Podcast: Delia Ruiz and Alex Villasante

Aug 16, 2023 | Essential Conversations, Latinx Voices, Podcasts, The Highlights Foundation Experience

What You’ll Find In this Podcast

Authors and Highlights Foundation team members Delia Ruiz and Alex Villasante joined George Brown to discuss the work they do for the organization, how they find community here, their works in progress, and the upcoming Latinx Kidlit Book Festival.

Podcast Highlights

Delia Ruiz on why she decided to write for kids:

I was a teacher before, and I did see a need [because] my students felt like they needed representation…. They did come from Latine households [where] we were not seeing a lot of authors that looked like them, or stories that were teaching concepts that I needed for my own meeting standards. And so that kind of inspired me…if it doesn’t exist, why not write it? [That] sparked me to create my own stories …and then from there, creating more stories with my own personal experiences as well.

Alex Villasante on why the Highlights In-Community retreats, especially the Latinx Voices In-Community Retreat, is so important: 

One of the reasons why it is important is when you’re from a specific background or marginalized group, there are things that you sort of have to explain to people who aren’t in that group…and coming together in a space where you don’t have to explain it, where everyone sort of understands…beyond that 101 is really wonderful and joyful, and it’s special.

Delia Ruiz discussing writing while working full-time:

I’ve kind of come to terms that writing looks different every day and it’s not always putting pencil to paper or tapping away at my laptop because some days writing for me is reading a book or going on a walk or having a brainstorm session in my head, listening to an audio book, and resting in between…and so sometimes writing looks like that for me, and I’ve had to just come to terms with thatjust to give myself grace that it’s okay if I didn’t get words down on paper because I actually was doing all of these creative processes that are included in the whole writing process.

Alex Villasante on the 2023 Latinx Kidlit Book Festival:

It’s a free virtual festival. It starts this year on September 22nd. It’s for four Fridays during Latinx Heritage Month and the audience is educators, kids in school, kids who are home schooled; it’s really our mission to get Latinx authors and illustrators on the radar of educators and kids.  It’s sort of that dual representation. We want Latinx kids to see themselves, and to see authors that are successful and illustrators are successful and like them. And we also want to…encourage that empathy for different cultures and different people.

Full Transcript

George: Hello listeners, this is George Brown coming to you from the Highlights Foundation. I just had a great interview with Alex Villasante and Delia Ruiz, both members of the Highlights Foundation community, as employees, as writers, students and faculty, and I think you’ll enjoy the session. Please take a listen. We’ll learn about their writing lives as well as the Latinx Voices In-Community Retreat in which they both participated. And we’ll also hear a little bit about the work they do with the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival, which happens in September.

Welcome to the Highlights Foundation Gather Podcast, where our mission is to positively impact children by amplifying the voices of storytellers to inform and educate and inspire children to become their best selves. Today’s guests are Alex Villasante and Delia Ruiz. Welcome. 

Delia: Thank you. 

Alex: Thank you for having us, George. 

George: So let’s have a little chat. We’ll get to know both of you a little bit and also talk about your experiences with the Highlights Foundation, which are lovely and many. Alex, you are the program manager of the Highlights Foundation. Maybe you could start and talk a little bit about just what your day job is and your writing life. 

Alex: So I do have some insider information, which is good. I am the program manager at the Highlights Foundation and I have been for a few years now, but I actually encountered the Highlights foundation as a student. So before it was published, I came up here for a summer camp and that experience really changed so many things. One, it gave me a huge community of writers and also agents and editors that I could sort of feel that I was part of their work. And I also learned a lot.

So, you know, it was summer camp. So there are these intensives and there’s breakout sessions and there’s, like so much information. And at the end of the night, you come together in community for a meal and have a good time. So you know writing, you know and illustrating–it’s lonely. It can be difficult to know if what you’re doing matters and having that community to support you and say, hey, we’re all doing similar stuff because we care about kids and representation.

That was really a game changer for me, so that was even before I started working for the Highlights foundation and now I feel like I get to do so many awesome things. You know, I get to do the Latinx voices retreat, it’s an in community retreat in the fall and I get to do lovely online things like mini workshops, all different kinds. We have a great horror one. It’s just there’s it’s a wonderful way to [be involved] even when my writing isn’t going that well or if I need inspiration. My day job and my night job sort of feed each other and that’s really wonderful. 

George: So that’s going to give me lots of questions to go on. Delia, how about you? Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Delia: Of course, happy to.  I am a program monitor here at Highlights. So behind the scenes I’m making sure things are organized in the Canvas classroom and then also monitoring some of our online classes, from workshops to minis. But before I even started working with Highlights, I actually attended the classes as a student and also as a scholarship recipient. So I received the scholarship last year which allowed me to attend a novel in verse workshop, which is something that I’m working on now. So through the Highlights Foundation I’ve been able to attend classes, find a sense of community, and then it intertwines in the sense that, you know, after work, I’m also working in the picture book world and in the writing world. So I really feel like I have the best job in the world. 

George: Oh, that’s awesome. And I mean, it’s no mistake. I guess that both of you came to find the Highlights Foundation through your passion for writing and then the work at the Highlights Foundation just kind of happened based on that passion, which is nice, right, to be able to like think about craft and writing in both worlds. 

Alex: That was great. 

George: Delia, was that novels in verse, was that one of the online classes? 

Delia: It was, it was Cordelia Jensen’s class. I’ve taken her novel in verse and the revising novel in verse class. So yes, I believe I started, I took that last year and then this year I monitored her revising course, so these are two classes I recommend from Highlights. 

George: OK. And so you’re working on this verse novel now and it’s always so complicated for me to think about like whether you’re thinking in prose and then converting it to poetry, or whether you’re thinking in poetry and like, how is that working for you? Is it coming out poetically? 

Delia: So I started working on my novel in verse project last year through a mentorship program, and for me I think it was easier, not necessarily, to write in prose, it was more poetic and in verse, and that’s how I’ve kept it throughout, but it’s definitely been out of order because sometimes I think of poems you know in an act three scenario versus an act one scenario. And so it’s coming along and the draft is completed, I’ve just let it sit for a while. So now that I’m on campus, that’s on my to-do list to revise now. 

George: So you’ve got your collection of poems and are they already in somewhat of an order or is that what this revision piece is about? 

Delia: That’s a good question. They are actually in order. They were not before, but I am going through and just making sure I’m hitting all of my beat points and making sure things are as organized before it even goes into a submission process. 

George: OK, alright. Alex, do you dabble in novels in verse? 

Alex: Not yet, although I do have an idea for a novel in verse, but I write novels that are really wordy. I write for YA. I write young adult because I like describing all those feelings. And you know, descriptions of sunsets and all the stuff. I think Delia has a beautiful talent also for writing picture books and that is that poet in you, Delia. I think, I’d aspire to that. 

George: And talk a little bit, I read your novel, was that your debut novel, the The Grief Keeper’s Daughter? 

Alex: The Grief Keeper. 

George: The Grief Keeper and it was fantastic. And so tell me where in relationship to the summer camp that you attended at the Highlights Foundation was that manuscript or did it have anything to do with your time at summer camp? 

Alex: I wrote part of The Grief Keeper on campus. So I had already had the idea for it…and that was my first book that sold.. and I’d been agented for about four years before then, so had been on submission, had rejections. And, you know, kept going. And again, like I mentioned before, that community piece is so crucial because it is hard. You will get rejections. You will feel stalled. You’ll wonder if you are doing something wrong?

And I think being able to have the space being up here on campus really is this wonderfully nurturing place for creators to just get that work done. Even online though, you have these connections that you make with other students, other peers, other faculty. So all of that to say that it was a huge influence in writing that first book and since then, even though my second book has not come out yet, because I am waiting for an edit letter from my editor, but I continue to write.

So I will by the end of next year have had five short stories in anthologies and that was something I would have never thought I could do. I actually remember I was on campus, and saw one of our faculty members, Katherine Locke. I stopped them and they not only have written short stories, but they’ve also edited short story anthologies and I asked them, Katherine how just HOW, I just don’t understand. And they said, just think of it as a moment. It’s a moment. A book is a series of moments. A short story is a moment, and that really unlocked something for me, and that happened right outside the barn, like on the steps right outside of the barn. And so from that moment and that engagement with the community, I’ve now written five short stories that are published. So it’s, yeah, it’s wonderful. 

George: And one of the things we think about at the Highlights Foundation is the what makes that magic, right? And I think it’s that it’s that balance of community and the time like sometimes I like to say, well, we’ll do the cooking and the cleaning and take you away from your daily routine so that you can just have time. But it’s more than that. Like it’s the natural environment, it’s the people, it’s the happenstance conversation. I was just up getting a glass of water and [saw] Nikki Shannon Smith who’s here on a retreat. She was talking about the last time she was here and she ran into someone she had met a year before at another conference. And so it’s like those little magic moments that sometimes I think helps spark that bit of creativity. 

Delia: Yeah, yeah, I agree. 

Alex: I think one of the hugest things, no matter where you are in your journey as a creator, is that you come here and we take you very seriously. You don’t have to show any proof that you are, you know? The writer or the creator or the illustrator that you say you are, you ARE here and that seeing yourself as a creator really does unlock something, especially if you’ve never had that recognition so that’s huge too. That’s kind of part of the magic. 

George: Well, Delia, you said you’re working on novel in verse, but I just read that you have these three bilingual concept books coming soon and Alex just said you are a picture book writer, so talk a little bit about more of your writing. 

Delia: Of course. So I would say picture books have my heart. I am dabbing in a young adult, but I still feel like I would choose a picture book world any day. 

Alex: Come over to the dark side, Delia! 

Delia: Slowly. But yes, my next three books do come out in September and they are three bilingual board books actually, that just teach primary concept to little ones from counting with salsa dancing to instruments and sounds with merengue, to manners and a little bit of consent with cumbia. So it was such a fun series to write and I started writing that when I was actually looking into Highlights and taking some of the classes. And so it kind of like helped shape some of my manuscripts. I believe I took the Crash Course at one point here and it kind of helped shape my world on what publishing looked like and so–wild journey, because two years later here we are and they’re about to be released. 

George: So talk a little bit more about like, how did your journey start? Did you wake up one day and say I want to learn to write for kids? Have you been a writer since third grade? 

Delia: Yes and no. I would say I was a teacher before and I did see a need for a lot of books where my students felt like they needed representation. And so a lot of the my students back in the day, they did come from Latine households and we were not seeing a lot of authors that looked like them and stories that were teaching concepts that I needed for my own, meeting standards and so that kind of inspired me to why not write it if it doesn’t exist? Why not write it? But have I always been a writer? In a sense, yes. I feel like I’ve always had a journal by my side and I’ve always been writing away or having a diary or a journal entry here and there. But I think what sparked me to create my own stories was seeing that need. And then from there, creating more stories with my own personal experiences as well. 

George: I love that it’s the intersection of the teaching part where you’re seeing and interacting with the kids and then recognizing that writing has been a part of your life. 

Delia: Right, yes. 

George: And Alex, tell me about your writing. Have you always been a writer? 

Alex: Not at all, and I always I find it really fascinating when people say I wanted to write since I was in third grade.  I wanted to paint. My father was a painter. I have some talent painting. I was like, I went to school for painting. I have a degree in painting. I have two degrees in painting. But really when I look back at that time, I realized what I was doing is telling stories and my main focus in all the art that I made was a narrative. You know, I wanted to communicate in a very narrative style, and eventually I realized, like the light bulb went on and I was like, what do I really want to do? I really want to write stories. I wonder if I can do that and again I didn’t know if I could because I went to school for something completely different. I mean, you know, my kids, when I tell them that I never actually had to write a paper in college, they are aghast. 

George: I bet. 

Alex: I had to paint like, you know, from life and do that and you know, do big art projects. But I never had to actually–don’t ask me about–like footnotes or any of that kind of stuff. I’m like, I don’t know what a thesis is. And I mean, I think I do, but anyway, I didn’t know I had permission to write because I thought, you know, I can paint. I have permission to do that. I have certificates that say I can do that, but can I write and so that journey was trying and finding things and Highlights was definitely a part of that. And also just online finding out like, well, what are some of the basic things that you do when you don’t know like about agents or about editors or the process. You know, that’s sort of like those baby steps and then you know, that next big step when you, you know, you think: this is what I want, you know, engaging with Highlights is really key. God, it’s almost like I work here, George, you know. 

George: You should. You should. 

Delia: Almost seems like it. 

George: Do you paint now? 

Alex: I don’t regularly, but I wish I did and I actually it’s one of the things that I want to do–it’s on like my list of things to get back into because now I can make art without feeling that pressure of  creating something singular or something that says something new. I’ve I think I’ve grown a lot as a creative person since those days when I felt those pressures, and I can just enjoy, like creating with your hands is really joyful. And I think I think I’d be ready to go back to that. We’ll see. 

George: But not like a picture book you want to illustrate it and write it? 

Alex: No, not. 

Delia: Maybe someday? 

Alex: I might. I might take a class on Procreate because I’m kind of interested in digital art making. But you know, I got some other things to do first. 

George: OK, so I want to know about how you write right? You both have jobs and writing is not your full time gig. Where does the writing fit in, Delia? 

Delia: Yeah, I’ve kind of came to terms that writing looks different every day and it’s not always putting pencil to paper or tapping away at my laptop because some days writing for me is reading a book or going on a walk or having a brainstorm session in my head, listening to an audio book, and resting in between and so sometimes writing looks like that for me, and I’ve had to just come to terms that giving you know, just to give myself grace that it’s OK if I didn’t get words down on paper because I actually was doing all of these creative processes that are included in the whole writing process. And so, as much as I would love to get words on paper every day, it looks different every week and there are weeks where I go with no words on paper, but I am brainstorming in my head in that sense, or I am resting. And then when I come back to my computer, I’m ready to go and I feel refreshed and I’m ready to tackle, you know that big project or deadline that I may have and so writing looks a little bit different each day. I would say that I am conscious to give myself some time and block out time for work and then block off enough time for some sort of creative writing thing. Whether it’s a rest day or whether it’s a walking day, or whether it’s I’m actually putting words on paper day. 

George: I love that. Just having the permission, giving yourself the permission that it doesn’t have to look like the exact thing every day sounds like there’s some amount of routine, but it’s a flexible routine still. 

Delia: Right. It is, yeah. 

George: Gets you there. 

Delia: It’s definitely a routine, I would say. And every single day I’m very conscious of my writing, it’s going to be at a set time, and most of those days have been more nights than days, and I know a lot of people are like “I have to do this before work” and I find it works better for me after work. After I take a break and then I can come back, feel more refreshed for some reason. So yes, having a routine. Works for me. 

George: And how about you, Alex? When do you write? 

Alex: Yeah, having a routine does not work for me. I think everything that, Delia said, is 100% truth and I also think that like rest is productive like, that’s something that we need to really understand. Because while you’re resting or while you’re reading a book, I mean, don’t even get me started about how writers need to read many, many, many words just to create some words. But it feels sometimes like, why aren’t I producing enough stuff? And I think that.

For me, I don’t have a schedule and I don’t have a sort of a set time, but what I do have is I make sure that I touch my story. The story that I’m working on right now. Every day and to me that means engaging with it, thinking about it, thinking about the characters. Maybe I’m looking something up, a small piece of research that I can just like if it’s a web page, I can just favorite that and save it. So it’s engaging in the work in progress, a little bit every day because that makes it continue to be real and it sort of plants those seeds that when I don’t have any time to sit down and write, I’ve those seeds are growing they’re actually bearing fruit because I’ve thought about what would this character do like you know or what would this character wear in this weather or in this time or to see this person so in that way, that’s my one through line.

The one thing that I do consistently, I do get a lot of texts from my friends that are like “hey, did you write today?” Mia Garcia, NoNieqa Ramos, we’re on a text thread together and that goes back to the community thing. They’ll be like, “who wrote today?” And then everyone like puts in a meme of like uh-oh I failed you know. But that’s also supporting each other, reminding each other and letting each other know that it’s OK if you didn’t. 

George: And so these are some of your writing friends, your writing community, and you’ve just created a casual accountability, so to speak, fantastic, which what a segue! 

Alex: Yes, yes. I know, right? 

George: Let’s talk about Latinx Voices and the In-Community retreat. 

Alex: Yeah, so with this, this retreat is so near and dear to my heart. And actually I brought it to Alison Green Meyers, our program director, before I started working here because Highlights has always made space for in community retreats because it’s really important and you know if you hadn’t thought about it you know, one of the reasons why it is important is when you’re from a specific background or marginalized group, there are things that you sort of have to explain to people who aren’t in that group. And coming together in a space where you don’t have to explain it, where everyone sort of understands that sort of like beyond that 101 is really wonderful and joyful, and it’s special.

So we we’ve had the Latinx Voices retreat I think this will be our 4th year, two years online because of the pandemic and this will be our 4th year, 2nd of doing it in person and Delia was there last year. So we had a good time, right? There’s a lot of, there’s a lot of supporting each other. There’s a lot of time to create, but there’s also time to talk about the industry. And you know different things that we face when we’re in that community. So I love it is what I’m saying. 

George: And I think Delia, like with this, this Latinx Voices In-Community retreat. Like all of our in Community retreats, there’s a lot of that soft time. 

Delia: Yes, definitely. I had the pleasure of attending last year’s event, which was around late fall as well and it was such an amazing experience to be with others in community and just come together and not only talk about the publishing world, but also talk about personal life and work, talk about our works in progress. And in a very just, just very peaceful and nice environment in an area where you know the space has like a magical feeling. So we’re all feeling so inspired and motivated. And so I’m sad that I don’t get to come again this year, but I know that the people that come this time around are going to have the best time and they’re going to receive the best experience, because if I could come again, I certainly will. So we’ll see what next year holds. 

Alex: You can always crash it. 

George: And I guess one of the things I think we have a hard time almost describing about our In-Community retreats is that balance between curriculum and no curriculum. And I think for somebody who really wants to review an agenda in advance before they sign up for something with our In-Community retreats, you really don’t get that. But it sounds like you still get a lot out of it, like and I wonder like how one processes that concept of I’m signing up for something that doesn’t have a full curriculum, but I can get something from it? 

Alex: I think a lot of the the things. For example, last year that that were what you would call a craft or a craft-focused session came organically and that organic-ness; really the wonderful thing about it is that it takes into account the people who are there so it’s very specific. It comes out of the groups’ needs so we had Mia Garcia and I did 2 optional drop-in writing prompts– one early in the morning, one late at night and the people who could go, like the night owls and the early birds, and the people who would go to the night one were different from the ones that came in the morning, but out of all of those writing prompts, we have the most beautiful and heartfelt stories come out of which they read during open mic.

So that was that combination of, you know, this is optional, but also come when it suits you and when you have time and if you didn’t have time because you were on deadline. Which also happens then that was OK too. So I think that In-Community retreats are really for people who are looking for to, to definitely focus on their craft, but maybe not in a way that is more like I’m going to take a class, I’m going to have the opportunity to focus on my craft and to talk to others about craft. 

Delia: Yeah, because we definitely last year we had the opportunity to kind of decide as a group what we’d like to do and what kind of things we’d like to talk about and what kind of sessions we kind of wanted to do, whether that was more writing prompts or did we want more writing time? Did we want more like craft activities? As Alex mentioned, it really depends on the group, the group kind of comes together and you kind of fill it out to see how are people, are people leaning towards this or that and that whole time, I mean, you’re building community, you’re building connections and friendships that you know, last way past once the session’s over. We all keep in touch. 

George: And while there may not be a lecture on plot or pacing or voice, I can imagine a conversation happens over the dinner table where you say, oh, I’m really having a hard time kind of making this whole plot unfold the way it should. And then…

Alex: That’s like you’re at the dinner table and somebody is talking to you about multiple point of views and you break out like the salt shaker, the pepper shaker, and like, a couple of spoons. And you’re like, OK. This is your first point of view and then you draw a diagram and that’s sort of when the craft happens. Craft happens at the dining table. 

Delia: Real life. 

Alex: So it’s in real life, so it works great. 

George: I love that. I love that. OK, so this has been a great conversation. I want to just ask a couple more questions and then finish up because an important part of the community is the meal and I know we’re getting close to the meal time, but Delia, you’re here. Want to tell us what you’re doing here, actually today this week?

Delia: So right now I am on campus for the Sera Rivers Agency retreat. So I’m here as one of her clients, which, funny enough, Sera’s class is one of the first classes that I took at Highlights as a student, learning how to create a query letter. And funny enough, I used her template to query her, and here we are. 

George: It worked. 

Alex: It worked. 

Delia: It definitely worked because now it’s full circle. Now I’m here on campus as a client now, and it’s an exciting journey because things are rolling we’re on submission and even on here on campus, I’ve had time to not only like work on my stuff, but also have one-on-ones with my agent and also meet my agent siblings. So it’s been a wonderful process so far. 

George: And I love this model. So Sera, as an agent, just invited all of her clients to meet her here. It’s not a Highlights Foundation program, but she said: “Hey, would you like to meet me at the Highlights Foundation and we’ll spend a couple of days?”

Delia: Yes, I think she’s been doing it for at least I know, last year she did it and she’s looking to maybe do this again next year. So I’m all for it. So if she plans it next year, you bet I’ll be back. 

George: And that’s our pitch to all agents, invite your clients. 

Alex: Yeah, come on down. 

George: Come spend a couple of days and it’s invaluable time. Oh well I’m so glad and it’s another one of those fun cross-sections of your relationship with the Highlights Foundation. 

Delia: That’s true. 

George: Right, like all of these. The pieces as a student, as working as a writer. Let’s see that. 

Delia: Yeah, I think that if I had not taken her class, I would still be pondering “what is a query letter?” What do I do? And luckily that class allowed me, it was a mini class and I believe she taught it last year twice in the beginning of the semester and then closer to the fall, wonderful course. But if I had not taken that class, I don’t know where I would be. I don’t know if I would still be, you know, Googling “what is a query letter.”

George: Well, and there’s a great pitch for the Highlights foundation online mini classes because they’re those just those little snippets in the 60 to 90 minute session. 

Delia: You get so much out of them. 

George: You get something that helps you get to that next step. I love that. Alex, tell us what you’re doing here on campus this week. 

Alex: What aren’t I doing here?  I have many hats. I have maybe too many hats, but anyway I’m wearing my program manager hat while I’m up here. I am talking and planning and dreaming about 2024 offerings, so that’s something that we just always get excited about I’m also–another hat, change your hat–I’m also working with the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival, which I’m one of the co-founders of, and Highlights Foundation is a sponsor of. So we’re looking at all the ways that those these communities intersect. The festival is a free virtual festival. We’re going into our 4th year. Well, Delia also works for the festival. 

Delia: That’s true. 

Alex: OK, like what happens is when we find cool people and we always find cool people on campus, we like take them and go: “Hey, would you like to work with us in many different ways?” And luckily they say yes. So we are working on the festival, which starts in September. September 22nd is the first Friday of the festival. We have some cool people. Can I say who they are? 

George: So well, just back up a little bit and just talk about the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival and exactly kind of who the audience is, the dates and kind of how it works? 

Alex: Yeah. So it’s a free virtual festival. It starts this year on September 22nd. It’s for four Fridays during Latinx Heritage Month and the audience is educators, kids in school, kids who are home schooled, it’s really our mission is to get Latinx authors and illustrators on the radar of educators and kids, it’s sort of that dual representation. We want Latinx kids to see themselves and to see authors that are successful and illustrators are successful and like them. And we also want to, you know, encourage that empathy for different cultures and different people. The term Latinx is so many encompassing it contains multitudes. We have Afro Latinx. We have, I can’t remember how many countries, many, many countries that consider themselves Latinx. So we are trying to really celebrate and amplify all of those voices with a free set of days that has, oh God, what are the some of the things that we’re doing that. Doing craft sessions. 

Delia: We’re doing craft, we’re doing an illustrator draw-off, some game panels. 

Alex: Those are fun. 

Delia: Those should be super fun. On I believe there’s like a novel in verse craft one. Oh, I have to think. There’s so many sessions. 

George: You have authors teaching craft for others interested in writing?

Alex: For kids, it’s specifically for kids, so it’s really sort of a support to existing curriculum in the classrooms. 

George: The audience is the kids, so teachers are tuning in home, school, parents, etc, with their children. 

Alex: It’s specifically for kids, correct. Yeah, exactly. 

George: So the sessions you’re talking about are for children. They’re geared for a child audience. 

Alex: For children. It’s K through 12. And it’s we do as much as we can to get this content to support and mirror the curriculum that that teachers are using at school because we want them to see that these Latinx illustrators and authors can fit into their existing curriculum. So it’s just a lot of fun too, like the draw-offs are amazing. Because we’ll have illustrators take comments live from kids like “draw a kitten eating an ice cream, skateboarding on a pickle,” and then it’s like all the illustrators are trying to illustrate that really quickly and it’s great because the kids see, like, it’s such a wonderful example of their words having power– boom! They say it and it’s there, and that’s just like we love that. So it’s a lot of fun. 

Delia: Yeah, that’s one of my favorites to watch. 

George: Oh, absolutely fantastic. Well, we look forward to hearing how that goes in September. And so you said you were here to do some programming for the Highlights Foundation, some work on the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival. Are you going to do anything for yourself, is there going to be a little Alex Villasante writing tonight? 

Alex: Yes, yes, I do actually have some copy edits to do for my most recent short story, which I of course can I remember the name of any of it. Yes, it’s called We Mostly Come Out at Night, so it’s an anthology of young adult short stories that it’s really fun. It’s a sort of villain or queer villain origin stories. So the brief was pick a villain and sort of tell the story from their perspective, this sort of like, you know, the idea being that, you know, in a lot of situations where people are being homophobic, it’s sort of like making queer people into monsters or villains and sort of like regaining that. So I picked the sea witch, which I had the best time writing about the sea witch and making her really wonderful, but still like still villainous, but in the in the in a really cool way. So we’ll see. So I have to do those copy edits so. 

George: Ohh, that’s fun.  

Delia: That is sounds exciting. I’m looking forward to that. 

Alex: It’s fun yeah, yeah. 

George: Well, thank you so much, Delia Ruiz, Alex Villasante for joining us at the Highlights Foundation on our HF Gather podcast. Thank you for the work you do to inspire children just as the Highlights Foundation mission does and with that. Shall we head to the barn and have a meal? 

Alex: Yes, let’s do it. 

Delia: Thank you, George. 

Thank you to our faculty for this Guest Post!

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