A Cafe Chat with Hilda Eunice Burgos and the Lancaster Avenue Writers’ Group, by Laura Parnum


The Lancaster Avenue WritersGroup is a middle grade and young adult SCBWI-affiliated critique group that I belong to. Today Ive invited some of our other members here to the Eastern Penn Points Café for a very special occasion. One of our members, Hilda Eunice Burgos, just had her debut middle grade novel, Ana María Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle, release last week, and we couldnt be more excited! The book has received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal and has received praise as A Latina Little Women with a modern Washington Heights Flair.

chocolate-chip-cookies-940429__480Joining Hilda and me today at the café are Amy Beth Sisson and Susan North. Weve just settled into our booth. Hildas got her herbal tea, Susans drinking coffee with cream, Amy has a nice strong drip coffee, and Ive ordered a tall glass of apple cider and a plate of chocolate chip cookies for us all to share.

Laura: So, Hilda, first off, CONGRATULATIONS! It’s so great that young readers can finally get to know Anamay and her whole family. How did you feel on release day? Nervous? Excited? Or both?

Hilda: Both! I had to go to work that day, so I’m glad I had something else to distract me.

Ana Maria Reyes

Laura: Can you tell us how you got your book deal with the Tu Books imprint of Lee & Low.

Hilda: I submitted my book to the Tu Books New Visions Award contest, which is a writing contest for YA/MG novels and graphic novels by authors of color and Native nations. The book was selected as one of five finalists. It did not win the award, but Lee & Low nevertheless offered me a contract after the contest was over.

Amy: You started this novel before your son was born and completed it after he was grown. How would it have been different if you had finished it then?

Hilda: I originally wrote this as a chapter book, so it was much shorter and had a simpler, more streamlined plot. When I pulled it out again about 16 years later, I had just returned from an inspiring EPA SCBWI conference, and I decided that there was a lot more I could do with this story. I’m glad I expanded the book to a middle grade novel, and I probably wouldn’t have done that when I first wrote it all those years ago.

Garcia GirlsSusan: Did you have any mentor texts or middle grade novels that inspired your writing?

Hilda: I enjoy reading many different types of novels, but the ones that speak to me as a writer are based on everyday life and are family oriented. Little Women and How the García Girls Lost Their Accents stood out to me because they are about families with four sisters like my own family and like Ana María’s family.

Amy: You are very effective in showing how Ana María grows through the novel, especially when she visits the Dominican Republic. I like how you show that she becomes a better person without making it saccharin or false. She didnt end up being overly nice or unrealistically perfect. Did you have a similar experience as a child?

Hilda: Ana María’s specific experiences are fictional, but I visited the Dominican Republic for the first time when I was ten, and it opened my eyes to the extreme social and economic disparities present in our world.

Laura: It’s wonderful that you can bring some of those issues to light in your book. We are definitely excited for you, Hilda. And thank you all for stopping by the café!

Hilda and book

If youd like to meet Hilda and get your hands on a copy of Ana María Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle, come to her book launch party this Sunday. Hilda will be signing copies of her book!

When: Sunday, October 14, 2018, at 3:00 pm

Where: Childrens Book World, 17 Haverford Station Road, Haverford, PA 19041

Hilda Eunice Burgos has been writing for many years, but Ana María Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle is her first published novel. Her parents emigrated from the Dominican Republic before she was born, and she grew up in New York City as one of four sisters. She now lives with her husband, Wayne, near Philadelphia, where she works as an environmental lawyer. You can visit her website at hildaeuniceburgos.com.

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8 Responses to A Cafe Chat with Hilda Eunice Burgos and the Lancaster Avenue Writers’ Group, by Laura Parnum

  1. Erik Ammon says:

    Congratulations Hilda! Thanks for sharing your story. I’m amazed that you had it sitting so long! Was it a story that was nagging at you during that time, or just after the conference?

  2. heburgos says:

    Thank you, Erik! I thought about the story every now and then because I had received positive feedback and a request for revisions from an editor a few weeks before my son was born. I kept thinking I should go back and work on those. After a few years, I pretty much decided that editor wouldn’t even remember me anymore. And I was pretty busy with work and my kids. I’m glad I picked this up again, though!

  3. Brinton Culp says:

    So excited for you Hilda–and great interview Laura! I am looking forward to reading and meeting Ana María 😊.

  4. Sarah Heaton says:

    Congratulations! I love the DR, Little Women, and Washington Heights (which I just visited for the first time recently). Can’t wait to read it!

  5. kateywrites says:

    Congratulations! It was great to learn more about the journey this book took from idea to publication.

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