Oprah Presentation-January 21st, 2013: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Seeing Oprah present last night was a dream come true for me…it was like all the planets and stars were aligned. I savored every word she breathed…just like I did when I was 16 years old. She has been an important constant in my life…She has been the parent that I never had, guiding me through my teens, twenties, and thirties… Half of my storage is filled with her magazines, magazines that I cannot bear to throw a single issue out…Oprah has taught me to say the word NO, much more often…Oprah was THE one to plant the seed in my noggin to write my book (true story!)… Oprah inspired me to be the first to seek higher education and to buy property on my own…Miss Oprah Winfrey has been and always will be…my guardian angel.


Parkview Junior High-January 14, 2013: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

On Monday January 14, 2013, I had the privilege and the honor bestowed upon me to present my book, No, Really, Where Are You From? to the grade 7, 8, and 9 Chinese Bilingual program at Parkview Junior High School in the west-end of Edmonton…. What a wonderful experience that was for me, and I certainly hope the students enjoyed it as much as I did. The students were very well behaved, and they asked so many good questions too. I thank Mr. Chun Zhao, a teacher at Parkview School, for arranging this wonderful opportunity for me. I am still on cloud 9 and I could do this for the rest of my life…

The pictures above are just a few from that blissful day…

If you are interested in purchasing the print or kindle edition of my book: No, Really, Where Are You From? check out the first tab on my website at for more information.

Caernarvon Elementary School: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

I had another wonderful opportunity to present and plug my book No, Really, Where Are You From? last night at

Caernarvon Elementary School on 14820 – 118 Street inEdmonton. I wasn’t as nervous as last week at Rosslyn, perhaps because I know adults can be a little more forgiving. In any event, the audience last night consisted of very nice principals, teachers, and parents. I shmoozed and mingle and signed my book afterwards as well as donating 2 books to 2 lucky winners from a draw. More good news! A teacher from Parkview would like me to speak to his class. I am looking forward to it! Stay tuned….

Rosslyn Junior High School-November 5, 2012-Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


On Monday November 5, 2012, I had the honorable opportunity to speak to a junior high class of bilingual (Mandarin-English) students at Rosslyn Junior High. The presentation was held in the school’s library to accomodate the large audience. My audience consisted of grade 8 and grade 9 students. I was extremely nervous at the beginning, to the point I almost couldn’t breathe and thought I needed a …tranquilizer to calm me down. But as the presentation went on, the students made it easier for me to speak and present. The students were very responsive and so smart. According to my 13 year old niece, teenagers have a very short attention span, so I made sure I asked as many questions as they asked me. I asked questions about bullying from others, the Chinese language, the Chinese identity, and where Venezuelais. But I think the kicker was what I did at the beginning of the presentation…I spoke a few sentences in Spanish, to show that Chinese people don’t all come from China or Canada…they’re from EVERYWHERE!! Overall, it was an honorable and humbling experience that I will never forget. Teenagers and young people are the target groups I am aiming for, so, this was a fabulous opportunity. I also had the bilingual teacher, Jian Qin draw 5 student names, and the 5 winners each got a free copy of my book, signed.

Thank you Rosslyn Jr. High for giving me this opportunity!

No, Really, Where Are You From? Official Book Launch

So it FINALLY happened! Yes, my first book launch for my first book: No, Really, Where Are You From? happened on Sunday September 9th, 2012 in the PCL Studio Theatre inside the TransAlta Arts Barn on Whyte Avenue, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Where do I even start on that fateful day…

What I know for sure is that it was a very emotional day for me. I was nervous, I was thrilled, I was scared, I was sad, I was happy, I was giddy, I was shaking, did I mention that I was scared? I was a bundle of excitement, I was so so sad, but I was also so so proud.  It was an out-of-body kind of surreal experience! And it was a special day too! You try to figure all of that out!

My book launch started with a speech from my Master of Ceremony Catherine Jones. I came out afterwards and I spoke about what had inspired me to write No, Really, Where Are You From? Here’s part of my speech…


Wow! What an attractive man! was my first thought, on many many occasions, but seriously, it was my first thought in early 2004 as I watched a man, named Po Bronson, being interviewed by Oprah on one of her shows. As most of you know, I was a total devotee to Oprah’s show since I was 16 years old, but that day in early 2004, something about this man changed my life.

His name is Po Bronson. He was on Oprah’s show to talk about his book, What should I do with my Life? The True Story of People who answered the Ultimate Question. In his book, he talks about his own experience with deciding what to do with his life, and not what society expects of him. I found him articulate, intelligent, sure of himself, passionate, and last but not least, attractive. Not surprising, I bought this book and took it with me on my trip to Africa that May and read it in between adventure full safaris in Kenya, during a cruise down the legendary Nile in Egypt, and in between the breathtaking Egyptian pyramids. But it was during our down time in my tent pitched up near a river full of grunting hippos, and in between my Kenyan safaris, that a seed started to plant in my head.

Prior to that life changing Oprah show, I knew I had this strange feeling I wanted to write a book. But on what? Well, it was shortly after I showcased my 2003 Edmonton Fringe Festival play, The Yellow Peril, that I felt a need to step up the ante. My play was based on the early Chinese immigrants in Canada, based on the coast of B .C. mainly in Victoria, B.C. After The Yellow Peril, I was itching to do something MORE with the topic of the Chinese experience in Canada. I also wanted to explore what might I’ve become if I never left my homeland of Venezuela and grew up Venezuelan, rather than Canadian.

After much soul searching, reflection, and brainstorming, and Po Bronson’s book inspiring me to tell and share people’s stories, I took my first scary step in 2005. My first interview was with Susan Pon. I remember I was so nervous, and I wasn’t sure where this is going to go. But I plugged away, stayed true to my questions, and interviewed the next person and so on.

My questions were refined throughout the last 7 years, but they didn’t change dramatically since 2005. I kept almost all of my notes and old questions, and that’s how I noticed the evolution of my questions (found in the appendix of my book). I wasn’t sure how to find the people I needed for my book, how do I put a book together, should I self publish or have a publishing company do it, will my readers understand what the heck I’m talking about? These and many other questions looped in my head for years, but I later learned that this is part of being a budding author. It will be easier the second time. The experience so far has been priceless.

It was through my writing experience with No, Really, Where Are You From? that I learned what one of my passions is…writing. When I was younger, I do remember I loved to read and my strongest subject in school was Social Studies. I never had a strong feeling of what my passion was or what I can offer to this world in my lifetime, until 2008 or 2009, was when I knew, I found my home. I don’t know if I’m good at it, and really I don’t care if I am or not, but I will try my best and speak from my heart and write about the topic with integrity and respect. I just love writing. I guess I do love it, because I’m a Mexican jumping bean when I start talking about my second and next book.

As most of you know, the other love of my life is rock or mountain climbing. My second book will be about my personal and physical journey preparing and climbing the world’s second highest mountain, Mt.Aconcagua in Argentina, this past February 2012. Similar in format to No, Really, Where Are You From? I would like to stick with the non-fiction narrative and  interview people who have strived for their “Everest”, but didn’t make it, and their feelings and thoughts about that experience. What did they learn from it, did they learn from it at all? Did the experience shift their priorities? What were/are their priorities? Are they the same, different? The title of my second book will be: It’s Not About the Summit. I hope I will be celebrating with you all again on my next book launch.

I know I talked a lot and may have already gone over my 15 minutes, but I thank you so much for celebrating with me a very important milestone. Writing this book and putting my pride and joy together and sharing it with the world, has been truly a labor of love.

Finally sharing my book with the world is a bittersweet time for me. I feel like I have to let go of something that has been a big part of my life, a constant in my life for the past 7 years. I feel it’s like taking my child to school on his/her first day of grade 1. I feel scared, protective, but proud. It’s my baby.

Thank you again, and I hope you enjoy the book launch for and the book, No, Really, Where Are You From?


After my speech, the first surprise of the launch is a Chinese lion dance performance. It was a great performance! Thank you Bill Gee for arranging that for me! To honor my Chinese heritage, I also read a speech in Chinese.

The book signing followed. Wow, this was another special moment for me. It was nice to get away from the podium and chat with my friends, as I was signing my book. I’m normally not good at doing two things at once, but I think I did okay in writing and talking at the same time. I hope I didn’t write something that didn’t make sense or misspelled!

The Book Reading was next on the agenda. I read from a few chapters in No, Really, Where Are You From? It was the first time I’ve breathed out my beloved words to the world…

As most of you know, I was born in Maracay, Aragua, Venezuela many moons ago. To celebrate my Spanish heritage, I brought in a pinata to strike at for the book launch. I have very clear and fond memories of hitting pinatas during my birthday parties, and other people’s birthday parties, during the first 7 years of my life. Also, a very important part of the Venezuelan/Spanish culture is the pinata. Like the Chinese lion/dragon dance performance, the pinata (when striked open) will bring good luck to the  one who had successfully striked it open. It wasn’t me! It was Nathan Ebbers! Thank you Nathan, and to others I have chosen,  for being a great sport!

My book launch concluded on a good note. It was great to have my old and new friends come celebrate with me on this very important and special milestone in my life.

This book launch would not be possible without the help of some very very good friends. I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to June Kolmas, Catherine Jones, Janice Buckaway, Betty Kalathoor, Jason Mathews, and Arden Tse.

I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful and special day…

My photographer, Shelby Deep, took these beautiful pictures. She can be reached at:


You can view more of these pictures from my book launch on Flickr:

East Meets West Festival — Edmonton

On Saturday August 25, 2012, I had participated in the Edmonton’s 2012 East Meets West Festival. It was a windy day and the sky was threatening a huge downpour, but the gods must have been looking upon me. There were moments when I really thought my Canadian Tire bought tent will fly away, but my trusty sand-filled 4 litre milk jugs along with some extra weight provided by the City of Edmonton, did the job of preventing it from becoming a “There’s no place like home…” incident.

I was a newbie, and I didn’t know anybody, and even bought along my Oprah magazine to pass the time. I didn’t know what to expect in this Festival. I’ve never heard of it before, but only found out about it 2 weeks before, from a magazine advertisement. I called the organization and signed up to be a vendor.

But Douglas Lim from the Scotia Bank tent and Lan Chan Marples kept me company, as well as John Yee. I also enjoyed talking to people about my book, at the festival. Celebrities such as our Mayor Mandel along with our Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk made a special appearance for the festival, as well.

The festival was not exclusively for the Chinese, as Colombian dancers also had a chance to showcase their culture from a dance. I must admit that the Spanish music from the Colombian dance brought a smile to my face. When I hear Spanish music, it feels like home. There was also a beautiful and vibrant dragon/lion dance, which I’m always excited about. It’s something about the powerful drum beats that take me back 5000 years. The Chinese culture is an ancient, rich, and beautiful culture, that I am very proud to be a descendant of.

At the final part of the festival, I had the rare opportunity to present my book to a winner of the raffle draw. What a thrilling and honorable experience that was. Thank you Ratan Lawrence, who organized the festival, for giving me this unforgettable opportunity. I will never forget it!

It was a long day but I had a great time. Another great experience under my belt. If my book signing stint at Chapter’s the day before helped me with my confidence, this opportunity was even better. I would do it again next year.

In a heartbeat! Even if it’s windy!

East Meets West Festival

Chapters/Indigo Book Signing

Book LaunchI did my first book signing at the Chapters/Indigo in the west end of Edmonton on 170 street on Friday August 24, 2012, from 6-9 pm. I went around the store for 3 hours selling and autographing my book. What a wonderful experience that was. I felt more comfortable walking around the bookstore, than I did sitting behind a table. I felt really engaged with people and I had some really nice conversations as well. I became more confident talking about my book and the topic of cultural identity, as the hours ticked away. Management (Stephanie) was nice enough to buy me a Frappuccino from the Starbucks next door. I have 2 more book signings at 2 different Chapters/Indigo in Edmonton. I am looking forward to it!

My whirlwind romance with self-publishing

I don’t know if it was romance, but I have to say that it was like being in a whirlwind, where you find yourself in the eye of a storm. The self-publishing experience for me wasn’t too horrible, but we certainly didn’t “dance the night away” either.

For any budding authors out there who are considering self-publishing, it is hard work. And a lot of it too. Did I mention that it’s expensive too? You’re on your own in finding (and interviewing) your editor and proofreader. And they are very important people for your book. But it’s tough to find the right people. They may seem right on paper, but when you find errors they should be correcting or certain terms and historical facts were overlooked, be ready for another round of interviews.

A publishing company would have their own editors and proofreaders, people they’ve worked with for years, and find them indispensable.

You’re on your own in finding and working with a printing company and staying on top of how many pages your manuscript will shrink down to, when formatted into book form. If you’re not on top of things, you might find a surprise on your invoice.

A publishing company would have their contacts with printers, printing companies they know they can rely on and won’t pull a fast one.
You’re on your own in finding a graphic designer to design your book cover, to match the vision you have in your heart and in your mind. Choose somebody who wants to do it not because they think they can get away with a minimum amount of work for a lot of money. They won’t get far in this world, with that attitude. Choose somebody who’s not afraid of a bit more work then what they’re accustomed to. Find someone who loves graphic designing so much that they would do it for free. You will see and feel their soul on your book cover.

A publisher would set you up with the right graphic designer.

You’re on your own in designing and ordering your business cards and posters. I have to admit, I enjoyed this process. It was fun designing my cards to the way I want it to look and that reflects my personality. Who knows me better than me? Certainly not someone from a publishing house. Designing and ordering my posters and business cards was probably the smoothest and stress-free part of this romance. Just like going away for the weekend. It was nice, but too short. Ordering my business cards and posters from was fast and cheap, and the products are not cheap looking, as one would expect. I highly recommend ordering from No, I’m not related to anybody who works there, and no, I am not dating anybody who works there either. I am happy doing business with them.

A publisher can whip all of this up for you. It would have saved you a couple of lunch hours designing.

You’re on your own in trying to figure out how to self-publish on, via Amazon is one avenue to distribute your book, if you don’t have time to go door to door to every home in your country. Amazon will take a cut for their services of handling the administrative side of things when someone orders my book. I also like the fact that it’s an “on demand” program, whereby I don’t have to front up any money to print the books. The book is printed and put together only when someone orders it. It was the formatting process of the manuscript to book form that sprouted a few white hairs for me. If you didn’t have the time and you had lots of money, you can hire Amazon to format your book, for close to $400 (US). I didn’t have the time and I certainly didn’t have the money either. I didn’t want to be cornered like this, so, I did what any frugal budding author would do. I googled “book formatting software”, and I instantly (well, after some contemplation and justification) purchased the Book Design Wizard 2.0 for $40 and change, US. It took me awhile to get the hang of using this software to format my manuscript to book form, but I did it. But not without any white hair, of course.

A publishing company can do all of this, and I wouldn’t have any white hair. And imagine the number of hours I could have spent rock climbing.

What are books without e-books. Unless you’ve been living in a remote cave as a hermit, e-books are the way to go today in the book world. My manuscript needs to be converted into an e-book form, and guess what I also had to do…format it. Good ol formatting, we meet AGAIN! I don’t know what news I will have for you in a few weeks or in a few months about e-book formatting, but from my research online, it looks like I’m not the only author pulling out their hair throughout this grueling process. I hate to admit it but I might have to cave in, dig deeper into my pockets, and pay for a e-book formatting software. When Kindle or Amazon says “you will have your book and e-book ready in 3 easy steps”…. don’t believe them.

I had ordered 1000 (yes, 1000) of my books from a local printer, and before the books arrived, I thought I would be sitting on boxes to eat my meals, or using the boxes as furniture to hold my pictures, or tripping over boxes when I’m going from room to room. But it’s not too bad, actually. The books came in 23 boxes and I stacked most of them in my den. My carpet is in full view!

A publishing company would have made arrangements for storage and handle the distribution end of my book.

About 2 hours after the driver brought up my books from his truck, I drove to a particular neighborhood (which shall remain anonymous) to sell my book door to door to get a feel of how my sales technique is. It’s rusty, but not too bad. It was a lovely windless evening and I had a really nice walk as I was going from door to door. I couldn’t have asked for better weather. The people were really nice and I had some really good conversations. If anything, this particular experience had really made an extrovert out of the introvert in me. If I had any hesitations, it was only because I was afraid a huge dog would pounce on me because I trespassed on their property. Ok, so I didn’t use the sidewalk, all the time. Shoot me. But it never happened. There were no dogs. Would I go door-to-door again? Maybe. One guy said it was ‘old school’. Yeah, so what. I love the connections I have with people… face to face… to talk about culture and discrimination and Canada. I love signing my books for my readers, right in front of them. Sure, I was nervous because I don’t like to push people to buy anything, and I certainly don’t like to be pushed myself. But really, they can say “no, I am not interested”, and I’ll be on my merry way. No harm done. You’re not going to make me cry (well, maybe, when I’m 25 feet away).

I also tried hustling my beloved at the St. Albert Farmer’s Market. Though I’m a bigger fan of browsing and buying my homemade banana loaf bread, being a vendor wasn’t as exciting as I had anticipated. But it wasn’t all bad. Besides the scorching heat, it was nice chatting up with potential customers about my book and getting to know about the Farmer’s Market community. I felt really welcomed that first time. My tent neighbors were really friendly and approachable and there was no sense of ‘dog eat dog’ competition. I didn’t sell as much as I had hoped, the heat was unbearable, I was in shock by a racist comment, and due to exhaustion, I don’t remember how I got home. I have every reason to toss in the towel of ever doing a Farmer’s Market again. But I won’t. I had a good talk with my good friend James (the same James whom I had acknowledged in No, Really, Where Are You From?) He told me, “you haven’t won the battle”. He is right. I will march on. I set my expectations too high and after some reflection, I realized how hard the business of sales is, and I have a new found respect for all of the salesmen/women everywhere. I tip my hat off to you!

That experience really taught me to be patient and that good friends bring me back to earth (or slap me in the face!).

A publisher, on your behalf, would call all of the bookstores in their roster to set up book signings and place ads in the paper to promote your book, for you.

I spent a couple of lunch hours in between eating my lunch and speaking to managers of Chapters/Indigo stores throughout Edmonton, to see if I can come in for book signings. I am glad to say I have 3 signings confirmed. It was unfortunate that most of the Coles bookstores do not do book signings and only get their books from distributors, not from consignments. I was lucky that Audrey’s Books (Jasper Ave and 106 street) could take 10 of my books, to sell. The Chapters/Indigo stores that I had called are either full on consignments, or not taking them at all. I was told that authors normally sell more books at signings because the customers have a chance to speak to the author and talk about the book topic or just about the author’s writing/publishing experiences. I’ll take the connections I have with people, face to face, over connections online, any day.

I’ll post another article on my experiences book signing at Chapters/Indigo.

I also wanted to celebrate this important milestone in my life, so, I decided to hold a book launch, or, a celebration party for my friends on Sunday September 9th, 2012 at the TransAlta Arts Barn (Fringe Festival Headquarters). But I had some mixed feelings at the beginning about this. I don’t know how it can be celebratory when my friends are paying for the book. Is it tacky? Maybe. I see it more as a coming together of new and old friends to celebrate something that I had created with my own 2 hands and that I am very very proud of. My baby… my book. I’ve invested into No, Really, Where Are You From? on so many different levels. My friend’s money wouldn’t be a donation. They would be paying for something that was made out of love. I would pay for that!

Sorry, I don’t mean to get sidetracked. Back to the launch. Yes, lots of work involved in this as well. I researched into the different kinds of venues around the city for the right size, right price, and the right location. Besides, I had a good feeling when I stepped inside of the PCL Studio Theatre inside the TransAlta Arts Barn. I’m going to go with my gut instinct. TransAlta also provides the chairs and tables. I’m going to go with Mothers Music to rent out the speakers and mike. I’ve pre-ordered the food from a local bakery (Sweet Heart Bakery), and I will buy the non-alcoholic drinks probably from Safeway. I’ve found a student photographer who is willing to shoot for free, in exchange for a reference and experience. My friend John Yee was kind enough to let me borrow the paper lanterns used at the Chinese pavilion during the Edmonton Heritage Festival. I’ve designated some friends to be the door person, music person, food person, cashier, and of course, the MC. I also planned for 2 surprises, each honoring both of my cultures… Spanish and Chinese. I’ll have a book signing and book reading as part of the launch as well.

I will post another article about my book launch, in the upcoming weeks.

I am a bundle of emotions right now. It’s about 2 weeks until the launch, and I am excited and nervous, at the same time. I promised myself to not put pressure on myself. If the paper lanterns fall, they fall. Will anybody really notice? If I run out of sparkling apple juice, so be it. And if the mike fails on me, I’ll just step up a little closer to my audience and speak from my heart. I hope that would be loud enough.
Would I change anything about this whirlwind romance? No.

How boring and not to mention, suppressing, it would be, if we held hands the whole time, him constantly guiding me and telling me what to do and where to go. How exciting would it be if everything was done for me. Where’s the magic in that?

Would I self-publish again? In a heartbeat.