Category: Events

Favorite Thing: Little Rock Central High School

I geeked out when I found out I would be going to Little Rock Central High School, which spans four city blocks, and when it was built in 1927 for 1.5 million dollars was considered the most architecturally beautiful school in the country. I knew about the Little Rock Nine and had seen the pictures of them walking into the school, surrounded by police and of course, awful, racist people. There is something about the Civil Rights Movement that gets me right in the gut.

I thought I would be walking in to a school immune to its own history, hardened by time, oblivious. I had to remind myself, these are just kids going to school. They don’t walk in thinking OMG I am going to school here, at the site of such monumental shifts in social consciousness and law.

And there is some truth to that, though my presence seemed to bring that pride and awareness to the fore (all my gawking probably helped with that). I don’t want to romanticize my experience, but I found the students to be intelligent, engaged, beautiful, and I even heard poems from students named Jamese and Theo (what’s up, best moderator ever) that made me clutch at my heart and I’m not even just being nice.

And they did seem to know they were somewhere special, even though they groaned when I asked them what they thought of Little Rock.

Isn’t everyone dying to escape their home town?

At my visit, I didn’t say much of anything important, nothing worthy of the space, just tried to share a little about writing and reading. It’s true, those students go to school there probably without giving much thought to the pictures of the Little Rock Nine in the entryway, or the original windows and cabinetry, or the fact that they have a few incredible librarians dedicated to archiving and discovering even more about the school’s history.

After my visit with the students, one of the librarians, Claudia, took me around the school, having warned me to bring my walking shoes. I didn’t stop taking pictures. Then the head librarian, Stella, took me to the Central High School museum (Taos High does NOT have a museum), and to see Carlotta’s (one of the nine) house where the side was blown open by a Molotov Cocktail just before she graduated. Think about that. They had to go to school knowing their lives were in danger just by walking through the door.

I was extra-awake that whole day, knowing I might not stand there again, in a place at the center of so much evil and so much bravery. It is important to stand in those places and pay tribute to the people who risked everything, whether they would have chosen to or not. It makes you feel as good about humanity as bad, sits you right into reality, uncomfortable and beautiful as it is. The human spirit is no joke.

It happens there was a This American Life on the subject that same week. Check out the middle story here, if you’re interested.

Meantime, Central High is definitely my favorite for the week: for its rich history, its curious and open librarians and kids, and its spectacular now.

I saw green!

There’s green in the flower bed by my front door.

I’m not a winter person. Winter hurts my eyes, I’m itchy, and I hate wearing more than three items of clothing at any given time. I blame my grandmother who was from Martinique. I’ve got island in me that is at war with these snow-capped mountains. Winter is always dark and dangerous and I have to take long baths to rid myself of the chill. This is ironic because my boyfriend is literally at his happiest and most productive while in the snow in a semi-refrigerated state. Not me. And this year my bummed outness is compounded on a global level.

I’ve been pretty vocal about how totally grossed out I am by the current state of affairs in government. I’m so sick of looking at old white men I want to vomit every time I see a new picture of Trump’s White House. I fight this, and the winter of my discontent with daily actions and a steady diet of TV shows, movies, music and books.

I’ve powered through The Leftovers (which is like the best show ever) and Santa Clarita Diet  (which actually made me laugh a lot and plus Tim Olyphant). I read The Hillbilly Elegy (J.D. Vance), Born a Crime (Trevor Noah), Underwater (Marisa Reichardt), Vagina (Naomi Wolf), and Faithful (Alice Hoffman), which were all pretty damn amazing, and I blurbed for a hysterical first sex Forever sort of book called I Never which is a lot of fun and will be out soon. I watched Moonlight, La-La Land, The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Lego Batman and 13th which were all extraordinary in their own ways. I also decided to spring for Apple music because when a person is as panicked and frozen as I have been, a person needs lots of choice (new favorites include Kflay, Cage the Elephant and Ladytron).

So I haven’t gotten to put my feet in the ocean in a while. It’s okay because art.

Speaking of, on my own front, I was included in a Barnes and Noble article, 7 Magical Realism Must-Reads You Want Right Now. I was asked to go to Little Rock, Arkansas for the Arkansas Literary Festival which I’m super excited for. I haven’t been to Little Rock since I was nineteen and driving around the country with my boyfriend. And a few of my brothers and sisters, my dad, and about fifteen of my VCFA graduating class are heading to Parnassus Books in Nashville on April 4 to be with me as I celebrate the launch of But Then I Came Back.

Not only that, but March is shaping up. I’ll be teaching again at Taos Academy which is one of the best things I did last semester, and I’ll be in Denver the last week of the month for some school visits.

 

I take all of these as signs that winter will be over soon and that it won’t feel like a fight every time I walk out the door. I take it as a sign that I, like the dirt, am thawing. I’m not too excited yet. My mountain town has a way of teasing.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter.

At this point I’ll take all the green I can get.

 

P.S. book goals for Feb 15-March 15:

Swing Time, Zadie Smith/ American Street, Ibi Zoboi/What Light, Jay Asher/History is all You Left Me, Adam Silvera/How to Make a Wish, Ashley Herring Blake (if the ARC EVER GETS HERE!)/Exit West, Mohsin Hamid

 

Colorado Teen Book Con

After a dramatic and kind of exhausting summer, I’ve been hibernating, finishing the copy edits for But Then I Came Back (April 4, 2017), 51lewwbchal and getting all workaholic-like in my job as an associate at Folio Literary Management, while getting my third project underway.

Plus, kids.

Anyway, I’m turning away from the computer (seriously, I have a Fitbit and there are legitimately days I don’t move at all) and heading up to Denver for the inaugural Colorado Teen Book Con on October 15th. I’ll be meeting some new people, and I’m on another panel with Nicola Yoon, which is always a comforting and thrilling thing. I don’t have my exact time, but the panel is called Love, Adversity, and Life. That’s pretty much my jam.

 

SO, if you’re in Denver, or near Denver, or you know someone in the Denver area, this is going to be a sweet event. Plus it’s being organized by The Tattered Cover, which, you know, indie bookstores rule for real. Please come see me. I will smile and hug you and tell you something meaningful. 

1st five pages

Just checking in (pausing my insane editorial frenzy) briefly to let everyone know that I will be one of April’s mentors for the 1st five pages workshop. Basically, you submit five pages of a WIP and get some help sorting yourself out for submission.

 

Click to find out more details here. I’m completely excited to be doing this, and it’s but the first of many things I’m planning! It opens tomorrow at 2EST, and I hear it fills up within minutes.

Hope to see you on the other side!cover-and-author

My UK book birthday!

The U.K. version of  This Raging Light came out this week. It’s of special significance to me for a couple of reasons. One, I lived in London when I was little

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My beautiful family

and it’s one of my favorite places on the earth. The street art, the food, the fashion, and I even love the tube. Plus, I have lots of family there and I don’t see them enough. I have dreams of living there when I’m older.

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But also, the team at Orchard is extraordinary. Beginning with the letter they wrote during the auction and continuing with a delicious dinner when I went to London, during which I discovered that my editor Sarah and the publisher Meagan could not be more spectacular people, and then most recently what I’ve experienced with their marketing team. It’s one of my favorite things about writing how lovely the people are who find themselves drawn to children’s literature.

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My beautiful editorial team

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Anyway, I’m so happy to be with them, can’t wait to get back to them, and am in utter admiration of everything they’re doing! So thank you, England! I’ll see you soon.

A Little Bit of an Update

 

~December 22nd is This Raging Light’s Book Birthday!

~January 4th www.rockstar.com will be hosting a two week blog tour

~March 12-14 I’ll be at the Tuscon Festival of Books (details to follow)

~April 19-22 I’ll be at TLA Houston