Catching up with 2020 Editor-Writer Mentee Celia Viramontes
Updated: Jun 7
Our Editor-Writer Mentorship is an annual program that pairs upcoming writers from underrepresented groups with experienced book publishing editors! Our Editor Mentors provide substantive feedback to help raise a strong manuscript to its best position for submission to potential agents and editors. This is an opportunity to learn from the knowledge of experienced acquiring editors. This program is free of cost due to the generosity of our volunteer editors.
We are excited to catch up with our 2020 Picture Book Mentee Celia Viramontes, who worked with Editor Kate Meltzer over the past year.
Born and raised in East Los Angeles, California, Celia Viramontes is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and a lover of libraries, which helped nurture her early love for stories. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Occidental College, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Comparative Literary Studies. She holds a graduate degree in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research examining language policy, bilingual education, and immigrant civic engagement in California has been published in numerous academic publications, and her poems on growing up bilingual appear in the anthology, The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles. She is a graduate of the Children’s Book Academy and recipient of its Yuyi Morales Picture Book Merit Scholarship. A writer and researcher based in Los Angeles, she is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators who draws inspiration from her bicultural background and bracero family history.
Kate Meltzer is an editor at Roaring Brook Press, a division of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. She has worked with bestselling and award-winning authors such as Marie Lu, Melissa de la Cruz, and Matt de la Peña, among others. Kate acquires projects across genres for younger readers of all ages, ranging from original board books up through realistic contemporary YA and beyond. According to IMDb, she’s an actress known for The Last Five Years (though she thinks her cameo as “Handelman Twin #1” barely counts). When she’s not reading or editing, she can be found searching the streets of New York for the perfect croissant.
Here's our Q&A with Celia:
1) Which fictional character/personality did your Editor-Mentor most channel?
In our first meetings, Kate encouraged me to see her as a "story detective" looking for clues throughout my writing. With her keen eye and sharp observations, she helped me unlock
key story elements, so Sherlock Holmes comes to mind as a fictional personality she channeled, but in her approach to helping me weave words in such a kind and thoughtful manner, I have to say Charlotte in Charlotte's Web comes to mind as well.
So I think Kate channeled a bit of Sherlock and Charlotte!
2) What surprised you about your writing or yourself during your mentorship?
What most surprised me was re-discovering the multi-layered aspects of my story and the challenge of finding ways to distill it to its essence. No easy feat when it comes to picture books! But Kate was wonderful in helping me tease out story elements that best served the story.
3) On a long day of writing or querying, what sage advice from your Editor-Mentor will be floating around in your mind?
There is so much valuable advice I will always carry with me from this mentorship with Kate. But one that particularly resonated and stayed with me is that a manuscript is like a sculpture. Molding and shaping it, finding the layers throughout and giving it definition. The dedication
to craft and the process of re-fashioning it with each revision can be an arduous process, but also often where the "magic" happens in the storytelling.
4) Will you share with us what you've been working on? Give us the one-line pitch of your manuscript.
I've been working on a picture book manuscript with the following storyline: When Abuelito comes to visit from his far-away village in Mexico, a trip to the library with him helps a girl
discover a part of her Grandfather's life and her bracero family history, bringing them closer together.
5) What's next for you and your writing career?
I intend to continue nurturing this manuscript, drawing on the knowledge acquired through this mentorship. I am driven now, more than ever, to continue to hone my craft and to center stories that have been historically relegated to the margins.
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To learn more about the Editor-Writer Mentorship Program, CLICK HERE.