Friday, October 23, 2015

The Pursuit of Middle-Age Happyness (<--misspelling intended)

A few weeks ago I turned 40. So naturally I've spent the past few months hanging out in children's libraries, talking to friends from high school, and reading comic books.

Of course, most of that I did as part of my grown-up role as a writer. For starters, I was invited to the Corona Library in Queens back in August. I did my usual--told the kids a bit about myself and how I became a writer, read a few pages from Hunters of Chaos, then opened it up for questions.

There weren't many questions at first. No one wanted to speak first. Thankfully, a librarian was there to ask a few and break the ice. But the kids were still pretty quiet, and once the librarian brought in boxes of pizza I thought the kids would promptly forget I existed. But to my surprise, instead of flying toward the pizza, they all flew toward me! Turns out they had tons of questions. They'd just been too shy to ask.

But once they got more comfortable, they had plenty to say. For a minute, I was less like a visiting author and more like a guidance counselor. One girl asked if anyone had ever told me I couldn't do something, that I wasn't good enough. I could tell just by the way she asked that someone had been saying those things to her, which made me want to throttle that person. I told her that yes, I've been told that plenty of times, but that their negativity only made me want to work harder. Success is the best revenge. She shouldn't let anyone tell her what she could or couldn't do. It's like that scene in The Pursuit of Happyness:

Precisely, sir.

She seemed relieved, which made me feel pretty good. Another girl told me her cat had just passed away, and she was sad about it. I told her that I knew how she felt because when my dog, Bandit, died, I was devastated. "How did you get over it?" she wanted to know. I told her I cried about it for weeks but then decided to volunteer to help other animals find good homes. She smiled and said there was an animal shelter in her neighborhood that was looking for volunteers.

After that I held a raffle. I'd only intended to raffle off one advance reader's edition of Hunters of Chaos: Circle of Lies. But the others looked so disappointed when they didn't win that I ended up raffling off a copy of each of the Your Life books . . . and a copy of Hunters of Chaos . . .  and a Maya & Miguel book . . . and most of the stickers I'd brought. (The Frozen stickers got the most love.) Thankfully, my friend Karen from high school showed up and helped out. So did America, a 6-year-old who adorably offered to help me fold the pieces of paper for the raffle. Afterward, I autographed books, then business cards, then any scrap of paper the kids could find. I left feeling so loved. I'm always nervous before I do these appearances, but when they go like this one did, it makes all the nerves worth it.

Also this month I got to attend my very first Comic Con! My friend Matt, also from high school, got me a pass. How have I lived this long in New York without going to one of these? It's so much fun! I know the panels with famous people get all the love, but the rest of the event is just as cool. Everywhere you look is amazing artwork and books, and some of the actual artists and authors who created them.

While most people there were all over the anime and Avengers stuff, I didn't really geek out until I entered Artist's Alley and got to meet Troy Little, one of the illustrators and writers for The Powerpuff Girls. (Squeee!) Not only was he incredibly nice, but he signed a print for me and one of the books he worked on. He even drew me a tiny picture of Bubbles at the bottom of the print.

Bubbles, Blossom, and Buttercup are my kind of superheroes.
And Mojo Jojo is my all-time favorite super villain.

I had just secured these awesome gets, feeling like I could leave Comic Con right then and there, perfectly satisfied, when I spotted Scott Campbell! He's the writer and illustrator of Hug Machine, one of the best picture books ever. And he was just standing there! I couldn't believe my luck. I got to tell him how much I loved his book and that I'd given it as a present to a few of my friends' kids. He seemed genuinely touched and promptly signed this copy of his fantastic book for me, even adding a little illustration.

I also scored a few freebies: pins, comic books, and this copy of Zenescope's Return to Wonderland. In this creepy graphic novel, Alice is an adult, and her daughter visits a way more disturbing version of Wonderland.

So yeah, Comic Con was awesome, and I will definitely try to go again next year. Only next time I'll wear sneakers. (I wore high-heeled boots. Rookie mistake. The Jacob Javits Center is HUGE.)

As for the writing, I'm in the middle of two projects, so I've been anchored to my laptop. But I'm hoping to finish soon so I can enjoy being outside before winter comes. I mean, now that I'm 40, I've really got to spend more time doing grown-up stuff--like riding my bike and running around a park. ;-)

Monday, July 20, 2015

End of an Era...and Start of a New One

Oh boy...this past spring and this summer have been so eventful, it might be easier to fill you in on everything through pictures.

First up, back in May, I went to visit the Advent School in Boston for their annual book fair. I'd been invited by a friend of mine from college, Niki DuFauchard, who I hadn't seen since I graduated more than a decade ago. So not only did I get to attend their awesome book fair, but I got to catch up with an old friend. Win win.

The fair offered book-themed cupcakes! My favorite.
I had the one with the Lord of the Flies book cover on it. YUM. 

Naturally, the Penguin book truck was parked outside.
I scored copies of Brown Girl Dreaming and Madeline
(the latter of which I gave to my mom, Madelin, as a graduation present).
A few days later, I was off to see the students of P.S. 33Q in Queens. It was my second time visiting and I was honored to be asked back a second time. The best part? When the wonderful teacher who had invited me, Tracy Tanzer, handed me a stack of thank-you cards the kids had made for me after my first visit.

Sweetest cards ever!

So that was fun. And speaking of Penguin...

After that, I had to focus on the biggest thing to happen to me in years: I left my job at Penguin Random House. I know! I can hardly believe it either. I'd been a production editor there for 15 years. When I started, I was only 25 years old, barely out of college and still living with my parents. Facebook had not come around yet, there was no such thing as Smartphones, and the Twin Towers were still standing. I basically grew up at Random House, so it was incredibly hard to leave. But when you get an offer to be an editor at Working Partners Ltd., a wonderful book packager based in London that specializes in middle grade and young adult books, you say yes! Especially when it means you'll get to work from home most of the time and will get to visit London once in a while. So I spent the rest of May cleaning out my cube and saying goodbye to all the friends I'd made there. May 23 was my last day, and the night before they treated me to a celebratory night out.

Some of my awesome Random House coworkers and friends. (Dave, Kelly, Richard, and Camille)

More of my coworkers and friends. (Jen, Ted, Shona, and Lisa)
They all look happy, but they were sad to see me go.

But I barely had time to process the end of my Random House career because the next week, my mom graduated from college. She now has a B.A. in early childhood education and I couldn't be more proud of her.

My mom, the graduate, and my dad on May 27, 2015. 

Why yes, I did buy her those glasses. They matched her nails!

That same week, both of my parents also quit smoking! My mom smoked for a good 50 years, so the fact that they finally quit is a HUGE deal. Really, this whole post could have been about how happy I am that my parents are kicking the habit (after many, many years of me begging them to). But I have lots more to tell you, so we'll just move along.

So that was May. Then just a week or so later, on June 8, I started my new job! I spent my first day with a few of my fellow editors in a cafe in Brooklyn, brainstorming ideas and setting up my email and stuff. We were done by noon and I spent the rest of that day reading manuscripts and book outlines. It was by far, the most laid back, stress-free first day of a job I've ever had. (I'm happy to say that I've pretty much loved every day since then too.)

Anyway, the day after my first day at my new job, my first hardcover, HUNTERS OF CHAOS, hit the stands!

Not only that, but the cover for book 2 in the series was released:

I love these covers so much, I can't even tell you. And I'm so excited to be back on the shelves! I even got a pretty great review from, which you can read here:

But the reviews I loved most were from my friends' kids. How could I not love a picture like this of my college roommate's daughter holding her copy of my book?

Then, almost as if they had timed it to happen around the same time as the book release, along came the BooksNJ book festival in Paramus, New Jersey, on June 14, organized by librarian extraordinaire Arlene Sahraie. It was my third time participating in this festival, and as always, it was a great way to spend the day. There were so many authors there and thousands of readers showed up. I was lucky enough to be on a panel with Tracey Baptiste (author of THE JUMBIES), Margie Gelbwasser (author of PIECES OF US), and Selene Castrovilla (author of MELT).

Me, Tracey, Selene, and Margie.

We talked about writing for different age groups, and writing our own books versus books we've been hired to write. It turned out to be a truly enlightening panel for me. It was so good to hear other authors' experiences--both good and bad. If you get a chance, definitely pick their books. They are hilarious, smart, interesting women and if their books are half as cool as they are, you're in for a treat. 

And this is not book-related, but a few days after the book festival, I took my mom to a taping of the Wendy Williams Show right here in New York City. Somehow we scored a seat in the front row and I actually got to meet Wendy! 

How you doin', Wendy?

That brings us to July. Three big things happened this month. One of them I can't talk about just yet (sorry), but it is good. The second is that I've been invited to participate in a panel for the New York Public Library about writers for Latino youth. Here's the reaaaally cool part: Sonia Monzano will also be on the panel!!! You might know her better as Maria from Sesame Street, the woman who, if you don't speak it already, probably taught you your first words in Spanish. Words like "hola.

The panel will take place on October 31 at 2 P.M., so mark your calendars! 

Finally, I was interviewed by new blogger Dallas Rico, who is also a teacher and writer of middle grade fiction. We met in Brooklyn and had a conversation about getting started in writing, the need for diversity in children's literature, and the fact that there are so many great cafe's in Brooklyn in which to hang out and write. (I'm still trying to find a good place to do that in Flushing.) 

As you can see, the past few months have been kind of a whirlwind. I'm sure I'm leaving out a lot. But it is now 1:26 in the morning and I should get some sleep. Even though I no longer have to wrestle with the 7 train, I still have to work tomorrow. But one thing before I go: Thank you to everyone who has bought a copy of Hunters of Chaos or any of my books. Your support means the world to me! 

**13 minutes later***

WAIT! I forgot to mention that the weekend before last, I visited my old college campus with my last college roommate and two of our good friends. None of us had been back to the campus in years and it was amazing to see how much it has changed. It looked so beautiful, it kind of made me wish I could go back to school. I majored in creative writing at Penn State and had some good times on both campuses I attended. I owe the professors there so much.  WE ARE . . . PENN STATE!

The "WE ARE" sign, class of 2013's class gift. 

I spent lots of time in this library. 

The most important part of any visit to University Park: the creamery!

Me in the front of the main mall, where the art festival was going on.
I am holding a much-needed Nittany lion paw fan.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Walls Around Us

One of the things I miss most about college is being surrounded by a community of writers all the time. I loved gathering together for open mic nights, or listening to visiting authors share their work and talk about their process. Especially since I was on a small campus, I would know pretty much everyone in the audience. And on open mic nights, I would get to hear the finished product of something we had workshopped in class. When we left the event, we'd walk back to the dorms together, talking about the writers we'd met, or our favorite open mic piece, or what we were working on next. I'd talk someone who had been too shy to share into going for it next time. That literary cocoon of support was one of my favorite parts of my time at Penn State. When I graduated, I mourned because I thought that was all over.

Turned out I was wrong. Sort of.

Tonight I attended a book reading at the McNally Jackson bookstore on Prince St. in NYC. The visiting author? None other than Nova Ren Suma, writer of several young adult books including 17 & Gone, Imaginary Girls, and most recently, The Walls Around Us. And almost like the open mic nights of my college days, I knew the person at the mic sharing her words. I used to proofread for her. Just like me, for years Nova worked in publishing and was a production editor. Just like me, she wrote on the side and had dreams of quitting her day job and doing the writing thing full-time. Unlike me (so far, at least), she actually made the leap, and quite successfully at that. Her books now frequently show up on must-read lists, and the writing workshops she teaches have a devoted following. Basically, she's living the dream. And now that I've read her work (which is pretty great, by the way) I'm glad that she didn't put her writing on the back burner, something she'd get to eventually, one day, maybe. I'm not saying it's possible for everyone to quit their job and throw themselves into their art full-time. I haven't been able to do it yet, after all. But wow, when a person is able to do it, great things can come of it.
Nova in conversation with fellow author Libba Bray.
In the audience I spotted Nova's former HarperCollins boss, who attends lots of her appearances, and an editor friend of mine who I hadn't even realized also knew Nova. While I waited in line to have my books signed, I ended up meeting a publicist who works for Simon & Schuster Children's Books, which will be publishing my book this summer. We talked for a while about what a small world publishing is. When I finally got to the front of the line (Nova had drawn a huge, somewhat unruly crowd), she thanked me for coming and for always being so supportive of her career.

But it was I who should have been thanking her. Even though now, not everyone in the audience knows one another, and most of us hop into cars or onto trains heading our separate ways into distant corners of the five boroughs, I still felt for a while like I did back in college, listening to a friend share her work with a roomful of writers and readers who wanted nothing more than to listen, support, and be inspired. Nice job, Nova.

Nova Ren Suma at the McNally Jackson bookstore reading from The Walls Around Us.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

I Solemnly Swear that I Am Up to No Good

For the first time in a long, long time, I have no writing, revisions, or proofreading to do. I feel so free! I mentioned this to my friends on Facebook and joked that I feel like I should go to Disney World now--or better yet, Universal Studios so I can visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Well, my friends jumped on that immediately. Before I knew it, they had all planned a long weekend trip to Universal for my birthday this October. As my friend Jodi said, "I can't think of a better place to go for a grown-up birthday party." Can't argue with that. 

I could chalk their eagerness up to the fact that I've been so busy over the past few years that I haven't gone on any trips with my friends, so now that I've mentioned wanting to go somewhere, they pounced before I could change my mind. But their enthusiasm could also be just because they all have as much love for the Harry Potter books as I do. 

Case in point, I recently participated in a fund-raiser for Read Ahead (formerly called Everybody Wins!), an organization that promotes literacy among children. In addition to other education initiatives, Read Ahead pairs kids with adult volunteers, and they spend their lunch hour once a week reading together. It's a great way for the kids to get some individual attention, improve their reading, and associate books with stress-free fun. I actually volunteered for two years back when I was working at Tor Books, so I know how valuable the program is and how hard they work to keep it going. The event was a bowl-a-thon that took place at Frames in the Port Authority terminal. We had to form teams of four and come up with a team name and motto. My team, made up of friends of mine who are also fellow Penguin Random House employees, was called Harry's Lightning Bolts (Jenn's great idea). Our motto: I solemnly swear that I am up to no good. Teams were encouraged to wear costumes. We decided to keep it simple and go with Harry's glasses and one Hogwarts tie. 

Harry's Lightning Bolts (from left to right): Me, Cindy, Alison, and Jenn.
In addition to the bowling, they held raffles and a silent auction. I bought $20 worth of raffle tickets, completely convinced that I would win the picnic basket or the Birch Box of beauty products. (Alison actually won both.) Anyway, I'm proud to say that as a team--with help from Penguin Random House's charitable matching program--we raised almost $2,000, and all together, the event raised more than $40,000 for Read Ahead! It was a great night for a good cause. (But more important, I broke 100 on the bowling lane! Finally...)

As for the writing, exciting things are on the way. Last month I finished revising book two in the Hunters of Chaos series. And my publicist (I have a publicist!) at Simon & Schuster reached out to me about possible promotion opportunities here in New York. So if you're in the area, I may be visiting a bookstore near you very soon. I'll keep you posted. I'll also be visiting an elementary school in Queens this month. The teacher who invited me told me that kids in her school who are named Student of the Month receive a free book as a reward for their good work. Apparently, she often gives them my books, and they've told her they enjoyed reading them, so she thought it would be fun if I came to visit. :-) Of course, I'm thrilled! Especially since I live in Queens and haven't been to a school here yet. I can't wait. 

I've also been invited to participate in a book fair in Boston in June, and I may be going to another in New Jersey in May. Again, I'll let you know when all the plans have been nailed down. 

Since all this promotional stuff will be kicking off soon, I thought it was high time that I step up my social media game, which I'd kind of been slacking on for a while. The first thing I did was create an official Facebook page as an author: (There isn't much on it yet. Feel free to help me fill it up!) I started to actually Tweet some things on what I consider to be my work Twitter account: @cvelasquez6. And I've enlisted a former coworker of mine to help me revamp my website. Hopefully, she'll be able to whip it into shape soon. I still have so much to learn about the business side of being a writer, it's ridiculous, and I am definitely technologically challenged. (I JUST learned how to access emojis on my iPhone.) But I'll try my best to get up to speed. 

In the meantime, I guess I should start planning my trip to Universal in October. I do believe I've earned it. Harry Potter, here I come! 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Snow Day

It's a cold, snowy day in New York City. The storm that just passed definitely wasn't the snowpocalypse the weather forecasters predicted, but it was still bad enough that I got to stay home from work today. Right now I'm in my warm little apartment in pajama pants and my trusty Penn State sweatshirt, about to curl up on the couch and drink some hot cocoa. So what better time to update you on my good news?

This June, my new book, Hunters of Chaos, hits the stands! I'm so excited, especially since it'll be my first hardcover, and my first time being published by Simon & Schuster. Just look at the amazing cover they put together:

(Side note: The girl on the cover looks just like my niece, Jasmine. How did they know?)

I was even more psyched to see that a couple of early readers have already given the book favorable reviews on Goodreads, it has been tweeted about by Betsy Bird (who is a huge deal in the YA world as a librarian, reviewer, blogger, and author), and it was mentioned in a post on about books coming out in 2015 that are by or about Latinos. It looks like there are a lot of really great ones coming out, by the way, so check out their list:

And you can find Betsy Bird's blog at Or go to her website,

In the meantime, the second book is already in the works. I finished the first draft last week and will be revising like crazy soon.

So how do I feel about all this attention months before the book even comes out? Grateful--and a little bit terrified. Writing something in the privacy of your own home and having a few editors, friends, and family read it is one thing. It is an editor's job to point out problems and tell you how you can fix them. And my friends and family love me, so their opinions can hardly be trusted. But once the book goes out into the world and people who are neither related to me nor lifelong friends get their hands on it . . . well, all bets are off. What if they hate it? That is always a possibility.

I went to Career Day at a friend's school in Brooklyn recently, and one of the kids asked me if I'd ever gotten hate mail. Ha ha... No, I told him, I haven't, but I have gotten a couple of bad reviews. The majority of reviews for the Your Life series of books were very positive, but I remember that there was one reviewer who absolutely hated them. What did I do, the kid wanted to know. I shrugged. Nothing. That reviewer was entitled to his opinion, and you're never going to please everyone. Whenever I go on Goodreads to post about a book I just read that I loved, there are usually a hundred reviews saying the same thing--and then a few who claim it was the worst book ever written. Art can be subjective, and whenever you put anything out into the world you open yourself up to both praise and criticism. What I did realize, however, is that you can't negatively review something you've never even heard of, right? Plus, oftentimes it's the critics of your work who give you the most valuable insight into how you can make it better.

So thank you, once again, to anyone who has given me an opportunity to write, and to anyone who has put my books on their radar. Even if you don't end up loving them (it happens), as I told Latinos in Kid Lit, I'm just happy to be invited to the party. With any luck, one day I'll be able to write full-time, and I'll be grateful for any response I get--good, bad, or indifferent (but preferably good).

I'm off to drink hot cocoa now and continue reading All the Light We Cannot See, a book I can already tell I'll be giving five stars to on Goodreads. Snow days are the best.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

When Great Trees Fall

This past May was a tough month for me. As you know from my last post, on May 19, 2014, we lost my grandmother, and I was heartbroken, which is part of why it's taken me so long to write a follow-up post. Sorry about that. But if I could, I'd like to take you back to that week, because while I did experience personal loss, I also experienced something pretty special.

After we got the call about my grandmother, my family and I had to scramble to get flights to Florida as soon as possible. But there was one problem: I had already committed to doing a reading that Thursday at the Washington Elementary School in West Orange, New Jersey, as part of their literacy night event.

I thought of backing out. I wanted to back out. How could I get through the event with a smile on my face as I read about Maya and Miguel and their loving grandmother? It seemed like an impossible task. 

But like my grandmother, I am a woman of my word. If I promise to do something, I do it. Besides, I knew she wouldn't have wanted me to disappoint the children. My mother told me that Grandma had once confessed that when she was younger she wanted to one day produce puppet shows for kids, but life got in the way of her dream of entertaining children. I began to look at fulfilling my promise to attend Literacy Night as a way to honor her. 

So that Thursday, the night after the rest of my family had flown to Florida to begin making funeral arrangements, I found myself driving to New Jersey. On the way there it started pouring, of course. When I arrived, Wendi Giuliano, the teacher who had invited me to speak, met me at the door with a huge umbrella--and a hug. She knew about my loss and greeted me with warmth and sympathy. I know she would have been understanding had I decided to cancel, but she was clearly relieved that I hadn't. And once I got inside, so was I. They had made all kinds of signs welcoming me to the school. And the art teacher had even drawn a life-size cut-out of Maya and Miguel.

How cool is that? Immediately, I understood how much they'd been looking forward to my visit and how hard they'd worked to prepare for the event.

Little by little, the audience of parents, teachers, and children began to pour in. They'd braved the rain too to be there. Eventually, every table in the cafeteria was full. Wendi decided the first thing we should do was have me sign books for the kids while we waited for the audio equipment to be set up.

So I sat down, expecting that only a few kids would want to have their books signed by me. But soon there was a line that stretched across the room. As each child stepped up, they told me why they liked the books or the show, or they told me how they like to write their own stories. I asked them about their favorite subjects in school and marveled over their beautiful names and how bright and interested they all were. I wrote long personalized messages in each of their books. 

But we realized that the book signing was taking much longer than they'd anticipated. I tried shortening my messages, but eventually, we had to ask that the rest of the children wait until after the presentation. Finally, Wendi introduced me to the eagerly awaiting audience. It was, by far, the largest crowd I'd ever spoken in front of, which made me nervous. But there was no need to be. The room was full of people smiling at me and quietly encouraging me, as I read Maya & Miguel: Paint the Town into the microphone. Wendi had created a slideshow of the book, which she projected behind me, so the audience could read along. They laughed at all the right things, and squawked with enthusiasm when I asked them to serve as Paco the parrot's voice. 

The best part was when I asked for volunteers from the audience to help me portray the silly things that happened to Paco in the book. Almost all of their hands shot up. But while I was trying to decide the best way to choose a volunteer, a small group of girls just ran up and stood beside me. Well, that was easy. I had one girl play Paco while the others dressed her in all the crazy things I'd brought that reflected the things Paco had to wear in the book: swim fins and goggles, a feather boa (I used a Hawaiian lei), a giant hat, a soccer ball (I used a volleyball), and a red cape (I used the one I'd gotten as part of a Wonder Woman costume I'd worn on Halloween). By the end, my volunteer Paco looked appropriately ridiculous and everyone was laughing and having fun. The reading was a success.

Afterword, we had a question and answer session. One of the kids wanted to know if I was rich and lived in a big house (no and no), what my nationality is (of Puerto Rican decent and proud), how they could become writers too (read everything you can get your hands on, learn as much as you can in school, and write, write, write), and--the best question, in my opinion--why Maya and Miguel wear the same clothes every day. Ha ha ha... I told her I thought there were two reasons. 1. Having them wear the same thing all the time helps you identify them as characters, just like Charlie Brown always wore a yellow and black shirt. As soon as you see a yellow shirt with a black zigzag line across the top, you think Charlie Brown. Hopefully the same is true for Maya and her hair ties and orange sweater. 2. It makes it easier on the illustrators, who have a tough job as it is. 

Anyway, after all that, I signed more books and took pictures with some of my young fans. 

He told me he was my "favorite fan." Aww... 

They sort of look like Maya and Miguel, don't they? 

I think these two were the first to take their picture with Maya & Miguel.
 I love it!

A couple of these wonderful kids helped me out as volunteers. Thank you! 

Finally I was treated to a delicious meal prepared by the kitchen staff: rice, chicken, salad, platanos, and all kinds of tasty treats. My kind of meal. 

And of course I took a picture with Wendi--who had worked so hard to coordinate all of this--and the principal of Washington Elementary. 

It's always such a pleasure to meet with educators who truly care about the students in their charge and are constantly trying to think of creative ways to get them excited about reading and literature. They also seemed sensitive to the cultural needs of their school's community. I was so impressed with all the teachers I met. Their love for what they do really showed. No wonder the children seemed so engaged, and the parents were so deeply involved. Nice job, Washington Elementary.

Finally, late that night, I headed home in the rain with a to-go plate of food, a giant Maya & Miguel cut-out, and a good feeling inside. In one of the last conversations my mother and I had with my grandmother, she told us how proud she was of us and the women we had become. We told her that everything we'd ever accomplished was because of her. She made the sacrifices and the brave choices that allowed us to be where we are today--my mother, a college student fulfilling her dream to become a teacher; and me, a published author, entertaining kids as she'd once hoped to. Because she'd been such a wonderful mother, her daughter had become a wonderful mother too. She seemed surprised that her own life had had such an impact. I'm glad we got to tell her how important she truly was while she was still with us. 

The same week she passed, the world also lost Maya Angelou, a poet I admired and respected very much. In many ways, she reminded me of my grandmother. So I leave you now with a few lines from Maya Angelou's poem "When Great Trees Fall," which she wrote in honor of James Baldwin but will always remind me of Guillermina White. 

And when great souls die, 
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration. 
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us. 
They existed. They existed. 
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.