The Monsters of Chavez Ravine will always be my favorite “book child,” so I was thrilled to learn that it’s an International Latino Book Awards finalist for Best Novel Fantasy/Sci-Fi English. Empowering Latino Futures will announce the awards in October.

Here’s why it’s such a big deal to me:

1.     I’m an independently published author who began writing full-time later in life, after a career in news. Why did I go this route? Because I don’t have a long ramp of time to write, query, and wait for responses from the traditional publishing establishment. The time to publish a book with a social injustice theme was now. Not years from now. Besides, I love the control that comes with self-publishing. That said, most of your validation comes from within. An award like this acts as confirmation that you haven’t lost your mind, that you are, in fact, an author, and one worthy of consideration for such an amazing distinction.

2.     It’s a LATINO book award! Not bad for a gal who got called a Pocha all her life. Meaning a Mexican American who isn’t one thing or another. Now I own the whole Pocha thing because as the nice man from behind the meat counter at Hernandez Market assured me, I get to enjoy the best of both worlds.

3.     Becoming a finalist isn’t just for me. Hopefully, it will shine a brighter light on this novella that is about the social injustice suffered by the thousands of Mexican Americans evicted from their homes in the old neighborhoods of Palo Verde, Bishop and La Loma in Los Angeles.

4.     As a kid, I loved to write stories, but it never occurred to me it was something I could do when I grew up. My family had blue-collar jobs, and my going away to college was a big enough leap into the unknown. College meant taking classes that could get me a more interesting job. That meant courses in journalism and TV news production, not creative writing classes.

5.     How did I learn how to write books? By being a lifelong reader, reading about the craft of writing, and endless hours of writing. And I will never stop learning and, hopefully, improving. Monsters might not be a perfect book, but it was written with all my heart and soul.