Six Questions with Sara E. Echenique
Sara E. Echenique is a Puerto Rican children’s author living in south Florida. Earlier this year, Charlesbridge published her debut picture book, Our Roof is Blue, in English and Spanish, which has received positive reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and Children’s Literature. Sara is a member of SCBWI, Las Musas Books, and the Busy Bees. Visit Sara's website or instagram (@autoraechenique) to learn more about her and her books.
1. What’s the best piece of advice a mentor has given you?
I’d have to say it’s a mashup of advice – just write (and give yourself some grace in the process). When I first started writing for children, I felt like a complete imposter (I still do sometimes!) and with two small children (now three!) and a busy job, it felt impossible to dedicate myself to it. So I found little snapshots of time to study it and actually write—on the train, late at night, any moment I could get. I have probably half a dozen scribbled notebooks full of ideas and stories. There is no one way to write and no one way to be creative, so I stopped comparing myself and my journey (as much) to what seemed like the norm.
2. How did you begin your journey as an author?
As a child I read voraciously and had the very specific dream of becoming a vet who writes stories about their job (much like James Herriot). I put that particular dream on pause as I pursued my English degree from Williams College and law degree from the University of Michigan School of Law, and later litigated (telling stories of a much different kind). Shortly after having my oldest two children, I reconnected meaningfully with children’s literature and rediscovered writing as a creative outlet.
3. What three things bring you joy?
My family (including my husband, our three beautiful children and our lovely rescue dog), using my mind (creatively, strategically, at work and at home), and being outside (in the mountains, on the beach, under a tree--there are no bad options).
4. What was the timeline for Our Roof is Blue, from idea to publishing?
In 2017, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, leaving millions of people without power, running water, and other basic services. I began writing Our Roof is Blue shortly after, inspired by the hope and resilience of people on the island. The story went out on submission in early 2019 and I signed with Charlesbridge that summer. With the pandemic, Charlesbridge pushed publication to 2023 and it debuted earlier this year. It was a long road, but worthwhile! While that was happening, I wrote (in 2021) and Roaring Brook Press published (in 2022) my middle grade debut, Hispanic Star: Roberto Clemente, which is not at all what I expected back in 2019.
5. What was the most challenging thing you faced while writing/researching this book?
It’s unfair, what Puerto Rico has had to endure these past few years (an endless recession, Hurricane Maria, political issues, earthquakes, the pandemic). I am constantly inspired by my home, but even more so after Hurricane Maria. They were put in completely untenable positions, only to persevere, finding creative solutions to problems that might break others, and doing so with an unmatched sense of humor and wit. I felt an immense amount of pressure to get things ‘right’ and put an entire culture’s sense of community, love, resilience, and pride, into a picture book.
6. Who should read this book?
Our Roof is Blue is the story of the bond between siblings, healing from trauma, the power of imagination, and—at its core—the human impact of climate change. In my mind, there are two types of ideal readers: kids who have experienced all of those things and kids who have not.