Hermanas is a selection-based mentorship program for traditionally unpublished Latinx kidlit writers. It will connect unpublished writers with current Musas and Madrinas. Our first round of Hermanas had an incredible experience working on their projects. Our second round closed earlier in February and we are incredibly honored and grateful for every single applicant.
It was very (very) hard to pick among all the magnificent projects.
Our hope is that the Hermanas program will continue to grow, uplift a community where there is space for everyone to share their stories. Please join us in welcoming our new Hermanas!
We are so happy to welcome our newest YA novel to Las Musas bookshelves! Salty, Bitter, Sweet by Mayra Cuevas is now available.
All about this delicious YA contemporary romance...
Aspiring chef Isa’s family life has fallen apart after the death of her Cuban abuela and the divorce of her parents. She moves in with her dad and her new stepmom, Margo, in Lyon, France, where Isa feels like an outsider in her father’s new life. Isa balances her time between avoiding the awkward, “why-did-you-cheat-on-Mom” conversation with figuring out how a perpetually single woman can at least be a perpetually single chef.
The upside of Isa’s world being turned upside-down? Her father’s house is located only 30 minutes away from the restaurant of world-famous Chef Pascal Grattard, who runs a prestigiously competitive international kitchen apprenticeship. The prize job at Chef Grattard’s renowned restaurant also represents a transformative opportunity for Isa who is desperate to get her life back in order—and desperate to prove she has what it takes to work in an haute kitchen. But Isa’s stress and repressed grief begin to unravel when the attractive, enigmatic Diego shows up unannounced with his albino dog.
How can Isa expect to hold it together when she’s at the bottom of her class at the apprenticeship, her new stepmom is pregnant, she misses her abuela dearly, and things with the mysterious Diego reach a boiling point?
Today Alexandra Villasante is talking with the lovely and multi-talented Ismée Williams. In addition to being a pediatric cardiologist, Ismée finds time to write swoony, sweet, timely books, like her newest YA novel, THIS TRAIN IS BEING HELD.
About THIS TRAIN IS BEING HELD...
We are incredibly honored and thrilled to reveal the cover, along with an exclusive excerpt, of LUPE WONG WON’T DANCE by Donna Barba Higuera.
But first! Here is a little bit about this book:
Twelve year old Lupe Wong WILL be the first female pitcher in Major League Baseball. But the American past time of Square Dancing is P.E. curriculum, 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.
The cover artist for LUPE WONG WON’T DANCE is Mason London, and the cover designer is Maeve Norton. This cover is absolutely powerful and phenomenal--go ahead, and see for yourself:
My gym shorts burrow into my butt crack like a frightened groundhog. Note to self: remember shorts from home so you don’t have to wear scratchy school loaners ever again. I can fix this. I pull up my kneepads, adjust my wristbands, and tighten my ponytail with a yank. Ready for battle, a.k.a. seventh-grade spring P.E.
Half a cheek hanging out, I glance around the locker room to make sure the coast is clear. I casually place one foot up on the bench and make a stealth grab, yanking my underwear down.
Samantha Pinkerton slams her locker so loud the entire room of girls looks in her direction. “Find anything good up there, Lupe?” She laughs and half the class snickers with her.
I almost respond with, “Yeah, your mom,” but stop myself at the last possible second.
Samantha takes a step toward me and puts her nose inches from mine.
“Oh, yeah?” I say instead. This time the words are out before I can help it.
Samantha scrunches her face and scratches her temple, my comeback obviously stunning her into confusion. My best friend, Andy, cringes behind Samantha. Smack talk is not one of my strong points.
Coach Solden’s whistle pierces the air. “Guadalupe Wong . . . Samantha Pinkerton!” Arms folded over her chest, she takes up the entire doorway of her office. “Anything you care to share with us?”
I clench my teeth and shake my head. I can’t risk getting points off. I need to ace this class.
Samantha’s voice is suddenly as sweet as her fruity body spray. “Just admiring Lupe’s shorts, Coach Solden.”
“Well, do it after class,” Coach says, motioning for Samantha to get in line.
Samantha squints her eyes toward mine in some sort of staring standoff, but I can only focus on the cartoon salmon on the front of her shirt giving a thumbs-up. Someone forgot to tell the kid who designed the school mascot that Sammy Sock- eye should have fins, not fingers. Samantha slithers into line behind me.
“Oh, yeah?” she says, mimicking me under her breath.
Thank God Andy is with me this quarter. “Ignore her,” she mutters calmly from the next spot in line, shooting me a glance.
“I can bring you my extra soccer shorts tomorrow.” Andy’s mom has probably made sure she has four pairs to “ensure her aca- demic success.” To go with her new laptop and private tutoring.
I crack my knuckles in front of me. “Nope. I got this. I won’t forget mine again.”
We wait in a row to shuffle into the gymnasium for basketball or volleyball or whatever unit we have now. Coach wheels a TV out from the equipment closet in the back of the locker room. “No one moves; no one talks.” She pushes the cart toward the swinging door.
“Wait, something’s wrong,” I say, watching Coach walk into the gym without a single ball.
Andy’s voice sounds like it’s rolling its eyes. “I know, I know . . .” She makes a mouth puppet with her hand, trying to imitate my voice. “Kids with long arms should be able to wear shorts to their wrists instead of fingertips . . . It shouldn’t be a girl’s responsibility to worry about how our clothing might dis- tract boys . . .” She moves her hand puppet to make its mouth extra wide. “Aaaaand there should be a separate bubble under race for people of Chinacan or Mexinese descent . . .”
“Well, there should be!” I say. “You have a bubble for Black. Why should I have to Choose One Bubble or Other? Why should anyone?”
LUPE WONG WON’T DANCE is being released September 8th, 2020 by Levine Querido. Please add Donna's book on Goodreads here, and preorder on Amazon, Indiebound, or Barnes and Noble.
We are so excited to host this insightful conversation with Alexandra Villasante interviewing Isabel Ibañez about her magical book, WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT.
WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT a stunning fantasy based on Bolivian myths and culture, about Ximena, a girl raised as a decoy for la Condesa, the heir of the Illustrians - a people who have been ousted from La Ciudad by the usurper, Atoc. It’s a wonderfully evocative tale of revenge, magic and revolution.
The world in WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT is so beautifully articulated and vivid. Can you explain a little about how you structured it and where the idea for the world of Inkasisa came from?
Thank you! The world of Inkasisa is heavily inspired by Bolivia! I wanted to pull in from my childhood, when I spent many months out of the year living in my grandparent’s home in Cochabamba. Inkasisa has all of the same lush quality to it—in the heavy greenery, the mountains, the delicious food. I brought in all of the vibrant color found in Bolivia, as well as the beautiful artisan crafts and traditions.
Ximena lives her life as a lie – a decoy for the real Condessa, Catalina. How does knowing she couldn’t be ‘herself’ inform how you created her character? You almost had to have her fight against her instincts.
This was an interesting tension to pull off. Because I don’t think Ximena has ever sat down and tried to figure out who she is. She’s mostly been pretending to be someone else, and on top of that she lived through a horrifying trauma. She’s lost her family, her home. Part of writing Ximena was also discovering what she would have been like if she’d never lived through a war. So in essence, when she leaves the fort for the first time, she’s learning things about herself and having to rely on her wits instead of turning to Catalina. That part was fun—because the further away she went from her old life, the more she learned about herself.
I love the details of weaving tapestries – the way you described it feels very tactile and lush. Do you know how to do this – or did you have to do lots of research? And where did the idea come from?
I’m a weaver!! Bolivia has this beautiful and rich tradition of weaving and I knew I wanted my main character to really relish in this craft. When Ximena sits down to weave, I pictured myself in that process of creating a tapestry. It was a fun part of the writing, tapping into that artistic well.
Can you talk a little bit about the world building you created? It’s a fantasy grounded in Bolivian culture - the food (the food! Oh man the food!!!) the clothing, the koka etc. what made you make that choice and what did you choose not to include?
I wanted to make sure that the reader experienced all of Bolivia and part of that is what happens around a dinner table. The dishes I grew up eating are some of my favorites to enjoy, and I wanted readers to have the chance to experience them! I included the foods my parents made me and what I ate everyday in Bolivia.
How did you come up with the moon magic? I have to admit, when I was a little girl, I thought La Luna was my friend, that she was shining for me and leaving me ‘gifts’ I felt that Ximena was acompañada in that way by Luna – it felt very real to me!
The moon magic felt like a natural extension of the Bolivian traditions and religions of the indigenous peoples in different regions of the country. There is a lot of respect and reverence for Pachamama, mom to the earth and to the sun god, Inti. So having the Illustrians worship the moon felt like I was pulling from familiar traditions.
Thank you Isabel, for your time and for your beautiful story!
WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT is available from IndieBound, Amazon and Barnes and Noble now!
Isabel Ibañez is the author of WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT (Page Street, 2019), an award winning designer, illustrator, mom to a golden-doodle named Piper, and a Pitch Wars class of ’15 alum. By day, she designs greeting cards and by night she writes YA fantasies featuring amazing food and strong Latina characters who are often running for their lives. Isabel is represented by the tenacious Mary Moore of Kimberly Cameron & Associates. This is her third year mentoring Pitch Wars.
We are absolutely thrilled to reveal the cover of Laura Taylor Namey’s A CUBAN GIRL’S GUIDE TO TEA AND TOMORROW!
But first, here is a little bit about this gorgeous book:
After her post-graduation plans fall apart, Lila Reyes is sent away to spend the summer with family friends in England. But what Lila expects to be a summer devoid of proper Cuban food and sun turns into one of unexpected love when she falls for teashop clerk Orion Maxwell and, most surprising, England itself.
And now… for the phenomenally beautiful cover…
Art director: Karyn Lee, Illustrator: Andrea Porretta
A CUBAN GIRL’S GUIDE TO TEA AND TOMORROW is coming fall 2020 by Antheneum Simon & Schuster. If you’d like to read more about this amazing book, please click here to visit Laura’s blog post about it!
Click here to add A CUBAN GIRL’S GUIDE TO TEA AND TOMORROW on Goodreads!
Laura is a Cuban-American Californian who can be found haunting her favorite coffee shops, drooling over leather jackets, and wishing she was in London or Paris. She lives in San Diego with her husband and two superstar children. She is the author of The Library of Lost Things.
The entire Las Musas crew is proud to wish Diamond City by Francesca Flores a happy book birthday! Keep reading for an interview with Francesca!
About Diamond City:
Good things don't happen to girls who come from nothing...unless they risk everything.
Fierce and ambitious, Aina Solís as sharp as her blade and as mysterious as the blood magic she protects. After the murder of her parents, Aina takes a job as an assassin to survive and finds a new family in those like her: the unwanted and forgotten.
Her boss is brutal and cold, with a questionable sense of morality, but he provides a place for people with nowhere else to go. And makes sure they stay there.
DIAMOND CITY: built by magic, ruled by tyrants, and in desperate need of saving. It is a world full of dark forces and hidden agendas, old rivalries and lethal new enemies.
To claim a future for herself in a world that doesn't want her to survive, Aina will have to win a game of murder and conspiracy—and risk losing everything.
Laura Taylor Namey got a chance to chat with Francesca and learn a bit more about her characters and her inspiration for writing her thrilling debut.
1. When we first meet main character Aina Solís, she’s gotten herself into quite a conundrum, which rarely lets up as the story unfolds. Tell us about your Aina and what it was like to create such a complex, strong character.
Aina, along with the setting of the story, were the first things that came to me when I was initially inspired to write this book. I pictured a confident girl who was a bit mysterious and kept mostly to herself. I heard her voice in my head as the setting of the story came together, and first started to collect little bits of dialogue for a few months before writing. I was working on other projects prior to this and I thought this would just end up being a fun side project that wouldn’t ever end up ‘serious,’ and maybe that’s why I felt more freedom while writing it.
These bits of dialogue for Aina were often witty jokes she came up with on the spot, insightful thoughts, and bold opinions that she's not afraid to share. In pretty much every chapter, I discovered some deeper layer of her that she’s had to hide from the world to survive. The prime, defining part of her character is that her determination is endless. Despite her experiences with violence, poverty and substance abuse, she hasn’t given up hope in herself or for a future. It was a great experience to create her because of how flawed she is and how much she has to learn. She’s become accustomed to a twisted set of morals, the shields she’s built up to protect herself have actually made her more susceptible to being manipulated, while her pride and self-isolation have made it harder for her to make friends who care about her safety. In many ways, she’s similar to the antagonist of her story, and only her choices will make her different from this antagonist. So I’d say it was really fun to write her because of her flaws, her strong voice, and her determination.
2. The world of Kosín is marked by classic fantasy elements as well as some fun steampunk attributes! What was your process for building this world and what were your influences?
I think the first development of the world was the era: I knew I wanted it to be a gritty, industrial world with 1800s inspired technology. That lends itself to a steampunk feel, even though the fantasy elements aren’t related to the technology. They’re more in a feud with each other. Since I studied international relations in school and I’ve always loved socio political dynamics, I wanted to weave that in as well. Huge changes in technology affect every level of society, as well as do shifts in religious belief and power. So pitting them against each other felt like a natural way to stir up conflict even more.
I like focusing on the world first, before really developing the characters, because people are influenced in every way by where they’re from, the environment they grow up in, and where they fit into society now. So creating a world with social hierarchies and power imbalances will create people affected by that world with plenty of opinions and stories about it. Also, while I love fantasy in any time period, I felt like this technological era isn’t often explored, especially in second-world fantasies that tend to lean more toward ancient or medieval worlds. I wanted it to feel like Les Misérables, but with magic and a diverse cast of characters with immigrant backgrounds.
3. Were there any ways you incorporated elements from your own history or culture when building this story and its characters?
I was born in Pittsburgh, and that comes through here in all the rivers that surround the setting of my book and and plenty of bridges, as well as the steel mills near the water. Pittsburgh has a long history of industrial and steel work, and that definitely came into play here. I’ve also always lived in cities, and they’re my favorite kind of setting to write. My dad was also an immigrant, and most of the characters in my main cast are children of immigrants, and one of them is an immigrant herself. I tried to put as much of that experience in the book as I could. The book isn't about immigration, but it is about young people, who happen to be children of immigrants or immigrants themselves, doing great things in a damaged place
4. What was the editorial process like for Diamond City?
Hmm…I learned a lot! Haha. I wrote many manuscripts for years before deciding to query (I think the total is somewhere around 16, give or take), but I didn’t revise much. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I had so many ideas hopping around in my head and I wasn’t really thinking about publishing yet (that always seemed like a far-off dream). So I would just fix major plot holes and do line edits before jumping to the next story. Because of that, I can churn out a decent draft very quickly, but revising takes me a while, and I like it that way.
For Diamond City, I did one big revision and one small revision before querying, and then did a LOT of revising before going on submission with my agent. I learned much more about craft, made a solemn vow to plot better so I would never have to rewrite that much ever again in my life (ha!), and rewrote…a lot. I have a document saved somewhere with about 120k cut words from multiple drafts, and the word count went up and down so much before finally setting on 88k for the submission draft. Now it’s at a nice round 100k, and I feel quite proud of it!
5. Most of all, what feeling do you want readers to come away with after they read your book?
I want them to feel like they went on a heart-pounding adventure in a living, dynamic world, but also a bit like they’ve just made new friends in the characters. I want them to see Aina’s flaws and how she’s grown. I hope that readers in toxic relationships will be able to examine them more critically, or at least be able to see themselves in this book somehow and feel less alone. And I hope people who’ve experienced a lot of poverty or homelessness in their lives can feel like their voices matter, and that they have wonderful futures ahead of them.
6. Can you share what’s coming up next for you, or what you’re working on now?
I’m working on my sequel (Diamond City is a duology!). I’m in the first round of revisions for it, and it’s finally coming together! I can’t wait to share it with readers 😊
The holidays are upon us and Las Musas are here to help you find (hopefully) that perfect read for the reader in your life. Don’t see what you’re looking for? Or looking for a read outside of the picture book, middle grade, and young adult range?
Ask us for a recommendation in the comments and we will happily get back to you!
Note: We’ve placed content warnings on our young adult books (when we could find them), and we recommend researching further to make informed decisions before you purchase. Every reader is different and we hope this blog is just a starting point to finding a next read!
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.
As our first year of Las Musas comes to a close we are thrilled to announce the expansion of our family tree with Las Musas Picture Books!
We are thrilled to launch this branch with the incredible talents of Alexandra Alessandri, Donna Barba Higuera, Zara González Hoang, Adriana Hernández Bergstrom, Joana Pastro, Yamile Saied MéndYamile Saied Mendezez, and NoNieqa Ramos all of whom will publish their debut picture books in 2019 and 2020 and beyond.
Perhaps you wonder why we didn't include picture books during our founding year. Believe us, it wasn't out of neglect. It was simply a matter of logistics. As debut MG & PB writers, we were overwhelmed with forming this group and trying to launch our books and careers and taking on this endeavor was more than we could do. Also, there was the concern that picture books are so different than MG & YA novels, we couldn't consolidate how to market us all together.
However, thanks to the wonderful Alexandra Alessandri who has agreed to spearhead this new branch, we are beginning to grow and learn how to do it so that our marketing efforts are beneficial to all. More than anything, we understand how important it is to have a community like Las Musas in children's publishing and we would be remiss if we couldn't incorporate PB.
Please help me in welcoming our new group of Musas! Visit their pages and add their work to Goodreads!
With love and esperanza,
Las Musas Speak
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