Author Archive | Sarah Hillesheim

A Farewell With Love

Isabel and Sarah in New York at the Center for Reproductive Rights Gala 2014

Thank You And Goodbye!

This will be my last post for “My Invented Isabel.”

The blog has been going for eight years now, and even though it has been really fun and collaborative, we have decided it is time to wrap things up.

Over the last several months, we’ve found that we want to focus more of our time and energy on The Isabel Allende Foundation and the work our grantees are doing. Their efforts are amazing, especially in the face of the harsh intolerance toward migrants and their families that we’re seeing on the political front.

I want to thank Lauren Cuthbert for tirelessly editing my posts and correcting my spelling; she is a wonderful editor. Thank you also to Chandra Ramirez, Candy Pilar Godoy, Marcelo the Chihuahua and Nicole Frias for writing some fun guest blogs. Many thanks as well to Mónica Niedermeier, Adriana Martin and Gabriela C. Galtero, who have helped us translate the posts into Spanish over the years.

And of course…a big and heartfelt thank you to our many readers. I have appreciated your comments and notes of encouragement.

My biggest thank you goes to Isabel, who has allowed me to write freely about her and her antics…not to mention photograph her more than once in compromising situations. That said, I’ve rarely let something go live that she hadn’t seen and approved, and working on the blog with her over the years has been one of the joys of my job here.

The good news is that as we cut back our office tasks, the blog included, we will be able to do more of the other work we love. For more information on that other work, check out The Isabel Allende Foundation.

Thanks so much for following along all these years, and please keep in touch with Isabel and the rest of us on Facebook.

I’m ending with a favorite photo of the two of us, taken some time in 2010 with Isabel standing on a stack of her books and in heels, I am still just a little taller than she is.


In the Midst of Winter, a Tour

Isabel and Lori are finally home after a whirlwind tour for Isabel’s latest novel, In the Midst of Winter. Needless to say, both of them are exhausted! But not so exhausted that they can’t share some of their favorite memories, highlighted below in photos. I have been a desk-chair traveler throughout, and have enjoyed as these pictures have poured in from across the United States.

With Paul Olsewski and Johanna V. Castillo, Isabel’s publicist and editor respectively

Chop chop! Isabel hasn’t got all day. Lori takes great candids.

It’s an Isabel and Michael Krasny love fest in the studio right before Forum on NPR

Another love fest, this time with long beloved friend and Isabel Allende Foundation donator Adais Marvez, a beautiful woman!

More love! With Sasha Chanoff Founder and Executive Director of RefugePoint.

Ohh, whose that? Just Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now, another of our heroes.

Yes! You should definitely get that! I would pay good money to see you comfortable in a sweatshirt!

With Bill Tipper of B&N

With her dearest friends Sarah, Elizabeth, Kavita, Carla and her granddaughter Nicole.

In conversation with best selling author Luís Alberto Urrea.

With Mitchell Kaplan the owner of Books & Books in Miami.

Isabel pretending to know anything about chess in Saint Louis.

With Irene Sanchez from Telemundo

With Aureliano Salgado from Noticias Univision.

With Alessandra Martin from Despierta Chicago.

With the amazing Nancy Northrup, president of Planned Parenthood and hero to us all.

Isabel the Fairy Godmother

Here is some fun news from Chandra, Isabel’s beloved assistant. They had a lot of fun in sunny Los Angeles on the set of Jane the Virgin. Here’s the best part, the episode that Isabel appears in is airing this Friday, November 17th at 9pm on The CW. Those are the facts, now here is the gossip:

Gina Rodriguez (Jane) and Isabel


A few weeks ago, Isabel and I arrived on the Jane the Virgin set, a nondescript building in LA, not knowing what to expect. Isabel hadn’t been on a TV or movie set since 1988, when she visited the set of The House of the Spirits in Denmark (and before that the telenovela sets of Venezuela in the 1970s), so this was a whole new experience.

Isabel had been invited to play herself in a cameo appearance after Jane finally realizes her dream of becoming a published author. Jane has mentioned Isabel several times on the show—Isabel is the character’s favorite author—so we were so excited to bring the real Isabel into Jane’s life.

ohhhh, hair and makeup time!


We arrived during an LA heat wave, sweaty and bedraggled, dragging our suitcases behind us and feeling less than glamorous. That soon changed when we found ourselves in the costume department, where Isabel was measured and shown racks of fabulous clothes and walls of sparkly jewelry. This was followed by a whirlwind week of hours in the hair and make-up chairs—a shout-out to the wonderful hair and makeup crew—being photographed, eating craft services, van rides back and forth to the hotel, filming scenes with the fabulous Gina Rodriguez, going off on location, and above all meeting and being taken care of by some of the hardest working people in TV. (And waiting, there was lots of waiting.)

Isabel with Petra, Yael Grobas and writer Michah Shraft


the two grandmothers, Isabel and Ivonne Coll


Xo, Andrea Navedo and Isabel


We met Andrea Navedo (Xo, charming and kind), Jaime Camil (quite similar to his character of Rogelio), Yael Grobas (Petra and her evil twin, Isabel’s favorite characters on the show), Ivonne Coll (Abuela; a calming presence, she helped Isabel learn her lines in a crunch), and of course Gina Rodriguez who was as sweet and funny as Jane. Unfortunately, Justin Baldoni was away; his wife was having a baby, which was bad timing for us as meeting him was my main reason for tagging along. Maybe someday, Rafael…I mean, congrats on the new baby, Justin!

Isabel did really well under the direction of Melanie Mayron, and the writers Carolina Rivera and Michah Shraft wrote a fun script. Tune in this Friday to catch our girl in her first—and last—U.S. telenovela appearance. Her last because (you can probably guess) Dulce wasn’t invited to the set.

Espiritu 2017

In response to the Trump administration’s negative and harmful policies on immigration and women’s health, this year’s Espíritu awards were granted to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (Berkeley, California)  and Centro Legal de la Raza (Oakland, California). Given annually by the Isabel Allende Foundation, the Espíritu awards celebrate, honor and support exemplary work in the foundation’s areas of interest.

Lori said it all when she introduced the event by telling the recipients, “The synchronicity between our missions is clear. You are truly the heart and soul of our foundation.”

The awards ceremony was held at Greens, a restaurant in San Francisco overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Here are some photos from the day and a brief description of each agency’s work. We stand in awe of each of them!

Planned Parenthood – Despite the hostile political climate it faces daily, Planned Parenthood continues to provide essential healthcare services to women nationwide, including access to birth control and safe, legal abortion.

East Bay Sanctuary Covenant – This Bay Area nonprofit offers sanctuary, solidarity, support, advocacy and legal services to those escaping war, terror, political persecution, intolerance, exploitation and other expressions of violence.

Centro Legal de la Raza – Comprehensive legal services protect and advance the rights of immigrant and low-income Latino communities through bilingual legal representation, education and advocacy.

We are deeply grateful to stand with these organizations in their ongoing fight against misogyny and xenophobia.

Let Me Judge Your Salsa!

No, I’m sorry, Isabel can’t officiate your wedding. She will be on tour that week promoting her new book, In The Midst of Winter.

Isabel has gotten some whopper requests lately: Can Isabel be the judge at our state fair’s Ugliest Dog contest? Can Isabel be my maid of honor? Can she please tutor my child, who is a budding young writer? Would it be possible for Isabel to name my unborn baby and be present at her christening? Is there any way Isabel could attend our chili cook-off and pick the winner? Can Isabel judge our salsa dance contest?

While Isabel appreciates the requests, she must, unfortunately, decline them, since it would not be humanly possible to participate in even a fraction of the activities she is invited to attend. She is, after all, busy with her own life. For instance, she has to soak Dulce’s feet twice a day to ward off the infection that might set in from the foxtail infestation she was recently rid of.

And then there is Lola…

Dulce and Lola, BFFs

Who is Lola? She is Dulce’s BFF (best friend forever) and sister from another mother. Lola is shacking up at Isabel’s place for a few weeks and she needs a lot of attention, so best not to ask Isabel for any favors this week. Or next, or the one after that…

Plus, Isabel is newly in love—well, pretty newly in love. At the office we say she is GONE. Plain and simple, gone.

So, here is what I suggest. Maybe hold off on the queries for a while, let Isabel bask in her brief downtime before the tour starts up again, and cross your fingers for next year when the love will not be so new and the dogs have fewer needs.

Oh, wait! She will be writing her next book then—starting, as always, on January 8. The book is going to be a page-turner masterpiece, that I already know.

But, hey! I am available. Sample baby names: Chester, Hansel, Mirabel, Gladys, Rupert….And salsa? I could totally judge a salsa competition! Hmm, I am pretty sure I could anyway…

In the Midst of Winter, Summer in Spain and Italy!

Isabel has just returned home from the first leg of her book tour in Spain and Italy, where she traveled to promote her latest novel, In the Midst of Winter. A highlight of the trip was when she visited Taormina, a city in the Messina region of Sicily, to receive the Premio Sicilia literary award from Taobuk, which hosts the Taormina International Book Festival in Sicily each year. What follows is a photo wrap-up of her travels, during which she met many wonderful people: writers, artists, fans and old friends.

A quick note: Isabel’s books always come out first in Spain and Chile (where it’s a number one bestseller), but the novel will be available in North America October 31 in both English and Spanish. Click here for a calendar of Isabel’s U.S. book tour dates.

Isabel with Alessandra Coppola, a journalist with the Italian newspaper Courier della Sera. As part of the awards ceremony, Alessandra interviewed Isabel on the stage of the Teatro Antico di Taormina, an open-air Greek theater constructed in the third century BC.


Isabel shines bright with the press!


Isabel and Antonella Ferrara, the president of Taobuk, which sponsors the annual Taormina International Book Festival.


Isabel with Leila Correnti, the brilliant jewelry designer who created Isabel’s Premio Sicilia award, pictured below. Leila owns Le Colonne, a jewelry store in Taormina.


Isn’t the award amazing? It is made of coral and silver, and is really lovely to have on the award shelf.


The award featured on the Premio Sicilia announcement.


Isabel with Elisabet Benavent, a hip young Spanish writer, who has written 15 books in 4 years!


Elisabet’s latest book is En los zapatos de Valeria.


Front row, left to right: Leticia Rodero, Isabel, Nuria Tey. Back row, left to right: David Trías, Elisabet Benavent and Israel Doncel, head of communications for Casa de América, a Madrid-based organization that fosters cultural contact between Latin America and Spain.    Leticia, Nuria and David have been part of Isabel’s faithful book team at Penguin Random House for many years.


David Trías, a Penguin Random House editor, interviewed Isabel for a Facebook Live event.


Penguin Random House’s booth at the Madrid Book Fair, where 750 people waited in line in 95-degree heat to see Isabel!


Unfortunately it was a very hot day and the line was much longer than anticipated.




Isabel at a radio interview.


From left: Javier Martin, Luis Miguel Palomares Balcells, Gloria Gutierrez and Maribel Luque of Agencia Balcells, Isabel’s literary agency since her first book. Isabel is holding the hot-off-the-press first copy of her book.


BONUS! A still shot from a short film about Isabel. The film is in Italian but it’s a treat to see Isabel featured in this beautiful ancient Greek theater, located in Taormina, Sicily. Skip to minute 24 of the video to see her interviewed.

Busy Isabel

It has been quite a while since we’ve updated the blog. Apologies for the silence, but we have been busy getting ready for Isabel’s new novel, In the Midst of Winter, which just came out in Spanish and will be released in English this fall. We’ve also been doing some traveling!

Here is a photo essay of our recent meetings and travels:

Here we are with the team from the Global Fund for Women. Front row, from left: Musimbi Kanyoro, president and CEO; Isabel (holding her sweet dog Dulce), Rufaro Kangai, programs director; and Chandra Alexandre, VP of development. Back row, from left: Lori Barra, executive director of the Isabel Allende Foundation, and me, Sarah (with a halo). 

The Global Fund is doing inspiring work in South America (not to mention globally), including by partnering with organizations in Chile that act on behalf of women to prevent domestic and other forms of violence, and to promote economic and political empowerment and sexual and reproductive health and rights.

In addition to meeting with many of our amazing grantees, we have also had the pleasure of watching Isabel receive an honorary degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where she was recognized as a Doctor of Humane Letters. Here she is with her fellow honorees, including (directly behind her) Senator Cory A. Booker of New Jersey, who gave the commencement address:

You can read more about the honorees and watch the ceremony here.

Isabel and I took a few road trips this spring, including to Santa Barbara, where I’d never been. Isabel gave a beautiful speech on creativity and the writing process for the University of California Santa Barbara’s Arts & Lectures series. As always, she was funny and bright, and Santa Barbara was beautiful!  

I love this photo, above, which comes courtesy of The Bottom Line, the UC Santa Barbara’s student-run newspaper. I am hovering over Isabel, trying to keep adoring fans from sneaking up from behind and taking selfies. She doesn’t like when people take selfies with her; she says she always ends up looking like a frog. There were many fans there that night in Santa Barbara, and one even broke out in song, singing to her a cappella in Spanish. It was haunting and beautiful, and I ended up more than a little smitten with that man.

We also took a road trip to sunny Sacramento, where the California Latino Legislative Caucus honored Isabel with one of its Latino Spirit Awards. You can watch a video about the event here.

Finally, a picture of Isabel receiving her beautiful award from the caucus on the State Senate floor.

As you can see, it’s been a busy few months!

The Hall of Fame, California Style

We just got back from a quick visit to Sacramento, our state’s capital, where Isabel was one of eight fine Californians inducted into the California Hall of Fame. In addition to Isabel, the other honorees were Harrison Ford, Tony Gwynn, Corita Kent, William J. Perry, Maria Shriver, Russ Solomon and George Takei; see their pictures and bios here.

Isabel doesn’t play favorites (well, not that much), but she did lay on the love for fellow inductee Harrison Ford. As you can see, she was his girlfriend for the night.

Walking the red carpet was particularly special, since the first group of reporters were from nearby Elk Grove Elementary School—and were they ever prepared! Check out at their press cards and the staff photographer.

After sharing the story of her exile from Chile and her years in Venezuela, Isabel brought the audience to tears when she spoke of what it meant to her to be a Californian, and how she finally feels she is home—that she now has a place to call home here in California.

The exhibit, pictured here, features Isabel’s typewriter, personal photos, the Presidential Medal of Freedom that she received in 2014 from the amazing Barack Obama, and other memorabilia. 

If you live in the Sacramento area or are passing through, the museum is beautiful, and this exhibit will be up for the next year.

Here is a link to the  CA museum and ceremony.

Time for a Little Name Dropping

A guest post from our very own Chandra Ramirez on Isabel’s PEN award—complete with good, old-fashioned name-dropping:

Recently I got to experience a day in the life of the rich and famous when I tagged along with Isabel to Los Angeles — Beverly Hills, to be exact — where Isabel received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the PEN Center USA’s 26th annual literary awards festival.

PEN’s mission is to “stimulate and maintain interest in the written word, to foster a vital literary culture, and to defend freedom of expression domestically and internationally.” Which is why Isabel—who throughout her lifetime has pretty much said and written whatever she wants, sometimes even getting in a little trouble for doing so—is such a huge champion of freedom of speech and has always supported PEN: She vividly remembers living under a dictatorship where people were not allowed to speak or write what they thought, because when they did, there were dire consequences if they wrote something considered critical of the government. Living in those conditions left a lasting impression.

Winona Ryder, Isabel and Cote de Pablo oh and one more name drop, that guy in the background is Carter Goodrich…look him up!

Okay, enough about that. On to the important stuff. We got to meet Winona Ryder and Cote de Pablo! Winona Ryder even asked if I was Sarah, since apparently she reads the blog (OMG, HI WINONA!!!) I don’t want to name-drop (Sean Penn) but there were quite a few impressive (Bill Maher) and accomplished (Amber Tamblyn, David Cross) people there. Winona and Cote even sat at our table. We felt pretty cool. Actually, I did. Isabel is used to this kind of thing. Cote and Winona (yes, we’re on a first name basis now) introduced Isabel with heartfelt and kind words, and Isabel gave a speech about what free speech has meant to her in her life. 

We were there less than 24 hours but the people at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (the Pretty Woman hotel) and PEN made us feel like princesses. The only mishap was when Isabel was getting dressed for the gala and realized she had brought two different shoes…and not a matched set. We scrambled, and since we were in Beverly Hills, quickly found a shoe shop where she hastily bought the first pair she saw. Fortunately, the event was in the hotel so Isabel didn’t have far to walk — a good thing, since the shoes were stilettos and possibly the most uncomfortable shoes on the planet. They did, however, help her see over the podium once she was up on the stage.

Within 24 hours we were back home like we had never even been gone, and Isabel gave away the shoes and now is back to writing whatever she wants. Stay tuned. 

The Body in the Trunk

What do you do when your boss comes to you with the following?

“I am going to need to dump a body…Find out how steep a cliff needs to be for a body to drop and, upon impact, break the frozen surface of a lake. I also need you to find out how cold your car needs to be to keep a body in the trunk frozen.”

Well, you don’t question her much, particularly if she is Isabel Allende. Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not worried Isabel is actually going to transport and dump a body—though I wouldn’t put it past her. But here’s the thing. There are many resources out there to help with these kinds of issues. Case in point: One sunny fall day I walked over to the police station here in town and waited in line at the counter. “Yes, hi,” I said when it was my turn. “I work for a local author, and she wanted me to find out how hard it is to erase vehicle identification numbers from cars? Would you be able to help me?”

You know what? They were! They were so helpful I now know how to remove my engine block, use a file to scrape away the VIN (vehicle information number), and then replace the engine so I can be on my way.

The police woman I spoke to told me they get these kinds of questions every day, and that they’re generally happy to answer them. Surprised? I sure was. But if you think about it, it makes sense. You only need to search the Internet to find all the information you need.

Which is all a long way of letting you know that Isabel is starting a new book on January 8 (the day she starts all her books). I can’t wait to hear what she asks for next.

Isabel with her editor, Johanna Castillo who gets to read Isabel’s books before anyone…in the United States.

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