Emotional Truth Will Set You Free

Caged Bird

As many of you know, renowned author and poet Maya Angelou passed away on May 28, a day after my birthday.  I’m heartbroken to say the least, as she was one of my favorite authors.  She inspired me as a poet and writer.  I first read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in high school.  Her story compelled me to read the rest of her autobiography, which I own.  I have many of her books of poetry, as well.

What made me connect to her story exactly?  Emotional truth.  She was not afraid to tell her story.  And even if she was, she told it anyway.  She told the story that was uniquely her own in a way that no one else could.  Her voice (her song) was unmistakable and true.  There is power in telling the truth.  It doesn’t have to be the universal truth, it just has to be your own experience.  Honest and raw.  Naked on the page.  Blood and tears.  Ironically, this is what gives readers hope.

A caged bird wants something.  Freedom.  And we can all relate to that.  It gives us something to root for.  We hear its sad, beautiful song and we want to see that little bird fly.

I began writing my emotional truth in poetry.  I started out slowly.  Quietly.  Going to open mic events at my university.  I soon earned the nickname “Quiet Storm.”  Each time I went, I shared a piece of my emotional truth.  And each time I let my words out, my voice grew stronger.

Something else amazing happened.  The audience reacted to my poetry.  People started coming up to me after readings.  People that, at first glance, I would never guess I had anything in common with.  I could never predict how they would react to my words, but they always felt something.  A connection.  That was powerful.  Connection through shared stories.  I never wanted that feeling to go away.

There’s a wonderful quote by Dr. Angelou on her website.  “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”  What’s your song?  Don’t be afraid to share your story.  Not only will it set you free, but it just might start a chain reaction.  Thank you Maya for being the catalyst for me.  You’re free now and probably somewhere flying.

autobiography of Maya Angelou



Interview with Author Tim Loge and Giveaway!

Freebooter's Paradise by Tim Loge

Freebooter’s Paradise by Tim Loge

I’m celebrating self-publishing this week and had the pleasure of interviewing author Tim Loge about his book Freebooter’s Paradise.   You can read my review of his book on goodreads, but for now, just imagine a pirate ship coming to town on dust devils!  I first became acquainted with Tim when I interviewed author/illustrator Denise Fleming.  He shared photos of her story park on behalf of the Sanger Branch Library in Toledo, OH where he is a children’s librarian.  I was excited to meet a fellow librarian, especially one who is also a middle grade fantasy writer like me!  Enjoy his interview.  Watch out for pirates 😉     

How long have you been writing?

Back when I was in 3rd Grade, our local newspaper, The Toledo Blade, held a coloring contest. The winners received free tickets to see a marionette show. As luck would have it, I won; I remember my Mom and I thoroughly enjoying the show. Well, for months afterward I had written and performed marionette shows for all of the neighborhood kids. We set up benches in my garage and from the attic a couple of us dangled down homemade marionettes onto a makeshift stage. Of course I needed help, so everyone in the audience usually participated in some way or another, maybe as an usher or a second act puppeteer. Boy, did we have a lot of fun! Back then we thought our shows were spectacular, but I remember the marionettes weren’t. They were a stringy mess of painted cardboard. Honestly though, I think that was when I was bitten by the story bug. As for writing proper stories, that had to wait ‘til I started working on my Agricultural Degree at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. How I found time to study and write I don’t know because I was in class 38 hours every week. That meant I had to spend at least that much time doing homework. Writing stories was a joy while earning my Creative Writing degree from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.

What made you want to become a children’s author?

J. K. Rowling. Her Harry Potter stories have engaged children and adults in a way that makes them want to read more. How many kids read today because of Rowling? The Harry Potter novels are:

  • Fun
  • Adventurous
  • Scary
  • Relaxing

Her characters are friends you miss after you finish reading the series. It almost feels like you have lost some close friends. Now, that’s magic I wish to create!

You self-published your book.  Why did you decide to take this route and would you ever consider traditional publishing?

Unless you’re a celebrity or a darling to someone in the publishing industry, you will never be a shoe-in to get published. In fact, finding someone to seriously look at your work can be very hard. Most of the time it’s college students surfing the slush piles of manuscripts that publishers receive. College students? Yep. So, does that mean anything original and unfamiliar will probably be ignored? Maybe. I’ve heard, and have grown to believe, that attending a writing conference is a good way to get proper exposure for you and your story, and I plan on attending more of those myself. I self-published Freebooter’s Paradise as an eBook first. eBooks are exciting creatures right now. I uploaded my novel to Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Apple, and Smashwords on September 5th, which just happens to be Jessie James’ birthday. How cool is that: being that Jessie James was sort of a pirate in his day? The problem with eBooks for me was that kids knew what eReaders were, but a lot of them didn’t have access to them. So, it looked like I needed to print my novel to get my story out. The way I went about printing it was by creating a project on the crowd sourcing company called Kickstarter. The project is still on their website. Go check it out.

Self-publishing is very trendy these days.  Can you tell us a little bit about the process?  Did you hire your own editor?  Find your own cover artist?  Handle the layout and design?

Ah yes, I had to do everything. I hired an editor, and then another and another. I commissioned an artist, contracted a printer, and secured an ISBN number. I contacted schools and book stores for visits. Would I do it all again? Yes, it was a blast! Do traditionally published authors understand exactly what has happened for their stories to become books? I bet most do, but not many have done it all by themselves. My plan, after getting picked up by a major publisher, is to become the best team player/author a publisher has EVER come across. I KNOW what has to be done to create a book, and I will so much appreciate their help! I also know I still have much more to learn about the whole industry; I have so much more to give. Catch me if you can…

In what ways have you promoted your book?

Like I mentioned earlier, I visit stores and schools. Both are fun adventures, but the school visits are the most fun. I usually sell more books there too. I also meet really awesome librarians and reviewers like you, Angie.  I’m so happy you enjoyed Freebooter’s Paradise!

Now let’s talk about the story itself.  How did you come up with the idea?  Were you always interested in pirates?  Did you do a lot of research on the topic?

Yes, I love pirates! But, let’s start here: I’m also a big fan of Rick Riordan’s novel The Lightning Thief. I loved the fact that reluctant readers enjoyed its quick pace and ton of adventures. So, I decided to write a story in that same style. When I started Freebooter’s Paradise there were only a couple of middle grade novels which took place in the Superstition Mountains or The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. Nothing modern anyway, and no one had considered flying pirates to Arizona, let alone Captain Blackbeard, who has been dead for centuries! Yes, I did research, but after all, it’s a made-up story. I stayed true to what I needed to, and then, I did what authors do best—I made up the rest. Haha!

Some people say my family is related to Captain Kidd 😉  Who is your favorite pirate and why?

I’m thrilled you’re related to Captain Kidd! Apparently his blood line has grown large over the years. You all should hold a family reunion. I bet you would get TV news coverage, if not the History Channel. Personally, I have great sympathy for Captain Kidd. He was an excellent Privateer, a private citizen who hunted ships of the enemy (like you know), but through political maneuvers and King’s favors he ended up an enemy of the King. Ugh. Look for Captain Kidd as a villain in my book two of Dangerous Tandem Adventures. He might finally get what’s his, after being Blackbeard’s lackey in their magical new lives. Where Kidd’s real life story is interesting, Captain Blackbeard is my favorite pirate for a lot of reasons. First, I couldn’t imagine lighting a fuse in my hair just to look menacing. That’s not because I don’t have much hair, ahem, but just because. I mean: Who puts fire near their face? Let alone in their beard/hair? Secondly, according to most pirate historians, Edward Teach (or Thatch) 1680 – 22 November 1718 was the most famous Pirate King of the Caribbean, and only for two years 1716-1718. I use the term ‘Pirate King,’ but he wasn’t called that then. After all these years, he’s remembered to be the fiercest of pirates. Shipping Captains would just give up when they found out Blackbeard’s ship was chasing them. Have you seen Captain Blackbeard’s flag? Talk about creepy. Not only is it a skeleton stabbing a heart ‘til it bleeds, it’s the skeleton of a devil! And it’s holding a time piece in its other hand, sort of saying, “Your time’s up, Matey!”

You chose an interesting setting for your pirates—the desert.  What made you choose Arizona as the location for this story?

I chose that setting because I love Arizona, and at the time there weren’t a lot of middle grade stories set there. I wouldn’t say so now, lots of stories now, but in any case, the American Southwest is an amazing place. Everyone, please go visit it someday; you’ll see. Also, I enjoyed the idea of pirates finding a gold mine. Would they mine it? Or would it be too hard for them? After all, they’re pirates. They enjoy stealing! LOL

I read on your blog that you hiked in Northern Spain.  Tell us about that experience.

I’ve hiked The Way of Saint James three times now. That’s an ancient Christian pilgrimage. One can actually start anywhere in Europe and walk their way to The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Usually most folks start in Southern France and hike across the Pyrenees, through Pamplona, Burgos, and Leon all the way to the Cathedral where the bones of Saint James the Greater are buried. If you do that, you’ll have hiked 500 miles. I never thought I could do such a thing, but what strength I’ve gained from it for my body, mind, and heart. And really, isn’t everything in life about the heart? I made friends from all over the world. Would I do it a fourth time? You bet!

You’re also a librarian.  How has that helped or influenced your writing?

I’m a Children’s Librarian, so I probably read too much middle grade fiction! They’re at least fun stories, and most of the time enlightening, unlike other genres. Maybe I have a leg up in writing because middle graders tell me what they like or don’t like about stories. They share titles they enjoy with me all of the time. From that, I try to build good, fun stories. It’s a challenge, but it has been a fun adventure for me.

What’s up next?  What are you working on now?  A sequel perhaps?

Yes, definitely! I’m working now on book two of the Dangerous Tandem Adventures. I’m also working on a teen and an adult novel. I have lots in the works actually. I’d be thrilled to have you, Angie, be an advance reader for book two! What do you think? Thank you again, for taking a chance on reading Freebooter’s Paradise. Cheers!

***To celebrate, I’m giving away a signed copy of this book!  For a chance to win, leave a comment on this post either about the interview or the blog or both.  Also include your name and email so I can contact you, if you win 🙂  You must reside in the U.S. to be eligible.

Visit My Wonder Chamber: Studio Tour


My Studio

Welcome to my studio!  Let me take you on a tour so you understand a little more about me and my process.  First of all, let’s talk about the space itself.  This is supposed to be a kitchen nook, but I quickly took it over and claimed it as my art studio.  As you can see, it’s a little cramped, but for now, it works.  I especially like the natural light coming in from the window.  I use a drafting table for most of my illustration work.  I used to keep it on an angle but quickly discovered this is not so great for sumi-e ink painting 😉  I use the easel for painting on canvas.  I recently purchased a rolling storage unit with several bins that works great for holding all my different art supplies.  I tend not to use my rolling chair though, as I tend to roll away while working!  Sumi-e painting is easier to do while standing anyway.

What inspires me to get to work?  As you can see, I have a poster of Audrey Hepburn.  I love this one, as it shows her quirky personality.  She’s dancing at a club in the film Funny Face.  My mom jokingly suggested I practice doing each of these poses if I get writer’s block 😉  I purchased the hanging scroll in Japan.  It depicts Murasaki Shikibu, the author of The Tale of Genjiwhich is known to be the first modern novel.  It’s inspiring that the book was written by a female writer.  At the far right, you can also see a poster from the Japanese anime film, My Neighbor Totoro.  I’m a big Hayao Miyazaki fan and it’s sad to hear he is retiring.  Two of my favorite films are Howl’s Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke.  He is a known feminist, which is especially cool because he’s a guy.

What’s your vision? I have a bulletin board for reference material.  I also post images of artwork I like, especially those with a unique style.  Above my desk you’ll see my current vision board.  This one is particularly large 😉  Vision boards are great for organizing your goals through a creative, intuitive process.  I like to include mantras as well as images.  Creating vision boards is probably how I first discovered my love for collaging.  The best part is when you look back at old ones and realize many of your dreams came true!

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

I just finished reading the new book by the author of Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon.  See my previous post.  In this book, titled Show Your Work!, the author shares tips for how to put your work out there and get noticed.  One of his recommendations is to “open up your cabinet of curiosities,”  which is what I have done for you today.

Here are two of my favorite quotes:

“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.”  Ira Glass

“Making books has always felt very connected to my bookselling experience, that of wanting to draw people’s attention to things that I liked, to shape things that I liked into new shapes.”  —Jonathan Lethem

Angela Blvd

Kleon also suggests you build a name for yourself.  Welcome to the world of Angie Kidd!  I hope you enjoy your stay.  Come back again soon 🙂

My Life Measured in Rainbows

Unexpected Rainbow

I recently visited Columbus, OH–a spontaneous trip before my husband begins spring semester of grad school.  We went to Hocking Hills State Park for some hiking.  The visitor center said it was a good time to see waterfalls because of all the melting snow and rain.

That morning as we were driving, I looked at the stormy sky and the raindrops on the windshield.  Rain on hiking day?  These days, I try to look for the positive.  As sunshine peeked out from the clouds, I had a sudden thought.  Maybe we’ll see a rainbow 🙂

We didn’t see a rainbow, but we began our hike anyway.  And we did see lots of waterfalls.  Plus, the rain stopped.  Then we came to one particular waterfall.  It was small and understated.  BUT, shining through it was the most vibrant rainbow.  And then and there I realized something.  Miracles can happen at any given moment, if you’re open to receiving them.

I’ve been cataloging rainbows throughout my travel adventures and quickly realized that I’m noticing them more and more.  I saw one at Bridalveil Falls in Yosemite National Park right after my husband proposed.  We saw many during our honeymoon in Hawaii, but one particular rainbow was not in the sky at all but rather reflected in the sea on the Road to Hana.  I saw another one after my running accident, just when I began to run again.  Then, during my artist retreat, as I wondered whether to pursue creative writing and illustrating as a career, I saw my answer in the sky just before sunset.  A tiny rainbow between the clouds.

A rainbow represents a journey.  Will there be gold at the end?  I’d like to think there is gold all along the way.

Where do you find rainbows in your life?

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”  –Maya Angelou