Archive of Letters and Voices

Xelena Gonzalez

July, 2020

Dear Readers,

Without you, our words would be lost in the wind. Our pictures would be like a field of flowers no one ever saw. You see, for art to work its magic, there must be a giver and a receiver. So, THANK YOU for receiving our offerings of picture books. Every time you turn the pages, a gift is unwrapped again and again.

My dear friend Adriana Garcia and I have created two special stories for you: All Around Us and our new creation, Where Wonder Grows. While we were finishing this second book, our world took an interesting turn with the arrival of a potent virus. This means that many of us cannot visit or hug our grandparents for a very long time. Maybe it means the loss of friends and relatives. And it means a lot of time indoors.

It is not easy to assure young people during difficult times like this because, as adults, we also experience confusion and uncertainty. As creators, what we can do is envision remedies and new possibilities … We hope that our books remind you of the very special connection you have to your grandparents, your ancestors, and to nature. Because of this, you are powerful and strong and enduring.

When I sat down to write this letter, I could not help but think about the children who are without their parents in these difficult times, the ones who are locked up in cages along our country’s border. For centuries, this land did not have any borders or walls. And the first people of the land moved freely in search of safe homes, kind weather, and places to find and grow food.

What is most heartbreaking about seeing these children imprisoned is that they are descendants of these first people. If you resemble these children on the news or the children in my books, chances are, your ancestors were also native to this land. Many of us have lost our connection to our native tribes, but that does not mean we have lost our connection to the land.

After many tears, my letter became a poem to these children who are waiting to be reunited with their parents. I dedicate it to them. And I hope that you too find light and love within its words.

Wishing you peace,

Xelena

 

Zetta Elliott

June 13, 2020

A couple of weeks ago I received a long list of questions submitted by students in Toronto for a live author event. Most kids wanted to know what inspired me to write my fantasy novel Dragons in a Bag. Others asked for writing advice. Some wanted to know why I chose to write about dragons instead of other mythical creatures. One question stood out from the rest and I chose to answer it at the end of my allotted time: “What do you do when you’re scared?

Life does get scary sometimes and there’s no shame in being afraid. Everyone feels fear—kids, teenagers, and grownups, too. Lately things have been happening in our country that make me upset. I have anxiety, which means I worry a lot. I always tell kids that “What if…?” is how all good stories begin. But when I’m feeling anxious, asking “What if…?” over and over again just makes me more afraid because I tend to focus only on the bad things that could happen.

My big sister treats people who have anxiety and she told me to think through any situation that makes me feel worried or afraid. I fainted on the subway once and I was so scared it might happen again that I didn’t want to take the train anymore. But I tried doing what my sister suggested: I asked myself what would happen if I got on the train and fainted again. Well, probably the same thing that happened the first time—someone would help me.

Mr. Rogers used to say, “Look for the helpers.” Whenever something scary happens, there are always good people who will rush in and try to make things better. I got back on the train and I was fine. Then, years later, I fainted on the subway again! And you know what? Kind people helped me—again. Sometimes things happen that we can’t control, but that doesn’t mean we’re powerless. The one thing we can control is how we react to the world around us. We can choose to believe that good people will stand together and fight for what’s right. And we can become helpers ourselves, assisting those in need.

It takes a lot of courage to admit that you’re afraid and need help. And that’s what I told the student who asked me that brave question. The next time you feel afraid, look for the helpers. Find someone you trust—a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or a teacher—and tell them how you feel. Know that there are lots of people in the world who will do everything they can to make you feel safe again.

Peace & love,

Zetta