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.
The 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.
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.