Interview With an Author: Saraciea J. Fennell

Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library,
Author Saraciea J. Fennell and her latest book, Wild Tongues Can't Be Tamed
Author Saraciea J. Fennell and her latest book, Wild Tongues Can't Be Tamed. Photo credit: Viscose Illusion

Saraciea J. Fennell is a Black Honduran writer and the founder of The Bronx is Reading. She is also a book publicist who has worked with many award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors. Fennell sits on the board for Latinx in Publishing as well as on the Advisory Board of People of Color in Publishing. She lives in the Bronx with her family and dog, Oreo. Her latest book is Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed and she recently talked about it with Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.

What was your inspiration for Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed?

My inspiration for Wild Tongues came from the lack of YA nonfiction that centered voices from my community, especially, Black and LGBTQIA+ voices. I also wanted to curate a collection that could be used as a conversation starter for those in the Latinx community, and those outside of our community. How culture is so rich, and I think we need more books written by folks from the diaspora to really showcase that.

What was your process for putting together this collection? Did you ask writers for stories that fit your theme, open up a submission process, or did you approach it in a different way?

The process for putting together this collection was very collaborative. I came up with the theme for the collection, and then I asked each contributor to send me 3-5 pitches that fit into that criteria and might be something they wanted to write about. From there, I discussed with each contributor what made the most sense for them to focus on.

Do you have a favorite earlier or longer work about the Latinx experience you were not able to include?

Not that I can think of, but I will say that I wish I could’ve included more writers from the diaspora, there are still so many Latinx experiences that have yet to be shared with the world.

Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed is the first anthology that you’ve edited. Was the experience what you thought it would be?

This experience was amazing, I really enjoyed editing these talented writers. There were lots of things I learned along the way on the publishing editorial side, like working with proofreaders, copyeditors, and etc. I knew about all of those things, but being in the minutiae of it all was definitely a learning curve for me when it came to juggling all of the deadlines and stuff.

Are there any common misperceptions about what an Editor does that you would like to explain/correct?

An editor’s job is to help the writer tell the best story that they can and I think sometimes folks forget that and they take the feedback more personally than they should. The critiques are for the writer to consider, as the writer, you don’t necessarily have to accept all the changes, but you should still aim to produce the best possible piece of writing that you can.

What’s currently on your nightstand?

So many books currently on my nightstand! My favorite copy of Matilda, A Master of Djinn by P Djeli Clark, Monster in the Middle by Tiphanie Yanique, When We Make It by Elisabet Velasquez, my finished copy of Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed, and my iPad loaded up with so many other stories!

Can you name your top five favorite or most influential authors?

This is a tough question, but I’ll name some of the most influential and favorites, Roald Dahl (I devoured his books when I was in foster care), James Baldwin, Claudia Rankine, Shonda Rhimes, Octavia E. Butler, Samantha Irby, Stephenie Meyer (yes, I’m a Twilight fan), Justina Ireland, Dhonielle Clayton, Tracey Baptiste, and so many others!

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

Matilda and James and the Giant Peach. I also devoured all of RL Stine’s Goosebumps books as well as Animorphs.

Was there a book you felt you needed to hide from your parents?

Oh for sure, I hid a few books from my parents, mostly ones that I had taken from my sister’s bookshelf, like The Coldest Winter Ever and pretty much all of Eric Jerome Dickey’s books, ha!

Is there a book you've faked reading?

Yep, I’ve never finished The Catcher in the Rye LOL, that’s our little secret though right?

Can you name a book you've bought for the cover?

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray.

Is there a book that changed your life?

Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas it was the first book that I read in high school where I saw characters that reflected certain aspects of my family's struggles.

Can you name a book for which you are an evangelist (and you think everyone should read)?

Yes, I think everyone should read Citizen by Claudia Rankine and most recently For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez.

Is there a book you would most want to read again for the first time?

Not that I can think of, but I do frequently reread Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - but that probably doesn’t really count right?

What is the last piece of art (music, movies, tv, more traditional art forms) that you've experienced or that has impacted you?

Recently I’ve been binging series like Flack, Evil, and See that I think have been done really well.

What is your idea of THE perfect day (where you could go anywhere/meet with anyone)?

A perfect day for me includes a sun shower during brunch so I can watch and listen to the rain fall while I nom, followed by a stroll outdoors, a spot where I can sit and enjoy the views, read a few pages of a good book, and then back home with my cozy blanket binging a favorite show.

What is the question that you’re always hoping you’ll be asked, but never have been? What is your answer?

Hmm I can’t think of anything right now!

What are you working on now?

A collection of essays, and slowly revising a YA contemporary manuscript.

Book cover for Wild Tongues Can't be Tamed: 15 Voices From the Latinx Diaspora
Wild Tongues Can't be Tamed: 15 Voices From the Latinx Diaspora