“Love You Still” & “Do Different”
Interview with the creators of Cousin Connections Publishing.
Mya Wilson of Cousin Connections Publishing provides some insight into the process of publishing her first two children’s books “Love You Still” & “Do Different”.
Cousin Connections Interview
1. Can you tell us who you are and bit about your background?
My name is Mya Wilson and I am a creative spirit and a passionate educator and recent author. I started teaching full time in 2005. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. I studied at Temple University for my bachelors degree in elementary education, and in 2009 I graduated from The City College of New York with my masters in early childhood education. I have been teaching on the elementary level for 12 years ranging from full time teaching in Pre K, first, and second grade and part time teaching in fifth grade. When I was in high school I took an AP art class and studied creating in a variety of mediums. Overall I love creating. I’ve created jewelry, t-shirts, craft gifts and other visual displays. I believe my artistic talent I inherited from both of my grandmothers who were both very talented artists.
2. What does “CousinsConnections” mean to you?
Cousin Connections came out of the partnership that went into creating our first book. My cousin Saleem was really the last catalyst to get the process started with the publishing of our first book Love You Still. So many friends and family members that knew I had a completed manuscript would always ask about how things were going with it but I would never have an update that eluded to progress. Then when I told Saleem that I had a completed manuscript he was so encouraging, strongly suggesting that I stopped pursuing a publishing company and self-publish, and that I should use our other cousin Jarell as my illustrator. Once Jarell and I got together and began to work it was amazing. I couldn’t believe how passionate Jarell was about the book and the illustrations he created were beyond what I had imagined. He is very talented and he even began doing other creations entirely on his own like creating the trailers for both of our books and building an amazing website for CCP. It’s because of the support and encouragement of my cousins and the work that we’ve done together that planted the seed for the name. During the self publishing process we had to provide a business name which we hadn’t thought of at all up until that point. But it was effortless to think of Cousin Connections because it’s the connection between cousins that caused a dream to become a reality. Oh and I also love alliteration (smile).
3. What inspired you to write children’s books?
I’ve always loved children’s books. Well before I started teaching I had a rather large collection of children’s books because if I was anywhere and saw a book that I loved I would buy it for “when I have my own classroom”. In addition when I started teaching I noticed there weren’t many children’s books with black and brown children. I wanted to find more books that represented the students I teach. Love You Still was inspired by an exchange I had with one of my students my first year teaching. Do Different came about by way of me wanting to write more books that had a lesson or encouraging theme in it.
4. Can you explain your writing process? How do you go from an idea to an actual story?
5. Behind every great children’s book is great illustration. Can you talk about how illustration fits into the overall storyline?
With children’s books illustrations are actually more important than words initially. For young children whether they can read or not they must be pulled in by the illustrations, otherwise they will never hear the message from the words. The written manuscript I believe helps Jarell create the illustrations, but I often encourage him to add his own creativity to the illustrations. For our first book Love You Still we did sit down and draw somewhat of a simple map of what many of the pages would look like, and I had some features that I wanted to include based on how I know young children respond to books, like seeing the front cover illustration reappear in a section of the book and small written nuances in the actual illustrations that add detail to the written story. For Do Different I literally gave Jarell the written manuscript and said “Do your thing!” I was only specific about the front cover because I wanted it to have a branded look which would involve it having similar aspects to our first book Love You Still.
6. What has been one of your biggest challenges as an author?
I’m experiencing it now…writers block. I have pieces of the third story and I’m having a hard time finishing it. The first two stories I literally wrote the first full draft in one sitting. In fact our second book I wrote the draft in one 50 minute 3 train ride to work from 116th street to Crown Heights Utica stop in Brooklyn one morning. So it’s a test in my patience and diligence to experience writers block for our next book, but I know it will come.
7. As an educator and author what message(s) would like to relay to young children through your books?
That forgiveness and love must exist in our world, and that acknowledging, respecting and embracing our differences is the best way to honor all individuals in this world. Honoring differences is how I believe we will all live in an way that is productive and supports in moving this world in a forwarding and positive direction.
8. Are there any upcoming projects that you would like to give people a heads up on?
The next book in the making involves being courageous, and we are working on a kids quote line that will feature on our social media platforms. Don’t want to talk about what’s to come too much because honestly you never know with Jarell and I, great things often come to us unexpectedly and as quickly as the wind changes directions.
9. Please leave us with a favorite quote of yours.
Oh wow it’s hard to choose but I will choose one related to books/reading and one general quote I use to guide my everyday life.
“The more your read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go“- Dr. Suess
“People will forget what you said, and people will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”- Maya Angelou
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