Written by Elena Dreser*
I was born on a cold morning in Patagonia, Argentina, and raised alongside the poplars, willows, water canals and massive gusts of wind. I learned to observe nature and decipher its messages. When I was older, I moved to the tropics. For many years now, I have lived in the Mexican city of Cuernavaca, surrounded by fruit trees, flowers, and butterflies.
I have always loved reading. I would revel in books until they were worn out. I also invented my own stories and put them to paper as soon as I could write one letter in front of the other. Adults never believed that the stories I showed them were mine. My friends and classmates, on the other hand, they all believed me.
Now, to take a break from my writing, I go out to the garden. It’s as if I were going back to the time when I was a child; when the running water in the canals would whisper stories to me, and the willow branches recited their poems. Many of my characters come from magic places like these, where nature is blossoming.
Each one of my books is very special to me. They’ve traveled to 5 of the world’s continents, but they didn’t always tell me where they were going. When I meet up with them in bookstores of far-away countries, I give them a smile and fix them up a bit so that others can see them. If a salesperson gives me an odd look, I simply tell them, “It’s a very good book.” And then, in a little playful mischief, I leave before they figure out who I am. Being an author is full of wonderful moments.
I also have inspiring moments when I meet with my readers in schools or book fairs. They bring me hugs and smiles that I treasure. During the International Book Fair of Bogota (FILBO) in 2015, I met some of my most precious readers in Ibagué, Colombia; they had read all of my books, and had even written a beautiful song that they sang to me at the fair. It was one of the greatest satisfactions I have ever experienced in my life.
The most surprising events are the ones in which I find out I’ve been given an award. Usually, they are from very far away: Sweden, Russia, Australia, South Africa … And the most recent one came from Washington, DC. It was the nomination for the ALAS IDB 2015 Awards from the Inter-American Development Bank. I couldn’t believe it! My book, Federico & Federico, was one of the four finalists for best children’s story, chosen from amongst more than 800 nominations from various countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Federico & Federico is an exciting story about a grandson and his grandpa. Both have the same name and enjoy learning from one another. As always, the older generation has learned a lot from their many years of experience while the younger ones tend are so much better at using the technologies that give grandparents such a hard time. In this same way, grandpa Federico is in some ways the teacher of his grandson, and grandson Federico is a little bit his grandpa’s teacher too.
The book was fortunate from its very beginnings. It was beautifully illustrated by Beñat Olaberria. In 2014, Amaquemecan publishers decided to publish the book in two different editions: a rustic and album edition. As part of the national literacy plan, it was selected by the Secretary of Public Education to be included as one of its school library books, with 77,500 special edition books published. A few months later, it was translated into Russian by the Tandem of Moscow, and was published along with an audio CD accompaniment. Four different editions in just one year!
In 2015 it received recognition by the Cuatrogatos Fundation in Miami, which recommended Federico & Federico for its list of best publications in Latin America. It was all capped off by the ALAS-IDB 2015 nomination. Alongside by daughter, Anahí and some copies of Federico & Federico, I went to Washington DC to accept the distinguished recognition of my work. The ceremony was beautiful, and I had the opportunity to meet the marvelous Menena Cottin, author of a very influential book called The Black Book of Colors.
Having experienced such wonderful moments, I recommend you try it too … Nominate your favorite children’s book for the 2016 ALAS-IDB Awards!
*Elena Dreser was a finalist for the 2015 ALAS- IDB Awards in the category “Best Children’s Story.”