I am so grateful that I’ve been connecting with more Latinx writers. The community behind @LatinxPitch has been marvelous and supportive. I would especially like to say how grateful I am to have met Donna Muñoz. I won a query letter critique in the chance that I got an agent or editor’s response to my Twitter pitch, and that’s what brought me to Donna. I felt like she was my champion and my guardian angel. She loved my manuscript in a way I hoped any reader would, and she encouraged a revision to my pitch that turned out way better than before. She wrote me the night before the pitch to wish me luck and hugs. I am going to give her all the credit for being an awesome person, but I also want to say how warm the Latinx community always has been for me.

When I was a kid I didn’t feel that I belonged to any one group, as I had varied interests, and am ethnically mixed. I had good friends, but there was a latina part of me that was missing in my social life. None of my friends could relate to be called to dinner by hearing a mother yell, “A la mesa!” Or the fact that we celebrated el día de los reyes magos, or that we ate food they never heard of. When I went to college I finally met more latinos and they would welcome me as though of course I belonged. And that is how things have gone from then on. I moved to a city last year where I meet more latinos on a regular basis and have been able to connect with them in the ways I was missing when I was younger. LatinxPitch felt like another way to grow that connection to my roots since I hadn’t met any other Latinx writers since I started writing in 2005! Gracias, LatinxPitch y gracias, Donna!

Valentiny Writing Contest 2020: Nicola’s Valentine

Nicola’s Valentine

“It’s yummy, Daddy.”

“Nicola, go play in your room!” Daddy said.

 Nicola scurried away. She had only wanted one lick of the batter and to make him smile again.

“What can I do?” Nicola said. She spun in a circle, looking around. “I know! But where did I put it?”

“Nicola, I’m sorry I yelled,” Daddy said in the doorway. “Can I help you find something?’

Nicola’s cheeks flushed. “Nope!”

“Alriiiiight,” Daddy said, and shut the door.

Nicola pulled bins out from under her bed. “Is it here?”

Next, she emptied the bookshelf. Not there either.

Last, she emptied her dresser. There it was.

Daddy called out, “I hear a lot of noises. Is everything OK?”

“Yes, Daddy!” Nicola said, and got to work.

A while later Daddy knocked and said, “The cupcakes are cooling now. Would you like a taste?”

Nicola stepped out of her room with her hands behind her back. “I can wait until the Valentine’s Day party at school. I have a surprise for you. Here—”

“How is this possible?” Daddy said, with tears dropping.

“I found the valentine Mommy made me last year and I made it into a new one for you.”

Daddy hugged Nicola tight and gave her a big smile. “You’ll always be my valentine.”

It’s OK

That’s the new phrase I use to reassure myself. This past year wasn’t my personal best year. I’ve been fighting with depression and anxiety for years, and last year happened to be one of the worst years, mental-health wise. Sometimes writing can be helpful, other times writing feels so, so impossible. I’m telling myself, “It’s OK.” It’s OK that I didn’t reach my personal goals, it’s OK if I had to take steps back. It’s OK to start again. Back in 2005 I wrote a PB manuscript that I know will never sell because it doesn’t have a plot. It’s basically a child’s look at depression in a parent. It’s called, MOMMY, ARE YOU OK? Here’s an excerpt:

Sometimes my Mommy is happy. She plays ball with me outside. She pushes me on the swing. She reads me funny stories. We go on walks together. She laughs, and I can see all of her teeth.

            Sometimes my Mommy is sad. She has to stay in bed. I see tears in her eyes. She can’t play with me. I wish she could laugh with me.

It’s too bad that I was in that place again last year. It’s unfortunate that I saw life fly right by me. But, you know what? It’s OK. I’m OK.

50 Precious Words Writing Contest

Vivian Kirkfield holds a yearly writing contest in which you have to write a story with a beginning, middle, and end, using only 50 words. Here’s mine:

Painting a Rainbow

It was Cloudy’s first rainbow. She picked colors and started to paint. But orange disappeared! It wasn’t on her poofy table. Not behind her floofy Mama. Oh no, the sun started to shine! She peeked under her fluff. There it was. She splashed a dash and the rainbow was glorious.

Spring Spirit Conference 2019!

I’m in the SCBWI California North/Central Region, and the yearly Spring Spirit Conference is on May 4th. There are 4 sessions and it’s hard to pick which of the workshops to attend!

This year I will be taking these workshops:
Tim McCanna: Rhyming in Picture Books,
Julie Gassman: All about Early Chapter Books,
Julie Gassman: Make Writing-for-Hire “Write” for You,
Natalie Lakosil: Writing and Revising Your Picture Book

What are some favorite workshops you’ve taken?

Valentiny Writing Contest

Valentine Cookie Surprise

“It’s time to make our Valentine Cookie Surprise!” Mama said.

Carla wiggled her feet into her boots. “Let’s jump in the car!” she said, as she gave a little hop.

At the store, Mama said, “This year, find something tasty that starts with ‘c.’”

Carla skipped down the aisles looking for a delicious something to hide in the cookie dough. “Chocolate starts with ‘c!’ I hope I get the cookie with the surprise!”

At home, Mama made the dough. Carla brought out the chocolate. Mama said, “You can watch the cookies bake through the window.”

The timer went “ding!” The cookies were hot, hot, hot.

Carla hid as she waited for the cookies to cool down.

“They’re ready!”

Mama took the first bite and there was no chocolate. “It’s your turn!”

Carla took a cookie and sniffled as she ate.

“Carla, it’s ok if you didn’t get a cookie with chocolate inside. You can have another one after dinner.”

“Mama, there isn’t any chocolate,” Carla said.

“I’ll cut some open and we’ll see.” The more cookies Mama cut, the more tears ran down Carla’s cheeks.

“I already ate the chocolate.” Carla sobbed.

“Oh, Carla!” Mama said. She started laughing. “That is a cookie surprise!”

Mama kissed Carla, and they ate another cookie after dinner.

Reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition

I started reading this book because of the recommendation from the last class I took. I’ve only read chapter 1 so far, but I’m already enjoying it. The chapter was about showing instead of telling. It was interesting to me because I actually enjoyed reading the passages of narrative summaries. However, the stories really did come alive when it was rewritten to include action happening. A quick example from me: Narrative summary–Janie was upset when she came home from school. Nothing seemed to go right. She wanted to talk to her mom about it but no one was home. Showing, not telling–Janie stomped into the house and slammed the door shut. She threw her backpack who-knows-where. “Mom!” she said. Nothing. “Where are you when I need you…” The examples in the book are more complex, and there are exercises at the end of the chapter where you try to fix scenes yourself. The chapter notes that sometimes narrative summary is best for certain situations. The other thing that stood out to me was that you don’t need to express yourself twice, once in dialog, and then for more effect in your description afterwards. For example, if your dialogue makes it clear that the person speaking is upset, you don’t need to then write that the character was upset, after the dialogue. By the way, the writers of this book using The Great Gatsby for examples was a great way of showing, not telling.

KBR Writing Class

I feel fortunate that I have had the opportunity to take a couple of classes through Kid’s Book Revisions. The most recent class I took was about line editing. The subject matter was interesting to me and the examples they used for homework were excellent. Seeing the process of editing and getting a hands-on experience was invaluable. The class was conducted through Zoom, and it provided an opportunity to interact with the instructors through the chat box. The instructors would address questions and comments in the video, live. I really felt like I was in a class. You were accountable for doing your homework–no one was going to check on you, and if you weren’t available to watch the instruction live, then the recording was available to view the next day, as well as a transcript of the chat. The instructors are knowledgeable, kind and responsive. They are Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson. I highly recommend taking a class through them!