Indie Monday

Today’s guest: A. Kidd

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With so many cancellations of in-person author events due to World War C, I’m devoting my blog to Indie Monday interviews for the coming months to help my fellow authors with promotion. I’ll be featuring indie and small-press authors who produce quality work outside the boundaries and strictures of the traditional mass-produced, mass-marketed commercial publishing world and traditional bookstore shelves.

Today I’m delighted to host children’s author A. Kidd. A resident of the Detroit metropolitan area, she has a B.S. in Written Communication with a minor in Language, Literature, and Writing from Eastern Michigan University, and an MLIS with a specialization in children’s librarianship from Wayne State University. Her poetry has been published in literary magazines. She is also an artist and a performance poet. She is the author of her debut novel, The Healing Star (Quiet Storm Publishing, 2019).

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Recently I posed some questions to A. Kidd. Here’s what she told me.

DL: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

AK: I’m a dreamer and a kid at heart, thus my name suits me. I’ve been going on adventures, some planned and some unplanned, since I was little. I’m the middle child of three girls, so I’ve always struggled to have a voice. But once I found it, specifically through writing, there was no stopping it. I made up stories before I could write and even drew the pictures. I created my first picture book in high school Spanish class. Imagine trying to write a story in a language you barely understand!

I’m also a published poet. I learned how to tell an engaging story through performance poetry. I studied journalism, which helped me see the value in research. I loved talking to people to discover their stories, until one day I realized I wanted to tell my own stories. I’m also a children’s librarian. As you can imagine, being around all those books was very inspiring!

DL: Tell us about your latest book and works in progress.

AK: My debut novel is The Healing Star, a light middle-grade fantasy for grades 3-6. In it, stars with healing powers are falling from the sky. Feisty 4thgrader Julia is trying to catch one to save her grandma’s life. Grammu has the invisibility illness and will eventually completely disappear. But if Julia catches a falling star, then her wish will be granted, and her grandma will become well again.

The book is a timeless tale that can be read together as a family.

I don’t like to reveal too much about my works in progress, but I’m currently revising a YA environmental dystopian with dual perspectives. I also have another middle-grade fantasy percolating about a girl born during a hurricane who is trying to save her family, and possibly the entire world, from falling apart.

DL: Why do you write? What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

AK: I write because I can’t NOT write. It pours out of me, sometimes in drips and drabs, other times in gushes. Especially right now, when the world seems a little bit off its axis, so to speak.

I write the way I see the world and hope to share my insights with others: to make people laugh until they cry, or cry until they laugh.

I especially want to encourage children and adults to write their own stories and to find the courage to share them.

DL: Please talk about your writing process. Where do your ideas come from? What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?

AK: Is it annoying if I say my ideas come from the ether and that I pluck them from the sky like wishes? But truly, I often come up with ideas while jogging or doing dishes or daydreaming. Anytime I quiet my mind and give it a chance to speak.

I love the idea stage and letting my hand run across the page while I try to keep up with it. I’m less fond of revising, but I’m starting to get the courage to do it. When I’m able to carve away at those initial ideas and refine my work into something even deeper and more satisfying than my initial vision, I know the extra effort was worth it.

My advice to children and anyone is to write the most exciting part first. Then fill in the rest. The connections and details will follow.

DL: Could you reflect a bit on what writing or being a writer has meant for you and your life?

AK: Writing has saved my life over and over. One time I quite literally fell on my face while jogging, and it was only through writing that I had the courage to get back up. I was terrified of the sidewalk for a while. I had to learn to trust my own two feet again. The blank page can be just as scary. Sometimes we have to learn to embrace the unknown. And to find our voice in the chaos swirling around us. It starts with just one step or one word.

DL: What are links to your books, website, and blog so readers can learn more about you and your work?

My FaceBook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/A.Kiddwrites/

Twitter: @AKiddwrites

Instagram: a.kiddwrites

Email: a.kiddwrites@gmail.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50161788-the-healing-star

Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733899200

Universal Book Link for eBook: https://books2read.com/TheHealingStar

 

 

“The plague full swift goes by”

Like most other people in the world today, I’ve been thinking a lot about the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been taking me back to the time in the 1980s when I worked as speechwriter for the commissioner of the Department of Health in New York City. At that time, the prevention of AIDS/HIV was the main public health concern in the city, followed closely by tuberculosis.

There were, of course, many other problems, some particular to NYC (window falls by children, for example) and some more common everywhere (dog bites, drug abuse, the diseases associated with poverty, and so on).

The commissioner at the time, Dr. Stephen C. Joseph, was very active across the five boroughs, speaking on public health problems. He strongly believed that public health was a political process, and he spent a good deal of time out of the office, explaining and garnering support for the department’s policies across the city and in Washington.

(One policy was the necessity for widespread testing for infection by HIV, which exactly parallels the discussions over testingor lack of testing, I should saythat we are hearing today.)

It was a wonderful job for me . . . I felt I was contributing to the most important health issues of the day in the best way that I could, though my words.

Sometimes I wrote up to eight speeches a week, along with op-ed pieces and articles for medical journals signed by the commissioner and other physicians in the department. And whenever the Mayor’s Office needed something for Koch to say or write about public health, I was often tapped to write that, too.

Afterwards I calculated that I wrote roughly four hundred speeches about AIDS/HIV in my five years there.

And yet, the job had its consequences.

When I started, they found desk space for me in a cubicle in the Office of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). Every day when I came in to work, I passed full-color posters of chancres, rashes, warts, and all the other lesions that STIs can cause.

I certainly don’t mean to make light of any of thisbut in the beginning, writing speeches every day about the effects of AIDS/HIV and tuberculosis, and spending my days among public health workers who spent their days tracing contacts of people who might have been infected with STIs without knowing it . . . all had an impact on me.

Riding on the subway to and from work each morning, I began to imagine the city as a vast sea of infection and all the people I passed as unknowing vectors of disease.

Not a healthy outlook.

I got over it, of course, but I’ve been reminded of that time a lot lately. The same issues that the city faced thenthe critical need for testing to stem the spread of HIV despite (at that time) there being no treatment for itare issues now.

When I began to write poetry seriously, infection as a metaphor was one I came back to time and again, due in large part to my time at the Department of Health.

Today’s blog entry includes two poems about infection. The first one, “Serial Killer,” is based on a story an office mate of mine years ago once told me about a job he had infecting mice in a vaccine development lab. It seemed a particularly gruesome occupation when he told me about it, and it stuck with me until I tried to exorcize it in the poem.

As you think about labs trying madly to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, give some thought to the little creatures who give their lives to the effort.

The second poem, “Influenza,” uses the idea of infection as a metaphor for how we respond to other things in our lives.

As always, please enjoy. And stay healthy!

Serial Killer

So the god swooped down, descending like the night.
                                    ─Homer

They weighed next to nothing, their bones
more fragile even than a bird’s
when I reached into the cage and
cupped one in my palm, tenderly.

Tenderly, too, the needle, filled
with what poison, what rare
killing toxin tested on these
small creatures, deftly slipped between

their brittle shoulder blades, the fur
bunched in my thumb and forefinger,
a move I learned the first week, saving
time and wasted motions.

They all died. Before injecting
my day’s subjects, I harvested
stiff tiny corpses from the
night before. Or else collected

those I had to sacrifice with
another kind of shot. How like
a god I was, reaching in and
randomly selecting this for

Vaccine Beta, that for Toxin
Alpha, this for a quiet end
in its sleep, that to be rudely
snatched away from the life it knew.

How they feared me, feared the shadow
of my hand as it moved into
position, nudged the cage door open,
and plunged down with unconcerned

speed to snap up the unlucky
and slip in my fatal point,
forcing them to yield up, squealing,
all of their terrible knowledge.

© Donald Levin, 2002. A version of this poem first appeared in Delirium, November 2002.

Influenza

All language is vehicular and transitive.
                           ─Emerson

The vehicle of
a moving tenor

catches us unaware.
When it first appears

we try our best to
ignore its urging

but when it makes its
presence felt, we take

some certain pleasure
in surrendering

to it. At the end
it makes us feel so

awful we wish we
had never been born

though after, we are
better protected

against its striking
again. People the

vehicle with the
rider of your choice:

love, death, sadness, joy,
or even the flu.

© Donald Levin, 2005