Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Guest Post and Giveaway: Yakimali's Gift by Linda Covella


It’s 1775 in Mexico, New Spain, and 15-year-old Fernanda Marquina, half Pima Indian and half Spanish, can’t seem to live up to her mother’s expectations or fit into the limited female roles of her culture. While she tends her garden, matches wits with buyers and sellers at the weekly market, and avoids Mama’s lectures and the demands of Nicolas, the handsome soldier pursuing her, Fernanda grabs any opportunity to ride the horses she loves, racing across the desert, dreaming of adventure in faraway lands.

But when a tragic accident presents her with the adventure she longed for, it’s at a greater cost than she could have ever imagined. With her family, Fernanda joins Juan Bautista de Anza’s historic colonization expedition to California.

On the arduous four-month journey, Fernanda makes friends with Feliciana, the young widow Fernanda can entrust with her deepest thoughts; Gloria, who becomes the sister Fernanda always wished for; and Gloria’s handsome brother Miguel, gentle one moment, angry the next and, like Fernanda, a mestizo–half Indian and half Spanish. As Fernanda penetrates Miguel’s layers of hidden feelings, she’s torn between him and Nicolas, who has joined the journey in the ranks of Anza’s soldiers and whose plans include marrying Fernanda when they reach California.

But propelling Fernanda along the journey is her search for Mama’s Pima Indian past, a past Mama refused to talk about, a past with secrets that Fernanda is determined to learn. The truths she discovers will change the way she sees her ancestry, her family, and herself.

Don’t Go It Alone! 

“Seek out those who inspire and encourage you, then pay it forward later on.” 

This advice popped up in a tweet by Debbie Ohi, a writer and illustrator living in Toronto, Canada. She intended it for aspiring writers and illustrators, but I think it’s great advice for anyone working toward some dream, some goal. 

It’s also a perfect introduction to what I wanted to discuss today: whatever dream you’re trying to achieve, don’t go it alone! There are communities for all areas of interest where you’ll find advice, support, and camaraderie, where people have the same hopes and aspirations as you, where newbies get answers and experts provide guidance. 

When I decided to pursue writing professionally, I was the Lone Writer. I didn’t wear a mask, but I may as well have the way I isolated myself. I loved the writing, but hated the thought of exposing my stories (myself) to others. Hmmm, do you see a conflict here? I wanted to be published, but was afraid to let others read my work—really, afraid of criticism. 

I eventually learned how my isolation was only making my road to publication rougher. That the community I finally joined—the writing community, that is—was filled not with mean-spirited, competitive grouches whose intent was to tear down my writing, but with the most generous, helpful and supportive people I could ever have imagined. 

I soon discovered and became a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). (And learned to roll those letters off my tongue as smoothly as long-time members.) I started going to conferences, which not only helped me meet other writers from the area, but opened up opportunities for professional critiques and for submitting my work to otherwise closed or hard-to-reach editors and agents. 

I’ll admit it was difficult for me—and still is—to “put myself out there” at conferences, to step up and introduce myself to strangers, to approach editors or agents with a question or a story pitch. But it’s getting easier, and the people I meet couldn’t be nicer or more helpful. 

No matter what genre you write in, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, there is probably an organization for you. Even a general writers’ group will be helpful. Writers Write website has a comprehensive list of writers associations and organizations

Critique Groups 
Social networking on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. are also great ways to connect with other writers. But of all the things I did to “put myself out there,” the best was to join a critique group. Now, it seems I wasted precious time trying to go it alone. I can’t imagine being without the support of my five writing partners. Maybe I would have gotten to where I am today without them. But I know my writing and stories are richer thanks to their input, thoughts, and suggestions on plot and character, not to mention their sharp eyes that find each spelling and grammatical error! 

I “met” one of my writing partners in an online children’s writing class. I was drawn to her wry sense of humor, and I liked her writing. When the class was over, she suggested we form a critique group. But I, the Lone Writer, was not ready to take that plunge into full exposure. We kept in touch, and one year later, I wrote the fateful words, “Let’s do it.” 

We created a set of rules, how and when to submit, etc., and posted an announcement on the SCBWI bulletin board. We soon had our critique group—all conducted online with our members located from Alaska to New York. We’ve been together now for over ten years. 

We’ve shared our stories, our critiques, our ideas. We’ve supported each other through triumphs and through disappointments--not just in our writing, but in our personal lives as well. They’ve enriched my writing and my life. 

Join the community. Don’t be a Lone Writer, and don’t wait another day. Venture out. Once you do, I’ll bet you’ll be asking yourself, Why did I wait so long? 

Do you find support in fellow writers? If so, how?


Fernanda noticed a young man and girl who’d been listening to Feliciana, the girl smiling, the man scowling. They rode beautiful horses with strong limbs, shiny coats, and silky manes and sat on skillfully tooled saddles. Then she realized they were the ones she’d seen riding past her home, and the memory of the young man’s look rippled through her body.

Fernanda thought he might be eighteen or nineteen. Even though he was dressed casually, it was obvious his clothes were of the highest quality. The majority of men, in spite of the heat, wore either jackets or mantles, capes saved for formal occasions or traveling. This man’s scarlet jacket was bundled and tucked into a saddlebag. The finely woven cotton of his blue shirt, free from grime and sweat, settled softly over the breadth of his shoulders and muscled biceps. The collar lay open, exposing small beads of sweat on his broad chest. The material of his breeches wasn’t the thick, practical plush common in Tubac. Instead, though the fabric appeared durable, it was thinner and showed off the thick muscles of his thighs, the same way his stockings clung to his toned calves.

The girl, close to Luis’s age, was also richly dressed. She wore a white silk rebozo, woven with red flowers and threads of gold and silver. Her skirt, the color of burnished silver, was also silk, and a red ribbon with the same gold and silver embroidery as her shawl decorated the end of her braid.

Why were they on this expedition? Certainly poverty hadn’t prompted them to join. Their looks made it clear they were brother and sister. Where were their parents? As Fernanda passed them, the girl shyly waved to her. Both she and her brother had dark eyes, hers open and friendly, his hard and hostile. She remembered his eyes that had held such a mixture of emotion—surprise, sadness…desire?—she hadn’t been able to look away. Now, they held only anger.

About the author:
Linda Covella’s varied job experience and education (associate degrees in art, business and mechanical drafting & design, a BS degree in Manufacturing Management) have led her down many paths and enriched her life experiences. But one thing she never strayed from is her love of writing.

A writer for over 30 years, her first official publication was a restaurant review column in a local newspaper, and as a freelance writer, she continued to publish numerous articles in a variety of publications. But when she published articles for children’s magazines (“Games and Toys in Ancient Rome” and “Traveling the Tokaido in 17th Century Japan,” in Learning Through History magazine, and “Barry’s Very Grown Up Day” in Zootles magazine), she realized she’d found her niche: writing for children. She wants to share with kids and teens her love of books: the worlds they open, the things they teach, the feelings they express.

Yakimali’s Gift, a historical novel for young adults published by Astraea Press, and middle grade paranormal The Castle Blues Quake published by Beau Coup Publishing are her first novels.

She’s a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

No matter what new paths she may travel down, she sees her writing as a lifelong joy and commitment.


Linda Covella said...

Thank you for having me on your blog! I enjoyed the opportunity to write a guest post. And thank you for spotlighting Yakimali's Gift!

Maria Behar said...

GREAT post, Linda, with wonderfully helpful advice for aspiring (ane even veteran) writers! I will bookmark this page for future reference!

And thanks to MYTHICAL BOOKS for bringing us this very helpful post!! : )

Linda Covella said...

Thank you, Maria! I'm glad you found the post helpful. :-) Best wishes!