Author Interview, Simon Teen

Author Interview: ‘Wings In The Wild’ by Margarita Engle

On The Booked Shelf today we’re in conversation with Margarita Engle, award-winning poet and author, to discuss her 2023 Young Adult release WINGS IN THE WILD, in which Kirkus Reviews said the novel contains “lucious verse and beautiful descriptions of the flora and fauna [bringing] attention to the impacts of the climate crisis and the urgent need for change.”

Engle’s novel published on April 18, 2023 and if you’d like to learn more about her environmental romance novel-in-verse, read below!

Can you share what WINGS IN THE WILD is all about?

Engle: WINGS IN THE WILD follows Cuban teen Soledia who comes from a family of artists who protest injustice through their secret sculpture garden. However, when they get into trouble Soleida has to flee for safety finding herself in Costa Rica, where she meets Cuban-American Dariel, a musician and the two slowly build a relationship. Together they use their talents to raise awareness over the imprisoned artists while also advocating for the environment!

Where did the idea for this novel come from?

Engle: The love story and environmental aspects came from my own emotions and my scientific background as a botanist who cares deeply about reforestation and rewilding. The aspect of artistic freedom emerged from repressive events in Cuba, as well as increasingly authoritarian censorship in the U.S.

As a poet and author you’ve written numerous novels in verse! What drew you to write in this style compared to traditional prose?

Engle: I used to answer this question with complicated reasons, but the simple truth is that poetry makes me happy. I love the musical language of verse. I find comfort in the rhythms and lyrical language of poetry. I’ve discovered that I can tackle difficult subjects in verse, without feeling overwhelmed, because poetry is such a gentle yet powerful refuge for emotions.

Your YA novels often explore points in Latin-American history, but more specifically Cuban history that are sadly overlooked or rarely discussed! What inspires you to tackle the specific moments you write about?

Engle: Usually, there is a family connection. In the case of Wings in the Wild, I have relatives who found refuge in Costa Rica. I feel empathy for the Cuban refugees who walk to the U.S. from South and Central America. I’ve also visited Costa Rica for my own reasons over several decades, to study rain forest botany, and most recently to research my new National Geographic nonfiction picture book, Destiny Finds Her Way, How a Rescued Baby Sloth Learned to be Wild.

Who are some of your literary inspirations?

Engle: As a child, I loved Versos sencillos by José Martí. As a grad student, Tomás Rivera was my creative writing professor, and a groundbreaking bilingual poet. Alma Flor Ada was the first Cuban American children’s author who inspired me with her memoirs. Dulce María Loynaz is one of my favorite twentieth century Cuban poets. Joy Harjo, Richard Blanco, Mary Oliver, and Ada Limón are some of my favorite U.S. poets who write primarily for adults. Established children’s/YA poets who now inspire me include Jacqueline Woodson, Padma Venkatraman, Nikki Grimes, Marilyn Nelson, Janet Wong, Juan Felipe Herrera, Jorge Tetl Argueta, and Laurie Halse Anderson. Younger poets whose work excites me include Elizabeth Acevedo, Aida Salazar, and Ari Tison.

WINGS IN THE WILD handles similar themes seen within previous novels but the focal point here is contemporary activism! Can you delve into how that plays a role in the story?

Engle: For decades, I have avoided any topics that might result in getting me banned from visiting Cuba. However, repression against artists and writers has reached such a drastic level that I feel the need to speak out. Censorship in the U.S. makes this need for freedom of expression especially timely.

Your main characters Soledia and Dariel are drawn to the arts. What did you enjoy the most about exploring their narrative arcs through art (painting and music) as part of who they are?

Engle: I grew up around artists, and I love listening to music. Even though poetry is my only form of expression, I feel linked to other arts through the music of words and the visual nature of metaphors. Artists, writers, and musicians can bring hope to people who feel despair. That is why authoritarian governments are so terrified of freedom that poets are often the first to be arrested under any repressive regime.

What made WINGS IN THE WILD a memorable writing experience for you?

Engle: It was a thrill to write the love story laced with scientific facts, climate activism, and a touch of magic realism. No matter how difficult a situation is, people still fall in love. No matter how devastated a habitat becomes, there is still hope for rewilding.

In reading poetry I often find that what stays with me after that last page is the imagery the author evokes in such few words. What are the memorable descriptions or images you enjoyed bringing to WINGS?

Engle: I really enjoyed writing about a magical guitar that attracts birds and animals. It’s easy to forget that musical instruments (and books!) are made from trees, but when we remember, there is a sense that we’re experiencing a timeless forest just by touching wood or paper.

What have you been recently reading? & Any YA releases you’re looking forward to picking up (either new or backlist)?

Engle: I’ve been searching for unique feminist poetry, rereading the equine images in How to Triumph Like a Girl by Ada Limón. I can’t wait to read Saints of the Household by Ari Tison. I’m always looking for Indigenous voices from all over Latin America.

To conclude, any other writing projects you’re working on right now?

Engle: My next picture book is Water Day, about water delivery to rooftop tanks in a Cuban town where pollution, climate change, and deteriorating pipes have eliminated the luxury of running water in houses. It’s beautifully illustrated with paper cutouts by Olivia Sua. My next young adult verse novel continues themes from Wings in the Wild. It’s called Wild Dreamers, and it’s set in California, with a love story about high school kids who strive to create wildlife crossings for protection of mountain lions. Once again, it’s a STEM book that blends scientific facts and a lyrical touch of magic realism. The gorgeous cover art is by Gabi D’allesandro, who also did Wings in the Wild and Your Heart, My Sky.

Note: after the completion of this interview PW shared in their Rights Report for March 27 that an additional project from Engle is a picture book about “a music-loving girl in 1930s Cuba who discovers the melodies in the world outside her window” slated for a Fall 2024 release with S&S.

Author Bio: Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, memoirs, and picture books, including The Surrender Tree, Enchanted Air, Drum Dream Girl, and Dancing Hands. Awards include a Newbery Honor, Pura Belpré, Golden Kite, Walter, Jane Addams, PEN U.S.A., and NSK Neustadt , among others. Margarita served as the national 2017-2019 Young People’s Poet Laureate. Her most recent books are Your Heart, My Sky , A Song of Frutas, Light for All , Rima’s Rebellion and Singing with Elephants. Margarita was born in Los Angeles, but developed a deep attachment to her mother’s homeland during childhood summers with relatives on the island. She studied agronomy and botany along with creative writing, and now lives in central California with her husband.

Wings In The Wild by Margarita Engle is out now!

Book Tours, First Second Books, Indie Press, Wednesday Books

Virtual Book Festivals To Join In April 2020

With the virus having to postpone or cancel book festivals/events, publishers have put together virtual ones that’ll feature authors, discussions, panels and much more!

On The Booked Shelf, we’ll be highlighting some to look out for this month!

1.First Second: Comic Relief Festival
Date: Saturday / April 18, 2020 (from 11 am- 5pm ET / 8am – 2pm PST)

Have you always wondered how your favorite comics are made? This free virtual festival will give comics fans an in-depth look at the key moments in comic creation, and you’ll hear from many beloved graphic novel creators.

Featuring authors: Lisa Brown ● Lucy Knisley ● Kat Leyh ● Ngozi Ukazu Lily Williams & Karen Schneeman ● Gene Luen Yang

*Pre-Registration required

2.WB Reader Fest (Hosted by Wednesday Books)
Date: April 20-25, 2020

No details yet, but it will feature author guests, sweepstakes & more!

3.The Tiny Book Fest (Hosted by Interlude Press/ Duet Books)
Date: Sunday /April 19 & 26, 2020

“To help authors recreate the face-to-face time these festivals normally provide, we will be hosting via Zoom Webinar, with a simulcast to Facebook Live. Full details of login information to be announced soon!

“Join authors like Julian Winters, C.B. Lee, Claire Rudy Foster and others in conversation with special guests like Dahlia Adler of LGBTQ Reads, Alex Brown of, Booktuber Mallory “Mallorayofsunshine” Cohen, and Frolic Media co-founder Sarah Penna. We’ll also be giving away books, gift cards to indie bookstores, swag and more both weekends!”

There’s already a schedule posted on the publisher’s blog.

Visit the links for more information & updates! Will you be attending any of these virtual book fests?

Book Tours, Fierce Reads, The NOVL, Tor Teen

Young Adult Fall Book Tours 2019!

This fall you can expect to see some amazing authors on tour! Will these beloved and debut authors be coming to a city near you?

Today on The Booked Shelf I’ll be sharing 3 publisher tour schedules for you to plan out your fall and hopefully see one of these authors at an event!

Fierce Reads

With anticipated releases such as Marie Lu’s Rebel and the finale to Marissa Meyer’s Renegades series, you can check out both of these authors on tour:

Marie Lu’s tour for Rebel includes cities such as Boise, St. Paul, Brookline & Coral Gables. Her first tour stop will be in San Francisco at Books Inc. Opera Plaza, on October 1!

Stops for Marissa Meyer are to promote Anarchy and her tour will include cities like Denver, Portland, Tacoma, and even Canada! Full schedule can be found here!

Next, there’ll also be a Fierce Reads 2019 Fall Tour! Which will include authors such as L.L. Mckinney, alongside debut authors Sara Faring, Katy Rose Pool and Margaret Owen! This tour will start at the end of September!

Their stops will include bookstores such as Parnassus Books, Anderson’s Bookshop and more!

Little Brown Books For Young Readers (The NOVL)

Holly Black will be going on tour to promote the final book in her Folk Of The Air series, The Queen Of Nothing!

The full schedule was revealed via Entertainment Weekly on August 29! States include Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Texas, New York and more!

Her tour tour will be begin in mid-November! Also, don’t miss out on the exclusive Indie Bookstore pre-order campaign, more info can be found here!

Tor Teen

During the month of September, you can find these authors on tour from the publisher Tor Books:

Cora Carmack, Mark Oshiro, Jillian Boehme, and Lauren Shippen!

From contemporary, fantasy, and sc-fi, there’s Tor authors from many different genres headed on tour!

A couple authors will have 1 tour stop (Oshiro & Boehme) while others will have up to 5 stops across the US (Carmack & Shippen).

Will you be seeing any of these authors on tour?

Fierce Reads, Penguin Teen, Simon Pulse, Simon Teen

Young Adult Publishers Schedules For SDCC 2019

SDCC 2019 is almost here and schedules from YA publishers are starting to be revealed, detailing everything from signings, panels, and even ARC Drops!

Today on The Booked Shelf, I’ll be highlighting and sharing some of these schedules for you readers of YA to keep an eye out for!

1.Penguin Teen

On July 9, Penguin Teen posted their SDCC schedule which will start July 18:

They made in important note stating “A limited number of tickets for all in-booth author signings will be given out each morning…”

Events include: Galley giveaways of Fireborne & A River Of Royal Blood

and Comic-Con exclusive giveaways for Pre-Orders of Renée Ahdieh’s The Beautiful

Panels will include authors such as: Ally Condie, Marie Lu, Tochi Onyebuchi, & Renée Ahdieh!

2.Fierce Reads

Only July 5, Fierce Reads shared their SDCC schedule which will start July 17:

Events include: Getting a Grishaverse passport & stamp, Children of Virtue and Vengeance swag & temporary tattoo parlor, There Will Come A Darkness & The Tenth Girl ARC drops, also giveaways of Supernova samplers & swag!

There will be tons of author signings from authors such as: Danika Stone, Marissa Meyer*, Rainbow Rowell*, Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu (Rebel samplers), Hafsah Faizal, Tricia Levenseller, & more!


3.Simon Teen

On July 11, Simon Teen revealed their SDCC schedule which will start on July 18:

Events include: Shadowhunter’s Poster drop, Slay & The Lady Rogue ARC Drops!

Panels will include authors such as: Margaret Rogerson & Kiersten White!

Signings are set to feature authors: Margaret Rogerson, Kiersten White, Frank Miller, Thomas Weehler, Whitney Garner & more!!

San Diego Comic Con 2019 will run from July 18 through July 21!