Children's author Meg Medina: “Merci Suárez Changes Gears” in conversation with Madelyn Rosenberg
Oct. 19, Friday 7-8 p.m.
One More Page Books
2200 N Westmoreland St, Arlington, VA 22213
One More Page will host a discussion on Friday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. between Arlington resident and writer Madelyn Rosenberg and Richmond-based author Meg Medina, who has written several award-winning books for children.
According to Rosenberg, she plans to ask Medina about “her ability to go from picture book to middle grade to young adult,” Medina’s recent middle school book, “Merci Suárez Changes Gears” and her strong female characters, “because they are at the heart of everything Meg writes.”
Both Rosenberg and Medina have written books for children of all ages with diverse cultural backgrounds. Together with Wendy Wan-Long Shang, Rosenberg wrote “This is Not a Test,” whose protagonist, David Da-Wei Horowitz, who has a Jewish father and a Chinese mother, navigates the challenges of middle school friendships while preparing for his bar mitzvah. Medina’s stories highlight Latin culture, usually, through the eyes of a female protagonist.
Aside from writing children’s books, Rosenberg’s work has been published by the Washington Post, Roanoke Times, Arlington Magazine, and Parenting Magazine. Her first two children’s books “The Schmutzy Family” and “Happy Birthday, Tree” both came out in August 2012. For her, the best part of being an author is the “writing part,” when she gets to “brainstorm and put the story on the page.” Rosenberg answered questions about what it’s like to co-write a book, and how Washington, D.C. appears in her “Nanny X” books, among other questions about reading and writing.
What was it like to co-write a book with Wendy Wan-Long in "This is Just a Test?"
Wendy, who lives in Falls Church, Va., is one of my best friends, and working on this story with her made me a better writer. She says that I'm turning it into a fish story, where every time I talk about it, I say the story was easier and easier to write. "It took a week!" It didn't of course, but it was a two-brains-is-better-than-one situation, and we got to spend a lot of time together, blending our backgrounds (Jewish and Chinese-American) for our story.
Did you collaborate with the illustrator when you wrote your illustrated books? What was the process?
The editors chose the illustrators and kept us pretty separate. I think that's so the illustrators could have a chance to add their own layers and artistic voice to the stories.
What do you want your readers to take away from your books?
I want them to laugh. And I'd love them to take away some new perspective, which differs a bit for each book: that the earth needs our care, or that people, especially brothers and sisters, may have different ideas about how to do things but that doesn't mean the other person's idea is wrong. Also, part of “This Is Just a Test” shows David preparing for his bar mitzvah, and I’d like people to see what that’s is like.
You are a very versatile writer having written books for kids of all ages. You are also a journalist who has written for Roanoke Times and Arlington Magazine to name a few. What kind of writing do you find the most fulfilling?
I've wanted to write for kids as long as I can remember. I especially love middle-grade stories, because those are the books kids are reading independently, in bed, with a flashlight.
Does Arlington (or Northern Virginia/D.C.) show up in any of your stories?
It does! D.C. museums and sculpture gardens are pretty prominent in Nanny X Returns. And descriptions come from what’s around me. I often pop in names of streets and friends. I've mashed together names of my kids' former elementary school arts teachers and their bus drive makes an appearance, too.
Who is your favorite children's writer and why?
Norton Juster, who wrote “The Phantom Tollbooth,” because I credit him with showing me how fun it could be to play with words. I also admire Virginia’s many, award-winning kidlit writers. There isn't room to list them all here, but I will mention Pura Belpré winner Meg Medina, whom I'll be talking to in October. Speaking of names: Wendy and I even managed to slip Meg's name into “This Is Just a Test.”