Paola Santos is a children's book author from Venezuela who has always had a passion for writing. When she moved to Canada, she found the courage to share stories of hope and happiness that celebrate her own culture and the richness of diversity. Paola describes herself as a curious seeker who sees the world with childlike wonder and loves to express deep emotions through her writing.
Paola holds a bachelor's and a master's degree in Literature and Children's Literature and Reading Promotion. She is an active member of the SCBWI and a graduate of the Children's Book Academy. She has been awarded various mentorship programs, including Las Musas-Hermanas (fall 2020) with author Alexandra Alessandri and Wee Need Diverse Books (2021) with Meg Medina. When not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, creating memories, and celebrating their culture. She lives in Edmonton, Canada.
My Story. From La tierra del sol amada to Canada
I was born in Maracaibo, the second-largest city in Venezuela, known to its people as La tierra del sol amada (The Land Beloved by the Sun).
It's called that because the sun shines brilliantly all 365 days of the year, with temperatures so high you could fry an egg on the pavement. We are regionalists because we love every aspect of our land, our Maracucho identity (as we call ourselves), and our way of speaking.
Paola Santos & Siblings
Childhood Home in Maracaibo
Rafael Urdaneta Bridge. Maracaibo, Venezuela
Photo by Tulia Ariza
I'm the youngest of five siblings, who used to play all sorts of pranks on me and took advantage of my fear of the dark to hide in the deepest corners of our yard, where I could never reach them. But my childhood was also filled with so much love; I never lacked a playmate, a tree to climb, a book to read, or a song my mom wouldn't sing to me with sweetness and unconditional love reflected in her eyes.
I lived there until I was twenty-seven, when the situation in my country began to shift from gray to black, and people started leaving in droves, seeking better futures in other countries around the world. I'm one of the many who left to find a better place where external factors wouldn't overshadow my future.
But life often takes us on unimaginable paths, maybe of nightmares, maybe of dreams. I was lucky. Canada came to me when I needed another home, an open border to welcome me. I'm writing to you now from a country where, for six months of the year, a cold yet radiant frost accumulates—a land also beloved by the sun but where it shines in the whiteness of the snow that blankets the trees, playgrounds, and daily paths. But I like this cold because it invites me to remember my land beloved by the sun, to explore its corners in my imagination, and to extract bits of those memories to share with the world— with you.
I write from my memories, from the emotions that filled me and still fill me. They are breadcrumbs from my homeland, left for you to discover. I hope you follow them!
Gatineau Park. Gatineau, Québec. Canada
Photo by Paola Santos
Random facts about me:
I learned English in my late twenties. And I’m still learning!
People say that Latin people know how to dance, but I have no idea how to do it.
I almost became a cloistered contemplative nun. My experience lasted three days.
As a child, I had a huge patio, with four mango trees and many more. It also had one hamaca (hammock) where I loved to spend my afternoons swinging.
I am the youngest of five siblings, which means I often had to wear hand-me-downs.
We never had a bike, and I never learned. So, you can easily beat me on a ride.
We had just one pair of roller skates that we shared between five. The left belonged to my sister and me, and the right to my brothers, so you can also beat me on a ride with roller skates.
I’m an artist, too! My high school was one specialized in art.
I tried to learn the violin. It didn’t work.
The first time I entered a Public Library was here in Canada. We don’t have these wonderful places in Venezuela.
My favorite traditional Venezuelan food is called hallacas, and we eat it during the holidays in December. Holidays without hallacas is not a holiday!
Even though I’m from Venezuela, my favorite music is Celtic.
I’m in love with Fairy Tales, especially the ones written by Hans Christian Andersen!
Poetry, oh poetry! Have you read Mario Benedetti, Federico García Lorca. If not, you should!
I love fantasy and magical realism! My favorite books in these genres are Cien años de soledad by Gabriel García Márquez, Como agua para chocolate by Laura Esquivel, and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.
"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince