1) When you were my age (11), did you like to read? I loved to read when I was eleven. My older sister was a reader and she would take us to the library. I read as many books as I was allowed to check out.
2) What is a book that made an impact on you? The book that made the biggest impact on me at that time was WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS by Shell Silverstein. It was the first book I ever owned. My teacher, Mr. Clark, gave me that book as a present for being at the top of my class when I graduated from 5th grade. It is a book of poems that I have read hundreds of times. I still own that book today.
3) Is it hard to come up with book ideas? I’ve been waiting a long time to publish my stories – more than 20 years! I’ve got a big reserve of book ideas and so I don’t have to try too hard to pull one from the reserve.
4) Diversity within books is a big topic right now. Can you share why it is important to you? As I mentioned, I grew up reading many books but I never saw my culture or myself reflected in any of the stories I read. It wasn’t until I was nineteen years old when I went to the university and took a course on Latino literature that I would experience that. It was a special moment because for the first time I believed that I could also be a writer, that my stories and life mattered. As a mother, I didn’t want my children to have to wait until they were adults to see themselves and their realities reflected. I wish the same for all children who have never seen themselves. But also, when we read diversely, we open up new ways of living and hopefully people will build empathy and understanding of others in a way that is loving and just.
5) Is there a new or lesser known author you think kids should be aware of? I am a big fan of Donna Barba Higuera. Her book, LUPE WONG DOESN’T DANCE is forthcoming this year as is her other book, LA CUENTISTA (2021). She is a hilarious writer and an incredible human being. Look out for her work!
6) What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author? If you are a kid wanting to be a writer many people might advise you to read widely, which is true. They might also tell you to practice writing as much as you can, which is also sound advice. However, I believe that it is also important to listen to the world around you. Open your heart and pay attention to people’s stories – to what the elders say. What poetry is hidden in their stories? And live, remember to play, to dream, to build, make mistakes, and try things many times until you get it right. These lived experience are what will make your writing rich.
7) As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that? I haven’t heard from too many young readers yet. Mostly, I hear from adult readers. People have really connected with my first book, THE MOON WITHIN, very closely and it makes me so happy to know this. I hope that readers will also connect with LAND OF THE CRANES.
8) If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be? I love this question! I would probably portal into the world of Kacen Callendar’s KING AND THE DRAGONFLIES. Their descriptions of the swamp lands are so beautiful. I would love to spend the day in that world dragonfly watching.