The Mexican Revolution, Family, and the Writer's Journey: An Interview with Alda P. Dobbs

I first met Alda P. Dobbs through SCBWI, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, where I was fortunate enough to be her mentor when the book that would become BAREFOOT DREAMS OF PETRA LUNA won the Joan Lowery Nixon Award. This meant it was a manuscript for children that our committee chose as having the fullest potential to be acquired by a publisher. Since then I’ve watched Alda’s journey through drafts and submissions and ultimately through her debut novel finding a wonderful home at Sourcebook and receiving stellar reviews! So of course I had to sit down and chat with Alda about this amazing journey and wonderful book.


JOY PREBLE:  I know that family stories were part of the inspiration for BAREFOOT DREAMS OF PETRA LUNA and for Petra Luna herself. I’d love for you to talk about that and also about what drew you to write about this specific period of history.

ALDA P. DOBBS: Thank you so much for this interview! I’ve always loved learning about the Mexican Revolution. Growing up, my favorite family stories were about my great-grandmother’s experiences during that conflict. The story that intrigued me the most was of my great-grandmother and her family anxiously waiting for the US border to open along with hundreds of other people so that they could cross into safety. It took me months of research to verify this story and when I found a newspaper article that described the scene as my family had described it, I knew I had to tell this story.


JP: Yes, you did have to tell it! It’s so important and also so very timely. I’m so glad you listened to that inner voice that said write! Having been fortunate enough to read early drafts of BAREFOOT DREAMS and watch its development and journey to publication, I’d love to hear more about your writer’s journey itself. Tell us how you came to write for children and have this wonderful book on shelves for everyone to read!

AD: Ms. Joy, I will forever be grateful for your mentorship and amazing feedback on my manuscript. Storytelling has always been a big part of my life, and the idea of becoming a writer had crossed my mind as a young child. English is my second language and learning it proved to be difficult. My frustration with it turned me into a reluctant reader but my passion for storytelling never diminished. I started college and was crushed when I received a “remedial” score for my English placement test. I signed up for courses like Latin and German, which vastly helped improve my English. My confidence in the language, though, took longer to acquire. I pursued careers in physics and engineering and in 2010, after moving to Italy, I found myself surrounded by so much inspiration, I found the courage to finally pursue my dream of writing.


JP: That is quite the story! Now that you are at this initial finish line, what advice would you give to other aspiring writers - particularly those who want to write for the children’s market?


  • Find a trusted reader who enjoys books and stories as much as you do.

  • Submit your work for professional critiques at conferences 

  • Seek a mentor (like you, Joy!)

  • Write and submit to magazines 

  • Read many, many books and learn how they did it.


JP: Great advice! And speaking of that last point about reading, I’m always curious about authors’ favorite books. What were some of your favorites as a child? What are some of your current kidlit favorite titles and authors?

AD: I was a reluctant reader, but the first book I ever read from cover to cover was Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger at 16 years old! That book changed me forever and planted in me the desire to one day bring a story into the world. As far as my favorite current books and authors, I have so many and, at times, it depends on my mood. I enjoy works by Laura Resau and Francisco X. Stork. I'm also a big fan of Maria E. Andreu's YA books.


JP: What’s coming next for Alda P. Dobbs? 

AD: I’m working on Book 2, the follow-up to BAREFOOT DREAMS OF PETRA LUNA, which will release September 2022! Book 2, still untitled, will follow Petra and her family to a refugee camp in Eagles Pass, Texas and then to San Antonio where 30,000 refugees settled during that time. I’m also working on the Spanish translation of Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna and recently recorded the “Author’s Note” for the audio book, which is coming out soon. I’m also kicking the idea of a picture book and a historical YA. Stay tuned! 


JP: So thrilling that there will be more Petra Luna! 


Alda will be coming by Brazos to autograph books. You can order your own copy of BAREFOOT DREAMS OF PETRA LUNA below.

And to find out more about Alda, check out her website here.


This interview has been edited for clarity.

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna By Alda P. Dobbs Cover Image
ISBN: 9781728234656
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Sourcebooks Young Readers - September 14th, 2021

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