The Little Ecuadorian Mermaid


Graffiti mermaid at the Lola Starr store in Coney Island

By Zoraida Córdova

Welcome as we kick off our LATIN@S IN SCI-FI & FANTASY MONTH!

After the release of my first book someone told me that mermaids were cool and all, but I should write about my own “experience.” I remember the words more than the guy who said them to me. Now, I believe that fantasy stories are a great metaphor for coming of age. I have a 16 year old dude who turns into a merman and the first thing he worries about is how his body changes (typical boys). In Blood and Chocolate, the very sexy werewolf is a metaphor for the changes girls go through when they menstruate. Hell, watch the first three seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for stories that are magic, but still mirror “normal” teenage coming of age.

mermaid laptop

My laptop

But when this guy told me all these years ago to write about my “experience,” he wasn’t talking about coming of age, he was talking about my immigrant experience. Some time ago, I put out a question to Twitter for links to Latin@s writing YA fantasy, and I got back “Have you read Isabelle Allende’s YA series?” (She is a BAMF in her own right, but still). While I love contemporary stories, and I think it’s important to read all kinds of narratives that show how different each Latino experience is in the U.S., the stories I want to write are about magic.


from @Pocoquattro

I grew up listening to my grandmother sing to me. I grew up reading fables and getting scared of el Cuco and la Llorona. When I started writing The Vicious Deep trilogyI knew I was writing a book that had been brewing in my head for years. For a long time when people remarked “You speak English so well,” I would respond with “All I did as a kid was watch The Little Mermaid,” so that’s how I learned to speak English. It’s true, I watched it every day, rewinding the VHS as soon as Ariel got her happy ending. Whether or not it was my vehicle for the English language is debatable, but it’s become part of the story I tell.

I’ve always been drawn to magic and magical things. I want to believe in magic, and the way that I can show that is through creating magical worlds. When I was in high school my favorite books were about vampires and witches and dragons. It was book browsing at a B&N with a friend that pushed me to really write about mermaids. The conversation went something like this:

Me: I can’t find a mermaid story that I really love.

Him: So write one.

Me: Yeah…

THAT’S IT. I listened. I took a notebook with me to the beach (Coney Island, obvs) and this story LITERALLY poured out of my head. (Two points from Ravenclaw for improper use of “literally.”)

Mermaid on the ground in South Beach.

Mermaid on the ground in South Beach.

If you don’t see the story you want to read on the shelves, write it. Mermaids have always been magical to me, but it wasn’t until someone else pointed it out that I realized I could add my own mythology to my favorite magical creatures. Lately, we’ve been talking about diversity a lot, and I think the same thing applies to that. You don’t see yourself represented? Write your own story. If you want to write about magical ponies that travel through time, do it. If you want to write about the story of a girl who is looking for summer romance, do that, too.

I wonder if the reason there aren’t more Latin@s writing as much SF/F is because people (like that dude mentioned earlier) assume that the only story we have to tell is one of immigration or assimilation. And that’s just not so. If you check out this list from Cosmopolitan of 5 Latina YA authors to look out for, all of these stories fall in SF/F category. And if you go to Diversity in YA, they have an awesome list of just some Latin@s (authors and/or characters) in SF/F.

Tomorrow is the launch of the third book, The Vast & Brutal Sea.  I want to share some images of mermaids around town. I asked the lovely ladies of Latin@s in Kid Lit (and some from Twitter friends) to snap photos of mermaids if they happen upon them:

photo (11)

Original art by the super talented Lila Weaver

photo (9)

From Stephanie Guerra. Cafe Torino, downtown Seattle

Triton! South Beach

Triton! South Beach

The Sagamore Hotel in South Beach

The Sagamore Hotel in South Beach


From @PoccoQuattro.

A friend sent this to me. Art by Paul Webb from St. Louis.

A friend sent this to me. Art by Paul Webb from St. Louis.

And now from my apartment, the Chateau Mer-mont: 

mermaid bottle opener

Her tail opens bottles. That’s talent.

mermaid and coney

My bookend…not holding up any books.

mermaid fancy

My fancy mermaid being fancy


I hope from now on you’ll start seeing mermaids everywhere. For now, follow my blog tour over at I hope you enjoy the rest of our SF/F month!


Swim with the fishies like,


A New Year = New Goals and Features

Happy New Year, Feliz Año Nuevo, Feliz Ano Novo from Latin@s in Kid Lit!

We’re excited to begin our first full year online. With this new year, we have added features and ambitious personal goals. First, though, let’s recap our last few months.

We launched on Sept. 16,2013,  to coincide with National Hispanic Heritage Month. Since then, we have published 20 posts, which included our “Road to Publishing” series, guest posts, and Q&As.

We gave away 12 awesome books during our 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway, and we’ve had more than 4,000 hits from visitors all over the world. Our top 10 countries are: U.S., Canada, Philippines,UK, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Uruguay, Spain, and Ireland. Our single best day was when we posted a Q&A with illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal, and our most popular post overall was about our 2014 Reading Challenge.

The Reading Challenge will be a year-long project. We’ll check-in on our participants and post links to reviews of books by/for/about Latin@s. So far, we have 22 official participants, although many others have spread the word and given us positive feedback. We’d love for more people to join us, which you can do any time during the year.

We were planning to craft a post about why it’s so important to support diversity in kid lit not only in general, but specifically through our purchasing and reading choices. But, then Kayla Whaley did it so well, we reblogged her post. If you haven’t read it, you should. She makes the point so well. We can SAY we support diversity in kid lit, but we should also DO something about it. What we all can do is be more conscious of what we buy, borrow from the library, read, and review/share.

To further celebrate Latin@ kid lit, we are adding a new feature on Thursdays called “Libros Latin@s.” These will be “book talks” of children’s, middle grade, and young adult books that are written by or feature Latin@s. The book talks will include: information about the book and author, teaching tips, Lexile level (if available), other books by the author, and links for more information.

Sujei Lugo, our newest member and a children’s book specialist, will handle the picture book “book talks.” She is also beefing up our Children’s Book Lists with English, Spanish, and bilingual titles. Because of her additions, we have split the category into two sections! We encourage authors, editors, and publishers to alert us about titles we should add to any of the lists.

In addition to working on the site, we each also have personal and professional goals. Here they are:

Yoda WisdomZoraida: In 2014 my motto is “Do or do not, there is no try.” It’s a reminder to myself to do my very best. Plus, wisdom from Yoda never hurt anyone. I’m going out with an adult contemporary romance proposal, as well as a YA urban fantasy that centers around a family of Brujas. If there is time (*has a Jesse Spano moment*) I want to revisit the first YA I ever wrote, about a rebellious Ecuadorian girl who turns her quinceañera upside down.

Then there’s the non-writing stuff: have a six pack (the ab kind, not the beer kind), go to the beach, visit Disney for my birthday, learn to play the ukulele (I already bought one), make more art (the painting kind), and you know, fall in love.

Also, Zoraida’s The Vast and Brutal Sea (The Vicious Deep 3) comes out July 1, 2014!

Stephanie: My resolution is to write a picture book for my daughter.

Ashley: Writing goal: take 15 minutes a day to plant and water seeds for novel #4. Personal goal: cook a wider variety of foods (using menus from “The Fresh 20”). Academic goal:  finish and defend my dissertation.

Cindy: Writing: I will do whatever’s needed to support my debut novel, which will be in production this year! I’ll also revise my second book and get it ready for submission. Reading: I’ll read 12 or more Latin@ kid lit books and as many debuts from the OneFour KidLit crew and ARCs from the Fearless Fifteeners. Personal: I’d like to lose 10-20 pounds, and as Zoraida said, you know, fall in love.

Lila: My resolutions are to finish the middle-grade novel I’m working on, to read 12 or more Latin@ kid lit books, and to lose ten pounds. Guess which will be toughest?

Quote for 2014

Best wishes to everyone this new year! May you reach all your goals and may all your dreams come true!