Author Interview: Vanessa Salazar

Today, I will feature the work of Vanessa Salazar, a Trinidadian author who published her first novel, Selima and the Merfolk in 2014. A friend and fellow writer who I met a few years ago at Writers Union, she will be featured on the DIY panel at this year’s Bocas Lit Fest. Read on to learn more about Selima, and Vanessa.

Selima and the Merfolk

Selima and the Merfolk

1. Who are you and what do you do?

I am an easy-going blogger and first time author. If I had my way all I would do is write, read and hang out with my family.

Vanessa Salazar

Vanessa Salazar

2. Who designed the cover?

The painting was done by Jason Jarvis and Derick Smith did the graphics. I am extremely pleased with the cover.

3. Tell us more about the story…

The story begins with Selima going to live in Las Cuevas Bay with her estranged father, after her mother unexpectedly dies. Though her father is well known in the small community, no one knew he had a daughter except for his wife and mother-in-law. Selima feels terribly out of place and spends most of her time avoiding her perky stepmother, running away to the beach and eventually the forest. In the forest, she stumbles upon an extraordinary secret that has been hidden for hundreds of years…there is a mystical river, inhabited by merfolk.

Then, her adventure begins.

Google Search Image

Google Search Image

Las Cuevas (North, Trinidad)

Las Cuevas (North, Trinidad)

4. How did you come up with Selima and the Merfolk, and why is it set in Las Cuevas?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and to write about mermaids. I am fascinated with them. When I was about six years old my grandfather convinced me that there were mermaids living in ‘The Fairy’ which is a river at the end of Las Cuevas Bay. That’s why the story is based in Las Cuevas.

This link gives more details as to why I wrote this book:

5. Who is your favourite character, and why?

Mrs. Clearwater. She is modelled after my grandmother who I like to call the black Sophia Petrillo (The Golden Girls).

6. What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing the novel?

Actually, I’ve had the story in my head for so long, it kind of wrote itself. My biggest challenge was finding time to write and edit.

7. What advice would you give to new writers?

Don’t rush. Your story is your own; tell it the way you want to tell it. However, never underestimate the value of good advice. Listen, learn and edit.

8. Where can readers find you?

I have a blog,, and all my social media links can be found there.

9. Where can readers pick up a copy of Selima and the Merfolk?

If you are in Trinidad, copies can be purchased at:

Paper Based Bookshop – Hotel Normandie, 10 Nook Avenue, St. Anns

Deltex Art Shop – 66 Pembroke Street, Port of Spain.

Hardcover, paperback and e-book copies can be purchased online at and You can also send me a message on my blog’s contact page.

10. What’s next for you?

On Saturday 2nd May 2015 I will be featured on the DIY Lit Panel at the Bocas Lit Fest.

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Google Search Image

Location: NALIS POS, 1st Floor, Seminar Room 1

Times: The DIY Lit Panel – 1:00pm-2:00pm.

Check Out the link below for the list of authors:

Bocas Lit Fest 2015 Authors

Thanks for stopping by Vanessa. It was a pleasure having you here. I enjoyed reading Selima and the Merfolk and look forward to hearing you read on Saturday.

For those of you who live in Trinidad, do stop by and check out Vanessa on the DIY Lit Panel, and for others abroad go to or to purchase the book and post your reviews. It’s a really good read especially for young adults.

Getting Down with the Basics : Writing Utensils

For some time now, I have been obsessed with learning the basics, or at least about getting them right. Like a guitar player who must routinely strum and then make chords so that later they can rely on muscle memory to eventually kick in. Or as my niece says,  play without looking. It’s been six years and without a steady music teacher, I am beginning to see places where my tactics are working, and others where they have fallen short. I realize, however, that if you stick with it and do them often enough, there comes a time when it begins to feel like magic, as though your fingers are actually flying off the guitar as you move between chords: going from G to A to D. Or vice versa.


 This is a result, like muscle memory, of something that has already become ingrained in you. This is what a writer and anyone learning a new skill aims for. Something called mastery. Effortless proficiency which is an indication that your hours of hard work has indeed paid off. And this is why so many beginner questions may seem like an affront to anyone who has already put in their hours. Or paid their dues, because the struggling writer, grappling at straws, may seem more like someone aiming to know outright, something that has taken them ages to master.

Worry not, the answers will come.

Even to questions that at first may seem rather pesky. Questions about the very semblance of a writer’s life. Questions about routine, and schedules and writing utensils.  For me the beauty of writing has always been that all you need is a pen and pieces of paper. Yet for the beginner it becomes: Which pen? What type of paper? Or even more probing questions, like where do your ideas come from? A couple of weeks ago, I watched a youtube video where Neil Gaiman joked with an audience member that writers are awful to people who ask such questions and that such questions shouldn’t be asked of writers. In many ways I agree with him, although I am also beginning to understand the need for the question in the first place.

Remember the writer, grappling at straws, is trying to figure out just how this thing is actually done. Needing only a little bit of guidance and maybe luck. Although persistence will be the best advice in the end.

How to learn the basics and get some handle on writing utensils? you ask. Get a good book on grammar like Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Read a lot. And most definitely, write a lot. And concerning writing utensils, they tend to vary. The writer and instructor Natalie Goldberg suggests writing in a funky notebook like the ones you would get for back to school. The ones with tweety bird. I use them sometimes, but I also write on yellow legal pads (like John Grisham) and use inexpensive faber pen. Although any other brand will do. You might need to keep a stapler or binder nearby to collate everything. I like Goldberg’s suggestion because she says as writers we should try not to take ourselves too seriously, especially when what we are trying to do is be creative. So if time permits, take a read of: Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones or Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. These are two excellent books for writers at stage of their writing career. And also check out Chuck Wendig’s site: It always has lots of info for writers.

ImageUntil next week, keep reading, writing and blogging!