Being water, my friend

A few years ago, my colleagues and I won an Emmy for our web series The Beauty Inside. For my surprise, that TV award unlocked a literary career that had been stuck for years.

Damn, I tried. Knocked on so many doors. Asked so many favors. Showed it to. So many people. And crickets. Until that point, publishers in Brazil weren’t interested in my stories. They said the theme I picked — the overlap between Brazilian and African cultures, religions and mythology — wasn’t very marketable. Which was a code for “the world this story represents does t buy too many books.” Which is equally frustrating as it is revolting. For a segment that was supposed to be so avant-garde, so world changing, publishers’ conservatism still baffles me.

But then, once I won the Emmy, they suddenly wanted me. My story was perfect.


The good news: the audience, that one that wasn’t supposed to buy books, seemed to agree with me. Right out of the gate the book reached one of the top positions in the best selling lists among Brazilian fiction books. And in the second volume of the trilogy, and for a few weeks, it reached #3-5 overall, beating all Brazilian books (including Paulo Coelho who was a few steps below me).

All that to say that I have never been shy of picking themes outside the hottest trends, or to keep fighting for a place for my story until I find the right house. Like Bruce Lee famously said, if you behave like water, gently poking the rock with enough resolve, eventually it will give you passage.

My first book took 10 years to break through those rocks and find a publisher. This new one, The Girl from Wudang, took 5. But it finally found one. Now, in one more year, my story will be in your house too.

I can’t wait.


PS. A full decade later and I still get messages from readers thanking me for bringing a world they can relate to literature and from writers who can now get their story published because of the work I started. Resilience makes you work hard for a while, but pays long dividends too. ❤️

Curing writers block with martial arts

Recently I got stuck on my next novel (a story about kung fu and artificial Intelligence). First I blamed how busy I got at work and adjusting our lives to the East Coast. But truly it was because I got so into my survival journey as a white belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that, despite my thirty years training striking arts, writing about non-grappling ways of fighting just wasn’t happening. Not surprisingly, like so many things in the process of writing this book, the answer was hiding in the challenge. On not resisting the threat, but using its own energy against it. Suddenly, it all clicked. I made one of the characters be a BJJ fighter who helps the main character develop her ground game, just like I am doing with my own skills. And voila! Writing is furious again.