Join us in celebrating The Weight of Everything's book birthday! We sat down with Musa Marcia Argueta Mickelson to learn all about the inspiration behind this book.
But first, a little bit about this novel.
It’s been six months since Sarah’s mom died. Three months since her dad fell apart. Sarah has left her fine arts boarding school to take care of her dad and her little brother. She has no time for art, unless she’s cranking out a piece to sell online for some grocery money. And she definitely doesn’t have the time or the emotional energy to find out if her sweet, handsome classmate, David Garza, could be more than a friend. But then a school art project prompts Sarah to delve into her mom’s Mexican and Guatemalan roots. As she learns more about this side of her heritage, Sarah starts to understand her mom better―and starts to face her own grief.
What three words would you use to describe your book? Grief. Family. Courage.
Can you share your path to publication for this book?
I wrote this book fifteen years ago as an adult novel. My main character, Sarah, was a teacher in her twenties. I tried to get an agent to represent me with no success, so I put the book aside and wrote The Huaca and Where I Belong. After I started writing young adult, I decided to rewrite this book as a young adult novel. I put Sarah in high school. I changed the tense from past tense to present tense and the point of view from third person to first person.
I completely rewrote the book, added a large plot point, and changed the ending. It then became The Weight of Everything. By the time I started rewriting it, Where I Belong had already been released. I rewrote a synopsis with all of the changes and sent it along with six chapters to my agent. Thankfully, my publisher was interested in it, and I was able to finish all of the rewrites. And, now it is being published almost fifteen years later!
What message are you hoping readers will take away from this story?
I am hoping that readers will see, in Sarah, someone who has terrible regrets about a loved one who has passed away. She is trying to deal with the grief of losing her mother, and at the same time feels regrets about their interactions. She didn’t make time to listen to what was important to her mother, to appreciate the family history her mother tried to share when she was alive.
As Sarah searches her mother’s office for ideas about an art project, she learns so much about what was important to her and about a significant historical event that occurred in Guatemala where part of her mother’s family is from.
Sarah studies her mother’s journals and files to find the topic she wants to center her art project around. In creating art pieces from her great-grandfather’s photographs from Guatemala, Sarah tells the story of a CIA-led coup to overthrow the Guatemalan president. Sarah tells the story she never took the time to listen to.
Take time to listen to your loved ones. Find out what is important to them.
What is on your creative bucket list?
I would love to write a historical fiction young adult novel. It isn’t something I’m currently working on yet because I know it will require a lot of research and interviews. I was born in Guatemala and am very interested in its history. I have done extensive research about the 1954 U.S.-led coup to overthrow President Arbenz. I have also included this event in some of my fiction writing.
My wish is to go to Guatemala and do research and interview people who remember this event in 1954. I haven’t been back to Guatemala since I was a child, more than forty years ago. Although I don’t have this trip or book planned yet, it is definitely on my bucket list.
What 3 recommendations would you give writers who are starting out?
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