Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Real Life Time-Travel Story

If you get a chance, check out my guest post for The Book Smugglers' Smugglivus Festival. I reveal my real life time-travel story and share my favourite films/TV shows/books of 2011, in addition to offering a quick glimpse at what I'm looking forward to in 2012... aaaaand, you can win an advance reading copy of INTO THE WISE DARK :).

Happy first day of increasing sunlight hours! And happy holidays to those of you celebrating something this month!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It's A Great Time to Speak Up

Sometimes, I look at my timeline on Twitter, and see authors, myself included, squeeing about new book covers, pleading with readers to buy/help promote books, discussing ways to hone one's skills and increase chances of getting published, etc. Usually, this is in the midst of tweets from other parts of the world where people are tweeting about the very real climate crisis, the very real revolutions going on in different parts of the planet, and the very real movements for social justice during one of the most critical times our collective human brain has witnessed to date. In case you missed it, we're teetering on a cusp right now. The decisions we make as a collective can really affect whether we survive. Seriously.

As I've written before, many, many voices and expressions are routinely muted while others are lifted in this society of ours. That's what the Occupy movement is all about. A handful of people make decisions about who gets to sit in the spotlight and how many thousands hold audience in the dark. A limited few perspectives get held up to the light, receive financial support, or are aggressively marketed and amplified. But you know what? We're not living in times where we can afford to wait for someone to give us the nod before we express our thoughts and opinions. One voice can and does make a difference. We've seen it time and again throughout history.

Things are changing--fast. There is access to new technology. Anyone can record and broadcast human rights violations and police brutality as they are happening. Thousands tweeted the eviction of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, despite Mayor Bloomberg's "media blackout." In fact, Occupy Wall Street has morphed into Occupy Our Homes -- taking back hundreds of thousands of empty, foreclosed homes in one of the highest periods of homelessness in this country, ever. Ebooks are widely accepted and read, and are available globally to anyone who has access to a reader, computer, or cell phone. Thoughts, ideas, and information are exchanged with lightning speed over the internet. The balance of power is totally shifting.

If ever there was a time it was more important for people to speak up, to not wait for someone else to provide validation, to throw their contribution into the ring to help shape the future of this little planet under siege, now is it.

Some of my friends have said to me, "Come on. It's not that bad. There are some really great publishers/filmmakers/singers, etc., doing great stuff, no?"

Yes, there are. But they're not the most visible or as widely publicized. And there are not enough of us to compensate for the tremendous imbalance in access and representation. I tell my friends, "If you think things are not 'really that bad,' you haven't been paying attention. Or you've been paying attention to the loudest, not necessarily the truest. Turn off mainstream media for a week and seek out other sources of news and information, then let's talk." Because guess what? We're not supposed to know how bad things are. If we did, we'd all be dropping everything to make it right. We'd unplug from the buying machine, and demand something different -- create something different.

Things are that bad. But the good news is that there is time for change. The U.N. Summit for Climate Change just took place in Durban, South Africa. There are scientists pleading with nations to take responsibility, to implement policies that will reverse some of the damage we've done to the planet, to reduce greenhouse emissions and help steer us toward another path -- a less destructive path. But the most powerful nations on the planet are, at best, not listening. At worse, they are flat out denying that climate change is even real, or even worser, putting the blame/responsibility squarely on the shoulders of poorer nations.

The message is: We don't have to change anything. Things are working fine the way they are. Don't worry your pretty little heads, we got this.

The problem is that things are not working fine for a huge majority of the planet. And that huge majority just happens to be mostly PoC, mostly women and children, and mostly working class.

So, yeah. Now is the time to speak up. Artists/writers/storytellers/musicians have, historically, helped shape the cultures and societies they've lived in. They've served as a voice and mirror for the people. They've entertained, educated, and enlightened.

Folks in positions of power are not about to give their power up. But the rest of us are not completely power-less. If someone won't help you put your book out, you can put it out yourself. These days, the production quality of independently published books is right on par with corporate publishers. Just make your book the very best piece of art you've ever created. Put your expression as an artist, a world citizen, as someone with something valuable to contribute, out there. Release your voice into the world, so that more and more perspectives are heard. Until there is a strong chorus, challenging the same tunes we keep hearing over and over again. Art that supports the status quo is akin to propaganda. Art that challenges and throws the status quo into a new light is creativity. It's dynamic love.

The audience always outnumbers the performers. Participate. And totally squee about books and promote them and buy them. But let's help get more voices out in the mix. It'll completely change the landscape. More people speaking up and putting their perspectives out there is the only thing that will create the kind of change we need right now.

"I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We've been taught that silence would save us, but it won't." -- Audre Lorde

"Life is very short and what we have to do must be done in the now." -- Audre Lorde

"Say something!" -- Bob Marley

Monday, December 5, 2011

Still On Representation

This past weekend, I saw Stick Fly, a play produced by Alicia Keys, featuring Dule Hill, Mekhi Phifer, and Tracie Thoms. I can't say that I loved it, or that I even thought it was *good*, but I am absolutely glad I got to see it. Out of the literally hundreds of shows on Broadway, there are about *three* featuring (or written by) PoC.

As I mentioned, I wasn't crazy about some of the things in this play (for a show about family, I would have included mothers on the stage, and I would not have silenced a woman for speaking truth, but that's just me), but I truly appreciated this writer's humor, characterization, psychological depth, and frank dialogue on race dynamics, class, and colorism among the African-American elite. It's her perspective, her contribution, and I can respect that.

As I thought about it later, I wondered again, what it would be like to see more representations of PoC, in all our myriad expressions, on center screen, on the main stage, in the spotlight. How differently would we navigate life? What new possibilities would we conjure up? What new opportunities would we see that now elude us?

Even after multiple shining reviews in other cities, Stick Fly took almost six years to make it to Broadway for lack of funding and support. I thought about how many wonderful, brilliant stories there are out there that will never see the light of day because there is no financial backing for them. This story was not how I would have written a story about family, but it was a good story that deserved to be on stage -- on Broadway -- nonetheless. How many others are out there just like it, waiting for a producer's approval, an editor's nod, a bookstore's/reviewer's stamp? And how many will never get that nod because the person reading/viewing the story doesn't relate to it, or simply can't see themselves in it?

And then, this morning, I read this post on Zoetrope, about the "dead girl" look on some YA book covers, and I was reminded, once again, that the struggle for representation continues on all fronts.

But I was heartened by this BBC article about Indian youth wanting to see their own faces on stage. Whereas before, the preference was for white faces on the stage, young Indians now want to see their own images and values reflected back to them, in all their unique beauty and complexity. And the result is a uniquely Indian sound, exploding onto the Indie music scene.

History has shown us that independent thinkers/musicians/artists have paved the way for sweeping social and cultural change. I think we're in the midst of some of that same sweeping change here, too, with the balance of power shifting. It's we're on the cusp of something very significant, very important. It's slow going, yes, but I'm in it for the long haul.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cover Reveal!

So this is the cover for my new book, coming out in March, 2012. I am more excited and nervous about this one than I have been with any of my previous books, adult romances included.

I've put so much of everything that's important to me into this book and it was the hardest one I've ever written. For one, I wrote it during some of the toughest times Life has thrown my way, so far, as an adult. Finding the time, motivation, focus, and energy to write was often a mighty challenge in itself. And I've lost count of how many times I revised this novel from the ground up. I revised with an agent and two editors -- I'm talking tear-down-the-walls, clear-the-nether-regions, blast-through-rock revisions.

This book is my Little Engine That Could. It's the mountain I climbed because I loved it and because I wanted to see the view from its summit. I still haven't seen the view. I'm waiting for you to read it to complete the picture :).

ARCs should be available late December/early January. If you'd like a review copy, please email me and I'll put you on the list.

*And now, the cover...

*Designed by the fabulous Eithne Ni AnLuain

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tomorrow - SAWCC Lit Festival at Revolution Books!

Please join us tomorrow for the SAWCC Literary Festival! The panels begin tomorrow at 1 pm and go throughout the day. The entire conversation will be about political change and social justice through literature. There are wonderful panelists on board and there will be a "rapid fire" reading at 6 pm at Bar 13. I've very much looking forward to it and hope to see many of you there!

Here is the line-up, taken straight off the SAWCC website:

Saturday, Sept. 24, 1-4:30pm
Panel discussions
at Revolution Books
1-2pm: Sparking Revolution: Engaging Youth through Literature
- Neesha Meminger (author, Jazz in Love)
- Jyotsna Sreenivasan (
- Marina Budhos (author, Tell Us We’re Home)
Moderated by Yesha Naik (YA/children’s librarian, Brooklyn Public Library)

2:15-3:15pm: Writing about Human Rights
- Monisha Bajaj (author, Schooling for Social Change)
- Nisha Varia (Human Rights Watch)
- V.V. Ganeshananthan (author, Love Marriage)
- Maniza Naqvi (author, On Air and Sarajevo Saturdays)
Moderated by Sunu Chandy (lawyer and poet)

3:30-4:30pm: The Personal Is Political: Writing about Social Justice in the Home
- Priyanka Motaparthy (Human Rights Watch)
- Fawzia Afzal-Khan (author, Lahore With Love: Growing Up with Girlfriends, Pakistani Style)
- Zohra Saed (co-editor, One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature)
Moderated by Purvi Shah (author, Terrain Tracks)
Saturday, Sept. 24, 6-8pm
Rapid-Fire Reading: South Asian women perform poetry, fiction, and spoken-word on the themes of rights, radicalism, and revolution. Featuring Fawzia Afzal-Khan, Sita Bhaskar, Marina Budhos, V.V. Ganeshananthan, Neesha Meminger, Yesha Naik, Vani Natarajan, Purvi Shah, Jyotsna Sreenivasan, and Mathangi Subramanian.
at Bar 13
35 East 13th Street (at University Pl.)
New York, NY 10003
$5 at the door
(21+ only)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Open Fire

It's been a tough summer. We lost a loved one after she fought a battle with cancer and there is a quiet sadness that brackets our days here in the Meminger home. But it also makes us grateful and deeply appreciative of the ones we love who are still here. By the way, can I just say how sick I am of cancer? Seriously. It has been popping up way too much lately.

In any case, I am glad to get back into a busy rhythm of school, writing, and reading again. Who'd have thunk I'd be relieved to get back to the mundane rituals of daily life? :) I am also working super hard on my next novel, which is set to release in March, 2012. I've had a quick peek at the first drafts of the cover and I am *loving* it.

One of the events I have coming up is the SAWCC literary festival. I'll be on a panel with Marina Budhos and Jyotsna Sreenivasan, talking about YA novels and politics. Can't wait. If you're in New York on the 24th, please stop by Revolution Books. Our panel is from 1-2pm, but there will be others throughout the day, followed by readings in the evening.

October is birthday month, so I'm hoping I haven't scheduled anything for then, but November is another busy month. I'll be in Chicago (where I get to meet Ari of Reading In Color, Edi Campbell of the Crazy Quilts blog, and Maggie Desmond O'Brien of Bibliophilia!) for the ALAN workshops on the 21st and 22nd.

Hope everyone had a great summer and is off to a smooth start for the fall.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Big C

Lately, cancer has been swirling around my life. Earlier in the year, I blogged about fellow YA author, L.K. Madigan, who passed away after a battle with the Big C. Shortly after that, H got a gig working on the show of that same name, the big C, on Showtime. While he was on that show, we found out that a close family member was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Most recently, L.A. Banks passed away. I was surprisingly, and inexplicably, saddened by the death of this woman I've never met. I read her blog for the first time only a few months ago and she seemed to be fighting the good fight. Her blog entries exuded honesty and passion, and I was crushed that the world lost another voice speaking truth to power.

Since I am, and always have been, an alternative kind of gal (and since the battle for accessible health care seems to be sliding down a slippery and corrupt slope) all of this has prompted me to look for alternative options to current, traditional methods of approaching health and healing. In my research, I came across this video which gave me a lot to think about. It's worth watching, even if you're skeptical. I'm big on reading up on everything in every way possible, and this was another angle to the story we're told over and over. I'm also a big believer in questioning the dominant narrative - especially when it's not doing me any good. If you get a chance to see the video, I'd love to know what you think.

In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers (and heart) are with anyone who is struggling with health issues in their lives - whether illness has hit a loved one, or whether you are battling for your own health. Much love and healing vibes your way.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Jazz in Oz!

Jazz in Love is now distributed in Australia! So, so, SO excited about this...

It is here. And here. And here!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Things to Read

If you haven't yet checked out Zetta Elliott's interview with Jacqueline Woodson on the Ms Magazine blog, do that ASAP. Here's a short excerpt:
"The Cooperative Children’s Book Center keeps annual statistics that show that authors of color wrote less than 5 percent of U.S. books published for children in recent years. You are a prolific, award-winning author–but could you name five other black LGBTQ authors of children’s literature?

Um…I couldn’t. I probably could name two, but I don’t know if people are just not out. I think there are people who are still very closeted. You’re dealing with a society that automatically associates pedophilia with anybody who’s interested in children in any way, and a lot of people who still think that queerness is some pathology.

I haven’t come across a lot of young black writers who are new but I feel like, if the book is finished and it’s halfway decent, there’s a home for it. I don’t know if that’s me just being out there and not knowing enough about publishing. I mean, I think of Coe Booth, Brenda Woods, the woman who did Fly Girl [Sherri L. Smith]. You’re one of the new writers coming up: I think you’re one of the people who’s potentially going to change the world of speculative fiction. But I think in terms of publishers trying to figure out where it belongs, that’s kind of a slower movement—especially with the business of books changing so quickly.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of publishing?
I feel optimistic but I think people can’t expect it to be the old way of doing things. I mean, my first book was published in 1989. I think if I was starting to write today, I would be self-publishing."
That's from the condensed version that made it onto Ms Mag's blog. The full interview is on Zetta's blog as well as her Youtube channel.

Here's an excerpt from an interview Lori Devoti did with me about turning to indie publishing:
"Q: What route would you suggest for an author who hasn’t been published before? Should they still follow the old route of agent/publisher or do you think going straight to self-publishing is a good option?

A. I would urge them to think about what they truly want from being published. If it is the recognition of being accepted by the publishing establishment (which is a totally okay goal), then I would say press on along the traditional publishing route. If, however, an author wants only to get her/his work out there, under the eyes of readers who might devour it, connect with it, change their lives because of it, then I would say explore the wonderful world of indie publishing. But I would highly recommend doing a lot of research. Read the stories of people who’ve self-published, check out blogs, pick up books that have been self-published and are highly recommended by trusted sources. Ask a lot of questions!"
And here's an excerpt from an interview with our fave goth megastar, Le R. on critiquing and editing others' work:

"Is there one specific thing that you gravitate toward while critiquing?

Le R: It sounds sort of corny, but I think I gravitate toward the writer. I read so, so many query letters and manuscripts when I worked in publishing, and I read so much unpolished work now as a freelancer, and you develop--or at least I have developed, I don't know if this is always true, not everyone used to be a social worker--this weird ability to see the person producing the work. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they frame a story. I don't mean that in a sinister way--just that I try to think in terms of what would be most useful to that particular person. I don't have to worry at all any more about whether something is "good" or "publishable" or "salable"--it's not my job to sort things, it's my job now to help someone move forward, and anyone can move forward with their writing."

Friday, July 29, 2011

change it she said

my mother used to tell me
there was an energy that destroyed
and an energy that created
these energies exist
in all of us
she said

later i learned of yin and yang
of the masculine principle
            and the feminine principle

later i learned
of single mothers prostitution pornography no childcare violence against women rape weapon of war fgm female feticide bride burnings dowry deaths beauty industries body shame

later i learned
of heads of state presidents prime ministers CEOs heads of corporations oil billionaires bankers profits money makers progress industry conquests occupations empire invasions

later i learned
of earth
     mother earth
and nature
     mother nature

there is a crisis
we have a crisis
we are in a crisis
                  it is now

there are some who see

        mother nature is
       out of balance

      mother earth is

destructive energy run amok
creative energy on its knees
          the life force
                  the captive unicorn

everyone knows creation
requires a mother
                 and a father
a masculine principle
        and a feminine principle
a destructive energy
                    for new life to grow
and a creative energy
                    the womb, the cocoon
a feminine energy to birth
a masculine energy to curb
                                   prune . . .


almost every religion
    in the world


the greatest story ever told
our myths
of creation
shaping psyche
creating reality

erasing feminine
worshiping masculine

the mother
            is dying
bleeding oil
her children crying

the feminine principle
out of balance
in the jaws of her captor

my mother told me
when i was young
there is a creative energy
and a destructive energy
these energies exist in all of us
she said

they are
out of balance
      in our minds
            our bodies
                 our stories
                      our psyches
                            our planet

change it
she said

in your mind
         your body
              your story
                    your psyche

tell everyone
she said

there is a crisis
we have a crisis
we are in a crisis
                   it is now

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Here's Colbert's report on media coverage of the gunman in Norway's recent tragic attack...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Picking From Many Battles

Last week, my ten-year-old came home from camp upset. She said that during a team game, one of her teammates didn't want to hold her hand because "she's a black girl". This was not in the sixties, it was not in the "pre-racial, pre-Obama era" - this was last week.

Normally, I would go to the parents of the child in this situation, just to inform them of what's been said, and hope that they deal with the issue in the best possible way. But I don't know these parents, so I went to management. My daughter will be in this camp for the rest of the summer and deserves to be in a safe, comfortable, non-toxic environment. Not to mention the arm and leg we're paying to have her there.

But this post is about picking your battles - and there are so many to choose from. This morning I learned that, at this same camp (a gymnastics camp), girls are required to wear leotards under their T-shirts and shorts while boys have no clothing restrictions at all. I asked my girls what they've been told the reasoning is behind this rule and they said it's because "when girls do flips and cartwheels, their shirts go up and it's distracting."

None of the girls at this camp are over the age of thirteen. If there are counselors who are "distracted" by a little girl's bellybutton or midriff, those counselors should not be at a camp for children. This is all about accountability. Grown men are responsible for their own actions. What a novel concept!

I grew up in a culture that hammered home the need for "modesty" in girls' and women's dress. God forbid a man should happen to see a naked elbow or ankle and be sent into a mad frenzy of lust at the sight of it. It would be the girl's or woman's fault of course, because, hey, she was told to dress properly. A man shouldn't be expected to take responsibility for how a woman dresses, or his response to her naked parts! And here I am again, in another culture that is hammering home the same message to my girls. As many times as I've encountered this line of logic, it still never ceases to amaze me.

So I'm struggling now with whether I complain again and become That person - the one who complains of everything and has a problem - the one you can discredit and shrug off because, well, next week she'll be complaining of something else - or whether I say nothing and let this one go.

I know, quite clearly, that the issue is not just with this particular camp. The problem is that most of the world is immersed in unchallenged, unexamined racism, sexism, homophobia, and all kinds of other abuses of power - with no accountability at all on the part of the person in the position of power. When you're someone who is not only aware, but actively challenging such power abuses, you become the complainer. Or the trouble-maker. Or the conspiracy theorist. Or the [insert other silencing descriptor here].

I like being happy. I like having joy in my life. I like to laugh and joke around. I HATE having to confront things like racist bullshit and misogyny. Truly - nothing bums me out more than having to go at it with someone wielding unearned power and privilege. A someone who is almost always ignorant of said power and privilege. All I want to do in the morning is drop my kids off at a safe place where they can learn and have fun. And I want to go home, have a nice breakfast and some tea, and get on with my day. Seriously. That's ALL I want to do. I hate complaining. But when you have kids, speaking up or staying silent takes on a whole new significance. Because now I am modeling how to deal (or not deal) with abuses of power. My children are watching what I do and learning from it. Either way, I will have to explain to them why I spoke up, or why I did not, in the face of clear inequality or injustice.

I'm not going to change the current system single-handedly and overnight. But I can at least challenge and question things *in the home*. If I don't, my children think the way things are is they way they ought to be. If the people they trust to protect them and guide them are not challenging "small", everyday infractions like the ones above, then everything is as it should be and the children are simply over-sensitive - they should swallow their pain/anger/fear and move on as if no violation has taken place. In other words, the entire emotional, psychological, and spiritual impact on their psyche becomes their responsibility. And the violator gets away with his/her actions, words, and behaviour, without ever examining it or being accountable in any way.

I haven't yet decided how I will proceed, but at the very least, the girls know there is something to be questioned - something not quite right about the scenario - and that their mother is mulling over how to deal with it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Water, and an Interview

I'm thrilled to be part of Chasing Ray's Summer Blog Blast Tour this week. I was interviewed by Doret at The Happy Nappy Bookseller blog and that post is up today. She asked me some very interesting questions about Jazz In Love, publishing, and dating shady characters. Please check it out if you get a chance!

Speaking of very interesting questions, I came across this very interesting video called The Story of Bottled Water. I highly recommend watching it. There is a counter video on Youtube, but it is rather weak in comparison. Watch both for yourself and see what you think. (Plus, I had NO idea bottled water waste was being sent to India for land fills! Did you?).

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Politics of Story

I have a post up at Hunger Mountain, an arts journal put out by the Vermont College of Fine Arts. In The Politics of Story, I address the idea that only some stories are political and only some stories are message-driven. I argue that ALL stories are political and ALL stories put forth messages.

Here is a brief excerpt:
"Author and poet Suheir Hammad once said, “Writing must always have intention because words have power.” I know well the power of words. I know how a single slur can reduce a person to shame and humiliation . . . and fear. Some words—like racial epithets—have long and brutal histories of violence behind them. They carry with them the power to dehumanize and the inherent threat of attack. In an interview with Al-Jazeera English, Hammad stated, “I think it’s a political decision to leave politics out of your work.” Within a cultural, social and economic structure that advantages and privileges some over others, there is no way to make writing the “other” a non-political act. The very fact that there are “others” means that some perspectives are put forward more frequently and more consistently to create a norm, or dominant narrative. [...]
"As soon as voices of the marginalized are brought front and center, out of the fringes of the dominant narrative and into the center, our stories are automatically politicized. Because “othering” certain segments of the population is a social, political and cultural act. In the same way that leaving certain voices out of a narrative, or certain faces out of a film, book cover, magazine, television show, etc. is a political act, bringing those voices into the spotlight and giving them a platform, assigning them equal value and importance and weight, and listening to what they have to say is also a political act, intentional or not."
You can read the full post at Hunger Mountain. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Today's one of those reflection days for me. I just finished up with school-related activities for my kids and I'm now in that shell-shocked, bewildered "It's over?" place.

It's bittersweet. Even with all my complaining about how busy I am throughout the school year with kid-related events, writing, working, etc., I wouldn't have it any other way.

At the end of it all, when I'm doing the ultimate reflecting upon my life, I'm going to care less about how many books I've written and how many accolades I've garnered, than I am about how happy my loved ones are. And how they'll fare when I'm gone.

It's all about interacting with one another and the impressions we leave upon one another. Because it's through those impressions that we help shape ourselves and those we interact with. My writing has always been about that - about me shaping you with my words and you, in turn, shaping me with your response. And then again. That's how I've always thought I could change the world - one little interaction at a time.

That's probably why I'm a great candidate for independent publishing. I want that response so I can keep the creative flow unimpeded. I want an ongoing interaction where we elevate one another on the journey. If I keep getting stopped at the pass, neither of us will ever know what a (life-altering? Beautiful? Explosive?) exchange we could have had. Even the biggest wave has to start out as a little ripple, right?

This past year, I have begun to define "success" in my own terms. I've learned that it is pointless for me to seek the "success" others seek, or have achieved. And what that word means to me is very different than what it may mean to others. It's hard to keep your footing solidly on the path you create for yourself, but there is nothing more rewarding - that, I can guarantee.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Open Heart/Closed Fist

On Thursday, June 9th, I will be on a panel for SAWCC (South Asian Women's Creative Collective) called "Open Heart/Closed Fist: Sikh Women Speak Out on Faith and Feminism." It'll be at the Asian American Writers' Center at 7pm. There's more information on the SAWCC website, but here's the blurb:
From the Middle East to the Midwest, revolution is spreading.  Women of all faiths have joined radicals in solidarity, even as their own rights come under fire by conservative elements.  But besides the images we see—women in hijab with their fists raised in Tahrir Square; women of all races with their fists raised in Madison—what about the women we don’t see, women who advocate for themselves and their sisters in the homes, gurudwaras, mosques, and temples?  What does it mean to be religious and radical? 
In this panel, author Neesha Meminger (Jazz in Love), community organizer Tejpreet Kaur (Sikh Coalition), and blogger Simran Kaur ( will discuss the ways in which their work explores issues of faith and feminism, particularly in the diaspora.
I'm delighted to be on this panel and super excited to meet my co-panelists. I think women of all backgrounds struggle with this concept of allegiance--when do I speak out? Who gets thrown under the bus if I raise this issue? Usually the answer is "me." But because girls everywhere are taught to first think of others, then ourselves, or to be compliant, acquiescent, "good" girls, the struggle to speak up and speak out rages strong within.

I think it's going to be an awesome panel. Please join us if you can.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Summer! Wiscon! Desserts!

so now that the madness of summer (at least work-wise) is simmering down, school madness is picking up. the kids have end-of-year events all month and it has got to be hard for working parents to juggle being there for their kids and trying to keep the bills going at the same time.

i just returned from my second wiscon and i can totally see why folks get hooked. there are people who've been going to wiscon for decades. it's one of the few places to have the kind of discourse i crave all year long. to be around people who just let you be. to be inspired and awakened and unsettled and enlightened.

this year was a mixed bag for me, but i am still sad it's over. here are a few pics of the people i met (some are courtesy of LaShawn Wanak), and the desserts i consumed. i'm already eagerly looking forward to next year.

l-r: Sheree Renee Thomas, Ibi Zoboi, me, and Zola Mumford

l-r: Jenn Brisset, Ibi Zoboi, me, LaShawn Wanak

key lime pie at the dessert salon - so, so yummy as you can see. i ate most of it before remembering to take a pic.

yes, i ate all of the above.
the aforementioned key lime pie, chocolate decadent mousse cake with raspberry something-sauce, and chocolate eclairs.
i would have gone back to get the maple pecan pie, but the speeches were starting.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Coming Up

Happy Asian-American Heritage Month! Happy Mother's Month! (Yes, I think we deserve a MONTH.)

Tomorrow, Wednesday, I will be participating in a live-chat on Twitter with a few of the other authors involved in the Diversity in YA tour. The Tweetchat starts at 9pm EST, so join us if you're on Twitter!

And the book-signing-turned-into-panel at Books of Wonder takes place on Saturday, May 14th, at 1pm. I am keeping my fingers double-crossed that they will have copies of my books this time! The other panelists are Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon, Jacqueline Woodson, Rita Williams-Garcia, Matt de la Pena, Kekla Magoon, and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. The panel will be moderated by Cheryl Klein. Please join us if you can!

At the end of May, I am off, once again, to Wiscon, the *echoing announcer voice* WORLD'S LEADING FEMINIST SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION. This conference is something I do for myself because I love the people I get to meet and I always have a great time engaging in the kind of discourse I enjoy having. If you're going, let me know! Would love to say hi :).

And this is not in May, but I'm going to plug it now, anyway, in case you're planning vacations and such. On June 9th, I will be sitting on a panel with two other Sikh women for SAWCC (South Asian Women's Creative Collective). We will be discussing faith and feminism within a Sikh context. Should be an interesting conversation and a lot of fun. More on that soon, though.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'm Baaaaack

Back from L.A. and Toronto and happy that the weather has taken a turn for the warmer. It was a pleasure to see the trees in bloom and daffodils beaming in their full glory on the drive in from JFK airport.

The Toronto events were lovely and I had a wonderful time with friends and family. Here are pictures from the Toronto Women's Bookstore event, featuring Zetta Elliott on the left, myself in the center, and Vivek Shraya next to our moderator, Annmarie Shrouder:

Blogger Niranjana Iyer has a great post on the panel and her thoughts on self-publishing here.

One of the more interesting conversations I had at the Saturday book-signing at Chapters/Indigo-Yordale was with a teen. We got onto the topic of bullying and harassment in school and she said that the worse type of "bullying" she ever experienced (her school is predominantly people of colour) was in the form of verbal and sometimes physical harassment from male peers. The terms most often used to denigrate young women are the same ones that were used when I was in high school - "slut", "bitch", "whore", etc.

And just today, Teen Voices posted this article about teenage domestic violence which points to the same type of harassment targeting young women. Here's an excerpt:
Ask a group of teenage girls how many terms of abuse are directed at them in school on a regular basis and they struggle to answer. Every week, they say, boys and young men in their peer group add a new phrase to their lexicon of disrespect.
"At my school we hear three words, slut, sket and slag, every day. It's got so it's not worth challenging it, it is not worth arguing about because it just doesn't change anything," said Bea Larby, 15 [... ] 
"Sket" sites, where pictures of girls are posted by vengeful ex-boyfriends, often in compromising situations, are set up on Facebook and other networking sites, or the images are circulated on smart phone messaging systems, along with a request to give marks out of 10 for the "sket" or "bitch".
'One girl, her ex posted naked pictures of her and sent them around the school,' said Larby. "She left school because everyone thought she was a sket, she used to get bullied in corridors. People would say, look there she goes that sket, but no one did anything to stop it."
The one thing that struck me from my recent visit to a high school in L.A., the conversation in Canada, and the above-linked article was that many things--like this sort of bullying and harassment--have held strong since my days in high school. And as long as power imbalances remain the same in the larger world--with media images depicting young women as racialized and sexualized objects, this type of bullying will keep a stronghold on each new generation of young people.

Raising awareness among young people is important, but equally important is working for change on a larger, systemic level. I think that's why the publishing panel at the Toronto Women's Bookstore was so important to me. What Zetta, Vivek and I were talking about was exactly that - grassroots change, putting power back into the hands of creators, and offering different depictions of young people for young people. All three of us spoke of wanting to create the type of work we needed to see when we were young readers. It is the work of offering alternative visions and representations for young women, queer teens, working class folks, differently-abled teens . . . doors and windows into new possibilities.

If you missed the livestream of that event, you can watch it here. But I don't know how long it will be up, so catch it while you can...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Upcoming Toronto Events!

Next week, I am going to Los Angeles for a few days, then coming home and turning right around to go to Toronto for a little over a week. Talk about climate change! Though maybe I messed up with the times--should stay longer in the warm spot ;). But I am super, super excited about both, in any case!

In L.A. I get to meet some awesome high school students who will have had an entire week of classes, events, and awareness raising around issues of discrimination, bias, and bullying. And in Toronto, I will be with fellow authors discussing important issues of representation as well as signing books and -- the best part -- meeting and chatting with readers.

The first Toronto event is at the Toronto Women's Bookstore and, as mentioned, I will be discussing issues of representation and how changes in the publishing industry are affecting under-represented voices with fellow authors Zetta Elliott (A Wish After Midnight, 2009) and Vivek Shraya (God Loves Hair, 2010).

And the second event is at the Chapters/Indigo bookstore in Yorkdale Mall. I will be signing copies of Jazz in Love along with fellow authors Mahtab Narsimhan (The Deadly Conch, 2011), Helene Boudreau (Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings, 2010), and Cheryl Rainfield (Scars, 2010) who will all be signing copies of their recent releases.

If you're in or around the GTA area, please come by to either/both event/s!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Interview With YA Fantasy Author Mahtab Narsimhan

I am delighted to have fantasy author Mahtab Narsimhan join me today in a chat about writing, inspiration, transformation and fantasy! 

Mahtab is a fellow Canadian and her latest novel is The Deadly Conch, the conclusion to the Tara Trilogy (Dundurn Press). I was so thrilled to find another South Asian woman writing fantasy YA when I met Mahtab in Toronto last year, and I immediately knew I wanted to learn more about her. 

Please join me in welcoming Mahtab!

NM: Please tell us about your publishing journey. Did you go the traditional route - getting an agent, then querying publishers?

MN: The road to publication of The Third Eye had quite a few pot holes. It took me about a year and a half to write it. I tried to get an agent and thought I was very fortunate when I landed one at a very reputable agency in Toronto. Unluckily she was not at all right for me or my manuscript. Rejections poured in. She gave up on me after eight months of trying to sell the manuscript. I was quite devastated at the time and ready to give up. But I had invested so much time, effort and sweat in this story that I was compelled to see it through. Also, this was a tribute to my dad. I told myself; I would give up on this manuscript only when every publisher in the world had rejected it.

I joined a critique group called Kidcrit, started by writer, Marsha Skrypuch. Fellow writers who are now close friends helped me streamline the manuscript – “sleekification” in kidcritter terminology! 

At an OLA conference in Jan 2007 I got my first break. Marsha introduced me to the Barry Jowett, the editorial director at Dundurn. He asked to see my manuscript and I sent it to him expecting yet another rejection. Two years of rejection had primed me too well to hope for anything else. To my shock and utter amazement, he said. He wanted to publish my book. What followed was a week of walking on air, a few months of agony as the contract was finalized and signed, and the joy of holding my first book in my hands, knowing that it was born out of countless hours of writing and rewriting but above all, not giving up.

NM: What an inspiring story!! I love tales about people not giving up on something they really believe in. I'm so glad you didn't give up.

So many South Asians writing in English seem to be writing contemporary realistic novels. Why did you choose to go the fantasy route?

MN: I love fantasy as a genre, always have, and always will. I started out reading a lot of Enid Blyton as a child and my favourite then used to be the Faraway Tree series. It was about the adventures of three siblings who discovered a magic tree in the forest which bordered their backyard. Every week, an exciting world floated to the top of the tree. Sometime it was fun, like the land of birthdays or the land of chocolate. Sometimes the world had dangerous goblins or wizards who captured the children as slaves.

Since then, numerous series have caught my interest. Noteworthy are The Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman and the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Also love Philip Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go. Life is tedious enough without having to dwell on it even when I am writing. Fantasy fiction allows me the freedom to veer away from the routine to the totally unpredictable, the fun, and the unimaginable. 

I realized that Asian protagonists were under-represented in children’s literature. I find Indian mythology quite fascinating and thought it would be great to bring it to the world in an interesting and palatable form.

NM: Speaking of palatable forms, I recently wrote a guest post on the dearth of genre stories available for young readers - for example, there are very few romances or mysteries or humour books featuring South Asians in YA. And YA author Y.S. Lee wrote a post called "Antidotes to Earnestness" where she writes that so many Asian-American books tend be "Earnest and Moralistic". Do you have any thoughts on this, and what would the teen Mahtab have liked to read?

MN: Loved your post, Neesha, and look forward to reading Jazz in Love. To answer your question, I believe literature subconsciously reflects the beliefs prevalent at a particular time or of a particular people. I think Asians were brought up this way. This is our culture and our way of life, or at least it used to be when I was growing up. Education and study took precedence over fun and frivolity. Education was the ticket to freedom from poverty for most average Asians, and they were driven to be academic over-achievers by their parents.

In a country where a billion people are struggling to survive, the situation is not in the least amusing and it’s no wonder that so many books written by authors who must now be in their fifties are serious and dealing with the problems of the time. A classic example is A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. A poignant and brilliant book, but not in the least light-hearted. I honestly cannot recall what I read as I teen but a couple of books that come to mind are Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach and The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. And you will notice, both are very serious books. I would have loved something light and funny but I’m not even sure what the teen me would have liked. I used to be quite serious then.

NM: Yes, the serious literature is important and necessary, without a doubt. My issue, personally, is with the fact that for the longest time, that is all we seemed to see. Things are changing at a snail's pace, but it is happening. Hooray for more diverse stories featuring the full gamut of experiences of people of colour!

What are your thoughts on some of the changes happening in publishing, with the explosion of e-readers and digital technology? Are you enthusiastic, or worried?

MN: With the way technology is moving, it was inevitable. As long as our publishers change and adapt to keep up with the times, and we authors continue to get a fair deal for our work, I think we will continue to produce books which will be read by an even greater audience, especially those who would never pick up a book but can read a ton of material on their iPhones or iPads.

There are pros and cons to every situation. We just have to figure out the pros and learn how to use them to the best of everyone’s advantage.

NM: Definitely. Having more options is always a good thing :). You've mentioned that you are a working writer. How do you manage your time between promoting books, blogging, social media, writing, and working? Give us a snapshot of your typical day.

MN: I have a set time, a set place and a goal every day. Every morning from about 6 am to 8 am I devote to writing and I have to churn out 1500 words a day. This includes Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. And yes, even on my birthday!

An interesting fact I discovered is that most habits, good or bad, take about two weeks to form. I have followed this routine, i.e. writing early in the morning in my basement office and giving myself a daily quota, for the last six years. It’s a deeply ingrained habit and allows me to complete the first draft of a novel in about four to six months. In fact, now, if I have not finished my “homework” on a daily basis, I feel terribly guilty and even cranky.

I work with my husband at his office from about 9 am to about 6pm. Evenings are for research, social media and other activities.

I’ve learned over the years that no task is herculean if you break it down into little chunks and attack it every day. That hold true even for writing a novel.

NM: I envy your discipline! Something I keep trying to work on (grin). Will have to try that two week trick...

What is the best fan feedback you've ever received?

MN: I read your book within a day because I just could not put it down.

This was for The Third Eye and I was so pleased! To have your fans devour a book that took you years to write, in a few hours means I accomplished what I set out to do. I knew then, all that trouble, heartache and frustration was worth it!

NM: And I'm sure that reader spoke for dozens of others who are too shy to get in touch!

Tell us your favourite part of writing your trilogy, besides seeing it published :).

MN: For me, writing is a process of self-discovery. I didn’t realize it when I was writing the trilogy but seven years later when I wrote the synopsis for all three novels and the over-arching theme, I realized it was all about believing in yourself and not letting fear stop you from doing what you have to do. Fear of change and of the unknown have always been a huge source of anxiety for me and in writing this story I worked through it along with my feisty heroine,Tara.

Since 2009 when I finished the trilogy, I have embraced a philosophy of change and of constantly challenging myself. I’m surprised and proud to realize that I can meet anything head on without the numbing paralysis that used to overwhelm me at one time.

I quit my full-time, well paying job of twelve years to help my husband, thereby starting a fifth career (I have worked as a Front Office manager, a credit card sales executive, a recruiter, and a VP Operations previously). I learned how to do school presentations, starting with an audience of seventy-five students and working my way up to three thousand. Public speaking no longer terrifies me.

And now whenever I am presented with an opportunity that scares me, I make sure my answer is yes. I’ve never regretted it to date.

NM: I love bold, brave and daring women! I wish you much success with your books, Mahtab, and thank you, again, for taking the time to graciously answer all my questions.

EVERYONE, go buy Mahtab's books here and visit her (very cool) website here!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What's Going On

I've been meaning to post updates on my recent signing/reading events, but there is too much going on and I've allowed myself to become buried. But here are a few quick updates until I find time to do longer and more, um, picturesque (?) posts . . .

The Queens reading was absolutely lovely. Meeting teen readers is always a joy, but I've wanted to read in Queens, especially, since it has one of the largest immigrant populations in NYC. The class of pre-GED students we met with was one hundred percent teens of colour. Seriously. Every last one of them.

And the panel of readers? All white - and me. I couldn't help but wonder how many times a day those students see people who look nothing like them with a platform to freely express their opinions, values, ideas, and creative vision. I know what it was like for me as a teen, and then how powerful it was to finally see women of color speaking their truth boldly and without fear--and provided with a space to do so. Melina Marchetta was reading next to me and spoke beautifully, not just as an ally, but as a woman who could relate to the feeling of being "other" in a place you call home.

Here we are, above, at the Cupcake Cafe which adjoins Books of Wonder.

Speaking of which, I apologize to anyone who showed up at Books of Wonder and couldn't find copies of Jazz in Love. I'm not sure what the snafu was there, but for some reason my books did not arrive.  I will be there again on May 14th for the Diversity in YA tour, so please stop by then!

In non-writerly news, the whole Chris Brown/Rihanna thing has been really upsetting for me. Even more so than the Charlie Sheen thing. Maybe it's because my girls and so, so many teen girls of colour are hooked in to popular culture and idolize these icons. And my girls, in particular, have many questions I'm always flailing to answer in a way that makes sense to them. Or maybe it's because the dynamics of that relationship are so familiar to me. I don't know.

But things like this help - if you haven't read Daniel Jose Older's piece on Racialicious about men's violence against women, do so now. He also had some great tweets about the topic yesterday - one of which was, "Batterers control anger by not lashing out at judges, cops, their homies, etc. They control it & direct it at their spouses," and the following one, "So u can do all the anger management classes u want but ur just feeding the problem until u instill a foundation of respect towards women."

Chris Brown's recent actions highlight violence against women in our society in stark relief, and are a reminder of the way the Creative Life Force has so brutally been taken hostage in our world. I have to keep telling myself that the fight is raging strong. That more and more people are waking up. Hard to tell sometimes, but I think it's true.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Interview With Sarah Jamila Stevenson

Today, I am thrilled to host Sarah Jamila Stevenson, author of The Latte Rebellion. I was looking forward to reading this book since I first heard about it and was delighted by the plot turns and the Created Normal of the world in the pages. In other words, the "normal" of this book is PoC, in varying shades and hues, all described in latte terms :D. So, without further rambling from me, here's Sarah, in her own words!

NM: I love that Asha doesn't really have any angst about being a latte - she embraces it and kind of sees it as the norm (and in the world of your story, it IS the norm). What was your own journey to self-acceptance like? Was it long like mine (that body image thing is a pain)? Or was it easy and more of a non-issue?

SJS: I think the key word there is "journey." I feel like the challenges of
journeying toward self-acceptance have changed for me over time, and I
guess I could say that the journey doesn't seem like it's over! As a
latte myself, I felt a lot more caught between cultures when I was
growing up than Asha does in THE LATTE REBELLION. I wanted to be--felt
like--a regular mainstream American teenager, but the Pakistani side
of my family didn't always understand that. I wanted to respect my
Pakistani half without it being the entirety of who I am, but it was
really hard to explain that to my family or my friends or my
classmates. Every once in a while I'd have a big argument with my dad
about, say, why I wanted to go to a school dance--he'd talk about how
unseemly and immodest it was, and admonish me not to dance while I was
there, and while I didn't want to upset him, I also wanted to go and
dance and have fun with my friends. Or we'd argue over why I didn't
want to go to Islamic Sunday school. It made me feel like a terrible
and selfish daughter, but it also infuriated me because I felt like my
views should be respected, too. So I had some anger and frustration
about my identity, until I was able to move away for college and
figure out who I was on my own.

Really, most of the time it was a non-issue. Usually, it wouldn't even
come up unless someone asked me "what are you?" and I'd have to sigh
and give them this long and complicated answer with 7 or 8
nationalities in it. I grew up in a pretty diverse area, so I didn't
feel like I was too unusual.

NM: As I was reading your book, I kept thinking, "Asha needs to hang out with
Sam and Jazz." If you could plan a hang-out date with the three of them, how
do you think it would go? What would they talk about? What would Asha

SJS: Hee! I love this question. I bet there would be a lot of commiserating
and eye-rolling over strict parents on the part of Asha and Jazz, who
would envy Sam because of her cool, with-it mom. Asha would get the
appropriate amount of sympathy and outrage over the towel-head
incident. She would bring the lattes. :) And, of course, she'd wear a
Latte Rebellion t-shirt and bring shirts for Jazz and Sam!

NM: You mention above that your father is Pakistani. Yet, in your
book it is Asha's mother who is South Asian. What went into your
decision to switch the parent from your own experience?

SJS: In part, it was a little mental trick to keep me from slipping into
the role of identifying too much with the character, and inadvertently
turning her into me or unconsciously modeling her parents after mine.
It was something that worried me a little. Asha and I have some things
in common, but she's definitely not a stand-in for me, and I didn't
even want to be tempted in that direction. I wanted her to be her own
person. And I wanted to challenge stereotypes a little by making her
father--who's NOT the South Asian parent--the strict one.

NM: I read in Ari's interview with you that you did graduate work in
fiction writing, as did I. What would you say were the pros and cons
of doing an advanced degree in fiction writing? In retrospect, now
that you've seen your first book to publication, would you still have
gone that route?

SJS: I definitely would still have gone that route. Prior to my MFA, I
didn't have much knowledge of fiction writing except as an occasional
hobby--my undergraduate degree is in Art and Psychology. I desperately
needed the feedback and the additional background in literature and
craft. And what I've gotten out of it has been so much more than
that--specifically, a committed, diverse and very talented writing
group, and a far more critical eye about writing, both my own and
others'. As for the cons, I think they're the ones common to most
graduate programs, especially in the arts: personality conflicts, the
occasional teacher who played favorites, a relative lack of attention
to the realities of a career in the field. :) Overall, though, it was
a great experience--for me. I'm sure it's not the right route for
everyone, but I'm a school-loving nerd, so...

NM: What are you most proud of accomplishing so far? (This could be either
writing/publishing related, or otherwise general life related).

SJS: Getting my first novel published is definitely way up there! There was
a lot of pressure for success when I was growing up, perhaps
especially because I was younger than most people around me (I
graduated from high school at 16 and undergrad school at 20), and it's
a lot to live up to as an adult with the same advantages and
disadvantages as everyone else. Really, I think I'm the most proud of
having followed my dream of pursuing a career in the arts, despite
various naysayers and setbacks, rather than giving up and doing
something practical. :)

NM: I was very impressed to read somewhere that the doodling inside
the book was yours! As someone who is illustratively challenged, I find
this very impressive. Besides writing and doodling, what are other
ways you express your creativity?

SJS: Besides the graphic design I do as part of my day job, I still
consider visual art one of my vocations, so when I have time and
energy, I try to spend some time making artwork (generally drawing,
painting or printmaking). I can play the piano and sing a little,
though I wouldn't say I was either very creative or particularly
accomplished at it--I just enjoy it. I try to be a creative cook,
mainly because I like to eat yummy food, but again, I'm not going to
be on Iron Chef anytime soon!

Is it fair to say my messy office is one way I express my creativity??
Or is that just an excuse?

NM: What's next? Are you working on something new? I read that you are
fantasy/sci-fi fan - might we see something from you in that genre? :)

SJS: Yes, I love fantasy and sci-fi. I'm currently revising and trying to
find an agent for another YA novel, this one about a girl who develops
the power to hear thoughts in the wake of a family tragedy. (She's
also half South Asian! Go figure.) And I'm trying to get going on a
brand-new novel that's sort of a dystopian-ish steampunk-ish story of
intrigue. (That's all I can say about it for now. I'm still working on
the details and have only written about a page.)

NM: My friends and I sometimes daydream and share our Lofty Goals. Do you
have any Lofty Goals? Please share! These could be along the lines of "one
of my books gets a starred review in Kirkus," "I am asked to be a keynote
speaker at a national conference," "I set up a foundation to offer grants to
fiction writers of latte descent," or "PBS does a special on me and my

SJS: I managed to reach one of my lofty goals, thanks to my book--I got to
be on NPR! It was a local NPR program, but still, that was one of my
lifelong dreams. :) A starred review in Kirkus sounds great, too! I
think the lofty goal that's always floating around in the back of my
head is to be some kind of Intellectual Icon. I'm not sure what that
entails, exactly, but hopefully it includes getting invited to TED
conferences and being consulted as an expert on some impressively
esoteric topic.

NM: I've had some of the TED fantasies, too! ;D Thank you so much,
Sarah, for stopping by!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Queens Reading & A Quote

Wanted to share this wonderful quote I saw in an email today from an amazing feminist teacher. I did not ask if I could mention her name, so you will just have to trust me when I say that she is fantastic beyond words :):

"I think the importance of doing activist work is precisely because it allows you to give back and to consider yourself not as a single individual who may have achieved whatever, but to be a part of an ongoing historical movement."  – Angela Davis 

What an absolutely lovely way to start off the day! That quote encompasses everything writing is for me. Personal achievement means little if everything around me stays the same. My kids still have to grow up in the mess and the beauty that is this world and if I can do something to elevate the beauty and reduce the mess . . . that is accomplishment enough for me.

In other news -- I have been very excited to read in Queens, NY, because it is home to one of the largest Asian/South Asian populations in the city. When I volunteered at SAYA! (South Asian Youth Action), I was lucky enough to work with some of those diverse Queens teens and it was always the highlight of my week. 

As part of the Teen Author Fest, I will be reading with Melina Marchetta, Barry Lyga and Brent Crawford on Thursday, March 17th from 10-12 at the Long Island City branch (37-44 21st Street, LIC, NY 11101), then signing books that Sunday (the 21st) at Books of Wonder in Manhattan. If you're in or around any of those locations, please come and say hi!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Why I do What I Do

Last night, my fourth-grade daughter stayed up later than usual, finishing up her "A Woman I Admire" essay. She went on the computer and searched for images of Raven Symone, her inspiration, and printed them out. My daughter loves Raven because Raven acts, sings and designs clothing. She is not skinny and she is not afraid to be brown. And she is one of the only young women on mainstream television that look like my daughter.

This morning, as I was driving my girls to school, the fourth-grader looked at the picture of Raven Symone in her hands, crumpled it up and put it in her pocket. In a soft voice, she said, "Sometimes people say Raven is ugly." Then she looked up at me and I could see the sheen of tears in her eyes. "I don't think I'm going to talk about Raven, Mommy."

Even as my heart was breaking and I was doing all I could to remind my daughter of her beauty in the minutes before she headed off to school, I knew I had lost this battle. So much of this is bigger than I am. But I was reminded, with a surge of remembered pain, why I write what I write -- to counter some of what my girls see in the world, every minute of every day.

It will wear at them and they will not come out unscathed. But I can do my best to teach them how to fight. And part of that, I can do through my stories.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

SHINE and JAZZ Giveaway

Book Smugglers is giving away a copy each of Shine, Coconut Moon and Jazz in Love . . . . Go and comment on my guest post (about why I love feminist fiction) to enter!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Upcoming Events & Signings

I'm in the revision cave, but here is a list of events where I'll be signing and/or reading for the next few months. This is a pretty solid schedule, but some things are still subject to change. More info will be posted closer to the events . . .

Thursday, March 17th, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m., Teen Author Festival, NYC - Reading from Jazz in Love at a Queens library (location to be announced).

Sunday, March 20th, Books of Wonder, 1:45 p.m.

Thursday, April 14th, keynote speech at San Gabrielino High School, San Gabriel, CA

Thursday, April 21st, 6:30 p.m. Toronto Women's Bookstore - Discussion with authors Zetta Elliott and Vivek Shraya on publishing options for under-represented voices. This discussion will be live-streamed from the bookstore, so even if you cannot attend IRL (in real life), you can attend virtually!

Saturday, April 23rd, 1:00 p.m. Booksigning at Yorkdale's Chapters/Indigo bookstore with authors Helene Boudreau, Mahtab Narsimhan, and Cheryl Rainfield.

Saturday, May 14th, 1 p.m. Diversity in YA tour with Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon, Jacqueline Woodson, Rita Williams Garcia, Matt De La Pena, and Kekla Magoon.

If you're in any of the above areas, please stop by and say hello!