"What we do in this life, echoes in eternity."
Maximus, Gladiator
"Our creator would never have made such lovely days, and given us the deep hearts to enjoy them, above all thought, unless we were meant to be immortal."
Nathaniel Hawthorne

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Best Gift of Christmas

Perhaps the most vivid Christmas memory of my childhood is the last one I shared with my grandfather.  I was five years old, and I was a precocious child. I talked nonstop about everything. I didn't know that would be the last Christmas I'd spend with him, but one thing I knew with all the certainty of my five year-old heart was that he loved me more than he loved any other person in the world. It was so hot that we set our table on the roof of the house. I don't remember what we had for dinner. I remember he made a makeshift bed on the floor, and I hugged him tight in that hot, hot Christmas night. He was shivering with cold although it probably was more than one-hundred degrees at midnight. We were watching the fireworks go out all over the neighborhood until he pointed a red light that never went out. In fact, it moved all over the sky, bobbing all over the star-peppered darkness. "That's Papa Noel," he said.

I think I must have always believed in Papa Noel, but from that night on, I've known he's real. I'll never forget that last Christmas with my Abuelo Ricardo. If I could wish for one thing it would be for one last conversation, so I could tell him how much I still miss him even though it's been thirty years since that last Christmas  and that I'm happy. That I have two little Yamiles he would have loved with all his heart, and that sometimes my three boys have a way of looking out into nothingness that reminds me so much of him.

Feliz Navidad, Abuelo! You're so loved!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012

I've been out of the blogsphere all month, and this is why:

This month, I wrote my yearly novel, I set out to read The Book of Mormon (I'm a couple of days behind, but I will catch up!), and I started training for a 5K. I trained my mind, my spirit and my body, and I'm feeling so good! While I was gone some pretty awesome things happened in my life, and I'll be back with more details later, when I don't have a sleeping baby snoring in the baby sling.
I love this feeling of having achieved something important for me! I love it!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Read Banned Books, or Not

Today I'm over at the Children's Writers Blog talking about Banned Books Week and what it was like for me to be born and raised under a totalitarian government, or the famous dystopian society we seem to love reading about. There's even a new TV show about it.

I lived in a country where there still is a need for freedom. Sometimes I wonder why I write in English and not Spanish, which is my first language. I think it's because I want my stories to be known to all, and English, like it or not, is the universal language.

Join the discussion about the importance, or not, of giving everyone freedom to think.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Backyard paradise

I always say that if I could stay inside my house always, I'd be totally content. Which isn't true, of course. In an attempt to protect Baby Hulk from the outbreak of flus, cold and germs in general I've been home most of the time, but let me tell you, there wasnt a happier person in the world than me last week when I HAD to go to the school to talk with El Cangri's teacher.

For weeks Jeff has been urging me to go up to the canyon with him and the kids. "It's so beautiful out there," he'd say every time he came back from a ride on his RZR (four wheeler kind of thingie).

I always had an excuse. Until this weekend. The weather was perfect. I was tired of the endless list of chores. And it was my dad's birthday. So we went up American Fork Canyon. The colors are unbelievable. So many shades of green, red and yellow. The clean, fresh air and the smell of pine. The sound of a babbling brook. Nature.
While on the ride, I had this great idea for a children's story pop into my head. I came back refreshed, energized, happy. Who would have thought that a quick ride in the mountains could do so much for me?

I loved it. Loved the lack of Internet, of phones, of the washer machine's beckoning me to get ahead of the laundry elves and do one more load of laundry.

What are your favorite ways to disconnect of the world? What are your favorite spots to recharge?

PS: I'm typing this post on my phone. It's the first time I'm blogging on the phone and I'm anxious to see how it turned out. :-).

Thursday, September 20, 2012

First book, first love

Today I'm at The Utah Children's Writers blog talking about first loves and--what else?-- books.

Stop by to share yours.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Making Sense of the Nonsense

The other day, during lunch, El Cangri was unusually quiet. 
“What are you thinking?” I asked him.
He didn’t answer right away. After several seconds, he asked, “What happened with the parents in Madagascar?”
Madagascar? My train of thought snaked through the archives in my mind as I tried to figure out what he was talking about. It was the movie, Madagascar 3, which we watched months ago.
“Oh, Alex’s parents?” I asked.
He chewed his sandwich and said, “How come in the second movie they’re so happy to be together and then in the next one they’re not even there. And then, Alex wants to go back to the zoo? It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Keep in mind that we were talking about a cartoon about zoo animals--talking zoo animals I should add--that miss New York so bad they make their way from Africa to their beloved city as members of a traveling circus, all the while a vicious French detective woman with more animal traits than the animals themselves tries to capture them.
And he said the fact that the parents aren’t even in the story doesn’t make any sense? What about the whole traveling circus thing, or the part in which the giraffe is in love with the hippo?
Still, the thing that stood out the most to him was the inconsistencies in the story and the characters’ motivations. 
Where am I going with all of this? 
That even if we’re writing the most outlandish fantasy, there has to be a connection to reality for the reader to empathize with the characters and their goals. 
I’ve never been a gigantic blue alien, but I could totally identify with Avatar’s character as they tried to save their civilization from greedy people.
I’ve never been to Neverland, but in my happiest moments as a child, I wished I could stay little forever.
My father wasn’t a soldier for the Union army during the Civil War, but how I wished I had three sisters and a best friend, just like in Little Women.
You get the point. In fiction, the writer creates a world where the reader can lose track of time and space for as long as the story lasts. Character traits, dialog, plot, and voice are all tools to give credibility to the story.
If I’m reading a YA book and the main character doesn’t sound like a teenager at all, the spell of the story is broken and the reader is pulled away from it. The same thing if the characters’ actions aren’t congruent with their motivations. 
What are some things that pull you out of the story as a reader? As a writer, how do you keep reality in your story?

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Stupid Parents on Kids' TV Shows

The other day I was changing channels (probably looking for the Barcelona game), when I stumbled upon an old episode of Dora the Explorer. I never thought I would say this, but I have missed little Dora, her cousin Diego, abuelo and the baby twins. Dora's mother was always a benevolent, smiling figure, sending her strong daughter out into the world.

My kids have outgrown Dora and the other Nick Jr shows with the only exception of The Backyardigans, who by the way, absolutely rock! Literally. Their music is awesome.

Even though my two older children are tweens are the other two are in early elementary school, they have moved from fun, educational shows (did I just type fun and educational together? Yes, because I'm a nerd) to the other "trademark" Disney Channel shows. I'm talking about Good Luck Charlie, A.N.T. Farm, Austin and Ally and Shake it Up, to name just the more popular ones.

I never payed a ton of attention to them. The kids would watch TV in the family room while I did whatever I was doing. When I was a kid, I loved Blossom (who didn't?), and I have watched high School Musical and Lemonade Mouth (my favorite Disney movie for TV. Awesome writing).

It wasn't until my mom said something about Good Luck Charlie being a fun, cute show that I started watching it with the kids. And watching opened my ears, my eyes and my understanding.

Good luck Charlie is a fun, cute show.

Teddy, the older sister, is absolutely adorable, as is little Charlie. My kids are fascinated with the show because they have the same boy-girl-boy-girl-boy pattern as our family. Hey! They even just had a baby boy, Toby, exactly like us! The show is actually pretty funny.

What's not funny is how the parents act. They're absolute idiots. I was a kid once. I know that most times, kids reach an age when they think parents ARE idiots. I remember thinking my parents didn't know anything. Years, experience, and motherhood taught me that I knew nothing, and boy do I worship the ground my sainted mother walks on! But that is now.

As a parent, I know I'm not always right. I make mistakes every day! But the decisions I make are out of love and concern. My kids are, after all, my life, the reason I wake up every morning and for which I do all I do. They're my everything!

That's why it bothered me so much to see Teddy's mother acting like a teenager and getting into stupid situations to which the kids usually have to rescue her from. Teddy is the one who imparts the advice and sets limits on the mother! They usually compete over who's better than who. The mother is constantly talking about how beautiful she is, how clever and funny and amazing.

The dad is a funny, blabbering idiot. He's forever avoiding anything that would antagonize the wife, and being okay with everything as long as the family leaves him alone.

In the show, the parents are buddies with the kids, who are such brats, by the way.

I know that TV shows are for entertaining not educating. But, as I've heard a million times and experienced myself, kids are sponges. It doesn't take long for them to start imitating the behavior they see on TV.

When a character makes fun of the mom, the fake audience laughs and we all laugh. Right?

When my five year-old uses the same phrases on me, it's not funny at all. Not even a fake laugh over here to cue me in.

We're not huge TV watchers in this family, and by the time school starts in a few days, we won't watch it at all. With school and soccer and dance, there won't be any time left. I know the solution to avoid these shows' influence on my kids is simple: stop watching them.

The point is, why can't Disney portray family's in a funny way without denigrating parents? We talk about girl power, and I am glad about the strong female characters in movies and books that are coming out. What about family power? What is so wrong about supporting the family unit and the parents' role in educating the children?

The movie Brave, about Merida and her relationship with her mother is a good example too. The father is one more kid for the mother to discipline and control. He's in charge, but one look from his darling daughter is all it takes for him to melt into a puddle of goo. I loved the movie, but there is that tiny detail about the dad that portrayed parents as intellectual inferiors to clever, strong teenagers that bugged me to no end.

One of the reasons I love the movie Soul Surfer so much is because of the strong family that raised and supported such a strong girl, Bethany Hamilton.

I say, give us more like Soul Surfer. Give us funny and flawed, but not idiotic parents.

I used to complain (and I know I'm not the only one) that in Disney movies parents were always dead. But worse than a dead parent is an absent parent. A dis-empowered parent.

Can there be a balance between the authoritative parental figure and the idiotic one? How do we reach that point?

Good luck finding it, parents.

Monday, August 13, 2012

World Breasfeeding Week

Memories are tricky things. Our minds distil events, and we're left with the essence.

When I was little, my three younger siblings and I never ventured far from our mom's side. She cleaned, sewed, knitted, cooked with a baby in her arms. One of my very first memories is of my dad driving my mom and all of us kids to answer a request he had heard on the radio. A newborn baby at a local hospital needed "maternal milk" (that's how they called it), and my mom, who at the time was nursing my little brother, had a plentiful milk supply.

To me, the fact that my mom would donate milk to a baby in need was the most natural thing in the world. When I was a baby, she would walk several blocks every three hours to nurse my baby cousin whose mom couldn't feed him. I have dozens of "milk brothers and sisters" all over the country.

So when I became a new mother, the thought of not breastfeeding my child never crossed my mind. I was very sick after my son was born, and I was depressed for a whole year post-partum. Knowing that I was able to nurse my son and that he was so healthy and beautiful was sometimes the only thing that gave me enough incentive to get out of bed every morning. Every month the scale showed how much my Gorgeous Boy was growing. I know numbers don't mean anything when it comes to babies and children--my Swan Princess is twenty pounds underweight according to the charts, but she's my healthiest kid. The numbers on the scale, however, were a source of pride for me that helped me out of the depression.

All of my kids were champion nursers. I know that some people will be horrified of knowing that Princess Peach was three and a half when she stopped nursing, but we both loved every moment of it. It's not true that if babies nurse into toddlerhood they will be clingy or insecure. My Princess Peach is so independent and full of confidence!

When Baby Hulk had to stay in the NICU after birth, I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to nurse him, even though I had done it four times before. During the first days, the only thing I could do for him was pumping every two or three hours. It was emotionally and physically taxing. But the first day he was fed my milk though the feeding tube, he looked so content all the efforts were worth it--for him.

Little by little, the nurses allowed me to nurse him. At first, he'd fall asleep, but he caught on really well. Each time he tried he did better and better, until he didn't need the feeding tube anymore and eventually he came home with me. We're both pros now. I don't count the minutes he nurses or how many times he swallows.

I don't take it for granted though.

I know many mothers aren't able to nurse their babies for one reason or another, and I love that I can choose how I want to nurture my baby. I'm grateful that I come from a culture that holds nursing mothers in such high esteem. There are no special nursing covers or rooms in Argentina (or there weren't when I lived there), but mothers and their babies were welcomed and respected everywhere.

During the years, many times I've seen my kids pretend-nurse their "babies" (from teddy bears to action figures). I hope their minds can also distill the essence from the memories: breastfeeding is not only natural, but also sacred. It saves lives.

In Princess Peach's room I have a painting of an angel holding a nursing mother. I've felt the embrace of angels many a night when comforting a baby.

Happy International Breastfeeding Week! Maybe one day we won't even need such a celebration. After all, how many "International Breathing Weeks" do we have?

Statue of Mary nuring Jesus

Monday, July 23, 2012

The New Wildthing in My Life

Many of you know that I was expecting a baby this summer, and even though I had planned on keeping the blog current to link to all kinds of awesome articles and sources for new moms, I let my blog go. Again. I had several reasons though. One of them is that I discovered that it's a completely different experience being pregnant for the first time, or while parenting toddlers, to being pregnant when all four of my kids had busier schedules than I ever did. I was exhausted. All the time! I hardly had time to write, but I made myself work on three different projects until the very end of the pregnancy. I read ferociously. I immersed myself in words to distract my mind from the atrocious itching I always get as a result of suffering from Intrahepatic Cholastasis of Pregnancy, also known as ICP or OC. I had it with all my kids, but when before symptoms didn't start until the third trimester, this time, they showed at 11 weeks.

If the itching weren't bad enough, the exhaustion and weakness (also a result of ICP) exacerbated the fear of losing this kid. You see, the main risk of ICP is a high incidence of stillbirth during the three last weeks of pregnancy. Needless to say, I was pretty much maniacal at the end.

My due date was yesterday, July 22nd, but my baby was born three weeks early. His birth was nothing like that of the other kids. I went from two idyllic homebirths to the NICU.

He spent a whole week in the NICU. A week that really made me understand the meaning of time stopping when things are bad. That week seemed like a lifetime. Looking back on it, I don't even know how I made it through it all, other than the fact that I felt myself and my fears and worries lifted by angels, heavenly and those here on Earth. 

I understood the real meaning of envy. Hot, acidic, pervading envy when another baby went home and mine didn't. I never knew that feeling existed. I hated it.

But I also felt gratitude and joy like never before. Freedom. Going back home with my baby felt like I had been set free.

I'm writing again. Yesterday I read a chapter I wrote weeks ago, and guess what? It wasn't horrible. In fact, I liked it so much, this morning I woke up looking forward to updating the blog. And writing. And new stories. I think I'm back to almost normal. Almost.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

A tribute to Max and the Wild Things

Sad but true: I rely on twitter for my news. This morning, I checked the trending topics and all sleepiness left me in a second. Most trending topics had to do with Maurice Sendak, Max, and the wild Things. Unlike many twitter deaths, this one was real. It might be that I'm over-emotional. Being in the last trimester of my fifth pregnancy gives me that right. The thing is that I've spent most of the morning mourning for someone I never met in real life, but oh! how much influence he's had in mine!

I didn't know about Max and the Wild Things when I was a kid (I know. I cry for little Yamile too), but my husband did. In fact, in his early childhood, Jeff thought he was THE Max. I have pictures and countless family stories to prove it. Jeff, the epitome of a business man, always busy and on the phone, was a Max.

This morning he was already busy on the phone, but when I told him the news, I caught a glimpse of the young boy he was, and what sad news this were for him. 

I read Where the Wild Things Are for the first time when my Handsome Boy was still a little baby. I loved it immediately. It wouldn't become our family's book until El Cangri came along, and he hit his crisis that lasted the good part of his first four years. With El Cangri, we read the book first thing in the morning, before nighttime, and before bedtime--in both, English and Spanish. El Cangri knew all the words. He still does. Every time we reached the page in which Max is chasing the poor dog with a fork, he'd ask if the dog was Coco (our Maltese), and I said yes. His eyes would get all shiny and bright as he whispered, "And that's me!" I'm sure he wondered how in the world he had ended up in the pages of a book. 

One Halloween, before I even knew the movie was coming out, I made a wolf costume for El Cangri, which is still our kids' favorite outfit :-) 
El Cangri during his Max stage

Now, my Princess Peach reminds me so much of Max, although in a different way. She's not mad (usually); she's just plain wild. I love her so much for it! The dogs are terrified of her though. The other day, Jeff spent a long time searching for Dandi, our Yorkie. He finally found her here:
Dandi, waiting for Papa to rescue her

I read through my twitter feed and was touched by the way thousands of people said their goodbyes to Maurice. Perhaps the one tribute that hit me the most was: "I hope someone kept supper warm for you."

There's a lovely article on The New York Times too. (Disclaimer: the comments made me cry more than the article itself. Just saying).

Have a lovely trip, Maurice, sailing the seas to where the wild things are, you King of them all!

Please share: What's your favorite Sandak book or any other kids' book? I'd love to have a discussion!

Monday, April 30, 2012

A True Gentleman

The last couple of weeks haven't been good for us, Barça fans. We lost the first game against Chelsea for the Champions League Semi-final; we lost El Clasico and almost all hopes for La Liga to Real Madrid, and we tied on the second game against Chelsea, losing our spot on the finals. Messi missed a penalty kick (he's human after all), and the tie left us a taste of defeat. Last Friday came the last straw, when I woke up to the sad news of Pep Guardiola's decision of resigning as the coach of the first team.

I could see it coming, but I'm a Saggitarious! I always keep a glimmer of hope (proof is, I still think we still have a shot at La Liga :-)

Pep cited exhaustion as the main reason behind his decision. He gave his all to the team in these last four wonderful years. He's empty now. He has nothing left to give. Like someone mentioned on twitter, the guy aged ten years in the last four!

I just wanted to say thank you, Pep, for the leadership. Thank you for the example of ultimate sportsmanship. I hope that throughout their lives, my children may have the priviledge of having leaders such as Guardiola, who respect their principles beyond any score or title, who never stop demanding but the best, who believe there's always one more goal to achieve.

Pep, you have inspired me beyond words. And I will miss you every weekend, directing and comandeering the best futbol team that has ever existed. Because of course, Barça without Xavi and Iniesta, Puyo and Messi would never be the same. Barcelona without Pep won't be the same, but life continues. The mark of the leader is more noticeable when they're gone. I know Pep's legacy will extend for years, if not ever. I'll certainly remember him always.

 Best Strategist Ever. He knew where the magic was needed. 

No, he's not a top model. He's The Gentleman of the most beautiful game of the world.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Tooth Gatherers

Like every April, the Utah Children's Writers Blog is featuring a new story each day: 30 stories, 30 days.

Today, my short story, The Tooth Gatherers, is featured on the blog, and I'd love for you to read it!

I wrote it for my Princess Peach (formerly known as Princess Chubbers). She's anxiously awaiting for her baby teeth to start falling off, but they just won't budge! I guess that after surviving so many blows by falls, being kicked by a child on a swing, and a toxic daily dose of sugar, they're not giving up easily!

I hope you enjoy it. Let me know your thoughts!

Marina finally lost a tooth. She’s not the youngest in her kindergarten class, but she’s the last one to show off a gap in her impish smile.
Her friend Ashley is an expert on losing teeth. She lost the first one in preschool, two years ago. “Polish your tooth and put it under your pillow for the Tooth Fairy,” she advises in a grave voice. “That’s the only thing you have to do.” 
“The Tooth Fairy,” Marina says in awe.
The whole kindergarten class agrees that the Tooth Fairy comes at night and that just like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, she has special powers. No one has ever seen her or caught her. The cleaner and healthier the tooth is, the more money she brings!
Marina clasps her tooth in her hand and runs all the way home with her wonderful news. She presses her tongue in the gap where her tooth used to be. Her heart flutters with the promise of magic and a golden coin.
Abuelo is waiting for her at the door, like every day.
“I lost a tooth!” she screams, jumping into his arms that are still strong enough to make her fly in the air.
Abuelo beams at her. He’s an expert on losing teeth too, but losing them doesn’t make him happy at all.
“Now you can put it under your pillow. It’s so healthy and clean, I’m sure El Raton Perez will bring you a present,” he says and goes back inside the house to prepare her after-school snack.
El Raton Perez? Marina has never heard of this mouse before.
Could a whole classroom of friends be wrong? Who’s telling the truth? Who is the official Tooth Gatherer: The Tooth Fairy or El Raton Perez?
She decides to ask Mama. Mama knows everything.
But this time, Mama doesn’t answer the question right away. She thinks about it for a long time before she says, “Ill ask Papa.”
Mama and Papa talk for a long time. They call Abuelo. The three of them whisper in Spanish behind the office door. Marina’s heart beats so loudly she can’t hear a word they say.
The grownups look worried. Their worry is contagious. 
In opposite corners of the kitchen, like luchadores in a ring, the Tooth Fairy and El Raton Perez glare at each other. They shake their fists and mutter under their breath.
“This is my territory. This house has been in the Tooth Fairy Atlas since it was built decades ago!” the Tooth Fairy says, stomping a foot.
“And La Sociedad Internacional of El Raton Perez has served this family for generations! I remember Abuelo, Mama and Papa when they lost their own teeth! I’ve waited for years for this moment. I won’t forsake my stewardship!” El Raton Perez squeaks. Even his whiskers blush with indignation.  
They leave the house their separate ways, but with the same destination: straight to file a complaint at the Society for the Protection of Magical Childhood Companions.
Santa Claus presides the audience, assisted by The Three Kings. The Easter Bunny takes note of the proceedings.
“Your Honor,” says El Raton Perez with a flourish of his feathered hat, “I humbly beg for your assistance in preserving this young girl’s cultural patrimony.”
Santa Claus nods his head and directs his attention to the Tooth Fairy.
She curtsies and smiles. She doesn’t need any charming powders to make them all fall in love with her. “I understand Mr. Perez, the Mouse, has served this family for generations. Marina was born in this country though, and in this country, I have jurisdiction. Thank you.”
Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Three Kings deliberate and argue in hushed tones, sounding exactly like Mama, Papa and Abuelo in the office a few hours ago.
El Raton Perez clutches his hat in his hands to prevent himself from biting his nails. The Tooth Fairy fans herself with a rose petal. The courtroom, filled beyond capacity, bubbles with speculation. What’s more important? The place where the child is born or the culture of the family?
Finally, the Sandman calls everyone to attention. The judge has reached a verdict.
Santa Claus clears his voice before he says, “Which takes precedence? You two are not the first ones to come to this court with this concern. Why! Even my friends The Three Kings and I had a similar dispute centuries ago!”
“How did you fix it?” asks the Mouse.
“Who won?” asks the Tooth Fairy.
Santa Claus and the Three Kings smile, full of wisdom and experience.
“Who won? Why, the child of course! How did we fix it? Working together!”
The crowd mutters in approval.
“Let the child decide. Our mission is to make Marina happy and preserve the magic of childhood, which is more fragile than a crystal.”
The Tooth Fairy and El Raton Perez leave the courtroom in silence, but this time they stay together. The Tooth Fairy shakes flying powder on the mouse. El Raton Perez opens his green polka-dotted umbrella over the Tooth Fairy to protect her hair-do from the night dew.
They arrive to Marina’s house just in time for bedtime.
Abuelo sits on Marina’s bed, holding her hand.
“Abuelo, what should I do? Papa says El Raton Perez has been a friend of our family’s for always. What if he didn’t follow you and my parents to this country? What if he can’t get in? Does he need a passport?” Marina asks.
Abuelo listens in silence while Marina continues, “Mama says that since I was born in this country we have to adopt its customs. My friends have never heard of this mouse you and Papa talk about. What should I do?”
Marina opens her hand and shows Abuelo her white tooth.
The Tooth Fairy and El Raton Perez look at the gleaming tooth in ecstasy.
It would complete El Raton Perez’s family collection.
It would be the perfect jewel to start a new collection for the Tooth Fairy too.
“I’ll abide by her decision,” El Raton Perez says, although it takes much fortitude for him to pronounce the words.
“Whatever makes her happy,” says the Tooth Fairy, wiping a tear from her eyes.
Marina waits for Abuelo’s advise.
El Raton Perez and the Tooth Fairy hold hands in the shadows.
Finally, Abuelo says, “Our family comes from all the corners of the world. You’re both an American and a Latina girl. You were born in this beautiful place we now call home, but you also carry a beautiful heritage. You’re like a river that runs over many lands. You carry the best from all the places our family has loved.”
He kisses Marina on the forehead before he leaves the room.
Marina opens a pewter box with a fairy engraved on the lid. She polishes her baby tooth for the last time and carefully places it on a cotton pillow. Before she closes the lid, she also puts a silk flower for the Tooth Fairy and a piece of cheese for the mouse.
“You can both come to my house,” Marina whispers with closed eyes. “I am both a girl of this land and the land my family came from. Mama says sharing is important. You can both share me.”
The Tooth Fairy and El Raton Perez hug each other and promise to always work together and advise the other in every need. They will share Marina’s teeth.
The most important duty of being a Tooth Gatherer is the happiness of the child.
The next day, there isn’t a happier child than Marina. She holds a golden coin from the country she was born and a silver coin from the country her family came from. In her heart, she has the best present of all: the knowledge that she belongs to two cultures, and she is only richer for it.  

Friday, March 02, 2012

JIG, the movie

 Swan Princess at her last feis, in which she took 3 first place, 2 second place, and 2 third place medals

Contrary to many stereotypes about women, Latina women, and writers I LOVE sports and movies about sports. Yes, even American football. Remember the Titans is a favorite of mine. I'm not an athlete, but in my family we ate, breathed, talked and dreamed futbol. My husband was athlete of the year his senior year of high-school, so it was only natural that when our kids came along, they'd be in sports.

Swan Princess, my first daughter, tried T-ball and futbol. She didn't like it. She preferred ballet which has been a passion of hers since she was three years old. She's now the youngest in her class and has such a grace and pose that seeing her dance takes my breath away.

A few years ago, we went to our city's Summer festival, the Highland Fling, in which one of the performing groups was an Irish Dance group. Swan Princess was mesmerized, looking at the dancers with such admiration and longing that I still get chills when I remember that day she found her true love.

She's been an Irish dancer ever since. She attends The Shelley School of Irish Dance (we're so blessed to live just a few miles from one of Utah's best Irish dance instructors!). Unlike my boys, whom I have to bribe and beg to practice, Swan practices several hours a day. All on her own. She never walks. She leaps and hops and dances instead. When she can't dance, like at church or school, she goes over the steps with her fingers on her lap or the desk.

There are three major feiseana (competitions) here in Utah every year, and she's always preparing for them. Since she's now a preliminary champion, we'll have to start traveling for her to have more opportunities to compete. Last night, I saw JIG, a documentary about the greatest Irish Dance competition of all: The World Championships.

The documentary follows several children, both boys and girls, in their journey to the tournament. Some of these kids are only ten years old! They have such passion and determination, that at the end of the show I was in tears. I had a greater desire to pursue my dreams with more dedication, to write with more passion, to do my time at the computer every single day.

Jig is available on Netflix and on Amazon video. In fact, I rented it for $2.99 for a whole week! I bought the DVD too because now it's one of my favorite shows too.

What things inspire you? I hope this little trailer inspires you too :-)

Thursday, February 02, 2012


Last summer, I had the privilege of attending the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference (WIFYR) with the amazing Martine Leavitt. I learned so much during that week, that months later, I'm still processing all the wonderful information.

One of the things that impressed me the most was when Martine taught us the principle of "the object of desire." What does the main character want? Is it clear on the first page? On the first chapter at the very least?

Ever since, I haven't been able to read a book or watch a movie without looking for the main character's object of desire, or the dilemma.

My first grader brought home a story that he wrote at school.
I'm going to transcribe it here (misspellings and all) because I think it's a great example of showing the main character's dilemma.

If my mom and dad were snowpeople I would cook and do the dishes.
I would make a igloo for the snowpeople. 
If my mom cook she would melt.
If my dad stayed inside he would melt.
If I stayed with them I would be a snowman.
I am so sad.

First of all, allow me, AWWWW.  Isn't it cute?


Can you see the main character's dilemma? The parents would melt if they stayed with the boy, in the house. If the boy stayed with the parents, he would become a snowperson too.

I wish I learned this in first grade too :-)

What do you think? Do you think it's important to know the dilemma in the first pages? Why? Why not?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Blogfiesta and Awards

My dear friend Julie is having a birthday today, and to celebrate, she's hosting a super Blogfiesta. It's super easy to enter, and the prize will be a Barnes and Noble or Amazon $25 gift card. Head over there and enter! She has a wonderful blog full of useful idea and information, especially on how to survive the zombie apocalypse :-) She also passed along a blog award to me.

These are the rules that were so clearly stated on her blog, that I just copied and pasted (my excuse is that I haven't slept in days. More on that, another day)

The rules are simple:
Name 5 blogs with under 200 followers that are totally awesome and deserve the award.
Link to those five blogs, as well as the blogger who awarded the award, and let your picks know they are the winners.
Share the love and help an undiscovered blog find the readership it deserves.

Yet another reason the blogging community rocks!

My five blog choices are:

Marilyn Almodovar: I met her through twitter and is a super writer.
  Shar: an amazing writer I had the pleasure to meet at the WIFYR conference almost two years ago. I seriously can't wait for her book to be published. It's amazing!
Carolyn: I met her online too, and then we've met over the years at several writers' conferences in Utah. Carolyn has the best attitude in the world!
Christy: not only is she a great writer, she's also an amazing Irish dancer.
Keru (a. k. a. Manny): a writer I just met through the Favorite Character blogfest, and whose comments were super nice.

It took me forever to link all these wonderful blogs, but it's done! (I hope they all work!)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Author Laura Josephsen is hosting a Favorite Character Blogfest, and I'm participating! I didn't have to think much to choose a favorite character, although an ever increasing number of characters populate my mind and to talk me incessantly.

My all-time favorite character is Diego, the love futbol star of my manuscript SOUTHERN CROSS. Diego is Camila's (my main character's) love interest. Since the book is written from her point of view, we don't get to know Diego's thoughts. But I love what others say about him:

"Looking like a rock star, surrounded by admirers, he cupped his hands around his mouth
so I could hear him from across the street. “I’ll call you later, Camila!” he said.
    I hope he meant tonight.

"As if he feels my eyes on him, Diego turns around and looks straight at me. He grins that smile I’m sure boys take secret lessons for. The fútbol star replaces the forlorn lost boy."

“'I was getting worried about you,' Diego says. He stands up to take my backpack from
my hands.
    When he kisses my cheek, a thousand replies blare in my mind. The more prominent are:
    Looking great, Titan.
    I missed you and it’s only been fourteen hours since I last saw you.
    Marry me."

Father Hugo, from the orphanage where Diego grew up:
 “I always knew he’d
reach far and high. I’m so proud of him. I dare wager that even without his adoptive mom, he would have still risen from his dire circumstances. Diego was born a fighter. "

The kids from the orphanage:
"Several dark-haired little ones run inside the house yelling, “The Titan came to play.
Diego came!”
    “Don’t make them crazy. It’s all I ask,” Father Hugo implores.
    “I’ll do my best,” Diego says and runs to meet his greatest admirers, chasing them with
open arms.
    The kids shriek, ecstatic.

I am a futbol fanatic, and I there are several futbol players I admire tremendously. Diego was loosely based on a couple of kids who lived in my barrio in Argentina, and made it to the "big leagues." They are everyone's heroes. The pride and joy of us all.

I'm looking forward to reading the other participants' entries! Thanks to my friend Julie for the link to this awesome opportunity. For details on how to participate, click on the button!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Year (2 weeks later, I know!), New Beginnings (because it's never too late)

New year, new beginnings, a new novel to work on, a new baby in the family. Make that two babies, because added to Rosalia's, my sweet sister-in-law (whom I totally admire and adore), will be my own little baby, my number five. I'll have my own futsal team! We couldn't be happier. And I talk in plural because all six of us are ecstatic, as is the rest of our extended family, which keeps getting bigger and bigger.

I'm excited about 2012 and the challenges it will bring, those that I'm already anticipating and those I'm sure will take me by surprise. Being the stereotypical Sagittarius (spell check suggested "sanatorium." Hmmm, maybe suggesting I should be in one?), I'm the eternal optimistic. Will this be the year I find a great agent to work with? Will the agent be the one who'll find me? Will this be the year I write the "one"? Will I find the courage to apply for the MFA program I've been researching for years and years?

One morning, on the way to the school bus stop, still obscenly early to be awake, the kids and I were talking about goals. El Cangri's goal seemed to be to remain awake long enough to make it to his seat on the bus. But the two older kids were interested in what my goals were. As usual, I got carried away, and by the time the bus arrived, I must have named at least a hundred.

There are so many things I want to do! Luckily, losing weight isn't one of them (can't because of the baby. Come July, I'll be doing Crossfit every day. Or so I say now). But I'll take it one day at the time. For now, one of my main ones is to write a little every day. I'm already doing my morning pages, but I also want to keep up with the blog, make it pretty, meet new people in the blogosphere. I'll start by posting once a week. I know I've said this before, but it's the new year, even though it took me almost two weeks to come to terms with it.

Oh! This year, because I don't waste enough time online ;-), I signed up on pinterest. Today, I found this and pinned in on my board (?). I'm still not fluent in pinterest's lingo. But I thought it was apropos, and I wanted to share.

What are some of your goals for the year?