One of the things I love the most about being a writer is the piece of myself that goes into every one of my picture book stories. By doing this, a very special connection is created with each manuscript in a unique way.
Over the past two years I have created several stories. One of them became my debut picture book. A second one will become a published book in the near future (I can’t wait for the official announcement!), while some others are patiently waiting to find homes at the right time.
Each story has a different theme, set of values, and sometimes even a unique structure. In everyone of them, there’s something I want to share with young readers; either because it’s something I’ve experienced (directly or indirectly), or something I love or believe in.
Being Mexican, it’s natural that some of my stories include Spanish. I love being able to share my language with young children as a way to celebrate and embrace differences. In what will be my second book, besides the Spanish, I will also share about one of my country’s most beloved traditional celebrations. I feel very proud and grateful to have the chance of showing a bit of Mexico’s rich culture and heritage in my books, it’s truly a privilege.
However, not all my manuscripts are directly connected to my culture or include Spanish. I’m glad because I write what I want, what comes out of me. The source and inspiration of the words varies. My stories are all dear to me in a special way, although maybe not all of them will get to be published and that’s okay too.
I have manuscripts in which I got inspiration from my kids’ lives experiences (even from their toys 🧸). There’s another one I wrote in which readers will need to use basic critical thinking skills, which is a topic I used to teach my high school students when I was a teacher. Another story was inspired by my love for the stage during my college years. Writing these stories makes me smile, because they bring dear memories to my present, and that’s a gift.
My love for dogs (and now even cats) is something that’s also reflected in some of my manuscripts. I have a story about a dog that is a work in process. It’s been like that for almost two years because I haven’t been able to make it work and I’ve focused on something else. However, I’m not planning to give up on it, because I believe in the cause. I go back to eat every now and then and I keep it in my mind. I know one day I’ll come up with the perfect way to untangle it and who knows, maybe it will become a book in the shelves sometime.
Something else I put in my manuscripts are my values. I include the ones that matter and resonate with me the most, and the ones I want my kids to find in what they read such as friendship, tolerance, diversity, inclusion, being brave and overcoming challenges, among others. I also try to include a take away message in my stories, not in a lecture-kind-of-way, but something subtle and meaningful that can remain in the readers’ hearts and minds after they finish the book.
In conclusion, I believe that every writer, whether consciously or not, leaves a part of themselves in their books. That’s why the stories we tell matter, because they come from a person who has a combination of experiences, beliefs, values, knowledge and a view of the world like no other. That’s exactly the part of ourselves that makes us unique as writers and in consequence what makes our stories unique too .
What about you? What piece of yourself do you leave in your stories?
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.