In our young adult fiction world, we find a plethora of subgenres that include vampires and ghosts, angels and demons, contemporary bad boys and girls, and a host of in-betweens making their way to readers everywhere. However, it was a lack of fantasies with a multicultural flavor that propelled author Kim Baccellia to write her first book, Earrings of Ixtumea in 2002.
“I was an elementary school teacher and was around kids and also teens. My first story, Earrings of Ixtumea, was my way of giving something back to the community I worked with. I was a bilingual teacher for a number of years and was frustrated by the lack at that time of fantasies that dealt with not only my students, but my own cultural background."
It is interesting to note that Baccellia’s love of writing was inspired and encouraged by her teachers. In the 5th grade, it was Mrs. Clements who gave this young writer a boost. In middle school it was an English teacher who not only encouraged her to keep writing, but to try out for the school newspaper.
“Even though I wasn’t that popular, my horoscope column was a hit. In high school, my journalism teacher, Mr. Warner, told me I was ‘talented’ and that I could do it (notice a theme here?). It was teachers who encouraged my love to write.”
The desire to put words to paper led to writing nonfiction pieces first, starting with Finally Our Turn, which was published in Adoptive Families. Several poems soon followed, published by numerous magazines, as well as an anthology on mental illness. It was young adult fiction, however, that made sense to Baccellia in the long run. The road to a finished, published book was not a straight and narrow shot, but rather a path with lots of curves.
“I first started writing Earrings of Ixtumea in 2002. I finished it in 2005. Then it went through a couple years of revisions. First published in 2007. And after my first publisher folded, Muse It Up, picked it up and re-released it with a much better editing job.”
Baccellia started the query-go-rounds with Earrings of Ixtumea in 2005 and received countless rejections until a small publisher stood up and took notice of her unique story.
Fourteen-year-old Lupe Hernandez dismisses the legend about her Mexican grandmother's magical earrings as a silly fairytale, despite recurring nightmares of human sacrifice. But when the earrings thrust her into the parallel world of Ixtumea, she must confront the very thing she shuns the most - her cultural heritage.
Lupe's journey takes her through a dense Mayan jungle to the damp underground kingdom of Malvado, where a rebel leader plots to keep her from fulfilling her destiny. She is guided by a hot warrior protector named Teancum, who tells her about a prophecy of a long-awaited prophetess - which happens to be Lupe. She trains with the Spider Goddess, who teaches her the sacred knots that bind both worlds together, and she meets her long-lost mother, Concha, who is now a dangerous enemy. Life as Lupe knows it will never be the same.