April 30, 2016 is the 20th anniversary of El día de los niños/ El día de los libros, also known as Día and the New Mexico State Library is encouraging everyone to celebrate that day by reading to someone special or finding a Día celebration in their community. The founder of Día: Pat Mora, author of more than 40 books, graciously sat down for an interview with the State Library.
How did you get your start writing?
I actually liked writing from the time I was in elementary school. In my book ZING! Seven Creativity Practices for Educators & Students http://www.patmora.com/books/zing-seven-creativity-practicies-educators-students/ I wrote about my writing journey. I hope the book is both helpful to educators and a writing memoir with creativity tips. I also have tips on my web site.
2016 is the 20th anniversary of Día, what drove you to create Día?
Lots of information about Children’s Day, Book Day, El día de los niños, El Día de los libros, often known as Día, on my site. Briefly, in April 1996, while being interviewed at the public radio station in Tucson, AZ, I first learned about the Mexican custom of annually celebrating El día del niño on April 30th. Why don’t we have a children’s day, I wondered. I walked out of the radio station, and in the bright Southwest sun, I thought: but we need to connect the annual celebration of children to literacy. Establishing Día, both its daily aspect and the culminating national April celebrations,9 has been a journey.
What is your favorite children’s book and what is your favorite adult book? (or author if you’re like me and can’t pick just one)
I never do favorites. Even with colors or foods, much less my own three children ;), I don’t have favorites. However, there are so many books I love. In children’s books, long before the TV series, I read all of The Little House on the Prairie books and simply loved them. I write for children and adults, so I read both and probably more adult books than children’s. I loved the novel Gilead by Marilyn Robinson.
What’s the best piece of advice someone gave you when you were starting out your career as an author?
I don’t know that anyone gave me advice frankly. As a Mexican American author who was a university administrator in El Paso, I kept my writing life somewhat private. I’m actually a very private person.
What has been your proudest moment as an author?
I have many happy moments. I was completely surprised when I received the news from ALSC that I’d been chosen to give the Arbuthnot Lecture this April. Libraries compete to host the lecture, and Santa Barbara Public Library won. However, equally gratifying was recently receiving a batch of 100 letters from an intergenerational family literacy program in Chelsea, MD. Parents who had read my children’s books in the program had written to me. Oh!
Favorite place to visit?
I have a precious two-year old granddaughter, Bonny, who lives in Austin, Texas. She rules my heart.
Do your books come from personal experiences? Or all they imagined? A mixture of both?
Some of my books are inspired by family stories and my love of the Chihuahua desert. Others can be inspired by my years of being a reader or connected to travel. I’ve been fortunate to travel a lot in this country and others.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
As I mentioned, on my site I have downloadable tips for writing in general and for writing children’s books. ZING is full of tips too. Certainly it’s important to be a reader and to create time to become a better writer.
You’re originally from El Paso, what’s been your favorite part about living in New Mexico?
I feel very fortunate to live in beautiful Santa Fe in spite to the fact that I’m cold here six months of the year. Yes, six. I’ve loved thinking about how Mexican and New Mexican cultures/foods are alike and different. The landscape of Northern New Mexico is mighty inspiring.
Do you have a routine you go through when you write?
For years, because I was so busy working and raising three children, I just wrote when I found the time—nights, weekends. Now, if I’m not traveling, I try to avoid e-mail in the morning and to have quiet, reading time, and then write. I enjoy revision. Beginning writers think that is just plain weird.
How do you get past writer’s block?
It’s a topic I don’t think is helpful since those words can become an excuse for just having a writing appointment with yourself and writing—not judging, writing. Parents aren’t asked: how do you handle parent block, right? We just do what we have to do the best way we can, and we keep learning.
Do you have a favorite memory involving a library?
Referring back to Laura Ingalls Wilder, I discovered her books at the El Paso Public Library in the W’s long before there was a TV show. What pleasure those books gave me.
Red or green?
Christmas, on the side.