I met Bettina through her daughter, Marisol. Mari and I have young boys and we both recently moved to Mill Valley. We kind of fell in friendship love the first time we met. Of course she asked me what I did, and I said, I write. She quickly put her mother, Bettina, and I in touch.
Bettina amazed me the first time we spoke. I am a newbie writer, hoping to get my first novel published. Bettina has 5 books out (Chiquita's Cocoon, Chiquita's Diary, The Millionaire$$ Across the Street, Mujeres Millionarias, Write to 1,000,000) and one of them is translated into other languages, another is even required college reading. And yet, this highly acclaimed author took time to talk shop with me. She answered my questions, not once tiring of my over excitement or lack of confidence. She welcomed me as an equal in the world of writing and I will forever be grateful.
Bettina is BOLD, loving, kind, and gracious. She is a women on a mission. Her love of life, creativity, and people from all walks reflects in her smile. If ever you hear her speak, or attend a workshop, or book signing, don't be shy. Bettina loves her craft and will be open and honest with you too.
Below are her answers to the questions I posed:
1. If someone said, "Chiquita's Cocoon changed my life!" What would they be referring to?
The attainment of their dreams for themselves.
2. What time do you get up to start your creative day?
I'm a 4-5am early bird, especially when I'm writing.
3. I once read an article that said, "White people do not see people of color, therefore they do not write them into their stories." Do you believe this is true?
For the most part, def. true. I mean, how often do you read or hear about ethnic groups in the mainstream media?
4. In 5 words describe your creative day.
Only five words.? ...... write, walk, communicate, declutter, bubble-bath.
5. How many rejections did you get before Chiquita's Cocoon was published?
Nearly 100 or more. Funny thing, a publisher who rejected Chiquita, later offered me a six figure contract.
6. What made you want to write that story?
No choice. ....a compulsion.
7. Where does your inner strength come from?
Adversity and hard work as a migrant worker: picking grapes, cotton, tomates, etc.
8. How did you discover your true writer's voice?
From my English teacher at Fresno City College. I attempted to write like Hemingway during a class exercise; she whispered in my ear, "You're a good writer. Use your own voice."
9. What one word best describes you?
10. Do you believe that the world of writing people of color is changing?
Not fast enough.
11. Do you like that phrase, "people of color"? Do you think, in writing, we are moving toward all just being, "people"?
No, I don't like "people of color" or using the word "minority." Guess who gets the publishing contracts and the big advances???
12. Are your family members supportive of your creative career?
I hope so. Once I heard my oldest son saying to his girlfriend: "What are you talking about? Didn't you read my mother's book?"
And back then, my kids were always asking, "Mom, what page am I on in your book?"
13. Where did your characters come from?
I believe characters come from many places-- our own lives, our imaginations, books, television, plays, radio, walks in nature like Muir woods and those grand old "Classic" funny mags.
I also remember going to the Mexican "sho" (show) with my Mama and coming out mesmerized by the entertainment.
A big movie for me was the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II back in the '50s (I think.) My favorite book, which I read at least ten times--Gone With the Wind..............
14. What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you lately?
I hit a parked car of all places....at the library where I volunteer. Ai!!
15. Who is your biggest role model and why?
Scarlet O'Hara. Tough, smart, beautiful and BOLD!
16. What are you working on now? Do you have a publishing date?
I'm working as a book developer for several clients.
1. Vietname Sojourn
2. The Dorothy K. Story.
I have two of my own works in progress, but just not ready to release my "perfect" titles. I hope to finish both by January 2012. I also have some freelance magazine pieces going; again, I cherish keeping my subjects and titles until that magic time..........
Also, I won the "GuidePost's" mag last writing contest.
17. What are your goals for the next 3 years?
I'm an idea person so who knows what I'll come up with? Maybe I'll get one of my inventions off the ground.
18.Which authors influenced you during your childhood?
As a child I read voraciously. By 12 I'd read the classics and, for me, the thicker the book the better.
Hmmm... favorite authors: M. Mitchell, Michener, Steinbeck, M. Mead, A. Rand, Pearl S. Buck, etc. And although I don't recall the author, the book THE CHILDREN OF SANCHEZ wins first place.
Reading now: The Help, Eat, Pray, Love and when Moneyball comes to the library, I'll check it out. I read 3-5 books a week.
19. When you hear that a college course requires students to read Chiquita's Cocoon – what is your first reaction?
Amazing! I had hoped to help a few women but Chiquita's Cocoon helped tens of thousands. My cup runneth over. Y que viva la raza.
20. How can my blog readers help you become an even bigger success?
Pass the word around: Chiquita's Cocoon is still alive.
There are copies of it on Amazon for $200. Why do people insist on ripping their own customers off and authors to boot. Ai. Also, I'm still in the speaker's circuit. I am my own agent, of course.
Getting on Oprah couldn't hurt - email her and tell her about my works.
21. Who is the most proud of you?
22.What do you keep on your writing desk – your must haves?
Red dictionary, red thesaurus, red easy ref. speller. Red is BOLD. Beautiful rocks of my power animals, a bat and a butterfly. And a Chinese message of Peace, Happiness, Prosperity and Longevity.