I’ve been in education for almost twenty years and I do love it. As stressful as teaching can be, it is highly rewarding. I love children and it is a privilege to serve their families and their communities. That being said, my pipe dream has always been to be a children’s book author.
When I was a kid, I wrote many stories during my spare time. Internet didn’t exist and my mom didn’t let us watch a lot of of TV. Being bored helped me develop A LOT of creativity. So I began putting my scattered ideas on paper. Sometimes I wrote stories about animals. Sometimes I wrote about princesses. Some of my stories were about little girls, just like me. Sometimes, I wrote the stories and my younger brother drew the pictures. I stapled the pages together and created a book. I remember feeling an immense sense of pride whenever I created a new one. I didn’t realize it then, but I was acting out what, in my heart, I knew I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
At some point along the way, I internalized the message that writing wouldn’t be a lucrative career. I never saw many books with characters or stories that connected to me in a real way. Growing up in the 90s, I didn’t have access to a lot of multicultural literature at school. Writing and publishing a book always seemed like an unattainable dream. Who would publish anything I would write? What does publishing a book even cost? What if I published a book and everyone HATED it? So I put my dream in a box, and I tucked it away somewhere deep in my mind, so that I could focus my attention on following a path of certainty and stability.
Again, don’t get me wrong, I have loved being a teacher. Following that path of stability has served me well. It has taught me so much about children, our society and myself. Being an educator has helped me a better mother. It is helping me tremendously in my doctoral research. And perhaps now that experience and knowledge that I’ve acquired as a bilingual educator can help me unpack my tucked away dream of writing books for children who, like me, are eager to really see themselves in the stories they read.
For the past year, I’ve been working on self-publishing my first two children’s books. Both of these books are very personal and are also closely tied to my identity as a Latina, a mother and an educator. I will publish more details about each book in the weeks to come, but for now, I wish to share a bit of my journey as a self-published author.
Get inspired by your surroundings
It is no secret that many authors often connect their writing to personal experiences. When I taught Spanish literature at the high school level, my students and I would explore how many of the authors wrote about topics that were very closely tied to their lives. Federico Garcia Lorca wrote about his experiences living in under a tyrannical Spanish government. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s fictional town of Macondo was heavily inspired by his own birthplace. It was through reading the stories of some of these world-renowned authors that I realized that I have my own interesting stories to tell. My life right now isn’t ultra adventurous but that doesn’t mean I can’t write about what I am most immersed in right now, right? And right now, I’m most immersed in the lives of my four young daughters.
My two books: Mi prima isleña y yo & ¡Somos gemelas, pero no somos idénticas! are inspired by my four daughters. In fact, one book is dedicated to my older daughters and the second book is dedicated to my fraternal twin daughters.
Work on your craft
Months before I sat down and wrote out each story, I signed up for a few writing courses on Udemy. The two courses I took are called:
There are various other writing courses on Udemy and online, in general. The price of the courses now may be different than I what I paid for but Udemy often has promotions and I often purchase courses when they are on sale.
It was important for me to really verse myself on the elements of writing a good story before sitting down and writing one. Writing a children’s book isn’t as easy as people might think. It is true that the stories are generally shorter and the language is simpler, but because of those things, it is important to choose your words carefully and be thoughtful about the flow of the story.
I’m by no means an expert in children’s writing yet and I hope to continue working on improving on my style and my ability to tell a cohesive story.
Research the process
To research how to publish a children’s book, I also spent a good amount of time researching the process. I downloaded and read through various self-publishing checklists I found on the internet. I joined a few Facebook groups for self-published authors. I watched a few videos on YouTube. I tried the research various perspectives on the self-publishing process so that I could find overlapping themes and get some ideas on how to carve out the path that best worked for me.
Some of the videos that I found on YouTube are linked below:
These videos stood out to me for various reasons. Firstly, all of the authors on these videos are people of color who write books to give a voice and authentic representation to children of color. Secondly, these authors provided interesting insight on how to self-publish a book entirely on your own. I learned something valuable from each of these videos ranging from book illustration, marketing, setting realistic goals and solidifying my niche.
Hire an illustrator
Drawing is not my thing. In addition to my fear of failure, my lack of artistic ability is probably the other factor that kept me from attempting to publish a children’s book for so long. Originally, I was hoping my brother would illustrator the two books I am now publishing but, unfortunately, our schedules didn’t coincide. I’m hoping to get him on board to publish some of my children’s books in the near future!
Thanks to the videos that I found on YouTube, I learned about Fiverr and the many services that are offered there. It was there that I was fortunate enough to find the illustrator of Mi prima isleña y yo: Vidya Lalgudi Jaishankar.
I worked with Vidya for a total of five months. The experience was fantastic. She is an extremely talented illustrator who is based in England. It was truly a honor to collaborate with her and have her integrate her personal style to make my book come to life.
I found the author of my second book, ¡Somos gemelas, pero no somos idénticas! on a Facebook group called Chicago Latina Moms (https://www.chicagolatinamoms.com/). I’ve been part of this fantastic community for years now and I’ve found recommendations from everything ranging to bakers and travel ideas. I knew that perhaps I could find a talented Latina artist in the group and I wasn’t wrong.
I knew that I wanted one of the illustrators of my books to be a Latina and working with a local artist was a tremendous bonus. Through CLM, I was able to connect to Diana Torres. Working with Diana has also been an outstanding experience. Her quirky style gives my second book a look that is different than the other book but breathes life into the story in a unique way.
Get your work proofread
Even though I am highly proficient in both Spanish and English, I knew that it was important for me to get my book proofread by an experienced, bilingual proofreader. I was able to connect to a bilingual proofreader through Fiverr who not only checked my story for grammar and accuracy in both languages but also gave me some meaningful feedback pertaining to the overall direction of my story. It was a bit nerve-wracking to have a stranger pick apart my story, but it was an extremely valuable experience. It is a part of the self-publishing process that should NOT be left out, by any means.
Both of my books are currently undergoing formatting and, at a later date, I will post updates on that process as well as another crucial component of the self-publishing journey: marketing. Marketing is a tricky beast and that topic may require multiple posts in the near future.
For now, I will end this post reiterating how important it is to not relinquish your dreams. I have learned so much from starting this process and I am hopeful for the future. All of our stories have value and sharing them with the world is both cathartic and altruistic.