I was 17 years old —a senior at Alverno High School in Sierra Madre, Calif.— the first time a story of mine was published in a newspaper.

The story was about making tamales with my family— but it was also about love and tradition and growing up.

I think that’s when I started to understand how precious and powerful stories can be. And I have been fortunate, since then, to hear and tell many more of them.

After studying journalism at Northwestern University and, later, at University of Westminster in London, I moved to Stockton, Calif., to work as a reporter for The Record newspaper. I covered education, immigration and other issues related to children and families. Now, at University of the Pacific, I am proud to help coordinate a community-wide literacy initiative. I also continue to work as a freelance journalist.

My first picture book, the bilingual Finding the Music/En Pos de la Música, was published in Spring 2015 by Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books, and my debut middle grade novel, Stef Soto, Taco Queen, is coming in January 2017 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. I’m thrilled to be represented by Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

My husband, David Siders, and I have two little girls, Alice and Soledad. We read lots, and have so much fun.

Reading with the girls.

Reading with the girls.