Xexeco, The Spectacled Bear Goes Live
In this blog issue, I want to share my experience not as a translator but as a writer and author. I hope it will inspire you to write this or maybe that, whatever inspires you. Translators and interpreters have so much to tell, in many languages, to the world.
Translating is writing. Ergo: Translators are writers. Or are we translators because we have a knack for writing? I add another essential variable to the equation: Reading. Reading is a must if we want to be good translators and writers. From daily newspapers to novels, fiction, and history books.
Being avid readers and multilingual, my parents instilled in my sister and me the love for reading. We read Francisco Marins and the fascinating Taquara-Póca farm stories. Through Monteiro Lobato’s books, we learned so much about history, geography, and the world. We enjoyed Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Andersen’s Tales, and so many other authors.
I was about 11 years old when I wrote a “book” in a notebook and added German decals as illustrations. The title was Apuros de uma família. It is fun to see my handwriting, vocabulary, and ideas at that age.
Writing a diary was a result of enjoying writing by hand. I could practice penmanship and write about daily facts, thoughts, joyful or sad experiences. I kept it for almost two decades. If I ever decide to write a memoir, they will be a good resource.
Undoubtedly because of my reading and writing, I also enjoyed telling stories. When my nephews and nieces were born, they were a captive and captivating audience. I enjoyed storytelling and reading, but I also enjoyed watching their reactions and adding on as they asked questions or wanted more.
One of my nephews suggested I write the stories so that I would remember and pass them on to my son, who was born many years after his cousins.
And that’s how my first book, O Livro dos Andantes, Voantes e Nadantes came to life. It was not easy; I contacted a handful of publishers who sent polite rejection letters. But I persisted, and finally, Editora Lisa agreed to publish my book. The illustrator was chosen by the publisher. I had no input. Until, one day, the fax machine started humming and printing out the characters that I had created in my imagination. What a fabulous sensation to see them taking shape and on paper.
I was invited to read the stories at my son’s school, first to his classmates and then to other groups as children became interested. I decided to donate the books to children’s hospitals, orphanages, and friends. Sharing the stories was the best compensation I could have.
A few years later, I started writing a second book based on a character created by an uncle. I realize now that my uncle was also a vital influence on my love for storytelling and reading. Our families went on summer vacation together, and he would take my sister, his three daughters, and me for hikes while entertaining us with stories about a bear called Xexeco. Unfortunately, I do not remember the stories, but I never forgot the name Xexeco.
Through Xexeco’s adventures, I shared ideas and life lessons with my son. We moved to the United States, my son grew up, and the book was put on hold until I joined a writing group and decided to translate the stories into English.
In so doing, I researched the Spectacled Bear, the only bear in South America. Therefore, Xexeco became a spectacled bear, and his eating and living habits became those of his species.
Last year, I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and found a wealth of information on being published. I realized that self-publishing became a popular and feasible alternative.
Publishers use their own illustrators, but you need to provide the complete package if you go the self-publishing route. It is a challenging proposition to hand your characters to someone who will give them life.
Through the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, I checked several illustrators and saw the work of Sandra Martins and her bio and knew I had found the right artist.
Sandra answered right back. My decision to self-publish was validated by having the illustrator who was willing to embark on the journey with me. She read the manuscript and fully understood the characters.
The book Xexeco the Spectacled Bear is now available on BookBaby Book Shop, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other distributors. How gratifying this has been, another fun Xexeco adventure! I am sure that now my son will be the one teaching me, guiding me through the launching and promotion of the book. Maybe a new book in the making?