Title: Queen of the Flowers-A Memories of a Puerto Rican Girl
Author: Delia Cerpa
The memories of a young Puerto Rican girl come to life in this charming memoir by Delia Cerpa that chronicles her growing up on an island paradise. Queen of the Flowers invites readers into another world in another time in a very special place — Puerto Rico. It is a place of lush tropical beauty, close-knit families, and old-fashioned values of a bygone era.
Cerpa’s master storytelling explores the life of young Garín and her nine brothers and sisters, and most importantly Mamá, a young widow who takes on the role
as head of the family with skill and strength.
Queen of the Flowers is about family, love, loss, and island culture. It deftly delves into questions of coping with death, family roles and responsibilities, childhood rites of passage, and finely described emotional experiences that shape this girl’s mind and life. Queen of the Flowers is a thoughtful, richly described coming-of-age story — one that is sure to touch hearts and minds.
I have so many thoughts about this novel. The storytelling was very well done. It kept me engaged for most of the story. The imagery within the pages was so beautiful and thought provoking. How would you handle a situation like Garín’s mother, Mamá? How would you handle losing your love one, and now, you’re the sole caregiver AND provider? The story that Delia Cerpa wrote brought me back to my childhood. Being raised by a single parent, I was aware of many of the struggles her mother faced. Another beautiful aspect of the story was the location—Puerto Rico; an island of beauty and mystery to anyone who isn’t connected to said place. Again, Cerpa’s imagery brought to life a place of dreams. The beauty. The love. The community.
There were a few spots where I had a difficult time to maintain my attention. Some of the sentences sounded unnatural and threw me off while I was reading. Also, some of the dialogue seemed a little excessive. However, these are things that I’m able to look passed when the story has true meat and bones. I can’t express how I truly felt as though I was in Puerto Rican, experiencing the events of Mamá and Garín.
I give Queen of the Flowers Memories of a Puerto Rican Girl a strong 5/5. It’s well worth the grade, and I have no issues on promoting this novel. I’m happy to see more representation within the literary world.
The cover gets a solid A. The cover screams a tropical paradise—Puerto Rico. The colors are beautiful and vivid. The little girl is so beautifully done. I fell in love with the cover the moment I set my eyes upon it.
Author Interview with Delia Cerpa
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Twenty-one years ago, I realized I not only wanted to write, I needed to write. I lived through a remarkable and important span of history where my homeland of Puerto Rico went through dramatic shifts from 1939 to 1952 when I migrated to the US mainland and lived in Bronx, New York. Upon my migration I was on the eve of womanhood and seeking my place in the world. I didn’t have time to pursue my writing. I was busy working as a stewardess from 1960 to 1966, and during that six-year period I traveled around the world. Now at this time in my life I finally have time to write. With my first book Queen of the Flowers and others to come, I hope to inspire others to live their lives full of wonder and become resilient in whatever happens in their lives.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Queen of the Flowers: Memories of a Puerto Rican Girl is my first book, and therefore, I have not written enough books to gage how long it takes me to write one. It took me a year and a half to write the manuscript for Queen and an additional three months to put the final touches on it and get it ready to publish. I imagine it will take me less time to write the next book. I believe I can write a book in six to eight months. I already have the outline for the next book. There are a couple of children’s books in draft form, and I could write those in three to five months provided the right illustrator who has the right affinity for the book emerges who has a proper spirit of collaboration.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
When I am writing a book that is my number one priority except for my loved ones and my health, which take equal priority. The latter two are just as important, because both fuel my writing. I am an early-riser, and it is not unusual for me get up at dawn and write. I love the morning silence and enjoy the gradual awakening of my day. My day starts with a gratitude meditation and journaling. I consider journaling a form of meditation, and then I move on to the morning’s mundane routines.
Then I go to my desk within the first hour and a half of the day. I work for about four hours and take 15-minute breaks to stretch and exercise, which varies from stretching out like a cat to short, natural movements. Then I return to my writing. I don’t keep word or page counts, I just put in four hours each day and sometimes more. The number of pages eventually becomes consistent.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Seemingly ordinary or quirky people fascinate me. I depict them from the inside out. I do so by bringing out their extraordinary characteristics and how they come across to me.
How do books get published?
There are five different ways to ways to get published.
The first and hardest way is to try and go with one of the “Big Five” New York publishers, including Simon and Schuster, Random House, Penguin and others. Going this route requires you write a book proposal, first chapter, and submit it to an agent who either accepts your project or rejects it. If the agent accepts the project, they submit it to those publishers – and the submission process can take a long time. If the publisher is interested, they acquire the project, and they generally give you an advance against future sales to write it. Your royalties range between 8 to 12 percent of net sales.
A second way is to try presenting your idea to mid-level publishers, such as Hay house, New World Library and others. They may or may not take your book proposal with or without an agent. This approach has its challenges and isn’t the easiest either. They don’t pay huge advances. Most authors often think, “Oh, well I want to go with a publisher because they’re going to market the book for me.” That is a myth. Publishers don’t help you market a book. But sometimes these mid-level publishers like Hay House; they get you on their stage where you can speak at their events – and that will get you started in your marketing campaign.
The third level of publishing is called a hybrid publishing. And it’s not like old-world self-publishing where you had to go out and find a printer and do the whole thing yourself. You pay a publishing company generally in the range of $5,000-$10,000 and they’ll publish your book for you. The royalties are flipped in your favor since you paid for the service. They pay anywhere between 40 to 100 percent (when I sell myself) of the gross not the net. You may get anywhere from 250-500 free copies that you can then go sell and possibly make back your money. Now a great advantage of working with one of these kinds of publishers is that it’s fast. You can get your book out. The big publishers, it’s going to take you up to two years or more. With hybrid publishers you can get your book out in three to four months once it’s done. INDIE authors use the hybrid approach to publish their books.
The fourth way is the easiest of all – and it is writing an e-book. An e-book does not have to be long. It could be as few as 50 pages, and it falls under the category of self-publishing. Of course, you can also put together your own resources and self-publish. However, you may find that once you hire an editor and graphic designer, you’ve spent as much as you would with a hybrid publisher that already has established those resources and vetted their skills.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Because my book is the 1st in the series of my memoirs, I get my primary information from my long-term memory, which is sharp, accurate and vivid. I have been journaling for over 20 years and recorded many stories. I remember facts and historical events. These images are imprinted on my mind as well as feelings about the characters. All of these memories shape my perceptions of events that show up in my writing. I do research before I start to write about the facts of the period. I interview key characters that are part of the story that may help expand my memory and fill in gaps. This technique gives me perspective. This, in turn, provides clarity and enables me to see more clearly from observation as it really was at the time. For inspirations and ideas, I read memoirs and biographies of famous or not-so-famous people in the area I’m writing about. I also search for photographic collections of the era. It is a fascinating journey.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first book between 2017-2018 and published it in 2019. I am 79-years old.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I enjoy reading and watching movies or documentaries related to my writing as well as other topics and genres that interest to me. I enjoy reading poetry and children’s books. I have written a few poems and a couple of children’s books that are just waiting to find the right illustrator and focus to make them happen. I have two lovely granddaughters ages four- and 13-years old and a son whom I enjoy spending time with. Next week (in July) we are having a family celebration hosted by my many nieces and nephews and my son. It is also the celebration of my 80th birthday and my book launch. We will also be going to Disneyworld. I enjoy swimming, looking at the fine arts, and cultivating and expanding relationships. I play with designing wall hangings made out of felt or other cloth. My other hobbies include visionary and creative timeline collages.
What does your family think of your writing?
In the dedication of my first book I wrote the following: “To Iván my son, part of the second branch of our family tree, who has been supportive of this book, often affirming how courageous it has been to live my life, but now to write about it. To Lauren-Emilia and Emma Lyn, my granddaughters who infuse me with joy and youth. How great it is to see you grow!
My family is obviously pleased with the legacy I am leaving behind in my memoirs. I read enough memoirs and about writing memoirs to know that the family’s perspective is that they want to be consulted and included. They are very proud of the work I have done and the accuracy in which I have portrayed them as a family and as individuals during a certain place and time.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I have often heard from other authors: “The book is inside of you; you just have to download it.” I didn’t believe it was that easy. To my surprise it was true, but not easy.
How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
This is the first book, and it will remain a favorite for quite some time, I’m sure. It contains the wonder of childhood, as I knew it. I also discovered that my inner child was a happy child. I have a few children’s books written waiting for an illustrator and editor, and they will also become my favorites. Book number two of my memoirs will be a priority. You don’t want to leave the reader hanging or in suspense.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Yes, I write every day. I suggest writers develop a regular habit of writing. Try to write from the center of your heart and about what you know and have lived whether it is fiction or nonfiction. Always improve in all the areas of writing, especially the ones that need improvement and stretch yourself on your giftedness – pull it to the maximum. Congratulate yourself as you keep progressing and when something you write seems brilliant. Send the self-critic for a walk, a long walk. Learn from good writers and role models. Hang out with other authors and other artists. Support their books and their creative endeavors.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Yes, the book is already out and available through my publisher’s website (www.3LPublishing.com) since May. I have subscribers to my website that have made comments. The most common comments are things like, “Can’t wait for your next installment” and “The book came to me when I really wanted and needed to hear its message.” I particularly enjoy it when they make comments about the characters or identified with one of them. They have also asked, “How do you remember so many details?” I love to answer that question.
Do you like to create books for adults?
Yes, very much.
What do you think makes a good story?
Engagement with the reader where you bring them right into the story where you create a setting and characters that they can relate to. I want my readers to learn through my storytelling. Stories don’t directly teach but rather allow readers to discover and have an experience.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A fashion designer, and I became one for a while.