What-All I’ve Been Up To
Wow, everyone! It’s been quite a year. Here we are, again.
First of all, happy belated birthday to my debut novel, What’s Coming to Me, the OG story of my heart.
Recently, it occurred to me that, aside from my jokey lil one-offs across social media, I haven’t really been documenting the work that’s gone into promoting WCTM by me and a team of stellar book people. And there’s been a lot. So for the sake of knowledge management, a phrase I repeat to my co-workers like a nonprofit-themed wind-up doll, here is where I’ll start to document most consistently.
Promotional activity for WCTM ramped up in June 2022 at the American Library Association (ALA)’s national conference*, where I had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of librarians and other book people and spoke on a panel alongside debut and established authors entitled “Fiction, Community, and Activism: How YA Depicts the Real Lives of Teens.” This panel was quite the turning point for me—I believe the audience that day witnessed in real time my own realization that Francesca is A Real Author(TM) now.
I also got to meet fellow badass Soho Press authors Ernesto Mestre-Reed, whose brilliant novel Sacrificio got a raving New York Times review, and Ramona Emerson, whose debut Shutter was just long-listed for a National Book Award. Like I said: Real Author(TM) Things.
I was interviewed on two AMAZING vlogs by and for readers of color: Brown Girl Book Lover and Paola M Guerrero which you should definitely check out. Plus this charming af, dog-filled TikTok interview with my friend Emily Hessney Lynch!
WCTM received starred reviews—a big deal, I’ll say it—from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and ALA Booklist. It was also covered by great outlets like Al Día News, BookRiot, 585 Magazine, Apartment Therapy, We Need Diverse Books, Teen Librarian Toolbox, Ms. Magazine, Publishers Weekly, Dominican Writer’s Association, and most recently Oprah Daily.
Somewhere in there was a 2-day New York City Book Launch Franstravaganza in August. This began with a “This Is Your Life-style” (my agent’s words, lol) reading from the book and Q&A at Greenlight Bookstore on Flatbush Avenue, near my old neighborhood and high school (technically: because if you know you know, that Flatbush Avenue is the longest street ever to exist. No, the latter probably isn’t factually true.). The second event, at Word Up Community Bookshop in Washington Heights, was an intimate, thought-provoking conversation with Angy Abreu of Dominican Writer’s Association.
My first Rochester author event took place at Writers & Books, moderated by Sejal Shah (This Is One Way to Dance, University of Georgia Press, 2020). Sejal is not only a brilliant writer & Very Nice Person, but also taught the class in which I learned just how challenging (and rewarding) memoir writing can be.
And then I attended my first ever book club meeting as an author, with the Serve Me the Sky book club. The icing on the cake of this truly lovely experience was that it raised money for a local organization, Baden Street Settlement in Rochester. More of this, please!!!!!!!
To see some of what’s coming up next (see what I did there) head over to Events, which I update at least once a week.
But also, I’m just getting started.
Francesca Padilla, Real Author(TM)
*The ALA conference took place in Washington DC, at the same exact time Roe V Wade was overturned. No, I didn’t see any protestors in Handmaid’s Tale costumes (though I’m sure some were around). Yes, it cast a shadow on an otherwise really wonderful event. To live in America is to have your heart broken and keep walking while it tries to heal.
cover and excerpt time
I’m excited to announce the cover reveal and exclusive first chapter for What’s Coming to Me, hosted by We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), a pioneer organization working to make children’s literature and publishing as diverse as our actual world.
In 2016, I was fortunate enough to receive a WNDB Walter Dean Myers Grant, a massive honor. Grieving and in flux, it nudged me to continue writing at a time when I frankly wasn’t sure if I could. To have them here for this milestone in my debut novel journey is more than fitting. Who doesn’t love a full-circle moment?
And this cover by the ferociously talented Naranjalidad! Speaks for itself.
Here’s an excerpt of the excerpt:
Anthony’s going to kill us.
Yes, that’s all you get. Now go read the rest. And while you’re there & if you’re able, consider donating to We Need Diverse Books!
A running list of frequently asked questions updated as needed.
Where can I get your book?
What’s Coming to Me is available to buy wherever books are sold in print, e-book, and audiobook formats. You can also request at your local library!
What’s your book about?
I’m so glad you asked. WCTM is a coming-of-age story about a girl named Minerva who absolutely hates her job at the ice cream stand. But she needs it: kicked out of school and stranded by her mom’s hospitalization, she dreams of escaping her dreary hometown of Nautilus. When a robbery at the stand stirs rumors about her creepy boss hiding money on the property, Min teams up with her neighbor CeCe (also desperate for cash) to find it. All in the midst of suspicious co-workers, dirty cops, annoying cousins, and an ill-/perfectly-timed crush on the assistant manager. There’s also a spoiled pit bull named Large Marge.
What’s it like to publish a book?
You know the expression hurry up & wait? That.
Do you do school / book club / other kinds of visits?
Yes! Please reach out via contact form and let me know what you are looking for, and we can go from there.
Did you also write a book called Blue Plums & Weeds?
No I did not. Someone else wrote it and mistakenly tagged me to it on multiple platforms. Apparently, it’s a dilly of a pickle to remove it. Shrug!
Do you just write all day? That’s cool!
Most of my time goes to my kids, my job in human services, reading (never enough), swimming, and the various iterations of Drag Race. For me, it’s more important that I read almost every day, and write with merely enough regularity to maintain the momentum on whatever I’m working on.
Who are your favorite authors?
Too many to name them all here, but I’ll read anything by Stacey Lee, Toni Morrison, Heather O’Neill, and Jesmyn Ward. I read adult and young adult (YA) fiction, graphic novels, non-fiction, and poetry. You can hunt down my Goodreads shelf for a broader idea of my taste.
Where are you from? Like from-from. Like from from from? Like–
My family immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic. I was born in Manhattan, raised in Brooklyn, and reside currently in the Rochester, NY area. I’ve lived in 3 of the 5 boroughs of NYC and spent time in other parts of New York State. Ultimately, tho, I come from the sea.
Do you speak Spanish? ¿Hablas español?
Technically, my first language was Spanish, pero no hablo muy bien ahora. Although I get nervous, I’m willing to converse with anybody who isn’t mean to me about it. I’m also willing to engage in conversations about how language helps and hurts and connects and separates us. All that said, my Spanglish is pretty good.
Do I call you Francesca or Franny?
Most people start with “Fran” and earn the others. You can do so by purchasing or reading my book.
What’s your voice like?
Mezzo-soprano. Brooklyn accent when excited or upset.
The following blog post is the first draft of the current author’s note for What’s Coming to Me.
When my mother was in her early 20s, she underwent open-heart surgery for a rare heart defect she had since birth. It was the 1970s in the Dominican Republic. Living still wasn’t guaranteed, and having children was basically prohibited for her due to the possibility she might not survive childbirth. She fixed her heart temporarily, and then she fell in love, and finally she took her chances and had me (and later on, my little brother). Her pregnancy actually terrified people.
My close family will say that my brother and I are miracles. Sometimes (not always) this is in the context of cheering me up. My very existence is magical, because a magical person created me under pretty dire odds. It’s not that I’ve disagreed with this, but the meaning, like my own grief, has changed over time.
My mother was my best friend, my confidante, et cetera. She was the first person I ran to when I had issues with my friends, my partner, my child, my job. This was because she insisted I should never be afraid to call or show up, that she’d be there for me no matter what. Maybe it wasn’t in my best interest for her to do this–maybe if she’d deliberately taught me how to self-soothe, I wouldn’t have felt so adrift in her absence. Or maybe not.
Right before my mother died in 2014, when her health was the worst it had ever been, I could feel myself starting to drift. I revisited things like astrology and tarot and candle magic, after a brief interest in them as a teen (not unlike a lot of people, I know). When she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at NYU Langone, where she stayed for a month before her death, I remember this fixation intensifying. I’d listen to readings and videos on magical topics while taking the crosstown bus from my office job in Midtown West. I wanted to know the outcome of not just this situation, but everything else that was important in my life.
I wanted more of a handle on things, even if it meant spending every spare moment in the ether.
I went to see her in the hospital almost every day she was there. I brought my then-3-year-old on Easter Sunday even though children weren’t allowed in the ICU, because the nursing staff adored my mother and did her all sorts of special favors. She was always the star patient at a given facility, usually the youngest among those with the same chronic illnesses (she also had kidney disease and hepatitis). She was a kind, positive person to whom people were naturally drawn. But I wonder if the staff at her final hospital stay knew something that we, her family, didn’t. That she was about to die.
There’s a subset of grief called anticipatory grief. It’s the type we feel in advance of the actual ending. When we can see it coming, even if it’s far away. Since my mother was chronically ill for most of my childhood, grief has been around just as long, not so much a friend but a companion, sometimes a co-conspirator and other times an opponent, one more worthy than anything made of flesh.
People familiar with grief are likely to also be familiar with this complicated dynamic: the infinite faces of grief and how we perceive it, interact with it, and are influenced by it. We know that every instance of grief is unique because every life and relationship is unique. And in saying all that, I realize I’m not saying anything new at all.
I am…an intense person. And partly, that’s due to the grief. Nobody tells me I’m intense in real life, because they don’t see it until they’ve gotten to know me (though sometimes there are people who pay attention early–others who’ve grieved in some way). What strangers get from me is what I call, on more pessimistic days, a watered-down version of my mother. I can work a room, crack a joke, exude strength, and even be there for other people. My mother had a shy streak and a baby face, and I also have that.
On more positive days, I see myself as a whole person with many of my mother’s strengths. This includes her magic. But I also have qualities that I’ve forged on my own, unique to me. This is when the grief rides with me in tandem, handing me bottles of water. When I recognize that I wouldn’t be myself without it, without her. And I drift back down.
I Wrote a Book
I’ve actually written a few, but you don’t need to know what those are about. I only mention them as a nod to the reality that it usually doesn’t take just one manuscript. It takes multiple manuscripts, 103,248 drafts, and a bevy of productivity tools to produce what later becomes a physical book.
Anyway, this book: it’s about rage and abandonment and freedom. It’s about riding in cars. It’s about perv bosses and other workplace woes. It’s about friendships when they get weird. It’s about grief.
Here are some important parts that, sadly, didn’t make the templated announcement:
- $$$$ (money)
- grimy seaside town called Nautilus
- small gray pit bull
- complicated mother/daughter relationship
I am filled with appreciation that Soho Teen/Soho Press recognized all the above in my story.