Today I’m talking with Tymeka Coney, author of the newly released I Don’t Like COVID–19 (and really, who does?). Tymeka’s author page says she, “was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, and now resides in Los Angeles, California where she gives back to the community by teaching young people how to read and write and acting.”
Tell us a little bit about your writing journey. Did you always want to be an author?
I never imagined being an author actually. I always loved reading and writing and English was one of my favorite subjects growing up and I even minored in English-Dramatic Writing in college. I was always writing poetry. I even daydreamed sometimes in class and when I was supposed to be doing course work in college, I was actually writing poetry. By the time I graduated college and into my adult years, I had accumulated enough poems to have a poetry book. I selected my top 100 poems and in 2011, I published my first poetry book, “Words Unspoken: Volume I-Deeper Than Eyes Can See.” That was the beginning of my journey to becoming an author. Now I am on my 3rd book as an author. I published my second book last year that was inspired by the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, “ I Don’t Like Racism,”- children’s book and now inspired by the pandemic we now find ourselves in, “I Don’t Like COVID-19,” is my new children’s book just released this month.
What book or author inspired you most growing up?
I love Maya Angelou as a Poet and author and her books. I was also inspired by Toni Morrison’s books and there are so many other authors and books that I have read as I have three book shelves at home.
Tell us about the process of writing a children’s book.
The process of writing a children’s book is actually fun because you get to use your imagination and go on the journey with the characters in the story and explore the mind of a child and somewhat be a kid again. I get to talk from a kid’s perspective and I can apply basic writing skills and include lots of beautiful illustrations to tell the story as opposed to other literature where you have to be so detailed and descriptive for lengths at a time.
Was it easier than you imagined? Harder?
Writing a children’s book was actually easier than I imagined because I was able to write the book in a poetic/rhyming flow that appeals to children and also being that it is a children’s book..the length of the book was not hard to achieve as most children’s books are 28-32 pages and I just enjoyed the entire process of creating the illustrations and the words together to tell a compelling story of empowerment, education and inspiration for children.
How did you work with the illustrator, Nida Saeed?
Nida Saeed and I had worked together on my 1st children’s book, “I Don’t Like Racism,” and she did an amazing job capturing my vision of the story I wanted to tell through the art work she created. I like how she was able to bring the emotion alive in the story through the images, so of course when it was time to start my second book, I called on her for us to work together again as we are in sync when it comes to words and illustrations to tell a story. We have developed a great working relationship that compliments the work that we do individually and collectively and I think this is important to have when bringing a vision to completion. It’s a beautiful thing when everyone knows their role in a team effort and they can do it effectively and in harmony with each other to achieve a common end goal.
Your book is about COVID 19. Why did you feel like kids might need guidance on this subject?
I feel everyone needs guidance on this subject as this subject is affecting every woman, man, boy and girl all over the world. I think it’s important to start as early as possible educating our youth when they can be exposed to this disease. I think it also serves as a reminder to their parents, grandparents, teachers and other people in their lives who will read these books to them about the importance for dialogue and prevention around the subject of COVID-19. We see in the news that kids are catching COVID-19 and how it has affected the school systems and now we see that vaccines are now being offered to kids at an early age. I wanted to present a book for children because they are the future and I also wanted to be a representation of inspiration and empowerment in my community and for the culture.
When you were growing up, did you feel like you saw yourself in the characters you were reading?
I just remember growing up and always enjoying reading books and being a part of the Scholastic book clubs. I do recall one day reading a book when I was younger called, “Nothing’s Fair in 5th grade, and as a fifth grader I did relate to that book so I can see how kids can see themselves in books they read and the impact it can have on their development as a kid to identify with a book they read.
I, too, am a person with a minority background and write characters from minority backgrounds. Can you tell readers why you think it’s important to lift up stories about people who are representative of something other than the majority?
I think it is important to lift up stories about people who are representative of something other than the majority so that we have a voice in and outside of our communities and have representation in libraries, bookstores, schools etc..I want to see a little black girl like the protagonist DaNyla in the two children’s books that I’ve written, seek education about relevant topics in today’s society like racism and COVID-19 and be able to actually find a book that exists that she can relate to and that provides her knowledge and discovery along life’s journey.