Natalia Sylvester

Young Adult & Adult Novelist
International Latino Book Award
Travels from: Miami, FL

“So many of our students included quotes from her presentation in their research papers about the writing process.” — Laura Cottam Sajbel, St. Edward’s University

Born in Lima, Peru, Natalia Sylvester came to the U.S. at age four, and grew up in Florida and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. She received a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Miami, is a faculty member of the low-residency MFA program at Regis University, and now works as a freelance writer in Texas. Her work has appeared in Bustle, Catapult, Electric Literature, Latina magazine, McSweeney’s Publishing, and the Austin American-Statesman.

Natalia’s first novel, Chasing the Sun, was named the Best Debut Book of 2014 by Latinidad. Set in Lima, in a time of civil and political unrest, this evocative page-turner is a perfect marriage of domestic drama and suspense. Her latest novel, Running, features 15-year-old Cuban-American Mariana Ruiz, whose father is running for president, it’s a novel about waking up, speaking up, and what happens when you stop seeing your Dad as your hero—while the whole country is watching.

Her upcoming YA novel, Breathe and Count Back From Ten, follows Verónica, a Peruvian‑American teen, who must deal with both her painful hip dysplasia and her overprotective immigrant parents, all while chasing an impossible dream to become a professional mermaid in this gorgeously written, authentic novel about secrets and finding your wings (or tail).

Natalia’s Authors Out Loud Profile: 

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Breathe And Count Back From Ten

Clarion Books |
YA Novel

In this gorgeously written and authentic novel, Verónica, a Peruvian-American teen with hip dysplasia, auditions to become a mermaid at a Central Florida theme park in the summer before her senior year, all while figuring out her first real boyfriend and how to feel safe in her own body.

Verónica has had many surgeries to manage her disability. The best form of rehabilitation is swimming, so she spends hours in the pool, but not just to strengthen her body.

Her Florida town is home to Mermaid Cove, a kitschy underwater attraction where professional mermaids perform in giant tanks . . . and Verónica wants to audition. But her conservative Peruvian parents would never go for it. And they definitely would never let her be with Alex, her cute new neighbor.

She decides it’s time to seize control of her life, but her plans come crashing down when she learns her parents have been hiding the truth from her—the truth about her own body.


Clarion Books |
YA Novel

When fifteen-year-old Cuban American Mariana Ruiz’s father runs for president, Mari starts to see him with new eyes. A novel about waking up and standing up, and what happens when you stop seeing your dad as your hero—while the whole country is watching.

In this authentic, humorous, and gorgeously written debut novel about privacy, waking up, and speaking up, Senator Anthony Ruiz is running for president. Throughout his successful political career he has always had his daughter’s vote, but a presidential campaign brings a whole new level of scrutiny to sheltered fifteen-year-old Mariana and the rest of her Cuban American family, from a 60 Minutes–style tour of their house to tabloids doctoring photos and inventing scandals.

As tensions rise within the Ruiz family, Mari begins to learn about the details of her father’s political positions, and she realizes that her father is not the man she thought he was.

But how do you find your voice when everyone’s watching? When it means disagreeing with your father—publicly? What do you do when your dad stops being your hero? Will Mari get a chance to confront her father? If she does, will she have the courage to seize it?

Everyone Knows You Go Home

Little a, |

An International Latino Book Award winner.

Everyone Knows You Go Home is prescient, tackling issues of family division, the arduous journey of crossing from one country into the next, and the sacrifices we make in exchange for a better future.” —Houston Chronicle

The first time Isabel meets her father-in-law, Omar, he’s already dead–an apparition appearing uninvited on her wedding day. Her husband, Martin, still unforgiving for having been abandoned by his father years ago, confesses that he never knew the old man had died. So Omar asks Isabel for the impossible: persuade Omar’s family–especially his wife, Elda–to let him redeem himself.

Isabel and Martin settle into married life in a Texas border town, and Omar returns each year on the celebratory Day of the Dead. Every year Isabel listens, but to the aggrieved Martin and Elda, Omar’s spirit remains invisible. Through his visits, Isabel gains insight into not just the truth about his disappearance and her husband’s childhood but also the ways grief can eat away at love. When Martin’s teenage nephew crosses the Mexican border and takes refuge in Isabel and Martin’s home, questions about past and future homes, borders, and belonging arise that may finally lead to forgiveness–and alter all their lives forever.

Chasing The Sun

Lake Union Publishing |

Andres suspects his wife has left him—again. Then he learns that the unthinkable has happened: she’s been kidnapped. Too much time and too many secrets have come between Andres and Marabela, but now that she’s gone, he’ll do anything to get her back. Or will he?

As Marabela slips farther away, Andres must decide whether they still have something worth fighting for, and exactly what he’ll give up to bring her home. And unfortunately, the decision isn’t entirely up to him, or up to the private mediator who moves into the family home to negotiate with the terrorists holding Marabela. Andres struggles to maintain the illusion of control while simultaneously scrambling to collect his wife’s ransom, tending to the needs of his two young children, and reconnecting with an old friend who may hold the key to his past and his wife’s future.

Set in Lima, Peru, in a time of civil and political unrest, this evocative page-turner is a perfect marriage of domestic drama and suspense.

We Have Always Been Here: Why Immigration is not Timely, but Timeless

This workshop explores what is lost and what is gained when we migrate. What does home mean, what does belonging mean, and how do we exist within spaces marked by invisible yet deeply felt borders?

Finding the Heart of Your Story Writing Workshop

This workshop looks at new approaches to the craft of writing that question and examine the privileged perspectives that have shaped it.

Navigating Grief and Trauma When Writing About Family History

This workshop explores fact-based fiction, family history, immigration and the links between trauma, violence, memory and grief, and the importance of amplifying the voices of marginalized people—all from an intersectional feminist perspective.

See Our Joy: On Seeing the Full Humanity of People & Characters

Power, Privilege and POV - Examining How We Teach & Learn Creative Writing

Writing Through Difficult Times

This workshop explores writing as a way to navigate and process emotionally difficult times by looking at the ways that sorrow and joy, challenges and triumphs, can often co-exist.

Revision as Re-Imagining

This interactive workshop employs a series of quick, out-of-the-box exercises that encourage students to let go of the fear of revising so that they can re-imagine new possibilities for their words and worlds.

One Day, All of This Will Matter

A workshop designed to help us reconnect with our younger selves and honor the memories of our teen years—the joy and hardships—to rekindle and intergenerational understanding of today’s youth.

More Than a Heritage Month

A talk that interrogates and explores new possibilities for the ways we teach and present literature during BIPOC heritage months. Who are we centering? Who are we leaving out the remaining eleven months of the year?

Natalia’s Blog

Natalia’s Upcoming Events

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Junior Library Guild Selection
International Latino Book Award Winner
Latinadad Best Debut Book
Real Simple Best Book of the Year
2021 – A Feminist Book Project by the American Library Association
2021 Kansas NEA Reading Circle Recommended Titles selection
2022 Rhode Island Latino Book Awards selection
2022 Isinglass Award nominee
Junior Library Guild Selection, 2020
Jean Flynn Award for Best Young Adult Book finalist, Texas Institute of Letters, 2020

Media Kit

By clicking the link below your will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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