LETRAS: Amplifying Latino Voices in Self Publishing

Wendy Angulo and Maria Aponte are no newbies when it comes to curating events for the Latino literary community. Under their individual production companies; Wendy Angulo Productions and Aponte-González Productions LLC, Wendy and Maria have been an influential force in broadening the visibility of marginalized voices within the New York City area. This month the two creative powerhouses unite to bridge the gap in self-publishing.

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Who are Wendy Angulo and Maria Aponte?

 

Wendy: Wendy Angulo is a NYC born Latina, Single Mother, Lawyer, Writer, and Entrepreneur

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Wendy Angulo , Photo:Nivea Castro

 

Maria: Maria Aponte is a community arts activist/author/poet/performance artist/educator. She has been involved in the arts for over 40 years dedicating her work to focus on racial discrimination against women of color and the Puerto Rican women’s experience in NYC.

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Maria Aponte

What is the Latino Self-Published Book Fair?

Wendy: LETRAS, The Latino Self-Published book fair is a literary event that focuses on the representation of Latino Self- published authors, providing them with a platform to showcase their works and space for both writers and readers to connect.

Maria: The Latino Self-Published Book Fair is dedicated to Latino self-published authors. The focus of the book fair to give artists a literary space for their work. These are writers who have taken on the responsibility of self- publishing and bring new voices to readers.

What made you both come together and create a platform to amplify the voices of self-published Latino authors?

Wendy: I was contacted by Maria during the summer to join forces and create this book fair since we both felt self-published authors are not given too many opportunities to showcase their books at the book fairs/festivals. Sometimes the fees to participate are really expensive making it impossible for a self-published author to join or self-published authors are not allowed to be a part of it unless their book has been published through a press. Since we are both Latinas, we were eager to provide a space to the authors within our community. With Maria’s expertise from her Comite Noviembre book fair for Puerto Rican authors, we began the plan and logistics and with the support of the Bronx Museum of the Arts and Poets and Writers here we are!

Maria: I got the bug to produce book fairs back in 2013 when I got the opportunity to put together a book fair at La Marqueta in El Barrio, NYC before it was renovated into the Placita that is there now. Moving forward I became and involved with Comite Noviembre’s Puerto Rican Authors Book Expo and had been the coordinator since then. I have always admired Wendy’s focus and professionalism with her organization; Canvas of Words, and I had approached her this past summer about collaborating and now we have LETRAS. I feel that self-published authors should get as much literary time as those that are published by publishing houses and small press.

Do you feel there is an under-representation of Latinos in publishing?

Wendy: I think yes, but it is rapidly changing, we have always been resilient, so if they don’t give us a chance we simply create one, that’s just who we are.

Maria: Yes, I do. I feel that although there is a larger community of Latin American writers we are still not on what I call the “mainstream” radar.  With exception of our most well-known authors, most of us do not make the best seller lists and still need to be accepted as a more diverse community of writers. But I think that self-publishing is creating that space and in the next few years will be looked at from a wider perspective.

What are the pros and cons that come with being a self-published author?

Wendy: This is a topic that will be discussed at our panel in LETRAS with an incredible panel of Latino Authors: Nancy Mercado, Charlie Vasquez, Raquel Penzo, Bonafide Rojas and moderated by Maria. The Pros are definitely control and decision making. The author controls everything from editing to the art for the book cover; every decision regarding the book is made by the author, no splitting of the profits. Although all sales are yours, the juxtaposition of all these pros is how wearing all these different hats affect the creativity of the author. To add another con: the sales of your book are also fewer from the current book market because the distribution is not as wide as the one from publishing companies.

Maria: The pros about self-publishing and this is from my experience; self-publishing allows you to be in control of what you want to be written and how you market your book. You are your writer, producer, and agent. The cons, sometimes if you don’t have the time to do all the work involved your book can sit on the shelf or box you ordered your copies in. Also, by being your marketing machine, you don’t have the luxury of a publishing house booking your book signings, printing your book, contacting schools or businesses that may invite you to be a speaker at an event. But if you become good at running your own business and work towards specific goals you can find a comfortable balance.

What is each of your roles in the Latino Self-Published Book Fair? What expertise will you be bringing?

Wendy: We are both producers of the book fair; we are both writers and curators, so we are combining our knowledge and past experiences to bring a great event to our community.

Maria: My role in Book Fair is handling the logistics with the Bronx Museum of the Arts who has graciously offered to host the event, and I will be moderating the LETRAS Panel. We have some amazing panelists who said yes when we invited them to speak. Our panelists are Charlie Vázquez, Raquel Penzo, Nancy Mercado and Bonafide Rojas.

What are you currently reading?

Wendy: Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older, The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehesi Coates and Some of Us Did Not Die by June Jordan.

Maria: I just finished reading Bernice L. McFadden’s’ latest novel, The Book of Harlan and I’m slowly reading Ana Castillo’s Black Dove.
Is there any advice you can give to an aspiring writer with hopes of becoming published?

Wendy: Write, Read and invest in your craft: workshops, fellowships, grants anything that is at your reach to become the writer you want to be.

Maria: My advice to an aspiring writer- write, attend writing workshops, read, read, read. Find those authors whose words move you and inspire you to write. Like we say in the theater, learn your craft.

What’s next for Wendy Angulo and Maria Aponte?

Wendy: The second year of LETRAS jajajaja. As far as personal projects: stay tuned!

Maria: Next on my agenda is the Comite Noviembre Puerto Rican Authors Book Expo, and gearing up for my organization, Latina 50 Plus 2017 events. And perhaps working towards the 2nd LETRAS? 

Where can folks connect with you?

Wendy: on my website at  wendyanguloproductions.com Instagram: @wangproductions Twitter: @wendyanguloprod FB: Wendy Angulo Productions

Maria: Folks can reach me via Linked in, Facebook, or they can reach through my website at mariaaponte.com My fan pages on Facebook are Transitions of a Nuyorican Cinderella and The Gift of Loss which is my new book .