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Transcript: Children Chatting With Jennifer Torres

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a certified or verbatim transcript, but rather represents only the context of the class or meeting, subject to the inherent limitations of real-time captioning. The primary focus of real-time captioning is general communication access and as such this document is not suitable, acceptable, nor is it intended for use in any type of legal proceeding.

Children Chatting Podcast: Discussion between Jennifer, Kitty Felde, and the Children Chatting Kids

[Music intro]

LAUREN: Hey everyone, you're listening to a special episode of Children Chatting with Authors. Today we are going to be joined by host and executive producer of the Book Club for Kids, Kitty Felde and Jennifer Torres, author of the book, Stef Soto, Taco Queen.

KITTY FELDE: I'm Kitty Felde and we are broadcasting live from the studio city branch of the LA Public Library. And we're here with the Studio City podcast people otherwise known as the children chatting with children's authors book club. And we're here to talk about Stef Soto, Taco Queen, by Jennifer Torres. And she just may join us in a few minutes. But first let's meet our readers.

ISABEL: Hi, my name is Isabel. I'm in third grade. I go to Dixie Canyon, Los Angeles, Cal... Studio City.

EVA: Hi, my name's Eva and I'm in seventh grade and I go to Walter Reed and it's in Valley Village.

KASSI: My name is Kassi. I'm a freshman in high school and I go to LACHSA, otherwise known as the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.

ZAREK:Hi, my name is Zerek, and I'm homeschooled and I'm in seventh grade.

SEBASTIEN: Hi, my name is Sebastien. I'm homeschooled and I'm in eighth grade.

KITTY: So our book is Stef Soto, Taco Queen, by Jennifer Torres. What's it about? Who wants to start us off?

EVA: So it begins with a girl named Stef Soto and her dad and their taco truck. I mean they sell tacos.

KITTY: What else?

KASSI: The book is about, as you said, Stef Soto and her dad and a taco truck. And one of the parts in the story is Stef Soto has her art class, but the art class is underfunded. So they throw a concert or like a dance party to raise money for art supplies.

ISABEL: So Stef wants to go to Viviana Vega's concert, but her parents won't let her go because they're overprotective of her and they don't want her to go. And her friend, Amanda and her were on the radio and they got free tickets to her concert, but she wasn't allowed to go. Only Amanda went and Arthur.

KITTY: Well, let's talk a little bit about Stef and Arthur and Amanda and some of the characters in this book. Who are the characters?

SEBASTIEN: So it's Stef her friends, Amanda and Arthur, and her family. And also the people at her school and one of her enemies.

KITTY: Well, I'm kind of curious, you've got two homeschooled guys over here and we've got some public school and otherwise schools over here. So I'm curious to know, not that it's going to turn into a battle royale, but I mean how familiar was this? How familiar was this world to you? And let me start with guys who actually have to face middle school and elementary school people everyday.

KASSI: I don't really know. I mean my school is pretty diverse, so I could sort of see some relations from the book to my actual school, but my school is very different because I'm in high school, so I don't really know what it's like to be in these grades anymore.

KITTY: What you've forgotten completely about middle school? You've wiped it from your memory?

KASSI: It was just that bad.

EVA: Well I have to say I know at least three people who are exactly like Julia and just that really snobby like, "Oh, I'm so great and you're just trash." I know so many people like that. So, that's perfect.

ISABEL: It's similar to my school because there's some people that are like Julia and some people like Stef, some people like Amanda, and...

KITTY: Don't forget the shy Arthurs.

ISABEL: And a little bit of Arthur's. And Stef is very kind and then she sometimes gets a little angry in a part of the book. And then Julia is just like a show off because she goes on the bus to school and no one does that. And then she has a phone and she gets to go backstage to the Viviana Vega concert, and I don't really like that because she just shows off a lot.

KITTY: Okay, go ahead.

KASSI: Well, one thing is, there's like a lot of, not necessarily at my school, but you still come across some Julia's, people who think they're kind of better than everybody. But a common thing that I see a lot is that everybody's really passionate about what they want to do and what they want to strive for.

KITTY: All right now it's your turn homeschooled gentleman here. You don't have to face middle school. You didn't face middle school.

ZAREK: I did last year.

KITTY: You did. Okay. So talk about the difference between that middle school experience and this book and your life these days.

ZAREK: So being homeschooled, I don't have to deal with any of it, and so I'm kind of safe from all that stuff. But last year I had a lot of people that were Julia, like no one really else, it was just all Julias. Everyone thought they were better than each other. And yeah, that's basically my school last year.

KITTY: You guys identified one of the big conflicts in this book, which is that Stef's parents are very protective and this seems to be a big bone of contention for a lot of us dealing with our parents. I mean, talk a little bit about whether you thought her parents were over the line, not tough enough. I mean, what do you think about the kind of parenting skills that the Soto's had.

ISABEL: They were okay because if I was like her mom or her dad, I wouldn't really let her go. She's probably young and like even though it's like a big concert and then you don't really know what's going to happen. I think they're pretty good parents.

EVA: So I want to say, so Stef is 12 and that is a little young to go to a concert even with your friend. But I want to say I got a flip phone when I was in fifth grade so I feel as though that could have been something that her parents did in case they were feeling like, oh, we don't want to get our daughter a phone because maybe she'll get too independent. Because that worked.

KITTY: That this is a discussion we have all the time when I was back in DC, is what age is proper for a kid to get a phone?

EVA: Well personally I kind of think middle school is better because some kids are like, "I'm ready to walk home by myself," or like, "I need you to know." Because middle school's a lot different than elementary school because you're more independent and things are changing and most kids don't have their parents pick them up anymore. I mean my dad got me a flip phone because he's like, "We should just kind of get her situated and see how she works." So I had that for a year and I got so used to T9 that I forgot how to text normally. It's kind of sad.

KITTY: All right. Parenting styles, overprotectiveness, is this something you've experienced in life?

KASSI: Yes. Yeah. My parents are kind of not really overprotective but in the way that if I go over to a friend's house, they have to meet their parents first and I can't go to places that could be considered too dangerous or after night without...

KITTY: Like, where are you going? You're planning to hang out in dark alleys and, next to railroad tracks or something?

KASSI: Like I say, walking around the Colburn area, sort of downtown. It's kind of dangerous. But definitely going to a concert at that age, I understand where they're coming from. I think that Stef is definitely sad about it and that's normal to be sad. But also, I think her parents are doing the right thing from keeping her going because if she did go, if something happened to her, her parents would sad with themselves and that wouldn't be good. That'd be awful. So, it's coming from a good place in their heart, letting her stay home.

KITTY: Parents.

KITTY: Oh, we should mention, don't look at your mother. She's across the room. But let's pretend she's not here. What would you say about the amount of parenting that should go on for somebody of Stef's age or of your age?

SEBASTIEN: I don't know. I kind of agree with what they did, but also it did seem pretty safe because she was with a friend who had a phone and her older sister was right outside.

DEREK: Well, my parents aren't that overprotective. I mean, I don't usually go out that much and my parents usually know all my friends' parents because I don't really talk to that many people. And yeah, if I was a parent, I would probably let my kid go to the concert if I went with them.

KITTY: You wouldn't be embarrassed to death, which it sounds like Stef would have been.

DEREK: No, not really.

KITTY: My dad took me to my first concert.

DEREK: I would be unhappy with that.

KASSI: My first concert was a Wiggles concert.

KITTY: Well, I think it sounds like a great time to bring our writer into the conversation. We'd like to introduce you guys to Jennifer Torres. Please bring your chair on over. Let's get you in the group. You guys can applaud.


KITTY: Well, I think Jennifer, that all these folks have some questions for you, so we'll see. Who wants to start us off?

ISABEL: What inspired you to write this book?

JENNIFER TORRES: Let's see. I had a lot of inspirations for this book. While I was writing this book, I was working as a newspaper reporter up in Stockton, California, so that was my very first writing job, was working as a newspaper reporter. And when you're a reporter, you get to ask lots of people lots of different questions.

JENNIFER: And right by my office was this taco truck that I loved and I used to eat there like three times a week maybe. Like I went through a lot. But it wasn't just the food I loved. It was also the story. So because I was a reporter I could order my food and I could be like, "What made you decide to open a taco truck? Or what is it like to cook in there? Is it like really crowded? Do you get all sweaty? Could you do homework in there? Where did you learn to cook? Where do your recipes come from?"

JENNIFER: And then all of the stories and everything I was learning about what it's like to own a taco truck or a lonchera, they're called up there. That sort of inspired me to write a story because I started wondering what would it be like if your parent owned this truck as their job. So that was kind of the biggest inspiration for me.

KASSI: I was wondering if any of the characters had inspiration for people in your own life or like when you were a kid?

JENNIFER: Yeah, of course. I think because I worked as a reporter, a lot of my inspiration comes from real life. I really love telling true stories and I think that even fictional stories can have a lot of truth in them. And I think some of the best fictional stories have a lot of truth in them. And so there's a lot of true things in my fiction.

JENNIFER: Like Stef, I had parents who I thought were really overprotective. They would never have let me go to that concert, so I could relate to that. So Arthur, if you have not read the book, has a special diet. So he's a vegetarian for political reasons and environmental reasons, but he's also allergic to a lot of different things. So I have a brother who is a very particular eater and so that's kind of where Arthur started from. But I have another brother who's a music snob for sure, and so that's kind of, Arthur is a combination of both of them. And I absolutely dealt with my fair share of Julia's in my life.

KITTY: Who's got another question?

EVA: She stole mine.

KITTY: Oh, sorry. We'll think of another one. Don't worry.

SEBASTIEN: I was wondering if this is going to be a series or just a standalone book?

JENNIFER: That is such a good question. Thank you for asking. Would you like to read more about Stef? Yeah? Okay. I would love to write some more about Stef and her family and her friends. I'm just kind of trying to think of the right story. So I hope so.

DEREK: Why a taco truck of all things? It could be like a burger truck or a restaurant, something like that. Just why a taco truck?

JENNIFER: I chose the taco track because I love taco trucks. It's one of my favorite things to do for lunch is go find a good lonchera. But another inspiration for me was immigrant entrepreneurship. So a lot of people when they are new to this country and it's like a cross-culture, as they come with nothing, that big dreams and want to make a better life for their families and open restaurants or open donut shops or open nail salons or what have you. And so I was really inspired by that and in my community, I'm Mexican American, and in the neighborhoods, I've lived in, a lot of immigrants from Latin American countries, have bought food trucks and that's how they're trying to create better lives for their kids. And so that was really inspiring to me.

EVA: So is the Vinza Vega, I think I totally butchered her name, was she kind of based off one of like the popular pop musics? So like maybe Ariana Grande or someone else that I'm can't think of?

JENNIFER: I would say yeah, you're right on. I think Viviana Vega, the pop singer that everyone wants to go here, is very much like Ariana Grande. I was looking for the kind of singer who everyone would know who they are and everyone would be into, where it would be a really big deal. But Stef, who's like, you said, not super-duper popular, but it would be someone she would know and someone she would really want to go see. And writing the Viviana Vega parts were some of my favorite parts of writing this story.

ISABEL: How did you come up with the names for like the taco trucks?

JENNIFER: Coming up with the names for the taco trucks or the different food trucks was also one of my favorite parts of writing this book because I got to get a little creative with it.

JENNIFER: Tia Perla was easy because I wanted the track to almost be like a part of Stef's family and so that's why I wanted to call her Tia, like she was the aunt. So that came to me pretty quickly. And then coming up with the other food track names, a lot of it was kind of driving around my city and looking at different food trucks and I got inspired by some real ones. And then I created some kind of little plays on words of my own. But that was really fun.

KITTY: I loved the names of the taco trucks, of all the food trucks. They were great.

JENNIFER: It was fun.

KITTY: Well, let's thank our wonderful writer this evening, Jennifer Torres, as well as our reading crew here in Studio City. And a great round of applause please.


MILES: Thanks for listening to the Children Chatting With Authors Podcast.

[Music outro]

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a certified or verbatim transcript, but rather represents only the context of the class or meeting, subject to the inherent limitations of real-time captioning. The primary focus of real-time captioning is general communication access and as such this document is not suitable, acceptable, nor is it intended for use in any type of legal proceeding.