Monday, November 30, 2009

An Interview With Rene Colato Lainez

I recently reviewed a wonderful new bilingual picture book René Has Two Lase Names/ René tiene dos apellidos by Rene Colato Lainez. The book is based off the author's childhood experience. On the first day of school Rene's teacher only puts his first last name on his name tag. Rene is confused and sadden by the loss of his maternal grandparents last name. I thought the author did an excellent of showing Rene's connection with his grandparents and I loved that a family tree was incorporated. My review

The author, René Colato Laínez was kind enough to answer a few questions. Since this is a bilingual picture I will begin and end this interview in Spanish.

Hola and bienvenido René. Congratulations on your newest picture book René Has Two Last Names/ René tiene dos apellidos.

How old were you when you moved to the United States?

I was fourteen years old when I left El Salvador to come to the United States. My father and I left on February 17, 1985 and arrived to Los Angeles on April 14, 1985. It was a long and tiring trip. My journey and my immigrant experience are my main focus on my picture books.

What did you think when learned people in the U.S. generally use one last name?

I was in shocked when I received my school id in high school and found out that my mother’s last name was missing. At first I thought it was a mistake, but my school counselor told me that I could use only my father’s last names in my official papers.

In the picture book, young Rene gets to keep both last names. Where you able to hold on two both names in school?

I was able to hold on my two last names on my homework and school projects. Also I have my two last names on my high school and college diplomas. I have a MFA degree in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College.

It's sometimes difficult for someone of another culture to understand a different way of doing things. I loved how you showed, young Rene's connection with all four grandparents. You made it really easy for children to feel René's sadness and loss at having his name shortened. How many drafts did you have to go through to get the story just right?

This is René’s second adventure. I Am René, the Boy/ Soy René, el niño was the first book. Writing René Has Two Last Names/ René tiene dos apellidos was relatively easy because I already knew the characters, (Me and my family). I wrote the first draft after having a phone conversation with my literary agent, Stefanie Von Borstel. We were looking for another story for René and decided that my two last names would be the perfect one. I wrote four more drafts and it was presented to my publisher. A few weeks later, we received a contract!

Do you prefer to read the story in Spanish or English?

I incorporate music, movements and children’s participation in my readings. I had read the book in English and Spanish and bilingually. If all my audience speaks Spanish, I prefer to read my books in Spanish. But I am happy to read it in any language.

Oh man, this book would be great with music. There's wonderful movement throughout.

"In El Salvador, I wrote my name on my homework, my books and my birthday party invitations. Rene Colato Lainez was a happy song that made me dance to the rhythms of the cha cha cha. But in the United States, the song lost the guiro, maracas and drums. Why does my name have to be different here?

It takes a strong person to resist the urge to dance after hearing cha cha cha.

Do you write your picture books in English or Spanish first?

I usually think the story in Spanish first. I do not start to write until I have a clear vision of the beginning, middle and ending. I usually write the first draft in Spanish. Then I translate this draft into English and work in English until the story is ready for submission. The work with my editors is in English. When the story is ready and approved by the publisher, I do the Spanish translation.

And finally, Rene can you tell us a few of your favorite books of the year?

I have a few favorite novels:

THE INVISIBLE MOUNTAIN by Carolina de Robertis
BLESSING'S BEAD by Debby Dahl Edwardson
CONFETTI GIRL by Diana Lopez

Picture books:

JUST IN CASE by Yuyi Morales
by Carmen Tafolla
by Amy Costales

I love a well read author, especially one who has similar taste.

Gracias, Rene. Buena suerte y muchas felicidades por tu nuevo libro ilustrado


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love your questions! Especially about language. Great interview!

Rene Colato Lainez said...

Thanks Doret for this wonderful interview.



Mayra Lazara Dole said...

Gracias Doret. As a bilingual children's book author, each time I read reviews by Latina/o authors, I want to do a little dance! Rene, Congrats! After Doret's review, I want to read your books!

Anonymous said...

i meant "after Doret's review AND interview!"
Mayra. : )

Anonymous said...

I agree--this was really a wonderful and insightful interview. Thanks for sharing Doret and René!


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