Q&A with Watch Me Read and Draw & Starry Skies author Samantha Chagollan

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MEET SAMANTHA CHAGOLLAN

Samantha Chagollan is an award-winning author and editor of a variety of children’s fiction and nonfiction books. A native Southern Californian, Samantha grew up with a passion for telling and writing stories. Through the family’s art store in Huntington Beach, California, she taught arts and crafts to both children and adults for five years. She went on to earn a degree in literature from Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, where she focused her studies on multicultural literature and the Spanish language. After working for several publishers in the area, Samantha is currently working as a freelance editor and writer and is probably crafting a new story at this very moment.

Her latest series Watch Me Read and Draw launches April 3rd! Just follow the simple steps on each page to draw all of the characters in the story, one step at a time. There’s a flip-out drawing pad with prompts too, and plenty of stickers to make the story even more colorful!

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Q&A    

How and when did you first get into writing?

I come from a family of storytellers, so before I could even write, I too was telling stories. The first one I remember crafting was about what happened to all of my toys at night after I went to sleep. In my story, they all had a disco dance party without me! I think I was 4 or 5 years old, and I remember my mom wrote the whole thing down as I told it to her. Once I could actually write my own stories, I just never stopped! I would turn in a book report for extra credit in math if they would let me! I became a Literature major in college and that’s when writing became more serious business for me.

Do you have any rituals or habits that help you write?

For me, it’s about having a good mix of structure and play. At the beginning of a story, I like to doodle or paint or do any kind of creative work that’s going to help me open my mind to what the story needs to be. Once I have a spark of inspiration for what story needs to be told, I create an outline or cluster chart so I have some sense of everything that I want to be incorporated and how much space I have. Then I turn on some music, light a candle, and get to writing!

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What’s your favorite book?

I am a complete book nerd so it’s too hard to pick just one! I have so many favorites. I was always a voracious reader growing up, and into college and beyond. I am usually reading 2 or 3 books at a time, just following as many stories as I can. As a child, I loved mysteries, like the Nancy Drew books, and later the Sherlock Holmes series and anything by Agatha Christie. I also loved mythology and fairy tales too. In high school, I was into more political and allegorical novels, like 1984 and Brave New World, and character-driven dramatic novels like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. In college, I became obsessed with multicultural literature, and now I read all kinds of books—including children’s literature. Some of my favorite books I’ve read recently are The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue, and Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler.

 

What writers inspire you? Are you inspired by any Latina writers?

There are so many incredible authors I admire, who make bold choices with their characters and craft such clever stories. I love Elizabeth Gilbert for her beautiful honesty, Ann Patchett’s characters are amazing, and I am in complete awe of J.K. Rowling. In college, I wrote my senior thesis on the work of three fantastic Latinas: Isabel Allende, Cristina Garcia and Julia Alvarez. Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia is such a lyrical, beautiful tale of immigrant families, I just fell completely in love with it.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring young writers?

Just dive in and start writing! Take inspiration from everything and everyone around you. The best way to become a good writer is to first pay really close attention to everything in your world, from the color of the flowers in your neighborhood to the conversations people are having in line next to you. Take notes! What stood out to you? And also: keep reading. Read as much as you can, from as many different writers as you can, until you find your own voice.

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Watch Me Read and Draw: The Zoo

Illustrated by: Mattia Cerato
Format: Paperback / softback, 36 Pages
ISBN: 9781633225374

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Illustrated by: Jannie Ho
Format: Paperback / softback, 36 Pages
ISBN: 9781633225350

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Starry Skies

Illustrated by: Nila Aye
Format: Hardback, 32 Pages
ISBN: 9781633225091

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