Day 7 Top Ten Days of Mayra Calvani

Two Articles by Mayra Calvani

My Pen Name and I… Have Broken Up

By Mayra Calvani

Since I have several children’s titles coming up later this year and the next, I thought it would be a good idea to get a pen name. For one thing, my children’s book publisher advised me to do this. I write horror fiction, and normally people don’t like associating a horror name with children’s books, which is a fair argument. The idea of acquiring a double persona was also appealing in a dark way, like having multiple personalities without being demented.

Many authors use pen names for different reasons. Some authors wish to keep their real names private even though they only write in one genre. Others adopt pen names to ‘brand’ and distinguish their different works, as would be my case. Still others use pen names because they find their real names too common or boring, not ‘catching’ enough. Some authors use pen names simply because their publishers tell them to do so. There are many authors out there who write books in similar subgenres (romantic adventure/romantic suspense/paranormal romance, etc.) yet have multiple pen names for each category. It is often common for romance authors to adopt pen names that sound ‘romantic’ or somehow match the theme and tone of their books. Sometimes pen names are useful to avoid confusing readers. For example, an author who has written ten novels in only one specific genre (like crime fiction) would be advised to use a pen name if he/she suddenly writes a book in a completely different genre (historical romance) because fans of this author would already have fixed expectations. Since I write in so many genres—horror, dark paranormal, literary fantasy, satire, YA, children’s, and non-fiction—this rule doesn’t apply to me. If it did, I would have to get too many pen names.

The reasons stated above could be viewed as advantages. However, there are disadvantages as well, the biggest one being promoting your new or various pen names. Let’s face it, with so many thousands of authors on the internet, it’s already an arduous task promoting only one name. Authors who use more than one pen name have to spend twice or triple the amount of time promoting all their names. Multiple pen names mean multiple websites, blogs, author pages and email accounts, not to mention promotional material like press kits, postcards, bookmarks—all these in the end amount to more money. Still, with so many authors using pen names it’s obvious people think it’s worth it.

But how do you decide if you need a pen name? Ask yourself the following questions:

*Do you wish to keep your real name private?

*Is your name too common, plain and ugly? (If you’ve always hated your name, this is your chance to have a new one!)

*Have you always been attracted by the idea of having two or more personas?

*Do you wish to separate your fiction from your nonfiction?

*Do you wish to separate your different types of fiction from each other? (There are situations where this is almost an absolute necessity. For instance, you should have two different names if you write erotica and children’s books, for obvious reasons. The same goes for books which are overtly violent, as is the case with some types of horror and crime fiction.)

*Are you already known as the author of many books in the same genre?

*Do you loath or love book promotion?

*Do you have the time and resources required to promote more than one author name?

*Are you an author who also happens to be a self publisher? (If your name is Wilson Harris, and you plan on self publishing your book under this name, you sure wouldn’t want your small press to be named Wilson Harris Publications!)

As I said, in my case I didn’t want my horror or dark paranormal fiction to have a negative influence over the parents who are going to buy my children’s books. I considered various pen names and finally opted for M.C. Garcia, which in fact could be considered as one of my real names—Mayra Calvani Garcia (this last one my mother’s last name). It was ‘close to home’ so it felt good. I knew I needed a separate website under this name, but I decided to wait and start a blog first to test the waters—boy, am I glad I did. Because, you see, I made a big mistake before choosing that pen name—I forgot to google it! I knew that Garcia was a pretty common name, but I never thought that M.C. Garcia was just as common. Not only did I now have a common pen name, but I also had to compete for search ranks among hundreds of thousands of others with this name.

Even though I had signed with Technorati to send their powerful ‘spiders’ to detect my blog tags, my blog/pen name was sunk under all those others M.C. Garcias on the net. A lot of people told me that they liked my real name for children’s books as well, so in the end I told myself, Why not keep my name as it is? For one thing, it is a pretty unique, unusual name. It also has a nice ring to it. Yes, I write horror, but it’s not graphic or particularly offensive. And anyway, even if I use different names, it’s not as if people aren’t going to find out. After all, I would have to put a button on my children’s book website directing readers to my other website, and vice versa. While using a pen name for children’s books may not always be a necessity, having a separate website is a must, and there’s a good reason for it. In the US, children’s book authors cannot get their websites listed in many sites and rings and get free PR if their websites contain adult book information. Okay, so I was decided. I would keep my name but have a separate website under another domain name. This time, I wrote down several possibilities, then I went straight to Google!

Most of my choices were already taken (so much for my originality!). Then I realized my domain name would be unique if I added ‘Mayras’ at the beginning… thus was born—don’t bother to click on the link yet, as it’s still in the designing stages. I deleted the M.C. Garcia blog and created this instead: After a lot of mental struggle, I think I’m happy with my decision.

Getting one or multiple pen names might work for you. Just make sure you get a few opinions from your publisher, fellow authors, and friends before you make a decision. Most importantly, be sure to google it too before going through the trouble and expense of starting a blog and setting up a website.

©2007 Mayra Calvani / All Rights Reserved.


 Reviewers vs. Bloggers: The Controversy

By Mayra Calvani

Reviewing has been a hot subject among kidlit bloggers lately, ever since the magazine n+1 came up with an article about a week ago which criticized—though not in such direct terms—bloggers of not being objective, honest enough with their reviews, of not posting enough negative reviews and of lacing their positive reviews with facile praise. The main question seems to be: is it possible to be unbiased in a cozy environment where the people who post friendly comments under the bloggers’ posts are often the same people who request reviews from these bloggers? In other words, is it possible to be objective in the blogosphere, where authors, publishers, publicists, reviewers and librarians are in friendly terms with each other in such blog communities as Live Journal?

In a perfect world a reviewer should never review a book by a person he/she knows. But, as usual, more often than not, what is ideal in theory is not realistic in the real world, and this ‘sin’ is not only committed by bloggers, but also by professional reviewers who write for online and print review publications.

Another issue seems to be the lack of format which many (maybe most?) bloggers have when writing reviews. Unlike the ‘legitimate’ reviewers who seem to have a preference for a ‘standard’ structure—an interesting lead/opening sentence, a short summary of the plot without ever giving away spoilers or the ending, and an intelligent, fair, tactful evaluation—the bloggers write about books anyway they want. They have the freedom to write in any length or style without a thought to format—even to the point of giving away spoilers or relating the ending of a book. This freedom comes with the territory of being a blogger. But then, the questions arise… Are bloggers ‘real’ reviewers? What defines a review? After all, there are many types of reviews—academic and long, light and short, and snippets like those in such publications as Library Journal.

Different review sites and publications have different guidelines. Are blogger reviews a new, different type of review? Should we draw a distinction between bloggers who are simply readers and post ‘reader reviews’ and ‘legitimate’ reviewers who post ‘real’ ones on their blogs? After all, just like on Amazon, there are reader reviews and reviewer reviews. Are bloggers the lowly counterparts of legitimate reviewers? Is this an elitist attitude?

I find these questions fascinating because I think there are no easy answers. As usual, opening a discussion about what is right and wrong is like opening a can of worms.

A couple of years ago, this dilemma started with the emerging online review sites… I remember how librarians and bookstores often dismissed them as ‘not legitimate’. Online review sites have come a long way. Now it’s the bloggers who are being attacked.

Ultimately, I think we’re not giving enough credit to the discerning reader of reviews. It’s so easy to tell a good review from a cheesy one guilty of facile praise! There are good and bad reviewers everywhere. Serious blogger reviewers aren’t going to be stupid enough to post overly positive reviews because if the reader buys a book based on that review and then finds that book to be poorly written, that blogger will lose all credibility and that reader won’t come back to this blogger for more reviews. Honesty and fairness go with our job as reviewers, without it, we’re nothing but weak, cheap publicity. That is not to say we should be nasty or mean… which brings me to the writing of negative reviews…

I personally think there are too many good books out there to be spending time writing about the bad ones (even negative reviews are a type of publicity!). Unless it’s a book that has been written by a famous author and/or heavily hyped, I won’t bother posting negative reviews on my blog and newsletters (this wouldn’t be the case, however, if the book was assigned by a review site/publication, in which case I wouldn’t have a choice but to write the negative review).

One thing the blogging technology has done is bring books and literature closer to the public and, let’s face it, the average person is so busy and/or has such a short attention span that long, insightful reviews are not the most practical thing in the world. Blogger reviews are like quick tasty treats of information for people on the run who enjoy reading about books. In the end, and in spite of the ‘slippery’ questions mentioned above, I’m all for anything that brings literature closer to the public.

©2007 Mayra Calvani / All Rights Reserved.


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Day 6 Top Ten Days of Mayra Calvani

Promotional Interview with Mayra Calvani

Tell us about yourself – where you are from, how you got started writing, what you do when you are not writing (or anything you want our readers to know)

I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but have lived in the US, the Middle East, and now live in Belgium. My traveling and learning all these different cultures have been an inspiration in my writing, as having a Hispanic heritage has been as well. I was an early avid reader and my first passion for books developed after I read the first Agatha Christie mystery. I was instantly drawn to the fantastic world of these imaginary stories. Then came the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. During my teens I was also an avid reader of romance novels, though I don’t read much romance anymore. I started writing in my early teens. I was always the quiet, shy type and preferred my escape world of imaginary places and characters instead of going to parties—so no, I was not one of the popular girls at school. But I didn’t care. I was happy and self motivated. My love for writing has continued all my life and I now write fulltime. It’s been an arduous road and there’s a lot of competition, but that’s fine with me because I enjoy the journey as well.
What inspired you to write your first book?



I guess I couldn’t escape from my imagination and from the force that propelled me to bring those stories to life and live through them. I wrote my first ‘book’ when I was fifteen, but that one was never published—fortunately! 🙂
How many books have you written?

I have written eight books—two of these, Embraced by the Shadows and Dark Lullaby, have already been published, and the others will see publication later this year and some time during 2008-9.

How do you decide on their topic?

I don’t really ‘decide’. The topic, idea, or whatever it is, comes to me and tells me to put it down into words. I hardly ever plan ahead or do an outline. I mostly follow that voice in my head that tells me what to write. Think of it as taking dictation. That said, there are many things that may spark my inspiration and creativity—the ‘dark’ side of things, violin music, foreign settings and characters, science and philosophy, an unusual book or movie, etc.

Do you write to make money or for the love of writing?

If it were for the money, I would have quit a long time ago! LOL. Definitely for the love of writing. Of course, my goal is to make some real money as well. Every writer needs validation of some kind.

What are some traditional methods of marketing you have used to gain visibility for you and your book(s)?

I have two websites, one for my adult books and the other for my children’s books ( and I also have three blogs where I promote my work and feature other authors’ work as well: 

In addition, I edit a newsletter ( and co-edit another one ( These are all venues to promote my name and books.
Of course, I request as many reviews I can for my books, and I also write book reviews for various high-profile sites like and

What are some unique methods?

Since I write articles as well, I distribute them using various article directories like and I always include a byline with links to my sites and blogs and this results in thousands of hits every month. I’m a member of, BookPlace, Facebook, and numerous authors and writing groups and forums, and I always make an announcement in these when I have a book coming out or have some other important news to share.

Virtual Book Tours is another new way of promotion which I have discovered, a way to reach thousands of readers without having to travel.

Do you sell through a website?

No. I let my publishers handle that.

Do you plan on writing additional books?

Definitely. I have several works in progress and enough ideas to keep me busy for at least the next two decades. 🙂

“Writing Between Diapers”

By: Mayra Calvani

“Nothing has a stronger influence
psychologically on their environ-
ment and especially on their children
than the unlived life of the parent.”
–C. G. Jung

After a bad night of hardly any sleep, you’re sitting at the computer staring at the blank screen. You wonder if you’ll be able to do it–finish that article, short story or novel which you started months ago. The urge to write is overwhelming, yet you freeze. Not only are you exhausted, but the baby, who you put to sleep less than half hour ago, is whimpering in the crib. Your four-year old has just barged into the office and is tugging at your elbow begging for a snack, even though he had lunch an hour ago. This is hopeless, I may as well quit, you say to yourself while trying to suppress a scream. To your horror, you suddenly find yourself sympathizing with those animals that eat their young…

Don’t despair. Calm down. I’ve been there and know perfectly well what you’re going through.

The truth is, you can write, but you need to have four things:

The Right State of Mind

Before you plan a schedule, putting your mind in the right frame is the most important think you’ll do. Remember your kids will not stay small forever. Time passes quickly (I assure you it does!) and soon they’ll be old enough to go to school. Until that magical day arrives, though, you’ll have to “steal” time to work on your project. Wanting to finish a whole novel in one month at this point in your life is unrealistic. Don’t focus so much on the “end product” but on doing a little bit of that “end product” at a time. Little paragraphs are what articles, stories and novels are made of. The important thing is steady progress, and as long as you take steps to fulfil the road, you’re on the right track. These tiny bird steps, however small, will give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you guilt-free to enjoy your life and family.

Good Physical Condition

You might think, “Good physical condition? I thought this was an article about writing.” Well, you’ll bet it is. Let’s face it, moms who care for small children are always tired. And tired people don’t’ particularly like to sit at the computer and write; they want to collapse on a bed. Moms urgently need to raise their energy levels! A good diet and a little exercise can do wonders to raise energy levels. Eat high-protein foods and lots of fruits and veggies. Stay away from white flour and sugar, as well as junk food. Go for three meals a day with one light healthy snack in the afternoon and one before you go to bed. Stay away from those high energy bars, though. They are so high in carbs your sugar levels will sky rocket and then pummel down, making you feel even more tired and hungry than before. Low fat cottage cheese and a couple of almonds, with a bit of fruit are a great choice for a snack. Drink plenty of water! Scientists have found that dehydration is one of the main factors in making a person feel tired.

Finding time to exercise may be difficult, that’s why it’s a good idea to do it with your child. If you have a stationary bicycle or other exercise machine, do 15 minutes while the toddler watches the Teletubbies. You don’t have to exercise a full hour. Even 10 minutes will do the trick. Take your baby for a walk in the stroller at least 3 times a week, preferably in the mornings when it’s fresh and quiet. It will calm your nerves, rejuvenate and even inspire you. Your baby will love it, too. Not only will he/she enjoy the “sights and sounds,” but it will probably make him/her tired and eager to take a longer nap later in the day–just what you’re after!

A Well-Planned Schedule

Okay, so you have the right state of mind and are eating well and exercising. What next? A well-planned schedule that fits your lifestyle and plays around your strengths and liabilities is a must. But keep an open mind and don’t be unrealistic. If your baby naps in the afternoon, don’t set your writing time in the mornings, or vice versa. How much time each writing session will last depends on your lifestyle and children’s habits. You may choose to write half an hour each day or one hour every other day. It’s up to you. The important thing here is to keep it approachable and to stick with it.

There’s one thing I strongly advice: If you can manage it, don’t take more than two nights off from your project. Not only will it stall your momentum, but it will give your brain to much time to come up with self-doubts and excuses for procrastination.

You may be asking yourself: But how do I get rid of my children!?

If your children are old enough to go to nursery school, your problems are solved. Just set your writing schedule during those hours. For those of you whose children are still at home, there are other possibilities:

Write early in the morning before your children awake, during their daytime naps and after they go to sleep at night. (See why you have to keep yourself in good physical condition?) I have a friend who wrote two books this way.

If you can afford a babysitter–maybe your neighbour’s teenaged daughter–to look after your child while you write on the next room (that way you can keep a close eye on them) then go for it!

Write while your toddler watches his favourite video movie. He wants to watch it again? Go ahead! This is not the right time to consider the effects of too much TV on children.

Go to the local library and write while your child listens to Story Time! Almost all libraries, and even bookstores, schedule story times for children. Take advantage of these.

If you have a writer friend who is also a mom, enlist her as your “writing partner,” take the kids to Mc Donald’s and write while your kids play in those weird game tunnels. “Hey, wait a minute!” you think. “You said to stay away from junk food.” Nice try, but even McDonald’s now offers a good selection of salads and fruit cocktails. Besides, I never said one hamburger once in a while will kill you. You might even reward yourself with a hamburger… AFTER you’ve fulfilled your minimum writing quota for that day.

Invite your writing-partner mom or moms for a “writing morning” at your home and write while your children play together. You may take turns with your homes. Also, as a group, you can consider hiring a sitter for these occasions. Writing with a support-group of people who are in the same situation as yourself is usually very rewarding and productive. Plus it’s a lot cheaper when each of you contribute to pay for the sitter. You may even want to start a club and meet once a week.


None of the above will prove helpful if you lack the determination to stick to a schedule. Think about it. Do you want to reach the age of seventy without having accomplished your goal–that masterpiece of a novel that will land you multiple contracts, fame and fortune? You’ll never know unless you take the first step. Family, and especially your children, should always come first, BUT don’t use your children as an excuse not to write. The truth is, life is so hectic there NEVER will be a “perfect” time to write. I assure you, if not children, later you’ll come up with something else as your procrastinator. It may be difficult to follow the schedule at first, and you may need to modify it, but eventually you’ll be glad you did. Otherwise you’ll live with self-guilt, self-loathing, disappointment and frustration.

Do it. Start today. Now.

Don’t forget: Frustrated writers are frustrated moms. Frustrated moms are unhappy moms. Artistically fulfilled moms are happy moms who can give themselves to their loved ones without reservations.

Copyright ©2004, 2007 by Mayra Calvani / All Rights Reserved. This article may not be copied nor printed in any form without permission from the author.


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Day 5 Top Ten Days of Mayra Calvani

Patricia’s Vampire Notes

Mayra Calvani is an accomplished author in many genres. Today she will share with us thoughts about her personal interests, the writing life, and her recent paranormal novels Dark Lullaby and Embraced by the Shadows.

Patricia: What brought about your interest in the supernatural?

Mayra: I was an avid reader when I was a child and from an early age began to love scary films—those old black & white movies about mummies, werewolves, and vampires. They must have made a deep impression on me, because since then I’ve always been attracted by the supernatural. I was a quiet child and reading was my escape into a world of mystery and adventure, a way to live ‘on the edge’ yet be safe at the same time.

: What inspired you to write Dark Lullaby?

Mayra: I’ve always been very interested in moral dilemmas and in the concept of a higher good. For instance, is it okay for a man to steal in order to have money to save his little girl, who is dying? In the case of Dark Lullaby, I went a step further: is it okay for a man to kill for the higher good? As far as the location goes, I lived four years in Turkey, so this was a big influence. I was intrigued by the stories I heard there about the cin (jihnn), and by the fact that so many people believe in them. My brother, who is an astrophysicist, was my inspiration for the main character. This is the first novel I write with a male protagonist, and I have to say it was very interesting getting inside the head of a man.

Patricia: Talk about the story and especially the hero Gabriel Diaz. It’s interesting to me that he is an astrophysicist.

Mayra: Dark Lullaby is about a young astrophysicist from Baltimore who is lured into the Turkish countryside by a mysterious young woman—of course, she ends up being something totally unexpected. In the end, he has to face his own demons in order to save his twin sister’s unborn child. More than horror, it is a bizarre, suspenseful tale. I tried to make it strongly atmospheric instead of using graphic gore, which I detest. The full blurb can be found on my website.

Gabriel Diaz is a brilliant guy with a big heart and a grand sense of justice. He’s also a bit naïve, which together with his smarts, is somewhat unusual. But he is haunted by a dark childhood, one he would rather forget. When he meets the anti-heroine, Kamilah, she does everything in her power to bring his dark, buried feelings to the surface, leading to tragic consequences. I think readers will like his sense of goodness and justice, as well as his total loyalty to his sister Elena. At some point in the story this sense of justice somehow gets twisted inside his head… and he does a pretty terrible thing, something which readers may not agree with, but I’ve made Gabriel with plenty of faults and as real as possible, and this is really part of it all. He’s too temperamental and impulsive for his own good. Plus money simply slips from his fingers. I wanted the protagonist to be a scientist because I thought it would be interesting to see his reaction when confronted with the supernatural. So it worked perfectly, because, as I said, I was inspired by my brother (though of course, for plot purposes, I brought Gabriel to the extreme in the book!)

Patricia: Why did you pick Turkey as the setting?

Mayra: As I said, I lived there for a while, and the tales I heard about the cin took place there as well, so it was an easy, logical decision. I know the language, the people, the culture, etc. I did some research on the little town where the story takes place, but having lived in the country really gave me an advantage and made it easy for me to describe it.

Patricia: What environment do you like to work in? Please describe it.
Does the type of book you are working on decide your working environment?

Mayra: I like to work in a quiet environment devoid of people and telephone calls! LOL. No, really, I need to be alone when I’m working on a book, though I usually love atmospheric music for inspiration. I love violin music, and also soundtracks from various movies. For instance, I wrote Dark Lullaby while listening to the soundtrack of The Village. I would just listen to it again and again; I can get obsessive like that and never get tired of the music. My desk is filled with Post-its, thesauruses, notebooks, etc. Not the most neat, organized desk. I try to keep a balance of chaos and order. If I really need inspiration, I’ll light a candle or even whole candelabra. I love candelabras! I also have my violin close by and when I get stuck, I play a little to get rid of writer’s block. It works!

Patricia: You write in a variety of fields. How do you plan which project to work on next? Do you ever work on more than one at a time?

Mayra: I guess I’m one of those writers who could never write in only one genre. Many things inspire me and I write what I love. It’s like switching to different modes. When I write children’s stories it’s as if a switch turns on and I’m in my children’s writer mode. When I write horror, the horror switch turns on, and so on with the other genres. I love the idea of being a multifaceted author and don’t really care about branding my name specifically with one genre.

I’m usually working on several projects at a time, but never in the same genre. For instance, at the moment I’m finishing an adult paranormal novel, editing a tween mystery/fantasy manuscript, and working on a proposal for another tween novel in a different genre. In between these I can always write/work on a children’s picture book. But at the moment I’m swamped. I strongly prefer working on only one project at a time. It can be quite stressful planning your schedule and finding the time to do all these things. As far as planning goes, it’s a combination of personal preference and any deadlines I might have.

Patricia: You are from Puerto Rico which is the setting for your vampire novel Embraced by the Shadows. Talk a bit about this exotic American locale.

Mayra: A colorful blend of various cultures. Lively, hot, sticky. People there really know what the word ‘party’ means. They also know how to make a killer pina colada. I left the island when I was 18, so it makes me melancholic talking about it. It is a lovely tropical place. Unfortunately, the crime situation is pretty bad, which is a real pity.

Patricia: What is the story of your vampire novel Embraced by the Shadows?

Mayra: Embraced by the Shadows is about a young woman’s inner turmoil, a woman split between a love she cannot resist and a life she cannot accept nor understand. The bond between the hero and heroine is dark and obsessive and borders on hate. It’s also about the power of one being to mesmerize another. I suspect under the horror/love story there’s a hidden metaphor, an allegory for something else, though what that ‘something else’ is I’m still trying to decipher.
The full blurb can also be found on my website.

Patricia: Why the vampire theme?

Mayra: After I read Anne Rice’s Lestat and Interview with the Vampire, I was hooked. The idea of immortality fascinates me. I also love the image of the spiritually tortured, beautiful, sophisticated vampire, a complex being that is not necessarily evil but is trapped by his/her nature.

Patricia: What type of reading do you do for inspiration or pleasure? Any favorite titles you would like to share?

Mayra: Nowadays I love reading paranormal suspense, mystery, young adult, romantic comedy, and literary. But I review a fair amount of children’s picture books as well. Oddly, I don’t usually read horror—I get scared! LOL.

My favorite books are: The Stranger, by Albert Camus, and The Awakening, by Kate Chopin. Two very short, very powerful novels. I can read these books again and again and never get tired.

Patricia: Anything else you would like to add?

Mayra: Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Patricia! I’d just like to list some links to my websites and blogs:

My official website.
My blog.
My book review/author interview blog.
The Slippery Book Review Blog (very new, in construction).
My newsletter.

For my children’s books:
Myra’s Secret Bookcase.
Myra’s Secret Bookcase Blog

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Day 4 Top Ten Days of Mayra Calvani

sunstruck_2Name of Book: Sunstruck
Author’s Name: Mayra Calvani
Publisher: Zumaya Publications
Genre: Parody/Satire/Women’s Issues
Publication Date: March 2009 Pages: 236 Price: print $11.69, ebook $5
Imprint: Zumaya Embraces
Format: print and electronic
ISBN 10: : 1934841188 ISBN 13: 978-1-934841-18-1
Link to where it can be purchased:
Author’s Website or Blog:

Begin by telling us a little about yourself:

I started writing when I was about 12 and have been hooked ever since. Though my favorite genre is the paranormal, I also write children’s picture books, nonfiction, and other categories like horror and satire. I’m also a regular contributor to various online publications, such as Suite101, Blogcritics Magazine, and American Chronicle. Together with mystery author Anne K. Edwards, I co-edit a monthly newsletter for writers and book lovers: Voice in the Dark. When I’m not writing, I love reading, playing the violin, blogging, reviewing, and spending time with my family.

Where are you from and where are you now?
I’m originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, but I live in Belgium now.

What motivated you to become an author?
The magic of bringing the worlds of my imagination on the page.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

I was not an avid reader until I was about 11. That’s when I discovered Agatha Christie. By the time I was 14 I had read all of her novels. I had her entire mystery collection in Spanish translation. So I never really read children’s or YA books. I went straight into the adult books at a pretty early age.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

This is kind of weird because my latest novel, Sunstruck, is actually one of the first books I ever wrote—about fifteen years ago. It is a parody/satire and the style is very different from what I write now. I grew up in San Juan with an artist mom and from an early age visited many art shows and went to artist meetings. A quiet child, I mostly observed. My book was influenced by what I saw. Artist circles can be very interesting and quite strange at times! 

Here is a blurb:

Twenty-four-year-old Daniella is an architecture student living with her narcissistic artist boyfriend in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Abandoned by her father at an early age, Daniella always falls for the wrong type of man. Her most enduring male relationship so far is with her 30-pound Turkish angora cat. Thankfully, Daniella’s mother is always there to offer a shoulder.
Several strange mysteries are threaded through Daniella’s everyday life: her ex-husband, Ismael, has just opened an outlandish hotel for animal lovers that has her distraught; Ismael’s wife, a rich woman Daniella fondly refers to as “Lady Dracula,” has some gruesome ways to keep her skin looking young; Daniella’s mother is founding a revolutionary, feminist society called The Praying Mantises; the island’s national forest is being depleted of hallucinogenic mushrooms; meanwhile, young girls are disappearing and there’s a nut loose dressed as Zorro slashing the rear ends of women who wear miniskirts.
Oppressed by all these crazed, eccentric characters, Daniella feels herself falling into an abyss. Then something horrendous happens, making Daniella wake from her stupor and take charge of her life.

Readers may find more about it at

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

Definitely stream-of-consciousness, and I think it shows in the writing. Back then, my inner critic wasn’t as strong, so I wrote more freely. I didn’t say no to any crazy ideas… and it is an unusual, crazy book. People either love it or hate it. One reviewer called it ‘Brilliant’, and another said she had never read another book even remotely like it.

Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?

I’m constantly getting new ideas—they attack me like the plague. I can be at a table with dinner guests and getting ideas at the same time. I know, poor guests! If only they knew that sometimes I can’t listen to them, only because those imaginary characters take control of my mind. It’s like being taken hostage. But I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?

My muse loves me and I love my muse. It’s my inner critic I despise! My muse gives me plenty of ideas but then my inner critic gets in the way and says: What stupid ideas! This often blocks me and I have to be very strong and order it to shut up.

Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?

Did I mention how I hate my inner critic? As much as I try to write a first draft non-stop, my inner critic gets in the way and forces me to edit here and there. I try to avoid it, but sometimes it’s very hard to resist. This is why I love the National Novel Writing Month—or Nanowrimo. It is a wonderful exercise in shutting down your inner critic.

They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?

Easy: I don’t. If I never get negative reviews, it means not enough people are reading my books.

As a writer, what scares you the most?

Not being able to produce work; not being able to write.

When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?

I’m fascinated by moral dilemmas, such as the idea of a higher good, the idea that the end justifies the means. I tackle this on my supernatural thriller, Dark Lullaby. I’m also intrigued and pulled by the concept of vigilantism, the concept of ultimate justice vs. human law. These themes that obsess me, that have obsessed me since I was very young.

Are you a disciplined writer?

Not as much as I would like to be! I have my ups and downs. I try to be organized, which helps a lot, and manage to accomplish a number of goals each month. This helps me feel I’m progressing and keeps me motivated.

Do you have an agent? How was your experience in searching for one?

After searching on a off for the last 15 years, I landed an agent last November. She’s currently trying to sell my work to the big publishers. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. 

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Write for yourself—not for the market.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Yes I do!

Children’s Books:

As an author, what is your greatest reward?

The wonderful feeling of accomplishment I get when I finish writing and publishing a book.

Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?

I’d love to invite readers to visit my sites and blogs, especially my fun, new blog, where my golden retriever, Amigo, interviews authors’ pets.

Thank you for your participation. BronzeWord appreciates your support.

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Day 3 Top Ten Days of Mayra Calvani

A Closer Look at Literary Awards


There’s no doubt awards can do wonders for a writer’s self esteem. After all, an award is a validation of a writer’s hard work. But is it, in all cases, a validation of that particular work’s quality? Are all awards credible? Can a mediocre writer judge a book or have the ability to see another person’s mediocre work? When judges know in advance the author and publisher of a book, can they be one hundred per cent fair? Do they act with objectivity and professionalism and don’t allow their personal feelings to get involved even if they dislike or like the author? Does belonging to the organization that gives the award improves chances of winning? When I look at the statistics of winners from some of these organizations, I have to wonder.

Having read books which were ‘award’ winners, I really have to ask myself these questions. Sometimes the books have been great and justified the award. But in other instances the books have been poorly written. How did these books get picked up as winners? Is there a chance all works submitted were mediocre and the winner was simply the less mediocre among the rest? When I read ‘award-winning author’ these days, a little red flag goes up in my head. There are simply so many ‘award-winning’ authors out there, the term has certainly lost some of its strength.

Obviously, I’m not talking here about the National Book Award, Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, nor of the HUGO and Bram Stocker awards, but of those that are open to small POD presses like the EPPIE, Dream Realm Award, PRISM, IPPY, Foreword Book Award, among various others. The YPPY and Foreword awards seem to be the ones with more cachet.

As for sales, it seems awards sometimes help and sometimes don’t. I’ve heard of authors whose book sales increased, and from others who really didn’t see much difference. Having myself bought books based on an award, it’s fair to say that some readers may be impressed enough by it to make a purchase. Awards do help to put an author’s name out there among the readers and publishers and can be effective tools of book promotion when used in back cover blurbs, and other forms of advertising.

So what can organizations do about ensuring the credibility of their awards? For one thing, make sure that all writers judging the books are excellent writers–only these will be able to best discern the quality material from the mediocre. Every time a mediocre book is given an award, all those others good authors who have won the same award by writing quality books will suffer for it. It’s just like with POD presses. Those publishers who accept everything regardless of quality and disregard editing are the ones who give the rest of the POD presses a bad name, which is a real pity.

That said, I think an award is a good thing for authors. The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. If you have the cash to spend (some contests have entry fees as high as $60-$70), it’s fun to participate and wait for the outcome. And if you win, it’ll do wonders to your ego, bring your name out there to the public and serve as a marvellous tool of promotion. It will also look damn nice on top of your mantelpiece, where you’ll be able to show it off to your obnoxious cousin Harold in one of those cozy family reunions.

For more information on these awards:

IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Award):

Foreword Book Award (awarded by Foreword Magazine):

PRISM (awarded by the Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal chapter of Romance Writers of America):

EPPIE (awarded by the EPIC, or the Electronically Published Internet Connection organization):

Dream Realm Award:


Mayra Calvani Contributing Writer

Multi-genre author, reviewer and animal advocate Mayra Calvani hails from San Juan, Puerto Rico. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, playing the violin, and watching too many reruns of Gilmore Girls and What I Like About You.

A regular contributor to Blogcritics Magazine and American Chronicle, she’s a member of SCBWI and Broad Universe. She keeps two blogs, Mayra’s Secret Bookcase and The Dark Phantom Review.

Additionally, she’s the co-author of the nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

Visit her newest, fun blog, Pets and Their Authors, where her golden retriever interviews authors’ pets.

Mayra does Spanish translations of children’s picture books, is co-editor of Voice in the Dark newsletter, and the National Latino Books Examiner for

All 11 articles written by Mayra Calvani

Apr 2, 2009
New Children’s Book About Earthquakes: Review of Earthquake, by Susan J. Berger
Category: Children’s Non-Fiction
Susan J. Berger’s latest children’s picture book teaches kids everything about earthquakes, from understanding what causes them, to what to do when they happen. more…

Mar 19, 2009
Book Trailers as Tools of Book Promotion: Interview With Kim McDougall, Founder of Blazing Trailers
Category: Marketing/Selling Books
For authors and publishers, book trailers, or previews, are fun and effective tools of book promotion. more…

Mar 11, 2009
Illustrating for Children Isn’t Always Easy: Interview With Children’s Book Illustrator Kit Grady
Category: Picture Books
Children’s book illustrator Kit Grady talks about her work. more…

Mar 1, 2009
Children’s Author Makes Her Dreams Come True: Interview With Donna McDine
Category: Writing for Children (general)
Donna McDine stresses the importance of organization and to-do lists. more…

Feb 5, 2009
Children’s Book Teaches English and Chinese: Review of ‘The Frog in the Well’, Retold by Irene Y. Tsai
Category: Folktales
New bilingual children’s picture book teaches not only English and Chinese, but an important moral folktale as well. more…

Jan 16, 2009
New Bilingual Book for Children: Teach Your Children Spanish While They Learn About Zoo Animals
Category: Picture Books
Laughing Zebra Books opens its doors with a Spanish and English picture book that will teach children not only about language, but also about exotic animals. more…

Mar 27, 2009
Interview With Author Shari Lyle-Soffe: Animals and Nature Inspire Children’s Author
Category: Picture Books
Children’s author Shari Lyle-Soffe talks about her books, unleashing creativity, writer’s block, and the future of children’s picture books. more…

Mar 13, 2009
New Catholic Magazine for Children: Interview with Editor-in-Chief of My Light Magazine Jennifer Gladen
Category: Picture Books
Children’s author Jennifer Gladen starts her own Catholic magazine for children. more…

Mar 9, 2009
Celebrate Read an Ebook Week: Two Small Presses Give Away Free Ebooks
Category: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Fiction (general)
In celebration of Read an Ebook Week, Zumaya Publications and Twilight Times Books are giving away free ebooks. more…

Feb 10, 2009
Dogs Are Bloggers Too: Meet Max the Golden Retriever, a Blogger With an Attitude
Category: Dogs (general)
Who says bloggers have to be human? Nowadays fictional characters and even pets are conquering the world of the blogosphere. more…

Jan 28, 2009
Great Online Resource for Dog Owners: A Closer Look at, a Dog Blog
Category: Dogs (general) is a fairly new dog blog featuring tightly-focused, succinct articles on all aspects of dog care, behavior and training. more…

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My parents good night wishes

I went to bed a midnight
I woke up screaming
call the police
They want to hurt me
even in my dreams they want to hurt me
What the heck did I ever do to them
except to survive them
why are they so intent on hurting me
even crawling into to my dreams to get at me
i hate them
i hate them
i fear them
i am so afraid of them
you have no idea
not one clue of how afraid i am of them
they chase me
they tell everyone i’m crazy
oh get this
one version of the dream was
they were hurting me while everyone watched
cute eh
just like real life
just like when I was growing up
they love hurting me
I hate them
i don’t know what i feel most
do i hate them more
do i fear them more than i hate them
i don’t know
i feel both
both feelings haunt my dreams
i can’t sleep
i haven’t slept
except for Sat night when i took a pill
maybe that’s what I should do
take the whole freaking bottle
then they wouldn’t have me to hurt anymore
if i’m dead they can’t hurt me
then they can be the matyrs
they can have everyone feel sorry for them
when it was them
in my dreams
keeping me awake
every night
each night
all night
can’t sleep
they come after me
every night.
in my dreams
doing what they do best
telling everyone how bad I am
telling everyone i can’t be trusted
telling everyone not to help me
everybody knows
everybody watches
no one does anything
no one helps me
no one cares
if I get kill
by them
relatives just stand there
telling me to go home
and be a better daughter
be a good gir, Jo Ann
don’t cause no trouble, Jo Ann
stop all that whining Jo Ann
no one will believe you
no one will care
no matter what you do
no matter where you go
we’ll be there
in your dreams
in your life
telling you
how stupid you are
 how bad you are
 how hopeless you are
how awful you are to me
how horrible you are
 how bad of a mouth you have
how you slapped me
how you pushed me
how you spit on me
 how you knocked me down
but never
never ever
tell anyone
what we did to you
never tell
never say the words
never utter a sound
be a good girl
don’t make a sound
don’t cry
don’t tell me it hurts
i know it doesn’t hurt
i wouldn’t hurt you
i love you
i wouldn’t hurt you
i’m your father
i just want you to be happy
be happy Jo Ann
see what i do to you so you’ll be happy
see what i do to keep you happy
see everything we do just for you
just for you
we suffer just for you
we cry just for you
we fight just for you
we argue because of you
you owe us
you owe us big time
but you don’t pay up
you go your own way
and you don’t pay us what you owe us
when are you going to pay up
when are you going to finally pay up
when are you going to stop pretending
that you can get away from us
you’ll never get away from us
you’ll never find a place you can go
where we can’t get at you
there is no place
you can hide
no place you are safe
you’ll never be safe
because we’ll never let you alone
we’ll never let up
we want you dead
we want you crazy
you refuse to die
you refuse to go completely crazy
you refuse to give up
you refuse to let us win
how ungrateful you are
how unappreciative you are
of all the things we’ve done for you
all you ever had to to do is die
so die Jo Ann
die now
die in the night
die with us chasing after you
because we will eventually catch you
we will eventually kill you
you think you got it covered
you think you’re protected
no one can protect you
no one can stop us
no one can prevent us from getting to you
we even get in your dreams
doesn’t tell you something
doesn’t tell you how much power we have
doesn’t tell you to give up
just lie down and die Jo Ann
die or we’ll kill you
die or we’ll haunt you forever
die or we’ll never let you go
do you think you can stop being our daughter
for always
you’re our daughter
you’re our property
you are whatever we want to do with
and no one
no one Jo Ann
not one single person on the face of the earth
will give a shit what we do to you
not one person will care
how bad we hurt you
no one
don’t you get it
give up
no one cares
you are ours to do with as we wish
we can hurt you as much as we want
and everyone will think that it is you
that is crazy
not us
no matter what you do
no matter what you think
or even learn
you’ll never get away from us
you’re ours
to hurt as much as we want
no one can stop us
no one wants to stop us
why do you think no one wants to stop us
because no one cares about you
because you don’t matter to anyone
because you don’t count
everyone else has their own family
everyone else is busy
everyone else matters
but not you
you don’t matter
you never hare
you never will
why do you think you’re alone
why do you think no one stays around
why do you think everyone
let us hurt you as much as we did
do you think if you matter
somebody would have stopped us
go ahead and cry
doesn’t matter
no one will stop us
no one can
go ahead and fight
you’ll fight for the rest of your life
you’ll have to fight every minute of your life
if you think you can get away from us
if you think you can survive us
if you think we’ll ever stop
no one cares
die Jo Ann
give up Jo Ann
just give up and die
die now
die often
each time you close your eyes
to go to sleep
let us kill you each night
let us torment you each night
let us hate you each night
just like we did
every day of your life
go ahead
go back to bed
close your eyes
and hope for sleep
because that’s when we’ll come
and you know what we look like
you know nothing can stop us
you know we like hurting you
so just go to sleep baby
close your eyes and sleep baby
because we’ll be there
every night
every single night
we’ll be there
to welcome you
with pain
and fear
and terror
because that’s all you deserve
that’s all you’re good for
that’s all you’re use to
go to sleep baby
go ahead
We dare you
close your eyes
go to sleep
we’ll be waiting
good night
we love you so much

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Day 2 Top Ten Days of Mayra Calvani

To Write Or Not To Write, That Is The Question

         Writer’s block.

       Do the words make you wince?
        If you belong to that blessed, miraculous group of people who can write anywhere, anytime, who are able to switch themselves on into a writing mood like a light-switch, then your answer will be No. But if you’re like me, and belong to that cursed, demonic group who kill themselves writing that first sentence, these words will make you grimace with a heartache that plunges deeper than the Cayman Trough.

        But what is writer’s block, and why do many writers–damn good ones—suffer from it? Some think the reason is old plain laziness or lack of discipline, but I disagree. The reason is more complex. I can’t help remembering my creative writing professor back in college—a published author of many mystery novels who suddenly stopped writing for eight long years simply because he “froze at the computer and couldn’t put a word down.”
        Only God knows the dark mechanics that kept my professor from writing for such a long time, so I can only speak for myself.
So here it goes. What is writer’s block? Following the famous editorial advice, instead of “telling” you, I will “show” you.
        Picture in your mind a beautiful winter morning, snow falling from the window, the office toasty warm, the house empty and quite. It’s just me and writer’s block:
        9:30 I sit at the computer, ready to write that piece of literature that will bring me fame and riches (okay, no need to be greedy, I’ll settle for riches).
        9:31 I decide I better answer my emails first, get them out of my mind (yeah, right).
        10:00 I’m thirsty. I better make myself some tea. Writers drink hot beverages, don’t they?
        10:05 I’m back at the computer. I take a sip of my tea and suddenly remember all the things I should be doing instead of writing: wash the rabbit hutches, purchase moist wipes for my husband’s glasses, do the laundry, vacuum the bedrooms, feed the fish… somehow there’s no end to this list.
        10:25 I stare at the blank monitor. I loathe myself.
        10:30 I’m hungry. I’ll have an early lunch (someone should conduct a study about frustrated writers and overeating).
        10:50 I glare at the sign on my desk “A Writer Is Someone Who Writes Everyday,” and try to set it to flames with my mind power.
        11:00 I put Vivaldi on the stereo (studies have shown baroque music “expands” the mind).
        You get the picture. This is writer’s block. This is what happens when I break the habit of writing everyday and disconnect myself from my current project. I don’t know about you, but when I don’t write, the consequences are catastrophic. I hate the world. I snap at people (my husband is my favourite victim). I feel trapped in a box, unable to breathe. If I were the sort of person who went to pubs, I would surely start a brawl.
        But what causes writer’s block?
        Almost always, it is fear. Plain and simple. F-E-A-R.
        Fear of not being good enough.
        Fear of not being able to write that perfect sentence that will impress the reader. No wonder it blocks! How can you write freely and impress people at the same time?

So in order to lift the block, you need to get rid of that fear. It is easier said than done, I know, but I will give you a few practical tips that will help you overcome it, based on probably the best book on writing in the market today, Julia Cameron’s The Right To Write. If these tips have worked for me, they can work for you, too.1. Keep a journal and write 3 pages of anything that comes to your mind each morning. Strictly stream-of-consciousness stuff. Don’t worry, no one will read this (if you’re paranoid like me, hide the journal). The idea is to drain your brain of all the clutter so that when you sit at the computer to do the actual writing, you’ll be able to do it with a clear head. You don’t feel like writing this morning? Your writing sucks? You feel fat? You hate your neighbour? Write it down. By the way, if you feel like clobbering someone to death with a medieval flail, add that too. Write down your dreams, your plans, your fears. The idea is to keep writing non-stop until you have fill those 3 pages. I write in my journal almost everyday. I’m addicted to it, almost to the point of being superstitious. Remember to do it in the morning. If you write in your journal at night you’ll probably go over what you did during the day and this will defeat the purpose. The idea is to positively affect your day by writing those pages in the morning. By training your mind to do this each morning, you will not only make writing more approachable, but also more disciplined.

2. Don’t edit as you write. If you can’t keep your neurotic, perfectionist urges under control, then at least keep them to an absolute minimum. Editing as you write is like editing a movie and filming it at the same time. It can become pathological. Editing, re-editing, searching for that flawless sentence that will create that immaculate paragraph. Well, do you want to know something? It won’t happen. No matter how many times you try to improve it, there will be always room for improvement. Ultimately, if you want to finish that first draft, you’ll have to trust yourself and simply let it go. Remember that a first draft is just that, a first draft. Once you’ve finished that first draft then you can polish and change and edit all you want.

3. Set yourself a small quota everyday. You don’t have to finish a whole chapter in one sitting. Just write 2 pages, or 1, or even just a paragraph. The important thing here is to meet that daily quota. It’s amazing how thinking like this can affect your brain. It’s like with exercise. If you tell yourself, “Oh no, I have to exercise for one whole hour,” this will block you. But if you think, “I’ll only exercise 20 or 30 minutes,” the work becomes more approachable and you’ll stick with it. The key here is to create the habit a little step at a time. The best thing about meeting this daily quota is that it allows you to feel “guilt-free” for the rest of the day, making it possible for you to spend happier times with your family and do other things. In other words, if you stick to your writing schedule, you’ll be able to enjoy life.

4. Have the right sense of direction. This is probably one of Cameron’s most powerful advice. Don’t think that you have to think something up, that you have to create something. Instead, think that the words, plots, characters are already there suspended in some other dimension, and all you have to do is listen intently and write the words down as if taking dictation. Thinking like this will immediately lift a heavy load off your shoulders. It will make you feel free of responsibility and allow your writing to flow easier.

5. Find a support group. Artistic souls need artistic soul mates. If there isn’t any support group you like, start your own, like I did. As I write this article, I’m sitting at a café with 3 writer friends. We meet every Friday morning from 10 to 12. These meetings are incredibly productive, maybe for the simple reason that I HAVE to write. I mean, face it, not writing alone at home is bad, but not writing in front of your writer friends would be a disgrace. Who wants to be a loser? Also, sometimes writers need to get out of their homes and experience a change of scene. Writing at a café makes writing fun. There’s a baby howling a table away, and at the same time I can clearly hear the loud voice of a Spanish lady several feet from me, telling her friend that she wished her husband would hide his briefcase in the cellar… Hide his briefcase in the cellar? Strange… But I reel myself back in. I don’t want to become like one of my writing partners, who periodically listens to people’s conversations to get ideas for her stories. I’m not that desperate yet.

6. Give your brain high quality foods: Read great books about all types of subjects, both in fiction and nonfiction. I read astronomy, cosmology, history, comparative religion, physics, metaphysics. Listen to music. Music can trigger powerful inspiration. But please, not heavy metal! Put your favourite composer on the stereo, close your eyes, and just let your mind drift. Doing this alone is a form of meditation. I can assure you scenes of future books will appear in your mind, characters will talk, ideas for your present project will present themselves. Visit museums, flower shops, go to the theatre, take walks and observe nature. All these things will enrich your life and your mind, automatically giving your writing more energy and depth.

The following tip is not from Julia Cameron, but from me. It works wonders for motivation but is not for everybody, only for those of you who have generous and supportive husbands: Make a signed agreement with your husband in which he’ll have to pay you $10 for every full page you write. So if you write 15 pages a week, he’ll have to pay you $150… I said this is not for everybody. (By the way, my husband hasn’t agreed so far, but I’m still hopeful.)

        Don’t be afraid. Just write. Just WRITE. Just describe the movie in your head and put the words down. In the meantime I’ll try to apply these wise words to myself, and not give the evil eye to the “A Writer Is Someone Who Writes Everyday” sign on my desk.

 This article is based on ideas described in The Right To Write, by Julia Cameron.

Other great, inspiring books about unleashing the power of your creativity:

The Artist’s Way
, by Julia Cameron
Letters to a Young Writer, by Julia Cameron
Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande
Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
Write From the Heart, by Hal Zina Bennett
Copyright ©2004, 2007 by Mayra Calvani / All Rights Reserved. This article may not be copied nor printed in any form without permission from the author.



Interviews by Mayra Calvani

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