By Juan Ibarra/editor-in-chief
Rebecca Balcarcel is a NE Campus associate professor of English with a published poetry book who had the dream to publish a novel for everyone to read, and on August 20, 2019 that dream became a reality.
“The Other Half of Happy” is a novel written by Balcarcel that revolves around a twelve year-old, bi-cultural girl named Quijana as she struggles to find out who she is and where in life she belongs.
“The novel can speak to such a large leadership, and is being marketed as middle-grade which is ages 10 or 9 all the way to 13 or 14,” Balcarcel said. “Adults are telling me that they’re enjoying the book too because it has universal themes of identity, belonging and navigating your cultural identity.
Balcarcel has experience in publishing before, but the process for writing, editing and finally publishing a novel versus poetry is much different than one might think. Balcarcel said she needed to worry about things like plot and character arcs.
“I had to relearn that, and a lot of the revisions had to do with making sure the plot worked in a mechanical way, because plot has a very specific structure and you need to follow that structure,” Balcarcel said. “My early drafts of this book were more like poetry and less like fiction and so I transformed it into a novel.”
Although the outcome of releasing a book may appear effortless, it requires hard dedication that is almost never seen beyond the author’s point of view.
“I rewrote the book like four times,” Balcarcel said. “Like big rewriting, not just tweaking and editing but adding a character and adding scenes, then the publisher said ‘OK here is 13 pages of notes about the book and ways you can revise it even more.’ And, so I rewrote it a couple times, probably three full rewrites.”
Balcarcel’s peer and NE associate professor of English Mina Thompson watched her work through this book for the last five years.
Thompson feels the hard work and concentration Balcarcel went through was necessary and just shows the dedication she holds for her work.
“She’s well deserved,” Thompson said. “She is our creative writer and has already published many other things. She has a short story that got published in a journal many years ago, and I still use that short story in my English class to teach description and organization. It’s a wonderful little story.”
Balcarcel’s students have a unique position of having a now published author as their instructor. Rachel Green is an ex-student of Balcarcel from the early 2000s and is not surprised by her success.
“I can’t begin to describe how uplifting and inspiring it is to watch all of this unfold for Rebecca and her book,” Green said. “This is the result of many years of hard work, sacrifice and persistence.”
After publishing the book, even if it was tough work, it all was worth it, according to Balcarcel.
Balcarcel believes the small interactions in her life that show she has affected someone are what have reminded her of where the real success comes from.
“I got a message on Twitter that a younger, Latina reader said ‘I have never felt more seen in a book’,” Balcarcel said. “I hope the message is universal and that not just kids straddling two cultures, but all kids can relate.”
One of the most touching interactions for Balcarcel was when her father went up to a shelf in a book store and saw his daughter’s book.
“My dad, who is in his 80s, went and touched the book on the shelf at the book launch,” Balcarcel said. “He saw the book on a real book shelf in a real bookstore and he just touched the spine, so I snapped a picture because he is so proud, and it was a beautiful feeling to give that gift to him.’”