By Melanie Romero
¡Feliz año nuevo! With a new year comes new beginnings – or, in my case, new columnists.
I am thrilled to share that I am the incoming featured columnist for LibroMobile’s Arts & Culture “Off the Page”, initially founded by our beloved local journalist, Gabriel San Román, also known as “the tallest Mexican in OC.” Taking the baton from Gabriel and hoisting it towards a new era, I can’t help but think about the big shoes I must fill...
Before I lead you through the goals I have for our Arts & Culture column, I thought I’d take the time to introduce myself. My given name is Melanie Romero, but I’d rather go by Mel at all costs. I was born in Santa Ana and raised between Villa Park and Orange, but now live in Anaheim. Having grown up in an extremely white community, it was difficult to discover where I could take up space being first-generation and Latinx. But, for me, the answer was found in the items I love best: books.
I became enamored with world-building universes from the words I would read, from taking a stand with the Mirabal sisters in In The Time of the Butterflies to filling in the blanks on a local village murder in Hurricane Season. With a love of reading came a hyperfixation with writing, and those hobbies translated into my undergraduate majors (creative writing & cinema and media studies) at USC and later led to a Master’s program in Literary Editing & Publishing.
During my Master’s program (and even during my undergraduate years), I always promised myself that I would only take a full-time job that celebrated my Mexican pride and motivated language duality (English & Spanish). Now, as Editor at Lil’ Libros, the fastest-growing children’s bilingual publishing company in North America, I can say that my purpose of encouraging dual-language literacy in a Latinx-focused space is a childhood dream come true. And, not to mention, my need to serve my community doesn’t just end with Lil’ Libros – it also starts with LibroMobile.
As a guest columnist for the Arts & Culture column for the past few months, I’ve published two articles, one focusing on Gustavo Arellano’s new horizon in Los Angeles and the other revolving around BIPOC businesses in the Orange County area. With this new role of featured columnist I hope to continue leading the column, but also inviting local writers to submit pitches to solidify our publishing cycle as a managing editor. As well, I’d love to see our columnists write profile pieces on local authors and give insight on local artist events as a means to support the community that cultivates us. I’d also like to see more informative articles on what it means to support our BIPOC community in Orange County and how we can create a transformative platform within our articles to spotlight our diaspora. If you’re interested in submitting, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Pitch for Arts & Culture” in the subject line. I’d love to read and consider your ideas!
As we welcome this new year with open arms, LibroMobile is leading this year with many intimate events, the primary one being the 5th Anniversary LibroMobile Literary Arts Festival on March 5th at Heritage Museum of Orange County. Save the date to listen in on literary readings, support local art vendors, and salivate over the food options! I’ll see you there, and you may get to hear some of my poetry too.
Like I said, with a new year comes new beginnings, and we can only hope that, as the year progresses, LibroMobile can further guide us toward new pathways to advocate for our community — and take huge strides to establish a museum and cultural center in the years ahead. Our need to educate, to talk, to write, to collaborate, to publish has taken on a greater urgency.
This is truly only the beginning, with so much more to come. So, stay with us, familia. Aquí estamos para ustedes.
Melanie Romero is a trilingual writer born and raised in Orange, CA. It was during childhood weekend trips to Randy’s $1-a-book stall at the OC Market Place that she discovered a passion for reading and, eventually, writing. Today, she serves as Editor at Lil’ Libros and has written two children’s books, Amor de colores and J is for Janucá under the publisher. In her free time, she can be found indulging in challah and getting lost among the shelves of independent bookstores.
Starting February 2023, #OffThePage is featuring Melanie Romero as our monthly columnist. Our Arts & Culture column was initially founded by local journalist Gabriel San Román in May 2020. Since then we have collaboratively featured over 25 stories and paid nearly 10 contributors from our community. Pitch Melanie a story or email us for more information!