Minda lives in Minnesota with her husband and their three spunky bilingual kids. Their family has created their own brand of "Mexigringo" as they blend their Papi's Mexican culture with their Mami's Minnesotan culture.
Minda is a teacher of English Learners at a local elementary school. She has taught second grade in Mexico and volunteered in Guatemala and Peru.
- Tell us about the featured book. What is it about, and why did you choose to write this story?
The Secret Door has elements of magical realism, and tells of three kids and their sweet next door neighbors, Don Toño and Doña Rosa. Don Toño is an inventor, and has created an invention in his backyard shed that transforms the kids into animals through virtual reality and transports them to exotic locations. The kids turn into squirrels, marine animals, and spider monkeys, and have so much fun in each of their adventures. In each adventure they learn values like wisdom, honesty, and contentment, tying into their real-life challenges.
I am a children’s book lover, and have made it my mission to find quality Spanish language books for my three kids. We are a bicultural family, and work to embrace my husband’s Mexican culture and Spanish language, even as we are living in the US. It has been really hard to find exciting books about bicultural kids. I wanted to portray a family that looked like my own, and also provide a really interesting and engaging story that was not centered on the family’s ethnicity.
The English version of this book has Spanish words mixed in, and the Spanish version of the book has English words mixed in. It was important that the translation was done authentically, capturing a true picture of the Spanglish mix many bilingual families use in a natural way.
- Tell us a little about your writing process. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching, outlining, or planning before beginning a book?
Before I write a chapter, I spend time researching the different animals who live in the region I am going to be writing about, such as the Mexican rainforest of San Luís Potosí. While the book has fantasy elements, I want to make sure that my facts are right and kids can learn something about the animals in the story. I spend days or weeks taking notes and chewing on the ideas, figuring out a storyline. When I feel like I have a plan for the direction I want to go, I sit down and just let the story write itself. Because I am basing the characters on my family, it has been easy to make the characters relatable and realistic. After the first draft, a lot of work goes into revising and editing, but the first draft has just flowed.
- Are there any writers or authors who have influenced your writing? If not, who are some of your favorite writers?
I have been a fan of Gordon Korman since I was a child. It has been fun to see my son getting into his books as well. He has such a creative, recognizable style and always keeps me laughing and engaged in the story. I love how his characters are normal kids who get into crazy situations.
The Berenstain Bears books have been a good model for teaching values through the characters’ experiences. Both the old classics from my childhood and the new books being written by their son continue to be some of my family’s favorite books.
I also love the “Marisol McDonald” picture books by Monica Brown, which depict a Peruvian/American girl’s adventures in a natural way that normalizes bicultural families without being preachy.
Finally, the “Adventures in Odyssey” radio series has had an undeniable influence on my writing. Don Toño has elements of the character Whit, whose inventions also take kids on adventures. Part of why I chose to write this book was thinking about the need for stories in Spanish that teach values and lessons through creative, exciting stories. One of my upcoming projects is to create a podcast or radio drama based on the stories in my book.
- When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I am a full-time teacher of English learners at an elementary school. When I am not teaching, my three young kids keep me busy. Writing and illustrating has become the thing I do in my “spare time,” even if it means staying up way too late after the kids are in bed. I have found that this project has given me back a creative outlet that was missing from my life, and has brought me so much joy. My family also enjoys games, movies, walks, picnics, and playing on the zipline in our backyard.
- Do you have a website or social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) where readers can learn more about your work? Please feel free to list or link them below.