Official paperback release date: December 15, 2015
“To be an artist includes much; one must possess many gifts-absolute gifts-which have not been acquired by one’s own effort. And, moreover, to succeed, the artist must possess the courageous soul.”
“What do you mean by the courageous soul?”
“Courageous, ma foi! The brave soul. The soul that dares and defies.”
from The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
In 2005 Carmen Dolores Hernández, book review editor at El Nuevo Día newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico, came to visit Brussels. She’d published some of my short stories and novel excerpts in Revista Domingo in the past, and I deeply admired her wisdom as a writer and woman of letters.
I invited her and her husband to my home for dinner, and over wine and various Turkish dishes (my husband is Turkish, and Carmen had expressed her love for this cuisine), we chatted late into the night about writing, books, and authors. She mentioned the anthology she had put together back in 1997, Puerto Rican Voices in English, a vibrant collection of interviews with fourteen of the most prominent Puerto Rican writers living in the United States-including, by the way, Esmeralda Santiago, who so graciously agreed to take part in this project.
Soon after Carmen returned to Puerto Rico, I ordered a copy of Puerto Rican Voices, and became absorbed by the candor and insight of the authors as they talked about their backgrounds, books, and writing. More than fascinated, I became fixated. I asked myself, wouldn’t it be cool to put together a similar anthology showcasing Latina authors writing in English in the United States? An inspirational, entertaining, and informative tome focusing on the craft of writing and the practical business of publishing, one that would provide aspiring authors with the nuts and bolts of the business. A book that would not only showcase prominent figures but emerging voices as well, writers working on a wide range of genres from the literary to the commercial. After all, there’s valuable wisdom at every stage of a writer’s career, and the different genres would provide a wider spectrum to the reader.
By this time I had already started interviewing authors for a variety of online sites and publications. I enjoyed probing into the minds of these authors, and was always able to take away something from them.
But I wasn’t ready for Latina Authors and Their Muses yet. A couple of years passed. The idea simmered as I worked on other projects.
Then, in 2009, I started writing a column focused on Hispanic literature for Examiner.com: National Latino Books Examiner. Over the next few years I had the great fortune of becoming acquainted with a remarkable group of talented Latina authors from various backgrounds writing in different genres, ranging from sweet children’s picture books to darkly sensual vampire novels to fun, humorous chick lit. Talent and a high respect for the craft characterized these ladies, but also a strong connection to their roots and a desire to encourage and support other Latina writers.
In February 2011, I decided to take the plunge and write a proposal. But before I began, I realized I had to contact authors to see if they would be interested in participating. So I began researching and embarked on the painstaking process of emailing the authors individually, describing the project to them. I was thrilled with their initial response:
“Sounds like a wonderfully creative project!”
“I would love to participate in a book that would encourage aspiring Latina writers.”
“What a great idea!”
“I’d be honored!”
Did I mention how much Latina writers like to encourage and support other Latina writers?
Infused with their enthusiasm, I put together a proposal that I eventually sent to fifteen literary agents who had a history of working with Hispanic authors. Within a week I had multiple requests. Eventually, I signed with Leticia Gomez at Savvy Literary. She began the pitching process right away. Unfortunately, although many of the editors loved the concept and deemed it worthy, they were concerned about the marketing aspect of it. How would they market the book? The audience was too niche, too narrow. After a year of waiting and rejections, Leticia kindly let me know she had exhausted her efforts with the top editors.
I wasn’t ready to give up.
In February 2013, I submitted the proposal to my publisher, Lida Quillen of Twilight Times Books, a small traditional press in Kingsport, Tennessee. Soon after, I was offered a contract.
Of course, I was elated. But my work had just begun.
Until then, I had only written the proposal, which included two sample interviews. I still had research to do, and I needed to prepare questionnaires for each author. That was the fun part. The challenging part was keeping myself organized and keeping track of emails, interviews, contributor agreements, photos, etc. I set up a system, which included various lists and logs.
Latina Authors and Their Muses has been a labor of love in every aspect. It has also been a completely selfish project. I wanted to hear what these authors had to say, hoping I wasn’t alone. I wanted to relate to them and learn from them-and learn I have, so very much! In a way, they’ve all become my mentors. For readers, some of the questions may sound repetitive. However, this isn’t from lack of imagination as much as sheer selfishness: I wanted answers to questions that had obsessed me and that I felt inquisitive about (e.g. How does one define success? What does the term “professional author” mean?). I had many a-ha moments from their thoughtful, perceptive responses-exactly what I was after.
In spite of their different backgrounds, education levels, and jobs, two factors more than any others bind these writers together: their passion and commitment to their craft and to sharing their stories with the world in spite of the odds.
Latina Authors and Their Muses is a celebration of creativity, the writer’s life, the passionate quest for spiritual and artistic freedom. I invite you to peek into the courageous souls of these forty women. I hope you’ll enjoy the journey as much as I have.
Interviews with 40 multi-talented Latina Authors
Carolina De Robertis
Lyn Di Iorio
Maria Gabriela Madrid
Sandra Ramos O’Briant
Toni Margarita Plummer
Thelma T. Reyna
Eleanor Parker Sapia
Alisa Lynn Valdes
Diana Rodriguez Wallach
About the Editor
Award-winning author Mayra Calvani has penned more than ten books for children and adults in genres ranging from picture books to nonfiction to paranormal fantasy novels. She’s had over 300 articles, short stories, interviews and reviews published in magazines such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal and Bloomsbury Review, among others. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, she now resides in Brussels, Belgium.