April 2021 Virtual Book Tour — Leigh Ann Thelmadatter

Like so many foreigners, Leigh Ann Thelmadatter came to Mexico to spend a couple of years and never left. Teaching English paid the bills and supported an obsession with traveling throughout Mexico to learn about its culture, particularly its folk art. Her “apprenticeship” came in the form of writing Wikipedia articles, then a blog called Creative Hands of Mexico, which lasted for 5 years (until the pandemic). 

Both projects have brought home the severe lack of documentation of Mexico’s handcrafts, especially the more regional and innovative ones. Fortunately, the blog led to a column of the same name in the Vallarta Tribune. Since 2019, she has been writing regularly about cultural topics in Mexico News Daily, which is now working on a series of Mexican artisan profiles. She published Mexican Cartonería: Paper, Paste, and Fiesta with Schiffer in 2019 and currently works on two more books. One on cloth dolls in Mexico and one about foreign artists who live in the country. The first is to give credit to the housewives whose creative talents and economic contributions are often overlooked. The second is an outgrowth of many years of contact with Mexico’s fine arts community.

The work on Creative Hands led her to learn about Mexico’s highly developed but almost completely unknown paper mache crafts, collectively called cartonería. They are figures made almost exclusively for the many festivals on Mexico’s calendar. The best known of these is the piñata, but also include effigies of Judas Iscariot for Holy Saturday, skeletal figures for Day of the Dead, and more. 

In the past 20 years or so, modern cartonería artists have been looking to push the craft as a true “folk art,” not only creating pieces that will be used for the festival, then destroyed/thrown away but as collectors’ items. 

The book begins with a definition of cartonería and its history in Mexico, themselves somewhat controversial as cartonería fulfills many, but not all, of the country’s definitions of “traditional handcraft.”  The following chapters profile important figures such as Pedro Linares and the Lemus family, traditional items made with the technique (and how they are used), modern masters, and what the present and future hold for the craft.

Connect with Me

Leigh Thelmadatter


My pen name is Mima but my real name is Michelle M. Arsenault.
I’m originally from Prince Edward Island, Canada and although I’ve lived coast to coast, I’m currently back on PEI. Although my feet aren’t nailed to the ground.

Since publishing my first book, I’ve had to find a balance between writing, my day job and social life etc. I haven’t always been very good at this but over time, managed to adapt my schedule accordingly. I also get up much earlier than I used to (usually 6 a.m) in order to get something accomplished every day. For this reason, I don’t have many late nights and definitely no late night parties, since I want to wake up fresh and clear each morning. My days are very full but I’ve learned you can always find a way if you’re passionate about what you do.

My belief system has changed vastly over the years. I now think it’s more important to focus on my art and be creative rather than worrying about being ‘discovered’ and becoming a best-seller. You can’t allow your ego to get involved or you will be doomed because some people will love your books, some people will hate them and if you allow their feelings to dominate your worth as an artist, you will find yourself on a very rocky path.

I have grown much more confident in myself. I used to be a perfectionist and that almost made me quit writing. Now, I don’t allow myself to get upset if I find mistakes in my books, if I misspeak in a radio interview or if I have a bad hair day in one of my YouTube videos. Who cares? If anything, that’s what makes me relatable and real.

I used to worry about editing my books. It was to the point that I almost drove myself crazy rereading one sentence, repeatedly until I almost drove myself mad. Now, I have people helping me out and if a mistake goes through to the published book, so be it.

I sometimes feel like I’m not being taken seriously as a writer. I feel like most people would rather grab a book from a best-sellers list or whatever Oprah has suggested than take a chance on a less known author and that’s pretty frustrating.

My characters keep me going. They want their story to be told and who am I to say no?

The fact that I’ve published ten books makes me pretty proud. I feel like I’ve faced a lot of my fears along the way and continue to do so. I’m proud of the fact that I am persistent and aggressive when it comes to marketing my writing and dealing with issues, such as with publishers, booksellers etc.

I miss taking a day off. I’ve heard it’s lovely.

Overnight success is no longer important to me. I know hard work is the key.

The defining moment for me was when I realized that the story writes itself, that the characters create themselves and all you have to do is make your mind be quiet….and listen.

If I have any free time, I enjoy watching Netflix programs, documentaries and reading. I work a couple of jobs on the side and usually exploring new options.

Currently, I’m finishing my 11th book and I’m attempting to write a pilot episode for my current book series.

You can find me at:

Mima on Fire




Also, I have bookmarks (see below) and would be happy to send some to anyone interested (while supplies last). I just need your mailing address.