Gabriela Arellano on Luz Del Mes Spotlight Interview by Maritza Martinez Mejia
Welcome Gabriela to Spotlight Interview! Tell me:
Q1.What makes you proud to be a writer in The United States coming from Argentina?
I believe that being a published author is a good reason to feel proud, regardless if you publish in your native country or abroad. Publishing a book is very hard work, as you know, whether you do it through a publishing house or through an independent publishing platform.
I moved to the States when I was quite grown up, a 33-year-old woman. So English is definitely my "second language". But my children’s book “Kena The Good Hyena” was written in both English and Spanish. Living and publishing abroad raises the question: "Who is my real target audience?" I wanted to write a children’s book that would transcend cultural barriers and be a book that families with young children could enjoy both in my home country of Argentina as well as in my new home in the United States.
They say “necessity is the mother of invention”, and what first inspired me was indeed born out of necessity. Living in an English-speaking country, 90% of the literature available is written in English, perhaps even more for children. I would spend hours in bookstores trying to find quality books in Spanish for my 5-year-old, who we raise in a bilingual environment. But there was not much out there, and what I found wasn't particularly appropriate: it was either too basic -images of common objects with labels in Spanish at the bottom- or it was too complex for my daughter's Spanish level. There was nothing in the market that targeted the in-between, an intermediate-level Spanish-English bilingual book targeted to the 1rst-5th grade level. So, I decided to write a book for her myself. I always wanted to be a writer, after all, and this was my perfect chance!
The subject of the first book in the Kena series is “friendship and competition”. I have to confess that the inspiration for this was a bit autobiographic. When I was in first grade, I'd stay inside the classroom during recess to get ahead of my classmates and make the prettiest, more astonishing drawings. I still remember the teacher trying to persuade me that friendship was just as important as my schoolwork.
Q3. Do you come up with your title before or after you write the manuscript?
You know, writing in two languages at the same time has its particular demands. You need to twist and tweak as you go. If you change anything in the Spanish draft (and you want the translation to stay loyal to the original), you have to go over the English draft again and modify it. The title grew organically from this process so that it would work in both languages with an equal effect (as everything else in the book).
Q4. What is your favorite writing style?
What I appreciate most of all in writing style is simplicity. I author several blogs (both in English and Spanish) with topics ranging from Marketing and Technology to Politics and Travel. Usually what drives me to pick up a pen and write is when I come across a complex subject I think I can simplify for my readers.
Q5. What is your promotion strategy to promote your children book?
Good question. I wish I could give you a great answer, but this is my first book and I don’t have a formula yet! I think Social Media is going to play the biggest part: “Kena the Good Hyena” has a Facebook page that’s already garnered 1200+ likes. I’ve joined more than 80 Facebook Reading Clubs and I am doing some promotion in them. Of course, I am also using Twitter and even Google+. Now I'm reaching out to influential bloggers like yourself. You’ll see me attending book fairs with my pile of books and little stand. It certainly is a lot of effort!
Q6. Para los padres hispanos que consejo les podrías dar para mantener el español en casa y promover la literatura bilingüe.
Es muy difícil, los niños escuchan televisión, juegan con la computadora, están con sus maestras 7 horas al día, y todo eso en inglés. Mi hija sabe mucho más castellano de lo que ella misma cree. Pienso que, como padres hispanos, es fundamental que trabajemos en el orgullo cultural. Creo que nuestros niños en muchas ocasiones de-li-ve-ra-da-men-te evitan el Español por ser un lenguaje minoritario, no siempre asociado al éxito, no siempre vinculado a la excelencia. Hagamos del español un lenguaje hermoso, rico e intelectualmente contundente, y los niños van a esforzarse por dominarlo.
Gracias por tu tiempo,
¡Gracias a vos!
Thank you for your time to answer this question for LuzDelMes Spotlight Interview.
To visit Gabriela Arellano:
Ser el Mejor - Being the Best
Book Trailer: Animated version of the first title of the series of books KENA THE GOOD HYENA/ KENA LA HIENA BUENA. Illustrated series of bilingual books English/Spanish for children 5-10 years old.