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Cindy Santiago during the book launch of “Heart Prints From Her Heart to Yer Hearts.”

It has been seven years since Cynthia “Cindy” Santiago released her first book “Heart Prints - When Life’s Stuff is Tough” a collection of short stories and poems. Following the same format, last month Santiago published a second book “Heart Prints - From Her Heart to Yer Heart.”

Santiago has always been a writer since a young age. “Writing helped me deal with things that came up,” she said. Santiago had a column in the Chula Vista Star News for 20 years, and her stories, poems and columns have been in many publications including San Diego Christian Classified, Imperial Beach Eagle & Times and Imperial Beach Sun.

“From Her Heart to Yer Heart” is chockfull of many heart warming stories, some sad and some happy, that are personal to Santiago. The stories were written for herself and highlight events in her life that she wants to share with others. Based on the fact that many readers can identify with her stories and experiences, she hopes reading about them will help others deal with them. Just like the first book, this second installment also has a pink cover with a big heart. The color pink is in support of breast cancer victims yet despite the feminine color, she wants her book to be read not just by women, but by men as well.

Soon after publishing her first book Santiago knew she would pen a second one, but as time went on she waited. She had a plan to get it done by Christmas 2020. “Then on March 13 we got called for a meeting [at school],” she said about the pandemic lockdown which caused her to change her plans. During that time she stayed busy. “I threw my energy into doing a peace garden, wrote a couple of children’s books (that are yet to be published)… did videos for kids, reading some of the books and acting them out,” she recalled. That work was right up her alley as Santiago has been a teaching assistant at VIP Village Preschool for the past 30 years. After the campus was remodeled and reopened, one day Santiago had a conversation on the playground with teacher Noemi Ruelas who asked her about her second book. Ruelas hugged her and complimented her on being an author. “Is your second book ready to come out? We need the second book,” Santiago recalls Ruelas saying. “That’s when I decided. I’m going to do this,” said Santiago to herself. At first she worked on her book at home, then at the library, but being a long time Imperial Beach resident and author, people kept recognizing her and stopped to talk to her, but she persisted. More time went by. “There were a lot of stop signs, then last Christmas we had a family tragedy, and in the spring more roadblocks. I tried to do at least a page a day,” she recalled.

What helped Santiago publish her second book, just like the first one, was a group of women she calls her Army of Angels. The women pre-ordered her book paying $20 each and raising $2,500 to $ 3,000. The Army of Angels are recognized by name at the beginning of the book and make up four hearts.

For Santiago it took a while to decide which stories and poems to include in the book and then place them in different sections. She and the editor worked on it over last summer until finally everything was in the right place.

In December Santiago held a book launch party full of women, about 70 of them, which featured heart shaped treats, a big heart for a photo wall, and everyone wearing pink with longtime friend Katy Roberson as the emcee for the event. The effort of compiling the book took a lot out of Santiago, but she is happy with the result. “It’s like having baby. It’s such a relief. It’s going to mean so much to so many women. They’re going to know they are not alone.”

Santiago’s family is originally from Iowa and her family moved to Imperial Beach because of her dad’s tour with the Navy. She and her husband, Junior Santiago, met in junior high school and both attended Mar Vista High School together. They have been married for 48 years. They have two grown daughters, Misty and Brandy, two granddaughters and two great granddaughters.

“What I want women to know is - listen to your soul, follow your heart, try, don’t give up,” said Santiago. She feels she will write seven books in total and the next one is going to be about special people and special pets.

“‘From Her Heart to Yer Heart’ gives a glimpse of the many emotions and hats a woman wears in her life’s juggling act,” she explained. The book begins with a story about her aunt Karen and some of the adventures they had together, the following stories and poems are dated starting from 1971 to 2020. In the book you’ll find happy stories like one called “The Beginning” about Santiago and her future husband and when they realized they loved each other. Another one written in 1978 called “Only A woman Knows” is about being pregnant for the first time. And there are sad stories like a “Letter to Me” written in 2007 when she found out her mom had cancer and would not survive, and “Against All Odds” in 2012 about one of her mom’s suitcase with a surprise - Santiago’s Care Bears collection. Yet another story, which is bittersweet, is “A Pleasant Surprise” from 1992, which tells the readers about finding a hidden surprise in a blanket made by her mom.

Readers will identify with some of Santiago’s stories and poems, and like she said, make you feel that you are not alone going through some of life’s challenges, rewards, pain and pleasure. This book will make you laugh and will make you cry, get ready for the ride. “Heart Prints - From Her Heart to Yer Hearts” is available on amazon.com.

Vol. 39, No. 1 - Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023

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