We had the good fortune of connecting with Isabel Ibañez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Isabel, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
For me personally, it’s been to recognize what I’m good at and what I’m not. It’s easy to compare other peers, wishing I could do X, Y, or Z just as well, but it’s never helped. There are things that only I could write, there are only stories I could tell. When I come up with something that isn’t in my wheelhouse, it’s OK to delegate, or ask for help. Ridding space of what isn’t working makes plenty of room for what is.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m the author of Woven in Moonlight and Written in Starlight, books inspired by my lived experiences as a Bolivian American. They are both Young Adult fantasies, infused with whimsical magic and a fantastical setting inspired by Bolivia and the Amazon jungle, where my father was born and raised. I’m most proud to write about a country not many people spend time with, describing my culture and the delicious food I grew up eating, and highlighting the socio-politics and economics, too. The stories offer an imaginative look into Bolivia and its many peoples.
I always knew that I wanted to write and I graduated with a degree in Creative Writing, but I think my career really took off because of Twitter. Specifically, Pitch Wars, a contest of sorts that pairs an aspiring writer with a mentor who would work with you for several months on your unpublished manuscript. From there, I was very active in the writing community and eventually found an agent for that manuscript. Things really took off from there and Woven in Moonlight published January 7th, 2020! While my first agent and I amicably parted ways, I landed another one who sold three more books with Wednesday Books.
Some of the lessons I learned along the way were to trust my instincts and to protect my creativity from external opinions and voices that often aren’t helpful. Creating art is a deeply vulnerable process and not everyone will love the results. That’s OK, especially because while its true your art may not be for everyone, it will find its audience.
Growing up, it was hard, near impossible, to find books who had a main character who was similar to me, who spoke like I did, or ate the same things. I wrote Woven in Moonlight and Written in Starlight with the hopes that there would be readers who could identify with the main character, seeing themselves as the hero. I truly believe that stories from marginalized voices deeply matter, and that there’s room on the shelves for all of them.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I live in Asheville, North Carolina, and while so many people visit because of the mountains and hundreds of hiking trails, featuring lakes and rivers and waterfalls, I think more people really ought to visit for the food. There are so many wonderful places to enjoy, showcasing a variety of flavor profiles.
Here’s a perfect day in Asheville, and let’s say its October/November because that’s really such a pretty time to visit. Here’s the plan, spread over the week!
Coffee: High Five, Farewell, Summit
Pastries: Owl Bakery, Hole Donut, The Rhu
Breakfast: Early Girl Eatery, Biscuit Head, Sunny Point
Lunch: Chai Pani, Baby Bull (best burger in town), Jerusalem Garden Cafe, White Duck Taco
Dinner: Curate, Bull and Beggar, Green Tea (sushi), Jettie Rae’s, Tupelo Honey. Jargon, White Labs, Limones, The Rhubarb
Dessert: French Broad Chocolate
We’d go hiking or float down the French Broad River in between all of the eating!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I love this! Yes, early on, a twitter community called Pitch Wars helped shape me as a writer and gave me opportunities to forge connections with fellow writers. The book world, especially the YA community, is a small one and if it wasn’t for other writers walking the same long road, my arrival to publication would have been a lonely one. Huge shout out to Adrienne Young, Rebecca Ross, Stephanie Garber, Kristin Dwyer, Shelby Mahurin, Zoraida Cordova, Rachel Griffin, and Megan Lally for all the love and encouragement.
South & Emory