I was born in Argentina and although I’ve lived in the United States all of my adult life, I’ve never adapted to the opposite seasons, and I still use the metric system for everything. I’m married to a Puerto Rican, and one day, when my kids have all flown out of the nest, I’ll live in Old San Juan, the most beautiful place in the world. I have five children ages teen to preschooler. I write picture books, some light fantasy and magical realism, but mostly contemporary middle grade and young adult fiction. Real life has plenty of magic; sometimes we just need to see things through a different perspective to notice the magic in them.
My novel ON THESE MAGIC SHORES is Lee and Low’s New Visions Award 2015 Honor, and I’m also a recipient of the inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant awarded by We Need Diverse Books. My novel THE REEL WISH is a Utah Arts Council 2016 Middle Grade Honor. I’m also Pitchwars Mentee Liaison.
Besides books, I love fútbol, especially the Argentina National team, Rosario Central, and FC Barcelona. I also love competitive Irish dancing and gymnastics–I write about all of these subjects too.
I’m represented by Linda Camacho, from the Prospect Agency.
I was born in Rosario, Argentina in the late seventies, at the cusp of the military dictatorship. In spite of censorship and persecution, my country has always been the breeding ground of thinkers and writers such as Borges, Cortázar, Quiroga, and Mármol. They used words not only to express themselves, but to also give voice to the voiceless and call the world’s attention to the reality of the southernmost country in the world.
The first time words made sense to me, it was like I was seeing for the first time. I was five years old, in a crowded, middle-of-the-winter smelly bus, clutching my grandfather’s hand, when I read the bright words on a billboard. After that flash of understanding, words overwhelmed me. I couldn’t not read. Not anymore. But I couldn’t yet write.
A few days later, playing school with older neighbor girls, I felt a writer’s frustration for the first time. In her expert second-grader voice, my friend read from the primer Argentine children have learned from for the last fifty years. “Pelusa mete la pata,” she said and waited for me to write it down. I saw the sentence in my mind. Pelusa, the dog, making a mess, sticking her leg in a pot of paint and leaving tiny blue footprints all over the floor. I saw it, but I didn’t have the tools yet to put my thoughts down on paper. Unfortunately, writer’s frustration is a feeling that has haunted me all my life.
For weeks I sat at the kitchen table copying down letters from the saltbox or the Coca-Cola bottle. Once I had the tools, I set out to build my own stories. When I was grieving the death of my grandfather, I wrote of a princess whose grandpa died of cancer. That was the beginning of my vocation as a contemporary writer. Although I love fantasy and speculative fiction, real life has so many mysteries that I’ve been exploring them ever since. My love of reading and writing have always walked hand in hand. As my eagerness to create stories grew, so did my search for stories that fueled my imagination and gave meaning to my life.
At home, my family owned one book, the Bible. I read the Old Testament stories so many times, I almost memorized them. The Old Testament has something for every reader: mystery, betrayal, love, faith, sibling rivalry, murder and intrigue.
One summer, my mother bought a dictionary from a door-to-door salesman, and my eyes were opened to the world. I read the words, but more than anything, I poured over the appendices at the end. The list of countries and their capitals. The list of dead tongues. I made stories about those people whose languages don’t exist anymore.
In the list of modern languages, I marked the ones I would one day learn. I marked English, and with the help of a Spanish/English dictionary I learned it. Years of pouring over the dictionary and deciphering the phonetic guide gave me the opportunity to read my favorite authors in their native language. It also left me with dreadful mispronunciations. To this day, I have to remind myself that tired is pronounced TIE-erd and not TIE-red.
When the Bible and the dictionary weren’t enough to satisfy my thirst for story, I turned to a neighbor and friend who graciously lent me the books of her meager library. That’s how I learned the Grimm and Andersen fairy tales and discovered the words of Monteiro Lobato, the great Brazilian children’s writer. He wrote about Little Nose and her friends, who listened to her grandmother’s stories in the Yellow Benteveo Farm. From Monteiro Lobato’s books I learned everything from Greek mythology to geology. From European history to Archimedes and math. Last year, on her last trip to Argentina, my mother found those books and brought all twenty-three to me. My love for Brazil and its people, in spite of the eternal rivalry between our two countries, has a beginning in the Yellow Benteveo.
When I write now, I think of the books that shaped my vision of the world. Because of stories, I learned I could accomplish anything. Maybe that’s why when at the age of nineteen I left my country to attend university in the United States, I wasn’t scared. I was thrilled at the opportunity I had to live such an adventure. In an extended family of over seventy people, I’m the only one who graduated from college–in a foreign language that I learned from a dictionary.
Now, besides English, I also speak Portuguese and Italian.
I have five children, and I’m a stay-at-home mother. If anything, my children have inspired me to write from their perspective: the child who grows up between cultures. Being from Argentina, I come from several backgrounds. Even though my family tree has roots in Palestine, Spain, Yugoslavia, Africa, and the Pampas, I’ve always considered myself one hundred percent Argentine. I see a different experience in my children’s lives. Identity and what it means to belong to a culture or cultures are topics that resonate with me and inspire me to tell my stories. I write thinking of the little girl who seldom saw herself in the pictures of a book, but whose words are worth reading and writing about.