How can we complain about winter when it's already brought us such treasures such as middle-grade novel Blizzard Besties, from Argentine-American author Yamile (sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez? In addition to writing at break-neck speeds (she has five books coming out in the next two years!) Yamile is fútbol-obsessed, and loves meteor showers, summer, astrology, and pizza. She lives in Utah with her Puerto Rican husband and their five kids, two adorable dogs, and one majestic cat. An inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant recipient, she’s also a graduate of Voices of Our Nations (VONA) and the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA Writing for Children’s and Young Adult program. She’s a PB, MG, and YA author. She’s also the children’s lit guest editor at Hunger Mountain literary journal and a writing mentor.
Yamile’s Las Musas hermana Ann Dávila Cardinal interviewed her about this fabulous new release!
Tell us how Blizzard Bestiescame about. Give us some backstory on the story!
Blizzard Besties came from a need for adventure stories featuring kids of color in the current market. My main focus was to show kids having fun, getting in trouble, and navigating friendship and family dynamics.
Why a ski vacation novel? Do you ski?
My kids, Utah born and raised, love to ski and snowboard. Of course, in the 20+ years of living in Utah, I have been skiing a few times (that I can count with one hand), but I really don’t enjoy it. I’m a summer creature! We have cold winters in Argentina, where I’m from, and I’d detested being cold since I was a child. I’m even allergic to cold! (It’s a real condition. Look it up!). But honestly, snow is magical and beautiful. When I thought of the worst situation in which I could put my characters, trapped in a haunted house during blizzard was at the top of my list. Of course, I say this as an adult. For my kids and their friends, this scenario is the epitome of fun and adventure. Also, Utah’s slogan in “Best Snow on Earth,” and if you’re going to suffer in the snow, it might as well be in the best snow there is, right?
Dogs play a big role in this novel, are you a dog-person?
I’m an all-around animal person! I have two dogs I adore: Dandelion (Dandi) the Yorkie, and November (Nova) the Labradoodle. I also have a cat, Coraline (Cora). I love animals and my life wouldn’t be complete without them.
This is a novel about friendship. What is it you hope your readers will walk away with in terms of that important topic?
Friendship is such a vital element in life, not only as a child, but in every stage. I’m blessed with a multitude of friends whom I consider my family. I also wanted to show that friendships evolve, change, and sometimes die, and that’s okay. When there’s an unbalanced or unhealthy friendship, it’s okay to move on, and it’s okay to give people we’d never considered before a chance to become friends.
What advice might you have for newbie writers interested in writing for children?
My number one advice is to read. Read widely, read voraciously, read carefully, analyzing the books that resonate with you.
And my number two advice is to write. Write what interests and motivates you. Write voraciously and carefully. But most of all, write from the heart, even if it’s “only” an adventure story. It it’s not from the heart, you won’t connect to your readers. The main purpose of reading and writing is to connect with someone through time and space. Isn’t this a magical thing?
How did it feel to see Blizzard Bestieson the cover of the Scholastic flyer???
It was a dream come true! I didn’t grow up in the States, so I didn’t have the classic experience of attending the Scholastic Book Fair at school. But sometimes my mom ordered books from The Reader’s Circle catalog, and I used to pore over the brochures, reading the book summaries over and over although it was very rare when I got to order the books and much less read them. I had a flash of little Yamile seeing her book on the catalog, and my heart exploded in rainbows and shooting stars. As an adult, my favorite time of the year is when I see my kids super excited about the book fair coming to their school, and seeing my book in the catalog catapulted me to “cool mom” status among them.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on so many things! I have several books (both announced and unannounced) coming out through 2021. WHERE ARE YOU FROM?(PB, Harper, June 2019) and ON THESE MAGIC SHORES?(MG, Lee and Low/Tu Books 2020) are finished, and I can’t wait to share them with my readers! While I wait for them to be officially out, I’m revising a YA contemporary novel set in Argentina and featuring the #NiUnaMenos movement in Latin America, and another still secret MG for Scholastic that has a lot of the elements readers will love about BLIZZARD BESTIES.
So run out and get a copy of Blizzard Besties as a gift for someone you love!
Find the fabulous Yamile and follow her numerous upcoming releases at yamilesmendez.com and @YamileSMendez.