I first met Robyn Hood Black virtually, when she contacted me via email after looking up my information through SCBWI. A poet, author, and artist, Robyn and her husband were considering moving to Beaufort, and she wanted to ask a fellow kidlit author some questions about the area. Thank goodness Robyn decided to make the move!!! She is a wonderful person, a great writer and she runs a business all writerly types will love: artsyletters. I’m so excited to have Robyn with us today to answer questions about the businesses of writing and art. Her answers, and a bio detailing her published works follow, so keep on reading!
1. Robyn, you are an artist, a poet, an author, and an entrepreneur. I recently visited you at your studio (one full of great old books, typewriter keys, and all sorts of things that make authors drool )and wondered how you came up with the idea of combining your love of the written word with the love of art. Can you tell us about that?
I’ve done some version of art and writing my entire life, and have never quite been able to choose between the two! I’m probably a writer first, and I did finally pick an English major over art in college at Furman. (But I took a bunch of art classes as well.) I’d still love to illustrate my own text one of these days – working on that, in fact. Even as a child, I had an entrepreneurial streak. My sweet mother carted me around to gift shops, where I sold little pine bark sculptures with rocks painted as birds, with a shiny coating over all. (I still love gloss!)
In 2012, with an empty nest looming on the horizon, I decided to launch my art business, artsyletters. I’d done art shows and commissioned work in my 20s, but for this adventure I wanted more of a focus, and a trademark, too. Who were my people in the world? Writers! And poets, teachers, librarians, and book lovers. It seemed a natural venture to create things with a literary bent, and I find I have far more ideas than time to execute them.
I like using books and words and letters as subject matter for drawings and prints, and I also relish using actual vintage texts to create mixed media pieces. Somewhere along the line I went to the dark side and started altering old books and excerpts. I enjoy bringing these physical, historical elements to life in a new form. I might be working with a text published in the 1800s or the turn of the last century, and I always swim in questions – what was going on in the world when this was written or published? Were we at war? Who might have read these words in their parlor or library or school? Who might have touched this very cover or page through the years?
2. It sounds like every project is a result of your love of words! What has been the best thing about starting a business that caters to literary types?
The best thing has been that I tossed these things out into the universe, first at art shows and through my Etsy shop, and my “target market” caught them! My first customer at a show was a professor at a small local college; she bought several bookmarks to give to members of that school’s first class of English majors. At that same show, a young boy picked up my “Twas brillig…” bookmark and recited “Jabberwocky” by heart!
Those were fun exchanges, and several of my Poetry Friday friends have bought items, sometimes as gifts for each other. They have been so incredibly supportive. (I personally think the Kidlitosphere is home to the most wonderful folks on the planet.)
I’ve sold just about every altered-text mixed media piece I’ve made, and I look forward to making and offering a lot more of these in the new year. It’s been humbling when an unexpected connection is made with these; a Rilke quote presented in a way that encouraged someone facing a challenge, for instance. I’ve come to understand that these pieces, which I make with care and awe for the words that inspire them, will sooner or later resonate with someone because of his or her own story, and I love that.
3. I know you love poetry, and some of your art even features found poetry. What is it about poetry that inspires you?
I was one of those nerdy kids who loved poetry from – forever! The older I get, the more I appreciate poetry’s ability to so efficiently and eloquently make connections – that’s really what poems do, isn’t it? Offer an image or phrase that makes you see/feel/think about something in a new way? I primarily write poems for children, but a few years ago I fell under the spell of haiku, and I regularly submit to contemporary haiku journals.
My first poems published in a book for children were in Georgia Heard’s THE ARROW FINDS ITS MARK (Roaring Brook, 2012). I will forever be grateful for that open door to the world of found poetry. It’s completely addictive (and something students enjoy trying).
When I make my “books as doors” collages, I include some kind of short found poem inside along with bits of vintage bling. Last year, a dear friend bought one of the fairy door (miniature book) sized ones, which had a vintage fairy illustration and these altered words: “I think your/wings are/strong enough/to carry/you.” She sent it to a friend out West battling cancer. That touched me deeply, and I’d like to create more of these kinds of works.
For fun this month, I put together a few tiny ornaments in vintage oval frames with a wee print of my “Writer Mouse” image on one side and some “micro found poetry” (?) – just a few words highlighted in text, on the other. The texts were from the late 1800s – I think the shortest was, “reindeer travel/upwards”… Each of these sold on Etsy this past week; I have a couple of those tiny frames left and might conjure up new ones this weekend. I have time, right?
Robyn Hood Black is a children’s author and poet living in coastal South Carolina. Her books include Sir Mike (Scholastic Library, 2005) and Wolves (Intervisual Books, 2008). Her poetry appears in The Poetry Friday Anthology , The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, and The Poetry Anthology for Science (compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, Pomelo Books, 2012, 2013 & 2014), in Georgia Heard’s anthology of found poems, The Arrow Finds Its Mark (Roaring Brook, 2012), and in leading haiku journals. One of her poems will appear in a board book compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins to be released from Abrams in 2015. Her fiction has appeared in Highlights and her poetry has been featured in Ladybug and Hopscotch. She enjoys encouraging young readers, writers, and artists through school visits and speaks to audiences of all ages. She’s been active in SCBWI forever. She also creates “art for your literary side” through her business, artsyletters.
You can find Robyn on her website: http://www.robynhoodblack.com
Her blog:- http://www.robynhoodblack.com/blog.htm
Her Etsy store: http://artsyletters.com
Thank you for joining us today Robyn!