Rubber Shoes… A Lesson in Gratitude by Gladys Elizabeth Barbieri is a children’s book which tells the tale of young Gladys Elizabeth. Gladys learns her first lesson of humility and gratitude at a ripe age, after her mother is unable to afford the shoes that Gladys has set her young, little heart on and buys her “ugly rubber shoes”. Gladys’s mother, however, finds a great way in helping Gladys appreciate what she has and in the end young Gladys learns a valuable lesson. Rubber Shoes… A Lesson in Gratitude received the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. Latinitas had the honor to meet and interview Gladys Elizabeth Barbieri, here’s what she had to say about her life as an author:
Latinitas: Tell us about yourself.
Gladys: “When I was studying at the University of San Francisco, one of my favorite things was to look out my window and see the glorious Golden Gate Bridge. And it is in this great city that my family’s American life began. In the early 1950’s las tías-abuelas came to San Francisco with a clear vision to lay down strong roots in this country. My mom later immigrated from El Salvador and my dad from Nicaragua. I was raised in a home where education was considered an invaluable gift. Being in excellence, both in character and in one’s work were daily reminders at the dinner table. That’s probably why I work best when there is routine and structure. I am eternally grateful to my parents and family friends who were active participants in my childhood. I enjoy spending time with people who make me laugh out loud and as my dad calls them, los locos, the dreamers of life.”
Latinitas: How did you become an author?
Gladys: “My dad has always told me that I was a writer. Any time I wrote something, whether for school or for fun I would share my writing with him. Yet I never thought of myself as a writer. Thankfully, I’m finally getting to the place where I think perhaps I am a writer. What I’m learning is that if you enjoy singing and you sing on a choir, then you are already a “singer”. Or if you enjoy painting then you are already an “artist”. In other words, instead of waiting to “make it” so to speak, I just woke up and started sharing my writing to more people. And to my surprise, it’s been working out quite nicely.”
Latinitas: What did you do to prepare for this career?
Gladys: “This answer is tied to the response above. I didn’t set out to become an author. However, in the last few years I started writing and sharing with more people and then things just started snowballing from there. I read lots of articles, mostly dealing with education. If the article really gets me going I share my thoughts with the people who I feel are supportive of me via email. My friends call it my “pseudo blog”.”
Latinitas: What is your favorite part of being an author?
Gladys: “So far my favorite part is sharing with little people, particularly with my first grade students. When Rubber Shoes was just a word document I read the story to them several times and I had them illustrate it. I’ve done the same with my second book, Pink Fire Trucks (coming summer 2013) and when I see how excited they get, I then get inspired to write more stories. It’s a symbiotic relationship where I fuel their creativity and they in turn fuel mine. I enjoy sharing the creative process with them because I feel that teachers have lost the freedom to teach using more creative avenues like art, music, dance and movement.”
Latinitas: What is the most challenging part of being an author?
Gladys: “I wish I had more time to write. My brother in law told me of a famous and established Latina author who goes to her “writing house” to write. WOW! I would love to have that kind of life!”
Latinitas: What advice would you give to help a girl prepare to be an author?
Gladys: “Join groups where you can hone your writing skills. Keep a writing journal and set time aside to write. Also, volunteer to intern for the local paper or TV station. Read lots of books and materials, start a blog or a “pseudo blog” and share your views and commentaries with your friends and family. In the story PINK FIRE TRUCKS the big message is to do things with heart. It will make for a happy soul. But most importantly, enjoy the process without any expectations.”
Latinitas: What do you do for fun when you aren’t working? What volunteer projects do you do?
Gladys: “When I was cool and younger I would go dancing Wednesday through Sunday! These days I fall asleep by 10:30 p.m., so quiet dinners with loved ones and great conversation is fun. I jog which relaxes me and I recently started up yoga again. Now I’m on a mission to be a yoga star. As for volunteering, I don’t necessarily volunteer but I do donate proceeds of Rubber Shoes to the reading intervention program where I work. I went to a workshop where I declared that I wished I had oodles of money to do philanthropic work in the field of early literacy. I was told to start giving, even if it’s just peanuts because the positive energy behind giving makes things happen. I also participate in Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California events. Their mission is to promote literacy and motivate children to read by building at-home libraries for underserved children in Greater Los Angeles. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to give oodles and oodles of money to the organizations that I admire.”
Latinitas: Why did you choose the lesson of gratitude for your book?
Gladys: “Rubber Shoes is based on a true event that happened when I was a little girl and in this story I learned a powerful lesson in gratitude. Still, I sometimes forget how perfectly wonderful my life is just the way it is. It seems that when I start to complain, everything falls apart, mostly because I keep looking at situations with a pessimistic eye. When I live in a state of gratitude, things tend to fall in place and situations get better”
Gladys Elizabeth Barbieri’s upcoming book, PINK FIRE TRUCKS, comes out this summer.