Welcome to our Fast Forward Friday feature, Anika! I look forward to learning more about you. Could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself, please?
Thanks so much, Kathie. I was born in Colombia but raised in Minnesota after my parents got divorced. I’ve worked as an elementary teacher, a librarian, a web designer, a writer, an adjunct instructor, and an editor. Phew! Now I’m primarily a writer and I live in Minneapolis with my husband and daughter.
I really loved WHAT IF A FISH, and I can’t wait to hear what young readers think when it comes out on August 4th. Can you give us a brief synopsis of it?
Half-Colombian Eddie Aguado has never really felt Colombian. His Colombian father died when he was five, and Eddie lives in Minneapolis with his American mother. This summer, all 11-year-old Eddie wants is to win the same fishing contest his dad won. But his fishing plans are put on hold when he’s invited to visit his half-brother in Cartagena, Colombia, where he lives with his grandmother who is ill. Through Eddie’s travels and adventures, Eddie comes to figure out who he is and what he’s fishing for.
WHAT IF A FISH is your debut middle grade novel, but this is not your first published book. Can you tell us a bit about your memoir, MAGICAL REALISM FOR NON-BELIEVERS: A MEMOIR OF FINDING FAMILY and how it impacted your upcoming book?
My memoir is the story of meeting my father when I was twenty-one and getting to know my Colombian side. Obviously, the theme is very similar to WHAT IF A FISH and, although my father is still alive, I had a similar journey to Eddie’s in seeking out who I am and what I’m looking for. I started working on WHAT IF A FISH when I was having trouble getting my memoir published. I took the “emotional core” of the memoir and superimposed it over these characters whom I’ve come to love so much.
How did the process of writing a fiction story for middle grade readers differ from an adult memoir, and did you find one easier to write?
Middle-grade fiction is so much easier than memoir! The hardest part of memoir, I think, is that you’re not just writing; you’re digging deep into yourself and exposing the things you find. There is no veil, no escape, no short-cuts. With fiction, I found that I had some emotional distance that allowed me to work with my characters in an honest way. It was also really fun to be able to make up stuff! Writing for children is both joyful and challenging because you must be so truthful. Kids can see through junk so easily.
If you’d like young readers to take away one thing from this book, what would it be?
Eddie wonders “what if” a lot. At first, his “what ifs” are the start of his worries. Later, they begin to be part of imagining the wonderful possibilities. I think it’s important for readers to remember that there is always a multitude of “what ifs” but that we get to decide how we think about and react to life.
Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?
You can check out my author website at anikafajardo.com or the book website at whatifafish.com. You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram at @anikawriter.
Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Anika, and best of luck with your summer release!
Anika Fajardo was born in Colombia and raised in Minnesota. She wrote a book about that experience, Magical Realism for Non-Believers: A Memoir of Finding Family (University of Minnesota Press). A writer, editor, and teacher, she lives in the very literary city of Minneapolis. What If a Fish is her first middle-grade novel.