Finding Rosa

Guys. Y’all. I almost want to stop for a second and walk us back to some especially tortured 2013 blog posts. Or even stumble right to a really awkward almost definitely deleted 2009 one and invite them to this party, because your girl did it.

I sold my book!




I’ve been at this trying to become published thing for a minute. Only a minute in the grand scheme of things, I know, but still, that minute has felt looooooong, and there has been way more stumbling than climbing. Pitch contests, weak queries, chances that weren’t. Endless waiting and feeling eternally stuck while trying to keep my eyes on my own paper. Was I any good at this? My heart said one thing, but my head was wondering something else while sorting through the rejections.

SAINT ROSA OF THE SEA is the book of my heart. My rom-com, awkward teen, next-gen Latina heart. I wish I could say it was easy to write, but it wasn’t. It so painfully wasn’t.

I’ve always written stories about Latinas. They’ve starred in whatever I did, but this was my first time trying to write about the experience of being next generation to exile. The dynamics of being home and feeling like you’re not. Of loving a complicated mother and homeland. Trying to pick where to go next when you so desperately want to look back and understand where you came from. I wanted this story to be ultimately romantic and grounded in community. I wanted it to be funny with a really good meet-cute. I wanted too many cousins and bodegas and a swoon-worthy bakery. How a generational curse is carried like memories. A curious bookworm who builds small altars and pops strawberry candies and dresses too much like her abuela. These were all really important elements and ideas to me, and for too long they all sat together in a story that wasn’t doing enough. There was a lot of heart, but I had to get my head out from those past rejections and remember how to do the work of this again.

I took a couple breaks. The last one came late in the game, with the story already on desks. I was on my morning run and the surety that I needed to revise hit me so hard I had to stop. I was worried, but my agent, Laura, my steadfast supporter and fiercest champion, had my back at every turn. She said, “let’s go,” and climbed back into the story with me. We brainstormed by phone and email, and her patience and unwavering belief in me gave me the confidence to explore those complicated ideas, all while helping what I loved grow beyond an idea. Cross-legged in front of a mirror piled with sticky notes, I finally found my way. I found Rosa.

And I’m so excited to work with my editor, Hannah. From the first, the constellation of Rosa’s journey clicked into place. Hannah saw my ability to do the work. She loved the heart and magic. And she immediately quoted In The Heights. (“Paciencia y fe!”) After an amazing conversation, I knew Rosa was home.

I can’t wait to invite you all to Port Coral so you can finally meet her. Don’t worry, she’ll bring the snacks.




Lazy Girl Crafts: Make Your Own Art

When I tell you I love thrift stores, I mean it. My wardrobe, furniture, knick knacks all pretty much started as someone else’s, and that’s how I like it. I very quickly went from tween to grandma, and exist somewhere in the middle now, but when it came time to move out on my own, for the very first time, my abuelita coping mechanisms came alive. I hit up several thrift stores to make sure I outfitted my new home with (way) too much stuff, but I was after warmth and comfort. My first shot of independence required lots and lots of warmth and comfort to keep my nervous heart steady and brave. It was then I found this painting, and I’ve been carting this thing with me ever since.


And it’s huge, let me tell you. I dragged it to every single apartment we lived in. It was so cozy and welcoming. It was like watching QVC with my mom on a soft, fall afternoon. It was my pièce de résistance. Over the years it got slipped into a closet, but I couldn’t get rid of it. There’s a tiny old couple walking down that nice, autumn street, and they were waiting for me to make this a showpiece again.


After living in my own home now for several years, one that I find very warm and cozy and (thankfully) not as cluttered, I knew I was ready for my painting. So, with a beloved Parks & Rec quote in hand, I was ready to make it my forever piece. A “we’re gonna grow old with this one” piece.

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That bad boy is up on the big shelf, lording over us again. I’m proud of seventeen year-old me for being brave and picking it out, for twenty year-old me dragging it up (and down) another set of stairs, and for twenty-nine year-old me not being afraid to mess with it and make it completely ours.

Mountains, Beaches, and June.

June brings more birthdays and humid days where the weather map screams at us in angry reds that conjure up storm clouds before rolling thunder shakes us every afternoon. Bored kids beg to go outside and we drag out the plastic pool and spray ’em with the hose while battling thirsty mosquitoes and sticky sunburns.

Summer is a battle we rusty southerners know well.

But this one started with a road trip back to where I once had roots. Good ol’ Georgia.


My first best friend, the one gift I kept from my time in Georgia (aside from the accent and taste for sweet tea) was getting married and that meant hauling the kids into the car and hitting the highway headed for the mountains or bust.

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When I Wasn’t Picked (But Went Anyway)

I’m not what anyone would call particularly gutsy. I’m a bit of an indoor girl unless we’re talking sand, salt water and margaritas, and whenever I do have to go out and do something I look forward to going home, shucking my pants and clearing the calendar like it’s a chorus of angels celebrating me home.

When I was a teenager this homebody soul of mine made me feel a little like a bum. Friends wanted to go out. My sister clucked at me as she passed on her way out the door.


I was boring. Terribly whatever with just being sixteen and not saying the right things or wanting the same ones. I had books and my headphones and let my imagination go. I was soaring away there and didn’t need to be here.

Until the day I wanted one particular adventure with every beat, every breath. I sat on a couch watching a movie where a girl went somewhere else and I suddenly, inexplicably knew that I needed to go, too.

There’s not many places for a girl who is living with her parents and going to community college to go, but still. There was a whisper drumming in my head and I couldn’t quiet it.

My college had an honors society that I was part of in name, and every year they went on a trip for spring break. And the sign up was that very week. Stars were aligning before I even found out where they were going.



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Pitch Wars: #TeamOnFire

Despite these huge sunglasses and aversion to pants, I’ve continued stumbling my way out of the cave when it comes to my book.

I even entered a contest.

Back in October I entered the Agent Treat pitch contest and actually got picked as one of the entries by Brenda Drake.

It was a fantastic experience, and a huge step in helping me with my pitching, but I knew I still wasn’t ready. The fire was there, my hand twitching and heart racing, but I needed to see past the ruts I’d dug myself. I needed to go into battle and I needed a Haymitch.

Soon after Agent Treat I found out about Pitch Wars.

Pitch Wars

I looked into the contest and thought, “This. THIS. THIS ONE.”

Pitch Wars is amazingly unique in the sense that it’s not just throwing your work out there and getting a thumbs-up or down for it. You pitch your work and first words to your choice of four mentors out of the several awesome authors selflessly giving their time to the contest, and they then request and choose a mentee plus two alternates.

Great. Fantastic. And then what happens?

And then you have a little over a month of intense boot camp. It’s working with someone who knows the ropes and will know your story and hopefully armed with scalpels or crowbars you make some magic together, which you then present to the involved literary agents during the agent round.

And the agent round this year is jaw dropping.

So, I did it. I did the thing. I held my breath and leapt by sending out my four emails and then we all waited and died and maybe finished our holiday shopping. I’m still not sure if I did. It’s been a fever dream of a month.

Because this happened:


Jaye Robin Brown is a writer whose wish list I fell into a deep, intense love with because of her love for YA, southern dramas, sharp storytelling, and big, crazy families. My heart (the one I grow in my gut) kept whispering all week while we waited for the reveal day that this was a writer who knew a thing or two about fire and could help me burn bright.

And she picked me to be her mentee. Out of all the windows in all the world it was mine she flew into and said, “Hey, let’s rock this.”

We’re halfway in and I flew out the window, totally out of my cave. The edits I’ve already made thanks to Jro’s notes have changed so much for the better, clearing the fog I made myself. She’s empowering me to slay my own demons and totally approves of my crowbar. I am becoming the writer I want to be, because she became my Haymitch.

This is the magic of going with your gut. The fireworks of getting picked back.

And of diving out your window and hitting the ground running.

Here’s to Pitch Wars, #TeamOnFire and my teammates Chelsey (@Chelseyblair)  and Sarah (@Saille)!

We’ll be the ones bringing the matches.

That’s Rainbow.

“Hey, Phoenix. Did you do this in school?”
“That’s rainbow.”
“No kidding. What’s a rainbow?”
“Red, orange, yellow then green. Follow by blue, indigo and violet. That’s rainbow song for you!”
“That was good, bud. Real good.”
“That’s rainbow.”

Finishing her book. (Again.)

Remember when I tried “finishing” a manuscript last time? The idea that had turned into a full blown attempt at finishing a book while moving back in with my mother, raising my toddler and trying not to kill my husband?

2008 was a blur that bled into 2009 and it was a weird pocket of time. But there amidst the changing and stalling was this book, and hours spent at my iMac stuffed in a closet then upgrading to my parent’s garage. It was days researching queries and highlighting and pouring more coffee. A whole world I didn’t understand was there, waiting if I wanted to try, but I never did. The story I felt ready to jump in with, the one I gave all those months to was tucked into a drawer where it still lives today.

And now, here in 2013, I’m doing it again. Because I have to. Because another story wanted to be told. So I’m doing it, here at a bigger desk in a house that bears my name with that toddler a hell of a lot bigger and away at school and his baby sister tucked into her crib in her own bedroom taking her nap.

Here we go, mama.