Creativity has no limits, including age. In this interview, you will be inspired by three sisters who published their first book at a very young age.
In this episode, Fireflies Aglow shares their journey of publishing a book as a collaborative group of young people.
Click here to leave an iTunes review and subscribe to the show. Read my step-by-step tutorial and find out all the details here. If you have a specific question, I’d love to hear from you! Leave me a message here.
Introducing our Inspiring Young Artists
Shelley: Today I’m rolling out the red carpet and inviting you into my community for a behind the scenes look at what’s working for authors just like you.
In this episode, it’s going to be kind of different. I have one of my members, Angela Meijer, and her three daughters with me to talk about their daughter’s new book. So, hi guys!
Fireflies Aglow: Hi!
Shelley: Do you want to introduce yourselves?
Emma: Sure, I’m Emma Meijer.
Aeva: I’m Aeva Meijer.
Elina: And I’m Elina Meijer.
Angela: And I’m their mom, Angela Meijer.
Shelley: Awesome! So, I just wanted to tell everyone a little bit about you from your official bio, then we’ll talk about how you guys got started. And this is their book!
We’re going to talk about your book and how you already published a book at such a young age, so inspiring.
They are a group called Fireflies Aglow, a young author and artist collaboration. They’ve been creating together for almost four years. They published their first collaborative book, Becoming Agents of Creativity, and they each designed a character, wrote a chapter, and then Emma took the sketches and illustrated the book.
So, they share their art and writings on their website and in their monthly newsletter. You can find out about them at FirefliesAglow.com.
Emma, do you want to share with us a little bit about how this group started and how this book even got started? Do you have a couple of other people that you work with as well?
Emma: Yes. It first started in 2013, a year after my parents created an artist collaborative.
Shelley: Oh, fun!
Emma: Aeva and I decided that we wanted to have an artist collaborative as well.
Emma: We came together and decided on a name. A year later our friend, Aiden, decided to come and join us in it as well. We started creating comics and stuff and posting our artwork on a website my mom created in Square Space.
Then, soon after that Elijah and Zoe Olson came in to join us and help us create comics. At the same time, Zoe was creating her first book Harry and Larry, a Tale of Two Canaries.
Angela: She was ten at the time, Zoe.
Shelley: She was ten when she published that book?
Shelley: How old are you three?
Emma: I’m currently 14.
Aeva: We’re both 11; we’re twins.
Elina: Fraternal – we don’t look alike.
Angela: You look like sisters.
Shelley: Were you 11 when the book was published?
Fireflies Aglow: Yes.
Shelley: And Emma, you were talking about…
Emma: How Zoe was 10 when she published a book. After she published it, she decided to put in the Ankeny Authors Fair.
Every April there’s an Ankeny Authors Fair for authors of Ankeny and all-around Iowa. So authors can come and show all their books. Zoe put Harry and Larry, a Tale of Two Canaries there, and we came to visit her because we’re her friends – support.
When we saw that we decided, “Hey, we want to write a book too!” So, we each created an alias for ourselves.
I created Lucy, Aeva created Dasher the Hawk, and Elina created Susan the Owl. Elijah also created Captain Blue, and Zoe created Sugar the Cat.
From these five characters, we decided that we wanted to make a comic. At first, it started out as a comic. But then we decided to make it into a book because the comic was going to take a lot longer than we thought.
Emma: With all the illustrating and everything.
Shelley: So, are these all your characters on the front cover?
Fireflies Aglow: Yes.
Aeva: There are more characters in the book though.
The Book Idea
Angela: Tell her about how you guys decided to unite all your characters and have them come together.
Emma: Yes. The center character you can see here, he’s a griffin, and his name is Super Love. This book is sort of an allegory, so Super Love is our Jesus character.
Each of the characters that we created has superpowers, but we wanted to be able to share how they got their superpowers. So, we decided to add this Jesus character in, drawing a little bit from Narnia and a little bit from Lion King we decided to make him a lion.
A little bit of inspiration came from the song Super Love by Anthony Skinnard. In it, he says, “He flies through the heavens and breaks down the walls when you pray.”
So, from that, we were able to deduce that Super Love, our Jesus character, not only was named Super Love also has wings and can fly.
Shelley: I just realized, wings, and he has wings. That’s so fun; I love that.
Emma: So, each of our characters joins the story and meets Super Love. From Super Love, they are able to receive their powers, and they’re all best friends.
Shelley: Just like you are in real life.
Fireflies Aglow: Yes.
Elina: Sisters can be friends.
Emma: They go on adventures and help stop evil and make sure everything is according to what Super Love wants.
Shelley: I love that. There’s so much goodness in what you just shared.
First, just the fact that Angela, you and Adrian, your husband, and Katherine doing a collaborative art. So, share a little bit about what you do with that, that then inspired them to do a collaborative artist group.
Angela: I’ve been painting for a number of years, and Adrian, we’ve been married a long time, he knew me all through art school.
So, he was always the one who could look at a painting with me and tell me what it needed to finish the piece. So, he was my best critic.
Shelley: And you could receive it from him.
Angela: I could not only receive it, but he saw not only what was not right, but he saw how to fix it.
Angela: I didn’t really make that connection until at a certain point he was explaining something that I couldn’t see, and I said, “Well, could you just do it?” He came in, and I was like, “OK, wow.” What he brought to it was so special.
Then, another one of our friends, she came over, and I had asked her to paint with me on a project. When we started painting together she just brought a completely different perspective. So the three of us started painting together.
We thought we’d do one painting together, and that was really fun. Then we thought we’ll do another painting, and then we decided we’d do a series of eight paintings together.
We thought, that’s a lot of paintings, but when we finished those eight paintings we didn’t want to stop. That’s when we decided to become an artist collective.
Shelley: So, girls, after you’ve done your first collaborative project, do you feel like you want to stop?
Fireflies Aglow: No.
Aeva: I want to write another book.
Emma: We have all agreed that we want to write another book, and maybe even more in the future. We want to keep going.
Shelley: And you were inspired not only by the artist collaborative of your parents but from your friend that had published a book. Now you are able to inspire other kids, so it’s like a ripple effect how you’re able to inspire and help other people.
So, talk a little bit about now that you’ve published this book, done this, and have something like this, what are some of your goals going forward?
Goals for the Future
Aeva: One of my goals is that when I’m doing English class and learning new vocabulary words when I’m writing, I will use some of those new vocabulary words I have learned and put them in my writing.
Angela: Yeah, she really loves to grow in using the English language to describe her stories? Right?
Angela: Because that doesn’t come naturally to you, does it?
Aeva: No, it doesn’t. I have a visual brain, so I usually just think of it, and then it’s really hard for me to put it into words.
So, I’m trying to get a habit of writing very well and knowing what to do when I visualize the image in my head.
Shelley: We were talking even before the podcast; you said you dream about it?
Aeva: Yes. I sometimes do.
Shelley: So sometimes. You’re just very right-brained visual and just all those images, so you’re having to practice a little bit more of the left brain of writing it and describing it.
I think a lot of people who are creatives can relate to that. They can picture it sometimes but can’t put it into words. That’s going to really build that muscle for you, and that’s awesome.
Aeva: Yes, it’s making me really excited, so I can write more books with more talent in it, like the things I’m actually visualizing in my brain.
Shelley: So it’s almost like you have a movie in your brain?
Shelley: You can see the whole scene play out and you have to figure out how to write it and put it into words so other people can see that same thing in their minds.
Angela: When you were trying to put your chapter into words, I didn’t know this about her.
Shelley: Oh, awesome, so you learned something?
Angela: Yeah, she said, “Mom, I’m stuck. I don’t know how to put this into words.”
So, I thought, well maybe she doesn’t know what to write about, and we started brainstorming. She said, “Oh no,” and she started describing everything that was happening in the room – every single detail.
She described the sound effects that were happening, literally like a movie. I was like, OK, let’s look at what the overall theme is here. Once we talked through that and I took notes, we had talked through it, and we were able to put it into a story.
Aeva: Yes, it was really helpful when Momma was there because she really helped me out, told me what I could do, and I told her yes or no.
Shelley: So, even just doing this project, and Angela you being involved, it really just even helped grow your relationship?
Angela: A lot.
Aeva: A lot!
Angela: It’s been really great quality time and a lot of fun.
Fireflies Aglow: Yes.
Shelley: Yeah, you could be playing video games or doing other things, but this is you creating something from your imagination. Then you’re able to share that with other kids, that’s so fun.
How about you other girls, do you have goals now that you’ve published a book?
Emma: Yes, I have a goal of publishing another self-authored and illustrated book. My goal is, by the next Ankeny Authors Fair to have it published, or in the process of being published.
My main idea right now, I’m doing a story about a wolf, I’m not quite sure how it’s going to play out yet, so I can’t give much detail.
Shelley: That’s exciting. That’s how most people write stories; they don’t know the whole thing. They know a little bit about what they basically want to do, and it unfolds as you write. But that’s just part of the fun.
It’s like it’s unfolding as you write it. So, you’re going to also do your own illustrations for your book too?
Emma: Yes, I’ve actually already started. I’ve found that I’m a mixture of having it in my mind as well as having some words that I want to tell.
Sometimes they can clash, what’s in my mind and what I want to write. So, sometimes I illustrate before I write, and sometimes I write before I illustrate, it really just depends on what I’m doing.
Shelley: So when you did the illustrations, you’re the one that took the sketches and did the actual illustrations in the book?
Shelley: Did you do these digitally?
Emma: Yes, I used this app called ProCreate on my iPad.
Shelley: I love ProCreate!
Emma: It’s the best.
Angela: We all love ProCreate.
Fireflies Aglow: Yes.
Emma: I took the original ideas that everyone had for what they wanted as pictures in their stories. Like, Elijah Olson has a very specific stick figure. He wrote the stick family book, and he’s all about stick figures.
So, for him, I had to take what he had already drawn and basically draw over it and make it cleaner. For other people, like Elina, our art has increased. It has improved so much over these past years that she didn’t like any of the illustrations she’d made.
So, I took what she originally intended, and I read where it would be in the book, and I sort of drew from what was in the book and what was already in the illustration to make the different illustrations that are in the book.
Shelley: So, Aeva and Elina, you were seven four years ago? So, you probably have grown a lot, well, you too Emma. You are all probably growing a lot in your artistic and writing skills. That is so neat.
For those of you that may not know, ProCreate is an amazing app for your iPad. You can use it with your Apple Pencil or other styluses. I use it for lettering, but you can use it for all sorts of illustrating, it’ amazing. Game changer, so amazing.
So, what about you Elina, what are your goals?
Elina: My goal is to write a chapter book by the next book fair, basically the same goal as Aeva’s. I also want to make larger chapters because sometimes I just do four-page chapters. The way I’m going to do that, another goal I have, for every weekday I’m going to try to write at least 200 words.
Shelley: Wow, that’s great. Do you think you will ever do another collaborative book or collaborative project again?
Elina: We’re thinking we might do that in the future, but we haven’t fully planned that out.
Angela: Well, you’re already collaborating on one with Zoe.
Emma: We’re not quite sure how it’s going to work out. We’re planning on bringing together some of Zoe’s book characters along with some of the Becoming Agents of Creativity book characters into one book that we’re planning.
Shelley: Cool, and then that will encourage people to read the other books too, to learn more about those same characters.
Fireflies Aglow: Yes.
Shelley: So, girls, what would you say to kids who have an interest in writing or even illustrating and publishing a book but they’re not sure what to do. For those kids who feel nervous, or scared, do you have any advice for kids on that?
Tips for Other Young Authors
Emma: I would say that it doesn’t matter how old you are. It doesn’t matter if you can only draw stick figures.
Shelley: Right, there’s a stick figure book your friend drew.
Angela: And it came from that idea.
Emma: Whatever you want to do, you can do it.
Shelley: Whatever talent that you have right now, with whatever ability, and it’s going to continue to grow and get better. But you can use what you have right now and still encourage other people, inspire other people, create fun stories. That’s awesome!
Angela, what would you say to parents who know their children are creative or want to explore their creativity. What would you recommend for parents to do in that process?
Angela: Just to keep it simple and celebrate every step. I really didn’t know how to help them publish their books, or really start writing when I started. I just started opening up my eyes and ears and asking questions.
That’s how I started talking to Zoe and Elijah’s mom. I said, “OK, the girls want to write a book and Zoe’s written a book.” She said, “Why don’t we start getting the kids together? Because Zoe wants to do more art and you’re good at art”.
So, we started getting the kids together and started pulling from each other’s strengths.
So, I think my advice to parents is, find out what your kid can do now and celebrate that. I remember with Elijah he said, “Well I can only draw stick figures”. I said, “Great, then tell stories with stick figures. Then, as you’re developing your story making skills, you’ll develop your drawing skills as well.”
So, just start where you’re at and celebrate it.
Shelley: I love that, and you don’t have to be a certain type of artist. You don’t have to have a certain type of skill or have taken these certain classes. Anyone can do this, right?
Fireflies Aglow: For sure. Definitely.
Angela: A lot of their first books are computer paper. We just put lines at the top, and they’d write their story up top, draw the picture below, we’d use a stapler and staple it together. Then, we’d send those to grandparents for Christmas. Those are some of their best books, really.
Aeva: It was really fun doing it because you could use your imagination. And, if you had wrong edits, then your grandparents would understand and love it either way.
Shelley: I love that too. That’s a really practical step for parents, even just encouraging those handmade books. I found one last Summer in all of the stuff that I made. I don’t’ even know what grade I was in, but I illustrated it and had a story. I was like, “this is probably my first book!”
Angela: I want to see it!
Shelley: I know! I wish I would have thought to bring it. But yeah, those are just things that you’ll always remember, and it’s so fun. I love that. Now, I can talk to you girls forever, because you’re just so inspiring.
Fireflies Aglow: Thank you.
Shelley: I love what you’re doing. But, as we come to a close, do you have any take action tips for our listeners based on this podcast and what you’ve shared?
Take Action Tips
Emma: Read a book.
Angela: Why would you say that Emma?
Emma: I would say read a book. For me, it has helped me tremendously to help increase my vocabulary and the usage of words in sentences. It’s just helped my writing grow exponentially.
Shelley: So, for young people and adults that is a great, great tip – that is. The more you read, the more you are going to grow your skills as a writer. So, I love that tip, Emma.
Emma: Thank you.
Shelley: Do you have one Aeva?
Aeva: I was just going to say; if you wanted to read a book, you could read this one [Becoming Agents for Creativity].
Shelley: Yes! Where can they find that book?
Aeva: They can find it on the website you were talking about in the beginning, FirefliesAglow.com, in the book page.
Elina: Which also has all of our other books too, if you want to get those.
Angela: And it’s got a link to Amazon, so the book is available on Amazon.
Shelley: And it will probably have a way to connect with you, like an email list? So that they know when you publish new books.
Angela: Yes, and also tell them what you’re going to do in the newsletter.
Emma: I’m planning on creating a fourth through an eighth-grade reading list of some of my favorites that I’ve loved growing up. I’m going to share them.
Shelley: That’s a great tip – a great thing to give to younger kids. Like you said, your tip is to read more, and then there are some great recommendations you have of books to read. So, I love that.
Definitely go over to FirefliesAglow.com. If you want to be inspired by these girls, their friends, and know when they release more books definitely sign up.
If you have kids that could really benefit from just seeing other kids doing this, take them to the site, show them, have them watch this interview with you. Have them sign up for the email, that would be so much fun.
Did you girls have anything else that you wanted to share as we close?
Aeva: I want to say it was really fun talking to you.
Fireflies Aglow: That’s true. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Shelley: Yes, I have so much joy just seeing you all there and all that you’ve accomplished at such a young age. I just want to encourage you to keep writing, keep creating, developing those creative gifts, and seeing what God does with them because that’s so exciting.
Aeva: Anyone who’s watching, I’d like you to know that you don’t have to be afraid to be creative.
Angela: It’s true. It’s true – you don’t have to be afraid to mess it up.
Aeva: Even if you make a scribble, you can put that into a drawing.
Angela: That’s true.
Angela: A lot of how we started drawing was, we’d make a scribble for each other, and we would turn it into something beautiful.
Elina: When it comes to drawing, and you didn’t draw what you thought you wanted to draw, you can still make it into something amazing.
Angela: Yeah, that was a good thing when we were starting out. Elina would be frustrated because she couldn’t draw what she’d imagined.
So, we just decided to use what she imagined as a starting point and not say that the end product has to look like what you imagined, yet, because we’re building skills and we’re growing.
Shelley: Yeah, I love that tip. Because even as an artist myself sometimes I can’t get what’s in my mind exactly to what’s on the paper.
So give yourself freedom, to say, “That’s ok, that’s a starting point. I’ll do what I can and add to that.”
I loved your thought, Aeva, of just doing a scribble and then just saying, “OK, what can we create with that scribble.”
That’s a fun, creative activity parents can do with their kids, kids can do, you can fill sketchbooks full of different scribbles.
Fireflies Aglow: Definitely.
Shelley: And then they become illustrations or pictures. Those are all really, really fun things. I can’t wait to see what’s next for you all and thank you so much for being on the podcast.
Fireflies Aglow: Thank you for inviting us. It was our pleasure.
Shelley: You are welcome.
For all of you listening, I hope that you are just so inspired right now. These three girls and their friends have published a book. If they can do it, you can do it!
So, I hope you feel inspired, encouraged.
If you’re a young person I hope that you start writing, start creating, and start taking just your scribble and imaginations and start putting them to paper. Because you never know what could become of that.
Thank you so much for joining us and I hope that you join us next time!
Watch the Video Below:
Have Comments or Questions?
Share them in the comments below.