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MO Day #23 Ana Siquera Transforms

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By Ana Siqueira

Today I want to tell you about transforming your personal story into a universal one.

Oops. I can’t. Telling is against the rules. I’ll show you how you can incorporate your culture and your personal experiences in a way that your story becomes universal.

Let’s read this beautiful text by Joana Pastro from her book -

BISA’S CARNAVAL - Illustrated by Carolina Coroa - Scholastic

[Clara is having fun dancing frevo on the street. She closes her eyes]

I take in the brass band and scents galore.

Sweet, sour, citric. Like goiabada, carambola, pitangas.

They surround me in a warm embrace,

just like my bisa’s, and suddenly I know:

Someone is missing.

“If Bisa can’t come to Carnaval,

we’ll bring Carnaval to Bisa.

All are welcome.”

ere are some techniques and elements used in these spreads.

Your book story is not your own story.

Joana got inspired by her own experiences when she celebrated Carnaval in Brazil, but this is not exactly her story. She made changes to make it more interesting and fun. For example, she changed her grandma to a great-grandma - Bisa - to add even more age difference and to explain why Bisa couldn’t go to Carnaval.

So get inspired, but be flexible to change it.

For example, in my book BELLA’S RECIPE FOR SUCCESS, I got inspired by my gifted daughter who had to be perfect in everything she did. Well, Bella still wants to be perfect, but I don’t mention she’s gifted. That way I reach more kids who can see themselves in Bella. And even some adults.

Take Your Readers Into a Trip Through Words and Pictures

Even if you are talking about a tradition or a sad moment, add fun through your voice, your words, and by allowing room for illustrations.

Joana’s voice is fun and filled with rhythm, Carnaval words, and endless possibilities for vivid illustrations. Joana takes us on a trip to Olinda, Brasil. And what a beautiful trip!

When children immerse themselves in a new culture, they’ll be able to relate to it, even if it’s regarding a tradition they don’t know about.

Add a story and a conflict

with universal emotions.

Here, Joana not only shows this beautiful tradition through a story, but she adds another layer. There is a story of a close relationship between this super cute girl and her great-grandma - Bisa. There is also a conflict. Bisa can’t go to Carnaval.

There are many universal emotions, but for me, the strongest is her love for her Bisa.

And by adding a story, a conflict, and emotions.

TA-DA.The readers will feel. The readers will cheer for this girl. The story is now also their story.

In one of my manuscripts, an editor commented that she loved it because it was not only a description of the tradition but also a story with conflict and resolution. The story is about Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) and its traditions, but the main characters (inspired by my granddaughters) must rescue their pet pig from being cooked for Noche Buena. So by adding conflict, tension, emotions, and likable characters, the story is now universal. The emotion of getting attached to a little pet and not wanting to lose them is super universal.

Add more heart, corazón, coração.

By adding all the techniques above, you will already be adding heart, right? But dig deeper. Make us feel. Make us cheer. Make us sad or happy. Let us travel inside your character’s internal journey so we not only know how they are feeling but also feel what they are feeling. Feelings are universal.

Check out the face of this sneaky girl when her parents are about to leave her with a Bruja and it’s almost Halloween - This is from my and Irena Freitas’ book IF YOUR BABYSITTER IS A BRUJA - inspired also by my daughter (Sorry, sons, but some stories inspired by you are coming soon.).

When she was three years old (now she’s 34!), she told me I was not her mom, but a witch, just because I told her we had to leave the beach. And worse yet, she yelled, “You’re not my Mom. You’re a witch!” while we walked three blocks back home.

So remember, even though we are all different, we are all the same. So, find the corazón, coração, the heart of your story. Show us through actions and feelings. Be flexible and willing to change your own story. And make our corazones beat like Bisa’s - Boom, Boom.

“The best stories are universal stories that have been told for as long as humanity has existed it’s just figuring out new ways to do it, with language, with structure. And so I’m always trying to do that.”

BIO: Ana Siqueira is a Spanish-language elementary teacher, an award-winning Brazilian children’s author, and a published author in the Foreign Language educational market. Her debut picture book is BELLA’S RECIPE FOR DISASTER/SUCCESS (Beaming Books, 2021). Her forthcoming books are IF YOUR BABYSITTER IS A BRUJA/ CUANDO TU NIÑERA ES UNA BRUJA (SimonKids,2022), ABUELA’S SUPER CAPA/LA SUPER CAPA DE ABUELA (HarperCollins 2023) - two-book deal auction, ROOM IN MAMI’S CORAZON (HarperCollins 2024) and some others that can’t be announced yet. Ana is a member of SCBWI, Las Musas Books, and co-founder of LatinxPitch. You can learn more about Ana by following her here:

PRIZE: One lucky winner will be able to choose between the following prizes -


2. PB Critique - up to 800 words. - No rhyming stories.

3. Ask me Anything - Zoom Session - 30 minutes.


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