It’s my pleasure to welcome author and illustrator Sandra Lopez as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.
Sandra published her first teen fiction novel, EPERANZA: A LATINA STORY, while she was finishing her Bachelors Degree at Cal State Fullerton. She now has a second YA book, the sequel to ESPERANZA, entitled BEYOND THE GARDENS.
Sandra joins us today to talk about ‘coming back a celebrity.’
For those of you who have heard me speak at a book signing or an author panel, then you know the story of how I got into the writing gig. But for those of you who are just joining us, I’ll tell it again.
I started writing my first teen fiction novel, ESPERANZA, when I entered my first year of junior college, fresh out of high school. The book was about a 14-year old Mexican-American girl who wanted to get out of the barrio and make something of her life. I wrote this story without the help of a computer while taking a full load of classes 5 days a week. When I finally finished it, I stacked it on the shelf so it could collect dust forever. I had absolutely NO intention of having it published as being an author was something I thought I could never do when I was growing up. But, one day, I decided to pitch it to some publishing houses out there. Out of 40 letters I sent out, 35 came back rejected and the rest didn’t come back at all. I was about to give up on the whole thing when I got a call from the editor of Floricanto Press asking to see the rest of my manuscript. Four months later, I received a contract. Then two years after that, I was holding my first published book. And all this happened WHILE I was still in college!
Since then, I have written a sequel to my first book called BEYOND THE GARDENS, and graduated with a Bachelors degree from Cal State Fullerton. To this day, I spend my free time visiting colleges and local libraries talking about my books and the writing process.
A common misconception most people have about authors is that they are rich. That’s so not true. I don’t have a butler or a chauffeur or diamond earrings or a mansion made out of gold. Would I like to have all that? Hell yeah! Yes, I would like to be on the best-seller’s list. Yes, I would like my books to be transformed into movies. And, yes, I would like to make all that money from just sitting on my butt and writing! But, alas, like most other writers, I do have a day job. I just do events whenever I can.
Now, I don’t think much has changed since I got into the writing business. I mean, it’s not like I get stopped on the streets whenever a fan recognizes out me. I’m still living a normal, everyday life. The only difference is that I get asked for autographs more often. Let me tell you, it’s way different than when you had to sign yearbooks in school. And I feel honored every time.
But does this make me a “celebrity?” Well, a few people do, especially the kids. I actually came back a “celebrity” when I went to go visit my old school district.
Sometime ago, I got an email from a lady that works for the district. She was ecstatic to learn from the internet that I was from the local area and now an AUTHOR. She called me a great role model for young kids and absolutely insisted that I meet up with her to discuss a possibility of talking to the classrooms of the district. So that's what I did.
I met up with Ann (that's her name, BTW), who hit the floor at the first sight of me (maybe I should've brushed my hair or something, or it might have something to do with the fact that I'm some sort of celebrity now.) Anyway, after she breathed a few times, I proceeded to talk about how I got started in writing and what, if anything, led me to take on this goal when I was in school. For a second, I thought Ann was going to have a stroke. Apparently, she couldn't contain herself because before I could even say anything else, she rushed to the phone to ask if the superintendent could spare a few moments to meet me at that point. Then ten minutes later, we met up with the superintendent, who I relayed my life story and writing career to. Both of them were so amazed by my accomplishment that they purchased 8 copies of my books right on the spot. Even the secretary was in awe. And when I told him that I was the designer of my website, they were that much more impressed.
By the end of the meeting, they referred me as "a product of their school system." It actually made me wonder: Did I have anything to do this, or was it all them?
In any sense, it was good to go back and recall all those memories in school. I even met up with my old Vice Principal in Jr. High. Of course, he didn't remember me, but I remembered him (vaguely). See, I'm not that old.
It's going to be great to speak to the students next year. I will tell all of them that it IS possible to make something of yourself and come back a celebrity.
Sandra, what an inspiring story. You are definitely a role model for the students. Thanks so much for guest blogging here today and sharing your story.
Here’s a brief description of Sandra’s latest book. Beyond the Gardens is about a young Latina in search for independence and self-worth. Being raised in the poor barrio and having a drunk for a father didn’t leave much for Esperanza to believe in. Her dream was to become an Animator, and it was only until after high school that her dream became a reality. Now, she is living the life she’s always wanted in the dormitory of an L.A. art school. What new challenges await Esperanza in this new adventure? With the help of her fashion-guru roommate, the sudden love interest of an old high school friend, and the annoying advice from her loud-mouth mother, Esperanza will learn the hard way that, “you can take the girl out of the barrio, but you can’t take the barrio out of the girl.”
Sandra’s books are available for purchase on Amazon and BN.com.