Interview with Anna Meriano, author of LOVE SUGAR MAGIC

It’s Monday once more, and like always, we have a new interview up on the blog! This week I interviewed Anna Meriano, who’s the author of LOVE SUGAR MAGIC. The book is coming out on January 2., 2018 with Walden Pond Press/Harper Collins.

Here’s a little more about the book:

29918993Love baking? Love magic? Then get ready for A Dash of Trouble.

The first book in Anna Meriano’s Love Sugar Magic series revolves around the Legoño family, the owners of a bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, who produce an array of scrumptious baked goods. When young Leonora (or “Leo” for short) tries to participate in their preparations for the annual Dia de los Muertos festival, she’s told she’s too young.

So the young girl takes matters into her own hands as she sneaks out of school and back into the bakery, only to make a surprising discovery: Her mother, aunt, and four older sisters are witches. And their secret ingredient? Magic.

Armed with the knowledge that she has her own magical abilities, and determined to help with the family business, Leo decides to practice her gifts in secret by helping her best friend Caroline with a problem. But what the young bruja doesn’t know is that sometimes a little hint of magic can lead to a whole lot of trouble.

Pre-order it here.

And without any further ado, here’s the interview!

1) What is your favorite part about being a writer?

My favorite part is definitely getting to know my characters. I’m already the reader/fan who cries over how much I love fictional people, and then when I’m the one writing them it’s just a whole extra level of affection. I love figuring out the exact right thing that they would do or say, the thing that is so perfectly *them*. I was also the kid who imagined everything (spoons, crayons, toothpicks) as people for my games, so I’m delighted that making up imaginary people has become a career path.

 

2) How has your cultural background influenced your writing? Do you write many Latinx characters?

My cultural background has always left me a little nervous about my place. My Dad’s Mexican/Italian side of the family tends to downplay their Mexican heritage (out of insecurity or internalized issues), while my mom and her Irish family lived in Guadalajara for several years and are all super proud of it. I think my feeling of cultural confusion comes out in every character I write, and makes me especially drawn to bicultural and/or biracial characters, or characters who feel uncertain about being Latinx “enough.” So in my debut, my main character worries that she’s being left out of the family brujería because she doesn’t speak Spanish. I really liked looking at these issues through a middle grade lens, because I felt like I was writing for a younger version of myself, saying things I would have liked to hear.

 

3) As someone who comes from a diverse background, did you have any experience in publishing that put that in a negative light?

I’ve been extremely lucky to work with Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra at Cake Literary, where celebrating diversity is kind of the whole point, and with the wonderful people at Walden Pond Press, who have been so open and excited about my debut. I’m also operating with a lot of privileges that make it easier for me to navigate publishing things for sure. Still, I’ve heard “where are the good white characters?” from beta readers, and I’ve been accused of using my ethnicity to get ahead in school applications, publishing, etc. Since I am surrounded by such an amazing supportive community, I’m hoping that will stay the worst of it.

 

4) How important do you think diversity is in publishing, especially regarding Latinx representation?

So so so important! I live in Houston, the most diverse city in the US, and I get frustrated seeing vague, stereotyped, monolithic representation of Latinx characters. When I was younger my group of friends had this running joke arguing about who among us was the “most Mexican” (totally leaving out the two Ticas), and we would disqualify people for being biracial, for being born in the US, for being nerdy or gay or Jewish or vegetarian—obviously the whole premise was ridiculous and super flawed, but it reflected the way media erases all but one version of Mexican or Latinx people. We get to be all those things, and a bunch of other things, and still 100% Latinx. But until those experiences are commonly represented, it’s going to be easy for people to dismiss them as less true.

 

5) As a young writer, what books influenced you? Did any come from your own background?

I didn’t read many books with Latinx authors and characters as a kid, especially when my historical fiction phase ended and I got more into MG/YA fantasy. I remember getting very excited about the Josefina American Girl books, and then years later crying over Leo Valdez (a Latino Houstonian!). Matt de la Peña’s Mexican Whiteboy and Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Dante and Artistotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe are also very important to me, even though I didn’t discover them until recently.

 

6) Where do you get inspiration for your books?

My debut was inspired by Cake Literary’s idea, but I generally get inspiration for my writing by putting my favorite stories, dreams, and real life experiences in a blender and seeing what comes out.

 

7) Any good advice for Latinx and POC writers out there?

Umm I feel like you’ve probably all heard “find your people” but like it’s so true that I want to say it again? There are so many people who won’t get you or won’t value you or just won’t care that much, but then there are the people who will and they are the ones you want to spend your time on.

 

  • Food: Junior Mints
  • Book: Kendra by Coe Booth
  • Movie: Tangled and Moana
  • Place in the World: Rice University, Martel College
  • Superhero: Daisy Johnson
  • Harry Potter House: I’M A HUFFLEPUFF

 

Exibindo Anna Meriano author photo.jpgAnna Meriano grew up in Houston, Texas, with two brothers and a lot of cousins. She graduated from Rice University and earned her MFA in creative writing with an emphasis in writing for children from the New School in New York. She works as a tutor and part time teacher, and in her free time she knits, studies ASL, and plays quidditch.

Her debut, LOVE SUGAR MAGIC: A DASH OF TROUBLE comes out with HarperCollins in 2018.

Interview with Kristina Perez, author of SWEET BLACK WAVES

Hey everyone! Welcome back to interview monday. This week we have the amazing Kristina Perez, author of the upcoming SWEET BLACK WAVES with us.

Her book is a retelling of the Tristan and Isolde tale, coming from Imprint/Macmillan in 2018. You can add it to Goodreads here.

And without further ado, here’s the interview with Kristina!

1) What is your favorite part about being a writer?

When the words are flowing, there is no better rush. Listening to my music, being swept up in my own world, is the best feeling in the world.

 

2) How has your cultural background influenced your writing? Do you write many Latinx characters?

My father is from Argentina and my mother is a second generation Norwegian immigrant. I grew up speaking both languages with my family and being steeped in both cultures. As a white Latina, I have had my identity questioned so many times I’ve lost count and I felt nervous about writing Latinx characters for a long time. My current WIP has my first Latinx MC and her internal thoughts are in Spanish, as mine often are, and I’m really excited about it!

 

3) As someone who comes from a diverse background, did you have any experience in publishing that put that in a negative light?

Publishing, like any industry, has people who are willing to listen and learn and people who aren’t. It can be frustrating when decision-makers fall into the latter category, but I am hopeful that, overall, the needle is beginning to move in the right direction.

 

4) How important do you think diversity is in publishing, especially regarding Latinx representation?

Books are a big part of the overall cultural production––including movies, TV shows, music etc.––and they should therefore reflect the diversity of the society in which we live. Right now, that’s not the case. Rather than being true reflections, the images that we are presented with in all forms of media are often refracted through the expectations of the dominant culture. When these images are harmful we can’t help but internalize them. The representation of Latinx characters, for the most part, still relies on stock tropes and stereotypes, which is particularly insidious in products (books or movies) marketed to kids and teens. There are some wonderful counterexamples, of course, but we have a long way to go until the representation of the Latinx community in English-language media reflects the diversity of the community itself.

 

5) As a young writer, what books influenced you? Did any come from your own background?

In high school, I took AP Spanish Literature and was exposed for the first time in a real way to Latin American authors. I felt an affinity for magical realism that I didn’t realize I’d been missing and also developed a new understanding of my father’s experiences in Argentina. In particular, I love Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez. The poetry of Federico García Lorca and his play Yerma had a big impact on me. Also, Como agua para chocolate by Laura Esquivel and Arráncame la vida by Ángeles Mastretta are two books which I periodically reread.

 

6) Where do you get inspiration for your books?

I did a PhD in medieval literature, specifically Arthurian literature, so a lot of my story ideas stem from that in one way or another. I love myths and legends and I love retellings. I grew up in New York City but I’ve spent the past twenty years in Europe and Asia so a lot of my work draws on the traditions and folklore of the places I’ve lived, as well as both my heritages. It can also be a photograph or a song lyric or people-watching in cafes.

 

7) Any good advice for Latinx and POC writers out there?

We need your stories. Don’t give up. Being an author can be a very volatile career and you need to stick to your guns. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, however, so finding like-minded writer friends is invaluable.

  • Food – Grey’s Papaya hot dog with sauerkraut and ketchup 
  • Book – Gah! So hard. Two of the books that shaped a lot of my worldviews when I was a teen are The Awakening by Kate Chopin and Self-Reliance and Other Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 
  • Movie – Another tough one! Possibly The Usual Suspects. Even though I know who Keyser Söze is, the reveal gets me every time.
  • Place in the World – Borneo has the most untouched natural beauty I’ve ever seen. And lots of monkeys!
  •  Superhero – Technically, I guess she’s a supervillain but I’ve always had a thing for Catwoman. New faves would be X-23 from Logan or Eleven from Stranger Things.
  • Harry Potter house – Slytherin

 

Thanks so much for this lovely interview, Kristina! And we’ll see you next Monday.

7512686Kristina Pérez is a half-Argentine, half-Norwegian native New Yorker. She’s spent the past two decades living in Europe and Asia. She holds a PhD in Medieval Literature from the University of Cambridge and has taught at the National University of Singapore and the University of Hong Kong. As a journalist, her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal Asia, L’Officiel India, Condé Nast Traveler, CNN and the South China Morning Post, among others.

Her debut YA Fantasy, SWEET BLACK WAVES––a Tristan and Isolde retelling––will be published by Imprint/Macmillan in 2018.

Interview with Margarita Engle

I’m happy to have today on the blog Margarita Engle! She’s such a great writer, and she was nominated Young People’s Poet Laureate. It’s an absolute honor to have her talking about her writing experience. You can find more about her books here.

And without further ado, let’s get right to the interview.

 

1) What is your favorite part of being a writer?

My favorite aspect of being a verse novelist is the actual process of writing. I love to immerse myself in the voice and flow of short poems that link to tell a longer story. When I’m alone in a river of words, time does not seem to exist, and the creative effort is its own reward. I don’t think about revisions, rejections, publication, reviews, or anything else, just that one poem, one page.

 

2) How has your cultural background influenced your writing? Do you write many Latinx characters?

I am Cuban-American, so most of my characters are either historical or fictional Cubans. Occasionally, I branch out to include other Latinos, or even historical figures from other countries. In those cases, I seek experts willing to serve as proofreaders, helping me avoid cultural errors.

 

3) As someone who comes from a diverse background, did you have any experience in publishing that put that in a negative light?

I have been blessed with many opportunities, but seeing my books in chain bookstores is not one of them.  The combination of poetry and Latino topics has typecast me as “limited to the school and library market.” That is discrimination by the stores’ buyers, not by the publishing industry.

 

4) How important do you think diversity is in publishing, especially regarding Latinx representation?

Latinos are such a large percentage of the population in California, where I live, that Latino themes and bilingual books will be increasingly essential. Even in other areas, I think kids from all backgrounds should be reading about each other, to promote mutual understanding and empathy, the first steps toward compassion and peacemaking.

 

5) As a young writer, what books influenced you? Did any come from your own background?

As a child, I loved poetry and adventure stories. José Martí was often quoted in my home, and Emily Dickinson was accessible in English, but I also had—and still have—a special affinity for short Japanese forms, especially haiku and tanka.  When it came to fiction, I loved animal stories such as The Black Stallion, but I wanted to learn about the whole world, and there were no multicultural books yet, so I looked for travel stories, including those written for adults.

 

6) Where do you get inspiration for your books?

I am inspired by reading, memories, and travel, as well as imagination.

 

7) Any good advice for Latinx and POC writers out there?

Write from the heart. Don’t worry about publication while you’re writing, just enjoy the process.  Don’t be in a hurry. Just as dancers and musicians need to rehearse, writers have to practice.  Manuscripts that never find a publisher are not failures, they’re rehearsals.

 

Thanks so much for this lovely interview, Margarita!

margaritaMargarita Engle is the national Young People’s Poet Laureate, and the first Latino to receive that honor. She is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, including The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner, and The Lightning Dreamer, a PEN USA Award winner. Her verse memoir, Enchanted Air, received the Pura Belpré Award, Golden Kite Award, Walter Dean Myers Honor, and Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, among others. Drum Dream Girl received the Charlotte Zolotow Award for best picture book text.

Her newest verse novel about the island is Forest World, and her newest picture books are All the Way to Havana, and Miguel’s Brave Knight, Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote.

Books forthcoming in 2018 include The Flying Girl, How Aída de Acosta learned to Soar, and Jazz Owls, a Novel of the Zoot Suit Riots.

Margarita was born in Los Angeles, but developed a deep attachment to her mother’s homeland during childhood summers with relatives. She was trained as an agronomist and botanist as well as a poet and novelist. She lives in central California with her husband.

Interview with Lizz Huerta

It’s another Monday, and this time, we’re interviewing author Lizz Huerta!

Thanks for being such an awesome person, and thank you for the interview. Let’s get right to it!

1) What is your favorite part about being a writer?

I love the act of writing, of disappearing into a story, of the characters taking me over. I get completely invested in what I’m writing and am swallowed by it. I pace while figuring things out. I laugh, I cry. Writing infuses my being in a way that is impossible to find somewhere else. I’m thrilled when others relate to and enjoy my work but the real love is in the act of writing and creating itself.

2) How has your cultural background influenced your writing? Do you write many Latinx characters?

I had a good writing teacher once tell me that good fiction is good gossip. And stories in my family tend to spread like wildfire. I can mention something to my sister in the morning and that afternoon my grandma in Mexico will be gossiping about it to someone in her village and a cousin from the ranch will send me a message about it. My Mexi-Rican is made of storytellers, gossips, myth-keepers. When we get together (pretty often as we all live near each other) we try to out-story each other, layering tales, flaws, the stories grow with each telling. I learned how to write from my family, not because they’re writers but because they know how to engage with story, build tension, add humor. My cradle tales were filled with warnings about greed and flawed characters.. The bruja-ish magical realism I tend to write in is because that’s the world I experienced. Ghost stories, stories about cursed ancestors, the kidnapping of my grandmother. These were normal to me, I was taught to witness and experience the world in multiple layers.

Almost all of my characters are latinx. I write for myself and therefore for us, our community.. All of my writing is a love letter to my family, living and ancestral, sometimes tough love but always love.

3) As someone who comes from a diverse background, did you have any experience in publishing that put that in a negative light?

I’ve had a few annoying conversations with folks who have told me that it’ll be easy to publish because I’m brown. Ha. Ha ha. I publish mostly in small journals and anthologies and have had really good experiences. A couple of times parts of my stories or characters confused editors because they were unaware of the cultural context but it was cleared up easily. A lot of the places where I’ve submitted and published my work have had editors of color who are looking for writer of color, so that has helped a lot too. We’ll see what it looks like when I start trying to sell my short story collection and fantasy novel. But I have faith in my writing, the stories that choose me as their teller..

4) How important do you think diversity is in publishing, especially regarding Latinx representation?

It is vital, necessary, huge. I grew up as a voracious reader in the eighties and nineties and I never saw myself in the stories I loved. Whenever I imagined myself into these tales I had to change everything about myself, my skin color, my hair, my heritage. When you don’t see yourself, or only see negative portrayals of you/your community, it plants a seed that you don’t matter. Invisibility hurts. I remember in ninth grade when we read “the House on Mango Street’ By Sandra Cisneros I was pissed. I went to my English teacher, a Latina, and I threw the book on her desk and said “I didn’t know we were allowed to write about ourselves.” I had never seen anyone even close to me in the books I’d known. That beautiful English teacher, she hugged me and then took me a bookstore and bought me an armful books of Latin American lit; Garcia-Marquez, Isabel Allende. I forget who else. But that’s when I started thinking that my stories, the stories of my family mattered.

I’ve done a solid amount of work with a local literary non-profit, teaching creative writing workshops in local high schools and shelters. We’re in San Diego so there is a significant latinx student population. I love them, I see that they are SO much braver than I was at their age; they’re browner, queerer, more political. Then I look at their bookshelves and there is SUCH a lack of diversity. Where do they see themselves? How can they know the stories they are living are worthy, important and interesting if they aren’t reflected in the books on their shelves? We need our stories, to sustain us, to remind us of how incredible we are, in the struggles, the laughter, the wildness and contemplation. Our ancestors survived some shit, we are proof and our survival and thriving is the greatest gift we can give to those who came before us.

5) As a young writer, what books influenced you? Did any come from your own background?

I was a lonely, isolated kid because of the religion I grew up in. I wasn’t allowed to have friends outside our church so the characters in books became my friends. I was crazy about Laura Ingalls Wilder books, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the Babysitter’s Club series. I loved these books and the characters in them. I was obsessed with immigration books, covered wagon books, Ellis Island tales. I think a part of me was seeking out books that in small ways, showed me immigrants and pioneers. I was looking for fragments or reminders of my my own family story but I never really found them. My favorite-favorite books were the Emily of New Moon books by L.M. Montgomery. Emily was the character I related to most because she was a writer and an outsider and most of all, she had this bruja sense to her living, an imagination that saw beyond the world as it was. I’ve been writing since I was a young kid, in those early days the books I read inspired me, then my teen writing was angsty poetry based on Tori Amos lyrics, then I came back to fiction in my early twenties.

6) Where do you get inspiration for your books?

Inspiration shows up for me in the wildest of places. The scent of a pool hall, a song from my Tijuana party days, my dreams. I write down my dreams each morning and the seeds for a ton of my short stories have started in Dreaming, it’s my sacred place. I follow my curiosity. Sometimes it goes nowhere, sometimes I’m surprised at what comes out. I also mine my own history. I’m pretty non-traditional,  a community college dropout. I work in skilled labor, but still on construction sites. I spent a lot of my twenties traveling, living in Mexico, hustling my way into experiences that have shaped me. Saying yes to adventures that had the family elders praying for me. I screwed up a lot and I’m glad I did. It taught me to forgive myself and when I write I come to flawed characters with empathy and love.

7) Any good advice for Latinx and POC writers out there?

There isn’t one path or one way to be a writer. There are plenty of people out there telling how to do it. Listen to them and learn what you can, then do it your own way. Sometimes magic happens. Trust that is can happen to you. Read, write, observe, listen, daydream, ask. Follow your curiosity. Find a community of other Latinx/POC writers, online or IRL and BUILD your community. Support writers of color, buy their books, share their writing. Let yourself have bad days, because there will be PLENTY of bad days; days when you think you’re a terrible writer, days of jealousy, days of desperation, days of fear. Have your bad day(s) then keep going. Forgive yourself, forgive the mistakes and missteps you will make along the path and do better. Writing, storytelling is a sacred act. We are the keepers of Story, the creators and passers down of wisdom, warning, history, imagination, possibility,love. Take breaks for self-care. Learn that sometimes the dark places are necessary, but when you come back from them, you bring something with you.Surrender is just that, letting go and allowing. You’re better than you realize. Go offline. Journal. Acknowledge and honor the progress you make. At night, before you fall asleep remind yourself of the little daily accomplishments: Today I sent out a story, Today I edited a sentence to make it stronger, Today I changed a file name to make it easier to find. The little victories and satisfactions add up. This is a long game, take care of yourself and play well. Take what you want, if anything, from this advice then do it your own way.

  • Food: grandma’s shrimp tacos
  • Book: Someplace to be Flying by Charles de Lint
  • Place in the world: the hammock hanging from the Jacaranda tree at my childhood home
  • Superhero: my ancestors
  • Harry Potter house: Slytherin, I want to speak parseltongue
11108667-10154009856047908-5779296206170313322-n_orig
Lizz Huerta is working class Mex-Rican writer living in San Diego. She writers bruja-mythic fiction. Her work has appeared in ZYZZYVA, The Portland Review, Lumina, Duende, The Miami Rail, Rabble Lit and other journals She is currently finishing up a short story collection and fantasy novel informed by pre-contact mesomerican mythology. You can follow her on twitter @lizzhuerta

Interview with Katrina Carrasco, author of CIPHER

It was interview Monday yesterday, and with the latest rush I forgot to post the interview. Yiikes!
This week the featured Latinx author is Katrina Carrasco, whose debut CIPHER will be out in 2018.

Here’s what we know about the book so far:

The debut novel centers on a detective named Alma who infiltrates a Washington Territory opium smuggling ring while disguised as a man.

Once she’s insinuated herself, Alma must create an ever-more-elaborate series of alibis while sending coded dispatches to the Pinkertons as well as managing her physical attraction to Delphine, the head of the smuggling ring, and Wheeler, the local boss.

The book is set to be published in summer 2018.

You can add it on Goodreads by clicking here.
Ready for some Latinx goodness? Below is the interview with the lovely Katrina.
1) What is your favorite part about being a writer?
What I love most about writing is being able to create the books and stories I want to see in the world. As a queer Latinx writer who grew up in the ’90s, I rarely — if ever — encountered characters like me in mainstream novels, not to mention the classics studied in school. And if there were queer characters, or Latinx characters, they were the outcasts, the sidekicks, the antagonists. I want to disrupt that status quo by centering the voices that speak to me. Creating an alternative to the default of “straight white male” narrator is a crucial part of my work.

2) How has your cultural background influenced your writing? Do you write many Latinx characters?
My mother is Ecuadorian-American and my father is white. So I have a special interest in stories about characters who feel suspended between cultures and identities, trying to understand who they are and where they came from. The idea of passing and being “Latinx enough” or “white enough” to enter certain spaces also interests me. My writing focuses on Latinx characters and exploring these concepts through their stories: the main character of my debut novel is Mexican-American, and I’m working on a new project with a lesbian Latinx couple as the main characters.

3) As someone who comes from a diverse background, did you have any experience in publishing that put that in a negative light?
I am extremely fortunate to work with an agent and an editor who understand and champion my work. They’re as as excited as I am to bring my characters to a larger audience, and I’m so grateful for their support!

4) How important do you think diversity is in publishing, especially regarding Latinx representation?
I think diversity is a crucial issue in the publishing world — we need diverse voices to reflect a diverse readership. It’s so important for young people especially to be excited about reading, and stories that reflect them will help engage them. Reading about characters that are unlike you can build empathy and broaden your worldview, but reading about characters who *are* like you can be so comforting and validating. With the success of writers like Gabby Rivera, Junot Díaz, and Benjamin Alire Sáenz, I hope the road is being paved for more Latinx writers to find success in mainstream publishing.

5) As a young writer, what books influenced you? Did any come from your own background?
As a young writer and reader, I loved science fiction and historical mysteries. Some early favorites were Connie Willis’s DOOMSDAY BOOK, Monica Hughes’s INVITATION TO THE GAME, and Philip Pullman’s THE RUBY IN THE SMOKE. Whenever I found a book with queer characters, or characters who spoke Spanish, it was a small miracle. I remember Sandra Cisneros’s THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET and WOMAN HOLLERING CREEK as the first books I encountered in high school that centered the Latinx experience, and I loved them. It wasn’t until I got older that I started to find more explicitly queer books, like Yukio Mishima’s CONFESSIONS OF A MASK and Sarah Waters’s TIPPING THE VELVET.

6) Where do you get inspiration for your books?
I usually start a new book with a character or setting that fascinates me, and that feels like it has the depth to grow into a novel-length project. I often read historical accounts and look for promising situations. My debut novel, CIPHER, was inspired by two elements: I wanted to write about a queer woman who played with gender presentation, and I found an old newspaper article about opium smuggling in the Pacific Northwest. Combining the two gave me my main character Alma Rosales, an ex-Pinkerton detective who switches between female and male disguises to investigate a drug ring.

7) Any good advice for Latinx and POC writers out there?
Keep working on your craft; submit short pieces to magazines/websites/journals for exposure and to practice presenting your work; and be stubborn in the face of rejection. Also, if you speak Spanish (or any other language), don’t be afraid to include it in your writing. I love the texture of multilingual texts. I love how they are specifically legible to certain people, and ask those who can’t understand to do the work to decipher them. (Gloria E. Anzaldúa’s BORDERLANDS/LA FRONTERA is an excellent example and examination of this.)

  • Food? My mom’s Sunday chicken dinner
  • Book? Too many! I recently read LaShonda Katrice Barnett’s JAM ON THE VINE and loved it
  • Movie? Almodóvar’s “La Mala Educación”
  • Place in the World? Wellington, New Zealand

 

 

Thanks so much for being here, Katrina! It was a pleasure to have you on the blog.

 

 

KatrinaCarrascoKatrina Carrasco is a queer Latinx writer, born and raised in Southern California and now living in Seattle. In her novels and short stories she explores the ideas of passing, performance, and belonging: what is gained and what is lost by conforming to societal expectations of gender, race, class and sexuality. Katrina’s debut novel, CIPHER, will be released in Fall 2018 by MCD/Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Interview with Zoraida Cordova

It’s Pitch América time, which means interview mondays are back!!!! How excited am I to be posting this again?

This week we’re interviewing Zoraida Cordova, the amazing author of LABYRINTH LOST. Labyrinth Lost was one of my favorite fantasy books last year, and the sequel CIRCLE UNBROKEN is just coming up.

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The only way to get her family back is to travel to a land in between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic.

At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she’s not sure she can trust, but who may be Alex’s only chance at saving her family.

Order the book: Amazon | Indiebound | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble

And now, to the interview!

1) What is your favorite part about being a writer?

Meeting readers and writers online and in person. 

2) How has your cultural background influenced your writing? Do you write many Latinx characters?

I’ve always tried to include Latinx characters in my books. Labyrinth Lost is noticeably my books where 90% of the characters are Latinx. 

3) As someone who comes from a diverse background, did you have any experience in publishing that put that in a negative light?

My very first submission did get some unfortunate responses. The one that sticks in my head was “We already have a Latino book for the season.” I’m still a little bitter about it, even though I’m incredibly lucky to have had seven books published despite that. What bothers me is that there are still people who think that way. Thankfully, you won’t catch people making blanketed statements like that as easily as before without being dragged on the internet. 

4) How important do you think diversity is in publishing, especially regarding Latinx representation?

Publishing should reflect the real world. Not a portion of it. 

5) As a young writer, what books influenced you? Did any come from your own background?

I read and watched all things paranormal and fantasy. All of it was very cis and white. 

6) Where do you get inspiration for your books?

I still never know what to say to this because it’s always different. Sometimes it was a name that bore a character. Sometimes it’s daydreaming up an entire world. Sometimes it’s in the middle of the night when I wake up and can’t let go of an idea. 

7) Any good advice for Latinx and POC writers out there?

I don’t know if I have *good* advice. But here goes: Storm the gates. 

  • Hogwarts house? Gryffindor
  • Favorite food? Tacos
  • Favorite movie? Casper (with Christina Ricci)
  • Favorite TV series? Buffy
  • Favorite soap opera? Jane the Virgin
  • Favorite place in the world? The beach. Puerto Rico. 
  • Favorite superhero? Captain America

Thanks so much for this interview, Zoraida!

zoraida_vlc_photo2

I write YA Urban Fantasy about things that go bump in the night. I also write about 20-something-year-old-girls searching for love and the meaning of life. I often wish my life were a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sex and the City. I’m a contributing writer to Latinos in Kid Lit, Bustle, and B&N Teen Blog. I’ve always loved stories about magic and impossible worlds. Other things I love: Moon Prism Power. Five by five. Orlando Bloom’s Face. Daughter of Poseidon. I love you/I know.

Thank you!

First of all, this is a thank you message to everyone who participated in PitchAmérica.

Thank you so much for the judges, who volunteered your time to read entries with me.

Thank you so much for the agents who read the entries and requested, and who are also working to improve diversity in the publishing industry.

And thank you, thank you to those of you who submitted your work to PitchAmérica. Getting your work out there is hard. It’s harder even when you put such an important part of yourself in it and you hope other people will identify. Thank you so much for your hard work. If you weren’t selected, please remember all contests are very subjective and you should keep working on your novel.

A little after PitchAmérica ended, I was faced with the question of what would happen next. I’m hoping people find great agents to represent their work. I want to see the success of these writers here. But most of all, I was faced with the question of “Should we do this again next year?”

It’s strange how these kind of questions can make you re-exhamine the whole perpective of the world. Because one of my first thoughts was, “Aren’t people going to think it’s TOO much?”. Because that’s the fear we all grow up with — never being allowed to take space, the fear that our stories won’t matter. As if there was a limit to the amount of space we can take up.

There’s no limit. There shouldn’t ever be “too much” of Latinx representation in literature, or any other POC. Right as it stands, last year children’s books featured less than 5% of Latinx protagonists. Our stories shouldn’t have limits imposed by the industry or anything else. We should be limitless and free to dream.

So yes, #PitchAmérica will be returning in August next year. If you’re an unagented writer please consider participating. And if you didn’t have a project ready this year, next year we’ll return.

Meanwhile, I’m going to keep posting interviews with Latinx writers, and hopefully, in the future, we’ll also have PitchAmérica success stories.

Thanks for joining me on this project. Thanks for believing. See you next year!

Exit Haven, Upmarket

Name: Erik Fernando Cruz

Genre: Adult Upmarket

Title: EXIT HAVEN

Word Count: 81,000

Themes: #ownvoices, Interracial, Mental Illness, LGBT

 

Your 35-Word Pitch:

When Payton Castillo’s father dies, a summer in Singapore finally allows him to live for himself. But his relationship with his girlfriend at home suffers…and can never be repaired after tragedy tears her away forever.

 

Your first 500 words:

A warm hand grazed my neck. Her slender fingers made their way around the collar of my shirt and down to my solid red tie. She straightened it, smiled and said, “Much better. Have to be honest, it’s driving me nuts.”

I stood still in front of the mirror, my closed eyes aimed at the ground. “Thanks,” I weakly replied, trying to smile. She grabbed my arm and rested her head on my shoulder. We must have remained like that for nearly five minutes in complete silence. It was comforting, because she was around, yet depressing nonetheless.

“Payton, I really wish I could say a magic word to make you feel better. But I’ve never lost someone so close to me, so it’s impossible. All I can do is be here for you.”

I wanted to tell her how much I appreciated it but I was unable to open my lips. I didn’t want to talk about any of this, yet so is the nature of funerals, you respect the departed while freaking out over your own eventual demise. I remember thinking, What’s wrong with me? My father passes away and I’m worrying about myself. Well…humans are self-centered like that. I’m no exception.

“Talk to me. You’re not alone, you know.”

I nodded and finally responded, “I know, Keontra. I should get going and check on Candace and Michelle. I’m not the only one who lost a father.” I grabbed her hand and led her out of my bedroom, past my old Sammy Sosa poster. That room, and especially that poster, always bothered me when I was growing up. It’d take a while longer before I allowed myself to realize why.

We headed to Candace’s bedroom around the corner from mine, the open door displaying bright lilac walls. She sat on the bed, struggling to brush Michelle’s hair. The moment Michelle saw Keontra, she got up from the floor and ran over to her. “Yes! Thank God you’re here. Keon, I want braids, and Candace sucks.”

My dear sister reacted in a way fitting a teenager; she threw the brush at our seven-year-old sister, hitting her smack-dab in the back of the head. Grabbing the brush from the royal-blue carpet as Michelle stared down her bigger sister, Keontra asked, “Why do you want braids? Your hair is gorgeous like that! I wish I had long straight hair like yours.”

“I’ll trade it for your curls,” Michelle replied, shuffling her feet with a big smile on her face.

“Let’s go to the bathroom. I’ll see what I can do,” Keontra responded, probably noticing that I wanted to speak privately with Candace. She always picked up on my hints, even when I didn’t realize I was displaying them.

“Was that really called for?” I said the moment Candace and I were alone.

“Yes! She’s been bugging the fuck outta me nonstop since papi died.”

“She’s a 2nd grader!” I said, shaking my head. “It’s what we do at that age. You were always annoying the crap outta me when you were seven.”

Making Tamales, Women’s Fiction

Name: Annette Chavez Macias

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Title: Making Tamales

Word Count: 77,000

Themes: #ownvoices

 

35-word pitch:

Family bonds, romantic relationships and careers are all turned upside down during one tumultuous year for four Mexican-American cousins. Mi Familia meets Sex and the City.

 

500 words:

CHAPTER ONE

Erica

 

“Who the hell breaks up with his girlfriend three days before Christmas?”

It was a rhetorical question, of course. I knew the answer. They knew the answer. I just asked it because I still couldn’t quite believe it.

The answer was my boyfriend…scratch that…my ex-boyfriend. That’s who.

“Ugh. I hate that pinche asshole,” I yelled and slapped my steering wheel. Instant pain burned my palm and I cursed again.

“Maybe you should pull over. It’s not safe for you to be driving when you’re so, um, ragey,” Gracie finally said through the Bluetooth speaker inside my Ford Focus.

“Rage is good. She needs to get it all out now,” Selena’s voice cut through next. “Besides, angry driving is better than weepy driving. Crying will just ruin her make-up and no one wants that. Right?”

Despite my anger, a smile tugged at my lips. While one cousin worried about my safety, the other fretted about my appearance. It was classic Gracie and Selena. And it comforted me, like always.

That’s why I had texted them 9-1-1 first thing in the morning. I had needed to scream and curse and call Greg all kinds of names—in both English and Spanish. I had needed to make some sense of how a man who had told me he loved me could simply walk away after two years together with barely an explanation.

My world had fallen apart last night and I needed my primas to help me put it back together.

A familiar twinge of sadness pinched my chest. There should’ve been three voices on the other end of the speaker. But I hadn’t even bothered texting Mari this time. Why should I? I was done holding out hope for replies that came days later—if at all.

No, the only cousins I needed to talk to at the moment were the ones on the line.

“I still can’t believe he first tried to break up with you over the phone,” Selena said, her disgust palpable even through the speaker.

I nodded as I glanced out my window at the passing storefronts. “Right? Only reason he finally came over was because I threatened to sell the video games and clothes he kept at my place. He could barely look at me even then.”

“I’m so sorry.”

The crack in Gracie’s voice knotted my own throat. Dear Lord, if she started crying then I was going to lose it too.

I blinked away the wetness behind my eyes. “Knock it off, chillona. You can’t be sorry or sad right now either.”

“I just hate seeing you get hurt…again.”

“Me too,” I admitted on a long sigh.

“Alright, that’s it. No more feely feelings,” Selena ordered. “Welcome to the single ladies’ club, Erica. You’re going to love it here. There’s lots of tequila and sex and all-around fabulosity.”

“That’s not even a word, Selena.”

The younger Lopez sister groaned. “God, Gracie. Do you always have to be the teacher?”

Eminent Domain, Speculative

Name: Michelle J. Fernandez

Genre: Adult Literary/Speculative Fiction

Title: EMINENT DOMAIN

Word Count: 69,000

Themes: Climate change, exile, “invisible” illness

 

Pitch: In 2026, marriage is illegal. Haughty and haunted Shiri Shapiro is a catastrophe adjuster in the romance insurance industry whose world is meticulously under control until she encounters a relationship she can’t decode: a friendship.

 

First 500 words:

The dying city’s sidewalks were uneven. Shiri noticed this for the first time since the pavement had thawed a few days before. In the winter, a sheet of ice, impervious to the salt and sand laid out by cautious homeowners and shopkeepers alike, smoothed the surface of the sidewalk. More often than not, this sheet was adorned with powdered snow or slush, but even under the claustrophobic glare of the winter sun on a cloudless day, it glimmered with a lawsuit-enticing opalescence. This became, of course, the obstacle most deserving of immediate attention. Waddling along, maintaining all of her weight in her heels, arms akimbo for balance, proved enough of a task that it required Shiri’s full concentration. But, as always seemed to happen at some mysterious point in February – earlier every year, but always assuming the same form – the ice had vanished as unceremoniously as it had appeared, leaving the aged sidewalks of Albany exposed to the weary people of Albany anew. The air felt crisper than it had yesterday. Shiri wondered if the cold of the ground had only shifted up to lung-height, and if so, was she breathing in filth from the street? She felt lighter.

Lighter, but less grounded, less stable. Shiri, like all other humans who inhabited what were, funnily enough, once known as the temperate zones of planet Earth, suffered from some mild form of seasonal amnesia. Although every equinox fulfilled its promise to come around every year, she felt and acted as if it were a complete surprise each time. What was this iceless city, and how was she expected to live in it? She peered down at the sidewalk from what seemed a stratospheric altitude, her hands clenched in the deep pockets of a camel trench coat, and concentrated very hard on not flying away. She walked like this down Lark Street, heading south towards Madison Avenue, flatfootedly, placing each step very deliberately on the sidewalk. The sudden lack of bulk and ease of movement made her feel not unlike a loosely tied balloon.

In the fingers of her right hand she held a smooth stone in a deep shade of orange, the name of which, she was almost sure, began with a C, and the material of which held some meaning to the ancient peoples of some part of Asia, and also to Shiri’s mother, who believed in invisible things like chakras and chis. Shiri carried this stone with her everywhere, fondling it thoughtlessly within her pocket. Her mother had gifted it to her years before, for the purpose, she later realized, of a makeshift cognitive-behavioral therapy. As a kid, Shiri engaged in minor compulsive self-injurious behaviors. No branding irons, nothing exciting, just nail biting, hair pulling, scab picking, zit popping, and the like. After one too many self-inflicted skin infections, her disgusted mother, standing at a safe distance and grinning thin encouragement, had dropped this stone into her daughter’s hand.