Aura Imbarus is an educator, professional speaker, and the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, Out of the Transylvania Night: A Story of Tyranny, Freedom, Love and Identity, and a book for teens, 101 Great Ways to Make the World a Totally Awesome Place - By Teens For Teens, both fall 2010 releases.
Born and raised in Sibiu/Hermannstadt, Romania, or more precisely in “Dracula’s county Transylvania," Ms. Imbarus attended Lucian Blaga University, earning an MA degree in American and British Studies and a Ph.D. in Philology with the distinction Cum Laude. From 1990 to 1997, she worked as a journalist for Radio Contact, The National Journal, and Gallup Poll in Sibiu, Romania.
In 1997, Aura immigrated to Los Angeles, where she continued her education at UCLA and began her teaching career both as a high school and college professor. She spends her mornings at West High School, a designated California Distinguished School in 1984, 1994, 1999, 2005, receiver of the Excellence in Education Award from the United States Department of Education in 1984, and nationally awarded Blue Ribbon School distinction in 1984, and her nights at LA Harbor College and El Camino College in South Bay.
Aura is actively involved in RAPN (Romanian American Professional Network) as well as Eurocircle, a professional networking organization with over 60,000 members of European origins. She is also a mentor for Blue Heron Foundation, a non-profit and professional organization whose mission is to help Romanian orphans in her native country with money and counseling in order to receive a higher education degree. Aura is also a member of MLA- Modern Language Association, NCTE- National Council of Teachers of English, NEA- National Education Association, and many others. Other interests include: reading, painting, skiing, ice-skating, hiking, beach volleyball, and traveling the world.
“I want to live life to the fullest," says Aura, "and in the process, to help others along the way. I want to squeeze out each and every moment of life, and use to the maximum. Every day has the potential of a lifetime."
Aura contacted me through the Torrance Children’s Book Writers website in January of this year. She was interested in speaking to our group about her book and about her journey to publication. Over the next few months we emailed back and forth constantly, trying to figure out the schedule and venue for the events.
We immediately scheduled the talk for April 23rd, but over the next couple of months, I had a difficult time finding a venue. Finally, two weeks before her talk, Catalina Coffee Company in Redondo Beach came to our rescue. And boy, did we strike gold with that venue! The venue was free of charge, provided we bought at least one drink. And who wouldn’t want to buy a drinkundefinedand food with all the wonderful aromas floating around in the building!
The Catalina Coffee Company manager immediately made us feel welcome. He cleared a space for us in the Libraryundefineda part of the coffee house that looks like an actual library.
Surrounded with loaded bookshelves and filled with comfortable couches and armchairs, the room is a haven for readers (and writers) who wish to relax in a comfy chair while sipping on their coffee. The manager told us that book clubs often hold meetings in the library during weekday nights.
Aura came bright and early that afternoon and I immediately felt a kinship with her as she introduced herself and said how excited she was for the talk. As we sat down with our food and drinks in the library, she told us about her day so far. Her warm and friendlyundefinedeven bubbly personality shone through in the first few minutes of our conversation.
TCBW members found their way to our meeting place, and by the time all nine of us had settled down, Aura had already launched into her story.
Aura spoke a little about her childhood in Transylvania, and how she grew up with supportive, open-minded and encouraging parents amidst a tumultuous communist regime.She also spoke of her personal journey as an immigrant from Romania to the US. It was a scary leap for herundefinedleaving her job as an assistant professor in a university and coming to America to start from scratch. She started off with $400 in her pocketundefinednot nearly enough money to start a new life in a foreign country, and not enough money to buy a plane ticket back to her homeland.
Aura also told us how she had initially started writing a book about dating based on her experiences as a member of a matchmaking site. Her story about how she gets her publisher is both funny and amazing. (You can hear her story for yourselves in the video below). Enormous amounts of research, persistence and a little bit of luck help her land a meeting with an interested publisher.
Once she had a book deal, however, a call from Romania changed her life. She learned that her mother had liver cancer and had 3-6 months to live. The last thing on her mind was dating, but she was already on contract with the publisher. So Aura spoke to her publisher and explained her situation. Her publisher, being an author herself, and having gone through the same thing with her mother, understood Aura’s predicament. She encouraged Aura to write five pages on the last week Aura had spent in Romania, to which Aura replied that she could write five pages on the last five minutes she had spent in Romania, since there were so many things going on around her, and in her mind. She sent the pages to her publisher, who liked her writing and decided that they should do a memoir. And that’s how Aura’s Pulitzer-nominated, 5-Star Amazon-rated memoir came into existence.
Aura knew we were all writers interested in getting published, so most of the time, Aura spoke of her journey to publication. She answered all our questions and gave us valuable tips on writing, and self-promotion. One thing which stood out clearly in my mind, was when she said that writing is just 30% of the work. The other 70% is research, and another 100% was for self-promotion. Aura constantly stressed the value of constant self-promotion, especially after publication. She said that not a day goes by when she doesn’t do at least one type of self-promotion. She shared examples of how she would promote her own books, and even gave us tips on how we could start self-promoting, even before we get published.
To give us an example of how persistence and hard work pays off, she told the story of how she got the elusive book signing spot in Barnes & Nobles, the Grove. She was a journalist, so she wasn’t shy about approaching people. So she started calling the Barnes & Nobles manager every week, until finally, out of frustration or name recall the manager picks up and talks to her. She immediately tells him that she can bring in 100 people for the book-signing event. So when the publisher called the B&N manager the following week, and presents the three authors she had for the book signing, the manager chose Aura.
Of course, bringing in 100 people was not easy. But Aura tapped into her various social networks (twitter, facebook and other organizations she belonged to), and despite a rainy booksigning day and a sudden change in schedule, she managed to bring in the hundred people (and more) she had promised the bookstore manager.
Aura also spoke about the projects she’s currently working on, and the stories behind them. One is a book for teenagers, written through a school project, in collaboration with her students, and another one is a cultural cookbook. She says cooking isn’t something she’s an expert on, but with enough research, and a few new ideas, she’ll be able to pull it off.
The talk ended all too soon. We all bought copies of her book, which she signed for us. She made sure to talk to us individually, and even gave us business cards with the reminder to email her if we had any other writing-related questions.
I’ll definitely make it a point to invite Aura over again as a speaker. All in all, Aura’s talk was funny, informative, and downright inspiring. We all left that day filled with hope, inspiration, and energized to get our own writing careers started.
As an added bonus, if you have time, please feel free to watch the video below. It’s the first 20 minutes of Aura’s talk and you can hear all about her writing journey, as well as her other adventures, and writing tips from her own lips.