Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Interview With Author Angela Cervantes

Angela thanks for this interview for La Bloga. How would you present your middle grade novel Gaby, Lost and Found to the audience? Tell us about it. 

When Gaby Ramirez Howard’s mother is deported back to Honduras, the sixth-grader’s life unravels. She's left with her father who neglects her. With everything falling apart, the protagonist finds strength and comfort in a class service project at a local animal shelter. Through volunteering at the shelter, Gaby showcases her writing skills, creating individual profiles for each animal and becomes determined to find all of the animals a forever family. Although her life parallels many of the abandoned pets, Gaby transform from a victim into the role of protector and advocate for the shelter animals.

How was the process from manuscript to publication for Gaby, Lost and Found? 
I call the whole process a birth. I wrote the first draft in nine months, but spent another two years revising it. I still look at the book and think I could revise just a little more, but I know I just have to release it to the world and hope kids and teachers love it as much as I do. After a couple of rejections, I received a call from my agent, Adriana Dominguez Ferrari, on Nov. 22, 2012 telling me that we had an offer. I’ll never forget that day so long as I live. Gaby, Lost and Found is the first book I’ve ever written and I didn’t expect anything but a big fat rejection. That phone call and the offer by Scholastic rocked my world. Once we had an offer, it was back to revising. The book was released August 1, 2013. It’s done really well in the schools and its kept me super busy with school visits and responding to tons of fan mail. My first full year as a published author has been like one amazing pachanga and the band is still playing and I’m still dancing.

Is this story based on a real life experience?
It isn’t, but I get that question a lot. The core of the story is about a young Latina going through a tough time in her family and school life. I was a Chicana with divorced parents, mostly raised by my mom. It was tough too, but I never had to face the soul-crushing separation of my family the way Gaby experiences.

You are telling a very realistic story. There are many children in USA who had been separated from their parents due to deportation. What is your message for these children who are trying to adapt and cope to this hard situation?
In my acknowledgement, I write that this book is for all the Gaby’s out there. By that I mean all the children finding themselves faced in this situation. My message to them is to stay strong. Easier said than done, I know. I was one big crying mess when I was doing research on children who have had a parent deported. What this separation does to the children and our community is unfair and cruel. I tried to capture that pain with Gaby and through the profiles she writes for the animals in the shelter, but I didn’t want her completely destroyed by it. Gaby climbs back up from this injustice by refusing to let it defeat her. She realizes she can honor her mom my picking up where her mom left off in the United States. Gaby finds her passion to help animals, she discovers she’s strong and more importantly she recognizes she has a solid community of friends around her who have her back no matter how tough things get. I guess that’s my message to the children who are in this situation: Rise above and don’t give up on your dreams no matter what or who stands in your way.

Did you have a favorite pet when you were a child?
I had two dogs that my mom brought home named Cheech and Chong. My mom and her coworkers at the local El Centro named them. They were black and white mixed mutts. My mom brought them home to us after my parents separated and she had to go back to work. She didn’t want her four children to come home after school to an empty home. Someone asked her why did you have to adopt two? Isn’t one enough? She said it was because they were from the same litter and she couldn’t bear to separate them. She’s sweet like that.

What inspires you to write? 
I’ve always been a crazy book worm and my love for books transformed into a love for writing. I’ve been writing poetry, short stories and free verse all my life. Mostly my stories revolve around my familia and my comunidad. I grew up in a very proud Chicano community in Topeka, Kansas. I try to pay homage to my community and the people who made me a writer by telling our stories with honesty and dignity.

What are you working on now? 
I have a second middle grade book in the works. I can’t say much about it --It’s still fragile. I can say that I feel very strong about it. Wish me luck!

Thanks Angela, what are your final words for our readers at La Bloga
I’ve always been a fan of La Bloga. Having a place where folks like us can share our stories, promote each other’s art is important and is what has always drawn me to the blog.  I’m grateful and honored to be a part of a growing community of Latino children’s authors pushing our stories out into the world.

Scholastic's Author Video

Angela Cervantes is a poet, storyteller and animal-lover. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in various publications. She is one of the featured authors in Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul, a Latino-themed anthology that follows the successful Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Gaby, Lost and Found is her first Middle Grade novel.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Daniel, could you please write a piece about the Chicano chapbook series. I own a couple of copies that I cherish. Since they are so rare and hard to come by, it would be great if an anthology of the series would come out so others could enjoy these gems. Thanks for your contribution to chicano literature.