I have lived most of my life in Orange County, California. It is a sunny, beautiful place to grow up and yet as a young child I struggled with the pressure to adhere to proper behavior. At seven-years-old, my aunt Elaine convinced me it was okay to color a tree purple. This moment became the liberation of my artistic self and, at the same time, forged a whimsical connection with nature. Inspired by my fantasy drawings, I fell in love with the art of writing and telling stories. Favorite titles of my early works include The Floating Bed and The Runaway Hamburger. At the age of eleven I started the lifelong habit of keeping a diary. Thereafter, journals became my trusted companions, which proved particularly helpful throughout the turbulent teen years. I have every diary I ever wrote in.
Still disillusioned by the concept that there is only one suitable path, I forced my maverick, free-spirited self into the world of corporate public relations for five years. During this time, I found solace in studying at the Institute for Children’s Literature and writing articles for children, teens, and the environment. My first published article, entitled No Way Out, is a fictional story based on fact about a girl dealing with her friend’s bulimia. A letter I penned about the Tatshenshini River in Alaska, with over one hundred endorsements, proved to be useful in stopping copper mining and saved the lives of many animals.
After an impromptu move to San Diego and unsuccessful attempts to secure a corporate position, I began a career as a massage therapist. While flipping through the classifieds for part-time job to build my client base, I saw an ad for an assistant to Julie Castiglia, literary agent and owner of Castiglia Literary Agency. I fell immediately back into my fate as a writer. While I honed my craft at home, Julie taught me the ins and outs of the publishing world.
In 1997 and in honor of the California sesquicentennial, I wrote an article for the Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau describing California in the mid-1800s. Long after the article was written, I spent years of intense research into Early California, native peoples, and my Californio ancestors, Spaniards and Mexicans who lived in California beginning in 1767. I co-wrote a screenplay about a Los Angeles Indian shaman, Toypurina, who raised a revolt against the Spanish Mission system in 1785, and also wrote an unpublished historical novel, Born in Blood, which I pitched to Marcela Landres. Ms. Landres did not accept my historical novel, but kept me in mind for future projects.
The following year, Ms. Castiglia recommended me to an editor from Carol Publishing to write The Wicca Cookbook. I enlisted the help of my sister-in-law, Tara Seefeldt, a Ph.D. candidate in Early Modern European History, and together we devised and wrote the recipes, rituals, and lore that went into this first book. A few weeks after we turned in the book, the publisher went bankrupt. Nine months later I secured the rights to the book and we sold it to Ten Speed Press. I next wrote The Hispanic Baby Name Book. I became active in promoting literature in my local community, participating and speaking at the Latino Book and Family Festival, the Festival of Books at UCLA, elementary schools, and other writers’ events. I shot a treatment as the host of a cooking show and taught earth spirituality at retreats, specialty shops, and festivals.
The Wicca Cookbook enjoyed such acclaim that I was asked to write a book for teens. Thankfully, I could refer to my early journals and a box full of notes passed in class. Reading notes and journal entries when I felt disempowered and victimized motivated me to create visualizations and affirmations to move into a place of power. These new perspectives comprise the “spells” of The Teen Spell Book. Building on the success of my books and teachings, I wrote The Wicca Herbal and The Enchanted Diary.
Years after we met, Ms. Landres recommended me to Claudia Gabel, an editor at Random House, to write a book about Latinos and magic for teens. Rogelia’s House of Magic, a story about three not-so-ordinary Latino American teens who learn magic and life lessons from a shaman curandera (healer). This young adult novel marks my return to the world of fiction. So it all worked out. I enjoy writing for and empowering young people on their life's journey and to that end have created an interactive Teen Page.
When asked how all my diverse books fit together, I point first and foremost to my desire to motivate others to find the greatness within themselves and encourage them to share these unique talents with the world. During my research for the Latino Writers and Journalists book, I discovered that schools use biographies to inspire students. And I knew that for a reader to feel inspired, the writer must first be inspired. The best way to achieve this goal would be to personally interview as many writers and journalists as possible. So by luck and grit I spoke with over seventy of the wonderful people in this book, creating a landmark textbook that truly contains the spark that makes these writers and journalists special people. I didn’t focus solely on their achievements, because sometimes we all need a goal closer to home. Instead I asked several questions about their formative years to gain a glimpse into the foundation that molded them. In these early years we can find commonalities with the most successful of people. I truly hope that this book (and all my books) inspires and encourages readers to seek out and unearth their own unique gifts.