Our interview with author Gloria Amescua highlights the reason SCBWI is so meaningful to members—supportive people! Gloria’s picture book biography, written in verse, is CHILD OF THE FLOWER-SONG PEOPLE: LUZ JIMÉNEZ, DAUGHTER OF THE NAHUA, Abrams Books for Young Readers, August, 2021.
Where did you grow up, and how did that place (or those places) shape your work?
I grew up in the country north of Austin then but now part of far north Austin. I didn’t have other kids to play with for most of that time, so my younger brother and I used our imaginations in creative play, though he was almost four years younger. As the only girl, I spent a lot of time by myself reading and thinking about the worlds I found in books. Books gave me a life beyond the one I had. Being a Mexican American who didn’t speak Spanish really made me feel as if I didn’t fit in anywhere, especially school. That also shapes the books I write and want to write. We didn’t have books where I could see others like me. What makes me really sad is that I didn’t even question why we didn’t.
Did you always want to be an author, or did that come later?
I have been a writer since I was a child. I remember writing my first poem at about nine years old. I wrote poems and a play that I remember teachers sharing, but they weren’t school assignments. I don’t remember ever having creative writing assignments. I wrote because I wanted to express myself. I’ve mainly written poetry until I decided to work on children’s literature. I have always wanted to publish at least one book. I thought that if I didn’t at least try to fulfill my dream, I would be letting myself down.
If someone were to follow you around for 24 hours, what would they see?
They would see a rather frazzled person trying to do everything that needs doing beyond the everyday chores. This past year my partner and I bought a house, sold houses, and moved. Some of our belongings are still in boxes sitting in the house and garages. Why? Because we are both sentimental and have long to-do lists! We spend time trying to clean up the trees and plants around our home after the big freeze, dealing with armadillos making holes in the yard, keeping deer from eating our plants, etc. In addition, promoting one’s book is almost a full time job. So I usually spend afternoons and into the evenings working on my website, presentations, interviews, social media, etc. I do revising, but am getting very little new writing done. I actually don’t know how writers with full-time jobs do it. Maybe it’s because they are younger. Kudos to those that are!
How does your everyday life feed your work?
The parts of life that do feed my work are the times I speak with friends and family. They remind me of what’s important about those connections and why I want to write. I do try to spend sometime in the evenings sitting on the back porch watching the birds flocking from the trees to the feeder, mama deer and her fawn coming around and watching the sunset with my Sweetie. Those moments are sweet and precious. I’ve come through many difficult times and am proud of the person I’ve become and want others to find hope, pride and joy in their lives through my writing.
Tell us about some accomplishments that make you proud.
I am most proud of raising my son mostly as a single mother and the fine man he has become with a lovely wife and two wonderful daughters. I’m appreciative of being the first in my family and extended family to graduate from college and also to become a teacher. I’m also happy that I didn’t give up on myself as a writer and finally got a book published. I’m proud of all the things I’ve learned and am learning through this whole writing, publishing and marketing process.
What surprises you about the creative life?
I’ve found the most supportive people I’ve ever known through the friends I’ve made in different writing groups and organizations. It could be a competitive space, but instead, we have so many people helping us achieve our best creative work through critiques, offering support when we hit bumps, and cheering us on.
When a reader discovers your work, what do you hope they find?
I hope they find a new way of thinking about others and themselves. I would like for them to find an emotional connection to the characters they read about and explore different times and worlds.
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
I’m definitely a night owl. It was a struggle to get up early for work. After retirement, I felt free to stay up and sleep in. Now, it’s an adjustment since my partner isn’t a night owl. But we work it out. Sometimes I stay up, sometimes I don’t.
You are a teacher … what is one life lesson you’ve taught your students?
I hope that I have taught them to believe in and think for themselves. As I grew more experienced, I became more open with my students. They saw me as a person, not only a teacher. I hope that their hearts and heads were engaged and that they are curious, open-minded, and life-long learners.
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by my granddaughters’ imaginations, especially when they were younger. Beautiful books and their incredible authors inspire me. Sometimes, I just happen to hear or read something that catches my attention, and sometimes it’s something personally important to me. I want to write books that I wish I’d had as a kid that reflect and validate the lives of people of color.