Like many in our community we've watched the last few weeks in a whirlwind of anxiety, worry, and confusion.
As members of our communities we applaud the decisions to cancel events, festivals, and more for the safety of those around us. As authors it made us wonder, how can we connect with our readers during this time of "social distancing"?
In response, Las Musas has launched an exciting webinar series to connect our authors with readers, writers, and educators around the globe.
Every month, we will offer a series of free webinars including:
Want to know what it takes to become a published author? Las Musas take you on a unique behind-the-scenes book journey! They will describe in detail how they took their books from idea to publication. They will also answer all your questions about the process of becoming an author.
Book Club & Author Q & As...
A book club where the authors answer all your questions! ALL YOUR QUESTIONS... OK, within reason.
Writing Craft and Publishing Insights...
Need help figuring out what is the best method to plot? How to write a query letter? Get a literary agent to represent you? Las Musas share everything they have learned along their journey to publication, from surviving your first draft to signing that first book deal!
ANNNND our first event is NEXT WEEK!!
(Click Read More to find out when!)
We are so excited to reveal the cover of Yamile's upcoming book: ON THESE MAGIC SHORES!
But first... a little bit about the book:
Twelve-year-old Minerva Soledad Miranda is determined to reach her goals, despite shouldering more responsibility than the other kids at school--like caring for her two sisters while her mom works two jobs. But one night, Minerva's mom doesn't come home, and Minerva has to figure out what to do. Was Mamá snapped up by ICE? Will the girls be sent to foster homes or holding centers for migrant kids? Minerva and her sisters can't let anyone know Mamá has disappeared. They'll just pretend everything is normal until she comes back.
Minerva's plan falls apart the first afternoon, when her baby sister throws a tantrum during Minerva's audition for Peter Pan. But as the days pass and Minerva grows ever more worried about her mother, something magical seems to be watching out for them: leaving them cupcakes, helping her find money, even steering them to friends and distant family who can help. Eventually, Minerva must make the hardest choice of her life. And when she does, she'll be prepared to face life's challenges--with friendship, hope, and a little bit of fairy magic.
ON THESE MAGIC SHORES is coming from Lee and Low/Tu Books on April 21, 2020.
We have been blessed with beautiful Musa covers this month and this one is no exception. So happy to share the cover for Chantel Acevedo's MUSE SQUAD: THE CASSANDRA CURSE coming in 7.7.2020!
More about MUSE SQUAD...
Callie Martinez-Silva didn’t mean to turn her best friend into a pop star. But when a simple
pep talk leads to miraculous results, Callie learns she’s the newest muse of epic poetry, one of
the nine muses of Greek mythology, tasked with protecting humanity’s fate in secret.
Whisked away to muse headquarters, she joins three recruits her age, who call themselves the
Muse Squad. Together, the junior muses use their magic to inspire and empower—not an easy
feat when you’re eleven and still figuring out the goddess within.
When their first assignment turns out to be Callie’s exceptionally nerdy classmate Maya
Rivero, the squad comes to Miami to stay with Callie and her Cuban family. There, they discover
that Maya doesn’t just need inspiration, she needs saving from vicious Sirens out to unleash a
curse that will corrupt her destiny.
As chaos erupts, will the Muse Squad be able to master their newfound powers in time to
thwart the Cassandra Curse . . . or will it undo them all?
MUSE SQUAD is forthcoming from Balzer + Bray in 7.7.2020!
We are so excited to host the cover reveal for Anika Fajardo's WHAT IF A FISH! Check out the gorgeous cover below (designed by Paola Escobar) and read a little more about Anika's middle grade debut!
About WHAT IF A FISH...
Half-Colombian Eddie Aguado has never really felt Colombian. Especially after Papa died. And since Mama keeps her memories of Papa locked up where Eddie can’t get to them, he only has Papa’s third-place fishing tournament medal to remember him by. He’ll have to figure out how to be more Colombian on his own.
As if by magic, the perfect opportunity arises. Eddie – who’s never left Minnesota – is invited to spend the summer in Colombia with his older half-brother. But as his adventure unfolds, he feels more and more like a fish out of water. Figuring out how to be a true Colombiano might be more difficult than he thought.
Whimsical and unflinchingly honest, What if a Fish is a generational story of family and identity where hats turn into leeches, ghosts blow kisses from lemon trees, and the things you find at the end of your fishing line might not be a fish at all.
What if a Fish is coming Summer 2020!
About The Other Half of Happy...
Twelve-year-old Quijana likes to say that she used to be Pangaea. Unsplit. Not half white or half Latina. But that was before her Guatemalan cousins moved to town. Before her dad seemed ashamed that she isn’t more in touch with her Latinx heritage. Before her parents planned a family trip to Guatemala where she’ll feel like a failure from first tortilla to last. Now her continents are splitting apart. With the help of two new friends and kid-powered ingenuity, Quijana makes a plan to ditch the trip. After all, she’s never been great at Spanish, and she never asked to be named after Don Quixote, Spain’s most famous loser. Will she find happiness by staying half?
In the beginning of Rebecca Balcárcel’s moving and heartfelt middle grade novel The Other Half of Happy, narrator Quijana Carrillo declares, “That’s what it’s like being twelve. Everything rolling toward you.”
And what’s rolling toward Quijana? A new school. A blossoming crush. A little brother whose behavior no one can explain. Expectations from her parents that Quijana feels she’ll never be able to meet.
Complicating these issues is Quijana’s bicultural identity. The daughter of an Anglo mother and Guatemalan father, she doesn’t speak Spanish and is embarrassed of her father’s accent. She doesn’t appreciate the intricately embroidered huipil her abuela sent her. She exists in the gray space deeply understood by children straddling two cultures. Children who want to fit in with their peers, want to please their parents, and want to understand themselves.
Children like me.
Mirrors, Windows and Walls: 8 Children’s Books for Seeing Ourselves, Others and Breaking Down the Walls that Separate Us
We have so much information. We have voices on the TV and hot takes on social media. We have photographs that pierce our hearts and haunt our dreams. We have oceans of ink spent on getting the details, the facts – and sometimes the lies – just right. As Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop said, we need mirrors and windows to understand people who are like us (or like our parents or grandparents) and people who are not like us. We need something greater than information. We need story.
In my debut YA novel, The Grief Keeper, Marisol Morales crosses borders, sacrifices her physical and mental well-being and endures racism, for the chance of safety for her sister, Gabi, and herself. I can easily understand why someone would risk so much, but I am a daughter of immigrants. The idea of having to flee your homeland, whether because of violence or because of a lack of opportunities does not seem farfetched to me at all. But I know that for some people, it can seem foolish, or downright selfish. My intention in writing The Grief Keeper was to engender understanding and deep empathy—of ourselves and of others who are not like us.
Here are 8 books for children that I think do the same.
We are so excited to reveal to you the DELIGHTFUL cover of Kim Baker's THE WATER BEARS!
But that's not all! In addition to revealing this lovely cover we are also sharing the first chapter AND doing an ARC GIVEAWAY!
To enter leave a comment at the end of this blog post! (Open until August 15th)
ABOUT WATER BEARS...
Newt Gomez has a thing with bears.
Last year, he survived a bear attack. Now he finds an unusual bear statue that just might grant wishes. Newt’s best friend, Ethan, notices a wishbone on the statue and decides to make a wish. When it comes true, Newt thinks it’s a coincidence. Even as more people’s wishes come true, Newt is not convinced.
But Newt has a wish too: while he loves his home on eccentric Murphy Island, he wants to go to middle school on the mainland where his extended family lives. There, he’s not the only Latinx kid, he won’t have to drive the former food truck— a gift from his parents— and he won’t have to perform in the vaudeville festival. Most importantly, on the mainland, he can escape memories of the attack. Newt is almost ready to make a secret wish when everything changes.
Tackling themes of survival and self-acceptance, Newt’s story illuminates the magic in our world, where reality is often uncertain but always full of salvageable wonders.
The Water Bears is a quirky, empowering story arriving April 21, 2020 from Wendy Lamb Books, Random House Children’s Books.
Read the 1st chapter...
Las Musas are thrilled to host the exclusive first look at the cover of Loriel Ryon's debut INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS!
INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS comes out April 7, 2020 from Margaret K. McElderry Books. Learn more about this gorgeous debut and cover below!
Read the dynamite first chapter...
Yolanda crept to the bedroom door, cracking it just so and peering inside. Her abuela, Wela, was lying in bed with a yellow serape tucked beneath her arms, her chest barely rising. Three orange-and-black butterflies nestled into her long white curls, their wings opening and closing ever so slightly as the morning sun flickered through the tree branches outside the window. It was exactly the same sight it had been for the past two weeks.
Yolanda sighed in disappointment and pushed open the door, letting it groan loudly on its hinges, hoping the sound would cause Wela to stir. Wake up. Wela, please wake up. But Wela didn’t move.
Was this all her fault? She sighed and walked over to the nightstand, twisting the vase of scarlet milkweed blossoms toward the light. Two butterflies sipped nectar from the wilting flowers. She brought the vase to Wela’s fingertips in hopes that her touch would liven the blossoms. But they remained wilted, and she made a mental note to switch them out before she left for school.
The way the light danced across the serape and the fine lines surrounding Wela’s closed pale lips made Yolanda’s heart sink even lower. She’d seen this before, less than a year ago.
On this new moon, we are delighted to share a conversation Las Musas had with Aida Salazar about her just released debut book, THE MOON WITHIN. But first, enjoy this slide show of Las Musas' love for the book. Read till the end and comment for your chance to receive a signed copy of The Moon Within!
This book deals with menstruation, which many adults are still reluctant to discuss openly. What is one menstruation myth you absolutely wanted to debunk in this novel?
I didn’t want to debunk a myth per se but more of a general attitude towards menstruation that is absent of respect, reverence and love toward a natural phenomenon that half of humanity experiences. Patriarchal and puritanical views of menstruation have created a culture of silence and shame that has hurt many and that needs to be dismantled. My intention was to show a world where respect, reverence and love for our cycles was the norm, the expectation, and a way to push back against the negative and hurtful attitudes we’ve endured.
One character in The Moon Within begins the process of transitioning during the novel as they explore their gender. Why is it important to discuss menstruation in the context of diverse gender identities?
This book was written for blooming menstruators of all genders. I wanted the blossoming of the main character (girlhood into womanhood) to mirror the blossoming of her best friend into his gender, a xochihuah. Each blossoming is a universe apart but similar in its impact and understanding of their own coming of age during a tender age.
Most of the people who menstruate are girls or women and sometimes menstruators are gender expansive. Though I don’t go into Marco’s specific experience with menstruation and only really hint at it because I didn’t think I could authentically tell that story as a cis gender woman, I wanted to include in the book the notion that bodies, regardless of gender, can and do bleed monthly so as to expand understanding for readers that menstruation is not only a woman’s experience. Also, I included La Chuyina, the trans feminine character to affirm that womanhood too, is not dependent on bleeding.
What I could speak to was how clumsy and wrong we can be when we aren’t good allies to our gender expansive friends. I sought to challenge readers, my community in particular, in our often-bigoted views. I used Mesoamerican philosophy to help us remember that our pre-colonial ideas of gender were more fluid than the binary that is dominant today. I saw an opportunity to show how one community used a different approach, one that was grounded in Mexica spirituality, to show compassion and respect for gender expansiveness.
Your first two published novels will both be MG verse novels. What do you find most compelling about this format? Do you always write poetry?
Poetry has been with me since my first writings as a teen. Though I also write prose, I always aim for my prose to be infused with poetry and lyricism. This is the kind of writing I like to read and find most intriguing -- writing that is rich in metaphor, and unusual phrasing, writing that enters the emotional essence of a character to show us a truth about humanity that we don’t often see. I love verse novels for these very same qualities. There is a tension at play between elements that poetry gives us (economy of words, metaphor, simile, form, white space, etc.) and the standard elements in crafting a story (conflict, plot, character arc, etc.) I love the hybridity of this space, I love this tension. With verse novels you can’t spend too much time waxing poetic because you do have a story to tell but you can bring the poetic point of view into every speech, action and plot point as you go. Verse novels are a wonderful space from which to tell a story that is unique, vulnerable and compelling at once.
Music plays such a big part of Celi’s journey. It wasn’t just a layer, but it connected to her journey of identity and history. Why was music so important? How did you work it into the text?
I’m a firm believer in the power of the arts (music, theater, dance, literature, visual art, etc.) to transform lives. Writing radically transformed mine. It gave me a connection to my history, developed my own spirituality, and gave me entry into many universes of understanding. I would argue that this is true for most practitioners of the arts. I wanted to show through Celi how dance and music are gateways to understanding, are cultural markers, identity builders, strength builders, and how ultimately, they are radical acts of love. I wanted to show readers that the arts, their own imaginations and expressions, are a wonderful place in which to find agency and strength.
What inspired you to write The Moon Within? And what do you hope readers will find in the story?
I was inspired to write The Moon Within as my eleven-year-old daughter began to ask questions about her changing body. As a Xicana feminist, I wanted to offer her a different way into the understanding of this important transformation than I had been given. I wanted her experience to be grounded in body-positive self-knowledge and self-love, in a connection to her ancestry, and the power that is inherent in all of that beauty. I’ve been a moon disciple for decades — marveling, exploring, and ritualizing our connection to her — through astrology, astronomy, spirituality, and the study of pre-colonial Mexican history. We held a ceremony to honor my daughter’s menstruation that was informed by this love of the moon. As a writer, I wanted to share our experience of this magical ritual through story with other children. While there are numerous nonfiction books about menstruation for middle grades, there is a gaping hole in fictional literature for this group. It is very likely (and I say this with a great amount of disbelief and grief) that The Moon Within is the first book in forty-seven years, since Judy Blume’s Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, to center menstruation in its narrative. It is the first (again, incredulously and sadly) to ever fictionally reflect menstruation from the Latinx perspective. I was very intentional about sharing ideas of the beauty and power of menstruation Mesoamerican traditions teach us that departed from the often-negative views of our current patriarchal and colonized society. I wanted to reframe the conversation around menstruation by showing what would happen if we, in fact, honored and revered these processes instead.
I was happy to see that Celi was a relatively early bloomer, and I think a lot of girls of color will relate to that. Did you ever consider a different age for Celi, and how did you settle on eleven?
Early bloomers walk on a tight rope of these two massively different worlds. It is difficult to be wholly a child and yet your body does these wild things. Breast buds, pubic hair, smelly pits, moon cylces – it is all the more confusing the younger you are. My daughter entered puberty early (much earlier than I did) and I found it necessary to try to demystify it age-appropriately so that she could understand it without fear. As I began to ask around, I discovered that many women I knew or in my family had started as early as nine! This further affirmed my resolve to keep Celi at eleven and to show that this tight rope can be walked successfully for someone that young.
Thank you so much for joining us in the conversation. To purchase THE MOON WITHIN, visit Booklandia (a Latina-owned online bookseller) or other independent bookstores as well as major retailers where books are sold.
Enter a comment below for your chance to win a signed copy of THE MOON WITHIN!
Happy new moon!
Gather round, gente! There is Las Musas magic brewing over Anna Meriano's just released novel, A Sprinkle of Spirits - the sequel to her debut, Love Sugar Magic! Las Musas sat down with Anna to ask how she brought her newest book to life.
*Read to the end to find out how you can enter to win a GIVEAWAY of this magical book!
In A Sprinkle of Spirits, Leonora Logroño is finally learning her family's bakery bruja magic, but trouble bubbles up again when her dead grandmother appears in her room! It turns out that spirits are popping back to life all over town, and Leo will need help to solve the mystery of what caused the chaos--and how to stop it! The Logroños return in a new story featuring a heaping helping of amor, azúcar, and magia.
What were your personal experiences that motivated you to write the Love Sugar Magic series?
The seed for this series came from Cake Literary, but I loved how the story felt personal. So much of Leo and her tight-knit family comes from my life, and I love that I get to write about language, family, community, Texas, and food in a way that feels true to me. One of the main goals of the series is to celebrate the joy of Leo’s family traditions, and even though her family has some differences from mine (unfortunately, we are not magical bakers), that joy is coming from my own experience.
What is your personal relationship with magic, in, like, your real daily life?
I love this question so much! I feel like it’s hard to organize my answer because I have so many different thoughts about this. I’ve always believed in magic in a nonspecific way, fascinated by everything from catholic saints to fairies to psychic powers. We light Guadalupe candles in my house when we’re hoping for something or going through a hard time, and I heard stories about how my grandma used to fast on days that my dad had important tests in school. When I’m in a rational mood, I think that being a human is full of uncertainty and confusion, and different mystical and spiritual beliefs help us process and overcome our fear in a healthy way; or I think that “magic” is actually scientific research that hasn’t been recognized by certain cultural systems. Other times I find it totally unbelievable to think that there is no magic in the world, especially when human knowledge and understanding falls so far short of explaining existence. These days I’m very interested in the magic power held by words and communication--the power to change minds and recreate the world.
You do a great job of portraying the complex relationships among sisters; what information did you draw upon since you yourself don’t have any sisters?
I don’t have sisters, but my mom is one of six sisters (and nine siblings total), so I hear a lot of their stories about growing up. I’m also very close with my cousins on both sides of my family, so I’m no stranger to being surrounded by a lot of relatives. Finally, I’m the middle child between my two brothers, so I feel like I can relate to sibling dynamics from both sides. Thanks Michael and Gabriel!
Describe your favorite place to create writing magic?
I’m a total coffee shop person. Working from home is convenient, but so much less efficient for me. I especially love places where there are lots of other folks working around me, because the peer pressure and background noise helps keep me focused. I used to worry about spending money on drinks, but one of my visual artist friend told me how much he spends to rent studio space and I calculated my monthly coffee shop bill and realized that I’m getting a bargain!
What is your “must have” to get into the writing zone?
I’ve become a time-thief of a writer lately, sneaking writing time into the odd half hours between work, so I’m a bit more flexible about getting into the zone now than I used to be, but I definitely do my best work when I have snacks readily available (another reason I love coffee shops)!
As a sophomore writer, what did you learn from your second novel, Love Sugar Magic-A Sprinkle of Spirits?
I learned how hard (but rewarding) it is to let your characters grow! We went back and forth a bit with the outline for book two because I didn’t want Leo to make the same mistakes she made before, but I still needed a plot to happen. I’m running into a similar issue with book three as well--it’s so interesting and exciting to have to find ways to challenge Leo and push her into bad decisions without undercutting her growth at the end of each book.
What do you hope readers take away from your Love Sugar Magic series?
I hope that each and every reader comes away feeling excited about the magic of their own ability, whether that’s baking, reading, or something else entirely. I hope that Mexican American kids see themselves and their families on the page, and I hope that all kids feel welcome in Rose Hill.
Your books have the most colorful, magical covers! Can you tell us about the illustrator?
MIRELLE ORTEGA! Mirelle is my favorite person and artist, and I feel so so lucky that she was able to bring Leo to life on two gorgeous covers (so far). I’ve seen firsthand the magical way the covers catch people’s--especially kids’--interest. If you want to see more from Mirelle, she’s illustrating Vote for Effie as well as some picture books, and she has beautiful artwork up on her website and available at her store! (I especially recommend her Mexican fairy tale t-shirts!)
What's a sinfully sugary dessert you and your character Leonora love?
Haha, the short answer is anything and everything! We both love puerquitos and pan dulce of all kinds, of course! We’re both extremely fond of cinnamon rolls, and I feel like I should also mention red bean buns since I’m eating one as I type this! The biggest difference in our tastes is that Leo is a little bit more of a dessert snob than I am--I am totally here for store-bought cookies and cupcakes that come wrapped in plastic with neon chemical frosting, while Leo prefers things that are more fresh and homemade.
What are you working on next?
Lots of exciting things! Most definite and probably most exciting, there is a third Love Sugar Magic book coming along that will deal with the slight cliffhanger at the end of book two (sorry not sorry). I’m also working with my agent Patricia Nelson to polish up a YA contemporary that includes a very magical sport. I’ve got a couple other secret or early stage projects that I’m hoping I can share more about soon, plus working with my wonderful students around Houston and hopefully traveling a bit to meet more writers and readers.
Leave a comment below to enter a chance to WIN your own copy of A Sprinkle of Spirits!
Want more of Anna Meriano? Follow Love Sugar Magic: A Sprinkle of Spirits Blog Tour!
February 5 Nerdy Book Club
February 7 Las Musas Reads
February 9 Charlotte's Library
February 10 A Library Mama
February 11 Boricua Reads
February 12 YAYOMG
February 13 Pragmaticmom
February 14 Latinos in Kidlit
February 14. 24hr.yabookblog
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