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Writing from your life and other things I learned in a one-day intensive with author Meg Medina

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass won the 2013 Cybils Award and the 2014 Pura Belpré Award.
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass won the 2013 Cybils Award and the 2014 Pura Belpré Award.

Last Friday, I attended a writer’s intensive workshop with the amazing Latina author Meg Medina. The workshop was part of the SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle 2015 Conference.

The best way to describe it: like group therapy for writers – we laughed, we cried, we wrote. It was by far the best writing workshop I have ever participated in.

Medina guided us through multiple writing exercises aimed at unearthing childhood memories that could be used to tell more honest stories.

“When you are accessing your personal life, getting back into childhood to look for what is universal, it takes courage and boldness,” said Medina. “Have the courage to tell the ugly story. Including the ugly story of you being ugly. The process of making mistake and fixing them when we can.”

Two exercises that stood out for me were “I come from” and “Dear teen me.” In “I come from” we wrote about the place where we grew up, our families and everything that was familiar to us as a child or teenager. In “Dear me” we wrote a letter to our child or teen self from an adult perspective. Both of these exercises took me back to rural Puerto Rico, where I grew up. They uncovered many forgotten memories and released many dormant emotions.

Meg Medina, Cuban-American author
Meg Medina, Cuban-American author

“It is a myth to think you have to come from some corner of the world for you to have something to say,” said Medina.

She recalled the first time she saw another Latina in a work of fiction – in college while reading The House on Mango Street. Medina was raised in Queens, NY in a family of Cuban immigrants.

Medina said Sandra Cisneros’ novel of a young Latina growing up in Chicago, “gave me permission to come to the page, because I had come from something valuable. We have to reconnect with that notion that our story is enough and has value.”

“As a writer we expect to have crisis of faith,” she said. “We look at the cursor and think what am I doing? It is a notion that we do not have enough talent or education to do this. It doesn’t matter if you are published or not, that fear is constant. When I pick an age I go back to that age and it ground me in childhood. And it reminds me that I am enough.”

@MarieFMarquardt working on her workshop project.
@MarieFMarquardt working on her workshop project.

Medina said that by mining those childhood memories we will find feelings that “were true then and are true now.” She explained this is an excise in finding the threads that connect children then to children now, the truth behind those relationships and problems.

“My job in writing is give them a great story that is worthy of their intelligence but that it lights what it is to grow up, that gives them deeper ways to think about things. It is about respecting the intelligence and the actual experience of growing up. And having the skill and practicing how to take those nuggets out and make it into a contemporary story, she said.”

@Meg_Medina is the author of the acclaimed YA novel Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass winner of the 2013 Cybils Award and the 2014 Pura Belpré Award. She is on the board of We Need Diverse Books Campaign. 

Books for writers Medina recommended:

The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb 

Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg 

Authors in the Classroom: A Transformative Education Process by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy 

 

 

 

Mayra

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