Friday, December 7, 2018

Author Spotlight - Carmela Dutra on her Award-Winning Book

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A WRITER? It was not a goal of mine to become a writer; I just fell into it. As a child, I knew that art was my calling. Everywhere I looked I saw the artistic side of things, the way colors blend and weave throughout daily life is something truly magical. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career that involved art and kept it at the core of my everyday life. I wanted to illustrate; I never imagined that I would one day illustrate my own books. As my writing began to take off, I became more excited at the possibility of reaching and encouraging so many more children through a published book. Now, I cannot imagine a day without writing books for kids.

WAS THERE A MENTOR WHO INFLUENCED YOUR WRITING? I had a teacher throughout high school who left her mark, Kristine Estrada. She was by far the one individual who made the biggest impact in my school years. No matter what, she believed her students were capable of anything they set their minds to. She always encouraged me to pursue the artistic side of life, she knew as well as I did that art was my calling. I can recall the writing projects she would give us, she would then encourage me to add illustrations to my papers telling me “It adds an additional layer of depth that others are lacking.” They say that teachers help shape the lives of their students – I can attest to this first-hand. I am unsure if she fully grasps how much of lasting impact she had on me.

HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR YOUR AWARD WINNING BOOK? Oh, this is an easy one to answer, I saw a picture online. There was an illustration of a little girl that said "Reach for the Stars!" All of sudden I was flooded with ideas for a book about a young girl traveling to the Moon.

“Maybe someday, you can go to the moon for real!”
Little Katie whispered to herself, “One day I will!”
This is a line from the end of the book, and for me, it sums up everything perfectly. In these words, I can feel the emotion a parent has as they believe their child can do anything they set their mind to. I can also sense the excitement and passion that young children have when they think about the possibilities that open to them. Nothing is ever out of your reach.

WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTERS FROM YOUR AWARD WINNING TITLE DO YOU BELIEVE ARE MOST LIKE YOU AND WHY? Little Katie. She is fearless and headstrong. She is only limited by her imagination. In fact, for me, Little Katie is the embodiment of all children. Curious about things around them, playful and imaginative, the way a child should be.

WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU HOPE READERS WILL GLEAN FROM YOUR AWARD WINNING BOOK? Girls can do anything that boys can (and then some) I hope to help young girls get excited about S.T.E.A.M and to never hold back from the unknown. I hope all children reach for the stars, the Moon, and more; that they never stop dreaming!

TELL US SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A WRITER: I don’t always write the story first. Sometimes I work up the illustrations and then the words come to mind. My writing process varies with each book I write. Sometimes I have everything at my fingertips, very organized and easily accessible. Other times, it’s like a tornado devastated my work space. Leaving a havoc of papers and pencil shavings everywhere! The funny thing is, the writing is my LEAST favorite part about my books. I much prefer the illustrating side.
IF YOU COULD BE COMPARED TO A WELL-KNOWN AUTHOR, WHO WOULD YOU MOST WANT THIS TO BE AND WHY? Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss. He influenced nearly every living American who ever learned to read, and I was one of them. He introduced millions of children to the joys of reading and the magic of wordplay. The way he could see things through the eyes of a child, teaching important lessons through tongue twisters. To this day I still say when I grow up I want to be like him.

WHAT HAS HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON YOUR LIFE? Meeting and Marrying my husband, David. He has been nothing short of supportive and encouraging. Without his loving support, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

HOW DID YOU FIND AN AGENT / GET PUBLISHED? The first story I wrote and illustrated as a gift for my niece and nephew. I never had any intentions of going public with my stories. Upon completing my second book for them, my husband took it upon himself to send out manuscripts to various houses. After many rejections, I was done. I wanted to keep the stories the way I meant them to be, as a private gift for my loved ones. Then, out of the blue, I was contacted by a local publishing house who had received my manuscript. As they say, the rest is history.

IF A CLOSE FRIEND OR LOVED ONE WANTED TO WRITE A BOOK, WHAT GREATEST PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THEM? Just do it! Everyone has a story to tell, make sure you tell the world your story.

CAN YOU OFFER ANY ADVICE FOR WRITERS ON HOW BEST TO PROMOTE THEIR BOOK? Marketing is never easy for anyone, but it’s especially hard when you write in a field that is heavily saturated and competitive. It’s a struggle at times trying to find new ways to get your name out there without feeling like your spamming everyone. Don't be afraid to try new things, and be prepared to give away things for free. Writing can often be lonely too, so you must find the means to get creative and not let that stop you when things don’t go as you would have hoped.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST LITERARY ACCOMPLISHMENT?  Being traditionally published right from the start, that was an awesome feeling. Winning Silver in the General Children’s Category in the 2017 Literary Classics takes the cake.

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST LITERARY ASPIRATIONS? I would love nothing more than for Little Katie to one day become a household name. A name that when individuals hear it, they think of how their children (especially girls) have been encouraged to consider STEM/STEAM fields and set free their imagination and discover new things.

TELL US SOMETHING PEOPLE MIGHT FIND INTERESTING ABOUT YOU: My father was in auto body for over 40 years. I used to be his pinhead at the shop. If you are unfamiliar with what that is, look it up!

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS? Thank you. Thank you for your time, your support, your reviews, and your encouraging words. Thank you, it means more to an author than you might realize.

WHAT OTHER BOOKS HAVE YOU PUBLISHED? I have three books published in my first series The Adventures of Lorenzo the Bear. This series focuses on friendship, looking for the good in others, and helping those in need. Who doesn’t love a cuddly swashbuckling brown bear, am I right?
Signed copies can be purchased directly from my website 

DO YOU HAVE ANY NEW BOOKS IN THE WORKS? I’m super excited for the next books in my new series Exploring STEAM with Little Katie. Due Fall of 2017, is my coding book. This is not a” how to code book” for kids, rather, it’s more of basic introduction into the world of coding to help kids get the sense of how computers work. In Spring of 2018 is my third book in the series, Coral Reefs. Little Katie and her puppy Smudge will explore the beauty of coral reefs as the reader will learn important facts along the way. 

LITERARY CLASSICS Book Awards & Reviews International Book Awards • Top Honors Youth Book Awards • Seal of Approval

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