bilingual, Los Primos, Taos, Writing

Catching the Magic Fish

Last week the proofs arrived for The Cousins and the Magic Fish, the first in a bilingual series for young readers. The book’s name en español is: Los Primos y el Pez Mágico. It’s a kick to see the cover on Amazon. Now the work begins to get it into the hands of young readers, whether their first language is Spanish or English.

Los Primos coverThe concept began a year ago when Teresa Dovalpage, my friend and collaborator on this series, and I talked about the lack of good bilingual books for kids. (Teresa is an author of adult fiction who grew up in Cuba.)

Then, you know how it is. The words “los primos” popped into my head. So did the characters, their names and the story lines. I would write the books in English. Teresa would tell them in Spanish. We finished three rather quickly.

Then, we tried the traditional agent (I had one then) and publisher route. We tried indie houses. We struck out there as well.

But I felt we were onto something. I still do.

So we decided to do it on our own with some help. We worked with Marlene Moleon, of Eriginal Books in Miami, to create the book we wanted. The facing pages have the text — English on the left and Spanish on the right. Marlene used my son Ezra Livingston’s illustrations on the glossy cover and at the bottom of each page.

The proofs look great.

Teresa and I at Pecha Kucha

Teresa and I before our presentation at ¡Viva Pecha Kucha!

Now Teresa and I are reaching out. We are meeting with local school officials. We will do social media, hit book fairs (Miami here we come) and do readings. Last week, we did a presentation about Los Primos at ¡Viva Pecha Kucha!

I believe children could relate to the books. Diego lives with his grandparents and Sofia, next door with her parents who run El Burrito Feliz taqueria. The likable cousins spend a lot of free time with their Grandpa Roberto, who tells fabulous stories. He has a dog, Max, inspired by Teresa’s own pet. And, of course, there’s a bit of magical realism.

We have two more ready to go.

Next on the publishing list is an adult novel, a comedy I wrote when I first moved here to Taos. I spent the last couple of weeks reading it aloud, a bit of a task since it has 82,000 words but it is the best method to find errors. Sarah, my daughter, is giving it a second read and I will do another, silently this time. This week I am meeting with Michelle, who will design the book, for Kindle and paperback.

This is my big experiment in cutting out the middlemen. The timing couldn’t be better. This past week I got four rejections for various literary projects from: an agent, an indie publishing house and two magazines.

PHOTO ABOVE: Those are the two first pages of the book. What’s written on the left page in English is the same on the right in Spanish.

bilingual, books

A Book: How Exciting

Ta-da! That is the cover of the first Los Primos book — The Cousins and the Magic Fish/Los Primos y el Pez Mágico.

Marlene Molson, of eRiginal Books in Miami, emailed the image this week. The designer, China Yanly, incorporated the illustrations created by my son Ezra into a river scene. Cousins Diego and Sofia and their Grandpa Roberto are on shore after they released Mr. Fish aka Don Pez.

Ezra’s illustrations will also appear on the bottom of each page.

A book. How exciting.


That’s Teresa Dovalpage to my right. Photo by Katharine Egli

As I posted earlier, I wrote the book in English and Teresa Dovalpage tells it in Spanish.

Now we are considering ways to get the book, the Los Primos series actually, into the hands of young readers. It is being uploaded to Create Space so we can print the books as needed.

One option would be to approach bilingual programs in the schools. I read that Hispanic children make up 25 percent of the population in public schools. Plus, children whose primary language is English could learn Spanish.

Here’s a sample from the book:

The fish’s thick lips moved.

“Yes, I did. Why are you all staring? You look like fish with your mouths open.” The fish laughed. “Be careful. You might get hooked. And please tell your dog to stop sniffing me. I don’t like it.”

And en español:

Los gruesos labios del pez se movieron.

—Sí, claro. ¿Por qué me miran con esos ojotes? Parecen peces con la boca abierta —el pez se rió—. Tengan cuidado. Los puedan enganchar. Y por favor, díganle a su perro que deje de olfatearme. No me gusta que me olfateen.

As I wrote last week, we will be doing a presentation on the series at ¡Viva Pecha Kucha! in Taos on Feb. 18.

I reread the book this morning. I like Diego and Sofia. They are good kids. They have a sense of humor but they aren’t smart alecks. They love their Abuelo Roberto, who tells them fanciful stories about his family. They could live in Taos.

And there are elements of magical realism in the series — like a talking fish, a dog that goes invisible and musical instruments that make people dance.

It’s a fun project — and very soon a book in hand.


bilingual, books, Pecha Kucha, Taos, Writing

Dos Chicas at Pecha Kucha

¡Viva Pecha Kucha! That’s the title of the next Pecha Kucha in Taos, and this time I’ll be a participant with my friend Teresa Dovalpage. On Feb. 18 we’ll share images and talk about ourselves but mostly about our Los Primos bilingual series for young readers.

What’s the name of our act? Dos Chicas y Los Primos.

The event will celebrate Hispanic art and culture. Here’s how the Pecha Kucha people are pitching it: Celebrando el arte y la cultura de Latinos y Latinas, Taoseños y Taoseñasand everything Hispanic.

In Pecha Kucha — Japanese for “chit chat” — each presenter has 20 images projected onto a screen and 20 seconds to talk about each one. In all one spends 6 minutes and 40 seconds on stage — not such a frightening amount of time for the performer or audience.

So you have to get right to the point and be entertaining about it.

Let me tell you about our Los Primos (The Cousins) series. The main characters are cousins Diego and Sofia. They’re also neighbors. And after school they go on adventures with their Grandpa Roberto, who likes to tell fanciful stories. I would categorize the series as magical realism.

In the first book, the cousins and Grandpa catch a magic fish that grants them a wish for letting him go. In the end they choose the wisest wish.

The second book features an invisible dog — inspired by Teresa’s very visible pet Maxx — and in the third, Grandpa comes to the cousins’ school as a one-man band.

I write the books and Teresa tells them in Spanish. (She’s a professor and author of books in English and Spanish.)

Here’s an older post on the topic.

The books are for young readers whose first language is either Spanish or English — although I believe they’d be a fun read for others. They come with illustrations by my artist son Ezra Livingston.

We are working on ways to get these books into the hands of readers.

As for ¡Viva Pecha Kucha! Teresa and I have been planning ever since we got the green light to participate. We came up with a list of images we thought we’d need. Teresa and Katharine Egli, The Taos New photographer, shot several. We’re using Ezra’s illustrations among other images.

Musician son Nate Livingston composed a 20-second tune for our one-man band/el hombre orquesta segment. Here it is.

Yesterday, Teresa and I got together to put the images in order. We start with photos of ourselves when we were little girls.

Teresa, who grew up in Cuba, is reading a book. She’s about nine.

2 Joan_child copy

That’s me ready for Halloween, I presume.

I chose one of me wearing a costume. I’m about five and my last name then was Medeiros, a good Portuguese name.

On Saturday, we practiced talking about each image for 20 seconds, using the timer on my phone. We decided Teresa will speak in Spanish and I will use English to make it truly a bilingual performance. ¡Orale!

ABOUT THE IMAGE ABOVE: Los Primos Diego and Sofia by Ezra Livingston.