Career Builder & Giveaway: Lupe Ruiz-Flores

Betty Boop & Lupe

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

Author Lupe Ruiz-Flores was once an aerospace engineering technician. In her heart, however, she was always a writer. She has worked as a staff writer for a local newspaper and has ghost written short stories for a national magazine. Some of her poetry has been published in anthologies as well.

Lupe’s books include Lupita’s Papalote (kite), illustrated by Pauline Rodriguez Howard (2002); The Woodcutter’s Gift, illustrated by Elaine Jerome (2007); The Battle of the Snow Cones, illustrated by Alisha Gambino (2010); Alicia’s Fruity Drinks, illustrated by Laura Lacámara (2012); Salsa is Not Just for Eating, illustrated by Robert Casilla (Fall 2012); and Lupita and El día de los Niños, illustrated by Gabhor Utomo (Spring 2013). These bilingual picture books are all published by Piñata Books, Arte Público Press.

She’s twice been a featured author at the Texas Book Festival in Austin. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), the Society of Latino & Hispanic Writers of San Antonio and The Writers’ League of Texas.

At present, she is the newsletter editor for the Southwest Texas SCBWI chapter’s online newsletter. A native Texan, she has also lived in Thailand and Japan. She loves to travel and has visited Italy twice. She is presently working on a middle-grade novel.

What memories of your debut author experience stand out?

I remember walking into a Barnes & Noble for my first book signing and seeing a poster of myself with my book at the entrance of the store. I almost cried. I never thought it would happen. It was a very emotional time for me, especially when my family and friends showed up to support me.

If you could offer advice to the new voice you once were, what would you say?

My advice would be to take a leap of faith, which is what I did. In my heart, I had always wanted to write, but life happened and I almost gave up that dream.

When the opportunity presented itself years later, I had a lot of doubts. Would anyone be interested in what I wrote? Why did I think I could be a writer?

The doubts started fading when I entered writing contests to test the waters. To my amazement, I placed in a few of the contests. That gave me the self confidence I needed.

How do you define success?

New release

To me, success is having the freedom to do something in life that you really enjoy and letting others share in that joy.

Do you have a publishing strategy? If so, how has it worked and/or changed over time? If not, why not? And how has that worked for you?

Since I do not have a background in creative writing, I have immersed myself in the writing process. I joined SCBWI and other professional writers’ organizations. I attend writing workshops, conferences, and have joined critique groups, both local and online.

I buy books on writing and subscribe to writing magazines to keep abreast of what’s happening in the publishing world. I research publishing houses before I send anything out. I follow their guidelines.

To date, three of my middle-grade novels are making the rounds. I have had four bilingual picture books published and two more coming out soon. That is truly amazing to me.

Would you describe your career as a hike up a mountain, a winding road, a path of hills and valleys or hop-scotching from rock to rock across the rapids? Why?

I would describe my writing career as a winding road full of surprises at every turn.

When I first started, I wasn’t aware of all that goes with being an author, i.e., the invitations for school visits, speaking engagements at writers’ clubs, national writers’ conferences, meeting famous authors, traveling quite often, and making friends with peers who are just as passionate about writing as you are. It’s a whole new world out there and I love it!

How have you grown as a writer? What skills have you seen improve over time? What did you do to reach new levels? What are areas that still flummox you at times?

I have learned that first drafts are just that—first drafts. “Revision” is my middle name now.

When I write, I want my story to be an experience for the reader. I want my books to have “spirit,” and for the reader to “feel” something.

Skills where I have improved: learning when to cut words, scenes, or dialogue if they don’t move the story forward. Pacing a story so that it flows well.

Reach new levels: I started taking myself seriously as a writer and being professional about it.

Flummox: That there aren’t enough houses publishing multicultural books.

Have you ever made an affirmative decision to alter your creative focus? What inspired this decision? What were the challenges?

I walked into a poetry class at a local bookstore by mistake. I almost walked out, but the instructor encouraged me to stay. I started reading and writing poetry and found out I really enjoyed it. I even had some poems published in an anthology. That freed my creative juices even more.

How have you built an audience over time?

I created my own web site and blog to build an audience. I also do many school visits and presentations throughout the year all across Texas. I do interviews for other blogs. I attend TLA and ESC regional events to meet librarians and other educators.

Did you ever consider giving up? What happened? What kept you going?

No. Once I started, I kept going. The way it happened was a total surprise to me. When I wrote my first picture book, I had no idea where to send it or how. I saw an ad in the paper for a one-day writing seminar at a local university. I went. It changed my life. The keynote speaker mentioned a publisher and guidelines. She gave details on the submission process. I sent in my story. About three months later, I had a contract. I was shocked!

How have you handled being a player in the world of youth literature? Fans, reviews, jealousies, acclaim, etc.

I absolutely am in awe of authors who write youth literature. I am a fan. There is no jealousy.

I know how hard it is to get published, so I admire the authors and their work. We are all in this business to support one another.

Do you have any regrets? Is there anything you should have done differently? What and why?

Regrets? I consider myself a late bloomer so maybe my one regret is that I should have started earlier. But maybe I wouldn’t have been ready. Things happen for a reason, I believe.

The time is right for me now.

What advice do you have for the debut authors of 2012?

Believe in yourself. Nurture yourself spiritually and as a writer. Connect with other writers. Find out what works for you and write.

Take advantage of the opportunities that are out there, i.e., SCBWI, The Writers’ League of Texas, and other professional writers’ organizations.

It is never too late to realize your dream. Never give up.

What do you want to say to established mid-list authors about staying in the game?

Do not give up. You’ve made it thus far. Keep going. We need your books.

Lupe and Mark Twain

What do you want to say to those who call themselves “one-book wonders” or those who feel the market has left them behind?

You are not a one-book wonder and the market has not left you. Maybe you need to write in another genre.

I started out writing non-fiction for a magazine, then poetry, then picture books, and now I’m focusing on middle-grade. It’s a growing process.

Where do you want to go from here? What are your short- and long-term goals? Your strategies for achieving them?

I would like to have my middle-grade novels published. My strategy is to attend writers’ conferences and meet editors and agents and be able to submit my work. Hopefully, some editor will like my novels and then who knows?

What’s the secret of your success?

Passion. If your heart is not in it, I don’t think you can succeed. You have to love what you do.

Cynsational Notes

Visit Lupe’s blog! Check out a radio interview with Lupe from classical 91.7, Houston Public Radio!
See also an alternate link for that interview.

The Career Builders series
offers insights from children’s-YA authors who written and published
books for a decade or more. The focus includes their approach to both
the craft of writing and navigating the ever-changing business landscape
of trade publishing.

Cynsational Giveaway

U.S. readers! Enter to win the following prize package:

  • a signed copy of Lupe’s bilingual picture book, Alicia’s Fruity Drinks/Las aguas frescas de Alicia
  • a small “Hope” note pad
  • a Charlotte Bronte journal 
  • a business card holder

a Rafflecopter giveaway

7 thoughts on “Career Builder & Giveaway: Lupe Ruiz-Flores

  1. What an inspiring author Lupe is. Thank you for the great interview. There are lots of comments in there that any author would be well advised to take to heart. Thanks also for the nice gift basket. I'd certainly like to win it.

  2. I don't usually enter giveaways, but this would be perfect to share with the younger kids at school. I've been following Lupe since she won the Martha Weston grant and I'm so pleased to see her featured here. Thank you for putting a spotlight on her and for doing this giveaway. Congratulations, Lupe!

  3. Thanks for sharing Lupe's journey. With her dedication to craft, I have to believe we'll be reading one of her middle grade novels soon!

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