The Lancaster Avenue Writers’ Group is a middle grade and young adult SCBWI-affiliated critique group that I belong to. Today I’ve 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 couldn’t 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.”
Joining Hilda and me today at the café are Amy Beth Sisson and Susan North. We’ve just settled into our booth. Hilda’s got her herbal tea, Susan’s drinking coffee with cream, Amy has a nice strong drip coffee, and I’ve 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.
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.
Susan: 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 didn’t 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!
If you’d 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: Children’s 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.