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FELIZ NEW YEAR, AVA GABRIELA! earned a starred review!

I am so THRILLED and EXCITED to share that Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! received a 🌟STARRED REVIEW🌟from Kirkus Reviews!! I am so grateful. Thank you! Read complete review here.

I can’t wait to share Ava’s story with everyone! It’s beautifully illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda, and it’s the story about a shy little girl meeting her loud extended family at her Abuelita’s finca in the Colombian Andes, set against the backdrop of our NYE traditions and foods.

Feliz New Yea, Ava Gabriela! releases this October 1st from Albert Whitman & Company and is available for pre-order now wherever books are sold. Stay tuned for more on signed copies, virtual launch, pre-order campaign and goodies–and more!

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The Dream Weaver by Reina Luz Alegre–Out now!

Reviews and blurbs:
“Flavorful details, a quick-moving plot, and psychological depth bring this Cuban-American family to life. A treasure for any library.” —Rebecca Balcarcel (!)

“A heartwarming book about growing up, growing friendships, growing the bonds of family and culture, and growing dreams of your own.” —Aida Salazar (!)

“My twelve-year- old self would have loved a friend like her. When one girl’s voice gets louder, we all get stronger. Go Zoey!” —Doreen Cronin

“Alegre has written a warm, funny, empowering book that’s sure to appeal to fans of Meg Medina’s Merci Suarez Changes Gears or Pablo Cartaya’s The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora. Recommended for all collections.” —School Library Journal

“A heartfelt debut novel rooted in the importance of family ties, the bonds of friendship, and bowling.” —Kirkus

“A charming debut about grief, the bonds of family and friendship, and bowling.” —Booklist

About The Dream Weaver:
Twelve-year-old Zoey navigates the tricky waters of friendship while looking for a way to save her grandfather’s struggling business in this heartwarming, coming-of-age debut novel perfect for fans of Kristi Wientge, Donna Gephart, and Meg Medina.

Zoey comes from a family of dreamers. From start-up companies to selling motorcycles, her dad is constantly chasing jobs that never seem to work out. As for Zoey, she’s willing to go along with whatever grand plans her dad dreams up—even if it means never staying in one place long enough to make real friends. Her family being together is all that matters to her.

So Zoey’s world is turned upside down when Dad announces that he’s heading to a new job in New York City without her. Instead, Zoey and her older brother, José, will stay with their Poppy at the Jersey Shore. At first, Zoey feels as lost and alone as she did after her mami died. But soon she’s distracted by an even bigger problem: the bowling alley that Poppy has owned for decades is in danger of closing!

After befriending a group of kids practicing for a summer bowling tournament, Zoey hatches a grand plan of her own to save the bowling alley. It seems like she’s found the perfect way to weave everyone’s dreams together…until unexpected events turn Zoey’s plan into one giant nightmare. Now, with her new friends counting on her and her family’s happiness hanging in the balance, Zoey will have to decide what her dream is—and how hard she’s willing to fight for it.”

Simon & Schuster

My son (12yo) devoured The Dream Weaver and absolutely loved it! He loved everything about it, from the characters to the story to the name of the bowling alley, which reminded him of his teacher’s nickname.

After all the raving, I went in expecting an amazing read, and Alegre’s The Dream Weaver absolutely exceeded my expectations. In the book hangover that followed after I finished, I found myself incoherently repeating I LOVE THIS BOOK! It’s the type of story that sticks with you and begs to be reread.

I’m a sucker for family stories, as well as those about finding one’s identity, and this sweet, heartfelt MG delivered these themes beautifully. The scenes between Zoey and her grandfather were some of my favorite, though the scenes with her new friends were also sweet. Zoey is a wonderfully fleshed out character you can’t help but root for from the opening pages. In fact, Zoey reminded me so much of myself at that age.

This story is sure to resonate with readers!

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ARCs Are Here!

A few weeks ago, I received a wonderful surprise: hard-copy advance reader copies of my debut, illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda (check out her gorgeous portfolio and you might just catch glimpses of Ava Gabriela!)

They’re absolutely beautiful, don’t you think?!

I also learned that the eARC is available through Edelweiss+, which means teachers and librarians will be able to view them!

It’s starting to feel real. In just under four months, Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! will be out in the world. And while it’s both exciting and terrifying all the same, I just really hope readers will love her as much as I do.

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My debut is on Goodreads and available for pre-order!

Last week was a whirlwind week–of the very best kind! Not only did the announcement for my second children’s book go live, but I discovered that my ownvoices debut Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!–illustrated by Addie Rivera Sonda and published by Albert Whitman & Company this October 1, 2020–was officially on Goodreads!

It’s also available for preorder at Amazon | B&N | Books & Books | IndieBound!!

To say I’m thrilled is an understatement!!

World Cup Dancing GIF by Digg - Find & Share on GIPHY

It’s been surreal watching this story take flight, from conception to sketches. And I can’t WAIT to share it with all of you!!

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Book 2 coming fall 2021!

I’m so excited to share that my second picture book is coming fall 2021 from Sleeping Bear Press! I can’t wait to share Isabel and Her Colores Go to School with you! I especially excited that this will be a bilingual book!

This was loosely based on my own experience in heading into kindergarten in Queens, New York, knowing only Spanish. While my own experience was a bit more harrowing (I got lost!), the feelings that result from such a language barrier are very much the same.

The wonderfully talented Courtney Dawson will be illustrating, and I can’t wait to see how she brings Isabel to life!

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Look out, 2020–I’m getting published!

I can share my news!! My picture book Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! is being published by Albert Whitman in fall 2020, and I’m thrilled!! I feel so incredibly blessed for getting to do what I love, and I can’t wait to share Ava Gabriela with all of you!

The super talentosa Addy Rivera Sonda will illustrate!

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Another year is ending soon

I can hardly believe it. Like always, there have been highs and lows. I started with the passing of my grandfather, and I’ve had the longest writing dry spell I’ve had in years. But, I’ve also had better health days and fun adventures with my family–we traveled to Colombia in the summer and I even managed to climb almost 650 steps up to the cima of El Peñol.

It was exhilarating. I want to go back.

And tucked between it all, I sold not one but two picture books that I’m so excited about and that I can’t wait to share with you!

This year, I’m thankful for it all–the good and bad, the laughs and tears. I’m thankful for family and for new opportunities. I’m thankful for the moments that make it all worthwhile.

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Happy New Year 2019!

*dusts off blog*

First things first:

I’m a little rusty at this, but I’m hoping to resurrect it–at least for important writing related updates! Watch this space because exciting things are happening, and I’ll announce here once I can!

To all of you: best wishes for a happy, healthy 2019!!

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Pitch Wars 2016 Mentor Bio & Wishlist

PW

THIS IS NOT A DRILL, PEOPLE! It’s Pitch Wars time again and I am so freaking excited to be mentoring MG this year!

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If you’ve stumbled on this post by accident, you might be asking yourself: What’s Pitch Wars? It’s only the best contest ever, held by Brenda Drake, where selected mentees work with mentors to polish their manuscripts extra shiny for an agent round. You can read more about what Pitch Wars is here, the details here, and the schedule here.

The best part isn’t getting to have your work in front of agents, though. The best part, in my humble opinion, is the amazing community of writers and writer friends that comes with this contest. Because not everyone will get in—that’s just part of how a contest works—but everyone can take part in the building of friendships, improvement of craft, and connection with like-minded peeps that comes with all the contest hoopla.

About Me:

Letter I *have been on both the mentee and mentor sides of the Pitch Wars. In 2013, Dannie Morin chose me as one of her alternates, and in 2015, I served as a co-mentor with her. Both times, I’ve met so many wonderful, hard-working writers. Some of us have gone on to become beta readers and even CPs! In fact, Dannie and my co-mentees and I still keep in touch and read each others’ work.

*Image is part of the Pitch Wars Scavenger Hunt.

Some quick facts about me:

  • I’m Colombian-American. While I was born in the States, I spent many summers between Bogotá, Medellín, Manizales, and Cali (a city in Colombia, not California). I still have family there and visit whenever I have a chance. The Andes mountains will always feel like home for me.
  • I’m completely bilingual in Spanish/English. In fact, Spanish was my first language. There’s a funny story about me, kinder, and getting lost. In addition to Spanish, I know a sprinkling of French from two years I took in high school.
  • I’ve been an English professor for over ten years. I teach composition, creative writing (poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction), and U.S. Hispanic/Latino Literature. I started teaching when I was 24… and many of my students were my age. I might’ve had a laugh or two pretending I was a student at the start of a semester.
  • I’m also a full-time wife and mom. My son is almost nine-going-on-fifteen and swears he knows more than I do. It’s a good thing he’s cute.
  • In 2011, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and low-level lupus (also sometimes called undifferentiated connective tissue disorder or pre-lupus).
  • I’m addicted to coffee, though I have to drink decaf past noon or I won’t sleep! Sit me in a café, give me a latte, and I’m a happy camper. But I don’t like coffee desserts (e.g. ice cream, tiramisu, etc.). Go figure.
  • I love musicals. Sometimes, I wish life were a musical and I could burst out into song and dance at key moments.
  • My great-uncle, Bernardo Arias Trujillo, was a Colombian novelist and poet. I like to say writing is in my blood. So is music. On my father’s side, I have several aunts, uncles, and cousins who’ve played professionally and who even founded a school of music for kids in Manizales—La Rafael Pombo.
  • Right now, I’m on submission with a MG portal fantasy that features Colombian folklore and the Colombia of the early 90’s. Colombia tends to seep into much of what I write.
  • I’m a poet and fiction writer. I write for kids of all ages—PB, MG, and YA—and I’m agented by the lovely Deborah Warren of East West Literary.

If you want to know more about me, click on About above.

So…why pick me? Because I’m awesome. Duh.

KC

Okay, no—for real.

I have over twelve years’ experience in reading critically and editing other people’s work. I grade over 400 assignments (essays, poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction) per semester. In addition to the grading–in which I look at, comment on, and correct everything from grammar to content–I critique and beta read for several published and pre-published writer friends.

Here’s what you can expect from me: I’m going to be honest. I’m going to fangirl over the stuff I love, but I’m also going to let you know when something’s not working. I’ll also help you brainstorm, if you need me to. Most of our communication will be via email or chat (Twitter, Google, or Skype).

My preference is to work with MS Word Track Changes, where I’ll provide tons of in-text comments. Some of these will be questions I have. Some will be comments/observations. Some will simply be snorts of laughter or me yelling at the characters. I can get intense when reading. You will always have feedback on big picture items (plot, characters, setting, world building, etc.) and small picture bits (grammar, syntax, punctuation, tense and POV shifts, etc.) In addition to the in-text comments, I’ll be providing a detailed edit letter addressing main concerns. My goal is to get you one extensive, comprehensive critique and a second, quicker read before the agent round. It all depends on how fast you revise within our two-month time period.

There will be many moments like this:

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And many others like this:

Rapunzel Writing

I’m looking for a mentee who’s not afraid to get dirty in revisions, who’s a good listener, who’s not afraid to ask questions, and who will work hard. I shouldn’t be the first person who’s looked at this manuscript (in addition to you–the writer–and close family) and this shouldn’t be a first draft, but I don’t expect it to be perfect either (otherwise, you wouldn’t be entering Pitch Wars!) Together we will work to make your story be the best it can be and get it ready for agents.

My Wishlist:

As a reminder, I’m mentoring MG this year. Here’s what’s right for me:

  1. Fantasy: Fantasy is probably my favorite genre. Give me a unique setting and story, a grand adventure, fabulous world building, and characters I can fall in love with, and I’m sold! Even better is if it’s something that hasn’t been done before or in a setting that’s new. Some of my favorite MG fantasies are SE Grove’s The Glass Sentence, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  2. Adventure: I’m also a sucker for fast-paced adventure and nail-biting suspense. Two MG adventures I love in this genre are Christina Diaz Gonzalez’s Moving Target and the Scholastic 39 Clues.
  3. Magical Realism: Magical realism is one of those genres that people often mistaken for fantasy, but the two are not the same (though both fall under the speculative fiction umbrella). Magical realism is deeply rooted in the ordinary with only a hint of extraordinary. Here’s a great post by fellow Pitch Wars mentor Joy McCullough-Carranza on the difference between magical realism and fantasy. MG examples of magical realism are Because of Winn Dixie, When the Butterflies Came, and The Secret Garden. 
  4. Diversity and #ownvoices: I’d love to see stories with nuanced, underrepresented characters. I’m open to all, but there’s a special place in my heart for characters who have a chronic illness and non-Western cultures that haven’t been done much or at all, like Wonder and The Red Pencil.
  5. Historical or near historical: In this genre, I’m particularly attracted to stories from underrepresented cultures and/or that feature adventure. I’m also interested in historical fantasy.  The Red Umbrella, Inside Out & Back Again, Just a Drop of Water, and Echo are some good examples.

What’s not for me right now:

  • Contemporary (unless they fall into #’s 2 or 4 the above). It’s not what I read most so I don’t think I’d be the best mentor for you in this category.
  • Mysteries, thrillers, satire, gothic, sci-fi, horror (I seriously can’t watch scary movies. I will never sleep! I scare/startle easily)
  • Stories that don’t offer some kind of hope at the end. I’m okay with a not-so-happy ending as long as there’s a glimmer of hope.
  • I have a bit of a squeamish stomach, so on-the-page rape or murder or gruesome scenes will not be for me.

Some other things to consider if you want to pitch to me:

  • I love stories with a nuanced, strong sense of place. These don’t have to be fantastical worlds, either—place is important in both contemporary and fantasy.
  • I tend to be drawn to lyrical language (it’s the poet in me), but I also love humor and sarcasm. Ultimately, though, it’s about the characters and their journeys and how connected I feel to them.
  • Having tons of grammar errors in the opening pages or query is a turn-off. I don’t expect perfection at all (heck, I’ve made typos before!) but if the opening pages—which are often the most looked at in the revision process—are riddled with errors, it makes me worry the rest of the manuscript will be in worse shape.
  • Before I select a mentee, I will ask for more pages and a synopsis. Yes, yes. I know. Synopsis are icky. But they’re valuable. So if you haven’t already worked on one, get to it! If you don’t know how, check out this how-to.
  • As much as I would really, really love to give feedback to everyone who pitches to me, I don’t want to promise something I can’t deliver. I will try my hardest to offer at least some nugget of feedback or advice, but the truth is that Pitch Wars falls right when the semester starts, so my focus will be on giving my mentee and my students my undivided attention.

If you’d like a sense of what I like to read, you can find me on Goodreads. It doesn’t list everything I’ve read and I don’t always do a good job at updating it, but I think it can give you an idea of my reading tastes.

If you have any questions or if you’re not sure if your project fits my wish list above, feel free to ask! You can @ me on Twitter.

Happy pitching!

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Motivational Monday: Finding inspiration

There are times when the words flow forward, a strong unstoppable current that carries anything in its path. Then there are other times when the words come in a trickle, a slow moving stream, jammed with pebbles in some spots and boulders in others. And every once in a while, the flow becomes stagnant–whether because of life circumstances or because you’re simply drained from working too much.

This is such a natural part of the process! Frustrating, yes, but normal. Just recently, I had to stop working on my WIP for a while. The words were drying up, not because they weren’t there but because my body was going through a rough patch. Not only was I flaring with the lupus and fibro, but I’d developed tendonitis in my shoulder, severe spasms in my cervical area, and my wrists were swollen. Talk about getting creativity sucked out of you!

So how do you find motivation when the words just won’t come? When you’ve dried up from the inside?

You find inspiration somewhere else. All you need is a spark–a hearty, healthy spark–to trigger one creative endeavor. Imagine a dam of twigs. The spark loosens a small hole that lets some water in, a trickle. Then that trickle grows and widens so it’s a stream. The process continues, trickle, stream, until there’s so much pressure the dam breaks and a torrent of water pours over the wreckage, burying it.

Inspiration and motivation work this way. I’ve held hard and fast to this idea for a while now, and it helps every single time. Here are some things I’ll do to help myself heal and bring the power on.

  1. I read. Think of reading and a fountain filled with new words, phrases, and ideas. When you’re feeling depleted of words, reading will renew you. I love to imagine that as I read, the words from the book I’m reading seep into my pores, satiating me. And in doing so, satisfying a deep thirst. Not only do ideas beget ideas, but words beget words. It’s such a beautiful thing. Sometimes, I only have to read one book to feel replenished. Other times I have to read more. But every time, it works.
  2. I change activities. Instead of pushing myself even harder when I’m already on empty, I’ll do something else. Maybe I’ll take my son to the park and, if I’m feeling up to it physically, I’ll play with him with the soccer ball. If I’m not up to it, maybe I’ll take him out somewhere, or we’ll play a board game. Or we’ll read one of his books together. Or maybe I’ll go sight-seeing with my husband around town. Or maybe I’ll take a “mini-cation” and do something want to do–by myself. Maybe I’ll see a movie I’ve been wanting to see. Maybe I’ll sit by the bay and listen to the water lapping against the seawall, or I’ll . Maybe I’ll go shopping! I do something to shift from my current state of mind and that can be enough to loosen the words out of me.
  3. I try another genre or category. One of the things I love about writing for different age categories or genres, is that when I’m feeling drained in one area, I can simply cross over to another and it’s fresh, new words. A new feel. A new idea or direction–and that’s enough to get me back on track.
  4. I try another creative activity. I love photography. I love to draw (though I’m not really good at it lol). I love crafts. When I’m feeling bogged down and uninspired, sometimes all I have to do is to get my brain on another creative endeavor and I feel refreshed. Other authors paint. Or write music. Or are graphic designers. Any creative exercise outside of writing can fuel your words!
  5. I find my way to nature. There’s something to be said about letting nature fill you with peace from the inside out and letting that peace dislodge the words from you.

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So what do you do to get your words back?