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On The Table Read, “the best book magazine in the UK“, children’s book author, Tephra Miriam, shares what inspires her to write her children’s books, and her creative witing process.
Written by Tephra Miriam
Stories are the vessels that take us on journeys to faraway places where we can transcend cultural boundaries. We find hope, reprieve, faith, and even freedom through stories. Diverse literary perspectives are critical when engaging readers of color and breaking down systems opposing minority advancement. As an author, I am driven to use my creativity and imagination as a tool to compel my readers to think differently.
In my work, both as an author and an entrepreneur, my existence begins and ends with my “why.” I believe it’s essential to know why we do the things we do and learn to operate out of purpose. A better humanity is ours to have. I can see it on the horizon and feel it in the winds of change that are sweeping through our world. Bringing change to our communities and the world requires us to teach people how to treat each other and inspire those around us to harness the power of creativity and imagination to forge a new path forward.
Where it all Began
As a Jamaican American growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I was surrounded by incredible stories that cultivated my vivid imagination. New Mexico is an enchanting place filled with stories of UFOs, the supernatural, and the rich folklore and cultural history of our country’s native roots. These stories sparked my imagination during my childhood, and I was utterly fascinated by magic and mystery.
Yet, despite the enchanting stories of my environment, I never saw myself reflected in any of the books that I had access to; I didn’t identify with the heroes of the stories because they didn’t look like me. They didn’t come from a background like mine, and they didn’t face the same types of issues that I encountered. This was a disconnect that I needed to change.
Building Bridges of Healing
The majority of my journey into the world of storytelling took place in Chicago, Illinois, USA, where I spent 15 very cold years, and my time in Chicago inspired my latest book, “The Sparkle Riot Crew and the Kid from Star Quad 9.” The city of Chicago receives quite a bit of negative media attention, and I wanted to write a story that celebrated the city and showed life there in a different light.
The murder of George Floyd drove the topic of law enforcement to the forefront for me. I noticed many children trying to find their way through this trying time, and I wanted to write something positive that explores the different emotions and behaviors that surface when we’re afraid of people who look, sound, or act differently than we do. I wanted my book to help build bridges of healing between Black Chicago communities and the Chicago Police Department.
Conveying the Voices of Children
As an author, learning to tell stories from another’s eyes becomes your work of art. Becoming an expert at this is a crucial skill for writers who want to leave an impact on their intended audience. In my latest book, I found it challenging to get and stay in the head of a 7-year-old child and truly capture their voice, language, and perspective.
I often had to remind myself of what a 7-year-old would and wouldn’t know and say. Learning to remain and go deeper into the child-like brain was a positive experience for me. We cut this part of ourselves away as we get older but by doing so we leave behind a wide-eyed view of the world that fills our daily lives with a sense of wonder.
There are a few parts in the book where my main character Virginia gets very frustrated and really expresses her feelings. I found those parts to be the easiest to write because there are many similarities between adults and kids, especially when we get angry. Virginia often feels frustrated at things she can’t control in the book, and this was a headspace that was easy for me to access.
Leading with the Lesson
My core values and purpose guide my entire journey from idea to publication with each one of my books. Along with wanting to write a story that celebrated the city of Chicago, I wanted to write a chapter book with young boys as the main characters. Typically, I try not to genderize my books, but, in this case, it was essential for boys to see themselves in the characters so the story would speak to them. Capturing the way 7-year-old boys talk and play was pretty interesting. Little boys often make more sounds than words when interacting with each other, so bringing this to life in my writing was a fun challenge.
While being captivated by an entertaining story, I want my readers to take away valuable life lessons. I knew early on that I wanted my recent book to be about differences between people, and I love sci-fi. So, I decided to marry the two concepts, and I enjoyed seeing them all come together.
The Power of Stories
Changing the world starts with changing ourselves and how we think, live, and create, and I believe that creating space in your life to play, imagine, and dream is vital in the creative process. Over the two years it took me to write and publish my latest book, I started two businesses. So, it was a busy time. With my active lifestyle, I had to learn to write anywhere and everywhere that I had a little free time. While the timing of this last book was a bit of a challenge, my goal is to publish two books a year. Although this may sound like an ambitious goal to some, the work we do as authors has the power to change the world.
I firmly believe that curiosity and imagination cultivate innovation and that stories have the power to change lives. Art, in all forms, has the ability to create beautiful bridges of thought and reflection that take people deeper within themselves. They can see and experience other people and other ways of life and learn something new. Stories enable us to respect different cultures and the differences that make up our beautiful world; they have the power to change society and the world around us. If we can imagine a better world, we can build one.
As an author, I love to tell stories and want to bring a new perspective to the world of publishing. I was not the kid that liked to read growing up, but it turns out that I love to write. Go figure!
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