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Knowledge Base .: Meet The Author .: Childrens .: A Conversation with Kyra E. Hicks Author of Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria

A Conversation with Kyra E. Hicks Author of Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria

Author: Kyra E. Hicks

Illustrator: Lee Edward Fodi

ISBN:  10: 1933285597:   13-1933285597

Today, Norm Goldman, Publisher and Editor of Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest, Kyra E. Hicks, author of Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria.

Good day Kyra and thanks for participating in our interview.

Norm:    Kyra, please tell our readers something about yourself and what motivated you to write Martha Ann’s Quilt for Queen Victoria?   Why did you feel compelled to write this book and why do you think this is an important book at this time?

Kyra:  Thank you.  I have been a quilter since 1991.  I create story quilts, mostly queen-sized bed quilts that one can “read” like a one-panel cartoon.  In my quilts I include images as well as text.  I worked in marketing and product development for seven years at Hallmark Cards.  As a result, it is quite natural for me to marry editorial and images to evoke emotions.

I first learned about Martha Ann Ricks from a 1981 article by Cuesta Benberry, who had spent seven years confirming that the story of Martha Ricks giving the quilt to Queen Victoria was not a myth.  I was research what became my first book, Black Threads: An African American Quilting Sourcebook.  I was intrigued by the article and wanted to learn more about the quilt and to understand why a black woman would desire to meet Queen Victoria. 

I had no idea my simple questions would lead me to four years of in-depth research and another book.

Norm:   Is there an underlying message in your book for kids?

Kyra:  Martha Ann’s Quilt for Queen Victoria is important for kids today for a couple reasons.  First, her inspiration to follow her impossible dream for fifty years may inspire a young person to dream big and not be afraid to pursue the dream.  Next, the history of African America’s ties to Liberia is probably not explored in history lessons today.  And, there are dozens of remarkable black American men and women who moved from the US to Liberia to learn from.  Finally, quilts are a part of African American culture.  There are several children’s books about quilts and the Underground Railroad.  Whether one believes that these Underground Railroad quilts existed or not, it is important for kids to also know that fine commemorative quilts were being made during and after slavery.  In fact, some slave women earned money to purchase their own freedom and that of their family through sewing and quilting.

Norm:  What is your background in children's literature?

Kyra:  Martha Ann’s Quilt for Queen Victoria is my first children’s book.  I do have a collection of picture books with quilting themes as well as versions of the Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast stories.

Norm:  What kind of research did you do to write this book? i.e. Can you explain some of your research techniques, and how you found sources for your book?

Kyra:  Well, as I mentioned, I have spent four years researching Martha Ann Ricks’ life.  I have spent hours in the Library of Congress reviewing newspaper microfilm about Mrs. Ricks’ visit with the queen and its aftermath.  I have reviewed the American Colonization files at the Library of Congress.  I have visited other libraries in London and Tennessee (where Martha Ann was a slave).  I have also interviewed family members of Martha Ann, which was one of the most heartwarming parts of my research.  Finally, I read, read, and read as much as I could on Liberian history and Victorian times to place Martha Ann’s story in a broader historical context.

Norm:  What obstacles did you have in trying to tell your story?

Kyra:  Like giving birth, one doesn’t remember labor!  The obstacles are one any writer encounters.  How does one translate years of detailed research into an emotional, memorable, and historically accurate children’s picture book.  I went through many, many drafts.  Always, though, with the thought to honor Martha Ann Ricks’ story.

Norm:  How has the feedback been so far? What are your hopes for this book?

Kyra:  The feedback from parents and children who have read the book has been overwhelmingly positive!   The kids who have read the book are asking questions – about slavery, about Queen Victoria, about Liberia, about the whereabouts of the quilt Martha Ann made.  I love it!   Even adults are telling me they really did not know about the US involvement in Liberia. 

I hope Martha Ann’s Quilt for Queen Victoria becomes as well known as Faith Ringgold’s Tar Beach or as taught in schools as frequently as any of the storybooks about the Underground Railroad quilts.  Mostly, I hope that a new generation will know that one young African American girl had a dream she pursued successfully and know they can also do the same.

Norm:  I noticed you hold an MBA from the University of Michigan. How has this helped you in the marketing of your book and will there be any unique ways you'll be marketing your book that is different from how others authors market their books?

Kyra:   My goal is to blend both traditional book promotions with internet tools.  A number of bloggers have shared their thoughts about Martha Ann’s Quilt for Queen Victoria – introducing the story to far more people than I could personally.  I also am offering autographed copies of the book from my WEBSITE.

Norm:   Have you had any downfalls or negative experiences working with a publisher/agent, such as rejection letters? If so, how did you handle it?

Kyra:  I do not see rejection letters as a negative experience, per se.  As an exhibiting quilter for the last fifteen years, I have had my share of rejection letters for potential exhibits or books.  It’s sad for a moment and then one moves on. 

In my share of generic rejection letters for Martha Ann’s story, there was one very precious experience.  One editor said my manuscript needed work and suggested I explore a few areas further and send back the manuscript.  I did this after many more revisions.  The editor still had reservations and decided to pass on the manuscript.  I was absolutely thrilled despite the eventual rejection.  My manuscript made it out of the slush file and to the editor-in-chief.  And, this person sent me two personal letters.  

Norm:  If you could switch places with someone famous, who would it be?

Kyra:  I love who I am and would not want to switch places with anyone.  Now, if you ask me if I could go back in time and meet with anyone.  Well….  I really would love to sit with Martha Ann and sew on a quilt a few weeks after she meet with the queen.  I’d love to hear of her personal observations… and see her actually handsewing so beautifully that a queen would send her quilt to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair to be seen by thousands of people.

Thanks once again and good luck with Martha Ann’s Quilt for Queen Victoria.

To read Norm's Review of Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria, CLICK HERE

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4-9-2008 at 6:30pm


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