Category: angels

A Dream Come True

On Wednesday, my super agent Linda sent me a quick text:

Your book will be announced sometime Thursday.

Needless to say, I couldn’t sleep all night. Every time I thought about the announcement going live, I got butterflies in my stomach. And then Thursday arrived, and my book wasn’t in the morning Publisher Marketplace new deals email. Soon, I got distracted with two sick children. One who’s been struggling with strep throat for three weeks, and another one whose tummy hurt. Before I knew it, the other kids were home from school, and we had tickets for A Christmas Carol, which we couldn’t miss. I loaded the car with the kids and two friends, and we headed to the theater just when the sun was setting and traffic was thickening into the rage inducing slime of rush hour at The Point of the Mountain. Just as I was merging into the freeway, I got an email notification from my editor, Clarissa Wong. She said the announcement was live. Soon after, Linda emailed me, and then texted me. I exclaimed, “”My book is announced!” and the whole car cheered, and Julian said, “Focus on driving, Mama.” Which of course I didn’t need to be reminded of. Still, I felt like the sun was bursting out of my heart and spilling out of my eyes and every pore in my body.

So far, the best part of a book deal has been sharing the news with my beloved family and friends. The flood of love and excitement has kept me on a high all these days later. During the play’s intermission, I checked on my notifications that were climbing by the second, and a voicemail from my dear agent. Linda had more amazing news that hopefully I’ll get to share six months from now :P. I’m overcome by emotion at all my blessings. In this industry, good news arrive in an avalanche, and then there is silence or rejection for weeks and months at a time. I’m relishing in the good news avalanche right now. I’m holding on to all the light to last me through the dark winter months ahead.

I’m thrilled that I’m working with Clarissa Wong from HarperCollins, and that Jaime Kim is illustrating my book. A few days before the announcement, Clarissa sent me two preliminary sketches of a spread, and when I saw the beauty of Jaime Kim’s interpretation of my story, I broke into tears of gratitude.

This book is the most unexpected surprise. As I said in my graduate reading at VCFA, I wrote it in between packets, and no advisor ever saw it, but I wanted to share it on my last day at beloved school because this poem wouldn’t ever have happened if not for the advise and guidance I found there. I’d written an earlier version of this poem a couple of years ago, but during the political struggle of 2015-2016, I re-wrote it as a love letter to my children. I hope that when they read the final product they’re proud of it.

This deal wouldn’t have happened if Martine Leavitt, Uma Krishnaswami, and Cynthia Leitich-Smith hadn’t urged me after my reading to send it to Linda. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t actually send it to my dear agent, although I didn’t have any hopes that it would sell. It’s not quirky or commercial enough, I told myself. By then, I’d been out on submission with two other manuscripts that didn’t sell, and in the dead of winter post-graduation, I wasn’t feeling too hopeful about my writing career. I’m grateful I took the plunge because this book resonated with a lot of people. A couple of weeks later we had multiple offers for this manuscript, shattering all my expectations.

Although summer 2019 seems like a long time away, in publishing, two years is an amazingly short time for a picture book to be released. I can’t wait to share this story with my readers and friends and family who’ve been so supportive and have believed in me even when I didn’t believe anymore.

I’ve been holding on to these pictures from when I signed all the way back in August. Note my diamond pen (that Areli gave me after I helped her with Alpine Days), and my bracelet, She Believed She Could So She Did.

After so many years, my dream is coming true.

 

 

World Breasfeeding Week

Memories are tricky things. Our minds distil events, and we’re left with the essence.

When I was little, my three younger siblings and I never ventured far from our mom’s side. She cleaned, sewed, knitted, cooked with a baby in her arms. One of my very first memories is of my dad driving my mom and all of us kids to answer a request he had heard on the radio. A newborn baby at a local hospital needed “maternal milk” (that’s how they called it), and my mom, who at the time was nursing my little brother, had a plentiful milk supply.

To me, the fact that my mom would donate milk to a baby in need was the most natural thing in the world. When I was a baby, she would walk several blocks every three hours to nurse my baby cousin whose mom couldn’t feed him. I have dozens of “milk brothers and sisters” all over the country.

So when I became a new mother, the thought of not breastfeeding my child never crossed my mind. I was very sick after my son was born, and I was depressed for a whole year post-partum. Knowing that I was able to nurse my son and that he was so healthy and beautiful was sometimes the only thing that gave me enough incentive to get out of bed every morning. Every month the scale showed how much my Gorgeous Boy was growing. I know numbers don’t mean anything when it comes to babies and children–my Swan Princess is twenty pounds underweight according to the charts, but she’s my healthiest kid. The numbers on the scale, however, were a source of pride for me that helped me out of the depression.

All of my kids were champion nursers. I know that some people will be horrified of knowing that Princess Peach was three and a half when she stopped nursing, but we both loved every moment of it. It’s not true that if babies nurse into toddlerhood they will be clingy or insecure. My Princess Peach is so independent and full of confidence!

When Baby Hulk had to stay in the NICU after birth, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to nurse him, even though I had done it four times before. During the first days, the only thing I could do for him was pumping every two or three hours. It was emotionally and physically taxing. But the first day he was fed my milk though the feeding tube, he looked so content all the efforts were worth it–for him.

Little by little, the nurses allowed me to nurse him. At first, he’d fall asleep, but he caught on really well. Each time he tried he did better and better, until he didn’t need the feeding tube anymore and eventually he came home with me. We’re both pros now. I don’t count the minutes he nurses or how many times he swallows.

I don’t take it for granted though.

I know many mothers aren’t able to nurse their babies for one reason or another, and I love that I can choose how I want to nurture my baby. I’m grateful that I come from a culture that holds nursing mothers in such high esteem. There are no special nursing covers or rooms in Argentina (or there weren’t when I lived there), but mothers and their babies were welcomed and respected everywhere.

During the years, many times I’ve seen my kids pretend-nurse their “babies” (from teddy bears to action figures). I hope their minds can also distill the essence from the memories: breastfeeding is not only natural, but also sacred. It saves lives.

In Princess Peach’s room I have a painting of an angel holding a nursing mother. I’ve felt the embrace of angels many a night when comforting a baby.

Happy International Breastfeeding Week! Maybe one day we won’t even need such a celebration. After all, how many “International Breathing Weeks” do we have?

Statue of Mary nuring Jesus