The LA Latino Book & Family Festival – Great Books, Humble Souls

Victor Villaseñor getting read to sign his books.

          Victor Villaseñor getting read to sign his books.

The Los Angeles Latino Book and Family Festival took place yesterday at East Los Angeles College. Even though the weather was chilly by LA standards, many came to check out this fantastic cultural and family event.  I was excited to partake in a Q&A session with noteworthy children’s authors, René Colato Laínez and James Luna, as well as other indie authors like myself.

René Colato Laínez shared he was celebrating ten successful years as a published children’s author. I’ve read many of his picture books and I use them often in my classroom. I even bought a copy of his latest, Señor Pancho Had a Rancho, a fun twist on Old McDonald Had A Farm with a Latino flair.

rene colato books

               Books Written by René Colato Laínez

James Luna has written two picture books and both have been well received.  The Runaway Piggy also received the Tejas Star Book Award – Wow!  The coolest thing about meeting these two successful children’s authors is that they are both teachers and have over 20 years of teaching experience. Imagine how amazing it must be to be a student in their classrooms. I would love to be a fly on the wall to see how they motivate their students during Writer’s Workshop.

runaway piggy

After the Q & A I got to sell and sign alongside these two gentlemen.  The author sitting to the left of me, Juan Villegas, shared that he couldn’t believe he was sitting next to the Victor Villaseñor, a Mexican-American writer, best known for the New York Times bestseller novel Rain of Gold. I giggled because I understood what he meant. Juan and I looked at the super long line of fans waiting to meet and have their book signed by Victor Villaseñor because we were more than happy to sell a few books.  And in just one hour Victor Villaseñor sold out boxes and boxes of books. I then discreetly pointed to René and James who were sitting to the right of me and said, “I hear you. Those two are the real deal in Latino Children’s Publishing.”

Malín Alegría, James Luna, René Colato Laínez

            Malín Alegría, James Luna, René Colato Laínez

I also had the pleasure of meeting Malín Alegría, an established Latina YA author who’s written a bunch of books as well – like the Border Town series.  And while we newbies sat amidst these established and recognized authors, I noticed how humble and unassuming they all were. They didn’t once mention any of the accolades their books had received. They didn’t bring an entourage or display a lavish signing area. It was just them, their books and a pen for signing. But what they did bring to the book festival was an ernest desire to encourage others about the power of telling one’s own story, of writing it and sharing it.

2014 Int’l Latino Book Awards: Pink Fire Trucks is a Winner!

Book Award LOGO & Image

Pink Fire Trucks was awarded First Place for Most Inspirational Children’s Picture Book (bilingual) in the 2014 International Latino Book Awards! The awards event was held in Las Vegas in conjunction with the 2014 American Library Association Annual Conference.

The ILBA are presented by Latino Literacy Now in partnership with Las Comadres Para Las Américas and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and is an affiliate of the American Library Association. The International Latino Book Awards are not only one of the largest book awards of any kind in the world, they are also the largest Latino cultural awards in the USA. The goal of the awards is to highlight Latino literature and increase the sales of these books. -Kirk Whisler

I was totally surprised when my name was called. Then panic set in when I realized I had to walk down the stairs to the stage to give a brief acceptance speech.Thankfully I didn’t trip and fall. That would have been disastrous and something that normally would happen to me. I’m not sure what I rambled in my nervousness, but I would like to say now that I am extremely grateful and blessed that this book has been so well received.  What an honor. And what a greater honor to be in a venue with so many creative and talented individuals.

gb award acceptance pic

Awards Ceremony for 2014 Int’l Latino Book Awards

After the awards event, we waited for an hour to get a taxi to take us back to the hotel with no success. Tired and hungry, we ended up walking back, down Flamingo Road, on a hot Vegas summer night with my award plague in hand.  I was no longer smiling and I thought I was going to melt:/

The following morning I attended the ALA Conference at the Las Vegas Convention Center as part of the Award Winning Author Tour.

2014 ALA Conference, Las  Vegas

2014 ALA Conference, Las Vegas

I mingled and networked.  I saw an old friend Sandra Scott and made a new one, Lisa Neisa, who traveled to the awards event all the way from Colombia.  She and I meandered through the vast aisles of books, posters, and authors while I got to practice my español and she, her English.  I was like a kid in a candy store as I got free books for my classroom. We even got serenaded by Elvis!

Award Winning Author Tour (ILBA)

Award Winning Author Tour (ILBA)

elvis alaI’m back home and I’m happy to report I didn’t melt…Las Vegas was fun.

And lastly a big thank you to my parents for teaching me the importance of dreaming, reading and learning.

I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I am afraid of no one. -Malala Yousafzai 

 2014 Int’l Latino Book Awards Winners

Growing Int’l Latino Book Awards Reflect Booming Market via NBC News