Dear 2017

2017Dear 2017,

I’m going to live the fuck out of you. Pardon my French but it’s the truth.

Last year was fine. It had gifts to give of course but it was f  i  n  e. And I don’t want any part of my life to be f  i  n  e. Not my food, not my job, not the people in it, not my weekends, not my hair – None. Of. It. I want it all to be big and full and luscious. 

So I greet you not with a word for the year ahead or a deep namaste bow but with an all up in your grill declaration of squeezing out as much life as possible out of the next 360 days.

Got it?

With my eyes set on adventure and travel,

Listen To Your Mother Providence 2014

It’s with a mountain of joy in my heart I share I’ll be producing and directing the 2014 Providence production of Listen To Your Mother! Bringing the show to Providence last year, touched my life in ways I could never have imagined and expanded my heart in a million different directions. Aside from my daughters, birthing them, raising them, witnessing them, Listen To Your Mother stands as one of my greatest and proudest accomplishments. That I get to do this on a yearly basis is a gift.

Some people run marathons, others go yoga, others create with their hands or even cook. Me? I produce and direct Listen To Your Mother Providence. It’s my high, my bliss, my cloud 9. Why? I’m first, second and last a storyteller/keeper. I want to tell my story. I want to hear your story. I want to SEE you. I want vulnerable and honest and real. Most of all, I want everyone else to bear witness to you.

Take a moment to take in the incredible movement Ann Imig has created. This video is a perfect example of what happens when you unleash your passion into the world. It grows and grows and grows. From a one city performance in 2010 to 32 brave cities in 2014, here’s to another life changing season of Listen To Your Mother!

Be sure to visit the official announcement on the Listen To Your Mother site to welcome the new cities of 2014!


Take A Bow

providence listen to your motherImage courtesy of Egan Images by Mike Egan

May 4th has come and gone. It arrived with bigger than life fanfare and has gone with much heartbreak. Standing on stage with this year’s Listen To Your Mother: Providence cast is the most selfish thing I’ve done in a very long time. And not for how much it took that one day but the months of preparation and planning which called on me to tap into skills and talents long dormant and some even unbeknownst to me. I’m left daydreaming of those women and their words, the clapping and the laughter, the flurry of activity backstage and the kind smiles and tears of our audience.

I don’t want to let it go. It put me face to face with my best self and I want to feel that way Every. Single. Day. I know my LTYM: Providence warriors felt it, too.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?… Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory …that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
-Marianne Williamson-

Each of us tapped into our brilliant power this weekend. 

We spend our days caring for the next generation, watering their curiosity and pouring ourselves into nurturing their interests and talents, their souls. And as a side effect something’s gotta give and more often than not it manifests itself in neglecting ourselves the same tender care we give our children. We ignore the cries of our spirit in the name of our offspring, unintended martyrs, oblivious to how poorly this serves our children. They don’t need mothers who let dreams die or who stop dreaming or who let those dreams stew for a lifetime. What they need is mothers who practice gracious selfishness. Who put their oxygen mask on first. 

listen to your mother 2013Image courtesy of Egan Images by Mike Egan

This weekend I witnessed 13 incredible women stand on stage and put themselves first. It was magic. I want to honor them with a statue or  a tree or a monument or a couch with Oprah or their own TEDtalk but all I’ve got is words. Mind you in the perfect world that exists in my mind this is lovingly scrawled on fragranced stationery monogrammed with my initials in elegant yet legible script and it arrives in my cast mates’ mailboxes with a wax seal and a ray of sunshine. Instead, though, you get the 2013 version on my blog. Because I love you, women. I want everyone to know it.

Kirstenthe more I get to know you the more I fall in love with you. You are bold, outspoken, and opinionated. At the same time, a tremendous team player and a woman deeply connected to her heart. I admire your natural ability to connect people with one another and know how they can help each other, a matchmaker. You do everyone a favor when you’re present.

Brianne,  you are so natural when you’re speaking to a crowd. You inspire and connect and really should just do it all the time. And more than just a powerhouse speaker, you are an ingenius writer who deconstructs life in the most wonderful way and makes it all familiar even when it’s not so much. You need to be center stage because people will be held captive. They will listen. They will leave better than they arrived.

Laura, my partner in crime, your energy and joy was a guiding light during the last several months. It’s been a blessing to find someone as eagerly cheerful as I am. You are a master at your craft. You are generous with your time, your energy and your attention despite bearing more than a full plate. I admire your religious devotion to your family and natural inclination to cheer people on.

Jenn, I’m inspired by you to learn more. You are so smart and you have this ability to translate it into writing in a way that is witty and accessible to everyone. You are humble and so incredibly kind. You embraced us all like a mother hen, encouraging and supportive. So grateful for your eagerness to support Laura and I. It was one thing for you to share your story but then knowing you were wiling to go all in with us on this unfamiliar, unchartered journey – gracias.

Phyllis, your sweet and fun loving energy makes me want to hang out with you on the regular. Your story reminded me of my own, and the unique experience those of us have who are raised by parents juggling assimilation and holding onto their roots. I admire your leap to do LTYM during this time of figuring out what to do next. You’re leaning in, way in and it builds the bridges between then, now and next. And I wish I could pin point what it is but I know whatever your next project or venture, you’ll do it with everything you’ve got and blow them out of the water. You’re make-things-happen kinda gal.

Marian, your poetry was a serendipitous present during auditions. We didn’t know we wanted or needed poetry in our show as much as we did until you shared your poems with us. They speak such truth in their simplicity. I’m left awed by how much emotion your poems evoke in such few words. I was a lover of poetry from a young age then lost my way. You, my friend, have reminded me how badly my soul needs poetry. The world needs to be viewed through poetry’s lens to spotlight it’s beautiful frailty and harshness. Thank you.

Lexi, I am so incredibly proud of you for kicking SAD to the curb, for pocketing the memory of doing so for those times when it ain’t so easy. You are brave beyond words. I watched on stage as a mom in the audience wept, big thunderstorm tears, during your piece because she’d been there, is there, will be there. Your stories on raising children with special needs are a much needed embrace to other mothers with special needs children who have no one within arm’s reach to hold them, to make them laugh, to get it. Keep sharing.

Lauren, your journey is an inspiration to take on the unknown. You do it all with a natural lightheartedness that is infectious. And underneath the cheerful disposition lies a heart full of wonder and caring, willing to foresee the tough questions of the future and willing to ponder, willing to ponder.

Alicia, your honesty is like nothing I’ve encountered before. It’s a lesson to stand where you are, to not fight against the uncomfortable parts of life, to hold on proud to every story which makes up your whole. Your willingness to be so completely vulnerable during this process astounds me still – you gave us your story, your experience and were open to feedback and edits in the most humble way. It takes people many lives to be able to allow themselves to be so vulnerable.

Stephanie, holy laughter. Everyone in that auditorium came alive with laughter when you got on stage. I admit, the first time I read your piece I wasn’t sure how it would read. Then you brought it hilariously to life and there was no doubt in my mind we had to cast you. To be able to write for the stage or the screen is such a different beast than writing for print and you, my dear, have that superpower. The world needs laughter. Don’t deprive them.

Kelly, my God do you even know what you can do with words? Your piece was deeply personal while also being viscerally universal. It leaves me breathless every time. You have a gift – with your words, your gentle spirit and tender heart. Write more. Pretty please. More hearts need to be stirred and more emotions need stories where definitions do them no justice.

Jackie, how grateful I am to you for your perspective on life and your laughter. Your ability to speak candidly about motherhood, and any topic that comes your way, is refreshing and invigorating. And your fierce commitment to keeping it positive and supportive amongst women is a lesson for anyone who wants to move mountains. You give meaning to sisterhood.

Jessica, get yourself near a stage. At our dress rehearsal, you switched into theater mode and it’s like you never left. You’re a natural and enthusiastic teacher, from stage etiquette to social media etiquette, what you know you own. And it’s a gift to anyone you share it with. You are MayBell.

This. This is what I saw in you. What inspired me. What continues to move me. What makes me want to do it again and again.

I want to know what you saw in yourself during this Listen To Your Mother journey. What sleeping beast did we awaken? Tell me. Don’t let it sleep again.

And because I’m big on walking the talk, I’ll go first.

This process has taught me that I thrive in a group or team environment. I love the back and forth of exchanging ideas and energy. Writing is my passion and it requires solitude of me but  it’s futile if I deprive myself of the creative energy of collaborative work. I remembered I like to lead and I’m not too shabby at it. LTYM was me giving permission to myself to go forth and do. I don’t need anyone’s permission anymore. I really enjoyed the editing process. While there wasn’t much to do (hello, great writers), I found it soothing and fulfilling to provide feedback and mold something into it’s best form for our show. I deeply crave more time with incredible women who are honest and heart centered. After every single one of our rehearsals, I was lit on fire. My inborn optimism is a gift in the face of possible disaster (hello, faulty sound system). I also really love listening to people. Whatever is next, I just want to listen more. And remind people of their incredible worth.

It’s your turn, lovelies. Tell me how you saw yourself shine. Tell me what magic you tapped into that you don’t want to lose. Praise yourself for what you’ve done. We too often play our amazing selves down and I’m not sure why. It’s Mother’s Day weekend and you ladies are amongst the finest mamas out there. Be your biggest cheerleader. Go.

Thoughts on a Latina Author’s Journey

Today I am humbled to have Latina children’s book author Alma Flor Ada guest posting here  as part of the Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros Blog HopBefore having children, her name was foreign to me. After becoming a mom and making the decision to raise bilingual daughters, my family has uttered her name on a regular basis when we cuddle up to read one of the many books she has written or translated. She has made reading books in Spanish a joy for my family. Enjoy this beautiful piece on what inspired her many years ago and continues to do so today. 

latino children's literature

Migrant farm-working families became an important presence in my life, for the first time in 1973, while I helped organize a series of presentations at Mercy University in Detroit where I taught at the time.

I had no idea, as I stood with my children in a bitter cold Mid-West winter at the door of supermarkets in support of the lettuce boycott, how much I was to learn about their plight, how inspired I would be by the dignity in their life struggles.

While the families I met were from California I soon learned about the Michigan migrant camps. As I got to know families that had lost a common language of communication, because young children refused to speak Spanish, I found added strength to contribute to  the efforts for the passing of bilingual education laws in Massachusetts, in Michigan and Illinois.

After moving to California in 1976, it was but natural to look for opportunities to collaborate in Migrant Education situations. When Alfonso Anaya, who would later become my advisee in his doctoral studies at the University of San Francisco, agreed to sponsor a program on Literatura Infantil with migrant farm-working families in Pájaro Valley, my own life took an unexpected turning point.

For three years we met, monthly, at the high school library, a place both beautifully pleasant and non-threatening to the parents, always impressed by the large turn out of parents who had worked all day in the field.

During the first part of the meeting I introduced several picture books, as well as the hand-written books which children and families had produced during the previous month, and we dialogued about one of the issues the parents had requested. Then, the families broke in groups, facilitated by migrant teachers, to work with one of the books introduced, a different one in each group. After reading the book aloud, the parents would talk about following the Creative Reading process, and would see how the content could relate to their own lives and determine what decisions it inspired. They would also share how they could present the specific book to their own children.

As a final activity each group would make a list of topics they would like to see discussed the following month.

The “miracle,” as California Tomorrow called the success of these meetings, was not only on the constant presence of the parents, their interest in the books, and the numerous meaningful books they created, but also in their willingness to face and discuss openly the complexities of their own lives.

I would leave each meeting with a sense of awe. One night, while driving alone, late at night, since we had started the meeting after the parents returned home from the fields, I felt overcome by multiple thoughts –was the generosity I experienced, the profound sense of responsibility, the caring for family and friends, the result of working on the land, of the powerful labor whose product nourishes us all? To my amazement I began to see a story, as if projected on the windshield of the car… the story was as vivid as a film, even though I could only see it through abundant tears. When I arrived to my silent home, I hurriedly wrote it all down before succumbing to tiredness. The following morning I was sure I had had a vivid dream and only regretted not being able to remember.

What a surprise to find the written text of what would become The Gold Coin. A story of generosity and of redemption through the work of the land.

At the time I had several books published in Spain, in Peru, in Argentina. But under the encouragement of my daughter Rosalma, who suggested I had tapped in some sort of universal truth and insisted that I should try to get this book published in the US, I went on to collect rejections. It was 1990 and the letters I received said things like “this seems to have been written by a Hispanic” !!! or “American children would not be interested in a story like this” !!! or “the feelings behind this story are alien to this market.”

There were very few Latino editors at the time. Ana Cerro, a young assistant editor at Simon & Schuster was one of the few, and she recommended the publication of The Gold Coin.

What a joyful surprise that after winning the Christopher Award the story would indeed be included in all the reading series published in the several following years. And what a joy that today the presence of Latinos, both as readers and authors, receives some recognition even if far from what it deserves.

While the first, The Gold Coin was not the only text inspired by my continuous work with farm-working families in numerous districts.

Some of the poems I wrote after being in the fields became Gathering the Sun, magnificently illustrated by Simón Silva, who grew up in Calexico, among the carrot fields where his family worked. The book is dedicated to eight of my doctoral advisees, all of farm-working extraction.

In 1991 my ample poetry anthology Días y días de poesía was published with a  dedication to the children and parents of Pájaro Valley.

El vuelo de los colibríes (1995), which regrettably is yet to be published in English, is a story based on migrant experiences.

Imágenes del pasado co-authored with Isabel Campoy includes my essay Teatro campesino: ¡Qué florezca la luz! inspired in moments spent in San Juan Bautista.

In the biography series of Gateways to the Sun/Puertas al sol, Isabel and I chose to include biographies of César Chávez and of Luis Valdés.

Now, several years later, the farm-working experience reappears in the middle grades novel, Dancing Home, which I co-authored with my son Gabriel Zubizarreta. Once again, not as a conscious effort, but as a natural result of what has been a constant presence in my reflection and action.

The privilege of knowing and working with migrant farm working families and of learning alongside my doctoral students of farm working origin has been an enormous gift, and I continue to grow from it.

The Author

alma flor ada

Alma Flor Ada, Professor Emerita at the University of San Francisco, has devoted her life to advocacy for peace by promoting a pedagogy oriented to personal realization and social justice. A former Radcliffe Scholar at Harvard University and Fulbright Research Scholar she is an internationally renown speaker in issues of bilingualism and multicultural education.

Alma Flor is the author of numerous children’s books of poetry, narrative, folklore, personal memoirs and non fiction. Her books have received prestigious awards; among many: Christopher Medal (The Gold Coin), Pura Belpré Medal (Under the Royal Palms), Once Upon a World (Gathering the Sun), Parents’ Choice Honor (Dear Peter Rabbit), NCSS and CBC Notable Book (My Name is María Isabel), Junior Library Guild (Tales Our Abuelitas Told). She is also the author of a book of memoirs, Vivir en dos idiomas, two novels for adults, En clave de sol and A pesar del amor, and several professional books for educators, including A Magical Encounter: Latino Children’s Literature in the Classroom, as well as a wealth of educational materials. Her work, in collaboration with F. Isabel Campoy in promoting authorship in students, teachers, and parents is the content of their book Authors in the Classroom: A Transformative Education Process. Alma Flor Ada has been awarded the American Education Research Association [AERA] Hispanic Issues Award for Research in Elementary, Secondary and Postsecondary Education and the California Association for Bilingual Education [CABE] Life Long Award.

The Giveaway

L4LL has put together a wonderful collection of Latino children’s literature to be given to a school or public library. Many of the books were donated by the authors and illustrators participating in this blog hop. You can read a complete list of titles here on the L4LL website.

To enter your school library or local library in the giveaway, simply leave a comment below.

The deadline to enter is 11:59 EST, Monday, April 29th. The winner will be chosen using and announced on the L4LL website on April 30th, Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros, and will be contacted via email – so be sure to leave a valid email address in your comment! (If we have no way to contact you, we’ll have to choose someone else!)

By entering this giveaway, you agree to the Official Sweepstakes Rules (link to No purchase required. Void where prohibited.

¡Buena suerte!


Listen To Your Mother Comes To Providence

It’s so insanely easy to get lost online. You read a blog, you click a link, you read a comment, you click the commenter’s name, you read their blog, they link to a video and suddenly you’re a dozen sites deep and forgot why you’re even wasting time on the web. This carefree navigation, though, is the web’s beauty and also how I find a lot of the really fascinating content I go back to again and again.

This is how I found Listen To Your Mother. When I came upon the site, there was an immediate, “Holy shit! Yes! Yes! Yes!” moment.

From the Listen To Your Mother “About” page
“The mission of each LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER production is to take the audience on a well-crafted journey that celebrates and validates mothering through giving voice to motherhood–in all of its complexity, diversity, and humor.”

It felt like someone went through the filing cabinet of ideas in my head and put together a mess of different projects I’d tossed around theoretically and put together this beautiful piece of art. Motherhood, storytelling, community, charity, performance, orchestrating, gathering – so many of the things I adore and my spirit yearns for.

Needless to say, I applied to bring the show to Providence this spring. And guess what? It’s coming! This Mother’s Day season, Listen To Your Mother is coming to Providence, Rhode Island!

For the first time ever, I will be co-directing and co-producing a show with Laura Rossi, another Rhody mama with passion for motherhood and community. This is an enormous undertaking – securing a space, finding the right sponsors, auditioning talent, rehearsing, directing, the whole nine yards. The enormity of the task ahead is nothing, I am sure, compared to the reward awaiting us at the finish line.

I’m going to take you along for the journey.  So check back often as I share our social media feeds, our local site, official bios for yours truly and my co-director/co-producer and so much more. We’re going into deep planning mode for a few months while we organize the logistics. If what this show stands for speaks to you, then you can do 3 things.

1. Check back often here on the blog, Twitter or Facebook. I’ll post updates as they come. There will be plenty!
2. Spread the word! Share this post or your favorite video from the Listen To Your Mother YouTube channel and let everyone know it’s coming!
3. Auditions will take place late winter 2013 so if you think you want to audition start thinking about what you want to share with us! Men, women, children are all welcome to audition. Get those gears turning and get ready to audition in 2013!

I’ll leave you with a little sampling of what we’re hoping to create. Tears, laughter and sharing wisdom.