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, 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.



Writing in Two Languages

Here is my newest project: a bilingual book series in English and Spanish for young readers. Let me rephrase that. It is our new project because it is a collaboration with my friend Teresa.

First, a little bit about Teresa. She was my Spanish 101 professor and is a super-contributor, in English and Spanish, to the newspaper where I work. She is the author of several adult books in both languages. One day she commented on the dearth of good bilingual books for young readers — say in the second and third grade. Why not create one as an experiment? Why not, indeed.

The story is my creation. I’m not going to give away too much here. But the main characters are two cousins, eight and seven, who live next door to each other. (I once read girls will read stories about boys and girls; boys like to read about boys. I don’t know if it is a hard-fast rule, but it’s nice to offer characters of both genders.) The other main character is their grandfather who takes care of the cousins after school. The boy lives with his grandparents. The girl’s parents run a food wagon.

Like all of my characters, I love writing about the cousins. They are sweet and caring. Their grandfather — his inspiration is a late, great friend — is kind, wise, and a bit of a storyteller.

These stories do have a bit of magical realism. The first has a magic fish. You can see my son, Ezra’s illustration on this post. In the second, Grandpa aka Abuelo plays music people can’t resist. The third has an invisible dog, Max, thanks to Grandpa’s experiment.

The Magic Fish by Ezra Livingston

The Magic Fish by Ezra Livingston

I emailed the first to Teresa, who then recreated it in Spanish. Teresa worked so the facing Spanish page is exactly the same as what’s on the English page. We figure it would be easier for readers, whether their first language is English or Spanish.

This is my first collaboration. I am a solitary writer. But I admire Teresa’s enthusiasm and work ethic. We are partners 50/50.

Initially, we were going to publish the first story on our own as an experiment and see how it went. But after encouragement from others, we’ve decided to take the more traditional route of getting a publisher. We are planning to package the stories in three separate books.

Today, I am sending the second story to Teresa, and then I will begin the next. Who could resist an invisible dog named Max? I certainly can’t.