New Voice: Laurisa White Reyes on The Rock of Ivanore

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

Laurisa White Reyes is the first-time author of The Rock of Ivanore (Book One of the The Celestine Chronicles)(Tanglewood, 2012)(blog). From the promotional copy:

Marcus Frye, enchanter’s apprentice, sets out to in search of the rock of Ivanore, but what is it and where will he find it? 

When his path crosses that of an Agoran half-breed named Jayson, their quests become one. Their journeys soon become a race to defend their homeland from enemy invasion. 

As Marcus learns the value of loyalty and self-sacrifice, he also discovers truths about himself he never dreamed possible. 

Who has been your most influential writing/art teacher or mentor and why?

I have always been a writer. I wrote my first poem when I was five and knew from a very young age that someday I wanted to grow up and write books. But that dream nearly ended in my sophomore year of high school.

My teacher at the time tried to drill into me the mechanics of writing essays, bibliographies, proper punctuation and so forth, but I had a difficult time with it. When she called me into her office and handed me my term paper with a big red ‘D’ on the cover, I broke down and wept.

Visit Laurisa’s blog.

I believed I was a terrible writer, that I could never succeed at what I had always dreamed of doing.

The next year I was assigned to Elizabeth Rose’s English class. She was enthusiastic, kind and supportive. Instead of pointing out the flaws in my writing, she emphasized my strengths. She recruited me to be her classroom aide, and nearly every day for two years, she’d talk with me after school about anything I wanted. I went from a failing student to a straight ‘A’ student, and even received a special recognition award from the English department when I graduated.

Mrs. Rose was my mentor and friend. She showed me that I could succeed, that I did have the talent and abilities I needed to become a writer. After 25 years, we are still close friends. My kids call her Aunt Elizabeth.

Every child needs someone like Elizabeth Rose in their life.

As a fantasy writer, going in, did you have a sense of how events/themes in your novel might parallel or speak to events/issues in our real world? Or did this evolve over the course of many drafts?

In my book, The Rock of Ivanore, Marcus is an enchanter’s apprentice who can’t do anything right. Every time he tries to cast a spell, he botches it.

Laurisa’s rejection letters.

Marcus is a lot like I was at that age, like a lot of kids. Adolescence is challenging because we tend to judge ourselves pretty harshly sometimes. It is too easy to lose faith in yourself when you are young.

Of course, there have been times when I’ve doubted myself as an adult, too, like getting 40+ rejection letters before finally publishing my first book.

Like Marcus, I was fortunate to have several mentors along the way, and my skills as a writer improved with time and practice. Marcus’s skills as an enchanter improve as well, and eventually he finds the courage and confidence he needs to use those skills to succeed in his quest.

I am hoping that kids who read my book will relate to Marcus and realize that they can succeed at whatever their particular goals and dreams may be. I didn’t start off intending my book to have any message. It just evolved naturally from my own experiences and from those of my children.

When I wrote the first few drafts, I was just interested in writing something my kids would enjoy reading. But I think self-doubt and discouragement are universal, as is the desire to reach for something better. I believe all children have potential. They just need to believe in themselves, but sometimes they need someone else to believe in them first.

Laurisa’s office.

Cynsational Notes

Find Laura at Goodreads, facebook and Twitter.

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