Award-winning UCSC alumna gaining recognition for second novel

Reyna Grande
In 2007, UC Santa Cruz alumna Reyna Grande (creative writing, film & video ’99) received an American Book award for her debut novel, Across a Hundred Mountains.

Grande wrote the first 80 pages of the novel--a poignant story about immigration and family based on her own personal experience--as part of her senior project in the UCSC Literature Department.

But after the initial success of the book, Grande began to get second novel jitters, wondering how she could possibly follow up with another successful book. 

“I had this paralyzing fear that I wouldn't be able to write a good second novel,” Grande recalled. “There was a time when I was working on the book when I couldn't write for weeks because I was letting my fear block my creativity.”

She needn’t have worried.

Since its publication last year, her sophomore novel, Dancing with Butterflies (Washington Square Press)--a story of four women in a Los Angeles-based folklorico group--has been steadily garnering acclaim.

This past summer, Grande received the 2010 International Latino Book Award, Best Women’s Issues. Earlier this year, the book was chosen as a 2010 Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club selection.

“Right before the book came out Publisher's Weekly gave it a "starred" review and after that I was no longer afraid, but thrilled,” said Grande. 

“A few months ago I got an e-mail from my UCSC creative writing teacher, Micah Perks, telling me that she loved the book and that she was proud of me,” Grande added. “I was happy to hear this from her, and to know that even though I was her student 11 years ago, she is still keeping track of what I do.”

Grande is currently  helping to coordinate the 2010 Latino Book & Family Festival--the largest gathering of Latino authors in the country--set for October 9 and 10 at Cal State Los Angeles. The event will feature more than 120 Latino authors and nearly 50 panels, readings and workshops to choose from throughout the weekend.

Now living in Los Angeles, Grande has returned to UCSC and the Central Coast for a number of author appearances this year. She was the keynote speaker for the 2010 California Association of Bilingual Education conference in San Jose.

The city of Watsonville also chose her first novel Across a Hundred Mountains for its community program, "On the Same Page." And Bookshop Santa Cruz selected Across a Hundred Mountains for its community book group. 

“Santa Cruz is like my second home,” said Grande. “I have friends there, my college professors whom I am still in touch with, and my younger sister lives in Watsonville.”

Grande is currently working on a memoir, but still plans to write more fiction in the near future.

“I want to write an inspirational story for young Latino youth,” said Grande. “In this memoir, I am writing about the years I spent in Mexico without my parents, then coming to the U.S. and having to not only learn English and make my way in a new country, but also get to know my father all over again--a father I hadn't seen since I was two years old.”

“But I do have other novels planned, as soon as I am done with the memoir,” Grande added. “I have found it quite difficult to write non-fiction, and can't wait to get back to fiction where I can let my imagination go where it wants to go.”