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My Writer's Journal

Behind the Books: Rio Grande Stories

Original jacket: RIO GRANDE STORIES

The idea for RIO GRANDE STORIES was conceived in a fit of homesickness. We'd moved from Albuquerque to Denton, Texas, in 1990, and I was missing my old home--the friends, the family, the chile (both red and green), the mountains, the clear blue sky, the beautiful weather, the culture.

One evening, lying on the couch with a magazine that wasn't holding my attention, the idea for a book popped into my head out of nowhere: how about writing a series of linked stories about kids in a middle school in New Mexico who decide to write a series of stories about New Mexico--about La Llorona, and the walk to Chimayo on Good Friday, and Las Posadas on Christmas Eve. They'll write about bizcochitos and Indian pots and jewelry. There will be a dozen stories, and they'll put them into a book and sell copies to raise funds for their school. They'll call their book RIO GRANDE STORIES.

I was on fire with ideas for that book! But actually getting the book written was another thing entirely. My editor ("Archeditor Liz") wouldn't let me get away with any weak characters or second rate plots. I wrote and wrote and rewrote.

I thought it might have just local interest, and it has had that. But to my amazement, there are classes in middle schools from California to Virginia, for goodness sake, where kids are putting together their family stories, using RIO GRANDE STORIES as a model. I've gone to visit them, seen them for myself. It's a great feeling.

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