Friday, January 30, 2009

I wanted to sleep over, give the kid lunch money and have the dogs wait a little longer for breakfast. Instead I got this:

Give what you appear not to be getting.

Give what you think you have been searching for.

Give what you believe you are waiting for.

Give generously, without thought of loss and sacrifice.

Give openly, that you might receive what you want.

Give freely, that you may find what you are after.

Give fully, that your waiting may be over.

Above all, give what you want.

Robert Holden

So, yes, I got out of bed.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ethnic corazón

I could not evermore claim innocence after reading Mitali’s and Esme’s thoughts and reflections about Ethnic awards. These two women had the courage to start a conversation that others might run from. Furthermore, as they opened the forum, they inspired me to wish for a more perfect world.

I have added my thoughts to both their blogs as a response to their posting. And now I am adding them here, if only to remind myself that this conversation is valid and necessary.

Ethnic book awards: Discriminatory or Necessary?

I have received them, I have enjoyed them, I have them shine light to my work, and I have loved them.

I can only talk from my experience. I can’t claim to represent anybody else but me.

When I think about the questions that Mitali and Esme as well as other people have expressed about this awards, I don’t find myself with any answers but only more questions of my own. I confess I am partial to both sides of the equation. While I vote for inclusiveness rather than discrimination—no matter from what side—there is something I have experienced about the nature of these awards that eludes my reasoning and instead runs with my heart. Let me see if I can explain myself.

What I know from receiving these awards is that they are a celebration. People cheer, committees champion your work, put the word out, make you a party with music and all, invite everybody, give your book a medal to paste on the cover, and tell everybody to look, look, look! at your book

And so, if the function of an ethnic award like the Pura Belpre is to celebrate a writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth, why not then make the celebration broader and invite everybody to love the Latino culture and be eligible to win the award? After all , anyone who dedicates his or her time, talent, and efforts to create a great book about the Latino cultural experience, could only do it out of admiration and love for that culture, whether she or he is Latino or not. Or, is there any other reason to spend one’s precious time cranking a book about Latinos?

I understand that awards like the Pura Belpre and the Coretta Scott King award were born out of the need to encourage the work and shine light upon the otherwise obscured books of people from minorities at a time where authors and illustrators of color were everything but missing from awards like the Caldecott and the Newberry. Is it perhaps that the time has come to change things around? Have we reached the equilibrium we dream of? If not, I hope we will soon. My friend Rose tells me it is just a matter of time before love and lust erase the race lines completely. For now I find it interesting (and fortunate) that the Coretta as well as the Pura Belpre are being announced as part of the ALA crop of awards, because it is from this announcement that they receive their moment in the spotlight as well as their prestige. Were those awards to be announced in a different day or without the support of ALA, we might not be discussing them right now. Their impact upon readers would be different. And perhaps the audience looking for the result of such announcements would be different, even smaller in number.

To me the USA is a country of surprises. Anything unexpected can happen here. For instance, it was a surprise to me that here in the USA existed a book award that celebrated the efforts of people like me--multicolored skin, even Indian looking, heavy accent. I was surprised to know that all what I had believed to be against me in the past, was exactly what made me eligible. I must explain that I come from a beautiful and hardworking country that from colonial times and all the way to my parent’s generations, and more, had lived under the social unwritten code that claims that beauty comes in white skin, light hair and blue eyes, and that intelligence and reason does evade indigenous people, peasants, or anyone with dark skin. For generations we have been taught to give preference to others whiter than us. Breaking that mold has been the life work of many, many of my country people, but still there is much more to accomplish.

And yet, in my new learning, do I want people to lower the bar for me because of my history? Certainly not. I might have had a self-dubious start, but I am not without the capacity to amaze myself and others with what I do. If the ethnic awards were to disappear, or integrate, would I miss the celebration? Yes I would. Would there be other challenges to obtain? Certainly yes, because what I am is not Latina but a force.

But here is the other side. I have expressed in the past that I see the Pura Belpre Award as a regalo, a gift that is given to someone when you least expected it. At first the regalo goes to a book creator; an artist or a writer, and we receive the gift joyfully and gratefully. But after that, the gift is given to everybody. Once the award brings out the voice that there is a book worth of looking at, it is the readers who receive the gift next. In a way, the decision of the Pura Belpre committee to give an award to a person (an "ethnic" person for that matter) and not exactly to his or her book, has interesting consequences. You need to go to the schools to see it. You will understand it when you are propped in front of children—those of all possible colors, including brown, like me; who speak all kinds of languages, including Spanish like me; who perhaps struggle with their English, like I did; who feel like“tontos”, fools, unable to fit in the foreign culture, like once I did too. And then, in that moment when the teacher introduces you, and tells the audience that you have been the winner of this prestigious shiny golden medal stuck on the cover of your book, given here in the mythical United States to a person like YOU in recognition for the quality of your work, you can see it with your own eyes and your heart, that very moment when a child begins to dream that if you did it, he can do it too.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It was a great celebration!

We ate great food with family and friend, had tres leches cake, flan Napolitano and we toasted with champagne last night. There was so much in my list much to celebrate!:

1. I love my work
2. My friends surround me
3. My editor rocks
4. My agent believes in me with fury
5. My son inspires me
6. My husband cheers for me
7. When the ALA book award announcements were made, I a got a flurry of emails from people all over the websphere (and Facebook)
8. Margarita Engle won the Pura Belpre medal for narrative AND a Caldecott Honor for her book THE SURRENDER TREE; POEMS OF CUBA’S STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM. Viva las Latinas!
9. I adored THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, absolutely my kind of story—dead people, witches, ghouls and a boy raised by all of them.
10. The celebrations have just begun

On Sunday morning we went to the movies. And an s a good patron I turned off the ring of my cell phone. Mesmerized my son and I watched Slumdog Millionairie and took on its terror and its incredible beauty. Then, of course, I proceeded to forget to turn back on the ring of my phone. And that is why, when the ALA Pura Belpre Committee called me that night with the news that my book, JUST IN CASE, was the winner of their prestigious medal and an honor, instead of receiving the call, I continued knitting my last winter hat.
Second year in a row that I miss their call. Would they ever give me another opportunity?

I realized I had a message before going to bed as I took my phone to be recharged. The good thing about missing the call is that now I have the “secret” announcement recorded in my messages, and I can hear it again, and again—as I did that night—and dream of my work being cherished by librarians yelling in unison, “Just in Case!”

Of course I didn’t sleep that night! If, in its kindness, the Pura Belpre committee believes that they spare me sleep by not calling me on Monday mornings as is costmary, they are very wrong (they do this when the conference is taking place in a time zone ahead of mine, given that the official award announcements happen very early in the morning). Who could sleep with such news! Instead I spend my nigh jumping around the house, brewing a new Señor Calavera video, and anticipating the excitement and the surprises of the official announcements of all the awards in just a few hours.

There is much more to come; the planning for ALA in Chicago, the ironing of my best tie, the putting on cologne, the pumping the tires of my bike. But for now, it is time to get my butt back on the chair, my hand on the pencil, and continue dreaming books.

Making Just In Case from Yuyi Morales on Vimeo.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A joyful day!

The ALA childrens books awards have been anounced this morning and guess what?
Here is the Pura Belpre announcement--JUST IN CASE!:


Monday, January 19, 2009

Allowing myself to be joyous

Some of the things I might allow myself to do tomorrow:

Turn on the TV before school time



Believe in

Believe in fairytales



Forget that we are only human

Surprise myself



I am already loving tomorrow!

Monday, January 5, 2009

A perfect beginning

We hugged, we kissed, we had desayuno at Silverio’s house and we gulped his incredible tomatillo salsa. In the afternoon we took a precious nap and then watched a movie. It was a great first day of the year.

In Mexico people say that the things you do on the first day will mark what you will be doing the rest of the year. This year I hope to sleep naps once in a while, be with friends, and hug even more.

But the seeds of 2009 were sowed way before the first day. In 2008 I planted many seeds.

Here are some of the happenings in 2008:

In a cold January night I got a call from the American Library Association: My book Los Gatos Black on Halloween, written by Marisa Montes, was announced as the winner of the Pura Belpre Medal. That night, unable to sleep, I watched in my pajamas the live webcast of the ALA award announcements and cheered at the Caldecott winner.

May was Carnaval month! I made my costume while I rode the train between airplane flights and library visits. My silver outfit was finished just in time for the annual celebration. I did SF Carnaval for the first time 12 years ago, joined the group Fogo Na Roupa the day before the parade. I didn’t know how to do the steps so I jumped and skipped down the streets instead. I never left after that.

I had my first experience with middle school promotion dance (not mine, my son’s).

Summer was a time for celebrations! The Pura Belpre Award ceremony took place during the ALA conference. It was here too that I attended the most unforgettable Caldecott and Newberry ceremony ever. At the SCBWI conference I was presented with the Golden Kite Award for the illustrations of Little Night. The next I was off to Mexico…or I would had been, hadn’t I missed my flight. We made it there anyway and my country was still beautiful.

I visited Texas four times this year. At the Tomas Rivera Award Celebrations I received a paper skull filled with letter from Dawson Elementary School. So cool!

I turned forty. Grandma Beetle turned…a-hundred-and-something, I believe. Her birthday party was a blast! It is only a good party if you dance with a skeleton.

By the end of December, and after r much work and some delays, the illustrations for the book My Abuelita, written by Tony Johnston were finished. From creating the three-dimensional characters, taking the photographs with husband, and to applying the digitally details were…well…only two years.

My Revisionaries critic group grew bigger with the addition of our youngest member (the most handsome too)

My family grew smaller without my grandmother and David, my father-in-law.

I met for the first time my editor Neal porter. Lunch was at Ananda, a vegetarian gem in SF. In Anaheim at ALA we played bowling and ate sundaes with librarians

I took a big step and announced I will be taking a break from doing author visits. That seed should give me the time this year to create even more.

I lost mi dog

I found my dog

I made three…no, four videos

I began exercising regularly. I grew biceps again like when I was at school.

I enjoyed the release of my book Just in Case a Trickster Tale and Alphabet Book.

I danced on stage with Café Tacuba (and lots of other chicas bandas).

I created a cover for the SCBWI bulletin.

I took on knitting.

I trained my dog (although she still is an occasional warewitch)

With the help of my brother I made a website.

I made a cat puppet.

I printed four photo books.

Miguelito Martinez and I made a song.

I found my long lost swimming coach. Disappeared for more than 20 years, he came back like the long awaited Quetzalcoatl.

Wall-E was a masterpiece. My favorite movie of the year.

My favorite picture book: A Perfect Season For Dreaming, written by Benjamin Alire Saenz, illsutrated by Esau Andrade Valencia.

Favorite band: Sonex

Favorite album: Lila Down’s Ojo de Culebra

Favorite show: Skins

Favorite Blog: Fuse#8 and Drawn

Favorite video: My First Crush, by Julia Pot

And the last week of the year I reorganized my whole studio closet.

2009, I am ready!