What is the first book that made you cry?

My Sweet Orange Tree by José Mauro de Vasconcelos

What’s your favorite book?

Choosing a favorite book is like asking who is my favorite child. I don’t have one book that holds the title, but the books I revisit every year are: The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta (and ALL of her other books), The Shadow of the Wind and the sequels by Carlos Ruiz Safón, His Dark Materials trilogy and the sequels by Philip Pullman, and all of Las Musas books.

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

First of all, if you’re writing, you’re not aspiring! Call yourself a writer. Then find your people. This will help you separate the process of writing a book from that of publishing one. Publishing is a business with ups and downs, and sometimes, the journey can be emotionally draining. Find friends who are at the same stage of the journey. It’s so fun to grow together and support each other! It’s important to find mentors who can guide you, but the most important people in your corner will be your critique group and the writer friends you make along the way.

Will you read/critique my book/introduce me to your agent/editor?

Unfortunately, I can’t read or critique your manuscript. I volunteer in the Musas’ mentorship program and on other programs like Pitchwars. Be on the lookout for their application period! Also, my agent has her own system of finding her clients, and I don’t interfere with that. Same with my editors who only take agented submissions.

Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

Yes! Three times: twice during traumatic personal events, and once at the beginning of the pandemic in March. But I still consumed stories, only in different media! I listened to my favorite audio books and watched my fair share of Netflix.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I believe that sometimes we work so hard, we run out of steam. It’s time to fill the well then. As with readers’ block, I try to nourish my creative mind by spending time with my family, exercising, daydreaming, watching TV, reading, doing nothing, doing laundry, cooking, etc… In short, when I can’t write, I see this as a sign that I need to live my life and be present so I can have something to write about!

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

To thine own self be true.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

I’d be a sports commentator.

How do you balance your responsibility as a mother and your career as a writer?

Just like my husband does with his very demanding career. One day at a time, doing the most important things first.

Can I write a book with a character not of my background?

Hmmm. This is so tricky. Are you asking me for permission? If so, I can’t give it to you. My advice is to consider the why. Why do you need to write this story? Is there a way you can explore the themes from your personal point of view? Consider the stories that have been written from this marginalized perspective. If you want to be “a voice for the voiceless” keep in mind that no one is really voiceless. Sometimes the industry and society haven’t been paying attention to the stories being told. I always remember Mr. Rogers’ comment that first and foremost, he never wanted to hurt a child. Also, I think that there’s a lot I don’t know about what I don’t know. I imagine it’s the same for everyone. Research can only take you so far when you haven’t lived a particular experience.

Yamile Saied Mendez

Yamile (sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez is a fútbol-obsessed Argentine-American, Picture Book, Middle Grade, and Young Adult author.

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