Today, we're celebrating Musa Andrea Beatriz Arango's debut middle grade novel, Iveliz Explains it All! Scroll on to read her conversation with Musa Karina Nicole González!
Karina Nicole González: Felicidades, Andrea, on the release of your debut MG novel, IVELIZ EXPLAINS IT ALL! For aspiring authors who want the 411, how did you manifest the idea of IVELIZ EXPLAINS IT ALL into a tangible book published by none other than Penguin Random House?
Andrea Beatriz Arango: You know what? If I’m being honest, the pandemic had a lot to do with it. When schools shut down unexpectedly in March of 2020, my district had no idea what to do. We didn’t even know how long-lasting everything would be. Rather than the organized (and live) virtual school we started implementing in Fall 2020, that first spring consisted mostly of asynchronous lessons we’d upload for our middle school students, and virtual office hours we’d hold once a week. It was a mess - but it did mean I was home A LOT and in front of my computer. IVELIZ was born during that time, developed over the summer, and pitched at the #DVpit twitter event that fall.
The rest of it I attribute to my agent, Rebecca Eskildsen - she took a chance on me and was instrumental in not just helping me polish up my manuscript, but in believing in my book in a way that I think was contagious to the editors we submitted to in 2021.
KNG: I love your path to publication story. Those early querying and submission moments can feel scary because we’re essentially sharing our creative work to strangers and hoping that they understand it and even like it! I’d like to pivot our convo to writing habits. You have another upcoming MG novel titled, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN YOU AND HOME, slated for release in 2023. I also saw that you’re doing research for a YA novel! How do you go about drafting a new manuscript? Do you have any techniques or strategies that you’ve found successful when writing and revising?
ABA: Don’t look back! Seriously. It can be so easy to fall into the endless cycle of writing something, then revising, then writing, then revising. For me, that makes it almost impossible to finish. So for my first draft, I make myself keep going until it’s finished. Even if it’s trash. Even if I want to go back and change things. Once it’s done, that’s when I let myself start tweaking. Otherwise the perfectionist in me won’t ever get anything done.
KNG: That’s such good advice, Andrea! You spent much of your adult years teaching children, and drafted your first novel, IVELIZ EXPLAINS IT ALL while teaching. How did you balance a full-time job, one that is incredibly demanding, while writing a novel? What advice do you have for other aspiring writers who work full-time, and are trying to carve out time in their schedule to write?
ABA: It is very hard, not gonna lie. While I initially wrote IVELIZ during lockdown, I had to then do multiple revisions with my editor while being back to teaching in person during the absolutely *chaotic* academic year that was the 2021-2022 one. Not only that, but because my book deal was a two-book deal, I had to write the second one during that time as well. Because I was often exhausted at the end of the school day, I had to make myself write on weekends, as well as learn to take advantage of small moments of time (like my lunch breaks) where I could squeeze in some writing before my mind was done for the day. It wasn’t a great system, but it worked better for me than having to wake up at 4am to write before work, or writing at 5pm after I was home.
At the end of the day, my biggest piece of advice is to not compare your schedule to anyone else’s. I have never written every single day. And I don’t set word count goals for myself because they stress me out. You know what I do love, though? 15 minute timed sprints. Sometimes I do four in a row. Sometimes I do one. Sometimes I do zero. But because my routine works for me, I keep doing it.
KNG: I also work in a school, and I could never swing waking up early to write before work. And many days, I would feel too depleted to write after work. For some people, that schedule works for them. Yet, I think it’s helpful to tell other fellow writers who have separate full-time jobs that they don’t need to pressure themselves into an uncomfortable schedule, so thank you for sharing that! Now back to this incredible book – in IVELIZ EXPLAINS IT ALL, Ive keeps a journal and in it she writes her thoughts and feelings in verse/poetry form. Do you also write poetry? Do you have any favorite poets/poems that have had an impact on you as a writer?
ABA: I do write poetry! When I was younger, I was always gifting my grandparents poems. They would often frame them, and that made me feel SO validated. Once I was older, I was forever writing romantic ones for the people I’d date - though those never got framed, haha. During my Tumblr years, I even had a blog where all I did was repost snippets of poets I liked! I think the kind of poetry that most impacted me as a writer, though, was discovering spoken word poetry in my 20s. Watching the amazing storytelling abilities of poets like Elizabeth Acevedo and Sarah Kay are what eventually led me down the path of novels-in-verse.
KNG: Tumblr! Oh my, I totally forgot about the Tumblr blogsphere – what a time! Lately, the tech and digital world feels like it’s changing so quickly, and I don’t think I’m the only one trying to keep up with everything. The publishing and bookselling industry is changing, too. We just heard the unsettling news that Barnes&Noble will drastically cut their middle grade hardcovers that they stock and sell in-store. You found out that this decision impacted you directly, and that B&N will not be carrying IVELIZ EXPLAINS IT ALL. Tell us about the repercussions that this could potentially have on the broader writing community and publishing industry. How can readers support your work and ensure that IVELIZ can achieve the most visibility and accessibility to readers as possible?
ABA: It’s hard because although it’s true that you can still find my book online, you’d have to know about IVELIZ in order to search for it. For many families, especially those not involved in education, libraries, or book communities online, that discovery happens through browsing at a store. If a parent or child can’t come across my book displayed in a bookstore, they might not ever know it exists. And yes, there are many indies out there doing amazing work, indies that I know will be carrying my book. But not all towns have indie bookstores, and not all indie bookstores have the space to stock a wide variety of books. And so I think the B&N decision will have long-lasting impacts, not just for me, but for publishing as a whole.
For people wanting to support my debut, an easy and free way to do so is to request your indies and libraries purchase it! I mention libraries here, too, because I am basically a library worshiper - and asking libraries to stock it will ensure families without the money or desire to purchase books can still read IVELIZ for free. <3
KNG: Thank you for amplifying the importance of libraries. Dear reader, I hope you pick up a copy of IVELIZ EXPLAINS IT ALL, and share it widely with family and friends. I know I will stock my classroom library with copies of this exceptional book! Éxito, Andrea!
Purchase IVELIZ EXPLAINS IT ALL today!
Andrea Beatriz Arango was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She is the author of Iveliz Explains It All, and is a former public school teacher with almost a decade of teaching experience under her belt. Andrea now writes the types of children's books she wishes students had more access to. She balances her life in Virginia with trips home to see her family and eat lots of tostones de pana. When she’s not busy, you can always find her enjoying nature in the nearest forest or body of water.
Karina Nicole González is a bilingual speech-language pathologist (MS, CCC-SLP, BE) and children’s book author. Currently, she works with school-age children at a school in Brooklyn, NY. While targeting students’ storytelling skills through therapy, their boundless imaginations inspired this dream to write picture books of her own. The Coquíes Still Sing / Los Coquíes Aún Cantan is her debut picture book.
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