Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
Children’s literature, despite the cutesy reputation, is a freer genre than most. Working in a school library, I’m always shocked at what is out there for kids. Sometimes, I wonder who would have ordered that book, but most of the time I’m just thrilled to find books that are so clever and funny and wish I had thought of those ideas first. I love the playfulness and creativity and color of the genre. Grown-up fiction just doesn’t have the same liberty in it. Which is why when I read as an adult, I go to non-fiction.
Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
I am an extremely shy person. I’ve gotten much better at hiding it, but it’s true. I remember in high school being given free-writing assignments which I had never tried before. I just studied and kept my mouth shut. However, in that first five minutes of free-writing, pages and pages of everything I had wanted to say or to shout came pouring out. Every time we had this exercise, I found myself running out of paper. Even I was shocked at the words flowing from my pen. It wasn’t loud, but in writing I had a much bigger voice that I had ever known. I love to write because it makes me feel fearless.
What do you think most characterizes your writing?
Whether it’s movies, books or music, I like surprises and twists. I will stop reading or watching if I can tell what is going to happen at the first page. I try to make sure to infuse either an element of unexpectedness in my writing, quirks and weirdness, or something for the reader to learn. It’s like I tell my students, if you are not excited as you write it, no one will be excited to read it.
What do you like to read in your free time?
As odd as it might sound, I devour non-fiction. I usually pick something in the arts, but it could be just about anything. Lifelong learning is addicting.
What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.?
Not all children go to museums on the weekend, travel, or have real conversations at home. That’s the beauty of multicultural children’s literature. The kids can be exposed to other cultures far outside their bubble, and we can erase prejudices and judgments implanted in them that they didn’t even realize they had. They are allowed to be curious and ask questions in a safe environment. They connect to others from cultures they may have never encountered. Their world expands.
What is the most useful writing advice you ever received? The least useful?
I asked another author what I am supposed to do in the very long downtime waiting for a book to be released. The answer was, “you write the next one.” So simple, yet, the best advice one can get. You are never done. Also, in a tie for first place, “do your research.” It just makes you look unprofessional to submit blindly. The worst advice, “write anything that will pay.” This is not horrible advice considering you can research and write about just about anything. Yet, in doing so, I discovered that writing about topics just for a small fee killed the joy in writing for me. It made me want to just stop writing. Doing so, I learned an important lesson, when to say no. Sometimes you have to.
What projects are you working on at the present?
My first middle grade chapter book is under contract now for release this year. It’s called Kindertransport: A Child’s Journey, about the trip taken by Jewish children on a train to England just before the breakout of World War II. It is based on the experiences shared with me by Kindertransport survivors during a research trip to University of Connecticut in 2011. We also created some oral histories of the interviews which are available at the Dodd Research Center at UConn.
TOP TEN Favorite Books: these books in my genre (a couple not) embody imagination, adventure and exploration-a few of my favorite things. And being silly helps, too!
1-Alice in Wonderland
2-Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
3-The Giving Tree
5-Memoirs of a Geisha
8-Emily’s Blue Period
9-Children Make Terrible Pets
10-This Book Just Ate My Dog
Kena Sosa grew up in San Antonio, surrounded by the rich, vivid scenery of its unique culture. She attended Our Lady of the Lake University in historic downtown before living a
while in Japan and Mexico. She then moved to Dallas, Texas with her husband, welcoming two sons into her family. She is now a school librarian in Dallas, Texas, and enjoys sharing exciting stories from all over the world with her eager readers. Rey Antonio and Rey Feo is her first children’s book. She continues to write and create stories that both educate and entertain. She will publish her second children’s book, Kindertransport: A Child’s Journey, in 2016.
She is currently promoting her first picture book, a bilingual tale from 4RV Publishing called Rey Antonio and Rey Feo: A San Antonio Fiesta Story.
Kena will be participating in a panel discussion at the North Texas SCBWI Meeting on March 19th. For more information, please visit this link.
Featuring REY ANTONIO and REY FEO: REY ANTONIO Y EL REY FEO
Turning seven years old will give Rey something he’s been waiting for all his life, to attend Fiesta in San Antonio like his big brother. When he gets there, he finds colorful food, music, and fun, until Antonio names himself King Antonio, the leader of the river parade, and calls his little brother, Rey Feo, or the ugly King of Fiesta. Their rivalry can only be squelched by the royal wave of Miss Antonio as she floats down the river. Which brother will be King Antonio, royal leader of the city? The story is written in both English and in Spanish.
Child’s Journey, in 2016