

By Appearances

Remember those book dioramas you used to make in a shoebox when you were little?  They were 3-D book reports, really, and I loved them. Well, come to find out, they still live! And they’re bigger and more interesting than ever. Check out details from an amazing display case created by Vicki Barbre and Jane Anderegg, librarians at Cherokee High School in Canton, Georgia, where I was a guest speaker last month. The school bought copies of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass for their English classes.  The librarians collected stuff for weeks, plucking out themes and details from the story. I’m told they make one for each of their guest authors during the year – an amazing program run and managed by teacher Dennis Jolley. This takes a ton of planning and digging around, so wow.! Thank you, Cherokee HS!    

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On conga lines, a seaside library, and the surprise of a girl’s rehab center: REFORMA Nat’l Convention V

By Appearances, The Writing Life

You haven’t lived until you’ve done a conga line to the strains of Miami Sound Machine with a bunch of happy librarians. That’s precisely what I did during the dance party/dessert reception at the fifth annual REFORMA national conference in San Diego last week. I’ve mentioned REFORMA here before. That’s the arm of ALA dedicated to library services to Latinos – and a partner in the Pura Belpré award, along with ALSC. This year about 300 librarians, authors, teachers, and community leaders – many sporting pins with slogans like Sí – hablo español – gathered to share ideas and best practices. It had a lot of the usual conference fare: panels, keynotes (mine at the pool on a broiler of a day). But the event had the unmistakable feeling of friends coming together for support and fun, too. Maybe that’s what Ana Elba Pavon meant when she called it “time with my REFORMA family.” Look, you can’t blame me for being a little giddy about going to San Diego, land of the eternal sunny-and-low-70s weather, especially after this winter. But I got a lot more than a few days in the sunshine. I was surprised to run into Teresa Mlawer, who has been duking it out with the translation for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, which she says is the hardest book she’s ever had to translate. (She’s done quite a few, like classics, Where the Wild Things Are and Caps for Sale.) She’s trying her best to keep the…

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A Book Club from the Comfort of Your Phone

By Appearances

You’re invited to join me at a book club tonight and the best part is that you never have to leave the comfort of your stretchy pants and living room. That’s because I’m going to be part of the Las Comadres Young Adult Teleconference Book Club at 8 PM. Here’s the number and code: Dial in #: 1-877-383-4771 Code: 120120143 If you’re not familiar, Las Comadres is a nationally known Latina organization whose mission is to “empower women to be actively engaged in the growing Latino/Hispanic communities through online and face to face networks.” What I like about Las Comadres is that its spine is mentoring. The idea is to share information, to help each other succeed, and to celebrate our cultural heritage along the way. Last fall, I had the pleasure of being part of the Las Comadres Writers Conference at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, a gathering of established and up-and-coming Latino authors, editors, and agents. It was such a great time for me to work with writers who are coming up behind me and also to connect with people, like Esmeralda Santiago, whose work I’ve long admired. (José Vilson, was another highlight. Check out his bad ass teacher blog, particularly valuable in the wake of the events in Ferguson.) Anyway, for tonight, founder Nora Comstock is going to lead the conversation about Pura Belpré – the woman and the award that so many people just can’t pronounce – and how I’ve used my year to honor her memory. We’ll also talk…

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Philly, Vicks VapoRub, Kids & Me

By Appearances, Community work

I’m back from Philly where I stayed at the lovely Four Seasons Hotel, a guest of the Free LIbrary of Philadelphia. The hotel is every bit as cushy as you’d expect. Chandeliers, thick rugs, polite people at every, single turn.  The staff even made me a beautiful candy version of the book cover for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind – which was both astoundingly lovely and funny. I was there to speak about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, after all. Hmmm. I would have LOVED to have been a fly on the wall when the dessert guru had to decide what to do.   Anyway, I spent the day as part of library’s well-regarded Field Family Teen Author Series, an endowed program that brings authors and books to students at no cost to their school. (Attention People of Means and Nice Shoes!  Consider doing this in your community, too!) The high school students in my groups were amazing. A sampling: Students with visual impairments who heard the audio version of Yaqui. Young people who were in a GED program and trying to get themselves back on track. A charter school that is over 90% Latino – and their teacher who is an aspiring author, too. We met at a branch in the Kensington area – decidedly NOT the Four Seasons ambiance. But it’s a dead ringer for the Queens that I knew growing up, right down to the trains running overhead the way they do in Corona, Jackson Heights, Jamaica and…

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Teen Read Week & More in #RVA

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

It’s a great week to love books in Richmond, Virginia – especially middle grade and YA fiction. That’s because it’s not only the Library of Virginia’s Literary Festival, but it’s also the American Library Association’s TeenRead Week. Wao! So much going on, so what can I say except, Tengo los patines puestos! (I’ve got my roller-skates on!) Here are a few highlights of where I’ll be during the week: Meadowdale Library/Tomahawk Creek MS:  I’ll head down to Chesterfield County for a library book talk that is off-site on Wednesday, Oct 15, 7 PM.  We’ll talk The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Here’s the info and where you register.  Especially nice to see a partnership between the school and public libraries in a community.   Teen 14: Locals already know that the main branch of the Richmond Public Library on Franklin Street is always figuring out ways to make reading come alive, especially for kids. So, they’re going to play host once again for a teen author event. Join Virginia authors who have works for teens published in 2014. It’s a ready-made night for librarians, teachers, and readers who want to meet and make friends with the truly kick-ass authors we have in the Commonwealth. PLUS, food, music, giveaways.  If last year’s event was any sign, it’s going to be a really fun night. Details on their Facebook page or click on the jpg poster here. Hermitage High School Anti-bullying Book Event with Erin Jade Lange. You know her novel?  It’s…

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Birds of a Feather…

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

I’m checking out another great indi bookstore. It’s Busboys and Poets  in Washington, DC, and I’m going to their 14th and V location for the first time this Friday. That’s because it’s time for the awards ceremony for the Las Américas prize. This year, top prize went to the lovely picture book Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan Roth and Cindy Trumbore, an especially delightful pick from Lee and Low, a smaller publisher that has long been advocating and promoting diverse children’s literature. It’s the story of the near extinction of wild parrots in Puerto  Rico and how that sad situation was turned around. I hope you’ll stop in to the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress to see an exhibit of the book and its art, which runs through the end of October. As part of the festivities, Las Américas also sponsors an annual educator workshop – hosted by Busboys and Poets – where teachers and librarians can get hands-on ideas and materials for bringing high quality Latino literature into their classroom or library. I’m so happy to be able to present alongside Duncan Tonatiuh this year. (9:30 – noon). Duncan won honorable mention, as well as a Pura Belpré Honor medal, for his exquisite book Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale. My own novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, was selected as a commended title this year (along with all of these). If you’re a teacher or librarian, it’s not too late to register. The reasonable $25 registration fee…

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Women’s Media Center Live

By Appearances

My third grade art teacher was the first woman I ever knew to put “Ms.” before her name. I remember almost nothing about her except that astounding decision – and the fact that she let us dance to Helen Reddy’s  I Am Woman for our after school club performance. She was probably the first feminist I ever met, and thankfully she left an imprint on her little charges. A few years later, I was already reading my sister’s Ms. Magazines, and eventually I went on to a life that’s been about writing stories that in one way or another advocate for girls. So this weekend, when I was featured on the Women’s Media Center Live podcast, I was thrilled. WMCL is a weekly broadcast out of DC. It’s a project of a larger initiative called the Women’s Media Center which was founded in 2005 by feminist icons Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan. What I like about the podcast is that the guests are widely varied, (Anita Hill, Jimmy Carter, just two quick examples). I also like that Robin Morgan tackles any thorny topic with grace and brains. You can catch it every Saturday morning, but you can download episodes via i-tunes if you miss the 11 am EST stream. This week, Robin and I talked about lots of things: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, how librarians are truly the butt-kicking heroes,  Girls of Summer, REFORMA, and my favorite lists for finding pro-girl multicultural books. Check out Women’s Center Live on Facebook or twitter (@wmclive). Subscribe…

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You Want More Diverse Lit: Step 2

By Appearances, Awards and news, Latino Life, The Writing Life

You’re on a quest for more diverse literature for the young people in your life? Last week, I pointed you to CBC Diversity. Here’s the next thing you can do: Make a point to meet the authors, editors, bloggers, and librarians with a passion for that area. Seek them out. Make relationship. We’re friendly. Example: This past week I met Ellen Oh (among other amazing YA authors) at the Northern Virginia Teen Book Festival – and it didn’t take long for us two former New Yorkers to start putting our heads together on what we can do in the Mid Atlantic region to promote multicultural lit to all kids. She pubs with HarperTeen, and her latest is Warrior, which features Kira, a dragon-slaying ancient Korean girl on a quest. Ellen is kind of a dragon slayer, too. She’s from Brooklyn, by her own admission speaks lousy Korean, and is determined to break stereotypes. Stay tuned. I’m on the road this week to the National Latino Children’s Literature Conference held at the University of Alabama. That would be Tuscaloosa…which means cars, planes, vans to get there. It’s absolutely worth it, as far as I’m concerned. (Look at the lineup.) It’s the brainchild of Dr. Jamie Campbell Naidoo who has published widely on Latino lit, but also on the power of diverse books in general. I’ll be talking about YAQUI, the Pura Belpré prize, and what my own plans are to help authors and librarians reach wider audiences. I’ll also be meeting library science students,…

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Yaqui, Pura Belpré and Me

By Awards and news

Here is what it looks like when a dream comes true.  This blurry “selfie” was taken on a Richmond-bound Amtrak train, two minutes after getting the news that I had won the 2014 Pura Belpré Award. I was on my way home from the ALA Midwinter Conference on Sunday night when my cellphone rang and Ruth Tobar, chair of the selection committee, gave me the good news. I was  promptly sworn to secrecy until the next day. Obviously, Gigi guessed what all my Spanish and crying was about; thank goodness she’s a steel trap. Thank you so much, everyone, for the tsunami of good wishes. (And thank you, Ms. Espinal, President of REFORMA (the ALA’s affiliate group that focuses on library services for Latino youth and families) for saying “ass” with such courage and gusto from the podium!) It’s an honor beyond belief to receive this award alongside some of the most talented people working in children’s publishing today. (Full list of ALA Youth Media winners here.) Un abrazo fuerte for: Yuyi Morales, Margarita Engle, Matt De la Peña, Duncan Tonatiuh, Angela Dominguez, and Rafael Lopez. Other pieces of good news continue to come in for YAQUI,  but for now I’m off to a Banned Books and Brews event at Longwood University this weekend to help raise funds for the Virginia Children’s Book Festival which will bring some pretty big names to Virginia in the fall. A drink doesn’t sound like such a bad idea right about now. ¡Salud! (Check out the awards. FYI, the Pura Belpré starts just…

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ALA Midwinter in Philly

By Appearances, Awards and news

Just a quick hello from ALA Midwinter in Philly, where I have re-learned how to walk for miles in six-degree weather. Ice, slush, cold toes, runny nose…I’d almost forgotten what it feels like to live in a place that keeps moving regardless of the weather. As I ride home on the Amtrak, I’m feeling so grateful for some of these favorite moments: Setting out on the train with two of my dearest writing friends, A.B. Westrick and Gigi Amateau. The whole train was filled with librarians. (I’m looking at you Lucinda Whitehurst, among others!) It had a Hogwarts sort of feel to it. We decided to stay in a Bed and Breakfast instead of a standard hotel. Cheaper and cooler, in my book. We were at Casa Buono in the Italian section of Philly.  The view from my window. Kat, Dana, and Laura- the goddesses of The Virginia Shop hauled all their quirky literary wares to the Convention Center, fought for parking spots, and kept us all laughing. Here they are during our wonderful Asian dinner at Sampan on S. 13th Street. I also enjoyed a great meal at the Candlewick Press Family Ho-down at Supper (South Street) on Friday night. (Thanks again, Andie!) No kidding: I met Jen Delgado from Delaware. (No relation, THANK GOD to Yaqui!) Always cool to see books by friends. Here are the galleys for Sandra and Rich Wallace’s new novel, BABE CONQUERS THE WORLD (Cawkins Creek/Highlights). Fans of strong girls and sports should look for it in March 2014. Had a…

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Show Some Love to the Readers and Writers on Your List

By Appearances

My last two appearances of 2013 are also two of my favorites. Friday, Dec, 6: Forget buying ugly sweaters. Instead, dazzle your book loving friends with a Jane Austen umbrella, a chic recycled bag, or a onesie honoring The Little Prince. It’s all at The Virginia Shop, inside the Library of Virginia this Friday. This gift store is where whimsy meets history and literature, and their Open House won’t disappoint. The event starts at 2 PM, but my slot is 4 PM – 6 PM. All afternoon, authors and historians will be on hand to meet you and sign books. The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (yes, for the holidays!) will  be on sale – and my titles come with a free, beaded milagro bookmark. If you’re inclined, please RSVP on the Facebook invite here. The PDF flyer is here:  OpenHouseVAShop Saturday, Dec. 7: I’ll head back down to Petersburg to the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for WriterFest. It’s an all-day youth writing conference. I’m looking forward to a book talk lunch about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and then a look at student first pages with Dean King and Virginia Pye. And then, friends, it’s time to rest and write…

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So Now That I’m Done Eating Snickers…

By Appearances, Latino Life, The Writing Life

All right, then. I have finally eaten the last Snickers mini, so it’s time to focus again. One happy effect of daylight savings time has been the perfect excuse to get up early and have a solid couple of “alone hours” with my new manuscript. It doesn’t necessarily make the writing easier. It just means  I have shown up for work – half the battle. Today, I’m happy to be on Latinos In Kid Lit, a lovely new blog chock full of book lists, guest blogs Q & As, teaching ideas, and all around cool stuff for people interested in the Latino corner of multicultural lit for kids of all ages. (You can follow them on twitter, too @LatinosInKidLit.) Read through the bios behind this new venture. Very cool. Por favor, visit the site and leave a comment to cheer them on. This week, I’ll also head out to the Virginia Association of School Librarians in Williamsburg, VA, where YA superstar Sarah Dessen will be the keynote on Friday. My concurrent session will be on Thursday and again on Saturday. We’ll be taking a look at YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS –  (a School Library Journal Audio Pick of the Day last week) – and  at what happens when a book offends. (Ahem…) I plan to hang out and catch some other breakouts, too. There is always a good selection of sessions, and I like getting to know my state’s school librarians. Here’s a look at the description of sessions.  Finally, I’ve…

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A happy week, except when Congress socks it to the little guys

By Appearances, Latino Life

A bitter-sweet week. The sweet: Spent yesterday in the company of EE Charlton Trujillo (FAT ANGIE, Candlewick Press), and Kathy Erskine (MOCKINGBIRD; SEEING RED). EE is filming a documentary of her book tour,  which has featured  rental cars, buzzards, near tornadoes, and a chance to meet with authors and kids across the country. A blast, but I don’t want to say more because she’ll  be chatting with me on this blog next week. More soon. All I can say, is buckle in. I’ll be at the Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Library this Thursday night as part of their anti-bullying event and also as a tie in to their celebration of Hispanic Heritage month. Teens and social workers in the know will be on hand, and then we’ll talk about how an abusóna became the inspiration for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. (And, yes, I will be allowed to say “ass,” amigos.) Really looking forward to visiting this cool library and also checking out their exhibit called Héroes of the LGBTQ Community. But here is the bitter:  It boils down to two words: government shutdown.  I was so excited to visit with K – 2nd grade students from four DC area public schools at the beautiful  Young Readers Center. Unfortunately,  the shutdown closed the Library of Congress.  It’s definitely not as important as the many families who are now struggling financially or the Head Start programs now scrambling or the WIC programs being zapped or any number of other vital services.  Still, it makes…

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Literary Mischief: A New Answer to Book Signings in RVA

By Appearances

This Friday night, I’m getting in the ring with one of Richmond’s favorite (and best named) storytellers, Slash Coleman for Literary Mischief, his refreshing and oddball take on book events. We’ll be at The Crossroads Art Center and here’s the basic set up. Four authors get a few minutes to talk about anything they choose. Then they face Slash for offbeat interview questions and plenty of audience participation. Yes, you can buy a book and we’ll sign it, but the night is about relaxing and connecting with the authors who live and work in this city. I’ll likely talk about what it’s like to write for kids when your book pushes all the wrong buttons for school administrators. If that doesn’t suit you, don’t worry. I’ll be joined by some of Richmond, Virginia’s favorite faces in the arts, too. The lineup: Harry Kollatz, Jr – Senior writer and Arts and Entertainment Editor at Richmond Magazine  (Yep, you know him. The dashing guy in the fabulous hat.) He’s the author of Richmond in Ragtime. Virginia Pye – former chair of James River Writers, whose debut novel River of Dust, was called “mysterious, exotic and creepy… A fine journey, well worth the effort” by The Washington Post Susann Cokal – critic, college professor essayist, and cat-obsessed friend, whose new novel The Kingdom of Little Wounds has earned a starred review from Kirkus. I admire everybody on the list, but we are a far-flung bunch, so who knows how Slash will knit us all together.  That’s the fun. Our work spans the Renaissance,…

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Author Uninvited: A School Decides I’m Trouble

By Appearances

Let me start by saying that I am not making this up. This week I was officially uninvited to speak on bullying at a middle school due to the title of my latest YA novel, YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS. The timing could not have been more ironic. September is the month when the American Library Association celebrates Banned Book Week, our annual reminder about the importance of intellectual freedom. Sure, the title has raised eyebrows – as I knew it would. But the title of my book wasn’t an issue several months ago when I was contracted  to be part of the school’s anti-bullying event. YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS  is the story of girl’s unraveling as she navigates being in the crosshairs of a physical and emotional abuser. I had planned to talk about my own experience at the hands of a bully long ago – and all that the experience robbed from me.  Then, as now, there were no easy answers, no clear path out of the torment that I couldn’t trust the adults around me to stop. I had also planned to talk about how that ugly sliver of life became fiction and about how writing and books help us make sense of our life experiences, good and bad. But last Friday, I received a painful email from the teacher who had reached out to me in the first place. She was apologetic as she explained that her principal needed reassurances. He needed to be sure…

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RJ Palacio and Me: Compassion Fans and old BFFs

By Appearances, The Writing Life

You never forget your childhood best friends. There’s something sacred about that special someone who shared sleepovers and ran races in the school yard  just to see who was fastest. Or, as in my case, acted out Greek myths and enjoyed the mysteries of the Jew’s harp. This Saturday, I have the extreme pleasure of reuniting with my grade school best friend,  RJ Palacio, whose lovely book WONDER, is a # 1 New York Times Bestseller and is on just about everyone’s favorite list.We’ll be at La Casa Azul, noon – 2 pm, to talk books, compassion, and friendship. Raquel and I grew up in Flushing, Queens, about a block from each other. We were in the same class and were generally inseparable, until middle school dispersed us and we lost touch for nearly 30 years. But Raquel and her family left an imprint on me that has lasted to this day. Her parents, Neli and Marco, extended affection and time my way like surrogate parents. When I think of my happiest days as a kid, I invariably think of our times together. Watching Neli comb out Raquel’s hair with the help of a dab of Breck cream conditioner; weekends feeding goats at the Catskills Game Farm; my first ride on roller coasters at Six Flags Great Adventure; and visiting Niagra Falls. All of those good times – and countless others – were with Raquel. If anyone had told us all those years ago when we were  playing kickball that…

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Notes from the road

By Appearances

I’ve been in the MidAtlantic states these days – a beautiful time to talk books and  take in the azaleas and dogwoods almost everywhere you go. I’m not sure I love driving in DC during the morning rush, but other than that, a great trip. A quick round up… Thanks to: Erika Denn at Candlewick Press for all her planning and last minute reshuffling Trish Brown and Ellen Klein (Hooray for Books) for a terrific YA panel with Adina Gewirtz and KP Madonia on girls, messy lives, and books. If you don’t have The Zebra Forest and Fingerprints of You on your reading list, please add these terrific titles. Karen MacPherson (Takoma Park Library) and Kerri Poore (Politics & Prose) for a lovely evening talking about books and compassion Dara LaPorte (The Open Book Foundation) for providing my author visit and copies of YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS to about 150 8th graders at (Hardy MS). Shout outs to Perinne Punwami (a really exciting teacher at Hardy); my sister-in-law Laura Quigley; and author-pal Wendy Shang for being part of all the fun, too.

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And we have lift-off!

By Appearances, Community work

It was amazing to look out and see the huge variety of people in the audience who came to talk about books and bullying at yesterday’s book launch for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Great questions, honest conversation, and a lot of love in the room. Thank you so much for coming to the celebration! Click on the  word cloud title below for a tiny slide show that emerged from our I feel strongest when prompt. (Thanks AB Westrick for being the input goddess!) [wpvideo mrnABhVw] I promised to give you the Resources for anti-bulllying, so here they are.  The document is full of unusual arts and community activities that give  young people a voice about their experiences. Film, art events and competitions, on-line communities, books…it’s a great peek at  new ways to look at an old problem. Maybe you will add you own innovations? Finally, my heroes for the day: Trey Hartt and Lauren Davis of The Conciliation Project; the ART 180 teen leaders; Marlene, Betsy, “the Mikes”at ART 180;  panelists Allison Conyers of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities and Paul Fleisher and Santa Sorenson of the Richmond Peace Education Center; Penelope Carrington for the photography; Gigi Amateau and Virginia Pye for the unglamorous job of food schlepping; bbgb tales for kids for the book sales; Candlewick Press for the gifts to the teens; and the amazing literary community here in Richmond. Meg’s next appearances:  The Virginia Festival of the Book, March 20 – 24, 2013, Charlottesville,…

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GoodReads Giveaway and Virtual Tour

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life

A quick post for Young Adult lit fans or authors: Check out YA Reads for Teachers (And Any Other Adults) on GoodReads. It’s an online community of over 1,300 adult readers who want to read and discuss young adult novels for their classrooms and libraries. If you hurry, you can join the group and enter their book giveaway for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass this month. (You have to sign up before March 13, midnight).  In April, I’ll be the featured author, which means I’ll check in daily to answer questions about my book, ass kickings and other joys of growing up. Should be fun.  YA Reads for Teachers (And Any Other Adults) on Facebook, too.

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Books, Bullying, and Building Compassion: A Book Event in RVA

By Appearances, Awards and news, Community work, The Writing Life

Mark your calendars: Saturday, March 16, 2013, 2 PM – 4:30 pm. Book launch party for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, ART 180, 114 West Marshall Street, Richmond, VA 23220 One day back in middle school, a girl I didn’t know came up to me and said, “Jackie Delgado is going to kick your ass.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s more or less the title of my new YA novel. I didn’t know it then, but that moment was an awful turning point for me. If you’ve ever been targeted, you know that a low grade dread sets in and crowds out everything else, like your grades, your family, your self esteem. What followed for me were two long years of dodging a school bully and her obnoxious friends who would push me and threaten me, scream out my name and cackle in the halls. I suddenly felt scared to exist at my school, and no adult seemed capable of helping. I learned to avoid classes, to lie to my mother, to hang out with downright dangerous people so that I might become so tough that no one could ever hurt me. I wasn’t alone, of course, but you couldn’t have told me that. The good news is that, like most of us, I survived. The bad news is that girls like Jackie still exist today, and they’re made all the fiercer with their cameras and YouTube sites and Facebook pages. I saw it as a teacher….

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Some music for Yaqui Delgado

By Appearances, The Writing Life

So I’m putting the finishing touches on the launch events for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass which comes out next month. And because it takes hours to work out all the details, I’m listening to music that puts me in the mood. Yaqui Delgado takes a shard of truth from my personal life. I wrote this novel white-knuckled some days, thinking back to when I was an early teen facing down a schoolyard bully. I was learning everything about everything back then: learning about lousy adults, learning what it meant to be a Latina, learning how to really take care of myself when others couldn’t. It was a scary time, but all these years later, I find myself thinking a lot about all I took away from that experience. It was a Puerto Rican girl, Aida, I remember most. She lived upstairs, cut school, and had bad acne but a hot boyfriend nonetheless. More importantly, she taught me to salsa. Sometimes she gave parties in her hot apartment with Celia Cruz and the Fania All Stars (Johnny Pacheco, Hector LaVoe, etc) blasting out of her mother’s stereo until the walls shook. When I think back to that time in my life, the soundtrack belongs to those old masters. So, here’s a little YouTube gem of the late Celia Cruz fronting the band in Africa. And then, a more recent piece by Celia – Sin Clave– to get you in the spirit via Cuban music that (like a tough…

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An early present in the mail!

By Awards and news

I love the mail this time of year — and it’s not just the holiday packages and cards. The spring/summer Candlewick catalog arrived in cheery red yesterday, and it brightened my whole day.  My next YA novel is in there (Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, page 48), but also so many new works by familiar names and newcomers. Browse and you’ll see what I mean.  Here’s the pdf. So now I turn to an oversized cup of coffee, a comfy reading chair, and a notebook to add to my list of tales I want to read. (Did I mention I may need bookcases for Christmas?)

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Trailer for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

By The Writing Life, Trailers

It’s Unity Day at pacer.org’s National Bullying Prevention Center.  I didn’t buy my orange t-shirt, but I did finish the trailer for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, my upcoming YA novel that’s about this very topic. I shot the footage in Queens a couple of months ago when I was home for a visit. Brought back a lot of memories. (Some that made me shudder.) [wpvideo jfB70Xin]

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