Markita Staples lives in Atlanta with her husband and two daughters, who are 3 and 5. Originally from Detroit, she has a background in Business, specifically Supply Chain Management. Markita is the author and illustrator of Curly Crew Books.
1.) Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Markita Staples and live in Atlanta with my husband and two daughters, who are 3 and 5 I’m originally from Detroit and have a background in Business, specifically Supply Chain Management. I’m the author and illustrator of Curly Crew Books, and only recently discovered my love for drawing when I decided to illustrate and self-publish my books. I now love to create, whether it’s for books, a fun crafts project, or playing music on my flute.
2.)Tell us what I Am Not Sleepy is about.
This was the second book I wrote and is basically a play-by-play of the bedtime process in our house! It’s about a child that doesn’t want to go to bed and an amazingly patient parent that presses forward anyway. It’s fun, and also very real.
3.) What inspired you to write this book?
My daughter never wants to go to bed and I’m constantly searching for creative ways to get her to finish all the steps in our routine. One day, I just decided to take a “laugh to keep from crying” point of view and found that it ended up making a great bedtime story. It turns out that it also aligns perfectly with the core concept of gentle parenting, which I also subscribe to as a parent. I find it to be much easier for everyone when I, as a parent, can come into the world with my kids and support them through things they don’t always want to do.
4.) You wrote another version of this book called, Nah, I Ain’t Sleepy. Please share why you decided to write an alternative version of your book.
I grew up speaking African American English (AAE) and have spent most of my adult years speaking mainstream English. But I have always happily codeswitched back to my native dialect when I can. I eventually found that there are so many of us that appreciate this part of our culture, and I thought it would be fun to explore how one of my books might look if I changed the language to AAE. I started with “I Am Not Sleepy” since I had recently re-published this book with a boy character so it was already top of mind. It has been such a fun project and I was pleasantly surprised that it took off on TikTok.
5.) What is one of the most significant challenges you have faced as a Black children’s book author?
It’s hard to avoid being pigeon-holed into the African-American category, even when your book is about other things. Naturally, we live lives outside of being Black and we want to express other topics through our books like emotional needs and learning concepts. For these types of books, we still might find ourselves being placed in categories related to being Black authors, and it makes it hard to reach a broader market and bigger platform.
6.) What inspired you to write books for early readers?
The idea for the Curly Crew came in 2019 during story time with my one-year-old daughter Emerald. I had a hard time finding books in the store with characters that looked like her that were also written for babies and young children. I then decided to create my own stories that would be easy for my daughter to understand. I was pregnant at the time and used most of my maternity leave to write the book and learn about the self-publishing process. Along the journey, I discovered a love for drawing and learned to illustrate the books myself. I released my first book, “What Should I Do Today?” at the beginning of 2020.
7.) You own a self-publishing company called Curly Crew Books. Please tell us more about it and your mission.
The mission of Curly Crew Books has been to create unique content that empowers young Black children. As of today, I’ve only published books in the Curly Crew series, but that will be changing soon when I publish my first adult book (a coloring book) later in the summer. So this mission expands a bit to empower and delight Black people and people of color.
8.) What advice would you offer to Black women who want to start their own publishing company?
It’s easier and more accessible than ever to publish a book. I suggest jumping in and learning about the industry one step at a time, depending on the style that works best for you. If you tend to learn from YouTube, follow some channels. If you learn by doing, jump in, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you want someone to help you, there are a lot of people out there that can provide guidance on the process. You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish once you get started.
9.) Tell us about some of the book projects you currently have in the works for our young readers.
I have so many fun projects in the works! My next book is called “C Is For Curly” and is an ABC book about natural hair. I’m also putting together a course that walks people through the process of writing and even illustrating their own children’s books. Then, as I mentioned before, I’m working on an adult coloring book that I think the grown folks will love!
10.) What would you say is the link between representation in books and children’s self-esteem?
In general, representation in content like books and television is so important to self-esteem. When children see positive and aspirational images in the content they consume, they see themselves in the same way. We can best support our kids by telling them directly that they are amazing people, and also continuing to present them with content where they see themselves in a positive light.
11.) Where can readers buy your books?
You can buy books, stickers, and other fun items at curlycrewbooks.com. My books are also available on Amazon.
12.) Where can we find you on social media?
I’m most active on TikTok: tiktok.com/@curlycrewbooks and IG: instagram.com/curlycrewbooks
13.) Please share your website(s) with our readers.
Audra Russell is a blogger, freelance writer, and published author. She holds two undergraduate degrees in journalism as well as a Master of Science degree in Education. She also completed the Wesleyan University online Creative Writing Specialization course series.
She is an avid reader and writer’s advocate. Her passion for promoting the works of up-and-coming authors inspired her to create her podcast, Between the Reads, as well as her website, Read It Black to Me. Her debut novel, BLOOD LAND, was published on August 29, 2020, as her fiftieth birthday gift to herself. She lives in Maryland with her husband of more than 20 years, her 3 amazing children, a 12-year-old perpetual puppy, two dueling cats, and her lone surviving chicken of 8 years who she affectionately renamed Gloria (she will survive!)