Questions frequently asked by library students and pre-service teachers

What made you want to become an author?
I grew up in a home with books since my mom was a reader. I’ve loved to read since I was a little girl and liked to write too, though I never thought of being a writer, maybe because I’d never heard of a writer in this country who was bilingual or of Mexican descent. When I saw the age of forty coming at me, I decided that I really wanted writing to become an important part of my life and made a commitment to writing.

ZING! SEVEN PRACTICES FOR EDUCATORS AND STUDENTS includes the evolution of my writing life, what I’ve learned on my journey, my suggestions on developing our own creativity in ourselves and in our students, and my perspectives on educators as community leaders.

Are you bilingual?
I grew up in a bilingual home and always spoke both languages. Both my parents were bilingual, but my grandparents spoke only Spanish. I’m a former English teacher and consider myself English dominant since all my education and professional life have been in English. I feel fortunate to speak Spanish, but don’t know the grammar rules nor do I have the vocabulary nor facility that I do in English.

Who decides if a book will be bilingual?
The publisher decides.

At what age did you begin to write books?
When my three children were little, I enjoyed reading books to them and decided to submit a few manuscripts. They zipped back–rejected. I didn’t know that rejection is a major part of a writer’s life. Not the fun part. I was in my thirties and had previously been a teacher.

What is your favorite piece of literature you have written?
Audiences of all ages ask me this question, and I always give the same answer: my next book. I have an emotional attachment to each of my books whether they are for adults, teens or children. The longest book I’ve written is the family memoir, HOUSE OF HOUSES. I’m currently working on a YA version of HOUSE.

Do you have a favorite author, if so, who?
I have many favorite authors. In terms of poetry for adults, I love the work of Pablo Neruda, Lucille Clifton and Mary Oliver.

What genre do you like to read?
There’s a special place in my heart for poetry. Unfortunately, many educators don’t seem to enjoy teaching poetry. They tell me that they have negative memories of not being able to write it or feeling nervous when their teachers asked what a poem meant. It’s wonderful when teachers and librarians read a poem out loud every day or at each class meeting. Such pleasure! At a practical level, writing poetry improves all the writing we do–other than technical writing or filling out forms.

If you couldn’t be a writer what would you do?
I genuinely like people — of all ages which may be why I write for adults, teens and children. I’m fascinated by people’s private lives, by what they feel, what saddens them, and what really makes them happy and excited. In other words, I’d enjoy interviewing people.

What is your best writing advice?
Be a reader! I’m amazed by college students who want to write but who don’t read.

What’s a typical writing day like for you?
I have no typical days. What would my ideal day be? A quiet morning with time for some spiritual reading, reading connected to the book I’m working on and time to write. Notice: e-mail was not mentioned.

I’m trying to limit my time on e-mail which isn’t easy since I’m very committed to helping Día flourish and this takes time, energy, creativity.

What are your hobbies or how do you like to spend your non-writing time?
I really like to laugh though my life tends to be a solitary, quiet life. Family and close friends are very important to me. I chat with my three children and with my sister Stella regularly. I enjoy walking, cooking for loved ones and taking care of my house plants. I used to love gardening, but my Santa Fe home has more of a desert, indigenous landscape.

How do you choose what books to write?
I joke that sometimes I think the books or topics choose the writer. Going back to being fascinated by people, I find it so interesting how other writers choose their topics. Some of my books — CONFETTI, MY OWN TRUE NAME and DIZZY — were actually suggested to me by other people. That’s also true of my new book THE BEAUTIFUL LADY: OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE that was published December 2012. Picture books take a long time, and I’m not a patient person.

When I do PowerPoint presentations or look at the covers on my web site, I can see that the desert, family, women, being of Mexican descent-aspects of life that I love, are important themes in my work.

I hope you’ll visit the various sections of my site and my blog and sign-up for my e-newsletter .

Wishing you bookjoy!