Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Lupe Ruiz-Flores is the author of six bilingual picture books published by Arte Público Press. Two of her latest books—Let’s Salsa and Lupita’s First Dance—made the list on the Mamiverse blog on “Latino Children’s Books You Should Know.” Lupe was selected as one of 2014’s National Picture Book Month Champions for the month of April 2014. One of her books was a finalist for the 2013 Writer’s League of Texas Book Award. Several have been on the Tejas Star Book Award Reading List.
Lupe was the Grand Prize Winner in the 2015 Institute of Children’s Literature Kindergarten Story Contest. She has been a featured author at the San Antonio Book Festival and at the Texas Book Festival twice. She has been a participating author in Reading Rock Stars. Some of her poetry has been published in anthologies.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I took a leap of faith and entered writing contests. At first, there were a lot of rejections. Then it happened. I was one of the lucky fifteen to win out of 5,000 entries in a national magazine contest. The prize? A week-long, all-expenses-paid trip to New York to attend a writers’ workshop and an offer to write for their magazine, which I still do. Several short stories later, I began writing children’s stories.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
I am working on two picture book stories—one is about a dyslexic horse named Pablo and the other one is about a young girl who during The Great Depression created a gift for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I am also shopping around a YA historical fiction set in the Southwest during the 1930s. It is reminiscent of the Lower East Side New York sweatshops that were in operation years ago written from the viewpoint of a young Latina.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
Cozy. I have a small office, a bit cluttered, with a large picture window, which brings in a lot of light. On the wall is a poster of Caldecott and Newbery winners for inspiration. Right outside the window is a tree that is home to birds and squirrels and heavens knows what else. Sometimes these little creatures sit on the fence’s ledge outside the window and stare at me. I wave and say, “Hello, Mr. Squirrel, or Hello, Ms. Bird, or Hello, Mr. Lizard.” Once I saw a bird with a worm dangling from its beak and another bird swooped by and snatched it away. The bird was stunned! It was hilarious.
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
I get up and exercise on my stationary bike while I listen to Oldies music. Then I shower, make coffee, read Scripture, and meditate for a short while. I then go into my office and turn on the PC. It takes a while to get the creative juices flowing.
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
Very messy. Lots of drafts. I don’t usually outline. I get an idea and kind of know how the story starts and how it ends (although that changes sometimes). Then I work on the middle. I revise and revise. That’s the part I enjoy because that’s when you’re refining what you’ve created. I love to do research and get distracted along the way because there is so much out there.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
Because I love it! In my heart, I’ve always been a writer although along the way, I also had a terrific, different career. I consider myself a late bloomer as a writer and am still learning.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
The children’s enthusiasm about my books during my school visits inspires me. At other times, inspiration nudges me gently. Sometimes it’s a photo, an image, a conversation, childhood memories, or nature.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
Time-management like for most of us. I need to do a better job of that.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN WHEN YOU STARTED?
That a writer needs to have patience. Getting published takes time and perseverance.
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC OR PROFESSIONAL VISION?
I would like to see more diversity in the publishing world. When I was growing up, there weren’t any books that I could relate to. The characters in the books I read did not look like me and their cultural background did not resemble mine at all. We all need to be seen.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE AUTHORS?
WHICH FEMALE AUTHORS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE INTERVIEWED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
Thank you, Lupe Ruiz-Flores!
— Nicole Melanson
And thank you, Cynthia Leitich Smith, for recommending Lupe! Read Cynthia Leitich Smith’s WordMothers interview here
* Author photo by Carolyn Dee Flores
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