Interview with Children's Author Rene Colato Lainez
My guest today is children's author Rene Colato Lainez, who's touring the blogosphere with Latino Book Tours this week. In this interview, Colato talks about his books, his writing habits, and his road to becoming a published author. I hope you'll enjoy the interview!
About the author
René Colato Laínez is the award-winning author of I Am René, the Boy, Waiting for Papá, Playing Lotería, René Has Two Last Names and The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez. His picture books have been honored by the Latino Book Award, the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People, the California Collection for Elementary Readers, the Tejas Star Book Award Selection and the New Mexico Book Award. He was named “Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch (and Read)” by latinostories.com. He is a graduate of the Vermont College MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults.
It's a pleasure having you here today, Rene. Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself?
I am born in El Salvador. Due to the civil war, my father and I left the country in 1985 to reunite with my mother in Los Angeles, CA.
I had two dreams: to become a teacher and a writer. I did not give up my dreams. Dreams come true.
Do you have another job besides writing?
I have been a bilingual teacher for seventeen years at Fernangeles Elementary School in Sun Valley, CA. Working with students is wonderful. They are a great source of inspiration.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
My Latest book is René Has Two Last Names. In El Salvador, like in most Latin American Countries, people use both the mother and father’s last names as a legal name. I was René Colato Laínez everywhere in El Salvador. In 1985, I received my School ID at Los Angeles High School. When I read my name, I was in shock. My mother’s last name was gone. I was only René Colato. My latest book is autobiographical just like my book I Am René, the Boy. In this new adventure, René works to keep his two last names because both last names represent his heritage.
How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?
I usually write an outline. I know that at least I need 14 scenes to write a picture book. I usually write the first and last scene and then work in the middle of the story. But also my writing is a stream of consciousness. I write about my immigrant experience and my experience about living in two cultures. I write from my heart. I will say that many times my heart whispers my stories while I type them in my computer.
What will the reader learn after reading your book?
I want the reader to feel proud of both sides of his/her families. We have received many gifts, stories and traditions from them and we are who we are thanks the love and effort of our familia,
When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?
I feel passionate about telling the stories of immigrant children and sharing the experiences of living in two cultures. Every day I speak English and español. Read the newspaper and el periódico.
Listen to music and música. Living in two cultures is fun and I want to keep sharing my stories with children and adults around the world.
Do you have an agent? How was your experience in searching for one?
I have the best agent in the world, Stefanie Von Borstel from Full Circle Literary, www.fullcircleliterary.com. After I graduated from Vermont College in Writing for Children and Young Adult, I decided to look for an agent. I met Stefanie at the Latino Book & Family Festival in Los Angeles. Stefanie knew so much about the bilingual/ Latino presses and told me about her passion for multicultural literature. Months later, I signed with her and have created many wonderful stories that are about to come.
How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?
I published my first books with out an agent. I received many rejections letters from editors. Many times, you can find words of advice and encouragement in those letters. I will say, that my rejection letters helped me to polish my writing. I started to submit my work on March 2000 and received my first contract on October 2002. I waited a year and half to hear the good news. Many authors had received the good news right away others had waited long years. My word of advice is to believe in your story and never give up. Learn from rejection letters and from critique groups. Attend writing workshops and join to writing associations. If you are writing for children, join the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, www.scbwi.org.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
Please visit my website www.renecolatolainez.com and my character René’s website www.renesbooks.com. Also I write about children’s books at La Bloga, www.labloga.blogspot.com and edit the Spanish blog for children Los Bloguitos, www.losbloguitos.com.
Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
I have two new children’s books coming out next year. The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez (Tricycle Press) introduces the Latino tooth hero, El Ratón Pérez. How would the Tooth Fairy react? Read the book and find out. My other title is My Shoes and I (Boyds Mills Press). This is my true story crossing three countries in order to arrive to the United States.