Why do I write?

Ten days ago, on April 8th, I had my first school visit as a children’s book author, and it was amazing. Even though my debut book is coming out until October, I was invited to talk to four 2nd grade classes as part of Legacy Day in my kids’ elementary. I was thrilled when I was asked to be part of such a meaningful event. The school’s art teacher contacted me and said she’d like me to talk about my photography and my experience as a children’s book author, and how that is part of my legacy. It hit me then how important that moment would be. My participation would not be about reading my book’s ARC to the kids, or just telling them how awesome it is to be a writer, or how I got the inspiration for my book. It would mainly be about sharing how by being a writer I get to make a significant impact in young readers, which is such truly an honor and responsibility.

As I debated on how to organize my 30 minute presentation and how to make it attractive for 7-8 year old kids on their last day of school before spring break, I couldn’t help to ask myself the question of why do I write? Why did I become a writer? After all, it’s not something that I had planned, you know? I actually studied International Business, had an online business, and used to be a high school teacher for 7 years before I started writing kidlit in 2018.

So besides writing because I love it and it makes me happy, my journey has also been inspired by own children and their experiences in the world they are living in, which is quite different to the one I grew up in. When I began writing I thought about the stories I wanted them to read in their childhood, the messages I would like them to receive in their hearts and minds. So I always consider what type of values I want to put into my stories, what type of takeaway lessons I want to leave behind in the pages. And I realize that’s exactly what my legacy is, the impact I get to have in young children, hoping that the message they get through my stories will stay with them and will be passed along.

So on April 8th, I shared about Santiago’s Dinosaurios. I didn’t get to read the ARC to them; there wasn’t enough time and Legacy Day wasn’t the moment to do it. However, I did tell them the story about a 7 year old Mexican boy who loved dinosaurs and moved to United States leaving his extended family, friends, culture, and even language behind. I told them how Santiago faced the dinosaur-sized problem of being on his own on a new school, on a new country without being able to understand the world around him.

So, I asked my 2nd graders: “Imagine you’re Santiago, you miss your home in Mexico and your parents drop you off at your new school. You look around… there are children talking next to you but you don’t know what they are saying and they don’t understand you either. How would you feel?”

Spread from Santiago’s Dinosaurios. Ilustrated by Udayana Lugo. Published by Albert Whitman.

Several kids said: sad, afraid, terrified, anxious, nervous…They were able to put themselves in the place of Santiago, so what came next was even more inspiring. I asked them to come up with ideas on how they would be able to help Santiago with his dinosaur-sized problem. “Imagine Santiago steps into your class, right now, feeling anxious and scared, what would you do to make him feel better?” Among the many answers I received, the kids mentioned: smile to him, play with him, use signs to communicate, be with him, teach him words in English, draw to him. The children were so sweet, and it filled my heart to listen to their thoughtful answers.

In the end, that’s the point of my story, to show children how they can be welcoming, inclusive, and kind with someone who’s different; but at the same time, it was also important for me to show those Santiagos around the world that they are not alone; that it will take a while but they’ll eventually be okay in their new environments.

You see, that’s exactly why I write. I create stories to hopefully make a difference in young readers’ hearts that will create a difference in their own lives and those of others. Through my picture books I want to share the values I care about (friendship, tolerance, perseverance, kindness, inclusion, hope…), my latin culture, and in some of them even my language (Spanish). That’s going to be my legacy, that’s going to be the way I’ll be remembered and ultimately why I’m a children’s book writer.

So I’ll never forget those 2nd graders in my first author’s visit experience. Legacy Day was such a meaningful milestone in my new career as a children’s book author. I can’t wait to get back to the classrooms and share Santiago’s Dinosaurios with them.

What about you? Why do you write? How do you want to be remembered?

Mariana Ríos Ramírez is a Mexican picture book author living in South Carolina. She was a high school teacher and co-owned an online business before becoming a writer. Her debut book, Santiago’s Dinosaurios, will be published by Albert Whitman in October 2022. Besides writing, Mariana enjoys photography, traveling, Chai Lattes, and k-dramas.

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6 thoughts on “Why do I write?

  1. Lovely post and spread from your book 😊 I write to express myself and also to teach

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  2. This is a lovely post Mariana. I can’t wait for children to get to read your book🥰

    I write mostly to express myself and also to entertain others. Recently though, my newest manuscript is mostly to share a truth about an event in my country – and I think that’s the deepest motivation I’ve ever had for writing!

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    1. Thanks so much, Lucia, for your comments and for sharing why do you write. I love what you mentioned on writing about an event in your country, a deep motivation for sure. Can’t wait to know more.

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