What's your book about? Who is the main character?
BLIZZARD BESTIES is a fun adventure in which twelve-year-old Vanesa will have to team up with other kids, and a terrifying giant dog, to save her little brother who might be lost in a blizzard because of her. Vanesa has a reputation for ruining family vacations, and she’s determined not to ruin this special one to Pinecloud Lodge. But to do so, she’ll have to learn to trust herself and others and accept all the help she can get, even if it comes from a ghost. (ed. Whoa! Plot twist!)
Did you start this at VCFA?
I started this novel after my graduation from VCFA, and once the book was contracted, the deadlines were very tight in order to hit the ideal publication date this coming winter. It comes out December 26! I never would’ve been able to revise with my editors in such a short time if I hadn’t been prepared by my training during the MFA program. My revision phase was a period to put into practice everything my wonderful advisors taught me about trusting my authorial voice, respecting my character’s voice, being true to myself and honest with my reader, and having a lot of fun while doing it. My classmate Suma Subramanian was one of my early readers and her wonderful feedback was super important in helping me make this book the best I could write.
Please tell us about your sensitivity reader service, and why it’s important
I have been a sensitivity reader for a long time, helping authors as they try to create authentic characters and situations that reflect the reality of a Latinx character. Now it was my time to receive this help! My character, Vanesa, is a California girl, and although we’re both Latinas, I’ve never lived in the Golden State and our lives are very different. I wanted to make sure that my characterization was right on point, and that I got those details that would make my character as authentic as possible. The Latinx experience is so broad and different depending on cultural background, and geographical location, and it was very important to me that my writing reflected this point. Even though my story isn’t an “issue” story, racial and cultural identity influence the character in crucial ways no matter what kind of story it is.
What’s your favorite indie bookstore?
My favorite indie bookstore is The King’s English. The Utah kidlit community is very active and prolific, and I love attending events at the bookstore or at different venues to support my fellow author friends.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ringby Angela Cervantes. From the beautiful cover by Rafael López and Angela’s amazing writing to the setting in Mexico City and the mystery surrounding a ring belonging to THE Frida, Paloma’s story is one readers will not want to miss!
Who is your agent and how did you find them?
My agent is Linda Camacho from the Gallt and Zacker Agency. Although she also attended VCFA, we didn’t overlap during the program, but when she started as a new agent and read an interview on Cynsations, I knew I wanted to work with her! I cold queried her, and she found me on the slush pile! Working with her has been the one changing factor in my career, and I couldn’t be more grateful for an agent who’s my advocate and who gets my writing in all levels. Gracias, Linda!
Anything else you want to share?
Working with my editors at Scholastic has been a life-changing experience. Debuting as part of the WISH line comes with the responsibility of my title living up to the expectations set by the rest of the wonderful stories that came before mine, and I’m thrilled that BLIZZARD BESTIES is in such amazing company! Although I’m naturally a summer creature, I can’t wait for winter to come back so I can share my story with the world!
Despite her record, Vanesa Campos was determined not to ruin her family’s vacation. Not this special one. Since getting off the airplane, nothing major had happened, but a whole week stretched out ahead that could turn into disaster. She could feel a catastrophe sneaking up on her.
She was wearing a million layers, but goose bumps covered her arms. Her ears popped. Maybe they did because the minibus was going full speed down a mountain road across Parley’s Canyon. They were headed toward Park City, Utah—and, hopefully, the world’s greatest ski vacation. Vanesa had her eyes shut so she wouldn’t get carsick. She twisted her new friendship bracelet between her fingers. It was the ugliest shade of brown in the world. Amber had promised Vanesa that after the break she could have a golden bracelet—if she became an official Sunshine Darling.
The shuttle came to a sudden stop, and the driver exclaimed, “Welcome to Pinecloud Lodge!”
Right on cue, Vanesa’s phone vibrated in her pocket, announcing the arrival of an avalanche of messages.
She sneaked her phone out carefully and peeked at the screen. Seeing that her notifications were in the double digits, she whispered, “Finally!” She also added a silent prayer of thanks to the Internet fairies. The PinecloudGuests Wi-Fi had three solid bars, which guaranteed uninterrupted connection to her friends. If she broke her perfect message streak with the group, her chance for permanent membership in the Darlings would vanish—she was already on probation.
She had to reply to all her messages, but that would have to wait a little longer. She slipped her phone back into her pocket. From the seat beside her, Mami pressed Vanesa’s free hand affectionately and smiled.
“Finally!” she echoed.
Vanesa pressed her mom’s hand back. In the seat ahead, Papi looked over his shoulder and gave them a thumbs-up, grinning like a little kid. Vanesa knew that her parents had been saving up for a long time for this real vacation—one that wasn’t just visiting family.
Hunter, her little brother, who sat next to Papi, turned around, his head popping over the seat. He spoke in a whisper that for sure carried to all the passengers. “Remember,” he said to Vanesa, “let’s not ruin this vacation. And when I say let’s, I mean don’t. I’ve never been on a real vacation before, and I’m seven-and-three-quarters years old already!”
Papi, Mami, and Vanesa cringed, but Hunter was too cute to tell off. Besides, he was only voicing everyone’s biggest concern. Luckily, Papi urged him to turn around again, shooting Vanesa an apologetic smile that didn’t make her feel any better.
Vanesa did have a reputation for ruining family outings.
Excerpt from Blizzard Bestiesby Yamile Saied Méndez © 2019. Used with permission from Scholastic Inc.
For a chance to win a pre-order copy of BLIZZARD BESTIES and Angela Cervantes’ WISH line book ALLIE, FIRST AND LAST, leave a comment and tell me what your favorite wintery activity is. That’s it!