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My Journey as a Bilingual Children’s Book Author: A Guest Post by Massiel Zaragoza


Finding the Perfect Niche


I haven't spoken about niches on the blog, but when it comes to self -publishing finding your niche is crucial. It could make or break your book sales.


For example, if I wrote a book about general self help, it most likely won't hit the top charts, no matter how good my book is, due to an oversaturated niche.


But, if I wrote a self help book focused in multitasking to improve efficiency within your 24 hour day, then it's more likely to move up the charts as there aren't as many self help books to compete against within that particular niche.


This why I'm so excited to have our guest post, written by Massiel Zaragoza, on the blog today! Massiel has done an amazing job finding a niche which seems to be lacking content. Her unique take on story telling along with life experiences have allowed her to self-publish not one, but 2 great stories. Take a look!

 
“My Island Cousin and I” and “We Are Twins But We Are Not Identical”: My Journey as a Bilingual Children’s Book Author

I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I could remember. When I was a little girl, I created my own children’s books. I wrote the stories while my little brother drew many of the pictures for me. However, as I grew older, I became convinced I wouldn’t “make it” as an author. I never read any books with characters or stories connected to my life. At school, I didn’t come across any stories about other Latinos. I grew up speaking Spanish at home and when my family moved to the United States, everything shifted to English for me and my siblings. It was as if our culture was being erased before our eyes.


I went into bilingual education because I wanted to help young people tap into that same sense of pride I felt for my home language and culture. I loved being a teacher and it was a privilege to serve my students, their families, and their communities. I’m still in education, but in a leadership capacity now, while also pursuing a doctorate degree in bilingual education. What can I say? I love everything related to bilingualism and biliteracy! It’s been my journey as an educator, and now a mother to four little girls who are being raised bilterate and multicultural, that I ultimately decided to take the plunge and dive into children’s authorship.


It didn’t take long to write the manuscripts for my two bilingual children’s books: We Are Twins But We Are Not Identical and My Island Cousin and I. My daughters were my muses and once they were born, I knew I wanted my first books to be dedicated to them. All in all, I’d say it took about a month during the spring of 2020 to complete the manuscript for both books.


The illustration process took much longer. I was fortunate enough to find a very talented British-Indian illustrator named Vidya Lalgudi Jaishankar through Fiverr. I hired her to illustrate the book My Island Cousin and I. In this book, I tell the story of two Puerto Rican cousins: one who lives in Puerto Rico and the other who lives in New York. The book compares and contrasts the experiences of both cousins as they go through their daily lives, but the end of the book highlights the strong connection they both feel to their Puerto Rican heritage, despite the fact one of them lives far away. It’s a story about cultural pride and it’s directed at children who may have immigrated to another country with their families and now feel “stuck between two worlds.”

My other book, We Are Twins But We Are Not Identical, was illustrated by a local illustrator named Diana Torres. Diana lives and works in Chicago, like me, but is originally from Colombia. Her artistic style was very different from Vidya’s style, but it was super fun to work with two talented women who helped my stories come to life. The twin book was inspired by my twin daughters, who are now four years old. When I learned I was going to be a twin mom, I immediately turned to the internet to find books about twin parenting. I couldn’t find many children’s books about twins, and I certainly didn’t find any bilingual books with twin characters. Writing a story about multicultural twins seemed like a no-brainer to me. We are living in an increasingly diverse world, and I know many parents who are also raising kids of mixed ancestry. My twin book explores the nuances of multicultural identity and elucidates how identity is so unique and personal, even if you share the same womb with someone!!


The illustration process for both books took roughly about 6 to 7 months. I hired a bilingual proofreader to take a look at the Spanish and English texts of both books. I also hired a talented children’s book author/graphic designer to format the books, and before self-publishing my books with Ingram Spark in June and July 2021, respectively, I worked a lot on marketing and networking. I joined a few organizations and social media groups for children’s book authors. I’ve participated in a few book fairs and I’ve done a few interviews on several podcasts and local radio stations in Chicago.


It’s been an incredible ride and I’m hopeful for the future. I recently partnered with a well known Latina author named Naibe Reynoso to write a teacher’s guide for her collection of bilingual children’s biographies. She has a collection of four bilingual biographical texts that highlight the stories of Latino figures who have made tremendous contributions in politics, science, history, among other fields. I helped her develop a teacher’s guide aligned to all four of her books that includes lessons in English Language Arts, Spanish Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies and Social Emotional Learning. I’m also working on a teacher’s guide to accompany my two books and I hope to recruit other authors who have written stories about personal identity to contribute to the teacher’s guide.


I see myself writing a few more children’s books in the next few years and would love to venture into short story writing and young adult literature as well. As my daughters continue to grow, I know the need for role models in the books they read will only increase, so I want to do my part to ensure they have access to the types of books I wish I had when I was their age.


Both of my books can be found on Barnes and Noble and in hardcover, paperbook, and e-book versions. They can also be found on my website: brilliantbiliterates.com.

Here are the Amazon links for both of my books:

I would definitely encourage anyone considering going into writing to go for it! I let feelings of self-doubt hold me back for many years and now I’m kicking myself for not starting sooner. It’s understandable because trying to find the perfect avenue to start the writing and publishing process can be a bit overwhelming, but you can’t move forward if you don’t take the first step!

 

Guest Post Wrap Up

I really love how Massiel found her niche when it comes to writing. Not many self-published authors succeed at this their first time around. If you haven't checked out her children's books yet, I highly suggest doing so and I'm sure we will be seeing more from Massiel here in the future.


Also, Christmas is almost here, and these books would make a great gift for the little ones!


If you are a self-published author who would like to tell their story on the Kali Kuzma Author and Storyteller send me an email at kalikuzma@gmail.com. Check out other guest posts by Britta Whitmer or Sue Young to see if it is something you are interested in pursuing.








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