Interview with Alyssa Reynoso-Morris

Alyssa Reynoso-Morris is a queer Afro-Latine/x Dominican and Puerto Rican storyteller. Her ability to weave compelling stories has opened many doors for her as an author, speaker, and resume writer. She is also a mother and community organizer. During the day she works with community members, non-profit organizations, and government officials to make the world a better place. Then she puts her writer’s hat on to craft heartfelt stories about home, family, food, and the fun places she has been. Alyssa was born and raised in The Bronx, New York, and currently lives in Philadelphia, PA with her partner and daughter. She is the author of Plátanos Are Love, The Bronx Is My Home, and Gloriana Presente: A First Day of School Book. She hopes you enjoy her stories.

I had the opportunity to interview Alyssa, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

¡Hola! Hello! Thank you for having me! My name is Alyssa Reynoso-Morris and I am a queer Afro-Latiné/x Dominican and Puerto Rican storyteller. My ability to weave compelling stories has opened many doors for me as an author, speaker, and resume writer. I am also a mother and community organizer. During the day I work with community members, non-profit organizations, and government officials to make the world a better place. Then I put my writer’s hat on to craft heartfelt stories about home, family, food, and the fun places I have been. I was born and raised in The Bronx, New York, and currently live in Philadelphia, PA with my partner and daughter. I am the author of Plátanos Are Love, The Bronx Is My Home, and Gloriana Presente: A First Day of School Book. I hope you enjoy my stories.

What can you tell us about your most recent book, Plátanos Are Love? Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

In Plátanos Are Love, a little girl learns about the ways plantains shape Latinx culture, community, and family from her abuela. The book begins in an open-air market with the following lines:

En el mercado, Abuela says, “plátanos are love.”

I thought they were food.

But Abuela says they feed us in more ways than one.

My love of my Abuela, her stories, and the food we made together inspired Plátanos Are Love. After the initial idea and inspiration, I did some research. Market research is important for writers because we need to write original and engaging content. My research revealed that there were dozens of picture books about potatoes, soup, and other foods, but zero books about plátanos. A book about plátanos and how our ancestors passed down their recipes, as a form of cultural preservation, did not exist so I knew I had something special. Fortunately, my agent Kaitlyn and my editor Alex agreed and then we got to work on bringing the book to life.

Do you yourself have any personal connection or story related to plátanos you would like to share?

I have been eating plátanos since I was a little girl so it is hard to pick just one memory or story… After much thought, my favorite plátano story is the first time my daughter ate a tostone. It was her first solid food and she was obsessed. It brought me so much joy to know tostones were her first solid food.

How did you find yourself getting into storytelling, particularly picture books? What drew you to the medium?

I wanted to be a writer since I was 7 years old because I grew up with my Abuela – the original storyteller. She had a second-grade education, but that didn’t stop her from telling the best stories that captivated EVERYONE’S attention. I remember looking up to her and wanting to be like her. I think she knew that because she would rope me into “helping” her tell her stories. I actually still have the first book I ever wrote when I was 7 years old with the help of my mom and share it with students during school visits.

I have done some cool things like building water purification systems in other countries, researching witness protection programs for the Tribunal of Rwanda, and organizing multilingual COVID-19 clinics at the height of the pandemic. But I love telling stories and never stopped reading and writing. I am glad I get to reinvent myself and that I am now able to focus more on my first love – writing.

I love writing picture books because as a mom and former teacher, I know firsthand how SMART and KIND kids are. It is an honor to write stories for kids, because they are the future. Writing stories rooted in LOVE and hope is my way of making the world a better and more empathetic place.

Can you give insight or advice into what goes into making a picture book?

Making a picture book takes a lot of time. Below are some steps involved.

  1. First, you need to come up with your idea.
  2. Second, you need to do your research to make sure your idea and approach are fresh and new.
  3. Third, write the book (keeping word count, voice, plot, character development, and literary elements) in mind.
  4. Fourth, edit the book. Share it with critique partners that can provide you with honest feedback.
  5. Fifth, edit some more. And then some more. And then some more.
  6. After all that repeat steps 1-5 with at least two more story ideas. WHY? Because to get a literary agent you need to have at least 3 polished picture book manuscripts.
  7. Sixth, write a clear and personalized query letter to get a literary agent. Keep writing while querying and mentally prepare for rejection. It is normal and NOT personal at all. There are hundreds of reasons why an agent might not offer representation. You got this. When you get an offer for agent representation. Make sure you do your homework and work with someone that will be able to advocate for you.
  8. Seventh, work on the manuscript with your agent to get ready for submission to editors at publishing houses. Keep writing while on submission. The rejection is not over yet. Keep writing and don’t get discouraged.
  9. Sell your book. Work with your agent to get you the best deal.
  10. Edit the manuscript with your editor.
  11. Let the illustrator work their magic.
  12. Learn as much as you can about marketing to get your book in as many hands as possible.
  13. Do it all over again 😀

As a creative, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration?

Growing up, I enjoyed reading books by Julia Alvarez, Sandra Cisneros, and Jacqueline Woodson. Their books helped me feel seen, heard, and validated.

Besides your work, what are some things you would want readers to know about you?

A few fun things I will share are that I love to sing and dance. You can often find me by putting on a song I love and I will either start singing it or dancing to it or both. I used to sing for my church when I was a kid and was in the musicals at my high school.

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but wish you were (and the answer to that question)?

A question I have not been asked is, “If you could add more to your book Plátanos Are Love, what would that be?” Picture books are short with a total of 40 pages including the title page and dedication page. I could not include a few more ways I enjoy eating plátanos which include mofongo, pastelon, and yaroa.

What advice might you have to offer to aspiring creatives in general?

If it brings you joy, please carve out the time for it. You deserve to be happy. Advice for writers is: first, read a lot. Second, keep writing no matter what. Third, do your research.

Are there any projects you are working on or thinking about that you are able to discuss?

I have two more books coming so I will be busy promoting those too. On October 24th, 2023 my second book The Bronx Is My Home comes out, and my third book Gloriana Presente: A First Day of School Book comes out in 2024.

The Bronx Is My Home is a picture book celebration of hometown pride including the history, landscape, cuisines, cultures, and activities unique to this vibrant community. Welcome to the Bronx, New York, where you can see bodegas and businesses bustling on every street, taste the most delicious empanadas in the world, smell the salty sea air of Pelham Bay, and pet horses at the Bronx Equestrian Center. From sunrise to sunset, Santiago and Mami have many treasures to enjoy in their neighborhood on a beautiful Saturday, including colorful birds on the Siwanoy Trail and fresh cannolis on Arthur Avenue. This energetic and joyful family story offers both a journey through and a love letter to this special borough. The Bronx Is My Home is a triumphant celebration of hometown pride, as well as a heartfelt invitation to all, for readers of My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Pena, and Saturday by Oge Mora.

My third book Gloriana Presente: A First Day Of School Book is a bilingual picture book that features a Dominican American girl overcoming anxiety and finding her voice in the classroom.

Finally, what LGBTQ+ books/comics would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

  1. Belle of the Ball by Mari Costa
  2. Beauty Woke by NoNieqa Ramos
  3. The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante
  4. Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega

Interview with Holding On creators Sophia N. Lee & Isabel Roxas

Sophia N. Lee grew up in the Philippines. She wanted to be many things growing up: doctor, teacher, ballerina, ninja, spy, wizard, journalist, and lawyer. She likes to think she can still be all these things and more through writing. She looks a lot like her lola Benita, but she inherited her love for writing from her lola Josefina, who worked as a principal and an English teacher. She is the author of Soaring Saturdays; What Things Mean (2014 Scholastic Asian Book Award grand prize winner); and Holding On. She has another picture book titled Lolo’s Sari-sari Store forthcoming from Atheneum in the summer of 2023. She has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from The New School in New York City and works as a creative writing instructor for kids, teens, and sometimes, grownups too. 

Isabel Roxas is the author-illustrator of The Adventures of Team Pom: Squid Happens. She was born in the Philippines and raised on luscious mangoes, old wives’ tales, and monsoon moons. She learned so much from her lolas Fe and Venancia: how to shine the floor with a coconut, navigate a palengke (wet market), and make a scrumptious bowl of ginataan. You can follow Isabel on Instagram @StudioRoxas. 

I had the opportunity to interview Sophia and Isabel, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourselves?

(SL): Hello, Geeks OUT! Thank you so much for having us. 

I’m Sophia N. Lee, an author of books for kids and teens. I was born and raised in the Philippines and was raised within a huge extended family so I’m constantly inspired by memories of growing up around a multitude of Lolos, Lolas, Titos, Titas, and countless other cousins. 

When I’m not writing, I teach creative writing classes for young people. 

Outside of that, I’m most often getting lost in a book, researching new places to visit, or traveling by taste through kitchen experiments. I’m currently geeking out on Kdramas, which I fell into early in the pandemic. 

(IR): Hi there! I’m Isabel Roxas, author, and illustrator of books for young readers, and like Sophie, I was born in the Philippines and raised on a steady diet of old wives’ tales and mangoes. I’m now based in Queens, New York. 

When I’m not making pictures or cooking up stories, I like to make small objects in clay, bake desserts, and go exploring. 

What can you tell us about your latest book, Holding On? What inspired this story?

(SL): Holding On is a picture book about a girl and the many summers that she spends in the Philippines with her Lola, which is the Filipino word for grandmother. 

This book is incredibly personal for me because it was inspired by my own summers spent in the province with my paternal grandparents. The story shows how a young girl learns how to hold on in different ways – first by observing how others around her do so (belting out songs on the karaoke machine, cooking favorite dishes, framed pictures on the walls), and then by teaching herself new ways to celebrate treasured memories and time spent with the ones she loves. 

The story is also deeply personal because it mirrors my own story as I learned how to navigate my own Lola’s loss of her memories after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and early-onset dementia. After all those summers of being cared for by her, I wanted to honor her and those memories of feeling so beloved by telling this story.

(IR): The images were inspired by the Philippine countryside and feature my favorite fruits and treats – Taho (a warmed tofu treat with brown sugar and tapioca pearls), fresh mangoes, pastillas de leche, and sinigang (a deliciously sharp sour soup).  

What drew you to storytelling, specifically to picture books?

(SL): Deciding to write literature for young readers came easily. I wanted to write the kind of stories that made me fall in love with reading and that helped shape my identity. I think children love the books they read early on differently – as readers, they’re still on the cusp of becoming who they are, and if you’re lucky, as a kidlit author you get to have a hand in helping shape that young mind. 

(IR): I loved picture books as a child and never stopped reading and collecting them. The fabulous worlds in those stories were intoxicating and often a refuge from the messy complexities of life. I too wanted to create neighborhoods that young people wanted to jump into and characters that they wanted to befriend. I love the picture book form in particular because it challenges us to communicate with depth and clarity with just a few words and images. 

What are some of your favorite examples of picture books growing up and now?

(SL): Growing up, I loved books that made me feel safe, that reassured me that I’d always have a place in the world no matter what. I remember reading P.D. Eastman’s Are You My Mother? over and over, and finding comfort when the baby bird finally makes its way back into the nest and finds the mother there. I felt the same way reading Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece – I was so happy after the circle could sing again because it allowed itself to let go of the piece it had sought out for so long. 

Now, I’m always looking at books that show me how to say more with a lot less. I like when there’s space left in between the lines for the child’s mind to nibble on. I love classics like Owl Moon, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr, and Ida, Always, written by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso. 

New favorites are Big Mean Mike, written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Scott Magoon, about a tough dog who discovers that he doesn’t have to be tough all the time, and The Ocean Calls, written by Tina Cho and illustrated by Jess X. Snow, about a young girl and her freediving grandmother in Korea. It’s such a beautiful story, and an excellent study on how a topic that’s culturally specific is able to also feel universally relatable, because of how the intergenerational bonds in the story are depicted.    

(IR): The first book that I remember loving was A Light in the Attic.

The picture books I love now include: It’s Useful to Have a Duck by Isol, which is an accordion-style board book that you read from two distinct points of view. It’s an inventive and playful book that encourages empathy in a very simple, creative manner. Another book that I’m currently loving is The Way Home in the Night by Akiko Miyakoshi.

How would you describe your general writing/drawing process? What are some of your favorite/most challenging parts for you?

(SL): For me, so much of the work behind my own writing is mental. I’m most challenged when facing the blank page, and trying to figure out what kind of story I want to tell, and the best way for me to tell it. 

When I get inspired by an idea, I’ll often obsess about it in my head for a really long time. When I do, it often feels like I’m walking into a messy room, and it’s on me to figure out which mess to sort out first.  I’ll start making a mental list of things that would be interesting to put together. I’ll think about how to rearrange every memory I want to reference, every inspirational peg, every plot point that I know so far, until it feels like something that I can picture more fully – almost like a room or a space where my main character can walk into or exist in. 

And then, I’ll think about how best to get that story on the page. That to me is the most painful/challenging part: finding the right structure to hang your story on, whether it’s a theme I want to run throughout the story, or a form that I want to experiment with, or an idea that I want the reader to be consumed by. But honestly, it’s also the most thrilling part of writing for me. 

(IR): If I am drawing from a manuscript (by another author), I usually go through the entire story and try to sort out the rhythm of the book with thumbnail sketches. Then I try to find out who the characters are – I develop their personalities which then informs what they would wear, how they move, and what the palette will be. Then I fill in the rest of the world. When I am illustrating something I am writing myself, it usually starts with a piece of inspiration – either a news item or something I observed on my way to the train (or ON the train). I make a few sketches and sometimes dialogue comes along with it, other times it’s just a mood. 

My favorite part of book creation is making a big mess in search of the look and heart of the book. It is probably also the most challenging part of the process. 

Aside from your work as a writer/artist, what would you want readers to know about you?

(SL): That I love learning! I really enjoy teaching, but I think I’m happiest when I’m in a classroom setting figuring out things and learning about how other people go about their lives and solve the problems they encounter. If I could figure out a way to be in a class of some sort learning something forever, I would! If you’re reading this and looking for a sign to take up a class in that (obscure or otherwise) interest, this is it! 

(IR): Like Sophie, I love to learn too! I am curious about the world, people, and making things. Making books is the perfect excuse to explore new things because every project requires research and following new leads whether it is an educational book about race, a book about voting, or a humorous book about pigeons. 

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

(SL): A question that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is: What’s the closest thing to real magic in our world? 

I think it would still be our capacity to hold on and to celebrate and pursue the things we love, and even the things we dream of. I think it’s that part of us that pushes us to create new things – whether it’s a candle scent to remember someone or something we miss, or it’s a story to immortalize a shared history, a song to commemorate a heartbreak or a book that imagines a world that’s far better than the one we have. I hope we never run out of that stuff. 

What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives, especially those who may want to write/draw a picture book themselves one day?

(SL): Read a lot, and read widely! That’s the best way for any type of creative to discover the kind of stories they want to tell and even the tone in which they want to convey their story. Also: read closely. When I find an amazing book, I’ll read it several times to see what parts of that work I’m responding to the most – is it the world-building? The cadence? The dialogue? The authenticity of the characters? Being able to identify those and studying what makes them successful is so helpful for my process as a writer. 

(IR): I second Sophie’s advice and would add: Follow your instincts, embrace your faults and weirdness, surround yourself with good people, don’t give up, and always have snacks handy. 

Are there any other projects you are working on or thinking about that you are able to discuss?

(SL): I’m so excited to share that I’ll be coming out with another picture book titled Lolo’s Sari-sari Store, illustrated by Christine Almeda in the summer of 2023, also from Atheneum. This book is so special to me because my huge extended family co-owned a sari-sari store (similar to a convenience store, often operating out of one’s home) in our village, and my cousins and I would take turns working at that store every summer. 

In the Philippines, sari-sari stores offer more than just convenience for the people they service – often, they’re also community hubs where people go not just to get daily essentials, but to share stories, eat together, and just be among friends in the neighborhood. It was a great place to spend the summer and a great place to learn about people and about life. 

(IR): I’m working on the third installment of my graphic novel series The Adventures of Team Pom, and this time the girls will be trying their hand at archaeology! I am also working on a small exhibition of the art behind Team Pom that will open this summer at the Youth Wing of BPL’s Central Library. So visitors will get the chance to see how a graphic novel is made form its inception to publication. The series is really a love letter to neighborhoods and New York, so it will also feature things like bodegas, the underground newsstands, and of course, pigeons. 

Finally, what books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

(SL): Hello, readers of Geeks OUT! Here are some titles I’m excited about right now. I hope you check these out and find something in them that sparks excitement in you! 

Arnold Arre’s Mythology Class

Eliza Victoria’s After Lambana

Alternative Alamat: Myths and Legends from the Philippines, edited by Paolo Chikiamco 

(IR): Here are some books I highly recommend: 

The Queen and the Cave by Julia Sarda

The Paper Flower Tree by Jacqueline Ayer

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny View

Alison by Lizzy Stewart

Interview with Authors Sofía Lapuente & Jarrod Shusterman

Sofía Lapuente (she/her) is an author, screenwriter, and avid world traveler who immigrated from Spain to the United States to realize her dream of storytelling. Since then, she has received a master’s degree in fine arts at UCLA, worked as a producer and casting director on an Emmy-nominated show, and received co-author credits in Gleanings, the New York Times bestselling fourth installment of the Arc of a Scythe series, with her partner, Jarrod Shusterman. Together, the couple writes and produces film and television under their production company Dos Lobos Entertainment.

Jarrod Shusterman (he/him) is the New York Times bestselling co-author of the novel Dry, which he is adapting for a major Hollywood film studio with Neal Shusterman. He is also the co-author of the accoladed novel Roxy. His books have all received critical acclaim and multiple-starred reviews. Sofí Lapuente and Jarrod are partners in every sense of the word, with love and multiculturalism as an ethos—living between Madrid, Spain, and Los Angeles, California. If they are not working, it means they’re eating. For behind-the-scenes author content and stupidly funny videos, follow them on Instagram and TikTok @SofiandJarrod.

I had the opportunity to interview Sofí and Jarrod, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Sofi: Hi there, Jarrod and I are partners! I’m from Madrid, Spain so English is a second language for me—and I immigrated here to make my dream real of writing stories. It’s important for me to represent strong female protagonists, my Hispanic culture, and to make sure everyone feels included in our books <3

What can you tell us about your latest book, Retro? What was the inspiration for this project?

Jarrod: It started with the thought, that considering all the apps and algorithms, do we really have control over our own thoughts, or does technology? We also heard this crazy concept, that ever since the advent of the smartphone humans have become cyborgs, with our computing systems in our pockets. We’re not the same. It’s like that moment we discovered tools and moved from monkey to man. It happened in our lifetime and it made us think, Why aren’t there more YA books that not just include technology, but talk about it.

Sofi: It got us thinking, can we really live without our smartphones? And in our book RETRO that’s exactly what the characters have to do. They take the Retro Challenge— and if they can make it the whole year without those smart devices they’ll win a full ride scholarship! And they’ll do it in style, dressing in vintage gear and living life like a fun retro movie. Only when contestants start going missing, it’s up to our protagonists Luna and her friends to figure out who is sabotaging the challenge, or maybe they’re next. RETRO is a fun guilty pleasure thriller where you go on this adventure with all these characters who end up being your new best friends! Get ready to laugh, cry, and devour the book like a serious Netflix binge!

How did the two of you come together to work on it?

Jarrod: Sofi and I met rather serendipitously in LA—and we were both working in the Film and Television business at the time, while I was also working on my first novel DRY. After a few months of being together we decided to merge our dreams together and start writing screenplays and novels, and here we are! It’s so amazing to work with your life partner, and you really learn interesting things about them, like: would you go in that burning building? Would you throw a milkshake in jerk person’s face? What would you do if you were kidnapped? Most couples don’t play those scenarios out over dinner, but we like it this way 🙂

Sofía Lapuente Photo Credit Diego Bravo

As writers, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically young adult fiction?

Sofi: For me, as an adult, storytelling is the last true form of magic in the world. You can transport to any place, in any time, you can be anyone and live a thousand lives. And YA fiction is special because it’s about such an awesome formative time of your life. I was also drawn to the amazing industry of YA literature. We have found a world of librarians, teachers, and readers that are some of the coolest people we’ve ever met. And every time we meet a YA author we know that we have so many shared experiences, it’s like we’re the only people in the world who really understand each other. Signings and conferences can be stressful, but in the end, it’s a form of therapy. And the reason everyone is so cool is because we’re writing for young people, so there’s a responsibility, and it makes you a better writer and a better person.

As writers, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration in general? 

Jarrod: I would have to say we are really influenced by ALL media. We’re incredibly influenced by music, and that’s why every chapter title in RETRO is a throwback song, making the index a playlist—that has a QR code so you can listen while you read! I picked up a lot from my father’s books, Neal Shusterman, because when your dad reads you bedtime stories of people getting ‘Unwound’ and ‘Gleaned’ it kind of makes an impression as a kid. And we take A TON from movies and television. Because series aren’t afraid to cross genres, and we think the literary world is moving in that direction too. RETRO is the kind of book that dabbles in many genres, from thriller to drama to comedy with the right amount of romance and chili-pepper spice! 

Sofi: I really appreciate activism. People who fight for the LGBTQIA+ community, feminism, and the immigrant community to name a few. That’s why our characters are so diverse. Because it represents my reality as a Hispanic immigrant and I’m a part of all the aforementioned worlds! 

What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or difficult? 

Sofi: My favorite part about writing is definitely when we are shaping the premise and have stars in our eyes. Everything is flowing together, and we are just so excited about the potential of the project. We LOVE to develop fun and quirky characters. And there is no more satisfying feeling than to give voice to these interesting people we are creating—and definitely in an inclusive way that makes everyone feel a part of the story! The most frustrating part is when you’ve written your characters into a corner and you have to get them out, which we all know as ‘writers block’ but there is an easy way out, which is just do research, research, research. The more you learn or invent about your world or characters the more creative pathways you’ll be able to fluently come up with! One of the most difficult parts is definitely after the drafting phase. Rewriting. It’s the most important part of the writing process because it’s when everything comes together and finally takes form as a finished project, but taking notes and applying them and deleting things that you love is just so painful for writers. It’s like your little darling is undergoing surgery, and they are making you do it!

Aside from writing, what are some things you would want others to know about you?

Sofi: I love to travel the world with Jarrod! My fist language is Spanish and I have an accent like Puss in Boots <3 I am really passionate in general and I love to laugh loud, dance and party. I’m obsessed with food and it is obsessed with me. I have a really high tolerance for spicy food and we have competitions all the time (and I always win) As a kid I wasn’t incredible bookish, so the passion for reading came from a passion for communicating and storytelling!

Jarrod: We want people to know that we’re really accessible people and we’re always making fun behind the scenes author content and videos on TikTok and IG: @sofiandjarrod You should definitely follow us because we are always doing these contests to see whose name gets to be in our book (there are five winners who are in RETRO) and we often do free giveaways of Advanced reader copies. We just have a ton of fun being ourselves online, and if you ever have a question or something we’ll usually always respond!

Jarrod Shusterman Photo Credit Diego Bravo

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but that you wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

Sofi: This is a great question! We’ve always wanted to hear: “Can I get a ticket to the movie premier?” Because one of our big dreams is to have one of our books adapted, by us, into a movie or a television series. Having started our journey together in Lalaland, California, working in showbiz, there is a huge part of our hearts stuck in that golden age of Hollywood. There’s something so transportive and romantic about it, we simply can’t get enough. Oh, And of, course, the answer to that question is: YES! You are so 100% Invited!”

What advice might you have to give for aspiring writers?

Jarrod: I would tell any aspiring writer that although this is an art form, but more so it is a craft. You have to put in your ten thousand hours or more, and they need to be quality hours. Find a mentor, even if it’s just a book or a master class. Have the humility to accept notes/criticism, and recognize that you are not a reflection of your art, your art is a reflection of you. Don’t take things personally when you didn’t execute something masterfully or have to erase scenes. Because erasing should be easy for a writer, because they must trust in their craft, and in themselves that they can recreate any scene! The first fifty things I wrote totally sucked, so don’t be surprised if your first fifty short stories or scripts or outlines suck too : ) Hey, maybe they don’t suck as bad as mine and you already have a better starting point than I did. Basically, I would say just keep writing, and with the right guidance and effort, you will get it!

Are there any other projects you are working on and at liberty to speak about?

Sofi: We are currently finishing up our first Adult novel, which we’re about to begin showing publishers this year, so we’re quite excited about that. It’s a dramedy inspired by my crazy life, and my friends’ lives, as Immigrants in the States. Because there’s tough parts to life, but also there’s a lot of warm moments full of friends, love and laughter. Life has highs and the lows—and for us we want our books to always be entertaining—with just the right amount of romance. We’re even developing the second YA novel as well, which we are super excited to write. But it’s a secret project at this point! 

Finally, what books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT? 

Sofi: As for YA we are fans of Kat Cho, Claribel A Ortega, and Adalyn Grace—who wrote BELLADONNA. Then there’s Gina Chen, Alex Aster, Stephanie Garber, Susan Lee, Kristin Dwyer, Margaret Stohl (and the list goes on)! LEGENDBORN by Tracey Deon is amazing, and Adam Silvera’s books like THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END are a must. There’s also our long-time favorite by Nancy Farmer called THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION, which you have to check out! But we are biased because we’re all friends! <3