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Meet Marta Magellan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marta Magellan.

Marta, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
When I left Brazil, where I was born, I knew no English. I left behind my loved doll and many cousins and aunts, which felt like a huge loss (even the doll). In spite of that, living in a new Miami neighborhood, where I was allowed to roam free, was a whole lot better than watching the world go by from an apartment balcony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where it wasn’t safe to roam free. So, as a child, my love for my new country did start out with the idea of freedom, but from a child’s point of view. I was allowed to cross the street by myself! It took about six months, but I finally became fluent in English. Until then, I remember being angry–at my classmates, my teacher, everyone but the Hispanic neighbors I was able to speak to as their Spanish was closer to Portuguese. It was as if I blamed the English speakers for my inability to communicate with them.

As it turned out, I learned the language well and was soon in the highest reading groups. I majored in English, received a Master’s in Theoretical Linguistics, and went on to teach in Brazil and Japan before coming back to Miami, Florida with my two children. I eventually became a full professor at Miami Dade College, where I taught English Composition, Creative Writing, Survey of Children’s Literature, and assorted other classes. The course in Children’s Literature made me want to write for children.

My passions (even as a child) have always been children, nature, and books. Those loves were fulfilled: I had children, I took them on nature outings, and I wrote books about nature for little ones. With the exception of some books I’ve written for the educational market, all my published books so far have been nonfiction about wild animals–vultures, bats, pythons, anole lizards, and big cats. Vultures and bats may not sell books, but it’s so important for children to know of their value to our ecosystem.

My latest book, coming out in spring of 2020 is PYTHON CATCHERS SAVING THE EVERGLADES about the Burmese python invasion causing so much havoc to the native wildlife in the ‘Glades. The pythons have become an eco-disaster, which started because of pets being released into the wild. I want children to learn the repercussions of that and the importance of responsible pet ownership before another such invasion occurs.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Of course, it hasn’t been a smooth road. Strangely enough, Hialeah Jr. High and Hialeah High were schools populated by mostly Anglo students when I studied there. I was not able to overcome that feeling of not being quite equal to everybody else except in Journalism and English. I knew I could succeed in those classes, but it took being in college to finally feel like I belonged, that what I was doing was going to be useful someday to others and that where I came from wouldn’t matter anymore.

Becoming a teacher is always a struggle for those of us who pour ourselves into the profession. I put a lot of my time into a literary magazine I advised at Kendall Campus as well as an arts program I co-chaired for 20 years. I didn’t have to, I could keep my job with the five classes we were required to teach, but those two projects were so important for the students. I poured my passion for writing into the student magazine and my writing classes. Occasionally, I published articles and a few animal books. I retired in 2018, and that’s when I began working on my children’s books seriously.

Writing for children is a tough profession. Everyone–celebrities, wives of celebrities, children of celebrities, and more–everyone wants to write children’s books, so I’m in a glutted field now. Yet, what I want to write about needs a voice, so I’ll keep connecting animals to the well-being of our environment.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I am now a full-time children’s book writer. I want children to know about our wild animals and their impact on the environment. I also want them to understand about the importance of leaving wild animals alone. If they do keep pets, they must never set them loose—not pythons, not cats, not anything.

My work during my thirty-plus years at Miami Dade College turned out to be successful. The magazine I advised, Miambiance, won many prestigious national awards every year, and it inspired nearly almost all the campuses to start their own literary magazines. The Arts & Letters Day program I helped build is still an ongoing program, and its main benefit is the way it exposes our students to music, art, and drama they aren’t used to experiencing.

What are your plans for the future?
I am planning more books on wild animals, either the natives that help the ecosystem or the invaders that destroy it. I have also been rewriting a middle-grade novel set in Brazil during the time of slavery. Fiction novels would be a new path for me and a long, difficult one at that. Everyone thinks writing for children is easy. Not at all. I’m thankful for the SCBWI critique groups that I’ve been involved with all along (and one that I co-lead with the author Silvia Lopez). What a difference they have made in my writing.

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Image Credit:
James Gersing

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