Thursday, August 18, 2011

Our summer winds down with a Tampico party!

Recently I received free Tampico product samples from Tampico Beverages, Inc.  Since summer is quickly coming to an end, we decided to have a few friends and family over for one last gathering.  We served carne asada that had been marinated with Tampico citrus punch.  Our guests also enjoyed the refreshing blend of crushed ice and a variety of Tampico drink flavors, but the favorite seemed to be the smooth taste of Tampico Island Punch mixed with vanilla ice cream to make a tasty smoothie.

I was surprised to see how easy it was to find online recipes using Tampico Beverages as a marinade.  If cooking isn't your thing, no sweat, Tampico alone is a delicious drink- especially on a warm day!  Check out the Tampico website for recipes using a variety of Tampico flavors.

Tampico Beverages, Inc. is hosting a photo contest until Sunday, August 21, 2011.  Be sure to click here for all the details for your chance to win. 

Thanks for the party, Tampico!

~the sol within Anna

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Blog tour for author Sandra Lopez

I had the pleasure of coordinating a virtual book tour for YA author Sandra LopezI interviewed Sandra Lopez in February for The Sol Within.  You can follow the tour and leave a question or comment for Sandra.  Following the tour at each blog stop increases your chances to win a signed copy of Beyond the Gardens!  Enjoy!

Virtual Book Tour Schedule for Beyond the Gardens:

Monday, April 26, Bonnie S. Mata

Tuesday, April 27, Mayra Calvani

Wednesday, April 28, Christina Rodriguez

Thursday, April 29, Lori Calabrese

Friday, April 30, Mary Jo

Monday, May 3, Erin O'Riordan

Tuesday, May 4, Joylene Nowell Butler

Wednesday, May 5, Terri Lee-Johnson

Thursday, May 6, Romina Tybitt

Friday, May 7, Leslie Toledo

Wishing you dreams to fulfill and the inspiration needed to do so!

~the sol within~

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Virtual Book Tour for My Shoes and I by Rene Colato Lainez

My Shoes and I blog tour by children's author Rene Colato Lainez:
Monday, March 08
Mayra Calvani

Tuesday, March 09
Lori Calabrese

Wednesday, March 10
Christina Rodriguez

Thursday, March 11

Friday, March 12
Monica Olivera Hazelton

Monday, March 15
Tina Nichols Coury

Tuesday, March 16
Michael Sedano

Wednesday, March 17
Caridad Pineiro

Thursday, March 18
Sandra Lopez

Friday, March 19
Sheila DeChantal

Tour coordinated by Anna Rodriguez.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Sol Within Welcomes author Sandra Lopez!

Welcome to The Sol Within Anna, Sandra. I have read your second novel, Beyond the Gardens, and I look forward to sharing our interview with readers today.

Anna:  Writers are often advised to "write what you know", and after visiting your website,, I found many similarities between you and your main character, Esperanza. What pieces of your life did you pass on to Esperanza Ignacio and why?

Sandra: When I first started to write “Esperanza” at 19-years old (full-time college student), I remember wanting to know about a character who was just like me with the quirks, the weirdness, and all the originality. I wanted to read about a shy, quiet, young girl with a traumatic childhood, an impoverished lifestyle, and a secret desire for something more; someone who lost herself in the world of literature and found herself through the beauty of art; someone who the world constantly beat down like torrential rain but, like a flower, still managed to bloom again. I didn’t read about someone like that in Sandra Cisnero’s “Caramelo” (also a great book, by the way), so I decided to do it myself.

I gave Esperanza a lot of my character traits: my tall height, my oversized wardrobe, my quiet and docile demeanor, my book smarts, my enthusiasm for school, the constant taunt of being a nerd, the undying hunger for books, and the never-ending hope of someday becoming an artist. To me, someone like Esperanza is a real “hero” because she is who she is. She makes you feel that you are just like her, but, at the same time, you know she is unique and original. I believe she makes you clutch to your dreams; she makes you want to get up and try again; she makes you believe in hope.

Anna:  Why was Esperanza's story so important for you to tell? How long did it take you to write both Esperanza: A Latina Story and Beyond the Gardens?

Sandra: My goal in Esperanza was to write about a young girl’s strength and determination as she lived her life and achieved her goals. I wrote “Esperanza: A Latina Story” while I was in Jr. College with a full schedule of classes and no computer, so it wasn’t easy to find the time to write it. I’d say it took about two years. Then about 4 months later, I was offered a publishing contract by Floricanto Press. I started writing “Beyond the Gardens” after “Esperanza” was accepted for publication because all the details from the first story were still fresh in my head. Then I left it alone while I finished my undergrad courses and transferred to Cal State Fullerton. Then with like a year to go, I decided to re-tackle “Beyond the Gardens” and make modifications. I did a lot of cut and paste and did plenty of re-writes. I even worked on a chapter while I was at my job when the boss wasn’t looking. Obviously, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone write their novel when they’re supposed to be working, but, in my case, I just had no choice. It was like my hand was possessed, and I just couldn’t stop writing. By the time I was finished, it felt like my hand was about to fall off.

Anna:  I believe that character naming for writers is as crucial and maybe as stressful as it is for parents picking a name for their unborn child. Why did you choose the name Esperanza for your main character? What about the names Jake, Carlos, Carla, and Anna?

Sandra:  Well, as you may know, “Esperanza” is Spanish for hope, and hope was the concept behind my main character’s story.

The idea for Carlos and Carla came from two people—a brother and sister—I had a class with in Jr. College. When I found out later that they were twins, I remember finding that fascinating, so I decided to use that in my story. As far as the names go, I wanted them to be alike but inverted to reflect the twin concept but emphasize the boy-girl difference.

Jake is actually my favorite name in the whole universe. It came from a TV series called “California Dreams,” a show with a lead guitar player named Jake—the guy I have been in love with since I was ten. Since the guy has been on my desktop since then and to this very day, I figured no other guy could play the male lead than him.

Anna didn’t come from anything in particular. That’s just a name I picked at random.

Anna:  What do you feel is lacking in the world of Latino/a literature? What do you feel you contribute to this world and to mainstream literature through your own writing?

Sandra:  When I read a novel, I like to feel that the story is real, that it’s made with characters of flesh and bone, that this place is an actual location in the world, that this plot really happened in life. I like a story that is so real I become immersed in that universe alone. Some of the Latino books I’ve read have done a great job at that; however, others were lacking in the reality sense. Some books (too many, really) focus a lot on Latino stereotypes and clichés. Usually, if I have a book like that, I toss it or donate it. If I want to hear lame, boisterous jokes on Mexican barrio life, then I’ll watch Comedy Central. Okay?

What I feel I contribute with my writing is a unique voice and style. I give an endearing story full of true-to-life characters, whom you want to love, hate, and become involved with to the very end. For me, there are three main goals a story should fulfill:

1) They should be so real that you tune everything else out

2) They should teach you something

3) And, finally, they should entertain the hell out of you

Anna:  Everyone faces their own obstacles in life, with that said, you have conquered some challenges in your life. What do you attribute your perseverance and success to? What advice do you have for young Latinos dreaming of their turn to break away beyond their own garden walls?

Sandra: I attribute my own perseverance to wanting to get an education and never giving up, even when I wanted to so badly.

My advice to others is to keep on dreaming and keep on working. Sooner or later, you will a dig a hole so far through underneath that wall that you’ll actually get to the other side.

Anna:  What was the moment like for you when you held your first completed novel in your hands for the first time? Where were you?

Sandra: That day was actually one of those bang-your-head-against-the wall days.

I was getting off from work at 5pm on the dot. I went to my car, and I find that the damn thing wouldn’t start. After several failed attempts, I called AAA; they told me they would send a tow truck and that the wait was going to be an hour and a half. Oh, great, I thought.

I waited for about half an hour before my stomach started grumbling like crazy. I hadn’t eaten all day, and there was a Carl’s Jr. right across the street. I really should try to hold it in ‘til I get home, I thought. But I was starving! I figured I’d go in real quick and get a little something. Real quick, right? Well, I thought it was going to be real quick. When I got there, there was a long line of people. Great! While I was waiting in line for food, I got a call on my cell from AAA stating that they had arrived. “Oh, no. Listen, just wait right there, I’m right across the street at Carl’s Jr. I’ll be right over. Don’t leave!”

I struggled to get back as quickly as I could, but when I got there, the truck driver had already left. NNOOOO!

After my psychotic breakdown, I called again and got another truck. After a long wait and a towing that seemed endless, I finally got home. “Oh, what a sucky day! Man, life really does suck!”

It was then that I noticed something waiting for me by the door. It was a box from the publisher. I opened it up and inside was 30 copies of my first published novel, “Esperanza.” I was so EXCITED to see it—the first story I wrote in actual book format. It just turned my crappy day into a GREAT DAY (that I’ll never, ever forget).

Thank you for being here today, Sandra. I have enjoyed your visit on The Sol Within Anna. I wish you all the best with your writing.


Thank you to all the readers and visitors and especially the educators who stopped by today.  I must post a disclaimer that in no way do I receive any compensation for my interviews, monetary or otherwise.  I promote the creative work and passion of others because, as a writer, I understand how hard it is to expose your soul through the work you create.  It is also a freeing feeling like no other in this world!

Please be sure to leave me a comment and if you have a question or comment for the author she will be around throughout the day to answer your questions.  If you'd like to enter for a chance to win a copy of Beyond the Gardens from the author herself please answer this question and leave your info for her here:  "What was your dream in high school or college?" 

Read the post below for my review of Beyond the Gardens.

Wishing you dreams to fulfill and the inspiration needed to do so!
~the sol within~

Beyond the Gardens by Sandra Lopez

I recently read Beyond the Gardens, the second novel by author Sandra Lopez.  Her first novel Esperanza: A Latina Story introduces readers to a young high school latina living in the barrio of East Los Angeles.  Her sequel, Beyond the Gardens, brings all of us closer to a maturing, ever-evolving Esperanza and the fun and challenges she faces as a Latina breaking out from behind the barrio walls.

Early on in chapter one, Lopez describes Esperanza's barrio she called home and her feelings as she emabarks on the college education she always dreamed of.  It is a profound description that many people of any culture can relate to as long as you have or had a longing for achieving something greater than you know.

Beyond the Gardens is a fast read, especially because it is filled with characters that you want to root for and want to stay tuned in to every step of the way!  It is a book with a variety of characters and locations, but none too overwhelming or overpowering for the story of Esperanza.  Readers feel as though they are checking in with long time friends to see how they are doing or wonder just what Esperanza will choose...the boy she's known forever or the one from what seems like another world?  Will she be able to finish college?

While I was reading Beyond the Gardens I had some very special Latina teens nearby and asked them to listen to a few pages.  Esperanza was studying for her first college finals and was in severe panic and stress mode.  The teens I read to were also in the midst of studying for high school finals and quickly became captivated by the words I read to them.  Immediately they had questions for me and wondered why they hadn't heard of such a YA novel.  "What book is this?"  "Is this girl Latina?"  "Is this available at the bookstore?"  Although they begged me to continue reading to them, I stopped and encouraged them to resume their own studying.  It was a moment that reminded me of the need for YA novels with more ethnicity.  Our communities are diverse and our books need to be as well.  We need to engage our youth with art that they can relate to and want to be a part of!

It has been a few years since I was in high school, college, or dated, but Esperanza reminded me of the girl I used to be, the friends I had, the dreams I had, the places I wanted to go, and the dreams I still hold onto.  Just when Beyond the Gardens seemed to be predictable, Lopez added another twist that threw the characters and readers, alike, for another crazy loop- just like real-life. 

****Stop by The Sol Within Anna on Thursday, February 4th for a special interview with author Sandra Lopez!  She will be giving away a copy of her novel to one lucky visitor!****

Wishing you dreams to fulfill and the inspiration needed to do so!
~the sol within~

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Sol Within Welcomes author Rene Colato Lainez

About René Colato Laínez...
I am René Colato Laínez, the Salvadoran award winning author of I Am René, the Boy, Waiting for Papá, Playing Lotería, René Has Two Last Names and The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez.

My picture books have been honored by the Latino Book Award, the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People, the California Collection for Elementary Readers, the Tejas Star Book Award Selection and the New Mexico Book Award. I was named “Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch (and Read)” by I am a graduate of the Vermont College MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults.

My goal as a writer is to produce good multicultural children's literature; stories where minority children are portrayed in a positive way, where they can see themselves as heroes, and where they can dream and have hopes for the future. I want to write authentic stories of Latin American children living in the United States.


Anna Rodriguez:  Why do you feel it was important to share the story of René Has Two Last Names/René tiene dos apellidos with the world? What do you hope readers- adults and children alike- will take away from your book?

Rene Colato Lainez:  René Has Two Last Names celebrates the heritage of having two last names in the Latino Culture. Having two last names is a celebration where all the extended family members are invited because both last names are equally important. Many times people as they crossed borders lost one last name but in their hearts will always remain their identities. I want readers to feel proud of both sides of his/her families. We have received many gifts, stories and traditions from them and we are who we are thanks to the love and effort of our loved ones.

A.R.:  As a child, I yearned for books such as René Has Two Last Names, where the main character resembled me. What aspects from your childhood shaped your desire to grow up and write these types of books for children today?

R.C.L.:  I grew up in El Salvador. In my Salvadoran school, I read the Spanish classic books, Don Quixote and Marianela. I enjoyed reading the Salvadoran classic novel Jaraguá. I never took for granted how important my identity was until I came to the United States. I was lost in a new classroom and in a new language. All of a sudden, my name was a girl’s name, I lost one last name, and everything was upside down. It was right then, when I started to write about my family, my country, my culture and me.

A.R.:  As a teacher you are surrounded by your target audience everyday. What has their response been to your book, René Has Two Last Names, as well as to your other work? Do you ever bounce ideas for an upcoming project off of your students?

R.C.L.:  Students at Fernangeles loves René Has Two Last Names, after every reading, I ask them, “What is your name?” They always respond using their two last names. If they don’t know the mother’s last name, they go home and ask for that very important last name. The next day, they look for me, “My name is Veronica Garcia Leal.” My forthcoming book From North to South/ Del norte al sur (September 2010- Children’s Book Press) was born in the classroom, after my student Berenice told me that her father was in jail and then he would be deported to Mexico.

A.R.:  Do you feel your books are well received by non-Latino teachers and communities? Why or why not?

R.C.L.:  The books are well received. Even though my books are about Latino children, the hearts of the stories are universal. Everyone can identify with a loved one who is far away or the fear of visiting a family member in another country or state. I have heard that my books are even used in Asia in Spanish classes.

A.R.:  What are the best things about being a Latino author? What are the biggest challenges Latino writers face today?

R.C.L.:  The best thing about being a Latino author is that I can write about my culture in an authentic way. I had lived the immigrant experience and now live in two cultures. It is a privilege for me to tell my stories and to hear students responding, “That happened to me” or “My mamá and papá also lived your experiences.” Publishers are also looking for Latino authors to tell their stories. The biggest challenge is that Latino is a large minority group in the United States but they are not still represented in books. There are only a small portion of books about Latinos published each year. We need more!

A.R.:  What skills has the world of education equipped you with that you use when dealing with the world of publishing, and vice versa?

R.C.L.:  The classroom has equipped me with a collection of wonderful pictures that I can read and enjoy with my students. Children tell me their adventures and dreams. Revision is a major part of being a writer. In the classroom my students and I need to revise to create the most beautiful stories. I work well with my editors, for me revision is something wonderful because like in the classroom, I want to write great books that later children can enjoy all over the world.

Thank you so much for your time, René. It has been a pleasure to host you and your book, René Has Two Last Names/René tiene dos apellidos. I wish you much continued success with your writing and in life.
~Anna Rodriguez

Readers and visitors of The Sol Within, I welcome you and thank you for checking out my interview today.
Please leave a question or comment for Rene and your name will be entered in a drawing for a copy of Rene Has Two Last Names.  Be sure to read my other interviews and stop by again soon as I have lined up some wonderful interviews for 2010!

Wishing you dreams to fulfill and the inspiration needed to do so!
~the sol within~

The Sol Within features the bilingual picture book: Rene Has Two Last Names


Colato Laínez, René.

Pub. Houston, Tex. : Piñata Books/Arte Público Press, c2009.

• ISBN-10: 1558855300    • ISBN-13: 978-1558855304

Young René is from El Salvador, and he doesn't understand why his name has to be different in the United States. When he writes Colato, he sees his paternal grandparents, René and Amelia. When he writes Laínez, he sees his maternal grandparents, Angela and Julio. Without his second last name, René feels incomplete, "like a hamburger without the meat or a pizza without cheese or a hot dog without a wiener."

His new classmates giggle when René tells them his name. "That's a long dinosaur name," one says. "Your name is longer than an anaconda," another laughs. But René doesn't want to lose the part of him that comes from his mother's family. So when the students are given a project to create a family tree, René is determined to explain the importance of using both of his last names. On the day of his presentation, René explains that he is as hard working as Abuelo René, who is a farmer, and as creative as his Abuela Amelia, who is a potter. He can tell stories like his Abuelo Julio and enjoys music like his Abuela Angela.

This charming bilingual picture book for children ages 4 - 8 combines the winning team of author René Colato Laínez and illustrator Fabiola Graullera Ramírez, and follows their award-winning collaboration, I Am René, the Boy / Soy René, el niño. With whimsical illustrations and entertaining text, this sequel is sure to please fans and gain many new ones while explaining an important Hispanic cultural tradition.

Interview with author Rene Colato Lainez right here on Thursday, January 21st.  Stop by leave a comment or question for the author. 

Wishing you dreams to fulfill and the inspiration needed to do so!
~the sol within~