Many Thanks to All Who Helped Me With My 2020 Successes.

Even though this year was a complicated one based on the pandemic and some personal problems, I have to be extra thankful.

If you have been following my journey, you know that at the end of 2019, I got my first offer for my story BELLA’S RECIPE FOR SUCCESS (Illustrated by Geraldine Rodriguez), coming out in July 2021 by Beaming Books – editor Naomi Krueger. I do owe a big thanks to all my critique partners and Lynne Marie, who helped shape this story into a fun story about having a growth-mindset and making mistakes. Then I got my agent – Andrea Walker. And then, 2020.

Beaming Books – July 13, 2021 – Illustrated by Geraldine Rodriguez

Andrea submitted my story “IF YOUR BABYSITTER IS A BRUJA”  to some editors, including Alyza Liu from SimonKids, who requested my manuscript during my class with Children’s Book Academy – Golden Ticket. My book just got announced, and now I can say a big thanks to Mira Reisberg for helping me with this story so much during her class. She motivated me to include more Spanish words and helped me with many critiques during our live sessions—Muchas gracias, Mira, and Children’s Book Academy. The book will come out during the Summer of 2022, and another Brazilian – Irena Freitas, will illustrate it. 

Then I worked on another manuscript. Even though I can’t announce its sale yet, I can say it was inspired by my superhero Mami and her relationship with my superhero son Luis Eduardo Duran. This manuscript got stuck for a while, and I have to say a big thanks to Heidi Stemple for helping me figure out how to get it unstuck. This book got sold, and more details (very surprising!!) will be announced when possible. But I can say that I was thrilled to sell this book to an amazing editor, and a fantastic illustrator will illustrate it. More news are coming soon. Well, probably not too soon. 

My Mom- Neila Siqueira – died on October 22, 2019.

This year, I also started working on learning about Chapter Books. And I repeated the lesson learned with my Picture Books: take time to learn the craft before rushing to submit it. I took two classes, one with Marcie Colleen with The Writing Barn (thanks for the partial scholarship) and one with Highlight Foundations (thanks for the scholarship) with Debbie Michiko Florence (Jasmine Toguchi Series) and Kashmira Sheth (Nani series). I read many, many chapter books. I wrote the first draft. Then I did a study hall with Marcie Colleen and four more fabulous critique partners. I am now submitting it to my critique partners and getting ready to submit it to my agent in January. 

But, of course, I couldn’t have done that without help from so many, many people. The Writing Community is Amazing- Fantastica. I am in many different critique groups, and I am thankful to all of them, but I am especially grateful to

  1.  My weekly group that keeps me writing and revising every month – Kim Larson, Ashley Cogdon, Shannon Howarth, Sarah Meade, and Sarah Kirkpatrick. Maryna Doughty, Marianna Llanos, Jarmila Kurucova. 
  2. My monthly group that keeps inspiring me with their amazing stories – Bonnie Kelso, Vasilia Graboski, Sande Roberts
  3. My super talented group – Las Chicas Latinas -Kaitlyn Sanchez, Shirley Espada-Richey, Sara Fajardo, Rachel Funez, Aixa Perez-Prado, Donna B. Higuera, Zoraida Rivera Morales, Maria Antonia, Melanie Sheppard, Kelly Lundbland.
  4. Las Musas, where I found support to keep writing my Latinx books and got invited to participate in Latinx Kidlit Book Festival.
  5. My Debut Group 21fortheBooks has helped me to start thinking about marketing and promoting my book. There are so many fantastic authors, and everybody helps each other. 
  6. My Latinxpitch group that worked hard to help Latinx creators get a chance to shine and represent more latinx kids in our stories. 
  7. Thanks to Harold Undertown and Eileen Robinson for helping me out, during their Picture Book advanced course, on a manuscript I hope to submit soon,
  8. And, of course, my super-agent Andrea Walker, who not only believes in my stories but also helps me to get them into shape to be sent to publishers. 
  9. And to so many others who swapped manuscripts with me, who motivated me, who supported me. Sorry, if I did not include your name, but I am thankful to you, be sure. 

All these achievements meant nothing when my older son got sick and hospitalized. But again, the writing community got together and prayed for him and cheered me up. I did take over a month’s break. Now my son is getting better, and I am trying to get back on track and submit another story in January/February. 

But here, I want to leave you with some hope since I know this business can be challenging. If you focus on learning your craft, having fun, working with critique partners, one day, Voila… You will find that one YES that we all need. 

“Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”  John Wooden:

“Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.” – Jonas Salk.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!

“Ava Gabriela is visiting her extended family in Colombia for the holidays. She’s excited to take part in family traditions such as making buñuelos, but being around all her loud relatives in an unfamiliar place makes Ava shy and quiet. How will Ava find her voice before she misses out on all the New Year’s fun?”- Albert Whitman & Co. 2020
Written by Alexandra Alessandri/ Illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

Alexandra Alessandri writes in an adorable and honest way about what goes through kids’ minds and hearts when they feel shy in a particular situation or are generally shy.

Ava gets to this beautiful finca where her Abuelita lives, but she can’t find her voice. Throughout the book, she and we, the readers, discover more about her familia and so many different traditions. Some New Year’s traditions presented are baking bañuelos and making an Año Viejo doll. Readers will also learn about what to wear and eat for good luck.

There are many Spanish words and expressions, easily understandable through context clues or repetition of the same in English.  Also, Alexandra included a glossary in the end.

This is a book for all shy kids and the ones not so shy, so we can all  understand each other. FELIZ NEW YEAR, AVA GABRIELA!  Allows Colombian children to see themselves represented. Still, it is also a book for all Latinx kids and not Latinx kids, so we can all learn about this beautiful culture, and most importantly, we can all learn that in any culture and country, children go through similar feelings and struggles.

Readers will cheer for this sweet girl to find her voice and have fun.

Some of my favorite expressions in this book, filled with beautiful language, are:

  1. Ava’s heart thumped like Papá’s tambor.
  2. The word was whispery soft but tasted sweet like dulce de leche.
  3. Her voice grew wings and hummed like a colibrí.

And now, let’s talk about illustrations. 

The illustrations show Gabriela’s sweetness, the happiness of her family, the colors of their culture, and we can almost hear the words and the songs throughout the book. Great job, Addy Rivera Sonda. 

In summary, this book is so sweet! You will gobble it up!!! 

Now, I need to go get me some dulce de leche and buñuelos. 

Bio Author – Alexandra Alessandri is a Colombian American poet, children’s author, and Associate Professor of English at Broward College. Her poetry has appeared in The Acentos Review, Rio Grande Review, Atlanta Review, and YARN. Her debut Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! releases October 1, 2020, from Albert Whitman & Company, followed by Isabel and Her Colores Go to School in fall 2021 from Sleeping Bear Press. Alexandra lives in Florida with her husband and son. 
Twitter: @apalessandri
Instagram: @apalessandri

Bio Illustrator –

Addy Rivera Sonda is a Mexican illustrator who loves color and nature. When not drawing, she explores ways to live a more sustainable life. Addy hopes her stores and art can build empathy and lead to a more inclusive world. She currently lives in California. Find her website at


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On sale: 10.01.2020
Available for Pre-order Now! Enter the pre-order giveaway here.
Signed and personalized copies available from Books & Books here. Leave a note for personalization info in the order comments field at Alexandra’s website..

Reviewing Amazing Books by My Debut Partners

A Girl’s Bill of Rights by Amy B. Mucha

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a book for all girls. It’s time we, girls. can fight for all our rights. This book is all about showing all that we can do. Buy it if you have a girl. Buy it if you have a boy. The illustrations are also amazing and you see a diversity of girls. So all the girls can see them represented in the book about Yes, You CAN. In Spanish – Sí, se puede!

View all my reviews

Rainbow Boy by Taylor Rouanzion

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OMG! What a super cute, but at the same time deep book.
Rainbow boy can’t choose a color, because he loves all of them.
And for each day, he chooses one color and one activity.
It’s a book of allowing boys to like and enjoy all the colors of the world and
also all the games and activities. Boys can dance ballet.
Boys can kick a basketball. Boys can change the world.
My favorite spread is when he is wearing purple and mom says he can save the world.
All the boys, and of course, all the girls, should believe they can be whatever they want to
be and save the world.
This book is so filled with beautiful images and illustrations- fun and sweet, they take us right inside the world of this Rainbow boy and many other Rainbow kids throughout the world.
Your kid will love it.

View all my reviews

Your Future Is Bright by Corey Finkle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a fun book about being whatever you want to be. It’s so important for kids to know they can be whatever they want. And they may even not know what they want to be, but their future is bright. Colorful illustrations with diverse characters make this a must book for teachers, parents, and librarians.

View all my reviews


By Amber Hendricks, Illustrated by Kyle Reed


What a Dilemma!!

“You’ll be saving the city from the evil Emperor Zog…

Your dad asks for a favor.

A really big favor.

The BIGGEST of all BIG favors.

He’ll ask you to…

… keep an eye on your little brother.”

That’s how your dilemma will start – yes, the book is written in the 2nd Point-Of-View, but the character is an adorable girl who has a motto: Superheroes Don’t Babysit.

She has to agree on the terms her dad establishes, but… Check her face.

This Amazing Illustration Shows It All. Great job Kyle Reed.

Super Illustrations, Super Text

This book is a very kid-relatable story about siblings and how they love each other despite all the confusion and interruption they create at each other’s lives. 

The super well-done and fun illustrations show us all her emotions, disappointments, and frustrations.

The text shows us her personality and how funny, sassy, and sweet she is.

Kids will love the mess these two siblings get in and they will relate when in the end… I can’t tell you the end, but kids will love the sweet twist.

Be ready for stinky, sweet, and real superhero scenes. After all, a superhero act can be found in all the little and big sacrifices siblings make to each other. 

My Rating

I give this book 💛🧡💙💚💜

Illustrations – Fun, Adorable, and very Expressive.

Text – simple, engaging, and funny, filled with personality.

Character – she couldn’t more sassy and sweet So cute and likable!!! 

Story -Very kid-relatable and filled with humor and heart

The ending – a cute and sweet twist. 

Summary from Publisher

Beaming Books

Superheroes leap buildings, chase bad guys, and save the city from the evil Emperor Zog. Superheroes DON’T babysit. Except when their dad asks them to. In an epic battle of sibling rivalry, will this superhero finally meet her match? Or will she find exactly what she’s been missing all along?

About Amber

Born and raised in the Midwest, Amber Hendricks grew up reading everything she could get her hands on- including the morning cereal boxes. That passion melded into writing as well, and by the age of 11 she was writing and binding her own “books”. Amber has worn many hats in her career but she has always circled back to her first love of telling stories. Amber currently resides in Missouri with her husband and two children.

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Joana Pastro a Damsel Not in Distress

Here a little bit about this Brazilian-American-English girl and her path on becoming an AMAZING picture book writer.

Her Childhood in Brazil,

United States and England.

I had a happy and pretty interesting childhood. I was born in Brasilia, and when I was a month old, my mom and I moved to the United States to join my dad who was at Cornell University, working on his doctor’s degree. Three years later we moved back to Brazil. When I was seven, we moved again, this time to England. We lived there for only two years, but that experience impacted me profoundly. Living in England allowed us to travel all over Europe and exposed me to a lot of art and history, two of my favorite things! It certainly influenced my interests and taste, and it helped shape the person I became. 


the Agent.

When I finished writing my middle-grade novel I thought, Okay, what do I do now? I did my research and found SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I became a member and joined a critique group. I queried my (terrible) MG around the same time and only got rejections. But in 2016 I found my calling in PBs. I joined 12×12 and Storyteller Academy in 2017 and by May, I had four polished manuscripts and began querying. In July, I participated in #PBPitch on Twitter and Natascha Morris from BookEnds Literary liked it! I sent her my manuscript the following week. About a month later she requested more, and offered representation in September.  

Becoming a

Picture Book Writer

The short answer on why I decided to write picture books is because I had kids! I worked as an architect until my second child was born. Visiting the library with my kids and reading all those wonderful books with them made me wish I could write to them, but I wasn’t a writer! Still, that wish stayed with me. At one point I listened to that wish and began writing down ideas in a notebook. About five years later, I decided to give writing a shot. At first, I wrote in Portuguese, but then one day I began writing a middle-grade novel in English. In 2015, I wrote a short story, and my critique partners encouraged me to make it into a picture book. It became my debut, LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS. The following year I took the ReFoReMo (Read For Research Month) challenge. Being immersed in picture book mentor texts sealed the deal for me. By the end of that month all I wanted to write was picture books.

Her Debut Book –

LillyBelle, a Damsel not in Distress

My inspiration for my debut book – I was brainstorming the topic Knights and Castles from a call for submissions from Cricket magazine, and remembered the phrase “damsel in distress”. The first spark for the idea came from adding the word NOT to it. I wanted to tell a story of a girl who loves being damsel-y, but doesn’t like that damsels must wait for rescue. I like to think of LillyBelle as a girl who loves both ballet and karate, you know? A girl who can’t decide between being a fairy or a dinosaur on Halloween. In the book, LillyBelle refuses to be a damsel in distress and is set on proving that a damsel can very well save herself. It’s a story of girl power, friendship and also of accepting our differences.

It’s up for pre-order now.



BISA’S CARNAVAL was a completely different process. I wanted to write a book about Carnaval, so I researched everything I could about the topic. With that information at hand, I sat down to write and… nothing. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to write. So, I put it aside, and about a year later, I read FESTIVAL OF COLORS by Kabir and Surishtha Segal and fell in love with it. I realized I wanted to write a book with that level of energy and vibrancy, and most importantly, with that emotional resonance. After digging deep for my personal connections, I wrote about Clara and her Bisa (great-grandma) sharing the love for Carnaval and each other, while preparing for it. It’s coming out Fall 2021. 


More Plans

I have a couple of books out on submission, and three other that are submission ready. Right now, I’m working on marketing with my debut group, the Soaring 20s, and with Las Musas. I’m revising other picture books and trying my hand on an early chapter book. I’m pretty excited about that new challenge.


Fun 💃🌅

Besides writing and reading, I love dancing. It’s my therapy. I’ve been taking a wonderful Broadway Jazz class for the past seven years. It’s the only activity that enables me to leave all of my worries outside the door. I miss my dancing friends so much now that we’re all social distancing. I love learning about art history, and I have a special place in my heart for ancient Egyptian history. I love being outside by the pool or at the beach, and watching movies and TV shows.

Tips for

Aspiring Writers

Don’t try to do it alone, find other writers, if you’re writing for children, join SCBWI, join a critique group. We all learn to write in elementary school, but that doesn’t mean we know how to write a book. Each type of book has a different set of rules. Learn those rules! Celebrate the small victories. And be patient. 

Pay attention to everything around you. Turn on your senses, absorb information, and read all sorts of materials. Ideas really are everywhere, you just need to have your idea catcher on at all times!

Some of

Her Favorites

Favorite Book -Little Women/Favorite Food -Desserts/Favorite Quote-Albert Einstein – “Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

How to Support

Debut Authors 2020

Requesting our books at your local library and adding them your Goodreads “want to read” tab is a huge help. If you have the financial means, pre-order/order our books, and if you enjoyed reading them, please post a review. The more reviews we get, the more our books get seen.

If you’re buying for children, ask around. Classics are great, but there are sooooo many amazing new books being released every week. Give those a chance too!

Pre-Order Joana’s Book Here


Joana Pastro always wanted to be an artist of some sort. So, she became an architect. But once her first child was born, all the visits to the library, and the countless story times made Joana start dreaming of becoming a children’s book author. After a lot of reading, writing and revising, her dream is coming true. Her debut picture book, LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS, illustrated by Jhon Ortiz, will be published by BM&K in 09/08/2020. Her second book, BISA’S CARNAVAL, illustrated by Carolina Coroa will be published by Scholastic in Fall/2021. Originally from Brazil, Joana now lives in Florida with her husband, her three extremely creative children and a rambunctious Morkie. You can find her on Twitter @jopastro, Instagram on @joanapastro, on her website at


Twitter: @jopastro

Instagram: @joanapastro


Spring Fling Story

Contest page here.

Cow Girl

by Ana Siqueira – 149 words

It’s spring! 

Maravilla reads about las flores of the world.

At her farm, there are none.

She must go smell some.


with her short legs,

she can’t go that far.

Her people ride and shout, “Vámonos, cowgirls!”

If girls can be cowgirls.

Cows can definitely be cowgirls.


her owners took the horses.

So, Maravilla will find a ride at the circus.

“Elefante, let’s go smell las flores of the world?”

“Of course!”

But … 

Too big!!

“Carro, let’s go smell las flores of the world?”

Carro doesn’t answer.

Maravilla plops in. 


Carro doesn’t “MOVE!!!!”

“I quit!” Maravilla moans.


“Jirafa, vamos smell las flores of the world?

Jirafa bends down her neck and says,



Too slippery!!!


Maravilla borrows the clown’s rubber boots and TA-DA! 

She rides la jirafa!  

“Vamos smell all las flores of the world!”


in which direction is the world? 


A New Kind of Wild by Zara Gonzalez Hoang

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A new Kind of Wild is a book that will fill your imagination and take you on a beautiful trip.

First Ren lives in this wild place filled with unicorns and fairies.

” His days were filled with green and dirt and rocks and mud.”

Then he moves to a big city. He meets Ava. A girl who is happy to go through all the colors and sounds of the big city.

“Ava loved her city. It was a place of constant change, with people mvoing through it like and endless parade.”

But no matter what Ava does, Ren still feels homesick until Ava finds a way to show Ren the wild does also exist in her big city, their big city.

Such a beautiful story filled with lyrical language and amazing illustration.
Wow. So colorful and bright, so vivid and real, so wild.

I strongly recommend this book to show all of us how perspective can make us see the world differently, but how with goodwill and friendship we can make everybody’s world a little better.
Congrats Zara for this beautiful story.
Ana Siqueira


Zara Twitter

Zara’s Website

View all my reviews

Donna Barba Higuera – A Magical Musa


Even as a child I made up fantastical stories in my mind. Simple interactions with friends or teachers where I’d been silent or awkward, I’d imagine instead I had responded with a booming, brave voice or with some clever speech. Or I’d envision a simple playground dust devil was actually a desert fairy only I could see. She was coming to take me away to some lush forest where I could fly and eat magical berries larger than my head. Sometimes I would write my imagined tales down, but not always. 


When I graduated high school, I decided I wanted to be a writer or designer. But my parents pushed me to go into the sciences. So, I majored in Biochemistry. But I still did a lot of daydreaming in class where Drosophila were actually fairy babies who’d been trapped in a genetics lab and needed to escape and spread their vestigial wings!


I first started studying with online creative writing courses through a local college in 2010. I started writing my first novel in 2011. When I finished it, I didn’t have a critique group and didn’t know how to get feedback, so I sent it in to the Pacific Northwest Writers Association where you could submit it for professional critiques as part of a writing contest. My first novel was a finalist in the Young Adult category. Then it won first place. (WOW!!!)


So, that first novel I ever wrote that won first place, I thought, “This means I’ve made it!!!”

That was far from the truth. I’d barely taken one step down a long trail. I’d done none of the real work. I hadn’t studied enough. I hadn’t read enough. I hadn’t written enough.  I didn’t even have a critique group. Writing is hard. And there’s no quick path. My first step should have been to find a good critique group. (Which I’ve now had for eight years. Hey Papercuts!) They are a very honest, hardworking group of writers. We love each other, but we hold each other accountable. Our goal is to give (the sometimes) brutal feedback we need to hear to make each other better writers.

Now, I am always studying, reading, writing, critiquing…


I first queried in 2013 and got my first agent in the same year. 

Years passed, and I realized I simply had the wrong agent for me. I started over in 2017. (That was scary).

I signed with my new agent in 2018 and things took off. If I can add one thing I learned that I wish writers knew about agents, is that having the wrong agent for your work and style of communication is worse than having no agent at all. 

It’s not about any agent being bad or good. It’s about making sure that the agent you end up with is the right one for you. I take full responsibility for why my first agent didn’t work out. I didn’t ask the right questions to make sure they were the right one for me.


I haven’t yet. (joking) But when you put so much effort into your work, then into your query of an agent, it feels extremely vulnerable. So, when the rejections come, and they always do, it’s a horrible feeling.

What I’ve learned… agents feel horrible too. They don’t want to reject writers. They want to find the writer of their dreams just like we want the agent of our dreams. But again, just like dating, you want to end up with the right partner who will hopefully be “the one” for the rest of your writing career.

So, while I wouldn’t say I “recovered quickly”, I kept putting myself out there with the hope “the one” would come along. And she did! Hey, Allison!


I am now with Allison Remcheck of Stimola Literary Studio. Go Team Stimola! Much like finding the right partner in life, I was introduced by a fellow writer. I had done an intensive writing weekend years ago with a phenomenal writer/teacher, Lewis Buzbee. He told me long ago about his agency. I reached out to Lewis and he recommended I query Stimola Literary Studio. So, I did and Allison answered, but she did not sign me right away. She asked me to do an R and R (revise and resubmit). Her feedback was gold, and while it was daunting, it was the right revision to make. So, I did. 

Allison was the only agent who expressed the work she’d still like to see me do on the manuscript and why. She couldn’t know I was looking EXACTLY for this. Someone who was editorial and would give me honest feedback. Allison is soft-spoken, and so kind-hearted, but also a strong proponent for diversity and a stickler for getting it right.

My phenomenal editor at Levine Querido, Nick Thomas, introduced to the author he’d worked with on The Moon Within, by Aida Salazar. She was one of the founding members of Las Musas (and now one of my favorite people.) At the time, I didn’t really know many other Latinx writers. Aida and Las Musas, a group of women and non-binary Latinx writers who work as a collective welcomed me like family. 


Our goals are to support each other and our work. We encourage one another behind the scenes, and support each other’s work online through social media, and of course in person when we meet. I have a new family who have a unique and personal understanding of my work. 

Las Musas is a diverse group who have cultural ties to Latin America.

Our stories are as varied as our backgrounds. Many of us bicultural and biracial as myself.


Twelve year old Lupe Wong WILL be the 1st female pitcher in major league baseball. But the American past time of Square Dancing in P.E. curriculum is something a kid like Lupe can’t relate to culturally or otherwise. She vows to get the archaic tradition banned, and a comedy of disasters ensues.  

My debut novel, Lupe Wong Wont’ Dance, will be released by Levine Querido September 8, 2020. I also have my debut picture book, El Cucuy is Scared, Too,  which will be released by Abrams Kids Spring of 2021. And I am working on another middle grade sci-fi novel, Petra Peña and the P.E.A., and hopefully I’ll have an announcement about it soon.


I think like most writers, balancing a writing schedule with a day job is a challenge. I am in the medical field, so my brain works an entirely different side during the day. When I get home at night, I just want to spend time with my husband, kids and pets. But I am also mentally tired from my day job. So, I write early in the morning after I get kids off to school but before I leave for work. It’s not much time, but I write bit by bit until I have a finished project.

I also have a unique situation where my husband is also a middle grade writer. (Mark Maciejewski, the I Am Fartacus series.) We can bounce ideas off one another and because we both understand writing, it’s like having a built-in writing buddy.


Oh, my husband is going to roll his eyes so hard! I think my superpower is napkin art! Every morning, while making lunches for my kids, I draw on a napkin, a mini-story of sorts, to go in their lunch. And yep, my 6 am delirious mind comes up with some bizarre ideas, but even into high school, I think my kids secretly look forward to their mom’s daily humor. But I have done my napkin art for 15 years, and have come up with a different napkin every morning. I’d call those mini-stories a superpower. Wait, is this considered “writing professionally”?  I guess I have been writing a lot longer than I thought!


Because I write books for children, I’ve found nearly all my reference material has come in some way from   


I read so much that I can’t write down all my “favorite” books. One book I will say that taught me the most recently was Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Wow. Education not only on voice but on how to write responsibly. Like so many others, I loved Merci Suárez Changes Gears as well as Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina.


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Funny Stories to Teach Spanish by Craig Klein Dexemple

My students love watching all the videos from Craig, especially the ones with Pablito. They always laugh when Pablito, el ratoncito, finds un tomate en el baño. Jajaja. His super creative stories will delight you. Read here to get to know more about this fantastic writer and teacher.

Childhood in Colombia

I was very fortunate to grow up in Colombia. I was born in the eastern mountain range of the Colombian Andes, very close to the Venezuelan border. There, in the evergreen mountains, I spent the first 19 years of my life.   

When you grow up in Colombia, you take for granted the spectacular biodiversity that surrounds you.  I’ll give you an example: In just a 30-minute walk in the woods it’s easy to spot up to 100 different species of birds. Here in Iowa, where I now live, we see many birds, but only a handful of species. I grew up with an almost perfect climate. At fifteen hundred meters above sea level in the tropics, temperatures always stay between 65 and 80 degrees throughout the year. I only understood how fortunate we Colombians are when I moved to the Midwest of the United States.

I had a beautiful childhood, with a lot of freedom. I spent countless hours riding my bicycle up and down the inclined streets of my hometown. I remember exploring the mountains, climbing trees, eating tropical fruits, bathing and fishing in the crystal-clear streams.  When I go back home, it’s wonderful to relive these moments with old friends.

I spent a lot of time with the farmers in the region. Hence the love for gardening and peasant music of Colombia. I was never a farmer, but gardening is one of my passions. That’s why today, in my little backyard in Iowa, I grow everything I can. I have more than 20 different berry bushes, and various vegetables and legumes. 

Teaching Spanish – Discovering Comprehensible Input

I started my career as a teacher working with university students. After some years working with adults, I applied for a job at an elementary and middle school. It was a very difficult change for me. I just didn’t have the experience and knowledge needed to manage and teach young children. My first year working with children was anything but easy, and I even thought about quitting to return to my previous job at the university. However, I researched, observed and asked many teachers for help. After seeing what a Comprehensible input teacher had accomplished with her students, I was quickly convinced that CI was the path I wanted to take. Gradually I began to improve and understand that much of my work is based on creating community to connect with students. Once I understood this, my life as a teacher began to improve dramatically.

I started writing and telling stories in class as a way to connect with my students. We all like stories. That’s why we watch movies, soap operas, and read different types of literature. Students are always curious to learn more about the life of teachers. My students love to hear stories about my childhood. “Let me tell you a crazy and painful story that happened to me when I was your age.”  With that simple start, I will have the majority of them hooked. Students love stories, and if the story is compelling, it will be effective. 

For me, the most satisfying experience is knowing that most of the students in my school consider Spanish to be an easy and fun class. When kids are saying that Spanish is their favorite class and are wanting to be there, that’s a sign that the ground is fertile for language acquisition. 

Super Funny Easy Readers and Videos

The website Spanish Cuentos was initially created to offer Spanish tutoring services to members of our community. People can use the website to contact me for private classes. I work with many children and adults in the community. I also train teachers and hire them to work with families and cover the hours that are beyond my reach.

The website now has a store and access to an annual membership. The membership allows access to videos and downloadable materials. In the store you will find books, posters, maps and many other useful materials for Spanish classes.  

Most of the books I write are illustrated novels. I try to include over 200 illustrations in each book. Illustrations are a very important part of my books. When 4 year olds start reading in their native language, they will have a better understanding of the text if is accompanied by illustrations. In the case of second language learners, the experience is not that different. They are also learning to read in the new language. Many of the difficulties that 4 and 5-year-olds encounter when starting to read in their native language are also shared by second language learners when introduced to reading in a new language. 

In our language classes, we talk about the importance of visual aids, gestures, pointing and tones of voice to make the language more understandable for students. Well, the illustrations are there for that same purpose: To make the language more comprehensible. The illustrations help students make sense of the text. The drawings help language learners find the meaning of the unknown words, making the reading less stressful and much more pleasant. Difficult readings are not effective. I believe reading should not be difficult.  

For a language learner, a book in another language can be intimidating, and a book with illustrations gives the student a sense of control and it helps him/her build self-confidence.  

Tips For Aspiring Authors

The options for publishing books are endless. It’s quite easy. I recommend self publishing sites like Lulu, KDP, Smashwords and even Teacherspayteachers.  

The best tip I can give teachers or anyone who wants to write a book is to start writing. If you don’t take that first step, you’ll always be in the same place. Teachers always ask me to read their stories.  They are not sure if their story is good enough. Trust me, if you think you have an interesting story, you probably do. So start writing for your students. Try it with different classes, different levels. Share your story with other teachers and ask them to try it out in their classes.  Ask native speakers for some feedback. If you are a native speaker, ask native speakers from other countries or regions to read your story. Once you take that first step, everything else will slowly fall into place. Start writing! 

Craig’s Book are easy to read and super funny.

My Book El Pato Quiere Uvas

Easy to Read and filled with illustrations – From Elementary to High School

Based on the video “The Duck Song.”

12 Days of Christmas – My Successes

Reflections on my achievements 2019 – Exercise for 12 Days of Christmas by 12×12 – Julie Hedlund

A long time ago, 1992!!! I wrote children’s books in Brazil, and one of them got an award from “Academia de Letras” in Brazil. 

Honorable Mention – Academia Brasileira de Letras

Forward a few years, and you’ll find a Spanish teacher without time to write. Life has happened – children, jobs, moving to another country, and Zapt!!! No more books, no more inspiration.

But then, CI happened! What is CI? Comprehensible Input – a method to teach a foreign language through stories and then… Creation. I’ve created many fun, easy-to-read stories to my students. Finally, I decided to try publishing one of my stories, and I submitted it to a big World Language Publisher and TA-DA, they liked, and they published it this July. 

But after writing so many easy readers to my students, I decided to try writing picture books again, and it all started this last January when I made a translation/version of one of my previous books. I sent it to an editor to critique, and – You story is very episodic. What the ketchup that means? And that’s when I

  1. Registered for Storyteller Academy. 
  2. Registered for 12×12
  3. Joined many Facebook writing pages.
  4. Read books about writing and picture books.
  5. Wrote some horrible drafts. And I learned that it is okay.
  6. I joined some Critique Groups and found amazing writers to create my Critique Group called Las Chicas Latinas.
  7. Learned, wrote, learned.
  8. I wrote more than 12 drafts, but I have only 5 I have been working on and considering for now.
  9. I joined Inked Voices, and I strongly recommend it.
  10. I got some professional critiques and one day…. I got such a tough critique that I thought I should quit. My whole story was still too long, too confusing, too episodic. How frustrating!!
  11. I was about to quit when my critique partners lifted me and made me keep going.
  12. I got some twitter likes on pitmad — the first one submitted – rejection.
  13. I got three more rejections – one – no answer and two form rejections.
  14. I decided to wait until 2020 to start querying again and …

I got a pitmad like, a submission, an offer (still in the works), an agent, – the amazing Andrea Walker – and an R&R. 

So, in summary, I can say my picture book of 2019 had a satisfying ending with lots of hopes and promises, but I know the challenges will keep on coming. For that reason, I will keep on writing, learning, and leaning on my amazing Critique partners.

A special thanks to all my critique partners who had the patience with my 1234 revisions of the same story. And a big thank you to Lynne Marie, who, through tough love, has taught me so much about the structure of picture books.