Last month when friend, colleague, fellow Richmonder and partner in literary dreams Meg Medina won the Newbery Medal for her novel, Merci Suárez Changes Gears, I cheered. Then I cried. Then I danced around the house, giddy with excitement, planning how to break the news to my husband.
But the second he walked in the door, before I managed to say even a word, he announced, “You’ll never guess who I just heard interviewed on NPR!”
That night, we clinked glasses in honor of Meg and her whole family.
We don’t write in order to win awards, but when awards happen, we dance. And the whole family dances! For years, Meg’s husband and kids showed up at every one of her book parties. They hosted writers at their house and community events in libraries and book stores. When Meg had to be away from home, traveling to speak at schools and conferences, her family made do and cheered her on from afar.
A decade ago, Meg and I were on staff at James River Writers, Richmond’s literary nonprofit, where we helped plan and present bookish programs and an annual writing conference. Meg was always something of a visionary while I was more of a nuts-and-bolts, details-and-logistics type, and together (and with help from lots of other writers and book-lovers in town), we pulled off some great programs. (Just saying!)
Meanwhile, we wrote like crazy. In 2013 when Meg’s novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, was about to launch, I interviewed her here on my blog. Meg taught me the value of bringing heart into my writing, of getting out of my head and into my body, of writing scenes that felt honest, even when honesty felt awful.
Meg has worked really hard to arrive at the place where she is today. For years she’s inspired me and the rest of Richmond’s writing community, and in winning this award, I can’t help but feel like all of us have won.
My sharing-in-the-win feeling says a lot about Meg—about who she is, deep down inside. If you’re fortunate enough to spend time with her at a conference or book signing or library or wherever, rather quickly you’ll pick up on her enormous sense of generosity. One of her priorities—her instinct—is to include everyone. She’s always striving to build community and make the world—not just Richmond, Virginia, but the whole world—a better, more caring, more empathetic, more just and equal place.
Imagine someone walking in the rain, carrying an umbrella the size of a tent, gesturing for you to scurry underneath, saying, “Come on! Join in! Get out of the damp. There’s room!” And every time another person ducks under, she seems to make her umbrella a little bit larger. That’s Meg Medina for you.
Congratulations, Meg! Here’s to the joy of writing for young readers, to the hard work of crafting fiction, and to the celebration of literary dreams…
4 thoughts on “Hard Work and Literary Dreams”
I second everything you’ve said about Meg. It would have been a huge privilege to work alongside her as you did, and I cherish every time we met at conferences and workshops. I’m so happy for her and MERCI SUAREZ CHANGES GEARS, which my daughter’s fifth graders love.
I remember you being on a panel with Meg a few years ago. Yes, the more we get to spend time with the Meg Medinas of the world, the better off we are.
Thanks, Anne. I agree about her umbrella. She was on the RVALitCrawl steering committee. For a short while she made great suggestions and contributions. Then she had to leave for a book tour. We all appreciated her time with us. Thrilled when she won the Newbery!
Yes, the RVA-Lit Crawl. And the YA-Virginia Authors Award program at Richmond Public Library. And Girls of Summer, also at RPL. The list goes on. And these are not paid gigs! They’re all about juicing up the creative spirit in our community, one literary program at a time. We’re incredibly fortunate that she and Javier chose Richmond as the place to settle and raise their kids. Now that Meg’s in high demand, we probably won’t get to see her much in the coming year or so, but when her life calms down, she’ll be back as a volunteer on various committees. It’s who she is. It’s what she cares about. Lucky us.