First Stories

A Delicious Installment of First Stories

Welcome back, dear reader! Thank you for taking some of your precious time to drop by First Stories. Perhaps you followed your nose? Because today’s interview is full of yummy conversation mixed with savory scents, as I chat with Ana Siqueira about her very first story, all of her picture books, but also…her upcoming release IF YOUR BABYSITTER IS A BRUJA! But first, a little bit about Ana:

Ana Siqueira is an award-winning author from Brazil who cackles but doesn’t wear hats. When not flying with brujas, she teaches Spanish to adorable little ones, where she casts a learning spell that nobody can resist. Besides Bella’s Recipe for Success and If Your Babysitter Is a Bruja, Ana has also published a Spanish early reader for the education market. She loves being an abuela and a vovó to her Cuban-Brazilian American grandkids. She lives in Florida with her husband, who just might be a wizard.

More of Ana’s upcoming books include: ABUELA’S SUPER CAPA/LA SUPERCAPA DE ABUELA (HarperCollins 2023), BOITATÁ, THE FIRE SNAKE (Capstone 2023), ROOM IN MAMI’S CORAZÓN (HarperCollins 2024) and more!

Ana was born in Rio, Brazil. And now she lives in Tampa with her Cuban husband. She has five Cuban-Brazilian-American grandkids. You can learn more about Ana by following her on Twitter at @SraSiqueira1307 or on her website: https://anafiction.com/

Me: Welcome to First Stories, Ana! Thanks for taking the time to stop by!

Ana: Thanks for having me.

Me: Ana, you’ve done so much for the kidlit community – webinars and mentoring, including the PBChat mentorship, and much more! Thank you for all that you’ve done. I know a lot of us will want to hear about your first story, so let’s get started.

Tell me about your “first story.” The one that really pushed you to consider publishing. What inspired you to write it? What was it about?

Ana: I started writing in Brazil a long time ago. In 1991, when I got to this country, I translated my first book called THE FLIRTING MOON, which got an award from Academia Brasileira de Letras. I took my translation to an editor at a conference and the editor said: “Your book is weird.”

I stopped writing then and in 2019 I went back to writing when my Spanish students asked me to write a story based on the viral song and video by Bryan Odent –The Duck Song which I sold to Teacher’s Discovery. From then on, I couldn’t stop writing.

Me: Wow! Hearing that from an editor must have been disheartening. I’m so glad that your students encouraged you to write for them…and that you haven’t stopped since!

Where is it now?

Ana: Well, that story is safely stored away. But the first story I wrote here in the U.S. was about a boy who wanted a penguin. It became a penguin who wanted a heart. Then it morphed into a story about a boy who was looking for a heart for a penguin because his Abuelo died. Then to a story about a boy who missed his Abuela when she died. And, after my mom died, I knew I had to transform this story into my mom’s story and her relationship with my son. And it became ABUELA’S SUPER CAPA, a story filled with heart because it was my story.

And it’s coming out in 2023!! So, you can see how one story gets transformed until it finds its shape. Of course, after more experience and great critique partners, I still write a lot of versions, but they are not that different from each other.

Me: YES!!! A first story that we’re going to get to read next year! I really can’t wait!

Are there any themes in that story that you can see in your writing today?

Ana: I can see that most of my stories have some underlying themes. Like in the Bruja story, where the girl quickly judges the Bruja by her sombrero, I believe we only know someone when we discover their stories. Many of my books have this theme.

Another frequent theme: believe in yourself. We all can do it. But as in Bella’s Recipe for Success, it’s important to know it’s okay to make mistakes and we can always try again.

And in all my books, I want Latino kids to see themselves represented and know they can be anything!! And I want all the children to see through our universal emotions that we are the same, despite our differences. 

Me: What powerful themes! And isn’t it fun to look back over all of your writing (I do this too sometimes) and see how your writing has changed, but how the deep core of your stories still (most of the time) have similar themes?

Looking back, what elements of that first story made it unmarketable? Did you receive feedback on that story? What did that feedback teach you?

Ana: OMG. Where do I start talking about that?! My writing changed so much in one year. It’s unbelievable. When I started, I was a pantser, and my stories had so much stuff going on that I think I could write ten stories based on all the actions and complications. I’ve learned to focus, streamline, and make sure everything was related to my theme with my critique partners and my mentor, Lynne Marie. 

Me: I love hearing this! It’s so encouraging to hear from more experienced writers than myself that they had to learn a lot too! And yes! Critique partners and mentors are key, aren’t they? I’ve learned so much from my own critique group and as much as I can from other writers who are farther along in their writing journeys.

Why is that “first story” special to you? How was it important for your writing journey?

Ana: My first story, which I wrote after my twenty-year pause, is the one where I learned the best stories come from your heart and your emotion. When you write something that really touched your heart, it will touch other people’s hearts, too. And through all my new versions and revisions, I learned… Don’t be afraid to try again from scratch to write a new version. 

Me: Such great advice! And writing from the heart takes time, reflection, and introspection, doesn’t it? Asking tough questions like “what experiences shaped me?” or “what are some of my deepest fears?” Ooohh…tough stuff. But if we’re willing to dig and put our hearts on the page, I agree with you, maybe someone else will feel less alone.

I would love to hear about your latest book release–IF YOUR BABYSITTER IS A BRUJA! It just came out two weeks ago!!! Yay!!!

What can you tell us about this book? How did you come up with the idea for this book? Does it relate at all to your “first story”?

Ana: This book is also based on my memories. No, I was never a bruja, but my daughter thought so. One day, I had to be strict and talk to her in my teacher’s voice: No more diving. We must leave now! And that’s when she started yelling – “You’re not my mom. You’re a bruja!!” And she yelled that through all the way home – for three blocks!!

With this story, I learned that our experiences and memories are the inspiration for our story, but our stories might not be a great fit for a thirty-two or forty-page book. So, I had to transform the mom into a babysitter and the girl became a sneaky and creative one. In the book, the little girl prepares a magic potion for the Bruja. Just like in our stories, our magic potion is a mixture of our own distinct memories, feelings, and fun.

In this story, the girl believes her babysitter might be a bruja. She tries to defeat the Bruja, but in reality, they are having the most fun day ever. And in the end, when the girl believes she melted the bruja, she realizes the bruja was kind of fun. The girl and the bruja will go on many fun aventuras. They will even eat some zombie eyeballs. But the ending is sweet, and it includes a lullaby my Cuban husband used to sing to my younger son. 

Me: I love this so much!! And I can’t wait to read all about this cunning little girl’s plans to defeat the bruja! I need to grab a copy for myself and a friend (you should grab one too, dear reader!)

Anything else you would like to share about your writing journey?

Ana: I want everyone to know that even when I sold four books in 2020; I didn’t sell any in 2021 and now I sold four in 2022. Two of them are work-for-hire. Work-for-hire stories are your stories too. Be proud.

Everyone’s writing journey is a unique roller coaster. Don’t compare. Keep writing and improving your craft. Try to take advantage of all the opportunities out there: mentorships, Twitter events, conferences, and webinars. 

Me: Thanks so much for your honesty, Ana, and your encouragement and your tasty descriptions of your first story! I’ll be looking forward to reading ABUELA’S SUPER CAPA when it hits stores next year, and in the meantime, I need to go find a copy of BRUJA!

Thanks again for dropping by, Ana!

Ana: Thanks for having me, Heather!

Ana is giving away EITHER a signed copy of IF YOUR BABYSITTER IS A BRUJA (with a bookmark!) OR a free virtual school visit! AHHHHH!! So, so generous of her! In order to be entered in her giveaway, you MUST comment below OR retweet one of the links to this interview on Twitter. Entries will close Monday, September 12, and a winner will be announced here and on Twitter on Tuesday, September 13.

5 thoughts on “A Delicious Installment of First Stories”

  1. Thank you Ana and Heather for this wonderful interview. Ana, I appreciate your honestly and encouragement- your story is inspirational and I congratulate you on all of your well deserved success! I don’t need a school visit and would be happy to donate a book to an underserved school of Ana’s choice should I “win!” I just wanted to say thank you and congrats!🦋🦋🦋

    Liked by 1 person

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