"Books are my inspiration, writers my heroes.”
- Olivia Castillo
I grew up in the Bronx, NY. I had an older sister and three younger brothers. In those days there were no videos, computers, iPhones, game boys, Xboxs, or PlayStations. We had only three TV channels and shows for kids were in the mornings, afternoons, or on Saturday mornings.
To entertain us, my mother, who loved books, read to us every night. Grimm's Fairy Tales, Arabian Nights, Huckleberry Finn, Beverly Cleary... all sorts of books. She would read to us and speak in different voices to make the stories come alive.
She also encouraged us to write in diaries and journals, and to keep a record of our lives.
I began to write in my diary. I had a diary with a little lock and key. I wrote about my good times and bad. In high school, I wrote about boys and my struggles. It was hard in school trying to fit in, and belong, and at times I had no one to express my feelings to. I felt safe in writing and I created my own world.
Stephen King said, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time or tools to write."
In high school, I was in an honors English class and my English teacher, Mr Walsh, inspired us to read and encouraged us to write.
He introduced us to F. Scott Fitzgerald, my favorite American writer, considered one of the greatest American writers of all time. We read The Great Gatsby and I loved the way F. Scott Fitzgerald described scenes and created a world I could see myself in.
I read Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy, the Bronte sisters, Laura Ingalls, Herman Hesse. I read all the time. Books opened up my mind and I traveled the world through books.
I had something to say. I kept writing because I had something to say. I went through tough times, painful times and writing helped me get through them.
"There is no friend as loyal as a book.”
I wrote a book of poems when I was going through a divorce. Reading and writing helped me express my feelings in a safe and positive way. Writing helped me create my own fair in a world that I felt was unfair and unjust at times.
I kept reading because knowledge gave me power.
Through books I found the strength to get myself out of a bad marriage. I learned what was good and bad, and got help that I needed.
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
-Alexander Graham Bell
I decided to improve my writing skills by taking a UCLA extension course. I began to write short stories, and improve my grammar and flow.
“Write about what you know and write truly and tell them all where they can place it.”
Seven years ago, I decided I wanted to write a book. I wanted to write about someone else's family story and then my daughter said why don’t you write about your own. That’s when I decided to write my book, Song of the Boricua.
I wanted to write down some of the stories I had heard about as a child that my parents and grandparents told me. I wanted to leave a legacy for my children and leave them a history of their family. I wanted to write about my parent's and grandparent's struggle, about their stories of facing racism and being Puerto Rican in NYC.
I changed the names, and I sometimes changed the characters and combined people. I exaggerated and I created fictional characters to create a compelling story. I wrote about what I knew and based my characters on people I knew.
“Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.”
- Neil Gaiman
I’ve always had a hard time finishing things. I’m an artist, so I had a lot of half finished paintings and projects.
I made it a goal to finish the book. The mind can’t concentrate on two things at once, so I had to let go of the critical side of mind to let the creative mind flow.
I finished my book and let it sit. I asked several people to read it and get back to me and I never heard back from them. I just let it go until I went to a friend of mine author party, and talking to writers inspired me to try and finish my dream.
“Stay true to yourself, yet always be open to learn. Work hard, and never give up on your dreams, even when nobody else believes they can come true but you.”
I decided to, when I got home, to make my manuscript into a book. I revised it several times and got advice from published authors.
Everyone said get an editor, so I found a content editor and I then found a format editor.
I decided to self publish after reading the pros and cons of waiting for a publisher to pick up your book. I wanted to see my book out there and not wait for years.
I found cover designer and decided to self-publish through Amazon as it was free.
I found a format online on how to get out there and here it is:
7 Ways to “Put Yourself Out There” as a Writer
1. Stake a claim online. If someone searches your name + “writer” online, you want search results that showcase your work...
2. Social media. It's easy enough to set up your account...
3. Online workshopping...
4. Introducing yourself in your online writing community...
5. Attend a writers conference...
6. Sign up for a pitchfest...
7. Guest blog...
I found a company to help me get there and their goal is self-publishing assistance and establishing an online presence for independent authors.
I started a Twitter, Facebook page, Instagram account and I have a blog I write every week.
I went on the "Kelly Show," which won an Emmy this year and the "Soul Suite" hosted and run by Marcus Noel.
"When a writer is born into a family, the family is finished."
It’s difficult being out there. My extended family didn’t receive my book well, but I’m glad I wrote my truth and my story.
I was able to let my mother read my book and she passed away Jan. 1. 2019 having seen me achieve my dreams.
I write every week several times a week. I write in my phone and I write anywhere I feel inspired. I’m working on a sequel to my book and this year I won the bronze medal from "Readers Favorite" for excellence in writing.
“For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
Don’t ever give up. We create our own fair and if you want to be a writer or write a book or whatever your dream is, I hope I inspired you to be your authentic self.