Maria E. Cantu Alegre was living in Michigan and struggling with a role-change at the company she worked for when she decided something needed to change. So she opened a Word doc and started to type. Soon, she found herself writing about a boy experiencing feelings similar to herself: the need for freedom. Little did she know that this would be the start of the story that would end up being her debut novel: The Legacy of Lanico.
Yearning for something more than my new desk job, I wrote at any chance I got. I wrote during my work breaks, on the weekend, on my days off. As I wrote, I increasingly felt a desire to take this beyond a Word document. Growing up, I was taught that, as a young Latinx girl, I could be anything — but I didn’t actually see that reflected in my community, family, or even my friends’ families.
Living in a small impoverished town in Michigan, the vast majority of the population were ethnic minorities working in surrounding factories. I was fortunate to go to private school, attend college, and graduate with a Bachelor's degree — allowing me the rare privilege of higher employment and the opportunity to reflect on the disparity between aspirations and reality. It became my mission to bridge the gap between what we were told was possible and what was possible — through publishing a book.
“Publishing a book didn’t feel like a project for people like me.”
The only problem was that I had no idea where to start. Publishing a book didn’t feel like a project for people like me. It was for people who went to school for writing, who had a wealth of professional connections. I’m a Latinx first generation college graduate with dyslexia and didn’t know of any published authors — except for one.
A friend of mine had recently published his first book, a moving memoir depicting his experience of incarceration at the age of 16. Thankfully, I was able to reach out to him for guidance. With great enthusiasm, he encouraged me to continue writing and, yes, to even publish. He showed me that this was a possibility, that I was capable of doing this — but I had to push myself to be that example for others. They say creativity is equal parts passion and suffering, and looking back, I certainly found that to be true.
"Reedsy was the perfect guide for a new author like me."
Knowing my friend’s publishing journey, I felt overwhelmed by what was to come. I knew I didn’t want to follow quite the same process, so I did a little of my own research and stumbled upon a review from a self-published Reedsy author. I was absolutely taken by his story. Trusting my gut instinct, I created a Reedsy account. I signed up for their free tutorials, contacted the staff with questions, and slowly learned about self-publishing.
Reedsy was an efficient and down-to-earth platform, the perfect guide for a new author like me. Equipped with my new knowledge, I felt my manuscript was ready, and I took the first step in self-publishing: hiring an editor.
“It was humbling to admit that I was capable of more.”
What I said before about creativity being both pain and passion couldn’t have rung truer for the revision process with my editors. I had set my sights on Cindy Marsch since her reviews and credentials were astounding, and overall she seemed to be a personable and encouraging editor. When I requested her services, she encouraged me to take writing classes and continue working on my own manuscript a little more before turning to professional editing.
It was a bitter pill to swallow. But, in hindsight, it was exactly what I needed to hear. I enrolled in writing classes and requested the more author-involved editorial assessment from Amanda Rutter, taking another stab at my manuscript myself. Several months down the line, I had cut down and rewritten major parts of my story. When it came to developmental and copy edits, I was excited to go back to Cindy and show her how much I had improved. It was humbling to admit that I didn’t know all there was to know about my passion, and to discover I was capable of more.
"One of the invaluable lessons I learned is that less is often more."
Going into the collaboration, I knew there was still a lot of work to be done. I hired Cindy for both a developmental edit and a copy edit, meaning we worked both on the sentence level, and bigger picture elements. She guided me through my manuscript, identifying what I was trying to do, and suggesting ways to make these points even stronger. Sometimes it felt like she could actually read my mind!
One of the invaluable lessons I learned from her is that less is often more. As an author, I can trust the intelligence of my readers and do not need to hold their hand through the entire story. I thought it was brilliant! It was these moments of explanation and Cindy’s repetitive guidance throughout that helped mold my writing to a level I didn’t think I was capable of at the beginning of this journey.
“Publishing a book isn’t a mysterious project reserved for the privileged.”
No amount of money could compare to the joy I felt when I held my finished book for the first time. I honestly never truly believed I could do it until I had tangible proof.
What was once a story in a Word document about a boy seeking adventure is now a planned 5 book epic. The Legacy of Lanico has positive reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and even Reedsy Discovery — a 4-star “Loved it” verdict from experienced book reviewer Charlotte Graham.
As I’m sitting here now, typing away at my computer, there are others wondering how to become an author, just like I was. Publishing a book isn’t a mysterious project reserved for the privileged. I found an open door through self-publishing and hope that The Legacy of Lanico inspires that same freedom I found in writing, as well as the audacity to publish. If someone like me — a Latinx woman from an impoverished city, who is the product of a broken, working-class family — can do this, anyone can.