Bronx Native to have book turned into movie

Bronx native Claribel Ortega is not only fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a published author, but her book is being turned into a movie.

Ortega, 36, who lives in Peekskill, but grew up in Hunts Point and Soundview, fell in love with writing as a child. Her first book “Ghost Squad,” is due out April 7 and in February, was announced it was being developed for the big screen.

She heard the earth shattering news in October and has been on cloud nine since.

“I was in my office and I screamed,” she recalled. “I was really just in shock.”

Her journey to becoming an author did not happen overnight. As a child, Spanish was the primary language spoken in her home. She was born a year after her parents Anazaria and Pablo Ortega immigrated here.

Beside school, she learned English from TV and often helped her parents with writing checks and other mundane tasks.

Anazaria was a lover of arts, writing and music and instilled that passion in her daughter. Ortega wrote short stories and hoped to one day be a professional writer.

“I’ve always loved to write,” Ortega said. “I grew up with everyone telling me I should write.”

After attending the Academy of Mt. Ursula at 330 Bedford Park Blvd. and Yorktown High School, she

went to SUNY Purchase, where she majored in journalism. She wrote for the student newspaper there and after graduation, worked briefly as a reporter for the Rivertowns Enterprise in Westchester.

Sadly, her brother Pablo passed away at the age of 35 in 2011from cancer. His death pushed her to write her first book, “Witches, Punks & Cursed Things,” which has yet to be published. The book helped her cope.

“I was having a hard time dealing with it (his death),” Ortega explained.

She worked as an assistant for Creative Arts Agency and then for a book company, but her passion for writing never left. So a few years ago, she decided to merge her family’s culture with a book.

In Dominican heritage fireflies represent lost loved ones and in the book Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious firefly spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and spirits before it’s too late.

“It’s a very personal book,” she said. “I wanted to be true to my own childhood and what it was like growing up.”

She heard the movie was being shopped around to movie studios, but when Oscar award winning director Brenda Chapman signed on it was too good to be true. Chapman was the first woman to win an Academy award for best-animated feature for the film “Brave.”

“It was a really happy moment for me,” she commented.