Today, in the forum, we have Martha Rodriguez, a wonderful children’s book author, game inventor and international chef…or would that be cook? Anyway, I’m looking forward to learning more about her and her books “A Reel Cool Summer,” and “Smell My Feet! 10 Seriously Silly and Sweet Short Stories for Squirts.”
Tim Greaton: Martha, it is truly a pleasure to have you here today in the forum. I’m especially looking forward to you sharing a little about your heritage.
Martha Rodriguez: Thanks for having me, Tim. I'm very excited to be here! Well, let's see. I was born in Havana, Cuba, and came to the United States with my family at the age of three. I know how difficult it was for my parents and grandparents to leave family and friends behind, not to mention the country they loved. Their goal was simple: to provide a better life for my brother and me. For that we will always be grateful.
Tim Greaton: I heard a rumor that you are responsible for helping a lot of friends and families, yours included, spend more time together. Could you tell us about that?
Martha Rodriguez: As a tribute to our family and our Cuban heritage, my brother, sister (born in the US), and I created a board game of Cuban trivia about 15 years ago called ¡Ay mi Cuba! What were we thinking? Well, we were thinking that if we could get about 10 or 15 Cubans sitting around a table answering questions about Cuba, most likely, laughter, yelling, and fights (all in good fun) would quickly ensue! We were right! What a blast! To our surprise we sold 5,000 copies of that game in two years. Do we know our Cubans, or what?
Tim Greaton: We all have important people who help to shape our lives. I know of a particularly wonderful person who makes you smile every time you talk about her. You know who I mean, don’t you?
Martha Rodriguez: Abuela (my maternal grandmother) was someone who had a very special spirit about her. She was such a happy and loving person that bad stuff couldn't touch her -- not that it didn't try. One of my fondest memories of her is of the time she went to a Julio Iglesias concert at the age of 70. Although her tickets were toward the back of the concert hall, she walked up to the stage and blew kisses at Julito, as she used to call him, and told him how much she adored him. She loved to tell that story... oh, yeah, and the story about how she used to jump over barrels on roller skates when she was a kid. That was my favorite one. She was an amazing person who taught me to love life, no matter what it brings. I keep her memory alive by telling my children about what a great gift she was to me. Maybe, if I'm lucky, someday my kids will speak about me in the same way to their children and grandchildren. What a blessing that would be.
Tim Greaton: What kinds of books do you read? Are they in the same genres in which you write?
Martha Rodriguez: My favorite genre is non-fiction. Give me a book about history, politics, religion or a biography and I'm happy. I will read other genres on occasion but it's very rare. I don't write non-fiction books but I do incorporate the personalities of some of the people in my life into my writing. I have many silly family members to inspire me so there is a smidge of truth to my characters and stories.
Tim Greaton: People often say that kids from your stories are so convincing. One reviewer of your picture book said, “"The dialogue is written to sound like children really talk. Parents might cringe but kids will love it." How do you feel about that?
Martha Rodriguez: Success! I have three children of my own (now grown) and many nieces and nephews. I know that children do not speak like adults. They have a unique way of expressing themselves that is very refreshing to me. I appreciate that my readers understand that as well. It's great to get that kind of response when it's exactly what you are going for.
Tim Greaton: I’ve been fortunate to meet some of the most talented authors working today, yourself included, Martha, and I’m always fascinated to hear about the many writing systems they use. What is yours like?
Martha Rodriguez: I'm supposed to have a writing system? Nobody told me that! It's true, I don't have a system, I just write when ideas come to me. Sometimes they are brought about by writing prompts and other times by true events or the many "characters" in my life. When an idea comes to me, I sit down at my computer and type away. I don't worry about errors or sentence structure or order, I just type what my brain tells me to and then I go back and organize everything. Hey, I guess I do have a system. Who knew?
Tim Greaton: I heard there is a bit of bribery involved in the final stages of your story completionsJ. Can you explain?
Martha Rodriguez: I mostly follow my own instincts and have shelved many stories because of it. The ones I think can move forward I ask my hubby to read. He always does so willingly and always with great feedback about tweaks. I think he enjoys it... or maybe he just does it for the Cuban food. Either way, I'm glad he's my beta reader (and my biggest fan!). Gotta keep those fans happy! Tonight's menu: Picadillo, arroz blanco, frijoles negros y platanitos maduros frito.
Tim Greaton: Even though you do a fabulous job with your books, I once heard you reject the label of “writer.” Why would you do that?
Martha Rodriguez: I haven't gotten to the point where I think of myself as a "writer." I'm more like a wife and mom who happens to have written a picture book and some stories. I know how important it is for kids to spend time with their parents and I want to write books that families can enjoy together. I want my books to be the ones with the creased pages, ketchup stains, and tape (or, these days, the ones toward the top of the Kindle list). When our kids were little, those were the books that were part of the family, you know, the ones that went through the wringer with us. I want my books to go through the wringer!
Tim Greaton: I’m willing to bet a lot of our readers are already familiar with your fabulous picture book “A Reel Cool Summer,” so what I’d like to talk about today is your most recent book “Smell My Feet! 10 Seriously Silly and Sweet Short Stories for Squirts.”
Martha Rodriguez: Eight of the 10 stories in “Smell My Feet!” were originally published on my blog and two had been hidden away for a while. They begged me to release them into the wild so I did. The stories are great for 7- to 10-year-olds to read on their own or are equally nice for families to read together.
Tim Greaton: What led you to tell these particular stories?
Martha Rodriguez: I started to realize that many of the short stories I was writing were about relationships between family members or friends. Many were brought about by memories of my own childhood and how important those relationships were to me. I envisioned children and parents reading the stories together and talking about how Uncle So-and-so might be like one character or how a little brother or a silly friend might be like another. I liked the idea that they would be able to relate to the characters in that way.
Tim Greaton: How did you decide on the atmosphere for these stories?
Martha Rodriguez: I don't think I chose the tone of the stories as much as they chose me. They are the warm and fuzzy things that make me feel at ease and the silly and goofy things that make me smile big!
Tim Greaton: Maybe it has something to do with my creeping up on the looming "50" mark, but I tend to be asking more and more about epitaphs lately. I’d hate to leave you out, so maybe you could tell us what your tombstone might say at the end of your very long, very successful journey through life?
Martha Rodriguez: I would like my tombstone to read...
How many characters can I put on this thing? What? That's less than Twitter! #frustrating #cantanoldladygetsomerespectaroundhere
Tim Greaton: I should have known you’d leave everyone smiling even after you’re gone. It would be great if you could share your website/blogsite and links to where our audience could directly communicate with you and purchase your stories.
Martha Rodriguez: More information about my books A Reel Cool Summer and Smell My Feet! can be found on my self-publishing website, http://www.readtomepublishingllc.com. I'm always happy to hear from fellow authors and readers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Several other places to keep up with my goings-on are my blog, http://areelcoolsummer.blogspot.com and Twitter, @areelcoolsummer or @smellmyfeetbook.
Tim Greaton: Thanks for taking the time with me today, Martha. You’ve been amazing and fun.
Martha Rodriguez: Again, I want to thank you from the bottom of my smelly feet... er, from the bottom of my heart, Tim, for inviting me to be on your blog. It's an honor to be here with you, your loyal audience and so many fellow authors whom I've met on-line here and there and everywhere. I'm truly grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to connect with them!