Hello everyone! I hope you are all doing well and staying healthy. Today, I can’t wait to chat with Gabriela Martins, author of LIKE A LOVE SONG! I was initially going to feature our lovely guest poster during Latinx Heritage Month, but my college semester was unbelievably busy and I didn’t get around to featuring her. Also, her book is now available for pre-order so now I’m especially excited to chat with her! Let’s get started!
It was July of 2004. That’s high winter in Brazil, especially where I’m from, where we joke that the Minuano Wind can break your bones, but we can take it, because we’re from the south. Coming out of a series of political scandals, a new television ad came out: a very popular football player (to become involved in his own scandal in the next few years), a musician with a tragic life story, and two everyday Joes, talking about the adversities they’ve been through in life, and ending the ad with what was supposed to be the new slogan of Brazil.
Eu sou brasileiro, e não desisto nunca. I am Brazilian, and I will never give up.
A meme was born.
Brazilians are notable for their ability to memefy absolutely everything. It’s both the reason we survive so many crises and the reason we largely don’t do anything to stop them from happening again. Everything is funny if you try hard enough. It’s part of my culture, it’s part of the way I was raised on a larger scale than just my family. It’s our modus operandi.
In 2004, I was in fifth grade. I didn’t know enough about politics, none of us had smartphones, and our access to the Internet was limited to Sundays-only, when you only paid to connect to the phone once. Or after midnights on weekdays, but that rebellious Internet-addicted side only came up later in high school. My use for the Internet at 11 was mostly Neopets.
That didn’t stop us from making fun of the new slogan we saw on TV 24/7. Every time a teacher would become annoyed at us, we’d say this sentence out loud. I had a crush on a boy from sixth grade that year—and I proudly told my closest friends that against all odds of us dating, eu sou brasileira, e não desisto nunca.
At 11, I also wrote my first fanfic, and published it in a Brazilian website. One of the first comments was from a woman named Rachel. I said woman, because I remember she was much older than me, but maybe she was another kid, just a few years older. I don’t know. Either way, I’ll always remember Rachel.
She told me I should probably give up writing, because I had no talent, my plot was dull, my characters were unsympathetic, and I should go back to the ‘sidelines’ and just read other people’s stories.
The weirdest thing is that she said all of that in a sweet way, like she meant well. I wasn’t angry when I saw her comment, or when she contacted me privately to continue her rants on how I shouldn’t be writing. I felt like she was looking after me.
Rachel offered to beta-read my stories and give me feedback on how I could become better. I’m not sure what her qualifications were beyond a very high impression of herself.
I accepted, though. I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to get better.
Over the years (yes, years), Rachel continued to tell me I shouldn’t write. But I’m Brazilian, and I don’t ever give up. So I continued writing, and she continued hating it, and eventually we drifted apart.
And I continued writing.
I was 18 when I finished my first original novel—a 120k+ YA monstrosity that was a political intrigue involving werewolves, vampires, and zombies. The next year, I wrote a YA Thriller with an admittedly tired trope of amnesia where the love interest was suspiciously similar to Scott McCall in Teen Wolf, and with that story, I felt like I could get an agent and really break into publishing.
I did a lot of research, and got one personalized rejection! Literally hundreds of form rejections or ghosting, but that one personalized rejection told me I was on the right path. Wrong story, but hey, at least I had done enough research on queries that it’d warranted me a personalized response! I got to work again.
Throughout college, and my first job, and second job, and all the jobs, I kept writing and querying. My friends would go through these exhausting moments of absolute despair and hopelessness. Many gave up, or decided that writing just wasn’t something they felt passionate enough. That is okay. Another old meme: YMMV (from LiveJournal days, and another ad, your mileage may vary. Opinions differ. All of that).
But time and time again I was asked how come I didn’t give up. And the reason is that I never considered that I wouldn’t eventually get an agent, a book deal, all of that. My writing career had already started, because I was writing.
It was never a matter of will I get an agent? It was when I get an agent.
In December 2019, I accepted my agent’s offer to start our partnership. That wasn’t with any of those initial manuscripts. It was with my tenth finished novel, and seventh queried. In May 2020, we went on sub with this novel, and in August 2020 I accepted the offer from my editor. We eventually decided on the title LIKE A LOVE SONG, and my book is coming out in summer 2021.
The tenth novel. The seventh queried. A decade+ later.
Of course I’m happy—I’m ecstatic, and my many emails with all-caps to my agent and editor will prove it. But I also knew it was going to happen eventually, because I wouldn’t stop trying it anyway.
Maybe the ad worked, especially on my generation that mockingly repeated it day after day after day for years (the longevity of memes back then was a lot longer). Maybe it’s just that the publicists that came up with the ad managed to uncover something that’s deeply particular to our culture, just like memefying tragedy is.
We keep going.
No matter what.
Eu sou brasileira, e não desisto nunca.
GABRIELA MARTINS is a Brazilian kidlit author and linguist. Her stories feature Brazilian characters finding themselves and love. She was a high school teacher and has also worked as a TED Ed-Club facilitator, where she helped teens develop their own talks in TED format to present. She edited and self-published a pro-bono LGBTQ+ anthology (KEEP FAITH) with all funds going to queer people in need. Gabriela also used to host monthly webinars with themes ranging from Linguistics in Fiction to Self-Care for Writers. She was recently selected as a Pitch Wars mentor for 2020. Find her on Twitter at @gabhimartins, on Instagram at @gabhi, and visit her website at gabrielawrites.com. Her debut, LIKE A LOVE SONG (Underlined/PRH) comes out in 2021. Add it on Goodreads here, and pre-order it here!
Thank you so much, Gabriela, for this wonderful guest post! I loved reading your guest post, and I know y’all did too! Let’s chat in the comments! Are you a writer? How do you handle rejection?