the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog

Lyn Miller-Lachmann and SURVIVING SANTIAGO

Posted by Adi Rule on Thu, Jun 04, 2015 @ 07:06 AM

We're celebrating the release of Lyn Miller-Lachmann's new YA novel, Surviving Santiago (Running Press)! Lyn is a member of the Summer 2012 Secret Gardeners, and she stopped by for a chat. 


Returning to her homeland of Santiago, Chile, is the last thing that Tina wants to do during the summer of her sixteenth birthday. It has taken eight years for her to grow comfortable in the United States, but now she has good friends and even likes her mother’s new husband. And it has been three years since her father left his family to work underground against the dictatorship.

Despite insisting on the visit, Tina’s father spends all his time absorbed in politics and alcohol rather than connecting with her, carrying his betrayal from the past into the present. Tina attracts the interest of a mysterious, heavy-metal-loving stranger, but the hairpin turns he takes her on put her in increasing danger as she comes closer to learning the truth.

The tense final months of the Pinochet regime in 1989 provide the backdrop for author Lyn Miller-Lachmann’s suspenseful tale of the survival of the Aguilar family, first introduced in the critically acclaimed Gringolandia.

Welcome, Lyn! So, tell us . . .

Who was your favorite character to write and why?

I love all my characters in this novel—Tina, her father, her aunt, and Frankie. But in terms of a character to write, Frankie, the mysterious boyfriend, was the most interesting and challenging. He is, of course, unknown to Tina because he’s hiding a huge secret, but in many ways, he’s unknown to himself. He’s grown up under difficult circumstances, and his desire to escape those circumstances has led him to make some bad choices. When he makes those choices, he doesn’t know that he’ll come to regret them. In the end, he changes and discovers himself every bit as much as Tina does.

What was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process?

valparaiso-299087_1280Unlike a lot of authors, I tend to underwrite, and because there’s a lot of action in Surviving Santiago, I had to slow down with chapters that immersed the reader in the setting and relationships. I’m particularly proud of a chapter I added during the revision process, which is set in the port city of Valparaíso, Chile. Built on several dozen hills, Valparaíso is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. I had to figure out how to convey this beauty in words, while using the setting as an opportunity for Tina to learn from her aunt about her father’s childhood and how he became the person he is.

Tell us how you sold this book.

TheColorofRainI definitely want to talk about this one because it’s a wonderful VCFA story. I got my agent, Ellen Geiger at Frances Goldin Literary Agency, with this manuscript, but she picked up a few quick rejections and we decided to table the project in favor of the one that would become Rogue. All of the rejections pointed to a very weak beginning, so I decided to workshop the first three chapters for my second residency. I got great advice (see next question) from my fellow students, and when I finished the revisions, I gave the manuscript to Cori McCarthy, who had presented an early version of The Color of Rain in the same workshop. Cori had great advice and offered to bring Surviving Santiago to her editor at Running Press, Lisa Cheng. This novel owes its existence to Cori, and I’m forever grateful.

We're big fans of Cori and her work! :) Thanks for sharing that story; the VCFA community is a wonderful resource.

What nugget of craft advice has been especially helpful to you?

Editors of the initial first chapters of Surviving Santiago found Tina unsympathetic, and in my second semester workshop, I learned the elements of what makes a protagonist likable. Most notably for this novel, presenting other characters who like her connects her to the reader, so after the workshop I wrote a new beginning where Tina and her friends from school are at her mother’s wedding. Tina’s interest in restoring old houses—something she shares with her new stepfather—is a cool aspect of her character that also becomes a metaphor for her relationship with her father.

Who were your advisors at VCFA?

An Na, Jane Kurtz (with whom I worked on Surviving Santiago), Sarah Ellis, Coe Booth. I’m currently doing a post-graduate semester with Shelley Tanaka focused on translation, but I’m also working with her on a new project set in Portugal in 1966, during the dictatorship there.

What do you wish you had known before you first set foot on the VCFA campus?

If I’d known how supportive everyone would be, and what an amazing opportunity I would have to focus on and learn about craft, I wouldn’t have been so anxious in the months before I started. As it was, I almost didn’t show up for my first residency because I was so nervous and also because I’d badly sprained my foot in an accident several weeks before and was still hobbling around with a cane.

Lucky for us that you decided to hobble up to Montpelier after all! Thank you so much for stopping by, Lyn. Bienvenido, Surviving Santiago!

80050001Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the author of Gringolandia (an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and Américas Award Honor Book) and Rogue (a Junior Library Guild Selection), as well as the translator of The World in a Second, a picture book first published in Portugal. She is the former editor of MultiCultural Review and a team member of We Need Diverse Books.
* * *
Visit Lyn at her website,, and follow her on Twitter @LMillerLachmann and Instagram @lynmillerlachmann. She also reviews for The Pirate Tree at

Topics: young adult, 2015 release, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Running Press

Roundup - VCFA WCYA Auction, ALA Authors, Book Sales & More!

Posted by Tami Brown on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 @ 07:06 AM


VCFA WCYA hits the jackpot!

The annual conference of the American Library Association will convene next week in Las Vegas and tons of VCFA WCYA authors will be there meeting, greeting and signing. If you're in the Sin City neighborhood be sure to drop in on these folks:

Kekla Magoon

Debbie Wiles

Catherine Linka

Rita Williams-Garcia

Trent Reedy

Sherry Shahan

Rene Colato Lainez

Gretchen Woelfle

Jandy Nelson

Lauren Myracle

Clete Barrett Smith

Carol Lynch Williams

Any others?

Authors please leave your appearance times here in the comments.

Adi and I do our best to keep up but please remember there are only two of us volunteering -- and zillions of your stellar achievements to track down (not to mention we have our own writing to do!) Drop us a line with your good news here. And don't fret if we miss something -- catch up with us on the VCFA WCYA community Facebook page and we'll be sure you're recognized here, too.

images 2

The Launch Pad is delighted to announce we're a co-sponsor of the 2014 WCYA Auction and Alumni Signing. We've joined the Alumni Association to bring you two special evenings of fun. There's still plenty of time to donate items or join the alumni signing. 

Sooooo another week, more AMAZING book sales . . . because that's how we roll at VCFA!

Anne Bustard sold her debut middle-grade historical novel Anywhere But Paradise to Andrea Cascardi at Egmont USA. Anne's novel tells the story of Peggy Sue Bennett, a fish out of water in post-statehood Hawaii, baffled by local customs and bullied by an eighth grader for being white. Ho'omaika'i 'ana, Anne! 

Lyn Miller-Lachmann sold Surviving Santiago, the story of a 16-year old girl's summer in Chile visiting her estranged father, and the dangerous love affair that develops between her and a local boy to Running Press Kids. ¡Qué bueno, Lyn!

And we have even more good news:

Horn Book selected Erin Moulton's new novel, Chasing the Milky Way as its "Review Of The Week" saying, "Moulton effectively balances the big-picture issues with the smaller stuff, the day-to-day challenges each character faces and the triumphs he or she achieves." Great stuff, Erin! 

David Elzey's piece "The Self-Improvement Plan" was published this week in Antioch University Los Angeles' online literary journal Lunch Ticket. Good job, David!

Bethany Hegedus and Arun Gandhi's Grandfather Gandhi has received more recognition -- Betsy Bird aka Fuse #8 is touting this gorgeous and important picture book as a possible Caldecott winner! Go Bethany and Grandfather!

Meanwhile the German edition of Caroline Carlson's Hilary und der fast ganz ehrbare Club der Piraten (don't even ask us to try to pronounce that!) is set to launch at a Munich or Strassbourg bookstore near you.

What a week!!!!

Topics: round-up, Erin E. Moulton, Anne Bustard, Trent Reedy, Deborah Wiles, Kekla Magoon, Jandy Nelson, congratulations, Catherine Linka, Sherry Shahan, Gretchen Woelfle, Carol Lynch Williams, Bethany Hegedus, Rita Williams-Garcia, foreign rights, signing, David Elzey, Clete Barrett Smith, Arun Gandhi, Rene Colato Lainez, American Library Association, VCFA auction, Caroline Carlson, Lauren Myracle, Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Posts by category

Subscribe to the Blog


  • Purple Nails and Puppy Tails
    Purple Nails and Puppy Tails
  • Petal and Poppy
    Petal and Poppy
  • Mumbet's Declaration of Independence
    Mumbet's Declaration of Independence
  • Mogie: The Heart of the House
    Mogie: The Heart of the House
  • Map Art Lab
    Map Art Lab
  • Makeover Magic
    Makeover Magic
  • The Life of Ty
    The Life of Ty
  • Jubilee!
  • Jack the Castaway
    Jack the Castaway
  • Hope Is a Ferris Wheel
    Hope Is a Ferris Wheel
  • Tap Tap Boom Boom
    Tap Tap Boom Boom
  • Skin and Bones
    Skin and Bones
  • Signed, Skype Harper
    Signed, Skype Harper
  • Revolution
  • Read, Write, and Recite Free Verse Poetry
    Read, Write, and Recite Free Verse Poetry
  • A Girl Called Fearless
    A Girl Called Fearless
  • All That Glitters
    All That Glitters
  • The Art of Goodbye
    The Art of Goodbye
  • Blue Iguana
    Blue Iguana
  • Caminar
  • Chasing the Milky Way
    Chasing the Milky Way
  • The Devil's Temptation
    The Devil's Temptation
  • Divided We Fall
    Divided We Fall
  • Follow Your Heart
    Follow Your Heart
  • Grandfather Gandhi
    Grandfather Gandhi
  • Strange Sweet Song
    Strange Sweet Song

Share your news


Follow us