Latino Books Month Meets Children's Book Week

Q&A With Latina Children's Book Author Monica Brown

By Marcela Landres
Published on LatinoLA: May 6, 2009

Latino Books Month Meets Children's Book Week

Not only is May Latino Books Month, it also features Children's Book Week (May 11-17). Librarians, educators, booksellers, and booklovers can find suggestions on how to celebrate Children's Book Week in a digital toolkit by visiting:http://www.bookweekonline.com.

You can also commemorate both Latino Books Month and Children's Book Week by reading the work of award-winning Monica Brown, who is the subject of this month's Q&A and is a writer who is as gracious as she is talented.

Inspired by her Peruvian-American heritage, Monica Brown is the author of award-winning bilingual books for children, including My Name Is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz (Luna Rising), which was awarded the Am?®ricas Award and Pura Belpr?® Honor. Other titles include My Name Is Gabriela: The Life of Gabriela Mistral (Luna Rising), My Name Is Gabito: The Life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Luna Rising), which was named a Pura Belpr?® Honor and a Cr?¡ticas "Best Children's Book," and Pel?®, King of Soccer, which received starred reviews from Kirkus and Cr?¡ticas. For
more information, visit http://www.monicabrown.net.

Q: Which author or book inspires you, and why?

A: Recently, I've been greatly inspired by Luis Urrea--the author of The Hummingbird's Daughter and The Devil's Highway, among others. His work is amazing--The Hummingbird's Daughter explores the life of the real life "Santa Teresita" in ways that sing on the page. I love the insight his writing gives on the history of the U.S. Mexico borderlands and also the way his words give balm to my spirit. His non-fiction work, such as The Devil's Highway, is devastating, but so very important.
I'm convinced that if everyone read his story of the 14 deaths during a fateful border crossing, our immigration policy would be changed forever.

Q: Why do you love to write?

A: Because I love to read! Reading great (and even not-so-great) literature has "saved" me in so many big and small ways, that is a privilege and a joy to be a part of creating literature for children. I want to pass along the "book joy" as Pat Mora would say. And speak to them the way my childhood books spoke to me--with fun, flights of fancy, hope, and imagination.

Q: Who is your agent and how did you meet him/her?

A: My agents are Stefanie Von Borstel and Lilly Ghahremani of Full Circle Literary. They are amazing. I met Stefanie at an SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Author's and Illustrators) conference in Los Angeles.

Q: What is your writing ritual?

A: Well, because I work full time as an English Professor at Northern Arizona University, I write when I can! So my best writing time is during the summer, on weekends, and during holidays. My most productive year ever came during my sabbatical. And always--I write in the morning. I
can edit, revise, and research at any time of the day, but for those moments of true inspiration and creation--when I'm creating the first draft--it needs to be in the morning. I'm not necessarily a morning person, but I do think it is the most hopeful time of the day and in order to write for children, you need free access to hopes and dreams.

Q: Other than honing their craft, what advice would you give to Latino writers looking to land a book deal?

A: Learning from you, Marcela, is a good first step! Aside from craft, I think that writers just beginning their journey need to professionalize-- and that encompasses many things. Join your professional organization-- join SCBWI if you want to write for children or the Romance Writers of
America, if that's your genre. Then go to conferences and network--and by network, I don't mean stalking editors. Rather, come with your best work and be curious, polite, and friendly to everyone. Open your mind to new ideas and listen! Create a website, get business cards. These are
basic things, but sometimes creative people don't want to be bothered-- or perhaps just aren't "good" at those aspects of the business. I certainly wasn't. But part of what we do is a business and we need to become literate in that part of publishing as well--networking, marketing, etc.
And always--pass it on. It's my privilege now to be able to mentor newer writers the way I was mentored.

About Marcela Landres:
Marcela Landres is the author of the e-book How Editors Think. She is an Editorial Consultant who specializes in helping Latinos get published and was formerly an editor at Simon & Schuster.
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