Sunday, August 11, 2019

Closing Keynote: Meg Medina

Meg Medina
Meg Medina is the extraordinary, Newbery Award-winning author of Merci Suarez Changes Gears. She's also a NYT-bestselling author of picture books and novels for middle grade and young adult readers.

She shared what she's learned so far in her journey—and it wasn't too long ago when Meg was in the seats along with the rest of the conference attendees.

Here are some of the moments from her wonderful talk.

Meg grew up in Flushing, Queens among a family that had immigrated from Cuba. They'd been middle class and had become poor. Her family members used stories to build a bigger life for themselves. Her grandmother, especially, told these stories, of romance, of landscapes.

"And yet for all of this luscious detail, my family failed in what I consider an essential transmission," she said.

Cuba is known for music—her family isn't musical. Cuba is also known for dance. Her family doesn't like to—and Meg loves it. "This, my friends, is a tragedy."

She was growing up in Queens in the 1970s, the years when Latin music was making a splash. She fell in love with the music then, and from that day to this has been a devoted dancer.
Cuban music is  joyful, even when the lyrics are really about sad things. She taught us the essential beat of Cuban music, and talked about how we all need a sacred rhythm inside of us that never changes.

She said, "I think of my writing as my beat and my clave (a percussion instrument)."

The writing process demands courage. "There is no way to be a children's writer without willing to be scared," she said. "Deep writing means that we have to go inside ourselves, which is possibly the scariest universe of all."

Meg's theme is not just childhood, she said. It's girls and their family and their culture and how that intersects with childhood. She's answering questions she did not dare ask when she was a child.

She mines her own memories for stories. "We remember for a reason, even if our muddled brains refuse to let us in on the secret of what that reason it, at least at first."

Meg does a 10-minute exercise every day called "I remember." She free-writes about a moment she remembers. She once wrote about her roller skates, which she refused to take off each time she climbed the steps to her apartment when she had to pee, and her mother would yell at her in Spanish.

"It's your job to follow the vine of memory down to the root and yank it up," she said. "It's your job to ask the tough questions that are sometimes easier left unasked."

Follow Meg Medina on Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds so wonderful, so sorry I wasn't able to hear it in person. But I love the taste - "we all need a sacred rhythm inside of us that never changes." Thank you, Martha, and all of #LA19SCBWI Team Blog!