Armida Espinoza is a retired bilingual elementary school teacher and the author of Brave Lolis Learns English / LA VALIENTE LOLIS APRENDE INGLÉS, her brand new, bilingual children’s book. To celebrate this accomplishment, I sat down with Armida to chat about the book, what inspired it, and how she found her way to becoming a published author.
MIRIAM LAUNDRY: Hi Armida! Congratulations on your new book, Brave Lolis Learns English. Can you tell us who this book is for and when you started writing it?
ARMIDA ESPINOZA: Brave Lolis Learns English is for children three to nine years old. The idea came after my editor had pointed out a number of issues with the story that I wanted to initially publish. I finally realized that perhaps there was another story that I needed to tell. I put that story to the side, and just really kept asking myself, what was my story? What was I meant to share with the world? That’s when Lolis was born.
ML: What inspired you to become an author?
AE: I had started with writing poetry over 25 years ago and gradually moved into children’s stories for just my eyes. I did allow my husband to read them but that was the extent. As I sat in contemplation of the stories I was writing, I started allowing myself to really internalize the emotions of my own childhood, which brought me to a discovery, that I could share with the public what I felt as a child, and just perhaps, help a child walk through his/her challenges in a more productive way. Negative self-talk can be so harmful.
ML: And what inspired you to write Lolis’ story in particular?
AE: As I allowed myself to reconnect with my childhood feelings, the one incident that impacted me most, kept surfacing … sitting at the kidney table in the back of the classroom, in first grade, and feeling shame that I didn’t know all my ABC’s. As a second-language learner, learning English was not easy. This experience, and the shame I felt of not being smart, stayed with me throughout my high school years. And then of course, as I got older, the negative self-talk just added to the shame.
ML: I’m sorry you had to go through that, Armida. But you’ve turned that experience into a wonderful bilingual children’s book that I’m sure will comfort many children who experience the same things. Is that why it was so important to you to share the message in this book?AE: As long as we have children facing the challenge of learning a new language, we need to make sure to provide them with techniques that will have them manage their feelings and emotions so they can push through the long haul. Learning a new language takes from seven to nine years. Children are going to go through millions of academic and social challenges in the process. Teaching them to be patient with themselves, take a lot of deep breaths, and give yourself positive affirmations is so crucial to having success.
ML: What was your biggest challenge when writing this book?
AE: The editing piece. Sharon is an amazing editor as is Lauren. But having someone dissect my writing is still not easy. I needed to have faith and trust that everyone was on my side and wanted only the best for my book.
ML: And what was the biggest lessons you learned during the whole process?
AE: That I can do it! Whatever I put my mind to. I just need to seek out help, stay the course, and cross the finish line.
ML: Well said! Speaking of seeking out help, you decided to join Publishing Mastermind for this book. Why did you decide to join the program?
AE: I’m a believer that things come to you when they're supposed to. Children’s Book Masterclass popped up on my social media first. After this class, everything I learned, all the support that was given, I knew I needed to take the plunge into committing myself to publish my book, hence Publishing Mastermind.
ML: What was the biggest value Publishing Mastermind provided?
AE: I had never taken any classes in writing or publishing, so quite frankly, everything I learned was of value. Being a part of a writer’s community was priceless. There were really so many parts that were my favourite. But if I had to pick one, it would be the community that I was surrounded by, Miriam, all her staff, and of course, all the other writers in my group. The support and encouragement that was given along the way, made all the difference.
ML: Did you create any fun memories during the publishing process?
AE: It was mind-boggling how many folks opened-up to me and shared their personal challenges of learning English when I told them about Lolis. Here I thought, all my life, that I was the only one being so challenged, only to find out that so many others had a similar experience, at some point in their life’s journey. We are more alike than different.
ML: That’s very true. Is that what you hope parents and children will take away from this book?
AE: I hope parents can remind children that learning something new is not always easy, but if you just take a deep breath, tell yourself that you can learn something new, be patient with yourself, you will learn it. Give yourself some time to learn it. Enjoy the learning…
ML: And if you could share any advice with an aspiring author, what would that advice be?
AE: Keep writing, editing, and rewriting. The finish line is within reach. Stay the course. Don’t hold back from seeking professional help. Learn from the experts.
ML: Well said, once again. Thank you, Armida.
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To connect with Armida and learn more about her book you can follow her on Facebook.
Armida Espinoza is a retired bilingual elementary school teacher. She is a first-generation Mexican American and faced many of the same challenges second-language learners endure today.
Armida hopes to write stories that meet young second-language learners where they are, validate the reality they live through, and help them conquer their greatest fears and insecurities.
Armida currently lives in Fresno, California with her husband and three furry friends, Luna, a boy named Sue, and Cutie Boy.